Monthly Archives: June 2019

BROADWAY: LIBERACE MUSICAL BASED ON HBO MOVIE “BEHIND THE CANDELABRA” FINALLY ON THE WAY, PRODUCERS WANT BRADLEY COOPER ·

(Roger Friedman’s article appeared on Showbiz 411, 7/29.)

Liberace and his glittering pianos are finally on track for Broadway.

For the last couple of years, movie producer David Permut–who just produced the all-star Mueller Report reading– has been trying to line up the right elements for this project.

But now all systems seem ‘go.’ Permut has got the rights to HBO’s award winning mini series, “Behind the Candelabra,” which starred Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover, Scott Thorson. The mini series won tons of awards.

Permut tells me now it’s time to think about who will play the flamboyant superstar. In a perfect world, he wants Bradley Cooper. Now that we know Cooper can sing and play instruments, this makes sense. It’s a potential Tony Award winner.

The prospective director would be Christopher Ashley, who won the Tony in 2017 for “Come from Away” and is the director of the La Jolla Playhouse. “Behind the Candelabra” will start there.

(Read more

***** ‘THEATRE FOR ONE’ (REVIEW PICK, IE) ·

(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in The Irish Times, 6/25.)

Thought-provoking theatre where the audience is just you

Review: Theatre for One’s six microplays are bracing, intimate-as-a-whisper performances

THEATRE FOR ONE

Outside Cork Opera House
★★★★★
Annie Ryan of Corn Exchange once described her Car Show, which played to no more than three passengers at a time back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as “the best show you never saw”. Now, conspiring to populate Octopus Theatricals’ tiny collapsible venue with microplays from the nation’s finest writers and performers, Landmark Productions has a new claim to that title. The only thing these bracing, thought-provoking and intimate-as-a-whisper five-minute, one-on-one performances can’t satisfy is demand.

The structure that greets you outside Cork Opera House (which is presenting the show with Cork Midsummer Festival) is something between a giant gig case and a magician’s box. That seems appropriate. Srda Vasiljevic and Eoghan Carrick, their directors, make the plays feel as immediate as a song, revealing and then concealing their performers, as a kind of conjuring act. Now you see them. Now you don’t.

In that blink of intensity neither the playwrights, the actors nor the audience ever seemed so electrically aware of each other or, for that matter, themselves.

(Read more)

Photos: Irish Times

A PLAY DISSECTED WHITE PRIVILEGE IN EDUCATION. THEN THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL BROKE. ·

(Nancy Coleman’s article appeared in the New York Times, 6/21; via Pam Green.)

Jeremy Wechsler was on his way to rehearsal one morning in March when his phone started, and then wouldn’t stop, going off.

The artistic director of Chicago’s Theater Wit was at the helm of “Admissions,” a wry glimpse at privilege and educational opportunity through the eyes of a white teenager — deferred from his dream school — and his parents, officials focused on diversifying their East Coast boarding school. The play was set to begin performances in just over a week.

As Mr. Wechsler made his way to the theater, he got one text after another — “Have you seen this?” — with links to that morning’s unfolding news: Federal prosecutors had charged 50 parents, coaches and test administrators in a wide-reaching college admissions scheme, a scandal implicating wealthy families who, according to the Justice Department, had cheated, bribed and photoshopped their children’s way into elite universities.

“Admissions,” which was written by Joshua Harmon and opened Off Broadway exactly a year before the scandal broke, doesn’t have much to say on bribery (or cropping a student’s face onto a water polo player’s body, for that matter). But its overarching themes — how far parents will go to secure opportunities for their children, and the systemic advantages some demographic groups wield over others — reverberated through the emerging details of the scandal.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times

ROB ACKERMAN: ‘DROPPING GUMBALLS ON LUKE WILSON’–THROUGH JULY 6 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK)  ·

By Bob Shuman

Rob Ackerman’s Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson is a cute fake out, with all the commercial patter of a Tootsie or Neil Simon–even David Ives—comedy, but on larger issues, it can only shadowbox: like the Advertising sales phrase, in the business where it is set, it serves the sizzle, instead of the steak.  The generic characters (audiences will recognize them from at least as far back as The Mary Tyler Moore Show) are trying to survive in the entertainment world herd, while making a dissing, nonsensical 2010 AT&T commercial, apparently now considered a classic.  The over-glorified director of the shoot (David Wohl) may be putting an actor at risk, though—and the crew could be deemed complicit, for employing what the play believes to be a startling concept:  Naturalism. The script, which provides more waffling than a presidential impeachment hearing, is indecisive regarding its ending, as well, like it’s Rashomon, yet the obvious solution, which is not done, is to grab the director and throw gumballs at him.  A comparable step would have been a no-brainer for a character like Dorothy Gale, in The Wizard of Oz (1939), who flings water at the Wicked Witch—and kills her.  Marlon Brando stands up against union bigs in On the Waterfront (1954), only to become badly beaten, bruised, and battered.  In 9-5 (1980), three women fantasize, slip up, and take action against their sexist boss. Only in contemporary America are workers, in the entertainment industry, so afraid of their shadows.

The play, from Working Theater, may have provided more insight into artist coercion—such as the car accident in Kill Bill (2003) from Tarantino and Weinstein (his trial is currently set to take place 9/9)—but Ackerman wants to present provocation without ever having to stop being clever.  Uma Thurman, against her better judgment, as many will recall, also performed naturalistically, in unsafe working conditions, from which she sustained neck, head, and knee injuries–never fully recovering: “I went from being a creative contributor and performer to being like a broken tool.”  In Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson, Ackerman can’t match such stakes:  his climatic event is too small (and maybe not so dangerous, given the amount of money the actor is being paid) and his dramaturgy slippery–he ends up seeming like an apologist for gross behavior on set. Where the evening succeeds, however, is in its timing and brisk pacing–the show is only an hour and fifteen minutes, a one act really, which can deliver on old-fashioned laughs, such as a pie throwing montage (the video design is by Yana Biryukova; sound design is by Bart Fasbender, costumes are by Tricia Barsamian, and the all-important properties, by Addison Heeren).  The likable comic actors, almost as recognizable as figures out of commedia dell’arte, include: the eager, young propman (George Hampe), the “pro” electrician (Dean Nolen); the fraught assistant director (Ann Harada), the narcissistic star (Jonathan Sale), and the genius demon manipulator (Wohl).  Watch them at the Mezzanine Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 W. 53rd Street), through July 6, because the smaller, open studio set (by Christopher Swader & Justin Swader; lighting design is by Mary Ellen Stebbins), allows good space for viewing vivid and lively acting (to be transparent, this reviewer attended workshops, at the Lark Play Development Center, where director Teresa Rebeck—also the playwright of Seminar and Bernhardt/Hamlet, among others–was one of the co-leaders, in the early 2000s). 

People will probably enjoy Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson–and be interested in the truth behind it–but, disappointingly, the script recedes to default cultural talking points (even the show’s advertising has the look of a blue Dem campaign poster), such as the need for feminism, disgust with white men (the spewing has gotten so bad an unlikely Meryl Streep has felt the need to come to the defense of boys: “Women can be pretty fucking toxic”), and realization that Verizon sucks.  Of course, in real life, proles aren’t so generic or innocent—position is cemented, in the competitive arts world, through talent and money, politics, legacy, or tribe.  Likewise, people can probably count on two hands the number of creators who are actually original and masters of their crafts.   Ackerman, who inflates the abilities of his fictional director–who does have power–sees the ineptness of the workers who don’t, simply preserving the status quo.  In another play (and movie), Network (2017, 1976), one more entertainment insider, also in TV (an anchorman), shouts, iconically, in exasperation and rage:  “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  Why will the characters in Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson?  What has happened in American culture, where people can’t say no?

© 2019 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

WORKING THEATER

WORLD PREMIERE OF

“DROPPING GUMBALLS ON LUKE WILSON”

BY ROB ACKERMAN

DIRECTED BY THERESA REBECK

Cast:  REYNA DE COURCY (Film: Wetlands), GEORGE HAMPE (MTC’s REGRETS; TV: “Madame Secretary”), ANN HARADA (Broadway’s CINDERELLA, AVENUE Q), DEAN NOLEN (Broadway’s MAMMA MIA!. NY: OMNIUM GATHERUM, TABLETOP), JONATHAN SALE (NY: HANDLE WITH CARE. TV: “God Friended Me”) and DAVID WOHL (Broadway’s FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, DINNER AT EIGHT).

Photos: The New York Times, Playbill

BYUNGKOO AHN: ‘13 FRUITCAKES’ (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Byungkoo Ahn’s distillation of the lives of Leonardo da Vinci, Alan Turing, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Hans Christian Andersen, among others, works so effectively—and is so different from other documentary biographies–because the director and author is more interested in high art than formulaic journalism or encyclopedic profiles.  His 13 Fruitcakes, which recently played at La MaMa for four days–June, 13-16–employs aria and poetry; couture and dance en pointe, never decadently, and always with understated, impeccable taste.  The show’s thirteen musical vignettes (a fraction of the material that could be chosen, of course) are replete with crisp original songs (typically classically oriented, with musical settings that can also recall Stephen Sondheim, Philip Glass, and even the American Old South), composed by Gihieh Lee–in a virtual embarrassment of riches, the  lyrics are by Lorca, Wilde, Whitman and other Queer poets. Intricate video arts, using period photographs and contemporary illustrations, are by Jui Mao, Julie Casper Roth, and Kevin Price; electronic music is from the Los Angeles Laptop Collective and the set designer is Jung Griffin; the lighting design is by Erin EarleFleming.

Watch the production’s care regarding color (the opulent costumes are by Leon Wiebers, and memorably include striking tunics–his luxurious palette contains deep green and muted orange, cream, and neon yellow–feather headdresses, punk wigs, top hats, and even angel’s wings.  The visual richness is never mindlessly flamboyant or even excessively sexualized—in fact, part of Ahn’s point seems to be that gay love, often stereotyped as jaded, is based on innocence, not lasciviousness. From a historical perspective, as opposed to a psychological one, he apparently finds LGBTQ+ love simply an alternate response to life.  Of course, a self-identifying Eleanor Roosevelt would be the best kind of validation of her passions,  as well as primary-source records for the others–simply an impossibility–but this has nothing to do with the injustices made against the communities, as a whole, in the ancient world, the Sixth century, the East and West or, of course, now. (13 Fruitcakes is performed in Korean with supertitles—but some of the wording can be missed because of length, timing, density, or even because what goes on elsewhere, on stage, seems more vital).

The performance, an object of rare, complex and dark beauty, which unfurls from a dressing room, presents the superbly talented leading South Korean drag artist, ‘More’ Zimin, a thin, muscular dancer-singer-follies girl-lip-syncher Christ figure, who plays the central character, named Orlando (it is no coincidence that Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West also enter the narrative). He “encourages people to start fighting against social injustice and oppression by telling them stories about great gay ancestors.” The impressive vocal talents of Jayoung Jeong are also on display, as well as a surprising, anachronistic modern nightclub singer.  The young supporting cast, of eleven, “the Fruitcakes,” include Jiung Kim, Kyungrok Kim, Gihyun Lee, Junghoun Jun, Nayeon Kim, Hyunhee Kim, Yoojung Park, Jieun Lee, Bookyung Chung, Daegwon Hong, and Joowon Shin.

The evening, part of the Stonewall 50 at La Mama, begins in 1969, after the death of Judy Garland, a time especially resonant in this reviewer’s mind, because he was drawn to begin reading The Wizard of Oz, days before her suicide; apparently, the time was also important to others: “I did research on the Stonewall Riots,” Ahn writes, “people say somehow the air that day was different from before, even though it was a routine police raid, and on this occasion they did not submit to the police.” Wanting to recreate that “different air” for the stage, perhaps the stirring winds of change, Ahn has stayed at La MaMa, a living museum to the avant-garde, for two short a time—yet his work and activism, will be remembered, in chiaroscuro.

© 2019 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Photos: Theo Cote

13 FRUITCAKES

Director/Playwright: Byungkoo Ahn Composer: Gihieh Lee LA Laptop Collective Artistic Director: Martin Herman Music Director: Hanul Chae SARC General Director: Jayoung Jeong Associate Director: Kimun Kim Choreographer: Jaseung Won Open call curator/Video Arts Head: Inhye Lee Video Arts: Juyi Mao, Julie Casper Roth, Kevin Price Set Designer: Jung Griffin Lighting Designer: Erin EarleFleming Costume Designer: Leon Wiebers Production Assistant: Samara E. Huggins Orchestrator: Jiwon Hahn & Gihieh Lee Producer: Sujin Kim Gayakeumist: Rami SeoPianist: Yeseul Yoon, Eunbin Kim The Los Angeles Laptop Collective Martin Herman, Alysia Michelle James, Cameron Johnston, Tobias Banks, Glen Gray, Sean Martineau Jones, David García Saldaña, Seth Shafer

Tiger Party Interactive Agency Singing Actors Repertory Company Orlando: More Zimin Mighty Orlando: Jayoung Jeong Fruitcakes: Jiung Kim, Kyungrok Kim, Gihyun Lee, Junghoun Jun, Nayeon Kim, Hyunhee Kim, Yoojung Park, Jieun Lee, Bookyung Chung, Daegwon Hong, Joowon Shin

Visit La MaMa

ITALY’S ‘GENIUS’ FILM DIRECTOR FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI DIES ·

(Frank Iovene’s article appeared on AFP, 6/15.)

Rome (AFP) – The world of cinema was in mourning Saturday after Italian film and opera legend Franco Zeffirelli, feted for his lavish productions, died at home in Rome aged 96.

The Oscar-nominated director of movies and operas “died serenely after a long illness, which had worsened these last months,” Italian media said, citing family members.

“I never wanted this day to come. Franco Zeffirelli departed this morning. One of the greatest men in the world of culture. We join in the grief of his loved ones. Goodbye, dear Master, Florence will never forget you,” tweeted Dario Nardella, mayor of the Tuscan city where ZeffirelliZeffirelli was born.

“Deep emotion over the death of the master Franco Zeffirelli,” tweeted Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte after Zeffirelli died in the presence of adopted sons Pippo and Luciano along with a doctor and a priest.

Afflicted by pneumonia for some time, Zeffirelli received the last rites last week, media reports said.

He was, Conte said, “an Italian ambassador of cinema, of art, of beauty. A great film maker, scriptwriter, scenographer. A great man of culture.”

(Read more)

Photo: BBC

ROGER HENDRICKS SIMON – NEW YORK’S OWN ·

By Tania Fisher

Sitting down with Roger Hendricks Simon is always an interesting experience.  Director Oliver Stone put it most succinctly when he referred to Roger as “that wonderful actor and teacher in New York” after working with him on the 2010 film “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”

Indeed, anyone who has ever met, been taught by, or worked with Roger Hendricks Simon, would heartily agree with Mr Stone’s statement.  After working professionally in the industry myself for over 30 years, it’s refreshing to know one can still be impressed by people like Roger.  With The Simon Studio now in its 41st year, and a career that spans over some 50 plus years, this accomplished theatre and film actor, director, and teacher, has a packed schedule as ever, with June being a particularly busy month.

On Sunday June 23 the world premier screening of feature film “Love in Kilnerry” will be held at Village East Cinema, 189 2nd Avenue, in which Roger has a major role.  This will be the first of three new feature films coming out this year in which Roger appears in featured roles.  Then on Friday June 28, Roger directs his Simon Studio in their annual Shakespeare “Bard at the Bar” at the Players Club in Gramercy Park, and, as always, his classes continue in The Simon Studio.

Roger doesn’t pull any punches and his responses are always thoughtful and downright honest. After our lunch together he invites me to sit-in on one of his classes to watch him in action.

I gladly observe him mold and inspire his students who no doubt all aspire to become one of the famous names such as John Travolta, John Lithgow, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, Debra Jo Rupp, and James Woods, to name only a few, who have been taught and/or directed by Roger in the past.

Roger’s own career started when he attended Yale as an actor, all the while harboring a desire to enter their directing program.  “By the end of the first year of a three year program, half of those directing students had flunked out, they were Phi Beta Kappa English majors, not theater oriented, so there were openings and I got in.” 

Roger of course enjoyed great success, and from the 60s through to the 90s was known across the globe as a theater director, only occasionally acting, as he says, “usually because someone remembered me from the old days.”

Roger explains, “It was really because of my son Dan that I got into film acting.”  Dan Simon was working as a cinematographer at the time on the 2007 feature film “Sublet,” when young newcomer Director, Georgiana Nestor, needed an older actor to play the lead and asked Dan if he knew anybody, suggesting, “What about your dad?”  Roger auditioned and got the role, citing, “I found it incredibly easier than I thought, because from all those years of teaching it was relatively easy to go right into getting back to acting.  The irony here is that now I’m known as an actor and no-one’s thinking of me as a director anymore!”

What’s refreshing to see is that there is still genuineness in Roger’s approach with his students.  He is always honest and truthful and never minces his words.  Students get current practical guidance in his Studio with Roger emphasizing that they are not there to merely perform a speech, or have a monologue down-pat, but to have a fully rounded experience, knowledge base, and sincere understanding of the life of any scene they’re working on.

Roger has always been adamant about instilling this kind of real-world truthfulness in his students.  “With The Simon Studio”, as it’s been said before, “you get Roger Simon, not a disciple.”  What that means for those students lucky enough to be under his personal training (although he has Associate Directors) is that they have direct access to his vast amount of global experience in the industry.  Roger’s students are privy to his sharing of impromptu, well worded explanatory advice that is both practical and relevant on just about every aspect of the industry.  There are no embellished stories or wistful memories here; Roger delivers good, clear cut advice to those learning or honing their craft.

Training at a reputable company such as The Simon Studio gives both experienced and novice actors the chance to stretch themselves in not only contemporary work, but also the classics such as Shakespeare.  The Simon Studio will once again perform its annual Bard at the Bar this coming June 28th giving students the opportunity to perform time honored pieces in front of an audience that contains industry professionals.  Roger believes; “There should always be a mix and balance between classical and contemporary, which is why the Studio presents Bard at the Bar annually; to emphasize that the classics are something you never give up and always goes hand in hand with contemporary film and TV work, as is mixing theater with on camera work.”

Roger Simon was born in Manhattan in 1942.  The family moved when he was 9 years old to Westchester County (Scarsdale. NY) and remained there for his formative years.  He was lucky enough to have John Hemmerly as his drama teacher who, as Roger recalls fondly, was the most influential drama teacher/director he’s ever had.

Roger expresses that even from his early days at Yale Drama School he felt a great pull to not just limit himself to acting, by taking on directing and teaching as well.  Roger explains that he felt the best teachers he had in college (Middlebury) and Yale were those who were also simultaneously working in the industry.  He believes the experience of working professionally and the sharing of knowledge through teaching go hand in hand and are beneficial to both the student and the teacher.

Roger lived and worked in London between 1968 and 1971 where he directed and acted at such prestigious venues as the Royal Court Theatre, Hampstead Theatre Club, Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, the Edinburgh Festival (Traverse Theatre) and across Europe at the Mickery Theatre and Dutch State theatres in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Arnheim, and the Nancy Festival du Monde in France.

Throughout 1978 Roger enjoyed directing and teaching assignments in India, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria, and South Africa and it’s also the year he formed The Simon Studio.  In 1988 Roger moved to L.A. (along with his wife Sarah and three children) to become the Founding Artistic Director of L.A. Classical Theatre Lab and was also in residence at Paramount Pictures as a freelance producer/director.  Roger moved back to NYC in 1991 where he resumed teaching and directing at both The Simon Studio as well as other projects.

In 2003 his family made Poughkeepsie, New York, their permanent home and it’s also where Roger opened “Simon Studio North” and was concurrently acting and directing for the Half Moon Theatre Co.

Always a creative family who not only had their own individual skills and talents but also enjoyed working on fun projects together like the series of short films on opera and cooking designed for Emerging Pictures Opera in Cinema projects and a series of local historical plays funded by the city of Poughkeepsie and the TV series “Simon Studio Presents” for Time Warner Cable.  Never a person to be doing just one thing at a time, during all of this great work Roger was also commuting back and forth to NYC for work at The Simon Studio in Manhattan as well as theatre/film projects there and elsewhere around the country.

While listening to Roger list all his varied endeavors, it occurs to me that the fact that his life path has taken, and continues to take, so many interesting twists and turns, may indeed be as a direct result from the influence of his own wife and children.

His son, Dan Simon, is an intuitively skilled film director, screenwriter and actor.  His resume already lists an impressive body of work, including the feature film “Lonely Boys” 2016 (in which Roger has a small role) and his latest gem, “Another Year Together” 2019 in which Roger has a featured role.  When I asked Roger if he appears in Dan’s films as a fatherly gesture or favor, he vehemently denies this suggestion, then let’s out a light laugh letting me know he’s about to land a clever quip on me, expressing that “If you wait long enough, you get work from your kids!” which is followed by a sparkly smile that lets me know he’s fiercely proud.

Roger explains that all his children grew up in the industry and were always surrounded by it.  When referring to Dan, Roger says, “He grew up in the world, with the Studio, it was what he always did, he was always doing it.  It was never a surprise that he’s become such a great filmmaker.”  But in reality it is Dan who respects his father enough to actually ask Roger to appear in his films.

And the family talent doesn’t stop there.  Roger’s eldest son, Noah, is a designer/painter who graduated from Carnegie Mellon, and his only daughter Abigail is a professional ballerina, formerly with the American Ballet Theater and The Joffrey, and currently understudying the lead of Asia Broadway Group‘s “An American in Paris” touring China, Taiwan and Paris.

Speaking of dance skills, Roger doesn’t let that opportunity pass him by either.  A performance of “The Nutcracker” for the Chicago Ballet Conservatory saw Roger dancing the role of Drosselmeyer opposite daughter Abigail’s Sugar Plum Fairy and has been asked back for a repeat performance this December.

All this off-spring talent was no doubt a culmination of genes provided by Roger and his late wife Sarah Levine Simon who sadly passed away July 4 2017.  Sarah was an established opera/classical concert singer when she and Roger met in 1971.  Sarah studied at Juilliard and won a Katherine Long Fellowship to study at The Met right after.  She, like Roger, was also taking on multiple projects at the time involving herself in the extra chorus at NY City Opera and The Met.  In her later years Sarah focused her skills on writing, becoming both playwright and author.  Two of her plays, “The Portrait” (Theatre 54) and “The Dressmaker’s Secret” (co-writer Mihai Grunfeld, 59E59 Theaters) were developed and produced Off-Broadway by The Simon Studio between 2014 and 2017.  Sarah’s first novel, “Winged Victory” and her second novel “Locked Out” (recently posthumously released – www.blackopalbooks.com) are also enjoying great success. 

Meanwhile Roger is as busy as ever.  With an eclectic mix of big budget feature films as well as independent features and shorts, he explains that although he likes to keep working doing what he loves, he never takes on roles as favors for x-students or associates, but that he chooses projects very selectively based on the role, script, and Director.

Case in point; the short film, “When Father Went Biking” directed by an extraordinary young Czechoslovakian student out of NYU, Zuko Garagic.  It’s an intimate look at what happens to an older man who lives with his daughter and whose mind is disintegrating. Roger expresses his thorough enjoyment of this project and can’t say enough great things about Garagic’s skills and talents.

Roger is also excited about the upcoming premier of the feature film “Love in Kilnerry” written and directed by Daniel Keith, on Sunday June 23rd.  Roger came across this project when it was intended as a play a few years ago and after some initial readings at The Manhattan Theater Club, funding was eventually sourced and “Love in Kilnerry” was made into a feature length film.  Its IMDb page describes it as being about elderly people in a small town exposed to a chemical plant leak that increases their libido, which makes it sound like a frolicking romp along the veins of the British “Carry on” movies. But more so, it is a tribute to older/senior people who perhaps don’t have the respect from people who think they’re not capable of doing certain things.  Through the circumstances in the film, the characters are encouraged to take some huge chances from which they grow and end up enjoying more than they thought they would.  Roger calls it “uplifting, emotionally moving, and funny.” 

I guess Roger just can’t help himself when it comes to filling his days with extra-curricular activities, such as playing softball.  The Simon Studio even had their own team that played in Central Park until the early 90s.  Somehow, these “outside” interests were clandestine to circle back to his skills as a Director and film maker with his extremely successful short documentary film, “The Boys of Late Summer” (2019) about the Senior’s Softball League in Poughkeepsie.

“Some of these players travel as far as two hours away to be a part of the League; men between the ages of 60 and 88 who are still playing and still taking it very seriously” says Roger.  An initial outsider’s condescending perception might be “old guys getting outside and getting fresh air” – but in fact these men are extremely competitive.  Roger quickly realized this League made it evident that people over 60 hadn’t “packed it in” and were in fact creating a newfound respect for the older generation, which was Roger’s main reason for making this film along with his Co-producers Pedro Padilla and Davis Northern.  This touching, human, and entertaining short documentary has been so well received that it was selected for screening at the 2019 Newport Beach Film Festival earlier this year and is quickly gaining momentum with audiences across the country.

All this current ongoing experience provides invaluable inside-industry information for Roger’s students of The Simon Studio and for those of us lucky enough to know him personally.  In my opinion, it’s a testament to his students to take their career into their own hands by following Roger’s example of actively finding work for themselves, creating their own projects, and applying to audition notices on sites such as Playbill and Actors Access.  It is my belief that the younger generation in particular are conditioned to expect instant gratification and many acting students new to the world of film, TV, and theater, may have such unrealistic expectations about the industry, and would do well to realize that having an agent doesn’t mean standing still and waiting for the phone to ring.  Continuing to source their own projects the way Roger does often leads to meeting amazing directors and writers, and taking on satisfying roles that they might otherwise not have the chance to play, let alone audition for.

Indeed, Roger Simon sets a high standard and is a living tribute to the mantra that work and training go hand in hand all throughout one’s career, no matter what stage that career might be in.  His energy and lust for the industry are both inspiring and rewarding for all those who are lucky enough to work or train with him.

Bard at the Bar at The Players Club, Friday June 28th, 8pm

For $10. ticket reservations Email: :rhsstudio@gmail.com 

or ‘phone: 917-776-9209.

More info:  www.thesimonstudio.com

 

LET’S GO: ’13 FRUITCAKES’ AT LA MAMA ·

2018 Tony Award-winning

LA MAMA

PRESENTS

13 FRUITCAKES

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY

BYUNGKOO AHN

AS PART OF STONEWALL 50 AT LA MAMA

JUNE 13 – 16, 2019

 

‘MOre’ Zimin from 13 Fruitcakes
Photo by: Ki Seok Cho

LA MAMA – the 2018 Tony Award winning theater – will present the world premiere music drama from South Korea, 13 FRUITCAKES, written and directed by BYUNGKOO AHN, as part of the STONEWALL 50 festival at the Ellen Stewart Theater (66 E. 4 St.) in Manhattan, June 13-16. BYUNGKOO AHN returns to La MaMa having previously directed a Korean adaptation of HAMLET in 2011, described by The New York Times critic as “Intense. The production creates a delicious mood of menace and is beguiling to watch, a reinterpretation with a dark mind all its own.”

13 FRUITCAKES depicts the story of Orlando, a fictional character, who inspires and encourages people to start fighting against social injustice and oppression by telling them stories about great gay ancestors, highlighting 13 noteworthy LGBTQ+ figures and their impact throughout history:  from Eleanor Roosevelt to Hans Christian Andersen to Alan Turing to Leonardo da Vinci. The music drama is performed by a cast of Korean actors – including ‘More’ Zimin, the most prominent drag performer in Korea.

13 FRUITCAKES is comprised of 13 musical vignettes, with beautiful original songs composed by Gihieh Lee, lyrics by Lorca, Wilde, Whitman and other Queer Poets and Electronic Music by Los Angeles Laptop Collective.

“I am very excited to come back to La MaMa . . . with this new production. When I did research on the Stonewall Riots, people say somehow the air that day was different from before, even though it was a routine police raid, and on this occasion they did not submit to the police.  I wanted to create what the ‘different air’ that day might have been. I am very attached to this project more than any I have worked on before,” states creator BYUNGKOO AHN.

BYUNGKOO AHN’S first directorial work ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ was presented at the National Theatre of Korea as part of the Young Theatre Festival when he was 20.  Since then his opera, theatre and dance productions have been seen in the US, Korea, Italy, and Czech Republic for over 20 years. His recent New York production, Hamyul/Hamlet at La MaMa ETC, New York City, was well received by The New York Times, NYTheatre.com, The Villager, etc.  Also, his own experimental musical vignettes, which integrate German art songs, visual images, movement and a laptop computer orchestra, were presented in Korea, Germany, and Italy. He is a board member and resident artist at La MaMa.  As a full-time professor, he currently teaches Directing, Acting and Voice at Hongik University in Seoul, Korea.

13 FRUITCAKES, is presented as part of La MaMa’s pride programming, STONEWALL 50 AT LA MAMA, a festival of LGBTQ+ artists from NYC, Philadelphia, Paris, Italy, and South Korea being presented at the Tony Award-winning theater (66 E. 4 St.) in Manhattan, from May 23-June 30 as part of WORLD PRIDE. La MaMa Squirts (May 31-June 2), Global Gay (June 6-9), and Contradict This (June 20-30) are among other highlights during the month-long pride celebration.

TICKETS:

$25 General Admission; $20 Student/Senior (plus $1 facility fee); La MaMa also offers 10@$10, these are the first ten tickets for every performance at 10 each, first come first served, advance sales only, with code: 10AT10.

To purchase tickets, please call OvationTix at: 212-352-3101; or to buy online visit:

http://lamama.org/13_fruitcakes/

About La MaMa

La MaMa is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theatre. La MaMa’s vision of nurturing new artists and new work remains as strong today as it was when Ellen Stewart first opened the doors in 1961. La MaMa has presented more than 5,000 productions by 150,000 artists of all nations, cultures, races and identities. Cultural pluralism and ethnic diversity are inherent in the work created on our stages. Here, artists find a supportive environment for artistic exploration, and audiences are part of the development of an artist’s work over time.

A recipient of the 2018 Regional Theater Tony Award, and more than 30 Obie Awards and dozens of Drama Desk, Bessie, and Villager Awards, La MaMa has been a creative home for thousands of artists, many of whom have made lasting contributions to the arts, including Blue Man Group, Ping Chong, André De Shields, Adrienne Kennedy, Harvey Fierstein, Diane Lane, Warren Leight, Michael Mayer, Tadeusz Kantor, Bette Midler, Meredith Monk, Peter Brook, David and Amy Sedaris, Julie Taymor, Kazuo Ohno, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

TONYS 2019: “HADESTOWN” THE BIG WINNER (FULL LIST) ·

(CBS News, 6/10.)

“Hadestown,” the brooding musical about the underworld, had a heavenly night at the Tony Awards, winning eight trophies Sunday night including best new musical and getting a rare win for a female director of a musical.

Playwright Jez Butterworth’s “The Ferryman” was crowned best play.

In the four lead actor and actress categories, Bryan Cranston won his second acting Tony, but theater veterans Elaine May, Santino Fontana and Stephanie J. Block each won for the first time.

The crowd at Radio City Music Hall erupted when Ali Stroker made history as the first actor in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award. Stroker, paralyzed from the chest down due to a car crash when she was 2, won for featured actresses in a musical for her work in a dark revival of “Oklahoma!”

The Tony Awards More 

Rachel Chavkin, the only woman to helm a new Broadway musical this season, won the Tony for best director of a musical for “Hadestown.”

She told the crowd she was sorry to be such a rarity on Broadway, saying, “There are so many women who are ready to go. There are so many people of color who are ready to go.” A lack of strides in embracing diversity on Broadway, she said, “is not a pipeline issue” but a lack of imagination.

Broadway’s biggest night was hosted by Ja​mes Corden of “The Late Late Show.”

“Hadestown” had 14 nominations going in — the most of any production this year,

(Read more)

IN THIS ‘DEATH OF A SALESMAN,’ WILLY LOMAN IS BLACK ·

(Matt Wolf’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/30; via Pam Green.)

LONDON — This city’s season-long love affair with Arthur Miller reaches an intriguing if emotionally muted conclusion with “Death of a Salesman,” the 1949 Pulitzer Prize winner running at the Young Vic through July 13. The same author’s “All My Sons” can be seen just minutes away at the Old Vic through June 8, and barely has a week passed this year without one Miller title or another on view somewhere in London.

The difference this time around is that the Loman family is black, thereby allowing a top-rank set of actors access to roles in which they wouldn’t usually be cast. As you watch the American actor Wendell Pierce (from “The Wire”) bring a wounded dignity to the hapless Willy Loman, you can only applaud the marriage of performer and part. It’s equally exciting to see this year’s mighty Olivier Award-winning best actress in a musical, Sharon D. Clarke, shifting into a quieter gear to play the eternally loving Linda Loman. (Their older son, Biff, is played by the fast-rising Arinzé Kene, who scored two Olivier nominations this year for his play “Misty.”)

Making the Lomans black changes the dynamics — several other cast members are white, as is one of the play’s two directors, Marianne Elliott (the other, Miranda Cromwell, identifies as mixed) — and it may seem curious that the issue of race isn’t directly explored. The obvious reason is that such discussions don’t feature in Miller’s text. But the script makes much of Willy’s desire to be liked, and you can’t help but wonder whether an African-American man in post-World War II Brooklyn wouldn’t worry more about being accepted.

There’s a telling, if fleeting, moment when a white waiter looks judgmentally at Willy, but race here remains the elephant in the room: Laudable in its embrace of talent across the board, the production, you feel, could dig a bit deeper still.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times