Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Latest Work From Rebeck to Hit Broadway

Theresa Rebeck, author of our earlier production, Bad Dates, has been a busy bee. I mentioned earlier that she's got a television show coming out this fall and now she's got a new show, Seminar, being prepped for a Broadway opening. And she's lining up an all-star cast: Alan Rickman (swoon), Lily Rabe, and Hamish Linklater are signed to the show, which begins previews in October.

The show's blurb is kind of intriguing:

"four young writers who are thrilled to be participating in a private seminar taught by the brilliant but unpredictable Leonard (Rickman), an international literary legend. But as Leonard deems some students more promising than others, tensions arise. Sex is used as a weapon, alliances are made and broken, and it's not just the wordplay that turns vicious…"
Who wants to send me to New York this fall? I promise I'll write a good review for you in return. ;)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Large Versus Small Theatre

It's been interesting on the internet this week because there's been some discussion of large versus small theatre. The first piece that I ran across was entitled "Is intimate theatre 'decadent'?" From the article:
One thing that really intrigued me, though, was Greig's contention that intimate theatre – the kind of one-on-one, small-scale experiences that have been such a feature of recent Edinburghs, and indeed the subject of two festivals at London's BAC – is "decadent" in these austere times. It is, he argued, a resource-heavy theatre that makes its experiences available to the few rather than the many. Whereas "there is an app," he said, "that you can open in any city in Europe, western Asia, Australasia and North and South America. It is called a pros-arch theatre. Like a lot of people in theatre, I used to see the traditional proscenium arch stage as elitist. Now I regard it as rather democratic. A lot of people can see it. It's much more available than having to go to a special place on your own, wearing headphones."
In contrast, Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, writes this on the Huffington Post:

Smaller arts organizations are typically those which serve unique segments of our communities (the elderly, the disabled, communities of color, rural communities, etc.). Many of our nation's greatest artists were first exposed to the arts through these more specialized arts organizations.

Smaller organizations are also more likely to champion new adventuresome work. While larger organizations are challenged to risk large sums on a ground-breaking project, smaller organizations, with smaller project budgets, are more often the crucibles for new exciting artists and art forms.

Smaller organizations also provide a classroom for young artists who learn their craft by experimenting with less expensive and less visible projects. We would not have a large cadre of experienced artists without the smaller organizations that gave them their training and first opportunities to create work.

It would be disastrous for the future of the arts if large arts organizations -- with larger staffs and greater brand recognition -- sucked all the resources and left smaller organizations without funding.

We need to train arts managers of small organizations to market their offerings, to identify potential donors, and to develop relationships so they can compete with their larger counterparts for funding. And we need our professional donors, foundations and major individual philanthropists, to recognize the vital role played by smaller organizations.

Fascinating. Obviously, working at Dragon, I fall on the side of Kaiser. I think the most important thing he mentioned was the opportunity for young artists to develop - this is the heart of Dragon's mission statement, and it's something we take seriously. It's hard enough to be a "working artist" in this world. We try to use our limited resources to mentor younger or, in my case, maybe not young but career-transitioning, artists and arts managers so they have a solid foundation and work ethic, to give them some exposure, and to help them bolster their resumes however they need to.

To support this part of our mission, next year we're going to give a new works staged reading festival a shot. There are a ton of talented writers in the Bay Area and young playwrights need to be able to develop too. Jeffrey Lo is spearheading the effort and is getting support for other Dragon staffers. We're currently accepting scripts from writers located in the Bay Area. We have the submission requirements on our website. As this new series progresses, we'll be taking a look into the whole process, from start to finish, so check back on this site for future updates!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Streetcar Headed Back to Broadway

A headline caught my eye this morning that I thought was so appropriate. There's a new version of Streetcar headed to New York in 2012. Nicole Ari Parker (Soul Food, Remember the Titans) will play Blanche DuBois and Blair Underwood (L. A. Law) will play Stanley Kowalski. This marks the Broadway debut of both Parker and Underwood. The production is set to be helmed by Emily Mann, and will feature original music by jazz musician (and NOLA resident) Terence Blanchard.

I think it sounds pretty interesting. It's being produced by the same team who did the 2008 production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard, and later Sanaa Lathan. I was really bummed that I missed that as it sounded fantastic. Any Dragon fans happen to catch it while it was up?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Production History of Streetcar

A Streetcar Named Desire Production History

The original Broadway production workshopped at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut (see poster to the left) a few weeks before it opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on December 3, 1947.

Produced by Irene Mayer Selznick

Directed by Elia Kazan

The original Broadway cast

  • Jessica Tandy as Blanche DuBois
  • Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski
  • Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski
  • Karl Malden as Harold “Mitch” Mitchell
  • Rudy Bond as Steve Hubbell
  • Nick Dennis as Pablo Gonzales
  • Peg Hillias as Eunice Hubbell
  • Vito Christi as Young Collector
  • Richard Garrick as Strange Man
  • Ann Deere as Strange Woman
  • Gee Gee James as Negro Woman
  • Edna Thomas as Mexican Woman

Selznick originally wanted to cast Margaret Sullavan and John Garfield but settled on Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy, who were virtual unknowns at the time. Brando was given car fare to Tennessee Williams’ home in Provincetown, MA, where he not only gave a sensational reading, but did some house repairs as well. Tandy was cast after Williams saw her performance in a West Coast production of his one-act play Portrait of a Madonna. Tandy won the Tony for Best Actress in a Play in 1948.

Later in the run, Uta Hagen replaced Tandy and Anthony Quinn replaced Brando. It's interesting to note that Hagen's portrayal of Blanche was NOT directed by Kazan - and as a result, this new production refocused the story back on Blanche and pulled it away from Stanley.

I found a great anecdote on IMDb about Brando's performance in Streetcar. I've copied it here for ease of reading:

The problem with casting Brando as Stanley was that he was much younger than the character as written by Williams. However, after a meeting between Brando and Williams, the playwright eagerly agreed that Brando would make an ideal Stanley. Williams believed that by casting a younger actor, the Neanderthalish Kowalski would evolve from being a vicious older man to someone whose unintentional cruelty can be attributed to his youthful ignorance. Brando ultimately was dissatisfied with his performance, though, saying he never was able to bring out the humor of the character, which was ironic as his characterization often drew laughs from the audience at the expense of Jessica Tandy's Blanche Dubois. During the out-of-town tryouts, Kazan realized that Brando's magnetism was attracting attention and audience sympathy away from Blanche to Stanley, which was not what the playwright intended. The audience's sympathy should be solely with Blanche, but many spectators were identifying with Stanley. Kazan queried Williams on the matter, broaching the idea of a slight rewrite to tip the scales back to more of a balance between Stanley and Blanche, but Williams demurred, smitten as he was by Brando, just like the preview audiences.

For his part, Brando believed that the audience sided with his Stanley because Jessica Tandy was too shrill. He thought Vivien Leigh, who played the part in the movie, was ideal, as she was not only a great beauty but she WAS Blanche Dubois, troubled as she was in her real life by mental illness and nymphomania.

Interesting. Anyway, the play went on to open on London's West End with the following production staff:

The Original London Production (1949)

Directed by Sir Lawrence Olivier

Featured Vivian Leigh (Blanche), Bonar Colleano (Stanley), and Renee Asherson (Stella)

The smashing success of the play led to the now famous film version in 1951.

Most of the original Broadway team brought the play to the silver screen.

Directed by Elia Kazan

  • Vivian Leigh as Blanche DuBois
  • Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski
  • Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski
  • Karl Malden as Harold “Mitch” Mitchell
  • Rudy Bond as Steve Hubbell
  • Nick Dennis as Pablo Gonzales
  • Peg Hillias as Eunice Hubbell
  • Wright King as A Collector
  • Richard Garrick as Doctor

A large number of changes had to be made to the script in order to conform to the Hollywood Production Code. The ending is much more ambiguous, and a number of references had to homosexuality and suicide had to be removed from the script. It still ran into problems with various decency groups. The film was nominated for 12 Oscars and won 4 - Best Actress (Vivian Leigh), Best Supporting Actor (Karl Malden), Best Supporting Actress (Kim Hunter), and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Black & White (Richard Day and George Hopkins).

Note that Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando were both nominated but did not win. Kazan lost to George Stevens for A Place in the Sun and Brando lost to Humphrey Bogart for The African Queen.

There have been a few notable revivals since then.

1992 Broadway Revival (at the Barrymore)

Featured Jessica Lange (Blanche), Alec Baldwin (Stanley), Amy Madigan (Stella), Timothy Carhart (Mitch), with James Gandolfini and Aida Turturro in support roles.

1997 50th Anniversary Production - New Orleans

Music by the Marsalis family

2005 Broadway Revival

The 2005 Broadway revival was directed by Edward Hall and produced by The Roundabout Theater Company. It starred John C. Reilly (Stanley), Amy Ryan (Stella), and Natasha Richardson (Blanche). The production would mark Natasha Richardson’s final appearance on Broadway owing to her death in 2009 in a skiing accident.

2011 Dragon Productions in Palo Alto

Directed by: Jeanie K. Smith

Blanche DuBois- Meredith Hagedorn*
Stella Kowalski - Katie Anderson
Stanley Kowalski - Andrew Harkins
Harold "Mitch" Mitchell - Troy Johnson
Steve Hubbell/Doctor/Understudy - Charles McKeithan
Eunice Hubbell/Understudy - Monica Colletti
Pablo/Paperboy/dead husband - Phillip Raupach
Flower Girl/Nurse - Mary Lou Torre
*Member of Actors' Equity Association

Join us as we celebrate this classic on the centennial of one of America's greatest playwrights. We've sold out every show to date, so buy your tickets in advance - the show must close August 21st!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Artist in Residence: Jeffrey Lo

At Dragon, part of our mission is to foster the growth of young, up and coming artists, be they directors, actors, or designers. To support this mission, we sometimes have an "artist in residence." Currently, Jeffrey Lo is serving as the Dragon Artist in Residence. Since he's involved with Streetcar we thought we'd sit down and talk to him about life at Dragon. Here's what he had to say.

Q: So Jeffrey, what does it really mean to be the "artist in residence" at Dragon Productions Theatre?

A: Defining my role as Dragon's Artist in Residence can be a little difficult to do because it involves so much and evolves every day. At it's core, my role is to support any and every Dragon production utilizing my artistic skill set. I am a playwright, director and sound designer so if you track my work at Dragon you'll see that I've shifted from being an assistant director for Turn of the Screw and Streetcar, to sound designing Private Eyes, to finally producing the upcoming New Works Factory in April 2012. The great thing about being the Artist in Residence at Dragon is that while I'm able to use my different skills to support Dragon - I am able to call Dragon an artistic home where I am able to learn, experiment and grow.

Q:Well that leads us to another question - you're Assistant Directing for our current production, A Streetcar Named Desire. What exactly does the assistant director do?

A: The assistant director's role really depends on the director and the show. For Streetcar, Jeanie was the first director who actually gave me a couple of scenes to direct myself. Those two scenes being the scene with Blanche and the newspaper boy and the following scene with Blanche and Mitch right after the date. Jeanie and I met before the days we would block those scenes and she gave me an idea of what her vision for those scenes were and the direction we wanted them to go in. Once the actors came in, Jeanie was wonderful about allowing me to get my feet wet and direct those scenes myself while pulling me aside and giving me pointers and suggestions along the way. It was a really great experience for me.

Q: That's awesome! Do you find one aspect of the theatre more challenging or rewarding that the others? Is there one thing you tend to love the most, or that you aspire to focus on in the future?

A: It'd be hard for me to just pick one because there are different things I love about each area of theater that I work on. I love to work sound because I'm constantly listening to music and get so inspired by how different songs, lyrics or even instruments can affect the way I'm feeling. I have a lot of fun trying to support what the directors and actors are doing on stage and really working the audience through sound. I love directing because I really love the sense of community I work to build within a cast. I really enjoy comparing the group of people I have on the first day of rehearsal and the mini family that I have by closing night. But if someone were to put a gun to my head and told me to pick just one thing to do in theater I wouldn't hesitate to pick playwriting. A part of that answer is cheating because I can heavily influence the sound and direction when writing a script but there's something special about getting down to the core of a show and basically mapping out its blueprint - which is really what a script is.

Q: What other projects have you got coming up?

A: The big thing I'm working on right now is a play that I wrote and directed called
Barcelona Love Song. This project is really special to me because I'm getting another chance to work with Skyler Garcia and Irene Van who I love to death and I worked with 5 years ago on a show called All I Have which is the show where I feel I made my first true artistic breakthrough. The three of us are working on the Barcelona Love Song with a group of 8 students - mostly high schoolers - and I'm just really enjoying the opportunity to reach back to an energetic and youthful period in my career and try and help these students have that same breakthrough I had way back when. For more info on the show, you can check it out at

Anyone else have questions for Jeffrey? Feel free to shout them out in the comments!