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The Thursday Theater Roundup: Curtain Up! edition

Curtain Up!, the mega-celebration of Buffalo theater that takes over downtown Buffalo each September, has come and gone. But the shows are still very much up. To get a sense of what our reviewers liked, check out the first "Thursday Theater Roundup of the 2010-11 season. Reviews of four more Curtain Up! shows will run in tomorrow's edition of Gusto.

Irish Classical

Brian Mysliwy and Patrick Moltane in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's production of "The Cant." Photo by Bill Wippert / Buffalo News.

"The Cant," through Oct. 3 in the Andrews Theatre in an Irish Classical Theatre Company production. From the review: "...a well-plotted thriller that gets to the heart of the Irish Traveller’s intrinsic sorrow, their abuse at the hands of the powerful and the survivalistic instincts that keep them forever on the run." --Colin Dabkowski

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Natalie Mack, Matt Witten, Kelly Meg Brennan and Luke Wager in Road Less Traveled Productions' "The Couple Next Door." Photo by Robert Kirkham / Buffalo News.

"The Couple Next Door," through Oct. 3 in the Road Less Traveled Theater. From the review: "'The Couple Next Door' is the winner of the Emanuel Fried New Play Workshop. Playwright Hoke can write: dialogue flows naturally, real people saying real things, albeit sex-crazed f-bombs. Abrupt ending aside, the story has verve, it lives and breathes. Stellar ensemble work by actors Brennan, Wager, Witten and Mack, each having their say, difficult roles all, cast chemistry very evident." --Ted Hadley

"Mookie Cranks a Tater," through Oct. 2 in the Alleyway Theatre. From the review: Palka has written a very funny play, situationally and every other way. Stay alert for wry and wacky comments on a variety of subjects, sex and sexuality, of course, but also politics, pretense, our weaknesses and fears and what Palka calls the 'discoveries of the human condition.' Be prepared to laugh it up." --Ted Hadley

And, of course, the Shaw Festival goes on, through the beginning of November, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Check out our listing of recommended Shaw Fest shows here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Canisius Writers Series opens with Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

This fall, Canisius College becomes the first educational institution in the Western New York area to offer a bachelor's degree in creative writing. The undergraduate program is designed to optimize the talents of Canisius' two award-winning Lowery writers-in-residence, novelist Mick Cochrane and poet/novelist Eric Gansworth, but also features teaching skills of English Department Chair Sandra Cookson, and two talented younger faculty members, NYFA fiction fellowship winner Janet McNally and playwright/director and Subversive Theater Collective founder Kurt Schneiderman.

 

The program also builds upon the access to leading writers afforded by what for 13 years has been one of the Buffalo area's outstanding visiting author series -- the Canisius College Contemporary Writers Series.

 

The schedule for the 2010-2011 season of the Contemporary Writers Series was released last week, and once again it presents a diverse mix of leading voices in fiction and poetry in a series of readings that are free and open to the public. Here's a rundown of the events in this year's series, all of which take place on the Canisius College Campus.

 

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Tuesday, September 21, 2010; 7:30 p.m.
Grupp Fireside Lounge, Richard E Winter Student Center 

Bynum's first novel, Madeleine is Sleeping (Harcourt Books), was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2004 and winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for fiction. She was subsequently the recipient of the Whiting Writers' Award in 2005. Her most recent novel, Ms. Hempel Chronicles (Harcourt), was published in September 2008 and became a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2009.

 

Bynum's work has appeared in TriQuarterly, Best American Short Stories and her story "The Erlking" was featured in the July 5 issue of the The New Yorker in conjunction with her inclusion in the magazine's 20 Under 40 list of outstanding young fiction writers.

 

A graduate of Brown University and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, she lives in Los Angeles and teaches writing and literature at the University of California, San Diego.

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BOA Editions names Peter Conners publisher

BOA Editions, Ltd. on Wednesday promoted Peter Conners to the position of publisher. BOA is the award-winning, Rochester-based, independent, not-for-profit literary press founded by the legendary poet-publisher Al Poulin, Jr. (1938-1996). Conners has served as marketing director and associate editor of BOA since 2003, and in 2008 was named editor. He becomes just the third publisher in BOA's 34-year history.

In a news release, BOA Board Chair Bernadette Catalana wrote: “The Board of Directors voted unanimously to promote Peter to the Publisher position. He has exhibited outstanding leadership skills throughout his career at BOA and we place our confidence in him to guide the press into the future.”

Since 1976, BOA has published more than 230 books of American poetry, poetry in translation, fiction and other literature. Among the notable authors in the BOA catalogue are the late Lucille Clifton, Li-Young Lee,  W.D. Snodgrass, Naomi Shihab Nye, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, G.C. Waldrep, Katy Lederer, Carolyn Kizer, Russell Edson, Karen Volkman, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Kazim Ali, Deena Linett, Michael Waters, Wyn Cooper and the late John Logan -- a poet-professor at the University of Buffalo in the 1960s and '70s who was an advisor to Poulin.

Past BOA titles have been the recipients of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry (Carolyn Kizer in 1985 for Yin) and the National Book Award (Buffalo native Lucille Clifton in 2000 for Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000), as well as awards from the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of Americaand the National Book Critics Circle. Over the years, BOA has received financial support from the Lannan Foundation, Ruth Lilly Poetry Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Literature Program of the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Literature Program of the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Beyond/In raises eyebrows in New York

In adavance of this year's mammoth, region-wide exhibition of art known as "Beyond/In Western New York," organizers took a trip down to New York City to meet with some members of the media. Those efforts are beginning to pay dividends for the regional arts exhibition with international aspirations, as today, the Wall Street Journal included the show on a very short list of art exhibitions to watch for this season.

"Beyond/In" appears next to the Metropolitan Museum's Khubilai Khan exhibition, a show on Alexander the Great at Amsterdam's Hermitage Museum, "Art of the Americas" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and an exhibition of work by the painter Wayne Thiebaud in the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, Calif.

Here (with the note that the exhibition was advised, not organized, by Bruce Ferguson) is what the WSJ has to say about what it termed the "Great Lakes Biennial":

A sleeper hit of the fall art season could be the little-known biennial "Beyond/In Western New York," a survey of emerging artists living mainly in and around the Great Lakes region (which of course includes several other states). This is the same Rust Belt country that nurtured Ohioan Charles Burchfield. The biennial's organizer, Bruce Ferguson, was the founding director of another underrated U.S. biennial, "SITE Santa Fe." "Beyond/In" features more than 100 artists exhibiting new works in 25 venues such as Buffalo's Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield Penney Art Center. For the first time, the biennial also invited artists from outside the region; Do Ho Suh and Kai Althoff are among the many rising stars who signed up.

Read the article here.

--Colin Dabkowski

 

Thursday Theater Roundup

Theatergoers across the region are waiting with bated breath for next Friday's annual Curtain Up! event, when Western New York theater companies launch their 2010-11 seasons (the first show, MusicalFare's "Shout! The Mod Musical," gets started on Wednesday). After that, you can expect the Thursday Theater Roundup to burst with recommendations from our reviewers about all the must-see shows from the region's more than 20 companies.

For now, though, we will have to content ourselves for one final week before the big kickoff with a list of what's on offer just across the border at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Our recommended Shaw shows are listed below. And don't forget to check this space two weeks hence for a look at what's hot this fall.

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The cast of "Age of Arousal" at the Shaw Festival.

"Age of Arousal," through Oct. 30 in the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "It is a marvelous ensemble, but the performances of [Kelli] Fox and [Sharry] Flett are most delightful: masterpieces of comic timing, mild slapstick and pointed comment... In this production, desperation can be wonderfully entertaining." --Melinda Miller

"The Doctor's Dilemma," through Oct. 30 in the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "...audiences might not agree with Shaw’s opinion. But it’s difficult not to be sucked in by the inherent drama, the wonderfully idiosyncratic characters and the overall charm of this show, which dives headlong into the challenges of the medical establishment in a stratified society." --Colin Dabkowski

"John Bull's Other Island," through Oct. 9 in the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "[The production] uses an intelligently and heavily abridged script that, together with Christopher Newton’s sure-handed control of stage action, provides a performance that rolls along purposefully and compellingly, leading the audience by the ear and eye even through the most pontificating of Shaw’s soap-box orations." --Herman Trotter

"Half an Hour," through Oct. 9 in the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "Barrie has packed a surprising amount of humor, hope and tragedy into such a compact package that you may walk out of the theater thinking you’ve seen a full-blown production.... It’s not Shaw, it’s not Shakespeare and it’s perhaps too sentimental for some tastes, but “Half an Hour” may be the most effective piece of drama from concentrate I’ve seen. It is, at the very least, well worth the time." --Colin Dabkowski


Venus

The cast of "One Touch of Venus at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

"One Touch of Venus" through Oct. 10 in the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "With Weill’s music enhanced by S. J. Perelman’s book, and lyrics by the one-and-only Ogden Nash, the prospect is for top-level music and laughs. And to a large degree that’s what we get. But it doesn’t take long to discover that the joy of Ogden Nash’s lyrics can sometimes be diluted in the transfer from printed page to song... Directed by Eda Holmes, the large cast was given a lot of latitude to exploit the show’s louder, more boisterous possibilities." --Herman Trotter

"An Ideal Husband" through Oct. 31 at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a Shaw Festival production. From the review"The intricacies of the plot — which, truth be told, is a little tiredly conceived and tends in spots toward the maudlin — all serve one over-arching and worthy point: We are all hopelessly imperfect creatures whose only hope for forgiveness comes through the redemptive power of love. It’s a beautifully simple, almost naive idea, and it’s what elevates the play beyond a chuckle-worthy society comedy. That it was written while Wilde was embroiled in a public scandal over his forbidden homosexuality, and from which he would never recover, lends the play’s storybook conclusion a gloss of wistful fantasy that makes it all the more compelling." --Colin Dabkowski

"Harvey" through Oct. 31 at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "'Harvey' should be completely exempt from deep analysis. It is about happiness. Its simplicity and gimmicky humor are its chief strengths, a fact exploited by director Joseph Ziegler and carried on ably by his cast. This is the antidote to Chekhov, the perfect cure for world-weariness and a great affirmation of eccentricity that strives to bring out the dreamer in us all." --Colin Dabkowski


GUSTO The     Cherry Orchard

Severn Thompson as Varya and Laurie Paton as Lyubov Andreyevna Ranyevskaya in "The Cherry Orchard" at the Shaw Festival.

"The Cherry Orchard" through Oct. 2 in the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "This production, featuring Shaw veterans Benedict Campbell as Lopakhin and Laurie Paton as Lyubov among a great many other gifted actors, employs an excellent Irish-tinged adaptation by Tom Murphy. This imbues the script with subtle sense of modern urgency (“How’s tricks?” instead of “How are you?”) and expands it ever-so-slightly beyond the insularity of its rural Russian milieu." --Colin Dabkowski

An artwork takes shape on Tumblr

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Artist Josh Turner hangs upside down from scaffolding in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery while executing a Sol LeWitt scribble drawing. Photos by Tom Loonan of the Albright-Knox.

The ongoing installation of Sol LeWitt's final commissioned wall drawing in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery ranks as one of the most technically intriguing and painstaking art-making processes we've witnessed in quite a while. The 2,200 square-foot scribble drawing, which will resemble a series of interconnected tubes by the time it is complete in October, is being meticulously executed by 16 artists (some local and some from the Connecticut studio where LeWitt worked until his death in 2007).

Thankfully for those interested in a day-by-day account of the drawing's progress, the Albright-Knox has launched a Tumblr blog that gives some juicy insights into the process and the people executing it. From personal reflections on the physically and mentally exhausting scribbling process from individual artists, to a fascinating account from Albright-Knox Curatorial Assistant Ilana Chlebowski on the mental process of scribbling under LeWitt's instructions, the Tumblr template provides a great way for a museum to interact with the public without resorting to high-faulutin curatorial wall text. It's kind of a low-effort blog -- a step up from the Facebook status update, but with pictures. I highly recommend following the process here.

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A detail of the LeWitt drawing being executed in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

--Colin Dabkowski

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