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Intermission Talk

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

                                     The Show Must,

                                    And WILL Go On

by Tony Vellela

Britain’s Princess Diana shall return!  “Diana,” the Broadway musical about the ill-fated first wife of Prince Charles, who died in an automobile accident in 1997, managed to get in nine preview performances last March, when the pandemic forced theatres to close.  Jeanna de Waal portrayed the title character. The musical, written by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, and directed by Christopher Ashley, is scheduled to re-open on December 1, with a Broadway house not yet selected. And in a first for Broadway, the producers have made a deal with Netflix to begin streaming a filmed version of the show, which was shot last September at the audience-less Longacre Theatre.  It will begin its run on October 1, two months prior to the opening.  Tickets for the stage production are available now . . . speaking of 2022, David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” will be revived beginning in March, with a cast featuring Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell.  This marks Fishburne’s return to Broadway since his one-man portrayal of Thurgood Marshall in 2008.  Rockwell was last seen in the 2014 production of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.”  The play debuted in 1997 . . .

Idina Menzel, Kelly Marie Tran, Patrick Wilson, Annaleigh Ashford, Robin de Jesus, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Lachanze, Billy Porter and Kelli O’Hara join forces in Manhattan Theatre Club’s annual “Miscast” gala, where actors perform songs from roles in which they would not traditionally be cast . . . to celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander month, the National Asian American Theatre Company will present a benefit reading of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”  It will be streamed on Wednesday, May 19, featuring Amy Hill as the Stage Manager, and including Cindy Cheung, Kassandra Cordova, Autumn Domingo, Connor Domingo, Ron Domingo, John D. Haggerty, Midori Francis Iwama, Yumi Iwama, Paul Juhn, Peter Kim, Glenn Kubota, Clara Haru Mulligan, Olivia Oguma, Trevor Salter, Jon Norman Schneider, Alok Tewari, CJ Uy, Izaac Wang and Rita Wolf . . . following its successful Off-Broadway engagement, “Whiterock Cliff,” starring Ryan McCurdy, and written by McCurdy and Ellie Pyle, has begun streaming the one-man show until May 23.  Visit for tickets.  The event takes place on Sunday, May 16 at 8 PM.  For details, go to

. . . in honor of its silver anniversary season, the Mint Theater Company will be streaming, via, Miles Malleson’s “Yours Unfaithfully,” which received its premiere production at The Mint. The cast includes Todd Cerveris, Mikaela Izquierdo, Elizabeth Gray, John Hutton and Max von Essen.  Jonathan Bank directed the production.  No tickets are required.  It will be available until May 16 . . . Elliot Gould and Kathleen Chalfant star in “We Have to Hurry,” by Dorothy Lyman streaming live on May 1 and 2, to benefit the Actors Fund Home East and West, on May 1 and 2.  Patricia Vanstone is scheduled to direct.  The performances will stream

live via Broadway on Demand . . . Theatres and producers had been caught between two powerful unions, Actors Equity Association, with 51,000 actors and stage managers and SAG-AFTRA, representing 160,000 people who work primarily in film and television, over which union should represent streamed productions of stage work.  An agreement was recently arrived at, with certain specific elements.  If a production is strictly a visual recording of a live performance, it’s Equity’s territory.  Works that include scenes shot out of sequence with the playscript, contain aspects not part of a traditional presentation or which includes editing belong to SAG-AFTRA.  The agreement expires on December 31, 2021.

On Book

One of the best theatre biographies ever written, “Mike Nichols – A Life,” by Mark Harris, from Penguin Press, traces the multi-award-winning director’s life, from his earliest triumphs while still in his twenties, acting with Elaine May, half of the improv comedy duo.   When he turned to directing, he scored four successful, consecutive Broadway shows, and two back-to-back Tony awards for directing.  When Hollywood beckoned, the answered the call by directing the electric “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?,”  followed by one of the highest-grossing films of all time, “The Graduate.”   Harris pulls no punches, presenting  both successes and failures . . . “Another Day’s Begun – Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town’ in the 21st Century” presents an assessment of this iconic work.  It was written by Howard Sherman, and details about how to secure a copy can be found at

TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS theatre-themed series “Character Studies.”  His play “Admissions” won the Best Play Award at the New York International Fringe Festival, received three off-Broadway productions, and is published by Playscripts.  He has written reviews and feature stories about the entertainment industry for The Christian Science Monitor, Rolling Stone, Dramatics, Parade, Reader’s Digest, and dozens of other publications. His play “Maisie and Grover Go to the Theatre” is published by ArtAge.  He has taught theatre classes at the 92nd St. Y, Columbia University’s Teachers’ College, at HB Studio and other institutions.  His “Test of Time” won the Best Documentary Award for Lifetime Television.   His new play, “Labor Days, is slat for production at Theatre for a New City in February, directed by Austin Pendleton.

CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including special theatre packages and reservations, are available at, the Carmel app, or at 212-666-6666.



Intermission Talk

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Producers Insure That

The Show Must Go On


by Tony Vellela

Theater for the New City continues its series of free afternoon ‘walk-by theater’ on Saturday, November 28, at 2 PM, staged in its set shop and visible from East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues.  “Open Tho’ Shut” marks the third installment of the series, which has been designed to demonstrate small theaters’ readiness and desire to physically reopen, and to counteract the perception, based on formal Broadway, that legitimate theaters can’t open safely.  Performances demonstrate an Off-Off Broadway aesthetic that could permit smaller theaters to open safely.  The shop has been outfitted with an elaborate set by Mark Marcante and Litza Colon, with full stage lighting and a four-mic sound system.  Performers are required to be tested before their performances, and their temperatures are taken before they perform.  Masks are provided to any audience member who arrives without one.

Cobu (all-women Japanese Taiko Dance and Drum group) peroforms in “Open ‘Tho Shut, an afternoon of performances in Theater for the New City’s ChopShop Theater, November 11, 2020. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Speaking about a new agreement that makes it possible for theatre-lovers across the country to enjoy streamed stage productions by producers and theatres during the pandemic, Actors Equity president Kate Shindle stated “This gives people who make theater the ability to innovate in ways that they need in order to survive.”  The agreement is between AEA, the actors and stage managers union’s 51,000 members, and SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 people who are employed in film and television.

The agreement, which expires on December 31, 2021, outlines clear restrictions.  Equity will cover performances recorded for digital distribution that replaces or supplements a live audience.   SAG-AFTRA regulations outlaw work that is more in the nature of a television show or movie, which features scenes shot out of chronological order, or includes visual effects or other sequences that could not be replicated in a live theater.

Theaters forced to close by government order due to the potential spread of the Covid-19 virus among people gathered together in close contact, in an indoor location, have been forced to adjust their business to use streaming services to ticket-holders or subscribers.  The practice has been widely adopted.

Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company [] plans a season of virtual productions.  It kicks off with James Ijames’ “What Is Left, Burns.” Directed by Whitney White, the play stars Steppenwolf’s K. Todd Freeman and Jon Michael Hill as former lovers who reconnect during various points in their lives.

The producing group The 24 Hour Plays will stream the live performance of their 20th anniversary gala, featuring more than two dozen actors, including Josh Hamilton, Hugh Dancy, Marcia Gay Harden, Genevieve Angelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Rachel Dratch.  They will perform pieces by Rachel Axler, David Lindsay-Abaire, J. Holtham, christopher oscar pena, Jonathan Marc Sherman and Lauren Yee.  The event, on Tuesday, December 1st at 8 PM, supports the group’s several non-profit programs, including the 24 Hour Plays National Fellows, a free professional intensive for young theater artists.  More information, including ticket-purchasing, can be found at

Interactive online performances for children from five to nine are being presented via Zoom, on Fridays in December at 4 PM, by Adventure Players Live!  Scheduled are “Finding Our Way Through Outer Outer Space” [December 4th], “Searching for Twig in the Deep Deep Ocean” [December 11th] and “Telling Stories of Holidays and Hopes for the New Year: Playback Theater {December 18th].  APL is a project of PlayMusicNYC LLC, fiscally sponsored through Fractured Atlas.

Broadway’s Carolyn Mignini [“Fiddler on the Roof”], plays Mrs. Claus in “Undertaking Christmas,” a new musical by the American Theater Wing’s Jonathan Larson Grant and MAC Award winner Joel B. New, just in time for the holidays.  This musical comedy loving homage to the Hallmark Channel movie genre is about a gay man who returns to his Midwestern roots and unearths love in the most unlikely of places, and runs approximately 75 minutes.  A second opportunity to enjoy this new work will be on Saturday, December 19 at 8 PM by Benjwelo Theatricals.

“I am a huge fan of the cozy tropes baked into every Hallmark Channel holiday movie,” stated New.  “That said, LGBTQ characters in leading roles who also break the ‘conventionally attractive’ mold are nowhere to be found.  ‘Undertaking Christmas’ is a joyful musical comedy that incorporates gay romantic leads, body positivity, and, of course, death by fruitcake poisoning.”

Recorded live at Brooklyn’s Scholes Street Studio, the curtain goes up on Saturday, December 19 at 8 PM, streamed exclusively on Stellar.  Ticketholders will be able to stream the show on any computer browser [laptop or desktop], mobile web, the Stellar Android or iOS app, or on TV via the Stellar app on Apple TV, Fire TV, and Roku.  Tickets are $10.  The Nice List Package includes a digital playbill storybook featuring original illustrations by Krissy Fox.    Ticket sales and additional information are available at

If you’ve been homebound for the past several weeks, perhaps your mind wandered into the back-burner subject of auditioning for a role yourself.

Red Bull Theater, lauded by Time Out New York magazine as ‘the city’s gutsiest classical theatre,’ is offering two free events that reawaken that dream.  A one-day acting workshop ‘The Classical Monologue’ explores possible answers to questions often asked about the Bard’s work, bolstering your preparedness to audition for classical roles, although the advice given would easily translate into any audition situation.  On Saturday, December 5th, from 11 AM to 6 PM, Obie-Award winner Chukwudi Iwuji [‘The Low Road,’ the Public’s ‘Othello’] and casting director Stephanie Klapper will conduct a one-day only acting workshop.  Klapper’s frequent or long-time collaborators include the Mint Theatre Company, the Cincinnati Playhouse, Capitol Repertory Theater and Primary Stages.

Red Bull Theater is also presenting A RemarkaBULL Podversation – A Conversation on the ‘Tent Scene’ from Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ [Act 4, Scene 3], “You Have Done That You Should Be Sorry For,” via livestream on Monday, December 7th at 7:30 PM.  They will take questions live through YouTube.  It will spotlight Red Bull’s Artistic Director Daniel Sullivan, who has directed more than forty productions on Broadway, and scores of productions Off Broadway and regional theatres around the country, and Nathan Winkelstein, the company’s Associate Artistic Director, who has directed productions around the country, including The Folger, the Tobacco Factory and Shakespeare Theater Company of New Jersey.  They will read passages from the scene and discuss subtext, character and friendship in Shakespeare.  The event is free, but advance reservations are recommended.  Details on both events can be found at

“Inside the Wild Heart,” an interactive video presentation by Group POD BR of a theatrical adaptation of the work of Clarice Lispector, one of Brazil’s most important figures, will play a three-week limited engagement online with a special software, .  On the site, audiences will be able to navigate through the virtual space and enjoy three floors of video performances, photography, and audio.  Performances begin on Friday, November 27 and continue through Sunday, December 20.  “Clarice Day,” celebrating Lispector’s centennial, will include a talk-back with cast, panels, readings and discussions.  Tickets for all performances are available at


Stars in the House, to benefit the Humane Society of New York, will be presenting a special episode on Friday, November 27 at 8 PM.  It will be featuring Broadway stars [and their ‘people’] Sierra Boggess, Lilli Cooper, Darius de Haas, Andy Karl, Jose Llana, Jesse Mueller, Orfeh, Paige Price, Kate Rockwell, Doug Sills and Will Swenson, on the YouTube channel and   Stars in the House airs new episodes with stars of stage and screen on Mondays-Saturdays at 8 PM, to benefit the Actors Fund and various charities, including those that provide services to those most vulnerable to the effects of Coronavirus [Covid-19] . . .Kind Music Group, in conjunction with Damon and Elliott ”Christmas/80th,” a celebration starring Dionne Warwick in a live virtual event, will take place on Saturday, December 12th at 7 PM.  Joining her will be Johnny Mathis, the Oak Ridge Boys & John Rich, Billy Ray Cyrus and Aloe Blacc.  For information, go to . . . and if you had been planning to see the revival of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man,” starring Sutton Foster, Hugh Jackman, Jayne Houdyshell, Shuler Hensley, Jefferson Mays and Marie Mullen, which would have been running now, but got 86’d due to Covid-19, take heart.  The production is back on the books, scheduled to begin previews on April 7th, 2021, and opening on May 20th.  So if you’re coming from ‘Gary, Indiana’ by way of the ‘Rock Island’ line or ‘The Wells Fargo Wagon,’ you’ve got plenty of time to get out the brass polish for your ‘Seventy-Six Trombones.’  ‘Good Night, Ladies.’

On Book

Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” won the 1958 Tony Award for Best Musical, beating out “West Side Story.”  To learn more about this remarkable playwright, check out ‘And There I Stood with My Piccolo,’ from the University of Minnesota Press, which chronicles his life, growing up in Mason City, Iowa, and going on to playing the flute with John Philip Sousa’s band and the New York Philharmonic.  He also penned “But He Doesn’t Know the Territory, from the same publisher, telling the story of his bird’s eye view of the making of his iconic musical . . . history is being made in a rather dark way as Broadway remains shuttered, due to the fear of spreading the virus.  One man who spent more than fifty years’ working for and with the unique Shubert family was Gerald Schoenfeld.  His memoir, ‘Mr. Broadway,’ a title drawn from the nickname he was known for, reveals the inside family of that theatrical producing family, and kicks off with a foreword by Hugh Jackman.


TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS series about theatre ‘Character Studies.’  His play “Admissions,” winner of the Best Play Award at the New York International Fringe Festival, directed by Austin Pendleton,  is published by Playscripts.  His play “Maisie Drags Grover to the Theatre” is published by ArtAge.  He has written several other plays and musicals.  As an entertainment reporter, he has written for Parade, The Christian Science Monitor, Dramatics Magazine, and dozens of other publications.  He won the CableAce  Award-winning  ‘Test of Time’ for Lifetime Television.  He has taught theatre classes at HB Studio, Columbia University’s Teachers College, and other institutions.  He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including theatre packages, are available at, the Carmel App, or at 212 – 666 – 6666.



Intermission Talk

Monday, October 26th, 2020

Wide Variety of Productions

Usher in the Fall 2020 Season



Broadway’s Harry Potter, James Snyder, joins the production of “Shakin’ the  Blues Away: A Virtual Gala for Goodspeed,” a fund-raising event in support of the nationally-known Goodspeed Opera House, which has been closed since the arrival of Covid-19.  The two-time Tony Award winning theatre benefit will premiere on October 29, and feature stars of Goodspeed and Broadway, performing numbers from classic Broadway musicals.  Also set to perform are  Troy Anthony, Klea Blackhurst, Bryan Thomas Hunt, Gizel Jimenez, Rashidra Scott, Kelly Sheehan, Alysha Umphress and Nicholas Ward.  The event will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Scripps Family Fund for Education and the Arts.  Information about memberships, tickets [$25] and event information is available at  It premieres on October 29th, and will be available for ticket-holders to watch for the entire week after the premiere … the new musical “Ecclesiastes: The Circus of Life,” developed in southern California, will stream on October 30th at 9 PM, featuring Broadway’s Adrianna Hicks, Amanda Jane Cooper, Antoine L. Smith, Eryn LeCroy, Courtney Iventosch and Taurean Everett.  Book,  music,  lyrics and concept are by Dustin Ceithamer, directed by Jonathan Arana and Melissa Molner.  The musical delves into the human experience of the pursuit for meaning, purpose and satisfaction, with the backdrop being the whimsy, fantasy and illusion of circus life.  For the event link and additional information, visit Level Ground . . . nominations in the 25 competitive categories for the Tony Awards were announced by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, co-presenters of the awards.  No date for the ceremony has been announced yet.  The nominees for Best Musical are Diablo Cody’s “Jagged Little Pill” [15 nominations],

John Logan’s  “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” [14], and “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical,” by Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins [12].”  Best Play nominees are Beth Wohl’s “Grand Horizons”  [2], Matthew Lopez’s “The Inheritance”  [11], Simon Stephens and Nick Payne’s  “Sea Wall/A Life” [[4],  Jeremy O. Harris’s “Slave Play” [12] and Adam Rapp’s “The Sound Inside” [6].  Best Play Revival nominees are “Betrayal” [4], Terrence McNally’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” [2], and Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play” [7].   The 2019/2020 eligibility season began on April 26, 2019 and ended February 19, 2020. . . the Drama Desk and Obie Award-Winning Keen Company wraps up its 21st year with a reimagining of the classic radio drama “Hear/Now,” will feature Tony nominee Lilli Cooper on November 2nd .  Details are available at . . YouTube is home for four outstanding monologues.  They include Samuel Beckett’s 15- minute work “Not F,” performed by Billie Whitelaw.  Also available are “Zoom Intervention,” by Noelle Vidas,  Alan Bennett’s “A Chip in the Sugar,” John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” and “L.A. Yoga ______” from Stephen Adly Guirgis” . . . described by The New York Times as “a totally online theatrical experience,” writer-director Sara Fillini’s “Luna Colt  Eclipse” will be premiered by spit&vigor on November 4, running to December 13th.  Advance reservations and details about the work are available at…. Colt Coeur reunites the original cast of Stacy Rose’s award-winning “America v. 2.1” for a live-stream reading November 21st-25th.  The story presents a day in the life of a troupe of historical re-enactors charged with telling the tragic tale of what was once the American Negro, a woeful race once featured prominently in the American landscape, whose time has been extinguished.  Director is Logan Vaughn.  Tickets can be obtained at  Eventbrite. . . Adventure Players Live! Presents Interactive Online Performances for Children

on Fridays in November and December, at 4 PM, via Zoom.  Children from 5 to 9 visit the Great Great Forest, an interactive world filled with whimsical characters and wild places.  Tickets are $20 per family, and are available at . . . thanks to a generous donation from the Berlanti Family Foundation,  Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley’s “Stars in the House” will mark Election Day, November 3rd with a 10-hour marathon from 9 AM to 7 PM.  Special guests include Dana Delaney, Jessie Mueller, Megan Hilty, Jeremy Jordan, Bellamy Young,  Marc Shaiman, Vanessa Williams, Adam Pascal, Peri Gilpin, Anika Larsen, Judy Kuhn, Marilu Henner, Annette Bening and Kelli O’Hara.  Visit for details . . . “That Kindness: Nurses in their Own Words,” by V [formerly Eve Ensler], has been extended until November 3rd at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  The work honors the selfless act of service, revealing raw, passionate testimonies from the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The production, detailed at, features music by Marley, stars Ed Blunt, Connie Britton, Rosario Dawson, Stephanie Hsu, LaChanze, Liz Mikel, Rosie O’Donnell, Billy Porter, Dale Soules, Marisa Tomei and Monique Wilson.

TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS series about theatre, ‘Character Studies.’  His play “Admissions,” winner of the Best Play Award at the New York International Fringe Festival, was performed three times in New York, directed by Austin Pendleton, and is published by Playscripts.  His play “Maisie Drags Grover to the Theatre” is published by ArtAge.  He has written several other plays and musicals.  As an entertainment and arts feature reporter, he has written for Parade, The Christian Science Monitor, Rolling Stone, Theatre Week, Dramatics Magazine and dozens of other publications.  He wrote the CableAce Award-winning “The Test of Time” for Lifetime Television.  He has taught theatre classes at HB Studio, Columbia University and other institutions.   He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including theatre packages, are available at, the Carmel App, or at 212 – 6666.


Intermission Talk

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

Broadway Performers

Find Places to Perform



Tony nominee Tony Roberts headlines a three-part event on September 29th at 2 PM, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Food for Thought Productions.  Roberts will read excerpts from his autobiography ‘Do You Know Me?’ followed by Peter Stone’s ‘Commercial Break,” and ‘Come On,’ by Susan Charlotte.  The event will be held at Theatre 80 St. Marks, both live and streaming.  Anthony Marsellis directs the cast, which also includes Rex Reed, Jodie Markel and Stephen Schnetzer.  The audience for the live performance,  which is free, must wear masks and have been recently tested for Covid-19 . . . ‘Stars in the House’ hosts Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley will present George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ on Sunday, September 27th at 2 PM, to benefit the Actors Fund. Performances are free and will remain on line for four days after the initial live broadcast.   Inspired by Gingold Theatrical Production Group’s acclaimed 2019 production, it is directed by host David Staller, and features original cast members Jeff Applegate, Rajesh Bose, Brenda Braxton, Robert Cuccioli, Dan Domingues and Jonathan Hadley, joined by Mirirai Sithole.  Additional details are available at

Brooklyn’s Invisible Dog Art Center’s ‘Static Apnea,’ performing through October 17, promises to leave you breathless, literally.  The piece recreates the frightening sensation of suffocating underwater.  Conceived and directed by Christopher McElroen, and co-presented by American Vicarious, []   the piece is housed in a 40-foot long storage container, with mirrors on both walls.  At the end of a long tunnel, a woman appears [either Isabella Pinheiro or Jenny Tibbels], who instructs you to hold your breath as she rattles off a series of questions, such as ‘What does blue feel like?’  The title refers to the practice of holding one’s breath underwater for as long as possible.  [The record for a woman is 9 minutes and 3 seconds.]  Caution is advised if you, like this reporter, suffers from hydrophobia.

You might need to get your feet wet, but if you are really hungry for live theatre, it may take a trip across the pond to get your desire satisfied.  Two London productions are currently running that have opened up the chance to see a real stage peopled with real actors . . .The Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre is currently showcasing a theatrical adaptation of the 1993 Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan picture ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ which will run through September 27,  starring Jay McGuiness and Kimberely Walsh.   ‘Sleepless – A Musical Romance,’ [], traces the opposite-ends-of-the-American-continent love story linked by voices on the radio.  [This production, from the new British writing team Robert Scott and Brandan Cull, is not the same as a 2013 production of the same name at the Pasadena Playhouse.]  And on the radar for a November 14 premiere for an eleven-week run at the West End’s Lyric Theatre is ‘Six,’ stringing together the lives and loves of Henry VIII’s many brides.  The musical was slated for a premiere on Broadway last spring, right before the Great White Way was shuttered for the duration of the pandemic . . . Speaking of other continents, in Australia, the Sydney Fringe Festival will showcase more than the native land talent for the stage.  Running now through September 27, its line-up features previously recorded new work not only from its home base, but also from Britain, New Zealand, Israel and the United States.  In addition, their partnership with the Stockholm Fringe Festival will offer live stream productions from Sweden.

Ebony Jo-Ann and Glynn Turman in “Do Lord Remember Me” by James De Jongh. Photo courtesy of New Federal Theatre.

Back on home territory, the New Federal Theatre is planning ‘Black Words Matter – She Speaks, He Speaks, Generations Speak,’ a 2020 virtual poetry jam.  The two-part event, hosted by Rev. Rhonda Akanke Mclean-Nur, will be available on Monday, September 21 and Monday, September 28, both at 7 PM.  Petronia Perry directs a cast of eleven, which includes Nathaniel Swanson, Renee McRae, Sonia Sanchez and Abdolun Oyewole.  NFT will also present ‘Octoberfest,’ a retrospective reading series spotlighting five rarely-done plays, from October 2 to 30.  The event is dedicated to the late actor Chadwick Boseman, whose career began at NFT.  The plays, which all have a 7 o’clock curtain,  are ‘Do Lord Remember Me,’ [October 2] by Jim De Jongh, ‘Dr. DuBois and Miss Ovington,’ [October 9] by Clare Cross, ‘From the Mississippi Delta’ [October 16] by Endesha Ida Mae Holland, ‘Medal of Honor Rag,’ [October 23] by Tom Cole, and ‘Stories of the Old Days, [October 30] by Bill Harris.  Details about all these NFT productions are available at

The Broadway Green Alliance, an ad hoc committee of the Broadway League, will bring together Broadway stars and voting rights experts on Monday, September 21 at 8 PM for a virtual Town Hall meeting.  Participants will present information on how to take actionable steps to mobilize and register voters, research down ballot candidates’ positions and understand how environmental and racial justice issues intersect.  Broadway performers participating in the event include LaChanze, Jenn Colella, Brandon Victor Dixon, Celia Rose Gooding, Javier Munoz, Anthony Rapp and Kirsten Wyatt.  David Alpert serves as Director and Creative Producer for the event, being presented by . . . First seen at the Public Theatre’s Under the Radar Festival a few years ago, Abigail and Shaun Bengson are now offering a mostly sung-through 50-minute set which streams through October 8 at, on a pay-what-you-can basis, for the Actors Theatre of Louisville.  Their pop-folk style is punctuated by gospel laments and hallelujahs, and explores whether we can survive in the shadow of our ever-present awareness of death.  Titled ‘The Keep Going Song,’ it hangs together subjects deeply personal and pressingly universal.  The show was mixed and mastered by Ian Kagey, who opens the proceedings with a ritualized offering, through the T-V screen, of challah bread and grape juice.  The Bengsons’ message is to be open to everything, whether painful or joyful, as part of the same all-transcending package.

On Book

It may take a bit of time, but try to locate ‘Bernard Shaw,’ by Frank Harris.  First published in 1931 by The Book League of America,’ this exceptional work is based on first hand information gathered by Harris, and features a postscript by Mr. Shaw . . . An excellent compilation by African- American playwrights, ‘Black Theatre USA’ was compiled by James V. Hatch and Ted Shine.  Covering the years starting from 1935, the volume includes such iconic works as Lorraine Hansberry’s ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’ ‘Funnyhouse of a Negro’ by Adrienne Kennedy and ‘The Colored Museum’ by George C. Wolfe.


TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS series about theatre, ‘Character Studies.’  His play “Admissions,” winner of the Best Play Award at the New York International Fringe Festival, was performed three times in New York, directed by Austin Pendleton, and is published by Playscripts.  His play ‘Maisie Drags Grover to the Theatre’ is published by ArtAge.  He has written several other plays and musicals.  As an entertainment feature reporter and critic, he has written for Parade, The Christian Science Monitor, Rolling Stone, Theatre Week, Dramatics Magazine and dozens of other publications .  He won the CableAce Award-winning ‘Test of Time’ for Lifetime Television.  He has taught theatre classes at HB Studio, Columbia University’s Teachers College and other institutions.  He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including theatre packages, are available at, the Carmel App, or at 212 – 666 – 6666.


Intermission Talk

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

Theatre Is Alive

And Well – At

Your Fingertips


By Tony Vellela


Helen Mirren makes a special appearance as Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, in England’s Greenwich Theatre project, streaming now, until August 14 on the company’s You Tube channel.  The piece, Steven Berkoff’s “The Secret Love Life of Ophelia,” features a cast of 40. . . the Dramatist Guild’s virtual NYC  Friday Night Footlights series celebrates new dramatic works in progress, and will present “The Wound,” by Elliot Kreloff on Friday, August 14 from 7:30 PM to 8:45 PM.  Attendance is open to all, not limited to Guild members.  Details are available at . . . airing live on Thursdays at 10 PM, “The Gaze” is a dramedy that tracks the 50-year rollercoaster career of Jerome Price, an openly queer black actor, as he struggles against the systemic racism and inequality in the entertainment industry.  This new media series, from award-winning creator Larry Powell [“The Christians,” “The Browsing Effect”], and Tell Me A Story Productions, airs at  Each week’s premiere episode features a live DJ, inspirational words, and a post-show conversation with leading artists and activists . . . Playwrights Horizons’ new artistic director Adam Greenfield is looking ahead to his first season by making a commitment to showcase work by writers of color.  His agenda includes Aleshea Harris’s “What to Send Up When It Goes Down,” Sylvia Khoury’s “Selling Kabul,” Dave Harris’s “Tambo and Bones” and Sanaz Toossi’s “Wish You Were Here.”  He has pared down the line-up from the traditional six productions to four.  Playwrights has also moved ahead with other projects for the coming year, which include the commissioning of new work by eleven writers for the second season of the theater’s scripted science fiction podcast series, as well as launching Lighthouse, a new performance series, to fill the space between scheduled productions.  Greenfield took the helm in July, when Playwright’s artistic director of 35 years Tim Sanford stepped down and passed the baton to his associate artistic director . . .

She’s back!  After two months of successful shows on Facebook, has picked up Jessica Sher’s entertaining homage impersonation of “Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies.”  Performing from her home, Sher will present her one-woman show several times during the next two months.  Performance dates are Thursday August 13th, Thursday August 27th, Thursday September 10th and Thursday September 24th.  All shows are at 7:30 PM.  Tickets are available at . . Paper Mill Playhouse, in Millburn, N.J.,  has added live performances of Brookside Cabaret, at the playhouse’s Carriage House Restaurant at the F. M. Kirby Carriage House.  Saturday evening performances have been scheduled until at least Labor Day, and performances are on Thursday nights through the rest of the summer.  In case of rain, Thursday night performances will be rescheduled to Friday night, and Saturday night performances will be rescheduled to Sunday night.  The August 8th  production features Susan Speidel and Joe Regan, and Matt Castle will be featured on August 6th.  Additional information is available at . .

Theater Breaking Through Barriers, which began in 1979 as Theater by the Blind, celebrating its 40th season, is presenting the 2nd Virtual Playmakers’ Intensive: Voices from the Great Experiment, featuring eight original plays created especially for Zoom, until August 10th .  Live performances will stream, one each evening, on YouTube at 7:30 PM, and on Facebook, at 8:15 PM.  The program features the work of playwrights Fareeda Ahmed, Khalil Le Saldo, Enrique Huili, Christopher Chan Roberson, Chris Phillips, Jeff Tabnick, Ratiana G. Rivera and Monet Marshall.  For more information, visit

On Book

With Broadway on hiatus, it’s interesting to look back on the lives of some of the greats who lit up the Street back in the day.  “George S. Kaufman – An Intimate Portrait,” by Howard Teichmann, chronicles this legendary playwright and stage director’s life during his matchless forty-year career.  Variety credited him with the greatest track record in the history of the American theatre – forty-five plays, many with celebrated collaborators [twenty-six hits] and two Pulitzer Prizes . . . a smart collection of work about Tennessee Williams, “Tenn at One Hundred – the Reputation of Tennessee Williams,”  encompasses the years from his early struggles in the 1930s until his death in 1983.  He was credited with being the most produced playwright in the country, and lived with the pain of being America’s most ridiculed writer.  Edited by David Kaplan, it discusses the events and decisions that marked his esteemed life and career, best known for “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “The Glass Menagerie” . . . Julie Harris once told me that when she went to see the original production of “The Glass Menagerie,” she literally could not leave her seat when it concluded, because she was so overwhelmed by the performance of Laurette Taylor.  Other actors have told me the same story.  To learn about this iconic woman, check out Marguerite Courtney’s “Laurette – The Intimate Biography of Laurette Taylor.”

TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS series about theatre, “Character Studies.”  His play “Admissions,” winner of the Best Play Award at the New York International Fringe Festival, was performed three times in New York, directed by Austin Pendleton, and is published by Playscripts.  His play “Maisie Drags Grover to the Theatre” is published by ArtAge.  He has written several other plays and musicals.  As an entertainment feature reporter and critic, he has written for Parade, the Christian Science Monitor, Rolling Stone, Theatre Week, Dramatics Magazine and dozens of other publications.  He wrote the CableAce Award-winning “Test of Time” for Lifetime Television.  He has taught theatre classes at HB Studio, Columbia University’s Teachers College and other institutions.  He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE,  in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including special theatre packages, are available at, the Carmel App, or at 212 – 666 – 6666.


Intermission Talk

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Not All Theatre

Is On the Stage

By Tony Vellela


Indulge!  Red Bull Theater has announced selections for its tenth annual short new play festival, with its theme ‘Private Lives,’ inspired by Noel Coward’s classic comedy.

The Livestream benefit event, set for Monday, July 20 at 7:30 PM, features new commissions by Jeremy O. Harris and Theresa Rebeck.  They join six new plays selected from hundreds of open submissions from playwrights [more than 500] across the country, including Ben Beckley, Avery Deutsch, Leah Maddrie, Jessica Moss, Matthew Park and Mallory Jane Weiss.  The festival, produced by Craig Baldwin, will be directed by Vivienne Benesch and Em Weinstein.

The festival will be presented by livestream through, Facebook and Youtube.  The event continues this annual undertaking that has inspired more than 2,500 new plays.  In addition to an as yet untitled work by Jeremy O. Harris, the line-up features Rebeck’s ‘The Panel,’ where a theater panel on ‘Private Lives’ goes very quickly off the rails.  Other entries are Beckley’s ‘Outside Time, Without Extension,’ Deutsch’s ‘Old Beggar Woman,’  Maddrie’s ‘Love-Adjacent, or Balcony Plays,’ ‘In the Attic’ from Moss, Park’s ‘Plague Year,’ and ‘Evermore Unrest’ from Weiss.

The Red Bull Theater has presented twenty off-Broadway productions and nearly 200 Revelation Readings of rarely seen classics, serving a community of more than 5,000 artists.  Details of the festival are available at

Originating in 1976, Theater for the New City’s annual five-borough street theater tour will be launched on Saturday, August 1 at 2 PM, at 10th street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan.  This ambitious project is subject to city and state guidelines governing performances, but the current agenda follows this annual celebration of live outdoor theater, presenting new musicals for free in outdoor settings, produced by TNC’s producer, Crystal Field.  Venues include parks, playgrounds and closed-off streets.

Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

L-R: Terry Lee King, Cheryl Gadsden, Mark Marcante. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The schedule for all fourteen events runs from August first until Sunday, September 13 at Manhattan’s Tompkins Square Park, comprising locales in all five boroughs.  Field, who has collaborated for eleven years with composer Mark Hardwick [‘Pump Boys and Dinettes’], has written and directed a completely new opera for the TNC Street Theater company each successive year.  This year’s production, ‘Liberty or Just Us: A City Park Story,’ will be an oratorio depicting a parks manager and his adventures during our time of Covid-19.

The Dramatists Guild’s Friday Night Footlights series, which celebrates new dramatic works in progress, has announced a virtual reading of ‘The Whole is Greater,’ by Ann Timmons.  The comic-drama explores how the lives of a “motivational guru,” a cynical unemployed professor, a corrupt local politician, and a wily Dollar Store cashier unexpectedly intertwine.  The Guild’s Footlights program connects dramatists with free performing space in which to conduct a public reading of a new work that is currently in development.  Operating on a space-grant model, the Guild arranges for a venue to donate space.  This year’s event, where attendance is free, will take place on Friday, July 10 from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, followed by an optional feedback session.  More information, including location of the event, is available from

You may have heard all sorts of rumors, but it is now official.  The Broadway League has formally announced that all fall Broadway performances will be suspended through the remainder of 2020.  Broadway theatres are offering refunds and exchanges for tickets purchased for performances through January 3, 2021.

League President Charlotte St. Martin explained that the ongoing work of planning for the re-opening of productions involves negotiations with all major theatrical unions.  “We’ll be back,” she proclaimed.  “We have so many more stories to tell!”  As details emerge on sale of ticket purchasing for the new season, they will be announced at, including how to purchase tickets for specific productions.  At the time of the suspensions on March 12, 2020, eight new shows were in rehearsals for openings in the spring.

On Book

If you find yourself enjoying the Red Bull Theater Short New Play Festival’s format, try picking up “The Best American Short Plays,” edited by Howard Stein and Glenn Young, from Applause . . . there’s also ‘24 Favorite One-Act Plays,’ edited by Bennett Cerf and Van H. Cartmell . . . and there’s even ‘13 by Shanley,’ a collection of short plays by John Patrick Shanley collected into one volume, also from Applause . . . ‘The Mentor Book of Short Plays’ was edited by Richard H. Goldstone and Abraham H. Lass . . . and finally, ‘One Act: Eleven Short Plays of the Modern Theatre,’ edited by Samuel Moon, featuring works by, among others,  Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams and August Strindberg.

TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS series about theatre, ‘Character Studies.’  His play ‘Admissions’ won the Best Play Award at the New York International Fringe Festival, and received three New York productions, all directed by Austin Pendleton, and is published by Playscripts.  He has written reviews and feature stories about the entertainment world for The Christian Science Monitor, Parade, Dramatics, Reader’s Digest and dozens of other publications.  His play “Maisie Drags Grover to the Theatre” is published by ArtAge Press.  He has taught theatre classes at the 92nd Street Y, HB Studio, Columbia University’s Teachers’ College and other institutions.  His ‘Test of Time’ won the Best Documentary CableAce Award for Lifetime Television.

CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including special theatre packages, and reservations, are available at, the Carmel App, or at 212 – 666 – 6666.




Intermission Talk

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Our Love Affair

With the Street


by Tony Vellela


The long wait is almost over!  It’s now reported that the closed Drama Bookshop, which shuttered last year due to differences of opinion about the use of the space will now have a soft opening in early August.  Doors to the new space will open at 240 west 39th street, about one block south of the previous shop’s site, between 7th and 8th Avenues.  The new space is much larger than the previous location, by 50%.  The actual official opening date will be announced soon, and that news will come to you here as soon as it is made public.

The difficult task of trying to sort out just when Broadway will officially re-open has been the undertaking of the Broadway League, producers, theatre owners, general managers and the related unions that govern performances on either side of the curtain line.  League President Charlotte St. Martin went on record at the start of the corona crisis that an emergency relief agreement had been reached to the satisfaction of all parties.  In accordance with guidelines from  the Centers for Disease Control [CDC], and under the continued direction of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, the suspension will extend at least through June 7. Ticket-holders for suspended performances should contact the management at the point of purchase for information regarding exchanges or refunds.  St. Martin affirmed her organization’s commitment to monitor government guidelines and will advise ticket holders as soon as new restrictions are announced. .The 47 Broadway houses were expected to resume performances in early June, but new guidelines state that that plan had to be amended, with openings now looking like they will occur some time after July 4th, and possibly extending to Labor Day. The entire industry is on pause, at a cost of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars.  St. Martin noted that the industry drew 14.8 million patrons last season and grossed $1.8 million dollars in revenue.  Intermission Talk will announce further news as it becomes available.

In related news, Tony Award Productions, which puts on the awards show, said that the original date was planned for June 7, but has been postponed to a still-undecided date.  The production is a joint operation of the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing and is regularly broadcast on CBS.  To date, two shows that were in previews, “Hangmen” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” have announced that they will not return following the end of the crisis.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts has announced a full week devoted to dance, from Saturday May 30 to Thursday, June 4. Part of Lincoln Center at Home, the offerings will be streamed at and on Lincoln Center’s Facebook Page.  The presentations were filmed during 40 years of performances on the Lincoln Center Campus. The line-up consists of Ballet Hispanico [3 PM, May 30,] The New York City Ballet company production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” [May 30 at 8 PM], the American Ballet Theatre performing at the Metropolitan Opera House [May 31st at 8 PM],  the School of American Ballet Virtual Workshop performance celebration [June 1st at 7 PM], the New York City Ballet’s production of “Coppelia” [June 2nd at 8 PM], The New York City Ballet’s Tribute to Balanchine [June 3rd at 8 PM]  and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater {June 4th at 8 PM].

Following its acclaimed initial offering on May 17, the “Stars in the House” series titled “Plays in the House Jr.,” executive produced by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, will continue to present live-streamed plays for and performed by young people.  New installments will air every Sunday at 2 PM, and will raise money to benefit a different organization across the country that brings theatre to underserved youth.  Each reading will be followed by a Q&A session with the playwright.  Upcoming entries include the play “Do You Read Me?” by Kat Funkhouser on Sunday, May 24 at 2 PM. and “Space Girl,” by Mora Harris on Sunday, May 31st at 2 PM.

The Senior Theatre Resource Center will stream its first streamed show, “Tech Support” by Arthur Keyser, on Wednesday, May 20 and Thursday, May 21 at 4 PM, Pacific time.  Join the cast and Senior Theatre members in a question and answer session.  Go to their Facebook page at  [Full disclosure: ArtAge publishes my comedy  “Maisie Drags Grover to the Theatre.”

Finally, and this one is well-worth waiting for, there is the chance to experience one of the theatre’s all-time great comedies, David Lindsay Abaire’s “Fuddy Meers.”  When it premiered as a Manhattan Theatre Club’s City Center Stage II series in November, 1999, directed by David Petrarca, it featured a great comedy-strong cast including J. Smith-Cameron, Robert Stanton, Mark McKinney and the incomparable, stunning Mary Louise Burke in the central role.. The one-time event will be a live stream performance directed by Shauna Kanter, on Sunday, May 30 at 7:30 PM.  You might stop reading this for a moment to record the time and date.  Details are available at After what we have been enduring, you deserve an A+ comedy release, and this is definitely IT.

On Book . . .

To keep our love affair alive with the Theatre District, check out “The Russian Tea Room: A Love Story,” by Faith Stewart-Gordon, from Scribner.  She is a former owner who attests to the stories about the fabled eatery, including the story that Richard Burton discovered caviar here as a potent aphrodisia, that Leonard Bernstein wrote the opening bars music of his ballet classic “Fancy Free” on a tablecloth here, and that Carol Channing was a frequent guest, but brought her food in silver containers due to her health condition that required a certain diet. . . another tribute to Broadway can be found in veteran Playbill writer Harry Haun’s “ The Cinematic Centuiry,” from Applause Books . . .and to fully prepare yourself for the grand reopening of the Street, indulge in Robert Blumenfeld’s “Dictionary of Musical Theatre,” from the Hal Leonard Corporation. Along with much basic terminology of the American musical theatre, he has folded in foreign terms as well.  It also includes thumbnail plot summaries of many classic shows, biographies of composers and writers and a list of available recordings of many obscure pieces.


TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS theatre series “Character Studies.”  His play “Admissions” was produced three times in Manhattan, directed by Austin Pendleton, and garnered a Best Play Award at New York’s International Fringe Festival, and was published by Playscripts.  His play “Maisie Drags Grover to the Theatre” is published by ArtAge Publications.  He has also written several other plays and musicals, three books, as well as hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles about the entertainment industry.  He has taught at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and HB Studios in New York.  His play “Labor Days” is slated for production during this coming winter.

CARMEL CAR AND LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including special theatre packages, and reservations, are available at, the Carmel App, or at 212 – 666 – 6666.


Intermission Talk

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Keeping Up With Our

Theatre Special Needs




Keep up-to-date on the where’s and when’s. The Broadway League has announced that the best version of what’s coming in the weeks and months ahead for the re-opening of the Broadway season puts the opening some time after the July 4 weekend, and it is possible that the industry will not open until after Labor Day.  In regard to the concluded abbreviated season’s bestowing of the Tonys, no definite plan has emerged to stage a ceremony and the presentation of the awards.  Two shows slated to open for consideration have already been cancelled, and will not be opening once the ban has been lifted.  Those shows are “Hangman” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

In the meantime, those of us who need to keep our connection alive with theatre in general, there are a few options to consider.  For example,  the first Broadway-level podcast musical “Little Did I Know,” featuring the music of three-time Tony Award winner Doug Besterman [‘The Producers,” “Thoroughly Modern  Millie”] along with lyrics by Oscar and Golden Globe winner Dean Pitchford   [“Fame, “ “Footloose”] and Marcy Heisler [“Ever After”], and book by New York Times best-selling author Lou Aronica, with Johanna Besterman is available via a link for all episodes, which are being released every Tuesday through Tuesday, May 12. It features Richard Kind, Lesli Margherita, Patrick Page, Laura Murano, Casey Breves, Sam Tsui and Kurth Hugo Schneider.  For details, go to Little Did I Know.  Enjoy!

AfterPlay – –

If you calculate the amount of time it takes to straighten up the place, get in the car or train or bus, get to the theatre, get seated, see the play [90 minutes to 150 minutes, generally] then the getting-there in reverse, more than four hours are spent enjoying the viewing of a play.  Slice that in half, and use that ‘found’ time that we are all living with during these crisis days, and take advantage of it as something we can use to enhance our theatre-going experience for these coming weeks ahead.  Proposal: use that time to explore aspects of a familiar play that you have always loved, but never really dug deeply into.  This time: Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.’’

When the David Cromer-helmed production closed at the Barrow Street Theatre off-Brodway on 12/16/09, it raked up the longest-running production in the play’s 72-year history, having been presented for 644 performances.

For a start, look at how Wilder titled his beloved work.  He calls it “OUR Town,” meaning it is a shared space, one that is meant to include everyone, regardless of where we live, when we live or how we live.  It is a mutual experience: “Our.”  Not “THE Town,” or “A Town,” or even “SOME Town.”  It is the universal shared town that we all have a connection to.  We are part of it, and we have lived there, or will.  The inhabitants are a universal admixture of types, of professions, of family  backgrounds, and a common level of education, in this instance, high school graduates.  Those who venture off to college are more than likely bound to return to the town to live out their lives with friends, family, neighbors and spouses known to each other since birth.  A stranger is the object of conjecture, though not in a suspicious manner.  And those with a more extended educational experience are likely to hold a position of note.  Listen to Simon Stimson, the church organist, who mostly disguises his distain for the lack of intellectual curiosity among the townsfolk in regard to classical music, when he states “these fools don’t appreciate good music.”  And note that it is Simon, a graduate of a music conservatory that led him to his position at the church, who is discovered wondering the streets at night by the constable, who does not question why Simon is out alone at night, not considering the reasons for his late-night activities. Is he secretly meeting someone from another town?  We don’t know.  What we do know is that he is troubled to the point of taking his own life [hanging himself] that shocks the town, but the people in town always looked on him as a marginal outsider.

And death is no stranger to this town, and to this play.  Despite its reputation as a pastoral, bucolic haven tucked away in the hills, Grover’s Corners has its fair share of dark elements.  It is often chosen as a high school play for students to put on, but its deeper inside story lines have their own emphatic depressing sides.  Besides Simon, it is Mrs. Gibbs, George’s mother, who dies from pneumonia while away visiting her sister, and young Wally, the paper boy, who dies when his appendix bursts.  The most empathic death is that of Emily, the central female character – Emily, married at seventeen, dead at twenty-six.

This is a close-knit community, the kind you sort of wish you were a part of.  When editor Webb suspects that his son is secretly smoking behind the high school, he implores constable Warren to let him know if he sees this transgression.  He tells him “if you see my boy smoking, tell him to stop.  He thinks a lot of you.”

Back-and-forth correspondence exists between Wilder and film producer Sol Lesser, trying to decide how to end the picture version, given Lesser’s belief that America’s great middle and lower classes would not accept having Emily die.  Wilder was at first adamant about keeping his original stage version, but came around to Lesser’s persuasive argument that they would still love the story if she were to go into some sort of coma, and pull out of it, which is the compromise that Wilder eventually agreed to.  So the motion picture wound up showing Emily lapsing into a deep dark sleep after the birth of her child, only to come out of it in the final moments.  Happy Ending.

Delving into the layers of meaning and relationships in our favorite plays can be very rewarding, and make the viewing or the reading of them, or the motion picture transfers, all the more enhanced.  Give yourself a real theatre treat and choose a favorite work tonight instead of another sitcom rerun.

Off Book

A comprehensive collection of Wilder’s most significant plays can be found in “Three Plays: “Our Town,” “The Skin of Our Teeth,” and “The Matchmaker.”  Published by Harper & Row, it includes a preface by the playwright and critical material by Travis Bogard.  The same work can be found in a paperback version from Avon Books.  These collections include his “Matchmaker,” which went on to several afterlives, including a musical adaptation, and then the Broadway box office smash “Hello, Dolly!” to be followed by the film version of the same name, which suffered from the wildly miscast Barbra Streisand in the title role – too young, too snarky.

TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS series about theatre “Character Studies” for PBS.  His play “Admissions” received a Best Play Award at the New York International Fringe Festival, and enjoyed three separate New York off-Broadway productions, all directed by Austin Pendleton, and is published by Playscripts.  His play “Maisie Drags Grover to the Theatre” is published by ArtAge.Publications.  He has written three books, hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, taught at several institutions including Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and HB Studio.  His play “Labor Days”  is slated to be produced off-Broadway in the fall.

CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including special theatre packages, and reservations, are available at, the Carmel App, or at 212 – 666 – 6666.


Intermission Talk

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Keeping Up-To-Date

With the Theatre Scene


By Tony Vellela

Our invaluable, talented theatre casts and crew members have reached an historic agreement between the Broadway League, representing producers, theatre owners and general managers, and the Broadway unions, to reach an emergency relief agreement, now in effect.  This will provide Broadway employees with pay and health insurance during the current suspension of all Broadway shows due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League, announced that “we are a community that cares about each other, and we are pleased that we can offer some relief.  Once we are past this challenging moment,” she added, “we look forward to welcoming everyone back to our theatres, to experience the best of live entertainment together once again.”

In other news, scheduled to premiere this summer, if the crisis averts, is the long-anticipated stage remake of the stage of the television sitcom “Designing Women,” at the Theater-Squared venue in Fayetteville, Arkansas, recently announced by producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason.  Plans call for a Broadway transfer following its run there at a yet undetermined time or site.  The CBS sitcom debuted in 1986, starring Dixie Carter, Jean Smart, Annie Potts, Delta Burke and Meshach Taylor, and ran for seven seasons.

Currently underway are the 24 Hour Plays, which launched live podcasts, begun on Monday, March 16 at 8 PM.  According to artistic director Mark Armstrong, “the 24 Hour Plays is already a singular theater event, but turning it into an audio experience allows us to bring this lighting-in-a-bottle to audiences wherever they find their podcasts.  We are thrilled to partner with WNYC to create something unique during this challenging time, for our friends around the world to enjoy.”  In addition to The 24 Hour Plays and The 24 Hour Musicals in New York City, events take place in London, Los Angeles, Dublin, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Germany, Athens, Finland, Mexico City, Florence and Denmark.  Each live taping of a podcast brings together four writers, four directors, eight actors, one host, one musical guest and a full team of audio engineers, to create recorded events from a live performance, published online in all 24 hours.  At each taping, plays and songs from the musical guest are recorded.  The next morning, two new episodes are available wherever podcasts are found, starting at 9 AM, completing the 24-hour cycle.  Since 1995, the events have featured an array of talent, including Edie Falco, Billy Crudup, Live Schreiber, Phylicia Rashad, Cynthia Nixon and America Ferrera.  Details are available at

On Book

It’s the perfect time to keep your theatre genes percolating with some great tomes, beginning with the impressive 496-page “Broadway – The American Musical,” a welcome addition to anyone’s coffee table.  Compiled by Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon, with a conversational foreword by Julie Andrews, it comes from Applause Books, and the updated, revised edition is a companion book to the six-part PBS series;  featuring a foreword by John Lithgow, “The American Stage,” edited by Laurence Senelick, from The Library of America covers theater from Washington Irving to Tony Kushner.  This invaluable work chronicles essays, historical statements and critiques that will open your eyes to many aspects of the American theatre; veteran critic Michael Billington has penned “The 101 Greatest Plays – from Antiquity to the Present,” the present being 2015, when Guardian Books brought it out.  His compilation makes for great reading, to give you insight into some of the landmark theatre works from the last oh-so-many centuries.  It’s a fun read.

TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the PBS series about theatre, “Character Studies.”  His play “Admissions,’ directed by Austin Pendleton, won the Best Play Award at the New York International Fringe Festival, and is published by Playscripts.  ArtAge published his play “Maisie and Grover Go to the Theatre.”  He has written eleven other plays and musicals, including “Mister,” for Anthony Rapp.  He has written entertainment articles for Parade, Rolling Stone, Theatre Week, Dramatics, The Christian Science Monitor, and several other publications and news services.  His television documentary “Test of Time” won the CableAce Award for Lifetime Television.  He has taught theatre sessions at Columbia University’s Teachers College, the 92nd St. Y and HB Studio, among other institutions.  He is a member of the Writers Guild and the Dramatists Guild.

CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including special theatre packages, and reservations, are available at, the Carmel App, or at 212 – 666 – 6666.



Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

That Jagged Little Pill

May Lead To Grand Horizons.

Ask Harry Townsend


Playwright Bess Wohl named the location of where our central elderly couple lives “Grand Horizons,” the place where the retired come to live as their last stop before Assisted Living, the destination where they go to die, as the husband Bill [played with great specificity by James Cromwell] continues to remind his enduring wife Nancy [the always smart and captivating Jane Alexander].  And when Nancy, in the first spoken words of the play, announces “I want a divorce,” we are off on a trip meant to take us in, to experience what happens next to this bonded couple now seemingly on the edge of splittsville.

The same might be said of Wohl’s play.  As an overall work, it falls somewhat short of presenting a solid story, and instead gives us a cogent and often engaging series of scenes that dramatize the mix in fractured relationships.  Dramatis personae are the couple, their gay son Brian, unhappily single [Michael Urie, displaying the remarkable versatility that is becoming his trademark], their elder son Ben [a stolid Ben McKenzie playing it with conviction] and his near-term pregnant wife Jess [in a role she presents with a tad more conviction than required].  When the news of Nancy’s decision reaches the children, they encamp in the older couple’s living room/kitchen, determined to talk them out of it, an objective not particularly shared by Bill.  A retired pharmacist now enrolled in a class for those who see themselves as future stand-up comics, Bill has found a willing companion in Carla [happily cast with vivacious Priscilla Lopez], who finds Bill amusing and a desirable companion, not assessments shared by his wife.   It is noteworthy to observe that reactions to various developments reflect the disparate ages of audience members, in terms of who can relate to what is happening to the characters.

The stage picture is framed by a scene from above of a series of look-alike houses, meant to drive home the message that those living there are all in the same boat, as it were, waiting to be moved on, to their final venue.  Ben emphasizes that a good marriage is one that doesn’t end.  His wife is employed, conveniently, as a counselor who is generous with her advice to Nancy and Bill, and anyone else who will listen, and she appears to have little impact on the proceedings despite the expected advantage of her career choice.  Partially disaffected son Brian, after everyone has retired, comes back from being out with a pick-up named Tommy [a very effectively aggressive Maulik Pancholy] whose modus operandi is role-playing.  However,  Brian is not in the mood for games, just a sexual brief adventure to take him out of the moment.  When the encounter implodes, Brian is left with nothing but the same despair that got him out of the house in the first place.  When Nancy comes down, she relates to Brian that she once had a secret lover named Hal, with whom she had a relationship back in the day, but it never really went anywhere, despite her lingering longing to make a go of it with him.  Her confession starts much like that of Hannah in Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana” but it continued, as she tells how they managed to keep seeing each other on the QT.  However, it never turned into something more serious, despite her wishes that it would.  She decides to make a go of it with Bill, and stay married to him, and to her job as a librarian.  When she begins to unfold the details of her sexual relationship with Hal in surprisingly graphic detail to Brian, he finally stops her.  In one of the most affecting scenes in the play, Nancy decides not to stop, insisting to her younger son that “I will be a whole person to you!”  It crackles with truth.

There are moments throughout that reveal how the familiarity between Bill and Nancy have never gone away completely.  As he gets ready to pick up a U-Haul to move out his furniture, she tells him to wait while she makes him a sandwich to take for the trip.  Later, a noise from upstairs has Bill reflexively calling up the stairs to find out if she is alright.  Bonds are not easily broken.  And he reveals that he has always known about her trysts with Hal.  And when Brian reveals how barren his life has become, he points the finger at his parents, stating that he has never known how to express intimacy because he never witnessed it between his parents.

Throughout, there are very affecting scenes between various combination of the five people involved.  There is also one between Nancy and Carla, Bill’s comedy sessions paramour, which ends badly when Nancy goes upstairs for something, and Carla takes the opportunity to gather up her things and leave, permanently.  What there is not, however, is enough of a through line that keeps us rooting for one or the other or the other, the other other and his wife.  What we are left with is recollections of those very strong moments, but because it ends inconclusively, it does not fully register as a panorama that comes to a satisfying end.  It’s almost grand.

What is more than grand, much more, is “Jagged Little Pill,” at the Broadhurst.  This electrifying musical is drawn from four songs by Canada’s Alanis Morissette, from her alternative rock album of the same name, released worldwide in June, ’95 and selling more than 33 million copies.  The new musical [a front-runner in the Best Musical Tony Award category] has been written by Diablo Cody and Morissette, along with lyrics from her, and music she wrote with Glen Ballard.  Its foundation does draw from her iconic album, but someone unfamiliar with it will have no trouble having a remarkable adventure in pure theatrics.  It draws from some of the many memorable cuts, such as ‘All I Really Want,’ ‘You Oughta Know,’ ‘Hand in My Pocket,’ and ‘You Learn.’  Ballard is credited with introducing a pop sensibility to her angst, resulting in a score of new jack swing, post-grunge and dance-pop numbers.

We open with a familiar domestic scene where wife and Mom Mary Jane Healy is composing her annual Christmas update letter to friends and family, outlining the events of the previous year in very sanitized fashion.   The opening set is bare, but evolves throughout the show through a wide range of elaborate scenes, aided at times with spectacular lighting from Justin Townsend and effective video design rear projections from Lucy MacKinnon.  From there, we witness the epic occurrences each family member has undergone in much more frank detail, drastically opening up to the real truths of what has happened to each of them, and people they know.  This is a complex tale brough to life by a stellar cast that includes Elizabeth Stanley as Mary Jane [‘M.J.’], her husband Steve [Sean Allan Krill], their A+ student son Nick [Derek Klena,] and their adopted black daughter Frankie [Celia Rose Gooding].  And among their friends is a star-making turn from Lauren Patten, as Frankie’s female girlfriend Jo.  While the whole family is vividly actualized by this great cast, it is Patten, in a magnetic, forceful delivery, who stands out among them as that rare actor who can ‘live’ the lyrics, like the great vocalists of days past always managed to do, singers such as Rosemary Clooney, Jo Stafford, and in particular, Streisand.

The ‘pill’ in question is really a combination of oxycodone and fentanyl, both of which were controlled substances, legally prescribed, for temporary relief from the pain M.J. suffered from a serious car accident, but meant only for short term use.  When the prescriptions ran out, M.J. discovered that she had become dependent on them.  She takes to buying them illegally from a street-cred student in rendezvous behind the movie theatre.  Her dependence grows, as she becomes engulfed while her dependence expands into addiction.  And the ‘perfect’ Mom and wife and community perfectionist becomes trapped, falling into a deeper and deeper state.  This leads to her finally O.D.-ing on the living room floor.  Her downfall follows a series of events.  We see Steve more and more caught up in working longer and longer hours, blindly spending office time to provide for his family.  It also takes place following Frankie’s break-up with Jo, following the daughter’s unexpected attraction to a new male student at school, leaving Jo desolate.  And when Nick attends an end-of-year party at an acquaintance’s house, he finds that he is the only credible witness to the rape of Bella [the powerful Kathryn Gallagher], assaulted as she lay passed out in an upstairs bedroom.  He chooses not to come forward and dispute the girl’s recollection that she was not conscious and therefore did not provide consent to the sexual encounter.  The school, and the town, turn against Bella, claiming that she has manufactured the story, to get attention, and to divert the accomplishments of the popular pupil hosting the gathering.

Each of these happens in isolation from the others.  M.J. at first cautions Nick, just admitted to Harvard, to steer clear of testifying on Bella’s behalf, possibly jeopardizing his chances to take advantage of a bright future career, enmeshing him in a he-said, she-said saga that would capture headlines and paint him as a willing witness.   It is a tale of lost innocence, as the young man sees his life’s possibilities crumbling because of his reluctance to come forward to assist the girl whom her fellow students characterize as ‘overly dramatic, liking attention.’  Frankie fails to alert Jo to the new development in her life, only to be discovered in bed with her new male friend when Jo innocently drops by the house and no one else is at home.  Jo chooses to opt out of her unhappy station as a gay, offbeat girl in a rigid town environment, fleeing to New York’s East Village scene.

As each segment unfolds, they transcend their initial impact to link up as they affect M.J., the wife, the mother, the perfect neighbor and community fixture.  And as the pressures mount, so do M.J.’s need for more and more pills.

What keeps the show from becoming episodic is their interconnectedness to the wife and mother and perfect friend and neighbor.  Wise casting choices made by Stephen Copel give us actors of an indeterminate young adult age, so they can become, among others, high school students and teachers, a pharmacist, and among others, a cop. Instead, the show’s creative team has made some intensely bold creative decisions to keep us wanting more and more, using their collective skills as musicians, choreographers and directors to keep pulling us through the story, breathlessly.  We are introduced to this vivid admixture right at the top, when the conventional chorus morphs into an ensemble of singer/dancer young people who assist in scene changes, personalize stories being told through movement, and at all times inviting us to be absorbed by the dramas being related by the key players.  The effect is not distracting, but rather enhancing, as they give visual images to the emotions of the details of each character’s life.   Morissette’s music and lyrics are heart-wrenching in their directness to human foibles and tragedies.  And Cody does great work in the story-telling department, repeating the strength of her ability to relate a person’s conflicts in her work, in properties such as Showtime’s ‘One Mississippi,’ and her Oscar-winning screenplay for ‘Juno.’   And overall, the collective skills director Diane Paulus displayed in Tony Award shows such as the Best Revivals of “Hair,” “Pippin” and “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” and the current London production of “Waitress,” provide her with a multi-hued palette of motion and silence to leave us wanting to learn more about these people.

East individual tale comes to its own separate conclusion.  M.J. writes that year’s annual Christmas letter, this time in a truth-telling mode, surprising her family, but giving Mary Jane a true new lease on life, without those pills.

Like ‘Grand Horizons,’ George Eastman’s “Harry Townsend’s Last Stand” chronicles another middle-aged child vs. elderly parent tale where the issue is how to handle the responsibilities of parent care.  Only this time, it is a father/son relationship that is examined.

Harry is an 84-year-old retired radio announcer now permanently living in the family’s home in rural Vermont.  His mostly absent son Alan sells real estate in California, and is an infrequent visitor.  And now that Alan’s twin sister Sarah [whom we never see] has learned that her husband’s job will take them to New York fairly soon, the question at hand is ‘What do we do about Dad?’  Harry has become less and less able to fend for himself, putting coffee filters in the freezer, the coffee pot in the oven, and falling asleep with the vacuum clearer still running.  But the old man, a living definition of the terms ‘codger’ and ‘old fogie,’ is defiantly independent, even forgetting that his long-bonded wife has passed away.  He takes to speaking out loud to her, as though she is in the next room.  Alan comes home, ostensibly to pay a rare visit, but in actual fact, there to make arrangements for his father to move into an assisted living facility in town.  Some of Harry’s contemporaries already live there.

The term ‘dramedy’ came into regular usage a generation ago, referring to certain television programs that sought to combine comedy with serious drama, not always successfully.  It migrated quickly to the stage, to describe plays that had a real story to tell, but peppered with jokes that stood out like that famous thumb.  ‘Harry Townsend’s Last Stand’ fits that category.

Len Cariou as Harry easily projects the hail-fellow-well-met persona that made him a local celebrity.  As Alan, Craig Bierko brings someone less credibility to his role, instead seeming to go from beat to beat in a rather pedestrian delivery.  Harry has already taken to filling out the necessary forms to move Harry, but has a great deal of difficulty letting him know what’s ahead.

The Vermont chalet features outstanding scenic design work from Lauren Helpern, showing us the parts of the life Harry and his wife enjoyed for decades in that home, from board games and a well-placed fireplace, to ice skates and snow shows tucked away in a corner near the front door.  Who would want to leave such a comfortable place?  Well, certainly not Harry.

The drama part becomes fairly known to an audience soon after Alan arrives, despite his inability to broach the topic.  The comedy part struggles to land comfortably within the proceedings, instead coming across as a series of jokes hanging off Harry’s ribald sense of bawdy humor.  He manages to turn almost every banter-like conversation into a ‘life lesson’ about sex for his son, who is not in need of this tutelage.  While sister is away, with Alan taking her place as Harry’s daily caretaker, how to take into consideration his daily needs is covered in a list of instructions from her, on the kitchen counter.  They include noting that Harry does not like soup, preferring instead ‘fork food,’ and would choose pizza with mushrooms, sausage and anchovies whenever possible.

The proceedings strive to attain the same impact as the Elaine May vehicle several seasons back, Kenneth Lonergan’s “Waverly Gallery,’ where parent, child tensions are organically played out.   And though possessing acting cred equal to that of May, Cariou, who won his Tony Award for bringing to fierce life Sweeny Todd in Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,’ is hampered by the uneven writing.  How the material is received by an audience depends in part on the ages and life experiences they possess.  Those with no parent issues to content with, or not yet the age when creeping dementia poses a serious problem, may not warm to the proceedings as much as others.

There is poignancy in seeing Harry become nearly defeated when his memory fails him, struggling to remember facts about his friends and family, and how to manage daily undertakings.  The character seeks to be endearing, both in the writing and the performance.   His plaintive admonishment that ‘Memories keep us old folks alive’ will ring true to those with a similar situation to compare to.

Predictably, Harry is resigned to his fate, saying a stoic good-bye to the place.  His blunt assessment to his station in life that ‘nobody needs me for anything anymore’ reveals the deeply-felt pain he has been battling for many years, and hiding away in his well-practiced attempts at wit.


The Peccadillo Theater Company mounts an unusual production. ‘Sideways: The Experience” brings to the stage an adaptation of Rex Pickett’s popular novel, adapted by the author, and its subsequent film, and combines a theatre event with a ‘Tasting Room’ food and wine event, overseen by the wine retailer Wine Access, and the food curator Mary Giuliani.  Directed by Dan Wackerman, the double-barrel production runs from February 20 through April 12, at Theatre at St. Clement’s.  Details are available at for dates and costs. . . . anyone looking to build a career in theatre is invited to visit www.Careers.Broadway, presented by The Broadway League, as a service to the wide audience of people interested in theatre.  The site seeks to demystify what goes on beyond the boards, in the offices and backstage of theatrical productions . . . the League recently announced its annual demographics report covering the period 2018-2019, stating, for example, that Broadway welcomed a record high number of admissions by non-Caucasian theatregoers, and welcoming more than 3 million admissions by those under 25 . . . currently underway is Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series, featuring programming from David Rubenstein Atrium, and the LC Kids series for children and teens.  The American Songbook events run through February 29, featuring artists performing Broadway, folk, classical and more . . . later this year, Cynthia Nixon will direct Jane Chambers’ “Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, which debuted off-Broadway in 1980.  The play, to be produced by Ellen DeGeneres, Lily Tomlin, Harriet Newman Leve, Portia de Rossi and Jane Wagner, follows the story of a straight woman who unknowingly joins a group of lesbians on their summer vacation.

On Book

Acclaimed as one of last century’s most influential playwrights, affecting among others Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, August Strindberg wrote an extraordinary collection of plays that dug deeply into interrelationships between people, married or not.  One of his most famous is ‘Dance of Death,’ about a married couple under extreme distress.  To learn more about Strindberg, check out the comprehensive and accessible biography by Sue Prideaux, from Yale University Press . . . if great theatrical couples interest you, none was more impactful than the one between Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya.  Their turbulent life apart and together is well chronicled  in Ethan Mordden’s ‘ Love Song,’ from St. Martin’s Press . . . another couple who took on societal norms on two continents was the love relationship between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.  For insight into their time together, pick up ‘When This You See Remember Me – Gertrude Stein in Person,’ by W. G. Rogers, from Discus Books, published by Avon.

TONY VELLELA wrote and produced the theatre series ‘Character Studies,’ for PBS.  His play ‘Admissions’ won the Best Play award at the New York International Fringe Festival, was produced three times in New York, directed by Austin Pendleton, and is published by Playscripts.  His play ‘Maisie and Grover Go to the Theatre’ is published by ArtAge.  His documentary ‘Test of Time’ garnered a CableAce Best Documentary Award.  He has covered theatre and the entertainment world for a variety of publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Parade, Rolling Stone, Dramatics Magazine, Reader’s Digest and dozens of others.  He has taught theatre classes at HB Studio, Columbia University’s Teachers College and other institutions.  He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

CARMEL CAR & LIMOUSINE SERVICE, in business since 1978, has been selected as the official transportation company for Intermission Talk.  Its wide variety of services, including special theatre packages, and reservations, are available at, the Carmel App, or at 212 – 666 – 6666.