Results tagged “ArtsEmerson” from ARTicles

ImageProxy.mvc.jpegAnne Bogart's newest work "Cafe Variations" is a theatrical and dance meditation on texts by playwright Charles Mee. The work is essentially about romantic relationships, how they blossom, fracture, repair or perish. Although "Café" is an ensemble work, combining Bogart's SITI Company actors and Emerson College students, Ellen Lauren, a longtime member of SITI, has one of the primary roles, if not one of the most demanding theatrical roles. She plays "Edith A," the type of character who could have sprung from the minds of Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Lily Tomlin. But this one is pure Lauren. Opposite Leon Ingulsrud, Lauren is brassy, bossy, bitchy and ultimately very sympathetic. She is surrounded by a "Mad Men" elegance with the young actresses onstage and yet her elegance - the elegance of comedy - is writ large. "Directing Ellen is like driving a Rolls Royce," said Bogart. "She has smooth gears and can do things that most others cannot. Working with her is a constant lesson in what acting for the stage can encompass. ArtsEmerson presented the world premiere of "Cafe" last week at the Cutler Majestic in Boston, where it continues through Sunday, April 22. The following is an edited and condensed interview with Lauren about developing a character, telling stories onstage and being funny. 

How do you know in your body when a movement is a funny movement? 
It's a combination of experience, my own personal taste and intuition. I tend to work very intuitively when I develop a role. I made a decision with "Cafe Variations" to work very quickly and not agonize. I knew from bits of information in the text that I could jump on and highlight. I immediately got an image of somebody. It came very quickly to me. I did not have an image of the physical broadness of the performance until I got inside this character and got to play around. 

Can you feel it in your body physically when you slunk your shoulders or sit aggressively in your dress that you're being funny? 
Those are little revelations of my own inner insecurities or my looking at myself and highlighting and amplifying a quality. If that goes south, you feel like crap about yourself. If I have puny shoulders and I blow that up into a cartoon, I'm not putting out something funny. I'm putting out something that makes me feel incredibly self-conscious. And how can I compete with the pretty girls on the stage? I'm not going to. I'm going to say to the audience: "This is how I feel up here next to a gorgeous sophomore." And what fun? What fun to be able to use my own resources and insecurities that way. I think that's what people are generally drawing on when they are funny. 

What happens inside of you to see your character's qualities? 
It's a rhythm thing. I read the text, and I can see it immediately on the page. The sentences are short. The words are one syllable. They're demonstrative. They're active. This is a real alpha person. A lot of the sentences begin as verbs. She tends to play it as it lays. She's bossy. Doesn't brook any shit from anyone. This came off the page very quickly to me. That's what I didn't second guess. I pick up a scent, and I try not to worry. Often to my detriment. But when you make work quickly, you learn to go with the thing. 
April 20, 2012 8:29 AM |

PrometheusPHOTO.jpgMaybe it's true of all botched vacations: There can be a silver lining. To paraphrase Dorothy, sometimes when you're looking for your heart's desire, you may not have to go any further than your own backyard. Which is a good thing because that's how far I got when I had to abandon plans to spend spring break in Chile visiting my brother and reporting on the arts. I ended up staying in the Boston area where the arts chops are pretty sharp these days. And yeah, it's true: I didn't have to go more than four T stops to find my heart's desire.

1. Prometheus Bound directed by Diane Paulus at American Repertory Theater's Club Oberon in Cambridge.

Do you like your revolutions Greek style? Diane Paulus does. Her decision to focus American Repertory Theater's season on classics - as in Aeschylus and Sophocles (add her touring Broadway revival of Hair which, coincidentally, stops in Boston this month) - has turned out to be prescient given the headlines in Africa and the Middle East. Prometheus is another example of Paulus' gift for musical spectacle with gender-social-political-choreographic (did I leave anything out?) commentary glinting from a disco ball. For a show in which the protagonist is chained to a rock for most of the story, there's a lot going on here. There's no escaping the action whether you're with the groundlings - the throngs of fist-pumping youths on the center floor - or seated off to the side in a banquette where a trio of hauntingly pale chorus angels in combat boots might nudge you aside to use your table for a scene. Paulus had a dream team in script and lyrics writer Steven Sater (Spring Awakening) and composer Serj Tankian (System of a Down). The storyline may feel Greek to our ears because of the volume, but the production is rousing - and features the usual lineup of hyper talented performers who seem to give their souls to Paulus' vision of Outsiders Are Powerful. Thank you, Prometheus, for the bright ideas. We have some people in Wisconsin who would have found you very inspiring.

2. The Sun Also Rises by Elevator Repair Service at Arts Emerson's Paramount Theater.

After last year's Gatz, which ranks in the Top Ten Performances I've seen in three decades of theater going, I hoped Elevator Repair Service wasn't going to be a one-trick pony. It isn't. Select14_sm.jpgDirector John Collins has three important talents: He understands pacing - and isn't afraid to take it slow. He understands humor - and isn't afraid to combine the nuance of the aforementioned pacing with the nonsense of stagecraft. And he loves literature enough to know that a book is one thing and a stage play is quite another and that the two are related but not pathologically. If anything, Collins is a master of the remix. Purists may have walked away saying, "This isn't Hemingway!" Fine. That is fine. But I walked away wondering if I got the cultural wink in the Ferrante & Teicher poster on the wall - and not caring much for the answer because, well, it seemed very Hemingway not to overwork a symbol. In the end - and Collins crafts one of the

March 23, 2011 12:31 PM |
Rob Orchard.jpg

Rob Orchard stood on the stage of Boston's historic Paramount Theatre last week to announce the inaugural season of ArtsEmerson, a new initiative that will see him programming four venues -- three in the newly renovated Paramount complex and also the Cutler Majestic Theatre, all under the Emerson College umbrella. Last year, Orchard made a quieter announcement: that he was leaving his post as executive director of Harvard's American Repertory Theater in Cambridge after 30 years. He was retiring. I had visions of Orchard out on a sailboat off the coast of Maine basking in a career well done and a wind effortlessly ridden. But Boston had another plan for Orchard. Organizers at the Paramount, one of the last great movie palaces of the 1930s, took him on a tour of the $92 million renovation of the complex -- a 590-seat theater, a flexible black-box theater that can hold up to 150 seats, and a 170-seat screening room. That was the end of the sailboat fantasy. Orchard is now Emerson's executive director for the arts, and the lineup for the four spaces is a combination of new works, international groups and, eventually, a film series. Boston is experiencing an exciting stage in its arts identity, and ArtsEmerson is the newest cultural activation that combines academic mission with civic duty and a broad artistic vision. "This was not a career move on my part," Orchard told me. "There's something liberating about having a job you don't view as a stepping stone to something else. You can give yourself to it entirely." What follows is an edited version of the rest of our conversation.

This may seem like a crazy first question but what is the role of the performing arts in a city?

Whether it's a performing arts center or a facility, it's a crossroads. It's a place for people to get out there and experience great works and to be transported and to be better citizens. How idealistic do you want to get?

Well, how does art make someone a better citizen?

It's a democracy, and part of what art can do is communicate ideas and open up dialogue in a nonthreatening, non-ideological way. I don't think an artist should ever be burdened with the responsibility of changing society. The only thing you can ask artists to do is to tell the truth from their perspective. An audience knows when it's being told the truth -- whether or not it's a truth they want to hear. But they can sense sincerity and that gets the mind thinking in ways that are productive in a culture. Art does play that role of catalyst.

June 8, 2010 4:48 AM |


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