Hartford Stage Announces 'Seder' Cast, Yale Rep Honored For Supporting Women Playwrights

Last week we mulled over American Theatre magazine's list of the most-produced plays of 2017-18, based on a survey of 380 regional theaters aligned with the national Theater Communications Group organization.

None of the top 10 scripts were being produced this season in Connecticut. But when you look at the American Theatre's accompanying list of most-produced playwrights of 2017-18, it gets very familiar indeed.

Lauren Gunderson ("I and You"), Simon Stephens ("The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"); and Lee Hall ("Shakespeare in Love") take the top three slots; followed by Lisa Kron ("Fun Home"), who's acted, directed and/or taught at theaters and schools all around Connecticut; Dominique Morisseau; longtime Roxbury resident the late Arthur Miller; Ayad Akhtar (whose "Invisible Hand" was done at the Westport Playhouse last year and will be remounted at TheaterWorks this season); Quiara Alegria Hudes (whose Pulitzer-winning "Water by the Spoonful" premiered at Hartford Stage in 2011); and Ken Ludwig (whose mystery comedies are being produced at both Hartford Stage and Long Wharf this season, not to mention at least half a dozen non-TCG theaters in Connecticut).

Also Tennessee Willliams; August Wilson (major productions in Hartford and New Haven last season); Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ("War" at Yale Rep in 2014, "Appropriate" in Westport a month ago); Kate Hamill; Lucas Hnath; Aaron Posner (whose "The Chosen" is at Long Wharf this season); New London boy Eugene O'Neill; Lorraine Hansberry; Mark St. Germain (a TheaterWorks regular, just not this season); and Oscar Wilde (whose "Importance of Being Earnest" opens the CT Rep season this month).

Updating Wilder

Thornton Wilder lived in Hamden, taught at Yale, tried out some of his plays at the Shubert, drank in New Haven bars and acted in local summer stock houses such as the Westport Playhouse. He died in 1975.

For more than 20 years now, his estate has been managed by his nephew Tappan Wilder, whose enthusiasm for his uncle has spurred new editions of his works, stage revivals, biographies and more. This year the estate authorized a theater in Florida to make major alterations to Thornton Wilder's most famous work, "Our Town."

There have been many multicultural "Our Town"s before, but this is the first one with authorized script rewrites. Characters will speak Spanish and Creole as well as English, using translations by Nilo Cruz and Jeff Augustin.

The Miami New Drama production, which runs Oct. 26 through Nov. 19, claims to "re-imagine" the small-town drama "for Miami in the 21st century."

The Rep Represents Women Playwrights

The Yale Repertory Theatre was one of 58 theaters worldwide (and one of just two in New England) that got 50/50 Applause Awards from the International Centre for Women Playwrights this year. The award is for theaters which programmed more than half of their seasons with female playwrights. In the Rep's case, these were premieres of plays by Sarah Ruhl, Adita Brennan Kapil and Amy Herzog. Several New York theaters made the list: the Public Theater, Signature Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons and HERE Arts Center.

Spontaneous And Stolen

Here are a couple of new, as-yet-unstaged, obscure punk rock operas you can download:

"The Grand Spontanean" is a 90-minute five-act musical by the Wisconsin alt-rock band Telethon. It's set in a pre-apocalyptic world where the Internet is seemingly about to turn its last web page, with dire consequences for a screen-addicted, fake-news-bedazzled civilization. Among the 30 songs are "Succinct, The Optimist," "The Paranoid Blur" and "The Sudden Walk" (a reading of a Franz Kafka poem with accordion accompaniment).

There's a welcome roughness to the thing, but some fine drama and musicality, including amusing swipes from from Pachelbel's Canon and James Bond movie themes. Besides Telethon itself, the cast includes country star Chris Farren and Less Than Jake vocalist Roger Lima. "The Grand Spontanean"'s limited edition box set comes with "a printed Playbill/zine," lyrics and liner notes." You can find it here: telethonband.bandcamp.com/album/the-grand-spontanean

"Stolen Idea," available as weekly one-act broadcasts on the podcast network Stitchers, calls itself a "comedy punk rock musical that covers the theft of intellectual property in the artistic worlds of music and comedy." It's created by Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder Matt Besser and composer Bobby Matthews (of the bands Trusty and mömandpöp). In the first episode, we meet two struggling artists — singer and songwriter Phil and comedian Matt, plying their trade in small clubs, still waiting to be discovered.

The songs are fast, loud and plentiful, and the cast includes Scott Aukerman ("Comedy Bang! Bang!"), Paul Rust (the Netflix series "Love"), Danielle Schneider (Stitch's "Bitch Sesh") and other cutting-edge comedy types.

Who's Sitting 'Seder'

The premiere of Sarah Gancher's family drama "Seder" at Hartford Stage will feature these fine actors: Liam Craig, Mia Dillon, Birgit Huppuch, Dustin Ingram, Steve Rattazzi, Julia Sirna-Frest and Jeremy Webb.

Two of them have been at Hartford Stage before: Craig in "The Scene" back in 2008 and Dillon just last year in the only other Hartford Stage show to be directed by "Seder" director Elizabeth Williamson: "Cloud 9." (Dillon was also featured in "A Song at Twilight" in 2014.) Webb was in "The Laramie Project" at TheaterWorks and "Pera Palas" at the Long Wharf, both around 15 years ago.

The previous Connecticut credits for most of the cast are from Yale Repertory Theatre shows: Craig did the Christopher Bayes-directed comedies "Servant of Two Masters," "A Doctor in Spite of Himself" and "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" there, Rattazzi was in "Indecent" and "Marie Antoinette," Huppuch was in "The Moors" and Dillon did two shows at the Rep back in the '80s.

Some of the cool credits of the other cast members: Sirna-Frest is an actor and director who's worked at the hip New York theaters Target Margin (where Rattazzi has also done several shows), Bushwick Starr and Ars Nova. Ingram was on the HBO series "True Blood" (as Ronnie) and "Vinyl" (as Alice Cooper!).

"Seder" runs Oct. 19 through Nov. 12. Hartford Stage describes it as "a visceral family drama" in which "a lifetime of dark secrets is unraveled." Details at 860-527-5151 and hartfordstage.org

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