POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 4, 2013:
New Company Steps Into the Light
Plus lots of dance and some shadow puppets
There's a new kid on the theatrical block.
Certain Curtain, put together by three ORU alums, debuts this week with A Raisin In The Sun, a show most consider to be mostly about race, but director (and one of three co-founders of the company) Silas Tibbs has a different take.
"There are a lot of racial themes in the show," he said. "It's a historically black show. A lot people can overplay on the race aspect of the show, and I didn't want to do that. I wanted to make sure that a) it was universal, and b) just because there's a racial aspect to the show, there's no reason to overplay it and alienate people in the audience. The most important part of the show is the healing aspect. It's about a family healing."
The plot of the show revolves around Walter Younger -- played by Freddie Tate -- coping with the recent death of his father, the patriarch of the family.
"His father was his hope and kind of his standard," Tibbs said of the character. "He was trying to lead the family forward, and then he died. So it sends Walter into a little bit of self-destruction. Within the black community, when it comes to poverty and hopelessness and all this craziness, the African-American male can get marginalized and disrespected and can resort to things that are unacceptable. But by the end of the show, Walter is able to overcome his struggles and take a place of leadership with the family."
For Tate's part, capturing Walter is the hard part, but that's what he was after when he auditioned.
"I haven't had the opportunity to play a challenging role -- a really, juicy, African-American part outside of doing Jackie Robinson (in American Theatre Company's 2008 production of National Pastime)" he said. "When I did Jackie Robinson, I was very green at acting. This is a few years later, juicy, you know, just a really challenging role for me."
The challenging part, he said, isn't really all that hard, though.
"The hardest part is really character development, just understanding the character and the other characters and how they all fit together," he said. "I find such pleasure in doing it that I don't even know if I should use the word 'challenging.' It's fun."
Whether it's fun or challenging, whatever Tate is doing was working from the very beginning, according to Tibbs.
"This is my first time working with Freddie, and it was fortunate that we got him," he said. "I don't know how he heard about it, but he came to the audition and read for us. Freddie was able to just walk in and become that character just in the cold read. There was a certain maturity about him, but Walter also has a sort of juvenile nature that's hard to play. Freddie was able to pull that off."
That's good for Certain Curtain and for Tibbs, as he's as much of a newbie to the Tulsa theatrical community as his company is.
"This is actually my directorial debut as far as a main stage kind of show," he said. "While I was at ORU, I was a part of most of the shows, and I did a lot of work with Playhouse, and I had a small role in The Unmentionables last year. But most of what I've done was with ORU's theater. It was a lot of behind the scenes work."
He has directed his fair share of shows in play festivals -- most recently winning an award in this year's 24-Hour Play Festival.
His experience has shaped him into a director Tate is glad to be working with.
"What I like most about him is he wanted something very, very specific in the show, and he cast because of that, which means that he turned some actors away because of his vision of the show," Tate said. "In Tulsa, Okla., with African-American actors, that's a hard thing to do. Not a lot of African-American people show up for auditions often, and I immediately thought, 'Wow.' So he's got a great vision, and he does it well. He's patient, but he's very specific about what he wants."
That whole knowing-what-he-wants thing extends to Certain Curtain itself. Having graduated in 2010 from ORU after majoring in multimedia and theater, Tibbs decided on how to go about getting what he wants, along with fellow Golden Eagles Jennifer Thomas and Rosalind Morris.
"We had an epiphany at the same time, and it was, 'If we're going to make something of our degrees, we're going to have to do it ourselves,'" he said. "We met in a coffee shop and decided what we needed to do to move forward."
Moving forward will involve working with schools and contributing to the community.
"What we want to do is incorporate schools who don't have the money or need help with their arts programs -- either get them in and have them audition or get them tickets to shows and just encourage young people to get exposed to the theater," Tibbs said. "Another thing we're trying to do is give a percentage of each performance to non-profits that are doing things for the community. We're not just doing shows. We're trying to give back."
The giving back starts with A Raisin In The Sun, bowing in the Tulsa Performing Art Center's Liddy Doenges Theater September 5-7 at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at 918-596-7111, myticketoffice.com, or at the Second Street box office.
TBII: On Your Radar
When Alfonso Martin retired from Tulsa Ballet Theatre at the end of last season, there was no way in hell artistic director Marcello Angelini was going to let him just leave.
To that end, Martin now holds that same position for Tulsa Ballet II.
"I'm looking forward to seeing this group of young dancers grow," he said. And Martin and his dancers will present On Your Radar this weekend at Tulsa Ballet's Studio K at 1212 E. 45th Pl. S.
The point of the company -- originating in 2005 -- is to give the dancers a chance to work as professionals, and also to let them see the quality expected of them as members of the Tulsa Ballet organization.
"They have been focusing on education outreach programs and performing as understudies or corps members in some of our larger shows, like The Nutcracker and full-length ballets," said Colleen Lahti, the company manager of TBII.
However, artistic director Marcello Angelini has always wanted it to act as a sort of minor league affiliate of TBT, she said.
"Marcello has mentioned time and time again that he would like to be able to fill out the main company corps from TBII each year," she said. "Over the past couple of years, that has started to happen. Since the start, we've had eight TBII dancers join the main company.
"This is the first year they'll have shows as TBII and part of the season," she added.
On Your Radar will be presented September 6 at 8pm and September 8 at 3pm. Tickets are $25 and $30 and available through tulsaballet.org or by phone at 918-749-6006.
Ever the Puck of the Tulsa theater world, The Nightingale Theater's Midwestern Theatre Company presents Euripides' The Cyclops with a twist. Telling a tale of Odysseus' run-in with Polyphemus that isn't in The Odyssey, Euripides' play is the only satyr play -- burlesque-style shows based on Greek myths and full of drunkenness, sex, and general wackiness -- to survive the ancient era.
Given the prankish nature of the plays, Euripides would likely be proud of this incarnation, as it's told via the shadow puppetry of John Cruncleton and his partners in crime. When you read "shadow puppetry," if you think "making your hand cast a shadow that looks like a bird," you're way off. Cruncleton creates the most intricate shadow puppets you can imagine, even creating puppets in the past with moving parts and those that require multiple puppeteers in order to function.
The show runs September 6-7,13-14, and 20-21 at the Nightingale -- 1416 E. 4th St. -- at 8pm. Tickets are $10 at the door.
I Hate Hamlet
When television actor Andrew Rally gets cast as Hamlet and doesn't feel he will do the part justice, he hopes to get some inspiration by staying in a house once owned by legendary thespian John Barrymore.
Playhouse Tulsa opens its 2013-14 season with this very funny show that finds Andrew discovering that Barrymore's ghost still lives in the house, and he's eager to help, though perhaps not in the manner his house guest might want. Tulsa theater mainstays Barbara Murn and Jenny Guy star alongside William Acker as Rally. September 6-7 and 12-14 at 7:30pm, and September 8 at 2pm in the John H. Williams Theatre of the PAC. Tickets are at myticketoffice.com or 918-596-7111.
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