Big news over at Adventure Theatre MTC: “Three Little Birds,” the musical that producing artistic director Michael Bobbitt adapted from Cedella Marley and Gerald Hausman’s picture book of the same name, is heading to New York City. The children’s show, set in Jamaica and featuring the music of Bob Marley, will be part of the 2013-14 season at the New Victory Theater in New York. Not bad for a “modern fairy tale,” as Bobbitt described it, that enjoyed its world premiere at Adventure Theatre less than three months ago.
The New Victory Theater brings in companies and shows from all over the world. “Three Little Birds” is one of only two American productions out of about a dozen in the upcoming season.
“The New Victory, it’s a place to go,” Bobbitt said. “Many of us [in theater for young audiences] aspire to take shows to New Victory.”
The New York production will keep the same actors, designers and directing team as the Bethesda production. With the exception of a few tweaks to the script and some additional set pieces — the New Victory has a bigger space to fill — the play will remain the same. Rehearsals start in January, followed by a week of tech and performances at Bowie State University.
Children’s theater is growing, Bobbitt said. “It’s one of the largest growing subgenres of theater around the country.” He cited “when Julie Taymor took ‘The Lion King’ to New York and created magnificent art” in 1997 as a watershed moment when “people started realizing that TYA can and should be artful, that you can actually create art for children that is lucrative. So the art and commerce of it all are starting to marry.”
As for whether this achievement will help money pour in to Adventure Theatre in the future, Bobbitt said: “We certainly celebrate all of those accomplishments in our letters and grant applications. I would say that the significant accomplishments we’ve had in the past few years have increased funding to the theater, but at the same time, the cost of doing business continues to grow. So it’s hard to compare. I think most people don’t understand that TYA theaters have the same administrative and production costs as the same theaters that are our size, but our average ticket price is $15. So funding is always a stressful topic for us.”
“Three Little Birds” opens at the New Victory on Feb. 7 — the day after Bob Marley’s birthday.
Frank De Julio is playing a terrible person.
Danny Larson, the white, gay 27-year-old playwright De Julio portrays in Olney Theatre Center’s production of “The Submission,” finally writes a great play (after cranking out four lousy scripts) about a poor, black family. Concerned about the optics, Danny hires a black actress to pretend to be the real playwright, a character he’s named “Shaleeha G’ntamobi.”
“Through this working relationship, it’s brought out that [Danny] is incredibly closed-minded and racist,” said De Julio, who sounded as if he was in disbelief over his fictional counterpart’s life choices. “That he would even write about this, and then hire a black woman to play him!”
When he read the script, “I thought, I know this guy,” he said. “We all know this guy.” His goal is “for the audience to really like Danny,” up until the point at which he reveals his rotten core. “Then it’s that feeling of, ‘No, I like you! Why are you saying this?’ ”
Even though he finds Danny despicable, De Julio said, “I’m so happy I got to try out Danny. There’s so much there. He’s so tragic.”
Ari Butler, who plays Danny’s levelheaded boyfriend, said: “My role is certainly the most reasoned character in the play who brings an outsider’s viewpoint into the story. [He] has a more immediate sense that the decisions Danny is making are so obviously foolish.”
“I think the premise of the play sort of sinks or swims with whether or not the audience buys that what [Danny] wrote is really wonderful,” Butler said. (The audience never sees the play-within-a-play.) “If you buy that pretext, that what he wrote is really special, then it frees you to go on the journey with the characters.”
Through June 9, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney. 301-924-3400. www.olneytheatre.org.
Starting at 1 p.m. June 9, the Anacostia Playhouse is holding an open house. Scope out its shiny new digs at 2020 Shannon Pl. SE in anticipation of its opening. Construction is still underway; the management suggests you wear jeans you don’t mind getting dusty. According to Julia Robey Christian, it’s still all systems go for a soft opening on June 10 for the D.C. Jazz Festival followed by the D.C. Black Theatre Festival starting June 21.
For more information, Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.