Education, Onstage

4th Wall Reviews Fun Home

No Comments 26 September 2017

 

4thwall_darrenTheatre Review:  Fun Home

by Darren Bradley

Fun Home is a Tony Award-winning production that is an adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir. Cadence’s production of the show opened on September 9th, and has been extended to October 15th. The show tells the story of Allison Bechdel growing up in the Bechdel Funeral Home which is own by her dad. This show is well done by putting the audience in the perspective of the performers, literally, and showing them the life of these characters. The role of Allison is played by three separate people who represent her childhood, teenager, and grown-up version of herself. Violet Craghead, Elizabeth Wyld, and Becca Ayers respectively. It tells the intriguing story of her life growing up with a gay father and her coming into her own light of sexuality. The story takes you on a wild roller coaster that one can never forget.

 

4thwall_elleTheatre Review:  Fun Home

by Elle Lockett

Fun Home was thrilling and relatable from the very beginning. Alison Bechdel’s description of a “perfect” family interlaced with Alison’s current perspective and knowledge of the many situations her younger self had gone through were hilarious, sweet, and revealing. Under the direction of Chase Kniffen this show flourished with upbeat, happy dance based numbers, such as “Raincoat of Love” that sharply contrasted with the more solemn, serious songs like “Telephone Wire” and “Edges of the World.” The show gave me a new perspective on growing up and the influence a father can have on his children. Virginia Repertory Theatre did a fantastic job showing how Bruce’s actions forever altered Alison’s life.

One of my favorite aspects of this show was the onstage seating. I think that it’s a wonderful way to arrange Virginia Repertory Theatre’s Theatre Gym and a wonderful way to play towards all parts of the stage. This gave the audience the opportunity to feel as if they were in the home itself. While sitting on stage left I felt included in every scene and that I was never subjected to starting at the actors’ backs. In fact, some scenes were played more towards the on stage seating. This can be seen when Roy and Bruce are upstairs alone or at the end of “Edges of the World.” All together the arrangement of this set was clever and inclusive to all audience members..

Duke Lafoon’s performance was groundbreaking. When dealing with an extremely complex character, like Bruce,  he was able to show the patterns of cheating and the beginnings of insanity with perfect clarity. I was not once confused when trying to understand his objective, except for the overall why he killed himself; however, I think that is the thinking point of the show. It’s a question that was swimming around in my head all day.  

In short Cadence Theatre’s production of Fun Home was thought-provoking, meaningful, and realistic. The show was supported and empowered by a strong message of how your life can change other’s. The experience was highly enjoyable and cathartic, just as expected from the idea of adding a monumental musical like Fun Home, to Cadence Theatre Company’s and Virginia Repertory Theatre’s amazing cast and crew.

 

4thwall_eden

Theatre Review:  Fun Home

By Eden Johnson

Fun Home is a biographical musical about the life of cartoonist and LGBT activist Allison Bechdel. It weaves through many different parts of her life and her journey of self discovery. While she is realizing her own identity, her father waivers between suppressing and experimenting with his own sexuality, which drives him into depression.  Mr. Bechdel’s struggles, and eventual suicide changes the Bechdel family’s future, as well as their own memories of their past.

The narrative is told through Allison’s eyes at different stages of her life: childhood, the college years, and as a present-day adult. As all three figures recount her story, adult Allison narrates with hilarious comments and gripping insights about what was really going on as these events unfold.

The role of Allison Bechdel is marvelously played by Broadway veteran Becca Ayers (Les Miserables, The Addams Family, Avenue Q). Ayers gets the humor, emotional torment, and complexity of this character. I truly connected with Allison Bechdel throughout the show. Ayers perfectly delivers every comedic line and will have you in stitches at times. The actor who played Bruce, Duke Lafoon, was perfectly cast in his role: you could slowly see Bruce crumbling to pieces as the show progressed. Overall, I believe that everyone was expertly cast and each actor brought something important to the show.

The set was another standout part of the show. The intimate theatre had onstage seating, and pieces of the set were in the audience. The “surround sound” orchestra (split between two pedestals) was wonderful, but could get a little loud at times, especially for seats directly in front of the drums. Allison’s drawing desk was in the aisle, which is a wonderful idea for people on end seats, but people off to the side or in the front had obstructed views during certain scenes in the show. I did enjoy how a lot of the scenery was done using lighting. The crew projected images of Bechdel’s drawings on the wall so they didn’t have to fill their limited space with a bulky set. Any visibility issues were outweighed by the artistic benefits of distributing the set beyond the stage.

Finally, I have to talk about musical numbers, because Fun Home is a musical. Every number in the show was wonderfully executed. Becca Ayers, Duke Lafoon, and Andrea Rivette (Helen) all delivered beautiful emotional ballads, but the songs involving the young actors were the showstoppers.Ring of Keys is my personal favorite because it shows the moment when Little Allison realizes she likes girls. Violet Craghead-Way (Little Allison) has such a powerful voice coming out of her tiny frame! I also enjoyed “Come to the Fun Home”, the song where the kids create an imaginary ad for the funeral home that was reminiscent of The Jackson Five. It was full of such energy and joy, despite the subject matter, that it made me want to get up and dance.

Don’t miss your chance to see Fun Home at Cadence Theatre! It is  approximately 90 minutes long and is recommended for ages 15 and up for language, thematic elements, and some sexual content.

 

4thwall_maya

Theatre Review:  Fun Home

by Maya Jenkins

Fun Home. Fun Home is musical. It is a musical that is humorously depressing. It is tragically beautiful. It is familiar, yet a stranger. Fun home is a show. It is a show that I most likely will never forget.

This interactive story is about Alison (Becca Ayres), a butch 43-year old woman, who is retelling and rethinking her past for her graphic novel. The majority of Fun Home revolves around her connection to her father, Bruce Bechdel (Duke Lafoon), and the Funeral Home her family, Helen (Andrea Rivette), Christian (Brandon McKinney), and John (Cole Johnson), lived in. The story primarily focuses on her fluctuated relationship with him from them both being gay, and his suicide when she was a young adult.

This wasn’t my first time in Cadence, but as soon as I walked in with my ticket, I was no longer where I was outside of the theater.  I walked into the Bechdel Funeral home, in rural Pennsylvania. I was greeted by burgundy curtains and antique lamps. The walls that I once knew to be black brick, now wore yellow, floral wallpaper. Cadence is a theater that is already intimate but the scenery and lighting, lead by Daniel Burgess and and Joe Doran, consumed me. This was different than any other show I’ve seen at Cadence because there were people on stage as well as actresses and actors in the traditional audience. Characters often watched  alongside audience members, as if we were experiencing the same thing. From the set looking so realistic, the funeral home was more than “cozy.” It was almost trapping as many of the characters were in this show. At times when I saw the characters imploding on themselves, I felt the theater getting smaller. Various Alisons’ were trapped in the idea of what her father wanted her to be. Helen (Andrea Rivette), her mother, was trapped in a loveless marriage. Bruce (Duke Lafoon) was trapped in a man who did not embody his true sexuality.

The band serenaded from the balconies above, and will probably be the cause of endless humming for the next few weeks. Below them we saw these perfectly executed flawed characters. This musical is unique in the fact that three people played the same character, but at different stages of the character’s life. Because all the Alisons presented themselves as one, I periodically had to remind myself that they were separate. All the Alisons  seemed bonded through experience, however each actress gave a diverse flare to which stage they were playing. Violet Craghead-Way, who played Little Alison, gave such a mature role a youthful touch that brightened the stage. Elizabeth Wyld, who played Medium Alison wore a familiar awkwardness on every phrase and hand gesture that everyone could relate to. Becca Ayers, who played Big Alison presented the most vulnerable side to her character. We could see her inner emotions crypted on her face, projected on the wall from her book, and through her captioning in the graphic novel. We were all watching her characters life drifting past us like it was drifting past her. As she was retelling and rethinking her history for her book, so was I. When Ayers looks at the audience, she did as if we were good friends. She told the story as if she was telling it to herself. I could see Helen’s (Andrea Rivette) frustration from her dying relationship  with her husband in this funeral home.  Duke Lafoon (Bruce) showed his character’s slow death, from his lack of knowing who he was.

This musical is wildly unique. Not everyday do I come across a story narrated by a lesbian graphic novelist. Not everyday do I watch a musical on a woman’s journey of truly being free through reviewing her past with father, who was a closeted homosexual, mortician. Not everyday do I even see three characters playing the same one. Fun Home is immensely different.

One of the first lines in the show by Big Alison  was “My dad and I were nothing alike…. My dad and I were everything alike.”  I couldn’t name even a subtle likeness between me and Alison’s life. However in that theater, I felt like we carried all the same similarities, as if we carried the same life. Sometimes as I watched Alison watching her life and smiling, I saw a audience member beside her smiling the same way. Every person in that theatre shared something. We shared an experience. We shared the knowledge of her experiences. Even though Alison’s situation was not like many the core meaning of her journey is universal. As I heard Medium Alison sing “I’m changing my major to Joan,” I thought of all the people who have been so infatuated with someone that they have analyzed the knowledge of that person in an truly scientific manner. I felt a connection to  Little Alison when I heard her singing  “La la la la” over her parents arguing, because we all have  wanted to drown out the noise of awful things surrounding us, When I saw Bruce’s “identity attack” near the end of his life, I thought of how relatable it was to see a person not knowing who they are because they have tried to be someone they are not for a very long time. This musical was sad a times but happy at others. Behind the smiles and humorous moments, their was true meaning.

Art is suppose to unite us when it’s hard to find something to bring us together. Theater to me is storytelling in which we can gravitate toward people who are nothing like us from shared experiences. Theater to me is an artistic representation of progression. When we can see ourselves in our worst enemy, it is so much harder to hate them. When we can see ourselves in characters involved in the French Revolution, curious adolescents tragically discovering their sexuality at a religious boarding school in nineteenth century Germany, or immigrants living in Washington Heights, it brings the human race together. Theater shows that we are more alike than unalike. That is what Fun Home did. Alison is a Butch graphic novelist. She is the daughter of a funeral director in rural Pennsylvania, who was gay and committed suicide. Also, Alison is just a person who is trying to get self understanding through her journey to freedom. I see myself in Alison. Do you?

 

4thwall_samantha

Theatre Review:  Fun Home

by Samantha Game

Caption: From the intimate staging to the truly beautiful direction done by Chase Kiffen, Fun Home is sure to amaze and astonish all audiences. Written by Lisa Kron and Jeanne Tesori, Fun Home is both a heartwarming and heart wrenching autobiographical musical that follows Alison Bechdel, a middle-aged lesbian cartoonist, as she recalls memories from two time periods in her broken past: one being her 10-year-old self and one being in her first year of college.  This honest story focuses in on what it is like to be part of a highly dysfunctional family and opens up conversations about subjects such as sexuality, infidelity, and death.

Becca Ayres brilliantly effuses a sense of rawness while portraying Alison.  Her technique paired with her extraordinary vocals is sure to move any audience. Likewise, the innocence displayed by both Violet Craghead-Way (Small Alison) and Elizabeth Wyld (Medium Alison) give the audience perspective when telling the backstory to the facets of Alison’s personality and how that ties into who the character is as an adult. Also, Duke Lafoon (Bruce Bechdel) and Andrea Rivette (Helen Bechdel) both take a truthful approach to their characters, which is highly important when portraying such emotionally-charged people.

The intimate performance space was perfect for this show and the staging was sublime. Perhaps the best part of this interpretation of Fun Home was the splendid use of the projections, however. Since this show is based off of a comic book, Joe Doran (Lighting Designer) took to projecting drawings of paintings, signs, and other objects that would typically be set pieces, onto the set.  This stellar idea is a smart way to give this show an artistic touch.

To conclude, this breathtaking show is a must-see, as it is sure to resonate with all audiences.

 

Education

Youth on Stage with Cap One

No Comments 25 July 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Capital One Grant to Put Richmond Youth on Center Stage

Richmond, Va. (July 1, 2017)—Cadence Theatre Company is pleased to announce it has received a $20,000 grant from Capital One. Cadence Theatre Company will use the funds for Stage Write, a student leadership and workforce development program.

Launched in 2014, Stage Write uses performance arts training to help Richmond area High School students develop and strengthen skills—from critical thinking to teamwork—necessary in today’s workforce. Students work with professional teaching artists to apply these skills in original curriculum, including creative writing, college essays, mock interviews, and oral presentation.

“Our goal is to give the students the confidence and life skills they need to be of greatest value to their community at-large,” said Stage Write Program Director Laine Satterfield. “Capital One volunteers have been instrumental in our continued growth and success, and we eagerly anticipate developing next year’s program.”

C1 IFG V ColorThrough its Future Edge initiative, Capital One is investing $150 million over five years in community grants and support efforts to help more Americans get the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. For more information, visit www.capitaloneinvestingforgood.com.

“At Capital One, we believe that that a quality education is the most important determinant of future success for children and youth. We are proud to work alongside organizations like Cadence Theatre that provide countless opportunities for students to build workplace skills and confidence, develop relationships with peers and mentors, and ultimately succeed in high school and future careers,” said Roger Ferguson, Managing Vice President of Advertising and Creative.

(Photo by Jason Collins Photography)

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About Cadence Theatre Company

The mission of Cadence Theatre Company (CTC) is to inspire and transform our community by presenting contemporary theatrical works that uplift the spirit, challenge the mind, and honor both our individuality and our shared humanity. Through a commitment to artistic excellence, Cadence fearlessly tells the stories of our lives as we live them now. In pursuing its mission with a commitment to artistic excellence, CTC in partnership with Virginia Repertory Theatre (Virginia Rep), presents a three-show season that celebrates the world’s most renowned playwrights, composers, and lyricists. CTC is further dedicated to accomplishing its mission by offering a variety of original educational programs and activities that foster inclusion, empathy, and critical dialog across age, gender, and cultural ancestry.

 

Education

Impact of TRAIN

No Comments 05 May 2017

TRAIN_Logo2_Black_on567x292 (1)by Danielle ‘Dani’ Brown

It can be an amazing experience witnessing the depth of a child’s dream, and particularly, their determination and ambition to make that dream a reality. At the Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn, seasoned theatre artists, and the parents that entrust their children’s dreams to them, get to witness this every Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday — with the occasional Saturday session. Cadence Theatre Company and Virginia Repertory Theatre’s TRAIN pre-professional program has created an exclusive, acting-intensive oasis for the young theatre artist-in-training, with an opportunity to showcase their talent in front of local directors and casting agents and perform in front of family and friends through TRAIN EXPRESS.

“There is nothing else like it for teens in the Richmond area,” said Nancy Coles, a TRAIN parent. “It’s like having a theater coach, film coach, dialect coach and voice coach all rolled into one!”

By providing a program that includes musical theatre, film and TV, college audition, Stanislavski-based actor’s studio, dialect, and vocal coaching, CTC and Virginia Rep has designed an all-in-one, one-of-a-kind opportunity to nurture, develop, and enhance a young actor’s knowledge and love of their craft.

TRAIN_photo“Jordan has always loved theater but he gained confidence and stage presence since being in the TRAIN program. The program brought out talents he didn’t know he had or hadn’t tapped into yet,” said Angie Pearson, a TRAIN parent. “…He was also able to experience [the] behind the scenes of a production. He has learned the tools that will be with him [for] a lifetime in the performing arts field he plans to pursue.”

And, speaking of pursuits, our TRAIN students have not spared any time in applying all of their newfound skills. A good majority are using their talents to dominate the stages in their schools and communities, for now.

“[Trace] just wrapped up a show at JCC, and is currently working on his school musical,” said Nancy Coles.

Others are parlaying them into massive feats in their collegiate future.

“Next year, I am going to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for to get my BFA in Acting!” said Bobbie Edmunds, a high school TRAIN student.

There are even a good few of our “TRAIN-ers” either wrapping up performances or beginning rehearsals for professional gigs, like CTC’s Violet, Virginia Repertory Theatre’s A Christmas Story and Beauty and the Beast, and the upcoming feature film, Permanent, starring Patricia Arquette.

“TRAIN has opened doors to [Ellie’s] for a few acting jobs,” said Kent Duffy, a TRAIN parent. “In July 2016, she was invited to be a part of SPARC New Voices for the Theater with a role in one of the plays. She was also recommended to audition for the feature film Permanent and had a principal role in the film. Finally, she just was recommended to Quill Theater for an audition for Love’s Labours Lost in the role and Moth, and we found out today she got the role. She was recommended for all of these roles/experiences by her TRAIN instructors, therefore they were instrumental in helping her learn not just in the classroom, but on the stage as well .”

And some, like the ambitious artists they are, are pursuing a combination of all of the mentioned above.

“[Grace] was recently accepted to Walnut Hill School for the Arts, an independent school in Natick, Massachusetts, as an eleventh grade theater student and plans to attend next year,” revealed TRAIN parent Catherine O’Brion. “She’s acting in a short film project directed by a fellow student at the Henrico High School Center for the Arts (to be shown at Firehouse Theater as part of a festival of student films, I think). She was cast as Charlotte in SPARC’s summer production of Oliver. She performs in SPARC’s Spotlight.”

However, while practical application is important — and probably the reason many parents choose the program — the ultimate benefit students gain through TRAIN are skills most don’t understand the importance of until college, or after: focus, networking, and confidence.

“She is learning to be a professional,” said Kent Duffy.

While TRAIN is rigorous in its acting training, with an added emphasis on resume writing, theatre history, and headshot, reel, and vocal book development, it is also rigorous in its development of students’ work ethic and knowledge of their industry.

“She’s grown in every facet, with focused, individualized, professional feedback,” said Catherine O’Brion.

Whether they’re sharpening their on-camera presence with Erica Arvold, honing their acting craft with Laine Satterfield, finding their voice with Stephen Rudlin, polishing their dialects with Janet Rogers, or establishing their confidence on the musical theatre stage with Debra Clinton, every week for a year TRAIN students come in ready to work. With a total commitment to their dream, these young theatre artists are breaking their own ground in the Richmond theatre community, the industry as a whole, and their lives.

 

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