The current season of Aurora Fox Shows

Aurora Fox Arts Center continues to stretch its artistic wings

Can a mid-western family-businessman expect success in the vast Chinese market? Daniel Cavanaugh is disillusioned when he quickly realizes the language barrier is perhaps the smallest of his hurdles. Business practices, culture, customs and government involvement all thwart Cavanaugh’s immense faith in himself.

The artists at The Fox didn’t know how hard it could be. Just as a businessman in China has difficulties learning the culture, so too does an American theater company producing a play with Chinese characters and themes. We chose Chinglish in part out of narcissistic self-confidence, but also because it is the right show to do at the right time. When we chose it over a year ago, we suspected that early 2017 might be a fine time to reflect on America’s place in the global economy and how to begin to find out what we don’t know.

We didn’t know how to speak Mandarin. We received early advice from our friends at Theatre Esprit Asia and now have six Mandarin speakers in the cast.

We didn’t know anything about the Chinese bureaucracy. Now we have an amazing dramaturg, Philip Beck, who was immersed in the architecture boom working for Chinese firms with foreign investors under the watch of party officials.

We didn’t know how to perfect the comic rhythms in two languages and subtitles. Now we have director, Steve Wilson, actors Mark Rubald and Ke Zang, and El Armstrong’s nimble projections. The result is a hilarious linguistic circus act.

We didn’t have guanxi. To poorly translate, guanxi means relationship. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanxi . Through the careful and respectful cultivation of our new relationships, the Aurora Fox may just be starting to have guanxi with the Chinese.

We have had a long relationship with you; come to the theater and let us make introductions.

By Charles Packard

 

Don’t miss the regional premiere of “Chinglish” by David Henry Hwang. Opening March 24 on the Fox Main Stage. Tickets at www.aurorafox.org or call 303.739.1970.

Porgy and Bess

Who Tells Whose Story?

I was in my office late one evening last week. The sounds of a Porgy and Bess rehearsal began. Stage door slamming, greetings, music, laughing, hubbub.

The stage manager barked something to bring attention to the piano; and the piano started playing.

Part-by-part, baritones, tenors, altos and sopranos repeated back the Gershwins’ melodies. I had to get close and see the people from whom these sounds were coming. Bouncing down the steps all I could think was, “This music is HARD! Do we have the people that can do this?” I went on stage and stood in back and part-by-part I thought, “YES, we do.” Baritones, tenors, altos and sopranos each proved their place at the piano.

I stood in back but as badly as wanted to jump in and join and offer advice and encouragement I stayed behind. I know I don’t really belong in this group. I worry that I won’t be respected or accepted. Who am I to tell them how to tell the story of Porgy and Bess?

People who know me well know I have long been self-conscious regarding my legitimacy as the teller of some stories.

Can a middle aged white guy properly tell the story of Porgy and Bess—if he is non-musical? Full confession: I am non-musical. I sang badly in choirs and was useless at the few instruments I tried, but I have had a wonderful career stage managing, producing and directing dozens and dozens of musicals. Legitimately. I study hard. I respect what I don’t know. And I surround myself with enormously talented people. I do not have to play violin to facilitate the violin part for it to have emotional impact on the audience. I need to appreciate the instrument and trust the expert playing it. The player trusts me to interpret what the audience will feel back to her.

Now the other part of legitimate: Middle-aged, middle class white guy. Can I tell the story of the impoverished black residents of Cat Fish Row? Can DuBose Heywood and Ira Gershwin be trusted with the story?

I believe the answer is yes. This is a complex question and answer of cultural appropriation, exploitation, style, class and motive, but the answer is yes. I enter the rehearsal hall with an open heart. I know what I don’t know. I trust and empower the experts. The Gershwin and Heywood estates knew to trust the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks to ring out of the script our last nagging doubts of stereotypical characters and derogatory language when the musical was revived on Broadway in 2012.

You won’t ever hear me sing along, but you will know I am in the wing, listing and rooting for every note from every throat.

by Charles Packard

For more information about The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess read this LA Times article and this NPR story.

Life on the Margins of Polite Society

The “Wonderful Bag” contains many things.  In the past, it has held the world’s most dangerous mountain, a katana, the Soady Ridge buck, a can of Spam, and many, many other items. Its contents are the imaginations of all of the artists that are part of The Fox. On the Ides of March, 2016, we opened up our “Wonderful Bag” and found an interesting theme for our 32nd Season: “Life On The Margins of Polite Society.”

Nowhere else but in Aurora will you find a vampire, a disabled beggar with a goat cart, an obsessed explorer of an undiscovered species, a Midwesterner trying to build a business in China and three drag queens traveling across the Australian Outback–all under one roof!

Season 32 explores “Life on the Margins of Polite Society”-–how does mainstream society work consciously and unconsciously to exclude groups of people, and how do those excluded groups find the strength to survive and succeed? Be prepared to be amazed and entertained!

Season 32 begins on October 7, 2016. You won’t want to miss it!

Dracula
Music by Frank Wildhorn
Book and Lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton
Conceived by Don Black, Christopher Hampton and Frank Wildhorn
On the Aurora Fox Mainstage
October 7 – November 6, 2016

Dracula is a thrilling drama of suspense and a Gothic romance, set in Europe at the end of the Victorian Age. The story follows the famed vampire as he lusts for new blood. Jonathan Harker and Mina Murray fall victim to Dracula’s unnatural charm, and along with Doctor Van Helsing, must fight Dracula’s supernatural powers. Dracula will enthrall audiences with its powerful score and its potential for bringing the undead to life in this haunting musical of unrequited love.

The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
By George Gershwin, Dubose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin
Book adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks
Musical Score Adapted by Dierdre L. Murray
On the Aurora Fox Mainstage
November 25 – January 1, 2017

This operatic adaptation of Heyward’s play, Porgy and Bess, follows the lives of the inhabitants of Catfish Row, an African-American section of Charleston, South Carolina. We follow the crippled Porgy and his beloved Bess, who is under the thrall of the dangerous Crown, and the sinewy drug dealer Sportin’ Life.

Myth (World Premiere)
By Charles Wefso
In the Aurora Fox Studio Theatre
January 20 – February 19, 2017

Jason’s small campfire and videocamera strain to penetrate the darkness of the remote woods outside of Yellow Knife, Canada. Jason is doggedly searching for the definitive proof of an undiscovered species he is certain exists, and must exist in this place.

Chinglish (Regional Premiere)
By David Henry Hwang
On the Aurora Fox Mainstage
March 24 – April 9, 2017

A hilarious comedy about the challenges of doing business in a country whose language and underlying cultural assumptions can be worlds apart from those of the West. The play tells the adventures of Daniel, an American businessman from the Midwest, who hopes to establish his family’s sign-making business in China. Through a comic exchange, he learns what is lost and found in translation.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
(Regional Premiere)
Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Arranged by Stephen “Spud” Murphy
On the Aurora Fox Mainstage
April 21 – May 28, 2017

Based on the popular 1994 film of the same name, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert follows two drag queens and a transsexual who buy a run-down old bus (they call it Priscilla) and set out on a road trip across the Australian Outback. During their journey, the trio encounters an array of Australian citizens, some of whom aren’t receptive to their lifestyle, but they persevere, while strengthening their own friendships.

Season tickets are available by calling the box office at 303-739-1970.

Renewals are available at last season’s price, new subscribers get all five shows for as low as $85 (opening nights) or $120 (pick your dates) for all five shows PLUS Phamaly’s production of Pygmalion.