That Time Julie Andrews Spoke at My Brother’s Graduation

Julie Andrews Colorado College Boulder Graduation

Every year or six it’s important to leave New York—one can only stand so much of $7 cereal and the G train, after all. Last week I took one such sojourn to my brother’s college graduation in Boulder, Colorado. Here, I thought, was my chance to leave behind Mr. Man Hattan. To clear the head. To consider—very briefly—matters beyond the footlights. Sure, Sondheim’s “Our Time” might flit through my mind at The Big Event, but that moment would pass, and I would soon be thinking on, well, whatever it is non-theater people think on.

And then I learned that the graduation speaker was to be Julie Andrews.

Not kidding.

At first I thought I was being had. “Right,” I said to myself. “Julie Andrews? Who’s her date, Richard Burton? Rex Harrison?”

But the joke was on me: Apparently Dame Julie had some connection to the University, and, in a remarkable coup, had been roped into delivering the annual basket of “go get ‘em” pleasantries.

(The theater will find you, people, even if you fly four hours to the foothills of the Flatiron Range. It will find you.)

Graduation morning dawned blue and overture-worthy. Walking towards the ceremony, to be held in the football stadium, I glanced up at the mountains that cradled the city and I wondered—was Julie up there, crooning “The Hills Are Alive”? Or, I considered, passing the marijuana shops, was she there, selling loverly “flowers”? In other words, was it a Sound of Music day or a My Fair Lady day? A Victor/Victoria morning or a Boy Friend one? Which Julie were we going to get?

Silly me. An hour later, as Julie ascended to her throne/podium, the answer became clear: Today was a Camelot day, and Julie, oh Julie, was our beloved Guinevere. How could it be otherwise? It was, you see, a cheery morn in this Lusty Month of May.

“I LOVE YOU JULIE,” someone screamed from the crowd as we rose to our feet. We love you, too, our hoots concurred. We love you too!

Who knew the Colorado set was so discerning?

“Thank you,” she said, quieting the crowd, “thank you.” Then—

It’s all a Julie blur. Sorry.

There was something about overcoming adversity (egregiously overlooked! the botched operation!) and the importance of the arts, as well as brilliant lines about “my signature turn” and how “the hills truly are alive with the class of 2013,” but I was too taken with her regal poise and the mere Fact of Julie Andrews to remember much more.

Because here’s the thing about Ms. Andrews: Girl knows how to work a crowd. Seriously. Though you’ll never meet a more gentlewomanly creature on God’s green earth, Julie owned us with the strength of an iron fist—a fist draped in dainty blue satin sashes, but a fist, nonetheless. Never once was our applause allowed to get in the way of her message, never once were we anywhere but the uber-competent palm of her hand.

Such control is a miracle to behold, and renders message almost irrelevant. The way she said what she said was the meaning of what she said. Not to get all modernistic… but it really was.

So thanks, Julie. Thanks for spoiling my theater hiatus. I’m not going to spout that line about the world, and how it’s a stage—not gonna do it—but such, it seems, is the truth. You can’t, it seems, escape the theater.

And if Julie Andrews is involved, it turns out, you won’t want to.

Really? REALLY?!

Really Really playReally Reallythe hot new show at MCC, was written by Paul Downs Colaizzo while he was on tour with a TheatreWorksUSA children’s production. “As we traveled with the show,” he recently told, “I sat in the back of the van and wrote the first half of this play.”

Whaaaaaat? As someone who recently did a TheatreWorks show, I am in awe of Mr. Colaizzo’s ability to get work done in what (for me) was always a cramped and noisy environment. My cast of seven jammed constantly in our van and our Prius, where nary a spare inch once presented itself as we wheeled through the northeast, midwest in Canada.

But also–oh!, the outrage! NOT FAIR! How did you do manage to pull that off, Mr. Colaizzo?! It took me all the energy and concentration I had just to listen to a Rachel Maddow podcast or eat a McDonalds apple pie. Creating a work of art in such a space? Too herculean task if I ever heard of one.

What’s the secret, Mr. Colaizzo? We really really wanna know…

Really Really play

photo by Janna Giacoppo

— MCC’s The Submission
— Alas, It’s True: We’re Gonna Die

Telsey + Companies

SPOTTED! If you didn’t catch him on Smash, don’t fear: mega casting director Bernie Telsey is featured in this bank ad…

Bernard Telsey bank ad
Let him be your star!

CONTEST! Watch British Theater at Home!

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 4.25.42 PMDoes a poster of Judi Dench hang above your bed? Does the “re” spelling of “theatre” send you into a tizzy? Do the words “Royal Court,” “National,” and “Donmar” cause you to break out in Union Jack-shaped hives? Sounds as if you (like me) have a severe case of theatrical Anglophilia. Egads!

But aid is on the way! Like NT Live, the National Theatre’s show-beaming service, the website Digital Theatre has found a way for we far-flung Enland-lovers to get our fix.

Unlike NT Live plays, which are broadcast in movie theaters around the world, Digitial Theatre’s catalog can be seen at home (translation: in bed). You rent or purchase a title, warm up some PG Tips, press play, and by George! There’s David Tennant spouting Shakespeare!

Digital Theatre’s titles come from some of a diverse set of UK theaters such as the Almeida, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakepeare’s Globe, and The Royal Court. I recently caught two of theses productions, Jez Butterworth‘s predecessor to Jerusalem, called Parlour Songand Frantic Assembly’s dance-theater play, Lovesong. Watching these British productions on a laptop in New York was very cool, and although they demanded a level of concentration not typically associated with the computer (thanks very much, Facebook), the payoff is substantial. Sure, the experience isn’t the same as watching a live show, but the camerawork is elegant and the price tag is bearable.


Digital Theatre is offering theater-words readers the chance to win a code to see one of their shows… FOR FREE. Enter to win by emailing THEATERWORDS@GMAIL.COM a blank message with ENTRY in the subject line. You’ll be contacted a week from today if you’re a winner.

In the meantime, check out what they’ve got HERE.

London Theater Report
Weird British Posters

Favorite Moment: All in the Timing

All in the TimingWhere was the last place you witnessed a gigantic baker birthing loaves of bread?

At All in the Timing, that’s where.

What you see above is the G-rated version of what actually goes on in one segment—an Einstein on the Beach satire—of this crazy, whakkadoodle show. Modesty standards prevent me from putting up a picture of the yeasty act of life-making… but suffice it to say that each bread-child comes about thanks to… well… a rolling pin.

Snaps all around for David Ives and Walter Bobbie, who’ve given me the resources to answer every child who asks, “when does bread come from?”

Not the stork, little one, not the stork…

photo by James Leynse

Tony Awards Dress Rehearsal
The Jake Gyllenhaal Chronicles

What Would Clifford Odets Say?!

There’s some major title plagiarism on network TV these days. Oh, CBS…


Somewhere underground, Clifford Odets is pulling on his boxing gloves and shouting, “Strike! STRIKE!”

The theft is almost as galling as this one, committed by novelist Lauren Groff:

Arcadia Lauren Groff

We love you girl, but don’t go stepping on Tom Stoppard‘s toes.

It’s not as if these titles aren’t well known: Both plays have been recently revived to great acclaim on Broadway. Clearly, TV and books execs are counting on the ignorance of the general public. Such sadness!

Any other tales of stolen titles you can think of?

— SMASH: An Outsider’s Take
— #broadwayproblems

Richard III and Dem Bones

Britain Richard IIINow is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this hump of torque: Scholars at the University of Leicester have confirmed the above skeleton as that of Shakespeare’s most twisted, twisting villain, Richard III. (Check out the deformed spine! Kevin Spacey and the rest got it right!)

The body’s been missing since its hasty burial, but has finally been located, 500 years after the fact, under a parking lot.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already planning a trip to the grave, where I’ll kneel and whisper sweet nothings like, “Blush, blush, thou lump of foul deformity,” and “Foul devil, for God’s sake hence and trouble us not!”


photos courtesy of the University of Leicester

Like this? You might enjoy…
Richard and Porgy: A Tale of Two Legbraces
Sad Summer Shakespeare

Endurance Theater: “Life and Times, Part 1”

life_and_times nature theater of oklahoma

Life and Times (at the Public Theater) is likely to send you down a domino line of responses—

  1. How cool!
  2. Those actors—what stamina!
  3. This audience—what stamina!
  4. Screw stamina, I want out.
  5. …but this is kind of amazing…
  6. …why am I crying?
  7. INTERMISSION?! The show’s not over?!

And—repeat! repeat! repeat!

Phew, right?

What show could be so strange as to conjure such schizophrenic feelings? What kind of a varied, diverse script could create such a roller coaster of an experience?

Something fascinatingly repetitive, banal, and mundane, that’s what.

A Soho Rep/ Nature Theater of Oklahoma production at Under the RadarLife and Times is the musicalized result of a phone conversation between NTO company member Kristin Worrall and Life and Times directors Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper. As here represented, Worrall’s narrative—the story of her life—features stories and memories, but also anecdotes, tangents, and asides, with every “um,” “y’know” and “like” left intact. (It’s a verbatim-musical technique Adam Cork and Alecky Blythe used to different effect in the National Theatre‘s London Road—read about that production HERE.) Life and Times is broken into episodes; four of a projected sixteen are now in rep. I attended Episode One.

For three and a quarter hours, Worrall’s meandering, shuffled speech is set to cute, sometimes touching melodies played on piano, xylophone, flute, and ukelele, all sung by an ensemble of remarkable endurance (several actors almost never stop moving). Their movements usually match the pedestrian nature of the libretto: They bounce up and down, up and down, side to side, side to side; they add a spin, and an occasional choreo number; then it’s back to the bouncing. There are a few props (red balls here, yellow frisbees there), and their arrivals qualify as major events in an otherwise steady visual sphere.

Life and Times, Nature Theater of Oklahoma

But what of it?

Plays, and entertainment, usually live off revelation—the introduction of a new character, say, or the discovery of whodunnit. It’s a steady stream of new information that keeps an audience engaged. Life and Times discards with this MO from the first, and instead buries you, pebble by pebble, under the weight of repeated detail and repeated movement.

Occasional glimmers of transcendence burn through, but they feel more flukey than planned, and before they even start to fade, it’s back to the hops and the monologues, back to little tales of friendships and lunchtimes and parents and obsessions.

These pebbles don’t mean much on their own. But collectively, over the hours, they start to coat you, like so many layers of wax coating a wick; before long, a candle has appeared; before long, you feel, somehow, very different.

Why? You’ve had no choice but to bend to the will of the performers—the room is unequivocally theirs, and if you’re to survive, you have to get on board with them. You have to. Without knowing it, you adjust. Minute by minute, in a process only achieved through the arduous accumulation of time, you almost become one with them.

In this way, Life and Times becomes a case study in the strange, cool bond that can grow between performer and viewer: Even though you’ve not set a foot onstage, you feel like you have. You’re exhausted, they’re exhausted. It’s theatrical empathy, brought about by some of the strangest means I’ve ever encountered.

Just make sure to stretch at intermission.

Life and Times, Episode 1
The Public Theater/ Under the Radar/ Soho Rep/ Nature Theater of Oklahoma
Conceived and directed by Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper
Original Music by Robert M. Johanson, Julie LaMendola, and Daniel Gower
More info HERE.

Watch excerpts from Episode 1 HERE

photo (above) by Reinhard Werner-Burgtheater; photo (middle) by Markus Scholz; photo (below) by theater-words; pictured: the beautifully renovated Public Theater.

Alas, It’s True: We’re Gonna Die — thoughts on Young Jean Lee’s Cabaret
Tyvek and Gaffe Tape — the SITI company tears it up in 
Under Construction

public theater renovated renovationIMG_3171

theater-words turns TWO!


Happy birthday, theater-words, and welcome to the terrible twos!

Last year was a full house of commentary, musings, interviews, pictures, and everything in between.

Of particular note was that beautiful, abandoned Detroit theater (featured on Freshly Pressed!), and the start of the exciting TheaTour! series. There was the Joe Mielziner lovefest, and those beautiful Grandma Plays. We even found Cinderella of Into the Woods in Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild.

Smash (oh Smash!) made for good interview fodder and photo fun, and the Let’s Chat! series launched with Colt Coeur’s Adrienne Campbell-Holt. A new trend, the DEOSP, was spotted. And the TEAM’s Mission Drift made a good launching pad for some NYC-related pondering.

Rounding things out were bits on volume control and Anything Goes posters; silence and strangeness at the Tonys.

All that was good. But next year will be better. I PROMISE!

Bring on the teething!

Roundabout Does a Roundabout

I’m pretty much definitely the only person who finds this interesting (am I? am I?), but it seems that the Roundabout Theatre Company is doing a bit of rebranding. Witness the swanky new poster pasted on 44th Street…


Cool, right? It feels current, stylish, casually affluent. The abstract-y comedy/drama masks, the mod coloring, the artful nod to diversity, the focus on YOU (“exposing you,” “introducing you,” “it’s about you”)–it’s a far cry from the more traditional lettering more commonly associated with this reputable, classics-heavy company:


Does this advertising shift herald a new programming focus?

Time shall tell…

Poster Analysis: “Anything Goes”
Poster Implants


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