Monthly Archives: January 2018

AT SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK, EVERYDAY NEW YORKERS WILL TAKE THE STAGE ·

(Peter Libbey’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/22; via Pam Green.)

This summer, the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park will be both for the people of New York and by the people of New York.

From July 17 to Aug. 19, two rotating ensembles of New Yorkers from all five boroughs will appear alongside five equity actors at the Delacorte Theater in a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub, with music and lyrics by Ms. Taub.

This will be the first time the Public has included a production from its participatory theater program, Public Works, in its regular summer program.

“This summer, we are making a huge leap forward by presenting a full-length run of a Public Works show,” said Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater’s artistic director, in a statement. “Surrounded by a huge ensemble of community members, ‘Twelfth Night’ will reach an enormously expanded audience with the deep Public Works message that everyone is an artist, and we are all in this together.”

(Read more)

Photo: Joan Marcus

LUCY PREBBLE: ‘THE EFFECT’  (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3–LINK BELOW) ·

‘THE EFFECT’

by Lucy Prebble.

Listen

Starring Jessie Buckley, Christine Entwisle, Damien Molony and Samuel West.

“I can tell the difference between who I am and a side effect.”

Award-winning chemical romance. 

Connie (Jessie Buckley – ‘The Last Post’, ‘Taboo’) and Tristan (Damien Molony – ‘Crashing’, ‘Being Human’) are taking part in a clinical trial for a new psychoactive drug. So when they start to feel attracted to each other, can they really trust how they feel?

A profound, and funny, play about love, depression and selfhood, winner of the Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play when it was performed at the National Theatre in 2012.

Dr Lorna James …. Christine Entwisle
Connie …. Jessie Buckley
Tristan …. Damien Molony
Dr Toby Sealey …. Samuel West

Composer, Richard Hammarton
Writer, Lucy Prebble
Director, Abigail le Fleming

THE WRITER
Lucy Prebble is a writer for film, television, games and theatre. Before THE EFFECT she wrote the hugely successful ENRON (2010). Her first play, THE SUGAR SYNDROME (2003), won her the George Devine Award and was performed at the Royal Court.
Lucy is an Associate Artist at the Old Vic Theatre.
For television, she is the creator of the TV series SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL. She is Co-Executive Producer and writer on HBO’s media mogul drama, SUCCESSION.

THE COMPOSER
Richard Hammarton is a composer and sound designer for Theatre, TV and Film. His work has been heard throughout the UK and Internationally. He was part of the design team that won the Manchester Evening News “Best Design” award for DR FAUSTUS in 2010 and was Sound Designer for the Olivier Award winning play, THE MOUNTAINTOP. He also worked on the Ivor Novello winning RIPPER STREET for TV.

 

JOYCE’S ‘ULYSSES’ IN BERLIN: NO DUBLIN, NO PUBS, NO BROTHELS, SO GERMAN ·

(Derek Scally’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 1/24. Photo: Berlin Buhnen.)

Joyce’s famous work is getting a radical reworking in Berlin by director Sebastian Hartmann

Five minutes into my interview about the new stage production of Ulysses at Berlin’s Deutsches Theater, the director and his leading man have supplied three crucial pieces of information.

First, the evening will be four hours long. Second, neither Dublin nor the main characters will feature. Third, someone’s willy will get an airing during the evening – but they’re not saying whose.

It’s three days before the premiere and my interview with Ulysses director Sebastian Hartmann and actor Ulrich Matthes is skidding off the rails.

“I have left out everything to do with the Dublin milieu, the pubs and the brothels,” says Hartmann, promising a “non-narrative theatre evening with no main figures or exposition”.

Matthes who, like the rest of the cast, created the evening in collaboration with the director, chimes in.

(Read more)

VLADIMIR VYSOTSKY SONGS THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BE ACCEPTED BY RUSSIANS ·

(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 1/25.)

He was a sex symbol, the Soviet Kurt Cobain whose star burned brightly and was soon extinguished. Unique in all ways, you won’t confuse Vladimir Vysotsky’s voice with any other: It will sear your soul.

Born into a poor family in Moscow in the turbulent year of 1938, Vladimir Vysotsky went on to become a very talented singer, songwriter and actor. Among his best roles in cinema are the police captain in the TV series, The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed; the White Army officer in Two Comrades Were Serving; and Don Juan in Little Tragedies. His most famous theater role was Hamlet at the Taganka Theater, Moscow’s progressive stage in the 1960s-1970s.

(Read more)

https://www.rbth.com/arts/327360-5-vysotsky-songs-you-need-know

 

ORSON WELLES AND SHAKESPEARE ·

(from Folger Shakespeare Library; via Pam Green.)

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 89

There was a time when Orson Welles was one of America’s biggest celebrities. 

In 1938, he made national headlines when the radio show he produced did a version of The War of the Worlds that was so realistic people actually thought the country was under attack by Martians. Then he went to Hollywood and made Citizen Kane, which is still considered one of the greatest movies of all time. And he did all of this by the age of 26.

For his entire life though, Welles’s obsession was Shakespeare. He produced and starred in Shakespeare plays on Broadway and directed and starred in multiple versions of Shakespeare’s work on film, including Chimes at Midnight.

Our guest is Michael Anderegg, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of North Dakota and the author of Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture.

(Go to site)

 

 

ROGER FRIEDMAN: STEVEN SPIELBERG IS REMAKING “WEST SIDE STORY,” PRO-FORMA CASTING CALL GOES OUT FOR LEADS ·

(Roger Friedman’s article appeared on Showbiz 411, 1/25; via the Drudge Report.)

There’s a place for Steven Spielberg, and apparently it’s on New York’s Upper West Side in the 1950s. A casting call has gone out for a remake of “West Side Story,” written by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner, author of Spielberg’s terrific “Lincoln” screenplay and, of course, “Angels in America.”

It’s a pro-forma casting call because, in the end, the new “West Side Story” is going to need stars. Big names. And because of the setting and the time we are in, it’s going to need actual Puerto Ricans or Latinos for the parts of characters like Maria, Anita, and Bernardo. There will be no fudging this in 2018. The casting call says in capital letters: MUST BE ABLE TO SPEAK SPANISH.

(Read more)

STEVE COSSON: ‘THE UNDERTAKING’ FROM THE CIVILIANS (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

In Steve Cosson’s stage documentary on dying , The Undertaking (conceived in collaboration with Jessica Mitrani)–playing until February 4, at 59E59–vibrant, theatrical life comes from Aysan Celik and Dan Domingues jumping in and out of characters, like ones possessed, “ventriloquizing.” The term, discussed by philosopher Simon Critchley, who is impersonated in the show (and has been interviewed for it) posits that actors, in character, are  haunted by ghosts (the dramatic role itself), “a being about whom we cannot know for sure whether it is alive or dead.  It seems to be both.” Because Cosson provides a number of varied personalities in the work, The Undertaking highlights the transformative abilities of its two actors, speaking verbatim dialogue and imitating the playwright’s interviewees (whom the audience hears in recordings), whether they be Critchley or a South American who has eaten hallucinogenic plants, the actor and director of the Ridiculous Theatre Everett Quinton, or a woman recounting a near-death experience, among others. 

Yet, despite his “palpable fear,” Cosson, who approaches current secular, perhaps faddish, thinking on dying, does not mention popular writers of the recent past, such as Harold M. Sherman and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (what Ms. Celik would do with a German accent), who could actually help him. Whether or not Marcel Duchamp has a pithy quotation about death on his gravestone only helps people think about death fashionably, and Cosson seems to limit his discussion by not incorporating wider religious or spiritual perspectives.  Obviously, the subject is uncomfortable for many, yet probably most maintain thoughts similar to the writer’s:  “I feel like my particular relationship to [the] fear is that it’s so constant and so integrated that I rarely even experience it as fear. I just experience it as this, uh, this sort of, u uh, disquieting presence.”  Still, Cosson can’t dramatize his feeling, beyond constructing a combine and describing it.  Whereas Williams, Albee, Beckett, or Bergman would show the cold terror–maybe even solemn grandeur–in moving close to death, Cosson decides to throw a blanket over his head and hide.

Director, as well as a writer, he also uses footage of classic film, a technique, in the avant-garde toolkit, overused today (also in January, Split Britches  rolled  clips from Dr. Strangelove for Unexploded Ordnances, for example).  Orpheus, the film referred to in Cosson’s piece, can be seen as parallel to the events of The Undertaking and is also drawn from an earlier story: the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Cocteau sets his version in the modern day (the middle of the last century), and the script is the product of imaginative dramatic writing. Comparatively, Cosson has so overintellectualized his search for an understanding of dying that his performance piece can seem like a dramatic lecture or nonfiction book, a well-paced, well-produced evening of staged footnotes.  He also misses dramatizing the story of his mother, not portrayed,  whom the audience is told is currently in a nursing home with MS.  Like Hamlet’s father, however, she may be the ghost demanding to be remembered most.

© 2018 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.

Photo:  Dan Domingues and Aysan Celik in THE UNDERTAKING at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Visit 59E59

THE UNDERTAKING

CAST

Aysan Celik*
Dan Domingues* 

CREATIVE TEAM

Written and directed by Steve Cosson
Creative Collaborator and Psychopomp: Jessica Mitrani
Set and Costume Design: Marsha Ginsberg
Lighting Design: Thomas Dunn
Sound Design: Mikhail Fiksel
Projection Design: Tal Yarden
Stage Manager: Geoff Boronda*
Assistant Stage Manager: Rachael Gass*
Production Manager: Ron Nilson
Producer: Margaret Moll 

ADDITIONAL STAFF FOR THE UNDERTAKING

Assistant Set and Costume Designer: Blake Palmer
Sound Design Associate: Lee Kinney

Dramaturgy: Jocelyn Clarke and Jacey Erwin

Interviews conducted by Steve Cosson, Jessica Mitrani, and Leonie Ettinger.

*appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association
member of United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829

Press: Karen Greco

PINTER: ‘THE BIRTHDAY PARTY’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/18.)

“The first test of any work of art,” claimed George Orwell, “is survival.” If that is true, it is one Harold Pinter’s play passes with flying colours.

Derided on its debut in 1958, 60 years on The Birthday Party has lost none of its capacity to intrigue. In Ian Rickson’s starry production, it emerges not simply as a rep thriller filtered through a European sensibility – a cross between Agatha Christie and Kafka, as a German director once said – but as a play of intense psychological realism.

It is well known that the action concerns the abduction from a seaside boarding house of a recalcitrant lodger, Stanley, by a pair of visitors. But Rickson immediately establishes the plausibility of the situation. Meg and Petey, who own the house, are often played as cartoon grotesques. Here, however, there is a key moment when Zoë Wanamaker’s trim, doting Meg and Peter Wight’s sturdily reliable Petey exchange wistful glances over the breakfast table about the son they never had. Instantly this establishes Stanley as their surrogate child, and explains why Wanamaker drops her shopping bags in terror on first encountering the visitors.

(Read more)

 

SIMON CALLOW: THE EMPEROR ROBESON ·

Paul Robeson as Othello, 1944; photograph by Carl Van Vechten

(Callow’s article appeared in the New York Review of Books, 2/8.

Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary

by Gerald Horne

Pluto, 250 pp., $18.00 (paper)

No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson

by Jeff Sparrow

Scribe, 292 pp., $19.95 (paper)

Paul Robeson as Othello, 1944; photograph by Carl Van Vechten

When I was growing up in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, Paul Robeson was much in evidence, on records, on the radio, on television. His name was haloed with the sort of respect accorded to few performers. The astonishing voice that, like the Mississippi in the most famous number in his repertory, just kept rolling along, seemed to carry within it an inherent sense of truth. There was no artifice; there were no vocal tricks; nothing came between the listener and the song. It commanded effortless attention; perfectly focused, it came from a very deep place, not just in the larynx, but in the experience of what it is to be human. In this, Robeson resembled the English contralto Kathleen Ferrier: both seemed less trained musicians than natural phenomena.

The spirituals Robeson had been instrumental in discovering for a wider audience were not simply communal songs of love and life and death but the urgent cries of a captive people yearning for a better, a juster life. These songs, rooted in the past, expressed a present reality in the lives of twentieth-century American black people, citizens of the most powerful nation on earth but oppressed and routinely humiliated on a daily basis. When Robeson sang the refrain of “Go Down Moses”—“Let my people go!”—it had nothing to do with consolation or comfort: it was an urgent demand. And in the Britain in which I grew up, he was deeply admired for it. For us, he was the noble representative, the beau idéal, of his race: physically magnificent, finely spoken, fiercely intelligent, charismatic but not at all threatening.

(Read more)

REVIEW: A WONDROUS ‘PINOCCHIO’ WITH THAT ‘LION KING’ MAGIC ·

(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/ 4; via Pam Green.)

LONDON — The most uncanny thing of all about the National Theaterproduction of “Pinocchio” — a show that is wondrously strange from top to bottom — is how simple it appears. This may seem an unlikely characterization of an obviously expensive musical, replete with special effects that brim well over the edges of the National’s vast Lyttelton stage.

Yet this adaptation of the 1940 animated Walt Disney classic, directed by John Tiffany and designed by Bob Crowley, exudes the rough magic of a world that seems shaped, by hand and before your eyes, from rudimentary elements. Step ladders, strings and ropes, blocks of wood, the letters of the alphabet: Such is the basic visual vocabulary that is deployed to retell the familiar story of an existentially challenged puppet’s quest to become human.

In this regard, “Pinocchio” comes into being as if through the eyes of a child, whose gaze transforms the mundane into whatever the imagination (and perhaps the Jungian subconscious) wills. The show’s scale, too, is that of a little boy for whom the world looms dauntingly and tantalizingly large, where grown-ups appear as giants who are not entirely real. Or not as real, in any case, as a child’s own sovereign self.

For while the marionette of the title is portrayed by a fully grown adult actor (the perfectly cast newcomer Joe Idris-Roberts), he is less than half the size of many of the figures with whom he shares the stage. That includes the artisan father who carved him into life, Geppetto (Mark Hadfield), and the mysterious, otherworldly guardian known as the Blue Fairy (Annette McLaughlin).

(Read more)