Category Archives: Current Affairs

PTP/NYC (POTOMAC THEATRE PROJECT):  ‘HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT’ AND STOPPARD’S ‘DOGG’S HAMLET’ AND ‘CAHOOT’S MACBETH’ (REVIEWS FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Historians, looking back at contemporary American theatre, will have to evaluate whether our stages were reflections of society or partisan distortions. Were our artists “living in the truth,” as former Czech president Václav Havel would ask, or were they politically motivated, sold out, blindsided, outfinanced, or unable to speak due to silencing opinion-makers, the market, or even Google, facebook, or twitter.  A work like Rob Ackerman’s Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson, from The Working Theater, which played off-Broadway, during June and July, sees America’s employed as powerless and compliant–and the boss as original and supremely intelligent, even while he demonstrates only basic knowledge.  In Christopher Shinn’s Dying City, which ran at Second Stage this spring and summer, the highlight is the storytelling, although the characters are types—the smart, contemporary woman, the sensitive, uncloseted gay actor, and the disturbed soldier—all meeting progressive expectations.  What audiences may not be questioning, though, is to what degree the arts in the U.S. are really free—and this is where a writer like Havel, whose rarely performed Vanek plays (three of them here, of four; banned during communism), are now running at PTP/NYC (Potomac Theatre Project) until August 4, alongside two short pieces by Beckett and Pinter, in Havel: The Passion of Thought.  Even if most Americans can not know the horror of life in Czechoslovakia, in the last century, one of the short plays in the evening, a two-hander called “Protest” is a pros-and-cons checklist for the conscience, universally true for anyone who must challenge authority, in any of its guises–or even only intends to send a tweet.  America itself has powerful censoring mechanisms, despite the First Amendment, strongly expressed in 1978 by Russian Nobelist and Soviet labor camp survivor, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whom Thomas Farnan, in Human Events, reminds us, wrote that the media, Western news reporting,  “[endorses] ‘fashionable trends of thought and ideas’ while suppressing ‘independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life.’” Solzhenitsyn was severely criticized—in fact, told to go back where he came from, like “the Squad” today–but his observation regarding “fashionable trends of thought and ideas” is essential when thinking about American arts.

 

“The Protest” is set in Prague, outside a lovely garden home, marked by flowering magnolias and gladiolas–in thirty-two shades–of a television and film writer (played robustly by Danielle Skraastad), who admits that she is “pushing fifty.” She must make a decision on bold action, regarding a court decision, thinking aloud to an old theatrical friend, a dissident (a non-judging David Barlow): “When the rest of us want to do something of ordinary human decency, we automatically turn to you as though you were some sort of agency for the conduct of moral matters.  Perverse, isn’t it? Sickening, isn’t it?”  Her choice is to regain her self-esteem, lost freedom, and honor, even if it means losing her job—or to continue living on “the path of accommodation” and “shameful compromise.”  She realizes that she must be made an example of, and punished cruelly, if she chooses the first option.  She would be the bad conscience of people who do not act, and who will smear her, ultimately thinking her decision stupid, nothing more.  The dilemma is not simply Eastern European, of course, and must be made not only by the accommodating characters in Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson (also set in the television industry), but also in other contexts, such as teachers’ rooms in academia, validating disproven conclusions on Darwin’s theory, for example, the Hollywood of #MeToo, and at publishers and theatre companies, among various jobs throughout the country, adherent to the common wisdom, as opposed to critical, independent thinking.

“Interview” may remind of Chekhov’s short story, “Misery,” where the need to express thoughts, explain oneself, becomes so urgent that the central character begins confiding in a least likely figure.  In Chekhov, this is a horse.  In Havel’s short play, the character is Vanek, who is asked to inform on himself.  Havel’s plays can have elements of absurdism—as they drink and munch peanuts–but he is not whimsical, and his writing can even sound like O’Neill’s realism. It is not lost on viewers, at Atlantic Stage 2, that the playwright does not advocate socialism, part of the current U.S. national debate (what other son of a builder do you know who does not advocate socialism and became president of his country?).  Havel’s characters are bored and drunk, living futile lives, without work ethic and devoid of meaning: “What about me?” says the crass, tormented brewmaster (Michael Laurence), “I’m only good enough to be the shit on which your fucking principles can grow so you can be a goddamn hero. . . . You’re gonna show off  . . .  about the way you handled barrels in a brewery! But what about me?  What can I go back to?  Huh? What future have I got?  What?”  In the plays, Havel works full circle—climax and catharsis always lead back to stagnation, point zero; contradiction (Vanek, for example, is expected to make friends but not become “chummy”) and repetition. The characters can never progress psychologically, much less spiritually, which they appear to want to do, even if they can only make pretense to commercial mimicry.

In “Private View” a couple (Christopher Marshall and Emily Kron) looks toward the West for its cues on everyday life, such as food, art, sex, parenting, and purchase of consumer goods.  The ideas have not grown organically out of their own culture, however, and the characters come across as earnest and empty fakes.  Although the PTP/NYC season 2019 centers on four writers, known for their contributions to the subject of human rights, the chief among them are Havel and Tom Stoppard, both of Czech origin (although Stoppard, for much of his life, has been a British citizen).  In “Private View,” the playwright most invoked, in Havel’s one act, is Ionesco, another Eastern European (in this case, from Romania, who settled in France).  Students and readers can sometimes not understand why artists will speak figuratively–in symbol, for example (a rhinoceros) or metaphor (a cabaret to represent Nazi Germany—the sad news of the death of Hal Prince has just been announced), instead of being direct and exposing the thing itself.  The explanation is usually, “Because it would be too painful”; another reason may that it is too dangerous.  The Vanek plays may seem to talk around what’s really going in a Communist satellite fifty years ago, which had led  PTP’s Co-Artistic Director Richard Romagnoli, in 1991, to add two further short plays in creating Havel: The Passion of Thought, by Pinter and Beckett.  Yet, even so, you may be able to hear the screaming: “Life is hard and the world is divided. Our country has been written off by everybody, nobody’s going to help us, we’re in a very bad way, and it’s only going to get worse–and you can’t change it!”

Pinter’s sobering play, “The New World Order,” takes the audience into a torture room, where assumptions are dismantled, as a hooded man listens to his captor’s threats, spoken as banalities: “He hasn’t got any idea at all of what we’re going to do to him.” Although the assassins are about as bored as the brewery workers in “Interview”—in fact, one seems to maliciously echo the brewmaster’s monologue in Havel’s play: “Before he came here he was a big shot, he never stopped shooting his mouth off”—the leader explains that they are “keeping the world safe for democracy.”  Beckett’s play, “Catastrophe,” actually written in honor of Havel—a work in which Pinter had also played as an actor–has especial bite and edge at PTP/NYC (the consummate direction for the Havel evening is by Richard Romagnoli).  The play (here, the speaking roles are, nontraditionally, played by two women, Madeline Ciocci and Emily Ballou, whose forward-march pacing give the play a fascist edge)–seems to be questioning how the media distorts—and makes fashionable–human rights’ victims—Havel and Solzhenitsyn, for examples, and Natalia Kaliada and Nikolai Khalezin, from Belarus Free Theatre, and Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot, to only begin a listing—who might say that what they were doing had nothing to do with becoming celebrities.

Although this review is being finished, at the end of July, during the second night of the Detroit Democratic debates, it should be mentioned that people can be fearful of socialism, despite its current fashionableness in the United States. One need only look at Sir Tom Stoppard’s Dogg’s Hamlet (known for its 15-minute rendition of Hamlet) and Cahoot’s Macbeth, probably a director’s nightmare (ably undertaken here by Cheryl Faraone), a complicated mosaic of different languages (Early Modern English, Modern English, as well as one the playwright has completely made up), utilizing a large cast. Additionally, as if a new society is being constructed during the plays, there are different settings and shifting set pieces, including huge, brutalist alphabet blocks, created for a Stalinist era (the design is by Mark Evancho; the three costume designers for the evenings are Glenna Ryer, Chris Romagnoli, and Rebecca Lafon;  and Hallie Zieselman designed the lighting). Amit Prakash, visiting assistant professor, Middlebury College,  has written, “In a society dominated by ideology, words are completely untethered from their meanings, shared human experience is always up for debate, and truth is as evasive as a hunted animal.”

Stoppard seems to see dislocation and language reconstruction as occurring due to changing ideology, and these plays appear to be giving a Stoppardian mirror image of Czechoslovakia, during the 1970s and 1980s (Ed Berman, who worked with the playwright at Almost Free Theatre in London, has also been consulted for Potomac Theater Project’s Stoppard plays). Although based on Shakespeare, the work is also influenced by Beckett, Havel, Wiggenstein, Pavel Kohout, detective novels, Ionesco, and the Theatre of the Absurd, to start.  One setting for Cahoots Macbeth is a home, which can seem unusual, given that plays are being performed there, instead of at a theatre.  Faraone writes, “forbidden to practice their art in public, one survival strategy (for artists, in Czechoslovakia) became performing Shakespeare in ‘apartment theatre.’” Such playing areas affirm what Kaliada has said, in interviews about stagings in another Eastern European country, Belarus (performances are given in apartments or at birthdays or weddings, to elude authorities).  Havel discusses how to evade them in “The Protest”–by hiding in a department store:  “You mingle with the crowd, then at the moment when they aren’t looking, you sneak into the bathroom and wait for about two hours. They become convinced you managed to sneak off through a side entrance and give up.”

What happens if you are caught?  Stoppard’s detective/government inspector (Tara Giordano, in a trench coat) explains:  “I must warn you that anything you say will be taken down and played back at your trial.”

For more info visit http://PTPNYC.org, Like them on Facebook at https://www.Facebook.com/pages/Potomac-Theatre-Project-PTP/32709392256, follow on Twitter at @ptpnyc (https://twitter.com/ptpnyc), and on Instagram at @ptpnyc.official (https://www.instagram.com/ptpnyc.official).         

The Atlantic Stage 2 is accessible from the A, C, E, L trains to 14 St./8 Ave. or the 1, 2, 3 trains to 14 St.

 © by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.  Production photos: Stan Barouh.

Press: David Gibbs, DARR Publicity

The cast for HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT includes David Barlow (PTP: No End of Blame, Victory, The Castle), Emily Kron (PTP: The Europeans, Sweet Tooth at Cherry Lane), Michael Laurence (Broadway: Talk Radio, Desire Under the Elms, NBC’s “Shades of Blue”), Christopher Marshall (PTP: The Possibilities, The After-Dinner Joke, Pity In History), Danielle Skraastad (Broadway: All My Sons, Hurricane Diane with Women’s Project & NYTW, The Architecture of Becoming with Women’s Project), Emily Ballou and Madeline Ciocci (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke).

The production team for HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT includes Mark Evancho (Set Design), Hallie Zieselman (Lighting Design), Glenna Ryer (Costume Design), Sam Tompkins Martin (Props Design), Peter B. Schmitz and Adam Milano (Movement) and Devin Wein (Production Stage Manager).

The cast for DOGG’S HAMLET, CAHOOT’S MACBETH includes Matthew Ball (PTP: Pity In History, Pentecost), Denise Cormier (Broadway national tour The Graduate, Showtime’s “The Affair”), Tara Giordano (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke, Vinegar Tom, Serious Money), Christo Grabowski (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke, Pity In History, No End of Blame), Christopher Marshall (PTP: The Possibilities, The After-Dinner Joke, Pity In History), Peter B. Schmitz (PTP: Lovesong of the Electric Bear, Therese Raquin), Lucy Van Atta (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke, Serious Money, Spatter Pattern), Olivia Christie (PTP: Brecht on Brecht), Will Koch, Emily Ma, Katie Marshall, Madeleine Russell (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke, The Possibilities), Lior Selve, Zach Varicchione and Connor Wright (PTP: Pity In History).

The production team for DOGG’S HAMLET, CAHOOT’S MACBETH includes Mark Evancho (Set Design), Hallie Zieselman (Lighting Design), Chris Romagnoli (Costume Design Dogg’s Hamlet), Rebecca LaFon (Costume Design Cahoot’s Macbeth), Sam Tompkins Martin (Props Design), Peter B. Schmitz and Adam Milano (Movement) and Alex Williamson (Production Stage Manager).

TOWERING BROADWAY DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER HAL PRINCE DEAD ·

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock (6529474b)
Hal Prince, Harold Prince Harold Prince holds his Tony award at Broadway’s Minskoff Theater in New York, . Prince won the best director in a musical for “Show Boat,” the lavish production of the landmark Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical
Tonys Hal Prince, New York, USA

(Mark Kennedy’s article appeared on the AP,  7/31.)

NEW YORK (AP) — Harold Prince, a Broadway director and producer who pushed the boundaries of musical theater with such groundbreaking shows as “The Phantom of the Opera,” ″Cabaret,” ″Company” and “Sweeney Todd” and won a staggering 21 Tony Awards, has died. Prince was 91.

Prince’s publicist Rick Miramontez said Prince died Wednesday after a brief illness in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Prince was known for his fluid, cinematic director’s touch and was unpredictable and uncompromising in his choice of stage material. He often picked challenging, offbeat subjects to musicalize, such as a murderous, knife-wielding barber who baked his victims in pies or the 19th-century opening of Japan to the West.

(Read more)

 

LET’S GO: PTP/NYC’S (POTOMAC THEATRE PROJECT)–WORKS BY TOM STOPPARD, VACLAV HAVEL, HAROLD PINTER & SAMUEL BECKETT ·

PTP/NYC’S (POTOMAC THEATRE PROJECT) INCLUDES WORKS BY
TOM STOPPARD, VACLAV HAVEL, HAROLD PINTER & SAMUEL BECKETT
THAT RESONATE WITH OUR CULTURAL AND POLITICAL MOMENT

PTP/NYC (Potomac Theatre Project), in association with Middlebury College, proudly presents its 33rd repertory season, its 13th consecutive in New York City, running to August 4, 2019 in a limited Off-Broadway engagement at The Atlantic Stage 2, located at 330 West 16th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.

This season’s line-up includes DOGG’S HAMLET, CAHOOT’S MACBETH, by Tom Stoppard, directed by PTP’s Co-Artistic Director Cheryl Faraone, and HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT, comprised of five serio-comic one act plays by Vaclav Havel, Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett, directed by PTP’s Co-Artistic Director Richard Romagnoli.

Performances are Tuesdays – Sundays at 7pm, Saturdays – Sundays at 2pm, and select Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2pm. Schedule varies – for exact days and times visit http://PTPNYC.org. Tickets are $37.50, $22.50 for students and seniors, and $20 for previews. Purchase online at http://PTPNYC.org or by calling 1-866-811-4111.

The New York Times says PTP/NYC “stands out amid the summer season’s fluff and fringiness as one to turn to for serious work” and The New Yorker calls the company’s work “daring and provocative.” The Village Voice states, “Every July, PTP/NYC presents a season of serious drama, a powerful burst of counter-programming to New York’s summer silliness. Since PTP moved to New York in 2007, its program at Atlantic Stage 2 has become one of the grounding moments of this city’s theater scene, with the ensemble focusing on stories of sociopolitical struggle—always thorny epics, always rich with language.” Huffington Post says, “Potomac Theatre Project bring intelligent, beautifully directed and performed fare to New York and we are so much luckier for it.” One Magazine states, “PTP/NYC are an extraordinary company. They choose powerful, thought-provoking work, and their actors, directors and technicians work together in such a seamless way, there are no chinks in this armor. PTP/NYC is necessary theatre, right here, right now.”

The Atlantic Stage 2 is accessible from the A, C, E, L trains to 14 St./8 Ave. or the 1, 2, 3 trains to 14 St.

For more info visit http://PTPNYC.org, Like them on Facebook at https://www.Facebook.com/pages/Potomac-Theatre-Project-PTP/32709392256, follow on Twitter at @ptpnyc (https://twitter.com/ptpnyc), and on Instagram at @ptpnyc.official (https://www.instagram.com/ptpnyc.official).

(via David Gibbs, DARR Publicity)

THEATER RESOURCES UNLIMITED ANNOUNCES FREE INTRODUCTION TO TRU’S PRODUCER PROGRAM ·

FREE INTRODUCTION TO TRU’S PRODUCER PROGRAM

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 from 6:30pm-8:30pm

Polaris North Theatre

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) announces a Free Introduction to TRU’s Producer Program on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 from 6:30pm-8:30pm at Polaris North Studio, 245 W. 29th St, 4th floor, NYC. Tickets are free but space is limited! RSVP at https://truonline.org/events/intro-to-pdmp-2019-20/.

TRU will host a free meet-and-greet info session about their Producer Development and Mentorship Program (PDMP). Prospective applicants will have the opportunity to learn from and network with TRU’s commercial producer instructors: R. Erin Craig of La Vie Productions (Himself and NoraStalking the BogeymanMr. Rickey Calls a MeetingAusten’s Pride, Academy) who runs the Foundations Class; and Jane Dubin (The Prom, Farinelli and the King, An American in Paris) and Rachel Weinstein (Tony Award winner for The Ferryman and Dear Evan Hansen), who run the Master Class which is open to graduates of Basic Class, and a limited number of producers with a high level of experience. Participants will also meet and hear from successful program graduates.

PDMP’s purpose is to give members the knowledge and resources to become commercial theater producers, non-profit theater producers and/or self-producing artists. (There may come a time in every theater artist’s life when you need to self-produce a show and create your own opportunities, and PDMP aims to provide the tools for that occasion.) TRU’s program teaches necessary skills such as developing a business plan, raising money, budgeting, marketing and putting together creative production teams. For more information, below is the link to the full program description and application.

PDMP is the only theater production program to offer such in-depth instruction from accomplished and active commercial producers at such an affordable price. TRU’s Foundations Class meets one evening of each month for 9 or 10 months, and the cost is $295 ($29.50/class). There will be limited discount “scholarships” for college students and recent grads. Master Class costs $425 for nine sessions and has a highly competitive submission process. Email TRUMentor@gmail.com for more details. The informational session on August 20th is completely free. Reserve using the red ticketing box at https://truonline.org/events/intro-to-pdmp-2019-20/.

FACULTY

R. ERIN CRAIG/La Vie Productions LLC – Since 1997, Erin and her company, La Vie Productions, have worked with artists and new projects in theatre, film and music through their work as a General Manager, Production Manager, Grassroot Marketing / Branding Consultant, Executive Producer and Producer. Current projects include: Austen’s Pride: A New Musical of Pride and PrejudiceMr. Rickey Calls A MeetingAcademyNonsense and BeautyChick Flick, The Musical Recent projects include: Easter Mysteries (live film), Himself and NoraFor Heaven’s SakeLiberty: A Monumental MusicalStalking the BogeymanVelocity of AutumnIn The HeightsHigh FidelityIrena’s Vow,  How We Got Away With It (film), and with Houses On The Moon Theatre Company, The Assignment and gUN COUNTRY. Erin is a member of The Broadway League, The Off-Broadway League, The League of Professional Theatre Women, Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) and NY Women in Film and Television.

JANE DUBIN is a TONY Award-winning producer and the President of Double Play Connections, a theatrical production and management company committed to supporting emerging artists and playwrights in the creation and development of new works. Jane is a graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute’s 14-week (NYC) and O’Neill Center Intensive (CT) Producing Workshops and past Director of Theater Resources Unlimited’s Producer Development Program, and current Director of the program’s Master Class. Current Broadway: The Prom.  Previously:  Farinelli and the King (5 Tony nominations), starring Mark Rylance, BandstandAn American in Paris on Broadway (4 TONY Awards), National Tour and in London, Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey(Off Broadway and on Tour). Upcoming: Fingersmith. Previously: Peter and the Starcatcher(Broadway, Off-Broadway, National Tour), winner of 5 TONY Awards; Ann, starring Holland Taylor (Lincoln Center); The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (London); The 39 Steps (OB, Tour); The Norman Conquests (TONY Award, Best Play Revival), Groundswell (the New Group), Beebo Brinker Chronicles (2008 GLAAD Media Award for Theatre). Other: OPA! at TBG Theatre (Best Commercial Production, MITF 2008), Take Me America (Best Musical, MITF 2007), Count Down, (Bank Street Theatre) and the one-woman show that started it all, MentalPause by Margaret Liston. Ms. Dubin is a full voting member of the Broadway League. She is President of the Board of Directors of Houses on the Moon Theater Company and a prior Board member of the League of Professional Theatre Women. For two years she was co-curator of the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center New Play Reading Series. She co-produced Hudson River Rising, presenting events for One Billion Rising (V-Day) 2013 and 2014. She has been a member of the Grand Jury for NYMF from 2015 through the current 2019 season.

RACHEL WEINSTEIN is a Broadway producer with over two decades of experience in professional performing arts management.  She is currently represented on Broadway with the Tony winner The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth. Rachel began her career in the not-for-profit sector holding leadership positions at theatre companies around the globe including: Roundabout Theatre Company (New York), Donmar Warehouse (London), Writers’ Theatre (Chicago) and The Old Vic (London/New York). In 2012, Rachel segued to the commercial side of the business producing for Broadway.  Her producing credits include: The Heiress (starring Jessica Chastain), the Pulitzer-prize winning Disgraced, Hughie (starring Forest Whitaker), the world premiere musical of An American in Paris and Farinelli and the King (starring Mark Rylance). Rachel is also an Associate Producer of the Tony Award-winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen, which is currently playing on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre.  Rachel’s upcoming projects include: the new Broadway-bound musical, Jagged Little Pill, developed from Alanis Morissette’s Grammy Award-winning album.  Rachel is a graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute’s 14-week Intensive (New York) and a former member of TCG’s National Council for the American Theatre.

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) is the leading network for developing theater professionals, a twenty-five year old 501c3 nonprofit organization created to help producers produce, emerging theater to emerge healthily and all theater professionals to understand and navigate the business of the arts. Membership includes self-producing artists as well as career producers and theater companies.

TRU publishes an email community newsletter of services, goods and productions; presents the TRU VOICES Annual New Play Reading Series and Annual New Musicals Reading Series, two new works series in which TRU underwrites developmental readings to nurture new shows as well as new producers for theater; offers a Producer Development & Mentorship Program whose mentors are among the most prominent producers and general managers in New York theater, and also presents Producer Boot Camp workshops to help aspirants develop the business skills they need. TRU serves writers through a Writer-Producer Speed Date, a Practical Playwriting Workshop, How to Write a Musical That Works and a Director-Writer Communications Lab; programs for actors include the Annual Combined Audition, Resource Nights and “Speed Dating” as well as actor workshops.

For more information about TRU membership and programs, visit www.truonline.org or call 212 714-7628.

(via Michelle Tabnick)

 

AT AVIGNON FESTIVAL, COMPETITION COMES FROM THE FRINGE ·

(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/18; via Pam Green.)

An underwhelming official lineup led many festivalgoers to branch out into the less well-known complimentary program.

AVIGNON, France — There isn’t one Avignon Festival every July, but two. On the one hand, France’s biggest theater event presents an official selection of productions, known in Anglicized French as “le In.” On the other, you have “le Off” — an open-access, Fringe-style festival which has mushroomed to include more than 1,500 productions this year.

This summer, the contrast between the two events has been especially stark. Disappointment in the main lineup has dominated conversations here, inevitably followed by recommendations for the Off. The In and its director, Olivier Py, have themselves to blame for the downturn. Too often, the theme of this year’s edition — odysseys — led to predictable and preachy theater. Productions raced straight to answers, political or otherwise.

The journey was at least intriguingly personal in “Outside,” a hotly anticipated new work by the Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov. Mr. Serebrennikov, who has been accused of fraud in Russia, was released on bail in April after nearly 20 months of house arrest, yet remains banned from leaving Moscow.

The case against him is widely seen as a trumped-up attack on artistic freedom, and Mr. Serebrennikov has continued to work regardless, directing productions from afar. For “Outside,” he took inspiration from another artist who fell afoul of the authorities in his country: the Chinese photographer and poet Ren Hang, who was arrested several times for his explicit work before killing himself in 2017, at age 29.

(Read more)

BLACKOUT DARKENS BROADWAY, BUT SONGS BRIGHTEN SIDEWALK SCENES ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/13; via Pam Green.)

Most theaters closed down on their most lucrative night of the week, but some casts gave their fans a memorable moment.

“The Phantom of the Opera” was one of about two dozen Broadway shows that had to cancel performances during the blackout.

Nightly at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theater, Hades, the king of an industrial underworld, boasts of his “power chords and power lines” before bellowing, as the lights flash, “I conduct the Electric City!”

But on Saturday night, even the title character of “Hadestown” turned out to be powerless.

The blackout that darkened parts of Manhattan’s West Side forced the closure of all but a handful of Broadway shows — as well as movie theaters, Carnegie Hall, a Jennifer Lopez concert at Madison Square Garden, much of Lincoln Center and many smaller venues, stranding ticketholders and disappointing tourists who had flocked to performance venues for a Saturday night out.

“There was a line of people outside waiting, so we hate to have to not do the show for them,” Aaron Tveit, one of the stars of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” which is now in previews, said disappointedly as he left the shuttered Hirschfeld Theater. “Hopefully everyone is just safe.”

The electricity failed about an hour before curtain for most shows, meaning the casts and crew were already in place and audiences were on their way.

(Read more)

Photo:  The New York Times

 

HIP TO HIP THEATRE COMPANY–SUMMER DATES & VENUES FOR 2019 SEASON TOUR OF FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARKS ·

(From Andrea Alton, Alton PR and Production)

Hip to Hip Theatre Company Announces Summer Dates & Venues for 2019 Season Tour of Free Shakespeare in the Parks

A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Richard III

Running in Repertory July 24 – August 25 in Parks in all Five Boroughs, New Jersey and Long Island

Hip to Hip Theatre Company is pleased to announce their summer tour dates which will include performances in fifteen parks throughout Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, The Bronx, New Jersey and Long Island. The company’s 2019 Free Shakespeare in the Parks tour runs July 24 – August 25.

Audiences will have a chance to enjoy the romantic comedic romp, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (directed by S.C. Lucier), and the historic tragedy Richard III (directed by David Frederick Mold), under the stars. The two productions will perform in rotating repertory. Hip to Hip’s popular interactive children’s workshop “Kids & the Classics,” will be offered thirty minutes before each performance. Audience members are encouraged to bring a blanket or low chair, picnic fare and enjoy a Shakespeare play in the open air. No tickets are necessary.

Artistic Director Jason Marr, discussed this season’s play selection,  “Hip to Hip’s new radical adaptation of Richard III attempts to bridge the divide between the real man and the caricature the Tudors, aided and abetted by Shakespeare, perpetuated . . . With the discovery of Richard III’s remains . . . the exhumed skeleton reveals Richard had severe scoliosis, but it bears no suggestion that he was a hunchback with a withered arm and unequally sized legs.” 

The repertory cast includes Leah Alfieri, Kendall Devin Bell, Katie Fanning*, Rebecca Wei Hsieh, Kurt Kingsley*, Tristan Land, Axel Marr, Bree Marr, Jason Marr*, Joy Marr*, Josh Miccio, Austin Nguyen, Anuj Parikh, Sophia Parola, Patrick Singer and Colin Wulff*.

*appears courtesy of Actors Equity Association

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Four young lovers escape the tyranny of the court to find love in a magical forest. On the same night and in the same forest, the king and queen of the fairies declare war on each other and a company of amateur actors meet to rehearse a play. See what happens when a mischievous sprite called Puck weaves their three stories into one.
 
Richard III
After a long civil war, England enjoys a period of peace under King Edward. But Edward’s younger brother Richard, who helped him to the throne, grows restless in the shadows. Shakespeare’s searing drama chronicles the bloody rise and fall of the last English king to die on the battlefield.

Kids & the Classics
“Kids & the Classics” is the companion piece to Hip to Hip’s program of “Free Shakespeare in the Parks.” This free interactive workshop is offered 30 minutes before every performance, and is designed for children ages 4 to 12. It gives children a chance to interact with the text by previewing the characters and situations and creating links between the text and their own lives.

2019 Performance Schedule

*Kids & the Classics, interactive workshop begins 30 minutes prior to each performance.
 
Wednesday, July 24 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Flushing Meadows Corona Park (@ the Unisphere)
 
Thursday, July 25 @ 8:00 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Cunningham Park (Union Turnpike & 196th Street)
 
Friday, July 26 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
BROOKLYN Fort Greene Park (Monument Steps) 
 
Saturday, July 27 @ 5:00 pm – Richard III
MANHATTAN Jackie Robinson Park Bandshell (85 Bradhurst Avenue @ 148th Street)

Tuesday, July 30 @ 8:00 pm – Rain date

Wednesday, July 31 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
BROOKLYN Bushwick Inlet Pop-Up Park (50 Kent Avenue)

Thursday, August 1 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Crocheron Park (35th Avenue & Corbett Road) 

Friday, August 2 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
BROOKLYN Fort Greene Park (Monument Steps) 
 
Saturday, August 3 @ 5:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
STATEN ISLAND Alice Austen House (1000 Richmond Terrace)
 
Sunday, August 4 @ 5:00 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Socrates Sculpture Park (32-01 Vernon Boulevard)

Wednesday, August 7 @ 7:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
JERSEY CITY Newport on the Green (14th St & River Drive S.) 
 
Thursday, August 8 @ 7:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS LeFrak City (59-17 Junction Boulevard, Corona)
 
Friday, August 9 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Voelker Orth Museum (149-19 38th Avenue, Flushing)
 
Saturday, August 10 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Gantry Plaza State Park (4-09 47th Road) 
 
Sunday, August 11 @ 5:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Socrates Sculpture Park (32-01 Vernon Boulevard)

Tuesday, August 13 @ 7:00 pm – Rain date

Wednesday, August 14 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Sunnyside Gardens Park (48-21 39th Avenue @ 49th Street)
 
Thursday, August 15 @ 8:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Cunningham Park (Union Turnpike & 196th Street)
 
Friday, August 16 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Voelker Orth Museum (149-19 38th Avenue, Flushing)
 
Saturday, August 17 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Gantry Plaza State Park (4-09 47th Road) 
 
Sunday, August 18 – 6:00 pm – Richard III
BRONX Van Cortlandt Park (Broadway & 245th Street) 

Tuesday, August 20 @ 8:00 pm – Rain date
 
Wednesday, August 21 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Sunnyside Gardens Park (48-21 39th Avenue) 
 
Thursday, August 22 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Crocheron Park (35th Avenue & Corbett Road) 

Friday, August 23 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
SOUTHAMPTON Agawam Park (25 Pond Lane) 
 
Saturday, August 24 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
SOUTHAMPTON Agawam Park (25 Pond Lane) 

Sunday, August 25 @ 5:00 pm – Rain date

About Hip to Hip Theatre Company Hip to Hip, now in its 13th year, is dedicated to stimulating and developing interest in the theatre arts in underserved communities by providing free, family-friendly, professional productions of popular classics, and free theatre workshops for children, in public spaces. 

www.hiptohip.org
www.facebook.com/HiptoHipTheatre
www.twitter.com/HiptoHipTheatre

Photos (from top): Demelza Leffert, Ann Price

 

OUTDOOR SHAKESPEARE: THE PIONEERS OF A SUMMER TRADITION ·

(Georgianna Ziegler’s article appeared in Shakespeare & Beyond, 7/9; via Pam Green.)

Shakespeare by the sea, on the river, in the park or garden, on the common – in the summertime Shakespeare’s plays are everywhere outdoors! High-profile shows in New York’s Central Park or at Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival may come to mind for active theatergoers today, but the inspiration for this kind of outdoor performance actually came from semi-amateur theatricals, often led by women, in England and America in the late 19th century.

Lady Archibald Campbell, Agnes Booth, and As You Like It

One of the earliest and most influential of these productions was organized by Janey Seville Pastoral Players. In 1884 and 1885, they put on productions of As You Like It at the Coombe Warren estate in Surrey, with proceeds going to charity. (The Folger Shakespeare Library owns an archive of ima Callander, better known as Lady Archibald Campbell.

(Read more)

*****LIFE OF PI REVIEW – TRIUMPHANT TIGER BURNS BRIGHT IN A STUNNING SHOW (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Mark Fisher’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/9.)

Crucible, Sheffield

Transformative puppetry, design and direction, and a great human lead, make this adaptation of Yann Martel’s book unmissable

5/5 stars  

A tip for playwrights: when you want to field a formidable character, make sure you give them a good build-up. Do as Lolita Chakrabarti does in her theatrically savvy adaptation of the Yann Martel novel and keep us waiting. By the time Richard Parker, the accidentally named Bengal tiger, slinks on stage, she has primed us to expect something awesome. We already believe in his animal power and carnivorous appetite.novel and keep us waiting. 

(Read more)

DAVID RABE:  “UNCLE JIM CALLED” (FICTION FROM THE NEW YORKER) ·

UNCLE JIM CALLED

(Rabe’s story appeared in the 7/8 & 15 New Yorker.)

A week ago Thursday, my uncle Jim called. When I picked up the phone and said, “Hello,” he said, “Hello.” The voice was familiar and yet I didn’t recognize it. “Who is this?” I said.

“Jim,” he told me. “Uncle Jim.”

“What?” I was very surprised, because I thought Uncle Jim was dead. “Who is this?” I wanted to know. I really wanted to know.

“I just told you. Jim. I’m here with Hank. Is your mom home?”

“No,” I said. I thought Uncle Jim had been dead for years.

“Where is she?”

Now, the Hank he’d just referred to was probably his older brother, and my mom was their sister, Margie, and the thing of it was, the bewildering thing of it was that I thought they were all dead. “Is this some kind of joke?” I asked.

“We’re not laughing,” he said.

“Look,” I said, “I was in the middle of something here.”

“Oh, yeah? What?”

“Well, cooking. Dinner.”

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