LOST TEMPO Comes to Boston Playwrights' Theatre
Boston Playwrights' Theatre (BPT) opens its 2017-18 season with Lost Tempo by Cliff Odle. Running from October 5-22, the drama is directed by Diego Arciniegas.
The play follows jazz saxophonist Willie "Cool" Jones, lured back from Paris-by a former lover and the promise of an ownership stake in a nightclub-to 1950s Harlem.
The origins of Lost Tempo are in Odle's experiences as an understudy for Huntington Theatre Company's production of August Wilson's King Hedley II in 2000. Legendary jazz drummer Max Roach was brought in to compose original music for the play before its transfer to New York.
"I was blessed to have several discussions with Mr. Roach about his music and the many people he had worked with including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and of course Clifford Brown," Odle says. "I had always had an appreciation for jazz, but talking with him opened a whole new world for me. I became a big fan of the jazz genres of the 40's and 50's, but particularly Hard Bop . . . Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Hancock."
Odle says that while some of the most iconic jazz recordings of the 20th century (MiLes Davis's "Kind of Blue," John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," and Dave Brubeck's "Time Out," to name a few) happened in 1959-the year in which the play is set-the public no longer considered jazz to be music's "cutting edge."
The playwright also admits to a "fascination" with the 1950s, particularly the aspects of the decade that contradict images associated with the warm nostalgia of the period: poodle skirts, '57 Chevys, and the like. Odle describes Lost Tempo as a look "into The Shadows of the 50's," exploring themes such as drug addiction.
"This is the time when the Civil Rights movement was getting into gear and it was at a particularly dangerous and perilous time for people struggling to make this country live up to its promises," he says. "Also in the background was the Cuban Revolution, Masters and Johnson's Human Sexual Response, and the premiere of The Twilight Zone."
"We have been following the journey of this play for some time now, and Cliff has managed to capture the haunting world of 1950s jazz-where the transformations, both political and personal, led to the Civil Rights movement and more," says BPT Artistic Director Kate Snodgrass. "His is a singular vision, and I can't wait to experience it."
Lost Tempo was a part of Boston Theater Marathon XVIII's Warm-Up Laps and is Odle's first full-length play to be produced by BPT. Odle is a 2009 graduate of Boston University's Playwriting program, and his plays have been produced in Boston, New York, and on the West Coast. In addition to his work as a playwright, Odle is an actor, director and educator. He is an adjunct playwriting professor at Bates College and also teaches courses in Theatre and Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
A post-show conversation with Snodgrass, Odle, Arciniegas, and the cast will follow the Oct. 7 performance.
BPT's season continues in November with the Boston premiere of Molly Smith Metzler's Elemeno Pea; the world premiere of Brawler by Walt McGough (March), in collaboration with Kitchen Theatre Company; and the North American premiere of The Rosenbergs (An Opera) in April-in collaboration with the Brandeis University Department of Theatre Arts-with music by Joachim Holbek and libretto by Rhea Leman.
Founded in 1981 at Boston University by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, Boston Playwrights' Theatre (BPT) is an award-winning professional theatre dedicated to new works. At the heart of BPT's mission is the production of new plays by alumni of its M.F.A. Playwriting Program, the latter in collaboration with Boston University's renowned School of Theatre. The program's award-winning alumni have been produced in regional and New York houses, internationally, as well as in London's West End. BPT's productions have been honored with numerous national, regional, and Boston awards, including IRNE Awards for Best New Script and Boston Critics' Association Elliot Norton Awards.
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school's research and teaching mission.
CLIFF ODLE is a playwright, actor and director. He is a native of New Jersey and based in New England. He has been involved with theatre around the country. His plays have been performed in Boston, New York, San Diego and other areas. Lost Tempo was a part of the 2016 Boston Theater Marathon Warm-Up Laps and is his first full-length play to be produced by Boston Playwrights' Theatre. Some highlights: His play Running the Bulls was featured in the SlamBoston festival and has been produced by his company, New Urban Theatre Lab; The Ahern Fox was a finalist in the 2007 Kennedy Center Theatre Festival; The Delicate Art of Customer Service has been produced by New Urban Theatre Lab and was entered in the Jersey Voices Annual Theatre Festival; Our Girl in Trenton has been produced by the BU New Play Initiative Workshop. He has been a resident playwright for the educational theatre group Theatre Espresso where he co-wrote their play about the 1957 Little Rock desegregation case called The Nine: Crisis in Little Rock. Cliff has also written plays about cyber-bullying, The Lesson and Think Twice, which are currently in rep with Deana's Educational Theatre. He is the adjunct playwriting professor at Bates College and also teaches courses in Theatre and Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He has also taught at Wheelock College, Emerson, and at the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre Studio in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. As an actor he has worked for Bridge Repertory Theatre (Salome); New Repertory Theatre (Baltimore, coproduced with Boston Center for American Performance), RACE, Passing Strange; Huntington Theatre Company (Brendan, King Hedley II); Up You Mighty Race (Fences); Company One (The Good Negro, Last Days of Judas Iscariot, 103: Within The Veil); Wheelock Family Theatre (Saint Joan, Oliver, Taste of Sunrise, Pippi, Trumpet of the Swan); and a variety of other theatres in New York and San Diego. He can also be seen as a background artist in the movies Fever Pitch and What's the Worst That Can Happen? and played a state trooper in an episode of Brotherhood (Showtime). His directing work includes plays such as The Colored Museum, The Diary of Anne Frank, Amadeus, Agnes of God, and The Chairs. He has directed The Cook for the UMASS Performing Arts Department. He has also directed the first UMASS Playwright's Festival and served as a mentor/dramaturg for the second. He was a co-founder of New Urban Theater Laboratory. He is also founder of Jersey Voices, a one-act play festival which is now in its 24th year producing the work of New Jersey playwrights.
DIEGO ARCINIEGAS is a Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at Wellesley College, where he teaches performance and rhetoric. Most recently Diego directed Dog Act (Theatre on Fire), which was nominated for several IRNE Awards. Diego also directed The Draft (Hibernian Hall and Onwards Productions), which received an Arts Impulse Award for best new work. The Draft was filmed, and is now available through the Media Education Foundation and kanopystreaming.com. Diego served as Artistic Director of The Publick Theatre Boston from 2001 to 2011.