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Emily Murphy

Getting Your Kicks at TheaterWorks

“Strong is beautiful,” says Emily Murphy, who plays the team captain of a girls’ soccer team in the play The Wolves, which is being presented at Hartford’s TheaterWorks Oct. 5-Nov. 12.

In the Sarah DeLappe work, which was an off-Broadway hit earlier this year — not to mention a Pulitzer Prize finalist — the slice-of-life experiences of a suburban American high school girls’ indoor soccer team are revealed scene-by-scene during their daily warmups.

As I wrote in my review for Variety: “DeLappe’s brilliance is that she reveals her players as they gossip, taunt, comfort and conspire, not as archetypes — the smart one, the slutty one, the loner, the loudmouth, the nerd, the new kid — but as young women on the cusp of becoming their own self-defined characters, with the possibility to change, challenge and grow.”

The Hartford show, directed by Eric Ort, calls for the ensemble cast to do some fancy footwork, too, as it portrays these young women as commanding physical characters.

“I think it’s important to see these women using their bodies in constructive and team-building ways,” Murphy says. “So often on stage you see women’s bodies in competition with each other for a potential romantic partner. But here, it’s a completely different way. It’s an indication of the shift in body image for women now. It shows that there are different ways to have a strong, healthy body.”

And her sporting skills?

“I just recently ordered a soccer ball on Amazon,” laughs Murphy, who says she hasn’t played the sport since elementary school, though she adds she’s very athletic and health conscious. (I talked to her just after her yoga class.) Of all the sports growing up — rugby, downhill skiing, cross country running — soccer was the one sport that just didn’t click for her. “But I’m excited to get back into it and see how my elementary school soccer skills hold up.”

Never fear. For this production TheaterWorks will have Lexi Menard, the assistant women’s soccer coach from Hartford’s Trinity College, helping train the ensemble cast of young women.

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A Broken Umbrella

The Art Of Getting Connected

For Exchange, the latest community-based piece by New Haven’s A Broken Umbrella theater company, the group didn’t turn to particular local inventors and creatives as it has done for past shows about bicycles, girdles, matches, musicals and the Erector set.

The first telephone exchange, telephone book and subscription system started in New Haven in 1878, led by George Coy. “But it’s not really about him,” ensemble member Aric Isaacs says of the play. “He was a fairly unremarkable fellow, other than the fact that he hustled to get people to subscribe and to invest in his new invention.” So the theater company instead decided to interview folks from all ages in diverse neighborhoods around the city about their experiences with the telephone and the telephone company.

Exchange is a play with music that features a half-dozen vignettes which will be held during City-Wide Open Studios weekends in October at the Goffe Street Armory, Erector Square and Westville.

“It’s more about us as a community,” he says, “and what the invention wrought and how we deal with communication, technology and each other today.”

The troupe spent much of the year as an oral history project, which will be archived after the shows are over. “We also got a lot of people who were former Southern New England Telephone employees and what we found was that every single former SNET employee said the same thing: it was like a family and how integrated the company was to New Haven.”

In 2014, Frontier Communications completed its purchase of SNET from AT&T for $2 billion. It became a different company in more ways than one.

David Sedaris

David Sedaris

Regulated Sedaris

Is David Sedaris a bit on the compulsive side? Perhaps even OCDish? Well, the author and New Yorker humorist likes order, that’s for sure. His annual book-lecture tour happens every spring and fall like clockwork. (He will be at Hartford’s The Bushnell Oct. 14.) He admits that his cleaning schedule is well-ordered, no doubt a habit from his days earning dough cleaning houses when he was just starting out, which he talks about in his latest book, Theft By Finding: Diaries 1977-2002.

“When I got my first apartment I always cleaned my house at the exact same time every week because everything I do was on a schedule and if I didn’t do it just like that the world would spin off its axis,” he told me recently from his home in West Sussex, England.

That sense of regularity also is reflected in his daily walking routine — where he also picks up trash along the way.

“Yesterday it was raining here so I walked to the train station and back, which is 6 or 7 miles, but not my usual 20 miles. When I got home I thought, ‘What if I took a bath at 5 o’clock in the afternoon — in one of the bathtubs I’ve never used? What if I laid on the sofa and read that screenplay that someone sent me to read. What if I actually did that instead?’ But then it just became inconceivable to me. And I thought, ‘No, I have to go back into the rain and walk another 13 miles.’”

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Chris Ghaffari

Sexy is…

How do you play sexy on stage?

That’s what I asked Chris Ghaffari, who stars in Sex With Strangers at the Westport Country Playhouse. He plays a libidinous 20-something who has a more flexible view of sex than an older woman he encounters at a writer’s retreat — or at least that’s what the audience is led to believe.

“One way to do it is just take off all our clothes and run around stage,” jokes the Greenwich native, referring to the last time he was on the Westport stage in the Joe Orton farce What the Butler Saw.

But this time there’s a different approach to his character “who has a sense of sexual liberation and ease as part of his persona which is different from who he really is.”

Laura Eason’s play explores how identities — especially sexual ones — can be enhanced, expanded and invented online, where the mating rituals occur for a new generation, and the complications that follow those cyber creations.

“There’s a kind of alienation that happens when stuff is digitized, or put on a blog or on Tinder or on a dating app,” Ghaffari says. “You can do things with this slightly different version of yourself that maybe you wouldn’t be as comfortable with for your flesh-and-blood self.”

What’s interesting, he says, “is when that bad boy veneer is pierced.”

Frank Rizzo has covered the arts-entertainment scene in Connecticut since disco reigned in the ’70s, including nearly 34 years writing for The Hartford Courant. Email him at FrRiz@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter@ShowRiz.

Frank Rizzo has covered the arts-entertainment scene in Connecticut since disco reigned in the ’70s, including nearly 34 years writing for The Hartford Courant. Email him at FrRiz@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @ShowRiz.