Category Archives: Events

‘MOCKINGBIRD’ PLAY PUBLISHER DEMANDS $500,000 FROM HARPER LEE ESTATE ·

(Alexandra Alter’s and Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/8; via Pam Green.)

The set for “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Kavinoky Theater at D’Youville College in Buffalo being taken down last month after several theaters were forced to cancel their productions.CreditLibby March for The New York Times

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is proving to be an eventful legal drama. And not just in the theater.

Last month the producer Scott Rudin, seeking to protect the financial future of a new stage adaptation of the novel now running on Broadwayforced at least eight theaters around the country to cancelproductions of a 1970 stage version. Now the publisher of the earlier script says he will seek compensation and legal vindication.

“We feel horribly for those affected by the shameful bigfooting coming from Mr. Rudin,” Christopher Sergel III, president of Dramatic Publishing Company and the grandson of the author of the first adaptation, said.

Mr. Sergel said he would ask an arbitration tribunal to protect the ability of local theaters to stage his grandfather’s adaptation and to award damages of at least $500,000. He accused the estate of the “Mockingbird” author, Harper Lee, acting in concert with Mr. Rudin, of causing financial losses to Dramatic Publishing by making “false statements” to local theaters.

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Photo: The New York Times

 

RUSSIA’S ANNA KARENINA MUSICAL TO BE SHOWN IN U.S. AND UK CINEMAS ·

(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 3 /4.)

People living in America and the UK will be able to watch Russia’s best-selling musical, Anna Karenina, staged by Moscow’s Operetta Theater. The performance will be shown throughout this month (in Russian with English subtitles).

The musical premiered in 2016 and its producer Alexei Bolonin spent much of the noughties staging licensed Western musicals on Russian soil including Metro, Notre Dame de Paris, and Romeo & Juliette.

“Tolstoy’s novel like no other is suited for a musical because it has all the necessary ingredients, most importantly, a love story,” Bolonin said.

Turning the famous Russian writer’s masterpiece into a musical was a little risky because addressing the book’s philosophical themes on stage is no easy task. However, it includes many direct quotes from the novel and all the important moments are reflected in the lyrics.

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A ‘TRADITION’ OMISSION: I HAD NEVER SEEN ‘FIDDLER’ UNTIL NOW ·

(Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/27; via Pam Green.)

At the relatively late age of 43 — though basically a toddler compared to much of a recent audience for the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene production — I finally saw “Fiddler on the Roof.”

We all have our cultural blind spots. I’ve never seen an episode of “The Simpsons,” either, though I very much have always meant to. Some things just slip by. My failure to see “Fiddler” is only important in that it would be extremely on-brand for me to have seen “Fiddler” 35,000 times — to have “Fiddler” be the only show I’d ever seen. I grew up attending Jewish schools and in a home where my mother became Orthodox when I was 12, and where my mother’s full-time mission became to guide my sisters and me toward her enlightenment. This worked on my sisters. It still works for them.

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Photo: The New York Times

 

LET’S GO: ‘DEATH OF A DRIVER’ AT URBAN STAGES (3/1-3/24) ·

Urban Stages Presents

DEATH OF A DRIVER

Written by WILL SNIDER. Directed by KIM T. SHARP

Starring SARAH BASKIN and PATRICK SSENJOVU

New York: Urban Stages (Frances Hill, Founding Artistic Director), will close its 35th season with the World Premiere of Will Snider’s DEATH OF A DRIVER directed by Kim T. Sharp.

Urban Stages (259 West 30th Street)

Sarah is an American engineer. Kennedy is an East African taxi driver. They strike up a friendship and embark on a journey to change rural Kenya building new roads. But when a disputed local election lands Kennedy in jail and threatens the work, Sarah questions the integrity of their alliance and wonders how well she knows the man she thought was her friend. Death of a Driver is a bracing examination of “doing good” abroad, the limits of understanding another person, and what happens when personal and political obligations collide.

“We are thrilled to bring Death of a Driver to Urban Stages’ to help close our 35th season. It is a smart, well-written tale of people trying to help. It explores how good intentions may not always have the best results, especially on a global level. I look forward to seeing how audiences react to this piece.”   Frances Hill, Founding Artistic Director

DEATH OF A DRIVER will be performed by Sarah Baskins (TV: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”; NY: Wolves) and Patrick Ssenjovu (Theatre: Red HillsGa-aad at Uganda National Theater. Film: Sydney Pollock’s The Interpreter). The creative team includes: Frank Oliva (Set Designer), John Salutz (Lighting Designer), Ian Wehrle (Sound Designer), Vincent Scott (Assistant Director), TBA (Technical Director), Miriam Hyfler (Stage Manager), Lindsay Kipnis (Assistant Stage Manager). and Abou Lion Diarra (Original Music). Urban Stages staff includes Antoinette Mullins (Development & Literary Director), Olga Devyatisilnaya (Company Manager/Financial Administrator), Ilanna Saltzman (Outreach Director), Bara Swain (Creative Consultant), Vincent Scott (School Consultant), Myan Disnie Sabastien (Social Media) and Sylvia Haber, Perpetuart (Graphic Designer).

 

DEATH OF A DRIVER

Written by Will Snider. Directed by Kim T. Sharp

Vincent Scott – Assistant Director

Performed by Sarah Baskins & Patrick Ssenjovu

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ANDRÉ PREVIN, MUSICAL POLYMATH, HAS DIED AT AGE 89 ·

(Susan Stamberg’s article appeared on NPR 2/28.)

André Previn, a celebrated musical polymath, died Thursday morning; he was a composer of Oscar-winning film music, conductor, pianist and music director of major orchestras. His manager, Linda Petrikova, confirmed to NPR that he died at his home in Manhattan.

Previn wrote a tune in the 1950s. In the vernacular of the day, he called it “Like Young.” His Hollywood friend, the great lyricist Ira Gershwin, was critical. “Don’t you know it should be “As Young?” asked Gershwin. Previn loved that story — from his jazz side.

Tim Page, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former music critic and professor of journalism and music at the University of Southern California, says that jazz was just one side of the multitalented artist. “He really seriously distinguished himself in a lot of different fields. He was not one of these people who came in and shook up one field forever and ever,” Page notes.

Previn began his musical life “like young.” Born in Berlin on April 6, 1929, as Andreas Ludwig Priwin, he grew up in Los Angeles. His family fled Germany in 1938 and first moved to Paris, and then New York, before landing in Hollywood. As a wunderkind teenager, he played piano at the Rhapsody Theatre, improvising scores at silent film screenings.

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PETER SHAFFER: ‘EQUUS’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/26.)

I’ve often complained about the move towards a directors’ theatre. But directors can also renew a familiar work – which is precisely what Ned Bennett does in his exhilarating staging of Peter Shaffer’s modern classic. I was present at the first performance in 1973 but, without violating the text, Bennett’s production has enabled me to see the play through fresh eyes.

Shaffer shows a psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, attempting to discover what drove a teenage boy, Alan Strang, to blind six horses with a metal spike: it is not so much a whodunnit as a why-did-he-do-it? Dysart patiently explores Alan’s parental background – a puritanical father, an obsessively religious mother – and the boy’s preoccupation with horses. But, while Dysart envies the boy’s capacity for worship, he only gets to the truth when he tricks Alan into reliving the events of the night of the blinding.

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PATTI LUPONE INTERVIEW (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3) ·

Patti LuPone

Listen

How loud should you be? Italian American performer Patti LuPone talks to Philip Dodd about why she doesn’t consider herself an American, her politics, unsuccessful auditions, backbiting, corporate entertainment, #Me Too.

Her career has taken her from a Broadway debut in a Chekhov play in 1973 to performances in the original productions of plays by David Mamet and musicals including Evita on Broadway and Les Misérables and Sunset Boulevard in London’s West End. She won a Tony award for her role as Rose in the 2008 Broadway revival of the musical Gypsy. 
She’s currently taking the role of Joanne in the production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company in London’s West End. The show directed by Marianne Elliott runs until March 30th 2019

Patti LuPone: A Memoir was published in 2010.

Producer: Debbie Kilbride

Photo: The Guardian

 

 

GLENDA JACKSON AND ADAM DRIVER: PERFORMERS WITH A LICENSE TO RAGE ·

(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/20; via Pam Green.)

Glenda Jackson will return to Broadway in “King Lear,” while Adam Driver takes on his first starring role there in “Burn This.”

Expect the canyons of Broadway to echo with shouts and screams this spring — and moaning and groaning and lamentation of an exceptional amplitude and ferocity. And I’m not referring to ticket buyers who have just registered what an orchestra seat will set them back, or not only that.

Rather, I’m referring to two stars, much celebrated for their combustible presences on stage and screen, who will be taking on parts in which being able to generate high dudgeon at high volume is a primary job requirement. That would be the British actress Glenda Jackson, in the rage-filled title role of Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” and the unlikely American heartthrob Adam Driver, who is portraying what might be described as an emotional arsonist in the first Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson’s 1987 drama “Burn This.”

As is the case with many of this season’s main-stem offerings, the road to New York for this “King Lear” and “Burn This” has hardly been a straight line. They’re each arriving later than was originally anticipated — and in somewhat altered form.

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NOW ABOUT THESE WOMEN: STRINDBERG, POST-BERGMAN—FARBER/ALI/ CLARK/ULLMANNS/MORE  (REVIEWS FROM NEW YORK) ·

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bob Shuman

The frantic sex in Yaël Farber’s adaptation of Miss Julie, directed by Shariffa Ali and retitled Mies Julie, now playing at Classic Stage Company (CSC) until March 10, provides a contrast to Liv Ullmann’s stately 2014 film version; but, in both, viewers are left staring at semen-stained underwear on the floor.  Other current Strindberg directors, like Victoria Clark and Arin Arbus, make Strindberg (1849-1912) conventional for our time—they can’t unleash him or really take him seriously, although Alf Sjöberg did so in his 1951 film on the daughter of a count who sleeps with a servant–a classic, which opens up the story, on the order of Birth of a Nation. Ullmann, who has directed A Streetcar Named Desire and can see Strindberg’s influence on Tennessee Williams, encloses her Miss Julie in an Irish castle, but her apparent lack of budget (this is really a filmed play) and two hour running time undermine Strindberg’s brevity and pace (Farber’s setting is a farmhouse in the Karoo of South Africa, and she relentlessly brings her inter-racial version in at 75 minutes; Strindberg timed the original at 90). 

Farber’s other changes include making the third character, Jean’s mother (Vinie Burrows, of the sheet-metal screech), instead of his intended, and giving the idea to start a hotel, to Julie, instead of Jean (James Udom).  Elise Kibler seems too young and unglamorous to be playing the title role, although a friend corrected me: “She’s not that young.”  She is a tomboy, though, who still seems imprinted from parochial school, and the audience is stunned by her voracious entry  into sex, not unlike when reading the reminiscences of Linn Ullmann in Unquiet (Norton, 2015, 2019), in which the author, daughter of  director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2017), himself no stranger to Strindberg (Americans may recall his production of Miss Julie, brought to BAM in 1991, starring Lena Olin  and Peter Stormare) pretends not to discuss the final part of the life of her father: as a teen, though, she describes wanting an older lover to keep “doing it” and when she comes, it surprises them both: “How sudden and violent it was, like shame, like betrayal.”

Ingmar Bergman in Stockholm, 1961

Udom kisses Kibler’s foot: “Kiss my foot; fucking do it!” (in The Dance of Death, also playing a CSC—the boot is kissed, the fetish Strindberg calls for in both scripts).  Udom continues up the lower leg, matching Julie’s boldness. Liv Ullmann, in her film, shows that Julie and Jean are really children, which is a point also repeated in Ingmar Bergman’s corpus; in fact, her Julie, Jessica Chastain, appears to be stunted in terms of her emotional growth, because of the early death of her mother:  Kibler and Udom, however, seem to be experimenting, “playing with fire” (they’ve known each other all their lives).  On the evening of the annual Freedom Day celebration, neither has ever been so fearless or unaware of the messiness of love.  Ali’s direction, at a kitchen table, with African drumming, music, and a ghost, however, may be one variation of Strindberg’s play that outdoes even the playwright, regarding misogyny: Farber’s reconstruction includes a death even more violent than that of the original. 

Although it does seem as though women artists trying to solve Strindberg, usually in their favor, are part of a current trend, the idea is actually not new.  The concept goes at least as far back as Trifles, the 1916 play, and curriculum staple,  by Susan Glaspell, which is an obvious riposte to Miss Julie, and also includes killing a canary; but here, the man in the relationship is killed, not the woman.  Arbus’s direction of The Father, in 2016, asked the audience to laugh at Strindberg, as she analyzed him in a multiracial context, rather than via the kind of homogeneous society he wrote in; nevertheless, Laurie Slade’s 2013 BBC production was compelling because it was brutal.  New York producers equate entertainment with comedy, but Strindberg, whose play The Dance of Death, about the death spiral of an aging couple—and which has influenced, in a hasty, incomplete tally, Bergman, Brook, O’Neill, Albee, and Ionesco–while not unfunny, poses an issue for casts, because without appropriate transitions (an actor has supplied the correct terminology), his sentiments can play like laff lines: “there are no real men today.” Actors may want the instant gratification of the audience response, but Strindberg is on to something deeper;  yet, this production’s vigorous actors, Cassie Beck, Richard Topol, and Christopher Innvar, using an adaptation by Connor McPherson, are only finding identifiable contemporary counterparts to Swedes of 1887; not essences.  Maybe a clearer way to say this is that they seem to be playing at their roles, but they haven’t become them yet. 

For a successful immersion into Strindberg-like characters, one might watch Bibi Andersson and Jan Malmsjo in Scenes from a Marriage, where Strindberg is quoted.  What the director, Victoria Clark, does bring to her production, which also plays until March 10 (this reviewer can recall an earlier production at CSC, in 1984) is an interest in movement, literally allowing the actors to present choreographed dances of death during the evening.

The mundane questions Linn Ullmann thinks to ask her father, Ingmar Bergman, during the end of his life, in Unquiet, A Novel, do nothing to illuminate an understanding of August Strindberg, by his foremost contemporary interpreter and literary inheritor.  Bergman only allowed Ullmann to see him for one month every summer–on a remote Swedish island, from which her mother successfully freed herself, in the sixties.  Unspoken depicts a daughter continuing to inhabit the isolated landscape, in an obsessively repetitive text, Joycean in some sentence lengths, and often banal in the points made, along with a bad copyedit (a lack of understanding of the difference between a comma and a semi-colon, is apparent, for example).  Nevertheless, her book (true in all of Linn Ullmann’s work) has been highly influenced by her father’s film techniques and writing, as well as her mother’s books, Changing and Choices.  Ullmann documents a man “vanishing,” as Bergman describes it, agreeing with Strindberg, in The Dance of Death, that “growing old is horrible,” passing his artistic legacy on to an observer, whom he might not even recognize.

Visit Classic Stage Company

View Unquiet on Amazon

Production photos: Joan Marcus

Linn Ullmann photo: Berliner Zeitung

Press: Blake Zidell/Adriana Leshko

© by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

 

ALBERT FINNEY, LEGENDARY STAR OF TOM JONES AND MILLER’S CROSSING, DIES AGED 82 ·

(Andrew Pulver’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/8; via Pam Green.)

Albert Finney, who forged his reputation as one of the leading actors of Britain’s early 60s new wave cinema, has died aged 82 after a short illness, his family have announced. In 2011, he disclosed he had kidney cancer.

Albert Finney: the most almighty physical screen presence

A publicist told the Guardian that Finney died on Thursday of a chest infection at the Royal Marsden hospital, which specialises in cancer treatment, just outside London. His wife, Pene, and son, Simon, were by his side.

Having shot to fame as the star of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Finney received five Oscar nominations, but never won, and refused a knighthood.

Speaking to the Guardian, Daniel Craig – who starred in Skyfall, Finney’s final film, in which he played a gamekeeper from James Bond’s childhood – said:

“I’m deeply saddened by the news of Albert Finney’s passing. The world has lost a giant. Wherever Albert is now, I hope there are horses and good company.”

The director of that film, Sam Mendes, added: “It is desperately sad news that Albert Finney has gone. He really was one of the greats – a brilliant, beautiful, big-hearted, life loving delight of a man. He will be terribly missed.”

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Photo: Mumby at the Movies