Monday, April 7, 2014

ASU GAMMAGE ARTIST IN RESIDENT AARON LANDSMAN ARRIVES AT ASU GAMMAGE FOR YEAR ONE OF RESIDENCY WORK

On April 11, 12 and 13, Aaron Landsman will present APPOINTMENT, his first performance as part of his three-year ASU GAMMAGE RESIDENCY. Appointment will be performed at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in The Donald W Reynolds Leadership Suite #302 and performance times are 7, 8:15 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2, 3:15 and 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

APPOINTMENT is a series of intimate THEATER works that are presented in office spaces by ASU Gammage Resident Artist Aaron Landsman in collaboration with local artists and the audience. Using the rituals and environment of the workplace as a departure point, APPOINTMENT takes a situation that can seem beneath examination and turns it into a surprising, entertaining and thought provoking experience. APPOINTMENT was developed in partnership with theater and dance companies as well as individual artists, and the result pushes the concept of theater to unpredictable and captivating places.

" Aaron is a gifted and unique theater artist with an international profile. We are excited to partner with him over the next three years to realize theater projects that have a lasting impact on our ASU, local theater, and general communities, says Michael Reed, Senior Director of Programs and Organizational Initiatives at ASU Gammage.

Aaron Landsman is ASU Gammage's current Gammage Residency Artist following in the footsteps of Bill T. Jones, SITI Company, Anne Bogart and Daniel Bernard Roumain. Landsman is an actor, writer, teacher and director, who performs around the world to critical acclaim while teaching at such prestigious institutions as Julliard and NYU. Perhaps more importantly, Landsman has been tearing the concept of theater apart and putting it back together in fascinating and compelling ways that put real cities and real people in the middle of it all.

Tickets are $20 and $10 and on sale now at asugammage.com or by calling 480.965.3434. The BEYOND series is made possible by Margaret T. Morris Foundation, The Way Family/Way Family Charitable Foundation, Reverend Jenny Norton and Bob Ramsey, US Airways, APS, NEFA and media partner KJZZ and KBAQ. APPOINTMENT is made possible in partnership with the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Downtown Phoenix.

For more information and/or tickets please visit asugammage.com

Friday, April 4, 2014

Q&A with the Creative Team behind ONCE

In 2012, Once was the recipient of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (John Tiffany), Best Book (Enda Walsh), and Best Orchestrations (Martin Lowe). This romantic, quirky show is based on the Irish movie of the same name, written and directed by John Carney, about the life-changing connection between a pair of musicians known only as Guy and Girl. He is a street singer/songwriter in Dublin who earns money as a vacuum repairman, and she is a Czech immigrant who sells flowers in order to support herself and her family. With music as the catalyst, Guy and Girl embark on a brief, powerful, and transformative journey. The show is set in a Dublin pub designed by Bob Crowley, and was choreographed by Steven Hoggett. The score is by  Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the stars of the film, who received an Academy Award for their gorgeous ballad, “Falling Slowly.”

Tiffany, Walsh, and Lowe discussed the evolution and creation of Once, for the purpose of providing a document that editors and writers can use to create their own articles about the show. 

GETTING STARTED

What was your reaction when you were initially approached about creating a musical based on the film Once?

Tiffany:  “I thought it was a terrible idea. I never think about adapting films for the stage. That’s not the way I work. And when I was approached about Once, I hadn’t even seen the film. But one of my best friends said, ‘You will love the music.’ So I downloaded the soundtrack, and absolutely loved it. I’d never heard music like that, and the music is the reason why I wanted to do the show. Not just the music itself, but the fact that it’s a story about creating music, a story about the healing power of music. Immediately I thought, ‘We’re going to be able to see actors create that music in front of us.’ That’s really exciting. Actors have played instruments onstage for years, but not always in a show about making music.

“One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Glen takes Marketa to this house, and there are a lot of singers and musicians around, and they all do their songs. And that reminded me of when I was growing up, and my dad played in a brass band. We would go to band competitions, and we would go back to the band room, and all the men were singing their songs. They would find a way to communicate things that they couldn’t communicate in just words.”       

Walsh: “I guffawed when my agent called and asked me to speak to the producers. I said, ‘What a stupid idea. It’s a two-hander with very little plot. It’s delicate.’ So I called the producers and told them it wasn’t for me. There’s no tradition of musical theater in Ireland, so I rubbished the idea. Then they told me John Tiffany was attached to it as director.”

Tiffany: “I suggested to the producers that Enda write the book. We’ve known each other since 1997, when we were working in Edinburgh. I felt that if you’re going to do a piece of theater about Dublin, then you get Enda Walsh from Dublin to write it.”

Walsh: “John called and said, ‘Let’s take two days, and we can read the screenplay and listen to the songs and talk about it.’ So I said, “Okay, we’ll do two days. And that’s all we’ll do.’”  

What did you learn during those two days?

Tiffany: “Those two days convinced us that we wanted to do this show. We weren’t convinced before that.”

Walsh: “I’m a big fan of the movie Brief Encounter, and I saw similarities. There’s a bittersweet pang that really hurts. Very quickly I thought I was a good match for the material. I tend to write characters that are inarticulate and lonesome, and something comes into their life that changes them. And from listening to the songs, I thought it might be good for me to do something about Ireland, which was so hurt in the recession. I thought it would be sweet to do a little love letter to Dublin. That was my way in.”  

The movie is the inspiration for the show, yet you have to walk a fine line between being true to the film and transforming the material for the stage. How did you start?

Walsh: “You start by bringing two people together and getting them to talk to one another. The tone begins to show itself quickly, so you step out of the way and allow it to begin to write itself. I knew all along that there were markers there, that John Carney had written this amazing romance. I just had to unlock a stage language that was right, and that happened very quickly. As soon as the Girl started talking, I thought, ‘That’s the swagger of it.’ She became the style of it and the force of the piece, and the central storyteller. From page one, she began to influence everyone.”
 
Tiffany: “I knew from the beginning that the actors would be the musicians. At that point, I didn’t know the play was going to be set in a bar, but I knew before Enda began to write that we were going to move from one location to another in very simple terms. When an actor brings a Hoover [vacuum] onstage, you’re immediately telling an audience, ‘There are going to be no tricks here, no illusions. Just watch the actors because you don’t know what they’re going to do next.’ I don’t know the rules of Broadway musicals, but from the ones I’ve seen, a lot of them have a chorus of singers and dancers, and I knew I didn’t want anyone onstage who we didn’t get to know intimately.

“I told Enda, ‘Write this as if you’re writing a new play, and then let’s choose where the songs go in terms of telling the story.’ In some ways it was obvious, because we followed the structure of the film in terms of where the songs go. But we did make changes, although not radical in terms of the whole. We put ‘Leave’ at the very beginning, which I thought within a theatrical context was a much more powerful way to start. ‘Leave’ is about something ending, and that’s where Guy is at the beginning.” 

Walsh: “I think the big difference with this show is that we created a community. It’s like a spotlight is shone on these people in Dublin at a specific time, and around it grows romance and creativity. And then it goes. That’s part of the loss. You see the potential for people to come together and do beautiful things, and then those things end.

 “In addition to making it about community, we also wanted the show to be hugely communal. So how do we do that? We allow the audience onstage. We wanted the audience to own the experience.”

Tiffany: “We did the show for the first time at American Repertory Theatre in Boston, and every weekend they stage The Donkey Show, for which they built a cabaret space with a bar. I liked the idea of setting Once in a bar, and I wanted to see how that worked.
So when the audience arrived, they could get a drink and the actors would be having a jam session. The idea worked, but that space was very dark. Bob [Crowley] and I decided to create a Dublin pub.”

Walsh: “In addition to the story of the Guy and the Girl, we needed to be sure there are all these other love stories in the air. Each person is riffing off a love that’s been lost, that got away. That was the key: for the audience to feel part of the experience, also to look at the people on the stage and go, ‘They’re us.’”

STAGING

John, please talk about the way you and Steven Hoggett collaborate.

Tiffany: “We’ve worked together for years, and when I told him we were doing Once next, he went and watched the film and . He said to me, ‘Are you joking? How on earth can you choreograph that?’ And I said, ‘That’s why we need to do it; because we don’t know how to do it. If we knew how to do it, we’d be bored.’ From the beginning, we were very clear about which songs could be choreographed and which couldn’t. We knew that we’d come a cropper with ‘Falling Slowly’ if we tried to put any movement on that. We knew that when they’re in the studio and they sing ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up,’ that it was about the song, and if we put any movement aesthetic to it, we’d screw it up. We found our vocabulary on the songs within an environment, like when they’re in the bank and the bank tellers respond to what Guy is playing. Stephen and I work together all the time and we don’t switch up our sessions and say this one is movement, this one is direction. There is much of Steven in the actual direction of the production, and much of me in the choreography.”

The first act ends with “Gold,” which is performed by the entire cast. The actors actually dance while playing the song. How difficult was it to stage this number?

Tiffany: “It’s such a difficult song, because the time sequence keeps changing. And it’s an open E, which is a very different key for the guitar to be in. The actors were really struggling to learn it, because obviously we weren’t going to have any music stands on the stage. Steven and I knew that we were going to get them to move with their instruments, but they didn’t know it. One day they were really moaning about how difficult the arrangement was, how difficult the song was to play. So I said, ‘Steven, go. Do it now.’ And he started to teach them the dance, and he let them know that they were going to be doing it with their instruments. Suddenly they could play the song brilliantly. Often you solve something actors are struggling with by giving them a bigger problem.”   

THE MUSIC

Martin, talk about your overall approach to arranging and orchestrating the music.

Lowe: “My main investigation was the soundtrack album, because I felt that it was what fans knew best and it was the sound they would want to hear. On the first day of rehearsals, I said to the cast, ‘It’s not my job to reinvent this music. It’s my job to serve it up to the audience in a way that they remember it.’ After about three days, John said to me, ‘You know, you are going to be allowed to be creative, you’re going to be allowed to express yourself, rather than just recreate someone else’s album.’ That was freeing. The songs started to develop, and that was led by the company. We had an amazing company of actor/musicians, and they would come to me and say, ‘I’d like to learn the mandolin’ or ‘I’d like to learn the ukulele.’  

“The songs feel just a little bit bigger than they did in the movie. That’s unusual; it’s the movies that are always bigger. But the most musicians on any number in the movie is five. We’ve got 12 onstage, although they’re not all playing all the time. Often, we have three or four guitars playing at any one time. We also use ukuleles, mandolins, strings, drums, an accordion, and a banjo. The banjo is in quite a lot of the songs because one of the actors wanted to learn it.”

You hear the difference the most in Gold, which uses all the instruments. How did that number evolve musically?

Lowe: “I was very specific about what the strings were doing, but everyone else was just given the chords. As they learned and rehearsed the song, two of them wanted to play the mandolin, and one wanted to play the ukulele. So I just left them to it. One of the guys playing the mandolin found a figure [a short group of notes or chords], and I said, ‘Just keep doing that.’ Then somebody else found a variation on that figure, and I’d say, ‘That’s great. Just keep doing it.’ Every day we went at it until we found the sound we wanted, and I said, ‘That’s it. No more changes.’ I wrote some of it down, but not all of it. I wanted the actors in London and on the tour to have a chance to be inventive as well.”  

 “Falling Slowly,” on the other hand, sounds much as it does in the film.

Lowe: “It is pretty much the same. In the movie, Glen sings a line and Marketa sings a harmony line. I didn’t deviate from that at all. I had to stick to it, because audiences know how they want to hear it.”

What about some of the other well-known songs: Did you make many changes to the vocal arrangements and orchestrations?

Lowe: “A lot of the vocal arrangements and orchestrations weren’t written out. They were very vague. They were in a songbook that anyone can buy. The harmonies aren’t in them. So I spent a long time listening to recordings. But I think that with vocal arrangements, you have to create on the cast that’s in the room with you. There’s no point in writing high vocals or low vocals if people can’t do them. So I did something unusual, but it worked with this show. I taught everybody the songs, and then I asked them to invent their own harmonies. I’m thinking particularly about ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up.’ I asked them to find a harmony where they sounded good, that was on their best note. And then I gave it a bit of shape. I said, ‘I want you all to start low, in harmony, and then I want you to get higher and louder.’ So we sort of created that together. Eventually I wrote it out and made it more specific for other companies.”



There is no conductor on the show, so how do the actors get their music cues?

Lowe: “It’s the thing they worry about most during the first week of rehearsal. They start to panic when they realize there’s no conductor. But after four or five weeks in a rehearsal room, they all know the songs really well, they know the speed they should go at, and they know what they should sound like. That’s my job. That’s what I teach them in the rehearsal process. Onstage, every song has a different conductor, or a different person starts the song or stops the song. It’s totally dependent on who’s onstage, where they’re sitting, and who can see them. That’s how we do it. It sounds very scary and complicated but, in fact, it’s the easiest thing in the world.”

Were Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova involved in the show at all?

Lowe: “They were interested in the project, but they didn’t want to be involved in it. They’ve both moved on from that part of their lives, so I was left to unravel the music myself. But I asked Glen to come and check on what I was doing, to see if it was right. So when we staged the show for the first time at American Repertory Theatre, Glen came to our fourth performance and was really helpful. Later, when we did the show at New York Theatre Workshop, he and Marketa came to a rehearsal. They were helpful in finessing things, showing the exact way they felt a song should go.”

Tiffany: “Glen would come and do some jamming sessions with the cast, and talk about where the music came from, the inspirations behind some of the songs. Basically he’d just be around so that we felt we had his blessing. And he gave us space.”

CASTING

How difficult is it to cast Once?

Tiffany: “We need actors who can act brilliantly, move, and play instruments. In a way, casting the first production was the easiest, because we arranged the music around the instruments the actors could play. It was more difficult to cast London and the tour. We got used to having the bank manager play the cello, for instance, and we wouldn’t be happy having that character play a different instrument in another production. A character named Baruska has to play the accordion because it fits who she is. We found amazing actors, but it took bloody ages. The good thing is Steven won’t compromise, I won’t compromise, and Martin won’t compromise, so if one of us vetoes an actor, then that’s it.”


Lowe: “John, Steven, and I dig in our heels for our own department, and we fight for our own department like you’ve never seen three grown men fight. If you get into the show, it’s because all three of us love you and you’re brilliant at all three skills. None of us would compromise, none of us would back down. I’ve never seen this happen on any other show I’ve worked on. In musicals – and I’m guilty of this – if the director or the choreographer really loves somebody and they’re not the greatest singer, I’ll go, ‘Oh, fine. You can have them. I’ve got other good singers.’ But there are only a few people onstage in Once, so you can’t hide. If you can’t play the piano or the guitar or the violin, there’s nothing we can do with you. Similarly, Enda’s text is really difficult to do, so you’ve got to be a good actor. And Steven’s choreography looks easy, but it’s very skillful.”   

SUCCESS 

Why do you think Once has been so successful as both a film and as a stage musical?


Tiffany: “I think what’s very moving about the piece is how sometimes we meet people who we don’t necessarily stay with forever, but they give us the resources to move on to the next part of our life. There’s something very truthful in that. People have said to me, ‘When I was sitting in the theater watching Once, I felt like was watching it with everyone I’ve ever loved, whether or not they’re still in my life.’”

ONCE will be at ASU Gammage April 29- May 4 for details or for tickets visit asugammage.com. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

ASU Gammage Wants Community Photos For Their 50th Anniversary



ASU Gammage will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in September 2014, and as part of the preparations for the anniversary celebration, ASU Gammage needs photos from patrons since its doors opened in 1964. Pictures can be emailed to memories@asugammage.com.
For nearly 50 years, ASU Gammage has been a top cultural destination in the Valley. The Frank Lloyd Wright designed performing arts center located on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University is one of the largest university-based presenters of performing arts in the world and top touring market for Broadway. Home to the Broadway Across America – Arizona and BEYOND series, the mission of Connecting CommunitiesTM goes beyond the stage and the programs and impacts the community through shared experiences in the arts
“If you or your family has pictures of fond memories of seeing a performance at ASU Gammage from its construction up until today, please share them with us,” says Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage. “We have some exciting ways to share these photos with the community during our 50th anniversary celebration.”
Hard copies of photos can also be taken to the ASU Gammage Box office,during regular business hours.
For more information about ASU Gammage and our 50th Anniversary please visit www.asugammage.com


Monday, March 17, 2014

ASU GAMMAGE ANNOUNCES 2014-2015 50th ANNIVERSARY BROADWAY SEASON

ASU GAMMAGE ANNOUNCES 2014-2015 50th ANNIVERSARY BROADWAY SEASON

ASU Gammage has announced its 2014/2015 Broadway Across America –Arizona season which marks the 50th Anniversary of ASU Gammage and in celebration ASU Gammage is bringing a season of the hottest shows on Broadway and the biggest blockbusters to ever grace our stage. Hot new Award-winning shows direct from Broadway include 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical winner  KINKY BOOTS, PIPPIN, MOTOWN and Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA!

 The season also features the return of JOESPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT and London’s newest smash hit DIRTY DANCING. A brand new tour of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA returns to ASU Gammage to bring all the opulence and grandeur of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece.

 The 2014-2015 Season ends with six weeks of Arizona’s most "popular" musical WICKED. Season Subscribers get first opportunity before the general public to purchase tickets to this fan favorites!

In its 24th season, the Broadway Across America – Arizona series at ASU Gammage has the largest theatrical subscription series in the state of Arizona and one of the most successful Broadway series in the country. Current subscribers can renew their subscriptions starting April 18. New subscriptions go on sale May 13. ASU Gammage Subscribers get the best seats at the best price. Additionally, Season Subscribers get exclusive benefits, including flexible payment and ticket exchange options, advance purchase opportunities and more!

 KINKY BOOTS, September 16-21, 2014
KINKY BOOTS is the exhilarating Broadway musical that will lift your spirits to new high-heeled heights! Winner of six Tony Awards® including BEST MUSICAL, this inspirational story follows a struggling shoe factory owner who works to turn his business around with help from Lola, a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos. Together, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible… proving that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world. Inspired by a true story, KINKY BOOTS features a joyous, Tony-winning score by CYNDI LAUPER, direction and Tony-winning choreography by JERRY MITCHELL and a hilarious, uplifting book by four-time Tony winner HARVEY FIERSTEIN. Come join the sold-out audiences who’ve discovered why – sometimes – the best way to fit in is to stand out!“THERE IS NO SHOW HOTTER THAN KINKY BOOTS." – CBS News

PIPPIN, December 2-7, 2014
PIPPIN is back on Broadway for the first time since it thrilled audiences 40 years ago… the show the New York Times declared “ASTONISHING. A PIPPIN FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.” It won the Tony Award for BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL! With a beloved score by Tony nominee STEPHEN SCHWARTZ (GODSPELL, WICKED), PIPPIN tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. Will he choose a happy but simple life? Or will he risk everything for a singular flash of glory. This captivating new production is directed by Tony winner DIANE PAULUS (HAIR and THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY AND BESS). It features sizzling choreography in the style of BOB FOSSE and breathtaking acrobatics by LES 7 DOIGTS DE LA MAIN, the creative force behind the nationwide sensation TRACES.

 JOSEPH AND THE TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, January 13-18, 2015
One of the most enduring shows of all time, Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber’s JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT is the irresistible family musical about the trials and triumphs of Joseph, Israel’s favorite son. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award®-winner Andy Blankenbuehler, this new production will feature Broadway/television star Diana DeGarmo (9 to 5, Hairspray, Hair) as The Narrator and Broadway star Ace Young (Grease, Hair) as Joseph. Retelling the Biblical story of Joseph, his eleven brothers and the coat of many colors, this magical musical is full of unforgettable songs including “Those Canaan Days,” “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door.” Subscribe today and be part of the magic!

DIRTY DANCING, February 17-22, 2015
DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE is an unprecedented live experience, exploding with heart-pounding music, passionate romance, and sensational dancing. Seen by millions across the globe, this worldwide smash hit tells the classic story of Baby and Johnny, two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds who come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives. Featuring the hit songs, “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and the heart-stopping “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life. ” London’s Sunday Express says, “This crowd-pleasing stage adaptation hits the jackpot!” Don’t miss your chance to see this record-breaking live theatre sensation. You’ll have the time of your life!

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA, March 10-15, 2015
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA is the Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical from the creators of The Sound of Music and South Pacific that’s delighting audiences with its contemporary take on the classic tale. This lush production features an incredible orchestra, jaw-dropping transformations and all the moments you love — the pumpkin, the glass slipper, the masked ball and more — plus some surprising new twists! Be transported back to your childhood as you rediscover some of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s most beloved songs, including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible” and “Ten Minutes Ago,” in this hilarious and romantic Broadway experience for anyone who’s ever had a wish, a dream... or a really great pair of shoes.

 MOTOWN, April 21-26, 2015
“MORE THAN A BROADWAY SHOW. A CELEBRATION OF MUSIC THAT TRANSFORMED AMERICA!” – CBS Sunday Morning. It began as one man's story… became everyone's music… and is now Broadway's musical. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more. Motown shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made us all move to the same beat. Featuring classic songs such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” experience the story behind the music in the record-breaking smash hit MOTOWN THE MUSICAL!

 THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, May 27- June 7, 2015
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s international award-winning phenomenon directed by Harold Prince has woven its magical spell over standing room audiences in more than 100 cities worldwide. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the longest running show in Broadway history, now returns to Tempe to take your breath away. It’s a timeless story of seduction and despair and the one show The London Sunday Times called “God’s gift to the musical theatre.”

 SPECIAL ENGAGEMENTS:
 CHICAGO, March 27-29, 2015
A true New York City institution, CHICAGO has everything that makes Broadway great: a universal tale of fame, fortune and all that jazz; one show-stopping-song after another; and the most astonishing dancing you’ve ever seen. No wonder CHICAGO has been honored with 6 Tony Awards®, 2 Olivier Awards®, a Grammy® and thousands of standing ovations.  Whether you’re looking for your first Broadway musical, whether you’ve seen the Academy Award®-winning film and want to experience the show live on stage or whether you’ve seen it before and want to recapture the magic, CHICAGO always delivers.


WICKED, August 26-October 4, 2015
Variety calls WICKED “a cultural phenomenon,” and it continues to break box office records across North America. Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the land of Oz. One — born with emerald green skin— is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Goodmakes for “the most complete — and completely satisfying — musical in a long time” (USA Today)