Completing a directorial swap between California and Kentucky, Actors Theatre of Louisville announced Tuesday that Les Waters, associate artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre since 2003, will be its next artistic director.
Waters (pictured), a 59-year-old native of northern England, will start his new gig in March, succeeding Marc Masterson, who had led Actors Theatre for nearly 11 years before being grabbed earlier this year as the new artistic director of South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa.
Waters will take charge of Actors Theatre’s nationally prominent annual showcase event, the Humana Festival of New American Plays. He often has worked the edgier side of the theatrical tracks, directing plays by Wallace Shawn, Caryl Churchill and Charles L. Mee. At Berkeley, he had a hand in Sarah Ruhl’s emergence as a leading contemporary playwright, directing the 2004 premiere of “Eurydice,” her first play to gain national acclaim, and the 2009 premiere of “In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play),” which later that year brought both Waters and Ruhl their Broadway debuts.
“In the Next Room” received a 2010 Tony Award nomination for best play and was a finalist for that year’s Pulitzer Prize in drama –- controversially losing to the musical “Next to Normal,” which had not been among the three finalists recommended to the Pulitzer board by a jury of theater experts chaired by Los Angeles Times critic Charles McNulty.
Before being hired in 2003 by Berkeley Rep’s artistic director, Tony Taccone, Waters spent eight years as head of the master’s degree directing program at UC San Diego.
He had made his Southern California directing debut in 1989, when the Mark Taper Forum imported Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good” from London’s Royal Court Theatre for its U.S. premiere. Waters co-directed that production with his mentor and then-boss, Royal Court artistic director Max Stafford-Clark. At the Royal Court, Waters’ directing credits included plays by Churchill and the 1979 world premiere of Shawn’s “Marie and Bruce.”
What’s a masterpiece?Laurent Le Bon, director of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, says he doesn’t know. But that’s the central question posed by the new museum’s inaugural exhibition, “Chefs-d’oeuvre?”
The Pompidou Center, a Parisian cultural powerhouse, built the satellite in Metz to share its 60,000-piece collection of modern and contemporary art. But visitors who don’t notice the question mark in the exhibition title and expect to see the Pompidou’s greatest hits are in for a surprise. The sprawling, 800-piece show is a think piece about the ever-changing meaning of a term coined in the Middle Ages to uphold standards of craftsmanship and often dismissed these days as quaintly irrelevant.
“I have no definitive definition of a masterpiece,” Le Bon states in a publication accompanying the show, “but, in my view, it is a work that permits diverse interpretations, indeed contradictions.”
In critical circles, the show has been greeted with bouquets and rotten tomatoes. Among curators and art historians, “Chefs-d’oeuvre?” has revived a discussion about the concept of masterpieces in an art world that has long since gone global and radically revised traditional definitions of what art can be.To read the full story on masterpieces, click here.
— Suzanne Muchnic
Photo: Andreas Gursky, "99 cent", part of the Metz show. Credit: Centre Pompidou in Paris.
After all, this ode to youthful alienation is based on a 2004 album by the popular punkers Green Day --some of whose fans cheer, while others jeer, the idea of their band doing a musical. And it was created by a team that includes alumni of the recent rock mega-hit "Spring Awakening."
So when it opened at the St. James Theatre on Tuesday, everyone was curious to see if "Idiot" could live up to all the hype.
The show's story line is simple: Three young suburban guys try to make their way in post-9/11 America. Johnny (John Gallagher Jr., who won a Tony for "Spring Awakening") finds a girl and a lots of drugs in the big city. Tunny (Tony nominee Stark Sands) goes off to war. Will (Michael Esper) struggles to support a wife and child.
The score was written by Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool. The minimal book was put together by Armstrong and director Michael Mayer of "Spring Awakening."
Green Day fans have been packing the house, both during previews in New York and last fall's original run at Berkeley Rep. The big question is how it would fare with traditional Broadway theater-goers -- not to mention the critics. Judging from the opening-night reviews, everyone likes the music and staging, but otherwise the reaction is mixed.The New York Times' Charles Isherwood raved: "A pulsating portrait of wasted youth that invokes all the standard genre conventions — bring on the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, please! — only to transcend them through the power of its music and the artistry of its execution, the show is as invigorating and ultimately as moving as anything I’ve seen on Broadway this season. Or maybe for a few seasons past."
-- New treasures: Patrons helped to buy five works for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in this year's Collectors Committee Weekend -- what LACMA director Michael Govan has called "the 'American Idol' of the museum world." (Los Angeles Times)
-- Prize winners: Octavio Solis' dark family drama, "Lydia," which appeared at the Mark Taper Forum in spring 2009, the movie "A Single Man" and the Fox series "Glee" were among the winners at the 21st annual GLAAD Media Awards-Los Angeles, presented by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. (Theatermania)
-- Oops: The National Gallery in London will display more than 40 fake paintings it has mistakenly purchased over the years, including some whose technique has stirred admiration among gallery curators. (Independent)
-- Pricey pieces: An emerald brooch owned by Russia's Catherine the Great and a 39.5-carat diamond ring that once belonged to former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos will be the star attractions in a Christie's jewelry sale in New York. (Reuters)
-- Speaking of Imelda: A song cycle, "Here Lies Love," about Marcos -- recorded by former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne in collaboration with English DJ and beat architect Fatboy Slim and singers such as Natalie Merchant and Cyndi Lauper -- reportedly has piqued the interest of New York's Public Theater as possible material for a musical. (NPR)
-- Troubled times: The beleaguered head of the Aspen Music Festival says a no-confidence vote may be proposed against him during an upcoming meeting of the Colorado festival's trustees and faculty. (Aspen Times via ArtsJournal)
-- Distinguished career: Howard Dodson plans to retire next year after more than a quarter of a century as the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York -- the leading institution of its kind. (New York Times)
Also in the Los Angeles Times: Gustavo Dudamel faces high expectations as he leads the L.A. Philharmonic through a jam-packed spring and summer; music critic Mark Swed reviews Shen Wei Dance Arts' “Re- (I, II, III)” at the Orange County Performing Arts Center; theater critic Charles McNulty reviews the world premiere of "Girlfriend" at Berkeley Rep.
-- Karen Wada
Photo: Stephanie Beatriz and Carlo Alban in Octavio Solis' "Lydia" at the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Berkeley—The old formula of romantic comedy—boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy tries to get girl back—receives a same-sex makeover in “Girlfriend,” the sweet and simple, if slightly overstretched, new musical incorporating songs from Matthew Sweet’s 1991 album of the same title.
This gay teen romance, which is having its world premiere at Berkeley Rep, is quaint in every sense—appealingly old fashioned, unusual in a pleasing way and just plain incongruous, the latter pertaining more to the work’s form than subject matter. To call this two-hander a show is almost to misrepresent its uncaffeinated charms. Think of it as a music-dappled one-act, with an intermission needlessly plunked down two-thirds of the way through.
The book, written by Todd Almond, concerns itself with two teens from Alliance, Nebraska (Almond and Sweet’s home state). Will (Ryder Bach) is a musical theater nerd, targeted by his classmates with all the usual homophobic poison, and Mike (Jason Hite) is a jock golden boy whom no one would suspect has anything to conceal.
Modern musical theater tends to be showy--think "Fela," "Billy Elliot," "Wicked"--if not sometimes a little bit over the top. But for every proposed budget-busting "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark," there can be a new, intimate, even personal musical. And that's what the Berkeley Repertory Theatre (which recently launched the much flashier "American Idiot") is trying to do with "Girlfriend."
Les Waters, who is directing the musical about two high school boys' fledgling relationship, wants to make sure that "Girlfriend" doesn't feel overly polished, "That it doesn't look too thoroughly worked-out," he says. That uncertainty, he says, is essential in capturing "the sheer humiliation of talking about anything when you're a teenager."
Book writer Todd Almond (the music comes from the 1990s recordings of singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet) says that even though the story is very much about adolescence he is hopeful "that anyone older than a teen will see themselves in it." Some of the musical's early reviews have been favorable, suggesting Almond and Waters might be succeeding in their intentions.
For a closer look at how the show came together, take a look at my story on its creation.