Tag Archives: Tony Maggio

PHOTOS: ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ prepares to join the party at Kirk Douglas Theatre

castWeek one of rehearsal started Tuesday for our upcoming remount of Citizen: An American Lyric, the centerpiece of Center Theatre Group’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Originally created and produced in 2015 at the Fountain Theatre, last week was a happy reunion for original cast members, designers , production crew and director Shirley Jo Finney.  

Citizen: An American Lyric is a searing and poetic riff on race in America written by Claudia Rankine, adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs. The cast features Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tony Maggio, Monnae Michael, Simone Missick, and Lisa Pescia. 

The company met in the rehearsal room at the Kirk Douglas Theatre and immediately got to work. Day one began with a table reading of the script. As the week progressed, the actors were soon up on their feet pacing through the blocking. Citizen opens at the Kirk Douglas Theatre for a limited run April 30 – May 7.   

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Fountain Theatre’s ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ chosen for CTG’s Block Party at Kirk Douglas Theatre

CITIZEN Fountain Theatre in Memory 2

‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre

The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed and award-winning world stage premiere of Citizen: An American Lyric  by Claudia Rankine, adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs, has been chosen by Center Theatre Group for the inaugural Block Party: Celebrating Los Angeles Theatre at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Directed by Shirley Jo Finney,  Citizen will begin previews on April 28, open April 30 and close May 7.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with CTG on its first-ever Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre,” said Sachs. “It’s particularly meaningful to us that ‘Citizen’ was chosen because racism and white dominance in America is as timely now, since the election, as it ever was. The project also reflects the diversity of our work at the Fountain Theatre.”

The Fountain Theatre’s world stage premiere of Citizen earned rave reviews and an extended run in 2015. The Los Angeles Times heralded it as “Powerful” and highlighted it Critic’s Choice. Stage Raw declared it “a transcendent theatrical experience,” later honoring Stephen Sachs with the Stage Raw Theatre Award for Best Adaptation.

The original cast featured Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick, Lisa Pescia. The extended run included Monnae Michaell, Karen Malina White, and Nikki Crawford.

A meditation on race that fuses poetry, prose, movement, music and the video image,  Citizen: An American Lyric is a provocative stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s internationally acclaimed book of poetry about everyday acts of racism in America. Of Rankine’s Citizen, The New Yorker wrote that it was “brilliant… explores the kinds of injustice that thrive when the illusion of justice is perfected.” The New York Times wrote that “Rankine brilliantly pushes poetry’s forms to disarm readers and circumvent our carefully constructed defense mechanisms against the hint of possibly being racist ourselves.”

Center Theatre Group received seventy-six submissions for its new Block Party program and selected three local intimate theatre productions. It will also remount Coeurage Theatre Company’s production of Failure: A Love Story by Philip Dawkins, and Echo Theater Company’s production of Dry Land by Ruby Rae Spiegel.  Each production will have a two-week run presented April 14 through May 21, 2017.

The selected shows will receive the full support of Center Theatre Group and its staff in order to fund, stage and market each production. Full casting will be announced at a later date. Tickets will go on sale to the general public in February.

Fountain Theatre’s ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ to get Off-Broadway production

CITIZEN color logoCitizen: An American Lyric, adapted for the stage from Claudia Rankine’s award-winning book of poetry by Rankine and Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs, will headline Primary Stages’ 2016-17 season at Off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre. Citizen premiered at the Fountain Theatre last summer to critical acclaim.

“We are thrilled that yet another Fountain project has succeeded in moving onward and upward,” says Sachs. “In 2007, our world premiere production of  Athol Fugard’s Exits and Entrances was presented Off-Broadway by Primary Stages, so this continues our relationship with them. Claudia and I are working together on a new draft for the New York premiere.” An announcement for the NY opening was featured in The New York Times.  

CITIZEN Fountain Theatre in Memory 2

‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre

An intensely provocative and unapologetic rumination on racial aggression in America, Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric has been heralded as one of the best books of the past decade and received the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. In this new stage adaptation by Rankine and Sachs, seemingly everyday acts of racism are scrutinized as part of an uncompromising testimony of “living while Black” in America, from the shooting of Trayvon Martin, to the tennis career of Serena Williams and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his “critic’s choice” review of the Fountain production, Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote, “Claudia Rankine’s powerful writings about the trauma of racism make for a staging and message that resonate,” and Stage raw critic Myron Meisel called it “a transcendent experience.”

“We are particularly pleased that this piece will have a life in theaters across the country,” added Sachs. “By enlivening Claudia’s powerful book to the stage, we add our theatrical voice to the national conversation on race in America.”

Other plays written by Sachs that were created and launched at the Fountain’s intimate venue in Hollywood include Bakersfield Mist, now produced worldwide including London’s West End starring Kathleen Turner; Heart Song, produced at Florida Repertory Theatre; Miss Julie: Freedom Summer (adapted from August Strindberg’s Miss Julie) at Vancouver Playhouse and Canadian Stage Company in Toronto; and Sweet Nothing in My Ear which has been produced nationwide and was adapted into a TV movie starring Jeff Daniels and Marlee Matlin.

The world premiere production of Citizen: An American Lyric at the Fountain Theatre was directed by Shirley Jo Finney and starred Leith Burke, Bernard K. Addison, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick and Lisa Pescia. The director and cast for the Primary Stages production have not been announced.  

For more information about the Primary Stages production of Citizen: An American Lyric, visit www.primarystages.org.

Fountain Theatre highlighted on “Best” Lists for Theatre in 2015

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The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

As the year draws to an end, the Fountain Theatre is delighted to be highlighted on many of the annual “Best of 2015” lists that are starting to appear.

Los Angeles Times theatre critic Charles McNulty selected our west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek to his Best Theater of 2015, hailing it as “Another in the Fountain Theatre’s series of expertly acted productions of the great South African playwright.”

The LA Theatre website Bitter Lemons named The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek as its Top Rated Production of 2015.

And critic Travis Michael Holder honored the Fountain Theatre with several of his TicketHolder Awards for 2015:

BEST PRODUCTION OF 2015

The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

  • RUNNERS-UP: Citizen: An American Lyric

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A PLAY

Gilbert Glenn Brown, Thomas Silcott, Phillip Solomon, Suanne Spoke, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

  • RUNNERS-UP: Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick, Lisa Pescia, Citizen: An American Lyric
CITIZEN Fountain Theatre feel most colored

Citizen: An American Lyric

NEW DISCOVERY 2015

Phillip Solomon, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST PLAYWRIGHT

Athol Fugard, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST ADAPTATION

RUNNERS-UP: Stephen Sachs, Citizen: An American Lyric

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY

Simon Levy, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

  • RUNNERS-UP: Shirley Jo Finney, Citizen: An American Lyric

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

RUNNERS-UP: Naila Aladdin-Sanders, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST SOUND DESIGN

RUNNERS-UP: Peter Bayne, Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST VIDEO DESIGN

RUNNERS-UP: Yee Eun Nam, Citizen: An American Lyric

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENTS 

Anastasia Coon, Movement, Citizen: An American Lyric

A marvelous end to a memorable year marking our 25th Anniversary season. More “best” lists will be appearing.  

 

The American lyric of ‘Citizen’ matters

Leith Burke in 'Citizen' at the Fountain Theatre.

Leith Burke in ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre.

by Rick Chertoff

With the current discussion on race and apartheid in Israel/Palestine, Citizen couldn’t be more timely.

Only seconds into Citizen: An American Lyric  you’ll find yourself at the “ground zero” of any black person’s life in this country, faced with the inevitability of how it is, how it always has been, and how it looks like it always will be, to be the “Other,” and it presses on you.  You realize you are up against the implacable determination — you could even say a majority conspiracy — that your life matters less than others and that in an instant (any instant), it could be time for a large or small dose of humiliation…or it could be time for a ritual killing.  You are perpetually “it.”

What does it feel like to be Black in America?  That question is the Gordian Knot of the American psyche.  Racism is the drug of choice against painful self-knowledge in every society. Here in the U.S. it is in great measure dedicated to the denial of black suffering and of black value. The question of white supremacy and black suffering has asserted itself more forcibly now than at any time since the end of the civil rights movement.  As the ubiquity of hand-held cameras has repeatedly revealed, there is a structural violence deeply embedded in American society, even if most Americans are decent people who want to believe that Black Lives Matter.

The superb writing and acting in Citizen are realized as the six actors, each of whom star in small vignettes throughout this play, portray how casual everyday interactions can transform a fellow citizen … a human being … into objects of scorn by simple, stereotyped perceptions and behaviors that are driven by a submerged dark historical force that surfaces regularly to devour black people.

Bernard K. Addison, Simone Missick, Leith Burke.

Bernard K. Addison, Simone Missick, Leith Burke.

The stories carried by this monster force are fantasies that say white supremacy isn’t real, that racism exists because of inferior and defective black culture, that force is all that keeps them from devouring us, and that (the savages) are supported by naïve do-gooders, or “trouble makers.”  This is done subtly or brazenly by liberal and reactionary political forces using consolidated media to dismiss, distort, or exoticize the ritual violence (e.g. Geraldo Rivera), thus robbing us of understanding.  “Blame the victim” is the default.  The only effective weapon against this dehumanization is the humanization of all by all, and that must include listening to authentic and un-corporate black voices, which are typically marginalized.  By breaking the taboo against hearing and feeling the whole of black experience, including the pain, this play lays bare the mechanism woven into the fabric of American life, thus exorcizing the demon, one audience at a time.

Of course this dilemma of shifting perceptions is perfect for a drama as it contrasts conflicting and complimentary personas that vie and coexist in our social interactions; “individuality” and community, equality and privilege, dominance and “loving thy neighbor.”  For example, the property owner likes the prospective renter until they turn out to be black.  More contemporaneously, the lack of using a turn signal is an innocuous infraction unless it was a black turn signal, at which point the penalty is death.  Another “bad cop”?  Another bad department?

Tony Maggio and Leith Burke

Tony Maggio and Leith Burke

Robbed of accuracy and context, racism can seem incidental through the filters of white privilege, filters that have been refined for 400 years.  Once the filters are called out, it can be revealed as systematic and structural. The data proving the systematic nature of institutional racism has been amply available to anyone who cared to look for a long time, but it has not changed our murderous system.  Can drama?

Throughout this play, I found myself amazed that the inner voices of black people could be so faithfully portrayed.  It was like looking at Michaelangelo’s Pieta where Mary is holding her dead son.  In both we are deeply moved. How did they accomplish this in Citizen?  They insisted on granular accuracy, both in writing and in acting, that renders a depth to each reality explored so thoroughly that it is fully felt — and these are hard realities.  As spelled out in the subtitle and the blurb, Citizen: An American Lyric, “A provocative meditation on race in America,” it does have the quality of a six-person meditation, and yes, this play is very lyrical. It moves freely between everyday speech and carefully worked and compellingly elegant poetry using selected pieces of the black stream of consciousness, and very musically so.  At times the lines seemed fragmentary creating precarious tensions that always resolve, as freely as a jazz improvisation or a Brahms string quartet.

But I find the words “provocative meditation” the best description, because the entire play substitutes the arc of meaning for the arc of plot, which produces something akin to soaring.

“Black lives matter” becomes real by bearing witness to the black and white lives in this play through the enlivening skills of six excellent actors, their director, and an authentically original writer.

The American lyric of Citizen matters.

Rick Chertoff is an activist on behalf of Palestinian rights and an organizer with LA Jews for Peace. This post originally appeared in The Markaz

Citizen: An American Lyric runs to Sept 14 at the Fountain Theatre.  MORE INFO/GET TICKETS 

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: ‘Citizen’ author Claudia Rankine engages in Q&A at Fountain Theatre

 Claudia Rankine at the Fountain Theatre

Claudia Rankine at the Fountain Theatre

Author Claudia Rankine attended last Sunday’s matinée performance of our world stage premiere of her book, Citizen: An American Lyric, and engaged the audience in a Q&A Talkback discussion with the cast.  It was Ms. Rankine’s first opportunity to see the Fountain’s full production of the stage adaptation of her book  (she attended a reading of an earlier draft of the script two months ago). She was very moved by what she experienced on Sunday.  

Following the performance, Ms. Rankine and the cast addressed issues of racism dramatized on stage in the play and rendered in the book. Audience members shared their insightful comments and asked meaningful questions of the author and the actors. Rankine then signed copies of her book and a catered reception was served in the cafe immediately after.

Another memorable afternoon at the Fountain Theatre.

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Citizen: An American Lyric runs to Sept 14th. MORE INFO/GET TICKETS   

Photo Slideshow: ‘Citizen’ cast celebrates exhilarating first preview performance at the Fountain Theatre

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‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre

The first performance of a new work in front of an audience is always charged with a wide variety of electrifying feelings. Sunday afternoon at the Fountain was no different when our world premiere stage adaptation of Citizen: An American Lyric launched its first preview and audiences were able to experience the provocative new piece for the first time. Buy all accounts, it was an exhilarating success.

Kato Cooks

Kato Cooks

“Easily, it is the most profound, emotionally engaging production I have experienced in decades,” exclaimed longtime Fountain Family member Kato Cooks.  “It brought me to tears, wringing blood from my soul. It spoke aloud what many of us only consider privately, afraid to give our introspection, these ruminations, these voices. Tears welled in my eyes as the intense performances drained me. Every moment, every actor sublime. I must experience this one a few times with different sets of friends.”

Kato’s compelling experience was clearly shared by others in the audience at the  Sunday matinée. At one moment in the middle of the performance, an audience member was so jarred and engaged in the events unfolding between characters on stage that she actually vocally called out, “Did she really just say that?” The rest of the audience — and the actors on stage — laughed heartily at her honest, spontaneous vocal reaction. It was one of those unplanned truthful shared moments in live theatre that is cherished and we’ll always remember.  Sunday’s first preview received a standing ovation. 

‘Citizen’ Cast Celebrates First Preview

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Citizen: An American Lyric is the world stage premiere of the internationally acclaimed book about race in America by Claudia Rankine, adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs. Directed by Shirley Jo Finney, the play features Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick and Lisa Pescia. Previews continue through July 31. It opens August 1st.  

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