The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Transylvania University’s May 25 graduation ceremony will have a dash of Hollywood: Actor and area resident Steve Zahn is to deliver the commencement address.
Zahn, who starred in films including Sahara; Happy, Texas; and Rescue Dawn, and the HBO series Treme, lives in Georgetown with his wife, theater artist and author Robyn Peterman-Zahn and their two children. They also are co-directors of The Rep, a Lexington-based musical theater troupe whose next production will be Georgie Boy! this summer.
Zahn took to the stage himself in December, playing the featured role of One-Man-Christmas-Show-Man in The Rep’s second annual production of Peterman-Zahn’s satirical revue Smackdown for the Christmas Crown at the Lyric Theatre.
On film, Zahn can next be seen in Dallas Buyers Club, the story of Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey), an HIV/AIDS patient who created an underground resource of non-FDA approved AIDS medicines in the early 1990s. The film was recently acquired by Focus Features and is scheduled for release later this year.
Zahn attended the American Repertory Theatre’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University.
The commencement ceremony will be at 9:30 a.m. May 25 on the lawn at Old Morrison on the Transylvania University campus.
Eastern Kentucky University made news earlier this month with the announcement that First Lady Michelle Obama will address its graduates on May 11.
The Lexington Tattoo Project will take a poem about the city by area writer Bianca Spriggs, split it up and spread it across the bodies of more than 200 residents. At press time, Todorova said 227 participants had agreed to have a word or phrase from the poem tattooed on their bodies by Robert Alleyne of Charmed Life Tattoo. The tattoos will be designed by Gohde and Todorova, who will create a video work of the project featuring the overall design for the poem. They said the design will not be known to anyone but themselves and Alleyne until the video is complete.
Todorova said tattooing is scheduled to take place through January; the entire project will be complete in June.
Transylvania University has hired former Actors Theatre of Louisville literary manager Michael Bigelow Dixon as an assistant professor of theater beginning with this year’s fall semester.
Dixon was the literary manager of Actors Theatre of Louisville from 1986 to 2001 and associate artistic director in his final year. The post made Dixon one of the key players in the Humana Festival of New American Plays with festival founder Jon Jory during years when plays such as Tony Kushner’s Slavs!, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare and Donald Margulies’ Dinner with Friends premiered.
In 2001, Dixon left Actors Theatre to become literary manager of the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, where he worked until 2007. He has since been the resident director of The Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis and then an assistant professor of theater at Goucher College in Baltimore since 2009.
Dixon is also a director, playwright, author and editor, his best-known work being Anne Bogart: Viewpoints, which looks at the methodology of the iconic director of the Saratoga International Theatre Institute.
Dixon will bring the number of Actors Theatre veterans at Transy to two, with former Apprentice/Intern Program director Sullivan Canaday White already on the faculty as director of the theater program. White is also a co-director of Project SEE Theatre. Dixon’s hiring follows Transy’s announcement earlier this year that it hired acclaimed poet Maurice Manning as an English professor.
Tenor Andrew Moore’s first solo recital in September 2010 was a traditional affair, with works by George Frideric Handel, Vincenzo Bellini, Johannes Brahms and other usual suspects in classical vocal music. Moore got a little loose in the second half with some Irish folk songs.
As he started planning his second recital, he mentioned to his voice teacher, Phyllis Jenness, that he would like to focus on works by Morehead-based composer Jay Flippin, the longtime accompanist of the Lexington Singers, of which Moore is a member.
“She said, ‘Hmmm. What if you did all American composers, even all Kentucky?’” Moore says. “So I started doing research and found quite a few really fine composers right here in Lexington.”
His recital Sunday night in the Carrick Theatre at Transylvania University (see the photo caption, above, for details) will feature the works of two iconic Kentucky-connected composers, Stephen Foster and John Jacob Niles, and active composers Joseph Baber, Greg Partain and Flippin.
“I think the recital has turned out to be an interesting and high-quality representation of Kentucky song composers,” says Jenness, who founded the Lexington Singers and directed the voice program at the University of Kentucky until 1993.
Moore, a landscape architect by day, says he would not be giving any recitals if not for Jenness.
The lineup for the 14th annual One World Film Festival has been announced with 11 cross-cultural films scheduled Feb. 12 to March 18. This year’s lineup includes numerous noteworthy and critically acclaimed films including the 2011 Oscar winner for best documentary. All showings are free. The films are:
Feb. 12: The Rape of Europa (2006, U.S.A.). A documentary about the Nazis’ theft of art throughout Europe and the efforts to return the works. 2 p.m.; Transylvania University Carrick Theatre in Mitchell Fine Arts Center, 300 N. Broadway.
Feb. 16: Last Train Home (2009, U.S.A.). A documentary about a rural Chinese couple who went to the city for work and found themselves estranged from the daughter they left behind to be raised by her grandparents. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre, 241 E. Main St.
Feb. 19: Inside Job (2010, U.S.A.). The 2011 Academy Award winner for best documentary shows the corruption that led to the global economic meltdown of 2008. 2 p.m.; Transylvania’s Carrick Theatre.
Feb. 23: No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009, Iran). An Iranian couple is stymied in its attempts to form a rock band because they cannot play in Iran and can’t get passports to play abroad. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre.
Feb. 26: Gasland (2010, U.S.A.). A documentary exploring the negative effects of a controversial form of natural gas drilling also known as “fracking.” 2 and 4:30 p.m.; Transylvania University Cowgill Center.
March 1: Budrus (2009, Israel). A documentary exploring an incident in the longstanding struggle between Israelis and Palestinians. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre.
March 4: Beyond Belief (2010, U.S.A.). A documentary about two women who meet after their husbands are killed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and travel to Afghanistan to meet women whose husbands were killed by violence. 2 p.m.; Transylvania’s Carrick Theatre.
March 8: Stonewall (1995, U.S.A.). A drama set against the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, considered to be a seminal moment in gay history. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre.
March 11: The Black Balloon (2008, Australia). A drama about a boy who has to keep tabs on his older brother, starring Gemma Ward and Toni Collette. 2 p.m.; Central Library Theatre, 140 E. Main St.
March 15: The Hedgehog (2009, France). An erudite girl decides to kill herself on her 12th birthday but begins to question that intention when she meets some like-minded people. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre.
March 18: A Small Act (2008, U.S.A.). A Swedish citizen funds the education of a Kenyan boy and inspires a passionate, lifelong love of learning. 2 and 4:30 p.m.; Central Library Theatre.
Dec24Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Agape Theatre Troupe, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Eastern Kentucky University, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Musicals, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Studio Players, SummerFest, Theater, Transylvania University, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, UK;
We did not have a major international event in Lexington this year like 2010’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, but it felt like a big year in the arts.
WEG was a catalyst for a lot of big names and big plans for Lexington arts organizations and presenters, but the major events of 2011 came a bit more naturally. It was an important year for the arts in Central Kentucky as the organizational and physical landscapes shifted.
How many college orchestras could claim a year in which they played with superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman and orchestral superstars the Boston Pops, complete with Keith Lockhart on the podium? The University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra could, and it played a world premiere by Thomas Pasatieri. Major accomplishments are becoming routine under John Nardolillo’s direction.
Also coming from the UK School of Music was the Opera Theatre’s innovative production of Porgy and Bess, which recorded multiple sellouts at the 1,500-seat Singletary Center and employed a new video projection system created by UK’s Viz Center for the sets.
The Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra opened its 50th anniversary season with another violin superstar, Midori, and continued some changes that it experimented with last year, including having Picnic With the Pops at Keeneland and taking its annual Messiah performances to area churches.
As is becoming more the case, numerous new works were premiered in Central Kentucky this year, including the orchestral version of Daniel Thomas Davis’ Book of Songs and Visions, which he originally composed for the chamber ensemble at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington. This year’s festival world premiere was Daniel Kellogg’s Look Up at the Sky.
ActOut Theatre brought Stephen Currens’ The Happy Hour to the stage, and Christmastime brought two world premieres: Margaret Price’s musical Looking for Mrs. Santa Claus at Studio Players, and Robyn Peterman-Zahn’s Smackdown for the Christmas Crown at The Rep, a new company making its debut.
An arts district?
The Arena, Arts and Entertainment Task Force has primarily been a sports story, to this point, focused on what kind of home court the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team will have. But the whole project has major implications for arts and entertainment in Central Kentucky beyond what effect renovations in Rupp will have on arena acts that play Lexington. Included in the discussion have been possibilities for new venues, including an amphitheater near the arena, a possible new home for area orchestral groups, and a downtown campus for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. The effort to reimagine the arena area also has revived a decades-old debate about whether Lexington needs a 2,000- to 2,500-seat performing-arts theater, which does not appear to be in the cards with recently approved plans.
This story will evolve over the years because the project reportedly will take more than a decade to complete. But 2011 is the year things seriously started to happen, and the arts have had a seat at the planning table.
Speaking of major performing-arts theaters, a new one opened this fall: the Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts in Richmond. It is the first new major arts venue of more than 1,000 seats to open in Central Kentucky in several decades, although Lexington’s Singletary Center for the Arts and Opera House, and Danville’s Norton Center for the Arts have undergone major renovations in recent years.
EKU made a provocative move in hiring former Norton Center assistant director Debra Hoskins as its director, and she brought the Norton Center playbook, booking big names including B.B. King, Peter Frampton and Wynonna Judd for the opening season of the new theater.
In possibly a hint of how arts programming at Central Kentucky theaters might be realigning, new Norton Center director Steven A. Hoffman programmed more of a connoisseur/adventurer season at his venue, with shows like the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata performing a reimagined Sound of Music and avant-garde violinist Hahn-Bin this fall.
A realigned theater scene
No genre realigned in Central Kentucky this year as much as theater in Lexington. Actors Guild of Lexington staged what has been a successful comeback, with a dizzying number of shows for one calendar year, mostly at its new venue off Harrodsburg Road, near the Fayette County-Jessamine County line. Meanwhile, several new theaters emerged, including ProjectSEE Theatre, which has programmed a season at the Downtown Arts Center and Transylvania University; SummerFest, which staged its first fall and indoor show with August: Osage County and has plans for a spring production; and The Rep, which grabbed the musical theater baton from Paragon Music Theatre, which went on possible permanent hiatus with the departure of founding director Ryan Shirar.
Other players moving around and positioning themselves in 2011 included On the Verge, which had a successful site-specific performance at a funeral home with Three Viewings and then presented its first theater production with God of Carnage at the Downtown Arts Center. And Balagula Theatre continued growing its own niche, performing Naomi Wallace’s contemporary classic One Flea Spare for the playwright and participating in a competition with the Kentucky Women Writers Conference that will result in a world premiere production early in 2012. Agape Theatre also has continued to innovate, with new productions illustrating the black experience in Kentucky and beyond, including a collaboration early in the year with eventual National Book Award winner Nikky Finney.
With all the shifting, the Lexington theater scene has become a true ensemble cast, with no leading theater — although Lexington Children’s Theatre is the leading professional house — but with lots of interesting character actors.
Oct9Filed under: Studio Players, SummerFest, Theater, Transylvania University, UK, Woodford County Theatre; Tagged as: Actors Guild of Lexington, Almost, August: Osage County, Bluegrass Community and Technical College Theater, Joe Ferrell, Kentucky Conservatory Theatre, Maine, Project SEE Theatre, SummerFest, The Rocky Horror Show, Transylvania University, University of Kentucky Theatre, Vic Chaney
When I heard that Central Kentucky was going to get a production of Tracy Letts’ 2008 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County in the 2011-12 arts season, I was excited … the first time it was announced.
That was the University of Kentucky Theatre’s production, scheduled for February and directed by former Actors Guild of Lexington artistic chief Vic Chaney.
Then, Kentucky Conservatory Theatre/SummerFest announced it was going to mount its first indoor, school-year performance … of August: Osage County.
I am by no means suggesting that this production, which opens Thursday, will be a letdown. It is being directed by the dean of Lexington theater directors, Joe Ferrell, features an all-star cast of Lexington actors and an innovative set design. On paper, this is a great production.
And I am not trying to suggest that anyone was trying to bigfoot anyone with these productions – when this happens, it’s not always clear who had dibs on the show.
But I will say without reservation that it is indicative of a tiresome trend: multiple theaters in Central Kentucky putting up productions of the same show within a relatively short period.
Earlier this year, we had Bluegrass Community and Technical College Theater and Actors Guild of Lexington co-producing The Rocky Horror Show, closely followed by SummerFest presenting The Rocky Horror Show. A little later this fall, Project SEE Theatre and Transylvania University will present John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, a show The Woodford Theatre already has scheduled for early next year.
Seeing so much duplication makes me ask: Are there so few published plays available that theaters think they have no choice but to program the same show another company is already presenting?
Project SEE Theatre, which presented a critically acclaimed production of Steven Dietz’s Lonely Planet last fall, has announced a full season of shows. And it is not a long wait until the first production, which opens in just over three weeks. Here’s the lineup:
boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Sept. 1-4, 8-11 at the Downtown Arts Center – A three-person play exploring randomness in life, it was the most-produced play in regional theater last year
Almost, Maine by John Cariani, Oct. 27-30, Nov. 3-5 at Transylvania University – A four-person play of vignettes that look at the impact and aftermath of love; a co-production with Transylvania University Theatre
12 Dates of Christmas by Ginna Hoben, Dec. 8-11, 15-18, location TBA – A one-woman show about a woman who catches her boyfriend cheating right before Christmas and embarks on a lonely search for love in New York City
The Hot L Baltimore by Lanford Wilson, March 1-4, 8-11 at the Downtown Arts Center – First selection in a Springtime tribute to the late Lanford Wilson, considered one of the founders of Off-Off-Broadway Theatre; a play about the residents of the Hotel Baltimore facing eviction when the hotel is condemed
Burn This by Lanford Wilson, May 31-June 3, June 7-10 – A group of friends tries to regroup after a friend’s tragic death
Project SEE is a collaboration between Lexington-based theater artists Ellie Clark and Evan Bergman, who have been active with SummerFest and Kentucky Conservatory Theatre, and Sully White, who is on the theater faculty at Transylvania University.
Feb25Filed under: The Humana Festival of New American Plays, Theater, Transylvania University; Tagged as: Aloha Say the Pretty Girls, Eugene Ionesco, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Metamorphoses, Naomi Iizuka, Ovid, Polaroid Stories, Rhinoceros, Sullivan Canaday White, Transylvania University Theatre
The first show I saw at the Humana Festival of New American Plays was Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls in 1999. It was the second Humana show from Naomi Iizuka, a playwright who made a big Humana splash two years earlier with Polaroid Stories, a riff on Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Aloha was billed as one of the young, hip plays in an edition of the festival that was trying very hard to be youthful and edgy – this was also the year of the t-shirt plays and the car play.
So more than a decade later, when Transylvania University Theatre announced Aloha would be part of its season, I was eager to revisit the show and see how well it held up. The hazard with things that try really hard to seem young and of-the-moment is they can often get stuck in that moment, and a lot has happened since 1999, when dial-up Internet seemed really high tech and we used cell phones to make phonecalls.
A lot had happened with Iizuka too, who went on to pen scripts such as the Orson Welles bioplay War of the Worlds and the the site-specific play about Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood, At the Vanishing Point.
So this was an interesting chance to go back to go back and hear her voice when she was speaking on behalf of her generation.
A few things quickly emerged in Sullivan Canaday White’s rendition for Transy:
~ Iizuka was writing for a perpetual generation – young adults looking for their place in the world – not a specific time. Read the rest of this entry »
Jan2Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Balagula Theatre, Classical Music, Downtown Arts Center, Eastern Kentucky University, LexArts, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Norton Center for the Arts, Opera, Singletary Center for the Arts, Theater, Transylvania University, UK; Tagged as: Actors Guild of Lexington, Aloha, Boston Pops Orchestra, Downtown Arts Center, Eastern Kentucky University performing arts center, Eric Seale, Everett McCorvey, Itzhak Perlman, Joe Cannon Artz, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lyric Theatre, Naomi Iizuka, Norton Center for the Arts, Porgy and Bess, ProjectSEE Theatre, Rupp Arena, Say the Pretty Girls, Scott Terrell, Singletary Center for the Arts, Steven A. Hoffman, Transylvania University Theatre, UK Symphony Orchestra, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich