Posted June 9th, 2009 by Usman Ally|
So we had a great opening night and here are a few excerpts from some of the reviews.
Come see the show people!
"The serenely elegant Louise Lamson is an ideal Scheherezade, with Ryan Artzburger as her captivated captor. Usman Ally, Allen Gilmore, Andrew White, David Catlin and sensational drummer Ronnie Malley are superb,
Chicago Sun Times Review
"Full-blooded actors like the macho Usman Ally and the emotionally resonant Allen Gilmore convey some deep truths, but not at the expense of fun."
Ally, Allen Gillmore, Louise Lamson and Nicole Shalhoub turn in particularly rich and crafty work among the fine ensemble of storytellers."
Read more blog entries here: http://usmanally.blogspot.com/
Posted May 26th, 2009 by Usman Ally
Today I took a stroll down to the Steppenwolf costume shop, where Lookingglass' crew is holding the fort down for Arabian Nights. I had a look at some of my main costume attire for the role(s) I'll be playing, and well its not much. What I mean by that is that I literally will not be wearing much....shirtless mainly. Thank God I have been working out pretty consistently since the new year!!
Now don't get me wrong I'm still a slender man, but I like to think that the hard work, the hours in the gym are paying off and that its visible! Mara, the costume designer told me that I should get ready for some major lifting, running around, squatting, throwing things, picking things up!
There seems to be this idea out there that I'm hella strong or something and that all this physical stuff should be easy for me, and while I'm pretty agile, and pretty strong, I thankfully have the energy of a hyper child which propels me through some more physical shows. The key I think is making sure I take care of my body, because I'll be doing over 120 shows this summer, and while working out is excellent, its more about staying flexible and healthy.
1) continuing at the Gym
2) Protein shakes after, and Carbs before
3) lots of fruits and veggies
4) getting as much sleep as possible
6) drinking plenty of green tea
7) Fluids fluids fluids.
8) Garlic and Ginger (excellent for fighting colds!)
Next week we start rehearsals in full force, I play the Madman and a few more tracks that are yet to be decided.
I hear David Catlin and me might be Camels as well, and do a lot of the muling stuff....sigh its so demanding to be young and buff! =)
Gotta spend some time working on those lines today.
Posted May 26th, 2009 by Usman Ally
Well, I had intended to blog quite a bit more about the process and getting to know this mammoth play, but I didn't have the time.
Posted November 21st, 2008 by erikschroeder
We had only two weeks of rehearsals, plus a week of tech...with all the rehearsing, learning lines, and working out (I need to be in shape for this show) who has time to blog!
But, the show is in pretty good shape if you ask me. Its been a really interesting process because half of the cast have been doing the show on the road for about 4 months I think. Then we have Lookingglass Ensemble members who worked on the
show 15 years ago, and then people like me who are brand new to the show. You would think it would take time for us to all gel together but its been a pretty seamless transition. Kudos to Lookingglass for doing such a great job with the casting....good actors and good people makes a happy ensemble.
Probably the most difficult part of the process has been getting through everything at such a quick speed. We have had hardly any time to really sit down and work on specific scenes, do scene analysis and have any critical thought which is
something I ordinarily enjoy quite a bit when working on a show.
So the onus has really been on the actors in particular scenes to find the time to work on the scenes. Nicole Shalhoub and I have a rather important scene about a merchant and his lover, and after getting the lines down, running it a few times, getting the intricate movements down we found we really needed some specific fine tuning. Thankfully we both were smart enough to talk to Mary Zimmerman about what we felt we needed, and were able to slot in half an hour of time with her. It was very helpful.
So yeah its been a whirlwind experience, but the show looks great.
One of my favorite scenes is "The Amazing Bag" which is improvised by a different cast member every night.
You have to see it.
Tickets are on sale!
2nd preview tonight.
Read more on my blog at: http://usmanally.blogspot.com/
The Arabian Nights opened this week in California at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The reviews are in, and the show is a hit! Our friends at Berkeley Rep sent us clippings from some of the best reviews. We're getting excited about the show!
The Arabian Nights begins on May 20, 2009 in Chicago at Lookingglass in the Water Tower Water Works. Tickets will go on sale to subscribers on February 25, 2009 and on sale to the public March 13, 2009.
A flying carpet to funny, sexy, sad Baghdad
- Stories are flying carpets in Mary Zimmerman's The Arabian Nights. Performed by 15 resourceful actors and staged with a maximum of invention by Zimmerman, the ancient tales magically transport the Berkeley Repertory Theatre audience from a king's bedroom in Baghdad through markets, harems, courts and a crowded privy, and from heights of hilarity to sobering affirmations of shared humanity. It isn't just the stories themselves - comic or poignant anecdotes of infidelity, greed and revenge; Koranic parables of enlightenment; one huge fart joke - that create enchantment in the Nights that opened Wednesday at the Rep's Thrust Stage. It's also the way one tale opens up into another and then another, as Sofia Jean Gomez's Scheherezade keeps spinning yarns to save her life.
- sheer imaginativeness
- Zimmerman has a genius for building stage spectaculars from the most basic, old-fashioned materials.
- the actors transform themselves into an exhilarating panoply of expertly etched characters
- there's nothing dated about it. It's as timeless as the stories it contains and as immediate as an ad lib. One passage, a rib-splitting highlight on opening night, is improvised by actors chosen by lot for each show.
- Scheherezade starts with comic tales of infidelities and love, including semi-explicit sex scenes - which, she warns Shahryar, "might seem licentious or lewd to those with gross and narrow minds." If the sex and suspense aren't sure to hold his interest, the joyfully broad acting and propulsive drums-and-vocals score (by Andre Pluess and the ensemble) seal the deal.
- Zimmermanâ€™s selections are smartly chosen to play off the famous framing device.
the tales expose vanities of power, the perfidy of men and the worth of women
- If that were all, Nights would be a first-rate entertainment. But there's another intrinsic layer in the way TJ Gerckens' lights turn Daniel Ostling's barren concrete walls and carpet-strewn floor into a harem, a madhouse or the Tigris at night. The transformations culminate in an eloquent final image that evokes the mortality and vulnerability of the "Baghdad, city of peace and poets," in which we've just spent such a pleasant time.
Berkeley Rep's Arabian Nights a magical night of theater
There is a grand-slam, winning-the-World-Series sort of exhilaration to seeing top-notch theater performed by actors working at the peak of their game. You could feel it Wednesday night in the intermission buzz at Berkeley Repertory Theatre company's production of Mary Zimmerman's The Arabian Nights, a spectacular retelling of the old "1,001 nights" tales staged so wonderfully well that you feel somehow better off just to have been in the theater that night. This rare and breathtaking piece of theater made it into my all-time Top 10 list maybe 15 minutes after it started, and it just kept climbing the chart as its 2Â˝-hour production flew along.
- it was wildly funny, touchingly emotional, highly dramatic, visually captivating, madly energetic and unabashedly part of a place, the Middle East, that just a couple of decades ago, was a mystical desert region filled with sheiks, harems, camels and exotic romance.
- the stories are as captivating as the situation in which the young virgin finds herself
- The somewhat less simple reason the show works so well is Zimmerman's incredibly intricate and effective direction, which has every inch of Berkeley Rep's thrust stage alive with action of some sort. It is also because the cast's outstanding ensemble work holds the audience enraptured by the unfolding stories (which are not at all like the ones you heard as a kid â€” they're much more sexually charged, for one thing).
Berkeley Rep's Arabian Nights casts a spell of myth and whimsy
- One thousand and one nights float by like a dream in The Arabian Nights. Tony-winning theater alchemist Mary Zimmerman has become famous for breathing fresh life into primal fables, from Metamorphoses to Argonautika. Time and again, she reconnects us to the myths and fables dancing at the edges of our collective subconscious.
- Though no less hypnotic than her previous works, this show also glories in a passionate embrace of, shall we say, earthly concerns that lightens the spirits in these anxious times. Balletic movement, frisky performances and the secrets of an ancient text make Arabian Nights a sultry fantasy that refreshes the senses.
- Like Schehezerade, the director seduces us with words. She plays games with the narrative, alternating between the clamor of a chorus of voices and the ache of a long silence.
- the ensemble tiptoes with agility through a sea of stories that remind us how little humanity changes over time.
Zimmerman juxtaposes the beauty of the poetry with the harshness of the play's truths.
- The shock of recognition, the fact that we see ourselves so clearly in these ancient faces, animates this production. The city of Baghdad, now fatefully intertwined with war and strife in our imaginations, shimmers once more as a land of mystery and enchantment.
- despite the darkness of the tales, there remains something fundamentally restorative about Zimmerman's view of the world. She finds universality in stories than range from sublime to bawdy
- This lively sense of humor thrums throughout the play's bawdy bits, a ballet of racing pulses and lewd gestures. Frankly, the merchants, jesters and thieves of this universe make Gossip Girl look chaste.
- Still, the body part most lavished with attention here remains the ear.
- It's a celebration of the craft of the storyteller from which we too emerge recharged, renewed.
- The upshot: A magic carpet ride through an ancient land of myth and whimsy.
Tales as old as time: Arabian Nights shimmer at Berkeley Rep
- Zimmermanâ€™s got a great gimmick: she creates beautifully designed, expertly acted vehicles for sophisticated storytelling. In a very grown-up way, she turns us into kids slathering for a juicy bedtime story. And she always delivers.
- her approach to the classic collection of tales is compellingly human.
- One tale folds into another as the evening flows along, enchanting us all the while.
- Zimmermanâ€™s 15-member ensemble tumbles and spins through the tales with grace and glee. They drum, they play stringed instruments, sing, dance and jump from one character to another with ease and clarity. And theyâ€™re gorgeous in the shimmering, flowing robes and gowns and drapes provided by costumer Mara Blumenfeld.
- As expected, the production is gorgeous. Though Daniel Ostlingâ€™s set is a simple courtyard in the midst of rough buildings, with pillows, small wooden platforms and carpets scattered about, the space is lit in extraordinary, evocative, incredibly effective ways by TJ Gerckensâ€™ lighting design. There are gorgeous Middle Eastern lanterns hung over the stage and throughout the theater, but Gerckensâ€™ lights are so much more â€“ they become a mad house, an exotic night on the Tigris and, most significantly, the first rays of dawn, which could mean death for Scheherezade and the end of her stories.
- With its ever present threat of death, The Arabian Nights never devolves into frivolity. Thereâ€™s weight to the stories that comes from sadness and wisdom, and when, at the end, Zimmerman echoes present-day Baghdad, the oft-described â€ścity of peace and poets,â€ť we sense the depth of history and our place in it.
- Berkeley Repertory has opened a magnificent production of The Arabian Nights, written and directed by Tony Award-winning Mary Zimmerman, her sixth production at the Rep.
- tales of romance, intrigue and betrayal, brilliantly performed by a superbly talented cast of 15. And it's all backed by traditional music and a fabulous open set.
- It's truly a spectacle to behold, and it's just perfect for the holidays.
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