Monthly Archives: June 2017

SHERMAN YELLEN’S OWN LIFETIME (ii):  THE AWARD WINNER ON HIS FATHER AND FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP WITH RICHARD RODGERS AND NORMAN ROCKWELL, AND WHAT THE DRAMATIST HAS TAUGHT THE MEMOIRIST IN ‘SPOTLESS’ ·

Sherman Yellen was nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the 1970 musical The Rothschilds, with a score by Fiddler on the Roof songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, which he and Harnick have recently reimagined as Rothschild & Sons. Sherman wrote the libretto for the Will Holt and Gary William Friedman musical Treasure Island, winner of the Broadway World Best Regional Musical Award (2012). Among his many theater works is his satirical sketch “Delicious Indignities,” which appeared in the New York and London revue Oh! Calcutta! His straight plays on and off Broadway include New Gods for LoversStrangers, and December Fools.  

Sherman was librettist and lyricist for Josephine Tonight, an original musical he wrote with the late composer Wally Harper, about the early life of Josephine Baker, which The Chicago Sun-Times called “a shining new musical” and which the D.C. press praised for being “so hot that it sizzles.”

In his youth he worked as a librettist with legendary composer Richard Rodgers. Together with Sheldon Harnick they recently revised the Rodgers-Harnick musical Rex about Henry VIII. This new version had a successful premiere in Toronto.  Yellen’s teleplays have won him two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award, first for his John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America broadcast on NBC, as well as an Emmy Nomination for his Hallmark Hall of Fame version of Beauty and the Beast starring George C. Scott. Sherman’s screenplay adaptations of classic novels range from Great Expectations to Phantom of the Opera. He has received awards in Arts and Letters from Bard College, and he is a frequent contributor of essays on the arts, literature, and politics to online publications such as The Huffington Post.

Sherman recently published his autobiographical novella Cousin Bella–The Whore of Minsk, available in a volume, which also includes his holiday short story A Christmas Lilly,” and a collection of three plays, December Fools and Other Plays (December Fools * Budapest * Gin Lane).  Sherman is married, the father of two sons, Nicholas and Christopher, and has three much loved granddaughters. He has lived in London and Los Angeles, worked in Berlin and Budapest, but home was, is, and always will be New York City.

 

Sherman Yellen talks, with SV’s Bob Shuman, about his new memoir Spotless: Memories of a New York City Childhood.  The final part, of this three-part interview, will appear, 7/5.

View ‘Spotless’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp725x 

What can playwriting teach a memoirist?

Plenty.  Playwrights learn to create a world onstage made up of scenes, comic and dramatic ones.   A memoirist, who has some experience as a playwright, can recreate the past in terms of scenes–and, just as a playwright must often choose to kill his favorite bit of dialogue, in order to advance the plot, a memoirist must know how to select from a full life of events, and select only those that are the most telling.  Although I have tried to adhere to the truth of the events in my life in Spotless, there are moments when I depended upon remembered dialogue to flesh out a character or an event.   I am about to become immodest but who cares?

Sheldon Harnick, after reading Spotless, wrote of it, “In Spotless, Sherman Yellen has brought his skill as a playwright to bear.  Reading his memoir is like watching a totally absorbing play: the characters come to vivid life and the event they experience registers as first-rate drama.  Bravo, Mr. Yellen! Bravo!”   I am not only kvelling inside, I am bowing.  

Your father suffered from depression–to what extent did you or could you understand him growing up? 

My father Nat’s depression was something I took for granted growing up.  It was simply part of the world, as I knew it.   As children we accept the most aberrant behavior as normal if we are faced by it daily.  Since he was also capable of euphoria and great generosity it was confusing as hell.  His was a world before tranquilizers, although his severe depressions ended in electroshock therapy–treatments that I took him to as a boy of fourteen.  As a small child I never knew who would walk into the room, that angry depressed man, or the loving, generous father.

My very calm mother kept the family together, despite the many tantrums of my father.  Divorce was not an option in those days. She balanced his instability; like many women of her time, she placed her children first, and protected us as much as she could–particularly when he became violent.   And despite having this unstable father, as the book reveals, there was so much laughter in the house. My sister and I grew up with a precocious sense of irony, an awareness of the ridiculousness of most human pretentions–and, later in life, I would try to bring that to my work.   As an adult I experienced some depression, that unwelcome guest who tells you he will only stay for a few days and always overstays his visit, but I managed to master it, and, for most of my life, I have been depression free–thanks, in part, to a life spent with a wonderful wife, great friends, and a loving family.   And a devotion to my work.

How did your father react to your going into the theatre?

My parents enjoyed my early success–I was one of the lucky few.  They saw my first TV show produced, when I was in my early twenties, and I was still relatively young when my plays were done.  They knew that I was living the life I wanted–and for all their concerns about my security (some of that justified)–they only encouraged my work.   My father loved theater and took my older sister, Simone, and me to theater every Saturday, from the time I was ten years old.  I am one of the few alive who saw the first NYC matinee of Oklahoma!, as well as the opening of Streetcar and Death of a Salesman.  Not appropriate for a kid?  Perhaps.  But I loved the truth that I saw in those plays on those stages. My father very much wanted us to enjoy our lives, but his demons often intruded on that enjoyment. 

You seem to have been witness to important people and events.  One of them is the crash of the Hindenburg–do you feel that there was a continuing impact because you saw that, or how do you think of it in terms of your own history? 

I don’t believe that my accidental viewing of the Hindenburg explosion–altered the course of my life.  These were not of my making, and even as a child, I knew that what was most interesting were not accidents but character.  I was, I suppose, remarkably precocious in my desire to study people and try to take them apart, like a clock, to see what made them work.  My first ambition was to be a fine artist, and I sketched everyone and everything I saw. As far as some of the notable people who came into my life–I can truly say I did not seek them out.  My friendship with Norman Rockwell, who provided a cabin in Vermont for my wife and I on our wedding trip, came from my friendship with his son.   Other notables, like Richard Rodgers and Sheldon Harnick, became friends because we worked together, in harmony. The experience of success or failure only drew us closer together.   It may seem odd to say this but I am a good friend–I care about the people in my life–and I learned early on that you do not abandon people in their difficult years–not if you wish to live comfortably with yourself, or your idea of yourself. 

You’ve worked with both Richard Rodgers and Eileen J. Garrett, two people from very different walks of life–but who would you say influenced you the most growing up?

You mention my work as an editor for the medium Eileen J. Garrett.  She was never a real friend–just a boss at my first after-college job as an editor at Tomorrow magazine.  Later, she was a patron who made it possible for me to live in London and work on a Shakespeare study by giving me a grant from her foundation.  A great year in my early life.  She told me that I had a wonderful “aura”–God knows what that is–I think it is a halo that mediums can see–and in this I feel she was off course in her mystical declarations.   If I ever did have a halo, it has slipped off me or tarnished in my eighty-five years.   I believe that she was the inspiration for Madam Acardi in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit.   And I was told that she also inspired the character of Auntie MamePatrick Dennis having worked at her publication, a few years before I did.  I do love eccentrics–not as much as I love dogs and cats–but they come in a close second.  She was imperious, generous, a tad frightening, but I feel fortunate in having known her.  Through her I met Aldous Huxley and Gloria Swanson and other notables–great fun for a very young man. 

My friendship with Richard Rodgers is one of the subjects of my next book, Absent Friends.  I met him late in his life, when his health problems were tragically debilitating, yet I found him wonderfully creative, generous in praise, a true creative collaborator, and a man who did not look to blame others when a musical play did not succeed.  Rex, the musical that we worked on together, was not a success at the time–although after forty odd years Sheldon Harnick and I have revised and reimagined it so that it is now the fine show we always wanted it to be.   It is soon to be seen, this summer, in repertory at the Utah Festival of Opera and Musical Theater in Logan, Utah . . . and to my delight, it’s sold out for its run.   Rodgers was very much a man of his time, one who did not show emotion easily–he expressed it through his music–and how wonderful that music is.  There is some stunning music in Rex, and I take no small pride in that, hoping that it is was inspired by my libretto.  Rodgers was a brilliant, witty man, a political and social progressive who lived what he believed–and he influenced my life in one important way.   I learned from watching him how one survives illness, old age, and losses by continuing to work–to keep drawing from within, rather than looking to the world for pity or comfort.   After Rex my wife and I were frequent guests of Dorothy and Dick Rodgers, both in NYC and in Connecticut–they were gracious and so appreciative of our friendship.   Friendship is a talent like any other.  It requires the ability to look beyond the self and take a true interest in the lives of others. Many biographers have stressed the negative side of Rodgers–a view encouraged by his late daughter Mary.  My experience, however, as his friend was altogether different.  But I know, from my early life, that we are many things to different people.  My father employed the handicapped and minorities in his sweater factory–nobody did that at that time.  He had an understanding of suffering and, in his work, he acted on his best instincts–this man, beloved by his employees, was an altogether different man than the terror we faced at home.  That is part of the mystery of being human. 

Do you consider yourself lucky?  

Yes, in family and friendships.   Some days when I consider the plays I have written that I love, those which have yet to find a production, and the best of my musicals  Josephine Tonight, written with the late composer Wally Harper, one that received superb reviews in Chicago and in Alexandria, I get exasperated that my best work has never come to NYC–I feel unlucky about this musical but I get over it.  It takes so much energy and so much financing to get a play on in this city today that I am happy that I can now devote myself to my memoir writing, and see my work produced in regional theaters.  

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

Read Part 1 of this interview at: http://stagevoices.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=10594&action=edit

View ‘Spotless’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp725x

Photograph permissions

Yellen photos courtesy of Sherman Yellen.

Sheldon Harnick and Sherman Yellen: The Forward.

Norman Rockwell: Saturday Evening Post.

 

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.

 

 

TEENAGE BOY FROM MUMBAI SLUM DANCES WAY TO NY BALLET SCHOOL ·

(Manish Mehta’s article appeared on ABC News, 6/34; via the Drudge Report.)

The son of a welder from this city’s slums had a dream few Indians dared to dream — to dance with the New York City Ballet.

In a few months, that dream may be a little bit closer as 15-year-old Amiruddin Shah begins four years of training at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.

“I never thought I would become a ballet dancer,” Shah said, though he knew from the age of 6 that he loved to move with music. “India is not on the ballet map, and I want to take India to an even higher level.”

Shah began studying ballet less than three years ago when Israeli-American instructor Yehuda Maor was invited by the Danceworx Academy to teach in India — a country with no special ballet academies.

(Read more)

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/wireStory/teenage-boy-mumbai-slum-dances-ny-ballet-school-48248308

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS: AN EXTRAORDINARY CAREER IN ACTING ARTISTRY—IS IT REALLY ALL OVER? ·

(Peter Bradshaw’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/21; via Pam Green.)

So Daniel Day-Lewis has joined Steven SoderberghKen Loach and Jack Nicholson in the ranks of movie greats who have announced that most unthinkably non-showbusiness move: retirement. At the age of just 60, the legendary triple Oscar winner – recipient of more best actor Oscars than anyone in Academy Award history – says that his next film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s fashion drama Phantom Thread, will be his last. As with those other giants, we have to hope that Sir Daniel will soon feel the need to hand back the carriage clock, hang up the golf clubs and resume his vocation.

Of course, most actors do not have the option to retire. Other actors, such as Sean Connery and Gene Hackman, step back at the end of their careers without clearly announcing the fact. For a while, it was thought that Hugh Grant was semi-retired, but he continues to work – and get great notices. But most actors carry on into extreme old age, because they need the money or because this is what they love to do. They act because they must.

Read more

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jun/21/daniel-day-lewis-an-extraordinary-career-of-acting-artistry-is-it-really-all-over

Photo: CNN.com.

THE 30 BEST BROADWAY SONGS OF THE PAST 40 YEARS ·

(Rachel Shukert’s article appeared on Vulture.com, 6/8; via Pam Green.)

What is the modern American musical theater? What are its best songs? When does it even most properly begin? Must we now divide everything into “Before Hamilton and “After Hamilton,” as with the birth of Jesus Christ himself? Phantom of the Opera is still running — would “Before Phantom” and After Phantom” be more appropriate? Is there even one genuinely good song in Phantom? How much Sondheim can you cram into a listicle before even your most dedicated base gets restless? And were there more than three good new musicals on Broadway in the whole of the 1990s? These questions, along with many others, were the ones I asked myself as I sat down to write this list.

Why only the past 40 years? Why not the best show tunes of all time? Well, first of all, because Broadway has been around since the late 19th century, and I’m only one small human being (no matter what Eric Trump might say) and human beings tend to function best within fathomable limits. And also, the past 40 years encapsulate the post-Vietnam era, on Broadway no less than in America itself, and have brought us to our present state of societal and emotional collapse: the cynical Weimar-like decadence of the late ’70s (and also, Annie); the greed, bombast, and conservatism of the ’80s (and the quiet intellectual resistance that sprung up in reaction to it); the AIDS crisis, which devastated New York City, and the Broadway community in particular; the wholesome commercialism of the ’90s and the Disneyfication of Times Square (a cultural phenomenon that, while for many regrettable, is nonetheless important enough that I decided to make eligible songs that originated in Disney movies before turning up on the Great White Way); the confusion and vague paranoia of the early aughts, in a city still reeling in the aftermath of 9/11, and the optimistic, tolerant multiculturalism of the Obama years, which now feels as though it was all an impossible dream, the way it must have to listen to the original soundtrack of Camelot during the Nixon administration.

So that seemed like plenty, and what eventually came out is a list that is deeply personal, probably idiosyncratic, and certainly may not please everyone. I don’t apologize for this (although I do apologize for having never seen, or even listened to, The Light in the Piazza. I’m sure I’ll hear about that, and I know exactly from whom). Because that’s what the musical theater is: a deeply personal, deeply ingrained identification that is often formed early in childhood and never lets go. Different songs mean different things to you at different times in your life; other songs drive you crazy but you find yourself powerless to deny their greatness (and still know every single word. And cry at them, sometimes, when it’s late and you’ve had a couple drinks).

So here are the 30 songs from a few more years than I’ve been around that have meant something to me. And because each of our own realities is finite and definitive, I will say: They are unquestioningly the Greatest 30 Show Tunes of the Past 40 Years. Enjoy, and tell me why I’m wrong in the comments!

  1. “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”(Avenue Q; 2003)

A lot of people are a whole lot racist, is my main takeaway from the past year. But that doesn’t detract from the appeal of this plucky charmer about the ubiquity of microaggressions, in that nostalgic time when America actually had the decency to hide its latent bigotry behind a veneer of shame or at least politesse, and if you wanted to say something really outrageous, it was better to have a big fuzzy orange puppet do it for you. (And it still is, come to think of it, except we were all better off when it was John Tartaglia’s hand up his ass instead of Vladimir Putin’s.)

  1. “Defying Gravity” (Wicked, 2003)

The Venn diagram of Idina Menzel fans and aspiring YouTube tween stars is not so much a diagram as a single solid circle, and without Stephen Schwartz’s (literally) uplifting and defiant ballad of female empowerment, what would they do? (Be stuck singing “Omigod, You Guys” from Legally Blonde over and over again, that’s what.) But what makes “Defying Gravity” such a watershed moment onstage and in song isn’t just the sunny, “You Go Girl #WomenWhoWork” message that women, if they put their minds to it, are unstoppable; it’s the not-so-veiled threat that women, when they put their minds to it, are unstoppable. Wizards everywhere should be very afraid.

  1. “Take Me or Leave Me” (Rent; 1996)

Female duets are few and far between on the Broadway stage (“Every Day a Little Death?” “Marry the Man Today?” “If Mama Was Married”? “I Will Never Leave You”? “Defying Gravity,” sort of? Am I disproving my own point?) Anyway. Girls still tend to outnumber boys in any given Broadway-themed voice class, so whenever there’s something great they can sing together, it deserves recognition. Particularly when it’s a number as fierce and feisty as Maureen and Joanne’s unapologetic lovers’ quarrel from Rent. Other songs in the show are more ubiquitous, more sentimental, more imbued with their own sense of grandeur and tragedy and importance — but none of them are this much fun. All this, and it passes the Bechdel test! And, speaking of Bechdel …

(Read more)

http://www.vulture.com/2017/06/best-broadway-musical-songs.html?utm_source=eml&utm_medium=e1&utm_campaign=sharebutton-t

BROOKLYN ACADEMY OF MUSIC PUTS 70,000 ARCHIVE MATERIALS ONLINE ·

(Joshua Barone’s article appeared in the 6/20 New York Times; via Pam Green.)

More than 70,000 playbills, posters and ephemera from the history of the Brooklyn Academy of Music — from as far back as the Civil War era — are now available through the Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive, which opened to the public on Tuesday.

The archive has been in development for several years, paid for by a $1 million grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, the same organization that funded the New York Philharmonic’s digital collection.

Materials from the archive include press clippings and posters from the Brooklyn Academy’s opening days in the 1860s, when Mary Todd Lincoln was in attendance, as well as items from the institution’s often-adventurous performances by artists including the tenor Enrico Caruso, the choreographer Pina Bausch and the “Einstein on the Beach” collaborators Philip Glass and Robert Wilson.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/arts/brooklyn-academy-of-music-puts-70000-archive-materials-online.html

The BAM collection is available at levyarchive.bam.org.

Photo: The New York Times.

 

SHERMAN YELLEN’S OWN LIFETIME:  THE AWARD-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT, LIBRETTIST, SCREENWRITER, AND LYRICIST ON OLD NEW YORK AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD,  CENTRAL PARK NOW, AND BECOMING  JOHN ADAMS, MAYER ROTHSCHILD, AND THE OBSERVANT CHILD IN HIS NEW MEMOIR ‘SPOTLESS’ ·

 

Sherman Yellen was nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the 1970 musical The Rothschilds, with a score by Fiddler on the Roof songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, which he and Harnick have recently reimagined as Rothschild & Sons. Sherman wrote the libretto for the Will Holt and Gary William Friedman musical Treasure Island, winner of the Broadway World Best Regional Musical Award (2012). Among his many theater works is his satirical sketch “Delicious Indignities,” which appeared in the New York and London revue Oh! Calcutta! His straight plays on and off Broadway include New Gods for LoversStrangers, and December Fools.  

Sherman was librettist and lyricist for Josephine Tonight, an original musical he wrote with the late composer Wally Harper, about the early life of Josephine Baker, which The Chicago Sun-Times called “a shining new musical” and which the D.C. press praised for being “so hot that it sizzles.”

In his youth he worked as a librettist with legendary composer Richard Rodgers. Together with Sheldon Harnick they recently revised the Rodgers-Harnick musical Rex about Henry VIII. This new version had a successful premiere in Toronto.  Yellen’s teleplays have won him two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award, first for his John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America broadcast on NBC, as well as an Emmy Nomination for his Hallmark Hall of Fame version of Beauty and the Beast starring George C. Scott. Sherman’s screenplay adaptations of classic novels range from Great Expectations to Phantom of the Opera. He has received awards in Arts and Letters from Bard College, and he is a frequent contributor of essays on the arts, literature, and politics to online publications such as The Huffington Post.

Sherman recently published his autobiographical novella Cousin Bella–The Whore of Minsk, available in a volume, which also includes his holiday short story A Christmas Lilly,” and a collection of three plays, December Fools and Other Plays (December Fools * Budapest * Gin Lane).  Sherman is married, the father of two sons, Nicholas and Christopher, and has three much loved granddaughters. He has lived in London and Los Angeles, worked in Berlin and Budapest, but home was, is, and always will be New York City.

Sherman Yellen talks, with SV’s Bob Shuman, about his new memoir Spotless: Memories of a New York City Childhood.  The second part, of this three-part interview, will appear, 6/28.

View ‘Spotless’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp725x 

How are the Yellens, the Rothschilds, and the Adamses the same; how are they different?

When I write about people I can only do so by connecting them to myself, my character, my beliefs, and my experiences.   All three: the Yellens, the Rothschilds, and the Adamses come from very different cultures, but what they share is a deep belief that the world must be better, and we must work to make it so.   It may sound foolish but, while writing these very different works, I became John Adams, Mayer Rothschild, and the little boy who inhabits Spotless, the saga of my family.  If we don’t bring ourselves to everything we write, there can be little truth or passion in the writing–it becomes a dry history rather than drama.   The trick is to find some part of yourself in every character you write, even the nasty ones.  For a while I had the joy of being John Adams, Mayer Rothschild, and, late in life, the observant child that I was.   

Did you ever believe that you would excel in writing about families–or how would you describe your new book?

I’ve always had a deep interest in families–what holds them together, what pulls them apart–probably flowing from the closeness of my own family– both my first family, the one in Spotless,  and the second, with my wife, Joan, which has lasted nearly 64 years.  I am deeply interested in how we remember those who are gone:  For me, Spotless was an attempt to recall and recreate what I had experienced as a child of the ‘30s and ‘40s–to go deeper yet into that world of my grandparents and parents: their journey, from European and Lower East Side poverty to affluence, and the cost of it, for everyone who traveled that very American path.   It is summed up by critic/novelist Christopher Davis who said, “Spotless is a story of family love trapped in the old world’s hurricane of desire to share in American dreaming.”

How did you decide on the title?  Tell us about it.

The title Spotless has several meanings–it certainly has little to do with that questioning, and somewhat judgmental, child on the cover of the book, a born observer:  indeed, the title has more to do with my mother’s use of the word to describe the character of a friend, a housekeeper, or the kitchen floor in our apartment.  In a sense it was her ideal.  She came from a world where half her family died of TB–spots on the lung were the sign of that disease.  To be Spotless was, for her, to be safe, healthy, and to be alive.  

You write that hardship “doesn’t often make people better, it just makes them harder.” You are referring to the Depression and the ‘40s.  Have you noticed other periods when people became harder–and have there been times when they seemed otherwise? 

My observation is a generalization, and, like most, it is only partially true.   There are people who rise up from their own despair to help others in the worst of times, but I have observed that many who have suffered are locked into their own cages of suffering, and they have not found a key to escape.  I do believe that we learn and grow more from kindness than from suffering.  Corny?  Maybe.  But I have found the truth in this over a long lifetime.

What do you miss most about the New York you grew up in (the book brings up cultural references, such as Baby Peggy, Olive Thomas, and Sonja Henie)? 

I miss so many of the old pleasures of the old NYC: the trolley cars in the Bronx, the double-decker buses on Fifth Avenue, the old Schrafft’s restaurants, where my parents took me for a Sunday lunch, and I miss the mom-and-pop stores that helped to create the New York of neighborhoods–I miss the old Reuben’s Restaurant, of the 1950s, which allowed my wife and I to dine with our schnauzer Gus seated beside us–before the health police took charge of the city.   I love the spirit of that city, before real estate became the King of New York, driving the small shopkeepers out and bringing in those ubiquitous banks and chain stores.  And I miss the affordable price of a theater ticket, and the smaller, more human scale of the city.  An example of that is the old MOMA.  I would go there with my friends and girlfriends, as a teenager at the High School of Music & Art–a kid who loved fine art–and it was a welcoming place.  Today, it is a glass palace, an expensive tourist spot, not the warm, second home for many art-loving city kids.  Needless to say, I loved the New York that didn’t have a Trump Tower and kept its Trumps sequestered in Queens.

I am not one who subscribes to the idea that the high cost of living in NYC is proportionate with the cost of living in the past.  Baloney!  The world was affordable for those who were not in the one percent.  It was there for most of the residents–even during the Depression.  I miss the courtesies that made for a gentler city, and oh Lord, do I miss those marvelous movie theaters–growing up, as I did, in the golden age of Hollywood.  Nothing short of heaven itself can replicate the grandeur of the old Loew’s Paradise, on the Grand Concourse, and its sister theaters throughout the boroughs.    I do not miss the bigotry of that time, but we may have traded it in for the repellant hard-nosed ambition that I often see today.   But oh, the beauty of Central Park now–almost nothing compares with it in the past–and the everyday mix of races and classes in NYC makes me proud to be a New Yorker.

View ‘Spotless’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp725x

 

(c) 2017 by Sherman Yellen (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Yellen family photos: Courtesy of the Sherman Yellen. All rights reserved.

Central Park: Fodor’s Travel Guides.

EURIPIDES/ADAPTED AND TRANSLATED BY ANNE CARSON: ‘BAKKHAI’ AT STRATFORD (SV PICK, CANADA) ·

(Carly Maga’s article appeared in the Toronto Star, 6/17.)

Written by Euripides. Adapted and translated by Anne Carson. Directed by Jillian Keiley. Until Sept. 23 at the Tom Patterson Theatre, 111 Lakeside Dr., Stratford. StratfordFestival.ca, 1-800-567-1600.

Is that a deep red leaf painted onto the stage of the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford, Ont. … or is that what I think it is?

In Jillian Keiley’s production of Bakkhai (otherwise known as Euripides’ The Bacchae), using the 2015 version adapted by Canadian poet Anne Carson, the double meaning of Shawn Kerwin’s set as both a representation of nature as well as female sexuality instantly demonstrates the director’s approach to this classic Greek tragedy. It transforms these two elements into one and the same: organic, primal, brutal if it needs to be. They are forever under the attempted control of man or mankind (this is a blazingly contemporary play, if not only for its discussion of sexual politics but also for the way man’s relationship to global warming is still somehow considered a debate).

There’s a reason why Dionysos holds his Bacchanalian rituals on mountaintops, uses a thyrsus staff of ivy and pine cones, and encourages his followers to drape themselves in grapevines. He also orchestrates the climax of Bakkhai to occur among the trees of Mount Cithaeron, bringing the doomed King Pentheus from the protection of the city and quite deliberately out of his element, into the elements.

(Read more)

https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/stage/2017/06/17/hubris-is-the-real-villain-in-stratfords-bakkhai-review.html

‘MEASURE FOR MEASURE’ FROM THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE (POLONSKY SHAKESPEARE CENTER)–NEXT SHOW ON THE STAGE VOICES CALENDAR ·

MEASURE FOR MEASURE

 

“Simon Godwin crafts an appropriately unsettling rendition of this disturbing comedy of sexual politics.” – Metro NY

 

MEASURE FOR MEASURE

A Dark Comedy By WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Featuring JONATHAN CAKE, CARA RICKETTS, & THOMAS JAY RYAN
Directed by SIMON GODWIN

“Simon Godwin directs Shakespeare’s problematic play about repression, lust, and hypocrisy—a few human characteristics that never go out of style.” – The New York Times

“One of the best Shakespeare productions this Spring…Simon Godwin crafts an appropriately unsettling rendition of this disturbing comedy of sexual politics.” – Metro NY

“Simon Godwin has turned heads with his…innovative stagings of the Bard’s major works.” – Backstage

Simon Godwin, Associate Director, London’s National Theatre, stages Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare’s dark comedy about justice, faith, power, sex, and family. Jonathan Cake, Cara Ricketts, and Thomas Jay Ryan lead a company of 12 actors in a high-stakes conflict of clashing ideologies–a diverse world in which incompatible values collide.

Godwin sets this urgent play in a modern city becoming increasingly authoritarian. The production engages audiences directly with the play’s clashing arguments. Audience members will enter the theatre through hallways transformed into Mistress Overdone’s brothel; some will visit a café where Mariana sings; and twelve will sit around the stage as a jury.

Please note: Measure for Measure contains sexually explicit content which some may find inappropriate for those under 16 years of age.

For this production, the audience will enter the house via a backstage route within the Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Patrons are encouraged to come early to allow time for this element of the production. Please arrive by 1:30pm for matinee performances and 7:00pm for evening performances. 

Please note: Seats in Row AA are positioned apart from the main seating structure and directly in front of the stage. Click here to view the seating charts for this production.

Run Time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission

SPECIAL EVENTS

TFANA TALKS:
Join us for our free post-show conversations with artists and scholars that will take place after the

Saturday matinee performances on July 1 and July 8.

POST-SHOW PARTIES:
Join us for a party with the cast and crew after the evening performance on Sunday, June 18.

Every ticket purchased to that evening performance includes a drink ticket for use at the party.

ALICE BIRCH: ‘ANATOMY OF A SUICIDE’, DIRECTED BY KATIE MITCHELL (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/12.)

What determines our character? Nature or nurture? Genetic inheritance or social environment? It is an age-old debate, and Alice Birch now adds to it with this startling theatrical triptych about three generations of mothers and daughters. Whatever my doubts about Birch’s conclusion, the play is odd, arresting and, in Katie Mitchell’s immaculate production, highly original in its form.

Birch’s progress as a writer has been fascinating to watch. She delivered a short, sharp shock in 2014 with Revolt, She Said, Revolt Again which was a subversive, playful piece calling for revolution in everything from sexual relationships to the workplace. In 2015, the Orange Tree brought us an earlier Birch play, Little Light, about sibling rivalries, that suffered from too much withheld information. Since then Birch has written a polemical piece about porn, We Want You to Watch; the admired Ophelias Zimmer, which I missed; and the recent film Lady Macbeth, which transposed a Russian novel to Victorian England and got a five-star review from Peter Bradshaw.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/jun/12/anatomy-of-a-suicide-review-royal-court-alice-birch-katie-mitchell