LOOKING FORWARD TO MAY
- “Be for something and against nothing.” Michael Bernard Beckwith
Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, Minnesota is in its 33rd season. Since 1989, this theater has produced soulful stories with honesty and creativity, and from April to June, you can virtually watch their newest production I Love to Eat, written by James Still and directed by Hal Cropp. This is a one man show based on James Beard, a televised cook whose show aired on NBC from August 1946 to May 1947.
I never knew about James Beard before this production and if you exhibit signs of attention deficit like I do, you may find yourself pausing this Youtube Virtual show to look up facts about Beard.
Directed by Hannah Weinberg-Goerge
Video-on-demand available April 24–May 2, 2021
tickets at www.lyricarts.org
Writers Theatre continues to captivate Chicagoland audiences with inventive interpretations of classic works under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma. Their newest show “The Last Match,” is a play about fictional tennis characters, their stories, and the result of the U.S. Open semifinal.
What happens when a young Russian tennis phenom, Sergei, and an American superstar, Tim, meet at center court? They bring with them a rich history that draws you inside the minds of all the characters as they face challenges in sport, life, and love.
This virtual experience is entertaining to watch with its fast paced monologues delivered by Ryan Hallahan (Tim) who refers to the birth of his son, “It's the most beautiful moment, you don’t feel the pressure, failure,or death. The ambition, and the coming up short.”
Christopher Sheard (Sergei) says, “I had to be hard on myself...I had extraordinary skills of hand-eye coordination at a young age and trained in Italy France, and America.”
Choreographer Steph Paul inserts the right amount of stops and starts so the plot is interwoven throughout. You'll shout along with the players as they excel in glory, whether it be pivoting and serving a ball to victory or when a character is on his back crying out in agony.
“The Last Match is ostensibly about tennis, but it is also about the process of aging, the navigation of a relationship amidst an all-consuming passion, the toll of obsessive commitment to work and family and the things we do in order to feel young, current and important.” says Director Michael Halberstam.
In the second half of the film, I noticed the character dynamic shift. Sergei pauses mid court and there’s a flashback scene where the truths of his interpersonal relationships are revealed including the death of his parents and the impact it had on his career.
In another scene, Tim and his wife, Mallory (Kayla Carter) are dealt with the news of a subsequent miscarriage. I'm thinking of my birth, as her hands are abdomen. It's an unforgettable emotional scene. Mallory delivers heartfelt monologues so visceral, you want to shout “You go, girl” and “Tell him!” Images of the 2000 film “Love and Basketball” came to mind.
”The Last Match” will continue streaming! Available on-demand through May 30 at overture.plus/patron/Writers-Theatre
Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Writer Heather Burnside is with me today. Heather has had ten books published to date: two trilogies plus the first four books in a series of five. The fifth and final book in the series is due to be published in January 2022.
Heather, can you talk about your books?
All my novels are in the gritty crime genre and are based in Manchester, UK. The first trilogy features the Manchester gang wars of the 1990s, the second features the Manchester door wars of the 90s when gangs took over the doors of nightclubs and pubs in Manchester, and my current series revolves around the lives of sex workers in the city.
What drew you to write in this genre?
I spent my teen years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester. During the 1990s gangs moved into the estate and it was constantly in the press because of problems with drugs, shootings etc. Although I had left the estate by this stage, it piqued my interest. Also, when I am developing my characters I draw characteristics from some of the people who lived on the estate.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
I don’t really have one to be honest, but I spur myself on by telling myself, ‘I can and I will’.
Which writers inspire you? And what are you reading now?
I draw my inspiration from actual events, characters, news articles and TV documentaries rather than from other writers. However, I do have some favourite authors in the genres of sagas and thrillers including Catherine Cookson and Jeffery Deaver. Many of the books I read have a triumph over adversity theme which is evident in my writing, so this has perhaps influenced my writing to an extent. Currently I am reading The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths.
Heather Burnside grew up in Gorton, a working-class area of Manchester famed as the original location for the TV series, Shameless. She moved from Gorton to Longsight and spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester. Heather draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels.
To date she has published ten novels and is currently working on her eleventh. You can find out more about Heather's books by signing up to her mailing list at: to receive regular updates, or by viewing her website:www.heatherburnside.com