Executive Director, Joe Keefe on Into the Woods

September 18, 2017 § Leave a comment

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Organized theater is about 4500 years old and despite its age, live theater is more relevant and necessary today than ever before. As screens and faceless media intrude more and more on our lives, personal, intimate, human shared experiences take on even more significance, comprising the moments we truly cherish – our memories.

These intimate shared experiences, wonderful moments of memory and discovery, are the basis for Into The Woods, a touching, funny, spooky and quirky retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales set to Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant words and music, backed by James Lapine’s book. While the shows illuminates Grimm’s tales, it is very much a show for adults with themes we all share: the unforeseen consequences of our hopes, dreams and wishes fulfilled.

The re-imagined stories, at the same time pleasant and ominous, are the cautionary tales that became our first lessons and our elementary entertainment. The Wolf pursuing Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and his magic beans, Cinderella and her Prince – these stories are brought to strange life through subtle humor, witty torment and wonderful music.

Into The Woods thrived in a two-year run on Broadway and has become a touring and regional theater staple. We have nurtured it at Metropolis for the richness of its words and music, the quirky retelling of classic tales, while featuring a cast of excellent voices and characters. As with all our shows, the cast is what I devotedly call our “All Stars”, the best young talent in the Midwest.

If you’re even a casual fan of musical theater, Into The Woods is a show for you: rich in texture, quirky in telling, funny when needed and a glorious night of story, words and music. Join us for a great night of this theatrical classic.

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Life in the Wings – An actor’s view from offstage

September 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

Into the Woods actor Kent Joseph                                                                                

Hey there fans of Metropolis. My name is Kent, I play Cinderella’s Father and I am sitting backstage during spacing rehearsal for Into the Woods.

A spacing rehearsal is quite a tiring, trying, labor intense, but very necessary, part of the rehearsal process. For the past month our huge cast and production team have been squeezed into a rehearsal room (with stairs, ramps, and platforms labeled with colored tape on the floor), while the mainstage has been used for other amazing productions here at MPAC. Now we move Into the Woods into the theater, which has not only more space to move about in, but also levels. Lots and lots of levels. Soon Rapunzel’s tower, several trees and other stage decorations will be added. It’s quite an exciting week, both onstage and off!

Now 9 times out of 10 the staging done in the rehearsal room works on the stage as planned, with a minimal amount of “tweaking” needed. It’s that 10th time however that challenges us all (especially our production team); having to restage the actors onstage, run it, run it, run it again, making additional changes if necessary before moving on. Those of us not onstage at the time, in turn, have to wait…

and wait…

and wait…

Got to run! It’s my scene coming up…
(Drops iPad, picks up a prop, and gallops onto the stage)
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Peter and the Starcatcher’s Molly – Sarah Cartwright

August 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

PeterStar14“The thing you did,” Lord Aster posits, “against impossible odds, that’s something you two will always share.”

I’ve always been pretty good at endings. Or I guess I should say, I’ve always placed myself decidedly above endings. While my high school cast-mates clung to each other sobbing on the final night of a marathon five-performance run of Fiddler on the Roof or The Music Man or Annie, I hung back by the fly lines and looked on with confusion and mild embarrassment. What were they so upset about? We did it! We curated this awesome experience that will be immortalized in our teenage memories (and undoubtedly somebody’s father’s video camera) forever. And plus, we were all going to see each other tomorrow at school anyway. It was an end, not “the end.” 

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In the real world, of course, softly-edged endings solidify into cut offs that hold more weight, feel more concrete. You move away. You lose someone or something that you can never get back. People you love scatter to follow their own paths, and “See you tomorrow!” quickly becomes “See you…?” Still, the shared experience remains; despite time and distance and all the jostles of life, the beauty of the thing we did together crystallizes, suspended and sparkling in memory. 

My favorite moment of Peter and the Starcatcher happens toward the end of the show, which feels very meta now as we enter our final weekend of performances. In an attempt to salve a broken-hearted goodbye, Lord Aster tells Peter not to worry, that soon he will forget everything and the pain will go away, to which Molly ferociously counters “No! It’s supposed to hurt! That’s how you know it meant something!” I’m eternally grateful for this story and the wonderful people alongside whom I get to tell it. They’ve made me realize that perhaps my attitude toward endings, while definitely less blubbery, skims over a deeper understanding of what losing something means. It hurts because it was good; the pain means that it meant something to me, something big and important and beautiful. Allowing that pain to surface is beautiful. Grieving and learning to love an ending for the time it represents is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine.

-Sarah Cartwright

Joe Keefe on Peter and the Starcatcher

June 29, 2017 § Leave a comment

Peter horizontal smallImagination – the ability to form new ideas within one’s own mind – is a quality sorely lacking in the world around us. We surrender our imaginations to numbing fillers like video games or reality television, wondering why we just watched the very thing we just watched – a bit like regretting the bowl of Cheetos we just inhaled.

Great theater, on the other hand, engages audiences on many levels – sensory and tactile, conscious and subconscious interactions – while rousing that underused talent that we’ve parked on the couch: our imaginations. Nowhere is that stirring quality of inspiration more apparent than in the wonderful show Peter and the Starcatcher.

A “prequel” to the classic tale Peter Pan, Peter and the Starcatcher kicks off as Molly, a young teen girl and precocious “starcatcher”, is sent on parallel secret missions by her father, Lord Aster. Molly and her father must protect precious star-stuff intended for her Majesty, Queen Victoria through trials across the ocean.

Pirates and plots, storms and high seas, comedy and intrigue abound as trunks are switched, boys are lost and found, a Captain gets a Hook and Peter becomes Pan. Imagination overflows as each moment unfolds from the prior one, a jumbling tumble of funny and fearsome tales.

Peter and the Starcatcher is the perfect conclusion to our 2016/17 season especially as it follows the hit musical HAIR. When we plan our seasons we strive to strike a balance of interests, subjects and tastes. In this case, we wanted to follow HAIR – a show noted for its adult and counter-culture themes – with a show that is more family-oriented, a show that grandparents can enjoy right along with the grandkids. Peter and the Starcatcher fits that bill perfectly.

Having said that, it should be noted that while “Peter” is certainly a family show, it is definitely not a “kid’s show” like Seussical or Cinderella. Similar to the classic Peter Pan, Peter and the Starcatcher appeals to adult audience members right along with the tween-agers and teens, awakening imaginations in anyone who has ever heard a tall tale or have been told a fabulous yarn.

Join us on the funny and fierce journey of Peter and the Starcatcher. Your imagination will be glad you did.

Joe Keefe – Metropolis Executive/Artistic Director

 

HAIR The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical

May 18, 2017 § Leave a comment

Political upheaval. Social unrest. Protests and flower power and race and activism. These themes were common to the 1960s and, to a considerable degree, they still echo through our society. While HAIR celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, it continues to be dynamically relevant, topically important and most of all, a touching tribute to hope and peace, love and freedom. I wish I could say this classic musical is merely nostalgic but its themes are more important now than ever.

Having offered those ideas, this show is even more important as a work of engaging, riveting entertainment. Young hippies searching for love and truth and connection, “adults” who try to protect young ones from a world no one understands and, always the music, the timeless lovely melodies, the powerfully magnificent songs and solos and orchestrations of HAIR resonate into music theater history.

HAIR is famous for many things including the moment – the hippie tribe shedding clothes – that changed legitimate theater forever. Certainly nudity is firmly rooted in many forms of theater, from the ancient Greeks through Burlesque and then today’s works of art, the human body has been celebrated and revealed in its many glories. And yes, we are adhering to the original script and interpretation – though I add that our depiction of the human body is done with reverence, taste and dramatic significance. It is an important moment and one we respect with all our collective power.

In the spirit of the age, our rendition of HAIR is notable for another attribute: our Director, Choreographer and Musical Director are female. Lauren Rawitz, Jen Cupani and Kailey Rockwell are dynamic, powerful artists at the peak of their capabilities. They provide talents and experience which have helped mold our young cast into a tribe of extraordinary strength and unity.

As you might gather, I dearly love this show for too many reasons to list. But perhaps the most important reason is that I grew up with this show. HAIR deeply affected this young, aspiring theater person at a formative time, a phase when the messages of love and hope and peace and music helped shape me and moved the world around us all.

Aquarius, Hair, Easy to Be Hard, Good Morning Starshine – these songs delivered by a powerhouse cast will carry you back to a time when peace and love were more important than money, power and ambition. I hope you love this HAIR as much as I do.

– Joe Keefe, Executive/Artistic Director

 

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Executive Director Joe Keefe on Playwright Tom Stoppard

January 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

“WORDS ARE SACRED. THEY DESERVE RESPECT. IF YOU GET THE RIGHT ONES, IN THE RIGHT ORDER, YOU CAN NUDGE THE WORLD A LITTLE.”

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This maxim springs from Tom Stoppard, Academy and Tony Award-winning playwright of our upcoming production Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and that principle is the fundamental motivation behind every great work of theater: understanding and shaping the world around us. Words are the currency of theater and, coincidentally, one of the things that separates man from beast. The ability to compose thoughts into words and turn words into actions is what makes man Man.

The interesting, sometimes astounding, use of words is what separates Mr. Stoppard from everyone else – he is, in my humble opinion, one of the finest wordsmiths in theater’s history. Even a brief glimpse at Mr. Stoppard’s credits demonstrate a mammoth talent: Shakespeare in Love, Arcadia, Brazil, The Real Inspector Hound and too many more to list.

We are unbelievably fortunate to present the brilliant play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead on the 50th anniversary of its star-making run. This breakthrough work re-imagines Shakespeare’s classic tale of Hamlet told through the comically anxious trials of two minor characters: what if you were dead and didn’t know it or couldn’t prove it? What if death is a boat traveling nowhere or what if life is simply a coin-flip activity of something other than death? And why does this traveling troupe of tragedians keep entering from nowhere at all?

Like Becket and Ionesco before him, Stoppard explores the specifics of existence through a void of uncertainty. Rosencrantz is committed to delivering a message for Hamlet even though that delivery may kill them both. Guildenstern argues they should flee. Confusion arises not just from the void they seem to have fallen into but also that neither one can fully tell himself from the other.

Full disclosure: this is one of my favorite plays and as a young struggling actor, I had the honor to portray the Lead Player. So if you see me in the back of the theater, my lips moving, I’m once again joining the troupe in their comical exhibitions.

Life, death, comedy, tragedy, and great words spoken in compelling, electrifying orders – Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is a wild experience of theater and one you should not miss.

It Really Is A Wonderful Life

December 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

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By Joe Keefe – Metropolis Executive/Artistic Director

The intriguing title of our latest show is It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Both elements – Wonderful Life and Radio Play – seem familiar to many people but they also bear a little explanation.

It’s a Wonderful Life is, of course, the classic story of George Bailey, a small-town dreamer and family man who faces financial ruin but unknowingly turns to his guardian angel for redemption. Through a miracle of faith, George is shown what the world would be without his presence and the alternative results are pretty darn bleak. Finding his value (and maybe his soul) through the good works he had already done, George is reborn into his new and wonderful world.

So what is a “radio play”? Yes, you would be correct to assume it’s a play on the radio but it’s also much, much more than words broadcast by actors. This form of drama evokes the primary mechanisms of stagecraft: imagination, fascination and, the fundamental component of all fiction, suspension of disbelief.

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In our Wonderful Life, you are immersed not only in the radio play but also the creation of the live show itself as the actors immediately transform from character to character, voice to voice with breathtaking speed. Our “Foley Table” Expert skillfully crafts live effects through the use of everyday items, blending noises and sounds the way an orchestra conductor crafts a great symphony.

This radio play is much more than simply hearing a story. You become part of the creation of the play as it weaves in front of you. George Bailey’s classic tale unfolds in a whole new way as you hear the characters come to life before your very ears. You see the interaction of the actors as they strive for each moment and you experience the urgent immediacy of every dramatic peak and valley.

Our Wonderful Life perfectly exemplifies our mission at Metropolis: a classic story told in an engaging, mesmerizing way. The first-rate cast, design and production merge into a seamless story that brings a smile while also producing a tear or two. Before the holidays come to a close, make sure to see and hear this truly Wonderful Life.