Saturday, July 30, 2016

MODERN TIMES Hits the Normal Theater Tuesday Night

The Normal Theater took some time off in July, but they'll be back August 2 with Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times as their Tuesday Night Classic.

And this one is absolutely, positively a classic, as Charlie's Little Tramp gets caught in the big machinery of the modern industrialized age. Paulette Goddard plays Charlie's love interest, an orphan who stole a loaf of bread and is now fleeing from the police.

Although Modern Times was made in 1936, it's still mostly silent, which was definitely something different in its time. When the film was re-released in 1972, Roger Ebert described the sound in the film this way:

"[Chaplin] hit upon an effective way to introduce sound without disturbing his comedy of pantomime: The voices in the movie are channeled through other media. The ruthless steel tycoon talks over closed-circuit television, a crackpot inventor brings in a recorded sales pitch, and so on. The only synched sound is Charlie's famous tryout as a singing waiter; perhaps after Garbo spoke, the only thing left was for Charlie to sing."

One might argue that Chaplin's movies sing even without sound, but Ebert's point is well taken. Part of the film's sound not mentioned by Ebert is the song "Smile" -- another classic -- introduced in Modern Times as an instrumental piece written by Chaplin himself. The famous lyrics (about smiling "though your heart is aching") weren't added till 1954, by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, but you should recognize the iconic music when you hear it in Modern Times.

Look for Modern Times at 7 pm on Tuesday, August 2, at the Normal Theater. Friends of the Normal Theater are invited to attend free. Tickets are $7 for general admission and $5 for students or children under 13.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD Released at Midnight Saturday

Nine years and ten days after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh volume in J. K. Rowling's series about a boy wizard defending the world of magic, there will be a new book about Harry's adventures. It's not a novel, however, but the print version of a two-part play called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, currently playing in London's West End.

The play, written by Jack Thorne and based on an original story by Rowling, Thorne and John Tiffany, has been in previews at the Palace Theatre in London since June 7 and doesn't officially open till July 30, but it's already a smash, with great reviews and rumors that there are plans to bring the production to Broadway next year after a Toronto North American premiere.

Harry Potter fans who won't have a chance to see this new chapter in the Potterverse in person can still get their hands on what's being called "a special rehearsal version" of the script when it's released at midnight on July 30, at the precise moment the clock ticks over to July 31. That means Saturday night at midnight, with bookstores (including the Bloomington, Champaign and Peoria Barnes and Noble stores) planning special events. Barnes and Noble even has an online clock counting down the seconds if you need to keep track. They've also reported that preorders of the script have broken their records for that sort of thing, so yours may very well be on the way.

If you need to occupy yourself until Saturday, you can re-read the older books, catch up on the latest news or sort yourself at Pottermore, where all kinds of goodies are available.

Until then... Ravenclaw and Horned Serpent forever!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Marni Nixon, 1930-2016

When I heard yesterday that Marni Nixon, whose singing voice elevated the screen performances of countless actresses, had passed away yesterday, I mentioned it to a friend who enjoys movie musicals. She had never heard of Marni Nixon. That was the whole point in Nixon's heyday -- to have her voice sub in for performers as different as Deborah Kerr, Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood while maintaining the illusion that they were singing for themselves. For the 1961 film West Side Story, Nixon not only sang Maria's songs for Natalie Wood, but added high notes for Rita Morena as Anita, too. She also provided high notes for Marilyn Monroe on "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" and sang for Jeanne Crain, Janet Leigh and Sophia Loren, among others.

You'll find Nixon (or at least her voice) in movies like Joan of Arc, The Secret Garden, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Cinderella, The King and IAn Affair to Remember, Boy on a Dolphin, West Side Story, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, where she actually appeared on screen as one of the nuns singing "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" She earned the nickname "The Ghostess with the Mostess" from Time Magazine and appeared on "To Tell the Truth," where she didn't get to sing, but the panelists did make fun of the fact that Nixon was contractually barred from revealing a great deal of her work.

On stage, she appeared in The Girl in Pink Tights in 1954 and played Eliza Doolittle in a 1964 revival of My Fair Lady at New York's City Center, along with several roles on Broadway in the new millennium.

There's a Marni Nixon medley on Youtube so you can hear some of her work put together, from "I Could Have Danced All Night" to "Tonight" and "Shall We Dance." Different accents, different characters, different actresses she was dubbing while they pretended they could hit those high notes.

Although she clearly had some reservations about the way Hollywood had used her talents without credit, telling the New York Times that "It got so I’d lent my voice to so many others that I felt it no longer belonged to me," she seemed to have made peace with her claim to fame, going on tour with "Marni Nixon: The Voice of Hollywood," a one-woman show with all the hits she'd sung, and telling her story in her autobiography, I Could Have Sung All Night. And, yes, she had a ghostwriter, one she credited on the title page.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Midwest Institute of Opera Kicks Off Their Summer Season This Week

As the Midwest Institute for Opera gets ready to open its summer season, I sent co-artistic director Tracy Marie Koch a few questions, to get a little background on what MIO is and what we can expect in their 2016 productions. Tracy's husband, John Koch, a professor in Illinois State University's School of Music, is her co-artistic director.   

Can you tell us a little about your background and your husband's, in terms of how you met and how you started your opera careers?

John and I met while I was in college at ISU. He was my first voice teacher and was the first person to show me the beauty of opera. I wanted to be a musical theater performer but my voice developed into a dramatic soprano sound. He sent me home from a lesson one day to listen to Puccini’s La bohème and I was hooked.

What brought you to Bloomington-Normal to start MIO?

After leaving ISU I went to Northwestern University for my Master’s Degree and after completing it, we decided to make our permanent home in Bloomington-Normal. As I grew as a performer, I realized the "business" of opera was not preparing artists fully for performing careers. Singers needed a place where they could hone their skills and perform full opera roles in their original language. Opera companies will not hire you unless you have done the role somewhere else first. They need to trust you. So we started MIO in 2010 to be a place for emerging artists to grow and learn under seasoned professionals.

What can you tell me about MIOperatunities? Is that something new for MIO?

As the company continued growing we added the MIOperatunities program in 2014 because we wanted to give the community access to this art form that is not normally accessible in the area. Currently we are the only opera company operating between Chicago and St. Louis. And we wanted the kids to experience this art form! They are our future audience and it is a great way to expose them to dance, drama and music since opera uses all of these elements.

So we offer a free matinee of one of our operas to kids, senior citizens, people with special needs and families. This year our production is Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. This production also features our MIO Children’s choir that we introduced into our program in 2014. It is great to see other kids on stage and think "I can do that, too," and then get involved in the arts.

The Hansel that is performing on our MIOperatunities Matinee is actually 17 years old and will be a senior at Normal Community West High School. His name is Caleb Killingsworth, and this is an amazing opportunity for him to work with professionals and to perform in an opera! You will not want to miss his performance. We are happy to be his first experience performing in an opera.

MIOperatunities also provides performance opportunities year round for children between the ages of 7 to 18. This includes Madrigal performances in December and participation in our summer opera season and show choir. 

MIOperatunities is partially funded by the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation Grant and the Town of Normal Harmon Arts Grant.

What else is on your schedule this summer and who is involved?

We have Metropolitan Opera star Heidi Skok, mezzo soprano, performing in our production of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites and to watch her performance is just riveting. She possesses a lush, rich mezzo and is a true singing actress. I met her in New York City and she was my voice teacher. It has been really fun and inspiring to direct her.

Our Falstaff is being led by the amazing conductor Lucy Arner from the Metropolitan Opera. And the baritone singing the title role is the talented Joshua Conyers. We hired him a week ago because our original Falstaff was in in an accident and could not come to do the show. Joshua just finished covering the role at Des Moines Metro Opera and is on the cusp of an international career! You will not want to miss his voice or his colleagues' voices in this production.

What roles do you and John play within the company?

John and I both do the behind-the-scenes work as administrators and on stage as director and conductor. John and I are both working on Dialogues of the Carmelites as a joint partnership, with John as conductor and I as director. It has been fun blending our vision of the work to make it our own.

Thanks, Tracy!

In their summer schedule, detailed below, Music at the Manor will take place at the Ewing Cultural Center, with the three opera performances in the Concert Hall at the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts. Music at the Manor is offered for free, although donations are certainly appreciated, while tickets for Dialogues of the Carmelites and Falstaff are $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens or children under 10. MIO accepts cash or check at the door prior to performances.

Music at the Manor: Opera at the Manor (Ewing Cultural Center)
Sunday July 24, 2016 at 2:30 pm and Wednesday July 27, 2016 at 12:30 pm
Free parking in St. John's Lutheran Church lot at the corner of Towanda and Emerson

MIOperatunities presents Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel (excerpts, sung in English)
Monday July 25, 2016 at 11 am (free admission to registered groups) and Wednesday July 27, 2016 at 7:30 pm (admission charged)

Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites (sung in English)*
*featuring Metropolitan Opera's Heidi Skok as Madame de Croissy
Thursday July 28, 2016 at 7:30 pm and Saturday July 30 at 7:30 pm

Verdi's Falstaff (sung in Italian)
Friday July 29, 2016 at 7:30 pm and Sunday July 31 at 2:30 pm

For details on their schedule, see this Facebook event listing. For more information on other aspects of MIO, check out this interview Tracy and John did with WGLT, this Pantagraph article about star Heidi Skok, or this piece about ISU senior and opera coach Lauren Koszyk.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cool Off Your Summer With SNOW WHITE for a Dollar at ICC on July 29

How long has it been since you saw Walt Disney’s animated classic Snow Whiteand the Seven Dwarfs? Fairytales on film and TV continue to be popular -- Snow herself is one of the main characters in ABC's Once Upon a Time, plus Kristen Stewart played her in 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman and the Internet Movie Database shows over a hundred other pieces with "Snow White" in the title -- but it's the 1937 version of Snow's story that sets the standard. This Snow White was, after all, the first full-length animated feature film released by Walt Disney Studios and the first movie to release a soundtrack album. That album reflected how popular the movie's charming score became, with memorable songs like "Whistle While You Work," "Heigh-Ho," and "Some Day My Prince Will Come," written by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey just for the movie.

In recognition of the movie's place in film history, and also to determine if there's interest in offering more child- and family-friendly events at the Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center, Arts at ICC will show the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on Friday, July 29 at 6:30 pm. Tickets are a little more than 1937 prices, but at $1 for everybody over two, you still can't beat the price. Anybody younger than two can get in for free. They will also be offering concessions, although there's no word on whether those will follow the $1 theme.

Because this event is a test to gauge general interest in Arts at ICC doing more family-oriented events that appeal to smaller children, they will be handing out a survey at this movie. If you don't make it to the movie, but you want to give them some input on the subject, you can find the survey online at

For tickets or more information, visit or call the ICC Performing Arts Center Box Office at 309-694-5136.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tickets On Sale August 3 for Illinois Theatre 2016-17

When the fall semester begins at the University of Illinois in August, the new season of Illinois Theatre, the producing arm of the University's theatre department, will also begin. Tickets go on sale August 3 for a collection of plays "whose themes pose questions related to the nature of identity, family, history, and the stories people tell themselves to help make sense of their lives." What's on the schedule in 2016-17?

Going Broader and Deeper: New Play Reading
September 16, 2016, in the Studio Theatre
Illinois Theatre is presenting new play readings "in order to hear the voices of new playwrights–and in particular, writers from underrepresented populations." They will be offering a reading of a brand-new play each semester, with the hope of creating a discussion about these new works.

Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea, by Nathan Alan Davis
September 29–October 1, October 8–9 and 11–14, 2016 in the Studio Theatre
Guest director Tyrone Phillips, who earned his BFA at U of I, will be at the helm of this "contemporary quest that aims to redress transgressions of the past through a distinctive blend of poetry, humor, and ritual." Playwright Nathan Alan Davis is also a graduate of the Illinois Theatre program. Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea was a finalist for the ATCA/Steinberg Prize in 2015.

Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, by Anne Washburn
October 13–15 and 20–23, 2016, in Colwell Playhouse
Yes, the Mr. Burns in the title is that Mr. Burns, the evil millionaire from The Simpsons. Anne Washburn's play was one of the most talked about pieces of drama in years when it began at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington DC in 2012 and then moved to New York's Playwrights Horizon in 2013. In Washburn's view of our dystopic future, the people left after an apocalypse reenact a Simpsons episode to entertain themselves. And after that... As the years go by, what was pop culture becomes mythic and powerful. Lisa Gaye Dixon directs this unusual, imaginative play.

The Minotaur, by Anna Ziegler
October 27–29 and November 1–6, 2016, in the Studio Theatre
In the classic Greek myth, Theseus is out to slay the monstrous half-bull, half-man Minotaur to fulfill his destiny as a hero, and he must negotiate a huge labyrinth to make it happen. Let's just say all would've been lost if Ariadne, the Minotaur's half-sister, hadn't fallen in love with Theseus and provided a big ball of string to help him work his way out of there. Anna Ziegler has written a modern version of this myth, putting Ariadne at the center of the action as she must choose between family loyalty and the man she loves, with a chorus of a priest, a rabbi and a lawyer looking on. Tom Mitchell will direct Ziegler's play for Illinois Theatre.

Failure: A Love Story, by Philip Dawkins
February 2–4 and 7–12, 2017, in the Studio Theatre
JW Morrissette directs Dawkins' fun, fizzy and ultimately sad look at three sisters, Nelly, Jenny June and Gerty Fail, who live in a quirky clock-filled house in Chicago in the 1920s. There is nothing realistic about Failure: A Love Story, but its story feels poignant and heartfelt, as the sisters continue to come up short at life and love. Failure: A Love Story was part of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival's summer season three years ago.

Going Broader and Deeper: New Play Reading
February 24, 2017, in the Studio Theatre
The second offering in Illinois Theatre's new initiative of play readings.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
March 2–4 and 9–12, 2017, in Colwell Playhouse
Shakespeare's tale of woe about teenage love gone wrong will be directed by Robert G. Anderson, himself a fine Shakespearean actor. For Illinois Theatre, expect a contemporary setting and a transformation of Colwell Playhouse. They've done Macbeth backwards there (with the audience on the stage and Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane through the seats) so anything is possible. petuous love.

Iago’s Plot
March 30–April 1 and April 4–9, 2017, in the Studio Theatre
Shozo Sato is a Master of Zen arts and emeritus faculty member at the University of Illinois. His Kabuki infused performances of Shakespeare are highly dramatic and theatrical, with Iago's Plot bringing his distinctive style to Othello. In the play, Iago schemes to bring down his commander, Othello, after he feels he's been passed over for a promotion. That scheme involves Othello's wife, Desdemona, as Iago works to convince Othello that his wife has been unfaithful.

For more information about the upcoming Illinois Theatre season as well as the rest of the 2016-17 season at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, click here. And remember -- tickets are on sale for all of it starting August 3.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Calling All Actors: Auditions Next Week at Heartland Theatre and Community Players

Heartland Theatre Company and Community Players Theatre have both announced that they'll hold auditions next week for upcoming shows. The dates overlap a bit -- Heartland's auditions will be held on the 24th and 25th, while Players will be doing their auditions on the 25th and 26th -- but not to worry. The shows they're casting could not be more different, so it seems unlikely anybody who is interested in one will also be trying out for the other.

First up, Heartland and director Don Shandow will be looking for three women for Sunil Kuruvilla's Fighting Words, a 2003 drama set in the small town of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. Auditions are set for Sunday, July 24, from 4 to 8 pm, and Monday, July 25, from to 10 pm.

Fighting Words has a cast of three, with action involving two sisters -- Peg and Nia -- and their landlady, Mrs.  Davies. Heartland will be looking for actresses in the 20 to 30 range for Peg, approximately 25 to 35 for Nia, and 50 to 60 for Mrs. Davies, and everyone will need to be able to handle a Welsh accent. (Here's a short Youtube video of two actual sisters from Merthyr if you want to hear what they sound like and see a bit of the town in its current state.) As for the play... Here's what it's all about:
In September, 1980, three women in the tiny Welsh village of Merthyr Tydfil wait, worry and watch, pinning their hopes and dreams on a bantamweight boxer named Johnny Owen, who has traveled all the way from Wales to Los Angeles to fight for a world championship. Every man in town who could scrape up the money is in California with their favorite son, but sisters Peg and Nia and their landlady Mrs. Davies are left behind. To pass the time before the bout is on television, they bake, they talk – and they fight – about their futures and fears and how they live their lives in this sorrowful mining town.
Performances of Fighting Words are scheduled for September 8 to 24, 2016 at Heartland Theatre.

Over at Community Players, the comedy Boeing Boeing is in need of two men and three women. Director G. William Zorn and producer Chris Terven will hold auditions on Monday, July 25 and Tuesday, July 26, starting at 7 pm each night. Boeing Boeing is a silly, sexy farce -- very "Coffee, tea or me" if you remember that phrase -- about a playboy in Paris and the three flight attendants from different countries he's juggling. It was originally written in French in 1960 by playwright Marc Camoletti, but it was in English that it found its biggest audiences, with a smash London production that ran for seven years, a movie starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis, and a revival in the new millennium that featured an all-star cast on Broadway. That cast included Bradley Whitford as a swinging bachelor living in a fab pad in Paris, with Mark Rylance as his clueless friend from the States, Christine Baranski as his housekeeper and Gina Gershon, Kathryn Hahn and Mary McCormack as the beautiful Italian, American and German women who are running in and out of the apartment. Rylance won another Tony for his Boeing Boeing performance. You can see descriptions of all the roles on the Players website, along with suggested ages for the various characters.

Community Players' production of Boeing Boeing will run from September 2 to 11, 2016.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Emmy Nominations!

Emmy nominations were announced today, with the usual assortment of good, bad and indifferent choices.

Who's celebrating tonight? Actress Laurie Metcalf, who is nominated for three different shows, Game of Thrones, leading the pack with the most overall nominations, anybody and everybody on The People v. O.J. Simpson, which cleaned up, and the folks at black-ish, which scored nominations for stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson and the show itself. Fargo also did well, with nominations for Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart and Bokeem Woodbine, all of whom more than deserve their nominations, and voters showed they are not tired of Veep, which scored for Julia Louis-Dreyfus as well as Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Matt Walsh and guest stars Peter MacNicol and Martin Mull. Chlumsky has been great since the get-go without really getting the recognition she deserves, while Mull was fantastic in his guest role. It was also good news for Mr. Robot and its star Rami Malek, even if Mr. Robot himself, Christian Slater, was overlooked. And finally Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black got her due, along with some love for The Americans, an excellent show Emmy voters have skipped over in the past

Among the disappointments: Orange Is the New Black came up empty, as did Golden Globes winner Rachel Bloom, who stars in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and former winner Juliana Margulies, in her final season with The Good Wife.

And among the biggest "What are they smoking?" moments are the nominations for Modern Family (Really? Still?), nominating Tina Fey and Amy Poehler together as if they're one person, and completely overlooking The Leftovers, the best thing on television last year.

Here are the nominees in some of the major categories. For the complete list, you can visit the Emmy website or check out the New York Times coverage.

Master of None
Modern Family
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
Laurie Metcalf, Getting On

Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Will Forte, Last Man on Earth
William H. Macy, Shameless
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent 

Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent
Allison Janney, Mom
Judith Light, Transparent
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Niecy Nash, Getting On

Louie Anderson, Baskets
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tony Hale, Veep
Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele
Matt Walsh, Veep

Christine Baranski, The Big Bang Theory
Tina Fey & Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Melora Hardin, Transparent
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
Laurie Metcalf, The Big Bang Theory
Amy Schumer, Saturday Night Live

Larry David, Saturday Night Live
Peter MacNicol, Veep
Tracy Morgan, Saturday Night Live
Martin Mull, Veep
Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory
Bradley Whitford, Transparent  

The Americans
Better Call Saul
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
Mr. Robot

Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Claire Danes, Homeland
Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Keri Russell, The Americans
Robin Wright, House of Cards 

Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
Michael Kelly, House of Cards
Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Maura Tierney, The Affair
Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
Constance Zimmer, UnREAL

Mahershala Ali, House Of Cards
Hank Azaria, Ray Donovan
Reg E. Cathey, House Of Cards
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
Paul Sparks, House Of Cards
Max von Sydow, Game Of Thrones

Ellen Burstyn, House Of Cards
Allison Janney, Masters Of Sex
Margo Martindale, The Americans
Laurie Metcalf, Horace And Pete
Molly Parker, House Of Cards
Carrie Preston, The Good Wife

All the Way
A Very Murray Christmas
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

American Crime
The Night Manager
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Lili Taylor, American Crime
Kerry Washington, Confirmation

Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Idris Elba, Luther
Cuba Gooding, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager
Courtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Hotel
Olivia Colman, The Night Manager
Regina King, American Crime
Melissa Leo, All The Way
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel
Jean Smart, Fargo 

Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story 
Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager 
Jesse Plemons, Fargo
David Schwimmer, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
John Travolta, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo

Tom Bergeron, “Dancing With The Stars”
Steve Harvey, “Little Big Shots starring Steve Harvey”
Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, “Project Runway”
Jane Lynch, “Hollywood Game Night”
RuPaul, “RuPaul's Drag Race”
Ryan Seacrest, “American Idol” 

America's Best Dance Crew (Runaway Baby/Take U There/Summer Thing)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Routines: I'm So Good at Yoga/A Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes/Settle For Me)
Dancing With The Stars (Footprints In The Sand/Grace Kelly/Cry Little Sister)
So You Think You Can Dance (Dibidy Dop)
So You Think You Can Dance (Beautiful Friends/November/Gimme All Your Lov)

Chris Addison, Veep
Aziz Ansari, Master Of None
Alec Berg, Silicon Valley
Mike Judge, Silicon Valley
Dave Mandel, Veep
Jill Soloway, Transparent
Dale Stern, Veep

Jack Bender, Game Of Thrones 
Michael Engler, Downton Abbey
Lesli Linka Glatter, Homeland 
David Hollander, Ray Donovan
Miguel Sapochnik, Game Of Thrones
Steven Soderbergh, The Knick 

Susanne Bier, The Night Manager
Noah Hawley, Fargo
Anthony Hemingway, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Ryan Murphy, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story 
Jay Roach, All The Way
John Singleton, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Dave Diomedi, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live
Tim Mancinelli, The Late Late Show With James Corden
Ryan McFaul, Inside Amy Schumer
Paul Pennolino, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Louis J. Horvitz, 58th Grammy Awards
Kahlil Joseph and Beyoncé Knowles Carter, Lemonade
Thomas Kail and, Alex Rudzinski, Grease: Live
Beth McCarthy-Miller, Adele Live In New York City
Chris Rock, Amy Schumer: Live At The Apollo
Glenn Weiss, The Kennedy Center Honors

Liz Garbus, What Happened, Miss Simone?
David Gelb, Chef's Table
Davis Guggenheim, He Named Me Malala
Matthew Heineman, Cartel Land
Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, Making A Murderer

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, "Settle For Me"
Empire, "Good People"
Galavant, "A New Season"
Garfunkel and Oates: Trying To Be Special, "Frozen Lullaby"
The Hunting Ground, "'Til It Happens To You"

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Marvel's Jessica Jones
The Night Manager
The Whispers

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
The Late Late Show With James Corden
Real Time With Bill Maher
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Documentary Now!
Drunk History
Inside Amy Schumer
Key & Peele
Saturday Night Live

Adele Live In New York City
Amy Schumer: Live At The Apollo
The Kennedy Center Honors
The Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke Prime Time Special

69th Annual Tony Awards
The 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards
Grease: Live
The Oscars
Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show

Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, Master Of None
Alec Berg, Silicon Valley
 Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, Catastrophe

Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck, VeepDan O'Keefe, Silicon Valley
David Mandel, Veep

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Game Of Thrones
Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, The Americans
Michelle and Robert King, The Good Wife
Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, UnREAL

Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Joe Robert Cole, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Bob DeLaurentis, Fargo
D.V. DeVincentis, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
David Farr, The Night Manager
Noah Hawley, Fargo

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
Inside Amy Schumer
Key & Peele
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Saturday Night Live

Amy Schumer: Live At The Apollo
John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid
Patton Oswalt: Talking For Clapping
Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted
Triumph's Election Special 2016

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Everything Is Copy -- Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted
Jackie Robinson
Making A Murderer
Walt Disney (American Experience)

The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
Dancing With The Stars
Project Runway
Top Chef
The Voice

Antiques Roadshow
Lip Sync Battle
Shark Tank
Undercover Boss

Born This Way
Deadliest Catch
Gaycation With Ellen Page
Project Greenlight
United Shades Of America

American Masters
Chef's Table
Making A Murderer
The Seventies
Woman With Gloria Steinem

Becoming Mike Nichols
Everything Is Copy
Listen To Me Marlon
Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures
What Happened, Miss Simone? 

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Inside The Actors Studio
Star Talk With Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Story Of God With Morgan Freeman

Monday, July 11, 2016

NEW PLAYS FROM THE HEARTLAND Brings Three New Plays to B-N This Week

It's almost time to see what Midwest playwrights came up with this year for Heartland Theatre's Mike Dobbins Memorial New Plays from the Heartland. For this short play project, Heartland asked playwrights in nine Midwestern states -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio or Wisconsin -- to come up with brand-new, never-before-produced plays inspired by the idea of "A Key." How playwrights interpret that "Key" is up to them, as long as the play has between two and six characters and will it run between 20 and 35 minutes when performed. Heartland judges read all the plays entered, chose six finalists, and then sent those finalist plays to a nationally-known playwright to select the three winners whose work will receive a staged reading at Heartland.

This year, the playwright-in-residence is Chicago's Mia McCullough, a "screenwriter, teacher, filmmaker and occasional stand-up comedian" who also happens to write plays like Chagrin Falls, which won the 2001 American Theatre Critics Association Osborn Award and was a finalist for the ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award. It also earned McCullough Joseph Jefferson and After Dark Awards for Best New Work, a Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Production, and First Prize in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition.

In addition to offering an open forum for the public at 7:30 pm on Thursday, July 14, McCullough will be in town to conduct a workshop with the three winning playwrights, who are Steven Peterson and Alyssa Ratkovich from Chicago and Jaquelyn Priskorn from Troy City, Michigan. Ratkovich's name may be familiar to Heartland audiences as an actress, since she starred opposite Lori Adams in Rona Munro's Iron in 2014 and appeared in numerous ten-minute plays at Heartland during her time as an ISU student.

The three winning plays are variations on the "Key" theme, with Peterson's Key Ring working with a group of characters tied together by a man in their lives; Priskorn's Good Morning, Miriam taking a look at an elderly woman trying to find the key that makes sense of her life; and Ratkovich's päzədiv (Positive) focusing on three characters with varying styles, but a common goal -- escape.

Key Ring, Good Morning, Miriam and päzədiv (Positive) are directed by Illinois State University professor Cyndee Brown, one of Heartland's best directors, and will be presented Friday, July 15, at 7:30 pm, Saturday, July 16, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, July 17, at 2 pm.

New Plays from the Heartland is considered a special event, partially funded by a grant from the Town of Normal Harmon Arts Grant, and as such, not part of a regular Heartland subscription, so Flex Passes will not be accepted. The suggested donation is $5 for tickets.

For all the details on the Thursday forum and weekend performances, click here. For more general information on the Mike Dobbins Memorial New Plays from the Heartland project, try this link.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

LeRoy Launches Summer Theater Camp

The Bloomington-Normal area is booming with opportunities for children who want to spend some time on the stage. There's Miller Park Theatre through Bloomington Parks & Rec, currently in their "summer 2016 theatre workshop" phase before they perform Bye Bye Birdie at the end of July; Normal Parks & Rec's High School Summer Theatre, which finished up You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown in June and opens Disney's Little Mermaid next week at the Connie Link Ampitheatre in Normal; and Summer on Stage, which this summer is working in conjunction with Prairie Fire Theatre to do Oklahoma! Jr. and an Oklahoma pre-show. Community Players also launched a Summer Camp this year for 5th to 8th graders, offering Schoolhouse Rock Live! in June under that banner, while Illinois Wesleyan University, which used to host Summer on Stage, seems to have started something called Young Artists in Theatre, with a "theatre day camp" for 6th to 9th graders last month.

That gives plenty of opportunities to kids who live in B-N, but what about outlying areas? As of last week, lucky children in and around LeRoy are covered. LeRoy Elementary School music teacher Drew Scott opened LeRoy Summer Theater Camp on July 5, inviting incoming 5th, 6th and 7th grade students from LeRoy and surrounding districts to strut their stuff in a musical.

Scott and art teacher Beth Bataoel were the creative forces behind last February's Lion King Jr., involving 76 elementary school students in every level of the production, from designing their own costumes and scenic elements and helping to build them to singing and dancing on stage. Click the link under The Lion King to see a video made by Bataoel to highlight the process.

LeRoy Summer Theater Camp will feature the same kind of immersive experience, with Scott directing, Fletcher Paulsen as assistant director and Bataoel once again in charge of the design side, as campers work on memorizing lines, rehearsing their scenes and learning "set building, painting, prop creation, choreography" and other aspects of theater.

After all of that work, they will have a finished Thoroughly Modern Millie up and running (and tapping) in two evening performances on Friday, July 22nd, and Saturday, July 23rd. Keep an eye on the LeRoy Music Boosters Facebook page for more information as the kids of LeRoy put their Millie together.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Hot Fun in the Summertime on Stage and Screen in July

June may be gone, but the summer is just getting started when it comes to entertainment. You can keep yourself occupied every night (and a few days) if you want to, and that's just with the few things I've collected here. There's plenty more out there, believe me.

But for now, here are some highlights that jumped out at me.

The Lady From Shanghai, Orson Welles' fun-house mirror of film noir crosses and double-crosses, plays at Champaign's Art Theater Co-op tonight and tomorrow night, and then again on the 7th and 17th. Welles directed and stars alongside Rita Hayworth, the screen siren he was married to at the time, even though Welles made her cut her hair and dye it blonde, which isn't really her best look. And Welles has his own nose in this one, which is quite unusual!

The Art follows that with another piece of film noir, this time The Killing, written and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The Killing was released in June, 1956, making it 60 years old. It involves some petty crooks trying to pull off a racetrack heist, with complications from a no-good dame and a too-big suitcase. The film's star is Sterling Hayden, the precious-bodily-fluids-obsessed general in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, but you'll also see Vince Edwards, TV's Dr. Ben Casey, Elisha Cook, Jr., who had a memorable role in Casablanca, and comedian Rodney Dangerfield in a small role. The Art Theater Co-op is offering The Killing on July 8, 9, 10 and 24. See all the details here.

It's almost time for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, which kicks off its summer season at Ewing Cultural Center with previews of Twelfth Night on July 5, the Broadway play Peter and the Starcatcher on July 6, and Hamlet on July 7. Those three plays run in repertory through August 13, with extras like Philip Dawkins' new children's play Rodeo at 10 am on Wednesdays and Saturdays all summer, and the Improvised Shakespeare Company performing July 17, 24, 31 and August 7 at 5:30 pm. If you'd like to see ticket information, it's right here.

Community Players' production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast starts with a preview July 7, followed by performances Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through July 24. To create this "tale as old as time," director Alan Wilson has assembled a cast that includes Kiera Martin as Belle, Sean Stevens as her Beast, Alex Knightwright as oh-so-wrong man Gaston, Jennifer Stevens as Mrs. Potts, Jaden Ward as her son Chip, and Joe McDonald as Lumiere, the candlestick butler who sings "Be Our Guest."

The Station Theatre brings Bat Boy: The Musical to its cozy confines starting July 14, with Mikel L. Matthews, Jr. directing Evan Seggebruch as the Bat Boy himself. This "dark and hysterical look at how we deal with those unlike us" hangs around at the Station until August 6.

The Mike Dobbins Memorial New Plays from the Heartland -- new one-acts from Midwestern playwrights performed as staged readings -- are on stage July 15, 16 and 17, with director Cyndee Brown at the helm this year. Winning plays on the theme "A Key" are Key Ring by Steven Peterson from Chicago, Good Morning, Miriam by Jacquelyn Priskorn of Troy City, Michigan, and päzədiv (Positive) by Chicago's Alyssa Ratkovich, an ISU acting alum who appeared in Heartland's 10-Minute Play Festival more than once while she was in town. This year's guest playwright, who will conduct a master class for the winning playwrights and offer an open forum at the theater on Ju;y 14, is Mia McCullough, author of the play Chagrin Falls as well as a new book about creative writing.

The summer season at the Midwest Institute of Opera kicks off with excerpts from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel on July 25 and 27, followed by Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, featuring the Metropolitan Opera's Heidi Skok, on July 28 and 30, and Verdi's Falstaff on the 29th and 31st. All MIO performances will be held in Illinois State University's Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall. For more information, check out the Midwest Institute of Opera website.