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WAYNE ALLENSWORTH’S AMERICAN SHOWDOWN II: THE AUTHOR OF ‘FIELD OF BLOOD’ ON THE EPIC, RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE/WESTERN ASSUMPTIONS, AND CHARACTERS WITH HARD CHOICES ·

Wayne Allensworth worked as an analyst for the Foreign Broadcast Information Service from 1991 to 2002.  He is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 1998.  He is a Corresponding Editor of Chronicles magazine.  His short story, Man of the West, was nominated for a Western Writers of America Spur award. He has contributed to the following collections: Exploring American History (Marshall Cavendish, 2008); Peace in the Promised Land: A Realist Scenario (Chronicles Books, 2006); Immigration and the American Identity (Chronicles Books, 2008); and Russian Nationalism and the National Reassertion of Russia, edited by Marlene Laruelle (Johns Hopkins University). He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas. 

Read Part 1 of Wayne Allensworth’s interview:

http://stagevoices.com/2017/04/15/wayne-allensworths-american-showdown-the-author-of-field-of-blood-on-modern-westerns-frontier-situations-and-the-best-books-and-films-in-the-genre-including-his/

Wayne Allensworth saddles up with SV’s Bob Shuman to talk about writing, formal institutions, and informal structures, in the conclusion to his two-part interview.

Read the prologue to FIELD OF BLOOD at the end of this post.

You mentioned Lonesome Dove as an example of an epic Western.  What makes a Western an epic?  Is “Field of Blood” an epic?

Epic Westerns are poetic, heroic, and tragic in the way of the ancient epics. There is a Homeric quality about them. They have a sweeping scope, taking in a series of adventures on a long trek, like the cattle drives in Red River and Lonesome Dove.  The backdrop is the mythic West, Ford’s Monument Valley, for instance.  The narrative may take place over a long period of time, maybe years, as in The Searchers, both Alan LeMay’s novel and Ford’s film.  But all good Westerns, books and movies, carry the elements of the epic within them to some degree, the tragedy of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, for example, the fatal last shootout, fatal both literally and mythically, in The Wild Bunch or The Shootist. Every good Western evokes mythic heroes and storied battles.  My Darling ClementineGunfight at the OK Corral, and Tombstone did that with the Earps and the Clantons.

My novel, Field of Blood, is an American epic, covering decades in time, encompassing wars, peacetime, and the new frontier situation the characters are confronted with. It’s about who we were, who we are, and what we are becoming. It is tragic, and in scope covers landscapes across the world and here at home. It’s a modern Western in the ways I’ve already covered, including a showdown very much in the vein of the old Westerns.  So I hope it might be thought of as an epic story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you come to write the novel–what was its inspiration?  Why was it important to tell this story?

My professional life has been spent on following events in Russia and the former Soviet Union. In trying to explain that reality, I had to look closely at what had happened in a country that had collapsed, where the old structures had been swept away.  There was a crisis of identity, as well as an economic and social crisis.

When the formal institutions of a country cease to function, or function only at a minimum level, then informal structures arise to fill the vacuum.  Those informal structures often include organized crime, as well as economic and political “clans” that actually govern, and of course, family, a few close friends acting together. The circle of trust shrinks.  The world becomes smaller. Life outside that circle becomes precarious.

Elections, court proceedings, these are mostly surface formalities. The rules are informal and are enforced outside the law and courts.  It may not be the legal system or police who punish those who violate the rules, but the hit man, the enforcer, or the police acting on behalf of informal “clans” or the criminal world.  On the other side of the coin, defending yourself means either seeking the protection of those who have the will and the weapons to do that, or acting yourself.  Just look at vigilante groups in Mexico for an example of that.  Often, it’s either current or former police or military, acting informally, who fill the gap.

Men belonging to a self-defense group stand at a checkpoint in the town of Las Colonias, Mexico, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Two leaders of the main vigilante groups in western Michoacan state said Tuesday that they are pulling back from confronting the Knights Templar drug cartel because the Mexican government has promised to oust traffickers from the area. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

I found that a lot of Americans were quite naïve about how much, probably most, of the rest of the world operates. Americans have taken a law-based country, one with high levels of social trust, for granted, as the norm, when in fact it’s a very rare thing. 

I lived in the Washington D.C. area for a number of years, and each time I visited my native Texas, I could see with my own eyes what was happening.  And I could read about the crime and corruption I was familiar with from my professional life gaining a foothold in a place and among people I cared very much about.  I could see what globalism meant for ordinary people.  And I could see that it was happening all over the country. Nobody had asked us about this.  People with power and influence were intent on creating a world they wanted, one in which our country and people were expendable. That explains where the premise for the book came from.

Do you consider yourself a political writer?

I didn’t set out to write a book about politics, but about people in a certain situation.  It carries my world view with it, of course.  Every writer has one.  I didn’t intend the book to be overly didactic, though I think the point or points made are pretty clear.  I think the situation we are in is plain to see now and all this is being talked about in a way it wasn’t when I started formulating this book and began writing back in 2010-2011. The story is about the characters and the choices they have to make. In the context of the story, what’s right or wrong and what can or should be done isn’t always clear.  That’s the way life is.

A good story puts its characters in situations that require them to make hard choices, situations that test them, that present them with a dilemma, or make them think about the most fundamental issues. Life, death, God, meaning, loyalty, identity, fight or flight.  Who is right, who is wrong, who the good guys or bad guys are isn’t always clear.  I was aiming for that kind of story.

Thank you so much, Wayne.

Read the prologue to FIELD OF BLOOD: Field of Blood Prologue

(c) 2017 by Wayne Allensworth (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Credits: Wayne Allensworth photo (c) 2017 by Elizabeth Allensworth Merino.  All rights reserved.

Photo Lonesome Dove: Cowboys and Indians Magazine.

Vigilante Group: Jammedup News

Texas: Free Creatives.

(c) 2017 by Wayne Allensworth (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

HOW SIX DEGREES BECAME A FOREVER MEME ·

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Jennifer Schuessler’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/19; via Pam Green.)

“Six Degrees of Separation” — John Guare’s play about a wealthy Manhattan couple whose lives are upended by a con artist claiming to be Sidney Poitier’s son — was the toast of the town when it had its premiere in 1990. A mere six months later, Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times that “its title has passed into the language.”

Mr. Guare did not invent the idea that everyone in the world is separated by only six other people, which emerged out of nearly a century of mathematical and psychological research. But it was the stickiness of his title — and the 1993 film version, starring Will Smith as the impostor — that blasted it “into the pop-culture stratosphere,” as the sociologist Duncan J. Watts put it in his book “Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age” (2003).

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/theater/six-degrees-of-separation-meme.html

Photo: New Directions Books

MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV: ON THE STAGE IT’S JUST ME, AND BRODSKY’S POEMS ·

Mikhail Baryshnikov performs Brodsky/ Baryshnikov, based on the poems of Joseph Brodsky at BAC on March 8, 2016.
Photo Credit: ©Stephanie Berger

(Irene Kukota’s article appeared on Russia Beyound the Headlines, 4/17.)

Russian Art and Culture: How would you describe Brodsky/Baryshnikovin one sentence?

Mikhail Baryshnikov:. A poetic journey

What made you say “yes” to participating in Brodsky/Baryshnikov project staged by Alvis Hermanis?

M.B.: Alvis Hermanis invited me to do it, and I was honored to work with such a remarkable director. I couldn’t say no! I prefer live theater. The immediacy, the terror; it’s the ultimate challenge

Did you take part in the writing of the performance script? 

M.B.: There was never a script. The director, Alvis Hermanis, selected a range of poems including very early and very late ones. To explain the staging of this show would take a long time. We lived with this text for some time and it was a fascinating process for both Alvis and me.

It is frequently said that this show is about death, powerlessness against time and age. Do you also see it this way?

M.B.: I think that’s up to the audience to decide. They are the main participant after all. The goal is always to stay true to the director’s original vision. The set is a beautifully decrepit glass winter garden from the turn of the 20th century. I think it captures the quiet introspection and pensive mood of the play perfectly and Joseph would have loved it. It can be lonely out there, speaking of the ultimate challenge, but I love it.

(Read more)

http://rbth.com/arts/literature/2017/04/17/mikhail-baryshnikov-on-the-stage-its-just-me-and-brodkys-poems_742825

Photo Observer.

INGO SWANN: ‘A LIFE GONE WILD’ AT THE PHILIP K DICK FILM FESTIVAL IN NYC, MAY 25TH TO 30TH ·

 

(via Marty Rosenblatt)

 

“The Estate of Ingo Swann is excited to announce “A Life Gone Wild” the short film is part of the official selection at the Philip K Dick Film Festival in NYC, May 25th to 30th. 

 

Directed by Maryanne Bilham-Knight, Editor Albert OH, Produced by Swann-Ryder Productions LLC, Robert M Knight, Nick Cook and John Stahler.

 

The film screening is followed with a prestigious panel of scientists and practitioners including: 

 

Jacques Vallee, high-tech investor, noted for his works on the early Internet, who served as the “French researcher “in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”; 

 

Harold Puthoff, theoretical and experimental physicist and creator of the government’s Stargate Remote Viewing Program;

 

Tom McNear, former Stargate Remote Viewer;

Blynne Olivieri, Head of Special Collections at the University of West Georgia.

 

For more details go to: http://www.thephilipkdickfilmfestival.com/program_17_2.html

Block Four”

Photo: Higher Journeys

READ THE REVIEWS FOR BETTE MIDLER IN ‘HELLO, DOLLY!’ ·

(Ryan McPhee’s and Olivia Clement’s article appeared in Playbill, 4/20; via Pam Green.)

The Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!, starring Bette Midler in her return to the musical theatre stage, celebrated its official opening night at the Shubert Theatre April 20. The Jerry Zaks-helmed production began performances March 15.

Midler takes on the iconic role of Dolly Gallagher Levi; among those sharing the stage with her are Tony winner David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder, Kate Baldwin as Irene Molloy, and Olivier winner Gavin Creel as Cornelius Hackl.

(Read more)

http://www.playbill.com/article/read-the-reviews-for-bette-midler-in-hello-dolly

Photo: Showbiz411

PIONEERING PILOT, A BROADWAY SHOW AND A LIFE-CHANGING BOND ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York times, 4/16; via Pam Green.)

She was a girl who dreamed of flying. A woman who broke barriers in commercial aviation. And then a pilot ordered to divert a trans-Atlantic jet to Gander, Newfoundland, during the unfolding terror of Sept. 11, 2001.

Beverley Bass had an unusual story to tell when a pair of dramatists started researching the encounter between stranded air travelers and small-town Canadians in those days after the attacks. And now she has another unusual story, as she stares over and over again into a heart-tugging piece of musical theater, and sees her own life mirrored back.

The pioneering pilot and the actress who portrays her in the Broadway musical “Come From Away” have developed a bond over the last two years, ever since they first met, at a restaurant in San Diego, when Ms. Bass jocularly said to the actress, Jenn Colella, “I think you’re playing me.”

Ms. Colella is both playing Ms. Bass, and, frequently, playing to Ms. Bass, who has seen the show 61 times. Using her free-flying privileges as a now-retired pilot, she has followed the musical’s developmental journey from La Jolla to Seattle to Washington to Gander to Toronto to New York, often with other female pilots in tow. Ms. Bass is both watching the show and reliving the events, clutching her husband’s hand as the emotions return.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/theater/come-from-away-jenn-colella.html

KATE HAMILL: ‘VANITY FAIR’, DIRECTED BY ERIC TUCKER AT THE PEARL THEARE (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Eric Tucker’s fluid, physical production of Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Vanity Fair (now playing at the Pearl Theater Company, extended until May 14) will take some puzzling out, but both contemporary creators are trying to get underneath Thackeray’s certitude—unearthing worms and post-modern detritus.  Tucker is the director of the fabulous 2015 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which also played at the Pearl, an interpretation that actually felt like an inchoate, ephemeral dream.  Thackeray is not as malleable as Shakespeare, though—in fact, he’s a steamroller–and so is his leading character, Becky Sharp, who doesn’t “blush” (Hamill plays her unabashedly, with brio).  Adapters may be at odds with what to do with this prodigious Victorian writer, who won’t budge, except to shut him up, as Stanley Kubrick did in his epic Barry Lyndon (1975), a candlelit masterpiece of cinematic composition , with Oscar-winning costumes and production design, cold to the ear—Marisa Berenson, as Lady Lyndon, spoke only 13 lines.  Kubrick had thought of directing Vanity Fair, too, but he felt that “the story could not be successfully compressed into the relatively short time-span of a feature film”—he also may have had difficulty reigning in characters who want what they want when they want it.  At the Pearl, Hamill and Tucker poke at the materiality of Vanity Fair, and along with using other techniques, can remind us of Modernists, not Romantics—O’Casey, Ibsen, Fitzgerald, or Williams come to mind (even Chekhov, for good measure)—and, perhaps, Joel Grey’s Expressionistic demon Emcee in the Kander/Ebb/Masteroff  Cabaret.  Regency England, during the Napoleonic Wars, is where the novel takes place, but Tucker, Hamill, and Co., do not convey the age in ways that remind of the cinema or Masterpiece Theatre—this is perhaps because, by compacting the work, they’ve arrived less at Thackeray’s cheerful facade—but at his malevolence.

Vanity Fair, as a novel, is a tour de force of endless, damning opinion, led by a bossy, intrusive puppet-master, the author himself (he spends nearly 800 pages pulling rank on his characters—and his readers). Even if there is security in having everything spelled out, enjoying the book may have to do with how you can tolerate being told what to think and how to feel, while Thackeray’s pen compulsively chases the news of the day, scandal, and cliffhangers–even when his story loses tension or his characters aren’t focused. (Vanity Fair was originally written for serialization, illustrated by the author.) Becky Sharp is a charity case, who intends to rise in society—she’s honest and vulgar and the English class system will never let her through. Americans can accept her immediately because she’s willing to work and she’s willing to gamble and perhaps this is why Tucker and his designers, Sandra Goldmark (set) and Valérie Thérèse Bart (costumes) do not focus  obsessively on period detail.  Their conception involves placing Vanity Fair in a theatre, which corresponds with Thackery’s “Before the Curtain,” the prologue for his book. Hamill and Tucker radicalize this further by not placing this theatre in the early 1840s, when the book was written, or in the early 1800s, where the book is set.  Hamill’s and Tucker’s theatre, a surreal, contemporary theatre, is in the present day, or in the mind.  Soon, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” plays, a song released in 1982, as actors dance with contemporary moves.  “In Heaven There Ain’t No Beer” (1956) and “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” (1919) are also used—much in understanding and rationalizing this stage version is negotiating the culture shock.  But it goes beyond that. At one point the excellent Joey Parsons, as Amelia, Becky’s champion and friend, pulls long string from her mouth—oddly reminiscent of Lavinia in Peter Brook’s Titus Andronicus (1955). Vanity Fair, in a primitive, feral, anachronistic production, has wed one of the English language’s most literal-minded writers with a director excavating the unconscious.

Hamill’s massive editing and adaptation of Thackeray work, ultimately, becomes two hours and fifteen minutes of stage time. By comparison Nicholas Nickleby, in 1980, involved two 4.5 hour performances to portray Dickens.  Both are exemplars of cutting-edge theatre of their times.  Now, however, audiences may be intent on shorter performances, or maybe they’ve gotten used to working with less.  Does post-modernism–the cuts, the chaos, the irrationality, the freewheeling, the confusion, and dreams– become more important than faithfulness to authors, including Thackeray? Maybe Hamill has made Becky so clear—the young woman wants money, pure and simple—that further discussion becomes unnecessary. Her characters transmute, furniture twirls; no one is locked into the inherent realism of a book or film.  The adapter focuses on the emotional stakes—and what the messy relationships leave behind.

The cast: Debargo Sanyal, who plays Miss Briggs, a cowed servant, has learned to hold his hands, as if he might unexpectedly need to protect his face.  In the next moment, we are watching the line of his legs, long, striding purposefully. Here he’s playing George Osborne, a young soldier, to the manor born—and about to have the rug pulled out from beneath his feet.  Zachary Fine plays, among other parts, the Manager of the theatre, as well as Miss Matilda Crawley, an aristocrat, who either needs to stop taking laxatives or requires them at once.  Thackeray is an interesting writer because he describes shy men, who wait a virtual eternally for love—two here, played well, are:  Brad Heberlee as Jos and Ryan Quinn as William Dobbin (most of the cast play multiple roles).   Rawdon Crawley—Becky’s husband, probably a bad choice to marry, given her goal,  is given appropriate nobility and dash by Tom O’Keefe.

Kubrick was doubtlessly right, that Vanity Fair cannot be done well in approximately two hours on screen—realism, which film demands, exclusively, needs time.  Theatregoers may wonder, however, how the stage can be so flexible—questions Tucker and Hamill can answer.  The two–important, serious, and informed–working untraditionally, have realized Vanity Fair,  the way Thackeray wanted it, not as a historical costume drama;   “not [as] a moral place, certainly; nor a merry one, though  very noisy.”

© 2017 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Visit the Pearl Theatre Company:  http://www.pearltheatre.org/

Press: Shaunda Miles, John Wyszniewski, Rachael Shearer at Blake Zidell & Associates

William Thackeray Kate Hamill, directed by Eric Tucker

Scenic Design by Sandra Goldmark

Costume Design by Valerie Therese Bart

Lighting design by Seth Reiser

Original music composted by Carmel Dean

Director of Production Gar Levinson

Production Gar Levinson

Production Darmaturg Kae Farrington

Production Manager Katharine Whitney

Artistic Director Hal Brooks

Managing Director Jess Burkle

Actors Zachary Fine, Kate Hamill, Brad Heberlee, Tom O’Keefe, Joey Parsons, Ryan Quinn, Debargo Sanyal

Photos, top to bottom:  Kate Hamill (Guthrie); Eric Tucker (D.C. Theater Scene); Cast ((c) Russ Rowland); Thackeray.

ON TIME, WITH DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PART II: THE AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF “YOUR BEST AGE IS NOW” CALLS FOR SOUL-SATISFYING LIVES, CALLS OUT CULTURALLY INDUCED FEAR ABOUT AGING, AND CALLS UP THE ADOLESCENT WITHIN ·

Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. is a nationally known psychotherapist, award-winning reporter, and author. She is a relationship contributor for Investigation Discovery Network’s Scorned, and has hosted TLC’s reality show One Week to Save Your Marriage and GSN’s Without Prejudice? Dr. Ludwig is a regular guest on CNN, Fox News, and Headline News, discussing psychological and lifestyle issues as well as the criminal mind. She has appeared on Today, Entertainment Tonight, 20/20, World News Tonight, Nightline, The View, Fox and Friends, Steve Harvey, The Wendy Williams Show, and is on the medical board and a contributor for BELLA Magazine. She also writes for the Huffington Post. Dr. Ludwig lives in New York City.

Dr. Robi Ludwig helps Bob Shuman through the golden years, in the final part of her Stage Voices interview.  

One quality a survivor in the aging wars must cultivate?  

I see two qualities being crucial:  cultivating a little bit of moxie–and resiliency!

What are people missing about themselves, people who do feel that age is creeping up on them? 

I’m not sure that people are missing anything, but there is a culturally induced fear about aging—somehow we believe we will become less in some way: less relevant, less wanted, less noticed.

This is what I address in Your Best Age Is Now, that we are improving in so many ways as we age. We continue to make new brain cells, showing that we are not “losing it”; many midlifers describe feeling more confident. We are able to problem-solve better; we become wiser and better able to plug into what’s important. We know what we want out of life and from the people in our lives. Many even describe themselves as getting better with age: having a better body, and looking better. Our personalities continue to change all the way into our 60s. We become more conscientious and agreeable. Due to the changes going on in our brains, we become more likely to see the world and the people in our world through a more optimistic lens.

How would you advise a woman who wants to–or has to–change careers after age 50 and is scared?

Don’t follow your fear, follow your plan.

It’s important to do some preliminary research about the field you’d like to go into.

Reach out to any connections you’ve made over the years who might be able to help you. Sometimes it’s our acquaintances who are the most helpful when it comes to providing new connections.

Don’t give up your day job before you fully explore what opportunities are available.

And be willing to get some experience via exploring this new career, as a hobby or via an internship. Sometimes volunteering one’s time can lead to the perfect opportunity for that new career transition.

Are women’s concerns about aging differently than men’s?

I think women in the past had it harder than men. Society was certainly tougher on the aging woman than the aging man. But things have changed. Men can be just as hard on themselves about the aging process

What do you recommend to your clients—or what do you see as first steps that they are taking—to break the cycle of being defined by age?

First, I advise them to get acquainted with the new science about midlife. It’s a lot more positive than what we’ve been led to believe. Then, it’s important to get in touch with your teen energy, since there are similarities between midlife and adolescence:

-Learn how to say “Yes” to life

-Get in touch with your inner moxie

-Find both older and younger role models

-Live with a “You Only Live Once” attitude

-And surround yourself with supportive friends and family

We really do lead more with our essence than our age. I think this is an important point for all of us to keep in mind.

How do you beat feelings of age, should they come up?

I follow the advice in my book Your Best Age is Now, and I continue to follow my passions and the fun in life.

Who did you give a copy of your book to at the holidays?

I gave a copy to some of my closest friends: mother and sister, and they were both very appreciative.

Thank you so much for talking with us.

View Your Best Age Is Now, from HarperOne, on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Your-Best-Age-Now-Soul-Satisfying/dp/0062357190/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490750224&sr=8-1&keywords=your+best+age+now

Visit Dr. Ludwig’s Web site:  http://drrobiludwig.com/

Read Part 1 of the Dr. Ludwig interview:  http://stagevoices.com/2017/03/29/robi-ludwig-on-time-the-psychotherapist-thinks-through-the-aging-crisis-counters-hollywood-expiration-dates-and-celebrates-the-new-release-of-her-paperback-edition-of-you/

(c) 2017 by Robi Ludwig, Psy.D (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

 

***** PATRICK MARBER: ‘DON JUAN IN SOHO’, WITH DAVID TENNANT (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Kate Kellaway’s article appeared in the Observer, 4/2.)

 

If Don Juan doesn’t know when to stop, I don’t know where to begin in describing Patrick Marber’s play and this fantastic, entertaining and unflagging production, which he directs. It opens with a blast of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – the music reminding us that hell is greedy, ready to swallow rascals alive. The stage in Don Juan in Soho is filled with dancers in misleadingly innocuous white, and right from the start there is a buzz, a sense that we are in safely unsafe hands.

Roll over Mozart – rock is taking over. This is contemporary Soho (classily designed by Anna Fleischle, dominated by Soho Square’s statue of Charles II). By the time we meet David Tennant’s Don Juan (now known as DJ), looking cadaverous, languid and unshaven – a picture of dissolution in his designer suit – we have already learned from his disloyal servant Stan (of whom more in a moment) that his master would “do it with anything… even a hole in the ozone layer”.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/apr/02/don-juan-in-soho-david-tennant-review