Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A few questions with Gypsee Yo

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Costume designer Jonida Beqo performs in poetry slams under the stage name Gypsee Yo. This weekend, she performs the world premiere of her one-woman show Harabel at Theatrical Outfit.
  • Atlanta costume designer Jonida Beqo also performs in poetry slams under the stage name Gypsee Yo. This weekend, she performs the world premiere of her one-woman show "Harabel" at Theatrical Outfit.
You've probably seen Jonida Beqo's costume designs for various theatrical productions around Atlanta. As an award-winning designer, she's dressed actors for some of the most popular shows in town.

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.

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Pearl Cleage named playwright in residence at Alliance

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM

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.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Relapse Theatre needs $80,000 to stay afloat

Posted By on Tue, Dec 11, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Relapse Theatre, whose Thursday open-mic night is one of the city's best, has shut it doors. Word started traveling Friday that the local comedy/improv theater that makes its home in an old church on 14th Street was no more. Soon after, Brad Binkley, an instructor with Relapse University, set up an online fundraiser at indiegogo with a long plea for help to raise $80,000 - something owner Bob Wood initially resisted. "Bob did not ask us to do this," Binkley says on the site. "He refuses to accept handouts. The only way we were able to get him to not stop us from doing this was by convincing him that not one cent of this is a handout, because it isn't. Bob has given us all enough free classes, free rehearsal space, free stage use, and a million other things that everyone else in the world would charge us money for. This is not a handout. This is simply us paying him back for everything he has ever done."

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.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wet 'n Wild Georgia Shakespeare

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Sean Moreno (left) and Cordell Cole in Georgia Shakespeare’s production of The Tempest
  • Sean Moreno (left) and Cordell Cole in Georgia Shakespeare’s production of The Tempest

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.

Picnic crowd at Shakespeare in the Park

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.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Wülf at the Goat Farm

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Rua|Wülf is a redenition of the classic  Little Red Riding Hood tale.
  • The Goat Farm/ SAÏAH
  • Rua|Wülf is a redenition of the classic Little Red Riding Hood tale.

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.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Pinch ‘N’ Ouch charms with Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow

Posted By on Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 2:03 PM

PEFORMATIVE INFLUENCE: Jayson Warner Smith as Bobby Gould and Rob Mello as Charles Fox in Speed-the-Plow
  • Drake Simons
  • PEFORMATIVE INFLUENCE: Jayson Warner Smith as Bobby Gould and Rob Mello as Charles Fox in Speed-the-Plow
“Your name will be a punchline in this town!” one movie producer barks at another in Speed-the-Plow, David Mamet’s portrayal of Hollywood’s dog-eat-dog behavior. Mamet’s stylish, staccato dialogue perfectly suits the swaggering hyperbole of film industry dealmakers and lunch-takers.

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?

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More 2012-13 season announcements rolling in

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Georgia Shakespeare revives its outdoor performance series Shakespeare in the Park in 2012
  • Joeff Davis
  • Georgia Shakespeare revives its outdoor performance series 'Shakespeare in the Park' in 2012
It's that time of year when the inbox starts to pile up with season announcements from local theaters and arts institutions. The Atlanta Opera announced its upcoming 2012-13 slate earlier this week, and now we have the Alliance Theatre and Georgia Shakespeare to add to the list.

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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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Performance artist Mike Daisey manufactures a ginormous controversy

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 at 8:04 AM

WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?: Mike Daiseys latest monologue The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs which examines the manufacturing practices of Apple Computers has become the subject of controversy.
  • WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?: Mike Daisey's latest monologue "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," which examines the manufacturing practices of Apple Computers, has become the subject of controversy.
Mike Daisey is one of the most well-known and innovative artists on the American theater scene. The performer's monologues have engaged audiences across the US, including here in Atlanta where the 2010 performance of his touring show The Last Cargo Cult at the Alliance earned him a glowing Creative Loafing review and a spot on our annual "Best of Atlanta" list.

Daisey's latest show The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs brought even more attention to the artist, probably more than he ever imagined or wanted. The recent monologue details a visit Daisey took to China to observe the manufacturing practices that are involved in creating the sleek gizmos we all love: iPads, iPods, MacBooks.

The show's dramatic and touching description of the inhumane conditions in Chinese factories caught the attention of the NPR show "This American Life," which broadcast his performance. The episode, which consisted almost entirely of excerpts from Daisey's monologue, went viral and quickly became one of the most popular episodes of the show ever. All good, right?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Theatre du Reve presents free theater tonight at the Alliance Theatre

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 3:22 PM

Atlanta's own French-language theater troupe Theatre du Reve will present a staged bilingual reading of the new play Celles d’en-haut, which was inspired in part by the photography of Cindy Sherman.

According to the press release, Celles d’en Haut (or "The Women Above") is a hilarious and colorful play set in a 1950s sanitorium, set apart on an isolated mountaintop. Using shrewd humor, the play questions human choices and explores numerous themes: sickness, the power of medication (and our quickness to succumb blindly to that power), and the deification of doctors. It also investigates how institutions might become beneficial and restorative islands, set apart from the deafening din of the world.

The play is slated to have its official world premiere in Atlanta in 2013. Guest director Olivier Kemeid, a prominent force on the Quebec theater scene, will work with four actors from Chicago, Quebec and Theatre du Rêve for the event, including acclaimed Atlanta actors Park Krausen and Carolyn Cook.

The performance will take place in the Alliance's 3rd floor Black Box at the Woodruff Arts Center tonight, Tuesday, March 20, at 7:00 p.m. with a reception with complimentary wine and beer to follow at the Alliance Française d'Atlanta across the street at Colony Square.

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Aurora's "Clyde 'n Bonnie" sticks closely to musical theater's classic formulas

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM

Laura Floyd as Bonnie Parker and  J.C. Long as Clyde Barrow in Aurora Theatres Clyde n Bonnie: A Folktale
  • Chris Bartelski
  • Laura Floyd as Bonnie Parker and J.C. Long as Clyde Barrow in Aurora Theatre's "Clyde 'n Bonnie: A Folktale"
The recipe for making a successful musical is probably older and more familiar than your great-grandmother's recipe for apple pie. Take some rousing musical numbers, throw in a couple ballads, stir in a lot of romance (don't forget the comic villain and quirky sidekick), sprinkle with a handful of corny jokes, and then top the whole thing off with a big tap finale.

The new musical "Clyde 'n Bonnie: A Folktale," now on stage at Lawrenceville's Aurora Theatre through April 8, sticks pretty closely to that classic recipe. In fact, it treats the old recipe as if it's a scientific formula, adding each element in calibrated measurements and carefully placing everything in just the right place.

The result is an old-fashioned, energetic, crowd-pleasing musical in the mold of "Guys and Dolls," "The King and I" or "The Music Man." Those who love the old stuff will leave happy, but the show is unlikely to win any new converts to musical theater, and some may even feel that the formula has been followed too rigidly.

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