Category Archives: Events

ENDA WALSH: ‘GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS’ (SV PICK, IE) ·

(Ciara L. Murphy’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 3/21.)

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Enda Walsh’s unlikely theatrical adaptation betters the power of the original story

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At first glance, Max Porter’s debut novel Grief is the Thing with Feathers seems an unlikely candidate for theatrical adaption. The book boasts a frantic, pacey, and devastating experience for the reader, an experience which is not easy to echo on stage. Enda Walsh’s work often situates his audiences as meaning-maker in his work, and this, in combination with Complicité’s trademark audio-visual spectacle, ensures the essence of Porter’s story is made manifest on stage.

Grief explores the turbulent and mind-wrenching anguish experienced by Dad (Cillian Murphy) and his two sons (played in rotation by David Evans, Taighen O’ Callaghan, and Felix Warren) after the death of Mum (Hattie Morahan). Careening between careful prose, jarring poetry, and visceral, energetic dialogue, the play sets in motion a scintillating story arc which combines an intense, furious drama and a pervasive, yielding gentleness.

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(Photo: The Irish Times

SAMMY WILLIAMS, TONY-WINNING ACTOR FROM ‘A CHORUS LINE,’ DIES AT 69 ·

(David Rooney’s article appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, 3/21.)

Later in his career, Williams was a choreographer, director and actor in Los Angeles.

Sammy Williams, who won a Tony Award in Michael Bennett’s groundbreaking original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, has died. He was 69.

Family spokeswoman and friend Brandee Barnaby says Williams died of cancer Saturday in Los Angeles.

Williams won a Tony for best featured actor in 1976 for the role of Paul San Marco in A Chorus Line, the landmark musical with a score by Marvin Hamlisch about the inner lives of dancers auditioning for the ensemble of a big show. Paul is a painfully shy young Puerto Rican performer just beginning to feel comfortable about being gay; he is reluctantly coaxed to revisit an emotional episode from the past in which his parents learned of his sexuality while he was working in a drag act.

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ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: THE FIRST TIME A WHITE PERSON WROTE ‘LOVE’ TO ME ·

(Anna Deavere Smith’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/13; via Pam Green.)

In 1961, there was a widely held theory among educated Baltimore Negroes, many of whom, like my mother, were teachers or administrators themselves, that if you wanted your children to have a good public school education, you should send them to a school that was predominantly Jewish, because Jews valued learning. And so I was sent not to the brand-new junior high that was built to service Negro students who were in desperate need of a better facility, but to Garrison Junior High in the Forest Park neighborhood, from which gentile whites had fled when the Jewish population moved in. I wasn’t “bused,” but I had to take two buses to get there.

Segregated schools taught you where you did belong. Integrated schools taught, in surgical detail, where you did not belong.

That is what junior high is all about. Sorting. I assessed the following as best as an 11-year old-could: White Christians and Jews stayed apart. My Jewish classmates seemed to divide along lines that privileged assimilation. Two Eastern European girls, one of whom had recently arrived in the United States, played a game in which they threw knives into a circle on the ground. (Today, that would get you handcuffed and perhaps jailed.) They were ostracized. But a newly arrived Algerian Jewish girl was welcomed because she was pretty. We Negro kids divided along class lines: where we went to church, by neighborhood and by our mating habits.

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Photo: the Los Angeles Times

 

STING: ‘THE LAST SHIP’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/22.)

Having bombed on Broadway, this musical by Sting about the shipbuilding industry is being revived on its native soil with a new book by its director, Lorne Campbell. The only mystery is why the show ever premiered in the US in the first place: it is a deeply British musical that champions Tyneside life and that leaves you in no doubt where it stands on Thatcherite economics. It was received, quite rightly, with full-throated acclaim by its Newcastle audience.

The show, which originated in a concept album by Sting, explores his complex feelings about England’s north-east, where he grew up. The hero, Gideon, rejects the idea of following his father into the Wallsend shipyards, sails the world and returns 17 years later hoping to pick up where he left off with his former girlfriend, Meg. But Gideon is not only romantically naive. This is the 1980s and the local shipyard is abruptly threatened with closure by its owners amid government refusal to sanction “a Soviet-style bailout”. The only solution to both sides of the story is for Gideon and the workers to seize control of their own destiny.

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‘SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM’: LISTEN TO BBC RADIO 3 IN CONCERT ·

SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM: LISTEN TO RADIO 3 IN CONCERT

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Keith Lockhart conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra and a host of music theatre stars in the European premiere of a brand new review of the work of Stephen Sondheim, featuring some of his best-known songs such as ‘Send in the Clowns’ and ‘Losing my Mind’, from some of his greatest shows including Company, Follies, Gypsy and A Little Night Music. The concert includes specially recorded introductions to some of the songs by Stephen Sondheim himself.

Singers: Liz Callaway, Claire Moore, Julian Ovenden; Rebecca Trehearn, Tyrone Huntley, Damian Humbley

BBC Concert Orchestra, conductor Keith Lockhart
Director: Bill Deamer.

Photo: BBC Radio 3

ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER AT 70: HOW A RUTHLESS PERFECTIONIST BECAME MR MUSICAL ·

 

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/21.)

He took the shonky British musical and made it a global phenomenon. As the composer celebrates his birthday with a new memoir, our theatre critic looks back at the hits – and flops

I first became aware of the global reach of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who hits 70 this week, one afternoon in Tbilisi in 1988. I was there with a party of journalists accompanying a National Theatre tour of Shakespeare’s late plays. We were invited to the Georgian ministry of culture, then still nominally communist, and politely asked our hosts what other piece of high art they might like imported from Britain.

“Veber, Veber,” the Soviet suits all cried.

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https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/mar/21/andrew-lloyd-webber-at-70-british-musical-theatre-cats-phantom

Photo: New York Post

TONY KUSHNER, AT PEACE? NOT EXACTLY. BUT CLOSE. ·

(Charles McGrath’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/7; via Pam Green.)

In characteristic fashion, Tony Kushner is doing too many things at once these days, and he’s late with a lot of them. In one more or less typical stretch last month, he was sorting through 60 boxes of his papers, inhaling dust mites in the process; working on a screenplay for Brad Pitt and finishing another, a new version of “West Side Story,” for Steven Spielberg; debating whether to rewrite his first play, “A Bright Room Called Day”; pondering one that might or might not turn out to be about President Trump; finishing the second act of an opera he is writing with Jeanine Tesori about the death of Eugene O’Neill; and vigilantly attending rehearsals of the National Theater’s revival of “Angels in America,”starring Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane, which has moved from London to Broadway, where it opens March 25 at the Neil Simon Theater.

“It’s too much,” he said, sitting in his office in a subbasement in the West Village. Mr. Kushner, 61, is tall — surely the tallest major American playwright since Arthur Miller — and youthful-looking, and speaks softly but rapidly, as if rushing to keep up with a runaway brain. “But it feels to me like my life works this way,” he went on. “The more time feels open and unconstrained, the less realistic I am, and I start to get distracted by a million stupid things. I’ve always gotten everything I’ve done in a sort of terribly pressured situation that I create for myself, usually because I missed three deadlines and it’s clear that if I miss one more I’ll be fired.”

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Photo: The New York Times

COMPOSER ERROLLYN WALLEN EXPLORES WHY ART AND DRAMA CAN FLOURISH IN CONFLICT, VIOLENCE AND OPPRESSION ·

DANGEROUS PLACES: COMPOSER ERROLLYN WALLEN EXPLORES WHY ART AND DRAMA CAN FLOURISH IN TIMES AND LOCATIONS OF CONFLICT, VIOLENCE AND OPPRESSION

The Art of Now

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Composer Errollyn Wallen meets some of the artists working in places of conflict, violence and oppression around the world. She hears their personal testimonies and explores why art and music, poetry and dramacan sometimes flourish in times and locations of danger and violence.

What use is art in a warzone, and what can these individuals and their work tell artists in more peaceful places about making art that helps us question and communicate?

Cartoonist and free improvisational trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj talks about his work during the 2006 Lebanon war and the problem of exoticising art from warzones. Journalist and poet Bejan Matur describes how living as a Kurd in southeastern Turkey has shaped her work. Actor and educator Ahmed Tobasi explains how Jenin’s Freedom Theatre changed his life, and Mustafa Staiti discusses his work as artistic director of the city’s new Fragments Theatre. Composer Matti Kovler explores the impact of his experiences in the Israeli Defence Forces during the Second Intifada.

Featuring music from Mazen Kerbaj and Richard Scott, The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, AWA, Matti Kovler, Rotem Sherman and Suna Alan.

Image: The Freedom Theatre 

Producer: Michael Umney
A Resonance production for BBC Radio 4.

THE BEST POLITICAL PLAYS PICKED BY DAVID HARE, JAMES GRAHAM, AND MORE ·

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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CAESAR BLOODY CAESAR ·

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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