Michael Emerson attended the opening night of The Woodsman. The new play performed silently and with human and puppet characters. The play is a prequel to the Wizard of Oz story of the Tin Man. Here’s a wonderfulreview written by Marilyn Stasio for Variety:
After limited runs at Ars Nova and 59E59 Theaters, Strangemen & Co.’s production of “The Woodsman” is back on the boards. There’s a haunting beauty about this dark puppet show, created by James Ortiz, the writer, co-director, puppet master and star of the current production at New World Stages. This eerie prequel to “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” reveals how the Tin Woodman (as he’s known in L. Frank Baum’s Oz books) lost his heart — not to mention all his body parts — when the Wicked Witch of the East put a curse on his ax.
Although most of the show is in wordless puppet-speak, a narrator (Ortiz, who owns this show) addresses the audience long enough to put the story in perspective. The wicked witch who rules over the eastern provinces of Oz, he informs us, has made a sad and sorry place of her kingdom. The woods are inhabited by monsters, the witch’s spies are everywhere, and people are afraid to speak their thoughts out loud.
Words have literally become dangerous in the kingdom, so everyone stops talking and now communicate in non-verbal grunts, groans, squeaks, squeals and whistles. They laugh, they cry, they clap their hands, and make all kinds of weird noises — but they truly do not speak. The only other sound is the expressive but rather hectic violin playing of musician Naomi Florin. The music is not unpleasant, just relentless.
Even at 70 minutes, this cacophony of non-speech could drive a person crazy, a reminder that one of the joys of puppetry is its eloquent silences.
Despite the dangers, a brave woodsman named Nick Chopper (Ortiz again, carrying an ax) and his bride, Nimmee (Eliza Martin Simpson), make their escape through the haunted woods and into a happy place where Nick can chop down trees and build a home.
The malevolent witch is not to be outwitted, however. She puts a curse on the woodsman’s ax, directing it to (here comes the good part) chop off his limbs, one by one. But as fast as the ax shears off a limb, a clever tinker (Amanda A. Lederer) fashions a prosthesis made of tin. The woodsman’s head is the last to go, but when it does, the transformation is complete and the Woodsman has become the Tin Man.
The puppeteers are proficient and the effects are exquisite. The witch flies in on a bad wind, always in the company of the evil-looking crows that serve as her eyes and ears. But the life-sized tin puppet of the woodsman (tenderly manipulated by Ortiz) is heartbreaking.
Off Broadway Review: Oz Backstory ‘The Woodsman’
New World Stages; 199 seats; $85 top. Opened Feb. 8, 2016. Reviewed Feb. 5. Running time: 1 HOUR, 10 MIN.
A presentation by Robb Nanus, Rachel Sussman, Ryan Bogner, Adam Silberman, and Leo Mizuhara and Brian Stuart Murphy, in association with RJ Brown & Joe Carroll, Rebecca Black, and Ellen Myers, originally produced and developed by Strangemen & Co., of a play in one act by James Ortiz, adapted from the books of L. Frank Baum, with music by Edward W. Hardy and lyrics by Jen Loring.
Directed by James Ortiz & Claire Karpen. Sets & puppet design, James Ortiz; costumes, Molly Seidel; original costumes, Carol Uraneck; lighting, Catherine Clark & Jamie Roderick; movement coordinator, Will Gallacher; fight director, Aaron McDaniel; music director & violinist, Naomi Florin; production stage manager, CJ LaRoche.
Benjamin Bass, Devin Dunne Cannon, Will Gallacher, Alex J. Gould, Amanda A. Lederer, Aaron McDaniel, Lauren Nordvig, James Ortiz, Eliza Martin Simpson, Meghan St. Thomas, Sophia Zukoski.
Larger and additional photos are available here.
Found this article in Deadline.com:
Michael Emerson & Sally Field Will Lead All-Star Reading Of Oscar Wilde Docu-Drama Banned By Kremlin
What Moscow rejects, Manhattan embraces: Moisés Kaufman’s celebrated 1997 docuplay Gross Indecency: The Three Trials Of Oscar Wilde, recently canceled by the Kremlin during pre-production, will be presented in October by a star-driven cast as a fundraiser in New York.
Emmy-winner Michael Emerson (Lost, Person Of Interest) and Oscar winner Field (Norma Rae) will be joined by Jonathan Groff (HBO’s Looking and currently on Broadway in Hamilton), Michael C. Hall (Showtime’s Dexter), David Hyde Pierce (NBC’s Frasier, Broadway’s Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike), Tony Kushner(Broadway and HBO’s Angels in America), Judith Light (Amazon’s Transparent, Broadway’s Other Desert Cities), Darren Criss (Fox’s Glee, Broadway’s Hedwig And The Angry Inch), Tituss Burgess (Netflix’ Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and others. Emerson played Wilde in the original off-Broadway production.
Earlier this year, Kaufman and his Tectonic Theater Project were working with the Moscow New Drama Theatre and the U.S. State Department to produce a Moscow revival of Gross Indecency. In the middle of pre-production, the Kremlin blocked the production because of the play’s LGBTQ content. Kaufman and the company then decided to produce the benefit reading to spotlight the suppression of the rights of the LGBTQ community in Russia.
The reading, staged by Kaufman, will take place October 5 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater on the West Side campus of John Jay College. Proceeds will benefit the Tectonic Theater Project and the International Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The reading will be sponsored by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Hilda Mullen Foundation. Info is at tectonictheaterproject.org.
Back in 2009, Michael Emerson did an interview for the Jacksonville Magazine. You can see the result in the Michael Emerson Photo Gallery. Here’s the teaser:
Emmy-winning actor Michael Emerson has performed on Broadway with Paul Giamatti and Kevin Spacey, appeared in the top-grossing horror film franchise of all time and currently stars on an ABC drama that Time magazine named one of the 100 best shows of all time (he won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for The Practice, by the way). And he has Jacksonville to thank. Emerson moved to Jacksonville by way of New York City in the mid-’80s and quickly got involved in the arts community.He acted in a number of productions at Theatre Jacksonville and served as its technical director of theater. He also taught drawing at Flagler College in St. Augustine. “I had a good life in Jacksonville,” he says of his six years in the River City, “and found myself as an actor.” These days, Emerson and his wife, Carrie, are “tri-coastal,” living in New York and Los Angeles for seven months and Hawaii when he’s shooting Lost. But he’ll always have a place in his heart for Northeast Florida.
1. Saw was the most dangerous shoot I’ve ever been on, and I was glad to escape with only minor injuries. I had cracked ribs, lumps, bruises and scrapes all over me. I couldn’t sleep on my right side for weeks.
2. I played a Polynesian witch doctor in the fifth grade play. My first Jacksonville role was Iago in Othello at UNF.
3. Nothing makes me more nervous than public speaking (as myself). Talk shows? … Terrifying!
4. I have worked as a landscaper, carpenter, painter, shipping clerk, teacher, designer and director—but only waited tables once. I lasted three hours in the dining room of the Des Moines Country Club before I poured coffee on a lady. I wasn’t asked back.
5. People understand (in their rational minds, at least) that I am not really the character I play on Lost. But some of them are cautious around me, behaving rather formally and keeping a safe distance.
6. I always wanted to be an archaeologist. Still do. I like archaeology because I am a person oriented toward the past and because it is a kind of detective.
7. Director Sam Raimi gave away the part I was playing in the film For the Love of the Game to his brother.
8. I’ve never been very comfortable with guns— never held one in my life except in front of a camera.Strangely, I’ve carried guns in almost every role I’ve played in movies and TV. Hell, you can’t ask someone to pass the salt on Lost without drawing a gun!
9. I learned to act for the camera by doing training films for the U.S. government in Brunswick, Georgia.
10. Sixteen years later, I still have a storage unit in Jacksonville, which contains 500 vintage Lps, all of my graduate school papers and original sketches from my life as an illustrator, and an assortment of canes, swords, wigs and trophies from my North Florida theater days. I never had an apartment with enough space to keep them, but this year I’ll finally empty it out. I think.
5:15 p.m.-6:15 p.m. Person of Interest (Midseason on CBS): Person of Interest returns to San Diego for the fifth year! Join the discussion, as the science “fiction” of Person of Interest stays one step ahead of real-world events. Find out highly confidential intel when executive producers Jonathan Nolan, Greg Plageman and Denise Thé join series stars Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Kevin Chapman and Amy Acker undergo a Comic-Con interrogation with a special video presentation and Q&A. Room 6BCF
5:15 p.m.–6:15 p.m. Person of Interest (Midseason on CBS): Person of Interest returns to San Diego for the fifth year! Join the discussion, as the science “fiction” of Person of Interest stays one step ahead of real-world events. Find out highly confidential intel when executive producers Jonathan Nolan, Greg Plageman and Denise Thé join series stars Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Kevin Chapman and Amy Acker undergo a Comic-Con interrogation with a special video presentation and Q&A. Room 6BCF.