The Man Behind the Curtain

Dr. John Newman will perform his solo play The Man Behind the Curtain on Saturday, September 23 @ 2p at the United Solo Festival on 42nd street at Theatre Row in NYC.

The main character in the play is L. Frank Baum, best known as the author of The Wizard of Oz and 13 other Oz books. The play is set on New Year’s Eve the stage of the Hudson Theatre as one of Baum’s popular theatrical productions has been abruptly cancelled because of its excessive production costs. The “Royal Historian of Oz” offers the expectant audience his own story of how he “found his way to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Before finding his calling as a writer of children’s stories, Baum struggled to make his living as an actor, director, store-owner, baseball team secretary, small-town newspaper editor, reporter, and traveling salesman. In the play, L. Frank Baum tells how each of his professions developed his abilities as a storyteller and how he transformed his dreams and nightmares into his best known story. His life intersects with American notables including author Charles Dickens, inventor Thomas Edison, and his mother-in-law, suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage.

Newman earned a PhD in Educational Theater at New York University, with concentrations in theater for young audiences and playwriting. He has been a professor of theatre at Utah Valley University and Director of the Noorda Theatre Center for Children and Youth since 2010, after teaching and directing theatre for eighteen years at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. As a playwright, Newman has created authorized stage adaptations of novels by Newbery medalists Avi, Paul Fleischman, Richard Peck, and Jean Lee Latham.

The Man Behind the Curtain was premiered during Dr. Newman’s fall 2016 residency at the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville, New York under the direction of Dr. Tania Myren. Newman has also performed the play at Utah Valley University, the Mercury Theatre in Provo, and at Chapman University in Orange County, California. He has also performed it in places where L. Frank Baum lived and wrote, including Syracuse, New York and Coronado, California. Newman will performing the play at the national conference of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education in New Orleans in August and at the United Solo Festival on 42nd Street in New York City in September.

Two Weeks with the Queen Opens Tonight!

Tonight I caught the dress rehearsal for Two Weeks with the Queen, a fantastic show you won’t want to miss!
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Based on a popular Australian novel by Mary Morris, Two Weeks with the Queen is a moving TYA play that appeals to people of all ages. While it explores some serious subject matter, director Philip Taylor ensures that the story is told with humor and warmth to create an uplifting experience about overcoming fear and handling the challenges that life has to offer. Fast paced, funny and skillfully directed, the show highlights a very talented ensemble of actors. Meghan Crosby gleefully and beautifully portrays the spunky and determined 12 year old Colin, while the rest of the gifted cast, including Cheryl Brumley, Maggie Bussard, Brendan Chambers, Eric Gelb and Shannon Stoddard, impressively play a variety of memorable characters. What a pleasure it was seeing them all work together so well, each making strong choices to create many lovely moments on stage.
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The designers and crew also deserve praise, including Daryl Embry’s clever set design, Leah Cohen and Daryl Embry’s appealing lighting, Meaghan Cross’s delightful costumes, and Kari-Noor Thompson’s effective sound design. The production stage manager Sarah Brown, assistant stage manager Jiawen Hu, and assistant director Andrew Gaines are also to be congratulated for their hard work in helping to create this remarkable show.
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Poignant and full of hope, Two Weeks with the Queen is a production with a lot of heart! Book your tickets now for the performances listed on the poster below.
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Download the program here: https://tinyurl.com/2WksPrgrm
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David Montgomery

Summer Fun at NYU

Paul Carrol Binkley, Nashville-based composer and music director, is pleased to rejoin Laurie Brooks and Jeff Church on the team.  Paul wrote the score for Laurie’s play Selkie: Between Land and Sea which premiered at The Coterie produced by Jeff, directed by Scot Copeland.  Scot and Paul collaborated on their original musical Jack’s Tale, dramaturged by Laurie, which recently premiered at The Kennedy Center. The opportunity to develop this new project at The Provincetown will give the team valuable time to work on Dust at a critical stage of development.  Paul has worn varied hats as a musician over the years including touring with country group Alabama, serving as Artist in Residence at Vanderbilt University, music directing at Nashville Children’s Theatre for over twenty years, and orchestrating for The Nashville Symphony, among many others. To Paul, what sets composing for the Theatre apart from all other commercial endeavors in the music industry is the process of creating music that enhances and supports the storytelling.

TYA@NYU Update

Jeff Church, Producing Artistic Director of The Coterie in Kansas City, Missouri, “is pleased to be back with New Plays for Young Audiences in the Steinhardt’s terrific Program in Educational Theatre at NYU.”   Jeff directed for NYPA in its very first year (1998) and continued for the next seven years though 2005.  “Lowell Swortzell was leading the summer developmental festival at the time, and he was one of the greats.  One of The Coterie’s most important commissions, The Wrestling Season, by Laurie Brooks, was developed here in 1999,” said Jeff.  Jeff used the NPYA program to work on some experimental scripts as well, such as a transgender-themed play, The 12:07, also by Laurie Brooks.

Distinguished Program Alumnus Returns to the Playhouse This Summer

Lowell Swortzell and Laurie Brooks at The Provincetown Playhouse in the late 90s.

Laurie Brooks will be in New York for this year’s NPYA at The Provincetown, developing her new musical, Dust, with her team, Composer/Musician Paul Carrol Binkley and Director Jeff Church. Dust tells the story of Ellie, a girl who the town believes is an angel that can call rain from the skies and make crops grow again. The ravages of the Dusters that caused the death of her mother are bad enough, but  even worse, Ellie knows she’s just an ordinary girl who cannot perform miracles. The phenomenon of one brave family who stayed through the Dustbowl and the prescient topic of climate change are embedded in this story.

 

Look Back at LFS

Here are a few additional photos from Looking for Shakespeare 2016’s production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Nan Smithner.

Ensemble members Ivan Birchall and Adi Sragovich

The Looking for Shakespeare 2016 ensemble

 

TYA 2017 Summerfest at NYU

NYU’s Educational Theatre Program is thrilled to host a special roundtable event for the New Plays for Young Audiences 20th Anniversary to explore emergent directions in writing and producing works. Panelists include Laurie Brooks, award winning TYA playwright; José Cruz Gonzales, a leading Hispanic voice in TYA; Cecily O’Neill, foremost drama in education authority; David Montgomery, Director of NYU’s program and author of Theater for Change; Kathy Krysz, archivist for ASU’s Child Drama Collection; Courtney Boddie, Director of Education/School Engagement at the New Victory Theater, and our panel will be moderated by Philip Taylor, NYU Educational Theatre professor.

The event will take place on Saturday, June 17, 2017 at New York University.

Email andrewgaines@nyu.edu to be added to our mailing list for updates.

Vibrant, Profound Love: Looking for Shakespeare 2016

By: Dr. Nan Smithner

This summer the Program in Educational Theatre presented Looking for Shakespeare’s 2016 production of Romeo and Juliet. I was fortunate to be the director of an ensemble of 19 excellent young people, 13 dynamic NYU graduate students and a robust and stellar creative and production team of light, set, costume and designers, stage managers, fight choreographer, hip hop dance instructor, dramaturg and assistant director/producer.

We explored universal themes of love, conflict, family, identity and fate, which resonate as strongly in 2016 as they did in 1596. Our play was set in the 1990’s, a time of existential crisis that foreshadowed the 21st century and formed a bridge between new and old ways of thinking and living. It was a decade of jarring, sometimes incongruous events, including the ripening of the technological revolution and a new global awareness, and also foreshadowing explosions of national trauma and cultural conflict. As an ensemble, we lived through and discussed the turbulence of our present day times, as, in a few short weeks, the students delved into the complexities of Shakespeare’s language.

We framed our play in a hip hop world that explored discord, tension and opposition, and also embraced joy, hope, passion and knowledge.  It was truly an ensemble effort as astute graduate students worked in depth — coaching language, acting and physical expression, as did the incredible dramaturg and perceptive assistant director. Students made visual art that was on display in the lobby, and wrote original poetry and performed songs about love in the pre-show and intermission. It was indeed an honor for me to work with such an inspiring and vibrant group this summer, to produce a profound show full of humor, tragedy, and above all, expressing the overarching importance of love.

A group of the stellar production team for Looking for Shakespeare 2016, left to right: Steve Hart, Fight Choreographer; Nan Smithner, Director; Anthony Montes, Assistant Stage Manager; Lily deButts, Production Stage Manager; Ashley Thaxton, Dramaturg; Robert Stevenson, Producer/Assistant Director