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18 Movies for the Entertainment Industry Fanatic

1. All About Eve (1950)

Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Cleopatra, Julius Caesar), All About Eve follows the titular character Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) as she is taken under the wing of Broadway legend Margo Channing (Bette Davis). While she first appears to be a young fan, Eve maneuvers her way into Channing’s life, ultimately threatening Channing’s career and personal relationships. Based on the 1946 short story The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr, All About Eve was praised by critics at the time of its release, and went on to be nominated for a record 14 Academy Awards. The American drama won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. All About Eve was also one of the first 50 films to be selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

2. Waiting For Guffman (1996)

Waiting For Guffman is an American mockumentary comedy written by Eugene Levy and Christopher Guest, who also serves as the director. As the Missouri town of Blaine approaches its 150th anniversary, eccentric stage director Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest) casts an eclectic bunch of people including a Dairy Queen worker and an auto mechanic in his show titled “Red White and Blaine.” When St. Clair and the cast of the production learn that a high-profile theater agent is expected to attend opening night, things go overboard. Like other mockumentary films created by Guest, much of the movie’s dialogue is improvised. Additionally, the film contains several original musical numbers written by Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.

3. Topsy Turvy (1999)

A British musical film written and directed by Mike Leigh, Topsy-Turvy examines the 15-month long period in 1884 and 1885 leading up to the premiere of The Mikado by lyricist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. Topsy Turvy focuses on the dynamic relationship of the famous playwright-composer duo, and their journey to create several more Savoy Operas. Witting and entertaining, the film received praiseworthy reviews and won two Academy Awards, one for Best Costume Design and the other for Best Makeup. Topsy-Turvy is ranked at #481 on Empire’s 2008 list of the 500 greatest films of all time.

4. Stage Fright (1950)

Directed and produced by film household name Alfred Hitchcock, Stage Fright is a British film noir thriller that follows budding actress Eve (Jane Wyman) who tries to help her actor friend (Richard Todd) prove his innocence when he’s accused of murdering the husband of a high-profile entertainer. Playing detective and assuming multiple disguises, Eve later falls into a web of deception and conflict ensues. This film is based on the novel Man Running by Selwyn Jepson, although some changes have been made from the book to the film.

5. Birdman (2014)

This 2014 American black comedy-drama film tells the story of former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson as he struggles to mount a Broadway adaptation of a short story by Raymond Carver. Covering the period of previews up to the play’s opening, Birdman delivers Riggan Thomson’s desire to be portrayed as a true artist and not just a washed-up movie star. Birdman grossed more than $103 million worldwide, and was nominated for a number of Academy Awards in 2015. The film took home Best Picture, Best Director for Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. The film also won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for Keaton.

6. Noises Off (1992)

Based on the 1982 play of the same name, Noises Off follows director Lloyd Fellowes (Michael Caine) as he is hired to steer the production of an Americanized take on a British play. While things run smoothly during the rehearsal process, chaos ensues as Lloyd and his band of actors begin a series of performances leading up to its Broadway premiere. In his review for the New York Times, Vincent Canby said, “There are a number of hefty laughs scattered throughout . . . this woozy film adaptation.” Directed by Peter Bogdanovich with a screenplay by Marty Kaplan, Noises Off is the comedy where everyone gets caught in the act!

7. Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (2016)

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened is a 2016 theatrical documentary film that follows the creation of the original Broadway production of Merrily We Roll Along and of the performers that were involved in its making. The documentary is directed by Lonny Price, who is also known for his creation of the role of Charley Kringas in Merrily We Roll Along and for her New York directing work on Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd, and Company. This documentary is available on Netflix for the Broadway addicts and musical lovers in the world.

8. Tootsie (1982)

As the second-most profitable film of 1982, Tootsie remains a major critical and financial success, and an essential for entertainment industry fans everywhere. Directed by Sydney Pollack, Tootsie tells the story of New York actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), who is too hard on himself to the point where his agent cannot find anymore work for him because of his perfectionist mindset. Because he is known to have a reputation for being difficult, he is forced to adopt a new identity as a woman to land a job. What was supposed to be a short-term thing turns into a long-term contract, but Michael falls for his castmate Julie (Jessica Lange), and complications develop from there. The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, with Lange winning for Best Supporting Actress. In 1998, the Library of Congress selected Tootsie for preservation in the National Film Registry.

9. Deathtrap (1982)

Based on the 1978 play of the same name by Ira Levin, Deathtrap is an American black comedy mystery that follows Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine) as he sees his latest Broadway show flop its opening night. The once-successful playwright dives into deep despair until he receives a package from a former student that contains an unproduced script that’s better than anything Sidney has ever written. Sidney comes up with a plan to lure his former student to his home, murder him, and claim the script as his own work. Directed by Sidney Lumet, Deathtrap was given favorable reviews from critics, who also noted its plot similarities to Michael Caine’s 1972 film Sleuth.

10. The Dresser (1983)

The Dresser is a British drama film with a screenplay by Ronald Harwood, based on his 1980 play of the same name. Directed and produced by Peter Yates, The Dresser examines the relationship between an aging Shakespearean actor known as Sir (Albert Finney) and his timid dresser (Tom Courtenay). Formerly a renowned performer, Sir’s work starts to suffer because of his anxiety and age. His efficient and orderly dresser Norman is used to his tirades, and is unfailingly devoted to Sir while struggling to keep his charge’s life together. Tom Courtenay won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. In 2015, the BBC produced a television adaptation of The Dresser starring Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins as the leading duo.

11. The Entertainer (1960)

Based on John Osborne’s stage play of the same name, The Entertainer stars Laurence Olivier playing an old-time music hall performer named Archie as his career slowly dies out in the television age. As the music-hall tradition fades, Archie’s personal life also falls apart, with his schoolteacher daughter Jean (Joan Playwright) returns to her hometown at a time of personal crisis, his second wife Phoebe (Brenda De Banzie) being scornful of her husband’s multitude of affairs, and his son Mick (Albert Finney) as a soldier fighting in the Suez. Directed by Tony Richardson, The Entertainer was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Olivier.

12. Enter Laughing (1967)

Enter Laughing is a 1967 comedy directed by Carl Reiner, based on his autobiographical novel and stage play of the same name. Being Reiner’s directorial debut, Enter Laughing follows David Kolowitz (Reni Santoni) as he dives into his pursuit of an acting career during the Great Depression, despite the opposition of his parents and girlfriend. He manages to land a non-paying role in an Off-Broadway show under the direction of Harrison B. Marlowe. Despite his lack of experience, David continues to chase his aspirations to get into show business.

13. To Be Or Not to Be (1942 & 1983)

To Be Or Not to Be follows acting couple Joseph and Maria Tura as they lead a troupe of actors when Nazis invade Poland during World War II. This acting troupe use their abilities at disguise and acting to fool the occupying troops. The 1942 film was directed by Ernst Lubitsch and stars Carole Lombard and Jack Benny as Maria and Joseph, respectively. In 1996, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The film was remade in 1983, which starred Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft as the lead couple. The 1983 remake was mostly faithful to the 1942 film, and dialogue was taken verbatim from the previous film.

14. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Directed by John Madden and written by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare in Love tells the story of an imaginary love affair between William Shakespeare (Joseph Fienne) and Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) at the time when Shakespeare was writing Romeo and Juliet. Several characters in the film are based on historical figures, and there are many allusions to Shakespearean plays throughout the film as well. It was a box office success and received positive reviews from critics, making it the ninth-grossing film of 1998. Shakespeare in Love took home 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Paltrow, Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench, and Best Original Screenplay.

15. Opening Night (1977)

Written and directed by John Cassavetes, Opening Night follows actress Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) who is awaiting the anticipated release of Second Woman, in which she portrays a woman distraught about aging. One night Myrtle signs autographs and encounters an obsessive young fan, who is later killed by a car when chasing Myrtle’s limousine. Throughout the film, Myrtle struggles to connect to the character she is playing, and her state of mind deteriorates as she continues to have visions of the teenage fan, which Myrtle considers as a projection of her youth. As she gets closer to opening night, Myrtle tries to find a way to make the show go on.

16. Last Summer in the Hamptons (1995)

Directed by Henry Jaglom, Last Summer in the Hamptons is a comedy-drama that revolves around a family of theatrical actors, playwrights, and directors spending their last summer together in the Hamptons. This last summer is due to the matriarch Helena Mora’s (Viveca Lindfors) decision to sell her Hamptons home because of financial troubles. However, bringing together a family full of people in the show business creates tension, especially when Oona (Victoria Foyt) seeks the approval of her creative peers as she aspires to start a theatre career after desiring to leave Hollywood.

17. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Synecdoche is Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut that follows theatre director Caden Cotard as he creates a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse for his latest play. His desire to create an intricately-detailed production stems from his troubling personal life; his wife and daughter have left him and he also suffers from numerous physical ailments. After receiving a MacArthur Fellowship that gives him the financial means to explore his artistic interests, Caden is determined to craft a piece of realism and honesty, which begins to blur the boundaries between fiction and reality. Synecdoche, New York appeared on many critics’ top ten-list of the best films of 2008, and was also nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

18. Pygmalion (1938)

Based on the George Bernard Shaw play of the same name, Pygmalion follows linguistic professor Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) as he trains Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) as a princess within a six-month timespan. After Higgins makes a financial agreement with her dustman father, Eliza moves into Higgins’ home and begins her training and transformation into British high-class society. The film was a financial and critical success, winning Best Screenplay at the Oscars. The screenplay was later adapted into the 1956 musical My Fair Lady, which led to the 1964 film of the same name starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison as Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, respectively.

In Conversation with Rebecca Bradshaw

We recently sat down with The Treasurer director Rebecca Bradshaw to discuss her experience with the production. Find out what various aspects of the show mean to her and how she approached the rehearsal process!

Rebecca Bradshaw on…

Seeing The Treasurer for the first time

I saw it at Playwrights’ Horizons about two years ago. Wow, it was great. I found the story eerily similar to my own dad’s struggle with my grandmother going through dementia — him working overtime then spending evenings visiting with her. Some nights she couldn’t place him exactly – son, husband, neighbor? Meanwhile, it was the recession and my parents were taking on the extra burden of financially putting my grandmother in (and out) of Lutheran homes when she would forget about the kettle being on. He would lean into humor when he could and quietly keep “the bad” to himself and my mom — something that I respect much more now as an adult. So, yes. This play hit a VERY real place for me when I saw it in New York. It haunted me for weeks after. It’s the type of play that makes you want to change how you operate in the world with your loved ones. 

Directing this production

I wanted to make sure we saw heart in these people. There are a lot of scars in this family – some remember them vividly, others do not. Hate and spite is a very easy outlet to run to in this play (and in life). The Son has moved (or run) away from what has hurt him and created a life of his own. He has surrounded himself with a new family of kindness and respect. Now, he has to face an estranged relationship which caused him to run in the first place. And his mother is acting as if nothing has changed. Does she not remember the hurt? That struggle is palpable in this play and I wanted to make sure we exposed both masks.

The cast of The Treasurer

Ken Cheeseman was a professor of mine at Emerson. He’s now a dear friend and is such a shape-shifter on stage. He is somebody that I’ve been wanting to work with for years, and I never thought I’d be fortunate enough to work with him in this capacity. Cheryl McMahon is a delight. She has a great sense of humor and lightness, but don’t be fooled, she has a frankness and boldness to her that feels “so Ida”. I wanted these two characters to be equal contenders onstage and I couldn’t be happier. Rob Najarian, who has been in our community for a while, and I had yet to find a project to work with each other on! I directed Shanaé Burch in her first production post-college before she went off to get a Master’s AND a PhD! Rob and Shanaé have a juggling act between surreal comedians and hyper-naturalism. It’s a lot to embody, but they are handling it wonderfully. 

What she hopes audiences will take away from The Treasurer

My goal is that in a week from seeing the production, audiences are still thinking about it. That’s success for me. And I mean, the uber-success is that people reach out to family, connect with an elder in line at the grocery store, or talk to their peers about the logistics of end of life. It’s a reality Americans do not talk about outside of the walls of their own homes. We don’t have to be so siloed in this world. Ultimately, it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to help our elders in their late stages. Why does society forget about that? Why do new parents get a societal “pass”, but a son taking care of his dying mother, does not? And why do we handle it alone?

The “restaurant scene”

This is the first scene the Son sees his mom. Before this they have been communicating thousands of miles away on the phone or secondhand, through his brothers, on the phone. Ida is post-stroke and at her most fragile. He has so much to say but also cannot say anything. He does not play along with her fantasies of her riding a bike in the morning. He responds frankly and coldly. Does being “The Treasurer” even matter any more? Why can he not forgive her? Is it too late? Every conversation may be his last with her, and he just cannot get out of his way and open up. This feels the most real to me. Reality is mundane, scary, and awkward. This scene is the most uncomfortable to watch because it is the most uncomfortable to live.

The script of The Treasurer

The script is written like a poem. One of Max Posner’s influences was Allen Ginsberg. I read a lot of Ginsberg in my prep for this project. Posner, like Ginsberg, is able to thread thoughts together that don’t really land until you finish the poem. I also love his use of humor. I love seeing young people connect with octogenarians on stage. I am part of a generation of people who dismiss anyone who cannot use an iPhone – why?! It baffles me.

Telling the story of The Treasurer

I felt very alone during my prep for this project. I did not want to have to bring my own family’s baggage to the table. However, this process has been a gift. Our rehearsal room was a three-week long “storytime” about life, family, and loss. I am extremely grateful for this experience and I hope the public can walk away with a new perspective as well.

Photo by Nile Scott Studios

The Lyric Stage Company of Boston Announces Its 2020-21 Season

Artistic Director Courtney says, “In my short time here at the Lyric Stage, I’ve come to feel so connected with our audiences. They care so deeply about the characters onstage and the actors who inhabit them.   Their investment in theatrical art makes every night a celebration.”






Evita

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber  
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed & choreographed by Rachel Bertone
August 28 – October 4

This Tony-winning musical charts Eva Peron’s meteoric political climb that unites her native Argentina while nearly driving it into a military coup.

Fabulation or, the Re-Education of Undine

By Lynn Nottage
Directed by Dawn M. Simmons
October 16 – November 8

Successful African-American publicist Undine stumbles down the social ladder after her husband steals her hard-earned fortune. Broke and now pregnant, Undine is forced to return to her childhood home in the Brooklyn projects, where she must face the challenges of the life she left behind.
A co-production with the Front Porch Arts Collective

The Book of Will

By Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Courtney O’Connor
November 20 – December 20

In the wake of Shakespeare’s death, his company of actors unite to preserve the plays they performed, narrowly rescuing the iconic playwright from obscurity. A love letter to Shakespeare, the power of art, and the stage.

Fires in the Mirror 

By Anna Deavere Smith
Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
January 8 – February 7

Actor Maurice Parent animates 26 characters in Anna Deavere Smith’s epic play, helping us to understand the African-American and Jewish frissons leading to the 1991 Crown Heights riot.

Be Here Now

By Deborah Zoe Laufer
Directed by Courtney O’Connor
February 19 – March 14

A romantic comedy in which two damaged souls ask themselves how much they’re willing to risk for love and meaning.

All My Sons 

By Arthur Miller
Directed by Rebecca Bradshaw
March 26 – April 25

In Arthur Miller’s classic, a young couple is kept apart by the ghosts of family and the sins of a father.  A story of lies, greed, love, and loss.

Legally Blonde

Book by Heather Hach
Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture
Directed by Leigh Barrett
May 7 – June 13

In this frothy musical, Elle Woods proves that blonde is a state of mind, as she accomplishes much more than anyone – herself included – thought possible. 

Subscriptions are now on sale for the 2020-21 season which runs from August, 2020 through June, 2021.   Patrons can choose 3, 4, 5, 6, or all 7 plays. Prices start at $138 and offer savings of up to 27% off regular ticket prices and free ticket exchange privileges.  7-play subscribers get a special loyalty bonus worth up to $160.  
Call or email the Box Office for details. 

The Treasurer production photos

All photos by Mark S. Howard

Cheryl McMahon, Ken Cheeseman. Photo by Mark S. Howard
Cheryl McMahon, Ken Cheeseman. Photo by Mark S. Howard
Shanae Burch, Cheryl McMahon. Photo by Mark S. Howard
Cheryl McMahon, Robert Najarian. Photo by Mark S. Howard
Ken Cheeseman. Photo by Mark S. Howard
Cheryl McMahon, Ken Cheeseman. Photo by Mark S. Howard

The Lyric Stage Company of Boston Announces the Third Generation of Leadership

Courtney O’Connor, Artistic Director and Matt Chapuran, Executive Director

Ron Ritchell and Polly Hogan, Founders (1974), Artistic Directors (1974-1997)

Spiro Veloudos, Producing Artistic Director (1998-2019)

The Lyric Stage Company of Boston announced today that Courtney O’Connor has been named as the third Artistic Director of the Lyric Stage Company of Boston.   Matt Chapuran continues on as Executive Director, a position he attained in August, 2019.

Matt Chapuran and Courtney O’Connor both came of age in the Boston theatre community at the same time as the Lyric Stage and they have a rich history with the company. In the 1990s, Matt performed at the Lyric Stage as part of the US Improv Theatre League, and he was an intern for Lyric Stage’s Teen Neighborhood Theatre during the tenure of Ron Ritchell and Polly Hogan. Courtney was given some of her first directorial opportunities by Spiro Veloudos, including acting as Associate Director on the award-winning production of Nicholas Nickleby, Parts 1&2, and directing numerous productions herself including the recent The Cake.

Goals to be expanded upon by the new leadership:

  • Building on the intimacy, variety, and excellence that Lyric Stage audiences have come to expect.  
  • Leading the way in creating an inclusive, diverse, multi-generational, open atmosphere
  • Continuing to create a space for actors to pursue careers in Boston, and expanding that opportunity to other artists who work behind the scenes.  
  • Creating a program through which seasoned design professionals mentor new designers.  
  • Growing the Lyric Stage’s commitment to representation for women and people of color on-stage and behind the scenes (designers, stage management).   
  • Entering into the world of new play development, and actively exporting Boston’s theatrical voices nationally. 
  • Continuing partnerships with The Front Porch Arts Collective, Fresh Ink Theatre, Pao Arts Center 
  • Committing more resources to City Stage (now under the auspices of the Lyric Stage) and its educational programming, bringing live theatre to more schools and classrooms in the city of Boston and continuing the rich program at the Children’s Museum.

Courtney and Matt say that Season 2020-21, their first curated season, will be joyous, relevant, open. Seven productions – two large musicals and five plays – will all be directed by women. The inherent intimacy of the Lyric Stage’s 240-seat venue demands that the audience enter into a relationship with characters.  So, the stories that the Lyric Stage likes to tell are character-driven, intense, layered, complex human stories from many points of view – stories that come from the heart. The 2020-21 season will be announced in late February.

Members of the Lyric Stage community weighed in on this important announcement:

Jo-An Heileman, President of the Lyric Stage Board of Directors

“The Lyric Stage board and I are thrilled that the third generation of leadership for the Lyric Stage is now in place.   Matt and Courtney come to us with new ideas, new energy, and a sense of tradition and renewal in equal parts.   We look forward to their first curated season, which should be announced in a little over a month.

Dawn M. Simmons Co-Founder of The Front Porch Arts Collective

“It has been my great honor to work with the team at Lyric Stage Company over the last decade.  The Lyric Stage has been an artistic home, giving me my first professional show and championing my work.  The partnership with The Front Porch has been a model for collaboration and the future of theater in Boston.  Our co-production “Breath and Imagination” was the inaugural production for The Front Porch Arts Collective and set the tone for the quality of work we want to produce and the opportunities we want to open to Boston’s theatre makers of color. We are so excited for the future of the Lyric Stage with Courtney shaping the artistic vision of this influential institution. 

Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College:  

“From its inclusive casting to play choices that reflect a multiplicity of voices, the Lyric Stage has been a leading cultural institution. I expect those commitments to only deepen under Matt and Courtney’s leadership. Just as Bunker Hill is a home for local students, the Lyric Stage is a home for local artists.  Buckle up for thought-provoking, sometimes uncomfortable, but always timely rides!”

Bios:

Matt Chapuran, Executive Director, was the Managing Director of the Lyric Stage from 2014 to 2018.  He was previously Managing Director of Stoneham Theatre, where he co-produced over 70 plays, musicals, concerts, and educational productions for an annual audience that grew to over 50,000. During his tenure, Matt ran the 2010 Boston Marathon with Producing Artistic Director Weylin Symes in support of Stoneham Theatre’s educational mission. At the Nora Theatre Company, Matt was Managing Director during the inception of a capital campaign that ultimately led to the construction of the Central Square Theater. Matt also managed institutional giving for the Huntington Theatre Company, and was most recently the Director of Development for Conservatory Lab Charter School Foundation in Dorchester. A graduate of Boston College with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College, Matt has performed, taught, and directed improvisation for over two decades, most recently as a part of Babson College’s M.B.A. program, as one half of the improv team The Angriest Show in the World, and as the director of Improvised History. He lives in Roslindale with his wife and their three daughters.

Courtney O’Connor is the Artistic Director of the Lyric Stage and a senior affiliated faculty member in performing arts at Emerson College. She has directed with several theatres in the Boston area, including the Lyric Stage, Plays in Place, The Nora Theatre, UBU Theater, The Bostonian Society, AIM Stage, Coyote Theatre, Emerson Stage, UMass Boston, Suffolk University, Brandeis University, and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (intern company). Lyric Stage productions she has directed include The Cake, Buyer & Cellar, Stage Kiss, Red Hot Patriot, Stones in His Pockets, and The Miracle Worker. Courtney received the Elliot Norton award for her work as the Associate Director on the Lyric Stage’s production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby and the Alan L. Stanzler Award for Excellence in Teaching. She received her B.A. from Cabrini University and her M.A. from Emerson College. courtneyoc.com

Ted Hewlett on Intimacy Direction

The Cake is the first production at the Lyric Stage to enlist an intimacy director. Intimacy directing is a new role to the entertainment industry and has become more prominent as productions seek to create a safe and comfortable environment for actors during vulnerable moments. We sat down with Ted Hewlett to discuss this emerging role and the significance of an intimacy director in the artistic process.

Can you describe the role of an intimacy director and its importance in theatrical productions?

Intimacy direction is a three-pronged approach and job description. First, we are advocates for actors in what is shown or revealed about their body, or how their body is interacting with other bodies. We want them to be able to approach their work with enthusiastic consent so that they can feel confident about what they’re doing. If there is not enthusiastic consent, we find another way to tell the story. There are dozens or hundreds of different ways to tell that story. The second part of our job is to set up protocols for a particular production, the theatre company itself, or an academic department with student actors, so that the performers are in an inclusive consent-based workspace and that other actors, directors, and producers use language that is not demeaning or othering. The third part is that we help to craft the moments of what the actual choreography is in order to tell the story as authentically and as deeply as we can. Just like a fight scene, intimate scenes that involve sexual touch need to be choreographed so that the performers know what to expect and not be surprised by changes from performance to performance.

What interested you in becoming an intimacy director?

It’s kind of amazing to me that in my lifetime of professional work, this position is such a recent idea to everybody, including me. As a professional fight director, I’ve long been called in to stage scenes of sexual assault because of the combative nature of the narrative. And sometimes I’d be asked to help with a moment of physical safety, such as when two actors who are kissing need to safely fall off the sofa and not bang into the coffee table, for example. But for far too long it has mostly been assumed that if the action between the characters is consensual, it must also be consensual between the actors simply because that’s what actors are expected to do— it’s in their job description. But those clearly aren’t the same things. And sometimes liberties can be taken or steps missed due to a lack of communication and a culture that thought it is in an actor’s lot to simply endure, to suffer for their art. A few folks (like Tonia Sina, Alicia Rodis, and Siobhan Richardson, who are the co-founders of Intimacy Directors International, the leading industry group) had been advocating for change, but weren’t getting much traction. Then in 2017 with the worldwide recognition of the #MeToo movement following Harvey Weinstein, the theatre and film industries suddenly started to pay attention. The national and international conversation about sexual harassment and consent in the workplace has put intimacy direction more at the forefront.

It seems like such a necessary role, why do you think it took so long for it to be at the forefront of theatre-making?

Traditionally, actors are at the low end of the scale as far as power dynamics. I think in many cases, it’s just simply not brought up, not through malice or ill-will, but through a lack of education or an understandable awkwardness that can arise during discussions of simulated sex and nudity. Sometimes actors are damaged in that process or are exacerbating trauma that they’ve already experienced. Intimacy directing is expanding our ideas of what is acceptable, what is healthy, what is required for the profession—we can treat people like people and not just like props.

It’s great that as a society, we are moving in a direction where that’s becoming more of a concern now.

In the past, we trained actors from the beginning that they’re not allowed to say “no,” that the only acceptable answer is “yes.” But if you look at the changes in society and education, even in preschools now, there is more talk about the fact that not everywhere on someone’s body is okay to touch—that you actually have to ask. Or that it’s not a healthy idea to force kids to kiss a seldom-seen relative, for example—it’s a confusing message to send that we only have agency over our own bodies sometimes, but that at other times it’s perfectly normal to be forced to do something that falls into the large spectrum of what could be considered intimate touch. The more that happens in young people’s lives, I think, the more that that will happen by the time people in middle school or high school are being introduced to the theatre.

What is your intimacy directing process like?

Ideally, I would have a script so that I can read it, and have conversations with whomever the creators are—whether that’d be the director or if there’s a living playwright that we are in collaboration with—so we can come up with at least some of what we’re thinking ahead of time. That way we can include known moments in the casting process, being upfront and clear with the actors so that they can make informed decisions about whether to accept the role. Of course, theatre and film are two of the most collaborative disciplines there are, so there will definitely be changes and discoveries throughout the process; but even then it’s not a one-sided conversation, and the actor’s voice needs to be included and considered. Since I’m sometimes brought on after casting has already happened, I usually want to be at the first rehearsal to be able to introduce myself and to have conversations with actors, hearing any questions or concerns they have from reading the material, and taking that back to the director, the costume designer, the stage manager, and whatever other personnel needs to know that information. I usually lead exercises early in the process, introducing some of the new protocols that largely haven’t been articulated in rehearsal rooms, whether that’s in an actor-training program or a professional production. But someday this won’t be so necessary as more directors, stage managers, and actors will have worked with an intimacy director before, and there is a widespread understanding and acceptance of working with consent. For example, I don’t need to do any of that as a Fight Director, because people are used to a specialist being brought in to choreograph fisticuffs or swordplay in order to keep people safe. Right now, we’re still introducing this shift regarding Intimacy Direction, but it’s encouraging because it’s changing so rapidly, and I hope it won’t be long before there’s less of a need to start from ground zero, and that more personnel already know what to expect.

Karen's Carrot Cake

Currently playing at the Lyric Stage until February 9, The Cake by Bekah Brunstetter centers around Della, a Southern baker who values her traditional roots, as she is faced with the task of baking a wedding cake for her deceased best friend’s daughter and her soon-to-be wife. What is The Cake without the obvious? Our own Karen MacDonald, who plays Della, is also a talented baker and shared her special carrot cake recipe with us!

INGREDIENTS:

For the cake-

  • 2 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of dark or light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 stick of melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 2 cups of grated carrots (4 large carrots)

For the cream cheese frosting-

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar

TO MAKE THE CAKE:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg, stirring all ingredients together by hand.
  2. Add your vegetable oil and melted butter to the bowl, using a hand mixer to combine all of the ingredients together.
  3. Add one egg at a time to the mixture. Pour in one tablespoon of vanilla, and mix well.
  4. Take your grated carrots and add them to the mixture, using a spatula to mix all of the ingredients.
  5. Grease two 8-inch pans and flour the sides. Line the pans with parchment paper on the bottom, then fill the two pans with the mixture. Bake for 40 minutes. After removing both pans from the oven, let the cakes cool for 15 minutes.

TO MAKE THE FROSTING:

  1. In a stand mixer, beat the unsalted butter and cream cheese, making sure both ingredients are at room temperature.
  2. Add vanilla and salt to the mixture. Afterwards, add the powdered sugar gradually.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:

  1. Level the tops of each cake with a knife or cake leveler. Top one of the cakes with frosting and smooth it down into an even layer. Place the other cake on top and frost the top and sides of the cake.
  2. For an extra sprinkle of pizzazz, do crumb coating on the frosted cake. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Do a final frost and decorate the cake as you wish. Slice up and enjoy!

Catch more scrumptious-looking pastries and see Karen MacDonald as Della in Lyric Stage’s production of The Cake, running through February 9.

Photo: Cake design by Lauren Corcuera

A model of Noah's Ark and animals rest atop the Noah's Ark cake

Our Props Take The Cake!

Two cakes sit on a counter, one withed flower icing and the other a chocolate cake. A bag of flour is in the background.

The Cake, a fresh and delicious play by Bekah Brunstetter, is now playing at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston through February 9th. Traditional Southern baker Della must confront her own strongly-held beliefs when asked to bake a wedding cake for her deceased best friend’s daughter Jen and her future wife, Macy. Humor and empathy are the icing on top of this heartfelt comedy.

A pink cake with small flowers piped along the top. In the background is a carrot cake sitting atop a cake stand.

What would The Cake be without the titular treat? Props Artisan Lauren Corcuera designed and created the scrumptious-looking cakes for the play’s run, as well as other pastries that appear onstage. “I made twelve fake cakes including the one Della decorates at the top of the show, the red velvet she builds, and the ‘lumpy’ gluten/dairy/sugar-free monstrosity. I also made about 30 cupcakes, 15 chocolate drizzled buns, and about 25 madeleine cookies. That’s not even counting the real baked goods!” says Lauren.

A white cake with pink polka dot icing sits on a cake stand. In the background is a chocolate cake. In the foreground are small jars of sprinkles.

These prop cakes took much longer to create than the edible kind—a lot of them were made over the course of multiple weeks. Lauren used a mixture of lightweight spackle, white glue, and acrylic paint to frost and create piping details on the cakes. 

One of Lauren’s favorite cakes to make was the Noah’s Ark cake. With extraordinary detail placed on the hand-crafted giraffes, elephants, and other animals, the cake is a centerpiece on Della’s pastry display. Lauren told us that “the Noah’s Ark cake definitely took the longest to make. I could estimate around 6-8 hours between frosting (and re-frosting) the cake parts and sculpting, painting, and placing the animals. It went through a few iterations, but it was a very fun project.”

A Noah's Ark cake depicts a boat full of pairs of animals, including giraffes, elephants, and monkeys. In the background is a carrot cake.
The Noah’s Ark cake

When reflecting on the cake creation process, Lauren says “people have been asking if I’ve decorated cakes before or if I watched a lot of tutorials, but I really just picked up some piping tips and went for it. Looking at a few style reference images director Courtney O’Connor provided, then running from there and experimenting was incredibly freeing, fun, and a little nerve-wracking. I wasn’t sure how they’d be received before bringing them in to rehearsal, but they’ve been a big hit and all of the work on them has truly paid off!”

See these extravagant cakes and beautiful pastries in Lyric Stage’s production of The Cake, running through February 9.

A cake that is iced with a pink flower design sits atop a cake stand.

The Cake production photos

Photos by Mark S. Howard

Karen MacDonald as Della
Karen MacDonald, Chelsea Diehl, Kris Sidberry
Chelsea Diehl, Karen MacDonald
Kris Sidberry, Chelsea Diehl
Karen MacDonald, Chelsea Diehl, Kris Sidberry
Fred Sullivan, Jr., Karen MacDonald
Chelsea Diehl, Kris Sidberry.
Karen MacDonald
Chelsea Diehl, Karen MacDonald
Karen MacDonald, Fred Sullivan, Jr.
Karen MacDonald, Chelsea Diehl
Kris Sidberry, Karen MacDonald

The Theater Mirror: Theater Mirror Editors Favorite Theatrical Experiences of 2019

This post is an excerpt from The Theater Mirror.

Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”, presented by Lyric Stage. Bravo to the Lyric for taking on Lillian Hellman, who doesn’t get produced enough anymore. And what a taking on it was.  From Janie E. Howland’s set design to Gail Astrid Buckley’s costumes to the first-rate ensemble acting of this excellent cast, “The Little Foxes” was one of the more engrossing shows of 2019. High stakes and hidden motives were well played by all, but I have to give a special shoutout to Anne Gottlieb, who somehow managed to make me empathize a bit with her, despite some heinous behavior.

Lyric Stages’ “Little Shop of Horrors” – This one may not have the emotional weight of the other musical favorites on the list, but it was easily the most fun musical of the year on a mid-size stage (“Six” was a blast over at the A.R.T. too). Rachel Bertone and her creative team worked their magic again in the intimate setting of the Lyric, accentuating thecomic ingenuity of this underrated musical and making the most of its rockin’ score, much of which is delivered/augmented by the dynamite “Greek chorus” girl group featuring Crystal (Lovely Hoffman), Ronnette (Carla Martinez), and Chiffon (Pier Lamia Porter).Katrina Z Pavao killed in the role of Audrey, both comically and vocally, in what one hopes is a breakthrough role.

Lyric Stage’s “The Little Foxes” – Most years, there is at least one production of a play or musical that feels more like a theatrical achievement than simple entertainment, and in 2019 it was the Lyric Stage’s masterful staging of the Lillian Hellman classic. Superbly directed by Scott Edmiston, with a beautifully detailed set by Jane E. Howland in the intimate space of the Lyric, this portrait of a wealthy but soulless Southern family was a stunning reminder of the effect that the pursuit of money and power has on ethics and morals. The entire cast was exceptional, and nine months later I can still see and feel the horrifying demoralization experienced by Birdie, the alcoholic sister-in-law played so despairingly well by Amelia Broome. It may well have been the year’s best supporting performance – on any stage.

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