A Kansas native, Frank Benge has been involved in the Austin area theatre scene as a Director, Designer, Writer and Performer for the past 20 years. He holds a double BA in Theatre and English from Washburn University.
Leonard Bernstein is an American treasure. He was one of the first American born conductors to receive worldwide acclaim. His fame is derived not only from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, but also from his conducting most of the world's leading orchestras, and from his prodigious body of music as the composer of West Side Story, Peter Pan, Candide, Wonderful Town, On the Town, On the Waterfront, MASS and a range of other compositions, including three symphonies and many shorter chamber and solo works.
Bernstein was the first conductor to give a series of television lectures on classical music, primarily aimed at youth, starting in 1954 and continuing until his death. As a composer, he has created pieces that are, without question, part of the fabric of our lives.
'MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers' was composed by Leonard Bernstein with text by Bernstein and additional text and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy, it premiered on September 8, 1971. The performance was part of the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Austin will have the rare opportunity to experience this glorious piece as part of the Bernstein at 100 celebration this month. BroadwayWorld recently had the opportunity to talk to conductor Peter Bay, Musical Director and Conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra about the upcoming production.BWW Interview: Dane Laffrey Talks About His Tony Nominated ONCE ON THIS ISLAND June 10, 2018
Recently, BroadwayWorld had the opportunity to interview Dane Laffrey who recently received his first Tony nomination for his work on the Broadway hit ONCE ON THIS ISLAND.
Dane's design is an explosive exercise in controlled chaos. Since ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is a tale of magical realism set in the Caribbean, Dane channeled the current conditions of regions hit by 2016's Hurricane Matthew. The stage is covered in sand, a crashed semi-truck takes up a corner of the space, a pool of water is held back by a pile of sand bags, and a downed power line has even crushed some of the seats. It's a complex set that has engrossed countless audiences seated in its theatre in the round setting. A seasoned scenic design veteran, Dane has designed sets for productions across Japan, Australia, Norway and the United States. Throughout his twelve years in the New York circuit, he's built sets for Broadway productions such as Spring Awakening and Fool For Love, along with off-Broadway hits such as The Maids and Woody Harrelson's Bullet for Adolf, as well as the upcoming production of Tennessee William's Summer and Smoke.BWW Review: LUCKY STIFF Stylishly Executed Musical Souffle June 10, 2018
LUCKY STIFF is a musical farce with lyrics and libretto by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, that is notable historically for several things. To begin with, It was the first collaboration for the team whose later collaborations include Ragtime and Once On This Island. It was created and performed at Playwrights Horizons off-Broadway in 1988, and won the Richard Rodgers Award for that year. LUCKY STIFF is based on a 1983 novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth. It received a full production in London's West End in 1997 but, to date, has never had a Broadway production. In 2015, a film version was created but it has only been seen at film festivals.BWW Review: SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS Packed With Superb Performances May 21, 2018
SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS is a new play from Drama Desk Award-winner Bess Wohl that looks at how we address life's biggest questions when you can't use words. Under the watchful eye of their unseen guru, six people (who are about as different from each other as one can get) have gathered for a week-long retreat in the woods. What makes this retreat unusual is the fact that it is a silent retreat. In the process of listening to their spiritual leader, they discover that silence is not only golden, but also more than a little passive-aggressive. As they confront their inner demons, they find their vows of silence colliding with the basic human need to connect.
Rules have been laid out (including no cellphone use except in cars with the windows rolled up, no candles or incense, no food in the rooms), but over the course of the retreat, every rule gets broken. In the quiet of the woods, they attempt to abandon technology and observe their vow of silence. There are some remarkable moments of tenderness in this play, but SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS is also a wickedly satiric look at this comodified inner peace industry where nirvana is just a guru, mantra or self-help book away.BWW Review: AN ADULT EVENING OF SHEL SILVERSTEIN is Delectably Demented May 13, 2018
Sheldon Allan 'Shel' Silverstein was a decidedly American writer who has been translated into more than 30 languages, and whose books have sold over 20 million copies. He was the recipient of two Grammy Awards, as well as a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination. Silverstein created a remarkable body of work that spans the gamut from county and western songs to children's literature, from poetry to short plays. He also illustrated much of his own writing. In AN ADULT EVENING OF SHEL SILVERSTEIN, adapter and director Steph Carll has pulled judiciously from this body of work to craft a delectably demented, sublimely saucy and blissfully bawdy evening of adult entertainment. What is also revealed in the process is just how much Silverstein has contributed to the fabric of our lives. You may find yourself thinking more than once 'I didn't know he wrote that...' .BWW Review: WISH - A MUSICAL ADVENTURE is Wise, Witty and Wonderful May 9, 2018
WISH is a world premiere new musical for young audiences that is set 100 years in the past and uses a highly theatrical and presentational storytelling style that successfully combines magic, music and youthful optimism with action and adventure. This unique and original story imagines the America of 100 years ago as a mythical place where the bold scientific discoveries and inventions of the era meet magic, superstition and wonder. It is even set in a town called Ideal. It is the story of young Samantha Major (Megan Hudson) and her friend Grace Strickland (Katya Welch) as they journey from the East to West coast to find and possibly save her father, inventor Tom Major (Scott Poppaw).BWW Review: Festival of New Texas Plays at Austin Playhouse May 2, 2018
Austin Playhouse recently produced staged readings of the three winning plays from their Festival of New Texas Plays. EIDOPHUSIKON by Reina Hardy kicked off the festival on Friday, April 27, NUTSHELL by C. Denby Swanson was on Saturday, April 28, and MONROE by Lisa B. Thompson concluded the lineup on Sunday, April 29. Along with the professional staged reading, which featured Austin Playhouse directors and company members, each of the winning playwrights received a $500 prize.BWW Review: THE SUNSHINE BOYS is Sparkling Simon Done Right April 23, 2018
THE SUNSHINE BOYS is a 1972 Tony Award nominated play by Neil Simon that ran for 538 performances on Broadway. It was turned into a feature film in 1975 and a TV movie in 1996. THE SUNSHINE BOYS is the story of two old vaudeville stars, Lewis & Clark, whose iconic act ended when Al Lewis walked away after 43 years of animosity and retired leaving Willie to try to make it as a solo act. When Willie didn't succeed, the duo never spoke again. When his nephew Ben, a talent agent, tries to resurrect the act for a TV special, the big question is whether they can put aside their differences long enough to make one final appearance.BWW Review: MY FAIR LADY Gets Loving Revival at Georgetown Palace April 22, 2018
MY FAIR LADY is a 1956 musical based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The musical is the story of Eliza Doolittle (Martina Ohlhauser) a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins (Damon Brown), a phoneticist, in order to improve her station in life by passing as a lady. The original Broadway production was both a critical and popular success, setting the record for the longest run of any show up to that time. It has been revived multiple times, including the current production on Broadway and has been turned into a popular film. It won the 1957 Tony Award for Best Musical. MY FAIR LADY features one of musical theatre's greatest scores, including 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly?' 'The Rain in Spain,' 'I Could Have Danced All Night,' 'On the Street Where You Live,' and 'Get Me to the Church on Time.'BWW Review: RAGTIME a Work of Great Power and Beauty Brilliantly Executed April 20, 2018
RAGTIME is a 1996 musical about the American experience at the turn of the 20th century with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty. The score is inspired by the musical styles of the period and includes marches, cakewalks, gospel and, of course, ragtime. Based on E. L. Doctorow's 1975 novel of the same name about early 20th century America, the story weaves together the disparite lives of three groups: African Americans, represented by Harlem musician Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Ben Toomer); the White upper-class of suburbia, represented by Mother (Emma Hearn), a New Rochelle matriarch; and immigrants, represented by Tateh (Trevor Berger), a Jewish immigrant from Latvia. The musical's message of acceptance and hope in the face of challenges is even more relevant today than it was two decades ago.BWW Review: Hilarious Touring Production of THE BOOK OF MORMON Packed With Talent April 19, 2018
THE BOOK OF MORMON is a satirical musical with book, lyrics, and music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone, the creators of the long running Comedy Central animated series South Park, along with Lopez, the co-composer/co-lyricist of Avenue Q and Frozen, have created a show that simultaneously deconstructs the American musical while paying loving homage to it. THE BOOK OF MORMON is the story of two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to Uganda on their first mission. The only thing the two boys have in common is their naive outlook on life. When they try to spread 'the word' among the locals they discover that religion is the last thing the villagers are concerned about.BWW Review: VIOLET Charms at St. Edwards April 17, 2018
VIOLET is a 1997 musical with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley. It's based on the short story 'The Ugliest Pilgrim' by Doris Betts. The musical first premiered Off-Broadway in 1997 and won the Drama Critics' Circle Award and Lucille Lortel Award as Best Musical, it was later produced on Broadway but considered a revival. While it was Tony Award nominated, it did not win.BWW Review: Danko Delivers Dynamic Debilitating Dark Descent in GROUNDED April 15, 2018
GROUNDED is a 2012 drama from George Brant that won the National New Play Network's 2012 Smith Prize and the Fringe First award at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Street Corner Arts production of the play is the first time his work has been done in Austin since he graduated with an MFA in Writing from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. George Brant's play was one of the earliest theatrical explorations of this unnerving new form of war.BWW Review: Immerse Yourself in the Magic of PERFORMANCE PARK April 1, 2018
PERFORMANCE PARK is an interactive and immersive theatre piece, conceived and directed by Bonnie Cullum, that transforms the Vortex compound into a choose-your-own-experience environment where you are free to wander and pick what you will watch, what games you will play and the order in which you experience them. It is entirely unlike most other theatrical experiences in that you have the option to take a break to digest what you have seen and try to figure out what it all means and what you should do next.BWW Review: SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE A Love Letter to Theatre March 26, 2018
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE is a 2014 stage adaptation by Lee Hall of the 1998 Academy Award winning film by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard of the same name. It was first created under the auspices of Disney Theatrical Productions and Sonia Friedman Productions. The story concerns an imaginary love affair involving Viola de Lesseps (Claire Grasso) and playwright William Shakespeare (Stephen Mercantel) while he was writing Romeo and Juliet. Many of the characters are based on historical figures, and many of the characters, lines, and plot devices allude to Shakespeare's plays. The production, now playing at Austin Playhouse, is one of their biggest productions to date. This script has become one of the most produced plays in America this season, and rightfully so, as it as entertaining as the 1998 film was.BWW Review: Razor Sharp Black Comedy THE SECRETARY Turns the Gun Debate On Its Head March 24, 2018
THE SECRETARY is a world premiere comedy by Kyle John Schmidt that shines a dark and wry light on America's love affair with guns. Initially developed at the Ingram New Play Lab at Nashville Repertory Theatre and workshopped earlier this season at Hyde Park Theatre, this razor sharp black comedy gets a slick, polished and professional production from Theatre en Bloc, now playing at The Long Center. When the sweet elderly secretary at a local high school deals with a threat in her office by firing off six bullets, the local gun manufacturer gets the idea to name their brand new gun 'The Secretary', after her. Sales are slumping and they take advantage of the unfortunate modern reality that news of each new shooting is good for business. As production begins on their newest firearm, their guns begin going off without anyone pulling the trigger. Featuring an all female cast, THE SECRETARY is a black comedy with an extremely timely message.BWW Interview: Elizabeth Doss and Lisa Laratta on paper chairs newest Original Work THE REPENTANCE OF ST. JOAN March 22, 2018
Austin theatre troupe paper chairs has been creating original works of theatre here for the past eight years that consistently push boundaries both verbal and visual. These fresh and exciting works are, in no small part, due to two women who were among the founding members, Elizabeth Doss and Lisa Laratta. Opening on March 23 is their latest offering, THE REPENTANCE OF ST. JOAN, a new play by Austin playwright Patrick Shaw. Broadway World recently had the opportunity to sit down with them to get a deeper look into both the company and their upcoming production.BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER a Stylish, Witty Comic Musical Romp March 21, 2018
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is a 2014 musical comedy, with a book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak. This winner of four Tonys, including Best Musical, is based on the 1907 novel 'Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal' by Roy Horniman. The novel was also the source for the 1949 British film Kind Hearts and Coronets. The film and musical are both examples of black comedy and the musical also spoofs the antiquated musical form known as operetta. This frenetic farce has a marvelous score that recalls the best verbal gymnastics of Gilbert & Sullivan and Stephen Sondheim.BWW Review: BAD JEWS a Brutal and Vicious Familial Battle March 18, 2018
BAD JEWS is a 2012 play by Joshua Harmon that is billed as a dark comedy. Harmon says his inspiration for the play came 'after attending a service in which grandchildren of Holocaust survivors were invited to speak.' When the beloved patriarch of a New York Jewish family dies, he leaves behind a treasured family heirloom that is a culturally significant piece of jewelry. The item in question was a piece of jewelry, traditionally worn by men, that he succeeded in hiding from the Nazis during the Holocaust. His grandchildren gather to attend to family business and end up fighting over not only the family heirloom, but over faith, cultural assimilation, and each other's life choices while reliving, sharing and remembering.