The mausoleum that serves as the backdrop for Hartford Stage's current production of "Romeo & Juliet" is etched with dozens of Italian names. Who are these people? Hartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak, who directed the show, reveals that "Colin McGurk, associate scene designer, got the names from a website called billiongraves.com. He searched for graves in Italy with years of passing between 1930 to 1949. Also, Kandis Chappell, who plays the Nurse and whose family is from Sicily, asked us to incorporate the names of three of her ancestors." Chappell's relatives are Margherita Sardina, Giacometti Balistreri and Isadora Balistreri, in case you want to look for their tombs. The show is set in a mid-20th-century Italy familiar from the neo-realist cinema of Antonioni, Pasolini and others.
The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center is bestowing its 16th Annual Monte Cristo Award on George C. Wolfe. Among Wolfe's accomplishments: Writing the regional theater standard "The Colored Museum," co-writing and directing the Broadway musicals "Jelly's Last Jam" and "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk," and directing the Broadway productions of "Angels in America," "Topdog/Underdog" and "Caroline, or Change." His current project is the star-studded revival/rewrite of "Shuffle Along." The Monte Cristo Award honors "a theater artist who exemplifies e O'Neill's pioneering spirit, unceasing artistic commitment, excellence and accomplishment." Most of the recent Monte Cristo recipients have been performers, including Nathan Lane, Meryl Streep and James Earl Jones, but writers such as Neil Simon, August Wilson, Wendy Wasserstein and Edward Albee have also won the prize. The 2016 Monte Cristo Award will be presented May 9 during a gala dinner at the Edison Ballroom in New York City. Details at theoneill.org/montecristoaward.
Hartford Stage is creating a Youth Council of "dynamic teens, ages 14 to 18." The council members will meet monthly, share their younger-generation perspectives with the theater's staff and board members, plan "Youth Night" events, blog, take workshops and act as "ambassadors for Hartford Stage in their own schools and communities." A free preliminary focus group meeting (and pizza dinner) is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 16 at the Hartford Stage rehearsal studio, 942 Main St. The rest of the season will serve as a pilot program for the council, which should start in earnest in the fall of 2016. Dynamic teens "who are passionate about theater and arts leadership" can express their interest via firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-520-7141, or just show up on March 16.
Always nice to see theaters get recognition from non-theater community organizations. New London's Flock Theatre will receive the Clifford Stone Award from the nonprofit group New London Landmarks, which dedicates itself to preserving and developing the city's "urban environment." Flock, which has been doing site-specific works in New London for decades, is currently performing "Arsenic and Old Lace" in the historic Shaw Mansion and has plans to stage New London homeboy Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into Night" at the Monte Cristo Cottage, where the play is set. The Clifford Stone Award will be officially presented to Flock Theatre at the New London Landmarks' annual meeting March 24 in The Harris Building, 165 State St., New London. The public is invited. More info at newlondonlandmarks.org.
The ever-inventive director Alex Timbers is gaining attention again, for his earthy interpretation of "The Robber Bridegroom" at New York's Roundabout Theatre Company, currently in previews with a scheduled March 13 opening. Timbers says his introduction to the musical — co-written by longtime Connecticut resident Alfred Uhry — was 15 years ago, when he was at Yale and he saw a student production staged on a squash court on campus. Timbers is now known for helming "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" and "Peter and the Starcatcher." Uhry was enthusiastic about having Timbers tackle "The Robber Bridegroom," which hasn't had a New York production since 1976.
Janet Watson, the choreographer whose lengthy resume includes the Goodspeed Musicals productions of "Great Expectations" and "Mirette," died Feb. 8 at the age of 70. … Edward Parone, the Hartford-born director who staged the world premiere of Amiri Baraka's revolutionary drama "Dutchman," was an early supporter of such major playwrights as Edward Albee and Sam Shepard, and spent much of his career at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. He died at his home in New Mexico Jan. 24 at the age of 90. … Harper Lee, whose novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" was adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel in 1990 and staged at Hartford Stage in 2009 — died Feb. 19 at the age of 89. "To Kill a Mockingbird" is being freshly adapted by Aaron Sorkin for a proposed Broadway production to be directed by former Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Bartlett Sher. … The literary theorist and "The Name of the Rose" novelist Umberto Eco died Feb. 19 at age 84. His essay "The Semiotics of Theatrical Performance" was published in The Drama Review in 1977. "A human body," he wrote, "along with its conventionally recognizable properties, surrounded by or supplied with a set of objects, inserted within a physical space, stands for something else to a reacting audience."