For those who love theater, today begins a big week, starting with tonight's Tony Awards and continuing with the area opening of an hilarious look at putting on a show, as well as the opening of a classic, but somewhat darker, production. And we can't forget the second week of StageCenter's current production, Last of the Boys.
Let's start with the 72nd Tony Awards, broadcast from Broadway at 7 p.m. today on CBS, hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban. You can watch from home, of course, but for more fun why not join the Brazos Valley TROUPE watch party, which starts at 6:30 p.m. today at TROUPE's 29th Street Studio, 3702 E. 29th St. in Bryan's Town & Country Center.
Tickets are only $20, but you'll get so much more than just the Tony Awards show. The event will be a giant potluck, with TROUPE kids, chaperones, interns and others bringing lots of good things to eat. Also, there will be some great Broadway-themed prizes. And, you will get to hang around some of the coolest young performers in the area.
The Tony watch party is the last fundraiser before the young TROUPErs head off to Irving for the annual Texas NonProfit Theatre's summer youth conference. This will be a great opportunity for the TROUPErs to interact with kids in other Texas youth theater programs as well as show off their acting shops to their peers.
Please RSVP for tonight's watch party at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Managing/artistic director M.A. Sterling -- who knows Broadway better than anyone in the Brazos Valley -- at 979-571-4077. If you forget to RSVP, I bet the TROUPErs will squeeze you in anyway.
Have you ever watched an theater production on stage and wondered what is going on behind the scenes? I've always wanted to be backstage of any of the Greater Tuna series and watch the two guys transform magically to different characters, male and female, in seconds. That's an extreme example, but the backstage crews is critical to any production.
Unity Theater in Brenham will open a three-week run of the uproarious comedy Noises Off on Thursday. This is the final show of the current Unity Main Stage season and it is one you simply don't want to miss.
Noises Off is the story of what can go wrong when a third-rate touring theater company puts on a farce called Nothing On. The action focuses back stage and on stage during a difficult final dress rehearsal and the first performances of the farce.
Needless to say that whatever can go wrong does go wrong. Putting on a farce is difficult under normal circumstances, but putting on a farce about putting on a farce takes extraordinary skill.
Unity Artistic Director Kate Revnell-Smith, Britain's gift to the Brazos Valley theater community, said, "I absolutely love this play, it's very theatrical and a wonderful chance for audiences to see the 'goings on' in a rehearsal, and two disastrous performances of a comedy from the perspective of the actors/director and crew.
"We have never produced the show before but it's such a great comedy that I couldn't resist even though the set is a huge challenge for a small theatre on a budget."
She said, "We see the play within the play from the audience's viewpoint but the middle act, act 2, we see from the backstage side of the set from the actors perspective -- so a massive, two story set piece has to rotate, not once, but twice -- phew!"
The New York Times called Noises Off "the most dextrously realized comedy ever about putting on a comedy."
Noises Off author Michael Frayn came up with the idea for his play while watching Lynn Redgrave in a farce written for her, The Two of Us.
He told critic Barbara K. Mehlman, "It was funnier from behind than in front, and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind."
After debuting in London in 1982, Noises Off premiered on Broadway on Dec. 11, 1983. It was nominated for a Best Play Tony Award and Best Featured Actor and Actress in a Play and Best Direction of a Play. It won Outstanding Ensemble Performance and Outstanding Direction of a Play for Michael Blakemore from the Drama Desk Awards.
Noises Off was revived on Broadway in 2001 and 2015 and now it is the Brazos Valley's chance to see it, whether for the first time or for a repeat experience. Performances at Unity will be Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. through July 1.
The Unity cast includes Julia Traber, Justin O'Brien, Greg Cote, Heidi Hinkel, Ally Oliphint, Foster Davis, Jen Lucy, Blake Jackson and Rutherford Cravens. Cravens is a member of Actors Equity, the professional actors' guild.
George Brock directs. Set design is by Alan Will, who also serves as production manager/stage manager). Lighting design is by David Gipson, costume design by Gretchen Brossa and sound design by Jonathan Harvey. The crew are Tam Trevino and Jordan Gaskamp -- "Thank goodness for them!" Revnell-Smith said.
Revnell-Smith rates the show PG-13 "for a little sexual innuendo, but it's pretty harmless really. I doubt a child younger than that would understand or enjoy it, though."
All tickets are $27, except for Thursday's preview night, when they are $19. They are available at the box office in the theater lobby at 300 Church St. in Brenham. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and 90 minutes prior to each performance. Tickets also may be purchased with a credit card by calling 979-830-8358. They also are available online at unitybrenham.org.
Any seats unsold 15 minutes before each performance are available at the ticket window for $15 on a first-come basis.
On Thursday, the audience is invited to stay after the performance to chat with the cast. On June 23, the audience is encouraged to come 30 minutes early to meet the director.
If you never have been to a Unity production, this is a perfect opportunity to experience this wonderful professional theater. Brenham is a short drive from College Station-Bryan and well worth the trip.
Sponsors for Noises Off are John and Jane Barnhill, Merlin and Johanna Hoiseth and Ann Wackman. If you see them, please thank them for helping to bring the wonderful show to this area.
Beware of sharks
The Theatre Company in Bryan offers something a little different to its Brazos Valley audiences when it opens a two-week run of The Threepenny Opera on Friday. Odds are you've never seen it, but you'll want to catch this production of Bertolt Brecht's "play with music," based on John Gay's 18th-century English ballad production, The Beggar's Opera.
What music it is. Kurt Weill's score includes Pirate Jenny and The Ballad of Mack the Knife. Perhaps you remember Bobby Darin's 1959 swinging version of the latter song, but the one you will hear at The Theatre Company is true to the original version from 1928.
The story revolves around notorious London criminal Macheath, also known as Mack the Knife, who marries Polly Peachum, much to the dismay of her father, who supervises all of London's beggars. Eventually her father gets Macheath arrested and sentenced to hang until he receives a pardon from the queen.
The shark, indeed, has pretty teeth.
The Theatre Company's version stars the multi-talented David Moreno as Macheath, the delightful Anna Hale as Polly Peachum, Corey Barron as her dad and Kelsie Kullman as Mrs. Peachum.
Others in the cast include Daniel Hill, Michael Prince, Den Daniel, Armineh Davis, Bryan Pope, Tyler Bruffett, Taylor Christenson, Hannah Ferguson, Katherine Morgan. Katy Sutton, Jasia Correa and Marianna Tanska.
Rob Gretta returns from his home base in Pennsylvania to direct The Threepenny Opera. He made his Theatre Company directing debut last summer with the wonderful Hello, Dolly! Chris Hoffman again shares his prodigious talent as music director. Choreographers are Ellen Wilcox and Paul Early, who hasn't been on stage in far too long.
Producer is Alan Bryant, who takes such amazing photos for The Theatre Company and for StageCenter. The always reliable Beth Akin serves as stage manager. Others in the crew are Shannon Van Zandt, costume designer; Woody Lee, light designer; Cody Arn, set designer; Lucas Dickson, painting; Jennifer Reiley, lightboard; Chaz Macklin, set construction; Carley Burson, props; Jennifer Hargis, dialect coach; Luis Codiz, Brittney Green and Susan Harty, costume crew.
Special thanks go to Michelle Campbell-Greene and the Braswell High School theatre department. Campbell-Greene returns to The Theatre Company later this summer to direct Rock of Ages.
Gretta said, "When [artistic director] Adrienne [Dobson] asked if I would be interested in directing this show, I immediately jumped at the chance. I have always liked this musical, ever since grad school, when I played Tiger Brown.
"That's when I first heard Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya singing it on the scratchy 1928 recording. I especially enjoy the raw and visceral nature of the music and the story -- expressing it in an expressionistic satirizing of capitalism, prostitution, militarism and the middle classes."
Gretta went on to say, "Although the show has been deemed 'Dark, aggressive, and unrelenting in its social commentary,' it is also very funny.
"Granted, it is not for younger audience members. ... The show is definitely PG-13 or even PG-14 (if it existed). Some of the content may not be suitable but most TV shows and movies are worse when using this rating."
Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through June 24. Notice this is a two-weekend show, so plan accordingly.
Tickets are $17 for seniors and students and $20 for adults. Tickets are available online at theatrecompany.com - the best way to be assured of a seat -- or at the box office one hour before each performance.
The Theatre Company is located behind Joann Fabrics and Crafts at the east end of Bryan's Tejas Center.
Alan Bryant and Sennis Berthold and Pamela Matthews generously are underwriting The Threepenny Opera. Costumes are underwritten by Mark and Linda Bendiksen and the Galindo Group, Ramiro A. Galindo. Gary and Sheila Thomas are underwriting the sets, Hilco Metal Supply and Wendy and Woody Lee are doing the technical underwriting, and Chris and Jasia Correa and Caroline and Bill Davis are handling the marketing underwriting. Thanks to these wonderful people and companies for supporting the arts. You are helping theater come alive in the Brazos Valley.
Don't forget that The Theatre Company will reveal its new season at its Preview Party at 7 p.m. on July 22 at the theater. I can't wait to learn what is coming up.
• Through June 23 -- Last of the Boys, StageCenter, 201-B W. 26th St. in Downtown Bryan, above Mr. G's Pizza. An intense and often hilarious look at the lives of two friends who formed a bond in the jungles of Vietnam. Be warned that adult language abounds, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, $10 to $14. (www.stagecenter.net)
• June 18 and 19 -- Auditions for Ben Hecht's and Charles MacArthur's Twentieth Century, directed by Jennifer Hargis, StageCenter, 201-B W. 26th St. in Downtown Bryan, above Mr. G's Pizza (for now). (stagecenter.net)
• Every Sunday -- Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan, (miccheckpoetry.com)
Items for Arts Watch should be emailed to email@example.com. Deadline is noon Tuesday before the weekend you want it to run.