Thursday, January 31, 2008

Veterans star in 'tribute to friendship' | ®

Veterans star in 'tribute to friendship' ®:

Published: 01.11.2008
Veterans star in 'tribute to friendship'
By Sherilyn Forrester


Award-winning New York actress Kathleen Chalfant never really wanted to do anything but perform.
But the respected actress, who won the Obie, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics awards for "Wit," took a while to acknowledge her desire.

"I had a brother 14 years older than I — he was the glamorous gay older brother — who gave me the original cast album of 'My Fair Lady.' Of course, we would act out all the parts. And my grandmother took me to see wonderful movies — and not just those for children, although I think that's what my parents thought. I was in school plays. I played Hedda Gabbler when I was 17," she says, laughing.
"But when I went to Stanford I studied classical Greek. I was getting ready to go to graduate school and my husband asked me if that's what I really wanted to do. I thought, no, I don't. I want to act. So I found an acting teacher — several actually — and that's what I've been doing ever since."

Chalfant and Patricia Elliott will appear in "Vita and Virginia" for two performances this weekend at the Berger Performing Arts Center. The Invisible Theatre is sponsoring their visit. Elliott won the Tony, Drama Desk and Theatre World awards for her Broadway debut in 1973 as Countess Charlotte in Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" and received a second Tony nomination in 1977 for Michael Cristofer's "The Shadow Box."

"Vita and Virginia" by Dame Eileen Atkins is actually a dramatic rendering of letters between writers Virginia Woolf and her longtime friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West. Atkins and Vanessa Redgrave performed the play off-Broadway in 1994.

Pamela Berlin has directed this staging.
"It's really a great tribute to friendship," says Chalfant. "The love affair is actually secondary. The shape of friendship over time provides the shape of a life, and that makes it a fulfilling piece.

"Theirs was a very complicated relationship. They were both married to loving husbands. They were both writers — and very witty, so that adds a great dimension of fun to the piece.

"But it's really the story of two lives which can't be pigeonholed."
Although the words of the play are actually their letters, there is enough drama and conflict to make for good theater, she said.

"The drama arises from the conflicts within their relationship. It is a love story, after all. There are always conflicts."
Chalfant notes that Woolf and Sackville-West were two very gifted women but very different in the degree of their gifts, particularly as writers.

"Vita Sackville-West wanted to be a great writer. She was completely in awe of Virginia Woolf, and she was desperate to have Woolf's approval of her talent. It can be very painful when the thing you're loved for is not particularly what you want to be loved for."

The play reveals their struggles while celebrating their eloquence.
Chalfant is quite eloquent herself as she speaks of her passion for theater and her commitment to the arts, which she believes "are by their very nature political."

"Artistic efforts are also inherently hopeful. Art is transformative. The very act of artistic expression says change is possible. We can learn. We can open ourselves to differences. Our fears can be transformed.

"I think of Tony Kushner's 'Angels in America.' It's just so beautiful. People who might be antagonistic to the subject matter can't help but respond to the beauty of that piece and somehow be changed."
Chalfant received Tony- and Drama Desk-award nominations for her role in the original production of "Angels in America."

The No Frills Theatre Company, which is dedicated to producing plays with roles for women over 40, will produce "Vita and Virginia" on Monday nights at the Zipper Factory Theatre in New York beginning Feb. 11 and continuing through April 28.

"As long as anyone comes," quips Chalfant.
"Yes, our performances in Tucson will be our out-of-town tryout," she laughs. "Tucson is our New Haven."

In addition to "Vita and Virginia," the Invisible Theatre is also sponsoring a performance of "The Baghdad Burning Suite," with Kathleen Chalfant and jazz musician and composer Liz Magnes.
The public performance is Monday.

The piece is based on a blog by a young Iraqi woman known only as Riverbend, who began her comments after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
"We have put together excerpts from primarily the first year of her writing. It really sets the stage for all that has happened after," said Chalfant.

"Liz's music is a response to this remarkable young woman's words, and it is amazing. She has lived most of her adult life in Israel, and her music really evokes the Middle East. Peace and reconciliation are also her great passions."

Chalfant says the piece has been presented at various benefit events, using different actresses. In Los Angeles, Amy Brenneman and Tyne Daly were featured.
"We probably won't be able to present this much longer, because of copyright matters. There are a couple of plays and movies in the works that feature Riverbend and her story."
– Sherilyn Forrester

● Sherilyn Forrester is a Tucson-based freelance writer.
● Check out the Riverbend blog at

Saturday, January 5, 2008

2007 Mac Awards

Our 2007 Mac Awards
By Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 01.04.2008

Our 2007 Mac Awards ®: "Our 2007 Mac Awards:

This is a category that's loaded with winners.

Douglas Mitchell's role as the conniving, possible murderer in Invisible Theatre's 'The Business of Murder' was jittery and spellbinding."

Invisible Theatre's "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" was a joyous production full of humor and music.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

“Suz the Saguaro”

P.S. 12.21.07: “Suz the Saguaro”

Local people, places, travels and simchas Sharon Klein - Special to the AJP

“Suz the Saguaro” in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“Be a clown, be a clown”As the popular tune continues, “All the world loves a clown.” And we love Susan “Suz” Claas­sen, managing artistic director of the Invisible Theatre, who, for the seventh straight year, has been a clown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.The first year, after 9/11, Suz’s character was “Funny Firefighter.” She followed the New York Fire Department, and in her words, “lifted the spirits of N.Y.” In the following years, our comic performer was a “Wedding Belly,” “Bathtub Beauty,” “Funny Farm Produce,” “Uptown Doggie Walker,” and “Confetti” clown. This Nov. 22, she was the only Saguaro cactus among the other western-themed clowns.

According to Suz, the parade is a masterpiece of organization, with 800 clowns and 10,000 participants. A clown submits his or her size ahead of time and Macy’s provides the costume, makeup and group captain. Following the event, our parade entrant had the privilege of sharing potluck Thanksgiving dinner with the vice president of Macy’s. “Small world” stories abound, especially in the “Big Apple.” Standing in the security line at the parade, Suz met fellow clown Michael Stoltz of New York, whose father is Tucsonan Saul Stoltz. Along the parade route, Tucsonans Laura and Mike DiChristofano recognized the sole “Saguaro,” stopped her and snapped her photo. And, while “across the pond” this past August, Suz had another “small world” encounter. In Scotland to perform her production of A Conversation with Edith Head at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, she met former Tucsonan Harry Holtzman, a director living in Paris who also had a production in the festival.Claassen, recognized as one of Tucson Lifestyle magazine’s most admired women, summed up her clown experience when she stated, “As an adult, being a clown gives one license to play.” And what better place to play than, as another tune comes to mind, “on the sidewalks of New York.”