Summertime: New Plays and Fresh Voices

By on 1 July, 2013 in Art, Fun, Greg Thornton with 0 Comments

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.”  — August Wilson

Isn’t this supposed to be the time of year when you get a chance to kick back, read the books you’ve had piled up on the night table, catch up on the films you missed, or take a trip to a place you always wanted to go to but never had the chance? That’s the plan this summer and all of it is happening inside the Playhouse. Well, maybe not the film part, we have the Capri for that, just around the corner. But the reading and the travel to other places is in full force.

Our Page to Stage Series is in the exploratory phase as we read over more than a dozen new scripts. We are looking to discover an unproduced piece of theater that will receive a staged reading in September. A committee of several people has taken on this assignment. It’s added to their summer reading list. We announce the winner in early August and then spend time around the table with a cast of actors bringing to life what was once an idea in the writer’s head. It is an exciting and, for the writer no doubt, an excruciating time, when the seed of a script is planted and then nurtured and brought to life.

July at the Playhouse is also abuzz with young actors taking workshops in acting, puppetry, music, make-up and mask work. We have summer sessions in all of these areas being taught by wonderfully talented artists, giving of their time and gifts, handing down their knowledge of the craft to younger talents who will carry these great traditions forward. As an actor without any formal training, I am greatly in awe of the artist who can articulate a way of working, exhibit a method of approach and guide an emerging talent to then have the confidence and discipline to step foot on a stage and let fly. Our Playhouse School fills that space and we are forever grateful to the Central Alabama Community Foundation for the grant to offer financial assistance for all of our classes and workshops for students who may need it.

The end of July will bring a fresh and vibrant new voice to the Playhouse stage. We are committed to producing challenging and fulfilling new work on our stage. Our audiences tell us how much they appreciate the kind of work we are doing. Our first two seasons have blended the new with a healthy dose of established plays. This season alone brought Cabaret, followed by The Clean House and the recently closed The Last Five Years. A nice mix of stories and characters and wonderfully powerful music. The fall will bring the classic thriller Wait Until Dark. We close out the season with Holiday Memories, the play adaptation of two heart-warming stories by the legendary southern writer, Truman Capote. So much for the commercial!

Turning back to the matter of fresh voices. In 2007, The New York Times wrote about Tarell McCraney’s play The Brothers Size: “Listen closely, and you might hear that thrilling sound that is one of the main reasons we go to the theater, that beautiful music of a new voice.” The Playhouse, in collaboration with the theater program at Alabama State University, will present The Brothers Size July 25-28. Brothers is the middle play in a trilogy that McCraney wrote and is being produced around the world. At 32 years of age McCraney has received the Cole Porter Playwriting Award upon graduation from the Yale School of Drama. He is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s international writer in residence, the 2009 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, and the recipient of the 2007 Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and the 2007 Whiting Award. This production will benefit the scholarship program of ASU’s Chapter of the Alpha Psi Omega National Theatre Honor Society. Anthony Stockard, who directed Whitney and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at the Playhouse, is directing this production. We chatted a bit about this one day on a break from rehearsal.

Greg Thornton: We talked about Tarell’s plays, kind of off-the cuff, some time ago. We are both admirers of his work and now Brothers is in rehearsal at the Playhouse. Has your feeling about the play’s impact on you grown since then?

Anthony Stockard: Tremendously! We were in rehearsal last night, in the very early stages of blocking and I was overcome by the power and beauty of the piece. I was almost in tears. We have all sacrificed for someone we love and saw that we have unfortunately planted seeds in soil that is not ready to grow. We all have in our youth, done things we regret, despite warnings from loved ones to choose other paths. We have all been hit with an epiphany that makes us realize that the bond between a family member or friend has become different or damaged. The amount of love and sacrifice shown between these men, these brothers, is a rare one. I am beyond excited about telling this story.

Greg Thornton: What struck me initially, the poetry and ritualistic nature of the writing which, at the same time, is very modern, raw, and street-smart, tells a very human story with an almost Greek mythology surrounding it. That’s a lot to take on, don’t you think?

Anthony Stockard: That is actually what initially excited me about the piece. I now realize that its critical praise and countless awards are clearly due to its refreshing, multilayered, original structure as a play. We get to tell one story many different ways in one show. Discovering the links between all those layers has become part of the joy of telling this particular story.

Greg Thornton: It is such an actor’s piece and Tarell clearly loves actors. How is your cast embracing this challenging play?

Anthony Stockard: Every New York City actor I know who has performed in this show cherishes their time with this story because it’s one of those plays that only comes along every so often. My cast is no different. The poetry and song, both in the script and in the words themselves, coupled with the different states of consciousness in which the characters exist makes this an actor’s dream to perform. Every skill set they possess as artists are utilized and pushed to the limit in this piece. To say the least, the cast members are in love with the show and enthusiastically conquering all of these challenges.

Greg Thornton: I think it is safe to say, this is not for the faint of heart — the language, the content, there is brief moment of nudity, all combining in a powerful story set in a fictional town, San Pere, LA. But it is a tale of brotherhood, of mercy and justice, and in the end, forgiveness. Can you talk a bit about the West African roots of the Yoruban culture that influence the play?

Anthony Stockard: Sure, the characters names and personas come from West African cosmology. Much like Greeks have Zeus and their pantheon, all possessing certain powers and domains, so do Yoruba Orishas. For example, Ogun is the Orisha of metalwork. So, the playwright has made him a mechanic. All of the characters honor their origins this way and we have enhanced that connection tremendously in this particular staging.

Much like the playwright’s respect for Yoruba culture, he has made every effort to tell an honest story about men who range from entrepreneur to inmate. He has respected the environmental elements and situations that are a reality for many people that we share our world with and whose stories he has chosen to tell. In that effort of truth, respect and honesty, the language in the play embraces words and subject matter that is potent, but is also 100 percent reality and 100 percent necessary to tell this particular story.

Greg Thornton is the Artistic Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse.


Coming Up At the Playhouse

Playhouse School Summer Workshops: July 16-August 8

  •  Fundamentals and Fun for rising Kindergarten-2nd Graders. Teacher: Katie Svela Crews with Jason Morgan
  • Puppetry Workshop for rising 3rd -5th Graders. Teacher: Rod Bourke with Toni Bourke
  • Building a Character Summer Workshop for Rising 6th-8th Graders. Teacher: Jason Morgan
  • Dress the Part Costume Construction and Design Workshop for 9th – Adult Students. Teachers: Danny Davidson and Beth Linn Clark

Vocal Technique Workshops with Jilla Webb 

The Brothers Size July 25, 25, & 27 7:30 p.m. and July 28 2:30 p.m.

Auditions for Wait Until Dark directed By Eleanor K. Davis August 3 and 4

For Tickets and Further Information:

Call: 334-262-1530


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