Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department alum Khanisha Foster ’02, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Acting, has directed a new, gender-expansive production of William Finn and James Lapine’s musical A New Brain, running through June 24 at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center’s Davidson/Valentini Theatre, located in The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Los Angeles. The show is presented by the Celebration Theatre, a Los Angeles nonprofit theatre company specializing in work that represents the LGBTQ+ experience.
Written by composer William Finn and playwright James Lapine, whose previous collaborations include the musical Falsettos, A New Brain is based on Finn’s own harrowing experience undergoing brain surgery for a life-threatening arteriovenous malformation. The musical premiered Off-Broadway in 1998 and has regularly produced in the U.S., England and elsewhere since then.
For her Celebration Theatre staging, Foster cast the lead role – originally modeled on Finn himself and usually played by a man – with a non-binary performer. “Gender-expansive casting revitalizes William Finn’s New Brain, now being given the most gloriously imaginative of intimate revivals by Celebration Theatre at the Los Angeles LGBT Center,” wrote critic Steven Stanley in a review posted May 6, 2023, on the theatre website StageSceneLA.com. “For anyone familiar with Finn’s Falsettos, it should come as no surprise that despite its serious subject matter, A New Brain features almost as many laughs as tears. In addition, like Falsettos before it, A New Brain makes the gender of its lead couple (portrayed until now as a gay male couple) entirely incidental to their love story, treating them exactly as musicals have traditionally depicted male-female relationships in decades past. All this makes A New Brain (music and lyrics by Finn, book by Finn and James Lapine) ideal for one of the nation’s oldest LGBTQIA+ theatres, particularly as reconceived for 2023 audiences by director Khanisha Foster, at the top of her game.”
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