Inscape mounts a Baltimore `Connection'

Drama: The Obie-winning drug-culture play from 1959 is recast in a rowhouse in 1999.

November 01, 1999|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The Inscape Theatre at Villa Julie College will produce an updated 40th anniversary production of Jack Gelber's Obie Award-winning play about drug culture, "The Connection," Nov. 11-20, and the playwright will participate in a panel discussion of the once-controversial drama on Nov. 13.

When "The Connection" debuted, in a production by Judith Malina and Julian Beck's Living Theatre, it was heralded as groundbreaking. Writing in the New Yorker, critic Kenneth Tynan called it "the most exciting new play that off-Broadway has produced since the war."

Working in association with Gelber, director Steve Yeager -- winner of the 1998 Sundance Filmmakers Trophy for Best Documentary for his film, "Divine Trash" -- has changed the play's setting from 1959 New York to 1999 Baltimore. The action will take place in a condemned rowhouse, where a group of student filmmakers are shooting a documentary on drug addiction.

The multimedia production will feature a two-tiered set, designed by Richard Montgomery, with technical direction by Bush Greenbeck, that incorporates television monitors on which audience members can watch the student documentary in progress. The combined cast will consist of student actors, filmmakers and musicians working with area community theater actors.

The Nov. 13 panel discussion will take place at 4 p.m. in the theater. In addition to Gelber, recipient of the 1999 Edward Albee Last Frontier Playwriting Award for his career as a playwright, panelists will include director Yeager and Villa Julie faculty members Kate Thomas, a researcher and associate professor of nursing, and John Bright Mann, an independent filmmaker and associate professor of art. The panel will be moderated by Jackson Phippin, director of the graduate acting program and company as well as the directing program at Washington's Catholic University of America.

Show times at the Inscape Theatre on the Villa Julie campus, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, are 8 p.m. Nov. 11, 12, 13, 19 and 20, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Nov. 20. Tickets are $7.50. Admission to the Nov. 13 panel discussion is free. For information, call 410-602-7229.

`Wedding' gift

Part of the festivities at "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," the interactive theater piece currently at Scarlett Place, is a dollar dance in which audience members, i.e., wedding guests, can dance with the bride or groom in exchange for a greenback. Since the bride and groom are actors (Lisa Ray and Michael Todaro), you may wonder where that money is going.

Since December 1998, Hey City Theater, the show's Minneapolis-based producer, has been donating that money, along with any tips received by the show's waiters and waitresses, to local charities in whichever city the show is running. Hey City's Minneapolis production collected $10,000 in the past year and its Portland, Ore., company raised more than $25,000 in the course of its nearly two-year engagement.

But Baltimore is shaping up to be the most generous city yet. As of this past weekend, the show had raised more than $2,000 -- approximately twice the amount anticipated -- to be donated to the Maryland Race for the Cure, which is sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to raise money for breast cancer research.

The choice of Race for the Cure seemed especially appropriate since the practice of contributing donations began as a way for the Minneapolis company to raise money to help pay the medical expenses of a breast cancer patient -- the actress who originally played the groom's grandmother in that city.

Each month, the cast and management of "Tony n' Tina" choose a new charity. The Baltimore company has selected the Maryland Food Bank as its November recipient.

Show times for "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," at Scarlett Place, 250 S. President St., are 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 5 p.m. and 8: 30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are $43.50-$58.50. Call 410-752-1200.

Cabaret and auction

Pumpkin Theatre will hold a Fall Cabaret and Auction to benefit the theater from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at University Baptist Church, 3501 N. Charles St.

The cabaret segment of the evening will feature performances by local singers and musicians as well as an excerpt from Ad Lib Productions' 1940s-style radio play "Sentimental Journey." Among the auction highlights is afternoon tea for 10 with Agathe von Trapp, a longtime Maryland resident and oldest daughter of the family on which the musical "The Sound of Music" is based.

Tickets to the event are $35. Pumpkin Theatre is a nonprofit children's theater that performs for more than 30,000 children annually. Call 410-828-1814.

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