Friday, January 13, 2012

It's TV Time!!

This weekend, you can turn on the TV and see some folks who have connections to the local San Diego theatre scene.

First up is A&E’s brand new series (and a spin off of their highly successful show, “Storage Wars”) titled “Shipping Wars.” The season’s premiere episode features rookie shipper Jarrett Joyce as he takes on the gargantuan task of moving a 7-foot-long Venus flytrap puppet from Philadelphia, PA to San Diego, CA. Will it make it in time for opening night of “Little Shop of Horrors” at Cygnet Theatre? And what kind of bumps will both Jarrett and his mean, green, man-eating machine Audrey II hit along the way? You’ll have to tune in to find out!

Brandon Joel Maier, Melissa Fernandes and Audrey II star in "Little Shop Of Horrors" at Cygnet Theatre.

A scene from Cygnet Theatre's production of "Little Shop of Horrors." Photo by Manuel Rotenberg.

Next is the airing of Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman show “Let Me Down Easy” as part of this year’s Great Performances series on PBS. Smith, who has been praised by Newsweek magazine as “the most exciting individual in American theatre,” was inspired by work she did while at the Yale School of Medicine, creating a new form of theatre that combines theatrical art, social commentary, and investigative journalism into one tour-de-force performance. In her signature style of interviewing a wide range of people (in the case of “Easy” over 300 folks on three different continents) and then personifying them on stage, Smith features a diverse array of opinions on and reactions to matters of the human body, including our broken healthcare system, the price of good health, and the importance of the human spirit.

“Easy” has been heralded by Variety as “a totally vital piece of theatre, mixing a standup comic’s instincts with a great reporter’s keen eye” and it was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 of 2009. The production being broadcast was taped during its run at Arena Stage last year, after which the show embarked on a brief tour, which had a stop at the Lyceum Theatre in San Diego in April 2011 (It was actually a co-production by La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Repertory Theatre, and Vantage Theatre). If you didn’t get a chance to see it while it was here in SD, you can tune into the small screen and see what you missed.


Anna Deavere Smith in "Let Me Down Easy." Photo by Joan Marcus.

And looking ahead, PBS’s Great Performances series will be broadcasting a recorded version of the hit Broadway musical Memphis (with original stars Chad Kimball and Montego Glover) in February. Memphis has plenty of San Diego connections itself, as it was born out of the La Jolla Playhouse before transferring to Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and then onto Broadway, where it won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical. Christopher Ashley, artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse, directed both the San Diego and Broadway productions and was nominated for a 2010 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.

Montego Glover and Chad Kimball in "Memphis." Photo by Joan Marcus.

Speaking of Ashley, he has plans to return to Broadway this year to direct the musical Leap of Faith, which will open this April at the St. James Theatre right across the street from The Shubert Theatre, where Memphis is still going strong after over two years of playing the Great White Way.

Congratulations to our talented local theatre folks who keep San Diego recognized on a national level.

And, here are the details if you want to set your DVR or watch in real time:

“Shipping Wars – Pilot Episode” Saturday, January 14 – 6:00pm on A&E

“Let Me Down Easy” Sunday, January 15 – 12:30pm on KPBS

“Memphis” Friday, February 24 – Check local listings

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