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DOES THE ROAD TO BROADWAY PASS THROUGH BEIJING?  ·

(Peter Marks’s article appeared in the Washington Post, 9/19.)

A week ago, Signature Theatre’s artistic director, Eric Schaeffer, flew to South Korea to stage the company’s hit revival of the musical “Titanic” in Seoul, with a Korean cast. And now, the Arlington-based, Tony-honored group is taking yet another step toward Asia as it dives into an ambitious project to help develop an original Chinese musical — in both Mandarin and English.

The hope for “Road to Heaven: The Jonathan Lee Musical,” says lead producer Ivy Zhong, founder and chief executive of China Broadway Entertainment, is to create the first piece of Chinese musical theater with global reach, starting with a Mandarin version in China and then a production in English in the United States and elsewhere. To that end, her company has recruited a group of American theater professionals, including Schaeffer as director, Richard Maltby Jr. (“Miss Saigon”) as lyricist and book writer John Dempsey (“The Witches of Eastwick”).

Their mission is to turn the songbook of Taiwanese-born singer-songwriter Jonathan Lee — known to fans in China and Taiwan as Li Zongsheng — into a jukebox musical, adapted from a novel by Li Xiuwen. That process began this week, with rehearsals in New York that are to lead to a full reading of the musical on Dec. 12 in Signature’s Shirlington complex, with production costs paid by Zhong’s company.

(Read more)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/does-the-road-to-broadway-pass-through-beijing/2017/09/19/c3b0c99e-9d47-11e7-8ed4-a750b67c552b_story.html?utm_term=.59eda2b41e55

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ELEVATOR REPAIR SERVICE TACKLES SHAKESPEARE’S ‘MEASURE FOR MEASURE’ ·

(Jason Zinoman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/14; via Pam Green.)

Elevator Repair Service, one of the city’s few truly essential theater companies, has always delighted in a good problem, whether it’s how to dramatize oral arguments from the Supreme Court or stage the famously difficult-to-adapt novel “The Great Gatsby” without sacrificing a word. So it makes sense that when its artistic director, John Collins, decided to direct his first Shakespeare, he decided on “Measure for Measure,” perhaps Shakespeare’s most problematic of problem plays.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/theater/elevator-repair-service-tackles-shakespeares-problem-play.html

Photo: Elevator Repair Service

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MICHAEL FRIEDMAN, A MAN OF MANY VOICES AND A GIFT FOR PROPHECY ·

(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/11; via Pam Green.)

“Populism, yea, yea…”

Sung with a snarl, and accompanied by twanging power chords, those words opened the floodgates to a wave of electric emotion — a compound of rage, restlessness and a disgust with a ruling elite whose days had to be numbered. “We’re gonna take this country back,” went the lyrics of this anthem for dispossessed Americans, “for people like us, people who don’t just think about things.”

I first heard that song more than eight years ago at the Public Theater in downtown Manhattan. It was the opening number in a concert productionof a show called “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” a musical portrait of the seventh president of the United States. It’s been playing in my mind a lot recently.

How prophetic it sounds now. How easily those lyrics, and the propulsive drive of discontent within that melody, might fit the supporters at a rally for Donald J. Trump, whose ascendancy to the American presidency few people anticipated. But in 2009, who knew?

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/11/theater/michael-friedman-appraisal.html

 

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DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL: OUR GUIDE TO THE BEST OF THE WEEKEND ·

(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 9/14.)

REVIEWS 

End Of

The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin

Sep 16-21/23-24 7.30pm €14/€12 fringefest.com

If, like me, your immediate response to the apocalypse would be to regret not having read more books, Sugar Coat Theatre’s new production is just the slap in the face you’ve been needing. Seanan McDonell’s new comedy, which will be performed in The Gutter Bookshop, is easily one of the loveliest venues of this year’s Fringe. Two friends working in a bookshop receive a mysterious package that may herald the end of the world as we know it. Sharp-eyed director Conor Hanratty works with Charlene CraigDamian Gildea and Will Irvine – as well as conjuring tricks – to flip through the beginning of the world’s last chapters.

 

Gladys and the Gutter Stars

Smock Alley Theatre Boys School, Dublin

Sep 11-14/16-17 6.45pm €14/€12 fringefest.com

Whatever happened to Gladys and the Gutter Stars? The musical duo, whom the press still write about in sensationalist, incredible and hyperbolic terms, are still universally regarded as the greatest creators of popular song since the dawn of measurable time. Word is their long-anticipated new album will be made available exclusively on floppy disk. Or that it will be composed exclusively of whale song. Either way, performers Rachel Gleeson and Cameron Macauley finally offer a sneak peek of the opus in this Fringe show. Could this be a stunning return to form or a shocking display of hubris? Gladys and the Gutter Stars are pretty sure it will be one of those things.

 

Polar Night

The New Theatre, Dublin

Sep 14-16/20-23 1pm €12/€10 fringefest.com

A woman travels north in the winter to visit her ill mother, and her new husband. The performance – created by Nadine Flynn and Aaron Stapleton – combines theatre, film and visual art to evoke a cabin folding in on itself with licks of the supernatural and nudges of real concern. In a place where the daylight won’t easily reach, manipulation teems and high suicide rates chill the marrow. Rose, struggling to keep her sanity, must find the light to get free.

REVIEWS 

My Left Nut 
Bewley’s Café Theatre, Powerscourt Townhouse
★★★★

In Michael Patrick’s bittersweet comic solo performance, a young Belfast boy is having trouble with his manhood. In 1998, during the tentative steps of the Good Friday Agreement, the five-year-old’s father passes away, leaving an absence he comes to rue keenly in adolescence, when his left testicle inflates to the size of a grapefruit. In whom can a self-conscious teenager confide?

Written with his director Oisín Kearney, Patrick’s autobiographical coming-of-age tale strives for independence and intimacy through comedy, protected by a very sturdy solo-show formula, made more vulnerable with confessions of body horror and bereavement.

 

Patrick’s gang of mates, as charmingly sympathetic and well-informed as he is, take the bulge in his trousers to be a sign of his prowess. For his part, Patrick interprets it as punishment from God, “tangled up with wanking”. Unable to confide in his stoic mother he relies on excruciating discoveries via a dial-up internet connection.

The peace process would be a tempting metaphor to explore shifting authority and unguarded dialogue, but Patrick, you feel, is closer to a peace product: his preferred metaphor is a Sega video game.

Embarrassment, moreover, has been his trouble, now transformed to the source of his comedy. Like an ultimately unfussy procedure, that’s an encouraging reconciliation. – Peter Crawley
Runs until Sept 23

 

Gladys and the Gutter Stars
Smock Alley Theatre
★★★★

Gladys and the Gutter Stars

Can a band live on without their front-woman? In Cameron Macaulay and Rachel Gleeson’s wry comedy with songs, both are musicians debuting new material for a podcast. Their painful split from demented lead singer Gladys, of course, is unresolved.

Here, bitterness is barely suppressed under the polite exchanges of an interview. Gleeson sours into a scowl as Cameron gives an intelligible but winding answer for why he struggles with Arts Council applications. In turn, she talks seriously about spirituality and Kanye West.

Shane Daniel Byrne’s charming interviewer deals out thoughtful questions about imagery and lyrics, but his guests haven’t reflected much on a track-list that sounds like a string of second thoughts (Why Am I with You?, Pull Up the Blind, Betrayal).

The surreal arrival of Gladys herself rouses deeper anxieties. This could easily have been a vapid defence for naval-gazers but instead we get something more discreet, the trudge of a generation asked to work for free. With sparks of rock’n’roll, the Gutter Stars carry on. – Chris McCormack
Runs until Sept 17

(Read more)

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/stage/dublin-fringe-festival-our-guide-to-the-best-of-the-weekend-1.3219710

Photo: Gladys and the Gutter Stars/No More Workhorse

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CHEKHOV: ‘THREE SISTERS’ (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3–LINK BELOW) ·

Listen at: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0739rh4

Three sisters living in a garrison town in provincial Russia dream of the day that they will return to their home city of Moscow. Maybe then their lives will really start. But in Anton Chekhov’s poignant classic somehow real life keeps getting in the way.

Three Sisters was written in 1900 and is a meticulously observed play for an ensemble cast. In its wry portrayal of dreams and self-delusion, and of the folly of believing that life is always better elsewhere, Chekhov’s drama captures universal truths, joys and sorrows but his greatness as a writer of the human condition lies in his avoidance of either sentimentality or judgement.

With Peter Ringrose on additional piano

Sound: Nigel Lewis

Adapted for radio by D.J.Britton
Directed by Alison Hindell
BBC Cymru Wales production

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WILL THE OLD GAY PLAY HAVE SOMETHING NEW TO SAY? ·

(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/7; via Pam Green.)  

Many of us who arrived in New York in the last decades of the last century, looking to the theater for news about what it meant to be gay, found ourselves serially disheartened.

Starting with Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band” in 1968, and continuing with Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song Trilogy” about a dozen years later, we faced quite a fun house mirror of gay life. Or perhaps a house of horrors.

“The Boys in the Band,” daring in its forthrightness, situated its characters on a Kinsey scale from four to six and a psychological spectrum from damaged to desperate. Arnold Beckoff, the protagonist of “Torch Song Trilogy,” could have been one of them. Though sympathetic and sassy, he was still a drag queen in an era that did not valorize that.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/theater/will-the-old-gay-play-have-something-new-to-say.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fjesse-green&action=click&contentCollection=undefined&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection

 

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SIR PETER HALL, REST IN PEACE: POWERFUL FORCE IN BRITISH THEATRE ·

 

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/12.)                                                                                                                                   

(Listen to BBC Radio’s 2001 interview with Peter Hall:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00nc8qb )

Sir Peter Hall, who has died aged 86, was the single most influential figure in modern British theatre. As a director of plays, especially Shakespeare, Pinter and Beckett, he was very fine. In the opera house he brought real musical understanding to the work of Mozart and Verdi. But it was through his creation of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the early 1960s and his stewardship of the National Theatre from 1973 to 1988 that he affirmed his passionate faith in subsidised institutions. If we now take their existence for granted, it is largely because of the pioneering battles waged by Hall and his visionary enthusiasm.

As a man, he was extremely complicated. To many in the theatre, he was seen as a consummate politician: someone who hid his manipulative skills behind a mask of public affability. And he certainly possessed the politician’s ability to get things done. But he also had the vulnerability of the artist and, on many occasions, I glimpsed the melancholia and wounded spirit that lay beneath the geniality. Far from being a consummate Machiavel, he always struck me as a candid, generous and open person who made little attempt to conceal either his euphoria or his disappointment.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/sep/12/peter-hall-obituary-british-theatre-rss-national

Photo: The Times of London

 

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THE KITCHEN IS HER STAGE. (IT COULD ACTUALLY BE YOUR KITCHEN.) ·

(Ligaya Mishan’s article appeared in The New York Time, 8/30; via Pam Green.)

The rehearsal room smelled of onions slackening in a pan. They hissed on the stove, in the basement of a Lutheran church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as Nadine Malouf hacked at a slab of beef, her eyes fixed on her director, Amir Nizar Zuabi, and not the knife, which was closing in on her fingertips.

“I don’t want her to cut herself,” Mr. Zuabi said, seated in a folding chair nearby. “But I want her to make mistakes.”

It was the third day of rehearsals for “Oh My Sweet Land,” Mr. Zuabi’s 2013 play about a woman (Ms. Malouf) of Syrian-German descent whose search for a lost lover takes her from a sheltered life in Paris to the refugee camps of Lebanon and Jordan and finally into Syria, to confront the smoldering remains of her cultural inheritance. First performed in Lausanne, Switzerland, and then in London at the Young Vic, where Mr. Zuabi is an international associate, the one-woman show will have its United States premiere in New York on Friday, Sept. 8, presented by the Play Company.

But the location is a mystery — even to Ms. Malouf, 30, who won’t have a chance to see where she’ll be performing until half an hour before showtime almost every night. For Mr. Zuabi, displacement is integral to the narrative. Ms. Malouf will be forced to navigate unfamiliar surroundings again and again. “Every kitchen will have a new geography,” Mr. Zuabi, 41, said. “Every evening will be a new voyage.”

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/theater/oh-my-sweet-land-amir-nizar-zuabi.html

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***** TAYLOR MAC: ‘HIR’ (SV PICK, OZ) ·

(Kate Hennessy’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/5.)

Radical ideas should shine brightest of all. They should be exciting to learn, know and teach. They should be accessible to all the people they have the potential to lift up.

Yet most of the ideas that sparkle within feminist and queer theory, for example, are cloaked in academia, and translation comes at a cost.

Thanks to New York playwright Taylor Mac however, that cost is just the price of a ticket, to Belvoir Street theatre’s production of Hir.

Directed by Anthea Williams, Hir – pronounced “here”, the preferred gender pronoun of the play’s protagonist Max – reminds us of theatre’s potential: to be a brilliant conduit that makes ideas alive and accessible. Hir doesn’t merely explore themes of gender fluidity, queer theory and the subversion of toxic masculinity, because that would be dull. It lightens the weight of concepts that many find foreign or fraught, places them in a family setting and detonates them. Shrapnel flies everywhere.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/sep/05/taylor-macs-hir-is-more-than-a-comedy-about-gender-it-proves-the-potential-of-theatre

 

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YEATS BY HEART: FIONA SHAW, JOHN BANVILLE, FINTAN O’TOOLE, PAUL MULDOON, PAULA MEEHAN ·

Listen at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05xq6b0

The Essay, WB Yeats at 150 

Winner of the Nobel Prize in 1923, William Butler Yeats is a commanding presence in 20th-century literature and has inspired, and occasionally infuriated, successive generations of readers, writers, and performers ever since.

Marking the 150th anniversary of his birth on 13th June 1865, five of Ireland’s leading cultural figures reflect on their relationship with his work. The authors include novelist, John Banville, writer Fintan O’Toole and poets, Paul Muldoon and Paula Meehan.

In this edition, celebrated actor and director Fiona Shaw explains the lasting impact of her childhood introduction to the work of WB Yeats.

Producer: Stan Ferguson.

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AYAD AKHTAR:  TAKING ON WALL STREET’S CHURCH OF BIG MONEY ·

(Michael Sokolove’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/7; via Pam Green.)

At the age of 7, Ayad Akhtar, the son of two doctors in suburban Milwaukee, was seized by a religious fervor. He began asking his parents to take him to the one mosque in the area, a converted schoolhouse on the city’s Polish south side that they only occasionally attended. He taught himself to pray, and he saw the Prophet Muhammad in his dreams. One year, on the day in the calendar when some Muslims say all of creation bowed in respect to Muhammad, he stayed up all night, looking out his bedroom window and waiting to see the trees bend. “I don’t know why, but I was a very sensitive kid. I had an acute awareness of splendor,” Mr. Akhtar told me in one of the conversations we had over the summer. “The only thing that really responded to that register of life for me was the Quran — and ‘Star Wars.’”

His devotion to Islam deepened until he reached high school and encountered a teacher who introduced him to the European Modernists: Kafka, Camus and others. Mr. Akhtar, who is now 46, went off to Brown, got a graduate degree in film at Columbia and then spent a big chunk of his early adulthood, six years, writing a novel in the style of his literary heroes. The book was 600-plus pages — and unpublishable. One friend considered it “unbearable.” For Mr. Akhtar, the response was both crushing and liberating: “I just thought, this is tiring, and I’m not even good at it.”

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/theater/taking-on-wall-streets-church-of-big-money.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_cu_20170906&nl=theater-update&nlid=68469194&ref=headline&te=1

Photo: WUWM

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CHILTON WILLIAMSON AND THE STRENUOUS LIFE (ii): AUTHOR OF ‘JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM!’ ON LIONS AT THE DENVER ZOO, HIS CHILDREN’S NOVEL SET IN KENYA AND AT THE PLAZA HOTEL–AND ONE BOOK HE’D GIVE TO DONALD TRUMP ·

Author, columnist, and editor, Chilton Williamson, Jr. has published works of fiction, narrative nonfiction, and books on politics and history.  He was formerly history editor for St. Martin’s Press and literary editor for National Review.  For 26 years, he served as senior editor for books for Chronicles:  A Magazine of American Culture before being named editor in 2015.

Born in New York City, he was raised in Manhattan and on the family farm in South Windham, Vermont.  Since 1979, he has lived in Wyoming, except for two years spend in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Besides Jerusalem, Jerusalem!, his fourth Chronicles Press book, Williamson is the author of four published novels and six works of nonfiction.  With his wife, Maureen McCaffrey Williamson, he lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

CHILTON WILLIAMSON concludes his interview, with SV’s Bob Shuman, about his new novel Jerusalem, Jerusalem!, set in the contemporary West.

View ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem!’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yb7o4x5c

Do you consider yourself a political writer?

I’m a political writer when I write about politics, which my job as a magazine editor requires me to do every month. As for fiction, I’m a political writer when I write that, too—but only in the sense of the Marxist idea that “everything is political,” which I deny.

Do you find mainstream publishing biased in the same way as television?  If you think it is, are there any options?

Certainly. Mainstream publishing is very biased toward the leftist view of the world. The alternative could be the much smaller, less commercial publishers—but most of them are leftist, too. They want the leftist politics even more than the big boys, while caring much less about profit.

David Mamet has said “the essence of drama is to follow the truth of human interaction where it leads.  You can’t do that while you’re also trying to promote a political agenda because you always end up with me and my tractor.  Anyone can mouth the essential verities.”  Do you agree with him? Can Western conservatism be incorporated into a novel and is there such thing as an American conservative novel—what would that be like? 

I do not know what “the truth of human interaction” could be. As for the possibilities for “a conservative novel,” I am increasingly uncertain that the words “conservative” and “conservatism” mean much, or even anything at all. They’ve been too much pawed over by academicians and theoreticians generally. Chesterton said the great question is not between conservatism and liberalism, but between right and wrong.  My own restatement of the opposition between “liberal” and “conservative” is “pre-modern” v. “modern.” Modern people are comfortable with secularist, industrialist, technocratic, mass market, and mass democratic society. Pre-modern ones are not. Naturally, if these happen also to be novelists, they are conservative ones. Thus, William FaulknerAndrew LytleFlannery O’ConnorJoseph ConradEvelyn WaughSolzhenitsyn, wrote “conservative” novels. So does Cormac McCarthy today. So do I.

Best Western novel, besides one of your own?

Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985).

 

You have also written a novel for tweens about lions from Africa called The Greatest Lion.  When did you become interested in children’s literature?

I’ve read and enjoyed children’s literature since I was a child, and still do. For instance, I reread Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows recently, and Milne’s Pooh books are still a delight to me. So are Beatrix Potter’s delightful tales. And Kipling’s Just So Stories. And Booth Tarkington’s Penrod volumes.  And Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. And Walter R. Brooks Freddy the Pig stories. I could go on all afternoon. Most children’s books should actually be written “children’s” books—if they are any good, at least. I believe that a child’s book that an adult cannot enjoy as well is a bad book, period. When I set out to write Lion, I was determined to make it a story that people of any age could enjoy. Hence, a careful reader who perceive quiet allusions in the text to Eloise at the Plaza by Kay Thompson and to Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who like The Lion and The Lioness went swimming in the Plaza Fountain. There are probably many more such that I can’t recall now.

What was the inspiration for the book?

My love of cats, big cats, and lions especially—partly inspired by Joy Adamson’s Elsa books. I worked for five or six years as a docent at Denver Zoo, where lions were my specialty. I had to quit when I was made editor of Chronicles two years ago, no longer having the time to drive from Laramie, Wyoming to Denver and back once a week, a round trip of 258 miles. (See what I mean about distances out West.)

The Greatest Lion, by the way, is the story of The Lion and The Lioness who are kidnapped from Kenya and flown to a zoo somewhere in the Middle East where a war is being fought. They are granted refugee status in the U.S. and lodged temporarily at The Plaza, the authorities having no other place to put them. Eventually they find their way to Wyoming, where The Lion is arrested by a game warden for harassing the local wildlife, and jailed. After his release, he decided to write a book about himself and his adventures in order to make the money they need to fly back to Africa, which he succeeds in doing. My guess is the book will appeal to children between the ages of six and ten, or so.

One book of yours you’d give to the president and why?

‘After Tocqueville: The Promise and Failure of Democracy’ (ISI, 2012), which I believe is extremely relevant to the current debate across the Western world regarding democracy, populism, and elitism.

Thank you so much for talking with Stage Voices. 

View ‘JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM!’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yb7o4x5c

View ‘AFTER TOCQUEVILLE: THE PROMISE AND FAILURE OF DEMOCRACY’ on Amazon:  https://tinyurl.com/yabx8den

Visit Chronicles Web site: https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/

Read Part 1 of this interview at: https://tinyurl.com/ybpzyos4

Read Part 2 of this interview at: https://tinyurl.com/yabx8den 

(c) 2017 by Chilton Williamson, Jr. (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Lions photo: The Denver Post.

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HOW ACTOR ANNE BANCROFT BEAT OUT AUDREY HEPBURN AND ELIZABETH TAYLOR FOR HER TONY-WINNING ROLE ·

(Harry Haun’s article appeared in Playbill Online, 9/4; via Pam Green.)

Anne Bancroft: A Life

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Anne Bancroft’s star started its ascent on February 7, 1957—simultaneously on both coasts.

In New York, she sauntered into the office of producer Fred Coe and wasted no time getting down to the pressing business at hand. “Where’s the john?” she barked. (It’s called “coming on as the character you’re going out for”—in this case, Gittel Mosca, the brash bohemian who amorously collides in New York with a sad, marriage-broken Nebraskan in Two for the Seesaw.) Coe was certain she was his Gittel—an opinion soon shared by the play’s director, Arthur Penn, and writer, William Gibson, both of whom were in Los Angeles on that first day, steering Teresa Wright and Patty McCormack through the roles of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller in the Playhouse 90 premiere of their play The Miracle Worker.

Anne Bancroft: A Life

Gittel Mosca got Bancroft a Tony Award—as did Annie Sullivan, and an Oscar, too—when Gibson’s scripts moved to Broadway. Topping the brilliance of both those performances was her iconic Mrs. Robinson, the older woman out to seduce her daughter’s boyfriend in The Graduate. A half-century later, that’s how the world still remembers Anne Bancroft, now the subject of a richly detailed and definitive biography by Douglass K. Daniel out September 1.

(Read more)

http://www.playbill.com/article/how-actor-anne-bancroft-beat-out-audrey-hepburn-and-elizabeth-taylor-for-her-tony-winning-role

 

View Anne Bancroft: A Life on Amazon:  https://tinyurl.com/y9slvf7x

 

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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN MAY BE ON BROADWAY FOREVER ·

(Roger Friedman’s article appeared on Showbiz 411; via the Drudge Report.)

Bruce Springsteen may be on Broadway forever.

Today tickets went on sale to his limited run one man show on Broadway beginning October 3rd. They immediately sold out through November 26th.

Now Bruce’s Broadway run has been extended by TEN weeks through February 3rd. I’m sure that’s all sold out, too, by now.

That’s an exhausting run, but also one that will earn him plaudits from theater groups later in the season.

Unlike with Bette Midler and “Hello, Dolly!” Bruce will be played by himself at all performances.

Can he/will he extend beyond February 3? It seems unlikely, so expect tickets to be selling for astronomical prices as the run nears its end.

(Read more)

http://www.showbiz411.com/2017/08/30/bruce-springsteen-broadway-run-extended-by-10-weeks-after-tickets-sell-out-instantly

 

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RACE, MONEY AND BROADWAY: HOW ‘GREAT COMET’ BURNED OUT ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/29; via Pam Green.)

“Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” is closing on Broadway after a racially charged and distinctly contemporary conflagration. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

The young, flamboyant and unusually diverse collective of actors and musicians who brought “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” to Broadway enjoyed the giddy highs of theater’s most glamorous perch — a run at the grand Imperial Theater, a season-topping 12 Tony nominations, a spotlight shared with the pop star Josh Groban.

For most of the performers, it was their first time on a Broadway stage. Costumed as punkified peasants and aristocrats in a bold musical adaptation of Tolstoy, they danced down the aisles, handing out pierogies and creating an unusually immersive musical experience.

Now they are seeing the sharp edge of Broadway. The show is collapsing after a conflagration that was racially charged and distinctly contemporary: a social media uproar prompted by the financially motivated decision to bring in a white actor to replace a black actor who had succeeded a white actor.

The result: Investors will lose most of the production’s $14 million capitalization, and more than 100 people will be out of jobs after the final performance on Sunday.

Even in a flop-prone industry, the sudden crash of the musical stands out, reflecting competing challenges for commercial theater: the benefits of star power, the hunger for diversity and the high costs of producing on Broadway. Add in Twitter, and things can get messy.

Continue reading the main story

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FOR TONY KUSHNER, IT’S ANGELS OVER THE BREAKFAST NOOK ·

(Brett Sokol’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/21; via Pam Green.)

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — “I don’t have a big angel collection, but …” the “Angels in America” playwright Tony Kushner insisted with an embarrassed laugh. After all, evidence to the contrary — via a sculpture’s outstretched wings — nearly smacked a reporter in the head as he entered Mr. Kushner’s home here. Suspended from the ceiling, just past the doorway, was an infant-size ceramic angel created by the Peruvian-born Philadelphia artist Kukuli Velarde — one of four such angels hanging in the house Mr. Kushner shares with his husband, Mark Harris.

The angels mesmerizingly invoke the symbolisms of Old World Catholicism, Peru’s indigenous culture, and, thanks to their malevolent European-looking faces, the clashes that resulted when these forces met. “I think the faces look like Eisenhower,” Mr. Harris playfully offered after nearly backing into one himself.

“Not everybody loves them as much as I do,” Mr. Kushner dryly countered. “I love their combination of fantasy and politics, their in-your-face, radical, anticolonial critique.” Which isn’t a bad way to summarize Mr. Kushner’s own plays, including the 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Angels.” Mr. Harris, a cultural critic, is no less impassioned in his own writing, from his essays for New York magazine to his book-length deep dives into Hollywood.

Provincetown itself is an influence on their work. With its overlapping identities of a Cape Cod fishing village reborn as an art colony, a gay resort, and a nature preserve, it has become more than a getaway from New York, the couple explained.

“We were at a benefit for the Fine Arts Work Center in July 2012 and it hit us,” Mr. Kushner recalled, referring to Provincetown’s artist residency program, begun in 1968 to seed the town with fresh generations of talent. Looking around at the faces in the fund-raiser’s crowd and the cause they had all gathered for, “we realized we’d established roots.” That fall the couple bought a mid-19th-century house there with separate writing offices.

Continue reading the main story

Photo: The New York Times

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JANUSZ GLOWACKI, POLISH PLAYWRIGHT OF TERROR AND DARK HUMOR, DIES AT 78 ·

(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/22; via Pam Green.)

Janusz Glowacki, a Polish playwright, novelist and screenwriter who mined the ferment of Communism and its collapse in his country to create darkly humorous works about totalitarianism and the émigré experience, died on Saturday while vacationing in Egypt. He was 78.

The exact cause was unclear, but his daughter, Zuza Glowacka, said he had experienced shortness of breath and was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Mr. Glowacki was already a well-regarded writer — his credits included the screenplay for Andrzej Wajda’s 1969 film “Hunting Flies” — when he traveled to London in December 1981 for a production of his play “Cinders” at the Royal Court Theater. While he was there, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland’s Communist leader, cracked down on the country’s budding Solidarity trade union movement and declared martial law.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/theater/janusz-glowacki-dead-polish-playwright.html

Photo: Culture.pl.

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PHOENIX THEATRE ENSEMBLE: CASTING ANNOUNCED FOR MOLIERE’S HILARIOUS ‘TARTUFFE’ ·

PTE’s 2017-18 season is dedicated to “The Charismatic”–why do we often quite unreasonably follow certain people, faiths or ideas.  We start off with Moliere’s brilliant comedy! Tartuffe is a charismatic who has been touched by God. He is a visionary. He practices religious devotion and self-sacrifice. He has fits. He converses with the divine. He can be very scary. Orgon invites him home to live with his family and introduces him to his beautiful wife Elmire…. what could possibly go wrong? Join us for Moliere’s brilliant comedy….

 TICKETS NOW ON SALE
or call 212-352-3101
Low Price Previews: 10/21, 10/24-26; NO TDF for This Show

Josh Tyson
Tartuffe
Ariel Estrada
Cleante
John  Lenartz
Orgon
Oscar Klausner
Laurant
Alicia Marie Beatty
Marianne
Elise Stone
Elmire
Morgan Rosse
Dorine
Adapted by David Ball; Directed by Craig Smith; Costume Design by Debbi Hobson; Music and Sound Design by Ellen Mandel; Video Design by Attilio Rigotti, Stage Management by Meghan McVann, Assistant Director Karen Case Cook.
Wes Spencer
Valere
Matt Baguth
Damis
Eileen Glenn
Pernelle
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JERRY LEWIS, MERCURIAL COMEDIAN AND FILMMAKER, DIES AT 91 ·

(Dave Kehr’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/20.)

Jerry Lewis, the comedian and filmmaker who was adored by many, disdained by others, but unquestionably a defining figure of American entertainment in the 20th century, died on Sunday morning at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by John Katsilometes, a columnist for The Las Vegas Review Journal, who spoke to family members.

Mr. Lewis knew success in movies, on television, in nightclubs, on the Broadway stage and in the university lecture hall. His career had its ups and downs, but when it was at its zenith there were few stars any bigger. And he got there remarkably quickly.

Barely out of his teens, he shot to fame shortly after World War II with a nightclub act in which the rakish, imperturbable Dean Martin crooned and the skinny, hyperactive Mr. Lewis capered around the stage, a dangerously volatile id to Mr. Martin’s supremely relaxed ego.

Continue reading the main story

Photo: NY Daily News.

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TRUMP ASIDE, ARTISTS AND PRESERVATIONISTS DEBATE THE RUSH TO TOPPLE STATUES ·

(Robin Pogrebin’s and Sopan Deb’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/18.)

Mark Bradford, the renowned Los Angeles artist, says Confederate statues should not be removed unless they are replaced by educational plaques that explain why they were taken away.

For Robin Kirk, a co-director of Duke University’s Human Rights Center, the rapid expunging of the statues currently underway needs to be “slower and more deliberative.”

And Lonnie G. Bunch III, the director the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, proposes that the dismantled statues be grouped together and contextualized, so people understand what they stood for.

In state after state this week, artists, museum curators, and historic preservationists found themselves grappling with lightning-fast upheaval in a cultural realm — American monuments — where they usually have input and change typically unfolds with care. Many said that even though they fiercely oppose President Trump and his defense of Confederate statues, they saw the removal of the monuments as precipitous and argued that the widening effort to eliminate them could have troubling implications for artistic expression.

“I am loath to erase history,” Mr. Bunch said. “For me it’s less about whether they come down or not, and more about what the debate is stimulating.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo: ABC News

 

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A ‘NIGHT MUSIC’ OF HEIGHTENED HARMONY, AND PUB THEATERS THAT PUT ACTORS FIRST ·

(Matt Wolf’s article appeared in The New York Time, 8/10; via Pam Green.)

NEWBURY, England — Devotees of the love-struck Swedes who populate “A Little Night Music” may recall the cello solo in the song “Later,” played by the smitten depressive Henrik Egerman, who has fallen hard for the child-bride, Anne, of his father, Fredrik.

Now, along comes the perennially bittersweet 1973 Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical in an utterly beguiling production, directed by Paul Foster, that gives everyone an instrument, and sometimes two.

And if you associate that actor-musician approach to Sondheim (and others) with the Tony-winning British director, John Doyle, well, you’ve come to the right place. “Night Music” is running through Sept. 16 at the same entrancing theater — the Watermill Theater in Newbury, Berkshire, two hours’ drive west of London — where Mr. Doyle’s career-making “Sweeney Todd” was first performed in 2004. The West End and Broadway soon beckoned.

Whether this “Night Music” will follow the same path — and this Sondheim title has been revived recently on both sides of the Atlantic — it’s worth beating a path to this leafy address. The staging not only sounds different from any “Night Music” I’ve come across but also looks startlingly fresh. The burnished elegance of David Woodhead’s design makes cunning use of a two-way mirror and manages to couple distressed chic with a reminder of the theatrical environs that mark out the story of Desiree Armfeldt (a satin-cheeked Josefina Gabrielle) and her motley gathering of aristos and amours.

Continue reading the main story

Photo: Playbill.

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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN IS BRINGING HIS MUSIC AND HIS MEMORIES TO BROADWAY ·

(Ben Sisario’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/9; via Pam Green.)

MetLife Stadium, in East Rutherford, N.J., can accommodate well over 50,000 people for a concert. The Walter Kerr Theater on Broadway is a fraction of that size, with room for just under 1,000.

What they have in common is Bruce Springsteen, who sold out MetLife three times last year and is coming to the Walter Kerr in October for eight weeks of solo shows that he wants to be “as personal and intimate as possible.”

“I chose Broadway for this project because it has the beautiful old theaters which seemed like the right setting for what I have in mind,” Mr. Springsteen said in a statement. “In fact, with one or two exceptions, the 960 seats of the Walter Kerr Theater is probably the smallest venue I’ve played in the last 40 years.”

The show, “Springsteen on Broadway,” will run five nights a week, Tuesday to Saturday, at the Walter Kerr, the rose-and-gold-decorated jewel box on West 48th Street that last housed the short-lived “Amélie: A New Musical.” The official opening is set for Oct. 12, and the run is planned through Nov. 26. Preview performances begin on Oct. 3.

In addition to his music, the show will feature Mr. Springsteen, 67, reading excerpts from his 2016 autobiography, “Born to Run,” and performing other spoken reminiscences written for the show.

Continue reading the main story

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CHILTON WILLIAMSON AND THE STRENUOUS LIFE:  ‘CHRONICLES’ EDITOR AND AUTHOR ON WYOMING OUTBACK, HIS NEW NOVEL, ‘JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM!’, AND CHARACTERS WHO DON’T GO AWAY   ·

Author, columnist, and editor, Chilton Williamson, Jr. has published works of fiction, narrative nonfiction, and books on politics and history.  He was formerly history editor for St. Martin’s Press and literary editor for National Review.  For 26 years, he served as senior editor for books for Chronicles:  A Magazine of American Culture before being named editor in 2015.

Born in New York City, he was raised in Manhattan and on the family farm in South Windham, Vermont.  Since 1979, he has lived in Wyoming, except for two years spend in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Besides Jerusalem, Jerusalem!, his fourth Chronicles Press book, Williamson is the author of four published novels and six works of nonfiction.  With his wife, Maureen McCaffrey Williamson, he lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

CHILTON WILLIAMSON talks with SV’s Bob Shuman, about his new novel, set in the contemporary West: Jerusalem, Jerusalem!  The final part, of this two-part interview, will appear, 9/6.

View ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem!’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yb7o4x5c

Jerusalem, Jerusalem! is not only a novel that can be read on its own, it’s also related to other books.  Could you tell us about it—and also give a background for the Fontenelle trilogy? 

The Fontenelle Trilogy began with my first novel, Desert Light (St. Martin’s, 1987, https://tinyurl.com/ycuutqjt), the story of a wealthy and successful New York City attorney who defended a murderer whom he got released from prison only to kill again. Disgusted with “civilization,” Caleb Richardson moves to southwestern Wyoming and becomes a breeder of Arabian horses near the coal, oil, and gas town of Fontenelle in the Green River Basin country.  Following a gruesome murder along the I-80 corridor, he agrees to help prosecute the three people charged with the crime, one of them a young Mormon woman.  After visiting her in jail, he becomes convinced of her innocence and withdraws from the prosecution team, led by a famous Jackson attorney, to defend her against it.

The middle novel, The Homestead (Grove Weidenfeld, 1990, https://tinyurl.com/ybr4fjap), continues to track Desert Light’s principals, while introducing new ones: Houston Walker, scion of a local rancher who moved to Africa to become a professional big-game hunter, who is summoned home to Wyoming to help his family after his brother is arrested on a charge of murdering an oilfield roughneck, and his incestuously inclined sister.

Was it always your intention to write a Fontenelle series?  

After finishing the first book, I had no intention of beginning a second connected novel, much less envisioning a third.  I discovered, however, that I couldn’t let the characters and the story drop, so I went ahead with a second installment.  The same thing occurred after The Homestead was finished.  In this final volume, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!, set in 1992, the Richardsons and the Walkers remain part of the story, while being joined by two other major characters, a Catholic priest who is involved in a minor car crash–when he is called out late one night after inadvertently drinking too much wine–and a parishioner of his, a quadriplegic woman kept alive in an iron lung.  She, nevertheless, coordinates people and events from her bedroom to resolve several conflicting situations, in a more or less satisfactory way, at the end of the book.

 

One of your characters, in Jerusalem, Jerusalem!, Father Hillary, a Catholic priest, says, “For an Easterner, Wyoming does take some getting used to, but I find myself feeling more at home here all the time.”   What takes getting used to in the West—and what starts to make the priest feel at home? 

The American West, in many ways, is still the frontier.  It has, of course, been considerably urbanized in the past several decades, and the numerical majority of “Westerners” live in cities.  But the cities are very far between, and separated by vast stretches of nearly empty country, much of which is, indeed, wilderness.

In addition to the physical isolation are the extremely harsh weather (60-75 mph winds that subside but never quit, often stalling at a constant 20 mph or so, which will still carry your Stetson away), temperatures as low as 50-75 degrees below zero, and heavy snows and ground blizzards that make travel impossible for days at a time. Take all this into account and you will begin to understand what Father Hillary had in mind when he spoke of the need to accustom oneself to the West, after life in Paris and New York. 

The priest in Jerusalem, Jerusalem!  also encounters the desert, a Biblical image in the New Testament that represents a healing, cleansing, inspiring, and mystical withdrawal from the distractions of the “real” world, although by the end of the novel Hillary is only beginning to come to terms with it, with the help of a native priest, Fr. Bonney.

How have you acclimated to Laramie, as an Easterner yourself?  You note that Teddy Roosevelt thought that Wyoming was “the strenuous life, and he had Oyster Bay to go home to.”  Tell us about the most strenuous thing you’ve done in the last week—and when do you find time to write novels?

I moved first to Kemmerer, Wyoming, population about 3000, and arrived 20 years later in Laramie for a number of reasons, the chief one being that property here is both affordable and holds its value on account of the presence of the University of Wyoming.  (Kemmerer, founded in 1897 by a New York family with interests in the coal business, is a classic Western boom-or-bust town that fell into the bust pit 20 years ago and has never climbed out of it–it’s the model for Fontenelle in the books.)  As for Wyoming, I saw the place first in 1977, came out here two years later, and never looked back. (I did continue to commute every couple of months to Manhattan, where I worked as the literary editor for National Review.)

Out here, people drive 120 miles roundtrip to see a movie (it won’t be something you’d see at Cannes) and think nothing of it.  If comfort, convenience, availability, cosmopolitan culture, and lots of people are what you crave, the West is not for you.  You have to like to hunt and fish, ride horses, and camp in the outback, 50 or 60 miles from the nearest small town.  If you want “activities,” dislike solitude, and self-sufficiency; if hundred-mile vistas with “nothing” in sight but sagebrush and antelope desert buttes, rugged mountains, and lonely plains make you “want  to cry” (as a woman from New York once told me it did her), then drive as fast as you can across I-10, I-40, I-70, I-80, and I-90 until your reach the comfort and safety of the West Coast.

Life on the frontier is always strenuous, whether you’re a rancher, an outfitter, a lumberman, a miner, an oilfield roughneck (as I was for a year), and so on. Just now it is summer, and life is relatively easy here.  I explore on foot and on horseback, camp in the outback, climb in the mountains to fish.  Fall is the really vigorous time, when I go into winter camp and slog through a foot of new snow in wilderness country to track, shoot, field dress, dismember, and pack 700-pound elk out of the mountains with horses.

How did you decide on the title, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!?

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem” are Christ’s words, as He stands gazing down upon the city before His Passion:

“still murdering the prophets, and stoning the messengers that are sent to thee, how often have I been ready to gather thy children together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings; and thou didst refuse it!  Behold, your house is left to you, a house uninhabited.  Believe me, you shall see nothing of me henceforward, until the time when you will be saying, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”

In this novel, some of the characters refuse to be gathered, and others–the fewer of them—accept the invitation.  This is pretty much the theme, in fact, of the trilogy, each volume of which commences with an epigraph taken from Dante’s Commedia Divina: the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso

The novel seems to have a mosaic-like structure, perhaps comparable to a film like Nashville by Robert Altman.  Did you realize you were dealing with a complex structure, while you were writing—and how do you keep so many intersecting characters in perspective, while still telling the story?

Evelyn Waugh once urged a young novelist, “Go to the cinema. It’s the modern way to write a story.” Also, it’s a flexible way of handling many characters and subplots in an orderly and comprehensible fashion.

What are optimal conditions for your work?

When I had stepchildren I wrote in the mornings when they were at school.  Since then I’ve written between three and seven in the afternoon. That way, when I knock off work, I have no responsibility beyond shaking and drinking two stiff martinis for myself and my wife. Once I begin a book I almost never abandon it.  I agree with Raymond Chandler that if you start on a writing job, it was always for a good reason, and your job is to rediscover that reason. 

Thank you so much.  We’ll look forward to the second part of your interview.

View Jerusalem, Jerusalem! on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yb7o4x5c

Visit Chronicles Web site: https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/

Read Part 1 of this interview at: https://tinyurl.com/ybpzyos4

(c) 2017 by Chilton Williamson, Jr. (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

 

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ACCLAIMED SINGER AND ACTRESS BARBARA COOK HAS DIED AT 89 ·

(from the Associated Press, 8/8; via the Wall Street Journal.)

NEW YORK — Barbara Cook, whose shimmering soprano made her one of Broadway’s leading ingenues and later a major cabaret and concert interpreter of popular American song, has died. She was 89.

Cook died early Tuesday of respiratory failure at her home in Manhattan, surrounded by family and friends, according to publicist Amanda Kaus. Her last meal was vanilla ice cream.

Throughout her nearly six decades on stage, Cook’s voice remained remarkably supple, gaining in emotional honesty and expanding on its natural ability to go straight to the heart.

 Read at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/AP59f517ab57704f3e893191a3d97ff3ed

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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ARTHUR MILLER  (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 4—LINK BELOW) ·

Listen at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gqh7y

Arthur Miller would have been 100 years old on October 17th this year. To mark the centenary BBC Radio 4, LA Theatre Works, and a stellar American cast have come together to produce four new dramas by MikeWalker and Jonathan Holloway.

As a writer Miller felt that to create a character, you had to understand how family, circumstances and events had shaped that character. ‘The fish is in the water and the water is in the fish’, as he famously put it. These specially commissioned plays recreate some of the experiences that shaped Miller himself, throwing light on how he would become one of the most influential playwrights in American literature.

  1. Beginnings
    Arthur Miller is born in New York on the 17th of October 1915 to a prosperous family in the clothing business. A poor school student, he loves making things with wood and dreams of becoming a crooner. But when the stock market crashes and the Millers face ruin, Arthur contemplates a different future. By Mike Walker.

Producer for LA Theatre Works: Susan Loewenberg
Associate Producers: Anna Lyse Erikson and Myke D Wysekopf
Sound by Mark Holden, Wes Dewberry, and Catherine Robinson

A BBC/Cymru Wales and LA Theatre Works Co-Production, directed by Kate McAll

LA Theatre Works is a non-profit audio drama company based in Los Angeles that records classic and contemporary plays. They have been collaborating with the BBC for nearly 30 years, beginning with a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible that starred Richard Dreyfuss and Stacey Keach.

Photo: The Telegraph.

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THE GENIUS OF SAM SHEPARD WAS RELENTLESS, WITHOUT A BREAK ·

(Isaac Butler’s and Dan Kois’s article appeared in Slate, 7/25; via Pam Green.)

Here’s how I discovered Sam Shepard:

In the ’90s, back before Giuliani and co. broken-windowed the last vestiges of seediness from Times Square, the Drama Book Shop lived above some kind of adult emporium. I was there, looking for plays. The highest honor in my high school was directing a one-act your senior year. It was the brass ring, and even though I was only in eighth grade, I was planning how I would clutch it.

This was my first ever visit to the Drama Book Shop, but it would become an annual pilgrimage, largely due to the moment when, after asking the clerk for some good one-acts, I was first told about Sam Shepard. A minute or two later, he had placed Fool for Love and Other Plays in my hands, and he was evangelizing about the bizarre virtues of a play called Suicide in B Flat. I remember thinking: Who is this gorgeous man on the cover, and how did he come up with a title like that?

I read Suicide in B Flat, entering Shepard’s be-bop nightmare in which a jazz musician may have killed himself, or may have committed murder. I didn’t get it, but I was beguiled by it. I immediately tore into Fool for Love, which opens with maybe the greatest stage direction of all time: “This play is to be performed relentlessly, without a break.”

He wrote without the brakes on, or perhaps he cut them.

Relentlessly and without a break is a pretty good way of describing both the feeling of Shepard’s work and his prolific genius itself. From 1964 to 2014, Shepard wrote more than 40 plays and 10 films. He wrote without the brakes on, or perhaps he cut them. The myth of Shepard has always been in part fueled by his writing some of his early plays under the influence and never revising them. But as his career went on, he became a meticulous craftsman of language, even while always experimenting with structure. He pursued the limits of the form, the limits of language, the limits of what the word could do on stage, and then he pushed these limits ever further out, creating an expanded imaginative space that the rest of us are lucky to be able to play in.

(Read more)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2017/07/31/the_genius_of_sam_shepard_dead_at_73_remembered.html?wpsrc=sh_all_mob_em_ru

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CRITICS FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES ON SAM SHEPARD’S PLAYS, BOOKS AND MOVIES ·

(Joshua Barone’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/31; via Pam Green.)

Sam Shepard, who died last Thursday at age 73, was a polymathic writer who collected acclaim and accolades as a playwright, actor and author. The New York Times has covered Mr. Shepard’s career since the mid-1960s. Below are highlights from our reviews.

“Buried Child” (1978) won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and remains Mr. Shepard’s best-known work. It arrived on Broadway in 1996 and has been revived many times since — the most recent staging, by the New Group Off Broadway in 2016, starred Ed Harris. Richard Eder reviewed the premiere, at the small Theater for the New City downtown:

Sam Shepard does not merely denounce chaos and anomie in American life, he mourns over them. His corrosive images and scenes of absurdity never soften to concede the presence of a lament, but it is there all the same.

Denunciation that has no pity in it is pamphleteering at best and a striking of fashionable attitudes at worst, and it is fairly common on the contemporary stage. Mr. Shepard is an uncommon playwright and uncommonly gifted and he does not take denouncing for granted. He wrestles with it at the risk of being thrown.

Mr. Harris also starred in the New York premiere of “Fool for Love,” in 1983. Here is what Frank Rich had to say:

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/arts/critics-for-the-new-york-times-on-sam-shepards-plays-books-and-movies.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Photo: ABC News

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SAM SHEPARD, PULITZER-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT AND CELEBRATED ACTOR, DIES AT 73 ·

(from Variety, 7/31; via Pam Green.)

Sam Shepard, the acclaimed playwright who was also praised as an actor, screenwriter, and director, has died. He was 73.

He died on Thursday at his home in Kentucky following complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a family spokesman confirmed to Variety.

Known for writing that suffused the fringes of American society with a surreal and brutal poetry, Shepard rose to fame when he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play “Buried Child.” He was also nominated for an Academy Award in the supporting actor category for his part in the 1983 film “The Right Stuff.”

Shepard was one of the leading figures of the Off Off Broadway movement that flourished in downtown New York beginning in the early 1960s. His often surreal early writings — including “Cowboy Mouth,” the 1971 work on which he collaborated with his romantic partner at the time, Patti Smith — eventually shifted toward an allusive not-quite-realism, beginning with “Buried Child” and continuing in plays like “Curse of the Starving Class” (1978), “True West”(1980) and “Fool for Love” (1983).

(Read more)

http://variety.com/2017/legit/news/sam-shepard-dead-dies-buried-child-the-right-stuff-1202510811/

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WAS BRITISH SPY, NOVELIST, AND PLAYWRIGHT, SOMERSET MAUGHAM SENT TO KILL LENIN? ·

(Alexey Timofeychev’s article appeared in Russia Beyound the Headlines, 7/13.)

Everyone knows Maugham’s plays and novels, but his work for British intelligence in Russia in 1917 is less known. He had a daunting mission and was certain that if he’d had more time he could have averted the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Revolution.

The author of Theatre, and The Razor’s Edge was an agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service during World War I, and he was entrusted with a secret mission to Russia, the true nature of which remains a mystery even 100 years later.

The trip to Russia in 1917 was not Maugham’s first experience as a secret agent for British Intelligence. By then he had already worked a couple of years for what later would be known as MI-6. After his first mission in Switzerland in 1915 he wanted to quit for personal reasons – he had divorced and his male lover had been sent out of Britain. However, according to one of his biographers, Maugham was intrigued by the life of a secret agent because he liked pulling strings from behind the scenes.

Nevertheless, when he was approached with the chance to go to Russia, he was uncertain. As he recalled afterwards, he thought that he didn’t have the right qualities for the task. In the end, the desire “to see the country of Tolstoi, Dostoievski and Chekov” outweighed any doubts, and he accepted.

(Read more)

https://www.rbth.com/arts/history/2017/07/13/was-british-spy-somerset-maugham-sent-to-kill-lenin_800942

 

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A BILL FUNDING ARTS AND HUMANITIES ENDOWMENTS PASSES HOUSE COMMITTEE ·

(Graham Bowley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/20; via Pam Green.)

Four months after President Trump proposed eliminating the cultural agencies altogether, a bill to continue to finance the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities won approval this week from the House appropriations committee.

The House bill, part of the process of thrashing out the federal budget for fiscal year 2018, includes $145 million for each endowment. The amounts represent a cut of about $5 million to each agency, but is a stark contrast to President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the endowments entirely as outlined in his first federal budget plan he announced in March.

That proposal was a political statement about the president’s wishes; Congress writes the federal budget, and those line items are now being thrashed out in the House and Senate.

The cultural funds — a small part of the broader interior and environment appropriations bill — may eventually receive a vote by the full House, perhaps as one part of a bigger omnibus bill after the summer recess.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/arts/nea-neh-congress-budget-trump.html

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***** MCPHERSON: ‘GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY’—DYLAN’S SONGS ARE DEPRESSION-ERA DYNAMITE (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/26.)

This is the second time in a week I’ve seen an Irish writer create a remarkable fusion of text and music. Woyzeck in Winter at the Galway arts festival unites Büchner and Schubert. Now Conor McPherson has written and directed a play incorporating 20 diverse songs by Bob Dylan. Set in Dylan’s home town of Duluth, Minnesota, in 1934, the piece uses the songs to reinforce the mood of desperation and yearning that characterised America in the Depression era.

It was the Dylan team who approached McPherson with the idea and they knew what they were doing since his work, from The Weir onwards, has been marked by a sense of unfulfilled longing. Here, that is located in a run-down guesthouse where everyone is staring into a bleak future. Nick, the owner, has to deal with crushing debt, a wife with dementia, a layabout son, and he is trying to marry off an adopted, pregnant, black daughter to an elderly shoe salesman. His guests include a ruined family, a fugitive boxer, a blackmailing preacher-cum-Bible salesman and Nick’s lover, who is awaiting a legacy that fails to mature. Yet for all their failures they still manage, gloriously, to sing.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/jul/27/girl-from-the-north-country-review-bob-dylan-conor-mcpherson

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TINA HOWE COPES WITH CAREGIVING AND OTHER LATE-IN-LIFE STORMS ·

(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in the New York Times, July 19; via Pam Green.)

By late afternoon, the weather was still sweltering, but in balmier conditions the playwright Tina Howe would have been hanging out a window of her 10th-story apartment on West End Avenue, shooting photos of the neighbors on their roof decks far below.

So she said the other day, and it was easy to envision. Dreamily thoughtful, with an angular, blue-blooded elegance, Ms. Howe at 79 has a disarming liveliness of spirit.

“I sort of want to set my next play on one of these decks, on Midsummer Night’s Eve,” she said, explaining that it would be “about a group of old people getting together and whooping it up. Because nobody does that. Dear Beckett has written about old age, but never a woman.”

This is the phase of life that Ms. Howe has reached: where an appalling number of sweet strangers offer her their seats on the subway, and where she sticks close to home because her 81-year-old husband, Norman Levy, has Alzheimer’s disease.

It is a phase of life that Ms. Howe is writing about in her new play, “Singing Beach.” Directed by Ari Laura Kreith in a production by Theater 167, it starts previews on Saturday, July 22, at Here Arts Center.

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Photo: The New York Times

 

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ROME STREET THEATRE:  THE MYTH OF PERSEPHONE ·

 

 

By Marit Shuman

There’s a fountain in the Piazza Trilussa, in the Trastevere, where people can sit and watch live performance. 

The fountain is called fontana di Ponte Sisto, which refers to the bridge right across from the piazza.

 

 

Generally, there is music being played at all hours or events like this one, which was filmed on Sunday, June 18, 2017.

 

The story of Persephone is being reenacted, using dancers on stilts and plenty of pyrotechnics.

 

The ancient story tells how Persephone is abducted by Pluto, the god of the Underworld.  

 

Her mother, Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, heartbroken at the loss of her daughter, plunges the world into darkness. 

 

Finally, Persephone is found and allowed to resurface on earth, bringing spring. 

But, because she has eaten the food of Hades, pomegranate seeds, she must return again every year, as the seasons change to winter.

 

 

Photos:  Fountain: Starhotels; Ponte Sisto: Wikipedia.