He appeared last Friday at a City Hall press conference, alongside Mayor Kasim Reed, to announce his involvement in the four-day run of the Broadway musical, which hits the Fox Theatre, Feb. 28-Mar. 3.
Mayor Reed, who is endorsing "Fela!" and making tickets available to city employees at a $15 discount, framed Ludacris' participation as a win-win opportunity for the city of Atlanta and the rapper/actor and burgeoning businessman, who closed down his Midtown restaurant venture Straits last year after Atlanta's City Council awarded him a concessions contract to open Chicken N Beer at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The restaurant is scheduled to open sometime in 2013.
"I know that he's an outstanding businessman," said Mayor Reed. "So for him to take his interest in his success in business and then to move into arts and culture in a way that enriches our city, it's something that we should stand behind, and that's why I'm standing right beside him."
After catching "Fela!" on Broadway last year with his daughter, Ludacris "was extremely inspired," he said when asked why he chose to back it this year. "It feels great to expand my business portfolio and become a part of Atlanta's history," he added. His main function will be to help promote the show and engage the city of Atlanta in the show's return.
The story of the Nigerian musician/activist credited with creating Afrobeat bears an inherent connection to Atlanta's legacy as the home of the civil rights movement, according to Ogugua Iwelu, chief consultant for the Broadway musical. Inspired by the movement while visiting America in 1969, Fela returned to Nigeria with the resolve to fight against political oppression at home by instilling it into his own musical movement. "'Fela!' is a show that's really about the African-American struggle," Iwelu says. "Had it not been for the struggle you guys fought here in Atlanta, Memphis and all parts of this country, we wouldn't have this Fela we're talking about."
As associate producer for the play's second Atlanta stint, Ludacris follows in the footsteps of rappers-turned-moguls Sean "Jay-Z" Carter and Will Smith, who, along with wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, produced the show's original Broadway run.
As for Ludacris and Mayor Reed, it's another collaborative effort. In 2009, Ludacris endorsed and hosted a campaign fundraiser for then-state senator and mayoral candidate Reed. And last year Luda took to Twitter on voting day to show support for the Reed-backed T-SPLOST transportation referendum, though voters ultimately rejected it.
With Bob, playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb creates a modern folk hero (Dan Triandiflou) for American road culture, like a Johnny Appleseed for the turn of the 21st century. Subtitled A Life in Five Acts, Aurora Theatre's irresistible production taps that aspect of the American spirit that longs to answer the call of the open road. Like a slideshow of the most eventful and whimsical vacation imaginable, Bob captures its protagonist's rags-to-riches life thanks to five live-wire actors and Sean Daniels' effervescent direction.
Swell Party puts in place the elements of screwball comedy but adds considerably more than that. Payne draws inspiration from the real-life mystery surrounding the death of aviator Zachary Smith Reynolds, son of the founder of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune. Swell Party also provides a mash-up of Tennessee Williams-style Southern Gothic and drawing-room whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie. Director Shannon Eubanks guides an effervescent cast between the overlapping genres, as Payne's skillfully constructed play almost gives its audience too much to digest.
But what you may not know about this behind-the-scenes costume designer is that she's also a champion on the slam poetry scene with a bevy of impressive national and international titles under her belt who performs under the stage name Gypsee Yo.
This weekend, Beqo will step in front of the footlights to perform the world-premiere of her new one-woman autobiographical show Harabel, which follows her journey from childhood in the war-torn Balkans to the American South. The story delves into memories of her youth in her native country, her violent exit, first impressions of America, and the transition from girl to woman and from stranger to American. We caught up with the artist to ask a few questions about the show.
What is the show about? Is it 100% autobiographical?
The show is a collection of poems and narratives of my experiences as an emigrant, an expatriate, a Southerner, and as a new American. It is not, however, a concert of poems. The story unfolds with each piece that is triggered by elements of daily life - - mainly, my life in costume shops and theater back-stages. The show is primarily autobiographical, but it also incorporates many details of the history of being Albanian, since most of the time in the Southeast I am the only Albanian people will ever meet. I write in the style of magic realism. In other words, the story is true but the telling of it is magical.
Celebrated Atlanta novelist and playwright Pearl Cleage has been named playwright in residence at the Alliance Theatre, a position she will hold through their 2015-16 season. The position was made possible by a new initiative from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will fund fourteen other playwright residencies around the country. From the Alliance's press release:
While Cleage has previously worked with the Alliance Theatre as Artist-In-Dialogue, this new position places her on staff at the Alliance and puts more emphasis on her playwriting. In addition to her writing, Cleage will be involved in audience engagement, season planning, mentoring young playwrights who participate in the Alliance's National Graduate Playwriting Competition, advising the Alliance's High School Collision Project, teaching advanced playwriting workshops, and serving as an artistic liaison to the Alliance's business leaders.
Other recipients include Melinda Lopez in Boston, Dan LeFranc in New York, and Andrew Saito in San Francisco. It was reported last year that Cleage was working with producers to adapt a number of her works for film.
According to Binkley and Community Affairs Director Shellie Schmals, Relapse ended up deep in the red because of "an outstanding water bill that we were unaware of, an increased building tax bill, the building insurance bill, and the bill for our necessary renewal of all of our permits, including the liquor license." The indiegogo site called the bill backlog "unexpected" and notes that "poor planning was a factor." If the goal is met in the next 14 days, $50,000 will go toward the debts and $30,000 "is for a buffer while we implement those theatre wide strategies that will ensure a consistent cash flow that gives us long term stability." The note to donors hints at some kind of strategic planning already taking place that would "catapult Relapse to new levels that would prevent this very thing from happening."
When asked to elaborate on those plans, Schmals said in an email, "We have a profit sharing program with all the peformance groups, that has only been in place for a few months and was just starting to take off. It puts the responsibility back on the performance groups to promote and market themselves, when they reach their monthly goals, they receive a large portion of the ticket revenue from the show.
"This incentive initiative was different than the prior policy and was letting our actors become more invested in their marketing and promotions. They would see a direct result of their marketing outputs. Groups like: Automatic Improv and PostModern Collapse were able to benefit from this program and a few others were on the verge of meeting their goals. As well, the finanical success of our Relapse University program has been a bright spot. This was another initiative that allowed both the instructor and Relapse to benefit finanically from the class tuition."
So far, $3,514 has been contributed by 56 donors.
Georgia Shakespeare opened its 2012 season last night with an open-air production of The Tempest at Piedmont Park. Previously known as Shake at the Lake, the outdoor series returns this year with a new, less rhymey name — Shakespeare in the Park — after a storm of financial distress and a frantic but successful bit of fundraising in the last year. (I liked Curt Holman's suggestion of calling it Bard on the Sward, myself.) A $300,000 grant from the Charles Loridans Foundation is allowing Shakespeare in the Park to continue at the Legacy Fountain for the next three years.
The company's brisk production of Shakespeare's tale of bad blood, mystical sea nymphs, young love, and old drunks takes full advantage of having a fountain as a stage. In the opening scene, Carolyn Cook's Prospera whips up a wild tempest and the jets blast columns of water around the set as actors careen about on a capsizing ship. Cook delivers a cunning and confident Prospera with a salty sense of humor. Neal A. Ghant's performance as the savage Caliban is achingly contorted and Golem-like while Chris Kayser's Ariel spirits mischief with abandon.
It's a beautiful setting at the Legacy Fountain for staging of this play and a sunset picnic, and more than makes up for the fact that we haven't heard anything about Screen on the Green this year. (AHEM) The play runs through the weekend, and you can score yourself free tickets each morning before the show at Piedmont Park and the Georgia Shakespeare Box Office.
More photos from last night's opening after the jump.
The Goat Farm, a sanctuary of sorts for the Atlanta art community, will be the backdrop for a new take on the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood.
Titled Rua|Wülf, the project is the creation of the young Atlanta theatrical organization SAÏAH. Like many of the performances that take place as the gothic industrial compound, the production will migrate around the Goat Farm's 12 acres as the story unfolds, immersing the audience in Rua's (Little Red Riding Hood) journey to her grandmother's house. Rua|Wülf's director, Marium Khalid, discusses the play's larger themes about decisions and how the consequences of choices can affect future generations.
What makes the Goat Farm good setting for your production?
When you walk through the gates of the Goat Farm Arts Center, the first realization that hits you is how does this place exists in the middle of the city? Every inch of this place is soaked in history; rustic yet, a beautiful Victorian-esque sight. It seems like a story yet to be revealed. When we began the process of Rua | Wulf we simply opened that book and invited everyone to share the journey with us.
So many other plays, films and TV shows have relished Tinseltown talk while satirizing showbiz morality that Speed-the-Plow can get lost among the likes of Sunset Boulevard and The Player. Nevertheless, Pinch ‘N’ Ouch Theatre offers a lively and engrossing production of Speed-the-Plow in its new performance space at the Druid Hills Baptist Church.
Speed-the-Plow presents a dilemma to newly promoted studio head Bobby Gould (Jayson Smith): Should Bobby green light a surefire hit prison/buddy film with an A-list actor, or adapt a dreary-sounding novel about radiation, the end of the world, and other high-brow themes?
As a business decision, it’s a no-brainer, but Gould’s personal relationships make it more complicated. The prison movie would make the career of Charles Fox (Robert Mello), Bobby’s loyal, long-suffering colleague. Bobby’s temp Karen (Jackie Costello), a Hollywood newcomer, champions the radiation movie as a chance to deliver a profound, positive message. Would Bobby rather be a good friend or a good man? Would he rather make money or good movies?
In January, Georgia Shakespeare announced the return of its much loved Shake at the Lake series thanks to a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Loridans Foundation. The outdoor performance series will be reborn as Shakespeare in the Park and relocated to Piedmont Park's Legacy Fountain from Lake Clara Meer. The Tempest kicks things off and will run May 9-13. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. Bring snacks. The company, which, like many other local theaters, has faced its share of financial obstacles in recent months, continues its lineup in with Illyria: a Twelfth Night Musical (June 6 - Aug. 5); Much Ado About Nothing (June 21 - Aug. 4); an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (July 5 - Aug. 3); a musical adaption of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Emperor and the Nightingale (July 14 - Aug. 3); and a staging of Macbeth (Oct. 4 - 28) inspired by Orson Welles' 1936 Voodoo Macbeth and presented in partnership with the National Black Arts Festival.
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