So You Want To Be A Critic? Let Me Say A Few Words First…

HARTFORD — The word of professional arts criticism and writing has had a seismic change in the last decade with traditional media print platforms downsizing the role of reviewer, indeed its arts coverage.

But there’s hope — and even opportunity — for writers who are savvy enough to navigate a new media terrain. Those who adapt, write well and take an entrepreneurial approach can find new inroads — and even a career, where none existed before.

Arts writer Frank Rizzo has seen this media landscape change as dramatically as the shows he’s covered for 40 years as arts writer and theater critic for more than 33 years for The Hartford Courant and its Tribune network of newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Baltimore Sun.

Rizzo will be lecturing on “How To Be a Critic In a Changing Media World” at the Mark Twain House & Museum, 385 Farmington Ave., Hartford on Saturday, Sept. 29  as part of the two-day  Writers’ Weekend that also includes Sunday, Sept. 30.

The Writers Weekend offers writers (and aspiring writers!) two days of workshops, panel discussions, author talks, book signings, and more, featuring a variety of presentations on a wide range of topics. Other presenters to date include storyteller Matthew Dicks, humor writer Gina Barreca, poet Bessy Reyna, children’s book author Dana Rau, young-adult author CD Bell, playwright Jacques Lamarre, mystery writer Chris Knopf, travel writer Kim Knox Beckius, and novelist Amity Gage, with many more speakers to be announced soon.

“It’s the best and worst of times for arts writers,” says Rizzo, now a freelance journalist who works for a wide variety of news outlets and on-line platforms. “While the traditional media universe is unrecognizable from just a few years ago, there are opportunities, too, that never existed before. This new world of arts writing is still evolving and no one knows for sure how it will end — if it will at all. But understanding its dynamics and being able to change with it is essential for any arts writer.”

Rizzo is a theater columnist and feature writer for Connecticut magazine as well as a theater critic for Variety, covering shows in New York and beyond. He also contributes stories for American Theatre magazine, The New York Times, the Hearst newspapers of Connecticut, Theatre Development Fund’s on-line STAGES magazine, Hartford magazine, and other outlets, including back at the Courant.

He is also on the board of directors for the American Theatre Critics Association and the Connecticut Critics Circle. He is also a judge in a number of national playwriting competitions.

Rizzo, who lives in new Haven and New York City, also lectures at universities, museums, cultural organizations and, most recently, Show-Score in New York, on a variety on subjects, including the musicals “Hamilton,” “Carousel,” and “My Fair Lady.” He also writes on arts subjects for his blog, ShowRiz.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @ShowRiz.

The registration fee for the Writers’ Weekend includes admission to Saturday night’s keynote address by Gary Shteyngart (and a copy of his novel “Lake Success:)  plus Sunday evening’s capstone presentation by Jodi Picoult  (and a signed copy of her new book “A Spark of Light”).

Registrants receive discounted admission to Tapping Into Twain, which is the Mark Twain House & Museum’s annual brew fest, on Friday, Sept. 28.

Registration is $250; $225 for members of The Mark Twain House & Museum.

REGISTER HERE!

Visit marktwainhouse.org regularly for updates.

Before ‘Hamilton,’ There Was ‘In the Heights’ — Now Re-Issued

Ten years ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail and many others from the creative team behind Hamilton had their first Broadway hit with their Tony and Grammy Award-winning In the Heights. The pleasure of that musical — which began as a student production when Miranda was a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Middletown and later developed at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford — was splendidly on display this summer at West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park.

To celebrate the show’s 10th anniversary, Ghostlight Records is releasing a three-LP soundtrack exclusively through Barnes & Noble, marking the first time the show has been offered on vinyl. The set features newly remastered audio, 21 tracks and 90 minutes of music, and a 12-inch-by-12-inch booklet with full lyrics, original Broadway show photos, a synopsis and a liner note from Kail. An MP3 download card is also included.

“[The anniversary] acts as a reminder of the things you’re proud of with people you love,” says Kail, 41. “That’s what this show represents for me, especially in a week where I can tell people I’m working with some of these same collaborators on a completely new project.”

Kail is referring to the limited television series he will direct and co-produce with Miranda based on the lives and careers of choreographer-director Bob Fosse and Broadway legend Gwen Verdon. Andy Blankenbuehler will choreograph the series coming to FX next year, with Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams attached as series leads. “One of the things that brings so much joy in my life is that I’ve been able to keep some of the most inspiring, thoughtful, kind human beings — who also happen to be exceptionally talented — in my life. “

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Where National Theatre Live! Films Are Playing In Connecticut…A Guide

Frustrated at not knowing exactly where National Theatre Live films are playing in Connecticut: when and where and what?

Me, too.

So with the help of my husband Bill Kux  I’m going to try to have a master list of what the films are and where they are playing posted on this website —  as best we can.

So hopefully now you can just check in here to find out about these remarkable films, presented live from London (usually matinee shows here; evening shows there with the time difference) or as “encore” presentations.

 

KATHARINE HEPBURN CULTURAL ARTS CENTER, OLD SAYBROOK

“Julie” – Sept.6 at 7 p.m.

“King Lear” – Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.

“Frankenstein” – Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.

“The Madness of King George” – Nov. 28 at 7 p.m.

 

QUICK CENTER, FAIRFIELD UNIVERSITY

“Julie” – Sept. 25 at 2 and 7

“King Lear” starring Ian McKellen – Oct. 17 at 1 and 6 p.m.

“The Madness Of King George” – Dec. 2 at 2 and 7 p.m.

“Anthony and Cleopatra” – Jan. 28  at 7 p.m.

“I’m Not Running” by David Hare – Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.

 

CINE STUDIO, HARTFORD

“Julie” – Sept. 6 and 9

“King Lear” -Sept. 27 and 30

“Frankenstein” starring Benedict Cumberbach – Oct. 22 and 29

“The Madness of King George” – Nov. 20 and 25

“Anthony and Cleopatra”- Dec. 6 and 9

 

NORTH HAVEN 12, NORTH HAVEN

BRANFORD 12, BRANFORD

BRASS MILL 12, WATERBURY

METRO MOVIES 12, MIDDLETOWN

“Frankenstein” – Oct. 22 and 29 at 7 p.m.

Brian Murray, Veteran Actor, Dead at 80

The following is my interview with Brian Murray when he was at Hartford Stage performing in Noel Coward’s “A Song at Twilight” in 2014. (The production also played Westport Country Playhouse). According to his Facebook posts, Murray has passed on.. He was 80.

By FRANK RIZZO

Arguably, Noel Coward’s most famous play is the witty still-in-love divorce comedy, “Private Lives.”

But the playwright’s own private life was that of a discreet gay British gentleman, a subject he explored indirectly in his late-in-life play, “A Song at Twilight,” now playing at Hartford Stage through March 16.

But Coward didn’t base the 1966 play’s central character of international literary figure Sir Hugo Latymer on himself but rather British author W. Somerset Maugham, a closeted man of a decidedly darker spirit than the bon vivant Coward.

In the play, Hugo’s long-ago romance with a young man is threatened to be exposed by the publishing of love letters, now in possession by a former female mistress of Hugo’s (played by Gordana Rashovich) who comes to visit him and his wife (Mia Dillon) at their Swiss villa.

The plot echos an incident in 1962, when Maugham’s gay nephew informed him that he was planning to write a biography of his uncle. Maugham wrote his nephew a check for the same amount of money he would have received from the book and the biography was not published —- until after Maugham’s died in 1965 in a villa in France.

`”There’s not much Coward in [the play],” says Brian Murray, who plays Sir Hugo in the Hartford Stage production. “He’s a nasty old man. And Coward was a very, very kind man with wonderful humor all the time.”

Director Mark Lamos says when he first approached the play he thought Coward was “outing” himself “but when I read it I thought, ‘Well, this isn’t like him at all.”’ Though not public about being gay, Coward lived his homosexual life openly but discreetly. “That was very accepted in its day,” says Lamos.

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