All Things Entertaining and Cultural

News from the Avenue — I Am Curious (Very)



     Playwright Nicholas Wardigo says he once believed that science and religion could co-exist, that faith and fact were compatible in the larger picture. Today, he says, he leans heavily towards the science side of the dialogue. 

     Wardigo has done more than think about the age-old subject. He has written a play, “Snowglobe,” the world premiere of which is set for the intimate Shubin Theater, at 4th and Bainbridge, in Philadelphia, from January 23 to February 9. 

      In Wardigo’s play, two women live inside a snow globe. It’s the author’s way of putting the world in microcosm and letting two people battle out the science-religion debate while he satirizes both points of view. 

      Charlotte Northeast, whose roles from “Timon of Athens” to “Emma” have contributed to a varied season, and Amanda Schoonover are the duo in a world Wardigo says “can easily be shaken,” mainly by one character pointing out a flaw in the other woman’s point of view. 

       “Many of the arguments of Socrates and (St. Thomas) Aquinas and others begin with variations of, ‘I can conceive of a world in which…,'” Wardigo says. “Well, I’ve conceived a world in which everything is known. You don’t need to ‘conceive’ of anything.” 

         If everything is “known,” what is the basis of argument? Heading to the Shubin is one way to find out. 




     Jared Zirilli is busy these days playing Brit, a rebel seeking to restore rock music to prominence in a vanilla world, in the tour of “We Will Rock You” that comes, Queen tunes in tow, to Philadelphia’s Academy of Music from January 14 to 19. 

      While he was an understudy/swing in the Broadway company of “Lysistrata Jones,” Zirilli wasn’t so occupied. He had a lot of time to fill while waiting to go on for an absent or suddenly indisposed cast member.  

      He used the time well, by talking. And talking and talking and talking to others on Broadway. His brother suggested the Jared record his “interviews” and put them on YouTube. 

       Jared listened. He made a vlog, a visual blog, of “Jared’s Broadway Boo’s,” boos being an affection term for buddies ,not a jeer. By now, he’s broadcast almost 60 of them and says each time he launches a new installment, he gets more than 1,000 hits (blog Nirvana).  

       Zirilli no longer has to haunt dressing rooms and other backstage haunts to find subjects. People want to be his “boo.” His latest interview is with Tony-winning Best Actor in a Musical for “Kinky Boots”, Billy Porter, and takes place in Porter’s Harlem apartment. Porter, co incidentally, is the recipient for the 2012-2013 Zoren Award for Best Actor, period, in rankings that  consider theater from all over the world. You can see the list in NealsPaper. 

       The interview is a free-wheeling conversation that nonetheless lets you see Porter’s personality and get some news. It didn’t surprise me that one of Porter’s dream roles is Bobby in Sondheim’s “Company.” Porter is a thinker and a playwright. A few seasons back, he put together a musical that employed Sondheim’s music to illuminate the story of a young black man working to hone in on his identity. It was called “Being Alive,” after  the eleven o’clock number from “Company,” and played at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. The piece was ambitious but needed some further work. 

       Porter mentions “Company” in response to Zirilli’s question about roles he would like that are traditionally considered “white” roles.  

      Bobby can be played by anyone. Also, there’s a precedent for a black actor doing the role. One of the more lauded productions of the musical starred Adrian Lester as Bobby. Coincidentally, Lester follows Porter on the 2012-2013 Zoren Award list of Best Actors. He is cited for his work in the National Theatre production of “Othello” that has luckily been preserved as part of the National Theatre Live video series that can be seen on local movie screens. A full review of the production can be found in NealsPaper.  Lester is about to open in a reprise of his performance as actor Ira Aldridge in a production of “Red Velvet” at London’s Tricycle Theatre. The play is written by his wife, Lolita Chakrabarti, and played at the Tricycle last season as well. The return is a warm-up for a New York run of “Red Velvet” that is set to open in  March. 

      Perhaps Zirilli can add Lester to his roster of “boos.” 

      Meanwhile, Jared gets to sing “I Want it All,” “Headlong,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” while playing Brit in “We Will Rock You.” 

      Take a look at “Jared’s Broadway Boo’s.”  Here is the link to the Billy Porter interview.  

       Jared, you rock! 




        Supposing you’ve ever wondered how a performer feels getting ready to go on and do a show, the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. offers an iPad app you can download and have a virtual experience of preparing to go on stage. You can even supply your picture so it’s literally, well virtually literally, you going through dance steps, walking corridors, and reviewing your lines. 

        The app is called “Quest for Stardom: Back Stage, and it uses scenes from Paper Mill musicals to provide civilians and actors on a busman’s holiday with the background for being backstage before a show. You can sing notes to match pitches, tap in tap shoes, play the piano, try on costumes (and send the results to friends), rehearse dances, and answer stage trivia. The trick is you have to do this while trying to avoid the stage phantom. That makes a game of the exercise. You avoid the phantom by doing everything the director tells you correctly. 

      Veteran musical performer Lee Roy Reams stars in the app. “Quest for Stardom” is a product of, based in Orlando, Fla. and  uses scenes from Paper Mill, the Pittsburgh CLO, MUNY, the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, North Shore Music Theatre, and North Carolina Temple. You can see about it at 




      All of Martin McDonagh’s plays seethe with dark humor, verbal and visual comedy that masks the insidious events that are often going on as the characters simultaneously amuse and appall us.  

      “The Pillowman” is one of McDonagh’s more serious, more intriguing plays in which a writer, Katurian, is arrested by the police in a Fascist state because his stories are about the murder of children and approximate the kinds of crimes that are proliferating in the state. Katurian is also accused by his brother and ward, Michal. His relationship with his brother, their history with their parents, and Katurian’s investigation by the police are the crux of McDonagh’s tale. 

       Luna Theatre brings “The Pillowman” to its new theater at S. 8th Street between Bainbridge and Fitzwater for a three-week run from January 18 to February 8. Robert DaPonte is cast as Katurian. John Zak plays his addled brother, Michal. The crafty policeman, Tupolski, is played by Ian Lithgow. The tough cop, Ariel, will be acted by Chris Fluck. Slade Roff plays a variety of other characters. 




      Meredith Beck, Sarah Gafgen, and Alexis Neubaue are the trio of friend we see during their cheerleading days in high school and at a reunion several years later in Jack Heifner’s funny and touching play, “Vanities,” one the most performed pieces of the early 1980s, being revived by Hedgerow Theatre through February 9. 




     This weekend, the International House of Philadelphia screens some of the early films that excited censors’ dander by bringing explicit sexual acts to theaters for general audiences. 

       The program is called “Free to Love: The Cinema of the Sexual Revolutions” and includes a 7 p.m. Friday, January 1- screening of the look at Swedish  mores of the 1960s, “I Am Curious (Yellow,” the first film I remember crossing the line from adult theaters to mainstream art houses. 

       A triple header  on Saturday, January 11 features the rarely screened “Pink Narcissus” at 5 p.m., Japan’s “In the Realm of the Senses” at 7 p.m., and the American classic with Linda Lovelace, “Deep Throat,” at 10 p.m. All of the above were considered obscene and beyond the boundaries of taste in their day. 

       The “Free to Love” program continues in subsequent weeks with the documentary, “Free to Love,” showing on Friday, January 17, and  Robert Crumb’s randy “Fritz the Cat” screening on Saturday, January 18. Jane Fonda appears in Roger Vadim’s “Barbarella” on Saturday, February 1. Fonda and Vadim were married at the time the picture, which casts Fonda as a space nymph, was made. Speakers for the “Free to Love” series include filmmaker Radley Metzger on Friday, January 24, critic and historian J. Hoberman on Saturday, February 8, and filmmaker Barbara Hammer on Thursday, February 13. 





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