Archive for the ‘Show review’ Category

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The Crossing – A Concert Choir with a Twist

August 19, 2010

A guest blog by Marketing & PR Intern Joanna

For many people, listening to a choir concert might not sound like a fun way to spend an afternoon. However, The Crossing is attempting to change the way people think about choirs. Founded in 2005, the choir is unique because they sing newly composed and modern music. The Philadelphia Inquirer has called them “Philadelphia’s Best Chorus,” and said “most of the music presented by Donald Nally’s choir, The Crossing, lies outside describable musical contexts”. This is what makes the choir so exciting.

This summer, during their “Month of Moderns” concert series, the choir presented three premieres on words of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Phillip Levine: Statement to the Court by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang; The Memory of Rain by Lansing McLoskey; and Breath by Paul Fowler. I was struck by how well The Crossing crafted a start to finish experience for the audience member. The concert program included some of the most unique program notes I have encountered, and I enjoyed being guided by them. I especially liked the special note for each piece, explaining how the choir came to find it. Following the concert, the entire audience was invited to an elegant, free reception that featured the opportunity to mingle with the choir members and fellow concert goers. This provided a lovely bookend to the beautiful music that came before.

Surprisingly, The Crossing’s administration, marketing, and outreach services are entirely donated. This allows them to focus all of their funds on creating and maintaining an excellent artistic product. However, as you can imagine, it provides unique challenges to the organization and requires innovation and creativity in order to succeed. It was inspiring to see how much they have already been able accomplish. One of their marketing tactics that impressed me was being given a free CD of tracks and clips from previous concerts as a gesture of goodwill for joining the choir’s mailing list. They simply asked that after listening (or importing the tracks into iTunes!) I pass the CD onto someone who is unfamiliar with The Crossing.

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Review of 2009 NYC Fringe Festival Events

August 27, 2009

New York City’s Annual Fringe Festival is a chance for artists to come together to showcase what they have been working on to friends, family, industry and theater fans. I attended two shows at the Connelly Theater on the East Side at this year’s festival to see if there was anything out there that our school groups might enjoy seeing in future seasons and I was pleasantly surprised. The first show, Sinking Ship Production’s Powerhouse, is the story of composer Raymond Scott and his passion in discovering new ways to create music. Actually, the entire play leads up to his invention of “The Electronium” (a machine that produced sounds and melodies randomly so you could always listen to something new). The show, which naturally incorporated a lot of Scott’s own music along with other sounds of the time, was well done and well acted with some very amusing puppets acting out the cartoons that Scott had composed for (even though sometimes I wasn’t really sure what the puppets were doing). It was touching and I laughed, but I don’t think school groups would be too interested in seeing this show with slightly more adult themes.

Later that day I got to see a great musical version of the Edgar Allan Poe classic, The Fall of the House of Usher from the Woodberry Forest School. When I decided to go see it, I thought, as I’m sure many high schoolers think, that Poe is going to be dark and depressing and kind of boring. I was pleasantly surprised. The music covered several different genres and added a definite tone to the show that helped the audience get into the mindset of the original poet who wrote over 200 years ago. I was impressed with the acting and how passionate they were in their roles and how exciting it was compared to other Poe works, such as “The Raven”. I thought this version is one that high schoolers could very much enjoy if they don’t think so much that they are “learning.”

All in all, I think it was a pretty successful first outing at the Fringe Festival. I enjoyed both shows and got to see what people in the industry were doing. The Festival only runs until August 30th, but I’m already looking forward to next year.

–Jenn Cunha, Education

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Ave in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW (7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and YouTube.

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Don’t Stop Believin’ on the Great White Way

July 22, 2009

A guest blog by Marketing & PR Intern Jessica Quinlan

On a recent trip to New York City, I saw the new 80s musical, Rock of Ages. It proved to be an enjoyable and unique experience right from the get go. The theater was packed with a young crowd who grew up in the 70s and 80s – some still clad in their favorite leather jackets and vintage band T-shirts. Before and during the show, the wait staff scurried about the theater selling a variety of beverages to give it that real concert feel. From the moment the curtain rose to the tune of Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” to its close with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,’” the music, vocals, and special effects were quite impressive.

The fist pumping audience gave the show an energy and atmosphere in itself. The musical’s dialogue and plot were creative in the fact that they managed to tie the lyrics of many popular unrelated 80s bands together into a story of its own. Laughter often erupted minutes before the next song, simply because the dialogue easily predicted the plot and set list to such 80s fans. (For example, when dialogue started with “I can’t fight this feeling any longer” and broke out into REO Speedwagon’s power ballad.)

Set in 1987 California the plot did have some historical basis but this was easily overshadowed by the vivacious personalities of the show’s comedic and loveable characters. Many times throughout the show the cast urged the entire audience to their feet by singing and dancing in the aisles. I found that it didn’t take much to compel this crowd to belt out their favorite songs and relive their “glory days.”

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW (7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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The Amish Project – An Intense Hour Worth Your Time

July 8, 2009

A group of State Theatre staff members including myself, recently went into NYC to the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater for a performance of The Amish Project (presented by the State Theatre in March 2010). If I had one word to describe this show, it would be captivating. For 65 minutes, I, like my co-workers was glued to every word and every movement made by Jessica Dickey, the one-woman actress/playwright of this show.

The play, a fictional exploration of the true events of the 2006 shootings of 5 girls (and the gunman) in an Amish Schoolhouse in Lancaster, PA, is imbued with poetry, humor, and wonder. Throughout the hour, Dickey moves seamlessly back and forth among different characters (including the gunman, his widow, an Amish child, a news reporter, and a 16-year-old Hispanic girl), deftly weaving a complex and thought-provoking web of differing perspectives that explore the major themes of forgiveness and reconciliation. Each character is portrayed with a different voice and very distinct mannerisms that make it clear as to who she is playing at any given moment and all of this while in the same costume of an Amish dress, apron, and bonnet. It is truly a masterclass in acting to watch as she makes you forget that she is playing the deranged gunman while wearing this bonnet.

As intense as the play is, we didn’t leave the theater feeling sad, in fact, it opened a dialogue between us. A dialogue that has been ongoing since we saw the show almost 2 weeks ago. And apparently, we are not the only ones still talking about this show, as the run has been extended to July 12 due to critical acclaim and popular demand (New York Times review. NPR review.) Check it out now at: http://www.rattlestick.org/ or catch it at the State Theatre in March 2010.

–Kelly Skinner, Director of Public Relations

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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Rutgers and the State Theatre, Perfect Together

June 30, 2009

Part of my job as University Liaison consists of engaging the Rutgers community in all things State Theatre. We present world-renowned artists in almost every discipline and many times these artists are available for workshops, master classes, Q&A’s etc. We want Rutgers students, faculty, and staff to take advantage of all we have to offer. But they need to know about these special opportunities in order to participate. Last year around this time, I organized a presentation to Rutgers faculty and staff to promote last season’s events. On Wednesday, July 1st, we will do it again for our 2009-2010 performances. There are several performances we hope will generate excitement, among them The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath, MacHomer, Scrap Arts Music, and The Amish Project. We want the Rutgers community, especially students, to see the State Theatre as their neighborhood entertainment and performing arts venue. There is so much more happening here than most people think. Hopefully on Wednesday we will begin to plan for some great collaborations with Rutgers.

–Katie Pyott, Education Associate & University Liaison

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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May is over, but tough times are still ahead

June 5, 2009

So, we did it. We survived the busy month of May…a month of Gala craziness and the arrival of a brand new outdoor festival. Both of which were two very different events for the State Theatre. The Gala, which takes months and months of planning, is a night of cocktails, entertainment, dinner, dancing, auctions, and the works. This year’s theme was a tribute to the movies and leading the concert was long-time Academy Awards® Music Director and Oscar® Award-winning composer Bill Conti (composer of the Rocky theme). The Gala, which is our big annual benefit, helped to raise $570,000 for the theater. It was a success, and a big one in these economic times.

Now, shifting gears, one week after the Gala on May 23, we held our first annual Urban Arts Festival. From reading our previous blog posts, you know that this was no easy task for us. It was tough…with no background in programming urban artists, very little time, and a very tight budget; it had the possibility of being a dud. However, I am happy to tell you that it wasn’t! It was a blast! It truly went off without a hitch, well without any major problems anyway. Sure, we had a few sound issues (an outdoor stage will do that) and what not, but that’s it.

(Above: A short video from Urban Arts featuring the local dance group Strickly Street)

So, for us at the State Theatre, May has been a good month. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our season. Now, we look to the new fiscal year (ours begins in July) and we start planning for it now in June. It’s going to be a tough year for the arts and we hope to meet the challenge.

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/.

Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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Cedar Lake Touching Performance

April 29, 2009
As a Rutgers student currently enrolled in Modern dance, it was highly recommended that I see Cedar Lake perform their contemporary Ballet pieces this past Friday at the State Theatre. Having been familar with this particular genre in dance, I was the upmost impressed and blown away after this performance. In my opinion, never has a dance company make such connections through real-life emotions and present the uncut truth of it to an audience with such grace. Completely, taken aback by a mind-blowing performance, I am proud to say I was one of the many in the audience who gave the performers a standing ovation.

The show had three seperate pieces that each symbolized human life at its most truthful element. There was the first, that dealt with issues of relationships-displaying a variety of differnent and individual dynamics each relationship had. What also was an apparent theme was the fact there were outsiders watching, passing judgements. To represent the “passing of judgments” they had the onlookers walking across the stage whispering or making gossiping-like sounds, literally “passing” by the couple that was having issues. Also, interesting to note, the only couple on stage to dance as if they were happily “dancing through life” without a care, had their gossipers walk away, because it was no longer something dramatic to talk about; two people just being happy and content with each other.

This type of truthfulness exsisted within the other two pieces, although more abrstract from the first. The second was only two women, one of which was in a trance or sleep-like state, and the other was darkness, and represented the seduction and control it has over one’s sleeping body. The dance itself was one with at times with a nightmarish feel to it, which gave an overall erie feeling. Different, this dance led into the final act with got possibly darker with emotions, and yet a sense of relief of a common feeling among us all that we share.

With the final act, there was also a feeling a eeriness and a dream like state, but what the piece seemed to represent is shared fears among the human population. The dances not only had strong movements with their bodies, but played the parts of the characters and the fears each one was facing.

All represented through movements of the body, and the old rule of Ballet with now less restrictions, Cedar Lake did a fabulous job at crafting the natural human reactions.

–Ashley Petersen, Marketing/PR Intern

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/.

Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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“Backstage Access” – From The Belly of The Beast

April 8, 2009

This past Thursday the children’s character Waldo, from the Where’s Waldo book series took over the State Theatre. Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA) held a charity event to not only collect books for the local New Brunswick school district, but attempted to break the Guinness World Record of the most amount of people dressed as Waldo in one location. Starting at 7pm students lined Livingston Avenue and around the corner to George Street to donate their books and receive a costume, provided by RUPA. As the students came into the theater various student performance organizations took the stage including the band The “N” result, The Jugglers Club, The Iota Phi Theta Step team, and the Livingston Theatre Company. In the end the students almost doubled the record with 1,052 Waldo’s and over 3,000 books for the New Brunswick Schools. Here are some great videos, pictures, and articles of the event:

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/ireports/2009/04/04/irpt.wheres.waldo.cnn?iref=videosearch

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emidesu/3408706534/

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/weird/Hundreds-Dress-as-Wheres-Waldo-at-Rutgers.html

Saturday night, was a totally different experience. We presented the classic Mikado, performed by G&S repertory company, Opera A La Carte. Arguably the most famous operetta ever written and obviously still wowing audiences since its debut in 1885 had our audience smiling for two and a half hours. Here’s an interesting piece of info…The idea for The Mikado first sprang into W.S. Gilbert’s mind when an old Japanese sword, which had been hanging on the wall of his study for years, suddenly fell from its place. Gilbert took this as an omen and determined to leave his own country alone for a while and turn his biting satire instead towards the East. He did not have to look far to research the subject of his new play. He found all the material he wanted in Knightsbridge, a little village of Japanese immigrants within a mile of his own home in South Kensington. Hopefully, they will back to visit us soon with one of their other productions.

willie-from-stage-1

(A really proud moment Saturday night for us here at the State actually happened in Cleveland. Our head sound engineer who is also the keyboardist/music director for Little Anthony and The Imperials played live on the national broadcast of The Rock and Roll hall of Fame induction ceremonies!)

Sunday and Monday we were host to the National Acrobats of China. Not a lot of fun backstage for me since no one spoke English but there was certainly not a dull moment onstage. It was quite apparent that this group practices relentlessly as there were no mistakes. Some of the routines just seem impossible to do…riding on top of someone’s shoulders on a bicycle and jumping to the next person’s shoulders in front of them on another bicycle, just crazy stuff. The age ranges of the audiences were from 0 to very old and everyone loved it. I can tell you that backstage they have a book that if you make a mistake you get written up. Now judging on how serious they are about not getting written up , well I am not sure of the penalty, but their tour manager told me that at one show one acrobat went flying off the stage to catch his hat and jumped up like a center fielder yelling I got it!

Not a lot of crazy things backstage this weekend but check back later this month when I report on Willie Nelson, Joe Cocker, Brian Regan, and k.d. lang. Thanks and remember come out and see a show!

–Larry  S. Dember, Director of Production

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/.

Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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Twitter and the Arts, perfect together

April 3, 2009

Last minute changes to the program, new discounts, added shows, these are all things that happen on a daily basis in the theater business. So, how do you go about giving people the 411 as soon as possible? Snail mail? Forget it, 2-3 days later is way too long. E-blast? What if you need to tell someone something that they need to know before the end of the day? The answer, Twitter.

Twitter is quickly becoming the best way to communicate with constant updates and instant feedback to questions. Plus it lets people know that you are around and when you are around, which makes the theater an approachable and accessible place. It’s a connection that isn’t made with an email announcement, people can’t ask an email questions, but they can ask the person tweeting. The State Theatre has only had an account for a couple of months, but it’s already proving to be worth the time and effort and it’s only going to get better. Go Twitter.

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/.

Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.

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VP for Education, ISO Great School and Family Performances for State Theatre Audiences

January 15, 2009

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting work to present for our school and community audiences, and theater conferences are a great way to see a lot of performances in a short time. This past week my staff and I went into NYC to check out a few of the hundreds of performances being showcased during the mother-of-all-booking-conferences, APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) 

Attending theater showcases is a lot like the dating scene: you have to sort through a lot of mediocre, annoying, incomprehensible, inappropriate, and just plain stupid options before you find one that’s right for you. This year’s APAP conference was no exception. We were pleasantly intrigued by a couple of shows that were part of the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater. Both incorporated performance poetry to illuminate powerful personal stories about class, race, identity, and culture. The quality of both productions was great—original, well-written, and movingly performed. Due to some of the language and subject matter, we’re not sure whether these pieces would be considered appropriate for school audiences. We’ll need to look into whether the artists would be willing to do some editing. 

As anticipated, we found ourselves sitting through some showcases that weren’t quite so successful. A couple of these showed promise, but will need a lot more polish before they’re ready for the State Theatre. We’ll be keeping an eye on them as they go through their development. Then there was another show that we all agreed was perhaps the longest hour we’ve ever spent inside a theater. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.)  

I will be flying off to Cleveland next week to attend my favorite conference: IPAY (International Performing Arts for Youth), which specializes in programs for school and family audiences. As the name implies, the conference showcases performers from all over the world. Since the productions are required to go through a screening process in order to be selected for a showcase performance, the quality tends to be pretty high. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

 —Lian Farrer, Vice President for Education

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW(7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/.
Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace.