Looking Forward

Hello, Shirley here. So after a work-week’s worth of training and technical’s, guidance and good-bye’s, Becky and I are attempting to fill the metaphorical shoes that Hannah leaves us. I think I speak for both of us when I say that “filling Hannah’s shoes” cannot be the goal of this transition. I don’t think it would be possible. And not only because they are probably ridiculously cool-purchased for $5 on ebay-much hipper than anything I could ever wear-shoes, but because they are HANNAH’S shoes. And she’s just too smart, and talented, and skilled, and perceptive, and engaged to try to “replace”. We carry onward, but we do so because of Hannah, not instead of Hannah.

And I am indeed excited to carry on the tradition of providing an additional voice to Ari’s here on the blog. Hopefully you’ll hear from all of us at one point or another. It’s an amazing group in this narrow little office, and I suspect that each and every one of the Theater J crew has a tidbit or two worth throwing out here.


To start with, I wanted to add some thoughts to my premiere blog post from last week. I realized too late that I’d neglected to answer what might be the most important question of all: what am I most excited about for next year? This is kind of a cop-out but I will say it–everything excites me about next year’s programming, indeed everything that I have read so far or read about.


The easy answer is ANNIE HALL, the play I am actually directing. It’s the one I’ll have the most hands-on role for, a world premiere at that, so a new birth of a new play from a voice new to us (writer Sam Forman). And this play? Funny, honest, hip, stylish, did I mention funny?, and startling art-imitating-life for me. Emerging artists struggling to find their distinctive voices while trying to find a way to live their lives. And be happy. Or at least stable. Or at least decently well-fed. Sam is a delight and the cast we’ve amassed so far are a stellar bunch.


As for the rest of the season, I’ve now had the chance to read three of the plays and to read about the remaining three. And I am struck by a connection between ANNIE HALL, HONEY BROWN EYES and SHOLOM ALEICHEM: LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS–three plays that couldn’t seem more different–and yet each reveal the powerful force that music can generate. In HONEY BROWN EYES we meet two men divided by heritage and politics such that it would make friendship (and perhaps even presence in the same room) impossible. What does provide a link? Music. A rock band. No longer active, but once? Once so good. Once nearly the best. And the Aleichem piece—a virtuoso story-teller telling fabulous stories from and about the master story-teller of them all–all punctuated with the songs of our fathers. Or our father’s father’s fathers.  More flashbacks: my junior year of high school I played Golda to my brother’s Tevye (and we actually wondered why we had trouble getting dates to the prom) so we had a chance to bring Aleichem’s wonderful stories of his lovable milkman and his family to life. Now to see and hear Theodore BIkel (the most frequent Tevye of them all!) do this piece feels wonderfully full circle for me.


Finally THE ACCIDENT. Not so much with the musical theme. But a play that is as immediate and disturbingly captivating as its eponymous event–a car accident on the side of the road. It’s one you may want to turn away from but I dare you to try.


Of the others, PLONTER (Tangle) is the one I am most curious about, as it is a piece coming to us from the Cameri Theater in Israel from an exciting young playwright and director that gives us what sounds to be a new and different (and funny!) look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  This feels particularly meaningful after the discussion launched by American Theater, that Ari and others engaged in last year, debating how we should (or should not) address this conflict as theater-makers. I say we do. I say we are. I say–let’s keep trying.