Category Archives: Current Affairs

LEONARD BERNSTEIN: A CENTENARY CELEBRATION (BBC RADIO 4) ·

Listen 

This year marks the centenary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth and to celebrate the occasion Front Row explores his life and music.

John Wilson is joined by his son, Alexander Bernstein, who remembers his father composing at home, and who attended many of his Young People’s Concerts; by his friend and biographer, Humphrey Burton, who discusses Bernstein’s multiple talents as a conductor, composer and educator; and by his pupil, the conductor Marin Alsop, who was inspired by Bernstein to take up the baton.

Presenter: John Wilson 
Producer: Rebecca Armstrong.

Photo: Playbill

 

‘CLEOPATRA’: THIS MOVIE ROMANCE SCANDALIZED A NATION. NOW IT’S A DRAMA ONSTAGE. ·

 

(Michael Hoinski’s article appeared in the March 30 New York Times; via Pam Green.)

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Lawrence Wright, the author and longtime New Yorker staff writer, is not as serious as he may seem. He is not obsessed with terrorism and religion, as his recent work suggests. Sometimes he just wants a juicy sex scandal.

Indeed, before he wrote “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,”winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, and before he wrote “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief,” a 2013 National Book Award finalist, Mr. Wright was working on “Cleo,” a play about the sordid love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton during the filming of the 1963 epic “Cleopatra.”

(Read more)

THE ‘HAMILTON’ OF WORLD WAR II ·

(Todd S. Purdum’s article appeared in The New York Time, 3/31; via Pam Green.)

Seventy-five years ago this April Fool’s morning, a line of ticket buyers stretched down West 44th Street outside the St. James Theatre in Manhattan, and a policeman struggled to keep order at the box office. A new musical play had opened the night before and taken the town by storm. “Wonderful is the nearest adjective for this excursion,” this newspaper’s critic proclaimed, in a judgment almost universally shared from that day to this. The show was “Oklahoma!”

The smash success was all the more remarkable because expectations for the show had been so low; there were plenty of empty seats in the theater on opening night. The play was the product of a midlife crisis for its creators — the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, crippled by a dozen straight years of Broadway and London flops, and the composer Richard Rodgers, coping with the loss of his longtime collaborator, Lorenz Hart, to incapacitating alcoholism.

(Read more)

GOOD FRIDAY CONCERT WITH DAN WALKER, LONDON PHILHARMONIC CHOIR DIRECTED BY GRAHAM ROSS, BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG CHORISTERS, MORE ·

Listen

Dan Walker presents an evening of music and reflection to mark Good Friday at BBC Maida Vale Studios in London. In the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Dan explores the theme ofpeace-making with personal stories from people doing extraordinary things to bring about peace in the modern world.

Dan is joined by double MOBO award winning grime/rap artist Guvna B and singer/songwriter Beth Rowley, as well as the BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers of the Year. Other music comes from the BBC Concert Orchestra and London Philharmonic Choir directed by Graham Ross, with excerpts from Karl Jenkins’ ‘The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace’ and inspirational songs, including a new arrangement of ‘You Raise Me Up’ for choir and orchestra.

Dan speaks with Ben Wintour, joint founder of Steel Warriors, which melts down confiscated and surrendered knives using the steel to build gymnastics parks to benefit local communities, and Clare Wilson who set up a refugee safe house for young boys from the Calais refugee camp. She talks about a peace-making initiative in local schools designed to support young people in marking the centenary of the end of World War I appropriately, by finding a positive narrative

SHAKESPEARE UNLIMITED: DENNIS MCCARTHY AND JUNE SCHLUETER ON THE GEORGE NORTH MANUSCRIPT ·

(via Pam Green)

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 93

Scholars Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter say they have discovered a major new source for Shakespeare’s Richard III, Henry V, Henry VI, Part II, and at least eight other plays. The scholarly world continues to investigate and debate these new claims, which, if proved true, would be a once-in-a-generation find.

On this podcast episode, McCarthy and Schlueter discuss how they used plagiarism-detecting software to analyze a nearly-450-year-old unpublished manuscript called A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels by a man named George North, finding multiple instances of matches with passages in Shakespeare plays. 

McCarthy is an independent scholar, and Schlueter is the Charles A. Dana Professor Emerita of English at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. They are co-authors of the first published edition of A Brief Discourse of Rebellion & Rebels by George North, published by Boydell & Brewer in 2018. They were interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Visit the Folger Shakespeare Library

From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published March 20, 2018. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, Put Your Discourse into Some Frame, was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington. Esther French is the web producer. We had technical help from Virginia Prescott of New Hampshire Public Radio, Andrew Feliciano at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California, and Neil Hever at WDIY public radio in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

ENDA WALSH: ‘GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS’ (SV PICK, IE) ·

(Ciara L. Murphy’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 3/21.)

Share to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to Email App

Enda Walsh’s unlikely theatrical adaptation betters the power of the original story

****

At first glance, Max Porter’s debut novel Grief is the Thing with Feathers seems an unlikely candidate for theatrical adaption. The book boasts a frantic, pacey, and devastating experience for the reader, an experience which is not easy to echo on stage. Enda Walsh’s work often situates his audiences as meaning-maker in his work, and this, in combination with Complicité’s trademark audio-visual spectacle, ensures the essence of Porter’s story is made manifest on stage.

Grief explores the turbulent and mind-wrenching anguish experienced by Dad (Cillian Murphy) and his two sons (played in rotation by David Evans, Taighen O’ Callaghan, and Felix Warren) after the death of Mum (Hattie Morahan). Careening between careful prose, jarring poetry, and visceral, energetic dialogue, the play sets in motion a scintillating story arc which combines an intense, furious drama and a pervasive, yielding gentleness.

(Read more)

(Photo: The Irish Times

ROGER HENDRICKS SIMON TALKS WITH TANIA FISHER: 40 YEARS OF THE SIMON STUDIO ·

Tania Fisher interviews Roger Hendricks Simon

At first glance, the man of no impressive stature seems like any other person on the street.  Simply dressed, in practical and conservative clothing, he strolls into the room seemingly unaware of his surroundings–you might even think he doesn’t remember why he’s here.  Then, when you talk to him face to face–and begin listening to his deep, husky voice, noticing the twinkle in his eyes (which can also bore through you)–you can’t help noticing that when he talks about anything remotely related to the film or theater industry that what he says isn’t ordinary at all.

A graduate and founding member of Robert Brustein’s Yale Repertory Company, Roger Hendricks Simon celebrates his 40th year of The Simon Studio; a renowned and highly regarded New York City acting studio. Roger has taught and directed the likes of John Travolta, Debra Jo Rupp, John Lithgow, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, and John Woods to name but a few.  Elected to “Notable Names in American Theater” Roger has directed across the globe and has an inexhaustible list of impressive credits.

Director Oliver Stone refers to Roger as “that great actor and acting teacher” as Roger also keeps busy as a talented actor who has had roles in such films as Wall Street 2 opposite Michael Douglas.

Australian-born actress/writer Tania Fisher sits down with Roger to find out what it takes to have 40 years of success.

What led you to create The Simon Studio and teach acting?

I always enjoyed the idea of teaching, ever since I was very young.  I was always interested in it as part of my work, too–to do more than direct, or teach, or act.  When I was studying at Yale Drama School, the best teachers, for me, were the ones who were currently working professionally and passing on information about what they were doing that week. I felt I was getting the main line, rather than listening to someone who had done this many years ago.  I gravitated to people who are doing the work now.  What drove me to teaching was the desire first, the love of teaching, but I only wanted to do it if I was also a practitioner.

There’s something to be said for “when you get The Simon Studio you get Roger Simon”–can you expand on that?

Hopefully, you always want to get to the source when you go anywhere. If you go to Princeton, in order to study with Professor X and he or she isn’t there, then you’ve been cheated; you’re getting learning second hand.  I’ve always felt that if you wanted to study Meisner, you should have studied with him–if not, then you’re just getting an interpretation, you’re not getting the real thing. I think that’s true of any teaching method.  It’s a relationship–it’s a personal thing between a teacher and a student.  The instructor shouldn’t be walking in and teaching and walking out of a classroom.   When you are studying with someone, you are dealing with a personality, not just theory.  If someone tried to teach the way I teach they would have to capture my personality as well; it wouldn’t be enough to just talk about what I taught. Teaching is about developing people; you’re not just developing professionals, you’re developing human beings.  That is just as important as the information you give, otherwise you may as well assign a text book and everyone reads the book and that’s it.  And that’s the problem with online courses; you read the paper, take the test, and it’s over.  Teaching is a very personal thing and no one else can really teach the way I teach.  It would be someone’s interpretation of what I said, and it’s not coming through my own personality.

You welcome writers and directors as well as actors into your class mix.  Can you explain why you choose to do this?

A performance is a collaboration of writers, directors, producers, and designers working together with a common language to produce something. Therefore, if that’s the case, why should most training be segregating?  If making art is collaborative, why not make the training collaborative?

With writers, it benefits both the writer and the actor to work together–actors learn how to read, do cold readings with new material that becomes part of actor training, and the writer gets to see and hear his work living on stage.  The writer is alive and here now and you’re creating beneficial relationships with people.

It’s also good for the actors to know that directors are in a room, so that that they can be around them–directors are often looking for talent for their own projects and can also give a different perspective on the actors’ work.  It’s valuable to have input from directors in class so that actors can hear different interpretations and directors who can work on a scene with them.

The directors learn from actors how to talk to them–they’re learning from me regarding how to talk to actors, and how eventually they’ll have to do that, so why not learn how to do that in the class?

It’s also important that the actor think about the other side of the fence when it comes to the work.

The studio becomes a place where projects can be developed and many are cast using my attending students.

For example, the work we did with the National Public Radio and the national endowment we received, went to our own people who were studying with us.  At times the class is like a little ensemble company.  A large part of the concept for the class actually came about from my directing in London at The Royal Court Theater.  There I came into contact with the BBC and impressed them with a radio drama, radio being an important part of their theater culture.

As a Director of Shakespeare Festivals and regional theaters I looked for ways to keep that radio theater alive and, in the 1990s, there was the NPR playhouse in the U.S., and there were a number of us who produced old-fashioned dramas.  Because my studio had writers, it was only natural that I looked to my students to develop plays in class.  Then I would take them and perform them as live theater at the Samuel French One Act Festival where we had quite a few winners.

In New York we’d go right into the WBAI radio station and record and present plays live on the air.  We didn’t have to rehearse, because we’d already been doing them as live theater shows.  We did a whole series of radio dramas.  Then, all of a sudden, NPR got interested in what we were doing, and they picked up a number of these live dramas that were done as new plays with no celebrities–they were just students in our class.  This gave my students terrific voice training.  These were young no-name writers who got national exposure on national public radio as part of The Simon Studio Presents, which went on to broadcast on the Time Warner channel and became a TV show that included interviews on the arts and so on.

There are an array of impressive guests that sporadically attend The Simon Studio classes:  agents, casting directors, producers, and so on.  What do you think the benefit is to your students in doing this?

The business has changed over the last 40 years–it’s all celebrity motivated now and if you pay out money you can get a night with so and so. It’s something I’m a little wary of and have always been careful about doing but, at the same time, I can see that’s how the times are now.

But I’ve always hated that you should have to pay for a showcase to be able to meet current industry people.  You shouldn’t have to pay to meet people–it was not like that when I started, and I really resent that it’s become that way, but I’ve come to realize that this is how things are–and casting agents and agents do make this part of their income.

It’s important that the actors get exposure, but it also needs to be a good teaching experience for them–and an opportunity to get the feedback from current relevant industry players.

The people I choose to come to my classes are required to give valuable and relevant feedback.  I feel if my students pay for the class they should get the experience–it’s not about getting cast or getting a job.

Roger Hendricks Simon’s interview with Tania Fisher will continue next week.

Visit the Simon Studio 

(c) 2018 by Roger Hendricks Simon; edited by Tania Fisher.  All rights reserved. 

Read Part 1 of an article on Simon 

Read Part 2 of an article on Simon

Photos, courtesy of The Simon Studio and Tania Fisher–from top, Roger Hendricks Simon; Abby Simon, John Lithgow, Roger Simon; Tania Fisher. All rights reserved.   

SAMMY WILLIAMS, TONY-WINNING ACTOR FROM ‘A CHORUS LINE,’ DIES AT 69 ·

(David Rooney’s article appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, 3/21.)

Later in his career, Williams was a choreographer, director and actor in Los Angeles.

Sammy Williams, who won a Tony Award in Michael Bennett’s groundbreaking original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, has died. He was 69.

Family spokeswoman and friend Brandee Barnaby says Williams died of cancer Saturday in Los Angeles.

Williams won a Tony for best featured actor in 1976 for the role of Paul San Marco in A Chorus Line, the landmark musical with a score by Marvin Hamlisch about the inner lives of dancers auditioning for the ensemble of a big show. Paul is a painfully shy young Puerto Rican performer just beginning to feel comfortable about being gay; he is reluctantly coaxed to revisit an emotional episode from the past in which his parents learned of his sexuality while he was working in a drag act.

Read more

 

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: THE FIRST TIME A WHITE PERSON WROTE ‘LOVE’ TO ME ·

(Anna Deavere Smith’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/13; via Pam Green.)

In 1961, there was a widely held theory among educated Baltimore Negroes, many of whom, like my mother, were teachers or administrators themselves, that if you wanted your children to have a good public school education, you should send them to a school that was predominantly Jewish, because Jews valued learning. And so I was sent not to the brand-new junior high that was built to service Negro students who were in desperate need of a better facility, but to Garrison Junior High in the Forest Park neighborhood, from which gentile whites had fled when the Jewish population moved in. I wasn’t “bused,” but I had to take two buses to get there.

Segregated schools taught you where you did belong. Integrated schools taught, in surgical detail, where you did not belong.

That is what junior high is all about. Sorting. I assessed the following as best as an 11-year old-could: White Christians and Jews stayed apart. My Jewish classmates seemed to divide along lines that privileged assimilation. Two Eastern European girls, one of whom had recently arrived in the United States, played a game in which they threw knives into a circle on the ground. (Today, that would get you handcuffed and perhaps jailed.) They were ostracized. But a newly arrived Algerian Jewish girl was welcomed because she was pretty. We Negro kids divided along class lines: where we went to church, by neighborhood and by our mating habits.

(Read more)

Photo: the Los Angeles Times

 

STING: ‘THE LAST SHIP’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/22.)

Having bombed on Broadway, this musical by Sting about the shipbuilding industry is being revived on its native soil with a new book by its director, Lorne Campbell. The only mystery is why the show ever premiered in the US in the first place: it is a deeply British musical that champions Tyneside life and that leaves you in no doubt where it stands on Thatcherite economics. It was received, quite rightly, with full-throated acclaim by its Newcastle audience.

The show, which originated in a concept album by Sting, explores his complex feelings about England’s north-east, where he grew up. The hero, Gideon, rejects the idea of following his father into the Wallsend shipyards, sails the world and returns 17 years later hoping to pick up where he left off with his former girlfriend, Meg. But Gideon is not only romantically naive. This is the 1980s and the local shipyard is abruptly threatened with closure by its owners amid government refusal to sanction “a Soviet-style bailout”. The only solution to both sides of the story is for Gideon and the workers to seize control of their own destiny.

Read more