Polly Carl – Steppenwolf’s first DAD (Director of Artistic Development)

Steppenwolf Polly Carl, Producing Artistic Director of the Playwrights’ Center of Minneapolis, will join the Steppenwolf staff in the newly-created position of Director of Artistic Development:

“We are delighted to have Polly Carl join the artistic team at Steppenwolf Theatre,” comments Steppenwolf Artistic Director Martha Lavey.  “In her newly-created position, Polly will be overseeing our new play development efforts and spearheading our work on the artistic initiatives facilitated through our grants from the Duke and Mellon Foundations.  These initiatives, dedicated to cultivating a new generation of artists and audiences and creating transparency in the process of new play development, will continue our engagement with audiences in the public square of Steppenwolf .   We are honored to be able to welcome a leader of Polly’s acumen and experience to Steppenwolf and look forward to the contribution she will make to Steppenwolf and to Chicago ,” adds Lavey.

Polly K. Carl Ph.D. is one of the nation’s foremost experts in the field of new play development.  She has served for eleven years at the Playwrights’ Center – the last seven as Artistic Director.  Under her leadership, the Center has grown from a local playwrights’ service organization to a national hub for playwrights, theater artists and theater companies that write, develop and produce new work.  Carl has sat on numerous boards, panels and committees including the Steinberg Advisory Committee to select their distinguished playwright award-the Mimi, the NEA Theater panel, the MAP Fund panel, and the board of Ten Thousand Things Theatre. Her Ph.D. in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society with an emphasis on performance theory is from the University of Minnesota .

Best of luck to Ms. Carl!

Jeff-Recommended Shows currently playing

Jeff-Recommended Plays

Equity Wing (what’s this?)

Non-Equity Wing (what’s this?)

Wait Until Dark
Court Theatre

Wings: The Musical
Apple Tree Theatre

Arms and the Man
Oak Park Festival Theatre

Mauritius
Northlight Theatre

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Marriott Theatre

Our Lady of the Underpass
Teatro Vista…Theatre With a View

Our Town
Lookingglass Theatre Company

Art
Steppenwolf Theatre Company

I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass)
Black Ensemble Theater

Wonder of the World
LiveWire Chicago Theatre

Evita
Theo Ubique Theatre Company i/a/w/ Michael James

The Shape of a Girl
Pegasus Players

The Memory of Water
BackStage Theatre Company

Mariette in Ecstasy
Lifeline Theatre

Rose and the Rime
The House Theatre of Chicago

The Dastardly Ficus and Other Comic Tales of Woe..
The Strange Tree Group

The Robber Bridegroom
Griffin Theatre Company

Chicago Theater Recommendations (July 2008)

A summary of theatre recommendations from the Tribune (Trib), Sun-Times (ST), Chicago Theatre Blog (CTB), and TimeOut Chicago (TO).   

 

Play   (Producers and/or Location)

Recommended By

Campaign Supernova (Second City etc.) Trib, ST
Cirque Shanghai Gold (Navy Pier)   Trib, TO, CTB
Dead Man’s Cellphone (Steppenwolf)   Trib, CTB
Hizzoner (Beverly Arts Center) Trib, CTB
Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night                  (Theo Ubique – No Exit Cafe) Trib, CTB, ST
Jersey Boys (Broadway in Chicago) Trib, ST, CTB, TO
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Gift Theatre) Trib, TO
The Mark of Zorro (Lifeline Theatre) Trib, TO, ST
Superior Donuts (Steppenwolf) Trib, CTB, TO
Wicked (Broadway in Chicago) Trib, CTB, ST
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Drury Lane Oakbrook) Trib, ST
The Lion in Winter (Writers’ Theatre) Trib, TO, ST
Relatively Close (Victory Gardens) CTB
Kooza (Cirque du Soleil – United Center) TO, CTB, ST, Trib
Gutenberg! The Musical!  (Royal George Theatre) TO, CTB
Lookingglass Alice (Lookingglass Theatre) TO
Funk It Up About Nuthin’ (Chicago Shakes) TO
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Queer Tale (MidTangent) TO, CTB
Ren Faire! (Prp Thtr) TO
Hay Fever (Circle Theatre) ST
Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Goodman Theatre) ST
Jekyll & Hyde (Boho Theatre) ST, CTB
I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass)
(Black Ensemble Theater)
ST, TO
A Steady Rain (Royal George) ST, CTB
Co-Ed Prison Sluts (Annoyance Theatre) Trib
A Rabbit’s Tale (Millennium Park) Trib

Review – “Carter’s Way” at Steppenwolf

Carter’s Way 1Carter’s Way

Producers: Steppenwolf Theatre  

Set-up: It’s 1935.  In America, it’s the middle of the Great Depression.  In Kansas City, it’s the peak of the city’s legendary jazz era.  The Kansas City jazz scene is hopping with recording deals and jam-packed clubs like Planet Mars, owned by Peewee Abernathy (ensemble member K. Todd Freeman).  Here at the Planet Mars, life revolves around Oriole Carter (James Vincent Meredith), a brilliant black saxophonist, who leads the house band.  Carter is falling head over heels for the white girlfriend Eunice (Anne Adams) of a local mobster, just as a brand new invention called the radio can possibly make Carter a nationally-recognized star.  Will this taboo relationship ruin Carter’s expectant success?

plus Great performances: Meredith’s Carter is dead-on as the talented, agonized saxophonist (and he plays the saxophone riffs himself); ensemble member Ora Jones’ portrayal of piano-playing caretaker Marilyn Stokes offers up nuanced surprises throughout; Freeman’s impersonation of Peewee adroitly displays the character’s struggles between running his nightclub at a profit all the while appreciating the talents of the club’s band.  Neil Patel’s set works wonderfully, most of the action taking place on the first floor of Planet Mars, with extra scenes using a room built directly above the club.  Darrell Leonard’s original music is remarkable in that one senses that the tunes must have been originally written during the 1920’s era.  Barry Funderburg’s sound design is exemplary and flawless.  Finally, this rave review would not be complete without mentioning the multi-talented ensemble-memberEric Simonson, the playwright and director of Carter’s Way – kudos in every definition of the word.

minus From my inspection, there are/were two weaknesses inherent in the production, although all of them can be remedied (though not during Steppenwolf’s run).  The first, less formidable weakness falls on the performance from Anne Adams, playing love-interest Eunice – she comes across second-rate when lined up with the rest of the ensemble powerhouse; unconvincing in presenting a case for her reckless and selfish behavior and choices.  Secondly, the role of the up-and-coming mobster Johnny Russo (Keith Kupferer) really demands a deeper exploration – the character, exhibiting an imaginative entrepreneurism that goes against the grain of the mobster culture, proves intriguing. 

Summary:  In the end, Carter’s Way is a well-crafted, moving play – one that effectively played games on my emotions, as I nervously told myself “Don’t do it.  Don’t screw this up”. The production looks and sounds great, and the overall talented, adept performances propel this drama tragically forward, much like a snowball rumbling down a hill.  Without hesitation, I proclaim Carter’s Way as highly recommended.

Rating: «««½

Related Links: Chicago Tribune review, Sun-Times review

UpdateIt appears that I made a mistake in my review regarding my misgivings with Peewee’s final dialogue.  I have thus made an adjustment. Carter’s Way at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre

Personnel and Show Times

Playwright: Eric Simonson
Director: Eric Simonson
Sets: Neil Patel
Lights: Keith Parham
Costumes: Karin Kopischke
Sound Design: Barry Funderburg
Dramaturg: Edward Sobel
Stage Manage: Malcolm Ewen
   
Featuring: K. Todd Freeman (Peewee Abernathy)
James Vincent Meredith (Oriole Carter)
Ora Jones (Marily Stokes)
Keith Kupferer (Johnny Russo)
Anne Adams (Eunice Fey)
Robert Breuler (Boss Jack Thorpe)
  Scott Cummins (Corky, Henry, Billings, Andy)
Calvin Dutton, Curtis M. Jackson, Michael Pogue (ensemble)
   
Dates: Through April 17, 2008
Show Times: Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30pmSaturday and Sunday matinees at 3pmAdditional matinees on April 9, 16 and 23 at 2:00pm (Wednesdays)
Tickets: $20 – $45
Producers: Steppenwolf Theatre


   

 

Theater Thursdays – “Good Boys and True” at Steppenwolf

For this week’s Theater Thursday, the League of Chicago Theatre has chosen Steppenwolf Theatre’s world-premier “Good Boys and True” (see my review here).   As the League describes the play:

A sex tape scandal. Secret lovers. A privileged childhood breeding a reckless adult. No, we’re not talking about Paris Hilton. Golden boy Brandon’s charmed life threatens to collapse when a disturbing videotape is found on campus. As the resulting scandal takes unexpected turns, Brandon’s mother (played by ensemble member Martha Lavey) must sort fact from fiction from family. 

For more information regarding special-priced tickets and reservations for cocktails, appetizers and talks with the actors, go to the League’s website: www.chicagoplays.com

Steppenwolf’s Laurie Metcalf interviewed by NY Times

Entitled “From Steppenwolf to Broadway“, the New York Times has posted a short audio interview with Steppenwolf ensemble-member Laurie Metcalf, including a slide show of pictures from her latest Broadway show, “November” (where she stars alongside Nathan Lane).  Check it out!

(interview produced by Erik Piepenburg)

Chris Jones’ Best-of-2007

Chris Jones, theatre-critic extraordinaire, announces his picks for the top plays and performances of 2007.  (fyi: I have no idea why this woman’s face is the picture of the video – she is not in any part of the actual video. Does anyone know who she is – and why she is?)