Dramashop presents "Seminar," MIAC welcomes Yamato back to Erie, and Voodoo Brewery introduces the Voodoo Lounge Hashtag Series.
Actors may get all the glory, but sometimes a writer can be the true star of a production. Give a performer some rotten dialogue – like what poor Natalie Portman had to work with in the Star Wars Episode I, II, and III – and even people with an Academy Award-winning pedigree can flounder in front of the camera or under the spotlight.
Of course, there are plenty of people that aren't quite sure if their writing is closer to Aaron Sorkin or Uwe Boll (If you haven't heard of Boll, you're probably better off). Many of them are stuck in between, unsure of whether or not they can make it as a writer, seeking help where they can.
Seminar, Dramashop's latest mainstage production, focuses on this creative struggle. The Theresa Rebeck-written play will return for the second half of a two-weekend run at the Renaissance Center stage at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, with shows on Friday and Saturday as well, ready to flesh out the story of four struggling writers seeking help from a well-known author.
"It's about their journey and their connections with each other – it's a very character-driven play. There are times when it feels like a kitchen-sink type of drama because it's very quiet in terms of blocking and it has two places of action," says Director Alaina Manchester, referencing the British cultural movement that stressed social realism. "I knew we wanted a piece that was smart and edgy, and Dramashop is such a process-driven theater group that doing a show about an artistic process is very much what they're about."
Dramashop first-timer Chris Bucci takes the lead as Leonard, the man who leads his new pupils during their, well, seminars, his rough teaching style causing tension among the ranks. Appropriately, much of the action is driven by dialogue, with the five-person cast using their lines to help crate much of the Outer Critics Circle- and Drama Desk-nominated play's conflict. While the show can even act as a learning tool for aspiring writers, more than just those interested in putting pen to paper – or fingers to keys – can find something for them in Seminar.
"It's a play for anybody who has had an interest in the artistic process, but I think it's farther reaching than that," Manchester says. "It's very fun, it's very young, it's very fast, and it's very witty. That's kind of the audience that it's looking to get a hold of."
Whether you're planning on being the next Tom Stoppard or just want to stop in for a fun night, Seminar should be wordy in all the right ways.
It's hard to break tradition. You might have even heard a certain milkman from Anatevka sing about how important the idea of rituals are – although some things eventually change. Luckily for Erieites, the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture won't be breaking from a certain popular Erie tradition.
Yamato: The Drummers of Japan will return to Northwestern Pennsylvania for the sixth time in 12 years to take the stage at the Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17 for two shows that some Erieites have been excited for since Yamato left two years ago.
"It's a high-energy, percussion-based program, but with lots of theatrics as well," says MIAC Director Jamie Grady over the phone. "It's a 'show' in the best sense of the word. The instruments are 400 years old, and there's a Japanese and Asian tradition here, but it's being used in a new way to introduce people to this type of drumming."
The instrument Grady is referring to is the taiko. In fact, in Japan, 'taiko' refers to a range of tubular-bodied drums, which the members of Yamato play to thunderous effect.
"It's a really unique production – definitely something you don't get to see every day. It's definitely one of those things you want to see year after year," Grady adds. "I had a woman call me about this time last year asking me if they were going to be here and insisted that I call her the minute I signed the contract so that she could get tickets."
Even better, these upcoming performances should be extra special for the drumming troupe and their crowd. Yamato is currently out on the ROYJOH – or "on the road" tour in honor of the group's 20th anniversary. Over 2,500 shows later, the drummers are back to give Erie a taste of the spirit of Japan.
Whether you've seen Yamato before or have yet to feel the beat of the drum, the Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center will be putting on an Erie tradition that would make Tevye proud.
Voodoo lounge hashtag series
The hashtag has been having a good year so far, with Facebook adopting the ol' octothorpe and other various social media platforms permitting people to place the number sign before the word or phrase of their choice.
And now, it's the beer industry's turn to try out the symbol.
Voodoo Brewery will be kicking off a pair of firsts at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 in one big #party. The Meadville manufacturer of tasty adult beverages is starting The Hashtag Series, a run of trending topic-themed beers, beginning with the brewery's new malt liquor #40oztofreedom, a play off of Sublime's "40oz. to Freedom."
To help celebrate this chain of drinks, the brewery will also hold their very first concert in the brand new Voodoo Lounge, with New York-based hip-hop/hard-punk band Shinobi Ninja playing with Detroit rockers Kaleido and Meadville quartet One If By Land.
Now, if you needed any more reason to head to Voodoo Nov. 16, you should probably know that #40oztofreedom will be in short supply. Each entry of The Hashtag Series will be brewed once, so when the batch is gone, well, you'll have to wait for the next time Voodoo comes up with an idea. Luckily, there should be many more to come.
"We're hoping that it's going to be an unlimited thing, where we're going to constantly keep making stuff," says Voodoo Brewery Wasailler Director Matteo Rachocki. "It's going to be a side project where we'll be releasing beers completely randomly. Whatever we feel like making, we're going to throw it in a bottle and call it whatever we want."
Beer, bands, and social media? That's a #trend we can get behind.
Alex Bieler can be contacted at aBieler@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @Catch20Q.