Lots. Of. News. I'll never get to it all, so let me get to some.
Dulé is coming! Dulé Hill, that is, he of The West Wing, Psych, and much else. The world premiere of Lights Out: Nat "King" Cole, by Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor, will open People's Light's 2017-2018 season (Oct. 11-Dec. 3). Hill will play Cole, with Broadway guy Daniel J. Watts playing Sammy Davis Jr. They, the playwrights, and a stellar cast were in New York two weekends ago for a workshop overseen by People's Light producing director Zak Berkman.
"Tommy and Me" and you. Last August, Ray Didinger's Tommy and Me ran for 12 sold-out performances at FringeArts. (It sold out even before the first performance.) Folks loved the sportsguy's tale of his long friendship with boyhood football idol Tommy McDonald, and his own campaign to get the Eagles wide receiver into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Well, let's do it again - as in Aug. 3-20 at FringeArts. "We bringing the old band back together," Didinger says by phone. "We have the same director in Joe Canuso, the same cast [Tom Teti, Matt Pfeiffer, Ned Pryce, and Simon Kiley]. It's still the same story, with a few tweaks here and there, but not much."
The play's story and the story of the play are both heartwarming. On a radio show, Didinger mentioned he was toying with a play. Teti heard it while driving his car. He reached out, and soon Canuso was reading the first go. Canuso says he loved it the moment he read it. "But Ray had never done a play before, and it was more of a short story," he says. So Didinger worked with Philly playwright Bruce Graham (Philly Fan and much else). "He and I, in about six months, whipped it into shape," Didinger says. "There was no little kid when he first gave it to me," Canuso says. "The flashbacks weren't there, having the little kid talk to his older self. That's what made the story pop."
"The high point last year was when Tommy McDonald came to the play with his kids and grandkids. That was incredible," Didinger says. "And I knew we were going to do it again when Tom Teti said to me, over drinks after the last show, 'This is just goodbye for now. The story's just too good not to do again.' "
Woman Power. Coriolanus seems to be the play of the moment - and Shakespeare in Clark Park is launching an all-female version Wednesday through Sunday. The fabulous, canny Charlotte Northeast leads, and Kittson O'Neill directs. Bring blankets and bug spray: This ain't your teacher's Shakespeare.
Woman Power, Part II. Here comes the third annual Philadelphia Women's Theatre Festival (Aug. 2-6). It all happens at Caplan Studio Theater at UArts. The headliner this year is Hear Me War by Sarah Galante and Jaime Jarrett, directed by Elaina Di Monaco. Hear Me War gets four performances, Aug. 4-6. Staged readings of three other plays - Loved Ones by Robin Rodriguez, The Elvis Administration by Stephanie N. Walters, and Out of the Wake by Megan Diehl - are also on tap.