Monday, January 25, 2010

Primus Prize Awarded to Jamie Pachino

Just got this press release from the ATCA and thought I would share...


The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation and the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) are pleased to announce that playwright Jamie Pachino of Los Angeles has been awarded the $10,000 2009 Francesca Primus Prize for her play Splitting Infinity. Included is a trip to this summer’s ATCA conference at the O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut.

The Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman theater artist, either playwright, artistic director or director.

Splitting Infinity focuses on Leigh, a Nobel Prize–winning astrophysicist, who pursues evidence of God through physics. The polarity between faith and science finds dramatic expression in two relationships, the first with a handsome rabbi, Saul, and the other with Robbie, a young graduate student who idolizes her.

Splitting Infinity was commissioned by the Steppenwolf Theatre and premiered at the Geva Theatre, directed by Mark Cuddy and starring Elizabeth Hess and Michael Rupert. It has had subsequent productions at San Jose Rep, Florida Stage and elsewhere. It has already received such recognition as the Laurie Foundation Theatre Visionary Award and the STAGE International Script Competition (Professional Artists Lab/California NanoSystems Institute), plus awards from the Dorothy Silver Playwriting Competition, the Ashland New Plays Festival, and the Becket Arts Festival.

Kirsten Brandt, who directed the production at San Jose Rep, acclaims Pachino’s “lyric style” and says the theater chose the play because of its “inherent theatricality,” complex main characters that provide great roles and “ability to make an audience think.” The San Jose Mercury News named it one of the top 10 productions of 2008.

Informed of her award, playwright Pachino said, “The Primus Prize is one that is extremely respected by women playwrights and I am so honored and delighted to be recognized.”

Pachino was selected from 41 nominees by a nationwide committee of critics, headed by Barbara Bannon (Salt Lake City) and composed of Marianne Evett, Glenda Frank, Judith Reynolds and Herb Simpson.

Given the number of contenders for the award, the committee also chose two to receive $1,000 Primus Citations, funded by ATCA: Jennifer Haley of North Hollywood, CA, for Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, which premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, directed by Kip Fagan; and Kathryn Walat of New York City for Bleeding Kansas, which premiered at the Hanger Theatre in Ithaca, N.Y., directed by Kevin Moriarity.

“The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation was established to recognize and support emerging women artists who are making a difference in the theater community in which they work,” said Barry Primus, the foundation head. Founded in 1997 in memory of actress, critic and ATCA member Francesca Primus, the Primus Prize was originally administered by the Denver Center Theatre Company and limited to playwrights. ATCA began overseeing the award in 2004.

Pachino has been writing plays for more than a decade, and her work includes Waving Goodbye, The Return to Morality, Aurora’s Motive, and Race. Her plays have been produced and developed at theaters ranging from Steppenwolf to the American Conservatory Theatre, Hartford Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse and Northlight Theatre. She also has extensive writing credits for both film and television, and she is an actress and choreographer.

ATCA is the nationwide organization of theater critics, an affiliate of the International Association of Theatre Critics. In addition to the Primus Prize, it administers the $40,000 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award. ATCA members also recommend a regional theater for the annual Tony Award and vote on induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame.


Submissions for the 2010 Primus Prize are now being accepted. The prize operates on an open submission basis—an applicant may submit herself or be nominated by another individual or organization.

Historically the award has been given to an outstanding female playwright, but the committee may also consider directors or artistic directors. To qualify for consideration, a playwright must have had a fully staged, professional production of her script within 2009. For other artists, there must also have been some significant achievement in the calendar year. But in both cases, the committee will consider a body of work going back several years.

A submission must be in the form of a portfolio of no more than 20 single-sided pages. It should include a letter recommending the candidate, a synopsis of her body of work, and supporting materials sufficient to familiarize the committee with her achievement, possibly including reviews and/or a statement of the artist's philosophy. Playwrights should also submit the script. If more than one play was produced in 2009, only one may be submitted, but excerpts from others might be part of the portfolio. Portfolios will not be returned.

Six copies of an applicant's entire portfolio (plus script for playwrights) along with an application fee of $25 (checks payable to ATCA) should be mailed, postmarked no later than Feb. 28, to ATCA, c/o Chris Curcio, P. O. Box 26945, Phoenix, AZ 85068; email queries at (note underscore).

For further information, contact Primus Prize chair Barbara Bannon, Salt Lake City,, or ATCA chair Chris Rawson, Pittsburgh,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kathleen Kirk's "Living on the Earth"

Local poet Kathleen Kirk shares information about her new release with us.

Living on the Earth, by Kathleen Kirk, poetry chapbook to be published by Finishing Line Press in spring 2010 in their New Women’s Voices series; expected release date, April 30, 2010.

This is a book, quite simply, about “living on the earth” in some pretty basic ways: standing and walking with the earth’s gravity, eating what grows on the earth and even cultivating our food, living among the beauties of nature, living with earth’s various creatures, living with other humans, and living with our own struggles and imperfections. Sometimes it even means living with alienation—there’s a poem called “Living on the Moon” in which I imagine literally living on the moon as a way of expressing the feeling of being alienated from fellow citizens of earth. There’s another called “Resurrection on the 4th of July” in which I imagine I have come back to life (like a lady Lazarus) from some period of deathlike estrangement. But most of the poems are set in nature or my own backyard, observing the gently cultivated nature of gardens, say, or a spider interacting with a water bottle or a laundry basket. In another poem I encounter a coyote in the parking lot of a swimming pool in my own hometown; he’s hungry enough to come into town for pigeon roadkill. What does that say about 21st-century American life? In this book I look at cornfields and wildflowers, I listen to women and crickets singing, and sometimes I become things other than myself.
--Kathleen Kirk

What others have said, via testimonial blurbs for back cover:

These smart, elegant poems—speaking to us sometimes in the voice of a lover, once in that of a resurrected body, occasionally as if from within a flower or from a crater on the moon—invite us to see the natural world and ourselves with renewed wonder and delight. And they move us to see beyond the known world so as to engage with yet another level of pleasure that can only be called spiritual. They are lyrical love poems to the earth and to our human capacity to cherish it.
--Bill Morgan, author of Sky With Six Geese

Kathleen Kirk's poems remind us of what a gift and mystery it is to reside on this living entity called Earth. Sometimes she is astute observer, sometimes grateful inhabitant of the very objects she writes about, but always the bearer of a very necessary message. As she writes, "It's hard to give up/ a belief in kindness/ when even the heads of wildflowers/ bow down in the yellow rain,/ when a whole bean field goes gold/ in the push to harvest." These are poems for a wounded world so much in need of kindness.
--Judith Valente, author of Discovering Moons

Pre-order info:

Kathleen Kirk’s upcoming poetry chapbook, Living on the Earth, is available for pre-order now, with a release and shipping date of April 30, 2010. Advance orders are very helpful in determining the print run and keeping publication on schedule. To order by mail, send a check for $14 + $1 shipping, per book, to
Finishing Line Press
P. O. Box 1626
Georgetown, KY 40324

You can also order online, via PayPal, at the New Releases page of Finishing Line Press:

Living on the Earth contains poems of earnest spiritual questing, human connection and alienation, and straightforward observations of nature, culture, and agriculture. The cover photograph of a cornfield in winter is by local photographer Ken Kashian.

After the book is released it will be available at Babbitt’s Books in Normal, and online at, as is her current chapbook, Broken Sonnets. Online ordering for non-new releases at Finishing Line moves to their Bookstore page, which links to Amazon, and Amazon links back to Finishing Line Press. Babbitt’s also carries Kirk’s first poetry chapbook, Selected Roles, which contains theatre and persona poems and references to Heartland Theatres in its “program notes.”

Sample Poem:

Blind Gentian

I was ready to open: dew hung from my leaves.
I was like all the others
in a wet thicket beside the tall trees.
A boy asked me why I didn’t kiss him—
so I did, his lips soft as petals, closed.

I waited.

You are waiting now for what will happen
next. I cannot tell you. I wait, still.
I have spread into the damp meadow now,
toward the ragged creek. The meek, the meek,
I pray daily, bare toes digging in.

“Blind Gentian” appears online in the current issue of Apparatus Magazine at:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Our Man in Havana

“Our Man in Havana,” the 1959 movie version of the Graham Greene novel, is charming, a little scary, and absolute genius when you come right down to it. It’s directed by Carol Reed, who also put Greene’s “The Third Man” on screen. They’re both dark and smart, and you can’t help rooting for the central characters to survive, no matter how badly they behave.

“Our Man” opens with Alec Guinness as everyman Jim Wormold, who runs a humble vacuum cleaner store in pre-Castro Havana. His shop isn’t much, and he also has a lovely teenage daughter to contend with. She has an expensive addiction to a horse and all the assorted bridles and saddles that go with it, plus she’s pretty enough to have caught the eye of the local police captain, a shady dude who seems to specialize in intimidation and torture.

When Hawthorne (Noel Coward) walks in and offers a big bundle of cash if Wormold will become Britain’s covert op in Havana, he reluctantly accepts. He’s supposed to recruit other agents and start gathering information, but he finds it almost impossible. What’s a mild-mannered vacuum cleaner salesman supposed to do? How about creating imaginary spies and imaginary inside information provided by those imaginary spies?

Wormold may not be very good at actual spy work, but he’s excellent with the fantasy stuff. In fact, he’s so impressive that London sends him a secretary (Maureen O’Hara) and a radio man, both eager to help him back up his data. As Wormold scrambles to cover his tracks, his fake coded messages are intercepted by the other side, which puts a lot of people, including him, in serious danger.

The cast is fabulous, what with a very dapper Noel Coward and Ralph Richardson as spymasters, Ernie Kovacs playing the cagey Cuban policeman, and Burl Ives as a German doctor. Think about it. You get Burl Ives, best known as either a claymation snowman singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or as Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” sporting a vaguely German accent and playing the Sydney Greenstreet role, Alec Guinness and Ernie Kovacs sloshing through a drunken checkers game, and Noel Coward in his pajamas! What else do you need?

Honestly, Alec Guinness would be enough all by himself. There’s nobody better at subtly infusing a regular old guy – not young, not handsome, not all that bright – with enough humanity and charm to run all the vacuum cleaners in Cuba. This Spy Who Bluffed His Way Through the Cold is a delight.

“Our Man in Havana” played at the Normal Theater January 14 and 15. If you missed it, it’s also available on Netflix or at your local video store.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's Happening in January?

You really can’t do better than Alec Guinness in “Our Man in Havana” at the Normal Theater on January 14th and 15th, although Humphrey Bogart, all sweaty and consumed with greed in John Huston’s “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” may be a contender. You haven’t lived till you’ve heard Mr. Bogart growl, “Nobody puts one over on Fred C. Dobbs.” “Sierra Madre” hits the big screen on the 16th and 17th.

Community Players, which is in the middle of its 87th season, offers “Dearly Departed,” a comedy by David Bottrell, which opened on the 7th and runs till the 23rd.

Urbana’s Station Theatre opens Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” on January 14th, running till the 30th. It’s a fine little piece of Theater of the Absurd and considered by many to be a comment on groupthink. Or Communism, Fascism, Nazism or any other movement that seems like a mindless herd of rhinoceri to you. Interesting enough, ISU is also doing “Rhinoceros” in March, so this may be your opportunity to compare and contrast.

If you have a lovely daughter, you may want to check out Herman’s Hermits (starring Peter Noone, just like in the Old Days) at the Bloomington CPA on January 22nd . Or, if Lake Wobegon is more your style, “An Evening with Garrison Keillor” of Prairie Home Companion fame may be just the ticket. That’s also at the CPA, one night only, on January 25th.

Hello, World!

Or as much of it as may want to read a blog about the arts in Central Illinois. I’ve been whining about the lack of coverage for books, theater, music and art in this area for so long that I decided it was time to put up or shut up and start offering some ink to some authors and artists, if I can figure out this blogging thing.

It’s a big IF, but I’m gonna try.

So why is it called A Follow Spot? As Stephen Sondheim put it:

I don't need a lot,
Only what I got,
Plus a tube of greasepaint and a follow spot.

That’s “Broadway Baby,” from my favorite show, “Follies.” I figured anointing my blog with something from “Follies” could only be a good start.

So let’s get started throwing that spotlight around. I’ll list your performances or shows if you send me the info, and I will review theater or books if they tickle my fancy. I’m hoping for lots of links and lots of press releases coming my way.