Monthly Archives: January 2021

SWEDISH ACTRESS AND DIRECTOR GUNNEL LINDBLOM HAS DIED AGED 89 ·

(Matthew Roscoe’s article appeared in EuoWeekly, 1/24.)

SWEDISH Actress and Director Gunnel Lindblom Has Died Aged 89

Gunnel Lindblom, who performed the lead role in Miss Julie for BBC Television in 1965, has died at the age of 89 after a period of illness.

Gunnel Lindblom was born in 1931 and trained as an actor at Gothenburg City Theatre in the early 50’s. She made her film debut in Gustaf Molander’s “Love” in 1952. After her debut, she started working with Ingmar Bergman, with whom she is particularly associated with, at Malmö City Theatre.

After the successful collaborations with Bergman, Gunnel Lindblom has continued to play at Dramaten in Stockholm. Since the 70s, she has directed several productions at Dramaten in Stockholm, including productions for SVT.

She also played the key role of The Mummy in Bergman’s staging of Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata in 1998-2000, a performance that earned her much critical acclaim.

In 2009, she appeared as Isabella Vanger in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which won a BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language. The film grossed over €85 million worldwide.

(Read more)

(Second photo from top: CREDIT: “File:Gunnel Lindblom, Bokmässan 2013 3.jpg” by Albin Olsson is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

‘MOULIN ROUGE!’ WAS THEIR TICKET. THEN 2020 HAPPENED. ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/21; via Pam Green. Photo: Behind the scenes of “Moulin Rouge,” which is on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic in New York, Jan. 10, 2021. It was a Broadway smash with big plans until 25 company members took ill and a shutdown put everybody out of work. Inside a tumultuous year, in the words of those who lived it. Thomas Prior/The New York Times.)

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- From a window in his Hell’s Kitchen apartment, theater director Alex Timbers can see the Moorish arcade adorning Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theater. For years, Timbers dreamed of working in the century-old house, and in the summer of 2019, he got the chance with “Moulin Rouge!,” a hotblooded musical about bohemian artists whose revelry is tragically disrupted by infectious disease.

The show, adapted from Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, was last season’s big swing — it cost $28 million to bring to Broadway — and it was shaping up to be a home run. Set in fin de siècle Paris but supercharged by 75 pop songs, it opened to a rave from The New York Times (“This one’s for the hedonists,” exulted Ben Brantley), and it was regularly selling out all 1,302 seats, even during a holiday season when it cost $799 to watch from a cafe table encircled by cancan dancers.

But over the winter, trouble began. The novel coronavirus was discovered in China. The COVID-19 outbreak spread to Europe and then to New York.

On the morning of March 12, the show’s producers decided to cancel that day’s performances because a cast member was symptomatic. A few hours later, Broadway shut down, and it has been closed ever since.

Outside the Hirschfeld, three cast-stone columns are still sheathed in posters of the show’s stars, Danny Burstein, Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit, all of whom fell ill. At least 25 members of the “Moulin Rouge!” company wound up infected, making this the hardest-hit show on Broadway.

The once-glittering marquee, which Timbers looks upon from his apartment window, has been darkened for longer than it was illuminated. “There’s something sort of grim and poetic about it,” he said.

Timbers was among 52 people employed by “Moulin Rouge!” who shared their experiences of the last year by email or by phone. This oral history contains edited excerpts from those exchanges.

As 2020 dawned, “Moulin Rouge!” was settling in for what the company hoped would be a long and lucrative run.

RICKY ROJAS (actor): The show was on fire, man. The schedule was superhard, and I was constantly tired, like a zombie, but my wife and son were visiting from France, and the fact that they were there made everything better.

PALOMA GARCIA-LEE (actor): People were coming back for a third or fourth time. People were bringing their families. It was beautiful seeing what it was becoming.

ALLIE DUFFORD (associate company manager): In January and February alone, we were preparing for our appearance on “Good Morning America,” a visit to the Grammys, a performance at a conference in the Bahamas, not to mention running eight performances a week. And once that dust settled, we were going to be full steam ahead to the Tonys.

MICHAEL DAVIS (trombonist): I was looking forward to playing the show for all of 2020 and hopefully for several years beyond that.

JOHN LOGAN (book writer): We were talking about rollout plans, auditioning for the national tour, discussing London and Australia and even thinking about translations. It was new territory, but exciting.

On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

TVEIT: We all heard what was happening in China, but that had happened before, with H1N1 and SARS. I just assumed it was like that, and it would be OK.

SEAN DRISCOLL (guitarist): I had read “The Hot Zone” years ago and am a fan of zombie/post-apocalyptic films, so I was maybe primed to be a little scared of diseases that emerged quickly with the possibility of spreading globally.

AARON TIEN (merchandise manager): I became very self-conscious as a Chinese American. Reading and watching footage of hate crimes against Asian folks on the rise, I started to distance myself in public if possible.

KATIE KRESEK (concertmaster/co-orchestrator): My Italian in-laws and friends were sending daily stories of the severity of the situation in Milan and Florence: hospitals filling up, doctors and nurses overwhelmed.

SAHR NGAUJAH (actor): My father is Sierra Leonean, so we saw Ebola firsthand. By the time it reached Italy, I was pretty certain it was coming for New York.

MELISSA KAUL (laundry/wardrobe): I started taking extra precautions when washing the clothes, and keeping my hands covered in gloves while touching the costumes.

Throughout February, members of the cast were getting sick. But many thought it was just a bad cold and flu season; the first COVID case in New York state wasn’t confirmed until March 1.

JEIGH MADJUS (actor): We have so many international tourists come to the show, and I always do the stage door. They hug us, we take photos together, and they’re just talking right into our faces.

MAX CLAYTON (actor): I thought I was getting a cold, and then I became fluish, with fevers and chills. The day before Valentine’s Day, we had a cast meeting, and I was like, I cannot do this evening’s performance. Three of my best friends were going to be in the audience, but I didn’t have the strength, and my brain was cloudy.

OLIVO: I lost a whole day — woke up around 8 or 9, went to the restroom, passed out in a chair and woke up again at 10:45 that night. That was the beginning of it for me. The weakness was so bad, I had to hold onto the wall to get to the restroom. But I’m an asthmatic, so I thought, “I have bronchitis, yet again.”

GARCIA-LEE: I was out of the show for almost a week. I had the worst flu of my life. But it’s Broadway, so you come into the show sometimes when you’re not feeling so well. I came back to work long before I was better.

CLAYTON: I was paranoid that I was letting people down, looking like a weak, incapable dancer, a whiner — all of the things that so many actors fear. I didn’t feel great, but I went back. We are expected to show up.

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New York Times

ArtDaily  

ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF ‘ROBOT,’ THEY’RE FINALLY TAKING OVER ·

(Christopher Mims’s article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 1/23; Photo from The Wall Street Journal; via the Drudge Report.)  

A century after playwright Karel Čapek coined the word ‘robot,’ we finally have the technology to make the stuff of science fiction a reality—for better and for worse

On Jan. 25, 1921, Karel Čapek’s play “R.U.R.”—short for “Rossum’s Universal Robots”—premiered in Prague. It was a sensation. Within two years it had been translated into 30 languages, including English, to which it introduced the word “robot.” Čapek’s vision of unwilling slaves of humnity destined to rise up and destroy their makers has shaped our view of both automation and ourselves ever since.

In a century-long dialogue between inventors of fictional and actual robots, engineers have for the most part been forced to play catch-up, either realizing or subverting the vision of robots first expounded in books, movies and television.

Now, the reality of robots is in some areas running ahead of fiction, even ahead of what those who study robots for a living are able to keep track of.

Heather Knight is an engineer, “social roboticist” and one of 13 core faculty in Oregon State University’s robotics program. One day in late October, she was shocked to find the campus crawling with a fleet of autonomous, six-wheeled vehicles made by Starship Robotics. The San Francisco-based company had contracted with the campus dining service to provide contactless delivery.

“We’re at the point where not even the people in robotics know there are going to be robots on campus,” she adds.

This new visibility of robots—now in storeshotels and health-care facilities, as well as on our streets and above our heads—is an indicator of their evolving nature. It’s also the outward sign of a watershed moment.

In 2019, 373,000 industrial robots were sold and put into use, according to the International Federation of Robotics, a not-for-profit industry organization that conducts an annual, global robot census based on vendor data. That number has grown about 11% a year since 2014, to a total of 2.7 million industrial robots in use world-wide. Industrial robots—descendants of the Unimate robot arm first installed at a General Motors factory in 1961—are the kind common in manufacturing, performing tasks like welding, painting and assembly. They work hard, but they’re not very smart.

Also in 2019, 173,000 “professional service robots” were sold and installed, according to the federation. That number is projected to reach 537,000 units a year—a threefold increase—by 2023. These are the kind of robots businesses use outside of manufacturing. They perform a wide variety of functions, including defensewarehouse automation and disinfection in hospitals.

(Read more)

 

NEW DAWN:  THEATRE AFFIRMATIONS ·

All right resources are mine now–and I am grateful. 

 

I am worthy of success.

 

My path is important to myself and our community.

 

I am most truly successful, as an artist and otherwise, when I am my most authentic self, openly and honestly.

 

I adapt my vision to the new theatrical reality—and it has all positive outcomes for me.

 

Theatre comes back strong in 2021—and heals us.

 

(Many of the above affirmations are from or based on work by Teri D. Mahaney, Florence Scovel Shinn, Louise Hay, and others.)

JUDI DENCH: ‘IN MY MIND’S EYE I’M SIX fOOT AND WILLOWY’ ·

 (Xan Brooks’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/22; Photo: The Guardian; via Pam Green.)

At 86 and in lockdown, the actor finds herself in the rare position of not working. Instead, she talks about theatrical ghosts, her friendship with Harvey Weinstein and definitely not being a national treasure

It’s all go for Judi Dench, stuck at her house in deepest Surrey. What a freewheeling week; she is beside herself with excitement. Yesterday, she explains, she received her Covid vaccine. This required a trip to the village and was the first time she had left home since she can’t remember when. Then today it’s a phone interview, the thing she is doing right now. Her cup runneth over. Her world has turned Technicolor. “I’m not even joking,” she says with a sigh. “It’s nice to actually have something to do.”

Lockdown, I fear, is not the life Dench was born to. She used to practically eat and drink on the stage, but the theatres have closed, who knows for how long. She used to bounce from one film set to the next, but now production is mothballed and the industry has gone to ground. All of which means that she is confined to the house, an 86-year-old actor shoved into what she hopes is a partial and temporary retirement. She gets up each morning determined to keep herself busy. She crawls back to bed with most of the tasks left undone. After a while, she admits, the time starts to drag.

Dench recently learned a new word: synesthesia. “And I thought; ‘Well, that’s me.’ Because I always saw the days of the week in colour. I never gave it a second thought, it’s just how my mind works. And all of a sudden it’s not there any more. The days of the week have no colour at all. There’s no structure, no planning.” She is marooned with her memories and mementoes and various unquiet ghosts.

As luck would have it, her most recent film similarly throws her in among ghosts – although here, again, the experience soon starts to grate. Blithe Spirit is a galumphing reanimation of Noël Coward’s 1940s farce, played with gusto but fatally heavy-footed. Dench co-stars as Madame Arcati, a preposterous old medium who was previously embodied by the likes of Margaret Rutherford and Angela Lansbury. Down the years we have grown accustomed to seeing Dench making herself blissfully at home in any film, big or small, but her role as Arcati feels like so much heavy lifting. She huffs and she puffs. She falls into the orchestra pit. If the film is a notch or two up on 2019’s calamitous Cats (in which she played Old Deuteronomy), it is still a far cry from the heyday of Philomena, or Notes on a Scandal. Blithe Spirit is running on vapour, shouting to be heard. In the end it is a bit of a ghostly presence itself.

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TONY AWARD-WINNING BROADWAY CHOREOGRAPHER BOB AVIAN DIES AGED 83 ·

(Adrian Horton’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/22. Photo: Bob Avian in 2013. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian.)

The director and choreographer, whose credits include A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls, has died after a cardiac arrest in Florida

Bob Avian, the Tony award-winning Broadway mainstay both on stage and off for over four decades, died Thursday in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, following a cardiac arrest. The co-choreographer for A Chorus Line and Ballroom was 83.

Born in New York City on 26 December 1937, Avian attended Boston University’s College of Fine Arts and the Boston Ballet School and made his Broadway debut in the original stage production of West Side Story. Trained as a dancer, he garnered further recognition alongside Barbra Streisand in the 1964 stage production of Funny Girl, before linking up with his longtime creative partner, the choreographer and director Michael Bennett, for a string of shows including Promises, Promises, Coco, Company, Follies, Twigs, Seesaw and God’s Favorite.

The pair won several Tonys for their work on A Chorus Line and Ballroom, for which Avian also served as a producer. Avian went on to be a lead producer on the original and national tour productions of Dreamgirls, which won six Tony awards in 1982.

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MABOU MINES’ ‘COLD HARBOR’–“A SARDONIC, SOCIO-PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBE OF ULYSSES S. GRANT” (STREAMING UNTIL 1/26–LINK BELOW) ·

INTO THE ARCHIVES | COLD HARBOR

View

Mabou Mines Home

MABOU MINES’

Cold Harbor

CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY

Bill Raymond and Dale Worsley

TEXT BY

Dale Worsley

WITH EXCERPTS FROM THE MEMOIRS OF ULYSSES S. GRANT AND JULIA DENT GRANT

“a sardonic, socio-psychological probe of Ulysses S. Grant.”

**Streaming access can be purchased anytime between 1/21 and 1/26. After your order is processed you will receive a viewing link. You can watch anytime through January 26, 2021.**
PLEASE NOTE PORTIONS OF THIS VIDEO ARE VERY DARK, BUT STICK WITH IT, WE THINK IT’S WORTH IT!

 

A CALL FOR NEW ARTS NORMS IN THE U.S. ·

By Bob Shuman

In a 2019 BBC interview on “Free Thinking, the actress Patti LuPone succinctly noted that the U.S. does not have a National Theatre, nor does it celebrate the work of any dramatic writer, as does Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company. She also feels, having starred on both Broadway and the West End, that producers, and others in Britain, are more interested in the merit of work, rather than huge corporate profit, which affects the caliber of the American scene.

U.S. entertainment unions (SAG-AFTRA, AEA, and others), additionally, can cause confusion for artists—as is happening now with disagreements over streaming media—whereas their counterparts in the U.K. and Canada  find workable solutions for artists instead of roadblocking.  Theatrical product has become uniform—whether that is in terms of political view, names involved, areas of diversity attached to projects, and types of events and stories produced. American theatremakers, themselves, who may believe they are powerless, also, can side with entertainment fiefdoms, which may make them less individually creative.  The phenomenon of gatekeepers in entertainment, and in an industry like publishing, has long become accepted, sabotaging, instead of fostering, the work of practitioners, and subjecting them to rote mechanisms of exclusion.

Others in the professional hierarchy may profit by yoking artists to schemes in which they continue to pay for the hope of market exposure—in an undetermined future.  LuPone mentions that, despite the professional labyrinths, “some shows get through,” which is a little like hearing doctors say, “Some patients live.” However, a 3/28/19 article on Bloomberg captures the importance of American artists and their real power:  the Arts actually “contribute(d) more than $800 billion a year to U.S. economic output, amounting to more than 4 percent of GDP.”  To help demonstrate what this means, “The contribution of the arts to America’s economy is equivalent to nearly half of Canada’s total GDP, and bigger than the economic output of Sweden or Switzerland. Indeed, the arts account for more of U.S. GDP than industries such as construction, transportation, and agriculture.”

Governor Cuomo, fortunately, has expressed his understanding of our arts impact.  On 1/12, as reported in The New York Times, he stated, “New York urgently needs to revive its arts and entertainment industry if it is to recover from the coronavirus pandemic,” despite the fact that American artists waited six months longer than their counterparts in other countries for relief (15 million dollars was released for them in December).  Of course, the need is not specific to one group:  According to the Washington Post, on 1/21, 900,000 people filed for unemployment in the previous week, adding to the 16 million people already receiving benefits.  This does not take into account the needs of those who may have worked part-time, in gigs, or other temporary work, or those undetected and invisible, deemed ineligible for government aid, which can include artists.   

Solutions, nevertheless, can be found for those left behind.  Although the arts, as economic engine, are undervalued in the U.S., other countries see the contributions.  In 2019, they added more to the UK economy than agriculture–the Guardian reported that “the sector added £10.8bn to the economy.”  Currently, as discussed in The New York Times on 1/13, France and Great Britain offer aid geared to temporary or seasonal working conditions of arts workers.  Germany and Austria, with long histories of arts subsidies, implemented bonuses and insurance.  Other countries are working with cultural bailouts and long-term loans.

Our legislators, who recognize the economic engine of the arts, must champion delayed abilities and the powers of those who  continue to be oppressed in the field–yet, one area, arts-based education programs, has been in decline “for the past couple of decades,” according to Bloomberg.  Funding in a public-private partnership with the Mellon Foundation, though, which was also announced by Governor Cuomo, will “distribute grants to put more than 1,000 artists back to work and provide money to community arts groups.”

Better would be if such events were available, throughout the state, for those who need this pandemic year to establish footholds for themselves, not for others whose careers are already validated.  Students whose professional aspirations are stalled, beyond inconvenience, and who will now be competing with those younger than themselves and with more current school experience—these are the performers whom New Yorkers should be seeing, congratulating, and paying for.  Their time to shine has been curtailed.

Some would consider that the time of COVID might, in fact, be ripe for reevaluation and rethinking, where government, practitioners, and audiences must envision a new theatre for those who participate, based on improved working conditions and fresh ideas.

After almost a year, seeing the difficulties of others, and experiencing them ourselves, we have learned so much—sometimes about things that were being done wrong or couldn’t be heard at all. 

We can’t go back.

(c) 2021 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. 

 

Photos from top:

NY Times; BBC; Brandeis’

IRISH REP: THEATRE @ HOME WINTER FESTIVAL STARTS 1/26 ·

Irish Reps Theatre @ Home Winter Festival begins on Tuesday, January 26!

Featuring all nine of our Performances on Screen, from Molly Sweeney to The Weir to A Touch of the Poet, this free Festival is the perfect way to start your 2021, safe and socially distant at home!

Molly Sweeney

YES! Reflections Of Molly Bloom

The Weir

Love, Noël

Belfast Blues

Give Me Your Hand

A Touch of the Poet 

On Beckett / In Screen

Meet Me in St. Louis

Select a weekly show-time and stick to it – each week the schedule changes, allowing you to see 4 unique productions over the course of the festival!

Reservations for all the Performances on Screen are free but required in order to access the dedicated screening links. Donations of $25 per show, or $100 for the festival, are suggested for each viewer who can afford to give.

Visit Irish Rep for more information

IRELAND: ‘2020 WAS GOING TO BE THE MOST AMAZING YEAR EVER FOR US’ ·

(Sara Keating’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 1/16; Aisling O’Sullivan, Cathy Belton and Derbhle Crotty in The Approach by Mark O’Rowe. Photograph: Patrick Redmond.)

It is the morning after the opening weekend of her latest theatrical venture and Anne Clarke is feeling tired but buoyant. The first performances in the Theatre for One booth, which had been waiting patiently in the foyer of the Abbey Theatre for performers to inhabit its intimate stage since September, finally welcomed audiences, many of whom – Clarke included – were experiencing live theatre again for the first time in nine months.

Despite her own involvement behind the scenes, Clarke “was not prepared for the overwhelming emotion that hits when you are so close to an actor performing a play for the first time in nine months. It was really quite overpowering.”

The staging of Theatre for One at the Abbey was originally conceived as part of the cancelled Dublin Theatre Festival in October. Its December premiere was being staged as part of a pilot for a return to live performance under Covid restrictions, which have been particularly harsh for those in the performing arts.

Clarke was among many in the industry who was vocal about the blanket closure of an “an impeccably well-run industry” that “is a more controlled and safe environment than vast swathes of other activity that was permitted when Level 5 was lifted. I acknowledge the importance that we all do our best to keep ourselves and others safe – and it was wonderful that as well as every shop, hairdresser and gym, that galleries, museums and cinemas were reopened. But the fact that the theatres – where health and safety is in the DNA of every production even before Covid times, where a show has already been risk assessed within an inch of its life before it opens – remained closed just did not make sense to any of us”.

Clarke, who served on the Arts Council’s advisory group for the Covid-19 crisis, was delighted to offer Theatre for One as an experimental example of how safe and efficient live theatre could be, not just for the artists she had commissioned to create the work but for the whole industry.

“I don’t think anyone wants to live in a country where you can do almost anything but not go to the theatre,” she says with the trademark passion she has brought to her collaborations with Enda Walsh, Mark O’Rowe and Paul Howard, among others, over the years. “I don’t think anyone wants to live in a country where theatre ceases to exist.”

‘Unproducing’

While lobbying and campaigning for her own and her colleagues’ future, Clarke was busy making new plans too. When theatres were faced with closure in March, she says, “There were a few weeks when I, along with everyone else in the theatre world, was ‘unproducing’ our plans, to borrow a term from [Scottish playwright] David Greig.”

(Read more)