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Theater Spotlight: Ken Ludwig

Ken Ludwig / photo by Leslie Cashen

Ken Ludwig / photo by Leslie Cashen

Ken Ludwig is a DC local and internationally acclaimed playwright who has had numerous hits on Broadway, in London’s West End, and throughout the world. He has won two Laurence Olivier Awards (England’s highest theater honor), two Tony Award nominations, two Helen Hayes Awards, and an Edgar Award. His work has been commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Bristol Old Vic, and his plays have been performed in over thirty countries in more than twenty languages. His new book is called How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.

I spoke with Ken about his love of Shakespeare, the Bard’s history in DC, and choosing to make this city his creative home.

Joanna Castle Miller: How did you first fall in love with Shakespeare?

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Entertainment, Interviews, People, The Features, We Love Arts

Theater Spotlight: White Hot Set

If you’ve seen Shakespeare Theatre Company’s excellent production of Old Times, chances are your first impression was of a monochromatic letterbox, as the minimalist all-white set seemed to float against the black proscenium (and if you haven’t seen Old Times, you need to get hopping over to the Lansburgh this week, as closing is July 3. It’s a thought-provoking performance of Pinter’s play, as Don noted in his review). Almost every surface is white, with glass and chrome punctuations.

Not surprisingly, it was the cleanest backstage I’ve ever seen.

An all-white set presents many challenges, from design to execution to maintenance. I spoke with designer Walt Spangler and the STC run crew about their experiences with Old Times, and even learned the secret ingredients to keeping whites bright and cigarette ash in its proper place. And when a set’s this minimal, it’s not a simple process – sometimes a designer has to go through fifty different ashtrays to find the perfect one.

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Interviews, People, The Features, We Love Arts

Theater Spotlight: Rick Foucheux

Rick Foucheux in Theater J’s “The Odd Couple.” Photo credit: Stan Barouh

Second in a series of interviews with the many theater professionals who call DC their artistic home.

There comes a crossroads in every theater professional’s life, where you have to answer the question – should I try my luck in New York or LA? After two decades as a beloved actor of the DC scene, Rick Foucheux hit that point. So he spent last year “pounding the pavement” in NYC.

But, luckily for us, he returned to DC when the year was out. As exciting as the Big Apple was, and despite his doing well there, its energy just didn’t suit him. “New York has a charge, but it’s like a frayed electrical cord,” he joked, “DC has a more regular current.”

Foucheux got his start in DC theater when he came here in 1982 to host a TV show called “Good Morning Washington” on Channel 7 – it lasted a year. Having studied theater in college in his home state of Louisiana, he thought he’d try his hand at freelancing and made a decent living acting in industrial films. But when the “theater explosion” burst upon DC in the mid-1980’s, he took a chance and got back on the boards. Suddenly it seemed the area was filled with “strong small companies, and as they grew, I grew too.”

In speaking with Foucheux about his background and thoughts on DC theater, it’s obvious that he’s a gracious gentleman, putting you instantly at ease. Displaying equal doses of humor and humility, he’s happiest as a collaborator, enjoying his work with the current crop of playwrights and feeling privileged to be a part of the process. “I like having the opportunity to make some comment,” he says, though then quick to point out he feels his is a small contribution. During our interview, his smooth voice reminded me of a old-school radio announcer, no doubt a result both of his training for TV and his Louisiana background. It’s a welcome respite from the days of mumblecore.

He knows he is lucky too. Continue reading

Entertainment, Interviews, People, The Features, We Love Arts

Theater Spotlight: Eleanor Holdridge

Eleanor Holdridge, director of Theater J's "Something You Did" by Willy Holtzman. Photo courtesy of Eleanor Holdridge.

First in a series of interviews with the many theater professionals who call DC their artistic home.

Eleanor Holdridge had been freelancing as a director for twenty years. It can be a grueling profession, on the road sometimes for eight months at a time to make a living. She was ready for a home.

“Welcome to DC! Now, direct a play that’s political,” she jokes.

Having recently moved here to head the directing program at The Catholic University of America, Holdridge is out of the gate directing Theater J’s season opener, Something You Did. Playwright Willy Holtzman has updated the piece from its 2008 incarnation to reflect the current polarized political climate. Replacing the controversial Imagining Madoff with a play about 1960’s idealist turned imprisoned radical facing off against a neo-conservative media pundit prone to conspiracy theories may seem a bit out of the frying pan, but that kind of daring choice is what makes me admire Theater J.

With warm enthusiasm and infectious humor, Holdridge graciously shared a rehearsal coffee break with me to talk about her move to DC, her impressions of theater here, and what’s in store for audiences when Something You Did opens with previews beginning August 28.

As a Baltimore area native, Holdridge grew up coming to DC to see plays at Arena Stage. So perhaps it was inevitable that one day DC theater would call her back. Continue reading