Behind the Scenes

Hello! Welcome to ‘Behind the Scenes’ — Just page down and read a hand-curated group of updates on theater goings-on!

— Kris Neely, Editor

>> Next Up at Altarena Playhouse: “A Nice Family Gathering”. Written by Phil Olson, directed by Kimberly Ridgeway

Top – Byron Guo. Middle L to R – Marsha Howard, Peter Marietta, Missa Perron Bottom L to R- Aaron Seymour, Kyle Smith, Alejandra Wahl

14SEP2022 – This sweet, laugh-out-loud family comedy is about a man who loved his wife very much but never realized, until after his death, that he hadn’t told her. Now possessed by unfinished business, he manifests as a ghost on the first Thanksgiving since his death to say what he never said in life. Unfortunately, his wife has invited a date to dinner, and the only person who can see him is his hapless son Carl.

See it, October 21 -November 20.

Altarena Playhouse: https://www.altarena.org/

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>> Kinky Boots Strides Into SF’s Victoria Theater

13SEP2022 – Set in the provincial Northampton, England, London-bound Charlie Price is surprised to suddenly inherit his beloved father’s shoe factory and even more surprised to find that handmade men’s dress shoes are no longer quite as in vogue as they used to be.

Facing closure, a dejected Charlie chances upon Lola, the charismatic, brassy and fabulous drag queen and finds himself forming an unlikely business partnership, creating custom shoes for drag queens, which will change their lives forever…!

And….for more info see: https://www.victoriatheatre.org

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>> Oscar Winner Aaron Sorkin Brings his Broadway Smash to the Golden Gate Theatre

13SEP2022 – According to sanfranciscotheater.com, “Opening to much critical acclaim back in 2018, To Kill A Mockingbird tells the story of a black man accused of rape in pre-civil rights era Alabama and the noble lawyer who defends him. Directed by the iconic, and Tony-winning Barlett Sher, witness the tale of an era come to life on stage!

A portrait of simmering racial tension in a small southern town, To Kill a Mockingbird is considered one of the greatest American novels ever written. In today’s current climate, its themes of prejudice and inequality seem just as prescient, while the book’s steadfast lawyer Atticus Finch remains the gold-standard for noble heroes.”

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  • With our thanks to www.san-francisco-theater.com

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>> “Passengers” Travels to A.C.T’s Geary Theatre

Photo courtesy of ACT Geary.

13SEP2022 – According to sanfranciscotheater.com, “All aboard this exhilarating new show devised by The 7 Fingers Arts Collective Artistic Director Shana Carroll, pulling into the A.C.T’s Geary Theatre!

A visual feast, Passengers is a train full of bustling humanity on a journey through plains and valleys, depicted by an astounding display of dance, music, theatre, and breathtaking circus arts.”

Tickets? Here > https://www.san-francisco-theater.com/theaters/geary-theatre-/passengers.php

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  • With our thanks to www.san-francisco-theater.com

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>> The Very Model of a Modern Music Musical “Moulin Rouge!” at the Orpheum in The City

(L) Conor Ryan as Christian & Courtney Reed as Satine in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.” Photo: Matthew Murphy / BroadwaySF.

13SEP2022 –The star enters perched on a swing, her glittering costume set off by a plush background the way a diamond nestles in a velvet ring case. A straight guy, a small scarf knotted at his neck to signal his bohemian ways, busts into some Julie Andrews by way of a greeting. They’re made for each other.

The language of their attraction is pop music, and they fall for each other by making strands from a bunch of hits from the past half century swirl together like soft serve. When they reach their Act I finale, they climb atop a spinning, light-up Eiffel Tower as confetti bursts, the moon shines, stage fog snakes in underneath, dancers pirouette and lift each other, while everyone sings Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”

This is “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” which might be the musicaliest musical ever.”

So starts Lily Janiak’s review of the new production of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, in the SF Chronicles’ Datebook section.

Here is the rest of the story: https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/theater/review-believe-in-pop-and-schmaltz-again-with-moulin-rouge-the-musical

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  • With thanks to SF Chronicle / Datebook

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>> New Jocelyn Bioh Musical “Goddess” at Berk Rep

Amber Iman and Kecia Lewis (© David Gordon)

13SEP2022According to Theatermania, “Berkeley Repertory Theatre is hosting the world premiere of the new musical Goddess, with a book by Jocelyn Bioh, score by Michael Thurber, and conception/direction by Saheem Ali. It runs August 13-September 25.

In Goddess, a mysterious singer arrives at Moto Moto, a steamy Afro-jazz club in Mombasa, Kenya. She casts an entrancing spell on everyone, including a young man who has returned home from studying in America. Will the big plans for his life — stepping into a political legacy and marrying his fiancée — be upended?”

Here’s the rest of the story: https://www.theatermania.com/san-francisco-theater/news/goddess-jocelyn-bioh-casting_94079.html

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  • With thanks to Theatermania at www.theatermaina.com

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>> New North American Cities Tour for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Naomi Rodgers and Zurin Villanueva

11Sep2022 – Playbill is reporting that the “North American tour of the Tony-nominated Tina—The Tina Turner Musical launches at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, September 11 and will go on to visit 30 cities in its first year.

Naomi Rodgers (Frozen) and Zurin Villanueva (The Lion King, Mean Girls) share the role of Tina, each playing four performances a week. They are joined by Garrett Turner as Ike Turner, Roz White as Zelma Bullock, Ann Nesby as Gran Georgeanna, and Lael Van Keuren as Rhonda.

Producers Tali Pelman from Stage Entertainment and James M. Nederlander said in a joint earlier statement, “We can’t wait to introduce America to the two megawatt superstars—Naomi Rodgers and Zurin Villanueva—who will share the role of Tina on the road. They are joined by Garrett Turner in the role of Ike, and an incredibly talented company who will together tell Tina’s extraordinary and triumphant story in cities across the country.”

Written by Tony nominee and Pulitzer Prize winner Katori Hall with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, the musical is directed by Tony nominee Phyllida Lloyd with choreography by Tony nominee Anthony van Laast.”

The full story is located here: https://playbill.com/article/full-cast-announced-for-north-american-tour-of-fiddler-on-the-roof

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** With thanks to Playbill at www.playbill.com

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>> Theater Arts Students & Parents Take Note! 15 Theater Arts Scholarships Available

11Sep 2022 – Playbill is making a big effort to assist theater arts students — and their parents! — with a list of 15 theater arts scholarships!

As Playbill puts it, ” Are you planning on studying the arts in college? In celebration of Back to School Week at Playbill, we rounded up 15 scholarships and grants to put you on the path to your career without breaking the bank.

PLEASE NOTE! — This list is up-to-date as of Playbill’s publication time, but make sure to check deadlines and details with each institution, as terms sometimes change.

The Cody Renard Richard Scholarship Program: This program was created to encourage more BIPOC individuals to pursue degrees in the theatrical management and artistic fields, such as stage management, technical theatre, theatre design, playwriting, directing, and theatre management. Along with financial support, the program connects scholars with theatrical and community leaders of color for mentorship through social justice and leadership seminars. ($1,500) Deadline: Details for the 2022-2023 application will be available September 2022.

Dorian De Long Arts & Music Scholarship: The Dorian De Long Arts and Music Scholarship is awarded to a graduating high school student who intends to pursue advanced education in the study of arts. ($1500–$2000) Deadline: The 2023-24 application will open January 1, 2023.

National YoungArts Foundation: YoungArts’ signature program is an application-based award for emerging artists ages 15–18 or in grades 10–12 from across the United States. Selected through a blind adjudication process conducted by an independent panel of highly accomplished artists, YoungArts winners receive valuable support, including financial awards of up to $10,000, professional development and educational experiences working with renowned mentors, and performance and exhibition opportunities at some of the nation’s leading cultural institutions. Deadline: The 2023 application closes October 14, 2022 at 11:59 PM ET.

Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship: Open to student performers wishing to pursue further education and professional development, this scholarship offers roughly 16 regional awards ($500 each); select recipients are invited to take week-long, expenses-paid trips to Washington, D.C., for courses and to present their scholarship audition to a panel. The top two will receive $2,500 scholarships. Deadline: Check with your region.

Check back in 2023 for these…

John L. Dales & George Heller Memorial Scholarships: Since its inception, the John L. Dales Scholarship Competition has awarded more than $6 million to more than 1,632 SAG-AFTRA members for study in higher education. Recipients must be experienced members who need further education in theatre at a U.S. accredited university, college, junior college, or trade/vocational school.

“You Will Be Found” College Essay Writing Challenge: Dear Evan Hansen, The Broadway Education Alliance, and Gotham Writers Workshop have opened up this challenge to high school juniors and seniors nationwide after being exclusive to the New York City area. Students are invited to write an original essay on the following prompt: “Describe how you’ve managed to ensure those around you were a little less alone in recent months—or—alternatively, a moment where you yourself have found comfort in connection.” ($10,000)

The Directors Company Next Wave Initiative: Open to Black theatre creators, with individual scholarships for writers, directors, actors, and dancers, along with a grant funding a 29-hour reading for a new, un-produced play or musical by a Black writer. ($1,000-$1,986)

Educational Theatre Association Scholarships: This group of performing art scholarships is open to students at various levels of theatre study (from graduating high school senior to college senior). ($500–$4,000)

The Educational Theatre Association Board of Directors Scholarship is a one-time scholarship created with donations by, and in honor of, past and current members of the EdTA Board of Directors. One applicant will receive a one-time scholarship to be applied to tuition and fees associated with full-time enrollment at an accredited college or university. This award is intended for undergraduate students currently enrolled full-time at an accredited college or university who are upcoming sophomores, juniors, or seniors. Upcoming freshman and graduating seniors are not eligible. Applicants must be Alumni of the International Thespian Society and pursuing a career in theatre education.

The Bob and Marti Fowler Future Theatre Educator Scholarship is a one-time scholarship awarded to a student pursuing a theatre education major and who demonstrates leadership qualities, an excellent work ethic, the ability to work effectively as a member of a production team, strong character, academic ability, organizational skills, and experience in different aspects of theatre.

The Christopher L. Hunt Scholarship is a one-time scholarship created with donations in honor of the late Chris Hunt, Director of Marketing at EdTA. This scholarship is intended for inducted Thespians who plan to use skills learned through theatre in a career focused on business or marketing.

The Educational Theatre Association Presidents’ Leadership Scholarship is a one-time scholarship created with donations from and in honor of past and current EdTA board presidents. This scholarship is intended for inducted Thespians who successfully demonstrate leadership abilities.

The Michael J. Peitz Leadership Scholarship is a one-time scholarship awarded to an inducted Thespian of the International Thespian Society, the student honorary organization of the Educational Theatre Association, who successfully demonstrates leadership abilities.

The Alan D. Engelsman and Penny Lu Engelsman Scholarship is a one-time scholarship awarded to a high school senior who will be pursuing an education major in theatre, technical theatre, playwriting or English.

The Melba Day Henning Scholarship is a one-time scholarship intended to be awarded to an undergraduate student currently enrolled full-time in theatre education study at an accredited college or university who are upcoming juniors or seniors. In addition, part-time or full-time graduate students are also eligible to apply. Applicants must have completed their freshman year to apply.

Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship: The Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship provides financial assistance and promotion of Asian-American college students pursuing a major in the performing, visual arts, journalism, and/or mass communications. ($1,000)”

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** With thanks to Playbill at www.playbill.com

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>> TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Names Debbie Chinn Executive Director

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s new executive director Debbie Chinn with artistic director Tim Bond. (Photo by: David Allen)

01SEP2022 – According to American Theater’s website, “TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has selected Debbie Chinn to be the new executive director starting November 2022. She will succeed interim executive director Karena Fiorenza, who took the reins from Phil Santora in June after 15 years in the role.

Chinn has an extensive background in arts administration, having served as an arts activist, managing director, executive director, and as a member of the board of directors for several national arts organizations.

Additionally, Chinn has worked in fundraising, strategic planning, fund development, community/civic engagement, artistic programming, board and staff development, social responsibility campaigns, and financial management. Chinn holds a B.A. from University of Southern California.

The entire story is here: https://www.americantheatre.org/2022/08/25/theatreworks-silicon-valley-names-debbie-chinn-executive-director/

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** With thanks to AmericanTheater.org

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>> Cast Complete for New National Tour of “Annie”, October Launch

Photo of cast of “Annie” courtesy of Bond Theatrical, with our thanks.

01SEP2022 – Playbill has announced that the casting is complete for the new 50+ city national tour of “Annie”. According to Playbill, “The Tony-winning musical will be directed by Jenn Thompson, who appeared as an orphan in the original Broadway production of the family favorite.

TROIKA Entertainment LLC’s previously announced new tour of the Tony-winning musical “Annie” will launch October 4-8 at The Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York. The production will subsequently visit more than 50 cities during the 2022-23 season.

Ellie Pulsifer, a 12-year-old from South Florida, will make her tour debut as Annie with Christopher Swan as Oliver Warbucks, Stefanie Londino as Miss Hannigan, Julia Nicole Hunter as Grace, Nick Bernardi as Rooster, Krista Curry as Lily, and Mark Woodard as FDR.

Addison, a stray dog rescued through the Humane Society in 2017, will be Sandy.

The full story is located here: https://playbill.com/article/cast-complete-for-new-national-tour-of-annie-launching-in-october

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** With thanks to Playbill.

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01SEP2022 – Playbill has announced that the cast and much of the crew has been announced for the national touring company version of venerable “Fiddle on the Roof”.

According to Playbill, “Fiddler on the Roof features a book by Tony winner Joseph Stein, and music and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize winners Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. This production is based on the 2015 Broadway revival of the show.

The touring company will be led by Jonathan Hashmonay as Tevye, Maite Uzal as Golde, Andrew Hendrick as Lazar Wolf, Mary Beth Webber as Yente, Randa Meierhenry as Tzeitel, GraceAnn Kontak as Hodel, Yardén Barr as Chava, Daniel Kushner as Motel, Austin J. Gresham as Perchik, Carson Robinette as Fyedka and Jason Thomas Sofge as Constable.”

The full story is located here: https://playbill.com/article/full-cast-announced-for-north-american-tour-of-fiddler-on-the-roof

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** With thanks to Playbill

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>> Remembering Robert LuPone from Broadway’s “A Chorus Line”

Robert LuPone with Donna McKechnie in the original Broadway production of “A Chorus Line.” His performance earned him a Tony Award nomination for best featured actor in a musical. Photo Credit…Martha Swope/The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

01SEP2022 – Robert LuPone, famous for playing Zach — and ruthlessly calling the dance steps — at the opening of A Chorus Line on Broadway, has passed away at 76 from pancreatic cancer.

TV audiences most probably knew Mr. LuPone from his work as “Cooze” the doctor on “The Sopranos.”  Born in 1946 in Brooklyn, LuPone studied at the Juilliard School before he landed his first professional job in 1966.”

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Seth Rudetsky from Playbill says, “I asked Bob for some fun Chorus Line stories and he shared with me all the things he would try to keep the show fresh.

If you don’t know, all of Chorus Line is supposed to be an audition and everyone onstage is supposed to be in that nervous “I really need this job” state throughout. After a few months of performances, Bob noticed the actors becoming a bit relaxed. He wanted to think of a way to keep everyone on their toes and bit nervous.

Robert LuPone with Donna McKechnie in the original Broadway production of “A Chorus Line.” His performance earned him a Tony Award nomination for best featured actor in a musical. Photo Credit…Martha Swope/The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

After the opening dance audition number, his character Zach asks people on the line about their childhood. He starts with Mike. Well, if Bob sensed the cast was too relaxed, he would switch it up and say, “Let’s start with Val!” Suddenly everyone would snap to attention. Bob would eventually bring it back to the script, but it was a great way to get everyone to be in the moment.

Here’s my favorite “Zach-making-everyone-feel-it’s-an-audition” story. This one happened during the European tour.

Before the dancers are cut during the opening number, the dialogue is as follows.

ZACH: (To a female dancer) Any Broadway shows?

DANCER: Touring company!

But this Zach, like Bob, wanted to shake things up and make his fellow actors feel like they were really at an audition. He added a line, but it didn’t work out the way he wanted. Here’s what happened!

ZACH: (To female dancer) Any Broadway shows?

DANCER: Touring company.

ZACH: Really? What show?

This is where it all goes unexpectedly. The actress who played the female dancer began to panic, unable to think of a single show title.

DANCER: Um….”A Chorus Line”?

That’s right. The only show title she could think of was the show she literally doing at that exact moment. The audience was like, “We’re watching the show, but we’re also in the show? Are we watching a surreal play by Sartre?”

Needless to say, a nerve-wracking moment for all in the theatre.”

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Our thanks to CNN and Playbill. — Editors

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