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

“Of the People” Is Up and Running – THANK YOU!

Abraham Lincoln photo by Alexander Hessler - courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society 

If you have been reading my blog all along, you know that for the past six months I have been working on a commission from the Indiana Historical Society and Storytelling Arts of Indiana.  It is part of their “Sharing Hoosier History through Stories” collaboration.

Well, yesterday (Sunday), I premiered it!

I learned a lot from the premiere, and I have a lot of notes for myself about how to improve the program for the future, but I also had a wonderful time during this first public sharing of it.  My “high” afterwards was due in large part to the attentive, supportive listening of the 88 people who attended.

THANK YOU, everyone!

The collaboration between Storytelling Arts and the IHS includes grant money to help museums, historical societies, libraries, and other organizations who would like to host this new Lincoln program during 2009, which is the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.  For more information, please call Erin Kelley, Coordinator of Public Programs for the Indiana History Center, at 317-234-0427.

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

P.S. – During the impromptu “Lincoln stories swap” at the end of my premiere on Sunday, one person told about how the Lincolns had had to ask several couples before they found two people who were available and willing to go with them to the theatre to see “Our American Cousin” on April 14, 1865.

I loved that he told that story.  I added that I sympathized with the Lincolns because sometimes it is hard for me to find people to go with me to the theatre, too, and I get free tickets! 

I want to clarify that it is not hard to find people who want to go to theatre “more often” but it is sometimes very time-consuming to pin down who is going to what with me when.  So far, I have only met one person (Joe Boling) who wants to go to five shows a weekend the way I do, and no person who is free to go with me to all five shows.  That’s why I said I am always looking for more theatre buddies to add to my list.

I have enjoyed “sharing the wealth” of my media passes with Dawn, Adrienne, Chris, Susan G., Ned, Dane, Jack, David, Trevor, Sandra, Christine, Dan, and Kristin (I think that’s everyone.)  I want to make sure I say clearly to these people, “I enjoy going to the theatre with you, and I will definitely ask you again!”

Hope

“Fiddle Shticks” and Lincoln Stories This Weekend

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Hesler, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society

“Of the People: Stories and Images of Abraham Lincoln,” by Hope Baugh (that’s me!), premieres this Sunday, January 18, 2009 from 4:00-6:00 pm at the Indiana History Center (not to be confused with the Indiana State Museum.) 

This program is part of the Sharing Hoosier History through Stories collaboration between the Indiana Historical Society and Storytelling Arts of Indiana.  Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door and may be purchased online before 5:00 Saturday night via the Storytelling Arts of Indiana website or by calling 317-232-1882.

“Of the People” is not a theatre piece, per se.  It is just me on stage, telling you some of the stories that made me fall in love with Abraham Lincoln and showing you PowerPoint slides of some of the photographs and other items in the Indiana Historical Society’s vast collection.

But it will be live, and it will be “crafted” (well crafted, I hope!) and if you are at all interested in our 16th president, I think you will enjoy it.  If you are available Sunday afternoon, I would be honored and grateful to have you in my audience.  The stories only come alive when all three elements – teller, story, and listener – are present.

Coming soon here on my blog:

** A review of “Fiddle Shticks,” the new, original sketch comedy revue presented by Three Dollar Bill Comedy Company at the Indianapolis Comedy Sportz theatre.  I went to the opening show last Friday night, and I am going to try to make it to the second version of it at 10:00 tonight.  It is every Friday night for six weeks.  I have an Encore show to judge first tonight, so we’ll see how the timing works out.  In any case, I had a wonderful time last week, and every week is supposed to be a little different.  I loved the writing last week, and the six players were a collective hoot – subtle and brilliant in their individual portrayals and in their interactions with each other. 

By the way, you must be 17 years or older to attend.  I don’t remember a lot of curse words (maybe it’s just because I’ve slept since last Friday) but no topic is sacred.

Also, today when I called to make my reservation, CS manager Troy Hannah gave me several minutes of his time to answer several of my questions about the Comedy Sportz club itself, so I will be sharing that conversation, too.  That man is articulate!  It was fun to talk with him.

** A review of storyteller Motoko’s funny and thought-provoking presentation of “Tales of Now and Zen” last Saturday night.  Even more than her stories, I appreciated the chance to chat with Motoko a bit afterwards.  She generously asked about my Lincoln program and I poured out anxiety that I hadn’t even realized I had been carrying.  She re-grounded me by reminding me of two important things that I had forgotten:  “The audience is on your side” and “It’s not about you, it’s about Lincoln.” 

** A review of Dance Kaleidoscope’s colorful “Magical Mystery Tour.”   This colorful, high-energy presentation was a real treat, too.  I now have crushes on several of the dancers and on creative cutie David Hochoy, DK’s artistic director and choreographer.

One can never have too many crushes.

My day job is unusually busy these next couple of weeks, too, so I ask your patience in terms of my blog.  As always, thanks for reading.  ‘See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

On Retreat This Weekend

I will be offline beginning this afternoon and not back online until Sunday night so that I can retreat from the world with three of my storytelling colleagues.  We are going to take turns giving each other feedback on our respective storytelling projects.

I, of course, will ask for help with my Lincoln piece.  It is called “Of the People: Stories and Images of Abraham Lincoln.” 

(By the way, it will premiere at the Indiana History Center at 4:00 on Sunday, January 18, 2009.  It will be the fifteenth story commissioned for the Sharing Hoosier History Through Stories series collaboratively sponsored by Storytelling Arts of Indiana and the Indiana Historical Society.  To purchase tickets, call 317-232-1882 or visit www.storytellingarts.org/store/category/Tickets.)

My next blog post, after the retreat is over, will be about the very cool, interactive “You Are There” theatre piece now running at the Indiana History Center.

After that I hope to be able to write about this coming Sunday’s afternoon performance of “Christmas Belles” at Theatre on the Square.  However, I make no promises because I don’t know for sure when the storytellers’ retreat will be over on Sunday and I therefore don’t know that I will be able to make it to the theatre by 5:00.  I am just going to take my chances.

You, however, should make a reservation if you’re thinking of going, because when Joe Boling wrote about this show on Indiana Auditions, he said that his first choice of show time had been sold out.  Call the theatre at 317-685-TOTS (8687).

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

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:

NYTIMES
Arts, Briefly
Ford’s Theater Returns
By DAVE ITZKOFF
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 – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

Lincoln as Touchstone Plus Two Mini-Reviews

“Penny From Heaven” photo by Caitlin Heller

When President-Elect Obama spoke to the crowd in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois on Tuesday night, he referred to Abraham Lincoln.  Here is the excerpt:

 “Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.  Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national security.  Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.  As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, ‘We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.’  And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.”

I am honored to have been commissioned to create a new, 90-minute storytelling piece that celebrates the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.  This program is part of the Sharing Hoosier History through Stories collaboration between the Indiana History Center and Storytelling Arts of Indiana.  I will share the piece for the first time at 4:00 on Sunday, January 18, 2009 at the Indiana History Center.  I hope you will join me.  To purchase tickets, please call 317-232-1882 or visit www.storytellingarts.org/store/category/Tickets.

In the meantime, my father is continuing to heal well from his surgery and I am ready to resume writing about live theatre and storytelling in the Indianapolis area.  Thank you to everyone who sent us kind and encouraging words during my blogging hiatus.

Up next: detailed reviews of “Golda’s Balcony” at the Indianapolis Civic Theatre and the double-header at the Phoenix Theatre.  Short versions:

“Golda’s Balcony” is a beautiful and inspiring one-woman show based on the life of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.   In addition to a wealth of historical and biographical information, this show also gave me a lot to think about in terms of the differences and similarities between theatre pieces and oral tradition storytelling pieces.  “Golda’s Balcony” continues at Civic through Sunday, November 16, 2008.

The combination of “June 8, 1968,” by Anna Theresa Cascio, and “Drunk Enough to Say I Love You,” by Caryl Churchill, at the Phoenix is not feel-good theatre, nor is it do-gooder theatre.  You won’t come home wearing a smile on your face or vowing to make a difference in the world.   However, it is artistically interesting theatre and the acting is excellent.  This double-feature continues at the Phoenix through Saturday, November 15, 2008.

More soon…

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

A Name for My Lincoln Project

AL on the five dollar bill

It’s been a while since I mentioned here on my blog that I have been commissioned to create a 90-minute storytelling piece on Abraham Lincoln to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2009.  However, last night I turned in the title for it:

Continue reading A Name for My Lincoln Project