Instead of a biographical play about Pac's life, the musical - written by Todd Kreidler, with choreography from Wayne Cilento and music supervision by Daryl Waters - will use Tupac's music to tell the story of two Midwest men and their severed friendship, Leon said in a recent interview with Melissa Ruggieri of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"One of those men spends some time in prison and comes out and wants to change his neighborhood and finds that he really can't change it alone," Leon said. "It's a family story, a love story. If you can, imagine four or five men onstage singing 'Dear Mama,' and what that will sound like. Hopefully, it will change the world."
Leon reportedly worked with Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, who serves as a producer but allowed Leon to oversee creative direction.
As for the challenge of translating Tupac's "thug life" vision to Broadway, Leon seems sold on the universality of Pac. The director, who's resume includes extensive productions from August Wilson's 20th-century play cycle and Broadway revivals of such classics as Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun (which starred rap impresario Sean Combs), fell in love with Pac's music about a year before the rapper's 1996 death.
He considers this play, which has been in development for three years, "the greatest artistic challenge" of his life. That's largely because he intends to judge the success of the play on its ability to convey Pac's artistic depth to a broader audience than the one the rapper reached in life, he says.
"If you're over 50, you weren't right in Tupac's group. But what I'm saying to those people is, all those things you think you hate - black, violence, blood - whatever kept you away from his music, pull that back now and see it's a mountain of beauty," Leon said. "I want every white older American to get it. I want every older black American to get it. I want every hip-hop artist to get it. I want every 15-year-old to get it. If you can write something that touches every one of those groups, we have been successful."
By the way, I should mention that this person turns 11 years old this month. That shouldn't minimize the invention, scale and sheer fun of The Navigator, but could provide some perspective on its origins and goals. Director Michael Haverty adapted The Navigator from Eoin McNamee's Young Adult novel of the same name. Judging from the theatrical version, the material presents a Joseph Campbell-style hero's journey, following in the footsteps of the likes of Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and other youthful protagonists of pop culture. With 7 Stages' Navigator, the specifics of what happen prove less important than how they're presented.
Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney is among the 24 MacArthur fellows announced yesterday, better known as the "Genius Grant." McCraney is the author of the play Choir Boy, currently at the Alliance Theatre through Oct. 13. He's from Miami, but his Atlanta roots go back to 2007, when he won the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition for his script In the Red and Brown Water. Check out Andrew Alexander's recent conversation with McCraney for more about his life and work.
The reliably inventive and amusing writer of All in the Timing struggled to craft a compelling theatrical adaptation of Venus in Fur, an 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The book's portrayal of erotically-charged submission and dominance led to the coining of the term "masochism" to the chagrin of its author. Ives' attempts at conventional adaptation proved lifeless until he came up with a meta-theatrical, modern-day take on the material, which receives a compelling, at times hilarious production at Actor's Express.
Comparable to a Charlie Kaufman script, Venus in Fur presents a playwright and director named Thomas Novachek (Adam Fristoe) who has scripted his own take on Sacher-Masoch and seeks to find the perfect actress for the role of Vanda, a Polish aristocrat turned dominatrix. One dark and stormy night finds Thomas at the end of a day of failed auditions, and he's about to go meet his fiancé when in barges a frazzled young actress (Veronika Duerr) who claims to be perfect for the part since she's also named "Vanda."
It was in 1953 at the Théâtre de Babylone in Paris where not much first happened. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first theatrical production of Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, the absurdist classic now famous for (spolier alert?) the non-arrival of its title character.
Though the show was created on the thinnest of shoestrings (a suitcase carried by the character Lucky was literally pulled from the trash) and early reviews were mixed (at one performance, the curtain had to brought down due to the din of derisive hoots and whistles from the audience), the play has since gone on to be understood as one of the greatest and most significant works of art of the 20th century.
Atlanta productions of Beckett's plays are somewhat rare, so we were excited and curious to hear that a new company we'd never heard of will be performing Godot this weekend at Fabrefaction Theatre in West Midtown to mark the occasion of the play's 60th year. We caught up with the artists of "Fulham and Clapham Present" to ask a few questions about what they have planned.
The former warehouse on Elizabeth Street first provided a home to Actor's Express in August 1989. When the Express relocated to the King Plow Arts Center in the mid '90s, the playhouse became home to Dad's Garage, a scrappy young company that emphasized improv and plays that appealed to young adults. The area's recent gentrification inspired Dad's landlord to sell the property after 18 years.
The playhouse's final scripted production, Dementia Juice, teams Dad's Garage artistic director Kevin Gillese and puppeteer/7 Stages associate artistic director Michael Haverty. Dementia Juice was already in the works when Dad's Garage struck a deal to make 7 Stages the company's interim home while looking for a permanent space. In their curtain speech at Dementia Juice's opening night, Gillese and Haverty joked that they're going to be roommates. Dementia Juice provides both artists with a chance to play to their strengths - Gillese's high-energy approach to pop culture and Haverty's wildly inventive puppetry - to give the Inman Park playhouse an entertaining, exhausting send-off.
7 Stages Theatre closed its 35th season with Curious Encounters, an interactive festival of performances by local ensemble groups, stationed from the front sidewalk, throughout the theatre, and into the back parking lot. Artistic Director Heidi Howard along with Associate Artistic Director and show curator Michael Haverty talk with CL about the power of space, the heckling bathroom attendants' true identities, and how many stages really do exist inside the theatre.
You have groups performing in the parking lot, black box, main stage, stairs, lobby, and on the sidewalk. Where is the seventh stage?
Heidi Howard: The bathroom. [7 Stages Founders] Del [Hamilton] and Faye [Allen] really wanted to create this idea because overseas, every theatre company has really interactive coffee shop or bar. And they always have the bathroom attendants. And so, in Curious Encounters they very much played off of all of these characters that we've interacted with. Always wanting the money, getting in your way, talking in funny languages. They just had a really fun time with it. [7 Stages staff] all wear many hats as a responsibility anyway, we're always cleaning up the bathroom or whatever we have to do.
Despite its thrilling adventure scenes and unforgettable characters, Moby-Dick can resist adaptation, its sprawling, allegorical narrative prone to long digressions on the procedures of 19th century whaling. The bold, environmental theater of young Atlanta company Saïah delivers a remarkable theatrical spectacle that evokes the texture of Melville's book, even though the staging introduces new challenges.
The sword-wielding, Z-obsessed freedom fighter has undergone multiple pop-culture iterations over the years, but began with a serialized pulp novel in 1919. Frequently set in the pueblo of Los Angeles in the early 19th century, Zorro follows the derring-do of a dashing swordsman who helps secure Mexico's independence from Spain. Zorro's Mexican exploits easily intertwine with the flamenco music traditions of Spain, which the Gipsy Kings popularized with pop inflections beginning in the late '80s (even though many of the group's original members were born in France).
At times Zorro, based on a book and lyrics by Stephen Clark, seems to take a roundabout way to incorporate gypsy characters in the story, but the musical provides such an abundance of impassioned melodies and thrilling stage effects that complaints about its contrivances and lack of substance seem beside the point.
Actor's Express' compelling production finds Equus to be at once dated and ahead of its time. Shaffer's script remains a thrilling psychological detective story, with thought-provoking stagecraft that challenges theater artists and audiences alike. As the years pass, however, Equus's themes gallop off further and further afield.
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