Eclectic shows at Theater Project


Lineup: Performance artist Holly Hughes tops a season that includes a gay film festival, two dollops of `Danceteria," and a new work by Funkopolis.

August 30, 1999|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Eclecticism will be the rule at the Theatre Project for 1999-2000. The new season's offerings range from a gay film festival to two installments of "Danceteria" to a new work by controversial New York performance artist Holly Hughes.

"It is a diversified schedule," said Robert P. Mrozek, executive director, in announcing the season. "Part of running a venue that presents new work is to put on the stage new voices which often reflect previously unheard opinions, and that naturally lends itself to diversity."

Speaking of Hughes, he added: "We're really pleased and proud to have that work here. Certainly she's a real seminal force in performance art."

Here's the line-up:

"Baltimore's QUEER Film and Video Festival," Sept. 9-12. "The Trey Billings' Show," starring former Marylander David Drake, and "We're Funny That Way," starring Jaffe Cohen formerly of "Funny Gay Males," are among the videos and 16 mm films to be screened during this event.

"An Exquisite Dream of Fire," Sept. 23-Oct. 10. The inner world of the mentally ill is explored in this second original work by the local theater ensemble Funkopolis.

"Danceteria," Oct. 23-24. A new anthology of dance and movement theater pieces by troupes and choreographers from the mid-Atlantic region.

"The King of Kings and I," Oct. 28-Nov. 6. Jaffe Cohen's one-man coming-of-age tale deals with growing up Jewish and gay in a Catholic neighborhood.

"Bah-Humbug!", Nov. 26-Dec. 19. Baltimore's PussyCat Theatre Company offers an updated musical based on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," featuring a single mother named Bobbie Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge's gay nephew, Fred.

To be announced, February. Medusa Theatre Company of Baltimore returns with a new work for its third annual Theatre Project engagement.

"Preaching to the Perverted -- a tour of the dark side of democracy," March 2-11. In her first Baltimore appearance, Holly Hughes turns her experience as one of the NEA Four into a one-woman performance piece.

"Esther," March. Israel's Theatre Company Jerusalem retells the biblical story of Esther through a combination of the original text and modern theater techniques, including those influenced by Jerzy Grotowski.

"With Blood, With Ink," April 12-16. For its third annual residency, the Peabody Chamber Opera will present composer Daniel Crozier and librettist Peter Krask's award-winning opera based on the life of 17th-century Mexican poet Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz.

"Heartfield," April 27-May 7. German photo-montage artist John Heartfield is the subject of this new musical by Kenneth Vega, co-produced by Towson University's graduate theater program.

"Danceteria," May. Part two of the popular anthology of new dance pieces.

"Queer Cafe 2000," June 1-17. PussyCat Theatre Company's annual collection of short gay and lesbian plays will travel to New York at the end of its Theatre Project run.

Subscriptions to the 11-show season (not including the film festival) are $99; a four-show flex package is $40. Call 410-752-8558.

Talent shone in festival

The prolific 18th annual Baltimore Playwrights Festival wrapped up this past weekend, so a brief assessment seems in order. The festival is, by definition, a community theater forum for new plays. It would be unrealistic and unfair to expect perfection. But I have often found considerable talent, and this year was no exception. I was especially struck by the number of intriguing characters whose predicaments rang true and whose dialogue felt real.

There were the female co-workers, one middle-aged and pregnant and the other a Generation X-er, in Geoffrey Bond's one-act "Proof Positive." Then came the pair of young, worried city dwellers -- a public defender and a city school teacher -- in Mimi Teahan's "Urban Breakdowns." They were followed by another pair of young urbanites -- a librarian and a former mental patient, movingly portrayed by Courtney Bell and Ben Thomas -- in Gordon Porterfield's "Snow." The troubled biracial teen-ager and his Jewish Big Brother in Carol Weinberg's "Keeping the Faith" left a strong impression, as did Ran Frazier's outstanding performance as the teen; this gifted newcomer was the festival's major discovery.

There were also plays notable for conveying a strong sense of place: Kathleen Barber's "Caz," set in the office of a struggling tool and die manufacturer, and Jim Sizemore's "Joe Pete," which took place in a bar in a small Virginia mill town.

A few of the offerings exhibited touches of clever theatricality. "Peter Pandemonium," the one-act by Gloriane Garth that opened the festival, was a whimsical look at a rebellious ensemble of performers, and Joe Dennison's "Prologue/Epilogue" had some fun at the expense of a pair of actors grappling with "Waiting for Godot."

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