October 16, 2021

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‘Caroline, or Change,’ says Michael Longhurst, director of Dunmar and more

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Like everyone on Broadway at the time, British director Michael Longhurst remembers exactly when he closed the Covid-1 shut. “We just rehearsed the‘ Caroline, or Change ’outfit and were ready to bring it to the public,” he recalls. It was devastating, but the spirits remained strong: “We all said goodbye and ‘see you in a few weeks.'”

The rest, of course, was silence. Or it was Tony Kushner and Janine Tesori musical’s rehearsal for the much-anticipated Broadway revival, before the preview began in October before opening on October 27th.

In the interim, Longhurst has emerged as a major figure in bringing theater to life on both sides of the Atlantic.

Working at the main regional theaters and all major London addresses from Almeida and the Royal Courts, he competed fiercely to become the artistic director of the venerable Donmar Warehouse in London, a position that made the international careers of previous incumbents Sam Mendes, Michael Grande and. In Denmark, he received an instructive hand on “blindness”, a personalized audio drama / sound installation recorded with an audience that traveled across the depths of the epidemic in North America, Mexico, Ireland and then the United Kingdom before returning to New York for “Caroline”, Ende helped revitalize theaters with a rolling, varied cast in the play “Constellations,” a remake of the show that seemed broadly appropriate to the industry’s movement towards greater equity and inclusion.

Rufus Norris, artistic director of the National Theater যেখানে where Longhurst conducted a hit revival of “Amadeus,” clearly shows why Longhurst rose so early. “As a director he has a special skill, a combination of excellent theatrical insights and beautiful temperament with emotional subtlety. He is also very collaborative, and this mix was gloriously expressed in his approach to ‘Amadeus’. Her team worked brilliantly together and the results – delicious performances, great use of space and a full dance orchestra – are a glorious example of total theater.

Now she’s hosting the first post-shutdown show at Studio 54 of the Roundabout Theater on Broadway, “Caroline, or Change.” Even before the epidemic, the Broadway run had been going on for a long time. Longhurst opened the first British production of Landmark Musical in May 201 at the Chichester Festival Theater, a strong regional production company on the south coast of the United Kingdom. The Rhapsody Review went on sale at the Off-West End Hampstead Theater a year later, and then in the West End where the star, Sharon de Clarke, won the role of Olivier (her third) for her explosive performance.

The show’s New York incarnation will not be the 40-year-old Longhurst’s Broadway debut. It came with the U.S. premiere of “Constellations” about seven years ago, about Nick Payne’s time-splitting, Quantum Physicist and Beekeeper’s Two Hands of Life-Death, starring Jake Gillenhall and Ruth Wilson. That was the drama where Longhurst returned in June after the UK lifted the Covid ban. It opened with a unique twist on a West End revival: the three-month limited run had not one but four varied casts. (The production with four casts will be streamed digitally on the Danish website this month.)

The idea originated primarily from practicality. Like all managers, he was looking for a short-cast show because the fewer people, the less likely they are to be infected. But as soon as he reconsidered the play, which was built around the idea of ​​a parallel universe, he began to imagine.

“The theater is properly examining itself to see who can create and tell stories,” he said. “So far I have managed the ‘constellation’ with only thirty white things. Thinking even bigger became really exciting – not just the chemistry between the actors, but the identity of the drama couple. How much can the audience change the way they accept the story? ”

Its 0-minute running time means they can run 12 performances a week using two casts. If one cast was unable to perform due to illness, the others would be found automatically. This proved to be ultimately unnecessary, but since the UK commercial theater troupes were not given a single penny or insurance to protect against infection, it was an incredibly innovative security system.

Longhurst’s first two couples were young black actor Sheila Atim (Olivier-winner “Girl from the North Country”) and Ivano Jeremiah and older white couple Joe Wanmacker (double Olivia winner and four-time Tony nominee) and BAFTA-winner Peter Kop. Who “). The second half of the run was played by a mixed-race couple of gay actors Omari Douglas (“It’s Scene”) and Russell Toe (“Looking”), quarterback Ana Maxwell Martin (“Black House,” “Line of Duty”) and Chris Woodwood. (“Get smaller,” “Girls.”)

Longhurst points to the contrast between seeing Douglas and Wanamakar in the same role. “It’s the difference between a new undergraduate PhD. Students and anyone who lived through the birth of string theory. The way death and love are felt at different stages of life becomes deeply ingrained. ”

Looking at the vast theatrical landscape, he speaks emphatically about seeing who wants to write and direct. “It’s important that we create space to move commissioning budgets to where they should be,” he stressed. “But it’s nice to know that Nick, a working-class white boy from Luton, wrote the character and Sheila Atim can just go, ‘It feels like me and I can tell myself clearly about it. There’s a universality that I can draw.’

She herself is proud of how the production has made different audiences interested in seeing their own versions. “Representing yourself on stage really impresses if you don’t before. Personally speaking, I think it’s incredibly dynamic to see a gay couple, and not ‘a gay drama’: no ​​one dies of AIDS, it’s not about open relationship mistakes or The kind of stories that I’m used to telling are the most important thing about my identity. “

At the same time, Longhurst continues as the artistic director of Denmer, the 250-seat Stephen Sundime of Covent Garden, which was once declared “the best theater in the English-speaking world.” When the shutters came down ten months after the job, she found fancy ways to create work, including Adam Brace’s single “Midnight Your Time”, a portrait of the long-distance motherhood with Diana Quick that she first directed ten years ago and which she did by her mother. Re-imagined as the legacy of the video message. Online production then flowed worldwide. And then there was “blindness,” which he notes, “a way for theaters to reopen when they can.”

Like most of the industry, he denies the idea of ​​seeing the benefits from Covid but is overwhelmed by the increased access to online ventures. “One lakh people usually see Danish work in a year. Twenty-five thousand have seen Diana’s piece alone, and many more have seen ‘blindness’.

He is even more excited to see what the audience will experience when he returns to the Denmark venue, which has undergone a major overhaul. “I’m rude, but Donmer was being held a bit by the cell tape,” he joked. The building will now have much more open space and will be open all day, and he has created a season of four new plays that will carry the company until May 22nd.

Almost completely new drama as a director (“Amadeus” as a notable exception), “Caroline, or Change” is an unusual proposition for him. But after missing George C. Wolf’s original production, he felt free to make his own choices about how to present the material.

“It’s an amazing story,” he says. “Tony’s combined strength [Kushner] And genin [Tesori] – The way they complement and challenge each other is thrilling. And, again, Tony became a prophet. In the domestic environment he tells the story of the whole society in a moment, and he brings it all up to pull it down the statue.

Longhurst considers himself privileged to have this story on Broadway at this particular moment, pointing to its compelling complexity and the portrait it paints: Caroline’s journey is tragic, but her struggles are acknowledged by the next generation.

He welcomes the opportunity to refine his production once again with his 14 bands and strong actors. Happily, he knows he won’t have to work at Central Performance, since star Clark has been fired and ready to go.

That part of the job is easy for him. “I can’t wait to give her the Broadway platform she deserves.”

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