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Hot Stages: ‘Arsonists, ‘Carmina Burana’

Photo by Charr Crail
Megan Wicks and Rich Hebert co-star in "The Arsonists" at Capital Stage

“The Arsonists,” a searing family drama now at Capital Stage, is a National New Play Network (NNPN) rolling world premiere. It’s a remarkable work with roots that stretch back to Greek drama but is as contemporary as today.

So, what is the National New Play Network? It’s an alliance of non-profit professional theaters, of which Capital Stage is one, that encourage the development and production of new plays. Each member contributes financially to the network and the development process and in return gets to participate in a “rolling world premiere” of the plays it has helped bring to life. What’s a “rolling world premiere?” It’s a part of the program that provides playwright and production support of the new play be each member theater getting to present it “first.” Each theater gets a shot (and the play often continues to development as it rolls along) until all the member theaters have given their audiences the first look at the new play.

“The Arsonists” is the latest NNPN rolling world premiere and it will play through April 15 at Capital Stage, after which other theaters will have the chance to perform it. If you want to see it, see it here and see it now. Set in the swamps of Northern Florida, “The Arsonists” is a Southern Gothic story about a father-daughter team of singers, storytellers — and arsonists — who make their livelihood as paid fire-setters. They are nearly always on the run from the law, and this play is about their final fire and ultimate goodbye. It’s a tender tale of the bond between parent and child and what each gives and takes from the association. It’s an authentic and original commentary on the difficulty, but also the necessity, of letting go.

Gail Dartez directs the supremely talented cast of two — Rich Hebert (who was seen at Cap Stage in “August: Osage County”), and Megan Wicks (who is making her Capital Stage debut). Hebert and Wicks, who also play guitar and sing, create a bond that is nothing short of familial and phenomenal. One aches at their separation. The shabby shack in the swap is a spare but very effective setting for the action (the scenic and lighting design is by Brian Harrower), and the sound design (by Ed Lee) enhances the production in several critical scenes.

The more I think about this play, the more I appreciate it and want to see it again. That is not always the case, believe me. I’m glad somebody wrote this—specifically Jacqueline Goldfinger—and that Capital Stage encourages and performs such new works.

“The Arsonists” will be performed at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through April 15. Regular ticket prices range from $22-45, with discounts available for students, seniors SARTA members and members of the military. Capital Stage is at 2215 J Street.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 995-5464, or go to CapStage.org.

Last Chance for Another ‘Hot’ Show

As part of Ron and Carinne Binda Cunningham’s final season as co-artistic directors of the Sacramento Ballet, some of Ron’s best dances are given one last shot. Beginning Friday and continuing through Sunday, his masterful “Carmina Burana” will be performed at the Community Center Theater.

A signature dance of the company, it is performed with live musical accompaniment and a full choir with special guest artists. It’s a big deal, befitting a work that goes back to the 11th and 12th centuries. A collection of more than 250 poems and dramatic texts was found in 1803 in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuem, Bavaria. They appear to be the work of students and clergy—but the topics aren’t at all church-like. There are love songs, drinking and gambling songs and some that even mock the greed and misdeeds of the church.

Carl Orff set 24 of the poems to music in 1936 and it has become a staple of classical music. It’s probably familiar to a lot of non-classical music fans from the use of its opening and closing movement “O Fortuna” in movies (from “Excalibur” to “The Doors”) and even in commercials.

Much of Cunningham’s lavish interpretation of the work deals with Fortune and men’s lives and includes an iconic image of Fortuna held high atop a giant disc representing the wheel of fortune. It’s a sight to behold. Also on the program is George Balanchine’s classic “Serenade.”

“Carmina Burana” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Community Center Theater, 1301 L St. Tickets are $30-$89.

To purchase tickets or for more information, call (916) 808-5181 or go to SacBallet.org.

About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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