Category Archives: Current Affairs

JAPAN THEATRE OLYMPICS GOES BACK TO ITS ROOTS FOR NINTH ITERATION ·

(Andrew Eglinton’s and Mika Eglinton’s article appeared in the Japan Times, 8/13.)

Since the late 1970s, people from all over the world have traveled to the village of Toga in rural Toyama Prefecture to attend Tadashi Suzuki’s renowned acting classes or to see the Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT) and other invited artists perform at the site’s specially crafted indoor and outdoor theater spaces.

The village has also played host to the Toga Festival, which brings practitioners together in the creation of new dramatic works. The festival is testament to Suzuki’s deep-held belief in the collaborative power of theater. For Suzuki, collaboration is not simply mixing cultural difference and creative passion: It involves training and learning a shared vocabulary of movements, expressions and ideas; and finding a common ground on which to build something entirely new. This is part of the reason why Suzuki decided to elaborate his own theater methodology and has taught it since the 1970s.

The site itself helps facilitate this pursuit of artistic truth. The combination of remote access, sprawling wilderness, and the iconic gasshō-zukuri, or A-frame thatched roof farm houses used for performance practice, brings a focus and clarity to the collaborative work that is increasingly difficult to achieve amid the mass distractions of urban life.

This same spirit of collaboration will form the backdrop of the ninth edition of the Theatre Olympics in August and September. The event is co-hosted by Japan and Russia, and Suzuki will oversee a program at the Toga Art Park, while his counterpart, Valery Fokin, will run a separate program at the Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. Both events will showcase international works, many of which were directly or indirectly influenced by the theater culture of Toga.

(Read more)

Photo: Japan Times

ON ADJACENT STAGES, TWO HAUNTED HOUSES, CIRCA 1882 AND 2019 (SV REVIEW PICK, MA) ·

(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/12; via Pam Green.)

A sumptuous Ibsen revival starring Uma Thurman and a knockout premiere by Adam Bock close the Williamstown season with a metaphysical “boo!”

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Two ghost stories are running side by side here at the Williamstown Theater Festival, but only one has “Ghosts” as its title.

That’s the headliner, on the festival’s main stage: Ibsen’s classic about a family and a society possessed (and literally sickened) by inbred amorality. To the play’s already overflowing grab bag of symbols and hot topics circa 1882 — syphilis, incest, arson, euthanasia — the director Carey Perloff adds gorgeous stage pictures, eerie live music and a glowy Uma Thurman giving a creditable performance in a famously difficult role.

Just across the lobby, on the festival’s Nikos Stage, is the other ghost story, as stylistically distant from Ibsen as a play could reasonably get. In Adam Bock’s “Before the Meeting,” the walking dead are recovering modern-day alcoholics and drug addicts, setting up a church basement for a series of 12-step meetings. They don’t discuss abstract philosophy; their chief concerns appear to be the maintenance of the coffee urn and the arrangement of the chairs.

But over the course of eight days, as the play digs deeper, its naturalistic trappings drop away. Eventually Mr. Bock takes us dangerously close to the glowing core of Ibsenism, giving the Off Broadway treasure Deirdre O’Connell a stupendous 25-minute monologue that rips open the story with heartbreaking self-reproach. Phantoms, she demonstrates, do not come unbidden into our lives; we invite them, over and over.

(Read more)

Photo:  Troy Record.com

FREDERICK DOUGLASS, A SHAKESPEAREAN IN WASHINGTON ·

(John Muller’s article appeared in Shakespeare and Beyond, 7/19; via Pam Green.)

In his life and times Frederick Douglass was known around the world as an orator, abolitionist, suffragist, and reformist. While living in Washington, DC, where he spent the last quarter-century of his life, he was also known to many as an admirer of William Shakespeare.

Today, tens of thousands of people visit the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site each year at Cedar Hill, Douglass’s home in Anacostia, where the library shelves hold volumes of Shakespeare’s complete works and a framed print of Othello and Desdemona hangs above the mantle in the west parlor.

Douglass frequently alluded to Shakespeare in his oratory and was known to attend performances of Shakespeare at local Washington theatres. On at least two occasions Douglass served as a thespian for the Uniontown Shakespeare Club, a community theater company.

Furthermore, as a philanthropic patron of the arts, Frederick Douglass used his networks and influence within Washington society to support and advance the careers of Black artists, nearly a century before the Black Arts Movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

(Read more)

Listen to a BBC Radio 4 “In Our Time” broadcast on Douglass 

ANDREA ANDRESAKIS: MY WOODSTOCK ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE ·


Andrea Andresakis, Stage Director/Choreographer, has written about her Woodstock Anniversary Tribute*: “I just finished editing this short video in time for the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock. (I wasn’t there, but I’ve been to Bethel for other Anniversaries and have fond memories).”

Perfect for the heart of August, heat and dreams–can it really be half a century ago? 

Angel, by Jimi Hendrix

Choreographed by Andrea Andresakis

Danced by Megan Roup

Filmed by Rodney Thornton at the Chernuchin Theatre, NYC

I hope you enjoy it,

Andrea

Stage Director/Choreographer

SDC

www.Andresakis.com 

*  If you are having trouble playing the video, press the Pop-out box on the upper right hand side of the screen (with the diagonal arrow). 

 

BECKETT’S LAST TAPES ·

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Robert McCrum explores the elusive Samuel Beckett’s astonishing literary career through rare audio tape recordings from the Samuel Beckett Research Centre at the University of Reading.

Housed in the unlikely spot of the Museum of English Rural Life, Beckett – the lifelong outsider – would have enjoyed the absurdity of finding his archives next to dairy farming data and combine harvester records. As a result, perhaps not unintentionally, Beckett’s tapes have remained here as a well-kept secret.

Many of the tapes are interviews recorded by Beckett’s friend, the scholar James Knowlson, while he was researching an official biography. The interviews they contain reveal fascinating insights into the way Samuel Beckett worked closely and collaboratively with his actors and friends – including Sian Phillips, Paul Daneman, Billie Whitelaw and Harold Pinter – and the respect they showed for him in return.

Taking Krapp’s Last Tape as inspiration for this programme, Robert tells the story of the Samuel Beckett archive at Reading and invites surviving collaborators, friends and those who have found inspiration in Beckett’s work – including Tom Stoppard, Edna O’Brien, Sian Phillips, Lisa Dwan, Lady Antonia Fraser and James Knowlson – to listen to extracts from the tapes and reflect on his unique method and the expression of his genius.

Robert aims to gain new insight into the mind of one of the 20th century’s literary giants, while bringing out the poignancy and nostalgia involved in revisiting memories and life-events through the tapes.

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald
A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4

THEIR SHOWS FLOPPED. HERE’S WHAT THESE 7 ACTORS DID NEXT. ·

(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Time, 8/8; via Pam Green.)

With plays and musicals folding left and right, Broadway stars impart wisdom they gained when it happened to them.

On Broadway, summer is an unforgiving season: that time, post-Tony Awards, when shows fold in large numbers. With a half-dozen closures coming right up — some productions that failed to catch on, others that enjoyed long or commercially successful runs — that means a lot of jobs vanishing, too. For people who work in the industry, endings are part of theater’s cycle of life, a hazard to navigate.

Now, we’re not monsters. We’re not going to ask anyone who is about to be out of work to look on the bright side. But we did ask seven Broadway actors — all in current hits, but all with outright flops in their past — to tell us: What’s the best thing that ever happened to you because a show closed early? Their answers were a mix of practical savvy, glass-half-full gratitude and epiphanic philosophy.

Here are edited and condensed excerpts from those conversations.

Patrick Page

Currently playing Hades in “Hadestown”
Mr. Page played Rufus R. Buckley in “A Time to Kill” (2013)

For me, it’s always been a job that I didn’t expect that I then really, really love. When “A Time to Kill” closed, that made me available for “Casa Valentina.” At the stage door of “Casa Valentina,” frequently people would say, “I loved ‘A Time to Kill.’ I was sorry that that closed so early,” and I said, “If it hadn’t closed so early, you wouldn’t be seeing me in this.” It has to be a deep, core fundamental belief that whatever it is you are not doing, you’re not doing for a reason — that something awaits you. You have to have that somewhere inside you, or you simply couldn’t take the number of nos that you’re going to get. You have to understand that the nos are clearing the way.

(Read more)

EXIT BURBAGE – THE MAN WHO CREATED HAMLET ·

Listen on BBC Radio 3

Imagine where we’d be without Shakespeare’s plays. It’s difficult to contemplate now. But it was thanks to another man that many of them were brought to life. 

Today, Richard Burbage is a not a household name. But he should be. He’s the man for whom many of the great Shakespearean roles were created. One of the founding members of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, playing at the newly built Globe in 1599, he’s one of the foundations upon which British theatre was built. Andrew Dickson talks to leading actors, rummages among the archives and dissects some of the greatest parts in acting to discover Burbage’s crucial role – and realises that without Richard Burbage, there could be no Shakespeare.

Producer: Penny Murphy

ROUGH MAGIC THEATRE, 35 YEARS ON: ‘DUBLIN IN THOSE DAYS WAS SO BOHEMIAN’ ·

(Gemma Tipton’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 7/27.)

Company reflects on decades of casting spells and pushing the envelope with its productions

It’s fascinating how the same set of words can have so many different meanings. I’m sitting in on rehearsals for Rough Magic’s forthcoming production of Much Ado About Nothing. Clare BarrettMaeve Fitzgerald and Venetia Bowe are trying out a scene; drawing nuances of emphasis and feelings from Shakespeare’s comedy of love and misunderstanding. When I arrived, Fitzgerald and Barrett were playing swingball on a set that may or may not feature in the final production.

“It helps us learn our lines,” says Barrett, possibly only half joking. Either way, it’s a good metaphor for the quick-witted banter that makes Shakespeare’s lighter writing so sparkling. In the sports hall that’s doubling up as a rehearsal room, sketches for costumes are tacked to the wall and there’s a chocolate cake, gently melting on a table. This latter isn’t a prop, it’s Fitzgerald’s birthday and there have been some tasty celebrations.

They settle down to work. “Let’s not feel any obligation to make things easy for people,” says director Ronan Phelan, as he nudges the action away from the possibly obvious, and into the rich humanity that is why Shakespeare’s plays have endured. He’s not talking about over-complicating, just digging a little deeper. For someone who had the playwright’s infinite variety sucked out in school, it’s a revelation.

Like Shakespeare, although not quite so long-lived, Rough Magic have also endured. Celebrating 35 years this year, and with two productions in preparation for the Kilkenny Arts Festival, as well as the premiere of Marina Carr’s new work, Hecuba, there are few signs of a desire to rest on laurels, or otherwise take it easy. But what does it take to survive through a generation of upheaval, boom and recession? What has changed in the world of Irish theatre, and how do you stay fresh, and relevant, year after year?

(Read more)

Photo: Irish Times

VENICE HAS A BIENNALE FOR THEATER, TOO ·

(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times,  8/2; via Pam Green.)

Despite a history stretching to 1934, it feels like a David to the art exhibition’s Goliath. but its program is all the better for that.

VENICE — What if David, the biblical hero who defeats Goliath, were a gay teenager with a taste for vogueing? The Italian director Giovanni Ortoleva makes the case for reinvention in “Saul,” a new play presented at the Venice Theater Biennale — but the character is also a metaphor for the entire festival, which concludes on Sunday.

While Venice has had a Theater Biennale since 1934, it still feels like a David to the Art Biennale’s Goliath. Misleadingly, the juggernaut contemporary art exhibition is regularly referred to as “the Venice Biennale,” but this city is actually awash with Biennales. Theater is a yearly fixture along with dance and music, while the art and architecture events happen every other year. Yet the performing arts’ presence remains more discreet.

It may be a blessing in disguise. This year’s lineup was blissfully free of the same old star directors who headline many international theater festivals. Antonio Latella, who has been at the event’s helm since 2017, appears more interested in theater-makers who fly below the radar. His first edition featured only female directors, and, in keeping with this year’s theme, “Dramaturgies,” the Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement went to a dramaturge, Jens Hillje, the co-director of Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater.

(Read more)

TONY HARRISON’S PRAGUE SPRING ·

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Chris Bowlby travels with Tony Harrison to Prague, to discover how one of Britain’s best known poets was shaped by the cultural energy and tragedy of 1960s Czechoslovakia. Harrison reads from his Prague poems in the locations where they were written. And he relives with Czech friends stories of cafes and cartoons, sex and surveillance and the hope and despair of a people fighting Soviet tanks and secret police with words, plays and tragic self-sacrifice.