Frank Gallagher, director of Heller Theatre's upcoming Time Stands Still, has seen a lot in his theatrical days, but this show represents a first for him, and it goes all the way back to auditions.
"These actors came in knowing the show, and the auditions were almost performance-level," Gallagher said. "I've never seen that before."
That's a testament to the play and its author, to be sure. Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies is an actor favorite for his well-drawn and complex characters, and Time Stands Still is no different.
"I would say it's about character more than anything else," Gallagher said. "The situations he puts the characters in make for great character stuff. These are really interestingly drawn characters, and their situations reveal them more completely."
Their situations probably need some clarification.
Kristin Harding plays Sara, a war correspondent returning from a stint in Iraq, said stay cut short by her injury by a roadside bomb. Boyfriend James, played by Will Carpenter, also a war reporter, has damage of his own, though his is psychological and it brought him back to the States a few months before Sara's injury.
"The play revolves around what becomes the differences between these two characters," Gallagher said. "She feels like she needs to raise consciousness about what's happening, and he has decided he's had enough."
What ends up on the stage is an examination of conflict and what it means to us, and there's the question of our possible addiction to it.
"James decides they're not making any difference. He wants to marry her, settle down and have kids, and have a normal life," Gallagher continued. "This is the conflict at the core of the play. It's so interesting, because anyone who's been active socially or politically have to face this: what do you have to give up? What difference are you making in the world?"
That said, Gallagher is quick to point out that this is neither a didactic effort nor a political statement.
"It's not a political play, but there are political overtones. It's almost surprisingly nonpolitical," he said. "There's no sense of a position being argued. There's no commentary."
Perhaps Gallagher's favorite thing about the show runs along those same lines, as well, in that there is a sense of take-what-you-want-to-from-this.
"All of us, when we first read the play, were struck by the choices facing Sara and James and the decisions that they make," he said. "It asks good questions, but it never feels pretentious or psychological, because it only looks at things from the point of view of the characters. They're just trying to come to terms with this crisis point in their lives."
That last sentence, it would seem, puts Sara and James on the level of pretty much everyone you and I know, which means this is a show for pretty much everyone. Well, almost.
"The language gets really rough in what I guess you'd call fight scenes," Gallagher said. "They're very intense sometimes."
So it's for mature audiences after all. Still, the play's look at the human condition is still there, and Gallagher is proud of the show.
"I have fascinating characters played by fascinating actors," he said, rarely missing a chance to praise his actors.
In addition to Harding and Carpenter, Timothy Hunter and Beka Buster, who play a news editor and his much-younger girlfriend.
"He decides he wants a wife and children, and the only woman he can find is a much younger woman," he said. "He just wants simple, and so he's 55 and decides to marry this 25 year old. She's sort of the welcome comedic part of this show."
Gallagher feels pretty strongly about the cast as a whole, as well.
"These people are unbelievable. This is the right cast for this show," he said. "This show is not at the top of the emotional range all the time, but it gets there sometimes. These are scarred people, and they're in a pressure situation in parts of their lives."
Finally, Gallagher said he loves the show because of an adjective -- one that he said many people shy away from.
"The play is so interesting, which I think is a great compliment for a play," he said. "A lot of people thing that if you say 'That's interesting,' that means it's boring, but I don't think that."
"Time Stands Still" is anything but boring.
The show opens Friday, Jan. 25 at 7:30pm at the Henthorne Performing Arts Center and runs through Saturday, Feb. 2 with a 2pm Sunday matinee. Tickets are $10 except for Tuesday night's show, which is another of Heller's wonderful Pay What You Can shows. Tickets are available at the door. More information at 918-746-5056 or cityoftulsa.org/henthornepac. The Henthorne Performing Arts Center is located at 4825 S. Quaker Ave.
Not everyone knows how to correctly pronounce "Chopin" (rhymes with "Spokane"), and fewer remember that he was Polish. However, Frederic Chopin's compositions long ago cemented his status as one of the great Romantic composers.
While nearly all of his surviving works are for solo piano, he nonetheless stands as the king of Polish composers. So it would follow, then, that he has influenced generations of musicians from the former Eastern bloc state.
Enter our own Signature Symphony, this time led by Warsaw's own Piotr Sulkowski, as the group presents In the Land of Chopin. Expect powerful performances from the conductor and the instrumentalists, as they bring some modern Polish composers' works to the forefront.
Concertmaster Maureen O'Boyle will lead a performance of a violin concerto by Grazyna Bacewicz -- a concerto that, while it was honored with a Polish Ministry of Culture Award, is not heard very often. Look for O'Boyle to do great things with it, like she does with pretty much everything she plays.
In the Land of Chopin bows Saturday, Jan. 26 at 8pm at the VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education at 10300 E. 81st St. Tickets start at $21.75 and go up to $43.50. Tickets are available at 918-595-7777 or through signaturesymphony.org.
The same night that the Signature Symphony takes us to Poland, another Polish-flavored performance will be wowing Broken Arrow audiences.
The piano-violin duo of the Karkowska Sisters brings it all to the stage: they are supernaturally gifted on their instruments, they know how to perform, and they are entertaining even between pieces of music. Often lauded nearly as much for their onstage banter as they are for their musical ability, the Karkowska Sisters rarely fail to thrill and enthrall their audiences.
What they present is chamber music -- one will hear Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, you know, like one would expect, but the pair also brings a nod to its heritage with works by Chopin and Henryk Wieniawski, as well as other Polish composers.
The ensemble has played literally around the world in some of the biggest-named venues around. Carnegie Hall? Check. National Grad Theater in Warsaw? Check. And on and on. It's hard to find a more impressive pair of siblings, actually. Their time at Julliard and the Chopin Academy in Warsaw is evidenced by their exquisite talent.
The Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center is located in BA at 701 S. Main St. Tickets to The Karkowska Sisters are available through thepacba.com or by phone, Monday through Friday, noon to 5pm at 918-259-5778.
An Inaugural Ball
If you have kids, you've most likely heard the interrogative, "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?" If you dozed in history class, you may have asked yourself, "Who in the World is Millard Fillmore?"
Well, boys and girls, Rock the Presidents is here to help answer that question. By rocking.
By taking an admittedly quick look at the 44 men who have held our nation's top office, Rock the Presidents seeks to summarize 223 years of presidents with music -- using rock, pop, and folk music.
Rock the Presidents is a division of Holden Arts and Associates, an educational outfit that recently brought The Man Who Planted Trees to town, complete with its puppets and eco-friendly message.
So this is an educational show, and is aimed at the younger crowd, but hey, couldn't we all stand to know what Millard Fillmore ever did?
Rock the Presidents commences to rocking Friday, Jan. 25 at 7pm, and rocks one more time the next morning at 11:00am in the PAC's John H. Williams Theater. Tickets are $10 and available at myticketoffice.com or by phone at 918-596-7111.
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