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Oscar Hopefuls With CT Theater Connections

A few folks with Connecticut theater connections who nabbed Academy Award nominations:

David Lang, the composer who scored last year's production of "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" at Yale Rep, for Best Original Song ("Simple Song #3," from "Youth").

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Mark Rylance, the Broadway and West End theater star who spent some of his childhood in Connecticut (while his father was teaching at Choate), as Best Supporting Actor for "Bridge of Spies."

Yale School of Drama grad Tom McCarthy for directing "Spotlight." McCarthy and Yale grad Josh Singer are also nominated for co-writing "Spotlight," which also got a Best Picture nomination.

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Greenwich-raised writer Jonathan Herman, co-nominated for the "Straight Outta Compton" screenplay with Andrea Berloff.

Adam Stockhausen, the Yale School of Drama grad who designed Brecht's "Galileo" for Yale Rep in 1998, for Best Production Design for "Bridge of Spies."

Thomas Newman, who graduated from the Yale School of Music in 1978 and worked with Stephen Sondheim before becoming a film composer, for Original Score for "Bridge of Spies"

Many were surprised that New Haven-based, Pulitzer-winning playwright Donald Margulies did not get a nomination for writing "End of the Tour." That screenplay has, however, been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award; the winner will be announced Feb. 26. The Academy Awards will be bestowed Feb. 28.

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Whofore Art They?

Kaliswa Brewster and Chris Ghaffari will play Juliet and Romeo in Hartford Stage's "Romeo & Juliet." The new production, directed and designed by Hartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresjnak, runs Feb. 11 through March 20.

Brewster has worked with Tresnjak before, in the "La Dispute"/"Macbeth" repertory troupe at Hartford Stage and in "Under Milk Wood" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. She's also played Juliet in Connecticut before, on tour with The Acting Company in 2011. Ghaffari is a third-year student at the Yale School of Drama who's been seen in school productions of "Coriolanus," "King John" and "Paradise Lost," and at the Yale Cabaret in "We Are All Here." Hartford Stage veterans in the cast include Kandis Chappell ("Hedda Gabler") as the Nurse, Bill Christ ("An Opening in Time") as Prince Escalus, Celeste Ciulla (from the theater's "Midsummer Night's Dream" collaboration with Hartford Symphony) as Lady Capulet, Robert Hannon Davis ("Kiss Me, Kate," "A Christmas Carol") as Montague, Stephen Mir ("Hamlet") as Balthasar, Callie Beaulieu of Artfarm as Lady Montague. Tresnjak has also pulled from several longstanding Shakespeare ensembles in the state, casting Raphael Massie of Elm Shakespeare Company as Peter. Some of the key supporting players are new to Hartford Stage: Jonathan Louis Dent as Tybalt; Wyatt Fenner as Mercutio; Alex Hanna as Benvolio; Charles Janasz (who's done dozens of Shakespeare shows at The Old Globe and Guthrie theaters) as Friar Laurence; Alex Schneps as Sampson; Julien Seredowych as Paris; and Timothy D. Stickney as Capulet. The mostly Connecticut-based actors in the show's ensemble include Michael Buckhout, Olivia Hoffman, Ella Mora, Stephen James Potter, Jenna Rapisarda, Mac Schonher and Nicole Vazquez.

It might (or might not) be significant that the actors playing Juliet, her father Capulet, Tybalt and Sampson are all African American. A Hartford Stage press release describes the production thus: "Revenge, passion and a secret marriage lead the world's most famous star-crossed lovers to a harrowing end."

The rest of the creative team includes Ilona Somogyi (costumes), Matthew Richards (lighting), Jane Shaw (sound design), Elizabeth Williamson (dramaturg), Steve Rankin (fight director) and Claudia Hill-Sparks (voice and text coach).

Got Them On Their List

TheaterWorks has released its annual "List of Plays" that are under consideration to be produced in the 2016-17 season. There are six shows in a TheaterWorks season; the "List of Plays" lists nine, and it's far from guaranteed that the season will come only from this list. All but one of the shows listed are by playwrights who have already had works produced at TheaterWorks: Mark St. Germain ("Relativity"), Terrence McNally ("Mothers and Sons"), David Lindsay-Abaire ("Wonder of the World"), John Patrick Shanley ("Outside Mullingar"), Jacques Lamarre ("The Raging Skillet"), David Lutken ("A Song Will Rise: The Music of Peter, Paul and Mary") and Matthew Lopez ("The Legend of Georgia McBride"). Also under consideration: Dominique's Moriseau's "Sunset Baby." TheaterWorks audience members are invited to pick their top five of the nine shows and inform the theater. TheaterWorks is also polling on whether audiences like their new "fully assigned seating" plan, a change from the general-admission plot of the past.

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