Javier's STAGEFRIGHT Column
the world slowly reawakens...
After being a theater goer since the age of five (I would hate to admit how many years that has been), it seemed surreal to be without live theater performances for over a year. It was, therefore, with a sense of joy and relief that I attended a student performance of the medieval morality play, Everyman, presented by the Theater Department at Buffalo State College. This took place a few weeks ago at the Warren Enters Theatre on the college campus. The theater holds 400 patrons but only 25 were allowed, all well-spaced. Masked theater faculty were on hand to collect contact information and to document seat assignments in case contact-tracing needed to happen. The play, which was performed on the bare stage, featured all students, well-spaced. The production was meticulously directed by Jonathan Seinen, who just finished his first year on the faculty. Quite a strange year to begin your academic career! Fortunately, things seem to be steering back on track and we will be able to gather in theaters very soon!
The Tony Awards finally announced that after a 15-month delay, the 74th, 2020 annual ceremony will take place on September 26th, 2021. The nominees were announced last October, and voting took place in March. Winners will be revealed in a 7 p.m. presentation streaming (I am still not sure what that is) on Paramount. No word yet about the Arties, except they will be in person and at full capacity, whenever that becomes possible.
Speaking of academics, music director and UB Department of Theatre & Dance professor Nathan Matthews will be retiring at the end of the upcoming fall semester. Rumor has it that he will be leaving Buffalo and returning to his southern roots.
You know things are surely changing for the best when Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre is set to re-open next week! Directed by Jay Desiderio, Neil Simon’s comedy, God’s Favorite, opens on June 3rd marking Jimmy Janowski’s official Cheektowaga debut! (At least on stage). The production also stars Dave Marciniak, with Lisa Hinca, Jeremy Kreuzer, Jacob Marciniak, Bekki Sliwa, and Mary Moebius. The show will run at least through August 8th. Patrons don’t have to wear masks while eating or laughing. Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre operates at lovely Bobby J’s Italian American Grille, 204 Como Park Blvd Cheektowaga. Call 395-3207.
The Irish Classical Theatre plans on returning to live in person performances next season. In the meantime, the final virtual event of this season will be In Performance and Conversation-W.B. Yeats Poems: Words & Music. The performance includes Yeats recitations by Vincent O’Neill, Irish music and song performed by Mary Ramsey, and contextual introductions by Yeats scholar and author Joseph M. Hassett. The production will be streamed June 4th – 27th with a virtual fundraiser on June 4th. For tickets and information go to irishclassical.com
Buffalo Quickies is back at the Alleyway! The 30th annual short play festival will feature five ten-minute world and regional premiere plays and one twenty-minute world premiere musical. It is a new world, so storefronts along Main Street will be transformed into performing stages each hosting a short play. The audience will watch from seats on the sidewalk, and listen through headphones, as the actors perform behind the storefront glass. Seating is limited so purchase your tickets in advance at alleyway.com. The production runs June 17th – July 10th . Dyan Burlingame, Lynne Koscielniak, and Emily Powrie are in charge of the environment design.
After his retirement as executive artistic director of Alleyway, Neal Radice remains as busy as ever. He has written a new musical, and he is holding auditions for Alleyway's annual "A Christmas Carol."
We hear that Julie Kittsley is already off-book for a still-to-be-scheduled production of Matthew Lombardo's "Looped," in which she will play the legendary Tallulah Bankhead at the New Phoenix Theatre.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park is coming back this summer in a different format. A Midsummer Night's Walk is a retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream while walking throughout the park with groups of 25 people guided by Puck (played at different performances by Melinda Capeles, Dan Torres, and Phil Wackerfuss). The park will be transformed into Oberon and Titania's (played by real life husband and wife Peter Horn and Robin Lee Horn, who are rapidly becoming the Lunts of Buffalo) Athenian forest, with the audience taking some part of the action. Directed by Kyle LoConti, the production will also star Todd Benzin, Steve Brachmann, Mike Garvey, and Nathaniel Higgins. Kristen Bartolomeo, Christian Hines, and Sabrina Kahwaty will be making their Shakespeare in the Park debuts. Of course, this being Midsummer, we do need fairies. They will be played by aerialists, Niagara University students Morgan Mincer and Reagan Zuber who will be made to fly thanks to the fabulous Mara Neimanis, professor of Physical Theatre/Aerials at NU (so, no helmets necessary). The show will run Jun 29th – August 22nd Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays with several performances each day. Reservations are strictly required since capacity is only 25, and some shows are already sold out. Go to www.shakespeareindelawarepark.org
The Shakespeare company will also be presenting a touring show, Shakespeare & Love, at 22 different spots around WNY. Directed by Saul Elkin, the production stars Kianna Duggan Haas, Ricky Needham, Gabriella McKinley, and Dan Urtz. McKinley just graduated with her degree in theater from Buffalo State, where she won the President’s Medal, Buffalo State’s highest academic honor, making her the equivalent of class valedictorian. The show runs July 9th – August 22nd, Fridays through Sundays, and opens at the Parkside Lodge in Buffalo. Capacity is limited. For reservations, go to the website.
And, just like in Sleeping Beauty, Road Less Traveled Productions is picking up where it left off. Their brilliant production of the hilarious comedy Hand to God, which was shut down in March 2020 because of the pandemic, will re-open on November 4th to kick off the 2021-2022 season. So, in all these months, nothing has changed, no one has aged, particularly the very talented Dan Urtz who played a teenager then, and can still pull it off now. Urtz has been an Artie Award nominee for his performance for MONTHS!
Second Generation Theatre will present a fully digital production Jason Robert Brown’s, Songs for a New World, filmed on location all over Buffalo, re-imagined by director Amy Jakiel and videographer Chris Cavanagh. The production stars Brian Brown, Michele Marie Roberts, Cecilia Snow, and Steve Copps (I love his new headshot, he looks so fatherly). It will be streaming on demand (I will learn how to do that soon, thank God my Gen Z nephew and niece have moved to Buffalo!), June 10th – 27th. Go to www.secondgenerationtheatre.com
Regionally, things are also picking up, which is good news for the great white way since several Broadway bound projects are moving forward. In the spring, Asolo Theatre Company in Florida will present the previously announced world premiere of the musical Knoxville, with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty, written and directed by Frank Galati. The show is based on James Agee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiographical novel A Death in the Family.
There have been so many changes over the past year, people retiring, people moving, people dying. Not seeing people on a regular basis has been a hardship. Aspiring singer/ actor Kevin Kennedy has moved to Nashville, where he is the Marketing Manager for Outback Presents, a company that promotes and presents artists and bands around the US and Canada. I have heard that Kennedy has already joined a cowboy line dancing group. He will be best remembered for singing the National Anthem at some local sports game that was televised.
Theater folk favorite hangout, Matinee, will re-open when live theater comes back. Maybe they should have the Arties there as a throwback to the first ceremony held at Garvey’s. But it will have to be limited capacity, and only winners allowed, and… Oh bad idea! In any event, anybody who knows where Steve Jakiel has been hiding for the past year and a half should let him know, Matinee is coming back!