Monthly Archives: February 2019

LANDMARK BROADWAY DEAL GIVES ACTORS A PIECE OF THE PROFITS ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/11; via Pam Green.)

Broadway is booming, and now more actors are going to share in the riches.

In a groundbreaking agreement Friday, the commercial producers who finance Broadway’s big hits have agreed to give a percentage of profits to performers who help develop successful shows.

The deal, reached between Actors’ Equity, a union representing 51,000 performers and stage managers, and the Broadway League, a trade organization for producers, is a milestone, marking the first time that the industry’s financiers have tacitly agreed to acknowledge that performers are contributing ideas, not just labor, to shaping new musicals and plays.

Hit shows already generate paydays for producers, directors and stars; many of them now will bring steady if modest paychecks to the supporting actors and dancers, some of whom still take survival jobs, like waiting tables, between shows.

“Creating a new show is hard,” said Mary McColl, the union’s executive director. “If we’re along for that ride at the beginning, for not much money, we think we should be able to share in the success once it has recouped its expenses.”

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ALBERT FINNEY, LEGENDARY STAR OF TOM JONES AND MILLER’S CROSSING, DIES AGED 82 ·

(Andrew Pulver’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/8; via Pam Green.)

Albert Finney, who forged his reputation as one of the leading actors of Britain’s early 60s new wave cinema, has died aged 82 after a short illness, his family have announced. In 2011, he disclosed he had kidney cancer.

Albert Finney: the most almighty physical screen presence

A publicist told the Guardian that Finney died on Thursday of a chest infection at the Royal Marsden hospital, which specialises in cancer treatment, just outside London. His wife, Pene, and son, Simon, were by his side.

Having shot to fame as the star of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Finney received five Oscar nominations, but never won, and refused a knighthood.

Speaking to the Guardian, Daniel Craig – who starred in Skyfall, Finney’s final film, in which he played a gamekeeper from James Bond’s childhood – said:

“I’m deeply saddened by the news of Albert Finney’s passing. The world has lost a giant. Wherever Albert is now, I hope there are horses and good company.”

The director of that film, Sam Mendes, added: “It is desperately sad news that Albert Finney has gone. He really was one of the greats – a brilliant, beautiful, big-hearted, life loving delight of a man. He will be terribly missed.”

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Photo: Mumby at the Movies

ECLIPSES GROUP THEATRE NEW YORK:  ‘HERCULES:  IN SEARCH OF A HERO’ (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Eclipses Group Theatre New York (EGTNY), a nonprofit that “serves as a cultural bridge between Greece and The United States,” is presenting  Hercules:  In Search of a Hero, inspired by EuipidesAlcestis and Hercules until February 10 at Abrons Arts Center.  The evening offers singing, dancing, film sequences, and two plays, by the “the most tragic of all poets,” translated by Demetri Bonaros, edited, and spliced together.  The texts present Hercules as he, first, makes the decision to bring back Alcestis from Hades (she has sacrificed herself for her husband) and, second, as the demigod inadvertently kills his own family, which may remind of The Bacchae.  But is the audience meant to interpret the latter act as retribution for the former?

As a cultural project for Greek artists, as well as others, Hercules appears a worthy locus for investigation and experiment, but talking beyond the community, to a larger audience, without the knowledge base of the company, viewers need ballast to stay centered in a cold theatre, in winter. According to director, Ioanna Katsarous, Hercules: In Search of a Hero is asking what heroism is in our times:  “Is an act heroic if it involves violence?  Where is the place of women in the modern mythology of heroism, and do we need to create new mythologies and eventually a new concept of the world?”  These inquiries may or may not be critical to considering Euripides, but would many actually reject the idea that women display acts of heroism? Was not Athena a warrior Goddess? Sometimes revisionism can seem only a caterpillar sentenced for not being a butterfly. Purely from a nonacademic, nonfeminist standpoint, though, the evening’s clarity, linearity, and meaning are what are at stake: we are in the past and present, as well as in the worlds of two plays. Aristotle would probably look at this piece and say that unity is lacking.  What’s a quick fix for that?  Study the ancient Greeks.

‘HERCULES:  IN SEARCH OF A HERO’

The cast includes Luisa Alarcón (Lonely Leela at HERE), Demetri Bonaros (The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Theatre at 45 Bleecker), Luke Couzens (Macbeth at Stages on the Sound), Helena Farhi (what she found at Frigid Festival), Alexandra Skendrou (Carnegie Hall, Bruno Walter Auditorium) and Taj Sood.

The production team includes Christos Alexandridis (Set Design), Christina Watanabe (Lighting Design), Marina Gkoumla (Costume Design), Alex Agisilaou (Video Design), Ioanna Katsarou (Dramaturge) and Anastasia Thanasoula (Production Stage Manager).

Performances are Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm with an added show on Sunday, January 27 at 6pm. Tickets are $25 and $20 (students and seniors). Purchase at http://www.AbronsArtsCenter.org or by calling 212-598-0400. The running time is 75 minutes. For more info visit https://www.egtny.com, Like them on Facebook at /egtny (https://www.facebook.com/egtny), and follow on Twitter (https://twitter.com/EclipsesGTNY) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/eclipsesgtny) at @eclipsesgtny.

Photos by Selim Cayligil: Luke Couzens as Hercules.

Press: David Gibbs | DARR Publicity

© by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

HENRIK IBSEN: ‘ROSMERSHOLM’ (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3—LINK BELOW) ·

HENRIK IBSEN: ‘ROSMERSHOLM’

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Rebekka West, the visionary, passionate heroine of ‘Rosmersholm’ inspired the English novelist to adopt that name. Ibsen’s most complex play sees a society in turmoil through the lens of pastor John Rosmer and Rebekka, his social-revolutionary companion. Rosmer is recovering from the suicide of his unstable wife, Beata. Now Rebekka, replacing her in his affections, urges him to surrender his privileged place in conservative Norwegian society. A local elite plot to make him hold to the status quo. Can Rebekka prevail? Translated by Frank McGuinness and featuring music by Norwegian composer Marius Munthe-Kaas.

Music composed and arranged by Marius Munthe-Kaas
Music supervisor, Giles Perring
Gro Hole Austgulen (violin), Elin Kleppa Michalsen (violin), Anna Cecilia Johansson (viola), Olav Stener Olsen (cello)

Translated by Frank McGuinness
Adapted and directed by Peter Kavanagh

‘Rosmersholm’ premiered at the National Theatre, London, in 1987.

Credits

Role Contributor
Author Henrik Ibsen
John Rosmer Nicholas Farrell
Rebekka West Helen Baxendale
Professor Kroll Ronald Pickup
Ulrik Brendel Karl Johnson
Peder Mortensgaard Philip Jackson
Mrs Helseth Christine Absolom
Composer Marius Munthe-Kaas
Adaptor Peter Kavanagh
Director Peter Kavanagh

‘IONESCO SUITE’ AT BAM AND ‘GREY ROCK’ AT LA MAMA (REVIEWS FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Certain dramatists really can imprint their visions enough on audiences so that, after a play is over, the world seems reorganized.  Ibsen, in Peer Gynt, as directed by Ingmar Bergman, could do this and so can Beckett, who retreats to isolated settings and characters.  In  Ionesco Suite from the Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, which played at BAM Fisher, from to January 23-26,  the French playwright, whom The New Yorker correspondent Janet Flanner noted, started in Paris in the mid-‘50s, “as an unknown, penniless Romanian in the avant-garde little theatres” and was , ultimately seen at the Comédie-Français and internationally, reflects society in a circus mirror, or as the dramatist would accede, a puppet show (although some of his characters don’t want to be puppets!).  Flanner, who wrote about Ionesco’s Hunger and Thirst in Paris, in the ‘60s, found his work “stimulating” but “addling,” although adherents insist that Ionesco’s ouvre accurately depicts the human

Brooklyn, NY – 23 January 2019. The final rehearsal prior to the New York premiere of Director Emanuel Demarcy-Mota’s Ionesco Suite at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fishman Space.

condition.  A first look at the work, when compared to conventional American or movie realism, can seem an unnecessary impropriety (Ionesco felt “our existence is unimaginable, unthinkable,” but his Absurdism helps define American downtown theatre, as well as many American playwrights, who have been influenced by him (Arthur Kopit, John Guare, Christopher Durang, Tina Howe, David Ives, Albert Innaurato, and more). The dramatist has not ascended to the level of Beckett (whom Ionesco considered “a great man”), which might have to do with his not writing in English (actually, the Tony Award-winning Irish director Garry Hynes may have made her recent production of Waiting for Godot more accessible by infusing it with Ionesco’s cartoonishness).  Presenting selections from Ionesco pieces is not a new idea, though–many of the plays are short and traditionally played together, such as The Bald Soprano and The Lesson, and aficionados will recall a 1974 musical called Ionescopade, revived in 2012 by the York Theatre Company, also  an anthology of the playwright’s work.  Ionesco Suite, however,  lets modern theatregoers see a French production (with English surtitles) of his work—under the direction of Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, who, as an experiment,  “just sat listening . . . taking pleasure in rediscovering each one (of the pieces), letting [himself] be fascinated. . . .”

The first of the five texts in Ionesco Suite is Jack, or the Submission, where a young man, in a child’s birthday hat, is called, by his family, “ungrateful,” a monster,” and  “not worthy of his ancestors” (his sister, in red pigtails, is played by a man, gliding around the stage kneeling on a dolley).  Nevertheless this grave disappointment, “disowned,”  can challenge Beckett’s despairing existentialism. The costumes and makeup (by Fanny Brouse and Catherine Nicholas, respectively, in dark colors, with dangerous splashes of red or purple, are ghoulish, mime white.  The early pacing is intentionally slow, to purposefully allow for acceleration throughout the evening, in a production which is masterfully paced), and the actors, five men and two women: Charles-Roger Bour, Jauris Casanova, Sandra Faure, Sarah Karbasnikoff, Stephan Krähenbühl, Walter N’Guyen,  and Gérald Maillet) may deal directly with those in the audience.  The young man, awaiting his cake, observes the world in disbelief:  “Nothing else to do.” The theatre even begins reeking of urine.

Brooklyn, NY – 23 January 2019. Walter N’Guyen (seated) and Charles-Roger Bour in the final rehearsal prior to the New York premiere of Director Emanuel Demarcy-Mota’s Ionesco Suite at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fishman Space.

Ionesco and Beckett have also both been said to show the breakdown and failure of language and communication.  In watching Ionesco Suite, however, primarily in Delirium for Two and The Bald Soprano (the fifth play in the evening is Conversation and French Speech Exercises) the dramatist seems to be commenting on the failure of logic. Ionesco, for instance, gives us a proof that a turtle and snail are the same animal and provides a syllogism for discovering who must be ringing a doorbell (and then disappearing when a front door is opened). Demarcy-Mota arranges the evening around  social conventions associated with meals—besides a birthday, a wedding, and family meals also become focal points, set  at a long banquet table, while his characters demand to be defined, sometimes even seeming to be deliver Yogi-isms: “The children my age were also little.”  The Lesson is played exceptionally well in this production, between two men, one as a young girl (now in a blonde wig) who can add, but not subtract, and her sadistic instructor.  Ionesco, who lied in occupied France during World War II, blamed “demi-intellectuals” for the rise of Nazism, fascism, and the Left (those who subscribe to sloganeering): “Writers, journalists, professors, and the like” are his rhinoceroses.

Another playwright concerned with “mass mind” is Amir Nizar Zuabi, whose Grey Rock examines the effect of occupation on the lives of contemporary Palestinians.  Like Ionesco, or perhaps because of him, Zuabi, who also directed the play, finds his way to absurdism, as his characters work to launch a rocket to the moon. The society he characterizes is consumerist, and not politically violent, which may challenge assumptions about the Occupied Palestinian Territory—the lives are mundance, “only able to react to the present.”  Then an Ionescian-like line helps the characters find their bearings:  “Stop thinking like a clerk; like a victim!”  Grey Rock, commissioned by Remote Theater Project, was presented at La MaMa from January 3-7 and was played with determination by its Palestinian actors:  Khalifa NatourIvan Kevork AzazianFida ZaidanAlaa Shehada, and Motaz Malhis. The creative team included Tal Yarden (set & video design) and Nicole Pearce (lighting design). They ask us to dream, use our curiosity and imagination, for even in America (a land which helped inspire Grey Rock), it has taken almost fifty years to decide to walk on the lunar surface again.

Ionesco said that theatre “must be simplified and grotesque” and that “comedy is more tragic than tragedy.”  Perhaps he would agree that when correctly staged, Ionescian writing can scramble the brain—and produce an “alternative fact”; as an instance, take trying to find the number 2 train at the Atlantic Avenue/ Barclays Center station after watching Ionesco Suite at BAM.   The scene is a cold night, the day the Shutdown has ended. The feeling one gets is vertigo.

Visit: BAM Fisher

Visit: http://lamama.org/

Photos: ‘Grey Rock’: Carlos Cardona; ‘Ionesco Suite’: BAM

© 2019  by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.