Theatre News: “The Velvet Rut” published

Here is another piece of Indy theatre news that I’ve been keeping in my mailbox for a while – this one since September (eep!) – but a) I think it is still interesting and b) you may not have heard about it yet and c) there are only a few days left in 2010, so here goes.

I received this “Announcement of Publication” from playwright James Still.  You probably already know that he is the playwright-in-residence at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.  He mentioned this play, “The Velvet Rut,” when I first met him, back in 2008.  Someone pitched it at the annual meeting of the National New Play Network when it was here in Indianapolis a little later that year, and I heard about the world premiere of “The Velvet Rut” when I learned that James had received the Medallion award from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America.

So I was delighted to learn this fall that “The Velvet Rut” has been published.  Now anyone (directors, producers, theatre bloggers) can buy a copy and read it for themselves. 

Here is the full announcement that James sent me:

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Theatre Review: “Becky’s New Car” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

I saw “Becky’s New Car” when it opened here in Indianapolis at the Indiana Repertory Theatre on Friday, March 26, 2010.  It was written by Steven Dietz and directed by James Still.

Dear Reader, I LOVED IT. 

My friend did, too.  We stayed “high” on it all the rest of the weekend.  And I have been saying “Becky’s New Car!” without equivocation whenever anyone asks me “what’s good?” rather than first asking my usual cautious theatre advisory questions about what kind of show they are in the mood for and so on.

“Becky’s New Car” is so funny and well done, and I think it appeals to a wide variety of people.  If you like to talk about shows and/or relationships, for example, this piece offers a lot to talk about at intermission and afterwards:  there is good stuff about love, grief, infidelity, inevitability and more to chew on, plus it is a pleasure to re-hash the show’s interactivity and other fun design elements.  However, you can also just enjoy the show, too, without having to talk about it.  It moves fast and there are all kinds of situations in the show that both men and women can relate to easily. 

Best of the all, the tension in the serious moments is deftly released – but not diluted – by smart humor that doesn’t make you feel guilty for laughing at/with these very human and likable people.

I didn’t want it to end.  I went back to see “Becky’s New Car” again the following weekend by myself and loved it just as much the second time.  There is only one weekend left, starting tonight (Wednesday); I may try to squeeze in a third visit before the show closes.

Continue reading Theatre Review: “Becky’s New Car” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Mailbox: Congratulations to Playwright James Still!

Playwright James Still

I am delighted for one of my favorite playwrights:



November 3, 2009


 Playwright James Still is a newly-elected member of the National Theatre Conference and was inducted on October 30, 2009 at the historic Players Club in New York City.

The National Theatre Conference, founded in 1925, is a cooperative association of distinguished leaders of the American theatre — university, community, and professional.  Membership in the conference is by invitation only, and is limited to 120.  The conference operates as a theatrical “think tank” and meets annually to review and confer on matters pertaining to the welfare and development of the theatre and to honor outstanding achievement of organizations and individuals in the field.  For more information, see

Of special note to Mr. Still is that the National Theatre Conference meets annually at The Players Club at 16 Gramercy Park in New York which was where Edwin Booth lived (and died).  Audiences will remember that Edwin Booth was a character in James Still’s recent play THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK.  For more information about The Players Club see


James Still, as you probably remember, is the playwright-in-residence at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. He was one of my first interviews for this blog.

Yay, James!

Hope Baugh – and @IndyTheatre

Theatre Review: “The Heavens Are Hung In Black” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Jason Bradley (L) and Nicholas Hormann (R) in "The Heavens Are Hung In Black" - photo by Julie Curry

Last Friday night I drove to the Indiana Repertory Theatre – a professional theatre in downtown Indianapolis – to see a new play about Abraham Lincoln.  It is called “The Heavens Are Hung In Black.”  IRT playwright-in-residence James Still wrote it on commission for Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.  It premiered there last spring as a three-act play.  Indianapolis is only the second place for it to be produced, and this time it is a two-act piece, so in a way, this is another world premiere.  We are the first audience to see it in its tightened form.

At the end of the performance on Friday night, I was not the only one who made an affirmative little moan before leaping to my feet to applaud.  I think that both theatre buffs and history buffs would enjoy this piece.  I loved it because I am both.

Continue reading Theatre Review: “The Heavens Are Hung In Black” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Theatre Review: “Interpreting William” at the IRT

Delana Studi and Tim Grimm in "Interpreting William" at the IRT

On Friday I drove downtown to attend the opening night festivities of the world premiere of “Interpreting William” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.  The play was written by James Still, the playwright-in-residence for the IRT, and directed by Lisa Rothe.

The show made me cry because it reminded me of why I majored passionately in history as an undergrad, and why I still enjoy reading, writing, talking, and hearing about history.  As the play’s youngest character, the defiant 19-year-old Naomi (Lena Hurt), says, “History is really about us!”  It is personal, it is relevant, and it is multi-dimensional.

In this show – which is also personal, relevant, and multi-dimensional – David Alan Anderson stars as a jovial history professor named Bill who is trying, here in 2009, to finish the definitive book on William Conner.  If you live in the Indianapolis area, you probably already know that William Conner was the man who in 1820 was helping to “settle” the area that eventually became the state of Indiana.  Bill has written quite a bit of the book, but he just can’t seem to nail the ending.  He visits his former teacher, his hero, a woman named Anna (Carmen Roman), for help. 

Continue reading Theatre Review: “Interpreting William” at the IRT

Our Own James Still in the New York Times Today

Inside Ford’s Theater - photo by Dustin P. Smith

I mentioned a few days ago that James Still, playwright-in-residence for the Indiana Reportory Theatre, is working on a new play about Abraham Lincoln.  It will premiere at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., with David Selby as Lincoln.

There was an article about the debut in today’s New York Times:

Arts, Briefly
Ford’s Theater Returns
Published: November 23, 2008
Ford’s Theater, the Washington institution that was home to the most notorious production of “Our American Cousin,” will have its grand reopening in February, the theater’s board announced. The events, which include a ceremony on Feb. 11, will coincide with the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was shot by John Wilkes Booth at the theater on April 14, 1865. The building, which was also used as an Army medical museum and a government warehouse, was restored in the 1960s and reopened as a theater in 1968. In February an 18-month-long renovation will be completed. Among the events planned for the theater’s reopening are the premiere of “The Heavens Are Hung in Black,” a new play about Lincoln by James Still, and the awarding of the Lincoln Medal, which the board said honors accomplishments that “exemplify the character and lasting legacy” of Lincoln. The recipient will be the “Star Wars” director George Lucas.

I am excited for James all over again. Go James!

But also I am trying to get my mind around the idea of George Lucas exemplifying the character and lasting legacy of Abraham Lincoln. 

I think I need to read some more about Lincoln.  Or George Lucas.

Hope Baugh –

A Conversation with James Still

IRT playwright-in-residence James Still

Last Sunday afternoon (5/4/08) I drove downtown to the Starbucks on the Circle to interview James Still, playwright-in-residence for the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Actually, he had invited me for coffee and conversation, which is not quite the same as an interview.  After we shook hands and said, “Nice to meet you” and so on, he tried to ask me about myself.  However, I knew he only had an hour or so, and I was greedy for information for my blog readers, so I asked if I could take notes while we talked about his art and then write about our conversation as part of my “Indy Theatre Habit.”  He graciously agreed.

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Theatre Review: “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” at the IRT

Last Thursday night (5/1/08), I drove downtown to the Indiana Repertory Theatre to see “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder,” by James Still.  This one-man historical piece stars David Alan Anderson.  It was directed by IRT artistic director Janet Allen.

This production is part of the celebration of Still’s ten years as the IRT’s playwright-in-residence.  According to the pre-show “prologue” talk given by actress Jamison Kay Garrison from the IRT’s education department, this is the most requested piece in the last seven years at the IRT.  I overheard several people sitting near me in the audience telling their friends that they had seen it and loved it when it premiered here seven years ago. 

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Theatre Review: “Iron Kisses” at the IRT

On Thursday night (4-24-08) I drove downtown to the Upperstage of the Indiana Repertory Theatre to see “Iron Kisses” by James Still.  It was directed by David Bradley.  The artistic director of the IRT is Janet Allen.  Steven Stolen is the managing director.

James Still has been the IRT’s playwright-in-residence for the past ten years, but “Iron Kisses” is the first play by him that I have seen.

It is an interesting and cathartic 90 minutes.   I want to write about all of it, so I am warning you here that there are spoilers in this review.

Continue reading Theatre Review: “Iron Kisses” at the IRT