11/26/2008

Perkins Students Guest in Roxbury Community Theatre Production Of "The Miracle Worker"

TAKING THE SHOW ON THE ROAD:

Director Marshall Hughes (3rd from left) brought the Roxbury Repertory Theatre production of The Miracle Worker to Perkins School for the Blind on November 6. Perkins student actors surround Elise Hana, who played Helen Keller. L-R: Kerryne Ohlson, Minh Farrow, Hughes, Leslie Gruette, Hana, Michelle Smith.

Perkins Students Guest in Roxbury Community Theatre Production Of The Miracle Worker
Watertown, MA – On Thursday, November 6, Roxbury Repertory Theatre brought their production of The Miracle Worker to Perkins School for the Blind. In his best-known play, William Gibson weaves together a triumphant tale of the human spirit, a commentary on how the world at large views people with disabilities, a historic landmark in American education, a uniqueinsight into family dynamics and a heroic story of love and dedication between two souls. The story of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan has its roots at Perkins School for the Blind even before Ms. Sullivan graduated in 1886.

RRT co-founder, Marshall Hughes, directed the show. Scenes between Perkins’ second director Michael Anagnos and Sullivan, his star pupil, depict the mentor encouraging and cajoling the first-time teacher before she heads to the Keller home in Tuscumbia, Alabama. The farewell scene at Perkins expresses the affection between Annie and younger pupils who were portrayed by current Perkins students, with additional direction by their drama teacher, Jennie O’Brien.

Four Perkins students performed with RRT during the October run in Boston at Roxbury Community College Media Arts Center [www.rccmainstage.com]. As a special treat for Perkins School and its neighbors, the theatre company trucked their actors and set pieces to Watertown for one special performance. “Being here at Perkins among so many artifacts and memories of Annie and Helen was a powerful inspiration for the whole cast and an important collaboration between our communities,” said Hughes. “As a director, it was enlightening to work with actors who are blind. Minh, Leslie, Kerryne and Michelle immediately bonded in with their fellow actors. Jennie was amazing in her support, and Perkins was gracious to let us come in and take over Dwight Hall.”

Most of the action occurs in Alabama, comic mishaps intermingling with poignant drama. Of her young teacher’s arrival, Keller later said, "The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me."

Students, staff, Watertown residents, family and friends gathered in Dwight Hall to relive this powerful chapter of Perkins history. Thundering applause greeted the curtain call.

11/11/2008

RRT: Theater for All

Our experience at the RRT Mainstage performance of The Miracle Worker was so positive, that we look forward to bringing our students to other productions in the future. Thank you for making quality theater accessible!

--Betty Stone, Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences

10/29/2008

So says Nate Martz, theater-goer and man-about-town

I was digging the shadow box and the flying kitchen set.
Scout is a pretty talented little actress if I do say so.

Thank you for a wonderful performance of "The Miracle Worker"

Dear Mr. Hughes,

I want to thank you for directing such a WONDERFUL play as The Miracle Worker.  My
daughter, Alexa, and I saw it last night.  We had the opportunity to meet you briefly and
you gave me your card.

I have to tell you that Alexa talked about the play all the way home.  (We had a one hour
drive back to Warwick, R.I.)  When we got home she had to stay up to tell my husband all
about it.  She was very moved by this experience and she even cried a little bit for
Helen -- that is how well acted this performance was.  She had read a book on the lives
of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan before, but seeing this portion of their lives depicted
dramatically was a whole new experience for her.

As I mentioned to you, we just moved to Rhode Island from New York City at the start of
September.  One of my main goals for my two children was to continue their participation
with the arts.  I am so happy to have discovered Mainstage because it is an affordable
and worthwhile experience for my children.  Although my son is still too young to attend
a long dramatic performance, I look forward to bringing him in a few years.

So, in brief, I simply want to offer you and the entire cast and crew of The Miracle
Worker my heartfelt congratulations for delivering such an outstanding performance.  I
plan to tell the Head of School where my daughter attends, with the hope that they will
be willing and able to have the students participate in field trip to Mainstage.

So thank you once again...and thank you for being so welcoming to Alexa last night.  This
was truly a wonderful experience for her.

Best regards,
Clarise A. Brooks Major

10/22/2008

What People are Saying

I am writing to express how deeply moved I was to see the ‘Miracle Worker’ last Saturday.

What a wonderful piece of work you guys have created!

The effort and love that your team has poured into this production clearly seeps through every scene.

What gripped me most was that the actors and technicians seem to be not just ‘putting up’ the show, but ‘feeling’ each line and movement of it. I strongly resonated with the content of the play too, having been a firm believer in ‘benefit from deficit’.

I am so glad that I witnessed the ‘Miracle Worker’ which portrays human condition and relationships at so many levels, and through so many layers.

All the very best for upcoming shows.

Best regards,

Gautam

Applications Developer

RCC Institutional Research

9/09/2008

Next at RRT: "The Miracle Worker"

"The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me."

Roxbury Repertory Theatre proudly announces the upcoming presentation of The Miracle Worker by William Gibson.

This gripping and intense drama chronicles the start of the relationship between teacher Anne Sullivan and her blind-deaf-mute student, Helen Keller. Their story inspired the world.

With Elise Hana as Helen and Julie Dapper as Anne.

Teachers! Bring your class to the theater! Special morning performances for schools bring history and literature to life. Call us at (617) 541-5380, or email rrt@rccmainstage.com for ticket information.

Find in-depth study guides for this classic of American drama at edHelper.com.

3/03/2008

Brecht Unplugged Recap

Despite the illnesses and bad weather, the show ended on a high note. We hope all who joined us enjoyed the show--or at least walked away thinking about things (like say war, the theater, Bertolt Brecht, society, and Roxbury Repertory Theatre).

Thanks to a fantastic cast and crew including director Maureen Shea, designer Mirta Tocci, producing director Marshall Hughes, artistic director Robbie McCauley, assistant director Camille Thompson, the amazing Rebecca Finkelstein as stage manager, technical director Craig Zemsky, dramaturg Elizabeth Mueller, Tom Pendergast-musician extraordinaire, and she-who-does-it-all Pam Green. And like I said, the cast--the stupendous, super-contentious, happening cast: Chris Wrenn, Dinan Messiqua, Mel Penley, Cheryl Murphy, Chris McCoy, Nick Neyeloff, Garry Bates, Alan Rias, David Curtis, Alex Smith, Riode Jean-Felix, Herby Charmant, Fary Jean-Felix, Rasheed Jean-Felix, Michael Truppi, Julie Dapper, Jeung Soon Takeda, Fran Renehan, Sadie Roze Zavgren, and Donna Spurlock (what a gal). Brecht would be proud of you all, I think. What do I know. There are more photos to come!

See you at the next show.

2/22/2008

Awesome Opening

We enjoyed a terrific opening night performance.

Unfortunately, due to the weather, the Friday, February 22 performance is cancelled.

2/21/2008

Opening Night!

Opening night is tonight, but I want to thank the few, but proud, who joined us for Press Night last night. Due to the rampant flu virus that took out a few of our ranks, last night was truly our final dress. There were fewer bumps than expected, however.

Word on the street is: we have a show! AND it's good. AND it is thought provoking, which is the point.

Thanks again and good health to the cast for the rest of the run! "Break a leg" seems daunting now, but go ahead. Just keep the fevers down.

2/04/2008

Educators! Make Brecht Unplugged a Learning Experience

Bertolt Brecht believed in theater being a learning experience. A place where players and audience alike confronted their world and began to think. The theater was not a place to watch a story unfold and escape from reality, but rather a place to learn about reality.

Share the experience of Brecht Unplugged with your students, and then share this study guide. Get them thinking about what Brecht was saying about the world we live in.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Mueller, Dramaturg.

Definitions About Brecht

Definitions about Brecht:

Modernism: A movement which highlights the human ability to create.
Progress and the"new" is important and highly valued. This segued
into post-modernism where interpretation is up to the individual and
critiques established traditionalism.

Neue Sachlichkeit: (new sobriety, new objectivity, new matter-of-factness)
Brecht's work in the 1920's especially identifies with this approach
which values collaboration over the individual.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Mueller, Dramaturg.

Brecht Definitions

Brecht is known for creating and implementing several
new theatrical techniques.

Epic theatre: (also known as "brechtian acting," and "dialectical
theatre") This type of theatre is not meant to entertain or present the
audience witha false reality, but to present the audience with ideas
to provoke discussion andthoughtful self-reflection.

Alienation effect: (more closely translated as distancing or estrangement
effect) The simplifying of story and theatrical devices is key in helping
the audience see the purpose of the piece. By distancing the audience
emotionally, they are better able to analyze and discuss the work's ideas
rationally. Brecht seeks to oppose the realism and escapism of Stanislavski
by using simplified sets and storytelling devices.

Historicization: Brecht felt that stories set in the present were too close
to be examined objectively. He often wrote plays set in previous times
because they helped the audience see the present more clearly.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Mueller, Dramaturg

1/23/2008

What a Brechtian Thing to Say!

A few quotes from Mr. Brecht:

"Why be a man when you can be a success?"

"War is like love; it always finds a way."

"Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes."

"The defeats and victories of the fellows at the top aren't always defeats and victories for the fellows at the bottom."

"Mixing one's wines may be a mistake, but old and new wisdom mix admirably."

“Don't be afraid of death so much as an inadequate life.”

1/22/2008

The Mother

Mothers send their sons to war. Julie Dapper as the Mother.

Written in a dramatic form with resemblances to Brecht's radically-experimental Lehrstücke (or 'learning plays'), Brecht describes the play as "a piece of anti-metaphysical, materialistic, non-arostotelian drama." To become a good mother, the play suggests, one must do more than just complain about the price of soup. The title character, the mother Pelagea Vlassova, journeys through the play’s fourteen scenes, the death of her son, and her own impending illness, struggling against illiteracy, but filled with good humor and wily activism, until the moment in October 1917 when she becomes free to carry and raise her own Red Flag on the eve of the Czar's overthrow, which she was unable to do before. The play gains continued recognition for its forensic, witty and, some would say, humanist critique of capitalism seen through the experiences of those obliged (as Brecht himself saw the world) to live beneath the latter system's crushing weight.

Brecht wrote The Mother at a time when Hitler was gaining power in Germany. During a performance the Nazis arrested the leading actor to prevent the public from seeing the play. While Brecht’s primary purpose with this may have been to provide a dramatic handbook of action and hope for his contemporaries, the play is said by many of its advocates to contain a universality just as applicable to much of the world today, particularly in the Global South.

In the play, Brecht utilizes narrative, irony, the juxtaposition of self-proclaimed "truths" to reveal their flaws, the concretizing of complex ideas into dramatic events, an understanding and simple presentation of human behaviour, and a comedic optimism that things can be changed and that reason and common sense will overcome fear and superstition. Vlassov is Brecht's entirely positive major character, enduring a long and difficult road to liberation. The play also contains a musical score by Hans Eisler, who was a collaborator particularly sympathetic to Brecht’s Marxist perspective. It is also the most elaborate use of the Lehrstuck form.

Information from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

1/20/2008

Mother Courage

RRT's excerpt of Mother Courage and Her Children gives the audience Brecht's message in a clear and entertaining shortened version. Fran Renehan plays Courage.

Mother Courage is an example of Brecht's concepts of Epic Theatre and Verfremdungseffekt or "alienation". ("Alienation", however, is something of a misleading translation, for it suggests that the audience are actively cut off from the performance. A more accurate translation of Verfremdungseffekt is "distancing effect" or "to make strange", since Brecht's intention was to set the audience apart from familiar situations so that they may think about them objectively). Verfremdungseffekt is achieved through the use of placards which reveal the events of each scene, juxtaposition, actors changing characters and costume on stage, the use of narration, simple props and scenery. For instance, a single tree would be used to convey a whole forest, and the stage is usually flooded with bright white light whether it's a winter's night or a summer's day. Several songs are used to underscore the themes of the play.

The action of the play takes place over the course of 12 years (1624 to 1636), represented in 12 scenes. Some give a sense of Courage's career without being given enough time to develop sentimental feelings and empathize with any of the characters. Meanwhile, Mother Courage is not depicted as a noble character – here the Brechtian epic theatre sets itself apart from the ancient Greek tragedies in which the heroes are far above the average. With the same alienating effect, the ending of Brecht's play does not arouse our desire to imitate the main character, Mother Courage.

Brecht and Steffin wrote this play in only two months, and it is among his most famous plays. His work attempts to show the dreadfulness of war and the idea that virtues are not rewarded in corrupt times. He used an epic structure so that the audience focuses on the issues being displayed rather than getting involved with the characters and emotions. Epic plays are of a very distinct genre and are typical of Brecht; a strong case could be made that he invented the form.

Information is from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Baal

Among the excerpted scenes RRT will be performing from Brecht's plays, Baal is included.

Baal was the first full-length play written by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht. Set in Berlin's underworld, it concerns a wastrel youth who becomes involved in several sexual affairs and at least one murder. It was written in 1918, when Brecht was a 20-year-old student at Munich University,in response to the expressionist drama The Loner (Der Einsame) by the soon-to-become-Nazi dramatist Hanns Johst. Baal did not receive a theatrical performance until 1923, when it opened on the 8th December at the Altes Theater in Leipzig (in a production directed by Alwin Kronacher in which Brecht participated for most rehearsals). Brecht wrote Baal prior to developing the dramaturgical techniques of 'epic theatre' that characterize his later work. He wrote a revised version with Elisabeth Hauptmann in 1926 for a brief production at Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater in Berlin, where he had worked recently as a dramaturg. It opened on the 14th February for a single matinée performance. It was performed by the Junge Bühne and directed by Brecht and Oskar Homolka (who also played the title role), with set-design by Caspar Neher.

The story traces the decline of a drunken and dissolute poet, Baal, an anti-hero who rejects the conventions and trappings of polite society. This honors the German Sturm und Drang tradition which celebrates the cult of the genius living outside the conventions of society that would later destroy him. "The outcast, the disillusioned tough becomes the hero; he may be criminal, he may be semi-human," argues John Willett, "but in plays like Baal he can be romanticized into an inverted idealist, blindly striking out at the society in which he lives." Baal roams the countryside, womanizing and brawling. He seduces Johanna, who subsequently drowns herself. He spurns his pregnant mistress Sophie and abandons her. He murders his friend Ekart, becoming a fugitive from the police. Defiantly aloof from the consequences of his actions, Baal is nonetheless brought low by his debauchery, dying alone in a forest hut, hunted and deserted, and leaving in his wake the corpses of deflowered maidens and murdered friends.

The play is written in a form of heightened prose and includes four songs and an introductory choral hymn ("Hymn of Baal the Great"), set to melodies composed by Brecht himself.

Information from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Who Is Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director. A seminal theatre practitioner of the twentieth century, Brecht's achievement is equally significant in dramaturgy and in theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the Berliner Ensemble—the post-war theatre company operated by Brecht and his wife and long-time collaborator, the actress Helene Weigel—with its internationally acclaimed productions.
From his late twenties Brecht remained a life-long committed Marxist
who, in developing the combined theory and practice of his 'epic theatre', synthesized and extended the experiments of Piscator and Meyerhold to explore the theatre as a forum for political ideas and the creation of a critical aesthetics of dialectical materialism. Brecht's modernist concern with drama-as-a-medium led to his refinement of the 'epic form' of the drama (which constitutes that medium's rendering of 'autonomization' or the 'non-organic work of art'—related in kind to the strategy of divergent chapters in Joyce's novel Ulysses to Einstein's evolution of a constructivist 'montage' the cinema and to Picasso's introduction of cubist 'collage' in the visual arts). In contrast to many other avant-garde approaches, however, Brecht had no desire to destroy art as an institution; rather, he hoped to 're-function' the apparatus of theatrical production to a new social use. In this regard he was a vital participant in the aesthetic debates of his era—particularly over the 'high art/popular culture' dichotomy—vying with the likes of Adorno, Lukacs, Bloch, and developing a close friendship with Benjamin. Brechtian theatre articulated popular themes and forms with avant-garde formal experimentation to create a modernist realism that stood in sharp contrast both to its psychological and socialist varieties. "Brecht's work is the most important and original in European drama since Ibsen and Strindberg," Raymond Williams argues, while Peter Burger insists that he is "the most important materialist writer of our time."
As Jameson among others has stressed, "Brecht is also ‘Brecht’"—collective and collaborative working methods were inherent to his approach. This 'Brecht' was a collective subject that "certainly seemed to have a distinctive style (the one we now call 'Brechtian') but was no longer personal in the bourgeois or individualistic sense." During the course of his career, Brecht sustained many long-lasting creative relationships with other writers, composers, scenographers, directors, dramaturgs and actors; the list includes: Elisabeth Hauptmann, Margarete Steffin, Ruth Berlau, Slatan Dudow, Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, Paul Dessau, Caspar Neher, Teo Otto, Karl von Appen, Ernst Busch, Lotte Lenya, Peter Lorre, Therese Giehse, Angelika Hurwicz, and Helene Weigel herself. This is "theatre as collective experiment [...] as something radically different from theatre as expression or as experience."
There are few areas of modern theatrical culture that have not felt the impact or influence of Brecht's ideas and practices; dramatists and directors in whom one may trace a clear Brechtian legacy include: Dario Fo, Augusto Boal, Joan Littlewood, Peter Brook, Peter Weiss, Heiner Müller, Pina Bausch, Tony Kushner and Caryl Churchill. In addition to the theatre, Brechtian theories and techniques have exerted considerable sway over certain strands of film theory and cinematic practice; Brecht's influence may be detected in the films of Joseph Losey, Jean-Luc Godard, Lindsay Anderson, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Nagisa Oshima, Ritwik Ghatak, Lars von Trier, Jan Bucquoy and Hal Hartley.