The best laid plans often begin as jokes between three professionally trained actors working in community theatre in Tulsa.
That's the case, anyway, with the invention of Odeum Theatre Company, a spin-off of Ken Tracy's production company, Choregus Productions.
Whitson Hanna, Will Carpenter and Leslie Long were wrapping up February's Educating Rita for Theatre Tulsa and kicking around possible future projects when they, jokingly, Hanna said, suggested putting on David Mamet's biting satire Speed-the-Plow.
Hanna directed Carpenter and Long in a stellar production.
Hanna said that, after Educating Rita closed, Tracy, who usually uses his production company to bring in exciting and cutting-edge national and international performers, approached the trio about working with his company to present theatre locally.
"He said he liked what we did and wanted to give us the opportunity to do something we'd like to do," said Hanna.
They decided to go ahead with Speed-the-Plow, a satire of Hollywood corruption. In the play, Charlie Fox (Carpenter) and Bobby Gould (Hanna) engage in a verbal boxing match, fueled by Mamet's rapid-fire dialogue, over the importance of art versus capitalism.
Their argument culminates over a bet about whether or not Gould will bed the office temp, Karen (Long).
"It's a pretty nasty show," said Hanna. "It's horribly funny, but it's black comedy, mean and adult. It's almost ironic for the audience. You're watching two guys fight over producing a piece of crap, but you're watching theatre."
Smart, well-written, and, if past performances by the three actors foretell correctly, finely acted theatre.
Speed-the-Plow opened on Broadway in 1988 with Joe Mantegna as Gould, Ron Silver as Fox and Madonna as Karen. It was nominated for Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Director, and Silver won Best Actor in a Play.
In 2008, it received its Broadway revival with Jeremy Piven as Gould, Raul Esparza as Fox and Elisabeth Moss as Karen.
Hanna said he and his three co-players had always loved the work and were excited about the challenge mounting a Mamet play for community theatre-going audiences would present.
And he hopes it won't be the last play Odeum presents as a company.
"The last thing Tulsa needs is another theatre company," he said.
But, he also believes Tulsa should have a professional theatre company, as do many others in the city's theatre community, and he hopes Odeum will be that company.
"It's not completely outlandish," he said. "We have a professional opera company and a professional ballet company, why not a professional theatre company?"
He hopes Odeum's inaugural production will set a standard of top tier theatre performed by professionals for the company.
"These people are totally dedicated to their craft, and the Tulsa theatre scene is enriched by volunteer actors, directors and stage technicians," said Tracy in a press release.
"It's a challenging venture, but we hope we can get to the point where these people actually get paid for their work. All of this fits right in with the mission of Choregus Productions."
The title "Odeum" refers to a small venue in classical Rome where political works were presented and debates took place.
Speed-the-Plow is directed by Erin Scarberry, with Cassie Hollis as assistant director and Vickie Myrick as stage manager.
The play opens Thursday, May 28 at 7:30pm in the Liddy Doenges Theatre of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St., and continues Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30 at 7:30pm and Sunday, May 31 at 2pm. Tickets are $15 and available at 596-7111 or www.tulsapac.com.
A Little Bit Tipsy
Also at the PAC this week, Celebrity Attractions presents The Drowsy Chaperone, a one-act musical written by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, with music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.
The production, dubbed "a musical within a comedy," is a celebration of the musicals of the Jazz Age and the fans who adore them.
In it, Man in Chair, seeking to cure his "nonspecific sadness," listens to a recording of the fictional 1928 comedy The Drowsy Chaperone and is gradually transported into the musical.
Janet Vandegraff, a showgirl and member of "Feldzieg's Follies," is looking to give up the stage in order to marry an oil tycoon, Robert Martin. She doesn't know, however, that her producer is being hunted by two gangster henchmen sent by his investor.
In order to save himself, he sends one of them to seduce Janet and ruin her relationship with Robert. What ensues is a series of mistaken identity, misplaced affection and deus ex machina involving stock characters.
Meanwhile, Man in Chair is torn between his fascination with the show and his urge to correct the mistakes being played out by its characters.
The musical is played without an intermission; instead, Man in Chair delivers a monologue between the two halves of the play within the play.
The Drowsy Chaperone opens in Tulsa on Tuesday, June 2 at 7:30pm in the Chapman Music Hall of the PAC. The run continues June 3-4 at 7:30pm, June 5 at 8pm, June 6 at 2pm and 8pm and June 7 at 2pm.
For tickets and other information, 596-7111 or www.tulsapac.com.
Place and Time
On Thursday, May 28, Jeffrey Hogue opens an exhibition of new paintings, "Prairie Noir," at Joseph Gierek Fine Art, 1512 E. 15th St.
The artist is from Bartlesville, and his new series of work focuses on familiar images, "seemingly mundane," of Oklahoma landscapes.
With them, he writes in an artist's statement, "I try to enter into a deeper relationship whereby I melt into a more direct encounter and begin to see and feel new things. When I am full of self, the world is small and dingy. When I am empty and open, it can be rife with scale and mystery. Good painting can only come from the latter place--all the rest is artifice."
The result of that contemplation is work that reveals land as vast and open and seems to delight in the possibilities of the blankness of the landscape.
"Good painting is always held in the palm of its moment in time. It's always a subjective response to the unique influences of a given culture," Hogue writes.
"Painting and art making are inextricably linked to experiential states."
Hogue's representation of those experiential states will be on display through June 27, with an opening reception this Thursday at 5pm at the gallery. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 6pm. For more, visit www.gierek.com or call 592-5432.
Made of Glass
Named by Time magazine as the best radio host in America, Ira Glass visits Tulsa's B'nai Emunah Synagogue, 1719 S. Owasso, on Sunday, May 31 in a new public lecture series called "Talking Heads." NPR affiliate KWGS is the local sponsor of the event.
Glass will dialogue on "Radio (and Other) Stories," with a question-and-answer session following. His talk will cap a Second Avenue Corned Beef Deli Feast, flown in to Tulsa from New York City. That dinner ("Food for Thought") will feature classic corned-beef-on-rye sandwiches with half-sours, gourmet coleslaw, potato knishes and cream soda, culminating in big, bad brownies, and traditional Jewish apple cake. Dinner will begin at 5:45pm, with the lecture at 7pm.
"Talking Heads" is a benefit event; tickets for dinner and the lecture may be purchased for $45.
Dinner reservations may be made by calling the Synagogue at 583-7121 by Friday, May 22. The cost for the lecture alone is $25, and tickets may be purchased without a reservation at the door.
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