Showing posts with label Bud Martin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bud Martin. Show all posts

Thursday, September 20, 2018

DTC Presents A Bruce Graham World Premiere in "Sanctions"

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) opens its 40th season with Sanctions, a World Premiere play by Bruce Graham. This timely piece touches upon controversial topics discussed daily in the news.

Graham focuses on the darker side of college football — revealing the questionable business decisions that occur off the field and behind the scenes.  It’s a gritty inside view of the challenging choices that some people make to ensure a successful team, regardless of the cost.

Catharine K. Slusar and Edward O’Blenis in Sanctions.
Photo by Matt Urban.
Graham has written a gripping play with four layered characters challenged by ethical and moral dilemmas about gender, race, and sexual assault. The superb cast features Catharine K. Slusar, in a terrific DTC debut, as the tenured English professor Claire Torrance, who is not only a great fan of the university’s football team, but is also the players’ educational supervisor.

While Claire has recently lost her beloved father, with whom she attended football games throughout her life, and is grappling with a personal scandal in her marriage. Now, she faces a choice of what is more important  the love of the game, educating students or protecting the welfare of the student body.

Slusar gives a textured performance. She’s able to bring a vulnerability to the strong role, delivering a completely formed character. The superb supporting cast includes Susanne Collins as the naïve freshman; Abby Barton, who works for Claire’ tutoring program, but also befriends Clair; Kimberly S. Fairbanks as the stern head of Claire’s department; Tonya Mann, who is not phased by Claire’s previous accomplishments, but is concerned about her current actions and comments; and Edward O’Blenis as the university’s go-getting recruiter, Ronald Hitchens, who works closely with Clair.  

O’Blenis is quite engaging as the ruthless Ronald, who will stop at almost nothing to form a winning team. He and Graham’s interactions intensify to a point that is easily palpable.

The stirring cast is led by director (and DTC Producing Artistic Director) Bud Martin who has created a pace that never lulls but continues to reveal unexpected twists and turns. He’s able to do this with the help of the exquisite set by Dirk Durossette, which provides the scenes for Claire’s and Tonya’s offices; seats in the stands; and Claire’s living room, and the play moves seamlessly without having to move sets and reconfigure the stage.

Graham has done a fine job of capturing the senstive issues and themes around the #metoo movement and university scandals that have recently and sadly continue to make headlines.

Sanctions closes on September 30 2018. For tickets, visit or 302.594.1100.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Dazzling ‘Circus’ Comes to Delaware Theatre Company

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) ends its 2016-17 season with the American premiere of the London smash hit family musical, Hetty Feather. Emma Reeves’ adaption of Jacqueline Wilson’s beloved book about a headstrong orphan girl’s adventure to find her true home will delight young theater goers. However, the mature themes of abandonment and loss in the story will also intrigue adult audience members.

The Cast of Hetty Feather. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
Hetty, played by the wonderful Clare O’Malley, is on a quest through Victorian England searching for her birth mother. Being an unwed woman during this time, Hetty’s distraught and sadden mother had no choice but to leave her infant daughter at London’s Foundling Hospital (a public institution for abandoned children).

Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Hetty is sent to a foster home in the countryside where she spends the first six years of her life. The headstrong heroine never loses her insatiable desire to find her birth mother, even though she forms a strong bond with her foster mother and three brothers. While living with her foster family, Hetty develops a keen imagination that will later serve her well.  

Hetty, like all foundling children, must return to the hospital following her sixth birthday. Under the stern supervision of Matron Bottomly (chillingly played by Michael Philp O’Brien), life at the hospital is cruel and unforgiving. Living in such harsh conditions, Hetty becomes even more driven to find her legitimate place in the world, but to get there she must go on a journey that will take her to bleak places where she must face tumultuous situations.
Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
Director Bud Martin has created a charming, yet sinister, production that at times delights as well as frightens. His brilliant ensemble cast creates their characters on a circus set which provides a great juxtaposition to Hetty’s plight.
O’Malley and O’Brien — along with their stellar co-stars (Terry Brennan, Dave Johnson, Rachel O’Malley, and Karen Peakes) — have the daunting task to act their parts while performing circus stunts. For most of the show, the actors are hanging from flowing sheets or a ring that dangles above the center of the stage. It’s amazing how effortlessly they make it look to stay in character as they climb, swing and perform high above the stage.The cast is flawlessly costumed by Katie Sykes. Her understated costumes, some including a hint of a clown suit, not only capture the grim look of the poor during the Victorian period, but also let her circus set shine. The stage was built so the fantastic musicians (Liz Filios and Josh Totora) have an area to create mood music and flow easily in and out of scenes. In addition to playing their instruments, Filios and Totora provide the vocals for most of Bendi Bower’s score, leaving the actors to focus on their characters and circus stunts.
Hetty Feather isn’t your traditional family show or musical, but that makes it a special treat for the whole family. DTC recommends the show for children ages 7 and up. Hetty Feather runs through May 14. 

For tickets and additional information, call 302.594.1100 or visit

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Powerful Show, Powerful Message from DTC

By Guest Blogger, Mike Logothetis
Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.

White Guy on the Bus proves to be a bold step forward for Executive Director Bud Martin and the rest of Delaware Theatre Company (DTC). While DTC has tackled difficult themes over the years at its cozy theater on the Wilmington Riverfront, this play deals with several serious and challenging topics. In 2016, the Delaware Theatre Company began actively pursuing a path to make the theater a more welcoming place where all stories can be experienced. 
Robert Cuccioli and Danielle Leneé. Photo by Mobius New Media.

Simply put, this is a story that you should experience.

Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham shines a harsh light on problems in our society –race, class, poverty, privilege, violence, crime, retribution, public education and marginalized lives – in his latest play White Guy on the Bus. Graham’s fearless and incisive play takes a no-holds barred look at hidden and no-so-hidden racism within all of us. Martin’s forthright direction paired with Paul Tate DePoo’s simple yet effective set design subtly complement the actors and story.

The play opens with a middle-aged married couple talking about their respective jobs and the people they deal with on a daily basis. Ray (Robert Cuccioli) is a well-to-do financial manager while Roz (Susan McKey) teaches English at a public school in a blighted neighborhood of Philadelphia. They appear to be a nice, cultured, white couple living on the Main Line with few major worries and an eye toward early retirement.

Their surrogate son Christopher (Jonathan Silver) and his recent bride Molly (Jessica Bedford) join them to sip wine casually on the patio until Roz talks wryly about the racial hostility in her predominantly black school. Students often call her a “white bitch” to her face, which shocks Molly. Meanwhile, Christopher is eager to expound on his doctoral thesis concerning male African-American images in television advertising. He is an outsider looking in, but truly feels he can turn his thoughts on race portrayal by the media into a meaningful doctoral project.

This opening conversation is relatively light, but the subsequent scenes grow deeper, darker, and more complex. We get background information like how Christopher became part of the older couple’s life, how Ray takes pride in his analytical skills (he’s a “numbers man”), and how Roz is helping a 10th-grader learn how to read. But each scene between the four white characters delves into racial discussions where differing opinions and theories are debated.

Sandwiched between these suburban episodes are scenes aboard a city bus where Ray befriends a young black woman named Shatique (Danielle Leneé). She is a nursing student and a single mother who is barely surviving life, but has hope for the future. Ray and Shatique strike up a rapport on their weekly bus rides together. But where exactly are they going?

It is gradually revealed that their destination is a prison where Shatique’s brother is incarcerated. So why is Ray riding the bus?

The plot twist that comes in the closing scene of the first act is alarming. Simply put, the audience is shocked into a new reality. What has transpired to this point must be reevaluated and fully processed before the story can reach a meaningful conclusion.

The drama is intensified in the second act where the story and the dialogue focus on human nature and racial prejudice:

Ray: You know what the problem is with the death penalty in this country?

Shatique: It’s disproportionately given out to black folks?

Ray: Yep. I’m serious. We target the wrong people – wrong crimes. If they had dragged Bernie Madoff into Central Park and hung him from the neck till he was dead – and broadcast it live on CNN in high def – we wouldn’t need the SEC. Nobody’d get out of line on Wall Street ‘cause they’d be scared sh*tless.

White Guy On the Bus
 aims for social realism and will take you out of your comfort zone with its topics and language, but it is not difficult to follow or watch. Graham’s pithy and direct dialog allows the excellent cast to address the issues head on. There are no metaphors or complex symbolism. What the audience sees is five actors speaking their characters’ minds with conviction and, at times, bravado. They believe what they say because they’ve lived it – or observed it from their unique perspectives. Idealism, appearance, and reality mix. Ray is perfectly gentlemanly until he suddenly isn’t. Shatique has moral sensibility until an indecent proposal is proffered.

The play grants the audience a poignant ending, but one not wholly satisfying to each character. The story begs for post-viewing discussions and the Delaware Theatre Company wisely prepared for that.

The DTC staff had undergone an intensive equality, diversity, inclusion and social justice training prior to this production. The training examined issues of privilege, allyship and diversity with the lens of better providing the staff with the necessary tools to run the Community Discussions that follow every performance. DTC encourages patrons to reflect on White Guy on the Bus after the curtain lowers. These open forums offer an opportunity for the audiences to discuss and relate their experiences to each other. Attendees can feel safe asking difficult questions about the topical references that can be made in their life or community.

There will also be a special Panel Discussion on Race, Equality and Education co-sponsored by DTC and Teach America on Saturday, February 11, at 4:30pm.

The performance schedule of White Guy on the Bus is: Wednesdays (2:00pm), Thursdays (7:00pm), Fridays (8:00pm), Saturdays (2:00 & 8:00pm) and Sundays (2:00pm) through Sunday, February 19. Tickets are $20-65 for both evening and matinee performances. White Guy on the Bus runs approximately 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission. Delaware Theatre Company is located at 200 Water Street in Wilmington.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Exploring the Change of Times at Delaware Theatre Company

Photo by Matt Urban/Mobius New Media. 
By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III
The Delaware Theatre Company closes their 2015-16 season with Nell Benjamin's The Explorers Club, a delightful farce that kept the audience in stitches. Although I'm not a huge fan of this genre, I did appreciate the witty writing, the superb performances of the ensemble cast (expertly directed by Bud Martin) and the stunning costumes and set.

The play takes place in London in 1859 at the prestigious all-male Explorers Club. On this particular day, the members must decide if they will accept their first female candidate (Karen Peakes) who recently discovered a legendary Lost City. Comedy mayhem ensues as members recount their adventures and discoveries, while dealing with their current situation.

Ms. Peakes is wonderful in her dual roles -- Phyllida Spotte-Hume, the explorer who is ready to take on the "good ol' boys club" to become the first female member -- and as Countess Glamorgan, Phyllida's hoity-toity, high society sister coping with the consequences of Phyllida's adventures. 

Daniel Fredrick charms as the Club's diffident president, Lucius Fretway, who is nominating Phyllida (and it might not just because of her work, but that he also has a crush on the beautiful explorer). He and the great Dave Johnson, Luigi the native of the Lost City, share a few exciting scenes involving flying cocktail glasses. Harry Smith is brilliant as the over-the-top adventurer, Harry Percey, who also falls for the gorgeous Phyllida.

Equally impressive to the performances are the period costumes by Wade Laboissonniere that allow the actors to move freely during some very physical scenes, and the magnificent set by Alexis Distler. From the moment I walked into the theater and saw the two-floor wood-paneled set with a bar and exquisite furniture, I was transported to a bygone era.

The Explorers Club isn't exactly my cup of tea, but it IS an impressive production for the whole family to enjoy! The play runs through May 22. 

For tickets visit or call 302.594.1100.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A 'Piece' Not to Be Missed at DTC

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Steve Bluestein’s play Rest in Pieces — now in its World Premiere at the Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) — combines laughter and tears in a three-act, three-character dramedy that drives home an immutable law of nature: Life begins and ends with family.

Meet the Becker family of Brooklyn, New York: Leona, the unbearably overbearing matriarch; Ben, her long-suffering husband; and Steve, their mild-mannered comedy-writer son. The play is impressively acted by Donna Pescow (Leona), Lenny Wolpe (Ben) and Frank Vlastnik (Steve). These three seasoned thespians work Bluestein’s script with the precision of a Swiss timepiece.

This is a play for anyone who has ever wondered how their loved ones would react in the aftermath of their demise. Each act focuses on the remaining two members when one is removed. First, we see mother and son sparring as they cope with the loss of Ben, who seems to view his death as sweet relief from the insanely domineering Leona. Next, we watch as the two men resume their lives after Leona loses her battle with cancer. Finally, husband and wife come to terms with the sudden death of Stevie, their only child.

We get to know the family casually and — more important — intimately. Death has a knack for stripping away defenses. It’s a bit like those human-body exhibits that allow us to take a look — in astonishing detail — at the biological processes that go on without our control.

We see that death leaves a void that nothing can ever truly fill, that the living must go on no matter what, and that the life we’ve lived may not have been the life we intended or even wanted to live. But that’s OK too.

Rest in Pieces is a brilliantly written and riveting piece of theatre. Bluestein skillfully pairs razor-sharp repartees with moments of intense emotion, evoking both laughter and tears — often at the same time — from the audience. DTC executive director Bud Martin’s superb direction showcases the cast at the top of its form. 

Rest in Pieces offers a sage piece of advice for anyone who has ever been at odds with a family member: Love your family as you love yourself. It’s a very short stay. 

Don’t miss this one.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Igor & Elvis...A Pair Not to be Missed!

By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman
Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, music for film, and music for educational purposes.

Tuesday evening's Delaware Symphony concert — the second in its elegant chamber music series in the Hotel DuPont's Gold Ballroom — was perhaps the quirkiest ever presented there. It featured bassoonist Jon Gaarder impersonating Elvis, in full regalia, performing composer Michael Daugherty's Dead Elvis, written in 1993 and incorporating the well-known chant for wrath of judgment day, the Dies Irae. As a former DSO bassoonist myself who performed this work in 2008, I took great pleasure in witnessing the whole wacky spectacle from the outside.

Daugherty chose the same instrumentation as Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale, a septet mixture of woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion, the work which comprised the second half of Tuesday's concert. And speaking as primarily a composer now, I can continue to wonder — how did Stravinsky do it? There is a certain thinness in the texture with so few colors from each family of instruments, but this results in a wonderful clarity, a bracing zap to the ear of each instrument's declamation.

Perhaps the most poignant and plaintive movement was the duet for Gaarder's bassoon and Jonathan Troy's clarinet — so few notes and so much expression. The chorales near the end were gorgeous, but how 'bout the romping rhythms of the marches, the ragtime, and other dances? DSO concertmaster David Southorn was brilliant in the athletically demanding violin part; in time his Tango may become even more sly. All this is in the service of a Russian folk tale, a version by Swiss author C. F. Ramuz, originally in French. Conductor David Amado explained how the standard English translation can sound stilted and even boring, and so Amado undertook his own edited revision, very successful to this listener.

I particularly enjoyed the use of lots of rhyming, and also references to our time and place- the soldier marches "between Lums Pond and Bear," and at another point is treated to chicken wings. Three readers told the story: OperaDelaware's Brendan Cooke as the soldier, joined by two Delaware Theater Company executives, Bud Martin as a wittily sarcastic Devil, and Charles Conway as the Narrator. The large audience was uninhibited in both laughter and applause.

For Dead Elvis, Gaarder chose a sparkly white jumpsuit, white shoes, a thick (not really greasy) wig, and giant shades. He sauntered on stage with characteristic Elvis gestures and wiggles, and also smoothed his locks during the music's sudden pregnant pauses. The music is a study in zany extremes, the bassoon screaming to its ultimate high E or plummeting to its grotesque low B-flat. The tiny E-flat clarinet screeches, the trombone wails its glissandi, the drummer, the DSO's veteran master Bill Kerrigan, flails his collection of bells and other high-pitched gadgets.

I highly recommend this most entertaining and musically rewarding show which will be repeated Friday night, January 31 at 7:30 PM at the Queen Theater, World Cafe Live. The next two DSO concerts at the Hotel DuPont are on February 25 and April 1.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fun and Farce with DTC's Lend Me a Tenor

Jonathan Silver and Sarah Litzsinger
 Delaware Theatre Company follows its darkly comic season opener Any Given Monday with the decidedly lighter comedy of Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor, a show business farce packed with slapstick comedy and more actors than the stage has seen since last season's South Pacific. The larger cast isn't the only thing Tenor has in common with DTC's fabulous South Pacific production -- the two productions share three major-league talented actors, with John Plumpis, Jonathan Silver and Sarah Litzsinger returning to Wilmington stage.

Under the direction of Bud Martin (who, as Executive Director of DTC and stage director of the biggest shows of the last couple of seasons, deserves more than a little credit for bringing the Theatre to its impressive new level), Lend Me a Tenor is an old-fashioned comedy of errors (and triumphs), filled with sexy humor and absurd misunderstandings. Some of the comedy is dark, including the use of a "dead" body as a prop, and some may come off as a bit dated, but the laughter is pretty much non-stop.

Howie Brown, Marcia Hepps, Eileen Cella
Tenor is the story of a young opera company assistant named Max (Silver) who has taken on the duty of handling world-renowned Italian Tenor Tito Merelli (Plumpis) as he arrives for a special performance in 1930s Cleveland. Max is in love with the General Manager's daughter, Maggie (Eileen Cella), who has a crush on Tito and craves a wild romance before she settles down. Max tries to keep the General Manager, Saunders (Tony Braithwaite) calm as they await Tito's late arrival. When he finally shows up, he's accompanied by his fiery-tempered wife, Maria (Tracie Higgins), who finds Maggie in a closet of the luxury suite and, sick of his philandering, leaves him. This sets of a wild chain reaction, as Tito becomes despondent and falls into a deep sleep from an accidental double dose of tranquilizers to calm his nerves; when he won't wake up just before showtime, Max assumes he's committed suicide. But this is the kind of comedy where no one stays dead (or without love) for long, and the second act is full of plots, coverups, and mistaken identities, as well as some over-the-top Othello costumes.

While Tenor is not a musical, it has a couple of brief operatic interludes that could easily be lip-synced by the actors. But not here. Both Plumpis and Silver have beautiful voices, making the operatic moments soar even in their brevity. And both are skilled comic actors, matched by the excitable Braithwaite as Saunders and Howie Brown, who also does some singing, as an enthusiastic bellhop.

The women offer plenty of laughs, too, with Litzinger as vampy soprano Diana, Marcia Hepps as the seductive Chairman of the Cleveland Opera Board, and Cella's Maggie alternating between sweetly flirtatious and adorably goofy. As Maria, Higgins commands attention -- from Tito and the audience.

By the end of the escapade, everyone is where they should be, and everyone is happy. But while it's a light and silly play, its themes of perception and hope leave a lasting impression.

Lend Me a Tenor runs through November 3. Visit to purchase tickets.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Real Delaware Theatre Company

Bud Martin
The Delaware Theatre Company has just hired Bud Martin, the very successful director of Act II Playhouse in Ambler, Pennsylvania to the position of Executive Director. He started his duties on May 1. Mr. Martin inherits a wonderful site with a great deal of goodwill earned by previous prizes and plays and a wonderful education program at the DTC, but he will need our support.

Of course we should be ready to support him by buying tickets for the season he has planned for 2012-2013. The first play starting on October 10 is The Outgoing Tide, a story about a family who plan to deal with illness and their future while vacationing on the Chesapeake Bay. The author, Bruce Graham, is from the Philadelphia area and has won Barrymore awards for best new play twice. A compelling theme, a local playwright and a new director should have us all pull together and fill the house.

Delaware Theatre Company
The next shows will be of a lighter nature, making it even easier to boost ticket sales: Patrick Barlow’s production of A Christmas Carol is a rousing version sure to put the Christmas spirit in us all. Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti will also provide comedy for the dreary winter starting January 23. Then the season finishes with My Fair Lady starting on April 17.

Audiences have certainly dwindled for all of the arts in the past few years, and so have the educational programs which introduce our schoolchildren to the arts. DTC’s Charles Conway has been a fearless advocate of taking the theatre to the public – and not just to the fur-coated potential donors. Mr. Conway has won awards for his work with young people with disabilities. The program, Totally Awesome Players, has taken wings since he first designed it. He has also won the 2009 Stevie Wolf Award for New Approaches to Collaboration for his work with the Ferris School for Boys.

Is there a way to help promote these and similar programs in our schools – having kids experience theatre to get a taste of why their teacher makes them read Shakespeare and who they can emulate when they feel the urge to write? Will we provide that solid support that pushed the little firehouse play theatre into the anchor site on the Wilmington Riverfront that has taken root and helped the entire area to flourish?

If we do, then we shall have done what Cleveland Morris had so hoped for when he said of the current site, “Here lies every wonderful opportunity to relish our own city’s colorful past and participate in its even finer future.”

Let’s do it!