The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Balagula Theatre‘s production of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? starts its final week today with Adam Luckey playing the lead role of Martin. In the video above, Luckey talks about his busy last several weeks balancing the Edward Albee play, which closes Feb. 20, with his new role as host of Bluegrass showcase Red Barn Radio.
Longtime Lexington actor Kevin Hardesty will return to local stages in the title role of Balagula Theatre‘s production Eric-Emmanuel Schmidt’s Don Juan on Trial.
Hardesty has played many theater icons in Lexington, including the title role in two productions of Hamlet for the Lexington Shakespeare Festival in 1991 and 1999. Hardesty left the Lexington Theatre scene after he resigned from his post as artistic director of Actors Guild of Lexington in 2003 for personal reasons. He returned a few times, most notably in SummerFest’s 2007 production of The Crucible, as John Proctor.
After five years away, he quietly returned early this fall for a reading of a new screenplay by Lexington filmmaker Jeremy Horton of 100 Proof fame at the Centeral Library’s Farish Theater.
In Don Juan, he will lead a cast of Lexington stage notables including Ryan Case as Chevalier De Chiffreville and Rachel Lee Rogers, who made her own return this fall in Balagula’s Bug, as Angelique. The show runs Dec. 9 to 19 at Natasha’s Bistro and Bar.
Balagula Theatre at Natasha’s Bistro and Bar has announced its 2012-13 season. It opens with a play that has some intriguing local connections.
The Kentucky premiere of Tracy Letts’ Bug plays Sept 9 to 12 and 16 to 19. The original productions of the play in London, Chicago and Off-Broadway in New York featured one-time Lexington resident Michael Shannon as Peter Evans, a Gulf War veteran who draws a lonely cocktail waitress into his deepening and destructive paranoia. The 2006 film version paired Shannon with fellow Kentuckian Ashley Judd as Agnes, the waitress. The film was a commercial failure, many believe because it was marketed as a horror film that ultimately didn’t offer much traditional horror. Letts went on to write the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama August, Osage County, which has been presented twice in Lexington in the past year.
The rest of the season is …
Mrs. Klein by Nicholas Wright, Oct. 21 to 26, 29 and 30. Another Kentucky premiere, this 1995 play portrays child psychologist Melanie Klein whose devotion to her work threatens those closest to her. Directed by Ryan Case.
Don Juan on Trial by Eric Emmanuel Schmitt, Dec 9 to 12 and 16 to 19. This play, the third Kentucky premiere of the season, looks at the legendary lover and issues of gender and tolerance. It marked the star of Schmitt’s celebrated career. Directed by Natasha Williams.
The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? by Edward Albee, Feb. 10 to 13 and 17 to 20. A middle-aged architect falls in love with a goat in Albee’s play that explores the limits of liberal mores and tolerance. Directed by Bo List.
The Trial of God (as it was held on Feb. 25, 1649, in Shamgorod) by Elie Wiesel, April 14 to 17 and 21 to 24. A dramatization, in a distinctly Yiddish style, of the actual trial that was held in the German concentration camp of Auschwitz during World War II. Directed by Natasha Williams.
A limited number of season tickets are on sale for $75 each. Call (859) 621-8694 if you prefer to purchase by phone.
Prospect native Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare will make its debut at the Comédie-Française, the national theater of France, April 28 to June 12.
In 2009, the play was accepted into the repertoire of the the 332-year-old theater, making Wallace and Tennessee Williams the only American playwrights with works in the theater, the oldest national theater in the western world.
Lexington audiences got a chance to see Wallace’s classic in a production by Balagula Theatre last fall that was in conjunction with the Kentucky Women Writers Conference’s new playwrighting competition, which Wallace judged. The winning play, Keliher Walsh’s Year of the Rabbit, concludes its run tonight at Balagula.
Wallace, who divides her time between Kentucky and England, attended the final performance of One Flea at Balagula in September. The play centers on class struggles that emerge in 1665 England during the plague. The play made its debut in 1995 at London’s Bush Theatre and had its United States premiere at Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays in 1996. The 1997 production at New York’s Public Theatre received the Obie Award for best play.
There is a ripped-from-the-headlines quality about Keith Huff’s play A Steady Rain, which opened Sunday night at the Balagula Theatre for a two-week run.
But what makes it a thoroughly engrossing evening of theater is the way it burrows way below the headlines and the buddy-cop, procedural-drama framework. The story is really set in the American home and workplace and raises vexing questions about the loyalties and obligations of friendship, love, fraternity and justice.
Denny and Joey are Chicago cops who have been friends since kindergarten, a relationship that is set up with a lot of towel-snapping humor at the beginning.
We quickly learn, however, that during his years as a Chicago police officer, Denny has constructed his own moral universe justifying bribes, violence and other not-by-the-book behavior to protect the city and right some of the injustices that he feels have been dealt him. At home, Denny is The Man, the provider to and protector of his family. All challengers will be dealt with swiftly and violently — even his wife.
Lest we let Joey off too easy, we are reminded that the bachelor has his own demons: alcoholism and being in love with Denny’s wife, Connie.
But Joey’s role here is to grapple with watching his friend’s tragic freefall as the events of a few rainy summer days and nights spiral out of control. He finds it increasingly impossible to cover up and make excuses for Denny.
Louisville actors Clint Gill as Denny and Andy Pyle as Joey inhabit their characters so thoroughly they and director Kathi E.B. Ellis make Huff’s script more compelling than it is on paper.
As Denny, Gill shows us this is not necessarily a bad guy. His intentions are basically good. But somewhere pursuing those good intentions, his moral compass was thrown way off.
Joey’s attempts to reign Denny in are rebuffed as unmanliness at best, disloyalty at worst. It doesn’t help that Joey is predisposed to self-loathing, blaming himself for Denny’s self-made mess at its zenith.
An allusion to the case of cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is dropped in about half-way through the story. Denny has become embroiled in conflict with a pimp after he got involved with one of his prostitutes, leading to a tragic attack on Denny’s home.
In the midst of dealing with that aftermath, Denny and Joey are called to investigate the case of a frightened, naked and drugged Vietnamese boy found in the streets. It mirrors the case of a boy who had escaped from Dahmer but was returned to him by officers investigating the case when Dahmer appeared and said the boy was a friend. That boy was murdered by Dahmer shortly after that incident, less than two months before Dahmer was discovered and arrested.
In the case of Joey and Denny, the incident itself is minor, at its time. Denny is quickly distracted when he sees someone he suspects was involved in shooting up his house, and he and Joey give the boy back to the Dahmer-esque character so Denny can pursue the man.
When the killer’s capture hits the papers a few weeks later, Denny and Joey are implicated as the cops that gave the kid back to the murderer. The shattering of their lives becomes public.
A Steady Rain is a play that feels longer than its run time of two hours, 20 minutes, including intermission, in an oddly good way. It is that lengthening of time you experience in stressful situations where time seems to slow and you just want it to end because you have so thoroughly been drawn into this tragic story.
Stage manager Natalie Nicole had the bad news.
For weeks, the cast of Balagula Theatre‘s production of Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare had been hopeful the playwright, a Prospect native who spends her summers in Kentucky, might visit a performance. But before the final performance, the cast was told, she wasn’t coming.
“I didn’t believe it for a second,” said actor Pete Sears, who played Kabe, the heart of the dark comedy.
And as it turned out, his mistrust was well placed, for indeed, sitting in the front row for Wednesday night’s performance was Wallace, who is in Lexington for the Kentucky Women Writers Conference.
The theater was trying not to tell the cast so the players would not be nervous, though her appearance was a fairly poorly kept secret as Wednesday’s audience was loaded with Lexington cultural notables, including leaders from LexArts.
For Balagula Theatre, based at Natasha’s Bistro and Bar, it was the first time a playwright had ever visited a production of one its plays.
“It’s really wonderful to see that really good theater is being done in Kentucky outside of Louisville,” said Wallace, whose normal Kentucky venue is Actors Theatre of Louisville, where several of her works have had their world or North American premieres at the Humana Festival of New American Plays.
Flea, which looks at class struggles in the context of the plague in 17th Century England, went on to great success after its 1996 Humana debut, winning the 1997 Obie Award for best play and being selected in 2009 for the permanent repertory of Comedie-Francaise, the French national theater.
Wallace said she has seen numerous productions of the play, though hardly all of them.
Los Angeles-based playwright Keliher Walsh’s Year of the Rabbit has won first prize in the Kentucky Women Writers Conference‘s competition for full-length plays. The play, which ties the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars together, will receive a full production by Balagula Theatre in March.
The competition was judged by award-winning playwright Naomi Wallace, a native of Prospect, Ky., who selected Walsh’s script from three finalists, which also included One Night in a Dance Hall by Ludmilla Bollow of Milwaukee, Wis., and Burying Mother by Donna Spector of Warwick, N.Y.
“Year of the Rabbit makes evident, with a fresh theatricality and original imagination, the historical and emotional connectedness we often wish to deny between what one might call Big History and the most intimate experiences of our lives,” Wallace said in a news release from the Women Writers Conference. “The play brings together the disparate worlds of love and war, and the collision is both disturbing and at times, deeply moving.”
In addition to the world premiere production, Walsh will receive $500 cash.
The playwrighting competition was suggested to the conference by Herald-Leader theater critic Candace Chaney. The initial round of 168 entries was judged by a panel including Chaney, Balagula Theatre co-artistic directors Natasha Williams and Ryan Case, Peabody Award-winning playwright and University of Kentucky assistant professor of playwrighting Herman Daniel Farrell III and Women Writers Conference director Julie Kuzneski Wrinn.
Balagula is currently producing Wallace’s Obie Award-winning play One Flea Spare, which had its world premier at the 1996 Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. The Balagula Production will run Sept. 1-4 and 11-14. The Kentucky Women Writer’s Conference is Sept. 15-18 at the University of Kentucky.
Jul21Filed under: Balagula Theatre, ballet, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, dance, Film, LexArts, Lexington Art League, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, Music, Opera, Photography, Theater, UK, Visual arts; Tagged as: allocations, Balagula Theatre, Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, Central Kentucky Concert Band, Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, grants, Kentucky Ballet Theatre, Kentucky Craft History and Education Association, Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Kremena Todorova, Kurt Gohde, LexArts, Lexington Art League, Lexington Bach Choir, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lexington Singers, Living Arts and Science Center, The African American Forum, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre
LexArts has announced its recipients of general operating support and community arts grants.
The general operating support funds are unrestricted grants, generally to larger organizations in Lexington.
This year’s recipients are:
■ Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, $20,000
■ Lexington Art League, $62,000
■ Lexington Children’s Theatre, $120,000
■ Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, $165,000
■ Lexington Singers, $9,000
■ Living Arts and Science Center, $102,000
Community Arts Grants are given at two levels: Program grants to groups for operating support and specific endeavors and project grants to groups or individuals for specific projects.
Program grants go to:
■ Balagula Theatre Company, $8,600 – for its 2011-12 theater season
■ Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, $8,600 – for the Kentucky Great Writers Series, which brings 12 Kentucky authors to the center to work with writers
■ Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, $4,000 – for the 2011 festival
■ Kentucky Ballet Theatre, $8,400 – for the 2011-2012 season of performances
■ Kentucky Craft History and Education Association, $3,000 – for Stringed Instruments, The Art of the Luthier, a documentary film about stringed instrument-making in Kentucky
■ Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Inc., $7,500 – for the 2011 event
■ University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, $5,000 -for the Academy for Creative Excellence, which provides theater and music training for first through eight graders
Project grants go to:
■ The African American Forum, $1,500 – for The Smooth Jazz Fest
■ Artists Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, $2,500 – for 1000 Dolls, a project to create and install 1000 local-designed dolls along Limestone
■ Central Kentucky Concert Band, $1,750 – for the closing concert of the 2011-2012 season
■ Lexington Bach Choir, $1,000 – for the 2nd Annual Lexington Bach Choir Vocal Competition in which students age 30 or younger compete for cash and a solo opportunity with the Bach Choir
Jun3Filed under: Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Theater; Tagged as: 2011-12, A Steady Rain, Albert Camus, Amy Sedaris, Balagula Theatre, Caligula, David Sedaris, Fahrenheit 451, Keith Huff, Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Naomi Wallace, Natasha’s Bistro and Bar, One Flea Spare, Ray Bradbury, The Book of Liz
Balagula Theatre, the troupe based at Natasha’s Bistro and Bar, has announced its 2011-12 season, which it dubs “Eternity in an Hour,” using a term coined by William Blake.
The season includes two modern American plays and the world premiere of the winner of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference’s Prize for Women Playwrights.
The season is as follows:
One Flea Spare by Prospect native Naomi Wallace, Sept. 1 to 14. An award-winning play set in plague-ravaged 17th-century London.
A Steady Rain by Keith Huff, Oct. 9 to 19. Two Chicago policemen inadvertently return a Vietnamese boy to a serial killer who claims to be the child’s uncle.
The Book of Liz by Amy Sedaris and David Sedaris, Nov. 27 to Dec. 7. A comedy from the famed sibling comedy writers about a cheese ball-making nun who ventures outside her secluded religious convent.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Jan. 29 to Feb. 8. A stage adaptation of the acclaimed 1953 novel about book burning.
Winner of KWWC playwrighting prize, March 25 to April 4. Title to be announced after the conference in September.
Caligula by Albert Camus, June 3 to 13, 2012. About the mad Roman emperor who deliberately manipulates his own assassination after the death of his sister and lover, Drusilla.
The season will include four “pay what you can” shows and seven regular performances of each play. The theater also will continue its partnerships with community-based non-profits by donating parts of its proceeds to support the groups, which this year include the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Latitude, ProgressLex, the Holler Poets, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization, and Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth.
Balagula will have auditions for all six plays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 25 at Natasha’s. 112 Esplanade. Season tickets go on sale June 15 for $45 and $75. Contact the theater for more information: Balagula.com or (859) 621-8694.
- This comes from the desk of Herald-Leader arts and entertainment editor Scott Shive, who penned a couple of our ArtyFacts briefs at the end this busy week.
Dec27Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Arts administration, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Central Kentucky Arts News, Christmas music, Classical Music, Country music, Downtown Arts Center, Film, Horsemania, Kentucky Theatre, Laura Bell Bundy, LexArts, Lexington Art League, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, Music, Musicals, Norton Center for the Arts, Opera, Secretariat, Singletary Center for the Arts, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, UK, Visual arts; Tagged as: Actors Guild of Lexington, Allison Kaiser, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Alltech Fortnight Festival, Balagula Theatre, Blake Shelton, Debra Hoskins, Eric Seale, Gustavo Dudamel, Haiti, Institute 193, John Lithgow, La Bohème, Laura Bell Bundy, Lexington Art League, Lexington Chamber Chorale, Lexington Children’s Theatre, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, Lexington Singers, Marvin Hamlisch, Ouanamithe, Phillip March Jones, ProjectSEE Theartre, Rolling Stones, Scott Terrell, Southeastern Theatre Conference, Spotlight Lexington Festival, Stephanie Pevec, Steven A. Hoffman, The Chieftains, Thoroughbred Community Theatre, Tony Bennett, Trombone Shorty, U2, UK Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Lexington’s 2010 year in arts could not have been weirder if you took the city and plopped it in the middle of Florida. Between some major changes at area arts institutions and the unprecedented wave of local and national arts activity prompted by the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, it was a year unlike any we have had or will probably see again.
■ While we did not get U2 or the Rolling Stones as WEG organizers had originally hoped, the games did fill up theaters, and in many cases, theater seats during the two weeks and three weekends of the games. Topping the bill was the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel at the Norton Center for the Arts. It was a booking that was deemed impossible by New York agents and drew national attention, all made possible by the persistence of for Norton Center assistant managing director Debra Hoskins who smoothed the road with bourbon and chocolate.
The event itself was an unforgettable evening for the audience and a great experience for area musicians and others who got to interact with one of the world’s great orchestras and shining stars.
Other great performances brought in by the Games were an evening with Marvin Hamlisch and the UK Symphony Orchestra, which had a great fortnight playing for the opening ceremonies and a production of La Boheme as well; Blake Shelton, Trombone Shorty and Laura Bell Bundy at the Spotlight Lexington Festival downtown and performances by Tony Bennett, John Lithgow and the Chieftains.
There is talk of extending both the Spotlight and Alltech Fortnight festivals, which presented the bulk of the entertainment, into the future. But we probably won’t see this level of activity again unless the games come back.
The Games also brought a number of high profile art exhibits to the area including a retrospective of the horse in American art at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky and the Gift from the Desert look at Arabian horses at the International Museum of the Horse.
■ Scott Terrell was hired as the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra’s new music director in 2009, but this is the year we really started to see his vision for the orchestra unfold, and its reverberations in the community. Unveiling the orchestra’s 2010-11 season, he showed he was willing to break traditions and initiate new collaborations. He presented Messiah is a smaller format than years past and brought groups including local school and college choirs into the Philharmonic fold for performances that broke the orchestral concert mold. He also instituted a new style of concert preview with the Kicked Back Classics event at the Downtown Arts Center in November.
The moves have not come without some friction, which change often produces. There was unhappiness over the Lexington Singers not being part of the Messiah this year, as Terrell wanted to go with a smaller chorus and the Singers did not want to downsize. Enter the Lexington Chamber Chorale as a new collaborator and the Singers presenting their own Messiah in a holiday arts season whose calendar was largely rewritten this year. Precipitated by the changes, the Singers are asserting themselves more as an entity in their own right, un-tethered to the Philharmonic calendar.
How all of this will settle remains to be seen. But it is clear this will be a new Philharmonic under Terrell’s baton.
The orchestra also got a new executive director as Allison Kaiser came over from the same post at the Lexington Art League and Stephanie Pevec took over that post.
■ This was the year without Actors Guild of Lexington. Long regarded as Lexington’s flagship theater for adult audiences, financial troubles and management departures in 2009 all but shuttered the company this year except for one production, a concert version of The Who’s Tommy at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom and the new Moondance at Midnight Pass amphitheater. That said, theater thrived in the area with first rate productions by the Lexington Children’s Theatre and area college and community groups and emergence of some new organizations such as ProjectSEE Theartre and productions out of the Thoroughbred Community Theatre in Midway. And there were successes such as Balagula Theatre’s strong showing in the Southeastern Theatre Conference Convention here in Lexington. Actors Guild has announced a lineup of shows for 2011 under the guidance of new artistic director Eric Seale, but the group will be joining an active theater scene.
Some other big stories of the year that is now almost done were:
■ Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts tapped Steven A. Hoffman as its new director, following the departure of longtime director George Foreman to the University of Georgia. With this month’s departure of assistant managing director Debra Hoskins, there has been a complete turnover in management at the Norton Center. This will be a story to watch in 2011.
■ Alltech launched a project sending University of Kentucky voice students to Ouanamithe, Haiti, to launch a music program and form a children’s choir. The choir came to Central Kentucky and made several appearances during the World Equestrian Games.
■ The Southeastern Theatre Conference, the nation’s largest regional theater convention, came to Lexington for the first time in more than 20 years, and by all accounts, it went wonderfully.
■ Secretariat brought some Hollywood glamour back to the Bluegrass, including a gala premier at the Kentucky Theatre attended by star Diane Lane and many others.
■ Lexington native Laura Bell Bundy launched a country music career with her Mercury Nashville debut Achin’ and Shakin’.
■ Horse Mania returned to the streets of Lexington, 10 years after the original edition in 2000.
■ Michael Tick was named the new dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Fine Arts.
■ The Pioneer Playhouse in Danville suffered massive flooding during rainstorms in early May, but recovered and went on to a successful season thanks to an army of volunteers.
■ Phillip March Jones’ Institute 193 emerged as a major force in creating and presenting visual arts in Central Kentucky.
■ Among world premiers in Lexington this year were Aleks Merilo’s Blur in the Rear View and Bringing It Home: Voices of Student Veterans, by UK Theatre, Beth Kander’s See Jane Quit by Bluegrass Community and Technical College Theatre, Roger Zare’s Geometries by the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Frank X Walker’s I Dedicate This Ride at Lexington Children’s Theatre, and the regional premier of Brian Hampton’s The Jungle Fun Room by Studio Players.
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