Category Archives: Current Affairs

GILLIAN SLOVO: LETTER FROM INSIDE ·

Gillian Slovo

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Novelist Gillian Slovo’s letter to her mother, the anti-apartheid activist, Ruth First. Part of a series in which writers from around the world read letters on the theme of imprisonment, inspired by Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis.

Oscar Wilde was incarcerated in Reading Prison between 1895 and 1897, enduring the Separate System, a harsh penal regime designed to eliminate any contact between prisoners. Wilde’s imprisonment led to one of his last great works – De Profundis, an extended letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas written by Wilde in his prison cell.

Gillian Slovo’s novels include Ice Road, Red Dust and 10 Days.

Produced by Barney Rowntree and Jeremy Mortimer
Executive Producer: Joby Waldman

A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 4

Photo: The Guardian

 

DIAHANN CARROLL, ACTRESS WHO BROKE BARRIERS WITH ‘JULIA,’ DIES AT 84 ·

(Margalit Fox’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/4; via Pam Green.)

Diahann Carroll, who more than half a century ago transcended racial barriers as the star of “Julia,” the first American television series to chronicle the life of a black professional woman, died on Friday at her home in West Hollywood, Calif. She was 84.

Her publicist, Jeffrey Lane, said the cause was complications of breast cancer. Ms. Carroll had survived the cancer in the 1990s and become a public advocate for screening and treatment.

A situation comedy broadcast on NBC from 1968 to 1971, “Julia” starred Ms. Carroll as Julia Baker, a widowed nurse with a young son. The show featured Marc Copage as Julia’s son, and Lloyd Nolan as the curmudgeonly but broad-minded doctor for whom she worked. (“Have you always been a Negro or are you just trying to be fashionable?” he asks Julia in an audacious, widely quoted line from the first episode.)

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REVIEW: A SPELLBINDING ‘ANTIGONE,’ BOTH TIMELESS AND URGENT (SV PICK, NY) ·

(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/26; via Pam Green.)

An easily legible production of the ancient Greek tragedy borrows from the tradition of Noh theater at the Park Avenue Armory.

They make the gentlest rippling sound, these candlelit figures gliding ever so slowly through the water, perambulating around a spare scattering of boulders. In a vast, shallow pool, beneath the high-arched ceiling of the Park Avenue Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall, the hems of their filmy white kimonos trail along the surface.

The tableau is so tranquil that you might not even notice, as you take your seat, that you’re already being drawn into the ethereal, meditative otherworld where Satoshi Miyagi’s spellbinding “Antigone” will unfold.

An ancient Greek tragedy by way of Japan, it is visually and aurally splendrous — a large-cast spectacle, with hypnotically paced choreography borrowed from the tradition of Noh theater. Most of the principals here are played by two actors: one, kneeling in the water, to speak the dialogue; the other, on a nearby rock, to perform the movements.

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STATEMENT REGARDING THE PASSING OF INTERNATIONAL OPERA STAR JESSYE NORMAN ·

(via Gwendolyn Quinn)

(New York, NY — September 30, 2019) — It is with deep sadness and sorrow that we announce the passing of international opera star Jessye Norman, in a statement issued by Norman’s family through the family’s spokesperson, Gwendolyn Quinn.

Norman, 74 years old, passed away today, Monday, September 30, 2019, at 7:54 a.m. ET at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York, NY, where she was surrounded by loved ones. The official cause of death was septic shock and multi-organ failure secondary to complications of a spinal cord injury she had sustained in 2015.

Norman was the eldest of two remaining siblings, James Norman and Elaine Sturkey, from a total of five children. “We are so proud of Jessye’s musical achievements and the inspiration that she provided to audiences around the world that will continue to be a source of joy. We are equally proud of her humanitarian endeavors addressing matters such as hunger, homelessness, youth development, and arts and culture education.”

Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.

IN PRAISE OF TOVE DITLEVSEN — THE GREATEST DANISH WRITER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF ·

(Boyd Tonkin’s article appeared in the Spectator, 9/26.)

The Copenhagen Trilogy: Childhood, Youth, Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen reviewed

Pick up a Penguin Classic from a cult Danish author who ‘struggled with alcohol and drug abuse’ and took her own life aged 58, and you may have one or two prior expectations. They will probably not include a flirtatious dinner with an enthralled Evelyn Waugh (‘so attentive and kind’) in a Copenhagen restaurant so quiet that ‘we could hear the thumping of ships’ motors far out on the water’. Tove Ditlevsen and the ‘vibrant, youthful’ Waugh have their evening spoiled when her third husband — a crazy, drug-pushing medic — turns up in his motorcycle leathers to drag Tove away for her bedtime injection, plus a bout of rougher than usual sex that leaves her spaced-out, ‘limp and blissful’.

The author of Vile Bodies himself might have composed this scene from the late 1940s, when Ditlevsen (born 1917) had already published several acclaimed volumes of poetry and fiction. Both fêted as a literary prodigy in Denmark and derided as a circus freak, the slum-girl superstar had become hopelessly addicted to pethidine and methadone. For all her celebrity, she felt for years that ‘no price was too high to be able to keep away intolerable real life.’

Wrenching sadness and pitch-dark comedy regularly partner her swift progress from a cramped Copenhagen tenement to literary fame. Ditlevsen published these three compact memoirs between 1967 and 1971. They capture the naivety, terror and rapture of her early life across a fast-changing palette of prose colors. The tones darken from her quizzical interrogation of adult follies in Childhood through the satirical larkiness of Youth to the junkie melo-drama of Dependency. Tiina Nunnally’s graceful, witty English versions of the first two volumes date from the mid 1980s; Michael Favala Goldman has now translated the more sombre and introspective third.

Little Tove feels herself ‘a foreigner in this world’, a gangly oddball accidentally dropped with her gruff socialist dad (a stoker, often unemployed), her inscrutable maidservant mother, ‘full of secret thoughts I would never know’, and cheerfully hapless brother Edvin. With her penniless family barely surviving the interwar decades on the fringe of the Copenhagen working class, Tove must hope for nothing better than marriage to a ‘stable skilled worker’ who doesn’t booze too much. Instead, she reads and writes, thinks and observes, gathering enamel-bright memories of childhood into a ‘library of the soul’ she will browse over a creative lifetime.

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Photo: The Spectator

‘FOR COLORED GIRLS’ RETURNS, AS A CELEBRATION AND AS A WEAPON ·

(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/13; via Pam Green.)  

Ntozake Shange’s play, with its unflinching depiction of black women’s experience, is coming back to the Public Theater more than 40 years after opening there.

It doesn’t matter how famous a play you’ve written, or how deeply embedded in the culture it’s become. If you’re a playwright, you’re always going to be nudging someone about putting that show onstage again.

So the last time they spoke, about a week before she died, the playwright and poet Ntozake Shange had a question for her director, Leah C. Gardiner.

“By the way,” she asked, “is there any movement on the production?”

She meant the Public Theater’s revival of her breakthrough work, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” which starts previews on Oct. 8. Shange, who died last October at 70, envisioned the production as a celebration. It’s also a homecoming of sorts, at the theater where this enduringly influential choreopoem opened to acclaim in 1976.

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Photo: The New York Times

 

TARELL ALVIN MCCRANEY INTERVIEWS PETER BROOK–THIS THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, FOLLOWING PERFORMANCE OF WHY? AT POLONSKY SHAKESPEARE CENTER, HOME OF THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE ·

Part of Citywide Recognition Peter Brook/NY, This Free Event Will Be Captured by Partner Organization WNET/ALL ARTS for Future Broadcast

Thursday, September 26 at approximately 8:45pm
Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn)
Free and open to the public

Peter Brook/NY (Karen Brooks Hopkins, Executive Producer) today announces that Tarell Alvin McCraney will interview Peter Brook following the Thursday, September 26, performance of Why?, written and directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne; featuring Hayley CarmichaelKathryn Hunter, and Marcello Magni; and presented by Theatre for a New Audience. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be filmed by partner organization WNET/ALL ARTS for future broadcast. For complete Peter Brook/NY programming information, please visit tfana.org/pbny. Download images here.

About the Artists

Tarell Alvin McCraney is an acclaimed writer. His script In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue is the basis for the Academy Award-winning film Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins, for which McCraney and Jenkins won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. He wrote the film High Flying Bird which premiered on Netflix directed by Steven Soderbergh. McCraney’s plays include Ms. Blakk for President (co-written with Tina Landau), The Brother/Sister Plays trilogy, Head of PassesWig Out!, and Choir Boy which was nominated for four Tony Awards. McCraney is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, the Whiting Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, the Evening Standard Award, the New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Windham Campbell Award, and a USA Artist Award. He is currently Chair of Playwriting at Yale School of Drama; an ensemble member at Steppenwolf Theatre Chicago; and a member of Teo Castellanos/D-Projects. McCraney is currently working on an original scripted TV series, David Makes Man, for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, produced by Michael B. Jordan and Page Fright Productions.

Peter Brook was born in London in 1925. Throughout his career, he distinguished himself in various genres: theatre, opera, cinema and writing. He directed his first play there in 1943. He then went on to direct over 70 productions in London, Paris, and New York. In 1971, he founded the International Centre for Theatre Research in Paris with Micheline Rozan, and in 1974, opened its permanent base in the Bouffes du Nord Theatre. Most recently, he has directed The Suit (2012), The Valley of Astonishment (2014), Battlefield (2015), and The Prisoner (2018).

About Peter Brook/NY

A consortium of New York City cultural, educational, and media institutions come together to create Peter Brook/NY (Karen Brooks Hopkins, Executive Producer), a citywide recognition of Brook’s work and his collaborations with Marie-Hélène Estienne from 1953 to the present. In addition to the U.S. Premiere of Brook and Estienne’s Why? which Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) presents September 21 – October 6 at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Peter Brook/NY features programing from BAMThe Center for FictionColumbia UniversityFrench Institute Alliance Française’s Crossing the Line FestivalHunter CollegeThe Juilliard SchoolTFANA, and WNET.  A booklet produced by BAM Hamm Archives—featuring historic photographs, a timeline of Brook’s productions and New York presence, an essay by writer Violaine Huisman, and information about Peter Brook/NY events—will be available to all attendees and online at BAM.org and TFANA.org.

Leadership support for Peter Brook/NY is provided by The JKW Foundation in honor of Jean Stein and The Lostand Foundation. Additional support is provided by Paul and Caroline Cronson/Evelyn Sharp Foundation, Jeanne Donovan Fisher, and John Lichtenstein.

About Why? (U.S. Premiere)

Written and Directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne
Featuring Hayley Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter and Marcello Magni 
Presented by Theatre for a New Audience
September 21-October 6, 2019 (opening September 26)
Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn)
Tickets, starting at $20, at www.tfana.org, 866.811.4111, and the Polonsky Shakespeare Center box office

At the beginning of the 20th Century “why” and “how to do theatre” became burning questions. What was theatre about? How could it be more alive, more open to all? How could the actor be helped to be truer? What could be a new space? A new way of acting? These questions and many others take us on an exploration joyful and dramatic. This is “why” we do Why?

“Theatre is a very dangerous weapon.” These words were written in the 1920s by one of the most creative, most innovative, directors the theatre has known. His name is Vsevolod Meyerhold. He saw all the menacing dangers that the theatre and art in general were going through in the 1930s in Russia. He read “the writing on the wall”, as we call it, but he did not stop. He hoped until the last minute that the Russian Revolution would win. Meyerhold paid for this with his life.

The three actors—Hayley Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter, and Marcello Magni—will unfold for us this very human story. 
—Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne, Paris 2019

Why? received its world premiere at C.I.C.T/Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, France on June 19, 2019. The project was co-commissioned by C.I.C.T./Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord; Theatre for a New Audience; Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw, National Performing Arts Center; Taiwan R.O.C. – National Taichung Theater; Centro Dramatico Nacional, Madrid; Teatro Dimitri, Verscio; Théâtre Firmin Gémier, La Piscine.

Support for the production of Why? is provided by the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the French Institute Alliance Française, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, and many generous donors to Theatre for a New Audience. 

The production is part of the Crossing the Line Festival organized by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), as well as Brooklyn Falls for France, a cultural season organized by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and FACE Foundation in partnership with Brooklyn venues. 

McCraney Photo: Etonline.com

Via Adriana Leshko

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN EXTREME ACTION MEETS ELUSIVE LANGUAGE? ·

(Gia Kourlas’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/20; via Pam Green.)

In Elizabeth Streb and Anne Bogart’s “Falling & Loving,” dancers and actors share the stage with the Guck Machine, which emits a waterfall of food and other objects.

MONTCLAIR, N.J. — The choreographer Elizabeth Streb has found herself in foreign territory. First, she is collaborating, which is not her usual way of making art. And in teaming up with Anne Bogart, a director of the theater group SITI Company, she has something else to contend with: words.

“I don’t really work with words,” she said between rehearsals at the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University here. “I don’t know how to do that.”

Ms. Streb has built a repertory and a reputation creating action works that strive to defy gravity. Give her and her company, Streb Extreme Action, a platform 30 feet in the air to leap off, a sheet of plexiglass to crash into, or a mat to land on, face forward, with a splat, and they’re right at home.

But in “Falling & Loving,” which begins on Tuesday as part of the series Peak Performances, Ms. Streb isn’t the only one in charge. She has teamed with Ms. Bogart to direct the production, which features six SITI actors and six Streb dancers, who do not speak.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times

KEVIN CONFOY NAMED PRODUCING DIRECTOR AT PHOENIX THEATRE ENSEMBLE  ·

(via Craig Smith)

Phoenix Theatre Ensemble Artistic Director Elise Stone announces the appointment of Kevin Confoy as Producing Director starting October 2, 2019. 

Confoy, who is a resident director at Phoenix Theatre Ensemble (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The Creditors, Dogg’s Hamlet…, The Painting, several readings and workshops) has produced new plays by Joyce Carol Oates, David Mamet, Edward Allan Baker, Marsha Norman, John Patrick Shanley, Oyamo, Quincy Confoy (Win For Life, Winner Young Playwrights Festival), among many others. He is the recipient; OBIE Award, (Producer EST Marathon of One-Act Plays); Drama Desk Nomination (Outstanding Revival, Acting Company), grants; Arthur P Sloan Foundation, Eileen Schloss Fund for New Play Development, FLIK Fund for New Play Production.  He is a professor of theatre at Sarah Lawrence College.

Artistic Director Stone states “We are thrilled to welcome Kevin to our growing artistic team at PTE.  His work as a director at PTE is distinctive, always entertaining, and deeply rich.  Kevin will oversee the development new work at PTE and will head up our playwright intensive workshops coming in the summer of 2020, and he will continue as a resident director.”

Phoenix Theatre Ensemble is an award-winning nonprofit theatre company now in its 16th season presenting a mix of classic plays, new adaptations of classics, and new works that are language based presented by a resident ensemble of artists.  In 2018 the company expanded its NYC programming to produce works in Nyack, NY and Rockland County.   Its next offering is a reading series in NYC and Nyack titled “Women & Patriarchy” with staged readings of The Trojan Women (415BC Euripides), The Duchess of Malfi (1612 Webster), Hedda Gabler (1891 Ibsen) and Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi (Gems 1976).

Information:  PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org and NyackTheater.com  Info@PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org

 

 Photo Caption:  Kevin Confoy

 

200 East 10 Street, NY, NY 10003;  48 S. Broadway, #472, Nyack, NY 10960

212-465-3446; info@PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org

www.PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org; NyackTheater.com

 

CELEBRATING ARTISTRY, EXCELLENCE, COMPANY & COMMUNITY

One of the Best!”  – Wall Street Journal   

 

Top Ten (American Moor) –  Boston Globe & WBUR (NPR)

Top Ten  (Entertaining  Mr. Sloane  – Theatrescene

Top Ten (Tartuffe) -Theatrescene

Top Ten  (Arturo Ui) –  New York Theatre Guide

Eight NYIT Award Nominations

Winner Two  IRNE  Awards

Winner Elliot Norton Award

Winner Best Revival NYIT Award

Winner Best Performance by a Leading Actor

Winner Best Solo Production Audelco Award

American Moor  opening production of Old Globe’s Shakespeare & Race August 2018

AFTER A RENOVATION, A STORIED THEATER HOPES TO ENTICE PARIS ·

(Rosalyn Sulcas’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/13; via Pam Green.)  

The Théâtre du Châtelet is reopening after a two-and-a-half-year makeover, with a new artistic director and an inclusive new mission.

PARIS — The workmen were everywhere. Backstage and onstage, they were hammering, banging, gluing, carrying, laying tarpaulin, shimmying up ladders and shouting, “Attention!”

In the auditorium, a team checked the red velvet seats, making sure that each was in the correct position. On the stage, performers rehearsed, apparently oblivious to the controlled chaos all around.

“Parade,” a ballet whose original production was a collaboration between Erik Satie, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, premiered at the Châtelet in 1917.CreditElliott Verdier for The New York Times

It was a week before the scheduled opening, on Friday, of the Théâtre du Châtelet, one of Paris’s most famous stages, which has been closed for a two-and-a-half year, $34.7 million renovation. In one of the lobbies, a large table had been set up for a group of inspectors who had spent the morning examining every aspect of the renovation. They were deciding whether to give formal permission for the theater to open.

“It’s all going to be fine,” said Ruth Mackenzie, the Châtelet’s artistic director. “That’s what I keep telling everyone.” (She was proved right; the commission pronounced a “favorable verdict” at the end of the day.)

Ms. Mackenzie, 62, is small, forthright and cheerful. When asked about her, everyone said the same thing: She is a powerhouse who doesn’t take no for an answer.

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Photo: The New York Times