Amy Zipperer is an award-winning playwright whose short plays have been produced across the United States and Canada. She currently teaches creative writing at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Georgia.
Dark threatening clouds hang low over the Inn Lake at Serenbe as I clump up the dirt pathway towards the unsinkable R.M.S. Titanic, the ship of dreams, represented here tonight by a massive industrial steel scaffolding structure that rises out of the lake, climbing high into the menacing sky. The sky, providing the natural backdrop for visionary artistic director Brian Clowdus's doomed ocean liner, seems tonally apropos considering that I, along with several hundred other patron-passengers, have driven out specifically for the purpose of revisiting the horrifying deaths of 1503 people in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean on an April evening of 1912 when the festive notes from the ship's orchestra must have peppered the excited night air in much the same way that this ship's gorgeous, first-rate orchestra, perched some 100 yards away in a shipping crate on a hill above the floating stage, does. As we reach the ship, crew members in gorgeous period costuming by Alan Yeong, beckon us aboard while impressive billows of smoke pour out of the kettle drum-smoke stacks perched high atop the scaffolding and ship blasts signify that our immersive journey is about to begin. At that moment, I am simply along for the ride, not knowing as I listen to the women behind me munching on popcorn and clamoring about which Clowdus show has been their favorite, that this production of the lackluster 1997 Titanic, a musical that scooped up a slew of undeserved Tony Awards for Maury Yeston and Peter Stone, is going to be one of the most memorable and dazzling theatrical spectacles I have ever witnessed.BWW Interview: The Walking Dead's Jayson Warner Smith of BLACKBIRD at Robert Mello Studio Blackbox July 16, 2018
David Harrower's celebrated 2005 play, Blackbird, is coming to Atlanta this August at The Robert Mello Studio Blackbox. The Tony-nominated play, which The New York Times called 'gorgeous' and 'unsettling,' tells the story of Una, a young woman, who shows up at the office of Ray, her former lover, who, after having been imprisoned at the age of 40 for his illicit relationship with the 12-year-old Una, has tried to make a new life for himself. A new name. A new relationship. But when Una pops up 15 years later to rehash the details of their former love affair after seeing his picture in a trade magazine, Ray's carefully constructed new life begins to collapse. BroadwayWorld recently caught up with The Walking Dead star Jayson Warner Smith to chat about his turn as Ray in the self-produced run.BWW Review: THE COLOR PURPLE at Actor's Express June 20, 2018
The production of The Color Purple that opened at Actor's Express over the weekend is a strong, spirited, stripped-down production that aims straight at the heart of Alice Walker's beloved story. Here, the aesthetic improvements to the stuffy and overcooked original Broadway production's concept are inspired by John Doyle's recent acclaimed minimalist revival on Broadway, and in the hands of a talented ensemble and a luminous Latrice Pace in the role of Celie, this musical becomes exactly what it should be: a heartfelt portrait of the resilience of the human heart.BWW Review: NEWSIES at Peach State Summer Theatre! June 19, 2018
Disney's Newsies is currently playing at Peach State Summer Theatre in Valdosta, and if you're looking to get out of the hustle and grind of Atlanta for a weekend road trip to a place where they're not paving I-285, this is definitely your best-bet theatre destination. Peach State Summer Theatre's energetic production, propelled by a solid book by Harvey Fierstein and memorable music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, showcases how well this 2011 tuner has aged. It's a story about bucking the corrupt establishment and fighting for an America where everyone has a chance at a piece of the dream-pie (or at least a piece of bread) in exchange for hard work. And Peach State Summer Theatre's talented cast, led by a dazzling Andrew Poston in the role of Jack Kelly and supported by Jason Lee Courson's effective scenic design and Jason Celaya's urban choreography, knows exactly how to tell this story.BWW Road-Trip Review: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at Peach State Summer Theatre June 16, 2018
It's hot down here in Valdosta! And that's not just the heat from the Georgia sun in June we're feeling. It's the heat emanating from the Peach State Summer Theatre's production of Million Dollar Quartet. The musical revue, playing this summer in repertory with Disney's Newsies and Hello, Dolly!, recreates the legendary jam session at Sun Records, a session that marks the only time that rock and roll giants Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash were ever assembled in the same room. The tuner is little moas re than an excuse to play a catalogue of some of the most popular rock and roll songs of all time, but when music sounds as good as it does here, that's alright. That's alright!BWW Review: TARZAN: THE STAGE MUSICAL at Atlanta Lyric Theatre June 9, 2018
When Tarzan swung into Atlanta Lyric Theatre on Friday evening, it carried a lot of heavy baggage with it. At its opening on Broadway in 2006, the seldom-produced tuner, with songs by Phil Collins and a book by David Henry Hwang, was decidedly unpopular with the critics. The New York Times called it "restless," "fidgety," and "a giant green blob with music." New York Magazine said, "You are going to be bored." I could go on, but why bother? You get the picture. Neither the musical nor the production was favored, and, unsurprisingly, the musical lasted only 486 performances on Broadway, which, in the world of the Disney musical, is like dying while you're still a tadpole. But Robert Adams' production of Tarzan, owing much debt to the extraordinary lighting design by Mary Parker, the efficient scenic design by Daniel Pattillo, and the vigor of the acrobatic cast, sheds all of that baggage and finds a way to soar.BWW Previews: SUMMER STAGES in Atlanta June 5, 2018
We've barely welcomed June, and it's already sizzling hot here in Atlanta, so as we all head inside to foster meaningful relationships with our air conditioners, there are really two viable options for leisuretime: fight with randos about Donald Trump on Twitter until you legitimately expect that you might have a stroke or head to the theater for a few blissful hours of phone-free, air-conditioned joy. Translation: Go to the theater this summer. It's good for your health.BWW Interview: Christopher Sieber of CANDIDE at Alliance Theatre May 13, 2018
Two-time Tony Award nominee Christopher Sieber is back in Atlanta where he's taking on the roles of Dr. Pangloss and The Narrator in Leonard Bernstein's 1956 operetta, Candide, a collaboration between Alliance Theatre and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. BroadwayWorld caught up with Christopher Sieber to talk about the project.BWW Interview: T.K. Habtemariam of SORDID LIVES at Out Front Theatre Company May 2, 2018
Sordid Lives, a dark comedy by Del Shores, is playing at Out Front Theatre Company this month. BroadwayWorld caught up with T.K. Habtemariam, an Atlanta-based actor who plays Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram in Out Front's upcoming production, to talk about the show.
I haven't seen this show before, but I've done a little bit of reading. So, it's about a woman named Peggy who trips over her lover's wooden legs in a hotel room and dies.
Yeah. Exactly. And it's funny that her name is Peggy, too.
Yeah. I mean, because the fact that she dies because of the wooden legs. Peg-gy.
That's really funny. I'm interested to know how your character figures into this story.
Brother BoyEarl Ingram probably was a little bit before his time, and at the age of 18, he was kicked out of his household for being one big old queer boy. And he was actually put into a mental institution for wanting to either impersonate women or for liking someone of the same sex. And, essentially, back when I was 18, I had a friend named Wardell, and he found out that I had a crush on hi, and he beat me up to a bloody pulp, and my mother, Peggy, who ends up tripping over her lover's wooden legs, put me in a mental institution because she believes the world is not ready for me and my place in this world. But Wardell, 20 years later, ends up busting me out of the mental institution.
This is kind of interesting because when I read about the show online, it sounded like a straight silly comedy, but now it sort of sounds like it tackles some real issues.
Oh, it's definitely a black comedy, and it definitely tackles a lot of issues. It's traditionally an all-white cast, and we color-flipped the main family, and we've kind of found ourselves in a new definition of the kind of topics that it tackles It was written in the 90s, and it kind of reflects the Southern mentality form the 90s, but now that we're putting it in the context of a black family, there are so many other social issues that are underlying that wouldn't have been beforehand.
That was one of the questions that I was going to ask was how the story has changed because of this casting. This is the first all-African-American cast ever, right?
Yes. It is. And it's such an honor for me to say I'm the first African-American Brother Boy because Leslie Jordan originated the role, and I remember seeing this movie in high-school and revisiting, I was like "Oh, my goodness. I actually did see this movie." And it is definitely a fantasy in the sense of what anyone of color could get away with. If there was anyone who was queer and of color in a mental institution for being gay, I don't know if that person would still be alive. And Wardell, who busts into the mental institution, comes in with a gun and busts me out, and we both tell this white lady to get the hell out of this place. If that were to happen in the 90s in South Texas, I promise you they wouldn't be alive. And, you know, it does bring in the idea of the interracial relationship, but that's kind of at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to all of the other issues that we cover. Even though I would like to say that Brother Boy has access to mental healthcare and someone who's queer and of colorthat's kind of like the last group of people who get healthcare. And also there are moments where black women talk back to white men. There are moments when a black woman tells off a white man. There are moments, when it comes to social diversity back then You know, we think of period pieces like To Kill a Mockingbird where we are so used to saying, "Okay. Well, at this time, black people were called niggers, so we're just going to have to expect it, you know?" But when it comes to things like I'm a black male in a mental institution for fantasizing about country queens like Tammy Wynette, and I do believe that my character would probably identify as a trans person but back then "trans" wasn't in our vocabulary, so there's the interesting discussion there to happen. So, it just kind of flares up a lot of things that couldn't have happened back then, but today we're using theatre as a way to tell a story that probably wouldn't have ever happened to bring up discussions today. We've had lots of conversations as a team about what these things mean to us today, and a lot of things have to be dug up. For instance, there's a line where a character calls somebody a mulatto. When we think of a white-trash family, we kind of accept the fact that they're going to poke fum at somebody being mixed, but how does it look when a white person says that to a black person? There have been some modifications, of course, with the generosity of Del Shores, where we've kind of said, "Can you rework this or find a way to make this"
And he was into that? He was willing to make those changes?
Oh, yeah! He had to think about the script and rework it and rewrite some lines. There are some lines where - I am a black person, and we have to take into consideration that I wouldn't just idolize Tammy Wynette, you know? There are so many other queens at that time. We found moments where I can bring up Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner because that would be reflective of the culture and of the time.
When you first auditioned for the role, what was it about the role that really resonated with you?
I think that number one is my character type. You always have to think about what kind of roles you are peaked for, in all honesty. I'm usually someone who's taking someone down or who is being taken down. My character-type is the "betrayer" or the "betrayed." And Brother Boy is that kind of character. And then, I do drag as a little side passion project here in Atlanta, and I work with a predominantly queer POC group called Southern Fried Queer Pride, and I've had opportunities to perform in drag, write drag shows, and the play is kind of an amalgamation of both theatre and drag. And it's a cult classic role! Why wouldn't I want to be a part of it? And once I started meeting my castmates and we had rehearsals and what not, the bigger picture started panning out and I stated to see, "Oh, okay. This is what this is really all about."
Do you have any projects coming up this summer that we need to know about?
There's a passion project that I'm working on. It's kind of like the second installation of it. It's called Weavestock, and it's going to be through Country Fried Queer Pride. It's going to be hopefully happening sometime in August, and it's a project that I'm writing, directing, and being a part of. It's kind of like a play on Woodstock and Wigstock, a phenomenon that happened in New York in the late 80s and early 90s. Lots of drag icons used to perform at Wigstock. Weavestock is basically a celebration of all-black drag. It moves like a jukebox musical where there are written scenes with drag performances. A lot of times, you know, you have to create your own opportunities. Right now, I'm working on cultivating my writing skills and my directing skills and just hoping to create more opportunities for myself herein Atlanta.
Sounds like you're on the right track! Looking forward to seeing the show.BWW Review: THE FLOWER ROOM at Actor's Express April 30, 2018
The Flower Room, a world premiere by Atlanta-based playwright Daryl Fazio, is as good as it can be. The acting is fine. The direction is adequate. The set by Kristina White is superior. Unfortunately, the script,which was showcased last year in the AE Threshold Festival of New Plays, is seriously undercooked, making this an evening of theatre with little intellectual or emotional payoff. BWW Interview: Pearl Cleage of HOSPICE + POINTING AT THE MOON at Alliance Theatre March 26, 2018
The Alliance Theatre is making another stop on the road, this time at the Fulton County Southwest Arts Center where they're presenting a pair of one-act plays, Hospice and Pointing at the Moon, both by celebrated playwright Pearl Cleage. BroadwayWorld caught up with Pearl Cleage to talk about her work.BWW Review: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS at Atlanta Lyric Theatre February 13, 2018
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a musical farce based on the 1988 film of the same name, opened on Friday evening at Atlanta Lyric Theatre, and despite the fact that the book by Jeffrey Lane doesn't manage the governing tension of the story as well as its film predecessor and that the music by David Yazbek is mostly forgettable, the production represents a decidedly successful outing for the Atlanta Lyric Theatre. A great cast, boasting standout performances by Chase Peacock in the role of Freddy Benson and Jessica De Maria in the role of Muriel Eubanks, and designed-to-impress choreography by Lauren Brooke Tatum provide all the makings for a fun evening at the theatre.BWW Interview: Melissa Foulger of MAYTAG VIRGIN at Aurora Theatre January 15, 2018
Halloween month brings with it some of our favorite things. Jack-o'-lantern carving. Falling leaves. Pumpkin spice well everything. And it also brings with it one of Atlanta's most buzzed-about spooktacular events: The Sleepy Hollow Experience at Serenbe Playhouse. Now enjoying its fifth season, The Sleepy Hollow Experience perfectly showcases Serenbe Playhouse's incredible adeptness at creating unforgettable site-specific theatre. The production, recognized in 2014 as one of the Top Five Halloween Plays in the Country, deserves both the national recognition as well as the sold-out crowds that flock to The Horseman's Meadow in Serenbe each year for a chance to see Washington Irving's Headless Horseman come to life. This year, with its dazzling cast pillared by Brian Clowdus's fantastic adaptation, it's must-see theatre that'll leave you feeling delightfully freaked out.BWW Interview: Rebeca Robles of BLACKBIRD at 7 Stages Theatre October 5, 2017
David Harrower's celebrated 2005 play, Blackbird, is coming to 7 Stages Theatre. The play, which The New York Times lauded for its powerful emotional nakedness, tells the story of Una, a young woman, who shows up at the office of Ray, her former lover, who, after having been imprisoned at the age of 40 for his illicit relationship with the 12-year-old Una, has tried to make a new life for himself. A new name. A new relationship. Needless to say, Ray's not that excited when Una pops up 15 years later to rehash the details of their former love affair after seeing his picture in a trade magazine. BWW recently caught up with Rebeca Robles to chat about her turn as Una in the self-produced run.BWW Review: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY at Synchronicity Theatre September 25, 2017
Young playwright Kate Hamill is the best thing to happen to Jane Austen since Colin Firth. Her wonderfully witty and whimsical adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility are the best stage adaptations of Austen's work to date. Anyone who saw Bedlam's rapturous production of Sense and Sensibility that landed at the Gym at Judson last year where it enjoyed extension after extension knows this. Hamill's adaptations are all about invention, about making a magical world that supports the condensing of a 400-page novel to a two-hour play. And that invention is tricky business. Synchronicity Theatre, with their production of Sense and Sensibility, have turned out a lovely and engaging production that offers up some excellent storytelling.BWW Review: SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE at Alliance Theatre September 15, 2017
When the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love trotted away with seven Academy Awards, including one celebrating the original screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, nobody could have been particularly surprised. The nimble script and lavish period design made it a veritable shoe-in for Oscar gold. Now, under the capable pen of Lee Hall, the stage adaptation, which made its much-anticipated premiere on this side of the pond at the Stratford Festival in 2016, is poised to enjoy a long and lively life in regional theatre. And we need no ghost come from the grave to tell us this. The Alliance Theatre's charming and well-acted production, running through September 24 at the Conant Performing Arts Center at Oglethorpe University, tells the story of this play's prospects for an illustrious future as it adeptly showcases the play's delicious explorations of both the Elizabethan theatre and the craft of writing and previews the possibilities for inventive staging that the script welcomes.BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY at Atlanta Lyric Theatre August 27, 2017
In June, the New York Post reported that Colin Firth, who is rumored to have turned down the role of Henry Higgins in the upcoming, highly-anticipated 2018 Lincoln Centerrevival of My Fair Lady, might still be considering the role. Just a few days ago, they claimed that Lauren Ambrose could be our next Eliza Doolittle. These recent tidbits come on the heels of at least a dozen other Post articles over the last several years speculating on casting and direction for the slow-starting revival. Andwhy does New York's love-to-hate chatterbox keep landing on My Fair Lady gossip? For the same reason everybody else wants to hear it. It's a story that we can't get enough of. And why can't we get enough of it? Easy. We are obsessed with the familiar Pygmalion story: boy meets plain old girl, boy molds plain old girl into new-and-improved perfect girl, boy is fabulously happy. The thing that makes My Fair Lady a Pygmalion story that rises above its mythological predecessor, as well as many other pop culture retellings, is that the plain old girl in this one, once she is transformed into new-and-improved perfect girl,recognizes what she has lost in the bargain and actually holds the boy accountable for it. That's a good story. A relevant story. An important story. And Atlanta Lyric Theatre, in their current production under the direction of Scott Seidl, tells the story quite well. With an excellent cast, led by popular Atlanta actor Galen Crawley in her gorgeous turn as Eliza Doolittle, and some of the best music to hit the Atlanta stages this summer, the production is definitely one to celebrate.BWW Review: CABARET at Serenbe Playhouse August 4, 2017
It's hot out at Serenbe Playhouse this month. But the heat isn't coming from the oppressive Georgia-in-August sun. It's coming from the racy and enthralling production of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret on display at the Kit Kat Club, a neon-framed outdoor cabaret club, complete with cabaret tables flanking a long runway stage, very scantily clad cocktail waitresses, and an elevated first-rate orchestra. This impressive site-specific setting dazzlingly supports a talented cast, and celebrated visionary directorBrian Clowdus, who takes on the role of The Emcee in this production, powerfully showcases the unsettling relevance of the beloved 1966 musical.BWW Review: ROBIN HOOD at Serenbe Playhouse July 23, 2017
In our family album, there is a photograph of me at around 18 months old, and I'm crying. Though I have no memory of the moment that's been captured for posterity, I've been told that I had just gotten a smidge of dirt on my pink dress. I try not to think about this as I traverse the muddy embankment, heading for the forest clearing where Serenbe Playhouse's immersive, site-specific production of Robin Hood, a new adaptation by Rachel Teagle under the direction of Paul McGill, plays throughout the summer. I decline the bug spray at the check-in point. In retrospect, that's probably a mistake. I approach the clearing and find my seat on a wooden bench. In front of me, dozens of children have taken spots on the ground on appropriately Robin Hood-y colored blankets. It's clear to me that they are ready for a grand adventure. A little girl in yellow jelly sandals lies on her stomach with her chin propped in her hands. She is ready. A little boy with a cowlick doles out goldfish crackers from a plastic baggie to the children sitting near him. He is ready. They are all ready. And what they get is a very pleasant morning of theatre.