Archive | Magic Time!

This column is named after that magical moment between life and art just before a show begins. In it John Stoltenberg explores how art makes sense of life—and vice versa—as he reflects on meanings that matter in the theater he sees.

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Playing (with) Gender in WSC Avant Bard’s ‘Orlando’: Acting Insights from Sara Barker and Jay Hardee by John Stoltenberg

Orlando, WSC Avant Bard’s upcoming production, is based on Virginia Woolf’s classic 1928 novel in which Woolf based the character Orlando on the woman she was madly in love with. In both the book and in the play—adapted for the stage by renowned playwright Sarah Ruhl—Orlando starts out as a boy then midway through becomes […]

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Magic Time! ‘The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess’ at The National Theatre by John Stoltenberg

History hit an astounding “rewind” and “refresh” button last night at The National Theatre. An abundantly assorted audience of  Washingtonians rose as one to applaud an iconic work of musical theater with a past so complicated and conflicted that such heartfelt unanimity would have been unthinkable back in 1936 when the show first came to […]

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dog & pony dc’s ‘Toast’ (a Workshop Production) by John Stoltenberg

“Audience integration” is a buzzword that has been flying around awhile but only recently landed in my brain. In live theater, it means going beyond removing the fourth wall; it means erasing the line between spectator and performer altogether. It’s different from “audience participation” because it’s not a rehearsed performance into which audience members are […]

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‘Man in a Case’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company by John Stoltenberg

It is one thing to amble through a modern art gallery and appreciate an innovative multimedia installation—some videos and audio here, some projections and lighting effects there, perhaps some human performers moving and speaking with random disjunction and non sequitur connotation. One is at liberty in such esoteric circumstances to  interpret free-associatively, to mentally assemble […]

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‘If/Then’ (Revisited) by John Stoltenberg

The first time I saw If/Then, I knew I would be seeing it again. The show’s beauty, originality, and heart won me over, and that experience increased all the way through. I wrote a review for DCMetroTheaterArts in which I called If/Then “an inspiration to fall back in love with one’s own life.” Days after, […]

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‘Magic Time!’ ‘The Laramie Project’ at Ford’s Theatre by John Stoltenberg

If you’re a theater buff who’s worried that the shutdown’s shuttering of Ford’s Theatre and the shunting of The Laramie Project to a nearby church means audiences there must be getting something second rate, I have a news flash: The show temporarily onstage at the First Congregational United Church of Christ is not only first rate; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime […]

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‘The Velocity of Autumn’ at Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater by John Stoltenberg

For $64,000, the funny thing about aging is…? Funny like strange or funny like—? Like LOL. Oh, okay, lemme think. [Thinks a long time; lame music plays.] Haven’t got all day. Please, I need more time! Come on, clock’s ticking. No, wait! Nope. Time’s up. Your final answer. Now. Um…um…lemme guess— [Over sound of nasty buzzer:] The […]

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‘Inventing “Bell” at National Geographic: A Q&A with Rick Foucheux and MJ Jacobsen’ by John Stoltenberg

National Geographic has been thinking outside its trademark yellow box a lot lately. The Society’s mission is “Inspiring people to care about the planet.” Adventure and exploration are its DNA. Still, that doesn’t explain how in the world National Geographic got into producing top-tier-talent live theater—which is exactly what it’s venturing to do, for the […]

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Reporting from The Page-to-Stage Festival: ‘The Good Devil, In Spite of Himself’ and ‘Aural Sex’ by John Stoltenberg

If you’ve never made your way to The Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage fest, let me let you in on a few pleasures that await you even before the pleasures packed into this annual Labor Day weekend of staged readings. First off is the odd exhilaration of experiencing this grand architectural edifice—which at times feels designed on […]

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Magic Time! ‘Now That ‘Bradass87’ Is Chelsea: A Q&A With Playwright Claire Lebowitz’ by John Stoltenberg

Claire Lebowitz conceived a documentary theater piece called Bradass87 and crafted the script from primary sources—including Bradley Manning’s own online chats and instant messages, in which he used the handle Bradass87. Because of recent news events that amplify the currency of Lebowitz’s already fresh-from-headlines play, I invited her to join me in an in-depth Q&A by email […]

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‘Bradass87’ at Universalist National Memorial Church by John Stoltenberg

Who is the real Bradley Manning? Does anyone know? Can anyone know? These pressing and compelling questions ricochet today even in mainstream news media, which—more beholden to elites than to accuracy—filter reality but rarely sift out truth. Even among ostensibly progressive pols, Bradley Manning looms as an enigma—because they cannot shake the chastening fact he puts their compromised […]

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