CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (59) ·

True art fades whenever it approaches tendential, utilitarian, unartistic paths. In art tendency must change into its own ideas, pass into emotion, become a sincere effort and the second nature of the actor. Only then can it enter into the life of the human spirit in the actor, the role, and the play. But then it is no longer a tendency, it is a personal credo. (MLIA)

SHAKESPEARE COOKIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS ·

(Marissa Nicosia’s article appeared in Folger’s Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Plus, 12/3; via Pam Green.)

Knots, cookies, and women’s skill

A plate of beautifully baked cookies is a wonderful thing. It is a welcoming gesture for guests, it signifies a holiday or a special meal, and it is a demonstration of a baker’s skill at making something pleasing to the eye and the palate. In Shakespeare’s England, bakers in elite households prepared sugar sculptures, confectionary, marzipan, and sweet doughs shaped into knots, twists, and letters.

Sweets were an occasion for British women to not only show that they were excellent bakers, but that they were masters of other handicrafts such as sewing and writing. In her book Pens and Needles: Women’s Textualities in Early Modern England, Susan Frye explores the deep and pervasive connection between sewing and writing in Renaissance culture. She writes, “Women from a variety of backgrounds created needlework pieces that placed accepted subjects in every room, that helped to clothe themselves and their families, and that declared the family’s social status, even as they may be read as personal and political expressions” (116). A woman’s style of knotting thread and creating samplers, or needlework pictures, was an indication of her class and taste. It was as individualized as handwriting. Likewise, as Wendy Wall shows in her book Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen, handwriting and needlework were connected to culinary skill. Although elite women employed cooks in their households, the lady of the house might personally participate in the preparation of finely shaped delicacies. Recipes that instructed cooks to shape soft dough or marzipan into “knots,” asked bakers to draw on their experience knotting thread as well as writing “knots,” meaning elaborate circular flourishes or majuscule and miniscule letterforms (Wall 143).

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FRANK GAGLIANO:  ON  RENÈ AUBERJONOIS ·

By Frank Gagliano, 12/10

The death of actor Renè Auberjonois (at age 79) is another sad RIP instance of a recent extraordinary theatre personality who once touched my life. 

In 1968, John Lahr asked me to take over an Adult Ed class he was teaching in Dramatic Lit, at NY’s Hunter College. I had never taught anything, anywhere before — and was nervous. I decided to start the class with “King Lear” because I had just seen the production at Lincoln Center, with Lee J. Cobb as Lear. Renè Auberjonois was the very physical, very clear spoken, very funny, Fool in that production. 

I invited Mr Auberjonois  to the class. He accepted. I wish now I could remember the one question about his role and about the Lincoln Center production that I was dying to ask him — and DID ask him in the class; but I can’t recall it. I do know that Mr. Auberjonois delighted the class with hisShakespeare/Lear/intellectual, and practical theatre, expertise, and that his appearance stimulated and relaxed me into opening myself up to a life of teaching, as well as writing.

And in reviewing the Clive Barnes 1968 NYTimes review (which beautifully brought to life that production), from the list of players in the review, I discovered that there were actors in that Lear that had been in my plays; and that John Gleason (who had designed the lighting for my “Father Uxbridge Wants To Marry” Off Broadway, had done the lighting design for “King Lear.” It was probably Gleason who helped arrange for Mr. Auberjonois to visit my class in 1968. Gleason (who died young) was a close associate and colleague of that rare man of the theatre, J Ranelli, who died some weeks ago, and to whom I paid tribute in Facebook last week. J had a more involving through line in my life than Renè Auberjonois. But that opening touch of Renè Auberjonois . . . Well . . 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/08/obituaries/rene-auberjonois-dead.html

Photo: https://www.aspenideas.org/speakers/rene-auberjonois

FOR ENTERTAINING MUSICALS, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN … PARIS ·

(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/5; via Pam Green.)

The genre has long been seen as minor in the French capital, but a string of English-language productions is creating a pleasingly upbeat dynamic.

The answer is unlikely to be musicals. While one of the genre’s ancestors, the 19th-century operetta, once thrived in France, musicals have long been considered minor in this country, which prizes conceptual seriousness over entertainment onstage. Yet a string of successful English-language productions has jazz hands and fidgety feet working their way into the local parlance.

“An American in Paris,” back from a Tony Award-winning Broadway run and an international tour, is competing this month with a sparkling new revival of “Funny Girl” at the Théâtre Marigny. And the two productions share a producer who has played a major role in the wave of musicals in Paris this past decade: Jean-Luc Choplin, who directed the Théâtre du Châtelet from 2004 to 2017 and is now leading the Théâtre Marigny down a similar path.

While some production companies have translated American musicals into French in recent years, Choplin has invested in English-language productions presented with subtitles. It’s a sensible choice, because the upbeat earnestness of the genre sits awkwardly with the taste for irony that is built into French discourse.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times

CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (57) ·

On that occasion so important for me, at that performance in the dawn . . . the trees, the air, the sun hinted to us of such real, beautiful and artistic truth which cannot, because of its aestheticism, be compared to that which is created in us by the dead wings of a theatre. Let the artist who paints the scenery for the stage be great, but there is another, all-powerful Artist who acts in mysteries and ways unknown to us on our superconsciousness. (MLIA)

CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (56) ·

How conventional we saw to be what we had become used to do on the stage, considering our scenic truth to be real truth. Theorists will say, “This is as it must be,” and they will develop a whole theory and read a thesis on relative truth, on scenic conventionality. They might be right in their own way, in theory, but [not] if they had been in my place. . . . (MLIA)

JONATHAN MILLER, BOLD DIRECTOR OF THEATER AND OPERA, IS DEAD AT 85 ·

(Benedict Nightingale’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/27; via Pam Green.  Listen to a BBC interview with Jonathan Miller.)

Known for his radical restagings of classic works, Mr. Miller was also a doctor who periodically left the stage to practice medicine.

LONDON — Jonathan Miller, the British theater and opera director known for his radical restagings of classic works, died on Wednesday at his home in London. He was 85.

His death was confirmed by his son William Miller, who said his father had had Alzheimer’s disease.

Although he was best known as a director, Mr. Miller was a man of many talents and regularly called a Renaissance man, although he disliked the term, which he said was almost invariably used “by people unacquainted with the Renaissance.”

He first achieved fame as an actor in the anti-establishment revue “Beyond the Fringe,” a hit in both London and New York. He went on to win acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic for his productions of Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado” and other works. He also produced and hosted television shows.

Most unusually, he was a medical doctor, with a special interest in neurology; he occasionally left the theater to practice medicine. But his absences — as, for instance, a research fellow in neuropsychology at the University of Sussex in 1983 — never lasted long.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times

 

‘MACBETH’ AT CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY–ONLY THROUGH DEC. 15 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

John Doyle’s production of Macbeth, playing through December 15 at Classic Stage Company (CSC), should fit into the current zeitgeist exactly.  In a world of 280-character tweets and multitasking, the story, enacted in this 90-minute version, demonstrates the kind of revenge corporate staff relish:  a power couple, who are promoted too swiftly—and need more on-the-job training–get their comeuppances.  Even seemingly sensible cutting can lose an article–or book or play, however.  What sometimes seems like arbitrary writing, pared away, may actually be necessary connective tissue, even if it isn’t very good—and especially if a magic spell has been placed on it.  Macbeth is no exception—the story can grow long, as any thirteen-year-old will tell you, especially after, say, Lady Macbeth’s handwashing scene. What most people probably like best, anyway, are the cauldron and witches; forests and ghosts; battle scenes and blood: the tragedy’s elements, instead of its telling. These are also areas known generally, which actors don’t always go much further into researching (so different from the way Stanislavski would approach work, sending a team into the very environments he was working on—to learn history, seek objects for sets and design, and talk to the people who knew something of the past, place, and people).

Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers, in the doomed central marriage of the play, as well as the other characters, too, only refract the contemporary: points made in glossy magazines about gender roles and hair and better liberal politics. Doyle, extolled for his minimalism, seems to have given us a rehearsal for a production yet to come, although he ensures racial and gender balance, he hasn’t found the universal.  Perhaps he realized, in his streamlined, fast-paced Macbeth, in the round, that after he took everything away, the center wasn’t really there. And maybe that is an astute, frightening way to describe today.

 

© 2019 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

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Classic Stage Company (136 E. 13th St, New York)

Macbeth

John Doyle, Scenic Design
Ann Hould-Ward, Costume Designer
Solomon Weisbard, Lighting Designer
Matt Stine, Sound Designer
Tom Schall, Fight Director
Telsey + Company, Casting
Bernita Robinson, Production Stage Manager
Stephanie Macchia,  Assistant Stage Manager

 

Macduff, Captain………………………………………………………………….BARZIN AKHAVAN Malcolm ……………………………………………………………………………..RAFFI BARSOUMIAN Lady Macbeth …………………………………………………………………………… NADIA BOWERS Lady Macduff, Gentlewoman …………………………………………… N’JAMEH CAMARA Banquo, Old Siward…………………………………………………………….ERIK LOCHTEFELD Duncan, Old Woman……………………………………………………………….MARY BETH PEIL Macbeth………………………………………………………………………………………… COREY STOLL Ross …………………………………………………………………………………………..BARBARA WALSH Fleance, Young Macduff, Young Siward…………. ANTONIO MICHAEL WOODARD

Photos by Joan Marcus