Tag Archives: Minneapolis

‘On the Spectrum’: A Love Story with a Difference

Virginia Newcomb & Dan Shaked

Virginia Newcomb and Dan Shaked

“As with all great love stories, there are obstacles,” says Jacqueline Schultz, director of the West Coast premiere of Ken LaZebnik‘s play “On the Spectrum,” now playing to terrific reviews at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles. Quirky and unexpected, “On the Spectrum’ is a love story with a difference; in LaZebnik’s award-winning play, an online e-chat blossoms into a  courtship between two young people with autism. “Ken’s play is original, charming and moving.”

Jacqueline Schultz

Jacqueline Schultz

Schultz is an award-winning actress and a theater director at The Help Group’s Summit View School for students with learning differences. The Help Group is the largest and most innovative nonprofit of its kind in the U.S. serving children with autism, learning differences and other special needs. She was immediately drawn to the project. “Theater is about all of those things that help children learn,” says Schultz. “The art form has a special way of helping autistic children learn because it helps kids discover how to act together with others.”

In LaZebnik’s play, Mac has Asperger’s, and Iris is autistic. Many people on the autism spectrum take pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world. Mac (Dan Shaked), whose mother Elizabeth (Jeanie Hackett) provided years of mainstreaming and therapy, passes as “typical.” He connects online with Iris (Virginia Newcomb), an activist who proudly champions her autism as a difference, not a disorder. A relationship quickly forms between the two.

“The play demonstrates how technology has allowed the characters to communicate what’s inside, rather than be judged on the outside,” says Schultz.

Dan Shaked & Jeanie Hackett

Dan Shaked and Jeanie Hackett

“Part of the love story is a mother’s love for her son,” says LaZebnik. “His mother has been his guardian and shield, his whole life. The potential of him going off with this girl obviously is hard for her, and it’s hard for him to contemplate leaving her.”

“Iris has an opinion. Elizabeth has an opinion. Mac bridges both of those worlds,” says Schultz. “Ken does a great a job of breaking down the myths about autism and autistic people. They can feel. They can fall in love. They can get actively involved in their own community.”

“I would love it,” LaZebnik says, “if people saw these characters as just two unique human beings who fall in love.”

Ken LaZebnik

Ken LaZebnik

Winner of a 2012 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award citation and a 2011 Edgerton Foundation New American Play award, “On the Spectrum” was commissioned by Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, where artistic director Jack Reuler directed the premiere as part of the Center of the Margins Festival. Ken LaZebnik has written two other plays about autism: Vestibular Sense, which also premiered at Mixed Blood, was honored with an award from the American Theatre Critic’s Association at the Humana Festival in Louisville; and Theory of Mind, commissioned for young audiences by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, has also been produced in Minnesota, Hawaii and Michigan, and was published by Dramatic Publishing.

Schultz has worked as a theater director/educator with learning disabled students for over 12 years. As a professional actress, she was recently seen at the Fountain in the U.S. premiere of Athol Fugard’s “The Blue Iris.”

Ken LaZebnik’s “On the Spectrum” is earning wonderful reviews and is currently running at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles through April 28.

Reposted  from  The Imitated Life.

On the Spectrum Now to April 28 (323) 663-1525  MORE

Finding Love ‘On the Spectrum’

Virginia Newcomb & Dan Shaked

Virginia Newcomb and Dan Shaked

by Steven Sabel

“It’s all a very personal saga for me,” says playwright Ken LaZebnik.

He’s speaking about his play On The Spectrum. It was commissioned by Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, where artistic director Jack Reuler directed the 2011 premiere as part of the Center of the Margins Festival. Then it tied for second place in last year’s competition for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award.

On the Spectrum is LaZebnik’s third dramatic work dealing with issues surrounding autism, and his passion for the subject derives from his personal connection to the disorder.

Ken LaZebnik

Ken LaZebnik

Having two nephews and a niece diagnosed with autism has opened his eyes to autism in a way that provides a firsthand perspective on those who fall “on the spectrum,” he says.

Jacqueline Schultz calls it a perfect fit for her. She’s directing a production of LaZebnik’s play for the Fountain Theatre, opening Saturday. The award-winning actress and director has also worked for more than 12 years as a theater director and educator with special needs students.

“Theater is about all of those things that help children learn,” says Schultz. The art form has a special way of helping autistic children learn because it “helps kids discover how to act together with others,” she says.

The overriding theme of the play can be found in the term from which LaZebnik selected his title. People who exhibit a range of behaviors associated with autism and Asperger’s syndrome are said to be “on the spectrum.” Schultz says it is a vague term that cannot be truly defined.

“This whole phrase of ‘on the spectrum’ is so broad, and includes so many things. I mean we’re all ‘on the spectrum’ in some way. Every artist I know is somewhere ‘on the spectrum’,” says Schultz with a laugh.

LaZebnik agrees that the term is all too encompassing, and says his play is meant to bring attention to a growing movement in the autistic community that seeks to find greater acceptance of those who exhibit behaviors that fall somewhere on the spectrum. The movement includes a fundamental change in terminology in referring to autism as a “difference,” rather than a disability.

“It is about the very inherent conflict of do you try to engage fully in the neuro-typical world, or say to the world — ‘I’m different. Deal with me on my terms’,” LaZebnik says.

Jacqueline Schultz

Jacqueline Schultz

“It’s about this other way of looking at it — a different way of thinking,” says Schultz.

Modern technology has helped paved the way for the growing movement for change. The increasing number of websites, blogs, and chat rooms created for and by people with autism “have joined people from all over the world in a community of like others who can relate to each other,” says LaZebnik. “The technological revolution has liberated people.”

Email communication and the invention of communicative devices, such as the Proloquo, have helped autistic people overcome many aspects of autism that interfere with their ability to engage in social interaction. It also eliminates many of the “gray areas” of human communication, such as sarcastic tones, facial expressions, and physical gestures, that are often difficult to interpret by people with autistic symptoms, according to LaZebnik.

The play attempts to capture this facet of communication between its autistic characters through the use of multimedia aspects of the production, including audio voice-overs and video screens.

“The play demonstrates how technology has allowed the characters to communicate what’s inside, rather than be judged on the outside,” says Schultz.

At the crux of the matter is a basic civil rights issue, say supporters of the movement. But LaZebnik says his play is designed “not to advocate, but just to demonstrate.”

Schultz says the play adequately “addresses the movement in a public manner.”

“The way in which people with autism and Asperger’s are portrayed in this script is very different” from most previous treatments of the subject, she says.

A Love Story

At the heart of the play is a love story between its two central characters. Iris (Virginia Newcomb) suffers from severe communicative difficulties due to her autism, but she finds a voice through technology and becomes an online activist in the movement for acceptance. Mac (Dan Shaked), whose mother Elizabeth (Jeanie Hackett) has provided him with years of mainstreaming and therapy, passes as “typical” in the world. When Mac and Iris meet online, a relationship develops that challenges Elizabeth’s hopes for her son, while raising questions about the definition of “normal.”

Dan Shaked and Virginia Newcomb.

Dan Shaked and Virginia Newcomb

“Iris has an opinion. Elizabeth has an opinion. Mac bridges both of those worlds,” says Schultz.

LaZebnik says that watching the struggles of his eldest nephew to have a relationship was an impetus for the love story component of the play. “I started thinking, ‘what is his world like?’ So I took this conflict of outlooks and layered it into a love story,” he says.

Schultz says the play “does a great a job of breaking down the myths about autism and autistic people. They can feel. They can fall in love. They can get actively involved in their own community,” she says.

“Part of the love story is a mother’s love for her son,” says LaZebnik. Elizabeth struggles with letting go of her expectations for Mac in favor of allowing him to become his own person. Mac struggles with letting go of those expectations as well.

“His mother has been his guardian and shield, his whole life. The potential of him going off with this girl obviously is hard for her, and it’s hard for him to contemplate leaving her,” says LaZebnik.

Finding a resolution in the ending was his most difficult challenge in writing the play, he says. “We went through some different options, but oddly enough we went back to the original ending.”

Choosing the Right Cast

The writer and director both agree that casting the play is a difficult part of the process of bringing it to the stage. Finding the right actors to portray autistic characters is a challenging facet of the piece. The premiere production in Minneapolis brought in an autistic woman to play the role of Iris, a concept that Schultz entertained during casting for her production.

Dan Shaked and Jeanie Hackett.

Jeanie Hackett and Dan Shaked

“I tried an agency that specializes in special needs actors, but it just didn’t fit,” she says.

Casting the role of Mac was the biggest struggle in the process. “It was a very extended search to find this person who is the right Mac,” says LaZebnik.

Working from a stack of resumes, Schultz called the best people in for the first round of auditions. “But it just didn’t walk in the room,” she says.

Looking for a distinct physicality, paired with the talent she sought to match her vision for the role, sent her back to the drawing board to consider additional options.

“I didn’t want to settle, so we went back [to the resumes] until we found Dan,” she says.

Early preparation included watching a lot of videos and reading multiple books about autism.

“As an actor, you try to look at what the symptoms are of the diagnosis, but there’s no blood test. It’s diagnosis by behavior, so you have this wide variety and combinations of behaviors. ‘On the spectrum’ is what they say when they don’t know what else to say,” says Schultz.

Schultz took her cast members to the school where she teaches to observe the behavior of her students, and together they also attended a high school dance to watch special needs students socially interact with one another.

“If you’re going to do a play, you have to have a concept of how you see it, but I go into rehearsal as a collaborator. It’s a collaborative art,” she says.

A shortened rehearsal schedule has also been a challenge to overcome, especially in dealing with the play’s many technical aspects, Schultz says.

“This is a tech-heavy show. It’s always a challenge getting what you’ve done in the rehearsal room to connect with the tech in actuality,” says Schultz.

Dan Shaked

Dan Shaked

The collaborative work includes video design by Jeffrey Elias Teeter and sound design byPeter Bayne as part of the effort to illustrate the central question — disability or difference?

“I don’t know that the play answers the question as much as it asks the question,” says Schultz.

“I tried presenting both sides in as intelligent a way as possible,” says LaZebnik.

Nonetheless, LaZebnik says the ultimate message of the play comes through Mac’s character in the end. “I certainly, at the end of the play, have Mac embrace who he is. Authenticity of self is what trumps everything — self-awareness,” he says.

Schultz says she hopes audiences have a similar reaction to the play that she has had.

“It’s humbled me in the sense that these parts are so difficult to play, and it has introduced me to a new way of viewing this community, and I thank it for that, because I think it’s a good thing,” says Schultz.

“I would love it,” LaZebnik says, “if people saw these characters as just two unique human beings who fall in love.”

Steven Sabel writes for LA Stage Times.

On the Spectrum March 16 – April 28  (323) 663-1525   MORE

This production is sponsored, in part, by The Help Group.

Coming Up Next at the Fountain: ‘On the Spectrum’ is Not Your (Neuro)Typical Love Story

SPECTRUM_postcard_front FINAL

Mac has Asperger’s. Iris is autistic. Jacqueline Schultz directs Jeanie Hackett,Virginia Newcomb and Dan Shaked in the West Coast premiere of a funny, touching and unconventional romance. On the Spectrum by Ken LaZebnik opens at The Fountain Theatre on March 16.

Quirky and unexpected, On the Spectrum is a love story with a difference. In LaZebnik’s award-winning play, an online e-chat blossoms into a heartfelt courtship between two exceptional young people with autism.

Schultz is an award-winning actress and a theater director at The Help Group’s Summit View School for students with learning differences. The Help Group is the largest and most innovative nonprofit of its kind in the U.S. serving children with autism, learning differences and other special needs. She was immediately drawn to the project.

“As with all great love stories, there are obstacles,” Schultz says. “Ken’s play is original, charming and moving.”

Many people on the autism spectrum take pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world. In On the Spectrum, Mac (Shaked), whose mother (Hackett) provided years of mainstreaming and therapy, passes as “typical.” He connects online with Iris (Newcomb), an activist who proudly champions her autism as a difference, not a disorder.

Dan Shaked and Virginia Newcomb in "On the Spectrum"

Dan Shaked and Virginia Newcomb

Winner of a 2012 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award citation and a 2011 Edgerton Foundation New American Play award, On the Spectrum was commissioned by Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, where artistic director Jack Reuler directed the premiere as part of the Center of the Margins Festival. Ken LaZebnik has written two other plays about autism: Vestibular Sense, which also premiered at Mixed Blood, was honored with an award from the American Theatre Critic’s Association at the Humana Festival in Louisville; and Theory of Mind, commissioned for young audiences by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, has also been produced in Minnesota, Hawaii and Michigan, and was published by Dramatic Publishing.

Ken LaZebnik’s other plays include a new book for the musical Babes in Arms, Garland Wright’s last production at the Guthrie Theater; the comedy, Sink Eating, which premiered at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles; and an adaptation of The Odyssey which the off-off-Broadway ensemble DearKnows, where he was a founding member, toured for Lincoln Center Institute. Mixed Blood Theatre premiered his baseball play League of Nations, and commissioned and produced both Harlem Renaissance Revue and the one-man play Calvinisms. For film, LaZebnik wrote the screenplay for Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage, which starred Peter O’Toole and Marcia Gay Harden, and, together with Garrison Keillor, co-wrote director Robert Altman’s last film, A Prairie Home Companion. LaZebnik has a long history of writing for Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” radio show. For television, he has written series as varied as ProvidenceStar Trek: Enterprise, The Paula Poundstone Show and Jack’s Place, and he was a writer/producer on Touched by an Angel for eight years.

Jacqueline Schultz has worked as a theater director/educator with learning disabled students for over 12 years. As a professional actress, Schultz has been seen at the Fountain in the U.S. premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Blue Iris; the Ovation-winning After the Fall; The Road to Mecca; The Night of the Iguana; The Darker Face of the Earth; Fighting Over Beverley (L.A. Weekly Award); Duet for One (Ovation Award nomination, Best Actress); Ashes (Drama-Logue Award); The Golden Gate (Drama-Logue Award); and Orpheus Descending. She reprised her role from the Fountain’s Los Angeles premiere of Lee Blessing’s Going to St. Ives (Best Actress nomination, NAACP Theater Award) for the International Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Other theater credits include Park Your Car in Harvard YardTo Kill a Mockingbird and Awake and Sing! at International City Theatre; the West Coast premiere of String of Pearls at both the Road Theatre Company and the Santa Barbara Theatre; the world premiere of Open Window at the Pasadena Playhouse; and Sorrows and Rejoicings at the Mark Taper Forum.

Jeanie Hackett

Jeanie Hackett

Jeanie Hackett (Elisabeth) has been seen on Broadway in A Streetcar Named Desire (Circle in the Square) and Ah, Wilderness (Roundabout); Off-Broadway in new plays at Soho Rep, the Promenade and the Clurman Theater; on L.A. stages in Arms and The Man, How the Other Half Loves, Present Laughter (Pasadena Playhouse); Old Times (South Coast Rep); The Vagina Monologues (Cannon); The Greeks (Odyssey); Phaedra(Getty Villa); The Seagull (Matrix); Kate Crackernuts (24th Street); Light, Pera Palas (Theatre @ Boston Court);Tonight at 8:30The Autumn Garden (Antaeus); and in a variety of roles with L.A. Theatre Works. Regional: Tennessee Williams’ Vieux Carre, leading roles in Richard III, Taming of the Shrew, A Winter’s Tale, Hamlet, Cyrano de Bergerac, Uncle Vanya and over a dozen plays at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Film: The Words (with Bradley Cooper and Dennis Quaid), Take Me Home Tonight (Topher Grace), King of California(Michael Douglas) and Post Grad (Michael O’Keefe and Carol Burnett.) TV: Lie to Me, Lincoln Heights, Medium, Criminal Minds, The “L” Word, Charmed, Judging Amy (recurring) and The West Wing, playing Queen Margaret from Shakespeare’s Henry VI. As artistic director of Antaeus from 2003-2011, Jeanie led the company to its multiple award-winning first full season, including the world premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Cousin Bette, for which she won the Backstage/Garland Award for direction. She is also a former artistic director of The Classical Theater Lab.

Dan Shaked and Virginia Newcomb

Dan Shaked and Virginia Newcomb

Virginia Newcomb (Iris) was last seen at the Fountain Theatre in the West Coast premiere of the rarely-seen Tennessee Williams play, A House Not Meant to Stand. She recently co-starred on stage in The Grapes of Wrath at Knightsbridge Theatre, Sweet Bird of Youth at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre and This Property is Condemned at the Globe Playhouse. She has appeared on TV’s The Office and CSI, and can be seen in the new comedy webseries Bandmates. Virginia stars in the lead role in The Boogeyman, a feature film based on Stephen King’s short story.

Dan Shaked (Mac) is a graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts drama program and studied at The Lee Strasberg Film/Theater Institute and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. New York theater credits include Saviana Stanescu’s Waxing West at La MaMa (subsequent Europe tour), the First Irish Theater Festival (PS122), Snow Angel (directed by Lola Cohen) and Stone Cold Dead Serious (Clurman Theater). In Boston, he played the lead in Naomi Wallace’s The Fever Chart for UnderGround Railway Theater. Dan can be seen in the upcoming films The Broken, How To Follow Strangers and Jobs (opposite Ashton Kutcher); the TV movie Gilded Lilys with Blythe Danner; and he was a guest star on ABC’s Body of Proof. He played the lead role in the film Storm up the Sky, which was selected for the Tribeca Film Festival

Set design for On the Spectrum is by John Iacovelli; video design is by Jeffrey Elias Teeter; lighting design is by R. Christopher Stokes; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Naila Aladdin Sanders; prop design is by Misty Carlisle; production stage manager is Corey Womack; assistant stage manager is Terri Roberts; and Simon LevyDeborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs produce.

Housed in a charming two-story complex, the Fountain is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a nurturing, creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won over 200 awards, and is the only intimate theater to win the Ovation Award for Best Production five times. Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Highlights include In the Red and Brown Water, named “Best in Theater 2012” by the Los Angeles TimesCyrano, an adaptation of the Rostand classic for hearing and deaf actors, by Stephen Sachs; a six-month run of Bakersfield Mist, also by Sachs, optioned for London and New York; the Off-Broadway run of the Fountain’s world premiere production of Athol Fugard’s Exits and Entrances; and the making of Sachs’ Sweet Nothing in My Ear into a TV movie. The Fountain has been honored with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Los Angeles City Council for “enhancing the cultural life of Los Angeles,” and has been named as the recipient of a special award for its “Excellent Season” in 2012 by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.

On the Spectrum opens on Saturday, March 16, with performances ThursdaysFridays and Saturdays @ 8 pm andSundays @ 2 pm through April 28. Preview performances take place March 9-15 on the same schedule. Tickets are$34 (reserved seating), except previews which are $15. On Thursdays and Fridays only, seniors over 65 and students with ID are $25The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. Secure, on-site parking is available for $5. The Fountain Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 323-663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.

production photos by Ed Krieger

How Do You Define Success?

Polly Carl

Polly Carl

by Polly Carl

I’d like to save more money this year. Too much of my budget is going toward J.Crew. But part of how I justify this spending comes from how I identify success for myself. When I can get up in the morning and put on the exact right clothes to express my self, I feel like me all day and my ability to navigate the world goes up exponentially.

This feels shallow and perhaps not something to admit publicly, but it’s as true as anything else about me.

And I think this idea of digging deep or in my case, not so deep, and sorting out “success” for ourselves is perhaps the most important task any of us will face in the coming year—coming to terms with what success looks like both at the surface and down deep.

Success in Theater
I think the idea of what defines success in our field has become significantly more narrow over time, like a uniform you wear day in, day out with no allowance for personal style or taste. In fact, I might argue that what defines success has become so tedious and tiresome that new definitions of success are coming out of the closet to challenge a version that is just serving as a cover-up from my vantage point.

Tired Trajectory to Success:
Theater artist gets trained > Theater artist emerges > Theater artist gets small gigs in small theaters > Theater artist gets big gigs in small theaters > Theater artist gets small gigs in big theaters Theater artist gets big gigs in big theaters.

I realize when theater artists at the front end of that trajectory ask me for advice, I can no longer under any circumstances continue to support the tired trends of the past, hence my recent piece on the MFA question.

This journey toward success suggests many things that I find problematic for any art form:

  1. That success is linear—that becoming a successful theater artist starts at point A and moves its way down the alphabet.
  2. That the definition of success is predetermined.
  3. That success in the theater is realized by simply counting the number of people sitting in the theater who see your writing or your performance or your design—the bigger the house, the bigger the paycheck, the bigger the impact, the bigger the success.

These problems beg the question: Why? Why do we love theater? Why do we make it? Because if in fact we make it to achieve success, and success is a linear and predetermined trajectory decided by theater size, then our definition of success is the same as Wall Street’s. We are training theater artists in the same frame of success as we’re training our future “successful” business leaders—to go down a path of acquisition toward predetermined markers.

NarniaWhy Theater?
Recently, I flew to Minneapolis to see my ten-year-old nephew perform in the musical Narnia. He was one of the youngest performers, played a small bird, and had only two lines. But in talking with him after about the play, about why he loved doing it I heard about the preperformance exercises they do together, about the bonding between the older and more experienced performers and the newbies. I heard about how much he loves to sing. And I watched him after. The entire cast stood in a line in their costumes in the lobby and greeted the audience. Many young fans approached my nephew for his autograph.

I’ve paid pretty close attention to my nephew over the years, held him in my arms as a baby, was the primary babysitter for awhile, hosted him for “Aunt Camp” for a week in the summer and went to museums and ate copious amounts of ice cream with him. And I saw a transformation in him, standing in that line, greeting his audience. He had gravitas. Through several weeks of rehearsal and performance he had gone from a precocious, typically self-centered, I-want-what-I-want kid, to a gracious and more mature ten-year-old.

Fifteen years in, I keep redefining success for myself. I have been thinking since returning from Minneapolis about the immense privilege my nephew has to explore his interests and desires with the support of family and resources. And I keep thinking about what I want theater to mean for myself, my community, my family, and my world.

Gravitas
Success for me might just mean creating theater with more gravitas—a profession that has more weight and bearing in the world—by making theater in whatever way we do it, we succeed when we become more gracious and generous people.

The problem with predetermined paths to success is that for better or worse, the paths are well trodden, and the deep grooves cause us to try and find a way to make ourselves fit into something that has become ossified and unoriginal. And the truth is that not many theater artists, because they are such creative people, can make it down that predetermined road with any regularity.

And strangely, many artists who do find success on these terms don’t recognize it when they get there. I’ve met very few theater artists who will acknowledge that they’ve “made it” even though from the vantage point of those success markers, they clearly have.

Why is that? Is it because they had to make so many compromises along the way? Is it because like for those who go down the Wall Street road, there’s never enough? Never enough money? Accolades? Positive reviews? Awards? Standing Os? Like the billionaires, they’ve spent so much time in acquisition mode, they can’t stop wanting more, they can’t stop and see that at some point there is enough for them, and perhaps in a more generous world, for everyone?

Playwrights' Center

Playwrights’ Center

Clothes Can Never Make the Man
On that same trip to Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago, I stopped in at my favorite Minneapolis hangout, the Playwrights’ Center. I love that organization so much because it’s a true home for so many theater artists. I sat around with a bunch of those artists and we talked about this very issue, about how they define success for themselves. I fell into that preachy mode that I can sometimes fall into (sorry) and implored them:

  1. Spend this next year imagining your own definition of success as if it was as important as the next play you write or show you perform in. This will be your most creative endeavor, trust me.
  2. Commit to the success of at least one or two other theater artists you care about. Imagine, in the most creative way, how you can support that artist’s career. Make this part of your workday. You will learn so much about your own definition of success this way.
  3. If you haven’t created a personal ethics statement for how you will achieve your definition of success, do it. If your success is achieved on the backs of your collaborators or by breaking the backs of others, I promise you it won’t feel like success when you get there.

I’m old enough to know that clothes don’t make the man. I know that no matter how many orders I make to J.Crew, the clothes can never tell the whole story and that the surface can never stand in for the depth. If I can hold this thought long enough I might just save some money this year.

Polly Carl is the director of the Center for the Theater Commons at Emerson College, and the editor of the online journal HowlRound.

‘Cyrano’ Highlights New Play Festival at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis

“Cyrano” reading at Mixed Blood Theatre, MN.

Fountain actors Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci, director Simon Levy, and playwright Stephen Sachs were at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis last weekend to join local actors there for a reading of Cyrano, the recent smash hit Fountain co-production with Deaf West Theatre.  Cyrano was being read as part of Mixed Blood’s Center of the Margins new play festival.

The weather was cloudy in Minneapolis, a chilly 38 degrees.  The cast was lead by Kotsur and Raci, with nine local deaf and hearing actors creating the ensemble. Rehearsal time was brief. Director Levy and the cast had to work fast, quickly coordinating the complicated blending of American Sign Language, spoken English, and printed text projected on screens.

Cyrano is an  imaginative modern day retelling of the romantic classic Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand.  In this updated new deaf/hearing version, Cyrano is a brilliant deaf poet in love with a hearing woman who doesn’t know sign language.

There were two public readings of Cyrano at Mixed Blood Theatre over the weekend, on Saturday and Sunday. Mixed Blood Theatre holds 200 people and both readings were full. Audience response to the play was very enthusiastic.

Artistic Director Jack Reuler and the entire staff at Mixed Blood were wonderful hosts, welcoming the Cyrano company and making sure everything ran smoothly.

The acclaimed Fountain/Deaf West production of Cyrano earned two Ovation Award nominations: Best Lead Actor (Troy Kotsur as Cyrano) and Best New Play (playwright Stephen Sachs). The Ovation Awards will be held Monday, November 12th, in Los Angeles.

Snapshots from Cyrano Reading at Mixed Blood Theatre!

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