INTERVIEW: Emma Goidel on Her Heavy Metal Play Local Girls

Emma Goidel

Emma Goidel

It’s been a busy season for Emma Goidel. The Philly playwright has had two new works staged within a span of four months: Her A Knee That Can Bend with Orbiter 3 opened to critical acclaim in November, and her “scream rock fantasia” Local Girls is prepping for a February 24 premiere with Azuka Theatre. We had a chance to catch up with the busy Goidel about how music plays a key role in Local Girls, the importance of producing new theater and why The Drake is changing everything.

You’ve had these two major works produced in one season. How does that feel?
It’s really exciting! It’s a year of learning what it means to be a playwright in production for me. I’m definitely not spending as much time writing, and at first I was beating myself up a bit about that, but I figured out that I’m doing a different type of writing. I’m engaging with the plays in a much more tangible way. I’m learning a lot in a very short time. Read more »

Orbiter 3 Welcomes Two New Playwrights

Orbiter 3 2

Lauren Feldman and Sam Henderson are now orbiting.

It was announced this morning that the two acclaimed theater artists have joined the exciting Philadelphia playwriting collective Orbiter 3. Their dual appointment is something of a surprise, as the company was only supposed to add one additional member to their cohort. Now, the group has eight theater makers: Feldman and Henderson join Emily Acker, Emma Goidel, James Ijames, Maura Krause, Mary Tuomanen, and Douglas Williams.

Feldman, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, has been nominated for a number of writing awards, including the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award, Wendy Wasserstein Prize, and Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her works have been produced across the country.

Henderson, who has appeared at the Arden, Lantern, and Wilma, has been nominated for the Smith Prize for Political Theatre. His work has been produced in the FringeArts Festival and with Renegade Theatre Company.

A sustainable producing playwrights collective, Orbiter 3 has committed to producing eight new plays by Philadelphia-area writers between 2015 and 2017. Their first two works, Moon Man Walk by Ijames and A Knee That Can Bend by Goidel, opened in 2015 to critical acclaim. In 2016, the company will produce Acker’s I Am Not My Motherland and Williams’ Breathe Smoke. For tickets and more information, visit their website.

From Broadway to the Gilmore Girls reboot

Sutton Foster / Photo by Laura Marie Duncan

Sutton Foster / Photo by Laura Marie Duncan

“My number one piece of advice is to not be an asshole and be kind and respect people around you. You can actually achieve your dreams without being a dick.”

That’s the pointed suggestion that Sutton Foster said she’d give to any young aspiring performers who are coming to see her at the Merriam Theatre in March. The superstar actress, who has multiple Tony Awards to her name and a plethora of screen credits, including her current hit, TV Land’s Younger, is so unbelievably likable that you can’t help but feel that you’re best friends, even after talking to her for a few minutes on the phone. Read more »

Opera Philadelphia is All About the Ladies Next Season

Christine Goerke

Christine Goerke

The big news from today’s 2016-17 season announcement from Opera Philadelphia is pretty simple: It’s all about the ladies.

In fact, when browsing the full lineup for the upcoming year, the three main highlights can easily be boiled down to Opera Philadelphia’s casting of two superstar singers for 2016 and 2017, plus the premiere of a female composer’s new work. Here’s a breakdown of the leading ladies that will be taking center stage:

Christine GoerkeThe soprano caused quite a stir back in 2013 when she appeared as Die Färberin in the Met Opera’s production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, garnering massive critical acclaim which led the company to sign her as Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Ring Cycle during the 2018-19 season at the New York venue. Goerke won’t be singing Wagner while in Philly, but she will star as the title role in Puccini’s final opera, Turandot, at the Academy of Music, September 23-October 2.

Read more »

REVIEW: Manon Lescaut is a Triumph

Kristine Opolais and Roberto Alagna in Puccini's "Manon Lescaut". Photo: Ken Howard/ Metropolitan Opera.

Kristine Opolais and Roberto Alagna in Manon Lescaut. Photo: Ken Howard/ Metropolitan Opera.

Sometimes there is an opera staging that is so artistically sound that lovers of the art form can take a deep breath and think, “We’re okay!” Sir Richard Eyre’s luscious new production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, which opened at the Met Opera on Friday evening, is one of those moments.

The icing on the cake for local opera fans is that the staging will be broadcast live on March 5 at a host of Philly-area movie theaters for those who can’t make the trip to New York (the list is below), although you really ought to grab a train or a bus and catch the gorgeous soprano Kristine Opolais and her dashing co-star Roberto Alagna in-person. Read more »

5 Questions with Gabrielle McClinton

Gabrielle McClinton in "Pippin."

Gabrielle McClinton in Pippin.

The award-winning revival of Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin is heading to Philly’s Academy of Music later in February, featuring high-flying acrobatics created by Les 7 Doigts de la main throughout the production. The show also includes the memorable score and signature choreography in the style of the great Bob Fosse. But it may be the decision to cast a woman in the traditionally male Leading Player role that best sets the revival apart from the original. One of the actresses who has tackled the challenging part, Gabrielle McClinton, played the role both in New York and on tour. We caught up with McClinton to discuss her experience with Pippin, and how touring life is different than a steady one on Broadway.

Up until this revival, the Leading Player was always associated with Ben Vereen. How does the gender switch impact the role, if at all?
I don’t feel like it impacts it that much. I watched Ben Vereen on YouTube and was amazed by him, but when I went in for the role, if anything, it feels more awesome that a woman, especially an African-American woman, is doing it. She’s so strong and it is saying something that there is no difference between her and others.

I know that you went to Carnegie Mellon to study theater, so are you a Pennsylvania native? Is this your first time performing in Philly?
I’m from Los Angeles originally, but training at Carnegie Mellon was a really great experience. I performed in Philly at a press event at one of the local theaters, but this is the first time that I’m doing a full show. Read more »

Q&A: HGTV Star John Gidding

John Gidding 1

Jon Gidding started his media career as a runway model and was featured in campaigns for Armani and Gucci. But don’t let that fool you: He’s more than just a handsome face. The star of HGTV’s Curb Appeal holds a B.A. from Yale in architecture and a Master’s Degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Gidding is also featured on the Logo Network’s Secret Guide to Fabulous along with coming up with some of his unique creations. The design know-it-all is headed to the City of Brotherly Love this February to make an appearance at the Philadelphia Home Show. We caught up with Gidding to chat design, and he gave us some practical tips that anyone can use to get more curb appeal.

How did you make the leap from the fashion runway to design work?
You know, I had gone in for a casting call for something that I thought was a print campaign, but it was actually for ABC Family, and they ended up picking me because I was going to architecture school and they were hammering into us the notion of talking the talk. On TV, you just open your mouth, and if what comes out sounds good, you have a career. And now, 15 years later, I still have the career! I also have the show on Logo, Secret Guide to Fabulous, and my co-hosts are great. Our boss is Kelli Ripa!

You’ll be here in Philly for the Home Show. Can you tell me a little bit more about what you’ll be presenting during your appearance?
I talk about curb appeal from the perspective of how to tackle your own projects. It resonates with people at a home show because they’re there looking to do their own renovations. I take them through my projects and that helps demystify their own work. I usually open the floor to the audience and take questions, so they end up shaping the session. Read more »

Employee of the Year Hires Kid Actors for a Very Adult Piece of Art.

A scene from "Employee of the Year."

A scene from Employee of the Year.

There’s a bunch of pre-teen female actors putting on a performance at FringeArts later this month, and, no, it isn’t Annie.

“They are regular kids,” said Employee of the Year‘s co-creator Abby Browde, the New York-based artist who has worked with the cohort of children since 2014 as part of the performance group 600 Highwaymen. “None of them are industry kids.”

Yet, these girl actresses are given quite a daunting task in Employee of the Year: They tell the story of one woman’s life from start to finish through the use of movement, monologue, and song. At first, Browde and her artistic partner, Michael Silverstone, weren’t necessarily committed to using kids in the performance. Read more »

REVIEW: Cold Mountain at Opera Philadelphia

Isabel Leonard and Jarrett Ott in "Cold Mountain."

Isabel Leonard and Jarrett Ott in Cold Mountain.

Most of the characters in Jennifer Higdon‘s first opera want to return to the literal Cold Mountain. However, at the end of the nearly three-hour show, which had its East Coast premiere with Opera Philadelphia on Friday evening, you’re left to wonder why. There’s no doubt that this operatic adaptation of the classic novel-turned-film sparks some sparks with a fabulous cast, but the overall pacing of the production makes you feel like you’ve been physically fighting in the drawn-out American Civil War depicted in the opera.

Part of that may very well have to do with the scope of narrative that’s trying to be covered here, told through a series of interconnected scenes and flashbacks. It’s almost too much: Gene Scheer‘s libretto is heavy and often times puts unneeded weight on both the action and the singers. The first act of Cold Mountain suffers tremendously from this, as the one huge stationary set piece (which eerily looks like the barricades from Les Miserables) doesn’t allow for the action to move beyond a small playing area.

Higdon’s score, while complex, layered, and interesting, often fell victim on Friday night to conductor Corrado Rovaris. The orchestra severely overpowered the singers, especially in act one, and there were multiple times when the top-notch performers could hardly be heard over the pit. Read more »

INTERVIEW: Six Questions with RAIN Creator Mark Lewis

A scene from "RAIN."

A scene from RAIN.

It isn’t the first time that the wildly popular touring Beatles tribute show RAIN is playing in Philly, and it won’t be the last. The concert, which features band members who look and eerily sound like the real Fab Four, has origins in the ’70s when Mark Lewis, a trained pianist and musician, helped transform the group formerly known as Reign into one of the most authentic Beatles cover bands in the world. I sat down with Lewis before his iconic show returns to Philadelphia at the Merriam Theatre this February to discuss his early inspiration, the new features of the concert, and why seeing RAIN might be better than an actual Beatles concert.

I’ve read multiple times that you claim you owe a lot of your inspiration to the original Ed Sullivan broadcast when the Beatles were introduced to America. It really was one of the most iconic pop culture moments in American history. What about that moment on the Sullivan show do you remember the most?
I was really into music, and I was only 12 years old when The Beatles performed on the Sullivan show. I was into the Four Seasons and I had an older sister who was into the early rock ’n’ roll. The Beatles came out on Sullivan, and I wasn’t even watching it at that moment. My mother was watching in the other room, and she came in and said, “You have to come in and watch this group!” I thought it was going to be some sort of Liberace-type thing. I went right out and bought the Meet the Beatles! album in stereophonic! I remember being blown away with these multiple guys who sang, who played their own instruments, and the way they looked and talked. After I got the album, I remember figuring out that they were writing their own music. It was so different. It was so far from anything I’d ever seen, plus there were all of these girls going nuts in the audience. You really hadn’t seen anything like this since Elvis Presley. Every song was great. Usually when you buy an album, there’s a hit record, and a bunch of stuff that sounds like the hit record, but every song on that Beatles album was great. It was a life altering moment for me. Read more »

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