Teaching and learning is more than pencil, paper, multiple-choice bubble sheet and smiley faces. There is something else and it’s called experience. Technology has not trumped the experience of live theatre. This was proven to me when I took a small group of English language learners to The Pasadena Playhouse for a matinee performance of Bernard Weinraub’s word premiere play ABOVE THE FOLD, starring Academy Award-nominee Taraji P. Henson. The play is about a newspaper reporter who navigates the ethical minefield of covering a rape case on a college campus in The South.
In preparation for attending this show, my students and I dove into the meticulously prepared education and immersion guide. Prepared by Pasadena Playhouse Community Organizers Kenia Brown and Lemuel H. Thornton, III, this interactive guide provides the necessary background to spark conversation and writing activities for students. For example, page 3 lists the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, and page 5 explains the jobs of members of the creative and design team. There is a Q and A (question and answer) interview with the playwright where he explains that the play is not based on any particular news story, or case, but rather on the way media has evolved, for good or ill, through the emergence of new technology. There is another Q and A with the lead actress wherein she encourages the audience to keep an open mind whilst watching the conflicts that materialize on stage. This education guide contains enough data for a couple of days worth of classroom activity.
Organizing a group visit to the theatre is simple. For instance, The Pasadena Playhouse has a Group Sales representative who arranges special ticket prices for groups. Call the venue in advance of the date you and your group wish to attend. Then, reserve seats and pay for tickets in advance. Your group tickets will be waiting for you at the Will Call at the Box Office when you arrive at the theatre.
Something special about the Pasadena Playhouse is the great attention to community outreach. For example, my group and I arrived early and met Lem Thornton, an MFA, and a community organizer for the theatre. He gave our group an introduction to the century-old playhouse and to the play. He also engaged students in a brief Q and A about media ethics. My students, for whom English is a second language, got the opportunity to polish their extemporaneous speaking skills outside the classroom, in beautiful, relaxing setting.
I cannot wait to take more students – and non students – to the theatre. To go to the theatre en masse spreads goodwill, builds community, and leads to the very important question where shall we go next to chat over a meal, and partake of good food and good conversation?
Community plays an important role in building a sound quality of life for all people. I draw upon my research and scholarship on the topic of cultural studies looking at works by Walter Benjamin, Audre Lorde, and Benedict Anderson to encourage other educators, researchers and scholars to take classroom learning beyond the school walls.
Taking students to the theatre, and preparing them ahead of time for their visit, enhances students’ social and language skills., and makes the world more friendly.
Educators, when is the last time you took a class to the theatre?
1 thought on “The Pasadena Playhouse: A Tutor’s Playground”
Seema Sueko said:
Thank you for organizing your students to join us at The Pasadena Playhouse
‘GENE KELLY: THE LEGACY’ TRIBUTE SHOW BY HISTORIAN PATRICIA WARD KELLY AT THE PASADENA PLAYHOUSE MARCH 1 & 2 – TolucanTimes.info
Patricia and Gene Kelly in 1994.
At the Pasadena Playhouse March 1st and 2nd, the “Gene Kelly: The Legacy” tribute show promises to be a personal experience for everyone. It’s not just a show that every dancer in town will enjoy, it’s a celebration of the Hollywood icon who was way more than the superb dancer we all adored on the Silver Screen. Biographer and film historian Patricia Ward Kelly takes the audience behind the scenes and shares the life and career of her late husband through classic and rare film clips, memorabilia, and very special memories.
“Audiences can expect to come away with a new sense of the man and his work,” says Patricia Ward Kelly. “What I hear most from people after the show is ‘I never knew that about him.’ There’s a broader sense of his many dimensions — not only his creative life but also his intellectual life. People say to me, ‘I never knew he was such an intellectual,’ and that was so obvious to me. I like to introduce those sides, and the very romantic side of Gene. Clearly that comes out in his screen roles, but I think people enjoy hearing that he would scatter Valentines around the house. He was more than an icon, he was a man of great depth.”
The show is better than any biography or film retrospective, because those are generally done by someone who doesn’t know the person, and they get some things wrong, or they let the legend get in the way of the man. “That’s one of the reasons I elected to do this, because I have a story that no one has. Part of that is that I had a dual role. I was his biographer and his wife. So I had a responsibility to record Gene every day for over a decade. He let down his guard for me. That was a privilege as our relationship grew,” Patricia says.
The format of “Gene Kelly: The Legacy” is like an intimate conversation. Patricia says, “I try to make people feel we’re just sitting in the living room having a chat. I’m not lecturing. I just want to convey the stories about Gene in a very personal manner.” And there are extraordinary film clips. “It was very hard to choose clips because you want to show everything. Some are very familiar but people will see them in a different light. And there are some clips that people have rarely seen, and some that few have seen. I will explain why Gene did certain things and how he felt about what he created. I also try to show the breath of his work. He hated being pigeon-holed as a tap dancer, because he was trained in so many different forms of dance and movement.”
The real focus is on the innovations and how revolutionary Gene’s work was and how he was ahead of his time in so many areas, including the blending of live action and animation. And some people are surprised that he was as skilled behind the camera as he was in front of it. So audiences will get to know Gene Kelly the director.
“What’s really lovely about the show is meeting the people who tell me their stories. It’s a very personal experience hearing how he touched them at a specific point in their lives, why he inspired them to become dancers, choreographers, or directors. It’s a very communal experience, hearing people ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the clips and stories,” Patricia emphasizes. “It’s a celebration, and everybody is participating.”
The Pasadena Playhouse presents Gene Kelly: The Legacy, An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly for two performances only – Saturday, March 1, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. For tickets call (626) 356-7529 or go to The PasadenaPlayhouse.org or visit The Pasadena Playhouse boxoffice at 39 S. El Molino Ave. in Pasadena.
February 22, 2014 Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off
Star’s widow recounts their time together at the Pasadena Playhouse.
|Patricia Ward Kelly, widow of actor and dancer Gene Kelly, at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. Kelly is planning a tribute to her late husband in, “Gene Kelly: The Legacy, An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly,” at the Pasadena Playhouse on March 1 and 2, 2014. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / February 6, 2014)|
Ask a 20-something if they know who Gene Kelly was and most likely the response will be a blank stare. Start singing the lyrics to “Singing in the Rain,” and immediately his or her face will light up with recognition of one the most famous, eponymous American film musicals.
Gene Kelly’s choreography, dancing and singing are indelible in the American musical landscape —particularly in the films “An American in Paris” and “Singing in the Rain.” However, what many may not know is the breadth of Kelly’s work beyond his singing and dancing, as well as the iconic dancer’s talents and interests that lived outside the limelight of his film and theater career.
With the show “Gene Kelly: the Legacy, an Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly” (at the Pasadena Playhouse March 1 and 2), Gene Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, strives to introduce the man behind the scenes that few people knew.
“It’s a very warm, personal show,” film critic and historian Leonard Maltin said of “Gene Kelly: The Legacy” in a recent telephone interview. “Not just that you get to see great footage of Kelly at work — that in itself would be an entertaining evening — but Patricia shares her personal story: her relationship with Gene, how they met, what she learned that she didn’t know … She really brings him to life in a very intimate 3D way that makes you appreciate his work that much more.”
After catapulting into stardom with the Rodgers and Hart theater musical “Pal Joey,” Gene Kelly came to Hollywood where his unique choreography and exuberant dance captured the imagination of the American film-going audience. Kelly choreographed many, if not most, of the dance sequences in the films and theater musicals he starred in, came to direct his own musicals that starred friends like Frank Sinatra, and was behind the lens of others, such as “Hello Dolly!” with Barbra Streisand.
He is credited with introducing ballet to the general American audience by integrating the dance form into his choreography and using professional ballerinas. He used distinctive lighting, camera techniques and special effects to integrate dance and film in a way that was never seen before. And Kelly was one of the first to use the split screen and double images, as well as mingle live action with animation (an effect in the film “Anchors Aweigh,” in which Kelly dances with the cartoon mouse Jerry).
“There was nobody like him,” renowned dance historian Elizabeth Kaye said. “He was unique in what he did, and the level of joy he could bring to an audience.”
Ward Kelly, who met her late husband in 1990 when she was 25, did not know who Gene Kelly was when he hired her to write his autobiography after meeting her on the set of a TV special he was filming. Having grown up on a farm, Ward Kelly wasn’t exposed much to the film world and, as she described, never dreamed of Hollywood and certainly never expected she would end up marrying someone so famous. “I was more interested in writers,” she said. “I was bookish.”
Gene brought the neophyte to Los Angeles to be his ghost writer, and soon they fell in love over, among other things, their appreciation of words and poetry. They married in 1996. The fact that they were 46 years apart in age never fazed Ward Kelly.
“I didn’t even think about it because the work started first. It [our love affair] was never on the horizon,” she said. “Neither of us expected it to happen. [And] oddly there was so much in common … we laughed at the same things … had the same look at things.”
It was these things — the personal, the insights he had on history, politics, economics, as well as his work and the work of other famous singers and performers — that Gene Kelly shared with his young wife and which she recorded daily in notebooks. In “Gene Kelly: The Legacy,” she introduces audiences to the expanse of her late husband’s life, from “the beginning to the end of his life, and beyond,” Ward Kelly said. “His stories he shared with me, I weave between film clips and audio. He used to sing to me at night, that’s how he would reveal part of his life to me. It was incredibly romantic, laying in the dark, [him] singing, ‘ With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming …’ ”
Beyond his extraordinary career, Ward Kelly shares the intellectual life of Gene Kelly — he spoke fluent French, “street Italian” and Yiddish. He read a book a day.
“It was like feeding an animal,” Ward Kelly said, recalling how she would go to the library to get books for her husband. “That was his life, to read, which fit very well with how I like to spend time.”
The book she was hired to write more than 20 years ago is still in the works. After 10 years of recording daily the thoughts and experiences her husband told her, which he sometimes would say he had never told anybody before, ended up in carefully archived boxes and notebooks.
“Originally, I was supposed to be the ghost writer. After he died, I thought it was pretty disingenuous. It didn’t feel right, like I was wearing someone else’s clothes, using his words … I had to tell my story. I had to turn it all on its head, and go back through [all the] boxes and notes, and change the frame [of the story] to our decade together.”
In the meantime, Ward Kelly plans to introduce as many people as she can to the legacy of her husband, the impeccable and talented performer, choreographer and director, as well as the personal man she came to know so well.
“I think when you see Patricia you get such a good sense about him,” said Kaye, who first saw Ward Kelly on a Turner Classics Movies program the year of Gene Kelly’s centennial birthday. “I knew a lot of women in this town who were angling for Gene Kelly. This person he picked, it speaks so well for him.”
Where: Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena.
When: Saturday, March 1, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15 to $70
More info: (626) 356-7529, PasadenaPlayhouse.org
LAURA TATE is a regular contributor to Marquee.
Actress Taraji P. Henson gives a strong performance in the stage play, “Above the Fold.” Photo Credit: Jim Cox
PASADENA-Going to see the stage play, “Above the Fold,” is like going back down memory lane. It’s uncomfortable to take in at times, but it brings out the best and worst of people-black, brown, white, blue or purple.
“Above the Fold,” which stars the talented Taraji P. Henson, pretty much explores the infamous Duke Lacrosse rape case in which three white student-athletes were accused of beating and raping a young black woman.
Of course, when the truth finally came out, a lot of heads rolled with the outcome, including the lead prosecutor who wound up losing his license to practice law for unethical conduct. The case, which stirred the nation’s interest because of the subplots of race, sex and violence, is the modern day parameter of what not to do if you’re an elected official seeking to stay in office.
So now, years later we get the opportunity to get the scenario staged along those lines in “Above the Fold.” Henson, who plays Jane, a black reporter with ambitions of her own, was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the hit film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” It’s likely the lovely Henson will pick up some hardware along the way for her latest performance, which is done in a more studious way than any of her other roles.
Henson, who got her big break in the movie, “Baby Boy,” has played characters with strong personalities and fiery disposition. In “Above the Fold,” which runs through Sunday at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California, Henson gives a kudos performance as she takes the audience on the methodical journey of a reporter investigating a hot button news story.
Jane’s boss, Marvin (Arye Gross) goes instant spin mode as he visualizes the race-baiting case turning into national headlines. Effectively manipulating the race card, Marvin sends his black female reporter (Jane) to cover the case.
A black woman sitting and meeting another black woman who has been allegedly violated would give Jane and her boss a coup for the paper with so-called insider’s information. At least that is what they were hoping for.
Marvin envision the big picture in covering the case, which is why he sends Jane to the small southern town in which the allege rape took place to find out what’s going on. Well, what’s going on is that you have a prosecutor (Mark Hildreth) running for reelection looking for an edge over his opponents.
He gets it with the allegation that three white students (Kristopher Higgins, Joe Massingill and Seamus Mulchay) beat and rapes this young black mother. Kristy Johnson (Monique) gives a more than credible performance as the black woman supposedly raped by the three white students.
Taraji P. Henson and Kristy Johnson act out a scene in “Above the Fold.” Photo Credit: Jim Cox
Actually, Johnson almost steals the show from Henson by fabulously depicting a confused woman who doesn’t quite know how to get out of a situation she put herself in without going down the road and flipping the switch in accusing the three white students of what historically has been something black men has been charged in regards to white women.
What Johnson’s role demonstrate is the dangers of falsely accusing someone or individuals of sexual assault or rape. It has ramifications for everyone including those in the media who at time bend stories just enough to sensationalize them.
As Jane goes through the whole process of uncovering the facts, she goes on her own journey with Monique, finding commonality in sisterhood but then rediscovering she was in town to get a story. In doing so, Jane starts to question Monique’s behavior and deadbeat attitude after being allegedly raped. Monique’s character becomes more and flawed as Jane get to the business of being a reporter.
As the pressure is turned up, Monique begins to flip-flop on her story about the night when the three white students sexually assaulted her. This is when Henson really shines as an actress. Henson has that “it” presence as a top-notch thespian. She shows as much as she pointedly goes after the three students and hammer Monique. Henson delivers her role like a 95-mph fastball pitcher: with impact. This is what makes “Above the Fold” worth seeing.
February 20, 2014 Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off
by Seema Sueko
in Audience & Community Engagement
Post image for Introducing Consensus Organizing for Theater
The goal of The Pasadena Playhouse’s TCG Audience (R)Evolution grant is to re-imagine our Theatrical Diversity Project and build a new model of artistic co-creation between our institution and Latina/o artists and communities of the San GabrielValley.
The process we are using to achieve our goals is “Consensus Organizing for Theater,” a method I developed while at Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company–a community-focused, socially-conscious, Equity theater company in San Diego–and which I later scaled up and tested while on the TCG Leadership U[niversity] grant at Arena Stage in Washington, DC.
Consensus Organizing for Theater: a working definition
Consensus Organizing (CO) for Theater is a process through which a theater builds stake in multiple pockets of the community; and those communities build stake in the theater by surfacing where the needs and agendas of both intersect. As a result, CO builds and diversifies audiences, lends authenticity to the artistic and education work, and supports fundraising and board development goals.
Roots in Social Work and Community Organizing
The model of Consensus Organizing was developed by Michael Eichler in the 1980s. Mike was a community organizer who had been working in Pennsylvania to battle “blockbusting,” the collapse of the steel industry, and create positive change on behalf of communities of need. Mike had originally come from the Saul Alinsky school of community organizing, which used “conflict organizing” as its method. Mike recognized, however, that conflict organizing, which rallied communities against a specific target, was successful at achieving short-term goals, but not at creating long-term change. Thus he developed a new model, Consensus Organizing, which deliberately surfaced the self-interests of communities of need and communities of power, identified where those self-interests intersected, and organized there.
Applying CO to our Audience (R)Evolution project
Step 1: Research – We are in the process of creating a CO Spreadsheet of organizations, leaders, associations, informal/ad-hoc groups, PTAs, community centers, influencers, etc. that serve the Latina/o communities of the San Gabriel Valley.
Step 2: Inquire & Learn – Next we seek meetings with everyone on the CO list, share our needs and goals, learn what their needs and goals are, and explore if our needs and goals intersect.
Step 3: If we discover we have mutual self-interests, we organize, partner, and co-create arts-based activities that serve these mutual self-interests.
Philosophical Underpinnings of CO for Theater
• We (the theater) are not the experts – We might be experts at putting on a play, but we are not the experts of what the community needs.
• Put ourselves in audience – Throughout the CO process, we find opportunities to sit in audience of the community organizations. Just as we are asking them to be in our audience, we believe the relationships needs to go both ways in order for this to be a lasting one.
• We are clear about our agenda – We share with our potential community partners what our true agenda is: to transform The Pasadena Playhouse by authentically engaging with the Latina/o communities of the San GabrielValley.
• The representative from the theater must have some authority – The organizers who meet community members must have artistic power, or direct access to the artistic power at The Playhouse. Sending an individual to meet with community who does not have authority or decision-making power creates an obstacle to developing a truly symbiotic relationship.
Adapting / Morphing / Re-shaping the Model
We anticipate that as we apply CO for Theater to The Pasadena Playhouse’s Audience (R)Evolution project, we’ll learn new things that will re-shape the CO process. We look forward to tracking these new inspirations and sharing them through this blog.
SEEMA SUEKO serves as associate artistic director of The Pasadena Playhouse. For the past nine years, she served as the executive artistic director of Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego. In addition to directing at Mo`olelo, Seema developed Mo`olelo’s greening initiative, consensus organizing methodologies, and led the company to its selection as the Inaugural Resident Theatre Company at La Jolla Playhouse and awards from the American Theatre Wing, National Endowment for the Arts, Actors’ Equity Association, NAACP San Diego Branch, among others. Other directing and acting credits include The Old Globe, Yale Rep, 5th AvenueTheatre, Indiana Rep, San Diego Rep, Native Voices. She was the recipient of the inaugural TCG/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation “Leadership U[niversity]” grant, which took her to Arena Stage in 2013 as a Visiting Artistic Associate in mentorship with Molly Smith.
Audience (R)Evolution is a four-stage program to study, promote and support successful audience engagement and community development models across the country. The Audience (R)Evolution grant program was designed by TCG and is funded by Doris Duke.
Beloved Gene Kelly charmed film audiences for decades. Then he met, charmed and wed Patricia Ward. The Pasadena Playhouse presents “Gene Kelly: The Legacy–An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly” for two performances only – 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1 and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 2, 2014.
Gene Kelly was a joyous performer. A legendary dancer, director and choreographer, he brought astonishing grace, athleticism and masculinity to the big screen. He continues to delight and captivate us, yet we know little about him.
During a unique evening, Patricia Ward Kelly—his widow, biographer and the person who knew him best—presents an intimate portrait of this dynamic and innovative artist who created some of the most memorable and iconic scenes in film history.
Patricia Kelly’s compelling presentation combines rare and familiar film clips, previously unreleased audio recordings, personal memorabilia, and insights culled from her hours of interviews and conversations with her husband. This special live program makes for a remarkable experience praised as “a real treat” by Variety and hailed as “deeply moving” and “mesmerizing.”
Ward met Gene Kelly in 1985 in Washington, D.C., where she was the writer for a television special about The Smithsonian for which he was the host and narrator. Soon after, he invited her to California to write his memoir. They fell in love, married, and were together until his death in 1996.
“I never knew that about him; ‘that’s one of the most common things I hear from people following my show.’ Even the newspaper in Gene’s hometown of Pittsburgh responded with the headline: ‘And we thought we knew Gene Kelly.’” said Patricia Ward Kelly. “Many people know and love the person they see up on the screen, but few know the many dimensions of the man and his work. They do not know that he was fluent in French, was a Shabbos Goy who spoke Yiddish, studied economics, memorized and wrote poetry, frequently read a book a day, did The New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. That’s one of the things that is most rewarding for me about doing the show—sharing the little lower layers that make Gene come to life for people in new and interesting ways. Gene was very guarded and revealed little about him in interviews. That he let down his guard and entrusted me with his story was a great privilege.”
She added, “Each time I do the show, I learn new things from the audience and am touched by the personal stories that people share with me when I greet them before and after. He inspired many; others moved by a particular number or the way it affected them at a certain time in their lives.
Currently, Patricia Ward Kelly serves as sole trustee of The Gene Kelly Image Trust and as Creative Director of Gene Kelly: The Legacy, a corporation established to celebrate Kelly’s artistry worldwide. She lives in Los Angeles where she is completing the definitive book about her late husband.
Tickets to “Gene Kelly: The Legacy–An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly” are priced from $15 – $70. Also, available is a VIP ticket which includes a Preshow Meet & Greet with Mrs. Kelly and a reception for $150. Tickets are available online at www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org, by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529 or by visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena.
(L-R) Taraji P. Henson, Seamus Mulcahy, Joe Massingill and Kristopher Higgins in “Above the Fold” at the Pasadena Playhouse. (Jim Cox)
The Pasadena Playhouse presented the world premiere of their fourth production of the 2013-2014 season titled “Above the Fold” on February 5.
The play, which was written by Bernard Winraub and directed by Steven Robman, runs through February 23.
“Above the Fold” stars Academy Award and Emmy nominee Taraji P. Henson as Jane, known for her roles in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, No Good Deed, and most recently in CBS’s “Person of Interest.”
Joining her onstage are Kristy Johnson in the role of Monique, Ayre Gross as Marvin, Kristopher Higgins as Victor, Mark Hildreth as Lorne, Joe Massingill as Bobby, and Seamus Mulcahy as Eric.
Above the Fold is centered around Jane, a newspaper reporter from New York, who travels to the South to cover the story of a young black woman who was allegedly raped by three white fraternity boys. The play addresses ethical issues such as the exploitation of tragedy and the dangers of blind ambition at the expense of truth, all within the backdrop of journalism’s shift from print to digital media.
Here are 3 reason why you should see “Above the Fold” before its run comes to an end.
Taraji P. Henson
Her performance in the play is beyond flawless. As soon as she enters the stage, Henson takes control of the scenes, audience and atmosphere within the venue. She is remarkable in everything she does and says from beginning to end. If this were a movie, she’d definitely be nominated for all the Best Actress awards available.
No one else has seen this piece. The production premiered in Pasadena…that there makes it very special since the public of Los Angeles has “dibs” to see it first. As of now, there has not been any indication that the show will go national or abroad. And even if it does, chances are that Henson and the rest of the cast won’t be available to tour with it. This is your chance to see it.
The Pasadena Playhouse’s origins date back to 1917, when an acting Troup called the Gilmor Brown Players settled in Pasadena. By 1924, the townspeople had become so enamored with their shows that they founded the troupe’s move from the old burlesque house to the newly constructed Pasadena Playhouse. They were the first to produce the entire canon of Shakespeare, and since then the Playhouse has grown, helping to produce such talent as Gene Hackman, Sally Struthers and Dustin Hoffman. In brief, this venue is historic and it sports a classy history of fine actors that have stepped foot in it. On top of that, the Pasadena Playhouse is a resplendently well-built establishment, both inside and out. See for yourself!
Edison Millan contributed to this story.
February 18, 2014 Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off
From left, Acting Board Chair David DiCristofaro, Steven Robman, Elizabeth Doran, Sheldon Epps and Bernard Weinraub at the premiere of “Above the Fold” at the Pasadena Playhouse. (Photo courtesy of Earl E. Gibson III)
By Patt Diroll, Columnist
Punxsutawney Phil decided to doze for another six weeks or so, but the local social critters emerged from their post-holiday hibernation right after Groundhog Day. For starters, on Feb. 5, Bernard Weinraub’s “Above the Fold,” a yeasty roman a clef that focuses on the dark side of the newspaper business, had its world premiere at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Prior to the opening-night curtain, playhouse execs Sheldon Epps, Elizabeth Doran and Interim Board Chairman David DiCristofaro feted Weinraub, director Steven Robman and playhouse donors at a reception in the playhouse library, where Weinraub, a veteran N.Y. Times reporter-turned-playwright, declared, “The playhouse is the best theater in Los Angeles. There are bigger theaters, but Sheldon takes risks. He doesn’t always think of what is commercial or what’s going to sell tickets. He thinks of what’s right.” Weinraub’s work is an example.
Loosely based on the headline frenzy triggered by the 2006 Duke lacrosse case, in which three students were falsely accused of rape, this play was actually hatched and fine-tuned in HOTHOUSE, the new play development program at the playhouse. Weinraub said that after a couple of readings held in the Carrie Hamilton Theater, Sheldon told me, “Let’s do it!” Led by Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson, this work is well acted, but as for its message, I didn’t need another kick in the head to remind me that I’m in a moribund business.
After the final curtain call, first-nighters joined the cast for a party at Vertical Wine Bistro in Old Pasadena. Celebs in the crowd included Kathy Baker, Patricia Ward Kelly, Angela Bassett, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Chris Sheffield, John Singleton, Vanessa Williams and Barry Pearl. The performances continue through Feb 23rd.