POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 7, 2011:
Actors Co. of Tulsa and Tulsa Symphony hope to move audiences
The Actors Co. of Tulsa is taking on a hefty project in hopes that it will affect the hearts and minds of local audiences.
The community theater company will present Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches this weekend at Tulsa Community College's VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education, 10300 E. 81st St.
Angels in America is a two-part epic play set in 1985, at the start of the AIDS epidemic in New York. As the characters struggle to define who they are and redefine their beliefs to deal with this horrible affliction, an angel comes to Prior Walter, recently diagnosed AIDS, in a dream and reveals to him that he is to be a prophet for the new millennium.
The Actors Co. of Tulsa will present the first half of the play, which was debuted as a workshop in 1990 by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and then further developed with the Mark Taper Forum, where it was performed. Its world premiere was in 1991 with the Eureka Theatre Co. in San Francisco.
The second half, Perestroika, premiered in 1992 at the Mark Taper Forum, and the two halves were presented in repertory on Broadway in 1993. Both earned Tony Awards for Best Play, and they were combined to create an HBO miniseries in 2003.
The whole shebang is seven hours in length, and Millennium Approaches clocks in at three on its own. Director Tabitha Taylor admits that audiences may be wary about sitting in a theater for that amount of time, but she promises the play is worth it.
"You're going to be rewarded by doing so," she said in a video on the Actors Co. of Tulsa website, actorsoftulsa.org. "You're going to walk out feeling accomplished; you're going to walk out feeling determined, and you're also going to walk out feeling lucky.
"For many people, this is a history lesson," Taylor said. "Many people have lived this. Many audience members may see someone of themselves on that stage. You know these characters; they've been in our lives for years, and you want to root for them.
"It's going to be three hours that you're not going to want back."
Taylor called those on board with the project "fearless."
"It's a big journey," she said. "We're taking big steps; we're taking big leaps."
It's an important story, she said.
"I think it's very important for Tulsa that we're here. It's very important for the theater community that we're here. It's very important to the Equality Center that we're here."
The Actors Co. of Tulsa is partnering with the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, Tulsa's gay, lesbian and transgender advocacy group, in the production of the play. Health Outreach Prevention Education (HOPE), a nonprofit outreach clinic providing HIV prevention and education services, is also a partner. Twenty percent of the proceeds earned from the production will benefit HOPE.
"There are a lot of people depending on us," Taylor said. "They're depending on us to make sure the story is told, that theater continues to thrive -- that edgy theater continues to thrive. And that a group of people that want to put on a production can and do have a right to put on any production that they want."
Starr Hardgrove, artistic director for the Actors Co. of Tulsa, said the play is exactly in line with his company's mission, which is to educate theatrical artists, connect with local businesses in the community and present quality productions that entertain, inform and enlighten folks in Tulsa.
"The most important thing is to be able to tell this story to the city of Tulsa for the first time and to be a Tulsa premiere," Hardgrove said. "I think the people who sit through the three hours here and then go see the production at TU are going to be enriched in ways they can never really imagine, themselves."
The University of Tulsa Department of Theatre will produce Perestroika Oct. 6-9 at the Gussman Concert Hall in the new Lorton Performance Center on the college's campus.
"This is a show of the heart; this is a show of the soul," Hardgrove said. "People are desiring to be able to fight against great obstacles, and I think that it's really probably one of the best dramas of the 20th century, and it is a great opportunity to tell a wonderful story."
Angels in America: Millennium Approaches plays Sept. 8-10 at 7pm and Sept. 11 at 1pm. Tickets are $15.
Fairy Tale Tunes
Tulsa Symphony Orchestra opens its 2011-12 "Season of Adventure" this Saturday night with Fate and Folklore, a concert of Wagner's Prelude to Die Meistersinger, Stravinsky's "Divertimento" from the ballet Fairy's Kiss and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4.
José-Luis Novo, music director for the Binghamton Philharmonic, who was last seen in Tulsa conducting TSO's Ye Olde England concert in 2010, will be the guest conductor.
The performance opens with the broad, majestic themes from the prelude to Wagner's comedic opera, Die Meistersinger.
"Die Meistersinger has been called the most enchanting of all the fairytale operas," Novo said. "Wagner uses his rich imagination, culminating with all three principal themes being heard simultaneously, crafting one of the most glorious orchestral sounds."
Stravinsky's ballet The Fairy's Kiss has been recognized as homage to Russian composer Tchaikovsky. Evidently, in his youth, Stravinsky was so impressed by Tchaikovsky that he specifically incorporated several melodies and harmonic progressions from Tchaikovsky's early work into Divertimento.
"Stravinsky based his ballet on a tale by the beloved Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen," Novo said. "For the music, he chose themes from little-known pieces by Tchaikovsky, reinterpreting them in his own unique musical language."
The concert closes with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. It opens ominously with a "Fate" motif reminiscent of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
The composer once described the work, saying: "This is fate...an invincible force that can never be overcome -- merely endured, miserably."
Novo said: "Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 is an exploration of extreme emotions that takes an optimistic turn and ends with one of the most exhilarating finales ever written, making it an audience and performers' favorite."
The performers of Tulsa Symphony Orchestra are excited to be back on stage, said TSO Executive Director Ron Predl.
"Throughout the summer Tulsa Symphony has ridden a wave of energy and excitement generated by the sold-out Beethoven Nine performance last April," he said. "The audience will feel and hear that enthusiasm as we open our expanded sixth season Sept. 10. We are ready and eager to be back on the PAC main stage."
The concert begins at 7:30pm in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall, 110 E. Second St. Tickets are $10-$65 and available at tulsapac.com.
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