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New Plays Push Boundaries at STAGESTheater

Categories: Culture, Theater

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A lusty chorus of huzzahs to STAGES Theatre! The county's longest-running storefront (going on 20-plus years) has chosen two new, or relatively unfamiliar, plays to local audiences, to begin 2015. And why should you give a shit? Well, new plays mean new voices, new stories. And while the umpeenth production of Dial M for Murder or the Pirates of Penzance might be great for a theater's bottom-line, it does absolutely nothing to grow the medium, or to suggest why people who aren't already into it should care in the slightest.

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'The Whipping Man' Shows a Side of the Civil War South You've Never Seen

Categories: Culture, Theater

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Courtesy South Coast Repertory
Cast of the Whipping Man (left to right): Adam Haas Hunter,Charlie Robinson and Jarrod M. Smith
Wait a minute: there were Jews, real, live, Torah-reading Jews in the Confederate states in the Civil War, many of whom actually fought FOR the South? And some of these Jews had slaves who were raised Jewish and actually considered themselves Jews?
Matthew Lopez' play, The Whipping Man may sound like a piece of historical speculative fiction, but it's based on true accounts of people like Judah Benjamin, a prominent Louisiana lawyer who was the first Jew ever elected to the U.S. Senate and who also served as the Confederacy's secretary of state.


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Straight Outta Broadway: Three Musical Theater Events Coming to Orange County

Categories: Culture, Theater

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Jeff Skowron and Timothy Hughes in Big Fish.

Love, despise or just don't give a general damn about them, musicals continue to reign supreme in American theater. They get the most attention, the most butts in seats per venue, and are pretty much what most god-fearing Americans care about when it comes to theater.

And if you're a fan of the bright lights and the (mostly) thin ideas of big, boffo Broadway musicals, you're in the right place for the next couple of weeks -- Orange County. From Big Fish to Pippin to Stephen Sondheim, here's three Broadway shows or events happening in OC, or right next door, this week:


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Beat Theatre Brings Experimental Film + Beats to the Frida Tonight with Santa Sangre

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Antonio Brown/ Courtesy Tony Damico
Gabonano scoring The Shining with fresh beats
The aural, visual experience of a Beat Theatre show is unlike your typical cinematic live re-scoring event. You take a classic art house/avant garde film and pair it with the sounds of original beats made by underground beat producers, and you get a hypnotic, ultra-sensory experience that connects sight, sound, and mind.

While the beat scene remains fairly under the radar from its mainstream-EDM counterparts, local beat artists consider Beat Theatre to be a space for inspiration and connectivity to other artists, while for the performers themselves it's a place to give their bedroom compositions some exposure.

Dating back to 2013 in Long Beach, Beat Theatre shows have always taken place at smaller venues like houses, cultural centers and dive bars, but tonight they'll be making their actual theater debut at the Frida Cinema in Santa Ana with a grand pairing of the 1989 Alejandro Jodorowsky film Santa Sangre, featuring the musical talents of DJs Afta 1, AshTreJinkins, Eludem, Gabonano, and Memesy.

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How Could 'War of the Worlds' Be Such a Bore?

Categories: Culture, Theater

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It's hard to tell if the actors in War of the Worlds: The Radio Play are pretending to be radio actors afraid of a Martian invasion of Earth, or if they are real actors fighting boredom. Whatever the case, they're losing either battle.

The mother of all mass media hoaxes, the effects of Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre actors' 1938 radio performance of H.G. Wells 1898 sci-fi classic, while sensationalized by the newspapers of the time, certainly showed the power of that mass media. While there was nothing like the widespread panic in the streets of America we commonly associate with the event, there were enough people who believed the entirely fictitious performance that the Federal Communications Commission seriously considered mandating that all radio programming be reviewed by government censors before broadcast.


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This Epic Production Refuses to Let Audiences Stay in One Place

Categories: Culture, Theater

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Call it the most ambitious theater initiative in Orange County history. The most striking community outreach in Orange County cultural history. An ode to the turbulent, dense, culturally diverse city of Santa Ana.

It's all those things, but in its premiere performance,The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy is also something else: realllllly long.

Clocking it at about two hours and 40 minutes (about twice the time listed in the program) the length isn't terminal. There's enough going on in this movable feast--from dance and music to puppets and video projections--to hold your interest. But considering the audience is split into four groups and travels across a good chunk of Santa Ana's civic center to four site-specific areas, where four scenes are enacted, there's an awful lot of moving and standing around (unless you were one of the lucky few to get the memo to bring your own folding chair).

Then again, when a play takes a year to write, when more than nearly 1,000 people are interviewed, and their cumulative recollections and insights are distilled into a play, it's a monumental task keeping things concise.


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Elvis Makes a Triumphant Return to the Maverick Theater

Categories: Culture, Theater

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Courtesy of the Maverick Theater

Elvis 68
Maverick Theater
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It may not be completely accurate to say The King is the play that built the Maverick Theater. After all, there have been other shows at the Fullerton space since Brian Newell's homage to Elvis Presley, who wakes up after decades of cyrogenic slumber, first opened.
But since then, Newell has staged the play about 6,000 times (well, really just seven or eight or maybe it's 50) and it's continued to lure huge crowds in every incarnation.
And, now, Elvis is back at the Maverick. But there's no concern that Newell will kill any golden geese with this one. His new Elvis homage is Elvis '68, a staged version of Presley's landmark 1968 comeback concert, which re-introduced a nation of fans to the sexualized, edgy and downright interesting Elvis that years of whoring his talents in stupid movies had diluted.

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Ghost Road Keeps Thoughtful Productions Light On Their Feet

Categories: Culture, Theater

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Patti McGuire
As Katherine Noon, artistic director of the Los Angeles-based theater troupe Ghost Road Company, says, South Coast Repertory's Studio SCR series is unique in Southern California:
"There is nothing else like it in Southern California," Noon says of the series, which brings smaller, alternative companies into SCR's intimate Nicholas Studio for weekend runs. "This major cultural institution putting time and money into new, innovative local work is such a boon to the theatrical community here."
Ghost Road's offering is The Bargain and the Butterfly, an ensemble-driven work based on a Nathanial Hawthorne short story that the company's website calls "a beautifully haunting new play, which explores the delicate intersection between genius and madness."

We caught up with Noon, who directs and developed the show in collaboration with her ensemble, and asked some deeply probing questions about one of the more interesting troupes in the greater Los Angeles area, which was founded in 1993 by fellow students at the California Institute of the Art's.


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Lightwire Theater Brings Us Puppets, Ballet and High-Tech Wizardry

Categories: Culture, Theater

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Most of us have seen some kind of puppet show. One or two may have seen a ballet show. But we've all turned on a light or two in our time. Lightwire Theater does all three. The troupe, which has performed across the world and nearly won the 2012 season of "America's Got Talent," brings its unique blend of very different art forms to Costa Mesa for three shows this weekend.

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'The Laramie Project' High School Production Gets the Boot in Fullerton

Categories: Culture, Theater

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Tim Chesnut

Four years ago, Fred Phelps, the now banished (and the God-who-Hates-Fags-willing soon to be dead) founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, announced plans to boycott a Santa Ana staging of The Laramie Project, an oral history project turned play that documented the events surrounding the 1998 killing of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming and, most important, the repercussions in that university town two years later.

It's doubtful that Dr. George Giokaris, the superintendent of the Fullerton Union High School District, shares Phelps' views, but, apparently, he's got something against Troy High School producing the play, because he's put the kibosh on a production.

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