Jane M. Von Bergen’s "Theater Beat” column rounds up news and notes from the theater scene in Philadelphia and the region.
In Philadelphia, hundreds of people — actors, set builders, costume makers, directors, sound technicians — make a living, maybe not always a great living, working in theater. On Saturday, Arden Theatre Co. offers a free (with registration) theater-based college and career fair from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in its Hamilton Family Arts Center, 62 N. 2nd St.
Open to high school seniors and their parents, the Teen Arden College and Career Fair includes discussions with theater professionals, presentations by local college theater programs, and classes such as Stage Management 101 and Dance Call. Register at ardentheatre.org/teen-arden.
Sunset Baby director Amina Robinson grew up in South Philadelphia during the 1980s crack epidemic that has stolen the life of the lead character’s mother in playwright Dominique Morisseau’s politically charged drama at Azuka Theatre (through Nov. 24).
“Sometimes the more we feel we’re changing as a society, the more we’re staying the same,” said Robinson, a Temple University theater professor who won a 2019 Barrymore Award for directing The Color Purple at Theatre Horizon. “We’re still living with the effects of the crack epidemic. We’re still living with the effects of ’60s and ’70s activism.”
Morisseau’s play explores complicated relationships. Lead character Nina’s father, black revolutionary Kenyatta Shakur, is released from prison following his conviction for an armed car robbery committed to provide housing for activists on the run. Sunset Baby questions “what is criminal and what is activism” as well as what happens to children when their parents are imprisoned, Robinson said.
Kenyatta (Steven Wright) wants to reconnect with Nina, played by Victoria Aaliyah Goins. Are his goals mercenary, or personal, or both? What about hers? Nina’s boyfriend, Damon (Eric Carter), yearns to support Nina and his son, but faces challenges because he, too, has a record. So, he sells crack.
“While’s he’s making his money illegally to provide for his family, his activity is the demise of someone else’s family,” Robinson said. “It raises the question of who we are taking care of and how. How is it affecting our larger community, our smaller community, and ourselves?"
A sympathetic werewolf, a vampire, and an Egyptian princess walk into a bar. No, they walk into a theater, Curio Theatre, to be precise, as part of a host of characters (eight!) played by just two actors.
Artistic director and Curio cofounder Paul Kuhn and company member Rich Bradford are masters of the quick-change in The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful written by Charles Ludlam and directed by Steve Wright through Nov. 23.
“I’m still flying,” Josh Tower said just days after the Philly local who’s been playing Aaron Burr in Hamilton fulfilled a lifelong dream of singing the national anthem at an Eagles game — a gig he landed thanks to this column.
Tower, a graduate of Upper Dublin High School, Montgomery County Community College, and Temple University, decided to sing a mostly straight version of what he had been shower practicing for years.
Tower began his Linc performance as planned at this month’s Eagles-Bears game — until a staffer signaled to him, pretending to stretch taffy. That was Tower’s cue to add more riffs right around the second “Oh say.”
Why? Timing. The anthem had to coordinate with fighter jets soaring overhead. Hamilton ended at the Forrest Theatre Sunday.
Theatre Philadelphia, which administers the annual Barrymore Awards, dispatches theater experts to attend plays early in their runs. They then recommend which plays judges should consider for future awards.