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Glenn's Humana 2014

April 15, 2014
Report for The Humana-Festival of March-April 2014

©GLENN LONEY 2014

THIS-WAS-THE-HUMANA-THAT-WAS…

Not Just-Another-Festival, But Also The Annual-Pow-Wow of ATCA,

Or the American-Theatre-Critics-Association, Plus Therapy for FATCA,

Not To Be Confused with Fat-Cats, With Awards-Add-Ons & Panels-Galore!

Ordinarily, Drama-Critics—as well as Agents & Producers—from all over flock down to Louisville in Late-March/Early-April for the Industry-Weekends of the Humana-Festival at Actors-Theatre-Louisville.

But 2014 was Different: Humana hosted ATCA for its Annual-Meeting.

Because ATCA stands for the American-Theatre-Critics-Association, there were many more Play-Reviewing-Pros on-hand than usual.

And, with an ATCA-Conference to attend, Critics don’t just watch New-Plays & Scribble-Notes on their Informed-Reactions.

No, Indeed!

An Annual-Feature is Perspectives-in-Criticism, usually offered by a Famous-Drama-Critic.

This year, however, the Perspective was presented by a Playwright, Lauren Gunderson, who told us that she sometimes has to do Seventeen-Rewrites of a New-Play until she thinks she may have Got-It-Right.

Big-Bucks for Playwriting! American-Theatre Loves the Harold & Mimi Steinberg-Charitable-Trust!

Later in the Weekend, Gunderson was given the Harold & Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New-Play-Award for a Drama titled I & You.

Not only did Gunderson get a Check for $25,000—delivered in person by Maecenas Jim Steinberg—but she also received a Commemorative-Plaque.

Two Runner-Up-Citations were given: to Christopher Demos-Brown, for Fear Up Harsh, & to Martin Zimmerman, for Seven Spots on the Sun.

Each received Checks for $7,500, plus, of course, Commemorative-Plaques.

The Utterly-Charming "Emerging-Playwright” Topher Payne won the Osborn-New-Play-Award.

An Admirable-Atlantan, Payne was cited for his Perfect Arrangement, staged in Washington, DC, in June 2013.

The Crux of this Drama is that Two-Married-Couples, who are working for the Department-of-State, are initially-tasked with ferreting-out Commies—it’s the McCarthy-Era—but then are asked to target Sexual-Deviants.

As both Husbands are Gay & both Wives are Lesbians—in Sham-Marriages—they Have-a-Problem.

Topher Payne saluted his Gay-Marriage-Partner for Supporting-His-Work in a very amusing Acceptance-Speech.

Is Topher a truncation of Christopher?

ATCA! Why Not Honor Designers, as Well as Playwrights? Here’s a Modest-Proposal:

With the recent formation of the Glenn-Loney-Charitable-Trust, it seemed to Your-Struggling-Scribe that it might be a Good-Idea to imitate Jim Steinberg’s Excellent-Example.

So here’s what I wrote to Jay Handelman, Chairman of our ATCA-Foundation, FATCA:

TO: Jay Handelman, Chairman, FACTA

SUBJECT: Draft-Proposal for an Annual ACTA-Glenn Loney Charitable Trust Award

PURPOSE: To Honor Outstanding American Stage, Costume, Video, & Lighting Designers.

PROPOSAL: Even with Excellent-Casts, Brilliant-Directors, & Ingenious-Choreographers, a Play or a Musical cannot be brought Fully-to-Life without Outstanding-Production-Values.

Each Calendar-Year, Individual-ACTA-Members may nominate an Outstanding-Designer from a Non-Profit Regional-Theatre well-known to them. This will also include Non-Profit Institutional-Theatres in New York City.

ACTA-Nominators will contact both the Nominees & the Producing-Theatres to provide Design-Drawings, Production-Photos, & other Supporting-Materials as may be deemed necessary for the Awards-Committee to choose the Outstanding-Designer-of-the-Year.

[Sound-Design must necessarily be omitted, because it is not possible to provide Visual-Documentation.]

AWARDS: For the Outstanding-Designer, there will be a Cash-Award, with a Certificate or Plaque, the amount to be determined by the Trustees of the Glenn Loney Charitable Trust.

There will also be Two Honorable-Mentions, each with a Certificate or Plaque.

RATIONALE: Dr. Glenn Loney, Professor-Emeritus of Theatre, CUNY-Graduate-Center, as a long-standing ACTA-Member & FACTA-Donor, wishes to pay Tribute to Designers, not only because he began in Theatre as a Lighting-Technician—becoming later a Lighting-Designer—but also because for many years he reported regularly on all aspects of Design for such Publications as Theatre-Arts, Theatre-Crafts, Theatre-Design & Technology, Entertainment-Design, & The-Educational-Theatre-Journal, as well as for Opera, Opera-News, Opera-Monthly, European-Stages, Other-Stages, Theatre-Week, New-Drama-Forum, Dance-Magazine, & The-Los-Angeles-Times.

Well, we’ll just wait & see what happens—

Ted-Talk-Therapy for FACTA-Board-Members?

Instead of a regular Matter-of-Fact FATCA-Board-Meeting, Jay Handelman had arranged for us to have Professional-Help.

A Charming-Facilitator showed us a Ted-Talk-Video, in which a Brit called Simon showed us how to make a Circle that seemed to have WHY in its Center.

Discovering the Why of Why, it seems, will help you to Maximize Yourself & What You Are Doing.

At least, that was my Take-Away…

I was, however, surprised at the Comments written down by some of my Colleagues: Some actually believe that what they write about Plays is Important-to-Readers!

The Bottom-Line, however, with a Foundation that has Money to expend for some Kind-of-Purpose, is to be Sure the Cash is being spent on Something that will be eventually Beneficial.

For ATCA-Members, it could well be Greater-Funding for our ATCA-Website so that Free-Lancers can Post their Reviews there.

For some years, we have been funding Seminars-for-Young-Critics.

This always seemed to me like Prepping-the-Future-Competition. Most of us were already threatened by the imminent Death-of-Print…

Nonetheless, with Blogs abounding & Anyone with an Opinion & Free-Tickets automatically a Drama-Critic, it does seem a Good-Idea to sponsor some Seminars about Reviewing-Standards-for-Bloggers.

But what kind of a Review can you write with only 144-Characters?

Maybe Entirely-New-Standards will emerge…

Meanwhile, Back-To-The-Panels: Thinking About Social-Media—Learning to Twitter & to Tweet…

There were some Excellent-Presentations.

If your Newspaper or Magazine has Died—or is no longer interested in Play-Reviews—how do you get People to log-onto Your-Reviewing-Blog?

If you already know all about Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, &&&&&, there’s No-Point of a Recap here…

A Panel-to-Remember: The Art of Collective-Invention—Who Needs a Playwright?

How about Collective-Ensembles, developing New-Works collectively?

Panelists: The Civilians [New York], The Hypocrites [Chicago], The Moving-Company [Minneapolis], SITI [New York], The Mad Ones [New York].

Although SITI has, on occasion, created some Memorable-Theatre-Events—Big Love & that Joseph-Cornell-Meditation—The Civilians are my favorites for their focus on Important-Social-Issues.

They interview Real-People, who sign Release-Forms & stand-by what they have said, even if they may Look-Ridiculous or even Racist in the Finished-Piece.

Their Exploration of Christianity at the US-Air-Force-Academy in Colorado-Springs was both Instructive & Frightening…

As for Megachurches, The Civilians Got-Their-Number!

PASSING-GLANCES AT SHOW-SCENES-SEEN:

Not Inhumane, but also Not Humana: Darting Across Main-Street to the Whiskey-Lofts…

There are still some Haunting-Windowless-Façades along Louisville’s Main-Street, but Things-Are-Looking-Up!

The Louisville-Slugger-Factory/Museum is a Big-Draw, as is the Art-Hotel.

Then there’s that Store-Front which hides an actual Downtown-Bourbon-Distillery—The Evan-Wiliams-Experience—with Tasty-Samples!

Catter-Corner from Actors-Theatre—at the Entry of that Bridge over the River into Romantic-Ohio—there are the so-called Whiskey-Lofts, now being developed for various Arts-Purposes, including Gallery-Displays.

This Victorian-Flavored-Building—with a wonderful Hand-Worked-Staircase—stands on the Former-Site of the Historic Galt-House-Hotel.

Currently, one of its most Visible & even Risible—in a really Funny-Way—Arts-Tenants is using Baron’s-Theatre.

Welcome to Baron’s-Theatre in What Once Was Squirrelly’s Magic-Tea-Room!

The Mini-Auditorium is Narrow & Elongated, equipped with a Variety-of-Chairs & Tables, & a Stage-Space that can approximate Old-Fashioned-Scenery, as well as Projections & Videos.

What really makes this Space-so-Special is that the Walls are Plastered with Posters of Long-Gone-By-Magicians!

Could they really have performed all the Remarkable-Feats illustrated in Full-Color?

How about being Buried-Alive!

Baron’s is Worth-a-Visit just to Study the Posters, which include some made for this Space’s Original-Proprietor: Squirrelly, who was not only a Magician, but also operated his Magic-Tea-Room in this Very-Venue!

Before sampling Humana’s Dramatic-Wares, Critics were invited over to the Whiskey-Lofts & Baron’s-Theatre to see:

Diana Grisanti & Steve Moulds’ THE STRANGER & LUDLOW QUINN [★★★]

What really got my attention—aside from the somewhat Demonic Ludlow Quinn — was the Presence in this Curious-Serial-Drama of Erik Weisz!

That Name may mean Nothing to you, but—to Magicians, Contortionists, & Showmen—Erik was better-known as Harry Houdini!

I had just seen Harry Houdini onstage in Manhattan, but there he was involved with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, desperately trying to contact His Mother on The-Other-Side & exposing Fraudulent-Mediums at the same time.

Diana Grisanti & Steve Moulds have apparently been writing the Saga-of-Ludlow-Quinn in Chapter-Installments for the "First-Fridays” of Theatre [502].

What we saw up-onstage was The-Complete-Saga—with a Swirling-Cast & a Torturous-Narrative—in which, as far as I could understand it, Harry Houdini was still having Difficulties with his Eminently-Jewish-Mother.

Could I have dreamt it?

I thought Erik/Harry was looking for a Younger-Human-Body, into which he could Reincarnate

As we were in Louisville, where a Huge-Poster of Louisvillian Diane Sawyer hangs on a Building-Façade, I suggested—if there were to be Further-Chapters—that Houdini might want to occupy the Beautiful-Sawyer-Body.

That way, he could Teach-His-Tricks to Mike Nichols, who is Sawyer’s Celebrated-Hubby!

And Now for Actors-Theatre-Louisville & The-38th-Humana-Festival of New-American-Plays!

Customarily, when Theatre-Critics prepare to depart Louisville for the Airport, there will be Packets of Scripts of all the New-Humana-Plays for Professional-Perusal in the Privacy-of-Their-Own-Homes.

Somehow, in the Mad-Scramble, I couldn’t find my Scripts. Nor were they sent-on after me, alas.

If you want to Quote some Good-Dialogue, it’s always Helpful to have an Accurate-Source.

Unfortunately, I was not able to write this Report immediately on return from Kentucky.

A Medical-Emergency took me off to Mount-Sinai. The Hospital, not the Sacred-Mountain…

Then I also found myself in not One-Crunch-Week, but Two!

The "Crunch” comes when Awards-Nominators have to see—usually in Previews—all the New-Shows that have Waited-to-Open until about Five-Minutes before Nominations & Voting begin.

For Tony-Nominators & Voters, this isn’t so Demanding, for Only-Broadway-Productions are deemed worthy of an Annette-Perry-Award.

But, for the Outer-Critics-Circle & the Drama-Desk, Off-Broadway & Off-Off-Broadway also must be seen & considered.

So, now that I can finally sit down & think about what to write about the Humana-Festival, I discover that I can remember the Plays only in the Broadest-Outlines.

My Honored-Mentor, the Late John Gassner, once reminded me: "Forgetting is also a Form-of-Criticism.”

What I do remember most vividly is that None-of-the-New-Plays had an Intermission!

Does this have anything to do with the Short-Attention-Spans that result from Twittering & Tweeting?

Clearly, the Day of the Four-Act-Play is Over.

Even Walter Kerr’s How’s Your Second-Act? no longer has Resonance when there are No-Third-Acts anymore.

But didn’t F. Scott Fitzgerald warn us long ago that "…there are no Second-Acts in American-Lives…” or Something-Like-That?

Kimber Lee’s brownsville song (b-side for tray) [★★★]

Brownsville May Not Be as Dangerous as Bed-Stuy, But It’s No Brooklyn-Heights or Park-Slope…

Gun-Control isn’t going to stop Random-Shootings anywhere in Brooklyn, but Young Tray is only 18 when he’s felled by a Bullet in Brownsville, so his Song is especially Sad for those he leaves Behind.

Nonetheless, he’s still able to make an Appearance in Kimber Lee’s Intercutting-Narrative.

Fighting-off a Pain-Killer, I got Lost somewhere in the Action, but it seemed to me that an Asian-American-Lady [Merrell, played by Jackie Chung] had married Tray’s Dad, but that his Grandma wasn’t in a Forgiving-Mood when Merrell came to Mend-Fences.

A Program-Note explained: "…Time moves in Scattered-Rhythms, Pivoting unpredictably between Before & After, as Tray’s Loved-Ones stumble through Loss, find Each-Other, & Fight their Way toward Hope.”

At first, I was Puzzled by the "b-side” Usage: did that somehow mean "Beside”?

No, I was told: On a Phonograph-Record, there’s the A-Side & the B-Side.

If you have recorded a Hit-Single, there still has to be something on the B-Side, I guess.

So, maybe, Tray’s Life wasn’t exactly a Hit-Single, especially as he was apparently felled by a Single-Hit?

Meredith McDonough directed a Cast that included Cherene Snow [Lena], Sally Diallo [Devine], John Clarence Stewart [Tray], & Joshua Boone.

Dorothy Fortenberry’s PARTNERS [★★★]

Food-Trucks & Gay-Marriages! What Is the Younger-Generation Coming To? Gourmet-Snacks?

Just because you are a Whiz in the Kitchen & can rustle-up Delicious-Dishes almost out of Nothing doesn’t mean that your Food-Truck-Idea is going to Work-Out.

Clare [Annie Purcell] is a Food-Visionary & plans to open a Food-Truck with her Gay-Friend, Ezra [Kasey Mahaffey].

But she’s also a Little-Miss-Fixit, urging Ezra to marry his African-American-Boyfriend, Brady [LeRoi McClain].

Well! It turns out that Brady’s Idea-of-Commitment is to be Free, now & then, to Sleep-Around!

Not a Good-Idea—even with Condoms—when AIDS is still Out-There.

Clare is married to Sensible-Paul [David Ross], whose Patience is Limited.

Clare comes into a Lot-of-Money, so, suddenly, her Sense-of-Commitment is Tested.

The Program-Notes suggest: "…they Decipher the Ongoing-Mystery of how to be an Adult.”

Well, There You Have It!

Lila Neugebauer directed.

SITI’s STEEL-HAMMER [★★]

John Henry Himself Could Not Keep Up the Pounding-Pace of These Frenetic SITI-Performers!

When Anne Bogart’s SITI-Company comes down to Louisville, it always seems to Confine itself to the Super-Intimate Victor-Jory-Performance-Space.

Perhaps this is to keep Anyone from Escaping?

Although Bogart had commissioned Four-Different-Playwrights to provide Performance-Texts for her Exploration of the John-Henry-Story, somehow it All-Sounded-of-a-Piece: rather like some St.-Vitus-Inspired Dance-of-Death-Holocaust.

Would Anyone be left Standing at the End?

John Henry—as any Schoolchild used to know—was that Spike-Driving-Railroad-Man who could Out-Pound any other man on the Job.

By now, John Henry has become almost Legendary, the Hero of many a Song & Story.

Nonetheless, that did not deter Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux, & Regina Taylor—all Actors-Theatre-Louisville-Favorites—from Crafting their own Imaginings about John Henry.

I’m not sure, but, at one point, I thought I saw a Top-Hatted Abe Lincoln walking through the Fray…

Recorded-Music was provided by the Bang-on-a-Can All-Stars & the Trio-Medieval.

I was Not-Alone in my Bafflement about the Concept & Execution of this John-Henry-Mash-up.

A Local-Critic commented: "The Mystery is: How did a Fine-Team turn a Great-Concept into an Embarrassing-Disaster?”

Lucas Hnath’s THE CHRISTIANS [★★★]

When You Are Operating a Megachurch, Be Very Careful About What You Preach To the Faithful!

Playwright Lucas Hnath—is the H Silent?—is really Onto-Something!

How about a Megachurch-Preacher suddenly telling his Faithful-Flock that it’s All-a-Crock?

If you are Tithing-One-Tenth—not to say One-Twentieth—plus working in the Church’s Christian-Cafeteria, the Last-Thing you want to hear is that God-Is-Dead. Or, maybe, only Out-to-Lunch…

We think we are in a Louisville-Theatre, but, when the Lights-Go-Up, Lo-&-Behold, we are in Church, with Pastor Paul right up there in his Pastoral-Chair, along with his Attractive-Wife & African-American Associate-Pastor.

Behind them is a Massed-Choir, singing Actual-Religious-Songs, complete with Soloist & Organist!

If we have read the Program-Notes beforehand, we realize that we are Not-Alone.

No, this is Pastor Paul’s Megachurch, which he has built-up from "a Modest-Storefront.”

There are, therefore, possibly Several-Thousand-Other-Worshippers somewhere in the Gloom behind us.

Now, Pastor Paul has built His-Church—Not upon Sand, as the Bible-Warns-Against—but upon the Blind-Faith & often Desperate-Hope-of-Heaven of Hundreds & Hundreds of Little-People, who Fondly-Believe that No-Matter how Awful-Their-Lives are in the Here-&-Now, Heaven will be not only a Better-Place, but also Their-Just-Reward!

Unfortunately for the Church’s Operational-Budget, this Sunday, Pastor Paul has decided to tell the Faithful that he has Lost-His-Faith. Or something like that…

Sad-to-Say, he has neglected to Share-This-Astonishment with his Stunned-Wife.

Lucas Hnath has a Great-Idea here, but it needs some Infrastructural-Background: Did Pastor Paul just come to this Realization the Day-Before?

Did it come to him in a Dream, Last-Night?

Where did it come from, in fact?

If not a Revelation, did Pastor Paul work-it-out in his Mind?

Can the mere Act-of-Thinking make you an Atheist? Or an Agnostic?

Watching Pastor Paul make his Declaration, I was reminded of that Fateful-Sunday when Ralph Waldo Emerson—Trained in Theology at Harvard-University & Ordained as a Protestant-Pastor—told his Astounded-New-England-Congregation that he No-Longer-Believed & Stepped-Down from His-Pulpit.

Instead of an Angry-Protestant-God, Emerson had come to believe in the Idea of an Oversoul: No-Heavenly-Rewards there…

Ralph Waldo—as a Result of this Apostasy—was not invited to Speak-at-Harvard for Thirty-Years.

But this gave him More-Time to write Emerson’s-Essays.

Pastor Paul obviously has never been to Harvard, nor does he seem capable of writing even One-Essay.

There are Several-Problems about Pastor Paul as a Character:

Not least, that he doesn’t seem, in the Pulpit, Charismatic.

How could he have built this Megachurch & Megabusiness if he is so lacking in Charisma?

This is not just the Fault of the Actor impersonating Pastor Paul [Andrew Garman]; the Fault is in the Playtext, as Developed.

Also, we really know nothing about Pastor Paul’s Significant-Other, who is identified by the Playwright only as "Wife.”

Thus, the Action is entirely Too-Schematic: These are not Real-People; they are Types.

Perhaps, Christian-Types?

Back to the Drawing-Board! Or, perhaps, to the Computer?

Les Waters staged—which didn’t require Much-Movement, considering the Choir/Pulpit-Placements of Stage-Designer Dane Laffrey.

Jordan Harrison’s THE GROWN-UP [★★★★]

A Crystal-Doorknob & a Boy’s Entire-Life Lived Almost-in-an-Instant, with No-Intermission!

The Program-Notes suggest that this fascinating Script is "…a Time-Bending, Sad, Funny Adventure about How-to-Survive Growing-Up.”

Actually, that is Not-Quite-Right, because, at the End, Kai will Not-Survive…

See, there’s this Crystal-Doorknob, the Spectrum-Glinting-Facets of which may have set Ten-Year-Old-Kai off on a Whirlwind-Journey-Through-Life, culminating in a Wheelchair & an Award, with a Hollywood-TV-Writing-Stint in between.

This—for me, at least—was the Most-Promising of all the Humana-Festival-Productions.

Jordan Harrison might well want to develop his Time-Travel-Idea more fully.

He might even want to turn it into a TV-Series!

Ken Rus Schmoll staged in Daniel Zimmerman’s Minimal-Environment.

A Commissioned-Committee’s REMIX-38 [★★★★]

What’s All This Concern about Innocent Guantanamo-Detainees Not Being Released Yet?

Almost every Sentence in the Conversational-Exchanges of Quite-Different-Characters is Ended with the Naming of a Wrongly-Detained Guantanamo-Prisoner who has not yet been released.

The Wonder is that the Two-Actors can pronounce those Muslim-Names with such Fluency…

This is what happens when a Committee-of-Playwrights Remix Dramatic-Contents & Contexts from Iconic-Plays performed at Actors-Theatre over the Humana-Festival’s 38-Year-History.

The Commissioned-Playwrights were Jackie Sibblies Drury, Idris Goodwin, Basil Kreimendahl, Justin Kuritzkes, & Amelia Roper.

All of them knew they were writing for the Acting-Apprentice-Company, so they had to keep Everything-Young-&-Fresh. Also: Amusing, wherever Possible!

The Plays they have Plundered include: Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart, Jane Martin’s Talking With…, José Rivera’s Marisol, Naomi Iizka’s Polaroid Stories, Naomi Wallace’s The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Charles L. Mee’s Big Love, & The Method Gun.

It is, of course, commonly believed that Jane Martin is really Jon Jory in Playwriting-Drag.

Jon Jory is, of course, the Former-Artistic-Director of Actors-Theatre-Louisville, as well as Co-Founder, with Arvin Brown, of the Long-Wharf-Theatre, up in New Haven, CT, where the Wharf wasn’t Big-Enough for Both-of-Them…

The Victor-Jory-Theatre of Actors-Theatre-Louisville is, in fact, named for Jon Jory’s amiable Dad.

The So-Called TEN-MINUTE-PLAYS:

Time was when the Humana-Festival’s Ten-Minute-Plays actually were about Ten-Minutes-Long.

That one about the Pillsbury-Doughboy remains a Favorite.

Rachel Bonds’ WINTER-GAMES [★★★★]

Jamie Prepares to Open the Bakery, But It’s the Dead-of-Winter in a Small-Town Near Scranton.

While I was watching this Mini-Drama, I was both inspired & agitated, but now, as Memory-Fails, I cannot tell you what Transpired or Why-Mary-Was-Up-All-Night…

I did like it, though.

Jason Gray Platt’s SOME-PREPARED-REMARKS (A History in Speech) [★★★]

Thank-God the Speaker Had Some Notes—Index-Cards, Scraps-of-Paper—To Outline-His-Life!

Platt’s Everyman doesn’t spout Platitudes, but he does Cover-a-Lot-of-Territory—a Lifespan—as recorded on Bits-&-Pieces of Paper.

As a Former-Professor of Public-Speaking, my Heart went out to Platt’s Anti-Hero.

I did like it, though.

Gregory Hischak’s POOR-SHEM [★★★★]

That Bulky-Photocopier We Passed in the Actors-Theatre-Louisville Offices Takes a Bow Onstage.

Just Imagine! An HP-Laser-Printer Center-Stage!

At least we didn’t see Robot-Actors animating the Printing-Cycles…

I did like it, though.

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