The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has selected six finalists for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, recognizing playwrights for the best scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2016.

The top award of $25,000 and two citations of $7,500 each, plus commemorative plaques, will be presented April 8 at Actors Theatre of Louisville during the Humana Festival of New American Plays. At $40,000, Steinberg/ATCA is the largest national new play award program of its kind.

In 1977, ATCA began to honor new plays produced at regional theaters outside New York City, where there are many awards. No play is eligible if it has gone on to a New York production within the award year. Since 2000, the award has been generously funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

The finalists, including comments from the judging panel:

"in a word" by Lauren Yee – "Important and honest questions are being asked, here," commented one panelist. "Yee's masterful drama about a mother's living nightmare after a child's disappearance is a mystery of word puzzles" that are "lyrical and haunting and very well-constructed." "To have an ending that is satisfying dramatically but still appropriately unresolved is a tough nut to crack and this one does it." "in a word," received a rolling world premiere via the National New Play Network at the San Francisco Playhouse, the Cleveland Public Theatre, and Chicago's Straw Dog Theatre.

"The Ice Treatment" by Nate Eppler – "Compelling, with fast moving story and well-constructed dialogue...plus a cosmonaut," opined one panelist of Eppler's darkly funny take on celebrity, concerning a "modern day, working-class monster—or is she?" "Always on the verge of careening out of control, the tonal shifts are wild," chimed in others of this "interrogation of the American Dream" as an ice skater "writes her own story, regardless of the truth. "The Ice Treatment" had its world premiere at Actors Bridge Ensemble in Nashville, TN.

"Man in the Ring" by Michael Cristofer – With "the inexorable feel of a classic tragedy," this drama "with its Caribbean songs and its rhythm and thrust, seems at first to be a play of beautiful and utter simplicity. But au contraire." Based on the true story of a boxer who killed a man in the ring, "the playwright threads through guilt and tragedy, weaving past and present together seamlessly." This rich play stays "within the playwright's total control while allowing for the frayed edges that make it feel alive and not premeditated." "Man in the Ring" premiered at Chicago's Court Theatre.


Playwright Tracy Letts

"Mary Page Marlowe" by Tracy Letts – "Generous and incredibly specific," Letts' play drew panelists in "by both the flawed, multifaceted woman at the play's center and how the non-linear storytelling painted this vivid picture of her." Added others: "The beauty of this play, the originality, the well-crafted scenes – with a scope so much larger than so many 'issue' plays" brought to life "an imperfect, fascinating, stalwart character...who doesn't yield her story to any of the people around her." "Mary Page Marlowe" premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.

"Time is On Our Side" by R. Eric Thomas – Who gets to tell our stories? And why do they tell them? Those are some of the questions asked in Thomas' tale of podcasters who discover a hidden diary. The play features "fantastic language," and "sharp wit" that "could have become a sentimental mess at any moment but somehow always saved itself." "Time is On Our Side" premiered at Philadelphia's Sympatico Theatre.

"Visiting Edna" by David Rabe – With "extraordinarily constructed dialogues and monologues that are simultaneously wide-ranging and super specific," Rabe's play is primarily focused on a dying mother and her son but with characters including her TV...and Cancer itself. "While aging and dying may be all around us in the theater, right now," commented one panelist, "I found this play particularly brave and honest and deep, without getting sentimental or trying to be existentially profound, about what it means to face death (both for mother and son). I can't shake this play. And I don't want to." "Visiting Edna" had its world premiere at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre.

These six finalists were selected from eligible scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country. They were evaluated by a committee of theater critics, led by Lou Harry of the Indianapolis Business Journal/IBJ.com.

ATCA's New Play Award honorees have included Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Mac Wellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Donald Margulies, Moises Kaufman, Craig Lucas and Robert Schenkkan. Last year's honoree was "Vietgone" by Qui Nguyen. For a full list of all of our winners and runners-up, go to www.americantheatrecritics.org.


'Fences' builds to a good start at the box office

Monday, 02 January 2017 04:29 PM Written by


Denzel Washington introduces a screening of "Fences" for the Pittsburgh-based cast and crew at SouthSide Works. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)

"Fences" is having a pretty good holiday at the box office.

The Denzel Washington-directed movie of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play cost about $24 million to make. The Paramount release earned $12.7 million on its first Friday to Monday weekend and has made $32 million overall, writes Forbes.com today, which "makes it Denzel Washington’s biggest directorial effort yet," the site said.

The L.A. Times wrote that the "total already puts 'Fences' in the box office neighborhood of such past play adaptations as 'Doubt' and 'Closer.' "

Mr. Washington and "Fences" co-star Viola Davis are nominated for Golden Globes as best actor and best supporting actress. The Globes ceremony is Sunday at 8 p.m. on NBC, with Jimmy Fallon hosting.


Ben Platt, center, leads a uniformly fine cast in "Dear Evan Hansen." (Matthew Murphy)

My "Best of Broadway Musicals, 2016" -- I haven't seen that much, but certainly I saw some great productions and performances. I am most looking forward to "Come From Away" in the new year.

1. "Dear Evan Hansen" -- The most original musical I've seen in a long time, and the most of-the-moment, came to Broadway after winning a slew of Obies off-Broadway. Ben Platt's troubled teen is a magnificent mess and Pasek and Paul's songs, whether funny or poignant, convey urgency as the tension builds. I can't get "Waving Through a Window" out of my head.

2. "She Loves Me" -- An old-fashioned love story that has been retold often because it's just that good. The Roundabout Theatre revival had some of theater's most likable stars in Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi and Jane Krakowski on a Tony-winning confection of a set.

3. "The Color Purple" -- Like "She Loves Me," I saw this not long before the Tony Awards. Cynthia Erivo's performance as Celie was phenomenal. I turned to my son Josh at some point and said, "Give her the Tony now." Well, they waited a few weeks. Danielle Brooks and Heather Headley also were amazing in the revival by less-is-more director John Doyle.

4. "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" -- OK, so Josh Groban wasn't there the night I got to see it. But effervescent Denee Benton (CMU '14) was. A kernel of Tolstoy's "War and Peace" is reimagined with dramatic twists and engaging performances, in an immersive setting. The costumes are fab, too.

5. "Falsettos" -- This was purely about star power and getting to finally see a production of a musical whose songs I have known forever. "The Baseball Game (Watching Jason Play Baseball)" triggers a million memories. Seeing this limited-engagement "Falsettos" with Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Stephanie Block and Brandon Uranowitz was irresistible.

6. "Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed" -- There were consequences to building a show around Audra McDonald, only because also present were Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Adrienne Warren, Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry (the latter two now starring in New York and Chicago productions of "Hamilton" and Warren is headed into a Tina Turner musical). McDonald became pregnant and the producers decided the show could not go on, but for a shining moment, the overly ambitious musical was packed with show-stopping songs and dance numbers by Savion Glover.

Honorable mention, for joyful entertainment:

  • "Something Rotten!," soon to be here as part of PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh, is a zany songfest for lovers of Shakespeare and those who don't like him so much. After the Broadway production closes Jan. 1, current stars Rob McClure, Adam Pascal and John Grisetti head out on tour. Can't wait to see the big production number "It's a Musical" on the big Benedum stage.
  • "School of Rock," Tony-nominee Alex Brightman and a bunch of amazing kids. "School of Rock" also raised the awareness of Andrew Lloyd Webber to the great need for musical intstruments and education in New York public schools, and he put his fortune to work in that effort. Nice going, Sir Andrew.

For a long time, I knew Alice T. Carter only as the critic across the aisle. I was the newbie Post-Gazette theater writer, joining Chris Rawson on the beat, and she was the longtime Tribune Review theater critic, a fierce rival and a woman devoted to Pittsburgh theater, from high schools to the pros. It wasn't until I became a Gene Kelly Awards judge -- she had me by more than a decade there -- that we really sat talked and I could fully experience the passion and joy she got from her job and her family.
Alice died Nov. 26 of complications from a stroke. She was 69.
She was an active member of the American Theater Critics Association, which issued this statement after her passing:
"A passionate, lively personality, Alice served ATCA as its hard-working secretary, c.2000-04. As president of Foundation ATCA for several years thereafter, she supervised the publication of ATCA’s Under the Copper Beech: Conversations with American Theater Critics, ed. Jeffrey Jenkins (2004). She died Nov. 26, age 69, following a stroke. She will be profoundly missed."
ATCA members from other cities also offered tributes:
  • "I'm pretty sure she's taking copious notes somewhere …" -- Rick Pender, who writes about the theater scene from Cincinnati to Kentucky.
  • "Alice was a force of nature" -- Jeffrey Jenkins, a writer and head of the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • "Pittsburgh was indeed fortunate to have her, and so was ATCA. I'm glad that I was active when she was" -- Robert Faires, a critic and arts editor for The Austin Chronicle.
  • "To Alice's family and loved ones: Thank you for sharing her with all of us. It was our honor to be in her company" -- Bill Hirschman, ATCA executive committee chairman and founding publisher and chief critic of Florida Theater On Stage.
At home, colleagues and members of the theater community expressed shock and sadness. Andrew Paul of Kinetic Theatre and formerly of PICT said he had lunch with Alice within weeks of her passing.
Many were quick to react on social media. I found out when I read the Facebook post by Patrick Jordan, head of barebones productions, who summed up what she meant within the local theater community. "I am terribly heartbroken to hear of Alice Carter's passing," he wrote. "I am currently in a bit of a state of shock. Alice was as instrumental in the development of barebones and the theater community in Pittsburgh in general as anyone I can think of. Alice got it. She understood and actually cared about our community and was a huge part of it. I am going to have to let this sink in but I can't imagine not talking to her about shows upcoming, past, and present. My thoughts and love go out to Rod and Alice's family. Rest in peace Alice you were one of a kind."
Filmmaker/playwright/theater artist Gab Cody wrote on Twitter: "So very sad to hear that Alice Carter has passed. Such an enthusiastic, supportive, talented piece of our community."
For those who want to pay their respects, friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, and from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, in the Healy-Hahn Funeral Home, 512 Grant Ave., Millvale. The family suggests memorial donations be may be made in lieu of flowers to the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, PO Box 9024, Pittsburgh, PA 15224.

On the heels of its stage production of "To Kill A Mockingbird," Prime Stage Theatre will present a seated reading of "Take Me Out" playwright Richard Greenberg's play "Three Days of Rain" next Sunday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Prime Stage Studio, 840 Saw Mill Run Blvd., West End. ​

Vince Ventura directs the reading, part of the theater's 20th-anniversary season, which continues the themes of memory, family and legacy that are part of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Tickets are $15  at www.primestage.com or $20 at the door; all ages are welcome.

The play is described as "an intergenerational story during which three adult children of two successful architects piece together their family histories through their personal memories and impressions, as well as a journal belonging to their father. The characters learn to discover their parents, not as monsters or saints, but as human beings."

Greenberg is a veteran playwright with degrees from Harvard, Princeton and Yale. He won a Tony Award in 2003 for "Take Me Out," which premiered in London and, later that year, on Broadway.

The reading is part of Prime Stage's 2nd Stage@Prime Stage series.


Point Park University’s Conservatory Theatre Company opens it's season with the rock opera "The Who’s Tommy," based on the album with music and lyrics by Pete Townshend.

The Tony Award-winning musical follows Tommy, who after seeing his mother’s lover murdered by his father, becomes catatonic. Suffering abuse as a kid, Tommy discovers the arcade game as a teen and becomes an international superstar. Hit songs include the "Pinball Wizard," "The Acid Queen" and "Sensation." 

The Point Park production, directed and choreographed by Zeva Barzell, runs through Oct. 30 in the Rockwell Theatre, Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Friday, and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20-24 and students and seniors $10 at 412-392-8000 or www.pittsburghplayhouse.com.


Mei Lu Barnum (Nurse), Gabriel Florentino (Young Tommy) and Jack Holmes (Doctor) in the Point Park Conservatory production of "The Who's Tommy."

Upcoming at CMU:

The Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, which opened its season last week with "The Playboy of the Western World," continues its season Nov. 9-11 with "I'm Very Into You" by Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark, adapted and directed by Sara Lyons, and Nov. 17-Dec.3 with Aphra Behn's "The Rover," directed by David Bond.

"I'm Very Into You" (Directors Series): The show derives from the writers' real-life experiences. In 1995, Acker and Wark met at a conference in Australia and fell into a love affair. After Acker returned to San Francisco, they exchanged emails and fell in love as they delved into their struggles to understand gender and sexuality. The play explores "how intimacy and relationships are redefined online, underscored by these writers' radicalism, lust and desire to be together."
Showtimes are 9 p.m. Nov. 9-10 and 4 and 8 p.m. Nov. 11. More at http://drama.cmu.edu/box-office/im-very-into-you/

"The Rover": Aphra Behn wrote the Restoration comedy in the 17th century after being betrayed by the English king. "The Rover" is described in exclamation points by CMU: "The banished cavaliers! A roving blade! A popish carnival! A masquerade!" as well as "timeless shenanigans and thought-provoking moments about a group of gentlefolk defending their rights to love and honor."

Showtimes are 8 p.m. Nov. 17-18 and 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 19, then 8 p.m. Nov. 29-Dec. 2 and 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 3. More at http://drama.cmu.edu/box-office/the-rover/.

Upcoming at Pitt:

The University of Pittsburgh Theatre Department brings back the '60s with "Hair," the rock musical by Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt McDermot that produced hit songs such as the title track, "Aquarius," "Good Morning Starshine" and "Easy to Be Hard." The Pitt production is directed by Cynthia Croot at the Stephen Foster Memorial's Charity Randall Theatre, 4301 Forbes Ave.

"Hair" rocks Oakland Nov. 10-20, 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. More at http://www.play.pitt.edu/content/hair. 




Leslie Odom Jr. and Phil Collins perform during the opening ceremony of the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, Aug. 29, 2016. (Uli Seit/New York Times)

Tony Award-winner Leslie Odom Jr. harmonized with Phil Collins on "Easy Lover" to help open the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York Monday. The CMU grad and "Hamilton's" original Aaron Burr joined Collins, who performed some of his hits in his first public performance in six years. (Odom comes in at about 7:30 on the video of Collins' performances.)

Prime Stage offers 'Perks'

Prime Stage Theatre's 20th season will include the stage adaptation of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," from the novel and screenplay by Pittsburgher Stephen Chbosky. The coming-of-age story that became a Pittsburgh-filmed movie was staged in November of last year by director Hailey Rohn and Penn State University's No Refund Theatre.

Prime Stage's focus is bringing to life popular pieces of literary work. The 2016-17 slate at the New Hazlett Theater:

Nov. 4-13, 2016: "To Kill a Mockingbird."
March 312, 2017: "1984."
May 5-14, 2017: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

Tickets and more: www.primestage.com.


'In Transit' connections

As if director-choreographer extraordinaire Kathleen Marshall wasn't enough of a Pittsburgh connection, the Broadway-bound a capella musical "In Transit" has announced casting with several actors who passed through our city on the way to the New York stage. Carnegie Mellon graduate and "Allegiance" star Telly Leung and Erin Mackey, who starred for Pittsburgh CLO in "Kopit & Yetson's Phantom," will join Justin Guarini and James Snyder -- seen recently as Lieutenant Joe Cable in PCLO's "South Pacific" -- in the cast.


The musical is by the team of Academy Award-winner Kristen Anderson-Lopez ("Frozen"), James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth. The cast also includes David Abeles, seen here recently as Miss Trunchbull in the "Matilda" tour and 2016 America’s Got Talent contestant Moya Angela. Previews begin Nov. 10, after "Fun Home" vacates Broadway’s Circle in the Square, and he show opens Dec. 11.




Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” starring Pittsburgh’s own Christian Borle, isn’t due on Broadway until March 2017, but the show is already generating its own buzz with an online video campaign.

Borle, the two-time Tony Award winner (”Peter and the Starcatcher”; “Something Rotten”) out of Fox Chapel and Carnegie Mellon, has back-to-back Broadway projects announced: The revival of “Falsettos,” with Andrew Rannells and Stephanie J. Block, Oct. 27 through Jan. 8 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Then he morphs into the giver of golden tickets as Willy Wonka in “Charlie,” the London transfer that has been revamped for its Broadway run at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater.

How cool would it be to run into Borle — if indeed that is him in the videos — decked out as Willy Wonka and handing out golden tickets?


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