Category Archives: Events

A FIRST LOOK AT STEVEN SPIELBERG’S WEST SIDE STORY ·

(Anthony Breznican’s article appeared in Vanity Fair, 3/16; photo: Vanity Fair; via the Drudge Report.)

The director talks about reimagining the musical that riveted him as a child.H 16, 2020

Steven Spielberg has been making West Side Story in his head for a very long time. As a boy in Phoenix in the late 1950s, he had only the soundtrack, and he tried to picture the action and dancing that might accompany it. “My mom was a classical pianist,” says the filmmaker. “Our entire home was festooned with classical musical albums, and I grew up surrounded by classical music. West Side Story was actually the first piece of popular music our family ever allowed into the home. I absconded with it—this was the cast album from the 1957 Broadway musical—and just fell completely in love with it as a kid. West Side Story has been that one haunting temptation that I have finally given in to.”

The film, out December 18, is both a romance and a crime story. It’s about dreams crashing into reality, young people singing about the promise of their lives ahead—then cutting each other down in bursts of violence. It’s about hope and desperation, pride and actual prejudice, and a star-crossed couple who find love amid it all on the streets of New York.

West Side Story became a global sensation when it hit Broadway in 1957, with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim that made generations swoon, snap, and gasp. The show was both dazzling and gritty, layering a Romeo and Juliet romance between Tony and Maria over a contemporary story of street gangs, racism, and violence in the shadows of rising skyscrapers. When director Robert Wise and choreographer Jerome Robbins adapted it into a film in 1961, West Side Story broke the box office record for musicals and dominated the Oscars, winning 10 awards, including best picture. Six decades later, the stage show has toured the world and been revived repeatedly. (A new production, directed by Ivo van Hove, opened on Broadway in February.) Of course, it’s also so commonly performed at high schools and community theaters that if you haven’t seen it, it’s probably because you were in it.

Threaded throughout the story is the question of who has the right to call a place home and why people who are struggling look for reasons to turn on each other. “This story is not only a product of its time, but that time has returned, and it’s returned with a kind of social fury,” Spielberg says. “I really wanted to tell that Puerto Rican, Nuyorican experience of basically the migration to this country and the struggle to make a living, and to have children, and to battle against the obstacles of xenophobia and racial prejudice.”

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ITALIANS ARE SINGING SONGS FROM THEIR WINDOWS TO BOOST MORALE DURING CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN ·

(Matt Clinch’s article appeared on CNBC 3/24; via the Dridge Report.)

KEY POINTS

  • Italy is one of the worst affected countries by COVID-19.
  • It has 17,660 confirmed cases and 1,266 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
  • Schools, museums, universities and cinemas have been closed.
  • The shutdown is weighing heavily on Italy’s economy.      

Photo:  A girl sings from the window during the flash mob, March 13, 2020. Some people have organized a flash mob asking to stand on the balcony and sing or play something, to make people feel united in the quarantine. Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Image

Videos have been shared on social media of Italian citizens singing and dancing during a nationwide lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The videos, from various cities and towns, show people singing from balconies and windows in an attempt to boost morale, with all non-essential shops and services still closed in the country.

Italy is one of the worst affected countries in the world by COVID-19, with 17,660 confirmed cases and 1,266 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s the largest outbreak outside of China.

One widely shared video shows neighbors singing a patriotic folk song in Siena, a city in central Italy’s Tuscany region.

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MAX VON SYDOW, STAR OF ‘SEVENTH SEAL’ AND ‘EXORCIST,’ DIES AT 90 ·

(Robert Berkvist’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/9; photo: BFI.)

Widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, Mr. von Sydow formed a close relationship with the director Ingmar Bergman and became an elder pop culture star.

Max von Sydow, the tall, blond Swedish actor who cut a striking figure in American movies but was most identified with the signature work of a fellow Swede, the director Ingmar Bergman, has died on Sunday. He was 90.

His wife, Catherine von Sydow, confirmed the death in an emailed statement. No cause was given.

Widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, Mr. von Sydow became an elder pop culture star in his later years, appearing in a “Star Wars” movie in 2015 as well as in the sixth season of the HBO fantasy-adventure series “Game of Thrones.”He even lent his deep, rich voice to “The Simpsons.”

By then he had become a familiarly austere presence in popular movies like William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” and, more recently, Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

But to film lovers the world over he was most enduringly associated with Bergman.

If ever an actor was born to inhabit the World According to Bergman, it was Mr. von Sydow. Angular and lanky at 6-foot-3, possessing a gaunt face and hooded, icy blue eyes, he not only radiated power but also registered a deep sense of Nordic angst, helping to give flesh to Bergman’s often bleak but hopeful and sometimes comic vision of the human condition in classics like “The Seventh Seal” and “The Virgin Spring.”

In “The Seventh Seal” (1958), Mr. von Sydow played Antonius Block, a strapping medieval knight who returns from the Crusades to his plague-ravaged homeland only to encounter the stern, ghostly pale, black-hooded figure of Death, played by Bengt Ekerot. To stave off the inevitable, Block challenges Death to a game of chess, and in the long intervals between moves he searches the countryside for some shred of human goodness.

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‘GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY’ REVIEW: BOB DYLAN’S AMAZING GRACE (SV PICK, NY) ·

(Ben Brantley’s review appeared in The New York Times, 3/6; photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times; via Pam Green.)

This ravishing and singular musical, written and directed by Conor McPherson, hears America singing — Dylan — during the Great Depression.

A nation is broken. Life savings have vanished overnight. Home as a place you thought you would live forever no longer exists. People don’t so much connect as collide, even members of the same family. And it seems like winter is never going to end.

That’s the view from Duluth, Minn., 1934, as conjured in the profoundly beautiful “Girl From the North Country,” a work by the Irish dramatist Conor McPherson built around vintage songs by Bob Dylan. You’re probably thinking that such a harsh vision of an American yesterday looks uncomfortably close to tomorrow. Who would want to stare into such a dark mirror?

Yet while this singular production, which opened on Thursday night at the Belasco Theater under McPherson’s luminous direction, evokes the Great Depression with uncompromising bleakness, it is ultimately the opposite of depressing. That’s because McPherson hears America singing in the dark. And those voices light up the night with the radiance of divine grace.

A fluent fusion of seeming incompatible elements, “Girl” occupies territory previously unmapped on Broadway, and it speaks its own hypnotic language. Technically, you could say it belongs to a genre that is regarded by some as the great blight of Broadway: the jukebox musical, which uses back catalogs of popular recording artists as scores.

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BOOK: RIOTOUS PERFORMANCES–SHAKESPEARE IN A DIVIDED AMERICA BY JAMES SHAPIRO ·

(Emma Smith’s article appeared in the Spectator, 3/6; photo: The Spectator.)

Shakespeare’s single explicit reference to America is found in The Comedy of Errors. The two Dromios are anatomizing the unseen ‘kitchen wench’ Nell, who is ‘spherical, like a globe’: ‘I could find out countries in her’, says one Syracusan brother. ‘Where America?’ asks his twin. The reply, ‘O, sir, upon her nose, all o’erembellished with rubies, carbuncles, sapphires’ embodies early colonial fantasies about the famed riches of El Dorado.

The first record of a Shakespeare text in America comes a century later, and the first known production — an amateur run of Romeo and Juliet in the Revenge Meeting House, New York — three decades after that. But by 1898 a book published in Chicago could claim not only that The Tempest, in particular, ‘has an entirely American basis and character’, but further, that ‘America made possible a Shakespeare’.

Institutions, from Hollywood to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, strengthened this reciprocal bond. Whenthe showman P.T Barnum sent an agent to Stratford-upon-Avon ‘armed with the cash and full powers to buy Shakespeare’s house, if possible, and to have it carefully taken down, packed in boxes and shipped to New York’, America’s possessive embrace of Shakespeare seemed complete.

James Shapiro’s expert and readable intervention in this long history is organized around defining moments and themes in American life. He shows how, for example, apparently literary arguments over Desdemona’s relationship with Othello mediated toxic disputes about interracial marriage in the early 19th century. He explores how Civil War attitudes to Caesar’s assassination influenced John Wilkes Booth to cast himself as an American Brutus murdering the tyrannical Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. Kiss Me Kate offers Shapiro a lens to analyze the changing role of women in the workplace and in marriage after World War Two. Harvey Weinstein’s creepy off-screen influence on the plot of Shakespeare in Love places this blockbuster fictional biography of the playwright at the heart of the #MeToo movement.

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VIACOMCBS WILL LOOK TO OFFLOAD ITS SIMON & SCHUSTER PUBLISHING UNIT, BOB BAKISH SAID WEDNESDAY DURING AN INVESTOR CONFERENCE ·

(Tim Baysinger’s article appeared in the Wrap, 3/ 4.)

 “We’ll engage in a process and look at strategic alternatives for Simon & Schuster,” the ViacomCBS CEO said during the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco. He added that the publishing unit “is not a core asset. It is not video-based. It does not have significant connection for our broader business.”

The publishing company founded in 1924 by Richard Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster. Viacom acquired Simon & Schuster in 1994 as part of its acquisition of Paramount Communications. It went with CBS Corp. after Sumner Redstone split the two companies in 2006.

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INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO’ CREATOR JAMES LIPTON DIES AT 93 ·

(Reuters, 3/2; via Pam Green; photo: articlebio.com)

James Lipton, the creator and host of the long-running U.S. television show “Inside the Actors Studio” has died at the age of 93, his wife told The Hollywood Reporter and celebrity website TMZ on Monday.

Lipton, who hosted in depth interviews with hundreds of Hollywood stars for more than 20 years, died on Monday at his home in New York of bladder cancer, his wife Kedakai Turner told the two entertainment outlets.

Lipton created the show in 1994 and retired as host in 2018, but it continues with other hosts.

Ovation television, which has broadcast the show since 2019 after a long run on Bravo, said on Twitter: “We’ll miss him dearly, but we wish him peace as he arrives at those pearly gates.”

Lipton’s guests included Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, Robin Williams, Paul Newman, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Lauren Bacall, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise and many more.

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TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: ‘A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’ WITH ANNE MARIE DUFF (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3–LINK BELOW) ·

A Streetcar Named Desire

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Drama on 3

Anne Marie Duff leads a stellar cast in a new landmark production of Tennessee Williams’s iconic play, telling the story of a catastrophic confrontation between fantasy and reality, embodied in the characters of Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski.

Blanche DuBois arrives unexpectedly on the doorstep of her sister Stella and her explosive brother-in-law Stanley. Over the course of one hot and steamy New Orleans summer, Blanche’s fragile façade slowly crumbles, wreaking havoc on Stella and Stanley’s already turbulent relationship. Embodying the turmoil and drama of a changing nation, A Streetcar Named Desire strips Williams’s tortured characters of their illusions, leaving a wake of destruction in their path.

Tennessee Williams’s 1947 play is justifiably one of the most loved and well-known stage plays of the 20th century. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award in 1948, and picked up four Oscars when it transferred to the screen with largely the same cast three years later. When it made its London debut, the Public Morality Council denounced it as “salacious and pornographic”. Not coincidentally, the production was booked solid for nine months.

Anne-Marie Duff (Blanche) is an Olivier-winning actress, who will soon be appearing in DC Moore’s ‘Common’ at the National Theatre. Matthew Needham’s (Stanley) previous work includes the eponymous role in Mark Ravenhill’s ‘Candide’ at the RSC. Pippa Bennett-Warner (Stella) recently appeared in The Beaux’ Stratagem at the National Theatre, and in River on BBC One. John Heffernan’s (Mitch) work includes titular roles in ‘Macbeth’ at the Young Vic Theatre and ‘Oppenheimer’ with the RSC.

Broadcast by arrangement with the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.

Photo: BBC Radio 3