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THEATER FOR THE STUTTERING - - MRS. FARNSWORTH
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KELLY CLARKSON & CLAY AIKEN PERFORM
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Copyright: April 11, 2004
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By: Laura Deni
Austin Pendleton played a stuttering attorney in My Cousin Vinny.
The stuttering attorney in My Cousin Vinny, portrayed by actor Austin Pendleton, an
Yale University, garnered a lot of laughs. In real life people
frequently find themselves on the receiving end of ridicule.
The New York City based Our Time Theatre Company is an artistic home for people who
According to the Stuttering Foundation of America over three million Americans stutter, with
affected four times the rate of females.
James Earl Jones stuttered. At an early age he
started to take dramatic lessons to calm himself down.
Some 20 percent of all children go through a stage of development during which they encounter
disfluencies severe enough to be a concern their parents. The best prevention tool is early
Children and adults who stutter are no more likely to have psychological or emotional problems
children and adults who do not. There is no reason to believe that emotional trauma causes
James Earl Jones, John Stossel, Bill Walton, Mel Tillis, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Carly
Annie Glenn, Nicholas Brendon, Ken Venturi, Bob Love, John Updike, King George VI - all
went on to have successful lives.
Our Time Theater Founder and Artistic Director, Taro Alexander,
has stuttered since he was five.
His own experiences,
combined with the transformative power of theater compelled him to create this theater company
an environment free
from ridicule where young PWS (people who stutter) discover the joy of creating and performing
Alexander currently performs in the off-Broadway hit, STOMP. He played Jay in the
National Tour of
Neil Simon's Lost In Yonkers. He has appeared on Law & Order. He is the
Van Riper Award and was honored by the National Council on Communicative Disorders at the
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. in March, 2002.
On Monday, May 10, this theater company will celebrate the first day of
National Stuttering Awareness Week with their 2nd Annual Benefit Gala, hosted by Jane
Alexander and honoring Dr. Alan Rabinowitz. Performances by: The Our Time Teens,
Alice Ripley and Everett Bradley.
Managing Director Chelsea Lacatena spoke with Broadway To Vegas about this unique
"We haven't heard of anybody else doing this," she emphasized. "The Our Time teen company
members study acting,
singing, playwriting, drumming, and dance with professional artists. Exercising these skills, they
create original plays that are performed in New York City theaters, at Speech-Language-Hearing
conferences, for the greater stuttering community, at conventions, schools, and for the general
public. There is no audition for prospective members, no performance experience necessary, and
Our Time serves its members free of charge."
Managing Director Chelsea Lacatena
All members of the program stutter - as does the staff - with the exception of Lacatena.
"The children write the plays," Lacatena explained. "This is our third year. And, every year it has
different. The first year they broke up into pairs and wrote short - 15-20 minute - plays. Last year
together and wrote one play as a whole company - and that was a two and a half hour musical.
And, that is
what it is going to be again this year."
A major accomplishment in more ways than one.
"They are all very supportive of each other and open to each other's ideas," she insisted. "And, it's
get to say whatever it is they want to say. They were very good at it."
Tickets are sold to the public.
"This year were are doing four performances over one week-end - June 18-20. The musical is
For the Love of Family."
"Taro Alexander, the artistic director, directs the plays."
Unlike most off Broadway productions the goal not to transfer to Broadway.
"The goal of the theater company isn't to product a new work that will
move to Broadway," she explained. "The goal is to give the kids an opportunity to express
their confidence and give them the experience of creating and performing theater that came from
Mel Tillis. His autobiography is aptly titled Stutterin'
Singer Mel Tillis stutters when he talks but sings smooth as satin.
"That isn't a stunt," she stressed. "That actually happens with our kids as well. We've met a lot of
over the last three years who are stutters and say that when they sing they do not stutter. We've
one gentleman who says he still stutters when he sings."
"That also kind of goes along with our meeting many speech
therapists," she continued. "There is a therapy that
teachers call elongated speech. To help practice
what it sounds like to be fluent, they elongate their
which is sort of like singing. That is an exercise used in
speech therapy. But, of course, in real life
don't sing when they speak."
"I'm not a person who stutters and I think this experience is
a valuable experience even for
who don't stutter, because it is a sense of accomplishment, commitment in that they have created
something and developed or improved writing skills," Lacatena emphasized.
"These kids give us four hours of every Saturday from October until June. They come every
week. We don't
have a problem with people arriving late or no shows."
"On Saturdays we have a group of volunteers that come and help
with the workshops. Our musical
director is a volunteer," related Lacatena referring to
Everett Bradley. "He works with the kids to help them
songs. There are four or five songs in this year's production."
Bradley was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1997 for his work on an R&B track from
Quincy Jones' album Juke Joint. Bradley has performed and recorded with Patti Austin,
Jon Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Macy Gray, Bobby McFerrin, Sting, and Stevie Wonder.He
Bradley directed and performed in STOMP and co-created and starred in the Broadway
"We have a woman who helps with choreography, a woman who helps with
costumes, all of the designers are volunteers," she stressed.
Now salaried, she began her service as a volunteer.
"Taro and I are the only ones who now get a salary," added Chelsea. "I was the
first and this year Taro started
receiving a salary. Oue salaries are just enough to survive, so we can keep this going."
"The kids will perform some songs from the new show at the benefit hosted by Jane Alexander, as
peek of what is happening in June."
"Our biggest challenge is to make people aware of what we are doing - especially when it comes
raising. They are a lot of foundations that give to arts, education, youth organizations and social
organizations. We are just trying to find out niche in that area. We are trying to reach out to
people and let
them know that we are here."
"And, also to just fine all of the kids that are out there that would like to be involved," added
Lacatena, a former
pre-K level school teacher at the Children's Aid Society, who
has a degree in theater.
"Taro says that when he first started the company he assumed that it would be the kids would get
together and write about stuttering and how it makes them feel. But, that really hasn't been the
case. Most of them have really wild, fantastic imaginations," she exclaimed."
"They really tap into that. Then, we have some things that sneak in there - scenes about being
teased. But, the majority of
them just want to have fun and explore their imaginations and put on really fun shows."
"We're trying to use theater as a way to create to help boost confidence and self esteem. Theater
powerful. These people are often misunderstood because this affliction is misunderstood. People
stutter seems to have similar experiences - growing up feeling like they couldn't talk because if
either got rushed or interrupted or teased. We're just trying to let these kids know that they can
"We do have an advisory board and there are a speech language pathologists on it. We
definitely reach out to that community. We have great
support from that
community, because what we are doing supports what they are
"What we have heard from the parents is that their kids are talking more, which is important.
Theater is a marvelous way to communicate with children - troubled or not -
on any level. Theater is really very powerful."
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THE 10TH ANNUAL LUCILLE LORTEL AWARDS presented by The League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers will be
May 3 at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York City. CLICK
FOR LIST OF
ACTORS' FUND SPECIAL PERFORMANCE April 18 in New York City: The company of Little Shop of Horrors,
including Hunter Foster, Kerry Butler and Douglas Sills, will give their Actors' Fund
Special Performance on Sunday, April 18th at The Virginia Theatre.
2004 TELEVISION DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL presented in New York City by the Museum of Radio and Television, in which
each festival screening will be introduced by the filmmaker and followed by a dialogue between
the audience and the production team that will explore issues crucial to the craft and content of
the television documentary.
On April 14, The Fight, written, produced, and
directed by Barak Goodman will unspool it's New York premiere
followed by an in person discussion with Goodman.
On June 22, 1938, when heavyweight champ Joe Louis stepped into the ring at Yankee Stadium
to defend his title against Max Schmeling, the world knew that this was no ordinary bout.
Schmeling, a German, was Hitler's mascot: a two-fisted symbol of Nazi aggression. Louis was the
most celebrated black athlete in segregated America, a vessel for the hopes of his race and the
expectations of his nation. Their monumental matchup drew the largest radio audience in history
and was arguably the most politically charged sporting event of the century. In Barak Goodman's
riveting documentary, it forms the climax of an epic narrative arc that expertly weaves each
boxer's personal journey into the larger canvas of a complex and combustible era.
SAY THE WORD
Hollywood's top writers and comedians step out from behind the scenes to perform fresh original
comedy written for their own voices. Presented lounge-style, with cocktails and snacks, by
Un-Cabaret and Skirball Cultural Center. Hosted by Un-Cabaret's Beth Lapides. Guests will
include Scott Carter (Politically Incorrect), Mike Blieden (Melvin Goes to Dinner),
and Kevin Nealon (Saturday Night Live).Ages 21 and up. Friday, April 16 at the Skirball
Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
PRYMATE by Mark Medoff, is set to
open at the Longacre Theater on May 5, with previews beginning April 16. It had its premiere at
Florida State University at Tallahassee in February where Medoff has been a visiting theater
professor for the past two years.
Phyllis Frelich as Esther, James Naughton as Avrum, Heather Tom as Allison and Andre De
as Graham. Edwin Sherin directs.
Prymate, a controversial new version of a play that premiered at NMSU in 1996 as
centers around the conflict of two middle-age scientists with primal sex drives and an aging gorilla
Graham, who has been taught to "speak" several hundred words of American Sign Language but
communicates a great deal more.
Complicating the scientists' choices: a young deaf-mute woman,
Esther Leeper, who has spirited Graham away from the lab where she worked with him, setting
up camp in
a primitive site. Her former colleague and lover Avrum Belasco comes after her to reclaim
Graham for use
in his AIDS research, and possibly to rekindle the fire of their previous passion.
At stake is the gorilla's right to age peacefully versus the possibility he might be used to find a
cure for the
Prymatewill open at the Longacre Theater on May 5, the
cutoff for Tony Awards consideration. Nominations will be announced May 10. Medoff won a
for Children of a Lesser God, which also opened at the Longacre Theatre. Previews begin
ENCHANTED APRIL by
based on a Novel by Elizabeth von Arnim. Tony Nominated for Best Play 2003 this
delightful play has its West Coast Premiere at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Playwright Matthew Barber is a UCLA graduate; Enchanted April is his first play and
several awards: John Gassner Award - Outstanding New American Play; Tony nomination - Best
Outer Critics Circle nomination - Best Play; Drama League nomination - Best Play.
The Playhouse brings you the romantic-comedy that transported New York audiences into the
world of 1920's - era Italy. Four Englishwomen escape their cloudy and dreary lives - and
marriages - to
embark on a bold journey to Tuscany that will change their lives forever. Barber has penned a
and funny story where the power of friendship and love collide with tradition.
First staging since it appeared on Broadway. Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California April 16
FIFTH OF JULY Written by
Wilson. Directed by Adam Arkin. Starring Robert Sean Leonard.
Ken Talley, a recent Vietnam Vet, plays host to eccentric family members and old
college friends for a summer holiday and struggles with the emotional stakes everyone
holds in the past and the future of the family farmhouse he may sell. Pulitzer Prize-winner
Wilson's bittersweet portrait captures the yearning and bewilderment of the rock
and roll generation at the precise moment they realize the fireworks ended yesterday.
April 14, 15, 16, 18 at L.A. Theatre Works, Venice, CA.
JUMPERS the revival of Tom
metaphysical murder mystery with laughs, is back on Broadway.
The production, imported from England's National Theatre, stars Simon Russell Beale and Essie
Davis and opens April 25 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Preview performances began April
David Leveaux directs this mounting in which
Beale and Davis are making their Broadway debuts.
First seen in London in 1972 and then in New York in 1974, Jumpers concerns an ill-fated
moon landing, a naked lady on a swing, a dead body in the closet, debate about the existence of
God, the mysterious death of a Chinese acrobat and a fading musical-comedy star's extramarital
affair. There is also an onstage band and a trained tortoise on the loose.
CALL ME MADAM From the
Golden Age of Broadway, experience this rollicking musical that sends Washington socialite Sally
Adams abroad to try her hand at international affairs. Featuring a toe-tapping Irving Berlin score,
“Madam Ambassador” quickly learns that you just can’t mix love and money. Winner of four
Tony Awards the show has tuneful delights Hostess with the Mostes’ on the Ball, You’re
Just in Love and I Like Ike.
Having originally opened in 1950 at the Imperial Theatre, Call Me Madam follows a
“hostess with the mostes” as she becomes Madam Ambassador. This four-time Tony
Award-winning musical was denied by the authors and producers to have been loosely based on
Mrs. Perle Mesta, whom President Truman had sent to Luxembourg as ambassador and had been
known as one of Washington’s famous hostesses. Fueling public interest in the musical, Mrs.
Mesta also happened to be a friend of Ethel Merman, who originated the role on Broadway.
With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, Call Me
Madam sends Washington socialite Sally Adams abroad to try her hand at international affairs.
James Brennan will direct and choreograph the Goodspeed production.
The role of Princess Maria will be portrayed by Catherine Brunell, Kim Criswell will play Sally
Adams. Zachary Halley will portray Kenneth Gibson. David Hess will play Cosmo Constantine.
Stephen Temperley will play Pemberton Maxwell. The cast of twenty also includes James Bodin,
Nicole Debace, Michael Dionissiou, Kendra Doyle, Jerold Goldstein, Gary Harger, Joan Hess,
Ashley Fox Linton, Mark Manley, Marci Reid, William Ryall, Ryan Swearingen, Kristen Beth
Williams, Scott Willis and Branch Woodman.
The musical director for Call Me Madame
is Michael O’Flaherty, F. Wade Russo will be assistant musical director with orchestrations by
Dan DeLange. Howard Jones will design the sets. Costume design is by Gail Baldoni, with
lighting designed by David Segal.
Call Me Madam at the
Goodspeed Opera House in
East Haddam, CT April 16 – July 3.
starring Lucie Arnaz and Peter Michael Goetz as Pablo.
Written by Jeffrey Hatcher with John Tillinger directing.
Set in Paris during the height of the German Occupation, Lucie Arnaz plays the mysterious Miss
Fischer, who has been hired by the Gestapo to interrogate the great Pablo Picasso regarding the
authenticity of three paintings left behind by people fleeing the regime. Sex and power collide in
this suspense-filled drama, which, while fictional, is nevertheless a graphic and revealing portrait
of the most influential and controversial artist of the twentieth century.
A Picasso received the Barrymore Award for Excellence in Theatre for Outstanding New
Play 2003 from the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.
Derek McLane (sets), Ellis Tillman (costumes) and Steve Shapiro and Lane Starratt (sound).
April 13 - May 9 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, Florida.
THE INTERNATIONALIST by
Washburn. Directed by Ken Rus Schmoll. An American on a business trip disembarks from a long
plane ride to an unspecified European country. A beautiful colleague is there to meet him. They spend the
night together and he thinks he's fallen into a great American movie where you go places and people are
exotic with romance and challenge - where you have a blast and along the way become a worldly and
sophisticated person. The next morning in the office he discovers that he's in a totally different
type of movie - with no clear hero or moral. This is a play about the mystery of communication between nations,
between people. Performed, in part, in a made up foreign language. The cast includes Mark Shanahan,
Heidi Schreck, Gibson Frazier, Kristen
Kosmas, Michael Stumm and Travis York. Officially opens April 19 at the 45 Bleecker Theatre,
FAME ON 42nd STREET
Lynche to the cast. Lynche, a semi-finalist on the current season of Fox's American Idol, is joining
the company of the off-Broadway show on April 13. He will play the role of Tyrone
MRS. FARNSWORTH by A.R.
Gurney. Directed by Jim Simpson. Starring John Lithgow and Sigourney Weaver and also starring
Introducing Kate Benson, Fernando Gambaroni and Tarajia Morrell.
Weaver portrays a woman who maintains that while in college she aborted the child of her
college sweetheart, George W. Bush. In Mrs. Farnsworth, a Bush family lawyer
gives Weaver's character $10,000, a ticket to British Honduras and the name of a
Previews began March 19 with the production officially opening on April 7 for only 29
performances. The production company proudly boasts that - "The entire run of Mrs. Farnsworth
is sold out. We will take names on a cancellation list 90 minutes before showtime. However,
cancellations are unlikely."
Considering this is a Gurney play - he also authored The Cocktail Hour and stars two time
Tony winner Lithgow and Tony award nominee Weaver, and this is the political season -
wouldn't you think somebody might
have guessed that people would want to attend and schedule a longer run? Reports are that the
producers are considering adding more performances or moving the production to another
This new political comedy stars Sigourney Weaver in the title role and John Lithgow as her
husband. Danny Burstein joins them as Gordon, Mrs. Farnsworth's writing instructor.
Costumes by Claudia Brown; lighting by Brian Aldous; technical director, Stefan Jacobs
Presented by the Flea Theater, TriBeCa section of NY.
THE UNEASY CHAIR by Evan
Smith. Directed by Jennifer Childs. Starring David Howey, and Maureen
Why do people get married? Why do people drift apart? Why do English Judges wear those funny
looking wigs? The answer to some of these questions can be answered by seeing this farcical
comedy of manners that explores the institutional side of this blessed union between men and
Presented by 1812 Productions at the Adrienne Theatre in Philadelphia, PA. Performances
through April 25.
KELLY CLARKSON AND CLAY AIKEN perform, April 13 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. On April 15 they are on
stage at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City and on April 16 the show is at the Xcel Energy Center
in St. Paul, Minn.
MINDI ABAIR opens a three night
Friday at Kimball's East in Emeryville, CA.
STEVE TYRELL performs Friday at
located at Buffalo State College in Buffalo, New York. On Saturday he's on stage at the Count
Theatre in Red Bank, N.J.
SMOTHER BROTHERS bantering
Friday at the
Honeywell Center in Wabash, Indiana. On Saturday they star at the Ameristar Casino in Kansas
ROD STEWART can be enjoyed
Tuesday at the
New Orleans Arena and on Thursday at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.
JOSH GROBAN brings his talent to
Theatre in Columbus on Monday. The next night he's on stage at the Murat Theatre in
Thursday finds him at the Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY. He closes out the week, Saturday, at
Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa, Florida.
through Monday in Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh, PA.
PAUL ANKA opens a 7 day
engagement at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Thursday, April 15.
Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City.
KENNY ROGERS on stage April 14
at the Barbara
B. Mann Hall in Fort Myers, Florida.
MICHAEL BUBLE delighting crowds
in Australia. He
opens a two nighter Monday at the Perth Concert Hall in Perth. On Thursday he's on stage at the
Theatre in Adlaide and then is in the spotlight Saturday and next Monday at the Melbourne
Concert Hall in
JEFF FOXWORTHY giving his
redneck point of
view Friday at the Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Virginia. On Saturday the laughs will
be at the
Emens Auditorium in Muncie, Indiana.
DANGERFIELD'S the New York
comedy club, has
a brainy line-up this week. Russ Meneve, from Hawthorne, N.J. is a graduate accountant from
State College. Jessica Kirson from South Orange, N.J. earned a Master's degree from NYU in
and Richie Byrne, a Staten Islander is a graduate of Wagner College as a drama major. They will
delivering the punch lines April 12 to 16 at Dangerfield's in NYC.
GEORGE WINSTON center sage
Friday at the
Four Rivers Center in Paducah, KY.
LARRY GATLIN AND THE GATLIN BROTHERS
on stage Friday at the Performing Arts Center in Topeka, Kansas. On Saturday they can be
enjoyed at the
Kemp Center for the Arts in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Next Column: April 18, 2004
Copyright: April 11, 2004. All Rights Reserved. Reviews, Interviews, Commentary,
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