Ashes to Ashes

Sholem Asch is a young, hungry Jewish playwright who wishes to write stories about his people that show they are just as flawed and human as anyone else.  Members of his own community refuse to let him produce his play, The God of Vengeance, in Yiddish theatre as they perceive his work as anti-Semitic, so he takes the show on the road.  After a long, successful run in Europe, he manages to bring his show to Broadway.  Then trouble really begins for his show.  This is Indecent by Paula Vogel and is currently playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

Assuredly, this is one of the most difficult and challenging shows I’ve seen produced in quite a while.  Ms Vogel’s script borrows from quite a few genres:  drama, musical, comedy, Yiddish, play in a play, and wraps it in a sheen of surrealism that gives the production an almost dreamlike quality.  This quality is well suited to this show as it is a show of memories of what once happened.  Going along with the motif of memory, which is a tricky thing, after all, some of the events depicted are fiction or embellished.

Ms Vogel’s script well handles the difficulties Asch faced with his script.  Some of the subject matter and themes in The God of Vengeance such as blasphemy, prostitution, and homosexuality are still taboo by today’s standards, let alone in the early 1900s when they would have been viewed as downright abhorrent by society, especially American society.  Even worse was the fact that many missed the point Asch was attempting to make due to only seeing the surface of his work and not digging a little deeper.

Truthfully, this show would test the mettle of any director, but Susan Clement-Toberer rises to the challenge and manages to merge all of this play’s disparate elements into a rock solid production.  Not only has she led her troupe to stellar, nuanced performances, but she was quite creative with her staging and transitions.  From having her actors sitting on stage before the show, still as statues until the lights breathe life into them, to original transitions using song, dance, and music, this show is a master’s level class in direction and storytelling.

Ezra Colon sizzles in his Blue Barn debut as Sholem Asch.  He well essays the young Asch as a youthful, energetic artist bound and determined to tell stories about his people.  One of my favorite moments was the respectful defiance he showed to his leaders and peers at the play’s first reading as he knows what he is saying with his play and is confident that he can find ears receptive to its message, even if those ears are others than his own community.

Colon is equally as impressive as a middle aged Asch and he somehow seems to age decades in a matter of moments with a slump of his shoulders and a haggard, wearied expression on his face.  His whole being seems to wonder if his work is a noble fight or a curse as trouble mounts for the Broadway production.  He finds himself unable to properly defend the work or his troupe due to his limited command of English and things he has witnessed as part of a delegation which have broken him in half spiritually.

Jonathan Purcell provides a powerhouse performance as Lemml.  He works wonders as the shy tailor whose eyes are opened by Asch’s work which he considers a life changing masterpiece from the very beginning.  Watching him tentatively begin a new career as stage manager for The God of Vengeance to growing into a confident, new person who takes full command of the show to keep it alive is a complete and utter joy.

Suzanne Withem is marvelous in multiple roles.  With a pair of glasses and shawl, she is Asch’s supportive, loving wife, Madje, and the first fan of his bold script.  With a change of clothes and a slightly vacuous expression, she becomes Virginia McFadden, an inexperienced performer who has taken the role solely to shock her parents on multiple levels.  But her best role is that of Ruth/Reina, the Yiddish actress who originally portrays Rifkele in the American production of The God of Vengeance.  She is proud of her Yiddish identity and has much in common with her character, right down to knowing the love of another woman.  Her scenes with her lover, Dorothee Nelson/Dine, are some of the best in the show as they are charged with a raw power and honesty and I consider “The Rain Scene” one of the best moments I’ve ever seen mounted on a stage.

Leanne Hill Carlson also lights it up in multiple roles.  But her two best are Freida Neimann, a slightly egotistical and prejudiced actress who finds her characters through intuition as opposed to reading the script and Dorothee Nelson/Dine, the American Manke for The God of Vengeance.  Her chemistry with Ms Withem just ripples with life and she well plays the age old agony of love vs career as the chance to be a Broadway star nearly causes her to sever her relationship with Ruth/Reina as well as subsume her ethnic identity to be more palatable to American audiences.

Strong supporting performances are supplied by D. Scott Glasser, especially as Nakhmen, a Jewish scholar who opposes Asch’s script; Judy Radcliff, as her portrayal of Esther Stockton playing the role of Sarah in The God of Vegeance provides some wonderful levity; and Jonathan Wilhoft who shines as I.L. Peretz, a Polish writer who gently advises Asch to burn his script.  Samuel Bertino, Kate Williams, and Olga Smola also do fine work as a trio of musicians who provide the score of the production.

Steven Williams provides a beautiful, broken down stage with its cracked and crumbling walls and raised platform.  His lights are equally good and quite ethereal at points, especially with the ghostly blue of “The Rain Scene”.  Georgiann Regan’s costumes are spot on.  Fine examples of her work are the quiet elegance of Asch’s suits, the well-made, but lower quality garb for Lemml, and the deadly accurate Hasidic dresses for the women.  Bill Kirby sounds are inspired and his use of artillery effects towards the end had me jump out of my seat.  Melanie Walters provides some unique choreography for scene transitions.

Indecent is the epitome of the Blue Barn mission and makes for an interesting case study into The God of Vengeance. Was it the work that was corrupting or was it corrupted by others once it hit American shores?  What was the play’s truth and did it get lost in the presentation?  Was it a curse or a blessing?  You may ask yourselves these and other questions as you watch the production.  You may not come up with a definitive answer, but you’ll certainly have a lot of food for thought.

Indecent plays at the Blue Barn through April 14.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm with the exception of a 6pm performance on April 7.  The shows for March 23, 30, and April 6 are sold out.  Tickets are $35 ($30 for seniors) and are available at www.bluebarn.org or at the box office at 402-345-1576.  Due to mature subject matter, this show is not suitable for children.  The Blue Barn is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

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Blue Barn’s Next Show is a Little “Indecent”

BLUEBARN THEATRE presents

Tony Award-Winning Indecent by Paula Vogel

March 21st, 2019- April 14th, 2019

Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm

Sunday 3/31 & 4/14 at 2pm | 4/7 at 6:00pm

About the Play

Inspired by the true events surrounding the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeancea play seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, and by others as an act of traitorous libel, INDECENT charts the history of an incendiary drama and the path of the artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it. Paula Vogel’s Tony award-winning masterpiece is a glorious celebration of the power of theatre to harness the very best of the human spirit.

About the Production

    Indecent features Sam Bertino, Leanne Hill Carlson, Ezra Colón, D. Scott Glasser, Jonathan Purcell, Judy Radcliff, Olga Smola, Jonathan Wilhoft, Kate Williams, and Suzanne Withem. Directed by Susan Clement, Assistant Directed by Barry Carman, with stage management by Taylor Jackson, choreography by Melanie Walters, music direction by Hal France and Olga Smola, scenic and lighting design by Steven Williams, costume design by Georgiann Regan, scenic painting by Craig Lee, sound design by Bill Kirby, and properties by Amy Reiner.

The production is generously sponsored by Vernie and Carter Jones,

 Fran and Rich Juro, Kim Jubenville and Devin Fox.

Tickets

General Admission ($35) and Senior ($30) tickets are available at bluebarn.org. Educator, Military, and BLUCrew tickets are available through the box office (402) 345-1576.

Engagement Events

The God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch  Mon, March 25th @7pm BLUEBARN | TBA @ JCC                                                                                             

Experience the Yiddish theatre classic that lies at the heart of Paula Vogel’s Indecent. In partnership with the JCC, we present a staged reading of Sholem Asch’s legendary play, The God of Vengeance. Directed by Roxanne Wach There will be two performances: March 25th at the BLUEBARN Theatre with a performance TBA at the JCC, 333 S. 132nd St

Why We Remember   Saturday, March 30th @ 5pm

Join us as we host Scott Littky, Executive Director of the Institute for Holocaust Education.

The Institute for Holocaust Education is committed to learning the lessons of the Holocaust and inspiring the community to create a more just and equitable society. Scott will speak to the IHE’s mission and the importance of ensuring that the history and tragedy of the holocaust are never forgotten.

A Shanda fur die Goyim (“a shame before the nations”) Sunday April 7th, Post-Show Forum

Following our 6pm performance, join Rabbi Steven Abraham (Beth El Synagogue) and Dr. Leonard Greenspoon (Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization at Creighton) in conversation about BLUEBARN’s production of Indecent.

Engagement events are free and open to the public

A, E, I and You

Caroline and Anthony are partners on a project analyzing the use of I and you in Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”.  On the surface the two have little in common as Anthony is cheerful, laid back, and outgoing while Caroline is sickly, angry, and seems unable to communicate outside of social media.  As they analyze Whitman’s poem, they begin to peel back their own layers to fully reveal each to the other and a friendship grows between them. . .and perhaps something far more.  This is I and You by Lauren Gunderson and currently playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

Lauren Gunderson has crafted something truly original with this play.  It is a slice of life in its purest sense.  The play eschews the normal narrative style.  Instead it relies on a powerful sense of voice as the construction of the dialogue is purely conversational.  There doesn’t seem to be a plot as the two characters engage in ordinary conversation.  Yet through this conversation you see the bonds of friendship come into existence and strengthen.  A nice touch to the story is how Ms Gunderson makes the two characters two sides of the same coin.  Each is nearly a polar opposite in terms of personality, height, gender, race, and philosophies.  In spite of these surface differences, one finds they have much in common as they slowly show their real selves to the other.  The play also contains one of the most satisfactory endings I’ve seen in almost any show.

Barry Carman provides a very fine piece of direction to this work.  His staging is of superlative quality as his actors stay pretty far apart from each other when the show begins to show the gap between them.  But they physically move closer and closer to each other as their friendship grows.  His understanding of the script is both deft and delicate as he knows how to get his actors to hit the beats just right so the discoveries always pop with surprise.  Carman has also led his two performers to sterling characterizations.

Early in the show, the character of Caroline refers to herself as “small, but mighty”.  However, small, but fierce might be a better descriptor.  In the hands of Anna Jordan, the character is simply acting gold.  Ms Jordan brings a real sense of anger, distrust, and determination to the role.  Caroline suffers from a bad liver which has kept her a virtual shut-in for most of her life.  Being cut off from the outside world has kept her away from a lot of joys in life.  The nuances of face to face conversation elude her as social media is her primary means of communication.  Pleasures like reading seem to be anathema to her as she’d rather google things.  She’s resigned herself to being alone and dying young, though what she wants is to be out in the crowd and living life.

Ms Jordan’s physicality is tremendous as her anger manifests in her rigid, rodlike posture and body language.  So ever present is her anger that this physicality is used even when she is having fun like dancing in her room which was one of the show’s highlights.  As Anna loosens and opens up, so, too, does her physicality.  Her movements become more fluid and culminate in a rocking air piano solo to Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire”.

Jordan Isaac Smith keeps pace with Ms Jordan with his own excellent portrayal of Anthony.  Where Caroline is tight and withdrawn, Anthony is completely loose and open.  Smith’s physicality is almost gliding as he practically floats around the room, especially when he is gushing over the work of Walt Whitman.  He gives a very convincing portrayal of being a good kid.  He’s close with his family, gets good grade, and is popular.  But he also does fine work in playing typical teenage behaviors such as his sheepish looks and delivery when he confesses to Caroline that he’s put off this project until the last minute.

Smith is equally skilled at playing the heaviness of Anthony as well as his lightness.  Though Anthony is a pretty happy person, he does carry his own well of sadness that he slowly reveals to Caroline as their friendship grows.

Martin Scott Marchitto has designed a stellar set for this show.  It truly looks like a typical teen’s bedroom.  His set is further enhanced by the properties of Amy Reiner.  Few can dress a stage like Ms Reiner as her properties of books, toys, records, computer, and furniture add to the messy, lived in quality of this room.  Josh Mullady’s lights add their own brilliant life to the show.  Especially impressive are his use of planetarium lights from Caroline’s toy turtle and the subtle transition from light to dark to light during a moment of awakening in the show.  Molly Welsh’s sounds blend so smoothly into the show that you are sometimes unaware of their presence until powerful moments end and you realize the sound was adding to the moment.

The play’s narrative style may catch a few off guard as it doesn’t follow the ordinary path of a story, but its utter realism and naturalism are crucial to the unfolding of this tale.  With sure and stable direction combined with a pair of potent performances, I and You is another winner in the Blue Barn legacy.

I and You plays at the Blue Barn through Feb 24.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm with the exception of a 6pm performance on Feb 17.  Tickets are $35 for general admission and $30 for seniors.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576 or visit www.bluebarn.org.  The Blue Barn is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

“I and You” to Open at Blue Barn

I and You

by Lauren Gunderson

January 31st – February 24th, 2018

Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm

Sunday 2/10 & 2/24 at 2pm | 2/17 at 6:00pm

About the play:  One afternoon, Anthony arrives unexpectedly at classmate Caroline’s door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and an urgent assignment from their English teacher. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, they unlock a much deeper mystery that has brought them together. I and You is an ode to youth, life, love, and the strange beauty of human connectedness.

About the production: I and You features Anna Jordan and Jordan Smith. Directed by Barry Carman, with scenic design by Martin Marchitto, sound design by Molly Welsh, lighting design by Josh Mullady, and properties by Amy Reiner.

The production is generously sponsored by Jannette Davis, University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Mutual of Omaha.

Tickets:

General Admission ($35) and Senior ($30) tickets are available at bluebarn.org. Educator, Military, and BLUCrew tickets are available through the box office (402) 345-1576.

Engage:

Whitman Exhibit

Jan 31st-Feb 24th: Visit the Mammel Lobby at the BLUEBARN to peruse a display on the legacy of Walt Whitman curated by UNL’s Whitman Archive.

Louder than a Bomb: Songs of Ourselves

Sunday, Feb 10th @ 6:30 pm: Join us as we host Nebraska Writer’s Collective presenting spoken word poets from their Louder Than a Bomb program. Four high school teams  (Central, Abraham Lincoln, Mercy and Skutt) will compete on the Blue Barn stage in celebration of poetry, theater, Walt Whitman and young writers.

Gifts of Life

Sunday, Feb 17th, Post-Show: Following our 6pm performance, BLUEBARN convenes a forum of transplant donors, donor family members, recipients, and professionals in partnership with the UNMC Transplant Team and Live On Nebraska. Join us for a discussion on the powerful impact of organ donation and the misconceptions that may prevent some from becoming donors.

AfterWords

Thursday, Feb 14th and 21st, Post-Show: Following the show, stay for a revealing conversation with the stars of I and You, Anna Jordan and Jordan Smith. He and she will be ready and willing to answer any and all questions about I and You for you and yours.

Engagement events are free and open to the public.

Witness “An Act of God”

BLUEBARN THEATRE presents

First, he created the universe. Then, he conquered Broadway.  Now, he descends upon Omaha.

An Act of God

by David Javerbaum

November 23rd -December 16th, 2018

Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm

Sunday 11/25 & 12/2 at 6pm | 12/16 at 2:00pm

Wednesday 12/5 and 12/12 at 7:30pm

 

About the play:

The supreme being Himself finally returns, and just in time for the holidays!

In this hilariously holy limited engagement, God graces the BLUEBARN stage

along with his angels, Michael and Gabriel.

He’ll answer the eternal questions. He’ll set the divine record straight.

He’s got ten new commandments… and He’s got jokes.

 

About the production:

    An Act of God features Ablan Roblin, Theresa Sindelar, and Raydell Cordell III. Directed by Susan Clement-Toberer, with dramaturgy by Barry Carman, costume design by Georgiann Regan, scenic design by Martin Marchitto, sound design by Bill Kirby, lighting design by Homero Vela, projection design by Bill Grennan, wing design by Halsey Onstage, and properties by Amy Reiner. 

The production is generously sponsored by Omaha Steaks.

Tickets: General Admission ($35) and Senior ($30) tickets are available via our website at www.bluebarn.org. Educator, Military, and BLUCrew tickets are available through the box office (402) 345-1576. For more information, visit: www.bluebarn.org/tickets/

Engage:

“The Giving HeARTS Tree” Campaign

It’s the 11th anniversary of BLUEBARN’s holiday partnership with ENOA (the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging). Ornaments bearing the names of local elders in need will be on sale on the Giving HeARTS Tree located in the lobby. Become an elf for the elderly. Proceeds go directly to fulfilling holiday gift needs for seniors in the community.

“Interview with a Heathen…er, Humanist”

December 2nd, Post-Show

It’s God vs. the godless, following our Sunday 6pm performance of An Act of God. In partnership with Omaha Metro Area Humanists Association, God (Ablan Roblin) interrogates Bill Newman, founder of O.M.A.H.A. What the hell is humanism?

How dare these humanists come up with their own ten commandments? The ingratitude! The sacrilege! Just joshing…join us for a lovely conversation on ethics and community outside of religious faith.

Blue Barn Announces Auditions for “Indecent” & “The Woodsman”

BLUEBARN THEATRE announces auditions for Indecent by Paula Vogel

Auditions will be held at The Bluebarn Theatre, 1106 South 10th St

Saturday, Dec. 1st from 12pm-4pm  &  Sunday, Dec. 2nd  from 12pm-4pm

Callbacks, if necessary, will be held on Saturday, December 8th from 12-4pm

Indecent runs March 21st, 2019 through April 14th, 2019. Rehearsals begin February 11th, 2019.

Company Members Needed

 The Stage Manager, Lemml– (M, 30-50).  

A wise fool who sees it all.

The Ingénues- (1F, 1M, 20-35).

All the brides, the grooms, the writers, the socialists, the believers.

The Primes- (1F, 1M, 35-55).

All the vamps, all the vice, the scarred and the schemers in their prime.

The Elders- (1F, 1M, 50+).

All the fathers, mothers, the sages and the fools at any age

The Musicians- (3 any gender, any age).

On violin! On accordion! On clarinet!

Performers who also sing and move and act with the troupe.

Preparation

Please present a classic or contemporary monologue under 2 minutes.

Be prepared to perform 30-60 sec  of “Ain’t We Got Fun” or a folk song of your choice, a capella.

Auditions will include prepared sides and cold readings. There may also be dance/movement elements at the auditions. Sides will be available on November 12th.

For more information, to request a copy of the script, or to schedule an audition, please contact Barry at bcarman@bluebarn.org .

*Indicate which roles you’d like to be considered for when scheduling your audition.

*If you are auditioning as a musician, please indicate which instrument(s)

you play when scheduling your auditions, and prepare a 32 bar solo.

About the play:

Inspired by the true events surrounding the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance—a play seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, and by others as an act of traitorous libel. INDECENT charts the history of an incendiary drama and the path of the artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it. A glorious celebration of the power of theatre to harness the very best of the human spirit.

 

Auditions for The Woodsman by James Ortiz with Music by Edward Hardy and Lyrics by Jen Loring

Auditions will be held at The Bluebarn Theatre, 1106 South 10th St

There will be three sessions:

Session 1:  Monday, Dec 10th from 5pm-7:30pm

Session 2:  Monday, Dec 10th from 7:30-10pm

Session 3:  Tuesday, Dec 11th from 3pm-6pm

Callbacks will be held Tuesday, December 11th from 7:30-10

*Violinists will be auditioned from 6:30-7:30 on Tuesday, Dec 11th, those called back

will join the 7:30-10pm session with the actors immediately following.

The Woodsman runs May 16th, 2019 through June 16th, 2019. Rehearsals begin April 8th, 2019

Schedule your Audition with Barry Carman at bcarman@bluebarn.org.

 

Company Members Needed

7 Actors     1M and 1F (20s-30s), 1 F(20s-40s), 4 others (any age); 1 Violinist

To request a character breakdown with descriptions, possible doubling, and puppets, contact bcarman@bluebarn.org  

Casting note: The Woodsman is a wordless, physical, actor-driven ensemble that incorporates puppetry. All actors must be able to move well and fill physical shape with story, character and intention, and have strength, flexibility, and stamina. All actors are on stage for most of the 75minute show.

Preparation

Actors

Please prepare a one-minute classical monologue (Shakes, Moliere, Ibsen, Strindberg, etc), and 16 bars of a folk song in the style of the show to be sung a capella.

Come prepared to move; most of the audition will consist of an hour of exercises with other actors in ensemble work and imaginative storytelling.

Violinists

We are looking for a dynamic and intuitive player, who can play the exhilarating passages with bravado but won’t tire from the tedious passages. Should be able to adapt to the ambience of every scene. Must be an experienced team player, adept at their part with a command/ knowledge of all other vocal parts.

To request audition passages, contact bcarman@bluebarn.org.

To hear the music, go to https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7fEXlXPYpdCm27MYOUL0OE . 

About the Play

Based on the forgotten writings of L. Frank Baum, Strangemen Theatre Company’s THE WOODSMAN gives this darkly beautiful, haunting, and heart-breaking story new life through original music, physical storytelling, and innovative puppetry. A re-imagined tale of the origin of Baum’s “The Tin Woodman of Oz.”

“Circle Mirror Transformation” Begins Blue Barn Season

BLUEBARN THEATRE presents
2009 Obie Winner for Best New Play
Circle Mirror Transformation
by Annie Baker
September 27th-October 21st, 2018
Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm
Sunday 10/7 & 10/21 at 2pm | 10/14 at 6:00pm
About the play:
Students in a community-center acting class find their lives transformed, their souls reflected, and the patterns of their lives revealed in this extraordinary celebration of ordinary life. As they discover each other through storytelling and deceptively simple games, hearts are won and lost, destinies shaped, and tiny triumphs and tragedies take on epic proportions.

About the production:
Circle Mirror Transformation is directed by Susan Clement-Toberer, with dramaturgy by Barry Carman, stage management by Meghan Boucher, set design by Marty Marchitto, lighting design by Brendan Greene-Walsh, costume design by Kendra Newby, and sound design by Craig Marsh.
The cast features Susie Baer Collins (Marty), Caroline Friend (Lauren), Nils Haaland (Schultz), Ashley Kobza (Theresa), and Mike Markey (James).
The production is generously sponsored by Sara Foxley.

Tickets: General Admission tickets are $35 and available by calling our box office (402) 345-1576. You may also purchase tickets via our website at www.bluebarn.org/tickets/

Engage:
“After Words”
October 4th Post-Show
Following the Thursday, October 4th performance, join us for a talkback with the cast. Our actors will tell tall tales about tale-telling, answer all your questions about the proper way to hula-hoop, and reveal their secret strategies for counting to ten.

“Theatre Works”
October 7th Post-show
Following the Sunday, October 7th performance, the BLUEBARN will spotlight three area organizations and artists who use theatre to actively transform lives. Join us for a panel discussion with Tyrone Beasley, Director of Outbound Programming at the Rose Theatre, Nick Zadina, Training Specialist at Project Harmony, and Carolyn Anderson, Director of WhyArts?.
Engagement events are free and open to the public.