Blueprint Specials: Soldier Musicals

by Michael S. Eddy

Did you know that Frank Loesser wrote musicals for the Army? Not seen since 1945 – and never staged for an American stateside audience, the newly rediscovered Blueprint Specials: Soldier Musicals were the talk of the NY theater community earlier this year. The Blueprint Specials are a missing piece of both theater and military history, that again demonstrate the importance of the theater arts as a way for soldiers to express themselves.

Jay Duckworth Explains the Artist Bugout Bag

by Jay Duckworth

At the recent USITT Conference, Jay Duckworth shared some sage advice in his keynote speech for those eagerly starting out to build a life in the theater. We particularly liked what he packed in his ‘Bugout Bag’. Here is that excerpt of his speech and a video of the entire speech.— SD

A Veteran Voice

by Howard Sherman
Writer, Theater Artist, Veteran - John Meyer
Writer, Theater Artist, Veteran - John Meyer

Theater Artist John Meyer’s odyssey in service and on stage

'In one version of the story, Odysseus is wrong, because war strips pieces of you away, so everything you feel is raw. In another version, war adds more to you, like layers of paint, so that you cannot be seen anymore. In yet another, you are not a human being at all, but a house that looks strong and independent, and gets a new coat of paint each year, but is also drafty and ill-made, and, you suspect, worthless in terms of resale value.'

John Meyer’s multifaceted, metaphorical view of the ancient text of The Odyssey forms the prologue to the Aquila Theatre Company’s production of Our Trojan War, adapted and co-written by Desiree Sanchez & Peter Meineck, a modern-day reflection on classic texts set in an unnamed Middle Eastern country during combat. Developed out of the company’s ongoing Warrior Chorus project, it is a collage of ancient stories and modern speeches, performed and written in part by a company that includes military veterans. Meyer is one of those veterans.

A Warrior Chorus

by Howard Sherman
Our Trojan War at Aquila Theatre with the Warrior Chorus
Our Trojan War at Aquila Theatre with the Warrior Chorus

Aquila Theatre, Veterans, and Our Trojan War

A group of American soldiers storm the sparsely furnished home of a Middle Eastern couple in an unnamed country. Securing the location, they whisk shrouds off covered objects on the floor, only to find… books. Discovering that these texts are not radical handbooks but rather classics of world literature, the soldiers and their—hosts? captives?—proceed to tell stories from Homer, Sophocles, Plato, and Virgil.

That, in the most rudimentary description, is the outline of the Aquila Theatre Company’s Our Trojan War, which has begun touring in the U.S., including a weeklong stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in April. Adapted and co-written by Aquila’s Desiree Sanchez and Peter Meineck, and directed by Sanchez, Our Trojan War emerged from Aquila’s Warrior Chorus initiative, begun in 2008, which has gathered military veterans together in Los Angeles, Austin, TX, and New York for ongoing programs rooted in classic literature.

Affecting Effects

by Michael S. Eddy

In the May issue, we look at special effects for the theater. When you look closely, there are special effects in almost every production of one sort or another. Sometimes they are right out front—or over your head—and sometimes they are subtler—a key prop or a small bit that an audience might take for granted like a champagne bottle or a hidden weapon, a clever costume element, a bruise on an actor’s face, but when integrated well they have an emotional impact, a narrative resonance. 

Another Opening Finally!

by Michael S. Eddy
Broadway's Hudson Theatre
Broadway's Hudson Theatre

Broadway’s Oldest Theater, The Hudson, Returns as Broadway’s Newest Space

Opened in 1903, the Hudson Theatre is Broadway’s oldest space, but has had many different incarnations over its life. It was considered by many as a theatrical and architectural masterpiece and loved by both performers and audiences. The space is distinctive with its unusually large lobby, a triple-domed ceiling, and a system of diffused house lighting. It was transformed into a radio studio in the ‘30s, then a TV studio in the ‘50s, becoming the home for the original Tonight Show in 1954 with Steve Allen. Later, the space was turned into a theatre again, then a club and concert venue, and more recently an event space as a part of the Millennium Hotel. Today it is once more a Broadway theater.

Art Meets Humanity

by Lisa Mulcahy

Director Kate Whoriskey brings intellect and compassion to Sweat

Kate Whoriskey has fast become one of the theatre’s most respected new directors—and she’s achieved her sterling reputation using a deep, rare combination of intellectual research, and empathy for her show’s characters. A graduate of New York University’s Experimental Theatre Wing and the ART Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard, Whoriskey, a visiting lecturer at Princeton, has directed moving, political drama at the American Repertory Theatre, the Vineyard Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Playwrights Horizon, the Intiman Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Circle in the Square. 

Closing Time

by Bryan Reesman

John Lee Beatty’s scenic design for Sweat

Lynn Nottage’s play Sweat is currently playing on Broadway at Studio 54, after a sold-out run at the Public Theater. The play was originally co-commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage; it received its world premiere at OSF and then ran at Arena. Sweat, directed by Kate Whoriskey, is a blue-collar drama about factory workers in Reading, PA facing layoffs and in a harsh economic environment. This honest reality of the play is echoed in the work of scenic designer John Lee Beatty, who imbued the stage with realism by emulating a real bar and keeping the vibe as gritty as possible. 

Digital Weaving

by Joe Kucharski
The Lion King (c)Disney
Nala and Simba from The Lion King, with sublimated and direct fabric printed textiles. Costume designers Julie Taymor and Michael Curry

Digital printing becomes a routine tool for the costumer 

The rise of digital fabric printing technology has revolutionized the costume world in just over a decade. It has quickly gone from an innovative means to meet the needs of the demanding worlds of Broadway and themed entertainment, where incredible scale, volume, and physical demands put upon costumes is the norm, to an accessible tool of regional theatres and universities.

Drafting Made ‘Easier than Pencil and Paper’

by Stage Directions

Company 411 - Drafty from Lumax Software 

Why should drafting a light or sound plot be cumbersome and take a long time? Why try to tame a big, general drawing program to do very specific work for entertainment design? These were some of the questions that lighting designer—and now—software developer Lucas Krech, Co-founder of Lumax Software, LLC. set out to answer. “Drafty is a cloud-based CAD program specifically built for the realities of the live entertainment industry,” Krech describes the program. “That means everything from the ease of use to how quickly it can turn out a plot and generate all of the paperwork. You can generate all the necessary paperwork right down to pricing out the show.”