Tag Archives: Mike Nichols

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: LOST IN YONKERS at Arkansas Rep

NS LIY RepAfter nearly three decades of shows on Broadway, Neil Simon won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1991 play Lost in Yonkers.   Though darker in tone than many of his plays, it still provided a host of laughs.

In October 1994, Arkansas Rep produced the play. The two boys at the center of the story were played by future filmmaker Graham Gordy and future Broadway producer Will Trice.  The matriarch who presides over the action was played by Anne Sheldon, a Little Rock native who’d left the city after marrying during World War II.

Others in the cast were Lori Wilner, Clif Morts, Elizabeth Aiello and Ed Romanoff.  The production was directed by William Gregg, a guest director at the Rep.  Mike Nichols provided the scenic design, while Don Bolinger was the costume designer.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

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Pulitzers Play Little Rock: NEXT TO NORMAL on Arkansas Rep stage

ndnextThe line “Valium is my favorite color” was uttered on the Arkansas Rep stage in 2012 when the Pulitzer Prize winning musical Next to Normal was performed.

The show was a surprise winner of the 2010 Pulitzer for Drama.  It had not been one of the three finalists selected by the jury, but was picked for the honor by the Pulitzer Board.

With music by Tom Kitt and a book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, Next to Normal is a powerful rock musical about a mentally ill suburban mom who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that illness has on her family.

The Arkansas Rep cast featured Deb Lyons as Diana — the mother of the family, Jonathan Rayson as her husband Dan, Kristin Parker and Will Holly as their children, Mo Brady as a friend of the family and Peter James Zielinski playing a pair of physicians.

Helen Gregory was the Musical Director. Other members of the creative team included Mike Nichols (scenic designer), Shelly Hall (costume designer), Michael J. Eddy (lighting designer), M. Jason Pruzin (sound designer) and Lynda J. Kwallek (properties designer).

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: PROOF at Arkansas Rep

Proof RepFourteen years after graduating from Little Rock Hall High School, David Auburn received the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his play Proof.  In September 2002, Arkansas Repertory Theatre produced Proof while the original Broadway run was in its final months.

The production at Arkansas Rep was directed by Producing Artistic Director Robert Hupp.  The cast featured Amy Tribbey, Scott Barrow, Jessica Henson and Curt Karibalis.  (Barrow met his future wife, the former Amy Sabin, while in Little Rock during the run of this show.)

The set, a very realistic craftsman house back porch, was designed by Mike Nichols.  On opening night he was lauded because the production marked his 20th anniversary with the Rep. (In 2018, Nichols is still serving as Technical Director and Resident Scenic Designer for the Rep.)

Auburn was unable to come to Little Rock to see the production. His wife was set to give birth to a child during the run of the show.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: Talley’s Folly

TalleyLanford Wilson’s two person play Talley’s Folly has one of the smallest casts of a Pulitzer Prize winning play.  It is a prequel to Wilson’s Fifth of July giving a backstory that is only touched upon the earlier play.

In January 1985, the Arkansas Rep staged this seemingly simple play in Little Rock.  A quiet, romantic story, it reveals much in the layered story and nuanced characters.  Directed by Rep favorite Terry Sneed, the two-hander starred Ronald J. Aulgur and Cathey Crowell Sawyer.  The former was a frequent actor in Rep productions.  The latter was making her Rep acting debut, though she was on the Rep staff as Associate Director.

In his Arkansas Gazette review, Bill Lewis singled out Mike Nichols for his set (Nichols is still designing and building sets for the Rep in 2018) and James Hunter for his lighting.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

August Osage CastoTracy Letts won the Pulitzer for his sprawling family tale August: Osage County.  It was brought to life in Little Rock on the Arkansas Repertory Theatre stage.

Rep founder Cliff Baker, who starred in the Rep’s first production of The Threepenny Opera returned to the stage as an actor to portray the mysterious patriarch of the Weston clan.  Joining him were Susanne Marley as matriarch Violet and LeeAnne Hutchison, Kathy McCafferty and Brenny Rabine as their three daughters.  Marc Carver, Michael McKenzie,  and Mary Katelin Ward are family members of the three daughters.  Natalie Canerday, Richard Waddingham and Michael Patrick Kane played another branch of the family. Grant Neale and Cassandra Seidenfeld were two other residents of Osage County who are drawn into the family drama.

The design team includes Mike Nichols (set), Marianne Custer (costumes), Yael Lubetzky (lighting), Allan Branson (sound) and Lynda J. Kwallek (props).  Other members of the creative team include fight director D. C. Wright (and there is plenty of physical sparring in addition to the verbal sparring) and dialect coach Stacy Pendergraft.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Pulitzers play Little Rock – CLYBOURNE PARK

Clybourne

While A Raisin in the Sun did not win the Pulitzer, it did inspire a sort of prequel AND sequel which did win that award.  Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park was inspired by the earlier play.  After an Off Broadway production in 2010, it won the 2011 Pulitzer for Drama. A subsequent Broadway production won the 2012 Tony for Best Play.

In 1959, a white couple sells their home to a black family (the fictional Younger family from A Raisin in the Sun), causing an uproar in their middle-class neighborhood. Fifty years later in 2009, the same house is changing hands again, but the stakes have changed.

As neighbors wage a hilarious and pitched battle over territory and legacy, Clybourne Park reveals just how far our ideas about race and identity have evolved.

In 2014, Arkansas Repertory Theatre brought the play to Little Rock in a production directed by the founder of the Rep, Cliff Baker (up next at the Rep with God of Carnage which closes out the 2017-2018 season).

The cast included Shaleah Adkisson, Ryan Barry, Katie Cunningham, Lawrence Evans, LeeAnne Hutchison, Robert Ierardi, Jason O’Connell, and David Tennal.  The creative team includes scenic designer Mike Nichols, costume designer Yslan Hicks, lighting designer Yael Lubetzky, sound designer Allan Branson and properties designer Lynda J. Kwallek.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

See the BEE

Rep Spelling BeeF-U-N is all the spelling you need to know to go see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This musical comedy with heart and smarts is running now through November 8 at Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

A 2005 Tony winner for Best Book of a Musical, Spelling Bee (as it shall hereafter be abbreviated) explores the twists and turns of both the eponymous academic competition and the struggle known as adolescence. While William Finn’s score may not be as strong as some of his other shows, it is a mixture of peppy and heart-felt songs that illuminate the chaos and character of each competitor.

There are six main competitors in the Bee. Each of the adult actors playing these juvenile spellers does a masterful job of balancing the demands of the roles. They must portray youngsters, without it becoming a parody. Ethan Paulini creates yet another endearingly offbeat character at the Rep as Leaf Coneybear. Tessa Faye’s Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre shifts seamlessly between exuberance and frustration. Laura Dadap aptly showcases her many talents as overachiever Marcy Park.

As Chip Tolentino, Tommy Martinez is so clean-cut and charming that his character’s unfortunate physical condition is endearing and not creepy. Conly Basham brings warmth, pathos, and heart to the role of Olive Ostrovsky, which keeps the character from straying into the realm of the pitiful or maudlin. As William Barfee (pronounced Bar-fay, except by everyone else on stage), Patrick Halley embraces the profound oddities and quirks in the character without making him grotesque.

Playing the adults are the warm Andi Watson as a former spelling bee champion intent on reliving her glory days, the officiously hilarious Scott McLean Harrison as a frustrated and frustrating Assistant Principal, and Correy West as a community service grief counselor. Watson and Harrison are kept on their toes throughout the show as they must interact with the guest spellers from the audience.

This is no cookie-cutter production of Spelling Bee. Director Nicole Capri has crafted a production that plays to the unique strengths of each of the actors. She keeps the show moving at a good pace, while allowing it to slow down enough for the audience and actors to enjoy the moments of bliss and melancholy. Capri obviously created a rehearsal environment encouraging the actors to take risks and to have fun.

Musical Director Mark Binns again excels in serving the score, singers and the audience. Mike Nichols’ set recreates a school gymnasium down to the ropes dangling from a ceiling. Shelly Hall’s costumes capture the personalities of each character in a fresh way. Dan Kimble’s lighting and Allan Branson’s sound design are vital to reflecting the different moods and moments as the story sometimes shifts to different planes of consciousness. Lynda J. Kwallek’s props ensure the show has a lived-in look.

While the show may have a message about the value of every person, it is not a “MESSAGE” show. It is intended to be fun. The Arkansas Rep production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee gets the gold cup for providing an enjoyable, entertaining, and enlightening outing at the theatre.