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Summer Is the Time for Stretching

The play casts Mr. Hall and Lindsay Crouse as doctors reflecting on a pharmaceutical trial in which its two research volunteers have fallen in love. The production, which runs through July 8, brought Mr. Hall to the seaside city of Gloucester, Mass., to work with his co-stars and the play’s director, Sam Weisman, a frequent collaborator. “Whenever we were on a soundstage together and something would go wrong,” Mr. Hall said, “we’d look at each other and go, ‘It won’t be like this when we go back to the theater.’ So we’re testing that premise.”

Mr. Hall has continued to act on shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and to direct episodes of Ms. Louis-Dreyfus’s HBO satire, “Veep.” Still, he said that an occasional gig outside the geographical boundaries and critical pressures of the entertainment industry was a crucial change of pace.

When he is working on a TV assignment, Mr. Hall said: “You have to run, an awful lot, on instinct. Even on ‘Veep,’ it’s not like you get weeks of rehearsal to break out what’s going on in the scenes.”

With “The Effect,” he said, “It’s nice to be able to sit down and have a discussion about something for more than four minutes, and not look at your watch and go, ‘Oh my God, I just spent $40,000 of HBO’s money.’”

Given how much theater he did at Northwestern University (where the Practical Theater Company was created as Attack Theater) and in the years after, Mr. Hall said it was bittersweet to have drifted away from the stage and then returned to it. “It’s part of my DNA,” he said. “To step back into it, it’s both brand new and nostalgic at the same time. That’s exactly what I hoped it would be.”

Among his future projects, Mr. Hall has created a new TV series, “Picture Paris,” starring Meg Ryan and adapted from a 2011 short film he wrote and directed. But the galvanic response he gets from watching a stage performance, and not from film or television, would seem to indicate more theater is in his future, he said.

“When I go to see theater, I’m consumed with professional jealousy,” he said. “So I think that indicates, on some deeper, psychological level, that I would like to continue to do this.”


Excerpt: ‘Hamlet’

Lenne Klingaman, in dark pants, as Hamlet, with Ava Kostia as Laertes, in a scene from a new production of Shakespeare’s tragedy.

By COLORADO SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL on Publish Date June 28, 2017.


Lenne Klingaman

A woman playing Hamlet isn’t that unusual. A woman playing Hamlet as a woman is much more rare. A woman playing Hamlet as if she were Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman”?

“I saw the film in the first week of rehearsal and thought: That. I’m gonna do that onstage,” read an email from the actress Lenne Klingaman, who now stars as Hamlet at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. “No questioning of Wonder Woman’s ability or gender equivalency, just pure human potential.”

That’s not all: Ms. Klingaman isn’t just playing the tormented prince, er, princess in Shakespeare’s tragedy. As part of the festival’s repertory programming this summer, she’s also portraying a female Hamlet in a revival of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” That’s two Hamlets for one woman, a heavy lift for any actor (of any gender).

To portray a Hamlet who’s “my lady,” not “my lord,” Ms. Klingaman wears gowns that fall on the cusp of the Edwardian-Victorian era. Adding a same-sex curveball, Ophelia remains female.

It’s still early for a consensus on how the idea will fly. (“Seriously, Should a Woman Play Hamlet?” was one local newspaper headline.) But for her, Ms. Klingaman, 34, said, the production has been eye-opening. “Me, a woman who looks pretty cisgendered heteronormative, can feel confined by a specific type of femininity,” she said by phone. “To have the floodgates open to Jungian masculine-feminine yin-yang has changed my understanding of gender and its fluidity.”

The role has also forced her to internalize the many contradictions of a powerful woman “behaving badly.”

“A woman is very rarely allowed to be hilarious, witty, intellectually crisp and incisive with words, and then in the next scene plotting someone’s murder,” she said. “Asking of a woman the kind of — I’m still finding words for it — vulnerability and interiority that’s demanded of those soliloquies, and asking the audience to come on this ride as a woman, is terrifying, but also freeing.”

Carolyn Howarth, the show’s director, said in rehearsal that it felt “healing” to see Ms. Klingaman “express things that we feel but rarely get to see” as women.

“Watching her step into the shoes of this human who expresses rage and grief and revenge and sadness and love and who can be funny and sassy and still likable — that range may be completely elusive for a female to get to play,” she said.

What wasn’t a big deal for Ms. Klingaman was fighting. A black belt at 10, she grew up doing taekwondo and found that the physicality for the sword fight between Hamlet and Laertes returned easily.

“As a woman trained in self-defense and coming back to it after years, it’s a powerful thing to know your force and believe in it,” she said.

As if her plate weren’t full enough, Ms. Klingaman is also planning a fall wedding to Mark Christine, an actor and musical director. It seems that challenging gender norms isn’t just her nighttime job.

“The wedding industry is a very froufrou, very feminine world,” she said, laughing. “The ads I get at all times of the day on Facebook — the internet thinks everything in my life is geared toward marriage.”


Stewart Tucker Lundy will play Franklin Delano Roosevelt in “Annie.”

Matthew Staver for The New York Times

Stewart Tucker Lundy

The night after Stewart Tucker Lundy’s first rehearsal, he went home and announced to his wife: “Wow, I am in way over my head.” He added, “But in a good way.”

Mr. Lundy, 49, is making his first appearance onstage this summer. He’s playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a production of “Annie” in Denver at Phamaly, a semiprofessional theater company that produces plays and musicals featuring people with disabilities of all kinds.

Mr. Lundy, who has lived with quadriplegia and used a wheelchair since a diving accident in 1982, said, “I had my own preconceptions about this. I’m ashamed to admit that I thought it was going to be kind of a hug fest. No way. It’s work.”

It is. His first onstage appearance will take place in a theater that seats 750. In advance of opening night, he’s been attending five rehearsals a week, devoting at least 20 hours to the play. Mr. Lundy’s day jobs include working for the Denver Commission for People With Disabilities and consulting.

Regan Linton, the co-director of “Annie” (as well as the artistic director and acting executive director of Phamaly), said that casting someone who uses a wheelchair in the role of F.D.R. was important to her.

“This is our only president to serve with a visible physical disability, and he’s a huge figure,” she said. “I thought it was important to represent him authentically.”

A friend of a friend asked Mr. Lundy to read for the part, but it took a little convincing from his wife to give it a shot.

“He has no acting experience, but he has a presence in the community and the world,” Ms. Linton said. “That was really more important to me than experience, the charisma and overall presence when he rolls into a room. He shows up.”

Mr. Lundy won’t be the only new face in this “Annie.” Many of the kids playing orphans are acting in a large-scale production for the first time. And two dogs with disabilities will make their debuts. Daisy, who plays Sandy, Annie’s lovable mutt, is an amputee. Sonny, who plays “the 2nd dog,” lost his eyes because of glaucoma.

The show will have two previews and then an official run from July 15 to August 6 at the Stage Theater at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Mr. Lundy is in the throes of it now, learning how to memorize lines, connect them to action, and sing (which, he warned, “might be a little bit car-wreckish”).

But he’s loving it. “I’m like one of those people who found a new religion and wants to preach about it all the time,” Mr. Lundy said. “I’ve got the Phamaly religion. I want to tell everyone about it.”


The screenwriter Graham Moore, whose “Acolyte” is part of a short-play festival.

Matt Sayles

Graham Moore

The screenwriters Graham Moore and Alexander Dinelaris got to be friends on the road to the 2015 Academy Awards, thrown together in the crush of events where contenders plug their films. First-time nominees, they both came away with Oscars — Mr. Moore for “The Imitation Game,” Mr. Dinelaris as one of four writers on “Birdman.”

So in March, when Mr. Moore visited New York from Los Angeles, he went out with Mr. Dinelaris. “He took me to the Players Club, where he always likes to drink,” Mr. Moore, 35, said from California. “Which is funny, because there’s a huge sequence that takes place at the Players Club in my last novel, which he doesn’t know. I’d actually never been before.”

For Mr. Moore — whose film adaptation of that novel, “The Last Days of Night,” will star Eddie Redmayne — being in New York was cause for jubilation. Six months earlier, he had woken up one morning with a freakish spinal injury, unable to move his right leg. Surgery followed, then many weeks on painkillers, motionless in bed. This was his first trip since.

But as he explained to Mr. Dinelaris, he found himself in a creative quandary. The projects he had been working on before he was sidelined no longer interested him. He needed, he said, “a different set of inspirations.”

Mr. Dinelaris suggested he write a play — a little something for the annual Summer Shorts festival, where Mr. Dinelaris is a regular as both a director and a playwright. Mr. Moore had never written a play, never even considered it. “He was nervous about it,” Mr. Dinelaris said. But he promised to teach his friend how.

Thus Mr. Moore’s coming debut as a playwright with “Acolyte,” directed by Mr. Dinelaris and running on the festival’s Series A, July 21 to Sept. 1 at 59E59 Theaters. A brainy 30-minute drama rooted in 20th-century history, it’s about the writer Ayn Rand at midlife, playing philosophical mind games to get the latest thing she wants: a hot young man who is a devotee of hers, as is his wife. Rand’s own husband doesn’t mind the proposed liaison, as long as it makes her happy.

“She’s a controversial figure, and she should be,” said Mr. Moore, who never had a youthful Rand phase, and read her novels only after Anne Conover Heller’s biography “Ayn Rand and the World She Made” sparked his fascination. “She was a very successful screenwriter before then becoming a Broadway playwright before then becoming one of the best-selling novelists of a generation. And this is all in her second language.”

Plunging into a third medium himself was both scary and exciting, and it required him to abandon the tricks he knows for camouflaging weak spots in fiction and film, which don’t work in theater. “Writing for the stage, I felt very exposed,” he said.

Because the point of the exercise for him was to write “the most playlike play” possible, Mr. Moore doesn’t foresee adapting “Acolyte” for the screen. But it just might be the start of something bigger, he said: a two-act play, with the second act taking place 10 years later — “the same two couples in the same room, as this arrangement is coming to an end.”

Correction: June 28, 2017

An earlier version of this article included a subheading that misspelled the given name of the actress who plays Hamlet at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. She is Lenne Klingaman, not Laura.

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