Full “Circle” with Annie Baker’s THE ALIENS

We started the season with Annie Baker’s first play, Body Awareness, and enjoyed fielding wonderful reactions from audiences throughout the run. Our big brother neighbors over at Studio Theatre are returning to Annie Baker as well this season, as they scored a big hit two years ago with Annie’s Circle, Mirror, Transformation. Now comes the third in “The Shirley Plays,” Baker’s trilogy set in the fictional town of Shirley, Vermont.

Scot McKenzie and Brian Miskell in "The Aliens" - photo by Scott Suchman

Scot McKenzie and Brian Miskell in “The Aliens” – photo by Scott Suchman

What’d we think of it, this third most intimate, and provocatively audacious of the triad? I gave the actors and assistant director — wonderful artists all, fiercely dedicated to the shared playwright-director vision of the play — a bit of a hard time in our talk-back last night for some of the willfully lethargic languors of Act I — a full two minutes here or there (and certainly at the top of the show) before a single thing happens, let alone a line gets uttered. Of course something is happening, our actors assured us, and many things are being thought, and they’re also being read, by a clairvoyant director who was able to decipher and mold and guide the active thought patterns of the actors throughout the show. I didn’t buy into a lot of it early on. I was more of the “pshaw” and “show me” school and got bored and frustrated, even while noting the precision with which the play was written, shaped, designed, acted. There was much to appreciate, while one waited for something to happen. And waited. And waited.

And then guess what? It did. Shit happened. Subtle stuff, as had been happening all along, and the playwright began to reward us in spades. Patience patience. That’s all that was required. I didn’t have enough of it early on. But I too was satisfied — rewarded, moved, and impressed by night’s end. That’s Annie Baker; the girl knows how to close a show. If she hadn’t have come up with the big laughs at the end of BODY AWARENESS, we wouldn’t have had the great experience with the show that we had. She ended comically, winningly, with a real sense of achievement, in that, her first play, and with this, the third. Something tiny and yet momentous gets achieved.

Let’s hear what y’all thought!

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As BODY AWARENESS Comes To a Close, MARRIED SEX Launches a One Night Premiere!

BODY AWARENESS is playing its final performance as I write this. What a wonderful way to open the season. What a supple production. So many happy, stirred audience members. I loved being on the receiving line of so many compliments! And all I did was say YES to it! Here’s to an amazing ensemble and design team that made this production sing, sigh, scream, and celebrate the human comedy that is life with family in all its permutations. Looking forward to a wonderful toast at our party tonight.

In between the matinee and evening shows, we turned over the stage to our final Locally Grown program Extra of the month. Laura Zam was back with a new, intensified, and FULLY MEMORIZED version of her TJ-commissioned MARRIED SEX. 150+ in the audience made for an extremely receptive crowd to give back lots of laughs and love to the talented, multi-voiced performance. Shirley Serotsky was back directing this play that has, over the summer, magically sprung to life. Still a work in progress (there will no doubt be more trims and focussing), the play — now a solo performance tour de force — offers a commanding display of artistry in how Laura shapes her journey, and colors the many characters she portrays with a deft ear for dialect, and great movement as well.

There were students in the crowd as well tonight. Hearing some pretty risque material. I wonder what they thought of it all!!!!

Becoming Aware of Body Awareness

Shirley here.

Following up on Ari’s post below–check out the continued Gender U: Framing Feminism on Today’s College Campus on our Vimeo site.

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It was an honor to share the stage with this brain trust of women. To introduce the conversation, I explained my own experience with Women’s Studies on a college campus–as a student at the University of Michigan in the mid-90s. I was a musical theater major, but I’d come to school interested in women’s history (growing up in Rochester, NY surely helped to foster that) and already fascinated by the legacy of feminism I’d inherited from my mother’s generation and the way my generation was beginning to define our own legacy. I started to take classes in the women’s studies department—and considered embarking on a double major. The task of navigating these two fields, one which so embraced traditional gender roles and the other which questioned them, proved to be difficult territory to navigate, and eventually my trajectory changed in other ways. Which is all to say, I never ended up a Women’s Studies major. But there’s a part of me that still wishes I had.

Several of the questions from the audience on Sunday (and we’re working on getting that portion of the panel posted) suggested, “There must be more important topics for feminists to be worrying about than body image right now. What about the horrible oppression women face in many parts of the world? Or the attack on reproductive rights happening right here in the US?”

Yes, Yes, and Yes. But, as our panelists pointed out, each of these concerns relates to the next, which relates to the next, which relates to “who has power over our bodies and lives” which is also what BODY AWARENESS is all about. And so none of these battles are mutually exclusive. And I would say–there is little value to assigning them rank and order.

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Great Post-Show Panel: Gender U: Feminism on Today’s College Campus

Shirley Serotsky moderates another literate panel full of insight, looking at the state of feminism in society — and on college campuses today.  The talk-back features (on the far left of the screen) Professor Cynthia Harrison, Associate Professor of History, Women’s Studies, and Public Policy at George Washington University.  Next to her is Professor Maya Roth is Director of Theater & Performance Studies at Georgetown and was the founding Artistic Director of the Davis Performing Arts Center. She is professionally active as scholar and artist, with special focus on feminist performance, civic theater, plays by women, and cross-cultural stage adaptation.

Next to Maya is Professor Eleanor Holdridge, director of BODY AWARENESS. She is the head of the MFA Directing program at Catholic University.  And next to her is Bonnie J. Morris, Women’s Studies professor at both Georgetown and George Washington University. She is the author of eight books, including three Lambda Literary Award finalist.

Eager to hear your responses…