24 September 2012

Clybourne Park: Who is Bruce Norris?

Who is Bruce Norris - the man whose latest play, Clybourne Park, has won nearly every honour the theatre has to give?

Here are three fascinating profiles – from London, Australia and San Francisco – that give excellent insights into what makes Norris tick.

"The man behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Clybourne Park has built his career around watching middle-class theatre-goers squirm … as his plays send their deeply-held liberal mores up in smoke. … During the second half of Clybourne Park gasps and nervous laughter erupted around the two London theatres in which it was performed as the multiracial group of characters competed to tell the most racist jokes they could think of. The most toe-curling of these involved a comparison between white women and tampons; I will leave the punch-line to readers’ imaginations. As an audience member (I saw the play twice), it was impossible to tell whether it was OK to laugh at jokes that would be derided as beyond the pale outside the auditorium – and it is this sense of unease that Norris delights in."

To read more (and see the UK video of what audiences thought) click here.

Clybourne Park, Circa Theatre, 2012. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
"Bruce Norris has no need for surveys or focus groups: the American playwright knows his audience. The people who go to theatres, he says, are just like him: white, middle-class, educated, small-L liberal, progressive. But Norris - winner of this year's Pulitzer prize for drama for his play Clybourne Park - isn't interested in pandering to boulevard tastes. Clybourne Park, is satire of the sharpest sort, as he parodies the language, and the attitudes inherent in it, that white people use in conversation with black people."

To read more click here.

Clybourne Park, Circa Theatre, 2012. Photo by Stephen A'Court. 
"Bruce Norris and journalists have a prickly relationship. In interviews, he can be curt, frank and painfully direct. A few writers he's rubbed the wrong way have been less than flattering in print, which is probably why Norris, when he agrees to be interviewed about American Conservatory Theater's production of his Clybourne Park, requests that it be via e-mail.

From his home in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., Norris politely answered e-mail questions.

Q:You gave a fantastic performance in the 1999 production of David Hirson's "Wrong Mountain" at ACT. How have your experiences as an actor informed your work as a playwright?

A: I suppose I'd say that I approach writing from an actor's point of view - basically, for me, writing plays is just an elaborate form of improvisation in which I act out all of the characters in my head and simultaneously transcribe what they say.

Q:Someone with your writing skills could have gone in any number of directions - why theater, where the pay isn't exactly lucrative?

A: I guess because in theater there's the understanding that the writer's word is final, as opposed to film or novels or even TV, say, where all sorts of forces conspire to undo the work of the writer ..."

To read more click here.

Clybourne Park is on at Circa Theatre until 6 October. To book, please call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or go online www.circa.co.nz

17 September 2012

Improv Cage Match: Half way through the season, and it's on like Donkey ... Kong

A word from Improv Cage Match competitor, Kenny "The Kong" King:

Oooohhh Yeeeaaahh!! It's here and its on!! We're half way through the season of Improv Cage Match and I've got a few words for some of my 'competitors'. Mostly, DON'T BOTHER! You pencil necks really think you're funnier than me? You will soon see that Kenny "The Kong" King will reign supreme! Let's take you apart one at a time, shall we? 

Firstly, that scrawny wing-nut "Howling" Ian Harcourt. I've seen more funny on an Inland Revenue refund form! Your time has come and gone, old man. It's time to roll over and let the new generation show you how it's done. Your old school is LAME!! 

As for that buddy of yours "Gargantuan" Greg Ellis. The only thing gargantuan about this clown is how much of a clown he really is. And I don't mean that in a good way! Go back to teaching theatresports games to 13 year old girls, cause that's where you belong!! 

And on your way you can take Richard "Flying Fists" Faulkner with you. He makes a morgue look like Comedy Central. Last week he tried to do as many games as he could inside the squared circle and nearly killed everyone with boredom! 

Oh, and I see Deana Elvins has come crawling back after taking time out to have some babies. You're out of practice, lady, and out of your depth! 

Well, that about takes care of the "Old Guard", now what about the young bucks who think they can front up and usurp my rightful position as King of Cage Match. Jimmy "O, Dear" O'Donovan, I believe, is still pooping yellow and I'm pretty sure I heard him crying for his mummy after we last met. Do us all a favour, kid, and just stay home. 

Jonothan "Pretty Boy" Price, do you really want me to rearrange those pretty comedy values you hold so dear? Cause that's what's going to happen if you keep pushing, boy! 

Gareth "The Rage" Ruck, and "The Tank" Pete Doile, you guys don't even warrant a mention! 

I know my loyal "Konginators" will be rolling up to Circa every Sunday night at 7.30pm until the 7th October to watch me, their hero, annihilate this so called competition and become the true King of Cage Match. I'm sure there are also a legion of fans out there who want to support me, Kenny "The Kong" King but just don't know how. It's easy, just rock up to Circa and purchase a ticket. If you want, you can make banners, signs or just through money at me. So if you want a night to remember come along and watch me tear these pretenders a new one. A word of warning though, if you want to sit in the front row you may want to wear a rain coat as some people have come away splattered with my talent. It tastes awesome but it may stain clothes!

Photo left to right – Richard “Flying Fists” Faulkner, “The Tank” Pete Doile, “Howling” Ian Harcourt, Thom “The Thumb” , Kenny “The Kong” King and “Gargantuan” Greg Ellis

Improv Cage Match is every Sunday night at 7.30pm until 7 October, to book call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or go online www.circa.co.nz.

10 September 2012


The world premiere of MANAWA by Jamie McCaskill (He Reo Aroha, Robin Hood) opens this Saturday at Circa Two. Shocking, challenging and very funny, the play explores our contemporary justice system and the media’s role in high profile criminal cases. Jimmy King is loosely based on Bailey Junior Kurariki, New Zealand’s youngest killer. Like Kurariki, Jimmy is caught up as an accessory to the crime and there starts a life in and out of prison.

Kali Kopae (Beat Girls, He Reo Aroha, Robin Hood) plays Waimanea Huia, a ruthless lawyer determined to steer Jimmy away from his past and into rehabilitation. Mau Vaianga has recently arrived in Aotearoa from Samoa, played by Natano Keni (Lord of the Rings, Once were Samoans), has been accused of a crime against a kakapo committed out of ignorance and it results in public outrage and a media storm. Waimanea gleefully takes on his case and therein starts the enthralling narrative full of twists and turns.

Mau and Jimmy become unlikely friends stuck in a prison cell together.

Jimmy: “You managed to find a hot as white missus cause she thought you were a rich star but you got too pissed, she pushed your buttons and you gave her the bash. Now you’re here. Am I right?”

Audiences will be treated to a live soundtrack by extremely talented Thames musician Simon Donald, a stunning set by Bryan King and inspired lighting design from renowned practitioner Jennifer Lal.

Here’s a word from our actors about their characters:

Jamie McCaskill
Jimmy King

"Jimmy king is a career criminal who has been in and out of jail for most of his life. This play is just a slice of Jimmy’s life in his 30’s where he has realised who he is and how he fits in the world.  We also show a softer side to Jimmy that should give the audience a sense of hope and empathy for this very flawed character. I look forward to bringing him to life on stage."

Kali Kopae         
Waimanea Huia

"Waimanea is a strong confident academic who throughout her life has succeeded in everything. Her Iwi have put her through law school, so she has some obligations. Throughout the play you can see her arrogance as confidence blinds her, pushing for a result that will benefit her career rather than her clients’ real needs. Though she may come across as a steam roller, there is a soft side to this woman, who really does know right from wrong and if circumstances were different she would go down the right avenue. Bringing Waimanea to life will be a challenge that I look forward to."

Natano Keni
Mau Vaiaga

"Mau Vaiaga is a representation of hopes and dreams about a son of Samoa who has gone abroad in search of a better life for their family. Having the opportunity to play Mau Vaianga I hope to reveal a new Samoan character with hopes and dreams, being a respected man at home and what happens when he is lost in translation in a new country."

Find us on Facebook: Tikapa Productions

Manawa opens on 15 September and runs until 13 October - $25 tickets on Friday, 14 September and Sunday, 16 September. To book, call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or go online www.circa.co.nz

03 September 2012

Clybourne Park

CLYBOURNE PARK – the “outrageously funny” hit play that has scooped nearly every honour the theatre has to give, including the Tony Award for Best Play 2012, Olivier Award, the Evening Standard Award and the Pulitzer Prize.  

All the actors play two completely different roles – one in 1959 and the other in 2009. Here are their comments on being in this amazing play …

Nancy Brunning
Francine / Lena

“Lorraine Hansberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun' explores the American dream smashed through the eyes of a proud black family trying to make a life for themselves in Chicago in the 1950s and I was interested to see that Bruce Norris had taken characters and events from this play to explore themes of race and class - in the 50s and the present, but from a white perspective. By making connections in this way it allows you to see many sides and layers of the American unease.  I enjoy writers such as Hansberry, Norris and Letts who don't tell you how their plays should make you feel, but rather prick at your subconscious and ask you, am I like this character, do I behave in that way?”

Previous roles: Shortland St (Nurse Jaki Manu), Waiora, Blue Smoke, Awatea

Jade Daniels
Albert / Kevin

“I’m loving seeing how attitudes have changed from 50s America to 2009, and the relation to our own in NZ. Clybourne Park highlights the fact that we’ve still got some talking to do, and some of that talking gets dirty!!

Previous roles: Blood Wedding, The Arrival

Andrew Foster
Karl / Steve

Clybourne Park is brilliantly clever, and just so much fun to play. It’s a special play! There is so much depth in the writing: it's as provocative as it is hilarious. I think audiences are going to find it incredibly rewarding.”

Previous roles: God of Carnage, Ninety, Mauritius

Nikki MacDonnell
Bev / Kathy

"I love this play, it doesn’t pull any punches and it’s one of those rare combinations of depth in story and comedy, well deserving of its many prizes. How could I turn down a part in a play that’s won a Pulitzer and a Tony Award, and become Sea Scout Leader, in the same month! You’d grab these opportunities with both hands, right?"

Previous roles: Paua, The December Brother, Sex Drive

Danielle Mason
Betsy / Lindsey

Clybourne Park is unapologetically provocative. It has all the ingredients for a fantastic night of theatre. The audience are sure to be thrilled by the snappy dialogue and outrageous twists and turns – prepare for the unexpected!”

Previous roles: Red Riding Hood, Betrayal, The Motor Camp

Gavin Rutherford
Gavin Rutherford
Russ / Dan

Clybourne Park is an hilariously funny, explosive smash hit comedy from the US which exposes our 21st century prejudices by juxtaposing them with 1950s’ prejudices. We watch the intolerance and bigotry of an American community in the 1950s and laugh at the misunderstandings and blatancy of their racism; but the play really comes into its own when we see a 'modern' liberal meeting break down into pettiness and intolerance with laugh-out-loud consequences. It is one of my favourite experiences as an actor to have fun with flawed characters, and this play has them in spades. Also, there is a shovel in the play.”

Previous roles: Le Sud, West End Girls, All My Sons

Paul Waggott
Jim / Tom

“This script is absolutely hilarious and with the cast assembled, I'm having a whale of a time. I can't wait to share the laughs with audiences in Wellington!”

Previous roles: Death and the Dreamlife of Elephants, West End Girls, Eight.

Clybourne Park opens on 8 September in Circa One and runs until 6 October. Tickets are available now - contact the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.