Four years ago, St. Joseph's Prep drama teacher Tony Braithwaite (same guy who runs Act II Playhouse in Ambler) took a few students to see Newsies in New York. One said: "There has never been a more St. Joe's Prep play. Ever."
"So we applied for the rights," Braithwaite says, "but we were told no high schools were allowed to do it yet. So the kids got together, wrote a nice letter, and Disney wrote back and said, 'We're actually looking for schools for pilot productions. You sound like a good candidate.' " Less than a week later, in June, Disney selected St. Joe's Cape and Sword Drama Society (established 1901) as one of four schools nationally to do Newsies.
"Chosen schools perform the show and log impossible notes, any language issues, pacing," Braithwaite says, "and then Disney may tweak the production before they release the rights generally." Newsies runs Nov. 10-12 and 15-19.
Building on a dream. On Monday afternoon, Philadelphia Scenic Works held an open house. Kielbasa, Yards ale, great people! Never heard of PSW? That's because it's brand new.
Philly is a town of small and midsize theaters. But Campbell Studios is gone now, so where can these theaters build or store their sets and props? Thanks to the good offices of Theatre Philadelphia, a committee of four Philly stalwarts - Seth Rozin, Terry Smith, Bridget A. Cook, and Matthew Lewandowski - formed to figure out what to do. With support from the Wyncote Foundation and other donors, they got hold of an old Hamada Roofing warehouse. Philadelphia Scenic Works, a nonprofit, is at 2844 Frankford Ave.
Theaters tell PSW their needs, and they agree on a fee. "We've already done a few projects," says Lewandowski, "including The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey at Philadelphia Theatre Company, and a few shows right now at Fringe." The goal is to be a one-stop shop: "build your props and sets, do the trucking, install the show, break down, recycle." They will also store stock props for theaters strapped for closet space. They want to be part of Kensington, too, with training and work possibilities for local youth.
Home at 'HOME.' At the Prince Theater, I caught Geoff Sobelle and Steven Dufala's HOME before it closed. It's a Fringe highlight: inspiring, magical, life itself. A house goes up; lives are begun, led, and ended; the house itself is abandoned. The climax was a party, a graduation/wedding/
wake/birthday/shower rolled into one. Audience members got pulled in, and we all helped string lights. Terrific work.
A 'Forum' forum: Readers Joe and Ilene McCaffrey saw my review of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Walnut, and they agree it's "crass, vulgar, etc." But they say that, unlike the 2017 brand of crass and vulgar, which usually includes "being mean-hearted and not so subtly foul," Forum has "innocent and thoroughly enjoyable and lighthearted humor."
Can't wait to see:
by Sam Shepard, through Oct. 15 at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. Features Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire).