Category Archives: Commentary

AHEAD OF THE TONYS, WATCHING EVERYTHING ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/10; via Pam Green.)

Sunday, June 11 is the biggest night of the year for Broadway: the Tony Awards, when the industry honors the best work of the season. Just as important to Broadway producers: the millions watching on television who are potential ticket buyers.

For those of us on the theater desk — The New York Times has six theater staffers, including an editor, two critics, a photographer, a digital specialist, and a reporter (that’s me), as well as several invaluable freelancers — the Tony season began weeks ago, early on the morning of May 2, when this year’s nominations were announced.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/insider/tony-awards-theater-desk.html?_r=0

CLAUS PEYMANN, BERLINER ENSEMBLE DIRECTOR:  “ART IS ALWAYS RESISTANCE” ·

(from dw.com, 6/7; photo: Berliner Zeitung)

Theater director Claus Peymann has been at the head of major German theaters since 1974 and director of the Berliner Ensemble since 1999. He turns 80 just a few weeks before leaving Bertolt Brecht’s famous institution.

REVOLUTIONARY THEATER DIRECTOR CLAUS PEYMANN TURNS 80

Little Klaus – the name at that time spelled with “K”

Klaus Eberhard Peymann was born on June 7, 1937, into a middle-class family in Bremen. His father was a teacher and a Nazi; his mother opposed National Socialism. Klaus, for his part, rebelled by changing the spelling of his name: “When did ‘Klaus’ turn into ‘Claus’? I don’t know! At some point, it was just easier to write in school,” said Peymann.

It will not be a farewell of his own choice when Claus Peymann leaves the Berliner Ensemble at the end of the season – after 18 years of regency and 190 theater productions. Berlin politicians pushed for his abdication. “I feel like a theater monarch without an empire,” said the theater director, who turned 80 on June 7. “The Berliner Ensemble is my body, my imagination, my mind. I will not go without feeling pain and despair,” he said.

His life and career have been composed of a series of dramatic stations, marked by major rifts, scandals and the determined insistence that theater should be a forum for the humanistic critique of society.

(Read more)

http://www.dw.com/en/art-is-always-resistance-theater-directing-great-claus-peymann-turns-80/a-39143706

‘MY HEART IS IN THE EAST’ (LA MAMA)—NEXT SHOW ON THE STAGE VOICES CALENDAR ·


My Heart is in the East

June 8, 2017 – June 25, 2017

The Downstairs | 66 E 4th Street

Thursday to Saturday at 7PM; Sunday at 2:30PM

$25 Adult Tickets; $20 Students/Seniors; Limited $10 Tickets

 Written & Performed by Jessica Litwak

Inspired by Ancient CordobaMy Heart is in the East is a duet between a Jewish American woman and an Iraqi Muslim man. Bound together by circumstance, these two people from such different walks of life confront their insecurities, fears, and desires. Exploring these tensions through puppetry and poetry, the play is a humorous, passionate and poetic exploration of history as a model for peace building.

Each performance will be followed by an opportunity for the audience to try their hand at poetry composition and a dynamic guided discussion about interfaith issues, featuring noted scholars, journalists, and cultural and civic leaders.

POETRY COMPOSITION & GUIDED DISCUSSION LEADERS

Stay after each performance for an interactive special poetry composition

Thursday, June 8
David Diamond
Theater Professional | More Info

Friday, June 9
Cindy Cooper

Saturday, June 10
Yonit Freedman

Sunday, June 11
Catherine Filloux
Playwright on Human Rights | More Info

Friday, June 16
Raymond Scheindlin
Expert on Cordova & Poetry Translator

Saturday, June 17
Esther Farmer
Jewish Voice for Peace Member

Thursday, June 22
Lana Povitz
Jewish Voice for Peace Member

Saturday, June 24
Tom Block
Author

Sunday, June 25
Stacey Linnartz & Karen Malpede
Theatre Professionals

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Jessica Litwak (Playwright, Actor), Ph.D., is a playwright, actor, educator and activist. She is a Registered Drama Therapist, a trained practitioner of Playback, Psychodrama, Sociodrama and Theatre of the Oppressed. She is the Artistic Director of The H.E.A.T. Collective (www.heatcollective.org) and the New Generation Theatre Ensemble, (www.ngte.org) Litwak’s written work has been published by Applause Books, Smith and Krause, No Passport Press and The New York Times. She has taught theatre and performed at Many theatres and universities in the U.S. as well as in Iraq, Lebanon, India, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Hungary, Eqypt, the U.K. and at La MaMa Umbria. Litwak is a core member of Theatre Without Borders and is a Fulbright Scholar.

Jen Wineman (Director) is a director/choreographer based in Brooklyn. Her work has been seen at theaters in New York and across the country. Off Broadway: F#%king Up Everything. New York: Fable (NYMF), The King’s Whore (Walkerspace); Estrella Cruz [The Junkyard Queen] (Ars Nova). Touring Productions: Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Asolo Repertory Theatre). Regional: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Asolo Rep) Sweeney Todd (Playmakers Rep); The 39 Steps, Shipwrecked (Triad Stage); The Hunchback of Seville (Washington Ensemble Theatre); Bubble Boy (American Theater Group); Aloha Say the Pretty Girls (Theatre Vertigo). Jen is a co-founder and the former co-artistic director of Studio 42, a New York City-based company that from 2001-2015, produced “unproducible” plays by emerging playwrights. She has taught at Vassar College, Ithaca College, SUNY Purchase, and is on the faculty at Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts in New York City. Up next is Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville for the Dorset Theatre Festival. Education/Training: B.A. Vassar College, M.F.A. Yale School of Drama.

Visit LaMama: http://lamama.org/east/

PEARL THEATRE COMPANY CEASES OPERATIONS: THANK YOU FOR 33 SEASONS ·

After 33 seasons performing the great stories of theatre with its resident company of actors, The Pearl Theatre Company has ceased operations today upon the close of its 2016-2017 Season.

Despite this company’s continuing critical acclaim, record-setting audiences, and landmark institutional support, the efforts of the artists, staff, and Board of Trustees simply could not outpace the economic reality of operating a mid-size theatre company in Manhattan amid a crowded field of worthy causes.

Since losing its home at Theatre 80 on St. Mark’s Place nearly a decade ago, The Pearl has fought to keep theatre, arts education, and a resident company of actors thriving in its performance venue on Manhattan’s far West Side. But, as with many of its peers in the arts community, the continuing pressure of maintaining real estate as a 160-seat non-profit theatre proved to be an insurmountable challenge for the company and its steadfast community of supporters.

For three decades, The Pearl has enjoyed dedication, commitment, and support from its audience, its donors, its partners, and its artists. The company deeply thanks those who helped The Pearl realize the creative visions of so many talented artists.

SENATORS STAB TRUMP TO DEATH IN CENTRAL PARK PERFORMANCE OF SHAKESPEARE’S JULIUS CAESAR ·

 

(Aidan McLaughlin’s article appeared on Mediaite, 6/6; via the Drudge Report.)

Shakespeare in the Park, an annual summer program by The Public Theater that puts on plays by William Shakespeare in Central Park, kicked off May 23 with a performance of Julius Caesar.

But this rendition of Shakespeare’s tragedy comes with a twist — Caesar is played by a character that bears a striking resemblance to President Donald Trump.

(Read more)

http://www.mediaite.com/trump/senators-stab-trump-to-death-in-central-park-performance-of-shakespeares-julius-caesar/

Photo: Public Theater

UNKNOWN EDITH WHARTON PLAY SURFACES ·

(Jennifer Schuessler’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/2; via Pam Green.)  

In 2009, a cache of letters from the young Edith Wharton to her governess caused a stir when they turned up at auction. Now, an archive in Texas has yielded another startling Wharton discovery: an entirely unknown play.

“The Shadow of a Doubt,” Wharton’s only known finished play and the first full work by her to surface in 25 years, was set to be staged in New York in early 1901, before the production was abandoned for unknown reasons and forgotten. It survived in two typescripts held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, where it was discovered by Laura Rattray of the University of Glasgow and Mary Chinery of Georgian Court University in New Jersey. Ms. Rattray and Ms. Chinery unveiled their discovery in the recent issue of The Edith Wharton Review.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/theater/edith-wharton-play-surfaces-the-shadow-of-a-doubt.html?_r=0

HOW PROJECTION DESIGN IS CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE OF THEATRE ·

(Allen Mogol’s article appeared in Playbill Online, 6/3; via Pam Green.)

As proven by Dear Evan HansenAnastasia and more, projection design is no longer an onstage bonus, it’s an integral part of design.

Ten years ago, projections on Broadway were viewed with trepidation. What role does such a cinematic device have in the theatre? This has been a watershed season for projections, which have been drawn on to achieve a variety of effects in productions as diverse as Dear Evan Hansen, Anastasia, Oslo, Indecent, Amélie, and Sunday in the Park with George.

“Over the past ten years, the panic has gone away,” says Aaron Rhyne, projection designer for Anastasia. “Projection design is an art form that can add to the theatrical experience and not detract from it. What are we trying to get the audience to feel and think?”

In Dear Evan Hansen, projection design functions as an additional set of characters. In Anastasia, they provide literal backdrops. For Oslo, they offer historical and emotional context while Indecent often uses projections as subtitles. Amélie’s atmosphere relied on them and Sunday in the Park with George’s titular inspiration came to life.

(Read more)

http://www.playbill.com/article/how-projection-design-is-changing-the-landscape-of-theatre

HIGH TICKET PRICES ARE FUELING A BROADWAY BOOM ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/23; via Pam Green.)

Musicals about the aftermaths of a teenage suicide and a terror attack proved unlikely sensations. Star turns by Bette Midler, Josh Groban, Jake Gyllenhaal and Glenn Close added sizzle. And, led by “Hamilton” and “Hello, Dolly!,” the hottest shows started charging once unthinkably high prices for the best seats.

The Broadway season that ended on Sunday was one for the record books. Box-office grosses, which have been climbing since 2013, rose 5.5 percent, to $1.449 billion, a new high, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Broadway League, an industry trade group.

The growth, though, was fueled not by attendance, but by ticket cost. Producers, perfecting a strategy called dynamic pricing, used increasingly sophisticated analytics to adjust ticket prices to reflect varying demand on different days of the week and for different sections of a theater.

(Read More)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/theater/high-ticket-prices-are-fueling-a-broadway-boom.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_cu_20170524&nl=theater-update&nlid=68469194&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

 

 

BEOWULF BORITT, SET DESIGNER, RENOVATES HIS HOME ·

(Joanne Kaufman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/26; via Pam Green.)

What I Love

It may well be, as the saying goes, that doctors’ wives die young, shoemakers’ children go barefoot and car mechanics drive wrecks. But if Beowulf Boritt is any proof, set designers would sooner hand over their staple guns than give short shrift to home sweet (and soignée) home.

For 15 years, Mr. Boritt, who is 46 but looks like a graduate student, lived in a 1950s-era Sutton Place co-op in New York, where he and his wife, the actress Mimi Bilinski, combined a studio and a one-bedroom. The building may have been postwar, but the couple’s apartment was anything but.

“I did all my set-designer tricks to make it look prewar,” said Mr. Boritt, who added crown moldings, redid the baseboards and installed French doors.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/26/realestate/beowulf-boritt-set-designer-renovates-his-home.html?_r=0

Photo: iapot.tv

GARY OWEN: ‘IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT’—ONLY THROUGH 6/4 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

??Iphigenia In Splott at The Sherman Theatre
By Gary Owen
Director: Rachel O’Riordan
Designer: Hayley Grindle
Lighting Designer: Rachel Mortimer
Sound Designer: Sam Jones
Sophie Melville as Effie

By Bob Shuman

According to legend, Iphigenia gives her life so that the Greeks can sail to the Trojan War.  Aside from those in the military, not many think much about sacrificing themselves–and their families–for their country today—but this is the central issue of Iphigenia In Splott—the story of a legal choice, made over a medical issue, by a “stupid slag,” a “nasty skank,” which has come to Brits Off Broadway (59E59 Theatres) via the U.K.’s National Theatre.  Gary Owen’s play, written in Cardiff dialect, won the 2015 Best New Play in Britain and the Stage Award for Acting Excellence 2015, yet Americans may ponder the vernacular of the work and the play’s dramatic resolution.  Maybe British people don’t concur with it either, but the U.K. healthcare system is more entrenched than ours: it started in 1948; by comparison, look at the trouble Americans are having replacing Obamacare, which was only signed into law in 2010.  Those in the U.S. can see Iphigenia In Splott as a cautionary tale, an argument as to why socialized medicine should never take hold here—and a reason for why the Affordable Care Act had to be rejected.  They also might end up thinking that, ultimately, despite her outrageous life of alcohol and drugs and casual sex, Effie, the central character, makes the decision someone in the British lower classes should–that this is how her society had programmed her.  If Iphigenia In Splott had happened in New York, lawyers, without compunction, would have been standing in line to represent the case.  They also would be outraged as to what happened to Effie, although Americans, of course, have their own problems with the medical system: on the subway yesterday, a newly retired African-American gentleman was explaining how during his stroke, he instructed his 911 caller to say that he was Jewish, so that an ambulance would arrive faster.

Despite the fodder for debate, Owen’s play represents one of the few occasions where Americans can examine U.K. domestic policy—we’re so used to writers from the Guardian and English-trained Shakespeareans commenting on ours.  However, those in the U.S. would probably not have problems seeing the benefits of a free market rather than struggling to maintain an inefficient status quo.  This is not to say that Americans can’t be clueless about Britain, as when The New York Times ran a review of A Taste of Honey—a play that will remind of this one–under the title, “She’s Having the Baby. How Quaint.”  Jo, in Shelagh Delaney’s work, is younger, though—and she never reaches the volcanic heights of Effie (searingly played by Sophie Melville):  “Fuckin bottles, fuckin cans, fuckin ash trays. Fuckin boys swilling their drinks, bobbing their heads to the music, Looking sulky as fuck, and shit, shit.  Anywhere there’s space to cram something, there is something: and it’s shit. I can’t be here.”  But she is–and sociology can’t seem to correct it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the English may like the denouement in Owen’s play because the character stands on her own two feet,  the problems of the welfare state continue to shape and plague the youth, forcing them to “take it” because they can take it (“the only way I get through the week is a cycle of hangovers,” Effie discloses).  Ann Coulter, an American who  can be known for her own  vitriol,  has written, “The rampaging mob might save England from itself, finally removing shaved-head, drunken parasites from the benefits rolls that Britain can’t find the will to abolish on moral or utilitarian grounds.”  But whether she is the cause or a casualty, Effie may be deluding herself that she is Iphigenia, and has helped save a nation.  Whether she knows it or not, she may have saved herself, though—this reviewer’s friend explained, after the play, that others, who have been in comparable situations, have tied themselves up emotionally and monetarily for years, fighting.  Some think it best just to move on.

Directed, with momentum, by Rachel O’Riordan.

To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org

‘IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT’

EFFIE ………………………………………….SOPHIE MELVILLE

CREATIVE TEAM DESIGNER ………HAYLEY GRINDLE LIGHTING DESIGNER ………………………………… RACHEL MORTIMER SOUND DESIGNER ………………………………….SAM JONES

CASTING DIRECTOR …………………..KAY MAGSON, CDG COMPANY STAGE MANAGER……………………….CHARLOTTE UNWIN

AEA STAGE MANAGER ……………….VERONICA AGLOW *

The running time of Iphigenia in Splott is 80 minutes with no intermission.

Press: Karen Greco

(c) 2017 b Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.