Robert Benson Photography

A new play premieres this weekend as part of a gala event celebrating the hundredth anniversary of a synagogue in Chester, Connecticut called Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek.

The play is called “100 Years in 36 Minutes.” Its co-writer, Lary Bloom, came to the WNPR studios earlier this week to talk about it.

So far, the Southern New England arts season has been a place for serious theater. Trinity Rep opened with Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar.” And now, Pawtucket's Gamm Theatre has presented Tennessee Williams' deep and driving “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“The problem seems to be to find the joy,” Shawn LaCount, Company One Theatre’s co-founder and artistic director, says with a reassuring smile to a young actor. “Once you find it, the rest is great.” The actor smiles back a little nervously.

dtstuff9 / Creative Commons

Ben Vereen was plucked from the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn to go to the prestigious Performing Arts High School because somebody thought he had talent. Influenced by song and dance men like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., Ben Vereen garnered accolades for groundbreaking roles in "Pippin," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Roots," in which he challenged us to think about race, religion and who can make art.

Born in Hartford and raised in Wethersfield, playwright Christopher Shinn pays homage to his Connecticut roots in a new play called "An Opening In Time."


Last week's Republican debate created chaos on the internets:  Trump insulted Fox's Megyn Kelly, which naturally led to ladies live tweeting their periods at the wanna-be President. And a new slang was born: "Cuckservative."  

Talk to the Hand: The Puppet Show

Aug 5, 2015
Artisphere/Creative Commons

Who doesn't love puppets?

From the Muppets to Edgar Bergen to the Thunderbirds, they defined our childhoods. Today they're taking over the theater with "Hand to God," "Avenue Q" and "The Lion King." Many people don't know it, but Connecticut has long been a center of puppetry in the United States.

Sheila Sund / Creative Commons

By the middle of the twentieth century, American popular song began to experience a sort of devolution. Gone were the days of songwriting greats like George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. Instead, what came over the radio were songs like "How Much Is that Doggie in the Window" and "Come on-a My House". 


Planning and zoning officials in Connecticut have approved changes made to the Toyota Oakdale Theatre's town permit that could make it easier for the venue to abide by noise rules.

Diane Sobolewski / Goodspeed Opera House

So, you think it's easy to write a Broadway song? I say not so fast. 

The four aspiring writing teams that attended Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals this past January say it's plenty hard. They spend a lot of time kicking around ideas, most of which never see the light of day. But, really, they have no choice. "If you can do anything else, you do do anything else," says Marcy Heisler, one half of one of our amazing teams.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

We're taking The Nose, our weekly culture round table, to The Study at Yale in New Haven, joining the International Festival of Arts, Ideas, and Pancakes. We'll be adding one of the performers to our round table, too! We've all seen the Brian Wilson film, "Love and Mercy", and we're all aware of the changes to the ten dollar bill. We'll talk about that and more, live from The Study! Join us!

Diana Robinson / Creative Commons

Lots of awards were handed out in New York this weekend. The annual Tony Awards were given to the best Broadway productions of the year. But no amount of theatrical showmanship could top what happened in the Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah completed horseracing's elusive Triple Crown.  Finishing a few lengths behind him in third place was Keen Ice, who is part-owned by two Connecticut residents. This hour, we speak with one of the local owners.


The Oakdale Theater and the town of Wallingford are at odds over noise levels.  

Lanny Nagler

WNPR's Diane Orson sat down with Rob Ruggiero, the director of “Good People,” to discuss the play and his approach to directing. “Good People” runs May 22 to June 28 at TheaterWorks in Hartford. The following has been lightly edited for clarity.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut has been incredibly lucky in the directors who have made its regional theaters their basis of operations. Don't miss this full-length conversation between Colin and Darko Tresnjak, Hartford Stage's Tony Award-winning Artistic Director, about Shakespeare, his acceptance speech at the Tony's, moodiness in the theater world, and of course, his current production of "Kiss Me Kate".

Funkhouser Artists

New Haven's Long Wharf Theater and Yale University have teamed up for a symposium on stroke that combines medicine, history, and the arts.

Diane Sobolewski / Goodspeed Theater

So, you think it's easy to write a Broadway song? I say not so fast. 

The four aspiring writing teams that attended Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals this past January say it's plenty hard. They spend a lot of time kicking around ideas, most of which never see the light of day. But, really, they have no choice. "If you can do anything else, you do do anything else," says Marcy Heisler, one half of one of our amazing teams. 

Creative Commons

One spring afternoon, maybe 20 years ago, I found myself having lunch with some guys who were all big supporters of Connecticut Opera. They were talking about ways that the company might increase its audience and thereby stabilize its finances. Various strategies were proposed.

Finally one of the guys said, “Look, if we’re really going to make any progress, we should just do ‘La Boheme’ every single season.”


An oratorio based on the life of gay rights advocate and politician Harvey Milk gets its New England premiere this weekend in New Haven. Oratorios are typically large musical compositions with a dramatic theme, written for orchestra, choir, and soloists; think Handel's "Messiah," or Haydn's "Creation."

Currier & Ives / Public Domain

To mark the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, we look back the event and how it changed America with two local historians who are experts on the 16th President of the United States. As part of this look back, we hear from actors who will commemorate the anniversary with a staged reading to recreate the final days of the Civil War, the assassination, and the search for and death of John Wilkes Booth.

A Story for the Ages

Apr 2, 2015
Courtesy of, Berkeley Rep, and Hartford Stage

If you’re the parent of a kid who’s taking music lessons, or one who's  just generally interested in music, you should be aware of the remarkable one-person show that just opened at Hartford Stage.

The show is “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” and it’s been out making the rounds in various cities for a couple of years, but this is the first time it’s been seen in Hartford.

Hartford Stage

Love, loss, friendship, and loneliness are all explored in the new play "Reverberation," now playing at Hartford Stage.

Zbigniew Warzynski

"Song of the Goat" is the literal meaning of the ancient Greek word for tragedy. It's also the name of the  theater company from Wroclaw, Poland bringing a new adaptation of "King Lear" to New Haven this weekend.

In Polish, that's "Piesn Kozla."

Grzegorz Bral, the artistic director of the theater company, said he doesn't see "King Lear" so much as a story about a father and his three daughters, but rather a "tragedy without a mother."

Mark Twain House

Hal Holbrook has played Mark Twain in his solo show "Mark Twain Tonight" for more than 60 years, and at almost 90 years old he's still channeling the author.

It's a show that Holbrook never expected to catch on when he first started performing off-Broadway in his mid 30s. It took more than three hours to do his makeup, he told WNPR's Colin McEnroe Showto get in character as an aging Twain. 

Holbrook was an unknown actor in 1959 when the New York Times critic gave him rave reviews, calling it "an extraordinary show," and saying "there should have been posters up all over town to herald its arrival."

An Ode to Opera

Jan 22, 2015
David Shankbone / Creative Commons

In 2012, the New York City Opera -- what Mayor LaGuardia called "the People's Opera" -- declared bankruptcy. This is/was the opera that introduced Americans to Placido Domingo and Beverly Sills. Make what you will of the fact that the bankruptcy announcement coincided with the presentation of a new opera about Anna Nicole Smith.

This is either a problem very specific to the New York Opera, or part of a virus that has been taking down opera companies all over the U.S. and maybe all over the world. In Italy, where opera receives much more public and government support, one fourth of all major opera companies were in a version of bankruptcy as of 2008.

Starting Christmas day, audiences can see a new version of Stephen Sondheim’s nearly 30-year-old musical fairy-tale mash-up, “Into the Woods” — this time, on the big screen.

And as the production moves from stage to screen, the high-budget Hollywood version comes with the requisite star power, including Johnny Depp as the iconic big bad wolf, Emily Blunt as a baker’s wife and Meryl Streep as the wicked witch who sets the whole plot in motion.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It doesn't really even make any sense what has happened at the Goodspeed Opera House every since  Michael Price took over the late 1960s. East Haddam, which is conveniently located near absolutely nothing, has played host to Mike Nichols, Idina Menzel, Jerry Herman, Mark Hamill, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Julie Andrews...I could go on.

T. Charles Erickson
Hartford Stage

Hartford Stage produced its first-ever "sensory-friendly" performance this week. The staging of "A Christmas Carol" was geared toward audience members on the autism spectrum.

Connecticut Lyric Opera

Grand opera returns to Hartford after a five-year hiatus.

Shubert Theater / Facebook

This year marks the 100th anniversary of New Haven’s Shubert Theater.