Friday, September 18, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things...

For no really big reason, I wanted to throw out another list, but one of a slightly different vein. As the few list posts were somewhat subjective, this one is completely objective. List your 10 favorite plays (plays only musicals will come later). They can be for any reason, a script you loved reading the first time you read it, a great show that you have seen, or a wonderful theatrical experience, on-stage or off.

There are absolutely no other rules, you can list ten plays that changed the world, or ten plays that no one has ever heard of, except for you. Just keep it personal, okay one rule.


1. Gross Indecency, the Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, by Moises Kaufman. The play is wonderful, deep, meaningful and very Brechtian. I think that Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Project are one of the more exciting forces to hit American Theatre in the past few decades, but that has nothing to do with the placement on this list. I was lighting designer on a production of this show almost ten years ago, it was still one of the best theatre experiences of my life. The cast was filled with friends, old and new. It was directed by Rick St. Peter, the writer of the PhD Project blog that has been such an inspiration to these list posts. Rick is an old friend, we have worked on more than a dozen shows together, most of them excellent shows, and he hired me in my first Director level position. It was also I think one of my most successful lighting designs.(Jill Bari Steinberg in the 2006 production of The Syringa Tree. At Barksdale Theatre in Richmond Virginia, Bruce Miller Artistic Director, Phil Whiteway Managing Director. Directed by Keri Wormald.)

2. The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gein. A one woman show about growing up in South Africa. The actress plays 27 distinct roles. Elizabeth, the main character roughly based on Pamela, Salamina, her nanny and predominant mother figure, and several more. The actor in the role has to learn several dialects, and how to pronounce a few different languages. It is a powerful and moving piece that I have been lucky enough to design twice and will be doing so again in October, this time in Idaho for The Company of Fools Theatre Company.

3. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. I just love the intrigue and violence. It is I think one of the closest to perfect plays ever written.

4. Out of Order by Ray Cooney. A British Sex Farce from the master of British Sex Farces. You really could pick any one of his plays, they are all very similar, but Out of Order was the first I worked on. It was the summer after college I worked for Brown County Playhouse, and just had a blast. It was my last experience with IU theatre, and will always have a special place in my heart because of that.

5. Raised in Captivity by Nicki Silver. Mr. Silver is kind of like Sam Shepard, except he hates his mom. A lot of his plays seem to have the one note drone of that theme. However, Raised in Captivity was my first "professional" lighting design, and my first lighting design award.

6. Raisin in the Sun by Loraine Hansberry. I am not just listing this because I am directing it in January, although that certainly helps. Raisin in the Sun is the first play I remember reading (some time in high school I think) that made me really like theatre. I loved the play, I understood the play (unlike that Shakespeare stuff) and it moved me. If not for this show I doubt that I would have made it to a career in theatre.

7. Stage Door by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufmann. Not a great show, but my first (an probably last) show that I was on stage. I had promised a girlfriend, actually an ex by that point) that I would audition. I have no idea why, I just did. I hate backing out of promises, so I did. I was cast in one of the larger roles, and I suppose I did not suck. I never really enjoyed being on stage, but I was very glad that I had the experience.

8. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Pure genius and a great play, period.

9. Raised in Captivity, remembering the world of Anne Frank - a wonderfully written play about the Holocaust, aimed at a younger audience. It primarily focuses on two people who knew Anne Frank. It is a multi-media piece, including interviews with the two people and video footage of the time. Very powerful experience, and I think one of the most successful designs I have ever done.

10. How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel. Another great experience all the way around. Wonderful director, great design team and stupendous cast. I would work with the director, Keri Wormald or any of the actors in that show at the drop of a hat.

So many more. With the exception of Salesman these are all shows that I worked on, or am working on, usually as a lighting designer. I could easily list another 10, or even 100, but that would be cheating.

Like I said, musicals will come later. Please take a minute and jot down your thoughts, some one in addition to Steve Martin. We would love to hear from you.

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