To celebrate the state’s bicentennial, LSU’s Swine Palace is producing three plays that revolve around historic moments, people, and places in Louisiana. Proving that true art is controversial, all three have had mixed reactions from theatrical critics, although the Swine Palace performances are sure to be delightful. Paul Russell is set to direct a September run of a comedy that has been called “sluggish” as often as it has “ambitious”; Benjamin Koucherik and Swine Palace Artistic Director George Judy share directing credit for a New Orleans native’s play that has been praised for its mood and tone while being denigrated for being less a play than a series of vignettes; and, finally, Judy will direct a Louisiana perennial that forces the audience to confront its beliefs about the state’s most famed political folk hero.
Baton Rouge’s New Venture Theatre will open its new season tomorrow with a revamped version of gospel musical Shout!, written and directed by the theatre’s Founding Artistic Director, Greg Williams, Jr. and musical direction by Loneka Wilkinson Battiste.
“We did it last year as a workshop musical,” Williams said, “and we took what it was and kept the best elements of it and perfected it. It is a spectacular; if you saw the original version, this is a brand new show.”
On Saturday, January 25, the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre will host two performances of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, directed by Max McLean and starring Brent Harris as Screwtape.
C.S. Lewis may be best known in the public sphere for his The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which spawned the perennial favorite Chronicles of Narnia series, but for many theologians and scholars, Lewis is commonly remembered as one of Christianity’s most philosophical proponents. Mere Christianity is his most straightforwardly theological work, but many consider The Screwtape Letters to be a more fascinating story. The original text, first published in 1942, is an epistolary novel that takes the form of letters written by an upper-level demon, His Abysmal Sublimity Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter.
“[The show] was never available for amateur production before, and we’re the first theatre company to produce it in Louisiana, amateur or otherwise,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to be the first in Louisiana to do the show, and it’s a nice feather in our cap.”
On September 12, 1916, a circus elephant named Mary flew into a momentary rage on a very public street and killed her inexperienced handler, Walter “Red” Elridge in Kingsport, Tennessee. The following day, Sparks World Famous Shows proprietor Charlie Sparks reluctantly transported Mary 35 miles north to the town of Erwin. There, she was put to death before an audience of over 2500 in a bizarre display that resembled a public execution—or a lynching. The power required to electrocute the elephant was inconceivable at the time; tearing her apart with steam-powered locomotives was determined to be too grisly. Instead, she was hung by her neck from a railway crane.
News of the event spread, along with a photograph of Mary so haunting that its afterimage was burned into the public consciousness of the last century.
A classic in theatrical lyricism is coming to the Baton Rouge Little Theater’s main stage this week.
“Every time I walk in and watch a little bit of rehearsal, I’m on the floor laughing,” says BRLT Managing Artistic Director Keith Dixon of the upcoming production of (in)famous playwright Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
“It’s a great way to open our new season; it’s just a fun show,” says Dixon of Earnest, the first production of the 2012-2013 “Season of Story and Song,” Dixon’s eighth season as MAD. “I’m really excited about this show and opening the season with it.
Assassins is a musical crafted by that Stephen Sondheim, whose long and storied career includes the composition of Sweeney Todd, Follies, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, as well as penning the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy. Sondheim is no stranger to melancholy and dark subject matter, as anyone who has ever seen Into the Woods is well aware, but his darkest and most controversial musical, Assassins, is coming to a stage near you very soon.
Baton Rouge Little Theater will host a special engagement of the musical, with five performances, beginning August 24.
Sondheim was first inspired to craft the play while he was a member of the panel at Stuart Ostrow’s Musical Theater Lab. He was struck by the ideas behind a short play by rising playwright Charles Gilbert. The plot, which revolved around the assassination of a fictional president, was excised completely, as Sondheim was mostly intrigued by the amount of supporting material that Gilbert had amassed: letters and anecdotes from actual assassins, both successful and failed.