Category: Theater

Photo by Matthew Murphy

When Dina (played by Katrina Lenk) beautifully sings “Welcome to Nowhere,” a song introducing the audience to the show’s location, she doesn’t portray it to be one of the most exciting places. In fact, she goes so far as to sing “Such a city, nobody knows it. Not a fun, not an art, nor a culture. This is Bet Hativka.”

And her character is right: this show, like it repeatedly describes, is a simple story about how ‘’Once not long ago group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.”

The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Yet, in this charming 95-minute show, audiences are thrust into a story that is so simple yet so complex, just like the human experience. Indeed, like life, the show begins with a slow start, in which we are introduced to the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra from Egypt, which, due to a misunderstanding of their final destination, end up spending a night in Bet Hatikva rather than Petah Tikva.

Stuck in a new place with nothing else to do, we see these strangers begin to connect. Part of the experience of meeting new people is finding out more about them: at first, you don’t know much about each other, but as time goes on, you learn more and begin to feel more for one another. The same is true for characters in shows. While The Band’s Visit eventually introduces us to all of its characters, unfortunately, we only get to really know a few. As the show progresses, though, we see extraordinary songs and heart-wrenching moments from most of the characters that, when the characters we as the audience get to know are involved, leave us tearful and filled with emotion.

For the characters we don’t get know as well, moments of truth — revealed in admittedly beautiful songs — can be a little confusing. Why does the man who waits by the telephone wait so obsessively for his girlfriend to call, to the point of being agitated when someone else uses the phone? Just because he misses her? Knowing nothing about this man except that he waits and waits and waits, it felt as if his behavior fell closer in line with someone who is unhealthily obsessed rather than in love. While this too can be part of the human experience, it was frustrating to see this moment aggrandized as it leads into the final grand moment of the show in which the entire cast harmonizes beautifully, singing about longing, love, and human connection. If we had gotten to know this man better, perhaps the final wouldn’t have felt as if it came out of nowhere.

That being said, the final song (“Answer Me”) is still beautiful in its own right, highlighting the show’s strongest component: its music. With lyrics and composition by David Yazbeck, every song pulls at the heart, making you laugh and leaving you contemplating your own desires. Each song is stunning and invites the audience members into the moment, allowing them to connect with the music on a personal level, even if they’re not familiar with the musical style, which is inspired by Arabic culture — something rarely seen on Broadway.

In a time that feels incredibly divisive, this production shows that, despite differences in our languages, our backgrounds, and our heritages, we all still are united in one human experience. We still all have a desire to love and be answered, and The Band’s Visit is such an important musical because it reminds us of just that. Rather than focusing on gaudy, ostentatious sets, colors, and music, it strips down these elements and focuses on the simple, the ordinary. This ordinariness actually produces something  unique and extraordinary, and, accordingly, the show should be seen by all.

Tickets to The Band’s Visit can be purchased from the show’s website.

Image Courtesy of NOMADS

Not sure what to do next weekend? Check out NOMADS’s latest production!

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Image Courtesy of NOMADS

On November 16, NOMADS will be debuting Cold Whole Milk, an original new play by Sarah Billings. Come to the Glicker-Milstein Theatre in the Diana Center to see the story of Margaret and Jack, a young married couple living in a quiet mid-20th century neighborhood. As they struggle to honestly communicate with each other about their desires and identities, their lives run parallel to the lives of the milkman and the mailman who come by every morning. They all seem set in their ways until visit from a door-to-door hairbrush salesgirl inspires Margaret and Jack to reexamine what they really want from the world and each other. At the same time, the milkman and the mailman begin to see each other in a new light. Cold Whole Milk is a vibrant, unashamed affirmation of the beauty of queer love that celebrates the bravery of all individuals courageous enough to live as their truest selves.

Tickets are on sale through the TIC and are available both online and in person for $5 (with a Columbia or Barnard student ID), or $7 (without an ID). The show will be running November 16-18, and you can RSVP to the Facebook event here. From the cast and crew: we hope to see you there!

 

Want to feature your club’s updates here? Email submissions@columbialion.com

Photo by Jenny Anderson

 

For students with disabilities (invisible or not), feeling out of place or unrepresented in narratives is not uncommon. One place in particular where this happens is in theater. Because there is a lack of shows that speak to the experiences of people with disabilities and include in their casts people with disabilities, the theater world can at times feel exclusionary.

Gardiner Comfort, an actor based in New York, is changing that with his new one-man show “The Elephant in Every Room I Enter.” We sat down with Comfort, an actor with Tourette Syndrome, to talk about his experience bringing this new show about his experience during a trip to Washington, D.C. for a National Conference for people with Tourette’s to Off-Broadway.

 

How did you get inspired to want to become an actor?

When I was in ninth grade, I went to a new high school that fit my precise learning disabled mind. I was doing characters at the dinner table, and my mom suggested I try out for the school play, All My Sons by Arthur Miller. I got hooked from the experiences of doing play.

In your TED Talk, you talk a lot about being hesitant to, in a sense, “come out” as a person with Tourette’s Syndrome. What factors led you to decide to be more public about it?

I was diagnosed when I was 7, and it’s been hard. There have been times while acting where my tics have been a problem. Directors have difficulty working with me. When I’m on stage, though, it completely goes away. Coming out was nerve wracking: if I’m known as an actor that makes these noises, I might not get hired. People said, “If you have this, why not be more open about it and this unique difference? Why not use it?” I realized I had nothing to lose, and eventually I listened, and now I’ve been writing my whole life.

What are your goals with your upcoming opening of “The Elephant in Every Room I Enter” at Next Door at NYTW?

Honestly, it’s been a labor of love. It’s exhausting because you have to do everything. I could talk for hours about how I and my collaborator Kel have put this show together. It’s incredibly rewarding to be up there doing it and to get the attention of NYTW: it just feels gratifying. We have the best opportunity to attract the attention of major producers from regional theaters. . Hopefully, it gives us more notoriety. It’s a very beautiful, unique show. It can change lives. Our main goal is to make a beautiful piece of art, but it’s such a personal story about something most people really don’t understand. I really think it spreads awareness in a unique way.

What made you decide to make “The Elephant in Every Room I enter” a one-man show?

I think I thought about doing a one man show more than doing a show about Tourette’s. My mother is a choreographer, so I was around dance and theater growing up and saw a lot of individual one-man shows. People like David Hawk inspired me. Even in high school, I was writing short pieces and performing them through college and beyond. Doing one about my life with Tourette’s just followed from that. There’s no one who can better tell my story than me. My collaborator has considered making a screenplay about this. I really enjoy the autonomy of doing a one-man show; I love the physicalness and telling the story and breaking out into side stories. As someone whose mind is always bouncing around the place, it’s useful and great to expand on the story. I enjoy the challenge of being myself.

What should people expect from the show?

I’m very close to the Tourette’s community. To hear people in the audience ticking while I’m doing my show and getting quite close–it’s a profound, moving experience. It can bring me to tears when I hear a young person affected by the show.

I want audiences to prepare for something that is very moving. There’s personal details in it that can be painful memories, but it’s also comedic. There’s the coin of trauma and tragedy. It’s funny. I hope, but quite moving. On top of that, I think the information is rare to see, and we also put these crazy projections on the wall that are a nod to the experience of Tourette’s. It’s like offering a view into my mind. It’s a show that’s really not like anything else. There’s nothing else out there like this.

What was the process of creating this show with co-creator Kel Haney?

It took a really long time. We were in a theater residency here in NY, and we thought we’d write a story about me growing up in NY, but we didn’t have big ideas. In Spring 2014, I went down to this conference in DC (the Tourette National Conference), and my mind was blown seeing hundreds of people ticking. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and telling people about it, and Kel realized that was the subject we could write about. We weren’t sure how to really write it at first; everything kept sounding like an essay. Then, we realized that we could use the method of me telling short stories. Kel would record me and take notes, and then she had an intern transcribe the recording. Over a year long period, we ended up with this story about my week in DC. It was something neither of us have ever done before — reforming these stories to fit this narrative of a week in DC with all of these details about me.

How do you see Broadway/the theater world in general becoming more open to showcasing characters with disabilities and highlighting issues related to feeling like an outsider?

I think things are finally starting to change. I know that there have been a number of shows that highlight disabilities like Curiosity of Dog in Night Time and theaters focusing on characters with hearing disabilities like Deaf West. It’s certainly changing. There’s a lot of argument with people advocating for the disenfranchised. There’s the Apothetae theater company which performs shows with disabled actors and supports helping them perform. How do we make it possible for people to have the same chance to be in roles, especially with theaters that aren’t wheelchair accessible? I’ve definitely felt that I could lose a job because  of it.

What advice do you have for people with disabilities (invisible or not) who may feel isolated in their current communities?

It’s hard. It’s definitely a challenge. I think everyone faces their own challenge and everyone needs to meet that challenge on their own, and I think it’s important for people with disabilities to do what they love and excel at. As someone whose neurology is different, I know acting is something I can do. I know I was easily distractible, the class clown, but I’m lucky I had parents who took the time to let me find my creativity. I really believe that for people like me who think differently, you need to find what it is that you’re good at — even if doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I used to use an Etch A Sketch a lot. I wasn’t good, but I realized over time I could better “see inside” the device. It was a very meticulous, meditative experience. I got a better understanding of the machine, and it allowed my mind to work in a way that it intuitively wanted to.

When I meet young people with Tourette’s, I tell them: Don’t let the world make you think the way you think and interact is unacceptable. You don’t have to conform to every asset of the normal world — be yourself.

 

“The Elephant in Every Room I Enter” runs from November 9th to November 25th. Tickets to Gardiner’s show can be purchased here. He will be hosting talkbacks after matinee shows featuring different members from the Tourette’s community.

Guests, pre-insanity (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel, an opera based on a 1962 film directed by Luis Buñuel, is absurd. Aristocrats return to their mansion after an opera outing. They soon discover that they cannot leave the dining room. Naturally, they become crazy and turn on each other. It is the idle domesticity of Clue mixed with Lord of the Flies savagery.

I was initially concerned that Adès’s music glorified these lifeless subjects. How could he write high-strung heroisms for such ennui? Juxtaposed elements, though, frame the opera’s macabre. Lovers fondle each other naked. Luscious harmonies hug crazed language: “Birds of our coupled mouths, while death enters through our feet.” This is not a prototypical tragedy; we’re not meant to feel for the plutocrats. But the music points toward sympathy. Disparate moods compete in this creation of unreality.

Accompanying exhibition for the production. Human hands, lamb legs, and olive branches for dinner. Bon appétit!

Adès etches continuous, pulsating phrases in the love scene (See “O Albion,” from Arcadiana, for an example of this style). The music pictures a spaceship creeping through a mysterious fog. Cohesive linearity is rare in New Music aesthetics, which often favor disjunction and fragmentation.

The work clearly targets the aristocracy. After the richies go crazy, the mulling mob asks: “Are they all dead?’ Answer: “This is to be hoped.”

Could the affluent figures stand as representations of the one percent in tonight’s seats? Wealth inequality unabashedly lurks in the Met’s walls. Price of my ticket has $115 base rate, plus $7.50 service fee, and then a $2.50 facility fee (thank god for press tickets.). This is a hierarchized concert life. One price does not fit all.

The bottom-dwellers – those on the lower levels – finance opera. At intermission they chow down on über-expensive meals on the second tier, gazing out on Lincoln Center’s plaza, served by dressed-up waiters. It’s possible to witness the residual effects of aristocratic ass-kissing. Met employees grunt, curse, hold curt, stony expressions. At the ticket window, my ticket was flung at me with disgust. Misery swirls among workers. Yet, galas “celebrate” the one percent’s contributions. The Met wants to wrestle money from their coffers to supplement their seemingly-perpetually sinking finances.

Adès confronts the art form, crusting with opulence, and the Met, which stages stagnant, thoughtless “tradition” for commercial indulgence – here you will not find feminist productions of troublesome “classics.” Through financial support, donors implicate themselves in the opera’s demands: Adès skewers those who bankroll him. I wonder if ticket refunds will soon be in premium demand.

 

Do you believe in magic?

Regardless of if you do or don’t, the show “In & Of Itself” at the Daryl Roth Theatre will convince you that you do in 75 minutes. Executive Producer Neil Patrick Harris presents a unique theatrical experience that blends illusion with a narrative of identity. Derek DelGaudio, the sole actor, does a fantastic job crafting an authentic performance, taking audience members on an emotional journey that explores identity, memory, how others perceive us, and what is meaningful in one’s own life.

Walking into the theatre, guests are presented with a standing board of “I am” cards. Guests are invited to choose a card that will later be used throughout the show. I chose “I am a ray of sunshine.” Why? It spoke to me. But they had a wide range of options, from alien, to C.E.O, philosopher, accountant, and troublemaker. Identities one strives to be are paired with true identities, such as occupation or family titles. You pick one that speaks to you, whether accurate, funny, or fictional.

The theatre is small and intimate. Perfect for what unfolds next. Delgaudio combines magic and storytelling seamlessly, leaving audience members in awe not only of the tricks he pulls, but also at the story he seeks to tell. Both personal and relatable, the story brings up our own memories and experiences – forcing us to confront who we are and how we identify.

The interactive element of the show is what really allows for the human quality of the production to come through. Each night something different occurs on stage because of the unique audience members present, who each bring with them their own identities and perceptions of themselves. Delgaudio forces you to question your identity labels and reminds you that sometimes people will never fully see you and your experiences for what they are – but that’s okay.

You will ask: Who am I? How do others perceive me? How do I perceive myself? Does it even matter? That’s the point of the show. Delgaudio reminds us to be cognizant of the fact that people are more than what they appear to be (just as magic is more than what it appears to be!). Dig a little deeper and you’ll see more and more of who a person is. It’s a glorious thing to dig below the identities we assign to ourselves and allow others to assign to us.  

If you want a different theater experience that is both intimate and beautiful, then see this show. Keep an open mind and go with someone you care about. It’s an experience worth sharing.

 

“In & Of Itself” runs through May 6, 2018 at the Daryl Roth Theatre. Tickets can be found here.