Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” opens Friday at Iroquois Amphitheater. The comic operetta is part of the new “Iroquois Amphitheater Presents” series produced by Metro Parks.Amphitheater manager Mike Slaton says this series is designed to bring affordable arts programming to the historic stage. The 74-year-old amphitheater underwent a $9 million renovation in 2003, and after a period of contracting, Metro Parks brought the management of the 2,400-seat facility back in-house in 2009. The venue has hosted a number of sold-out concerts since, including Black Keys and The Shins, as well as a production of the musical "Once Upon a Mattress" last summer. A black box performance space, Parkside Studio, was also created to host small productions in colder months. “It’s been a struggle for the last couple of years to find the system that’s going to work out here and have the amphitheater be profitable, but still also be an arts venue,” says Slaton.Slaton says Metro Parks decided to produce a Gilbert and Sullivan show in part because the operettas pay tribute to the facility’s history as a stop on the summer musical circuit in the late 1930s and '40s. The amphitheater was built as a Works Progress Administration project in 1938. "My goal out here has been to build a sustainable future that's respectful of the past," says Slaton.Gilbert and Sullivan’s late 19th century operettas, including “Pinafore” and “The Pirates of Penzance,” laid the groundwork for the modern American musical. They still resonate in pop culture, like in running jokes on “The West Wing” and “The Simpsons.” Director Gregory Maupin says the quirky Victorian elements of political satire still feel relevant, and it doesn’t hurt that the songs are incredibly catchy.“The wordplay is a lot of fun, and it’s the kind of stuff that bears up under repeated listening, unlike some things, especially comedy, once you know the joke, surprise being a large part of it," says Maupin. "With Gilbert and Sullivan, there’s a lot of subtlety, considering how broad they are.”“H.M.S. Pinafore” runs through August 25. Metro Parks plans to produce “Pirates of Penzance” next summer.
Louisville Repertory Company is changing up its programming with an unauthorized homage to Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang. Bert V. Royal’s play “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” re-imagines the Peanuts characters as confused high schoolers. Names are changed, but the characters are still recognizable.“Van” is a stoner who smoked the last scraps of his beloved blanket. “CB” is still a blockhead, but now he’s questioning his sexuality and possibly in love with his piano-playing classmate. Good grief.“It’s Charlie Brown, but it’s Charlie Brown plus ten years, and thankfully it felt familiar," says Todd Ziegler, who plays CB. "I’m hoping I can convey the Charlie Brown people will remember, and there are a few moments in there everyone will recognize. I say 'good grief' at least once.”He says even though the play is irreverent, it’s as much of a tribute as a parody.“It’s a very extreme take on the characters. It deals with a lot of things that I don’t think Charles Schulz ever got into, like questions of sexuality, teenage identity and issues of abuse and drug use and things like that,” says Ziegler. Louisville Rep typically stages 20th century classics like "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Arsenic and Old Lace." Ziegler says “Dog Sees God” is an experiment of sorts for the company, to see if a newer play based on familiar subjects can be as successful as an old favorite. Direceted by Natalie Fields, "Dog Sees God" opens Thursday and runs through August 25 at The Bard's Town.
Jeffrey Skinner, formerly a private investigator, is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Salt Water Amnesia (2005), and two anthologies of poems, Last Call: Poems on Alcoholism, Addiction, and Deliverance; and Passing the Word: Poets and Their Mentors.He recently penned The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets: A Self-Help Memoir for Sarabande Books.Skinner joined WFPL's Erin Keane on Byline to discuss writing, investigating, and effective working methodologies.
The national tour of the hit musical "The Book of Mormon" will be part of next season’s Broadway in Louisville series. Broadway in Louisville won’t announce their 2013-2014 season until March, but a limited engagement of “The Book of Mormon” will be on the slate. "Louisville is a savvy theater town and they know what's hot in New York," says Broadway Across America Midwest president Leslie Broecker. "We've been getting requests for the show since it opened on Broadway. We've also gotten many requests to help acquire tickets in New York."“The Book of Mormon” is a comedy about two Mormon missionaries who attempt to reconcile their faith and evangelism with the realities of the Ugandan village where they are assigned. The religious satire is the brainchild of “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, c0-creator of another irreverent musical, the long-running puppet spoof “Avenue Q.” Ben Brantley of The New York Times called the show "the best musical of this century." It won nine Tony Awards last year, including best musical, book and score. It was the fifth-highest grossing Broadway show in 2011, and the New York production remains in the top five grossing shows by week this year, continuing to break house records at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.Broecker says the best way to reserve tickets now for “The Book of Mormon” is to subscribe to the 2012-13 season of the Broadway series, which kicks off in October with “Beauty and the Beast.” Subscribers to this season will automatically reserve their seats for the 2013-2014 season, including “The Book of Mormon,” when they renew. After renewing subscribers' tickets are secured, new subscribers for the 2013-2014 season will be able to reserve tickets, then group sales and finally, single tickets will go on sale to the public.
There was a time when summer didn't yield such an abundance of theatrical riches in Louisville, with the big houses dark and maybe a handful of small company revivals to sustain us through the long humid season. But with a gut-punch wonderful production of Rajiv Joseph's “Gruesome Playground Injuries” and “A Bright New Boise” (The Bard's Town Theatre―read the review) playing now, there's no reason to retreat to the cineplex this week. “Gruesome Playground Injuries” is the second production in Theatre 's second season. Directed by co-artistic director Gil Reyes, this heartbreaker of a play embodies the spirit of Theatre 's mission to produce recent work by acclaimed playwrights whose work speaks to younger adults. With arts organizations across the country fretting about how to expand their audiences beyond an aging base,  has quietly set about the business of giving younger audiences what they want (coincidentally, what the co-artistic producers want, too)―shows that speak to Generations X and Y's concerns, sensibilities and desires. There are only three productions left of the show, which plays tonight, Friday and Saturday in the Victor Jory Theatre at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Excellent acting, thoughtful staging and a strong directorial vision make “Gruesome Playground Injuries” a can't-miss production. “Gruesome Playground Injuries” tells the story of Kayleen (Leah Roberts) and Doug ( co-artistic director Mike Brooks), two best friends who meet in the school nurse's office. They trace their 30-year relationship back and forth in time through a series of accidents, illnesses and wounds. At the heart of this play is the question of how to feel worthy of an unconditional love you believe you don't deserve, and how to know when to stop pursuing someone who loves you but pushes you away.Doug is a daredevil, who insists that the risks he takes in the name of love and thrills don't make him stupid: “I'm just brave, that's all.” Kayleen has a sensitive stomach, and over the course of the play the extent of her own injuries are revealed slowly and thoughtfully, until the full picture of the woman Doug champions so wildly emerges. They're a study in contrasts: Doug wears his bloody, electrocuted heart on his hockey jersey sleeve while Kayleen folds into herself, running from Doug into the arms of various awful men. And yet when Doug tells Kayleen, “I'm you,” even she believes it. We meet Kayleen and Doug at age 8 and follow them through middle school, high school and young adulthood until they're pushing 40 and less sure of their direction than ever. Under Reyes' direction, Brooks and Roberts never act like they're playing an age―they're always Kayleen and Doug, displaying different degrees of intensity, guile and wisdom. I know Brooks as a thoughtful artistic leader, an incredible director (outstanding productions include Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's “Hunter Gatherers” and “boom”) and the charismatic emcee of the late Late Seating at Actors Theatre of Louisville, but seeing him own such a demanding lead role gives me immense respect for him as an actor as well (and raises the question: what can't this guy do?). He throws his whole body into Doug's unabashed, unafraid desire for Kayleen, alternating between playful flirt, fierce protector and battered, splintered man. Roberts, who has long topped my list of Louisville actresses who can make any play worth seeing, gives Kayleen a steely reserve that shields her wounded heart. When she strips down the layers of Kayleen's defenses, we see how much damage the character has done to herself in the name of denial and self-harm. Reyes' staging in the intimate Victor Jory black box theater is deliberately rough around the edges, and it works like a charm, dismissing immediately the idea that a quality production must display a huge budget on-stage, or even maintain a suspension of disbelief from curtain to black. Jay Tollefsen's functional set features scene names (which include the characters' ages, since the narrative is nonlinear) written on the stage floor in sidewalk chalk to be wiped away by the actors during gleeful scene changes, which also feature Brooks and Roberts applying special effects makeup and wardrobe (designed by Catherine Lee) changes on stage. But in the middle of the utilitarian set hang two playground swings that function purely as emotional focal points, grounding us in the deep history Kayleen and Doug share.Jesse Alford's sensitive lighting design helps underscore the drastic emotional shifts the actors undergo, and Scott Anthony's sound design gives those frenetic scene/wardrobe/makeup changes a lovely soundtrack of their own. When the school bell rings and a new scene begins, we are right back in the imaginary world of Kayleen and Doug, hoping their hearts and bodies can survive another round.
Louisville musician Jason Noble died this morning at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where he was a patient in a clinical trial for a new cancer treatment. Noble was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma in 2009. He was 40.Noble was a versatile indie music icon, best known for his work in the Nineties avant-garde, post-hardcore band Rodan, classical-inspired Rachel's and Shipping News, a band that grew out of his composition work for This American Life. Noble's music was featured in many films and television shows, including "Friday Night Lights" and "Any Given Sunday." He was a long-time employee of ear X-Tacy and wrote a column on music and art for LEO. Plans for a public memorial gathering will be announced when finalized.
Courier-Journal music writer Jeffrey Lee Puckett was awarded the Governor's Award in the Arts this year. On Friday's Byline, he joined WFPL's Erin Keane, and host Gabe Bullard, to talk about writing about music. He discussed what it's like to review local acts in a town where everyone knows everyone else, and revealed that his very first beat at the C-J involved bases, not basses.
It’s fine to hit the downtown First Friday Trolley Hop without a plan. Park, wander in and out of galleries, grab a drink or dinner with friends and hop a TARC trolley from one end of downtown to the next and back—you’re sure to find something to catch your eye or ears.But with so many events and gallery receptions happening at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so every month we take a look at five don’t-miss art events happening during the hop.Garner Narrative Contemporary Fine Art: "A Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures"—Just in time for election season to heat up, a show by Washington, D.C. artist Dana Ellyn, whose vivid paintings offer social and political commentary on the United States (including a delightful series on American presidents) and the world. 642 E. Market St.21C Museum: "Blue: Matter, Mood, and Melancholy":—This multimedia exhibit is a tribute to the musical tradition of the blues, featuring work by more than 30 U.S. and international artists, from Iceland to Korea. While you're at 21C, check out "Convergence," a selection of highlights of the museum's recent acquisitions. Plan on arriving in time for chief curator Alice Gray Stites' guided tour at 6:30 p.m. 700 W. Main St.Green Building: "bewilderinger"—Douglas Miller's soulful animals are favorites around Louisville and beyond. He also has a fantastic artist's statement: "I work in the same way that an author revises text, constructs sentences, edits words, deconstructs sentences, and rubs out ideas. The objective of correction fascinates me." 732 E. Market St.Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft: David Morsman and Clark Smithy—KMAC highlights the two Kentucky artists in its gallery during August. Morsman works in large-scale abstract expressionist paintings, and his latest work is inspired by his deep appreciation of music. Smithy works with metal—wrought, non-ferrous (that's a lack of iron in a metal or alloy, for the uninitiated) and hollow forms. 715 W. Main St.Kentucky School of Art: "Louisville Landscapes"—Drawings and paintings by students at the Kentucky School of Art inspired by local landscapes. Show is located in the Whiskey Row Lofts. 131 W. Main St.
“Like a Man” is singer/songwriter Adam Cohen’s first record since 2004. Cohen had some modest success with his band Low Millions ("Ex-Girlfriends"), but after a promising start, his musical career stalled. After decades of trying to distance himself from his famous father’s sound (he's the son of famed songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen), he’s reclaiming his place in the Cohen legacy. “Like a Man” pays deliberate homage to his father’s songs while allowing Cohen to come full circle with a mature and vulnerable sound of his own.Cohen will be in Louisville Sunday. He opens for Rufus Wainwright, another acclaimed musical legacy act, at Iroquois Ampitheater.WFPL’s Erin Keane spoke with Cohen about his new-found musical maturity, his other influences and how he finally decided to fully embrace the family business.
Despite a recent report by WAVE 3 that the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is in financial trouble, incoming board president Allen Harris says the company as a whole is financially sound.Kentucky Shakespeare has struggled this summer. Producing artistic director Brantley Dunaway and the company’s administrative staff elected to defer their paychecks one week during the run of “Much Ado About Nothing” so the cast, including members of Actors Equity union who must be paid, could get paid. Two staff positions were slated for furlough between now and September, and some positions will move from full-time status down to part-time.Harris and Dunaway attribute these shortages to the festival’s historic cash flow issues–for the last ten years the organization has experienced cash shortages during the summer months when income has been sparse. Historically, the organization would borrow money to pay summer expenses.“We pay it down and borrow back, pay it down and borrow back. Some years, you can pay back more than others,” says Harris. “We’ve gotten to the point now where we’re just not comfortable fluctuating debt like that.”Harris says that practice will end when this summer season closes. The 2013 Shakespeare in the Park summer season will be fully funded by February 1 or it won’t open. Harris says the board is determined to make their goal.“I don’t intend my first year as president to be the first year in 54 years the park is dark,” he says. Harris says the board is putting together a fundraising plan, and Dunaway has been meeting with prominent community members to work on a plan to gather commitments for the funds, which Harris expects will be a combination of underwriting and gifts.The company has produced free Shakespeare in Central Park productions every summer for 53 years. The summer season’s budget ranges from $350,000 to $400,000. Harris says the festival won’t stage cheaper productions—or any productions—if they don’t raise the funds by February.“It’s all go or nothing, because we’re committed to being a professional theater, not a community theater. And in order to do that, our production costs are going to be at a certain level,” says Harris.Dunaway says those higher production costs include marketing and the expense of hiring professional designers (scenic, sound, lighting and costume) and directors.“In the past ten years, we haven’t used professional directors, meaning directors who direct for a living, besides Curt Tofteland, who was the artistic director, and myself,” says Dunaway. “We haven’t used union directors.”Funding the season in advance will allow the organization to direct proceeds from the company’s robust education program, which currently pays for about half of the summer season, to expanding the organization’s educational efforts.“We can’t expand or improve under the previous model,” Harris says.And expansion is in the works. In May, Kentucky Shakespeare implemented an ambitious five-year strategic plan to begin building a destination model festival—an indoor, ticketed repertory theater program to run May through October, in addition to the free plays in Central Park that Harris says are the theatrical core of the organization.“Going forward, the way we grow into the destination model is almost entirely dependent on a ticket sales model,” says Harris.“By building up a ticketed sales model, that will eliminate the cash flow problems,” he adds.The strategic plan calls for gradual growth. Harris says the festival won’t go from zero to five ticketed shows in one year. They’ll likely start with one production, but he doesn’t know when that first ticket will be sold.“It’s possible that it’s next summer, but it might be 2014,” says Harris.Dunaway says the ticketed productions will then make free productions in the park viable, thanks in part to union pay rates for repertory productions. Kentucky Shakespeare pays Equity actors $625 weekly, plus pension and health benefits. Dunaway says to add a second show during the same contract period would cost only $75 more.“We designed the destination model to include the free show,” says Dunaway.
Love hurts. It also bleeds, scars and sometimes needs a trip to the emergency room. Theatre  continues its second season this week with Rajiv Joseph’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries.” Leah Roberts and company co-artistic director Mike Brooks will play Kayleen and Doug, two accident-prone lovers who trace their 30-year relationship from the schoolyard to adulthood, beginning at age 8. The play opens Friday and runs through August 11 in the Victor Jory Theatre at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Director Gil Reyes says he was drawn to the play’s nonlinear treatment of Kayleen and Doug’s traumatic love affair. The play goes back and forth in time, and each scene is punctuated by a bloody injury. “When I trace memories back of my relationships, they’re not linear. I don’t start at the beginning. I go back and think of the good and the bad points until I have the whole picture. I think a lot of people do,” says Reyes, who is also one of three co-artistic directors of the company.Theatre  stages recent plays by acclaimed younger playwrights, like Jordan Harrison, whose “Futura” opened the company’s season in June. Joseph has won many national awards, including a Whiting Writer's Award and a USA Fellowship, and his play "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. "(The play) accomplishes a few of Theatre ’s goals," says Reyes. "One is providing really juicy roles for these two actors to sink their teeth into. Obviously, given the structure and the ages they play, they’re incredibly difficult, and they’re also emotionally difficult to launch into."The company also strives to stage plays that are relevant to younger adult audiences. Kayleen and Doug’s traumatic history and compelling love story tell a universal story of how deeply love can hurt."This play is really identifiable," says Reyes. "You get a real sense of fate as you follow them through these 30 years of their lives, that they couldn’t get away from each other if they wanted to.”
If you visit the main library on Friday without a costume, you might find yourself underdressed. AnimeCon is the Louisville Free Public Library's annual celebration of Japanese animation and culture for teens, and a costume competition is part of the event. Teens (Friday's event is for ages 12-19) come dressed as their favorite animated character and compete for prizes.The event is free, but registration is required. All of the library's branches stock Japanese graphic novels called manga, as well as other graphic novels and comics. It’s a high-circulating collection, and teens’ interest in Japan doesn’t stop at the end of the book. “They might be interested in watching the anime and reading manga, but they’re also interested in the cultural aspects of Japan. We’ve done tea ceremonies and Japanese language programs, anything that connects them to the culture they’re really interested in,” says Katie Sciavi, who manages the children's department at the main library. Sciavi attributes the enduring popularity of Japanese animation in part to their ties to video games, as well as their fast pace. "Teens are very visual learners these days, so they’re drawn to the fact that they can read a book and see the artwork that goes along with it, and then watch the TV show," she says. Since Japanese graphic novels and video games entered the American mainstream, Sciavi says the teens who frequent the library have been hungry for a stronger connection to all things Japanese, like the bento box lunch. On Friday, teens can compete in a bento box Iron Chef challenge to test their bento-making skills. "We’re going to have a bunch of ingredients out and they’re going to work in teams where they create a bento box that’ll be judged on how healthy it is, how attractive it is," says Sciavi. "These teens are such a group of creative, smart kids and I’m amazed at what they’re able to do with what we give them to do during this day."The day-long event also includes workshops, anime screenings, sumo wrestling suits and a samurai workshop courtesy of the Frazier History Museum. The Crane House will lead workshops on calligraphy and gyotaku, a traditional form of Japanese fish printing. "You take a dead fish and put paint on it and create a print," says Sciavi. "Yes, they’re going to have dead fish in the library."