Meet Diluckshan Jeyaratnam

Our Moses, Diluckshan Jeyaratnam, comes to us all the way from Denmark, and will travel back to Denmark with The Prince of Egypt when it is remounted at Fredericia Teater in April of 2018. We grabbed a few minutes with him during rehearsals to ask some questions so you can get to know Diluckshan before you see the show.

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What is the theatre scene like in Denmark, compared to what you’ve seen in the United States?

Denmark has had a rich theatre scene for several years. Compared to the United States, musical theatre does not have a long history in Denmark. It is however a rapidly growing part of the Danish theatre scene, even becoming one of the bestselling art forms in recent times. Now, more than ever, it’s an exciting time to be a musical theatre actor in Denmark, because our theatres produce several original works and explore the art form and its potential, and we get to be part of it.

Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?

Not at all. I have always loved being a musician and a singer, and using these abilities to tell stories. However, I considered it a hobby. I never imagined it as a viable professional career path, so I went to university and took a degree in international communication and multimedia. I tried to apply for jobs without any luck, and I realized that a career in multimedia wouldn’t make me happy anyway, because my passion was elsewhere: the arts, more specifically, musical theatre.

During this time, I was fortunate enough to have been part of a few productions at our local theatre, including Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats. I even saw my very first musical at this theatre when they did their production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I was totally blown away by what I saw. After the show, I was lucky enough to get a backstage tour and witness the beautiful collaboration that was happening to create such an amazing production. At that moment, I realized that I wanted to be part of that community, even if it was only as a hobby. As it turns out, it has become much more than that, and I’m so grateful for it.

What was your family’s response when you told them you wanted to pursue a career in theatre?

This was the part I was most nervous about. My family’s support and blessing meant the world to me. I imagined all kinds of responses from them and I feared the worst when I went to them to share my thoughts, but they managed to surprise me. Their response was, “We always knew that this was the right path for you. We just wanted you to realize it for yourself, so you would be ready to take the leap.” After that beautiful blessing from my family, every little bit of doubt and fear totally disappeared, and I just went for it.

What is it like working in cast with so many people of color? Is that a new experience for you? What was the first day of rehearsal like, when the cast comes together for the first time?

This is a completely new experience for me. Most of the time, I’m the only person of color in the shows that I have done in Denmark, with a few exceptions where there have been one or two others. On the first day of rehearsal of The Prince of Egypt, I was surprised and so thrilled to see a cast with so many people of color and different ethnicities. We all come from different parts of the world and have different cultural and religious backgrounds, but we share the same core values needed to tell such an amazing story as The Prince of Egypt. I am truly humbled and grateful to be part of this cast.

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The cast of The Prince of Egypt on the first day of rehearsal / Photo Heather Orth

Besides Moses, what is your dream role? 

I have always had a hard time answering this question…I was fortunate enough to see Hamilton on Broadway with the original cast, and it was one of the most memorable theatre experiences I have ever had. Ever since I heard the music and saw the show, I have wanted to play Aaron Burr. I love the complexity of the character and the journey he goes through.

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Diluckshan as Moses / Photo Kevin Berne

Diluckshan gave us a preview of the “Let my people go” scene, and it’s beautiful. Tickets for this show are selling quickly – visit theatreworks.org to secure your seats today.

Kelley’s Recommended Reading on CONSTELLATIONS

Although you certainly don’t need a background in astrophysics to enjoy Nick Payne’s Constellations, we asked Director Robert Kelley for a list of further reading for anyone interested in learning more about the subjects of string theory, the multiverse, or the genesis of this brilliant play. Here’s a short list of Kelley’s recs:

Books:

  • String Theory for Dummies by Andrew Zimmerman Jones with Daniel Robbins, PhD
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Videos:

Article:

And if you’re still eager for more, you can always hire a tutor! As Kelley says, “I also had a two hour individual session to review the play and its contents, including string theory, with physicist Dr. Richard Partridge, Senior Staff Scientist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford.”

For more information on our production of Constellations, running through September 17 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, visit theatreworks.org.

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Kaede describes the New Works Festival!

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Kaede / Photo by Kevin Berne

Hi, my name is Kaede and I am the Marketing Intern at TheatreWorks. I would like to announce that TheatreWorks’ 16th Annual New Works Festival is onstage now at the Lucie Stern Theatre!

What is the New Works Festival?

The New Works Festival is an annual theatre festival presented by TheatreWorks. This year, it’s made up of two musicals and three plays, plus some special events. In the festival, each show is seen in the early stages of development: more than a reading but not fully-directed. Therefore, TheatreWorks is able to introduce several newest shows to the community in the short period of the time.

I personally haven’t had a chance to join the Festival in past years. Producing three plays and two musicals at the same time sounds kind of insane to me. I know how much time and effort go into just one great show, from my experience working backstage at Foothill College. However, I have one strong piece of evidence that the Festival provides amazing benefits to both audience and artists: The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga.

The Four Immigrants: An American Music Manga just had a very successful world premiere at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, after being a part of the 2016 New Works Festival. The tremendous success of The Four Immigrants is in part from appearing in last’s years New Works Festival.

The New Works Festival helps playwrights and directors to create the ideal show. Throughout the festival, they can see how the show would look like on the stage and how the audience would react to their work. They can change or add details and make the show better, based on the audience reaction.

The New Works Festival also benefits to the audience. The Festival is a great opportunity for the audience to explore new trends in American theatre. It is a chance to get familiar with the latest acclaimed shows and find the next level of their favorite shows, playwrights, directors, and actors.

I have read the scripts of the shows which are going to appear in the New Works Festival this year, and I will share a little bit about them.

What musicals will TheatreWorks present in the Festival?

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE: The Shangri-Las is a musical about the Shangri-Las, an American pop girl group on the 1960s. Their hit songs included “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” and “Leader of the Pack.” The playwright, David Stenn, has written for television from Hill Street Blues to Boardwalk Empire, and has authored two biographies. His documentary, Girl 27, exposed one of Hollywood’s best-suppressed scandals. This musical reveals the Shangri-Las’ mysterious career and end with their timeless music. The musical will be directed by Lisa Peterson.

I had not known about the Shangri-Las, so I used YouTube to listen to their music. It’s sad and dramatic, and is not like any other hit pop song. People say they got popular as a bad girls band from teenagers back in 60s. I can easily imagine how teenagers got into them. I love the musicals based on hit songs such as ABBA’s Mamma Mia, and I am pretty sure this Shangri-Las musical is going to be another successful hit in musical history.

MY MOTHER’S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING is a comic and touching love story based on David’s mother’s true story. It is a musical valentine to a woman who changed everything in her life, including her family. Irene Sankoff and David Hein are a Canadian married writing team, and their show Come From Away was nominated for seven Tony Awards this year, including Best Musical. The musical will be directed by David Leon Lowenstein.

I loved this musical immediately when I was reading the script. At the same time, I still can’t believe this is based on a real story! The wedding is lesbian, Jewish, and Wiccan, and I have never heard of a wedding like that. Despite the fact that the wedding does not sound like it is going to happen easily, the story is full of fun details. The musical is never dark or sad, but touching and heartwarming. And the music is wonderful, too! No theatre fan should miss this musical.

What plays will TheatreWorks present in the festival?

3 FARIDS is a comic play performed by three Arab American actors. Ramiz Monsef is co-author of the musical The Unfortunates, which was produced at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and ACT in San Francisco. Ramiz himself is an actor as well, and will appear in this show, and he has appeared on TV and in theatres across the country. The show will be directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh.

Reading the script of 3 Farids was an interesting experience. It was clearly carrying a strong message of people who has suffered from being stereotyped. I had a chance to see Ramiz Monsef’s The Unfortunates, and it was very abstract and attractive. I loved the music, dance, set design, and everything—it was more spectacle than storytelling. I was surprised how the message was portrayed without traditional storytelling. I expect 3 Farids to be like The Unfortunates. I am just so excited to see this on stage.

DEAL WITH THE DRAGON is a one man play written and performed by Kevin Rolston, who has appeared onstage at TheatreWorks several times. The show is about a man who has a roommate who says he is a dragon. It is a dark comedy for mature audience. Deal with the Dragon is developed with and directed by M. Graham Smith.

Recently, the number of the actors on stage is generally getting smaller than ever, which means new plays often have fewer than four actors, who all play several roles in the same show. However, a one man show still sounds like a challenge for me. Although the characters are very charming on the page, I wonder how Kevin Rolston will perform two or three of them at the same time. I am ready to be surprised by Kevin Rolston’s Deal with the Dragon.

TINY HOUSES is a play about Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17which was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014. The play will show the human drama of people who are in the tiny houses around the glove. Stefanie Zadravec’s work has been produced/developed at several theatres across the country. She is a New Dramatists Resident and recipient of a Helen Merrill Emerging Writer Award, the Francesca Primus prize, and a Helen Hayes Award. Tiny Houses will be directed by Giovanna Sardelli.

The story is based on the true and tragic event of 2014. Although Stefanie Zadravec made it clear that the characters and story of the play is fiction, it is still shocking. The show is focused on normal people in tiny houses and their drama. This play is going to send the audience home with many questions—a great example of how live theatre, even in early stages of development, can impact the audience.

For more information on TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 16th Annual New Works Festival, visit theatreworks.org.

7 Shows, 36 Actors, 10 Days: The 2017 New Works Festival

A conversation between Acting Marketing Director Syche Phillips, Associate Artistic Director Leslie Martinson, and NWF Casting Director Jeffrey Lo, in early June 2017:

Syche: The 2017 New Works Festival is nigh! So tell me, how is casting the New Works Festival different from casting anything else in the season?

Leslie: Casting for the Festival is completely different than casting for the mainstage because we don’t audition.

Syche: So you’re drawing from just a pool of people you already know?

Leslie: Not entirely. We have what we call the “shopping list conversation” with the director and the authors to find out what they’re looking for. We ask them a lot of questions about tone and style, because unlike with a published, established play, what’s on the page isn’t complete. You can’t draw the casting information we need from the page.

Jeffrey: Often we’ll ask them, If the piece has had other readings or workshops, what was something useful from the casting in those? What are useful traits other actors have brought in?

Syche: So like, “She has a sense of innocence?”

Leslie: Yes, or they’ll say, “Last time we had so-and-so play this role, and he was really tough and scary. So we’re interested in having someone less scary play this role.” Or someone scarier. It gives us character attributes and actor energy to work for.

Jeffrey: Sometimes it’s not who’s best for the part. It’s about what the playwright is interested in exploring. So they might say, “I wonder if this play works with an actor who is not sexy. Does it still work? Let’s try that.” By nature, the Festival is workshopping for the playwright, and we’re not trying to lock in a version.

Leslie: So we can ask a lot of “what if” questions.

Syche: So the casting provides another level of development to the trial and error process.

Leslie: Yes. Then we look at the pool of people we know, as you said, or, if there’s something specific they’re looking for, we’ll reach out to new people based on recommendations. And then we do what we call “pitches” back to the creatives. These are documents that include the headshot and resumes of our proposed actors, but also show shots, casual shots, any video we can find of people…it gives the creatives a sense of their personal energy.

Syche: What do you do when you’re casting a NWF reading, but you don’t yet have a director locked down? Is it just a conversation with the creatives?

Leslie: Yes. And then we hope the director is happy! The other thing that’s different about the Festival than a mainstage show is that you need actors who are super quick. All actors are smart; you can’t be a professional actor without being smart. But some actors have a longer process, where they go away and stew on it, or do their own research.

Syche: And there’s not really time for that here.

Leslie: Nope. We need smart people who will make bold choices right out of the gate, and who are willing to abandon those choices when the play takes a 180-degree turn from there, or if their character completely changes. We also do try to make sure the creatives have someone here that they know. It’s hard to come out here to a theatre company you may not already know, and show your vulnerable, in-process work to strangers. So if the creatives have an actor or two who has already been involved, or who they at least know, we do try to make that happen. We love it when that person is someone we also know, because then we can also say, “Oh well, if he’s playing the husband, you’re going to love her as the wife.”

Jeffrey: We’ve had plays in the past that were written for specific actors, and we’ve been able to bring in those actors, which is cool. We also had a play a couple years ago, featuring two couples, and the director and the playwright were looking specifically for local actors who knew each other and already had chemistry, but did not know the director and playwright.

Leslie: There’s some translation between playwright and director and casting, to figure out what the actors need to bring to the table.

Jeffrey: But the important thing is, it’s not about featuring the actors. It’s all in service of the play.

Leslie: There’s something fun in the Festival, in that some of the special skills you may need in an actor onstage can be accomplished through stage directions in a reading. You can state, “He dances an amazing hip hop solo,” and that’s how we’ll do it in the reading. Or in Man and Beast (TW NWF 2015), one of the characters frequently speaks Greek.

Syche: That’s just what came into my mind, was that exact example. Did the actor actually speak Greek?

Leslie: She learned how to pronounce it for the reading.

Syche: But it wasn’t a special skill on her resume.

Leslie: No, no. And it wasn’t necessary for casting.

Syche: Well, it sounded great.

Leslie: See? Super smart, super game actors. They’ll often go and learn the things even if you say, Oh, don’t worry about that.

Jeffrey: Another example of that “magic” of staged readings is my play Waiting for Next. We’re doing an open rehearsal for it during the Festival, with a small audience. I’ve had multiple readings of it, and it’s so easy for me to say “And now there’s a transition, and it’s six years later, and they’re wearing tuxedos.” But now Leslie, as the director, will say, “Hold up, how does the director solve that?” And we have to figure out what we’re looking at.

Syche: What’s the normal amount of rehearsal before the first performance of a Festival reading?

Leslie: The straight plays sometimes perform on Day 2, usually Day 3. The musicals usually perform on Day 4 or 5.

The first day of rehearsal is always interesting, especially for directors who are used to doing their own casting. It’s the first day everyone’s all together, and I usually check in at the end of the day, just to make sure everybody fell in love with each other. Occasionally we’ll have the cast all together, but the specific roles played by each person haven’t quite been nailed down. In Something Wicked This Way Comes (TW NWF 2016), there were two actors cast as the two character men, and until the first day of rehearsal there was a question of which actor would be which character.

Syche: For a lot of theatre companies, summer is their downtime. But for us, summer is the opposite of downtime. But it’s my favorite time of year—it’s the only time you see all the departments in the same meetings having conversations working toward the same thing. The rest of the year, the admin team meets, and the production team meets, and the departments meet individually…but during the summer we have full staff NWF meetings. It’s like a smaller scale version of the mainstage year, but it happens much faster. It feels very fulfilling in a creative way. Do you guys feel the same way?

Leslie: Yes, casting the Festival is fun in a different way from the mainstage season, because it’s so direct. The creatives say, “We need a person to do XYZ,” and then we say, “Here is that person.” And then the show happens. It feels direct and streamlined.

Syche: It condenses everything into a few months.

Leslie: Well, it condenses the timeframe, but not the scale of the whole thing. You still have to choose a season, contact the creatives, get the bios, get the headshots, get the Equity contracts—

Jeffrey: Same number of flights to pick up, same amount of own-of-town housing to figure out—

Leslie: It’s not a miniature season…it’s just a much faster season.

Jeffrey: What I enjoy about casting the Festival, the vibe of getting all these actors in here, is that it feels the way many of us started in theatre. Once you get to a professional level of theatre, you learn how far in advance you have to plan, how much money is involved, how many rules there are. And there are still rules and money, but with the Festival the vibe is, “These people wrote a play, it’s not done yet, but let’s get some actors and an audience and see what happens.” It’s like how Kelley describes Popcorn [TW’s very first play, a world premiere in 1970]. It’s creative and passionate and there’s talent and excitement and you just put everyone into a room and…see what comes of it all.

Syche: If you guys are good, I think that’s a perfect place to end.

Leslie: Sounds good. Okay Jeffrey, let’s go cast the Festival.

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Learn more about—or buy tickets to!—the 2017 New Works Festival.

The Edgerton Foundation New Play Award and “The Four Immigrants”

The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga has the rare distinction of having been an award-winning play before it even opened. The musical was one of 13 first-round recipients of the 2017 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award by the Theater Communications Group (TCG). The New Play Award was created in 2006 to encourage the development of new, enduring works of American theater. The award helps to alleviate the greatest constraining factors in the development of original theater: time and budget. Over the past 11 years, the Edgerton Foundation has awarded $10,244,900 to 348 separate productions premiering at theaters across the country.

The New Play Award was of enormous benefit to The Four Immigrants. The musical had originally been allotted two weeks of rehearsal, one week of tech, and one week of previews – a very tight schedule for a show with many song and dance numbers and a small company of actors who each play myriad characters. The award subsidized an additional week of rehearsal time. This allowed the performers to richly develop their characters, the technical staff to better formulate their designs, and the triple-threat composer/lyricist/scriptwriter Min Kahng to make the adjustments he wished to the show’s text and music.

Leslie Martinson, the show’s director, was thrilled to have received the New Play Award because it allowed her to build the show at a pace which would serve the creative process. “Normally, with a pre-existing script, you know what the ‘moments’ will be. Your job is just to build the moments and polish them,” she said. “The New Play Award allowed us to discover the ‘moments’ we wanted to create to tell this new story and then build them. We didn’t have to settle for the obvious answer.”

Choreographer Dottie Lester-White found the extra time the New Play Award made possible to be essential. Though she had choreographed most of the show’s dance numbers before rehearsal began, she had no knowledge of the actors’ ability to execute her planned routines. The extra week allowed her to teach at the actors’ pace while also making changes and cleaning the choreography as she went.

For actor Hansel Tan, who plays Charlie in the show, the additional time allowed him to develop his character more richly. “In a fast rehearsal process, actors miss getting to live with a piece and their characters,” he said. “It’s a special thing to be able to dwell within a show’s ecosystem for a while, and have it manifest the story it needs to tell.”

The Four Immigrants joins the ranks of many famous musicals and plays that were originally sponsored by the New Play Award, such as Hamilton, Next to Normal, All the Way, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Dear Evan Hansen, Water by the Spoonful, and Oslo. Nine New Play winners have been nominated for Pulitzer Prizes (four having won), and 15 have been nominated for Tony Awards (five having won for Best Play or Best Musical). TheatreWorks has previously received six New Play Awards for The Loudest Man on Earth (2013), Upright Grand (2012), Clementine in the Lower 9 (2011), Fly by Night (2011), Auctioning the Ainsleys (2010), and The North Pool (2010).

By Holly Dayton, New Works Festival Intern

Bridging the Language Gap Onstage

In The Four Immigrants, the four main characters arrive in America speaking primarily Japanese, with a limited knowledge of English. Although they quickly pick up the language, we still need a way to show this language barrier and the characters’ overcoming of it onstage. In a book or movie, when dealing with different languages, it’s easy to include a translation or subtitles to make sure your reader or audience understands everything. In fact, when the original Japanese manga was translated from Henry Kiyama’s Manga Yonin Shosei to The Four Immigrants Manga, translator Frederik L. Schodt had to come up with his own way of dealing with this shift. The Four Immigrants playwright Min Kahng explains, “The original book was mostly in Japanese, and only had moments of English spoken when the main characters were interacting with Americans. So when it came time for Fred to translate it, he used a printed typeface for the Japanese portions of the comic strip, and he left the broken English in Henry Kiyama’s handwriting.”

But how does a playwright tackle this issue, making sure that the language shifts are clear, while continually drawing the audience in?

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Sharon Rietkerk and Megan McGinnis in Triangle. Photo Kevin Berne.

It’s a challenge we’ve seen multiple times over the last several years. In Triangle (TW 2015), sisters Chaya and Sarah speak their first language (Yiddish) to each other at home, while they’re learning English with the New Yorkers around them. Director Meredith McDonough chose to differentiate between these two by having their “English” be broken and accented, while their “Yiddish” lines, although actually English onstage, are spoken fluently, in their regular, un-accented voices.

In The Loudest Man on Earth (TW 2013), the main character, Jordan, is a Deaf man who speaks only American Sign Language. His love interest, Haylee, speaks a bit of ASL at the beginning of the play, but becomes more fluent by the end. Although Haylee speaks out loud when she signs (a common practice—the combination of ASL and facial expressions/mouth movements while talking helps with communication), when Jordan’s speaking, we generally don’t have the benefit of accompanying verbal translation. In fact, there are scenes throughout the play where Jordan stands onstage, alone, and tells a story from his past, using only ASL and Visual Vernacular to get his point across. Although a great majority of our audience didn’t speak ASL, it wasn’t difficult to follow Jordan’s emotions, and find yourself immersed in the story.

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The Loudest Man on Earth was a risk, because we deliberately didn’t have a translation of what was being said. Playwright Catherine Rush intended for there to be moments of ASL that the hearing audience wouldn’t necessarily understand, and moments of spoken English that a Deaf audience wouldn’t necessarily understand. And in the middle, Jordan and Haylee bridged the two to create a story that all could connect with.

On a nationwide scale, in 2009, Broadway brought us a new version of West Side Story, which sought to become truer to life with its bilingual cast. The Sharks sang and spoke in Spanish, translated by then-up-and-coming Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Guardian said in its review of the show that the Spanish “helps to retain the artistic energy of the musical…When Chino tells Maria that Tony has killed her brother Bernardo, the original ‘He killed your brother!’ becomes the grittier ‘¡Ése cabrón mató a tu hermano!’ (‘That bastard killed your brother!’).” Although two songs (“I Feel Pretty” and “America”) had the translations printed in the playbill, for the most part the audience was left to gather the story and intentions from the acting, even if they couldn’t speak the language.

 

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Karen Olivo (as Anita) and the cast of Broadway’s 2009 West Side Story

Back at TheatreWorks, in our 2016 New Works Festival, we presented the first full reading of the latest draft of Min Kahng’s The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga. Min chose to have his four main characters speak English onstage, with the conceit that they were actually speaking Japanese. “But,” he says, “the problem with that was how to let the audience know that when they were hearing the main characters speak, it was Japanese. Originally I had this whole vaudeville conceit where these four ‘presenters’ came out, and they just explained it to the audience. But, like any good musical theatre solution, the new fix comes from a song. The characters sing quickly, You may comprehend the words they say with startling ease / You’ll have to pretend they’re really speaking Japanese. By solving the problem that way, we clarify it in five seconds, in a way where the audience is in on the joke.”

To offset against that, the English-speaking characters onstage speak in a fast and fluent broken English, to demonstrate the way that characters unfamiliar with the language would pick out the words they know to try to piece together the meaning. These characters lose their broken English over time as the four immigrants become fluent themselves.

They say that the easier something is to read (or to watch), the more time and effort must have gone into writing it. The complications of having different languages spoken onstage, while keeping the entire show understandable and engaging to the audience, is a difficult challenge, but one that many writers and directors are rising to meet. Min says, “I’ve seen enough musicals and plays now that are doing this with outsider or immigrant stories, that it doesn’t seem so much of a leap for audiences to take anymore.” From where we’re standing, the more immigrant or outsider stories being told, and the more the audience is asked to stretch their experience and imaginations, the better!

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Hansel Tan, Sean Fenton, Phil Wong, and James Seol as the Four Immigrants. Photo Kevin Berne.

For more information on The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga, visit theatreworks.org.

 

Be a Theatre Beta Tester!

Software isn’t the only thing that gets developed here in Silicon Valley!

Attracting talent and theatre-lovers from across the country, TheatreWorks’ New Works Festival is a unique chance for creators and audiences to come together and help nurture developing work. This year’s lineup features two new musicals (including a piece by the Tony Award-nominated creators of Broadway’s smash hit Come From Away), three new plays, a keynote by world-renowned clown Jeff Raz, a hilarious late-night comedy event, and an open rehearsal of an in-progress play with TheatreWorks’ own Jeffrey Lo and Leslie Martinson.

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For the full schedule of events or to purchase passes/tickets, visit theatreworks.org.

See it all with a Festival pass! Subscribers/Industry $49 / Non-Subscribers $65

Single tickets:
Readings/Meet the Festival Artists Panel $20
Blogologues $15
Keynote/Open Rehearsal $10

Beethoven: Composer Cliffnotes

Widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians the world has ever seen, Ludwig van Beethoven is the stuff of legend. Even those largely unfamiliar with musical history have heard of the brilliant composer whose genius could not be quelled, even when he lost his hearing. Few artists have had such an impact on the evolution of their art form.

BeethovenBeethoven was born in Bonn in 1770, into a musical family. He began rigorous musical training at a very young age, performing his first concert when he was just seven years old. At ten he withdrew from grade school to study music full-time, and by twelve he’d published his first composition.

Beethoven joined the court of Bonn in 1784 as the assistant organist, and made a name for himself as one of the city’s most talented musicians. In 1787 he traveled to Vienna, hoping to study with Mozart. Alas, after only a few weeks Beethoven returned home, his mother having fallen ill. Whether Beethoven ever actually met Mozart has long been a subject for musical history lore.

In 1792 Beethoven left Bonn for good, returning to Vienna to study under Haydn. He distinguished himself first as a virtuoso pianist, then as a composer.  His genius landed him at the center of the musical world, and won him many wealthy patrons. Beethoven’s compositions matured as he did, pushing boundaries and challenging the conventions of the classical era.

Around the turn of the century, even as he was turning out some of his greatest works, Beethoven lost his hearing. It was a great blow, but miraculously did not end his musical career. Indeed, he continued composing at a furious pace, his pieces becoming increasingly complex and emotional.

This change in Beethoven’s music mirrored both his tumultuous personal life and a change that was going on in the larger artistic and literary world—Classicism was giving way to Romanticism. Centuries later, Beethoven is acknowledged as an important figure in that transition. Furthermore, his body of work gave future composers permission to break the rules, and create art unshackled by convention.

Beethoven died in 1827, one of the most celebrated composers of all time.

-Katie Dai

For an auditory trip through Beethoven’s work, enjoy this almost-2-hours-long compilation of some of his most famous compositions.

For tickets to see Hershey Felder portray the Maestro, visit theatreworks.org.

A New Act for TheatreWorks and Robert Kelley

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Dear Friends,

We are writing to announce the retirement of Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley at the completion of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 50th Season in June of 2020. One of the longest-tenured artistic directors in the American Theatre, Kelley founded TheatreWorks in 1970, and has been at its helm ever since, directing over 170 of the company’s productions. He has overseen our growth from an experimental youth troupe to national status as a fully professional regional theatre, the third largest in the Bay Area and part of America’s 72-member League of Resident Theatres. During Kelley’s tenure the company has produced 66 world and 164 regional premieres to date, established a nationally-recognized New Works Festival, and launched education programs that engage 25,000 students each year.

From our first production, TheatreWorks has been committed to diversity, innovation, and the confluence of drama and music onstage. Kelley has frequently described the company’s work as “a celebration of the human spirit.”

Under the powerful direction of ten-year Managing Director Phil Santora, the company is in solid financial shape, with a committed subscriber and donor base and a substantial endowment. We continue to enjoy the support of the Cities of Mountain View, where we produce five productions each year, and Palo Alto, where we produce three productions and our nationally acclaimed New Works Festival.

According to Board of Trustees Chair Barbara Shapiro, “The Board fully appreciates all Kelley has done for theatre in the Bay Area and across the country. TheatreWorks has always reflected the diversity, entrepreneurship, and humanity of our community, but also Kelley’s personal warmth and artistry. With our national reputation for artistic quality, our strong financial position, and the outstanding organizational leadership of our Board and staff, we are in an excellent position to attract new artistic leadership. Our announcement today will allow ample time for a successful transition.” The Board will begin a national search for a successor this year, with plans to have next generation leadership in place as Kelley’s final season begins.

As he launches a dynamic, premiere-laden 48th season in July, Artistic Director Kelley remains vigorously committed to the company, which he says has offered “an artistic home to thousands of exceptional theatre artists over the years. There is a joy here, a warmth to the creative process that many have found inspiring. For me, that joy has been worth a lifetime.” Kelley’s final three years will culminate in 2020 with TheatreWorks’ 50th Anniversary Season. Following his retirement, he hopes to remain active in the company and looks forward to supporting its future growth under a new artistic leader.

Thank you for being part of the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley family, for sharing in our art, and for your unwavering support of our artistic leadership in the past, the present, and the future.

Thank you to our volunteers!

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April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month, and we love to take this time to brag about our amazing volunteers! From ushering and hosting concessions at the shows, providing countless hours of administrative assistance, helping the artistic team run auditions, and much more, our volunteers are a powerhouse, working hard year-round. We couldn’t create the art of TheatreWorks without the help of our valued volunteers.

THANK YOU to our incredible TheatreWorkers!

 

 

“Thank You” artwork by Hans Cardenas