Monthly Archives: May 2017

JOSEPH V. MELILLO: A CUTTING-EDGE IMPRESARIO LEAVES BAM: WHAT WAS HIS BEST WORK? ·

(Michael Cooper’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/4; via Pam Green.)

Joseph V. Melillo will step down as executive producer of the Brooklyn Academy of Music at the end of 2018.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

It is time for the next wave to roll in at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: Joseph V. Melillo, who has helped shape the academy’s cutting-edge aesthetic for more than three decades, will announce on Friday that he plans to step down as executive producer at the end of 2018.

Mr. Melillo, 70, is the last link to the organization’s impresario and visionary leader, Harvey Lichtenstein, who hired him in 1983 as the founding director of the pathbreaking Next Wave Festival. In 1999, Mr. Lichtenstein anointed him as his successor.

As executive producer, Mr. Melillo was a lower-key presence than his mentor, but the academy remained a place to catch the vanguard, as well as to see Derek Jacobi as King Lear and Simon Russell Beale as Hamlet.

With Mr. Melillo’s departure, the academy will truly enter the post-Harvey era. (Karen Brooks Hopkins, Mr. Lichtenstein’s chosen successor as the institution’s president, stepped down in 2015.) It will have to find ways to keep its cutting-edge reputation now that it is part of the establishment, and to continue refreshing its avant-garde roster to keep it from seeming old guard.

Continue reading the main story

Photo: NY Daily News

 

5 MOST OFF-THE-WALL STAGINGS OF RUSSIAN LITERARY WORKS ·

 

(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared on Russia Beyond the Headlines, 5/5.)

U.S. pop-opera “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace” received 12 nominations at the prestigious Tony Awards. RBTH now remembers who else staged Russian classic novels in an unusual way.

1. Open air rock-opera Crime and Punishment

During the summer of 2016 Londoners were treated to a great show. The classic novel Crime and Punishment, written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 150 years ago, was reinvented as a true rock musical in the hands of the British director Phil Willmott.

In Willmott’s version, the protagonist Raskolnikov is not a dark character tormented by demons, but more of a hero, a fighter for truth and faith who doesn’t want the old lady

While Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov suffers from torments of conscience after the murder, Willmott’s character is more aggressive, expressing his feelings with rock ballads and scenes that at times verged on comedy. In one episode, crowds of ugly old women with bloody heads dance around Raskolnikov, driving him to the brink of insanity.

Sonya Marmeladova, Raskolnikov’s love interest, performed by the red-haired Rachel Delooze, echoes Magdalena from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar and Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones.

2. Pushkin’s Fairy Tales

This work is a collaboration between the prominent stage director Robert Wilson and Moscow’s Theater of Nations. Wilson’s production is far from the iconic interpretations of these folklorish tales, which fire up many people’s imaginations, especially after looking at the famous illustrations by Ivan Bilibin.

The characters are not traditional Russian tsars or a swan-maidens –  like in every Wilson production they become freaks with chalk-white faces painted in the Japanese style.

Add oriental motifs accompanied by music from American duet CocoRosie – with elements of rap – and it’s fair to say the vibe is a little different to what people might expect from Pushkin’s tales.

(Read more)

https://www.rbth.com/arts/literature/2017/05/05/5-stagings-russian-literary-works_756994

HELLO, DOLLY! & COME FROM AWAY TOP OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE WINNERS; FULL LIST! ·

(from Broadway World, 5/8; via Pam Green.)

Outer Critics Circle, the organization of writers and commentators for media covering New York theatre announced today its award winners for the 2016-17 season in 27 categories.

Broadway’s Danny BursteinKatie Finneran andChristopher Fitzgerald will serve as gala award presenters at the upcoming 67th Annual Outer Critics

Circle Awards ceremony on May 25th (3PM) at the legendary Sardi’s Restaurant.

Celebrating its 67th season of bestowing awards of excellence in the field of theatre, the Outer Critics Circle, is an association with members affiliated with more than ninety newspapers, magazines, web sites, radio and television stations, and theatre publications in America and abroad.

 (Winners names are in bold preceded by an asterisk. *) 

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY
A Doll’s House, Part 2
Indecent
*Oslo
Sweat

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL
Anastasia
A Bronx Tale
*Come From Away
Groundhog Day
Holiday Inn

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
*If I Forget
Incognito
A Life
Linda
Love, Love, Love

 

(Read more)

http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Breaking-News-HELLO-DOLLY-COME-FROM-AWAY-Top-Outer-Critics-Circle-Winners-Full-List-20170508

NICHOLAS HYTNER: ‘BALANCING ACTS: BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE NATIONAL THEATRE’ (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 4—LINK BELOW) ·

Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08nkrc6

The inside story of twelve years at the helm of Britain’s greatest theatre. It is a story of lunatic failures and spectacular successes such as The History Boys, War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors; of opening the doors of the National Theatre to a broader audience than ever before, and changing the public’s perception of what theatre is for.

It is about probing Shakespeare from every angle and reinventing the classics. About fostering new talent and directing some of the most celebrated actors of our times. Its cast includes the likes of Alan Bennett, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Helen Mirren.

Intimate, candid and insightful, Balancing Acts is a passionate exploration of the art and alchemy of making theatre.

Today Hynter describes his typical day as the theatre’s Director.

Written and read by Nicholas Hytner
Produced by Simon Richardson.

RICHARD MAXWELL: ‘SAMARA’ (ONLY THROUGH MAY 14–REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Richard Maxwell, a two-time Obie winner, has written a new drama—an anti-Western, set in deli milk crates (the imaginative scenic design is by Louisa Thompson)—that seems to miss home and identity.  Cultures have been taken away—and are mourned–in this piece—which has a poetry reading-, outside concert-like feel, especially given the inclusion of music by Steve Earle (and the mesmerizing uilleann pipes of Ivan Goff). Here, rain is being awaited, murders have taken place, and Maxwell finds himself meditating on being a father and raising children—he’s wiser, finding different ways to consider masculinity now.  Sam Shepard and Faulkner come to mind as reference points, but this really is more spiritually minded than its violence would indicate, and it could only be American, Americana.  So much is owed to the playwright Irene Fornes, in terms of the short scenes and unconscious inspirations, that one might suspect Maxwell was working with her workshop exercises. Maybe this hip, but less up-tight Maxwell, also owes something to his director, Sarah Benson (another Obie winner), and her clean direction, yet both have worked on harsher pieces, unrelenting ones: Samara, which could be referring to “tranquility,” stands in contrast to a similarly titled Maxwell play, The Good Samaritans—recently shown at Abrons Arts Center in February–a cold European-like concept work, important and brutal.  Here the lights are colored (Matt Frey designed them)—and even blink, while the other work showed the dead light of fluorescent tubes. 

The impulse of this reviewer is to say that Maxwell might be working artistically with the country’s return to nationalism.  As long ago as 2008, Split Britches wrote Miss America, in which they knew the nation was changing.  Today, an election has emphasized that it has.  The notion of thinking about this country’s past, earlier than the twentieth century, may be on the artistic mind, especially of course, given the success of Hamilton.  Instead of plays examining paralysis, new worlds of picaresque adventure may be inviting the imagination.  Maxwell might be hoping to make America remember itself again.

SAMARA

by Richard Maxwell
directed by Sarah Benson
with original music by Steve Earle

featuring:  Becca Blackwell, Vinie Burrows, Steve Earle, Roy Faudree, Ivan Goff, Modesto Flako Jimenez, Matthew Korahais, Paul Lazar, Jasper Newell, and Anna Wray

Set Design by Louisa Thompson; Costume Design: Junghyun Georgia Lee; Lighting Design: Matt Frey; Sound Design: Palmer Hefferan; Props: George Hoffmann and Greg Kozatek; Fight Director: J. David Brimmer; Choreographer: Annie-B Parson; Production Stage Manager: Rachel K. Gross; Assistant Stage Manager: Joanna Muhlfelder; Design: Studio Usher

Press:  John Wyszniewski, Rachel Shearer | Blake Zidell & Associates

Presnted at: Mezzanine Theatre
A.R.T./New York Theatres
502 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019

Visit Soho Rep: http://sohorep.org/samara

Photo Credits: Julieta Cervantes

Top: Vinie Burrows and Becca Blackwell; BottomL Jasper Newell 

CRAIG SMITH ON ORTON—50 YEARS LATER: THE PRODUCING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF PHOENIX THEATRE ENSEMBLE AND ‘ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE’ (ONLY THROUGH MAY 14), ADVANCING THE STORY, AND DIRECTING A MODERN CLASSIC ·

Craig Smith is Producing Artistic Director of Phoenix Theatre Ensemble.  He was an ensemble member of New York’s prestigious Jean Cocteau Repertory where he made his artistic home for more than 3 decades appearing in over 200 productions from Stoppard to Shakespeare and Sophocles to Williams. In 2004, Craig and four colleagues founded the award-winning Phoenix Theatre Ensemble.   Now under the direction of Mr. Smith and Artistic Director, Elise Stone,  Phoenix presents  3 to 6 productions of new and classical works annually, a reading and new play development series, and an arts-in-education program for NYC public schools.  He is the recipient of the President of the Borough of Manhattan’s Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts and Community Service.

Craig Smith talks with SV’s Bob Shuman about his new production at the Wild Project.

One question you’d ask Joe Orton if he was around?

Your work in Entertaining Mr.  Sloane has a tragic through-line that has the emotional impact equal to that of Arthur Miller.  You moved away from this with Loot and What the Butler Saw–why? 

One of the early reviewers of Entertaining Mr. Sloane called it a “dirty highbrow play.”  Is it? 

Orton was a 1960’s rebel–Ed and Sloane are in the words of critic Randy Gener, “rapacious bisexuals”–the play’s raw treatment of sexuality was new and titillating in 1964.  But the real dirt is the way family members treat each other–no one can inflict pain the way your family can.  “Highbrow”:  the language is sophisticated, like Wilde, Coward, and Pinter, such as “you superannuated old prat” coming from undereducated people who live in an isolated house, situated in a rubbish dump. This anachronistic use of selected words, here and there, is delicious. About the language:  It is a challenge to memorize in the way all really good language is—it does not come easily.  It is a singular voice.  When done well, it crackles. Language that is easy to memorize often comes off as ordinary and a bit uninteresting.

How would you describe what Entertaining Mr. Sloane is about?

A love story.  Four deeply wounded people in need of love.  It’s about a family–a family with very old wounds–hard facts that they have tried to ignore or forget.  But the introduction of Sloane to this family unit proves explosive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s more interesting?  Joe  Orton’s plays or his life (and death)?

Very difficult to compete with the colorful—some would say the outrageous–life of Joe Orton.  The plays have order–even the chaos has a choreographed order to it–but Orton’s life was not choreographed.  

Your greatest satisfaction from being in the theatre?

Breakthroughs in the rehearsal room.

Biggest obstacle for theatre companies today?  

The extraordinarily entertaining work being done on cable television.

 

Tell us about the casting process:  What kind of actors were you looking for—and tell us who finally won the parts?

Good actors . . . I knew I wanted Elise Stone (my wife and Phoenix Theatre Ensemble Artistic Director) to play Kath and John Lenartz to play Kemp–both great, talented actors who I have worked with for decades.  Ed is the most challenging role in the play, and I asked PTE artist, Antonio Edwards Suarez, to play this complex man who struggles with his sexuality.  But . . . I did not have a Sloane.  Then we went to see some director scenes that friends were working on–and I saw this good looking, interesting young actor with very intense eyes.  We asked him to join a reading we were doing of Cocteau’s The Infernal Machine.  Once cast, I could see that he had excellent instincts, took direction, and was a really nice guy–so after that, I asked Matt Baguth to play Sloane. 

At Phoenix Theatre Ensemble do you typically work with the same artists?  Who are your current collaborators?

Yes, we have an ensemble of resident artists, but casting is not exclusive to that group.  Over time these artists have developed a creative shorthand and a knowledge and appreciation of each other.  It is a great way to work and btw, I won’t work with difficult people.  

Does the company look for a certain kind of play to produce?   How does the ensemble decide on a season?

Many think that you just sit down and pick out some favorite plays or playwrights that you might want to produce.  It is a very complicated process, though.  We have to consider budgets, performance rights, plays that complement each other–we like a mix of new works and classics—spaces to perform in, and the challenge the season will be to our actors and directors.

How much liberty do you believe a director can take with an established script?

In 30+ years of theatre work, this is my directing debut.  I’m enjoying it immensely.  I take more liberty with scripts than others do or would.  As an actor, I’m legend for paraphrasing–particularly with scripts in translation–perhaps this has given me a sense of entitlement, some would say a “false entitlement.”  I am not of the opinion that actors and directors are interpreters only.  As a jazz musician will riff on a piece of music, I encourage the same thing in theatre.  Lots of people disagree with this–some vehemently, but I don’t really care. 

Tell us about your background. How did you get started in the theatre and how has your career evolved?  

As a young man new to the city, I auditioned for Jean Cocteau Repertory and then attended a performance of Waiting for Godot, 10:00PM on a Friday night.  The play was at their 50-seat storefront theatre in a neighborhood that I considered the downtown “murder district.” It was indeed a pretty rough area. I had never seen anything quite like that performance before; I went back the next day and asked if they needed help sweeping the floor. I stayed with them for 30+ years.

Most unlikely problem you’ve faced during the rehearsal process—and how has it resolved or how is it resolving?

The pauses–I have worked on quite a bit of Pinter and Beckett–masters of the power of the pause.  Orton was a fan of Pinter, and the script is littered with “pauses” and “silences”–way too many of them. If he had written this later in his short career, I think he would have been more selective. But regardless, I thought I had a good handle on this–the non-filled pause–the power of nothingness hanging in the air—but it is a challenge.   We continue to work on them.

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

Eve Adamson and Elise Stone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does knowing about the early ‘60s in England help in understanding Entertaining Mr. Sloane?  Or do you feel it’s not necessary to explain?

Well, young Matt, in rehearsal one night, referred to the time of Sloane as “way back then”–like it might have been an 18th-century play, which I found both humorous and sobering at the same time. There is a generation that doesn’t know who Orton is, who think that “edge” is only contemporary to the last few years.  In a way, this play could have only come out of that culture-changing decade–a decade I am so glad that I experienced. But the play is not stuck in that time period.  In my opinion, it is worthy of being considered a modern classic.

Does knowing about the current political or cultural environment in the U.S. inform your production in any way? 

I didn’t think it would.   We did Brecht’s Arturo Ui right over the election–it could not have been more timely, and we reaped the benefits.  I was relieved we were doing Sloane, because I thought it would be a break for us–and for our audience–from the overload of politics and the plethora of new works coming out in response to this U.S. administration.  But, in a very short time, we are now in a culture of repression and regression:  from the progressive victories of same-sex marriage to the horrors of Chechnya; from the rise of domestic hate crimes to the overall demise of compassion. So, unfortunately, we once again find our work being very, very relevant.

Give the answer to an essential question about yourself that you realize won’t be asked here.  

I find beauty in what others find to be gross and disgusting.

Best piece of theatrical advice you ever received? 

Don’t retreat–advance the story.   And also from a director, who gave me this note:  “it is, of course, complete hokum, but you must imbue with complete truth.”

Thank you very much.

Entertaining  Mr. Sloane by Joe Orton

When:   May 4–14; performances Tues-Sat @8:00 PM;  Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2:00 pm; Sunday matinee at 3:00 pm.

Full Schedule: Thurs 5/4 @ 8pm; Fri 5/5 @ 8pm; Sat 5/6 @ 2pm & 8pm; Sun 5/7 @ 3pm; Tues 5/9 @ 8pm; Wed 5/10 @ 2pm; 8pm; Thurs 5/11 @8pm; Fri 5/12 @ 8pm; Sat 5//13 @ 2pm & 8pm; Sun 5/14 @  3pm.

Information: http://www.phoenixtheatreensemble.org/;  212-465-3446

Tickets:   Tickets are $30 each; Call 212-352-3101 or visit www.PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org.

Where: The Wild Project @ 195 East 3rd Street (Avenue A and Avenue B)

Transportation: By Subway: F Train to 2nd Avenue; by Bus A14 to 4th Street and Ave A; 8th Street Crosstown. 

(c) 2017 by Craig Smith (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Phoenix Theatre Ensemble production of “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” photo credits: Gerry Goodstein.

MICHAEL MOORE TO TAKE AIM AT TRUMP, ON BROADWAY ·

Filmmaker Michael Moore attends the premiere of “The Hateful Eight” at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/1.)

Michael Moore has brought his zeal, his humor and his outrage to film, television and books. And now he’s bringing them to Broadway.

This left-wing provocateur is not shy about his agenda, made explicit on a preliminary poster for the production, which poses the question, in all capital letters, “Can a Broadway show bring down a sitting president?”

His plan, he said, is to perform a scripted (but also responsive to the news) one-man (more-or-less) show, called “The Terms of My Surrender,” eight times a week for 12 weeks, starting in July. He said that the show would simultaneously be entertaining and infuriating — not stand-up comedy, not a TED Talk, not a rally — but “a very developed piece of entertainment for people who like to think.”

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/01/theater/michael-moore-broadway-the-terms-of-my-surrender-donald-trump.html

CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN WARHOL AND CAPOTE TO BE ADAPTED INTO A PLAY ·

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(Andrew R. Chow’s article appeared in The New York Time, 5/1; via Pam Green.)

Andy Warhol and Truman Capote were famously friends: The artist depicted the writer in his work several times, and the pair spent hundreds of hours in conversation (some of it published). Now pieces of those conversations will be adapted into “Warhol Capote,” a new play opening this September at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass.

All of the dialogue in the play will be drawn from recorded conversations between the two from the late 1970s, when they intended to create a Broadway play together. The tapes of these conversations were recently discovered and culled through by the director Rob Roth.

Mr. Roth hoped to take the play to Broadway in 2015. Instead, it will open at the American Repertory, which has hosted many recent Broadway-bound productions, including “Waitress” and “Finding Neverland.” Michael Mayer, a Tony Award winner for “Spring Awakening,” will direct.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/01/theater/conversations-between-warhol-and-capote-to-be-adapted-into-a-play.html?_r=0