Monthly Archives: November 2023

APPEALS BY RUSSIAN DIRECTOR, PLAYWRIGHT AGAINST EXTENSION OF PRETRIAL DETENTION REJECTED ·

(from Radio Free Europe, 11/20; Photo: Russian stage director Yevgenia Berkovich; Creator: Anton Novoderjozhkin|Credit: Sipa USA via AP Copyright: Sipa USA.)

The Moscow city court on November 30 rejected appeals filed by theater director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk against an extension of their pretrial detention on charges of justifying terrorism with the production of the play Finist-The Brave Falcon, about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria.

The court upheld a lower court decision in early November to extend the two women’s pretrial detention until at least January 10.

During the hearing, Berkovich expressed gratitude “to all who were involved” for allowing her to travel from a Moscow detention center to St. Petersburg to attend the burial of her grandmother, noted human rights defender Nina Katerli, who died at the age of 89 on November 20.

However, Berkovich said “the act of mercy had tuned into an act of torture” as while being transported to the funeral she spent 25 hours in “a cage of avtozak” — a special vehicle designed for transporting suspects and convicts, which affected her health.

“I did not have warm clothes with me because I was not aware where I was going and my lawyers did not know. It was a cage — a piece of an iron cage 1 meter by 2 meters, in which it is not possible to stand or properly sit. Because of that, it is painful for me to stand up or sit down. It was not possible to sleep there either as there was no heating…. For those 25 hours, I was allowed to get out to a toilet only twice,” Berkovich said.

But Judge Oksana Nikishina rejected Berkovich’s complaints, saying that she should be grateful that she was allowed to attend her grandmother’s burial at all.

(Read more)

RUSSIA ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR UKRAINIAN EUROVISION WINNER ·

(from RadioFree Europe, 11/29; photo: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) poses with Jamala in Kyiv on November 29, 2022. )

The Moscow prosecutor’s office said on November 29 that an arrest warrant had been issued for Ukrainian Eurovison Song Contest winner Jamala, who is of Crimean Tatar origin, on a charge of distributing “fake” information about Russia’s armed forces involved in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Russian Interior Ministry added the singer, whose real name is Susana Dzhamaladinova, to its wanted list. In 2016, Jamala won the Eurovision Song Contest for performing a ballad that described the brutal 1944 Soviet deportation of Crimean Tatars from Crimea to Central Asia. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.

(Go to RadioFree Europe)

EDDIE IZZARD RETURNS TO NEW YORK WITH ONE-PERSON ‘HAMLET’-FROM JANUARY 25– MARCH 3 ·

Eddie Izzard

Returns to New York with One-Person

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

From January 25 – March 3

At Off-Broadway’s Greenwich House Theater

Opening Night February 11

Adapted by Mark Izzard

Directed by Selina Cadell

Produced by WestBeth Entertainment, Mick Perrin Worldwide,

and John Gore

Eddie Izzard will take the New York stage this winter for six weeks only, playing 23 characters in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, adapted by Mark Izzard and directed by Selena Cadell at off-Broadway’s Greenwich House Theater (27 Barrow Street) from January 25-March 3; opening night is February 11.

Eddie returns to New York following last year’s sold-out run of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, which played to rave reviews at Greenwich House and in London’s West End. Hamlet reunites Eddie with Selina and Mark who collaborated on Great Expectations. It is produced by WestBeth Entertainment, Mick Perrin Worldwide, and John Gore.

In Hamlet, The King of Denmark is dead, and Prince Hamlet is determined to take revenge, initiating a cascade of events that will destroy both family and state. Eddie will be portraying men, women, ghosts, scholars, tyrants, courtiers, lovers, fools, and poets. She says, “I have always gravitated towards playing complex and challenging characters and Hamlet is the ultimate. This is a production for everyone, a timeless drama with an accidental hero. Selina, Mark, and I want audiences to see and hear an accessible, touching, scary and dramatic Hamlet.”

Best known as an actor, multi-lingual comedian, multi-marathon runner and trailblazing political candidate. Eddie Izzard’s career pushes boundaries and defies description with record-breaking comedy tours and critically acclaimed film, TV, and theatre performances.   

The design team is Tom Piper (set), Tyler Elich (lighting), Tom Piper and Libby DaCosta (costume stylists), and Didi Hopkins (Movement Director).  It is produced by WestBeth Entertainment, Mick Perrin Worldwide, and John Gore.

Tickets are now available here.

 

BIOGRAPHIES

(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

EDDIE IZZARD’s Broadway credits are A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (Tony Award nomination) and Race. Off Broadway: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Her London stage credits include The CryptogramEdward II900 OneontaJoe Egg, and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Eddie’s film credits include Stephen Frears’ Victoria & Abdul opposite Dame Judi Dench, ValkyrieOcean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen, Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe, Mystery Men, Shadow of the VampireThe Cat’s MeowSix Minutes to Midnight and the current Doctor Jekyll in which Eddie plays Dr. Nina Jekyll and Rachel Hyde. TV audiences also saw her as Dr. Abel Gideon in Bryan Fuller’s series, “Hannibal.” Izzard starred in and executive produced FX’s critically acclaimed series, “The Riches.” Other notable TV films include “Castles in the Sky,” “Treasure Island,” and the Emmy winning “Lost Christmas.” Izzard made her West End stage debut in 1993 in the solo show Live at the Ambassadors, receiving an Olivier Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement. That was followed by a succession of critically acclaimed shows: Unrepeatable, Definite Article, Glorious, Dress to Kill, Circle, Sexie, Stripped, Force Majeure, and Wunderbar. Eddie is the recipient of two Emmy Awards (for Dressed to Kill) and an Emmy Award nomination for the documentary, Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story. Her autobiography Believe Me, entered the top ten in the New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller lists.  She performs her comedy shows in four languages and since 2009 has run 131 marathons to raise money for Sport Relief and her “Make Humanity Great Again” fund. 

SELINA CADELL (Director) is a director, actress, and coach. Theatre directing includes Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (New York and London), Love for Love (RSC), The Life I Lead (West End), The Double Dealer (Orange Tree London), The Rivals (Arcola London), The Way of the World (Wilton’s London), The Rake’s Progress (Wilton’s London). Films include The Turn of the Screw (Best Opera Film 2021 Critics Circle Award). Acting/Theatre includes Top Girls (NYC) /Obie Award, Stanley (NYC), Madness of King George (NYC), Twelfth Night, Cherry Orchard (NYC), A Monster Calls (London). TV includes “Midsomer Murders,” “Queens of Mystery,” “Poirot,” “Doc Martin” (Mrs. Tishell). Selina runs an opera company with Eliza Thompson, OperaGlass Works. Their new film of La Traviata will be out next spring.

MARK IZZARD (Adapter). Hamlet marks his and Eddie’s second collaboration, following Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Prior to this, Mark’s involvement with his sibling’s career has been limited to a brief stint as sound technician (cassette-recorder) in Eddie’s first ever comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1981 and a series of European tours (2014-18) when Eddie performed stand-up comedy in French, German, and Spanish. Mark’s role was to simplify and adapt the translated routines into a language which Eddie could reproduce on stage, a task made possible by Mark speaking all three languages. In the process both siblings discovered that they worked well together, their shared sense of humor offsetting the more ‘difficult’ moments of the creative process.

DIDI HOPKINS (Movement Director) is one of the foremost practitioners of Commedia dell’Arte and works physically and visually in theatre. She worked with writer Richard Bean’s Broadway success, One Man, Two Guvnors, and has worked with director Selina Cadell at the Royal Shakespeare Company as movement director on Restoration Comedy. She was co-founder of Beryl and the Perils who were the ‘hottest thing part from the weather’ (Village Voice), performed at WOW festival, Central Park, TNC, the Mudd Club. The National Theatre made five films about her work in Commedia. She was last represented in New York with Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.

TOM PIPER (Scenic Designer/Costume Stylist) was Associate Designer at the RSC for 10 years and has designed over 50 productions for the company. Theatre work includes Medea (EIF/NTS); Girl on an Altar, White Teeth (Kiln); Faith (RSC/ Coventry City of Culture); Nora: A Doll’s House (Young Vic); The Tempest, Hamnet, Box of Delights (RSC) The Histories (RSC Olivier Award for Best Costume Design); As You Like It (RSC Armoury’s NY); Cyrano de Bergerac (NTS); Carmen La Cubana (Le Chatelet, Paris); Red Velvet Tricycle Theatre/St. Ann’s Warehouse NY); Orfeo (Royal Opera House); Tamburlaine The Great (TFNA, NY); The Great Wave (RNT). Turn of the Screw (Wiltons/OperaGlassworks film); Richard III, Tempest, As You Like It; The Bridge Project at BAM, and Eddie Izzard in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Design credits: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London and received an MBE for services to Theatre and First World War commemorations. Exhibition credits: Alice Curiouser and CuriouserWinnie-the-PoohCurtain Up (V&A, Lincoln Center NY); Shakespeare Staging the World (British Museum).

LIBBY da COSTA (Costume Stylist) is a London based costume designer who trained at the prestigious London College of Fashion and Wimbledon College of Art. Over the course of her career, Libby has had the pleasure of working for a diverse range of clients, creating unique and powerful designs for television, film, commercials and now theatre! Libby recently designed the feature film Doctor Jekyll, the story of Jacqueline Hyde in which Eddie plays the lead roles, Nina Jekyll and Rachel Hyde. Whatever the brief or project, Libby combines her passion, insight, and years of industry experience to realize any vision with imagination and flair. Libby has been seduced by the fast-paced, creative lifestyle involved in this line of work and is never afraid of a challenge. She is a storyteller and fantasist and through her costumes the characters are born. From contemporary through to period, Libby has worked with costumes that date back to as early as 1744. She was last represented in New York with Eddie Izzard in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations in 2022.

TYLER ELICH, LIGHTSWITCH (Lighting Designer). Tyler’s passion for creating a powerful shared experience has allowed him to work in many different areas including rock concert touring, television broadcasts, corporate product launches, million square foot conventions, and special events. Tyler is super excited to be working with Eddie again after four worldwide comedy tours and the successful New York and London runs of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.

ELIZA THOMPSON (Music Composition) works in various aspects of music for film, TV, and theatre. Film Music Supervisor credits include: The Madness of King George, The Crucible, Dangerous Liaisons, Shadowlands, The Woodlanders, Groundhog Day. Music Consultant/Score Producer film credits include: Othello, The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, Fade to Black, Dorian Gray, St Trinian’s 1 and 2. As a composer, Eliza has composed and arranged the music for Selina Cadell’s productions of The Way of the World, The Rivals, Love for Love, The Double Dealer, The Life I Lead and Eddie Izzard’s Great Expectations. She is co-founder of OperaGlass Works, directing and producing chamber opera.

WESTBETH ENTERTAINMENT (Arnold Engelman, Founder/President) has consistently delivered critically acclaimed, financially successful, groundbreaking productions for over 40 years. Beginning as The WestBeth Theatre Center and morphing into WestBeth Entertainment, developing and introducing artists and talent to North American audiences is a big part of WestBeth’s history. From Billy Connolly to Eddie Izzard, The Jim Henson Company to John Leguizamo and Trevor Noah to Hannah Gadsby, WBE has been the creative catalyst, partner, and producer of some of the most innovative performances and productions on the continent in venues throughout North America including Madison Square Garden, The Hollywood Bowl, Toronto’s Massey Hall, The Chicago Theatre and Radio City Musical Hall. WestBeth’s most recent productions include Tommy Tiernan’s tomfoolery North America tour, Eddie Izzard’s The Remix Live North American tour, Aunty Donna’s ‘The Magical Dead Cat Tour’ across the US and Canada, Off-Broadway production of Eddie Izzard performing Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations followed by a critically acclaimed run in London’s prestigious Garrick Theatre, Professor Brian Cox’s Horizon‘ tour of North America, Eddie Izzard’s Wunderbar US and Canadian tours, and Brian Henson’s Puppet Up! Uncensored for multiple runs in Los Angeles. Other productions include Eddie Izzard’s first US book tour for his New York Times bestselling memoir Believe Me, North American debut of Australia’s comedy group Aunty Donna, Hannah Gadsby’s North American debut of Nanette and the off-Broadway run of Douglas, Dylan Moran’s Off The Hook North American tour, Noel Fielding (of The Mighty Boosh and “The Great British Bake Off,”) North American debut tour An Evening with Noel Fielding, Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure American tour performed in all 50 states; Billy Connolly’s High Horse tour, the Off-Broadway debut of comedian Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime; Eric Idle’s What About Dick? filmed for Netflix; John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown on Broadway, national tour, West End, and in Colombia, South America; off-Broadway, Australian tour, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Las Vegas runs of Brian Henson’s Puppet Up! Uncensored.

MICK PERRIN WORLDWIDE (Producer). Mick Perrin is a UK based producer/ promoter/agent with a company he began over 20 years ago. Mick spent his youth playing in various punk bands around the UK and was the original STOMP production/tour manager. An extensive career in tour management turned to promotion, with the first ever UK arena tour with Eddie Izzard’s Sexie Tour.  Mick Perrin Worldwide currently tours over 50 artistes across 45 nations and is a major producer of comedy talent at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, first introducing the likes of Bo Burnham, Trevor Noah, Simon Amstell, and Brett Goldstein. Awards include an Emmy (Eddie Izzard’s “Dress to Kill,)” Olivier Award for La Clique, Olivier Award for La Soiree, and a Chortle Award for Off-Stage Contribution. He was last represented in New York with Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, which was followed by a critically acclaimed eight-week engagement at London’s prestigious Garrick Theatre. www.mickperrin.com 

JOHN GORE (Producer) has won 20 Tonys, two Oliviers, two Emmy Awards and the Actors Fund medal of Honour. Since 2019 he has been listed in the Variety 500 most influential business leaders in media. The John Gore Organization family of companies includes Broadway Across America, Broadway.com, The Broadway Channel, BroadwayBox.com, and Group Sales Box Office presenting such hits as WickedHamilton and Disney’s The Lion King. As a film and TV producer his work includes the film Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story directed by Sarah Townsend (2010 Emmy nomination) and the nationally syndicated Broadway entertainment news program, The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal (2021 NY Emmy Award). He directed the only stage adaptations of Batman and Star Trek and produced the record-breaking Thunderbirds FAB, which at the age of 26 made him the youngest ever successful West End producer. In 2023 he became the owner of Hammer Films whose current release stars Suzy/Eddie Izzard as Doctor Jekyll. A committed philanthropist, John provides support to more than 60 organizations including the Princess Grace Foundation USA, underwriting Hamilton’s education programs, and providing theater educators in the NYC public schools through the Arthur Miller Foundation. He partnered with Scarlett Johansson to organize an all-star benefit reading of Our Town featuring Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., and the stars of the Avengers, raising $500,000 for Hurricane Maria Relief. Via Broadway.com he is an avid supporter of Family Equality advancing equality for LGBTQ families. His company recently sponsored the building of the Rita Moreno Arts Building in West Hollywood and made possible free tuition for all acting students at Julliard in perpetuity by funding their first year.

GREENWICH HOUSE was founded in 1902 with a mission to help New Yorkers lead more fulfilling lives through social and health services and cultural and education programs.  Annually, nearly 15,000 people are served at their Senior Centers, Music School, Pottery, After-School and Summer Camp, Nursery School and clinics addressing behavioral health for seniors, adults overcoming addiction and for victims of child abuse. http://www.greenwichhouse.org.

 

 

BARBRA STREISAND’S MOTHER OF ALL MEMOIRS ·

(Rachel Syme’s article appeaed in The New Yorker, 11/14/2023. Photo: Trust is a big theme in the book, and perhaps its reason for existing. Photograph by Irving Penn / © Condé Nast) 

 

In “My Name Is Barbra,” the icon takes a maximalist approach to her own life, studying every trial, triumph, and snack food of a six-decade career. 

Seventy years ago, before she was galactically famous, before she dropped an “a” from her first name, before she was a Broadway ingénue, before her nose bump was aspirational, before she changed the way people hear the word “butter,” before she was a macher or a mogul or a decorated matron of the arts, Barbra Streisand was, by her own admission, “very annoying to be around.” She was born impatient and convinced of her potential—the basic ingredients of celebrity, and of an exquisitely obnoxious child. When Streisand was growing up in Brooklyn, in the nineteen-forties, she used to crawl onto the fire escape of her shabby apartment building and conduct philosophical debates with her best friend, Rosyln Arenstein, who was a staunch atheist. One day, Streisand told Arenstein that she was going to prove the existence of God. She pointed at a man on the street and said that, if she prayed hard enough, he would step off the curb. Within seconds, he obliged. “I had two thoughts at that moment,” Streisand writes in her hulking new memoir, “My Name Is Barbra” (Viking). “One: Whew, that was lucky! And two: There is a God, and I just got Him to do what I wanted by praying. I guess that’s when I began to believe in the power of the will.”

Streisand was always willful. She was not always lucky. Her father, a gentle academic named Emanuel, died from seizure complications when she was a year old. Her mother, Diana, could be cruel and strangely absent, particularly after she married Louis Kind, a man who seemed to resent Streisand’s existence. “I was like a wild child, a kind of animal,” Streisand writes. “There was no routine and no rules.” She shoplifted and stole Kind’s cigarettes, which she smoked on the roof. She developed chronic tinnitus, possibly because of stress, and kept the ringing in her ears a secret for years. “I long for silence,” she writes. But, despite these challenges, Streisand also knew that she was in possession of something rare. She could sing, naturally and effortlessly, with a broad, sunny tone and cataract force. Streisand took exactly one singing lesson and never learned how to read music. She simply accepted herself as gifted, with the same conviction that made her believe she could speak to God.

Because Streisand’s instrument was innate, she also found it rather boring. She joined the Choral Club at Erasmus Hall High School, in Flatbush, but what she really wanted to be was an actress. She would often go to the Astor Theatre, next door to Erasmus, to watch films by Akira Kurosawa, and to the Kings Theatre to see melodramas starring Deborah Kerr and Marlon Brando. (The great motif of this book, besides fame, is snacks, and Streisand is particularly nostalgic about Good & Plenty candy, which she likens to “eating jewelry” in the theatre.) In English class, she produced book reports on Stanislavsky’s “My Life in Art” and “An Actor Prepares.” She also got a job at the Cherry Lane Theatre, where she watched a production of the Irish playwright Sean O’Casey’s “Purple Dust.” She learned a lead role and proclaimed herself an understudy—though nobody had asked her to do this—and would greet the stagehands with “Top o’ the mornin’ to you, boys!” in an Irish accent. (“Again,” she writes, “annoying to be around.”)

Streisand was obsessed with acting because she saw it as a form that allowed for spontaneity and change. She was dismayed to learn, in a class that she took at fourteen, about the concept of blocking, in which an actor is expected to repeat her motions every time she runs through a scene. “You mean you have to move in exactly the same way, to the same spots?” she asked her teacher. “Why?” (Soon after, she quit the class.) Throughout her career, she balked at the idea that self-expression should be stable or reproducible. One reason that Streisand leaned into her musical prowess—she graduated high school at sixteen, moved to Manhattan, and soon started performing in a gay bar and a night club—was that concert audiences loved her elasticity. To this day, she prefers to sing a song differently each time.

The great paradox of Streisand’s career, then, is that as a person she has been nearly impervious to change. “No matter who you are,” she writes, “you can only eat one pastrami sandwich at a time.” Her point is that fame is a “hollow trophy”; she still thinks of herself, at eighty-one, as the “skinny marink” from Brooklyn. This assertion is tough to take from a woman who could, if she wanted, have every pastrami sandwich in New York delivered to her Malibu estate on a private jet, but I’m inclined to believe her. Streisand has spent her career, which spans fifty-plus albums, more than a dozen movies in starring roles, three films as a director, and a bushel of awards (an honorary egot, along with three Peabodys, eleven Golden Globes, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom), trying to protect the person she always was: a girl who, somehow, knew how to trust herself.

(Read more)

***** ‘HELL’S KITCHEN’ REVIEW – ALICIA KEYS JUKEBOX MUSICAL IS A MARVEL ·

(Lauren Mechling’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/19; Photo: Maleah Joi Moon in Hell’s Kitchen. Photograph: Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.)  

The Public Theater, New York

The star helps craft a show-stopping semi-autobiographical off-Broadway musical that brings the house down

Ah yes, the jukebox musical. That darling of fat-cat Broadway producers looking to make a quick buck by bringing a beloved songbook to life and packing the house night after night. Leaning on chart-topping numbers strung together via minimal dialogue, these mix-tape shows can also feel slapdash and witless, so much that the New York Times critic Jesse Green called jukebox musicals “the cockroach of musicals”.

 

Hell’s Kitchen, Alicia Keys’s live-wire theatrical adaptation of her own hit list, puts the rest of the genre to shame. Over a dozen years in the making, the show, which makes its off-Broadway debut at the Public Theater (where Hamilton had its original run), is no rewarmed songbook. It’s a surprisingly loose-limbed and rousing celebration of love, music and a pre-TikTokified New York City, directed by Michael Greif (Rent, Dear Evan Hansen) and overseen by Keys, who had a hand in everything from the fly-girl dance routines to the casting of understudies. A recent preview performance had members of the audience losing their minds, raising their arms in the air mid-song and wiping tears from their eyes between numbers.

Keys, the Grammy-winning and classically trained R&B star, loosely based the story on her Manhattan childhood. The erratically present father, powerful and possessive mother, and life-changing piano teacher are all there (played, respectively, by Brandon Victor Dixon, Shoshana Bean and Kecia Lewis, who together have enough star power to light up a constellation).

At the production’s center is Maleah Joi Moon, the radiant and angel-voiced 21-year-old newcomer who fell from the heavens (New Jersey, actually) and plays 17-year-old Ali. She lives with her mother in Manhattan Plaza, a subsidized apartment complex in the grimy midtown neighborhood from which the show takes its name. Donning the baggy pants and boxer shorts combo and Timberland boots that were standard city-girl attire in the 90s, and alternately channeling childlike giddiness and hormone-fueled rage, Moon is an unparalleled avatar of the torment of being 17.

Like Persephone, our heroine is unable to separate from her mother but simultaneously unable to resist the urge to stray from her. She’s on the verge, and the production gives voice to the seemingly fresh hell of late adolescence.

(Read more)

 

‘THE SPANISH TRAGEDY’ BY THOMAS KYD (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3—LINK BELOW) ·

The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd Abridged and adapted by Pauline Harris and Emma Smith

Listen

Spain is in the middle of a peace treaty with Portugal, when Marshall Hieronimo is forced down a brutal path of vengeance from which there is no return. This bold and visceral adaptation is intercut with contemporary music in this new BBC Audio Drama production. It powerfully explores the morality of revenge, the stages of grief, and violence, and the poetry of extreme emotion.

Hieronimo – Robert Glenister Lorenzo – Sandy Grierson Bel-Imperia – Joanna Vanderham King of Spain/Bazardo – Michael Birtenshaw Duke of Castille/Viceroy of Portugal – Jonathan Keeble Ghost of Andrea/The Executioner/Portuguese Ambassador – John Lightbody Revenge/Maid to Isabella – Jessica Turner Isabella – Emma Cunniffe Horatio – Will Kirk Pedringano – Don Gilet Balthazar – Josh Bryant-Jones Alexandro/Paige – Tom Kiteley Requim song composed and performed by Jules Maxwell, Lina Rodriques, and James Chapman Production co-ordinator – Jonathan Powell Introduction by Professor Emma Smith from Hertford College, Oxford Sound by Keith Graham and Alison Craig Produced and Directed by Pauline Harris

 

LOVE. FAMILY. MEMORY. “FLAWLESS”: ROBIN GOLDFIN’S NEW PLAY AT TNC (11/9-26) ·

Theater for the New City Presents

 

Flawlessa tale of enchantment

Written by Robin Goldfin 

Directed by Ed Chemaly

 

November 9-26, 2023 (12 performances)

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 3pm

Plus, Wednesday, November 22 at 8pm

(no performance on Thanksgiving Day)

 

Theater for the New City

155 First Avenue
New York, NY 10003

 

General Admission: $18

Students and Seniors: $15

For tickets 

Runtime: 120 minutes with one intermission

Theater for the New City Executive Artistic Director Crystal Field presents Flawless, a tale of enchantment written by Robin Goldfin, based on and inspired by an award-winning essay by Canadian writer David J. Lawless. Ed Chemaly directs a cast of seven, including David Carson*, Page Clements*, Hannah Dillenbeck, Ricardo Gomez, Deanna Henson*, John Lampe*, and Hana LauerFlawless will be staged for twelve performances from November 9-26, 2023, at Theater for the News City, 155 First Avenue, New York, NY 10003. *Appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association. AEA Showcase.

 

Flawless is staged with dance and movement by Laurie DeVito, live music composed and performed by Oren Neiman on the guitar, and Patricia Santos on the cello.

 

A family’s youngest daughter takes center stage as her father cares for his wife of over 50 years, who now has Alzheimer’s. Witnessing the relentless repetition of the disease and the extraordinary patience and unwavering commitment of her father’s love, Estella struggles to accept her mother as she is now. While recalling her mother’s former vitality, a world view emanates, and we see the same couple in their first year of marriage, filled with light and hope for the future. She moves through time and space to learn the flickering power of memory, and to  remember what is important when the mother she loves cannot.

 

“Alzheimer’s and dementia affect all family members, but in different ways. The original award-winning essay by David J. Lawless includes actual conversations Lawless experienced with his wife in the last year of her life, and those conversations are recreated in this stage adaptation,” said director Ed Chemaly. “Dramatized by a brilliant cast of performers to capture the heartache of these gut-wrenching diseases, Flawless is ultimately about the importance of memory, and the beauty and enduring nature of love.”

Performances for Flawless are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm, plus a special Thanksgiving Eve performance on Wednesday, November 22 at 8:00pm. There is no performance on Thanksgiving Day.

 

Ticket Prices are $18 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors.

 

For tickets, visit: https://theaterforthenewcity.net/shows/flawless/

 

The runtime is two hours with one 15-minute intermission.

Robin Goldfin (playwright) is a playwright, performer and teacher based in New York. His most recent project was Suddenly, a Knock at the Door, a play based on stories by award-winning Israeli author and filmmaker Etgar Keret with original live score by Oren Neiman. Robin’s own 10-minute play The Acoustics, directed by Ken Talberth, was part of Artistic New Directions’ Eclectic Evening of Shorts. His solo play The Ethics of Rav Hymie Goldfarb, directed by David Carson, premiered in The Midtown International Theatre Festival. (“Splendidly crafted” wrote nytheatre.com).  Robin’s other writing has been published in Tikkun Magazine, Zeek, and The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide; and in the anthologies Queer Stories for Boys: True Stories from the Gay Men’s Storytelling Workshop and One on One: The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century. As a performer, Robin danced for five years with Laurie DeVito’s She-Bops and Scats, a concert jazz-dance company and taught Simonson Jazz Dance Technique in New York and abroad. Robin has held artist’s residencies at Makor, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and at The Mishkan Omanim (Artists Residence) in Herzylia, Israel. Robin holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dramatic Writing from New York University and is recently retired as Clinical Professor of Writing in New York University’s Liberal Studies Program. He is a member of PEN American Center and The Dramatists Guild.

Ed Chemaly (director) is a director, actor and writer. At New York’s Metropolitan Playhouse he directed The Jewish King Lear (NYIT Award Nomination), The Easiest Way (adaptor and director) and The Spirit House. Other New York credits include Labor Day, A Doctor In Spite of Himself, shows at Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Mint Theatre, Henry Street Settlement, Spectrum Stage Co. and The Producers Club, as well as six original cabaret shows at The Village Gate, Eighty Eights and The Duplex. Regionally he directed the Deertrees Theatre Festival productions of Sleuth, I Ought To Be In Pictures and Almost, Maine; The Northeast Theatre and Electric Theatre Company’s The Odd Couple (female version), Almost, Maine, The Gibson Girl of His Dreams and Operation Opera, as well as Marriage Play at the Triangle Theatre in Philadelphia, Luv and Broadway Bound at Liberty Stage Co., a dinner theatre tour of Move Over, Mrs. Markham and a national tour of The Imaginary Invalid.

 

Oren Neiman (Composer/Guitarist) Oren’s compositions explore a combination of Jazz sensibility with Middle Eastern rhythms and melody. He was born in Israel and has lived in New York since 2001. Oren has released three albums as a bandleader, most recently the trio album “Serenity Now”(July 2023), and three albums with his band “Isra-Alien” – a high energy acoustic guitar duo. He also composes music for Theatre, most recently for Suddenly a Knock at the Door, which was staged at Theater for the New City in 2016. He performs regularly with his various musical projects in the NY area as well as touring wherever the music takes him. Oren was the Guitar/Mandolin chair in National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene’s award winning production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish directed by Joel Grey.

 

Laurie DeVito (choreographer) was a founding director of Dance Space/Dance New Amsterdam where she taught for 40 years. Along with her company, Laurie DeVito and Dancers, she has taught, choreographed and performed at schools and theaters across the United States, Canada and abroad. Most notably, she has worked at NYU Tisch School of the Performing Arts, Yale University, York University (Toronto), Montreal Jazz Festival, Spirit Square Center for the Arts(NC), Gustavus Adolphus College(MN), Tel Aviv Dance Center (Israel), I.A.C. Studio (Tokyo), International Dance (Spain), and Balettakademien (Sweden). She has self-produced 8 seasons in NYC. Throughout her tenure at Dance Space she co-created Dream Catchers Children Program and produced Susan Osborn’s Seeds of Singing workshops. Laurie brings Simonson technique which is specifically designed for dancers of all disciplines and injury prevention to Gina Gibney Center and Mark Morris Dance Center. For more information please visit: lauriedevito.com

Flawless is presented by Theater for the New City. Set Designer: Lytza Colon,  Lighting Designer: Heather Crocker,  Costume Designer: Anthony Paul-Cavaretta, Production Stage Manager: Mary Caitlyn Deffely; Poster Design: Janice Davis, Publicity: Paul Siebold OFF OFF PR.

 

Meet the Cast

David L. Carson (He) started his professional Actors Equity career in 1975. Since then, he as appeared with numerous New York companies including Metropolitan Playhouse (20+ productions over 14 years), MTWorks, and American Bard (Innovative Theatre nomination for Best Actor for Gloucester in King Lear). He has appeared regionally with Virginia Premier Theatre, IUP Theatre, and toured the country with Prince Street Players. He was directed by Tonya Pinkins in Glory Kadigan’s Till We Meet Again. David has worked with playwright Robin Goldfin on many projects since 2004. With Composer Oren Neiman, the three friends spent over 5 years turning 8 short stories by Israeli writer Etgar Keret into the play Suddenly a Knock at the Door, which premiered at Theatre For The New City. David and director Ed Chemaly have worked on projects together for over 30 years. Creating Flawless over the last four years has been a “Labor of Love by a Family of Friends.”

 

Page Clements (She) has appeared in over 60 productions in NYC and beyond. Her many credits include productions with The Roundabout Theatre Co., The Metropolitan Playhouse, The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, The New York Shakespeare Exchange, The Hudson Warehouse, The Electric Theatre Company, and The T Schreiber Theatre. She is an award-winning actress and coach and currently an instructor of voice, dialects, and Shakespeare at the famed T Schreiber Studio. She recently appeared in the film “Art Thief” by Arthur Egeli, premiering last June in the Provincetown International Film Festival. Page also has many directing credits, and you may see her work in a new play by Alice Jankell in January. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. www.pageclements.com

 

Hannah Dillenbeck (Dancer Em/Police Officer/Tina) is a dancer and Pilates instructor based in NYC. She is from Rochester, NY and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Oklahoma with a BFA in Modern Dance Performance and a BS in Biology/Neurobiology. Hannah dances professionally with Ballaro Dance (since 2020) and Alison Cook Beatty Dance (since 2023) and has performed as a freelance artist throughout the city with LimónLaunch (José Limón Foundation), MUMOS, Forza Dance Company, and visual artist, Reza Farkondeh. She has performed abroad at International Dance Conferences in Beijing, China and in Barcelona, Spain.

 

Ricardo Gomez (Alfredo/Police Officer) is a native of Colombia, S.A., and moved to the United States in 1989 on a scholarship to the New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida for a BA. In 1993, while he was getting his MA from Hunter College he received a scholarship to the professional training program at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in NYC. He danced with Martha Graham Dance from 1993-1996. Mr. Gomez has also worked with Pearl Lang, Marijeanne Liederbach, II Piccolo Theater Dell’Opera, Mary Street Dance Theater, Deuxalamori Ballet Company, Michael Mao and Danscores. In 1996 Mr. Gomez founded the Gomez Dance Theater where he is the artistic director and choreographer. His choreography has been performed in New York at the Riverside Theater, New Generation for Dance in Purchase, New Choreographers on Pointe, the Joyce SoHo and the 92nd Street Y. Additionally, his choreography has been presented throughout South America and Europe. Mr. Gomez was commissioned by the Grupo de Danca de Almada in Portugal to create a work for their European tour, also he was invited to the “Millennium Celebration” for the Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theater as a guest choreographer. Mr. Gomez was commissioned to create a work for the Veteran’s Day dance festival at the 92nd Street Y. He has taught extensively in Colombia, Portugal and the United States. While teaching on the faculty at Escola Superior de Danca in Lisbon, Mr. Gomez introduced and instructed the faculty in a new curriculum which was integrated permanently into the university’s offerings. At present he is working on a new work inspired by the paintings of the Portuguese painter Paula Rego that is going to be performed in the festival “Danza de la Ciudad” in Bogota Colombia in 2024.

 

Deanna Henson (Estella) has appeared in several film, television, and theatre productions in New York City. Past credits include Relentlessly Pleasant (TIC Theatre), The Jewish King Lear (Metropolitan Playhouse), And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (Longview Theatre), The Man Who Came to Dinner (PlayMaker’s Rep), The Impressionists (world premiere by Michael McKeever), Outfoxed (FullStop Collective), and Sensitive People (directed by Dan Lauria), to name just a few. Among her many TV credits some favorites are “Billions,” “Dexter,” “C.S.I. Miami.” Her film credits include “Suicide by Sunlight” (directed by Nikyatu Juso for Tribeca Films) and “Straight,” for which she won two best actress awards, Rahway International Film Festival and Hang Onto Your Shorts. And a nomination from Golden Door Film Festival. She holds an M.F.A. from UNC Chapel Hill, and has studied in the city with Terry Schreiber, Michael Howard and David Vadim.

 

John Lampe (Daniel) is a New York based actor, musician, writer and director. Onstage he has performed with the New York Shakespeare Company, New Circle Theatre Company, Frog and Peach Theatre and at many historic New York venues such as Nuyorican Cafe, The Players Theatre and the Stonewall Inn. Most recently he brought his two-man musical comedy The Tuneabomber to the Edinburgh Fringe. He is currently the Artistic Director of AND Theatre Company, where he helps to bring new works to the stage. AEA. BFA: Stephens College. Keep in touch at www.johnlampe.com

 

Hana Lauer (Em) is making her theatre debut in New York City having come from an extensive background of theatre training. She recently starred as Melinda in “Forgive Me Father” (Feature Film), “Manon in Mode” (Short), and is currently studying at William Esper Studio under Barbara Marchant.  She has also studied at the Barrow Group and is an alumnus of Denver School of the Arts.

 

Patricia Santos (Cellist) is a songwriter and singing cellist who draws on her classical training to meld the cello with non- classical styles. Her music inhabits blues, rock, folk pop, and avant cabaret. Lucid Culture calls her a “dark, diverse cello rocker”, and Vance Gilbert describes her “as if Nina Simone and Yo-Yo Ma had a kid.” She is a teaching artist for Musicambia, bringing music instruction to incarcerated communities. She serves on the Board of Directors of the New Directions Cello Festival, is a voting member of the Recording Academy, and is the proud daughter of immigrants. Learn more at PatriciaSantos.com

 

Flawless production photos, from Top (Photographer: Paul Siebold)

Hannah Dillenbeck, Ricardo Gomez 

Hana Lauer, Hannah Dillenbeck, Deanna Henson, Ricardo Gomez

Page Clements, Deanna Henson, Hannah Dillenbeck

David L Carson, Page Clements, Hana Lauer, John Lampe

Robin Goldfin photo, courtesy of the author

FATHER OF SELF-EXILED BELARUSIAN WRITER JAILED FOR REPOSTING ARTICLE ·

(From Radio Free Europe, 11/10; Photo of Sasha Filipenka, from Radio Free Europe.)

Self-exiled Belarusian writer Sasha Filipenka told RFE/RL on November 10 that a Minsk court sentenced his father to 13 days in jail for reposting an article by the Zerkalo (Mirror) website that the government has labeled as extremist. Filipenka wrote on Facebook earlier that police detained his father on November 9 and that it is “obvious that they are putting pressure on me and want me to stop talking to the European media.” The 39-year-old writer is the author of several books for which he has received literary prizes. He fled Belarus after he took part in anti-government protests in 2020. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, click here. 

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THESE UKRAINIAN ARTISTS, WRITERS WERE KILLED BY RUSSIA’S WAR ·

(Dinara Khalilova’s article appeared in the Kyiv Independent, 10/25/23; Photo:  Ukrainian ballet dancer Oleksandr Shapoval (top left), artist and researcher of Ukrainian cuisine Olha Pavlenko (top right), film editor Viktor Onysko (bottom left), artist and fashion designer Liubov Panchenko (bottom center), conductor Yurii Kerpatenko (bottom right). All of them were killed by Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. This audio is created with AI assistance.)

“My worst fear is coming true: I’m inside a new Executed Renaissance. As in the 1930s, Ukrainian artists are killed, their manuscripts disappear, and their memory is erased,” Ukrainian writer Viktoriia Amelina penned in the foreword to the published diary of another author, Volodymyr Vakulenko, murdered during the Russian occupation of Izium.

Amelina, who dug up Vakulenko’s notes he had hidden from the Russians in his yard and initiated the diary’s publication, was also killed by Russia’s war. She died on July 1 after being critically injured in a Russian missile strike on Kramatorsk.

Vakulenko and Amelina are among dozens of Ukrainian cultural figures killed by Russian aggression. There is no official record of such losses, but two lists compiled by PEN Ukraine suggest that the full-scale invasion has claimed the lives of at least 65 Ukrainian cultural figures.

Some were killed as civilians in missile attacks or in occupation, others as service members after joining the Armed Forces to defend their country. But all of these deaths have contributed to what experts call Russia’s hundreds-year campaign against Ukrainian culture.

“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin has said that Ukraine has no right to exist as a state, so they (Russians) are trying to erase all evidence of this existence,” Olha Honchar, director of Lviv’s Memorial Museum of Totalitarian Regimes, told the Kyiv Independent.

“If you have a pro-Ukrainian position, engage in culture, language, literature, history — then you are a target for destruction on the occupiers’ lists.”

The Kyiv Independent tells the stories of five cultural figures Ukraine has lost to Russia’s war since Feb. 24, 2022.

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A HOTBED OF ENGLISH RADICALISM? AUDEN, BRITTEN AND THE UNSUNG GLORY OF THE GROUP THEATRE ·

(Sam Kinshin-Smith’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/1; Photo: Gifted generation … Auden and Britten. Photograph: Britten Pears Arts.)

When they weren’t having screaming rows, the members of this overlooked 1930s collective changed the course of cultural history. Why isn’t it better known?

The year is 1937, and at a farmhouse in a village on the edge of the Chilterns named Fawley Bottom, two of the greatest artists of the 20th century have retired to the piano. It is August bank holiday weekend and as “rows – and more rows” detonate around them, Wystan Hugh Auden picks out the melody to Stormy Weather with a single finger, while Benjamin Britten improvises a masterful accompaniment.

Auden, Britten and others including the poet Stephen Spender had been summoned to the home of the artist John Piper for the Group Theatre congress. It is an occasion that, like so many air-clearing exercises for artistic collectives before and since, no doubt seemed very important to its participants at the time, but was actually a storm in a teacup. The only reason it’s remembered at all is because of what each of these men did next. (What Britten actually did next, he wrote in his diary, was “smoke two cigarettes … with disastrous consequences in the morning. Never again.”)

It wouldn’t be at all surprising if you’ve never heard of the Group Theatre. The Wikipedia entry for it, for instance, is just six lines long. Yet it wasn’t just Auden, Britten, Spender and Piper who had some involvement with the ensemble in the 1930s; Christopher Isherwood and Louis MacNeice wrote for it too, while Duncan Grant, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland contributed designs for productions, which utilised the talents of actors like Alec Guinness and Trevor Howard, singers including Hedli Anderson (women did feature, occasionally) and directors such as Tyrone Guthrie. Bertolt Brecht, TS Eliot and WB Yeats are described by Michael Sidnell, the only person to write a book about the Group Theatre (long out of print), as “especially attentive spectators”.

Over eight years, between 1932 and 1939, the group produced a number of notable original plays, including Auden’s The Dance of Death (1933), co-directed by Guthrie with designs by Moore; Auden and Isherwood’s The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935), The Ascent of F6 (1936) and On the Frontier (1938) the latter two with music by Britten; MacNeice’s The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (1936) and Out of the Picture (1937), both again with music by Britten; and Spender’s Trial of a Judge (1938), with sets designed and painted by Piper. These were interspersed with some Shakespeare here, a Cocteau translation there, an important adaptation of Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes in between, along with numerous revues, experimental happenings and cabarets, performed in obscure venues across London – and also occasionally Cambridge, thanks to the encouragement of John Maynard Keynes.

It was, in other words, one of the motliest and most distinctive gatherings of British and Irish genius of the first half of the 20th century, a dynamic collaboration between artists who transformed their fields and changed the course of modern literary, musical and artistic history.

So why has it not garnered more attention? Consider, once again, Fawley Bottom: these might have been great men, or men who would become great, but they were also quite silly. There was something residually schoolboyish or studenty about how the Group Theatre operated – artistically, politically, commercially, socially. Reading about them, your reference point is sometimes the Cambridge Footlights, or Beyond the Fringe. The underlying homosocial-verging-on-sexual dynamics, the pretentiousness (one 1935 performance was described as “a Harlequinade”), the shambolic finances (Keynes was shocked to discover the company was legally incapable of entering into a contract), the relaxedness about only ever reaching a small coterie of cultural insiders with their work, the epic rows: all will be familiar to anyone who’s ever taken a university show up to Edinburgh. Silliest of all was Rupert Doone, the group’s founder, a long-forgotten dancer and former lover of Cocteau’s, plucked from obscurity in Paris by Sergei Diaghilev. He was, by all accounts, modestly visionary, especially in his openness to European theory and techniques, and maximally impossible.

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