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Darren Criss, Bruce Vilanch, Among a Cast of 14 in WordTheatre’s In the Cosmos

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Theatermania
Darren Criss, Bruce Vilanch, Among a Cast of 14 in WordTheatre’s In the Cosmos
Kenji Fujishima • Los Angeles • Aug 23, 2017

4-27-2013 3-29-19 AM

Darren Criss (GleeHedwig and the Angry Inch) will be among a cast of 14 participating in WordTheatre’s In the Cosmos, to be performed on Saturday, August 26, at 8pm at Ford Theatres.

The event is described as “a wild ride through the universe. From creation myths to the Big Bang to alien life forms, a constellation of actors will bring to life the story of the Cosmos in the words of the great poets, astronomers, comics, philosophers and more. Accompanied by rousing renditions of classical and contemporary music, we will contemplate our galaxy with such visionaries as David Bowie, Elton John, Monty Python, Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, and Diane Ackerman.”

In addition to Criss, the cast will include film and television stars Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Bellamy Young (Scandal), Chris Bauer (True Blood), Bruce Vilanch (Hairspray), Ryan Michelle Bathe (Army Wives), Lesley Nicol (Downton Abbey), Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy), Stephen Tobolowsky (Silicon Valley), Gil Birmingham (Hell or High Water), Rhashan Stone (Mass Effect: Andromeda), Joey King (Fargo), Fred Melamed (A Serious Man), Sarah Clarke (24), and Gil Bellows (Patriot). The show is created, produced, and directed by WordTheatre artistic director Cedering Fox.

For tickets and more information, click here.

‘Kings & Queens in Their Castles’ is an intimate look at LGBT lives

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

The Washington Post
‘Kings & Queens in Their Castles’ is an intimate look at LGBT lives
By Michele Langevine Leiby April
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When Tom Atwood decided to launch himself into fine art photography, it was mostly because he wanted to see a different image of gay men. Until not long ago, most photographic images of gay men fell into one of two categories: a display of the ravages of AIDS or a paean to the idealized, sexualized beauty of the masculine form (usually nude or in advanced stages of undress).

Atwood’s new book, “Kings & Queens in Their Castles,” offers an alternative view. His style, the photographer says, is a studied melange of portraiture and architectural photography.

“I try to challenge my subjects by showing as much of their environment as possible in the frame of the camera,” he says. “I also use a wide-angle lens and a wide depth of field so that both the subject and the background are in focus.”

Atwood, 45, a self-proclaimed autodidact, has no formal background in photography or art history. His approach was honed through trial and error and a passion for his subject matter.

“I started out photographing gay people at home because I am gay and knew a lot of gay people,” he says. “And I think a lot of gay men especially have a flair for design and live in some really playful places.”

Atwood’s subjects in “Kings & Queens” include more than 160 members of the LGBT community. They’re urban and rural, famous and anonymous, beautiful and plain, extraordinary and decidedly ordinary. His work, displaying an intimacy sometimes bordering on voyeurism, captures LGBT men and women in the process of living their private lives.

Some of today’s tumultuous social movements rely on a fair amount of identity politics. This book isn’t about that. Says Atwood: “I thought it would be interesting to photograph this group of people just in everyday moments since, for most people, their sexuality is a part of who they are, but it’s not the predominant part of who they are.”

Here are six of the book’s compelling stories:






Don Lemon

When Atwood arrived at Don Lemon’s Harlem home, the CNN anchor was getting ready to walk his dog. “He’s very friendly, very easygoing, very approachable,” Atwood says. “I realized he’s just a really a social person that’s part of a neighborhood.” He shot Lemon sitting on a skateboard on his balcony, his neighborhood as a backdrop. “I really wanted to shoot people in their everyday environment and show what their private lives are like rather than focus on their public images.”

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Holly Taylor and Alison Bechdel

Atwood photographed the women in the garden of their Jericho, Vt., home. Holly Taylor, a self-declared “compost maven,” and Alison Bechdel, a cartoonist and the author of the Broadway musical “Fun Home,” live in the woods. “I love this photo,” says Atwood, himself a Vermonter. “I think it really shows a real Vermont sensibility in a number of ways. They’ve got a garden. They chop their own wood. They heat their house with wood.”





Mother Flawless Sabrina

Considered a pioneer in the transgender and gay communities, Mother Flawless Sabrina ran a national drag pageant enterprise between 1959 and 1969 that put on shows across the country, culminating with an extravaganza in New York. The 77-year-old lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side surrounded by a bevy of quirky possessions: a 1980s-era telephone with giant buttons, wigs strewn about, jewelry draped on an ornate desk. “She’s a female impersonator, which I guess is a little different from a drag queen, but don’t ask me the difference because I’m not sure I know,” Atwood says.

 

James McGreevey


The former governor of New Jersey will always be famous for the 2004 news conference in which he publicly came out of the closet, his pained wife by his side. “My truth is that I am a gay American,” he declared. Today McGreevey is a Prius-driving resident of Plainfield, N.J., where Atwood photographed him, clad in shorts and a hoodie, pruning ivy in front of his house. “He did go through some difficult times,” Atwood says, “but he seems to be still happy and proud and willing to share his life through this book.”

 

 





Bruce Vilanch

Loyal viewers of the television game show “Hollywood Squares” will surely recognize the unruly mop of comedian Bruce Vilanch, whom Atwood photographed ferrying groceries back to his West Hollywood apartment. “I think this is a fun shot because Los Angeles has a lot of outdoor/indoor living spaces,” Atwood says, and Vilanch’s apartment building has hallways that are outside rather than inside.




Randal Kleiser

“I don’t think it’s that common to keep barn animals in Los Angeles,” Atwood says of the menagerie of pets that share the home of film director Randal Kleiser. “It was an otherwise suburban ranch house.” Kleiser, known for such films as “Grease” and “Big Top Pee-wee,” enjoys a spectacular view of the L.A. skyline from his swimming pool. “I like that there’s this strong light from the side in this picture and you can see a lot in both the foreground and background,” the photographer says. (Can you find BOTH horses?)

Bruce Vilanch Heads Celebrity Autobiography Jan. 28-Feb. 1

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

South Florida
Thanks for the memoirs
Humor breaks out when celebs do book readings in “Celebrity Autobiography,” coming to Kravis Center.
By Rod Stafford Hagwood, Staff writer
4:42 p.m. EST, January 26, 2015

1-31-2015 8-33-28 PM

“Celebrity Autobiography” just might be one of the most successful shows you’ve never heard of.

The comedy – actors read from celebrity memoirs live onstage – has run for five sold-out years in New York City, landed a 2009 Drama Desk Award and toured all over the United States. It arrives at West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Jan. 28-Feb.1.

The ever-revolving talent roster has included Ryan Reynolds, Debbie Harry, Matthew Broderick, Will Forte, Kristin Wiig, Brooke Shields, Nathan Lane, Dick Cavett, Rosie Perez and Tony Danza.

In West Palm Beach, the cast will include Lainie Kazan (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “My Favorite Year,” “Beaches”) and Gary Beach (“The Producers,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “La Cage aux Folles”). Bruce Vilanch (“Hairspray,” writer for the Emmys, Tonys and Oscars) will appear in the Saturday matinee show.


“Celebrity Autobiography” started when wife-and-husband co-creators Dayle Reyfel and Eugene Pack, both television writers and producers, had some friends go onstage in L.A. and try the concept out in front of an audience. It was an instant hit.

“We just got about 12 friends together and we read excerpts,” explains Reyfel. “[The theater owner] was so blown away by the audience’s reaction he wanted us there every week.”

Pack recalls, “Years ago, 10 years ago or even more, I came across a hard-cover edition of Vanna Speaks by Vanna White, her memoir. I went through the book and there’s this one chapter where she talks in detail about how challenging it is to flip the panels on ‘The Wheel of Fortune.’ And my background in comedy kicked in. I thought, what if you were to read this out loud…what would be the reaction?”

The reaction was lines around the block, particularly when the show went overseas in London and Sydney, Australia.

“I think that mainly because people understood what this was,” says Reyfel. “The show had a reputation already and people knew what they were coming to see.”

What they are seeing are famous people, script in hand, reading from autobiographies. For the South Florida run, famous snowbirds such as Tiger Woods, Jennifer Lopez, Burt Reynolds, Ricky Martin and Joe Namath will have their words in the spotlight alongside word-for-word snippets from the likes of Bieber and Beyonce.

“The concept of the show is that we have a lot of celebrity performers getting onstage and acting out other actors’ memoirs,” says Pack. “But when you read it out loud, it’s just astounding what people have written. It’s not only funny, but fascinating and dramatic.”

But the show adds drama by having multiple memoirs read together, forming a scene, as is the case with the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor/DebbieReynolds/Eddie Fisher scandal (“It’s he said, she said, she said, he said,” says Pack.)

Reyfel explains further, “The Liz Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher thing, that’s like a Rashomon three-act play where everyone has a different point of view and we merge them back together.”

That theatrical staging is also given to the Burt Reynolds/Loni Anderson saga.

“One of our big pieces is we combine autobiographies from Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson and Burt Reynolds’ secretary, who wrote a book about him,” says Pack. “Again, it’s he said, she said, she said.”

Reyfel adds, “And a lot of it takes place in Jupiter, Florida.”

The show also puts autobiographies into groupings such as sport stars and foodies. “Neil Sedaka, that was a gem from the beginning because he just talks about what he eats for every single meal,” says Reyfel.

And the material in the show is in a constant state of flux.

“We’re always adding new pieces to the show,” explains Pack. “We like to keep it current. But we also like to dig deep into things like Zsa Zsa slapping the cop. People love hearing those classic stories. You’d be astounded how many memoirs come out for us to comb through, like very week. Miley Cyrus has a book out already.”

But no matter what celebrity they focus on or where they perform, there is one constant with the audience according to Pack: “They always ask, ‘You made that up on the spot. It was improvisation, right?’ I always answer, ‘Seriously, we could not make up this stuff if we tried.’ ”

“Celebrity Autobiography” runs Jan. 28-Feb. 1 at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets cost $38. To order, call 561-832-7469 or go to Kravis.org.