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A New Theater Season

2 PIANOS 4 HANDS at MusicalFare.

Your Primer to Curtain Up! 2009

Curtain up! 2009 Schedule

Act I: Cocktails


5-5:45pm. Cocktail reception in Shea’s Grand Lobby, open to the general public, with a cash bar.

6-7:30pm. Annual Curtain Up! Creative Black-Tie Gala Dinner on Shea’s stage including additional seating on the balcony level. Gala dinner tickets must be purchased in advance by calling 829-1172.

Act II: Curtains Rise!

Theatrical Performances

8pm. The evening continues with performances at participating theatres, starting at 8pm. (It’s probably too late to get a ticket, but see On the Boards for details.)

Act III: Party!

10pm. Following the performances, a free community celebration offering a variety of unique and new entertainment will be held following the theatrical performances, from approximately 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Main Street in Downtown Buffalo’s Theatre District. The event includes various outdoor entertainment and post parties. For more information, go to

—anthony chase

Once again, for the 28th time, the curtains rise on a new theater season with the uniquely Buffalonian Curtain Up! celebration, which begins with cocktails, an evening of theater-going, and then a big street party. This year, event co-chair Robert Brunschmid, managing director of Theatre of Youth, promises some improvements that he hopes will make this year especially memorable.

“A very dedicated team of individuals have volunteered their time and talent to make Curtain Up! 2009 exciting for both new and returning guests,” reports Brunschmid. “The cocktail hour and gala dinner on stage at Shea’s has always been fabulous, and I promise this year will absolutely not disappoint.”

Indeed, you can see a play on almost any night of the year in Buffalo. What makes Curtain Up! special is the large number of theater patrons that night and the street party. Efforts this year have focused on adding some octane to the after-party.

“The steering committee has focused energy on expanding and weather-proofing the free street party,” reveals Brunschmid. “The after-theater events will now include vendors offering food and dessert, local artists showcasing their work, as well as some outstanding local bands, musicians and strolling performance artists. So, even if it happens to rain, I encourage everyone to come to the street party at the 600 block of Main Street from 10pm to 1am and experience an event that focuses a spotlight on downtown while showcasing the vibrant theatre scene—a strong economic engine for the region.”

Fourteen different shows open this week—13 of them on Curtain Up! night—an unusual occurrence. (Usually most of the season’s first shows have been running for at least a week before the big night). Many of the new plays set the tone for the season to come, but others are decidedly Curtain Up! ventures. Theater of Youth’s own contender is, for example, an uncharacteristically adult affair for an adult event, the return of Louis Mustillos’ one-man show, Bartenders. Dan Shanahan is using the occasion to rework his eye-popping play Area.

The Irish Classical Theatre is leading off with the most successful musical in Irish history, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers. “We’ve done so many of Willy Russell’s plays,” explains Vincent O’Neill, and we do not do musicals often. For us, the script is the most important aspect of a play, and Blood Brothers [about twins separated at birth and unwittingly reunited] suits us.

Alleyway looks upon its season opening as the first volley in a well-ordered plan,” says Joyce Stilson. “A lot of discussion went into planning Alleyway’s 30th season—for a theater dedicated to new works, a season of remounting hits from past years was tempting and surely would have been a lot of fun, but hardly in the spirit of what Alleyway has become. The Mazumdar New Play Competition winner, The Careful Glover, seemed a natural, and bringing Saul Elkin in to play William Shakespeare was a perfect combination with his old friend [Alleyway founder] Neal [Radice] directing.”

Freud and the Sandman at the New Phoenix.

ALT Theatre will live up to its name with an all-female production of Euripides ancient classic, Electra, directed by Drew McCabe. The Kavinoky will follow the success of last year’s The Farnsworth Invention with Aaron Sorkin’s military mystery, A Few Good Men, directed by Peter Palmisano. The New Phoenix explores the world of the unconscious with Freud and the Sandman, based on tale by Hoffmann and an original version by Freud with puppets by Michele Costa and original score by Paul Kozlowski, directed by Bob Waterhouse.

Road Less Traveled leads with a brand new play, Grenadine, a comedy by local playwright Neil Wechsler, directed by Scott Behrend, starring Gerry Maher.

“I chose Grenadine for the opener because it is most certainly our most ambitious project to date,” explains RLTP artistic director Behrend. “Therefore we required the advantage of the off-season to get ready for some technical improvements to our space and to make sure the designers had enough time to prepare.

“This season is very exciting because of our opportunity to world-premiere Grenadine and of course because three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Albee will be here—not only to see the show, but he has also agreed to be our American Theatre Master this season in support of our production of his play The Goat; Or Who is Sylvia? He will be our guest for our Spring Gala on May 8, 2010.”

Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions will inaugurate their new theater at Medaille College (after being run off the Canisius campus by a mob of anti-intellectual Philistines) with Paul Rudnick’s popular comedy, I Hate Hamlet.

Curtain Up! even extends down to Hilbert College in Hamburg with The Machine Stops, a world premiere romantic fantasy by Taylor Doherty presented by Buffalo Laboratory Theatre.

An Elegy to Dan Higgins, Sr. is a world premiere written and performed by Matthew Crehan Higgins, presented by Buffalo United Artists and directed by Javier Bustillos, in which Higgins tells the story of a family coping with the death of its patriarch. In addition to being Higgins’ grandfather, Dan Higgins, former city council member, was the father of Higgins’ own father and Congressman Brian Higgins.

At the Paul Robeson Theatre, Revenge of a King translates the Hamlet story to the streets of urban America, with a script by Herb Newsome and music by Derrick Walker, directed by Paulette D. Harris.

24 With Maggie is a world premiere of one-act comedies by Beth Geyer presented by Theatre Plus, the women’s division of Alleyway, directed by Thomas Dooney, starring Stephanie Bax. Kim Piazza of Theatre Plus recalls, “We produced a Beth Geyer play last year and turned to her for another in the coming season. This time around Theatre plus was lucky enough to have Tom Dooney, who has a keen eye for developing new scripts, direct. The play is something women everywhere can relate to: not having enough hours in the day.”

Subversive Theater presents Twilight, Anna Deavere Smith’s haunting docu-drama about the riots in Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict, directed by Virginia Brannon, and starring Victoria Perez.

At long last, MusicalFare has put together 2 PIANOS 4 HANDS, written by Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra, directed by Tom Frey, starring Randall Kramer, Jeffrey Rockwell. The play tells the story of two boys who grow up devoted to playing the piano.

Finally, for something outside the usual fare, the Eclectic Improv Company presents Eclectic Boogaloo! with company members Todd Benzin, Peter Cumbo, Don Gervasi, John Kreuzer, and Michael Hake.