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ON TIME WITH DR. ROBI LUDWIG: THE PSYCHOTHERAPIST THINKS THROUGH THE AGING CRISIS, COUNTERS HOLLYWOOD “EXPIRATION DATES,” AND CELEBRATES THE NEW RELEASE OF HER PAPERBACK EDITION OF “YOUR BEST AGE IS NOW” ·

Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. is a nationally known psychotherapist, award-winning reporter, and author. She is a relationship contributor for Investigation Discovery Network’s Scorned, and has hosted TLC’s reality show One Week to Save Your Marriage and GSN’s Without Prejudice? Dr. Ludwig is a regular guest on CNN, Fox News, and Headline News, discussing psychological and lifestyle issues as well as the criminal mind. She has appeared on Today, Entertainment Tonight, 20/20, World News Tonight, Nightline, The View, Fox and Friends, Steve Harvey, The Wendy Williams Show, and is on the medical board and a contributor for BELLA Magazine. She also writes for the Huffington Post. Dr. Ludwig lives in New York City.

Robi Ludwig helps SV’s Bob Shuman through the golden years,in a two-part interview—Part 2 will be published 4/4.   

What led you to write Your Best Age Is Now—and when did you discover aging was something you were interested in?

It was really my own personal experiences that led me to write about midlife and aging: I perceived how age was being discussed during certain TV interviews, what the information about aging really was out there, and how the myths about midlife were not jiving or in sync with what I was seeing. Midlife, typically, is described as a time of loss or losing it, yet I was seeing much more positive and youthful examples of midlife and aging, both in my daily life and in my professional life. I felt the need to write about them.

How about if people are fine with their aging—they just don’t think society knows how to deal with it. 

I think that’s great! If a person is fine with aging I say, “Go, you!” My book can be for people who are fine with aging, too. I just have observed, in general, that our culture makes it hard to age, because of the very internalized and incorrect biases our society holds onto so tightly.

Did you laugh at Jimmy Kimmel’s joke at the Oscars when he said, “we are very welcoming to outsiders here in Hollywood—we [only] discriminate against them based on their age and weight?”  Isn’t he right?  Are we dealing with real discrimination or is it in our heads?

I do think Hollywood is particularly guilty of age and weight discrimination because it tends to be youth-obsessed and movies are a business that caters to visual perfection and fantasy. Having said that, cultural ideas, even if they are biased and incorrect, can creep into the social consciousness of our collective psyches and create arbitrary expiration dates, which can be very dangerous emotionally–both for individuals and our society.

How would you describe what your book is about?

Your Best Age Is Now highlights some of the distortions about midlife and aging and combats them with the latest science. I also have midlife mentors, in each chapter, who are quite inspiring—they discuss how they live life passionately and successfully. We all need role models!  So my book offers a program for people to follow, so they can inspire themselves to fight ageism with new and more accurate information–and in doing so, open up life possibilities 

What mistakes do you see women making regarding their ages that bother you?

The biggest mistake I see people make is when they go into a self-attack regarding the aging process. They may be experiencing getting older as a way to rule themselves out of the kind of lives they want to experience.

Can’t women age gracefully anymore?

Women can absolutely age gracefully, and many do. But the biggest part of aging gracefully is first to be able to age gracefully in your mind. The rest of the process can–and often does–happen from there.

But you’re well-educated and successful—isn’t this subject different for someone like you?

I think there is a universality to the human experience, even if you’re well-educated and successful. Everyone wants to remain relevant, no matter how well-educated or successful he or she appears to the outside world.

For those who have worked in other careers or raised a family, how can they respond to the presumption that their “experience is from some time ago and might not translate well into a role in the present day”?

The midlife worker, who has taken time out from the working world, will need to get back up to speed. When it comes to a career someone is looking to get back into, this can be done by reading and becoming informed. It might also mean taking some new courses. But what’s nice about midlife workers, who have taken some time out, is that they have so many more connections than they did when they were younger. And many of these connections can be helpful when segueing back into the work world.

Isn’t it better for companies to have younger employees, though—wouldn’t the bottom line be less and wouldn’t it be easier to pass on corporate ways of working?

I think there is a place for all workers and that the right employees should be hired on more than just age criteria. Employment should be based on hiring the best person for the job, her relevance, how she is staying current, how she is passionate about the work, and what value she–or he–adds to the company or team.

The most amazing transformation you’ve seen in a client or acquaintance regarding aging?

The most amazing transformation I’ve seen was with one of my clients, who considered herself unlucky and a failure at love.  She changed her mind, found the man of her dreams during midlife, and went on to live the life she always wanted to liveShe’s never been happier or felt more satisfied.

Thank you so much.  We’ll look forward to next week.

View Your Best Age Is Now, from HarperOne, on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Your-Best-Age-Now-Soul-Satisfying/dp/0062357190/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490750224&sr=8-1&keywords=your+best+age+now

Visit Dr. Ludwig’s Web site:  http://drrobiludwig.com/

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MAY ADRALES’S ‘STRANGEST’ INTERVIEW II: REAL LIFE, REAL WORK AS A PROFESSIONAL DIRECTOR; PEOPLE, PLAYS, PERSPIRATION—RUNNING LONG-DISTANCE AND CREATING THE MOST POWERFUL THEATRE POSSIBLE ·

MAY ADRALES is a freelance director and teacher based in New York City.  She helmed the world premieres of Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club/South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Seattle Rep; Luce at LCT3, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Actors Theater of Louisville; after all the terrible things I do at Milwaukee Rep; Mary at The Goodman Theatre; In This House at Two River Theater Company; Qui Nguyen’s Five Days Till Saturday (NYU Tisch); Richard Dresser’s Trouble Cometh at San Francisco Playhouse; and  Katori Hall’s Whaddabloodclot!!! at Williamstown Theater Festival.  Upcoming:  Imani Uzuri and Zakiyyah Alexander’s girl shakes loose at Penumbra Theater; Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest at East 4th Theater; and Chisa Hutchinson’s Somebody’s Daughter at Second Stage Theatre.

Adrales is the recipient of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s inaugural Denham Fellowship and the Paul Green Emerging Directing Award.  She is a recipient of a TCG New Generations grant.  She has been awarded directing fellowships at New York Theater Workshop,  Women’s Project, SoHo Rep, and The Drama League.  She is a proud Artistic Associate at Milwaukee Rep.  Adrales has directed and taught at NYU, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Fordham University, and Bard College.  She served as a faculty member for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab (2006-2009).  She is on faculty at Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages and taught Directing Shakespeare at Brown/Trinity MFA program.  Adrales is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and currently serves on the faculty.  

A first-generation Filipina American, Adrales grew up in southwest Virginia with her three sisters JoAnn, Gina, and Tricia and had a backyard full of chickens, pheasant, and dogs.  Her father, Dr. Mamerto B. Adrales, is a general surgeon and her mother, Jocelyn Divinagracia Adrales, is a nurse.  They established a home and successful family practice in Covington, Virginia.  May is a lover of ice cream and martinis, and she balances this love with a passion for running and marathon racing.   Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband-to-be, architect and theater designer, Brad Kisicki.  

Visit May’s Web site: http://www.mayadrales.net  

 

May Adrales gets immersive with SV’s Bob Shuman—Part II.

One skill a director must have?

A strong curiosity about the world we are living in.  And an ability to translate that curiosity into the work. 

How should a playwright best interact with a director?  How are the boundaries between the two best set—and what are they?  How do you work with Betty Shamieh? 

Every playwright/director relationship is different.  You are in a marriage of sorts, so you have to work out how best to communicate with one another.   I think you must build an innate trust and know that you both want to create the most powerful theatrical event possible.  I also don’t try to go out to “fix” a play.  I believe unequivocally in the power of The Strangest and only wish to interpret what’s on the page in the most persuasive and moving way possible. 

What’s different about being a professional director than you suspected as a student? How would you advise a young director, or your students, trying to break into the business today?

I teach a class at Yale called “Bridge to the Profession,” which aims to prepare students for the professional world.  I try to get them to think more specifically about who they are–what drives them, what are they curious about in the world–and also what work they want to put out in the world.  I try to guide them, practically speaking, by teaching them a little about self-producing, budgeting, and also balancing personal and work life.  

Would you tell them to read reviews—and what kinds of things might they learn from critics?

It’s helpful to read reviews sometimes.  I always do.  It’s always painful to read about your work in sound bites when you have dedicated at least half a year, usually more, to the project.  But my professor, Liz Diamond, once advised us to read reviews and reflect on the facts of the review– what the reviewer saw–rather than the adjectives.  It was an important lesson for me. I was able to cut through the biting critique and better understand the work I put on stage.  Now, as a teacher, I try to lead a class discussion on failure and success and ask students to determine what their own criteria for success is, rather than a reviewer’s.  

Most influential director, person in theatre, or mentor in your life?

Lee Breuer of Mabou Mines.  He taught me to dare inventively, shake off fear, and eschew the need for acceptance in my work. 

How do you beat the stress that comes with your job?

I used to smoke. Now I long-distance run.  But red wine and good company makes the stress always go away.

Best recent Broadway or Off-Broadway play? How do you know what fine directorial work is?

Simon McBurney’s Mnemonic opened my eyes to what technology could do in theater; Lee Breuer’s The Doll’s House showed me the skillful hand of a director and how a director can push the envelope again and again within one production; and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters– it was the first play I ever saw Off-Broadway that had characters that resembled me and my family.   

Must all good stage work be political?

I think by nature all theater is political.  It’s a political act to engage in a community that presents you with another way to live life and empathize with people other than yourself.  But good theater is a rare alchemy–there are so many elements that must cohere in order for it to be impactful and powerful.  Theater with only a political message often bores me, but theater that can ignite real questions, about what it means to live in this world, and that questions my own way of thinking is what I go to the theater for.   

When are or were you happiest in the theatre?

When I see the strange and the beautiful collide in an unexpected way.  When I see dissonance on stage and it shakes me to the core.  When I see pure joy expressed and feel free myself.  It’s a wondrous thing to be moved by such fiction.

Thank you so much.

Read Part I of the interview with May Adrales: 

http://stagevoices.com/2017/03/09/may-adrales-says-the-strangest-things-the-director-on-a-new-project-at-east-4th-theater-311-41-work-with-playwright-betty-shamieh-and-her-marriage-proposal-the-night/

The Semitic Root presents

The Strangest

An Immersive Murder Mystery Experience Set in French Algiers

Inspired by Albert Camus’ Classic Novel, The Stranger

Written by Betty Shamieh

Directed by May Adrales

March 12 – April 1

Fourth Street Theatre

TICKETS:

Regular Price: $25

Premium: $45 (Includes a reserved seat and a signed program)

Purchase: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2822899

Press: Hanna Raskin/GOGO Public Relations and Marketing

(c) 2017 by May Adrales (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Photo:  Stephanie Keith (Alok Tewari as Abu)

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MAY ADRALES’S ‘STRANGEST’ INTERVIEW: THE DIRECTOR ON WORK WITH PLAYWRIGHT BETTY SHAMIEH, IMMERSION AT FOURTH STREET THEATRE (3/12–4/1), AND HER MARRIAGE PROPOSAL–THE NIGHT BEFORE TECH ·

MAY ADRALES is a freelance director and teacher based in New York City.  She helmed the world premieres of Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club/South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Seattle Rep; Luce at LCT3, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Actors Theater of Louisville; after all the terrible things I do at Milwaukee Rep; Mary at The Goodman Theatre; In This House at Two River Theater Company; Qui Nguyen’s Five Days Till Saturday (NYU Tisch); Richard Dresser’s Trouble Cometh at San Francisco Playhouse; and  Katori Hall’s Whaddabloodclot!!! at Williamstown Theater Festival.  Upcoming:  Imani Uzuri and Zakiyyah Alexander’s girl shakes loose at Penumbra Theater; Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest at East 4th Theater; and Chisa Hutchinson’s Somebody’s Daughter at Second Stage Theatre.

Adrales is the recipient of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s inaugural Denham Fellowship and the Paul Green Emerging Directing Award.  She is a recipient of a TCG New Generations grant.  She has been awarded directing fellowships at New York Theater Workshop,  Women’s Project, SoHo Rep, and The Drama League.  She is a proud Artistic Associate at Milwaukee Rep.  Adrales has directed and taught at NYU, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Fordham University, and Bard College.  She served as a faculty member for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab (2006-2009).  She is on faculty at Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages and taught Directing Shakespeare at Brown/Trinity MFA program.  Adrales is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and currently serves on the faculty.  

A first-generation Filipina American, Adrales grew up in southwest Virginia with her three sisters JoAnn, Gina, and Tricia and had a backyard full of chickens, pheasant, and dogs.  Her father, Dr. Mamerto B. Adrales, is a general surgeon and her mother, Jocelyn Divinagracia Adrales, is a nurse.  They established a home and successful family practice in Covington, Virginia.  May is a lover of ice cream and martinis, and she balances this love with a passion for running and marathon racing.   Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband-to-be, architect and theater designer, Brad Kisicki.  

Visit May’s Web site: http://www.mayadrales.net  

May Adrales gets immersive with SV’s Bob Shuman in a tw0-part interview—Part 2 will be published 3/18.  

Isn’t it easier to deal with a dead playwright? 

It may be easier to work with a dead playwright, but not nearly as gratifying, or as much fun.  I gravitate towards new writers because I thrive from those collaborations.  I love working on a play from the ground up.  And I love the thrill and challenge of trying out choices for the first time.  There is nothing more exhilarating and terrifying than sitting in the audience for a first preview.

What does a typical day look like when you’re in rehearsal or running a show—and what is it like before that, when you are preparing for a play?  

For the last few years, I’ve mainly been in rehearsals for one production while preparing for another at the same time. And more often than not, I’m also doing the groundwork for the production which will come after them.  I do savor the rare moments when I just have the time to meditate and reflect on a play, without having to make hard production decisions. It takes a lot of focus to manage each project successfully.  But I’m at my best when I get at least 5-6 hours of sleep a night and have a nice run first thing in the morning–then I  can welcome the workday with a clear head.  

After the success of Vietgone, why did you decide to do The Strangest, Betty Shamieh’s play inspired by Camus—and how did you become involved?

I have a long history with this play and with Betty.  I’ve admired and supported her work for a long time.  We did a workshop production of the play while she was in residence at Here Arts Center five years ago, and I think it’s one of her strongest works to date.  At this point in time, I want to do plays that are part of a larger resistance to what is happening politically in this country.  This play centers on two Middle Eastern female protagonists and their fierce fight for equality.  It also explains their need to reframe a narrative that has been dominated by colonial power.  Despite the fact that it is painfully difficult to independently produce, I feel it’s the most urgent story I can tell right now. 

Tell us about casting—who are your actors for The Strangest and what did you need to keep in mind while you were making your decisions?

I have the most extraordinary cast.  These are actors whom I have known and admired for a long time. Many of them have done development workshops and readings, including the extraordinary, powerful, and imaginative Jacqueline Antaramian. Roxanna Hope Radja has consistently blown me away in performance.  And now she is doing breathtaking work in rehearsals.   We were so lucky to secure the ever-powerful, yet gentle and sensual Alok Tewari, who did the first workshop production at Here, five years ago.  I was lucky to meet Juri Henley Cohn and Louis Sallan at an audition for a production of Disgraced.  They ultimately were not in that production, but I was so impressed with their talent that I cast them in this without an audition.  The ever-fun, imaginative, and talented Andrew Guilarte had just played the lead for me in a production, and he has returned to The Strangest, after being part of its development. 

Directorially, what are the challenges of working on immersive theatre?

The liveness of immersive theater is the most unpredictable and most influential element.  I think the proximity of the actors to spectators gives a sense of urgency and now-ness, unparalleled in film and TV and even in other proscenium-type houses.  The actors have to step up their games; they are always in close-up and the second they let go of their circumstances, characters, or stakes, the audience knows that–and feels it. 

Most insane problem you’ve encountered as a director in the last year?

Oh … so many problems to choose from … but last September, my schedule was so packed that the only time my boyfriend could propose to me was the night before I went into tech.  Not exactly a problem, but certainly an extraordinary event and circumstance.   He proposed in Central Park, and I had my backpack on filled with script and production notes. 

Thanks so much, May. Looking forward to next week.

The Semitic Root presents

The Strangest 

An Immersive Murder Mystery Experience Set in French Algiers

Inspired by Albert Camus’ Classic Novel, The Stranger

 Written by Betty Shamieh

Directed by May Adrales

 March 12 – April 1

Fourth Street Theatre

TICKETS:

Regular Price: $25; Premium: $45 (Includes a reserved seat and a signed program)

 Purchase: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2822899

Press: Hanna Raskin/GOGO Public Relations and Marketing

(c) 2017 by May Adrales (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

DAVID STOREY, REST IN PEACE (1933-2017) ·

(Michael Coveney’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/27.)

David Storey, who has died aged 83, was an unusual literary figure in being as well known for writing novels as he was for writing plays, never claiming that one discipline was harder or easier than the other, but achieving distinction in both, often overlapping, fields. He sprang to prominence with his first novel, This Sporting Life, in 1960; his 1963 movie adaptation, directed by Lindsay Anderson, and starring Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts, was an outstanding example of the new wave of British film, in its raw black-and-white northern realism and its brutal story of a miner turned professional rugby player and his widowed landlady.

Storey, the big and burly son of a Yorkshire miner, played rugby league for Leeds in the early 1950s while also studying fine art at the Slade school in London. His recurring themes, on stage and page, were defined by this dual experience; and by the conflict between his roots in the north and a sense of powerful dislocation in the south, as well as feelings of guilt and atonement in family life.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/27/david-storey-obituary

WELL, HELLO, DOLLYS! ·

(Eric Grode’s article appeared in the New York Times, 3/22.)

Carol Channing, who created the title role in the 1964 smash hit musical “Hello, Dolly!,” has been called many things: “a walking alarm clock,” “a moon-mad hillbilly,” “an Al Hirschfeld caricature in the flesh,” with “a vocal range from deep foghorn to squeaky hinge.”

But one thing she has never been called is a type.

“Everyone is unique,” said Carole Cook, who in originating the Australian production in 1965 became just the second woman to play Dolly Gallagher Levi. “But some are uniquer than others.”

So what happened when the irreplaceable Ms. Channing said, “So long Dearie” to the role?

She was replaced. Again and again and again.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/22/theater/hello-dolly-bette-midler-carol-channing.html?_r=0

Top photo: NewNowNext

 

CAN A PUPPET BECOME HUMAN? ·

(Julia Rybinda’s and Anastasiya Karagodina’s article appeared on Russia Beyond the Headlines, 3/27.)

It is natural for humans to animate and anthropomorphize anything they touch. Puppetry is a special case in that it breathes life into what are essentially inanimate objects. Every puppet protagonist has its own unique character and lives its own life. People love them and talk to them. Even the puppeteers themselves struggle to explain the magic between them and their alter egos. Who pulls the strings (quite literally)? Are the puppeteers the actual puppets? Where does the puppeteer end and the puppet begin?

(Read more)

http://rbth.com/multimedia/pictures/2017/03/27/can-a-puppet-become-human_728123

Photo:  Svetlana Skover

SIR TIM RICE DISCUSSES MUSIC AND HIS MUSICALS (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3–LINK BELOW) ·

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05sxy5j

Tim Rice has written the lyrics for some of the most successful musicals of our generation: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat … Jesus Christ Superstar … Evita … For 45 years he has been creating hit songs, collaborating first and famously with Andrew Lloyd Webber, then with Abba, Elton John, Freddy Mercury and Madonna. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, thanks to the success of his songs in Disney movies The Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. A three-time Oscar winner, he has been knighted for services to music.

In Private Passions, he talks to Michael Berkeley about the process of lyric-writing, about why it’s an extraordinary experience to work with Elton John, and about what it is that makes a successful song lyric. He also reveals that his early ambition was to be a pop star, and that he started out as a singer – in fact, he recorded a single.

Music choices include a satirical operetta by Offenbach, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony, The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius, Malcolm Arnold’s Peterloo Overture and Britten’s arrangement of the folk song The Plough Boy. And Tim Rice ends by revealing which is his favourite musical of all – music his father introduced him to as a boy: My Fair Lady.

Produced by Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 3.

Photo: D23.com

 

LARS EIDINGER INTERVIEW IN BERLIN ·

(Philip Oltermann’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/23.)

When Lars Eidinger first appeared as a careerist Nazi officer in the BBC’s recent TV show SS-GB, some drama critics snapped their pencils in despair. Here was one of Europe’s finest young actors, already hailed as one of the great Hamlets of the 21st century, cheapening himself as a cartoon Nazi, complete with creaky leather trench coat, shiny boots and skull-and-crossbones cap. And all that for a series with a whiff of Brexit agitprop about it, as the new German rulers of Britain rhapsodise about “citizens of a united Europe” while plotting expansions for Siemens and Bosch.

But by last Sunday’s final episode of this alt-history of the second world war, something had changed. Eidinger’s SS officer, Oskar Huth, who had stormed into post-Battle of Britain London as a snappy workaholic, had quietly transformed into a world-weary existentialist, overcome by the futility of it all yet stoically refusing a blindfold as he faces the firing squad. It was an audacious heist of a performance: even the Daily Telegraph thought the Nazi had stolen the show.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/23/lars-eidinger-ss-gb-personal-shopper-interview

Photo:  Schaubuhne

***** MICHAEL WEST: ‘DUBLIN BY LAMPLIGHT’ (SV PICK, IE) ·

(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 3/22.)

“It is not about the plays, it’s about the building!” So insists Willy Hayes, cofounder and resident playwright of the Irish National Theatre of Ireland, as he tries desperately to guard its future against a calamitous opening night in 1904. If that line brings the house down at the actual national theatre, nearly 13 years since the debut of Corn Exchange’s marvellous creation, it’s because it is now about the play and the building. Together at last.

Michael West’s witty and nimble alternative history of the founding of the Abbey, developed with its original ensemble, was first staged in parallel with the national theatre’s own blighted centenary, by a company on the outside looking in. Today, at this close proximity, director Annie Ryan’s production is razor-sharp, yet it seems surprisingly fresher and more affectionate towards its inspiration.

It helps that the performance, delivered in Corn Exchange’s head-spinningly energetic version of Commedia dell’arte, finds an artful correspondence with the world of the characters. Whether these fantastic actors briskly summon up a squeaking trolley, a spooked horse, a street riot, or an unpleasant squelch on the cobblestones, just as the Yeatsian playwright and his company struggle to create a mythic play “for Ireland”, the delight of the show is to see people building up their world right in front of you.

(Read more)

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/stage/razor-sharp-affectionate-take-on-founding-of-national-theatre-1.3020381

***** GERSHWIN: ‘AN AMERICAN IN PARIS’ FROM CHRISTOPHER WHEELDON (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/21.)

Amagical transformation has taken place. Aside from its sensational climactic ballet, the 1951 Hollywood movie on which this show is basedoffers a ludicrously stagey vision of Paris filled with cheery gendarmes and chirping kids. But Christopher Wheeldon, as director and choreographer, and Bob Crowley, whose sets and costumes have a touch of genius, have created a show that not only offers an eclectic range of Gershwin songs but is also a riot of colour and movement.

From the start, as swastika-adorned banners turn into the tricolour, we are reminded that we are in the newly liberated Paris of 1945; it is still, however, a city of breadlines and vengeful attacks on collaborators. But Craig Lucas’s book does everything to give substance to the movie’s paper-thin story. We still see an ex-GI and would-be artist, Jerry Mulligan, falling in love with Parisian Lise. But there are now two rivals for Lise’s affections, in the shape of an aspiring nightclub singer, Henri, and a war-maimed composer, Adam. The pivotal role of Milo, a rich American woman in love with Jerry, has also been enhanced, so that she now finds herself financing a new ballet in which Lise will star.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/21/an-american-in-paris-five-star-review-minnelli-musical-dominion-london

THE BATTLE OF ‘MISS SAIGON’: YELLOWFACE, ART AND OPPORTUNITY ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/17; via Pam Green.)

“Miss Saigon” started with an audacious idea — create a musical that explores the end of the Vietnam War through an ill-fated romance between a virginal Vietnamese bargirl and a hunky American G.I.

It would become much more than that. Over 28 years, “Miss Saigon” has turned into one of the most successful hits in musical theater — as well as one of the most polarizing and most protested.

Now, it’s back on Broadway, for the first time since 2001. It is in the same theater, tells the same operatically tragic story, and again features a hovering helicopter.

But the show has changed significantly over the years, and those shifts tell another story — one about how much the controversy over “Miss Saigon” has affected the industry.

“Miss Saigon” opened in London in 1989, with an acclaimed white British actor, Jonathan Pryce, wearing prosthetics to alter the shape of his eyes and makeup to alter the color of his skin as he played the show’s leading man, a scheming Eurasian pimp called the Engineer. But by the time the show reached Broadway in 1991, Mr. Pryce had abandoned those practices, and, after he won a Tony Award and left the show, the producers changed their approach — in the years since, they have chosen only actors of Asian heritage to play the Engineer, both on Broadway and on the United States tours.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/theater/the-battle-of-miss-saigon-yellowface-art-and-opportunity.html

TRUMP PROPOSES ELIMINATING THE ARTS AND HUMANITIES ENDOWMENTS ·

(Sopan Deb’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/15; via Pam Green.)

A deep fear came to pass for many artists, museums, and cultural organizations nationwide early Thursday morning when President Trump, in his first federal budget plan, proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

President Trump also proposed scrapping the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a key revenue source for PBS and National Public Radio stations, as well as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

It was the first time a president has called for ending the endowments. They were created in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation declaring that any “advanced civilization” must fully value the arts, the humanities, and cultural activity.

While the combined annual budgets of both endowments — about $300 million — are a tiny fraction of the $1.1 trillion of total annual discretionary spending, grants from these agencies have been deeply valued financial lifelines and highly coveted honors for artists, musicians, writers and scholars for decades.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/arts/nea-neh-endowments-trump.html?_r=0

Photo: Chicago Tribune