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Every moment of your life is an amalgam of innumerable choices: choices you have made, choices that others have made for you, and choices that rise from the ceaseless motion of the universe. The very act of reading this brief letter rises from such a confluence of choices. You stand right now at the busy intersection of what to do, what will happen and what can be. And you are not alone there. Plays, as the reflection of our lives, are built from a conspiracy of choices. The characters in a play interact with each other and the world through the choices they make—scene by scene, moment by moment. And we, the audience, witness the consequences of those choices with a desire to understand ourselves and others more fully. This is the bold ambition of great theatre.
Our 2016-2017 Season shines a light on these defining moments. Take, for example, De Kus (The Kiss) a bold Dutch play about two strangers who decide to walk together in the darkening woods. Or consider a pair of young read on...
At twelve o’clock tonight, we say hello to a new year, having bid 2015 a fond farewell. Twelve is the crossroads from what was to what can be. Reflecting on that, I took one last look back at twelve lasting impressions of Stages Repertory Theatre in 2015 – a backstage peek at the moments and experiences that will remain with me forever.
1. PANTO’S SOUL - On the first preview of Panto Snow Queen: Unfrozen, 170 middle school students joined actor Nick Cuellar in singing a version of John Legend’s “All of Me,” a parody version in which Nick had one of the show’s prime solos. Instead of trying to out-sing them and save his solo, Nick brought his voice down to a whisper so the room was filled with children’s voices spontaneously singing from their hearts. It was one of those rare moments when the line between audience and artist is completely erased, and all that exists is pure communication. In an ironic twist, it was also the last time we ever heard that song – it was cut from the read on...
This month we open The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, a critically acclaimed play that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and deals with hugely relevant questions about race, socioeconomics, the media and popular entertainment.
Oh, and it's about wrestling.
That's right - we've got a 14-foot professional wrestling ring installed in the middle of our Yeager Theatre. The actors actually had to learn to wrestle like the pros, including mastering a crazy, kind of dangerous move called the Powerbomb. We've been working with two fantastic partner organizations, Doomsday Wrestling and Horse Head Theatre Co., to create a full-on wrestling+theatre event with pre-show wrestling matches, photo opportunities in the lobby and a gallery of vintage-inspired wrestling posters. Oh, and free popcorn.
It's gonna be A-MAZ-ING.
But still, we understand that some of our audiences might wonder why we're doing a wrestling show, or what prompted Kristoffer Diaz to write a play set in that read on...
And the winner is... Us!
We are honored by all the recognition we received as part of the recent Houston Press Theatre Awards. Congratulations to all Houston artists - our city is better for having you!
From Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin:
"I am deeply humbled by the kind words offered in honor of the work of Stages Theatre from the editorial board of the Houston Press. I am very proud of the artists that work at Stages and I am very blessed to share with them the promise that we can, and will, impact our world. I am honored that our work this past season moved the Press staff in such a way as to award the theatre remarkable accolades."
Best Season - 2014-15
Best Artistic Director - Kenn McLaughlin
Best Play - Stupid Fucking Bird
Best Director - Leslie Swackhamer, Marie Antoinette
Best Supporting Actor - Joseph Palmore, Stupid Fucking Bird
Best Supporting Actress - Elizabeth Townsend, Stupid Fucking Bird
Best Costume Design - Barry Doss, Marie Antoinette
Best Set Design - Ryan McGettigan, Marie Antoinette
Best Sound Design - Matt Crawford, The Spiritualist
Best Choreography for a Musical - Kristin Warren, Mack and Mabel
Best Trooper - Tasha Gorel, Bad Jews
Meet Mark Folkes: Our New Managing Director
A Note From Mark
Dear Stages Friends,
As you know, Stages is an incredibly special place where great theatre takes shape in an intimate environment focused on connection: connection to stories, to artists, and to ourselves. I've been admiring Stages over the past seven years since first arriving in Houston and I'm thrilled to take this next step in my own personal Stages story.
So what exactly does a Managing Director do? The short answer is that I partner with the Board and staff to build community, capacity and infrastructure that support the art and help Stages grow and thrive.
As Managing Director, I lead our administrative staff, with a particular focus on strategic planning, fundraising and marketing. I'm honored to work alongside Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin, a committed Board of Directors led by Chairman George Lancaster and President Amy Moss, and a diverse, enthusiastic team of artists and staff.
We're already read on...
I’ve just been asked, yet again, why I elected to work on Driving Miss Daisy – the implication being that the show is a chestnut and we’ve all been there and done that. It is a question I understand in principle. But it is a question based on experiences and assumptions about the piece that are in opposition to my own.
I first encountered the play in 1986 in a fantastic production starring Ellen Burstyn and Bill Cobbs. I was in college in Chicago and I remember I went by myself and I sat dead center in the fourth row at the Briar Street Theatre. As a young acting student, it was life-changing to watch amazingly accomplished actors bring such complex people to life; I actually believe my affinity for understatement in performance was born that night. Beyond my recollection of the actors’ great work, I remember walking back up Halsted Street – at the time a more run-down thoroughfare through Chicago’s heart – filled with a sad pain about ongoing racial divide in America. And for read on...
I program a season much like the construction of a great play. Thus, we open big, take some twists and turns along the way, pause somewhere in the middle to reflect more intimately on some core themes, and finish with a huge finale that seeks to create a larger context for everything we’ve done. The entire 2014-2015 season has been about great risk and great courage. Every play this year has asked us to dare and to trust. With Mack and Mabel, we risk more and reach farther than we ever have. And at this very moment, we are preparing the show to be performed in Houston for the first time in more than 20 years.
In the midst of our tech process, I am filled with emotions as we craft, shape and challenge ourselves to bring the play alive. And while the complexity of the production is staggering at times, the dominant emotion I feel is joy. There read on...
“I cannot explain it…The music is so true to the works we know by the great composers that she would have to be the most fantastic expert on every branch of music to even try and make it up. There are some things we cannot explain. This is one of them.”
- Malcolm Troup, professor at the London Guildhall School of Music
Born in 1916, Rosemary Brown believed from early childhood that she was in contact with the spirits of dead composers, who eventually dictated their unfinished works to her. She became a media sensation in the 1970s, and published three books about her experiences, as well as copious musical compositions. The veracity of her claims has been debated by musical and psychological experts, many of whom point to the "substandard" nature of the compositions as proof that they are false. Some believers, on the other hand, suggest that any flaws are due to issues with communication from the Great Beyond. The blog Strange Company sums up the latter opinions:
"...skeptics have never convincingly explained how a woman with only a handful of childhood piano lessons, a disinterest in classical works, and a general musical inaptitude was able to compose these works at all."
In the end, whatever the truth or fiction of Rosemary's claims, her story provides ample inspiration for The Spiritualist, Robert Ford's self-described mix of "music, intrigue, comedy and theatricality" - with a hint of a love story thrown in for good measure.