Blogger Grapevine: Commission of a New Play by James Still!

"Canal Kaleidoscope" photo by Carl Van Rooy

WordPress alerts me when someone has linked to my blog.  This weekend I learned that a blogger named Esther linked last week to my 2008 conversation with playwright James Still.

Esther’s post expresses delight with several of the theatre grants recently awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts.  One of them is a grant for $30,000 to the Indiana Repertory Theatre “to support the commission and development of April 4, 1968 by playwright-in-residence James Still.  The play will be based on Senator Robert Kennedy’s six-minute speech in Indianapolis on the night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.”

Yay, James!  Yay, IRT!  Yay, NEA!  Hurray for new plays!

(And thanks, Esther and WordPress!)

Hope Baugh –

By the way, I chose the photo above, called “Canal Kaleidoscope” and taken by Carl Van Rooy, because I think that Kennedy made that speech somewhere along the canal or on Indiana Avenue.  (And now I don’t want to go look it up to confirm because I like this photo either way.)  

That speech has fascinated me ever since Time magazine’s Joe Klein mentioned it in a keynote address to librarians at one of our national conferences.  He said (if I remember correctly) that Caucasian Kennedy was speaking to a mostly African-American audience when he got the news of King’s death from an aide.   Joe told us that Kennedy simply shared the tragic news with the crowd and shared their grief honestly, which probably prevented riots, something that could never happen with today’s cell phones and spin doctors.   In any case, I will be interested to see how James Still brings it to life again in a play.

Theatre Review: “The Housewives of Mannheim” at the Phoenix

"The Housewives of Mannheim" - rehearsal photo by Julie Curry

Last Friday night I drove to downtown Indianapolis to see “The Housewives of Mannheim” at the Phoenix Theatre.  It was written by Alan Brody, produced by Bryan Fonseca and directed by SuzAnne Barabas.  SuzAnne also directed this 1995 play last year for the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, New Jersey, where she serves as Artistic Director.

It is a beautiful, beautiful piece.   The first act is funny and Lord-have-mercy steamy whereas the second act is sort of earnest and more openly agenda-driven, with a resolution that happens a little too abruptly and neatly for my taste.  However, ultimately I didn’t mind the play’s flaws because there were so many pleasures throughout – both in the characters and the emotionally nimble actors who play them, and in the design elements of this production.  I also didn’t mind because the ending is sort of delicious and mischievous, really, in the questions it leaves unanswered.

Continue reading Theatre Review: “The Housewives of Mannheim” at the Phoenix

2010 Alex Award Winners Announced

2010 Alex Award winners

1/28/10 update: For the first time, you may also see the list of nominations for this award.  Each book on the “nom list” was nominated by a member of the Alex committee, which meant that she (everyone was a “she” this year) believed it to be a “wow” read, worthy of consideration for the Alex award, which meant that all nine members had to read it.  We did not know until this week that our nom list would be made public, but hey, stuff happens.  I  feel shy, but then delighted, knowing that you, too, can see what we discussed most thoroughly this year.  Because man, it was hard to keep it a secret!


I am going to take my annual break from writing about Indianapolis-area live theatre and storytelling to tell you about the 2010 Alex Award winners.  (My last year’s Alex post is here.)

 The Alex is a relatively new award given by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), which is part of the American Library Association (ALA.)  It is given to up to 10 well-crafted, readable books published in the previous year for adults but which have potential appeal to teens as well.

Continue reading 2010 Alex Award Winners Announced

Mailbox: Opening This Weekend…

Martha Jacobs (L) and Lauren Briggeman (R) in "The Housewives of Mannheim" - photo by Julie Curry

I leave for Boston in 15 minutes or so, to attend the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting and to help decide the ten winners of the Alex Award.  You may remember that I posted about last year’s winners here.

This means that I will not be able to see any of the many intriguing shows that are going on around Indianapolis this weekend.  So…I’ll just tell you that if I were going to be home, I would think about seeing the all-volunteer production of “Jerry’s Girls” at Footlite Musicals

I would also want to catch the opening of a new play called “The Housewives of Mannheim” at the Phoenix Theatre.   Doesn’t that photo, above, by Julie Curry make it look like an interesting show?  The actor on the left is Martha Jacobs.  The actor on the right is Lauren Briggeman.

Here is most of the press release that Phoenix Marketing and Media Relations Director Lori Raffel sent me:

Continue reading Mailbox: Opening This Weekend…

“Jabberwocky” – Stories About Writer’s Block at the Indy Fringe

"Detritus of the Day" by psyberartist

On Tuesday night, I drove to the Indy Fringe building in downtown Indianapolis to hear local, leading journalists tell their stories about writers’ block at the first “Jabberwocky” event.  It was sponsored by Indy Fringe and Storytelling Arts of Indiana.   Last weekend when I was interviewing Bill Harley, he told me that this is part of a new trend in storytelling: arranging for ordinary people to tell their stories in a structured way in public.  He mentioned “The Moth” events in New York, I think, as part of this trend.  I would like to learn more about this.

In the meantime, I was at “Jabberwocky” simply because I wanted to hear the five journalists speak (my heroes!), and because I had agreed to be a plant during the open microphone portion of the event.  I wasn’t planning to review the evening for Indy Theatre Habit, but I find myself wanting to record and share a few thoughts about it.

Continue reading “Jabberwocky” – Stories About Writer’s Block at the Indy Fringe

Theatre Review: “The Foreigner” at Beef and Boards

Daniel Scharbrough (L) and Jeff Stockberger (R) in "The Foreigner" at Beef and Boards - photo by Julie Curry.

Last Thursday night I braved the snow and cold to drive to the professional Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre on the northwest side of Indianapolis to see “The Foreigner,” by Larry Shue.  Eddie Curry directed it.

At first this comedy feels like a drama, and later, when the Ku Klux Klan appears, it is chilling.  However, ultimately it is a mystery story that is a lot of fun.  Everyone in the cast has good comic timing, and many parts of the show are deep-down-belly-laugh funny.

Continue reading Theatre Review: “The Foreigner” at Beef and Boards

Planning My Work, Working My Plan, But Still Can’t Do Everything…

Storyteller Bill Harley

I saw and enjoyed “The Foreigner” at Beef and Boards on Thursday night.  I am working on a detailed review, which I plan to post tomorrow (Sunday.)

After that I plan to share some detailed news from my email box.

But first I want to quickly share what else I’ve done, and would like to do if I could be several places at once, this weekend:

Continue reading Planning My Work, Working My Plan, But Still Can’t Do Everything…

Theatre Review: “The Color Purple” at Clowes Hall

Kenita R. Miller as Celie in "The Color Purple" - photo by Paul Kolnik

(Photo above is of Kenita R. Miller.  It was taken by Paul Kolnik.)

On Tuesday night I drove to Clowes Hall on the Butler University campus to see the Indianapolis premiere of “The Color Purple: the Musical about Love.”  It is presented by Oprah Winfrey, Scott Sanders, and several other producers as part of the Broadway Across America series.  Here is some basic background information from the press release that I received from director of public relations Nancy Parrott:

Nominated for eleven Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, THE COLOR PURPLE opened on December 1, 2005 at the Broadway Theatre where it ran for over two record-breaking years.  It is based on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the moving film by Steven Spielberg.  It is the unforgettable and inspiring story of a woman named Celie, who finds the strength to triumph over adversity, and discover her unique voice in the world.  With a joyous GRAMMY®-nominated score featuring gospel, jazz, pop and the blues, THE COLOR PURPLE is about hope and the healing power of love. 

As on Broadway, the North American Tour of THE COLOR PURPLE is directed by Gary GriffinTHE COLOR PURPLE features a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman, music and lyrics by Grammy Award®-winning composers/lyricists Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, and choreography by Donald Byrd.  The original creative team of Tony Award®-winner John Lee Beatty (sets), Paul Tazewell (costumes), Tony Award®-winner Brian MacDevitt (lighting), Jon Weston (sound), Jonathan Tunick (orchestrations) and Kevin Stites (Music Supervisor) was reunited for the tour.

I tweeted some first impressions the night of the show and then blogged some preliminary thoughts a couple days ago, on New Year’s Eve.  Today I would like to write in more detail about my experience of this moving musical.  It was a theatrical treat in and of itself, but I most loved the way it amplified my experience of Alice Walker’s inspiring novel, which I read two or three decades ago when I was in my early 20s.  The Color Purple resonated with me then as an empowering and hopeful coming-of-age story.  Now I am in my late 40s and I value letters, prayers, and other forms of communication with my loved ones even more.  Now, the novel – and this musical – resonates with me as a joyful and still empowering middle-aged survivor story. 

Continue reading Theatre Review: “The Color Purple” at Clowes Hall