28 April 2014

Other Desert Cities: "impeccably-cast production"

This week on drama on the waterfront, we meet the cast of Other Desert Cities.

“I so much enjoyed Baitz’s play … the twists and turns are carefully exploited as each character creates their own history with such insight. I’d like to tell you what unfolded because it was that exciting. Don’t miss this one… it’s gripping!” said reviewer Kate Spencer about Other Desert Cities.

“Astutely crafted to explode secrets”, said John Smythe of Theatreview about “this impeccably - cast Circa production directed by Ross Jolly.”

So, lets meet this “amazing cast”:

Catherine Downes - Polly Wyeth

“I play the matriarch, Polly, who feels to me like somewhat of a 'Mother Courage' type of person, hauling the wagon and protecting the baggage that is her family. And she does this with wit, panache and staunch - What a great trip! 'Desert Cities' is provocative, heart- rending, challenging - and fun!”

Catherine is one of NZ’s finest theatrical talents, working in theatre, film and television on both sides of the Tasman as an actress, director and playwright. Recent Wellington performances: Four Flat Whites In Italy, A Shortcut to Happiness, The Year of Magical Thinking and Talking of Katherine Mansfield.

Michelle Langstone - Brooke Wyeth

“I just love this play. I love the rhythm and dynamism of the relationships. There is so much history present in every word the characters say to one another. Other Desert Cities is funny and sad, and that's my favourite kind of play. I'm very happy to be making my Circa debut with this production.”

With a starry, award-winning CV from both sides of the Tasman, Michelle is best known for her roles in the TV programmes The Almighty Johnsons, (Love Goddess Michele), and Go Girls (Sarah Bennett). Her recent stage roles include The Lover, and Under Milk Wood (Silo). Other Desert Cities marks Michelle's professional theatrical debut in Wellington.

Jeffrey Thomas - Lyman Wyeth

“Rehearsing this play has proven to be exceptionally enjoyable. Other Desert Cities, like so many great American plays, tells a fascinating and intriguing story. My favourite kind of theatre.”

Jeffrey is well-loved by Circa audiences, having appeared in many plays including The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, August: Osage County, All My Sons and Tribes - to name but a few. And he's enjoyed every minute of it. He also recently featured in The Hobbit – playing the Dwarf king Thror.

Paul Waggott - Trip Wyeth

"It's been such a blast working on such a great script and with such great people. There's something special going on!"

Working regularly at both BATS and Circa theatres, Paul was winner of the Most Promising Male Newcomer at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards 2010. Paul‘s recent work includes Tribes, Red, Eight, West End Girls, Clybourne Park, A Play about Space, and most recently A Play about Fear.

Emma Kinane - Aunt Silda

“A great role, an awesome bunch of people, and working with an awesome script – what more can I say!”

Emma’s versatility means she can be found acting, singing, and writing for film, radio and stage. And she has won awards in all fields! Her recent performances include All My Sons, Tribes (nominated Best Supporting Actress Chapman Tripp awards), No Naughty Bits, Pasefika, and the cult musical, Dead Tragic, (Emma’s favourite singing role - channelling various pop stars), which has a return season later this year at Circa.

 Other Desert Cities is on in Circa One until 17 May. To book, call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz.

 Other Desert Cities production photos by Stephen A'Court.

23 April 2014

Theatresports: fast paced and high on entertainment

Famed sports writer Guy McGuy sat down with The Improvisors’ Deana Elvins to talk weather, the interplay between theatre and sport, and her picks for the upcoming Theatresports season at Circa.

Guy:  So.  How about that weather?

Deana: Mm… weathery

Guy: I guess that’s the advantage theatre has over sport – no weather.

Deana:  Except indoor sports of course.

Guy: Oh. Yes.  So you are the coach for The Improvisors?

Deana:  No, Guy, actually I’m a player/manager.  I’ll be competing in the upcoming season, but I also look after the corporate, professional side of things for our teams.

Guy:  Sponsorship and the like?

Deana:  Kind of… in the off-season we do shows, team building, training and a whole lot more for all sorts of companies - everyone from family businesses to New Zealand’s biggest corporations..  Check out our website www.theimprovisors.co.nz

Guy: So then who is the coach?

Deana:  I guess you could say Tim Gordon is the coach.  He’s recently had some experience coaching the All Blacks, which I’m sure will prove invaluable for the teams.

Guy: What can fans expect in the upcoming season?

Deana:  Every Sunday night from May 4 to June 15 teams will battle it out in pursuit of the Paragon Cup.  This year all teams boast a wealth of experience and we’re expecting tough games and close matches.  It’s a traditional round robin format with the top scoring teams tested in the Grand Final on June 15.

Guy: For folks who’ve never seen it before, what exactly is “Theatresports”? 

Deana:  It’s improvised comedy.  Scenes are made up on the spot to make you laugh.  This is our 7s, our T20, the short form of the game -  so it’s fast paced and high on entertainment. 

Guy:  The team that gets the most laughs wins?

Deana:  Not necessarily.  Getting laughs is important, but to win teams need to pay attention to storyline and the technical requirements of the game as well.

Guy:  Any rule changes this season?

Deana:  Nothing specific, but we have been warned that refs are going to come down hard on wimping, blocking and gagging.

Guy: ???

Deana: (laughs) Oh sorry  ‘Wimping’ means being too scared to follow an idea through, ‘blocking’ is saying no to someone else’s idea and ‘gagging’, as you probably guess, means getting a cheap laugh that doesn’t serve the story.

Guy:  Do audiences need to be familiar with these rules?

Deana:  Not at all – it’s all explained on the night.

Guy:  Great!  Now I understand that there has been some concern about the brutality of audience involvement.

Deana:  Look, I won’t deny that back in the day and in some competitions  a few people may have been traumatised by over-enthusiastic audience involvement.  But The Improvisors pride ourselves on playing a very non-aggressive form of the game.  We ask for suggestions from audience but almost never drag anyone on stage.  I guess it could happen.  But I’ve never seen it.

Guy: So where can people see the games?

Deana:  If people want a great night’s entertainment, full of laughter and the spice of competition then they should come down to Circa Theatre on Sunday nights at 7pm from May 4.  Booking is advised.

To book tickets for the 2014 Theatresports season, visit www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992. 

14 April 2014


"His show is a feast I would love to devour again and again"- Theatreview

He's Bach! Well, not quite.

Award-winning performer Thomas Monckton is back in Wellington with 
The Pianist and the countdown is on to opening night! Fresh from selling out across Finland The Pianist is about to land here in the Capital. Bookings have already opened and with Monckton's cult following after award-winning Moving Stationery, it is selling fast! Equipped with a grand piano, our finely tuned impresario is ready to amaze audiences of all ages.

But really, Acrobat versus Grand Piano: where does a zany piece like this originate from? The Pianist is created by the electric duo: New Zealander Thomas Monckton, and Sanna Silvenoinen of Circo Aereo, Finland.

Sanna Silvenoinen 
Silvennoinen graduated as a dancer from the Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten and since then has worked with several Finnish groups both as a dancer and as a circus artist. She worked as a choreographer and a performer in several of the most internationally acclaimed Finnish circus performances. In her work, she has focused on the integration of the elements of contemporary dance with aerial acrobatics. Improvisation, use of space and close interaction between music and movement are the distinctive traits in her work as a director and as a performer.

Meanwhile, Monckton had reached his ceiling of physical theatre in New Zealand so went to L'École Internationale du Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, the world's finest school of Physical Theatre. There Monckton fortuitously met and flatted with two Finns. This eventually lead to working with a Finnish circus in Helsinki and then with Silvennoinen, Artistic Director at Circo Aereo, which is at the forefront of the Finnish contemporary circus scene.

Monckton & Silvennoinen's work on The Pianist is certainly physical theatre at its best and highlights each of their specialties. Their concoction of The Pianist is a magical contemporary circus theatrical adventure.

Don your finest attire for a night of high society entertainment at Circa and wait with bated breath to see if everything goes as planned...

The Pianist opens on Tuesday 22nd April and tickets ($20-$35) can be booked through
Circa on 801-7992 or www.circa.co.nz. Getting in early is definitely the key with this one (okay we'll stop now).

07 April 2014

Other Desert Cities: A Family History Lush in Secrets

Jon Robin Baitz’s funny, fierce, and immensely entertaining Other Desert Cities was one of the hottest tickets in New York. Baitz, creator of hit TV series, Brothers & Sisters, took America by storm with his Broadway debut. Nominated for five Tony Awards, this award-winning play, which has just opened to rave reviews in London, now makes its New Zealand premiere at Circa, opening on Saturday 19th April, with a stellar cast of CATHERINE DOWNES (The Year of Magical Thinking), MICHELLE LANGSTONE (The Almighty Johnsons), JEFFREY THOMAS (The Hobbit), EMMA KINANE (Tribes), and PAUL WAGGOTT (Red).

Baitz talks about himself and Other Desert Cities in this PBS Art Beat interview from last year:

Some background on JON ROBIN BAITZ:

Jon Robin Baitz is a celebrated American playwright and is perhaps best known in this country for his internationally successful TV series, Brothers and Sisters, about a wealthy Californian family who grapple with love, loss and living in the modern age, which ran for five seasons.  Other TV work includes PBS’s version of Three Hotels, for which he won the Humanitas Award, and episodes of West Wing and Alias. He is also the author of two screenplays; the film script for The Substance of Fire(1996), and People I Know (2002).

Baitz’s  is a founding member of Naked Angels Theatre Company, and on the faculties of the Master of Fine Arts program at The New School for Drama, New York, where he is Artistic Director of the BFA division, and is also visiting professor at University of Southern California's Master of Professional Writing program. His version of the Australian TV mini-series, The Slap begins filming for NBC this Summer.

His plays include Other Desert Cities (Pulitzer Prize Finalist 2012, Tony Nominee, Drama League Award, Outer Critics Circle Award), The Film Society, The End Of The DayThree Hotels, A Fair Country (Pulitzer Prize finalist 1996),  Mizlansky/Zilinsky, Ten Unknowns, and The Paris Letter, as well as a version of Hedda Gabler (Broadway, 2001). He is the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Award, a Drama Desk Award, is a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist for both A Fair Country and Other Desert Cities

Other Desert Cities opens in Circa One on 19 April and runs until 17 May. There will be a $25 Preview on Friday, 18 April, and $25 Special on Sunday, 20 April. To book, visit www.circa.co.nz or call 801-7992.