Theater

Patrick White’s summer reading recommendations

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Patrick White’s summer reading recommendations

It’s the height of the summer and as Capital Region theater grows and grows and there is more and more theater happening at times and in spaces never used before, there is still plenty of theater to be found throughout the tri-city area this summer but is still the time to kick back, take it easy and refresh your energies during these hazy, crazy days of summer. So, once you’ve caught “Newsies” at Park Playhouse, “Full Monty” at theREP and memorized “My Shot” in preparation for your long-awaited night at “Hamilton,” how can you feed your theater obsession during the wilting days?

Read a book or a play. Summer reading recommendations:

“The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America” by Isaac Butler & Dan Kois

An oral history of Tony Kushner’s magnificent, masterpiece, the two-part Pulitzer Prize-winning “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.” This is a perfect summer reading book. It’s a substantial, involving look at a seminal moment in American theater and can be consumed in bite-sized portions. A star-packed, comprehensive compendium of short snippets of interviews tracing the groundbreaking play’s birth at San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre under Oskar Eustis’ direction, to the premiere at National Theatre in London and its premiere on Broadway directed by George C. Wolfe with a side trip to the HBO movie directed by Mike Nichols.

Hear from the stars and creators involved in its inception and of course excerpts from this iconic play as well: “We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins.”

The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez

The play which steps up and boldly claims the mantle as the inheritor of “Angels” mantle as the gay play for this generation. It follows a group of young gay men who are involved with the theater in NY from the ‘80s to the present day and in many ways mirrors the plotlines of E.M. Forster’s “Howard’s End” and takes on its themes of responsibility, self-preservation, and loss. When the play opened in London Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph wrote it was “perhaps the most important American play of the century so far” and said, “Star ratings are almost beside the point when confronted by work of this magnitude but hell, yeah, five.” The Olivier Award winner has finally set it’s Broadway opening as 11/17 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

“The Hat Box” by Stephen Sondheim (His two-volume collection of lyrics: “Finishing the Hat,” and “Look, I Made a Hat”)

The pre-eminent Broadway artist’s two-volume collection of lyrics comprising his entire career from “Saturday Night” to “Road Show” with various film, television and special occasions thrown in for good measure. Included with the lyrics are richly detailed memories of the personalities involved working on the shows, the genesis of the musical’s creation and many, many lessons learned either from his mentor Oscar Hammerstein II, his many collaborators or his illustrious nearly 70 years spent in professional theater. It is a veritable feast of Broadway lore and wisdom and can be consumed in small portions. My favorite Sondheim story was when Mary Darcy interviewed him at HVCC and he told the story of he and Jerome Robbins working on “Rose’s Turn” into the night with Sondheim at the piano and Robbins acting and improvising Mama Rose’s breakdown. “That’s my definition of genius,” Sondheim recalled “endlessly inventive.”

August Recommendations:

“Hamilton” 

Duh. 

8/13-8/25, Proctors Theatre

“Before the Meeting” by Adam Bock 

The inner workings of a twelve-step recovery group and the protagonist’s struggles with her granddaughter which challenges all she has built for herself in sobriety. Trip Cullman directs Deirdre O’Connell in this World Premiere at this world-class theatre in our backyard. 

8/7-8/18, Williamstown Theatre Festival

“Slow Food” by Wendy MacLeod

A 95-minute trip to a restaurant that will have you holding your sides. A comedy by the playwright of “The House of Yes” directed by the prodigiously talented Jackson Gay in this picture-perfect summer theatre barn setting. A better summer evening’s trip out of the Capital Region cannot be imagined. 

8/22-8/31, Dorset Theatre Festival

Patrick White is a Capital Region actor/director/educator whose next play in the Capital Region will be “Church & State” by Jason Odell Williams at Sand Lake Center for the Arts 10/5-10/14. white.patrick1963@gmail.com

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