Category Archives: Events


A Sheffield Theatres, English Touring Theatre and Rose Theatre Kingston Co-Production
Translations By Brian Friel
(from the Guardian, 3/15)

A gripping story of the Calais camp. A caper about media greed. A pair of startling dramas from Caryl Churchill. Leading playwrights choose their favourite political plays

David Hare

Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson don’t yet have the brawn and brain of Sophie Treadwell or Shakespeare. Nor do they have the acumen of Wallace Shawn, a playwright unsurprised by Donald Trump. But in The Jungle, at the Young Vic, these activists told one of the most important stories of the century.

Why did the camp at Calais have to be destroyed? Why did the governments of Europe’s 750 million inhabitants react with such cruelty and hysteria to the idea of just a million refugees coming to the continent? Do the rich really believe, as matter of long-term policy, that they can live indefinitely in gated communities and keep the poor out? Are they never going to share? How can Theresa May call herself “Christian”? How can anyone still propagate free-market capitalism when they are so opposed to the free movement of people?

Murphy and Robertson have drawn the map for a standoff we know is going to be played out many times over. Whenever you next see the dispossessed abandoned by supposedly civilised governments, whenever you watch well-intentioned volunteers struggle with the problems of trying to help, you’ll say: “Oh, it’s just like The Jungle.” And with Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin directing, the play had welcome artistic significance too. The young audience lent forward, catching an exhilarating whiff of the glory days of British theatre before the cult of style threatened to take its soul away.

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Richard Johnson as Cassius, John Gielgud as Julius Caesar, and Jason Robards as Brutus in Stuart Burge’s film Julius Caesar, 1970

(Josephine Quinn’s article appeared in The New York Review of Books, 3/22.)

The Landmark Julius Caesar: The Complete Works: Gallic War, Civil War, Alexandrian War, African War, and Spanish War

edited and translated from the Latin by Kurt A. Raaflaub

Pantheon, 793 pp., $50.00

Richard Johnson as Cassius, John Gielgud as Julius Caesar, and Jason Robards as Brutus in Stuart Burge’s film Julius Caesar, 1970

When Julius Caesar was thirty-one years old in 69 BCE, so the story goes, and serving as a junior Roman magistrate in Spain, he once stood lamenting before a statue of Alexander the Great because he had achieved so little at an age by which Alexander had already conquered the world.

He had good reason for concern. Although his recent election as a quaestor—one of the officials responsible for finances—had given him a lifetime seat in the Senate, Roman politics were more of a funnel than a ladder: twenty quaestors who had been elected at thirty years old could compete nine years later for eight praetorships, and then, three years after that, for just two annual consulships. To rise, you needed political friends, name recognition, and, in order to buy elections, a great deal of money.

Caesar was already admired as an orator, but he was best known for his debts, and he was good at making enemies, especially among the powerful conservatives in the Senate. Furthermore, while he had ably fulfilled the standard military duties of a young Roman nobleman, he had attracted attention only for his first assignment overseas at the age of about twenty: a trip to Bithynia in northern Anatolia, where he had become friendly—many said extremely friendly—with its king, Nicomedes. Whether or not the rumors were true, this was the first hint of a lifelong tendency to test the bounds of Rome’s unwritten moral and legal codes.

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(Richard Sandomir’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/2; via Pam Green.)

Harvey Schmidt, whose career as a commercial artist took a long, lucrative and unexpected detour when he teamed with a former college pal to create “The Fantasticks,” the Off Broadway romance that became the world’s longest-running musical, died on Wednesday in Tomball, Tex., near Houston. He was 88.

Rachel Scholl, a niece, said the cause was complications of congestive heart failure. He had no immediate survivors.

A love story about a boy and a girl and their feuding fathers, “The Fantasticks,” with music by Mr. Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones, opened in 1960 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village and ran for 17,162 performances.

A revival that began in 2006 ran 4,390 more times at the Jerry Orbach Theater in Midtown Manhattan, named for the actor who originated the role of El Gallo, the show’s narrator.

Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Jones became nearly inseparable collaborators on a host of shows for more than 50 years. Mr. Schmidt was the quiet one; Mr. Jones, the more gregarious.

Continue reading the main story

Photo: Getty Images



(Patricia Cohen’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/28; via Pam Green.)

For the American premiere of “The Low Road,” a satire of unbounded self-interest and pitiless capitalism, the playwright Bruce Norris realized he needed to change the last name of his scurrilous 18th-century protagonist, Jim Trumpett.

What would sound like a heavy-handed jab at the businessman-turned-president from a leftist playwright actually wasn’t. Mr. Norris wrote his sprawling comic fable half a dozen years earlier, before few predicted that Donald J. Trump would one day occupy the White House.

“It’s not a play about him in any way,” Mr. Norris said.

Indeed, to describe Trumpett’s contemporary descendant, the bumptious head of TrumpettBank Global, the 2013 stage directions said: “think Mitt Romney,” the moderate Republican and former presidential nominee who is now running for an open Senate seat in Utah.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times


(Carmel Dagan’s article appeared in Variety, 3/3; via Pam Green.)

David Ogden Stiers, best known for his role as the arrogant surgeon Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on “MASH,” died Saturday. He was 75.

His agent, Mitchell K. Stubbs, tweeted that he died of bladder cancer at his home in Newport, Ore.

For his work on “MASH,” Stiers was twice Emmy nominated for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy or variety or music series, in 1981 and 1982, and he earned a third Emmy nomination for his performance in NBC miniseries “The First Olympics: Athens 1896” as William Milligan Sloane, the founder of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The actor, with his educated, resonant intonations — though he did not share Major Winchester’s Boston Brahmin accent — was much in demand for narration and voiceover work, and for efforts as the narrator and as of Disney’s enormous hit animated film “Beauty and the Beast,” he shared a Grammy win for best recording for children and another nomination for album of the year.

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(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/22; via Pam Green.)

Billy Bigelow hits Julie Jordan. Henry Higgins molds Eliza Doolittle. Fred tames Lilli. And Edward rescues Vivian.

Amid a national reckoning with sexual harassment and misconduct, Broadway is mounting a cluster of musicals this season and next that, some theatergoers already contend, romanticize problematic relationships between women and men.

The titles are beloved: “Carousel,” “My Fair Lady” and “Kiss Me, Kate” are classics of the canon, while “Pretty Woman,” a new musical, is adapted from a smash film. And each of their female protagonists has her own strength — strength that in some cases changes the men in their lives.

But elements of the stories — and the fact that all four productions are being directed and choreographed by men — are prompting new scrutiny at this #MeToo moment.

“It’s a huge conversation,” said Carole Rothman, the artistic director of Second Stage Theater, a nonprofit that has become Broadway’s newest theater owner.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times


By Bob Shuman

When the eye-catching actress, Becca Schneider, tells Platonov, the title character in Chekhov’s first unfinished drama (1878), he needs to “slow down,” she’s explaining the directorial concept of Jessica Burr’s production from Blessed Unrest, now playing at the New Ohio Theatre until March 11.  The momentum of her version is fast, and for a while, the speed, the mobility and the fluidity, along with the loose physicality of the actors, seems like a way to bring the early modernist playwright into the postmodernist world of downtown theatre–the way Eric Tucker did for Shakespeare, in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, as an example. Platonov gets away from Burr, though, because Chekhov depends on connectivity, not fragments, in a way that Shakespeare’s mostly second-hand materials don’t. She emphasizes mechanics, and ultimately, the pace seems like a refutation of this supremely empathetic author.

One miscalculation may have been underestimating how much people want to listen to him—they want to see a significant Platonov (even if its five hours are cut), not a literalized one or one that feels truncated, especially given the potential of the cast (of multiple races and ethnicities, playing multiple parts, some across genders). Probably most notable are a tantalizing Irina Abraham, as Anna, a general’s daughter, and the handsome Darrell Stokes in the title role, a womanizer, subdued by female vigilante justice.  Many could argue that he is a product of soul-destroying ennui, but this production, apparently politicized,  has been timed to echo the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein case—in a reductionist assault, perhaps too gratified in taking Chekhov apart and setting him whirling. 

The author, however, may have simply been learning to tell a story and creating a multidimensional world, not a legal brief, just as Ibsen did not think A Doll’s House was a feminist tract. What happens to Burr is that her center gets lost—the play arrives at one hundred minutes (the translation, with slangy colloquialisms, is by Laura Wickens) and the piece is skeletal, missing the connective tissue of character development and builds.  Working in the round, the director uses a minimal set, by Matt Opatrny, based on vodka bottles, chess pieces, and an oriental rug, and her staging is especially physicalized; her Russia, spinning and kaleidoscopic, can’t be still and can’t be bored. The last moments of the play aren’t prepared for, and they don’t shock or surprise in the way that a well-directed version of The Seagull can. Perhaps to contemplate the play, we have to comprehend the playwright—understanding his own time and his own purposes more fully–not our own–in slow motion.

Platonov by Anton Chekhov


Irina Abraham, Ashley N. Hildreth, Javon Q. Minter,
Becca Schneider, Darrell Stokes, Taylor Valentine

Production Stage Manager
Darielle Shandler

Set Design
Matt Opatrny, Teddy Jefferson, Anna Alisa Belous

Costume Design
Sarah Thea

Lighting Design
Miriam Nilofa Crowe

Sound Design
Fan Zhang

Jessi Blue Gormezano

Fight Choreographer & Assistant Director
Ben Peterson

PR-ism, Kamila Slawinski & Ivan Talijančić

Visit Blessed Unrest

© by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Production Photos: Blessed Unrest



(from Reuters, 2/22)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – “The Shape of Water,” a contender for this year’s best picture Oscar, was hit with a plagiarism lawsuit on Wednesday, alleging that its fantastical plot about a romance between a cleaning woman and a mysterious river creature was lifted directly from an American stage play.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleged that director Guillermo del Toro, producer Daniel Kraus and movie studio Fox Searchlight <FOXA.0> “brazenly copies the story, elements, characters and themes” from a 1969 play by the late Paul Zindel.

“The Shape of Water” has a leading 13 Oscar nominations at the March 4 Academy Awards ceremony, including nods for best picture and best director. The lawsuit was filed the day after ballots went out to some 8,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who vote on the Oscar winners.

(Read more)


(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/12; via Pam Green.)

Tennessee Williams’s most reliable instrument of release — and torture — glows impiously in the hushed white gallery of the Morgan Library & Museum, like a neon sign in a church.

It is only a manual typewriter, one of the many that did hard labor under the fingers of this great American playwright, who is the subject of “Tennessee Williams: No Refuge but Writing,” a profoundly affecting new exhibition of manuscripts and memorabilia.

But the color of this sleek machine, an Olivetti Lettera 32, belies its utilitarian function. How to describe this particular shade of blue? To call it aqua or teal seems too pedestrian for the man under consideration here. Williams (1911-1983) delighted in finding names for blues — chromatic, spiritual, emotional.

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(Photo: The New York Times)



(Deborah Cole’s article appeared on Yahoo, 2/18; via the Drudge Report.

Berlin (AFP) – Gay cinema pioneer Rupert Everett said his new biopic about legendary literary dandy Oscar Wilde captures him as a “Christ-like” figure who sacrificed himself for the future global LBGTQ rights movement.

Everett penned, directed and starred in his years-long passion project about the flamboyant 19th century Irish writer, “The Happy Prince”, screening this week at the Berlin film festival.

The 58-year-old British actor focuses in the film on Wilde’s self-imposed exile after serving two years’ hard labour from 1895 on “gross indecency” charges for sex with men.

(Read more)