Category Archives: Events

TINA HOWE COPES WITH CAREGIVING AND OTHER LATE-IN-LIFE STORMS ·

(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in the New York Times, July 19; via Pam Green.)

By late afternoon, the weather was still sweltering, but in balmier conditions the playwright Tina Howe would have been hanging out a window of her 10th-story apartment on West End Avenue, shooting photos of the neighbors on their roof decks far below.

So she said the other day, and it was easy to envision. Dreamily thoughtful, with an angular, blue-blooded elegance, Ms. Howe at 79 has a disarming liveliness of spirit.

“I sort of want to set my next play on one of these decks, on Midsummer Night’s Eve,” she said, explaining that it would be “about a group of old people getting together and whooping it up. Because nobody does that. Dear Beckett has written about old age, but never a woman.”

This is the phase of life that Ms. Howe has reached: where an appalling number of sweet strangers offer her their seats on the subway, and where she sticks close to home because her 81-year-old husband, Norman Levy, has Alzheimer’s disease.

It is a phase of life that Ms. Howe is writing about in her new play, “Singing Beach.” Directed by Ari Laura Kreith in a production by Theater 167, it starts previews on Saturday, July 22, at Here Arts Center.

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Photo: The New York Times

 

ANDY BLANKENBUEHLER, ‘HAMILTON’ CHOREOGRAPHER, AT HOME IN HARLEM ·

(Joanne Kaurman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/21; via Pam Green.)

What I Love

Sofia Blankenbuehler, while out sick from school one day, heard a snippet of music coming from her father’s studio on the top floor of the family’s brownstone in Harlem. A few seconds later, there was that same tune again. And again (and again) for the next eight hours or so.

“She finally told my wife, ‘I think there’s something wrong with Daddy,’” said Andy Blankenbuehler, a choreographer and sometime stage director.

Well, maybe. But such obsessive attention to the music that makes him dance helps explain why Mr. Blankenbuehler has three shows running on Broadway (“Cats,” “Bandstand” and “Hamilton”) and why he’s also in possession of three Tony Awards (for “In the Heights,” “Hamilton” and “Bandstand”), not to mention the two construction paper-and-cardboard facsimiles of the trophy made by Sofia, now 7, and her brother, Luca, 10.

But the stage isn’t all his world. Mr. Blankenbuehler, 47, has long stuffed boxes and file folders with photographs and illustrations of mirrors and tables and sideboards that catch his fancy. “I’ve always been very design-conscious, though my taste has continued to change,” he said.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/realestate/andy-blankenbuehler-hamilton-choreographer-at-home-in-harlem.html

ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY TO MONITOR HEART RATES AT ‘TITUS ANDRONICUS’ ·

(Andrew R. Chow’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/5; via Pam Green.)

Is a screening of a play just as powerful as the play itself? The Royal Shakespeare Company plans to use heart monitors to try to find the answer.

Starting Wednesday night, the company is to monitor the heart rates of 10 selected audience members at its blood-soaked production of “Titus Andronicus” in Stratford-upon-Avon, and then do the same for a cinema screening of the production in August. The theater’s aim is to measure the emotional experience of each viewing method and explore whether Shakespeare still shocks modern audience members, who are perhaps desensitized to violence onscreen.

Becky Loftus, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s head of audience insight, said that “Titus Andronicus” lends itself particularly well to this experiment, given the intensity of scenes showing the title character Titus’s hand being chopped off and the aftermath of the rape and mutilation of Lavinia, another character.

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THE WOMEN WHO STAGED THE IRISH EASTER RISING (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3—LINK BELOW) ·

(Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b074z972 )

Broadcaster and journalist, Marie-Louise Muir, examines the role theatre played in radicalising the Irish women who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising.

As she pieces together their largely forgotten stories through archives at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre and visits key locations associated with the insurrection, Marie-Louise asks what happened to these women and their radical ideals.

Producer: Conor Garrett.

Illustrations: Maire Nic Shiubhlaigh (Irish Times)

ITALY’S ELITE LA SCALA APPALLED AT OPERA GOERS TURNING UP IN T-SHIRTS, MINI-SKIRTS AND FLIP-FLOPS ·

(Nick Squires’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 7/14.; via the Drudge Report.)  

As one of the world’s most celebrated opera houses, La Scala in Milan expects a certain degree of decorum, but guardians of the elite institution have been appalled at the shabby state of audiences this summer.

Instead of donning jackets and evening dresses, ticket holders are turning up as if dressed for the beach, as temperatures reach 95F or more during one of Italy’s hottest summers for years.

The worst culprits are normally foreign tourists but even Italians, who are normally renowned for their stylish dress, are not averse to arriving in shorts, mini-skirts and sandals.

(Read more)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/14/italys-elite-la-scala-appalled-opera-goers-turning-t-shirts/

 

JAMES FRANCO SHUTS DOWN OFF-OFF-BROADWAY’S ‘JAMES FRANCO AND ME’ ·

(Joe Dziemianowicz’s article appeared in the Daily News, 7/12; via Pam Green.)

James Franco, the actor, Oscar nominee, author, poet and professor, is now a showstopper — and not in a good way.

“James Franco and Me,” a play set to run next month at the Peoples Improv Theater on E. 24th St., has been cancelled after getting a cease and desist letter from the 39-year-old star’s lawyers.

Kevin Broccoli, who wrote and acts in the two-character play seen last year in an Epic Theater Company run in Rhode Island, where the troupe is based, told Broadway World about the cancellation.

(Read more)

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/theater-arts/james-franco-shuts-off-off-broadway-james-franco-article-1.3320677

Photo: TV Guide.

 

FOR DISABLED ACTORS, MEMORIZING THE PART IS ONLY THE BEGINNING ·

(Erik Piepenburg’s article appeared in the 7/10 New York Times; via Pam Green.)

It’s not as rare as it used to be for disabled actors to play disabled characters, but they rarely are at center stage as much as in “Cost of Living,”Martyna Majok’s play at Manhattan Theater Club. Katy Sullivan, a bilateral above-the-knee amputee since birth, portrays the loudmouthed Ani, who loses her legs in a car accident. Gregg Mozgala has cerebral palsy, a condition he shares with his character, John, a testy Princeton graduate student.

Manhattan Theater Club needed only minor accommodations to mount the play, according to Stephen M. Kaus, the associate artistic producer. (There were “zero budgetary implications,” he added.) The theater installed two ramps backstage at City Center Stage 1 to help performers get from the house to backstage and from the green room to the stage level. By installing the ramps, the theater also anticipated understudies who might have different disabilities, and helped guests with disabilities who wanted to greet the cast.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/10/theater/for-disabled-actors-memorizing-the-part-is-only-the-beginning.html

SUMMER IS THE TIME FOR STRETCHING ·

(Dave Itzkoff’s, Erik Piepenburg’s, LauraCollins-Hughes’s, and Sophie Haigney’s article appeared in The New Yok Times, 6/28; via Pam Green.)

Relaxing on the beach? Dozing by the pool? Not these writers and performers, who are using the warmer months to take some risks, test themselves and expand their talents onstage.

Brad Hall

Over a span of some four decades in which he helped found Chicago’s Practical Theater Company, with an ensemble that included his future wife, Julia Louis-Dreyfus; acted for two seasons on “Saturday Night Live”; created the TV sitcoms “The Single Guy” and “Watching Ellie”; and wrote comedy movies including “Bye Bye Love,” Brad Hall says he has few career regrets.

“That’s because I have a selective memory,” Mr. Hall joked in a recent phone interview. A bit more sincerely, he added: “Those regrets that I do have are, exclusively, not doing plays that I wish I had done. So now I decided to say yes when people ask me to do them.”

Among the opportunities that Mr. Hall has embraced in this more receptive mode is the Gloucester Stage Company’s summer production of “The Effect,” by the British playwright Lucy Prebble.

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SIMON GODWIN’S ‘MEASURE FOR MEASURE’ AT THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE–ONLY UNTIL JULY 16 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

In his staging of Measure for Measure, from Theatre for a New Audience, now playing at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center until July 16, Simon Godwin takes his time in getting to the Bard. His production opens the problem play (Shakespeare places us in  a decadent Vienna), written circa 1603, with a brothel tour, one curated seriously, as if it’s part of a downtown gallery exhibit (the scenic and costume design is by Paul Wills; the light designer is Matthew Richards).  The director comes at us from a different direction, later, too, by placing the audience in a country-western bar, where an up-and-coming Linda Ronstadt might be singing. (Jane Shaw composed the music and designed the sound; the musicians are Drew Bastian, Robert Cowie, and Osei Essed.)  Whether he is laughing behind our backs or not, trying to prick the bourgeoisie, by letting subscribers peruse, among others, dildos, ben wa balls, S&M masks, handcuffs, and even a Donald Trump sex toy, Godwin is not merely a smooth, hip director. 

He also allows the audience to see the play’s confrontations with serious intellectual intent, as he explores Shakespeare’s scene work, as well as his language and storytelling—asking us to find our way into them, unrushed, almost in the way he might have asked himself and his actors to analyze and interpret during rehearsals.  Unpretentiously, they have found original, defensible characterizations, which may seem completely new.  Notable among them is the work of Thomas J. Ryan, who shows Angelo to be a boring, awkward bureaucrat (he may even be banal and evil)–yet his likes are found in thousands of offices every day—here, the character compulsively grabs for the Purell.  Jonathan Cake is not the partying jock he played as the lead in Antony and Cleopatra at the Public in 2014—now he is paler, a wild aristo before decline, hiding behind glasses that are too big.  Perhaps his character will remind of Hal in  Henry IV, Part 2–a work that is believed to be written earlier than this one, in 1596.   More recently, Prince Harry has stated, relevant to this discussion, that no one in his family really wants to be King, “but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”  That, of course, is the story of  the aforementioned Henry play and Measure for Measure—Cake does play his Duke as a modern British royal, one who is aware of what all his training and position mean (down to where and how to place his feet and hold his hands at the back); he also knows how to find the mellifluous meter of the Bard. Cara Ricketts makes an impressive Isabella because she concentrates on the character’s essence and heart (some consider the character cruel, but does anyone think a nun, the bride of Christ, would enter into the bargain Angelo is asking her to be part of?).

By taking his time with Shakespeare, walking with him and letting him take his own time, Godwin creates new interest in the play, even if he also shows the Bard’s warts and beauty marks.  For example:

  • Information can be repeated (Claudio’s execution)
  • One wonders why there is so much concern with this one criminal and crime, when there must be other, more dangerous activities happening in this depraved city
  • The Duke takes time to act on a problem that he is sympathetic to. Like Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, he could set everything right immediately, but he waits
  • Isabella seems to be allowed to stay away from her convent and keep her own hours, as if there are no internal rules for her order
  • There’s the obvious sexism of the bed trick
  • Among other issues.

Godwin must also deal with the problem of anachronism—Mariana (Merritt Janson) is introduced as a modern, independent woman, but, by the end of the play, she contorts into a submissive wife, as does Kate in The Taming of the Shrew or even Katharine Hepburn in many of her star vehicles. Whatever he can’t do to help Measure for Measure, however, Godwin should be commended for creating a true color-blind production.  Actors of different races may be used to show how progressive a company is regarding diversity, often in order to make a political point.  Although a more practical reason may be that actors of different backgrounds can help the audience keep characters straight, Godwin isn’t holding up casting choices as a shield or to telegraph his political correctness.

Perhaps one of the larger problems the director encountered with Measure for Measure, is the fact that the play insists that every character is obstructed and must be hyper-alive to choices that cannot be postponed.  There is no normal in the drama (perhaps this is what the Duke is trying to figure out)—and there is no one who can be identified as normal either (to put the dilemma in terms of Hamlet, there is no Horatio in this play). What was once considered status quo is no longer, as the Austrian laws have changed for the whole citizenry.  Meeting only those living on the edge, the audience may decide the work oddly reflects the current state of the U.S. and the West, whether they are flag-waving or not (and those who see this Measure for Measure will be able to actually do this if they want).  The play is such a perennial for simplified, unnuanced summer stages that viewers may have become inured to its complexities, dissonances, and differences: Measure for Measure, for example, is Shakespeare where a male spends most of the play in disguise. Godwin, treats the work as unusual, intellectual, suitable only for an unusual production, underplayed and stimulating, sexual or not.  

© 2017 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.

Visit Theatre for a New Audience: http://www.tfana.org/?gclid=CJnqv7zu8NQCFc1XDQodOtEDpQ

Press: Blake Zidell at Blake Zidell & Associates, Rachael Shearer.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

The Cast

OBERON K.A. ADJEPONG (Provost)

JONATHAN CAKE (Duke Vincentio) 

 KENNETH DE ABREW (Froth/Abhorson/Friar Peter) 

 ZACHARY FINE (Friar Thomas/Elbow/Barnardine, Gentleman). 

 LELAND FOWLER (Claudio) 

 MERRITT JANSON (Mariana)

JANUARY LAVOY (Mistress Overdone/Escala/Francisca) 

CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL MCFARLAND (Pompey)

SAM MORALES (Juliet)

CARA RICKETTS (Isabella)

THOMAS JAY RYAN (Angelo)

HAYNES THIGPEN (Lucio)

DREW BASTIAN (Musician)

ROBERT COWIE (Music Director/Musician) 

OSEI ESSED (Musician) 

 

Creative Team

SIMON GODWIN (Director) 

 BRIAN BROOKS (Choreographer) 

PAUL WILLS (Scenic & Costume Designer)

MATTHEW RICHARDS (Lighting Designer)

JANE SHAW (Composer & Sound Designer)

ALISON BOMBER (Voice & Text Coach) 

 ERIC REYNOLDS (Properties Supervision)

JONATHAN KALB (Production Dramaturg) 

MEGAN SCHWARZ DICKERT (Production Stage Manager)

JOE ORTON DOUBLE-BILL: ‘THE ERPINGHAM CAMP’ AND ‘THE RUFFIAN ON THE STAIR’ (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3—LINK BELOW) ·

(Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08wn0lm)

Crimes of Passion, a double-bill of Joe Orton plays to mark the 50th anniversary of his death, plus an interview with Kenneth Cranham, a close friend of Orton’s who played several key roles in his plays. The two plays are The Ruffian On The Stair, a Pinteresque radio play about a couple whose lives are disrupted by a young visitor and The Erpingham Camp, Orton’s rambunctious State-of-England farce, set in a 1960’s holiday camp.

The Erpingham Camp:
Erpingham ….. Robert Daws
Riley ….. Jonjo O’Neill
Lou ….. Kerry Gooderson
Ted ….. Samuel James
Kenny ….. Charlie Clements
Eileen ….. Sarah Ridgeway
W.E. Harrison ….. Tom Forrister
Jessie Mason ….. Sanchia McCormack
Padre ….. Simon Ludders
Accordion Player ….. Colin Guthrie

The Ruffian On The Stair:
Mike ….. Gerard Horan
Joyce ….. Sophie Thompson
Wilson ….. Jack Rowan

Producer ….. Mary Peate

The Ruffian On The Stair was Orton’s first play, commissioned by BBC Radio and later adapted for the stage. The Erpingham Camp started life as a TV drama. Both plays were later presented at the Royal Court Theatre as a double bill with the title Crimes of Passion, which marked the beginning of a turn of fortune in Orton’s career as a playwright after the poorly-received first production of Loot. Both the radio and the stage productions of Ruffian on the Stair starred the young Kenneth Cranham, who went on to play Hal in Loot and Sloane in Entertaining Mr Sloane and became a friend of Orton’s. As part of this evening, Matthew Sweet interviews Kenneth Cranham about his friendship with Orton.