Brechtian anti-immersion gets an upgrade in 7 Stages's The Threepenny Opera (Sept. 9-25). Using live-feed video projection, director Michael Haverty aims to suggest the grimy aesthetic of German expressionist cinema, notably Weimar-era filmmakers Fritz Lang (Metropolis) and Robert Wiene (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)--the kinds of films that were in theatres when the Brecht/Weill piece premiered in Berlin in 1928.
"Visually it fits with Brecht's style of alienation," notes Haverty, who is also co-artistic director of 7 Stages. "Brecht didn't have digital projectors, but he was using similar techniques by putting curtains and text onstage--it breaks you out of getting lost in the world."
In Haverty's staging, audiences see the cameras onstage, set up like antique film cameras, and experience the projections being created in real time. There's an opening credits sequence where the actors pose above cards with their names on them, and projections are layered over the stage in an imitation of film "dissolves."
In taking cues from expressionism, Haverty and company hope to blend artifice with grit.e says that early expressionist cinema is "a lot darker and unsettling because it seems more real." At the other end of the spectrum, he's trying "to be careful not to slip into the Tim Burton realm," instead injecting a flavor of the fantastic into the realism rather than the reverse.
For Haverty, who has a background in puppetry and design, it's all about creating a world that is propped up in full view and doesn't hide the seams: "There are slits and cracks in the set; you can see inside the dressing rooms. Actors are visible when they're changing." Erasing the possibility of immersion, he says, is faithful to Brecht, and asks the audience--not the characters--to draw moral conclusions.
"I feel like Atlanta is dying for something like this," says Haverty. "There's a quote from Brecht: 'There will be singing about the dark times.' That's our mission. We feel that this is a great way to bring out a blockbuster musical that also really speaks to the troubles that are going on in our world and in our community."
But it's not all doom and gloom. Somewhere amid the shadows of Brecht's onstage world lies a seed of hope. "I think there's hopefulness in the show," Haverty says. "It's saying, 'Listen to people who are crying out in pain. If you listen and hear them, there's a chance you can make a change.'"
Haverty continues: "It's really about a community of people who are stuck in a system. They're stuck in positions within that system that cause them to commit crimes and live their lives the way they do. There's a line where Macheath says: 'What's the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?'"
Now, if only there were a high-profile businessman today who could tweet an uncouth answer to that question... --Gabe Cobn
* Joshua Harmon has had a good few years: His breakout play Bad Jews was among the most produced plays in the U.S. in the 2014-15 season, and his newest play, Significant Other, will hit Broadway in February 2017. But Boston audiences will get a jump on Gotham, as Harmon's comedy about the trials of dating in the age of Tinder will open at SpeakEasy Stage Company, Sept. 9-Oct. 8.
Meanwhile Julia Clio's new play Aubergine, currently running at New York's Playwrights Horizons (Aug. 19-Oct. 2), marks Cho's return to playwriting after six years. Aubergine, which premiered at Berkeley-Repertory Theatre in February, is a lyrical examination of loss as a son faces his father's imminent death: Korean cuisine ("aubergine" is the British word for eggplant) connects them when words cannot. "You can lose an entire language so easily, but I most likely will eat what my grandmother ate, with as much and equal relish as she did," Cho told me earlier this year. "And my children will eat what my grandparents ate." --Diep Tran
* The disparity between productions by male and female playwrights on U.S. stages is still a trending topic, but back in 1993, five Milwaukee women founded Renaissance Theaterworks to correct the imbalance. The company's Brink new works festival supports new works from Midwestern female playwrights; both plays in this year's fest (Sept. 10-11) explore futuristic societies. Kathleen Allison Johnson and Gail Sterkel's Ten Thousand Moons From Here is set on an intergalactic spaceship that's reaching the uncertain finish of a 1,000-year journey, and Philana Omorotionmwan's Before Evening Comes imagines a dystopian future in which black boys are forced to undergo surgery. Omorotionmwan explained one inspiration for the play: "In the last decade of my grandmother's life, she saw her eldest son have his leg amputated. I never talked to her about it, but I always wondered how that affected her emotionally. In a lot of ways, this play is an exploration of that." --Suzy Evans
* With Election Day drawing closer, politics is in the air at theatres in the Southwest. First Arizona Theatre Company presents King Charles III (Sept. 10-30 in Tucson; Oct. 6-23 in Phoenix), Mike Bartlett's blankverse play imagining the English monarchy after the death of Elizabeth II. Next, Dallas's Cara Mia Theatre Co. brings back Crystal City 1969 (Sept. 22-Oct. 16), a play by Big D natives David Lozano and Raul Trevino about Mexican-American high school students who fight unfair treatment in Texas. Moving from high school injustice to the electoral college, young audiences will cast their vote with Duck for President (Sept. 27-Oct. 29) at Houston's Main Street Theater. Adapted by James E. Grote from the book by Doreen Cronin, with music and lyrics by George Howe, the musical follows the eponymous bird running for office to combat unreasonable working conditions on the farm. Hail to the drake! --Russell M. Dembin
* Raised on the Florida panhandle and stage-trained by New York City's downtown theatres, playwright Lucy Alibar journeyed to the Louisiana bayou and film-world acclaim with the 2012 critical darling Beasts of the Southern Wild, adapted from her one-act play Juicy and Delicious. Now she's returning to her childhood landscape (give or take) and the stage with Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up, which runs at Los Angeles's Kirk Douglas Theatre Sept. 10-Oct. 2. Set in Grady County, Ga., on the border of Florida, Throw Me features, according to press notes, "a lecherous goat, Pentecostals on the radio, a house full of dogs, cats, Febreze, and Daddy's .38 special." Over the past few years the in-development piece has turned up at Sundance Theatre Lab, MASS MoCA, Under the Radar Festival, and Carolina Performing Arts, whose curatorial fellow, Heidi Kim, said the play "caught my attention because Alibar has continued to refine her unique voice: a child's point of view that is alternately naive and eerily wise." --Rob Weinert-Kendt
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|Title Annotation:||FRONT & CENTER; Michael Haverty's "The Threepenny Opera"|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2016|
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