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Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Hartford Stage's Youth Council Recruiting; 'Christmas On The Rocks' Returning

Hartford Stage's Youth Council is holding an "information session" at noon on Sept. 10 for "teens, ages 14 to 18, from across Connecticut who are passionate about theater and arts leadership" to join the council. The meeting is at the theater's Rehearsal Studios on the second floor of 942 Main St., Hartford. Youth Council members get discounted tickets to special "Youth Night" performances of Hartford Stage shows. They also get to meet theater staff, hang out with fellow theater-loving teens and serve as an advisory council to Hartford Stage.

Meanwhile, a Hartford Stage program for much younger youth — the theater's popular Connections initiative — will be expanded thanks to $135,592 from the LEGO Community Fund U.S.

Connections is described as "a five-day, pre-reading residency that uses theatre techniques to strengthen comprehension skills and build excitement about a piece of literature."

The theater received money from the LEGO fund last year as well, which was used to develop new curricula for Connections. This year's grant will be used to share that material with more students in more schools. Hartford Stage estimates that 2,600 students and 115 teachers could benefit.

"Servant" Has New Gig

In 2010, the Yale Repertory Theatre world-premiered a new production of Carlo Goldoni's "The Servant of Two Masters." It was directed by Christopher Bayes, starred Steven Epp, and used a script adapted by Constance Congdon. The show had a long life in the regional theater realm — after Yale, it played at theaters in Washington D.C., Minneapolis, Boston and Seattle. Now the same production will be in New York City Nov. 6 through Dec. 4, at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Epp and Liam Craig will recreate their Yale Rep roles of Truffaldino and Brighella in the show. Two other members of the Yale cast are involved, but in different roles: Liz Wisan (who was still a Yale School of Drama student when she appeared in the show as Smeraldina) will now be Beatrice and Andy Grotelueschen (who once played Silvio) will be Pantalone. Christopher Curtis and Aaron Halva return as the onstage musicians.

Two recent Yale School of Drama grads, Adina Verson and Melanie Field, are joining the production as Clarice and Smeraldina. Jacob Ming-Trent, who worked with Epp and Craig (and director Bayes) in the 2012 Yale Rep production of Moliere's "A Doctor in Spite of Himself," plays Dottore. Eugene Ma, from the Epp/Bayes production of Dario Fo's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" at Yale Rep in 2013, plays Silvio.

Yale Rep audiences know the Bayes/Epp style well: wacky and colorful, with rapid-fire pun-filled digressions and frantic physical-comedy funning. "The Servant of Two Masters" itself regularly gets staged, in many forms. Middletown's ArtFarm did an outdoor production in July, and England's National Theatre had one of the biggest hits in its history with the 1960s-set rewrite "One Man, Two Guv'nors."

Vanessa Butler Stars In 'Queens'

Hartford Stage's world premiere of T.D. Mitchell's "Queens for a Year" will star the accomplished local actress Vanessa Butler. Some of her recent local credits include "Jimmy and Lorraine" (as Lorraine Hansberry) and the new musical "Gross Domestic Product" at Hartbeat Ensemble, "Romeo and Juliet" (as Juliet) for Capital Classics' Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival, "Freedom: In Three Acts" for Bated Breath Theatre Company and "Higgins in Harlem" at Playhouse on Park. She spent part of her summer as co-facilitator of Hartbeat's Youth Play Institute, where a teen ensemble created an original performance piece about gun control.

Butler will appear on posters for "Queens for a Year," which is written by T.D. Mitchell (TV's "Army Wives") and directed by Lucy Tiberghien.

The rest of the cast includes Heidi Armbruster ("The Dining Room" at Hartford Stage, "Time Stands Still" on Broadway, Mary Bacon ("The Call" at TheaterWorks, "Arcadia on Broadway), Alice Cannon ("Bloomer Girl" at Goodspeed back in 1971,"Significant Other" last year Off-Broadway), Sarah Nicole Deaver, Mat Hostetler (the national tour of "War Horse" at the Bushnell in 2014), Charlotte Maier ("Suddenly Last Summer" at Westport Playhouse,"God of Carnage" on Broadway) and Jamie Rezanour (Classical Theatre of Harlem's "Romeo and Juliet: and "A Midsummer Night's Dream").

"Queens for a Year" opens Hartford Stage's 2016-17 season, running Sept. 8 through Oct. 2. A reading of the play at the Playwrights Foundation in San Francisco in 2014 described it thus: "Four generations of military women tackle another kind of war, in the way only women of grit can do."

"A Song Will Rise" Pushed Back, "Fade" In

TheaterWorks is pushing its Peter, Paul & Mary musical "A Song Will Rise" from the final slot of the 2016-17 to the first slot of its 2017-18 season. There's a good reason: two of the show's subjects, Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey, have gotten involved with shaping the show. (Mary Travers died in 2009.) TheaterWorks Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, who co-conceived "A Song Will Rise" with David M. Lutken and Sherry Lutken ("Woody Sez" at TheaterWorks, "Ring of Fire" and "Stand by Your Man" at Ivoryton Playhouse), realized that with Peter & Paul on board, the show deserved more development time. The show, originally planned for July/August, will now happen in October.

That means there's a whole new show on the TheaterWorks schedule this season. "Fade," by Tanya Saracho, running May 25 through July 2, is a comedy about two friends, both of Mexican heritage, who work at a cutthroat Hollywood studio — one as a screenwriter, the other as a janitor.

"Fade" world-premiered in February at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in Colorado and will have its New York premiere in January 2017 at Primary Stages.

Jacques LaMarre's new play "Raging Skillet," about a real-life "punk rock caterer" and originally scheduled to run at TheaterWorks May 18 through June 25, will now run July 20 through Sept 1, as the closing show of the 2016-17 season.

TheaterWorks has also announced the return of its holiday event "Christmas on the Rocks" for a fourth year. The opening date is yet to be determined, but it'll be after Thanksgiving. Closing date is Dec. 23. Rob Ruggiero is hoping to add a new scene to the show, in which a slew of contemporary playwrights envision characters from classic Christmas stories walking into a bar and boozily describing whatever happened to them.

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