Category Archives: Events

BOOK: JOAN ACOCELLA ON ‘MARIUS PETIPA: THE EMPEROR’S BALLET MASTER’ ·

A scene in the Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère, 1900; from Marius Petipa: La Dansomanie, a two-volume album in three languages published last year by the St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of Petipa’s birth

(Acocella’s article appeared in The New York Review of Books, 12/19.)

Souls in Single File

Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master

by Nadine Meisner

Oxford University Press, 497 pp., $34.95

A scene in the Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère, 1900; from Marius Petipa: La Dansomanie, a two-volume album in three languages published last year by the St. Petersburg Museum of Theater and Music to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of Petipa’s birth

It will surprise many people, but not many dance historians, that the most productive and influential ballet choreographer of the late nineteenth century, the Franco-Russian Marius Petipa (1818–1910), was accorded no biography for more than a century after his death. Dance was central to the religious and patriotic festivals of ancient Greece and Rome, but with the transfer of power to the Christian church, it was pretty much kicked out of the arts. It was too closely associated with bodily pleasure. Social dance probably never died out among common folk. As for the better-placed folk, the processions in which the servants of the French and Italian courts of the Renaissance brought dinner to their guests involved, if not exactly dancing, then a great deal of synchronized gown-swishing and foot-pointing. But dance did not officially reenter the lists of the high arts in the West until the seventeenth century, under Louis XIV. Louis imported music masters and dance masters, mostly from Italy, to create elaborate allegorical ballets, in which he himself appeared. In 1661, he founded Europe’s first proper dance school, the Académie Royale de la Danse.

In those days, dance people, like most other theater people, tended to come in families, including actors and musicians as well, because not all of them had a royal academy to teach them their arts. They learned from their mothers and fathers. Also, there was still a stigma attached to making one’s living on the stage (Molière, famously, was denied a Christian burial), so theatrical professionals often married within their own ranks and thereby created clans.

One was the Petipas of France and Belgium. Their name starts appearing in the annals of the Continental theater at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Marius Petipa was the son of a ballet master (that is, a teacher/choreographer) and an actress; most of his siblings too were theater people. In the beginning, he was not the star of the family. That was his older brother, Lucien, a handsomer man and a far better technician. Lucien was the premier classicist of the Paris Opera Ballet, the oldest and most respected company in Europe. (It was the descendant of Louis XIV’s academy.) He was in demand all the way to Russia, but when Russia called, it is said, Lucien, already in possession of a good job, declined, and recommended his younger brother. Thus, in 1847, Marius Petipa, age twenty-nine, presented himself at St. Petersburg’s Imperial Ballet and was given a one-year, let’s-see contract. As it turned out, he stayed for sixty-three years and was the company’s artistic director—or first ballet master, as they called it—for nearly thirty-five years. In Russia he created more than fifty original ballets, mounted versions of nineteen other ballets, and fashioned dances for thirty-seven operas. Today, the name of Lucien is known only to specialists, whereas Marius is acknowledged as the prime creator of late-nineteenth-century ballet and, one could say, the foremost source of twentieth-century ballet as well.

Still, this did not earn him a proper biography—in any language, not just English—until last spring, with the publication of Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master by Nadine Meisner, a longtime dance critic in London.1 The book is low on analysis, but at last someone has collected the facts—the successes, the flops, everybody’s patronymic—and put them down in graceful English prose.

(Read more)

LET’S GO: ‘THE MIKADO’ FROM THE NEW YORK GILBERT & SULLIVAN PLAYERS, AMERICA’S PREEMINENT GILBERT & SULLIVAN REPERTORY ENSEMBLE ·

(via Sean Katz, Katz PR)

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, America’s Preeminent Gilbert & Sullivan Repertory Ensemble, Presents

The Mikado

Novel Production of Enduring Classic

At The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College

December 27, 2019 through January 5, 2020

(New York, NY – November 25) Since its founding in 1974, the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) has presented more than 2,000 performances of the Gilbert & Sullivan masterpieces throughout the United States, Canada and England, captivating audiences of all ages. America’s preeminent Gilbert & Sullivan Repertory Ensemble, continues its 45th season with its novel production of The Mikado, one of the most enduring musicals in theatrical history.

With 8 family friendly performances after Christmas, this production, which premiered to critical acclaim in December of 2016, will run at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, Dec. 27, 2019 through Jan. 5, 2020.  Annual favorite special events include multi-generational Bring Your Grandparents Day (Dec. 30 – with pre and post show attractions) and Family Overture presentations before Saturday matinées (Dec. 28, Jan. 4 – musical introduction and plot summary made entertaining and free to all ticket holders).

The New York Times describes this production of The Mikado as “a comic gem” with “handsome designs, sharp acting and impressive singing.”

First performed at London’s Savoy Theatre in 1885, The Mikado pokes fun at topical aspects of Victorian society, but Gilbert & Sullivan cleverly cloak their satirical barbs behind a charming love story set in an imagined town in Japan, and NYGASP continues the time honored tradition of topical updating for a modern audience.  You’re sure to recognize someone on the “Lord High Executioner’s” comical list of people who “never would be missed”.

The show abounds with absurdity and astounding wit, clever wordplay, memorable tunes and endearing characters.  The romantic love story follows Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado (the Japanese emperor), who has fled his father’s court in disguise as a “Wand’ring Minstrel” to avoid marrying Katisha, an elderly suitor, and to find and marry his own beloved, the delicious maiden Yum-Yum, one of “Three Little Maids From School”. Yum-Yum, however, is the ward of Ko-Ko, the “Lord High Executioner”, and has become betrothed to him against her will.  As usual in a Gilbert & Sullivan imaginative plot, the tangled web unravels and everyone (well, almost everyone) lives happily ever after.

The NYGASP production features an original prologue that introduces the audience to the real life characters of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, which originated The Mikado in 1885 London, and emphasizes the work’s satire of human foibles and excesses that transcend generational and national bounds.  The comic opera will feature original choreography and direction by NYGASP Associate Stage Director David Auxier, who also authored the show’s prologue, and Assistant Direction by Broadway performer/director Kelvin Moon Loh.

The show’s cast includes: dynamic bass David Wannen in the title role; clever patter man David Macaluso as Sullivan and Ko-Ko; blustering Matthew Wages as Richard D’Oyly Carte and pompous Pooh-Bah; creative David Auxier as author Gilbert and town leader Pish-Tush; charming John Charles McLaughlin as romantic hero Nanki-Poo, formidable Caitlin Burke as lovelorn and overbearing Katisha; beautiful soprano Sarah Caldwell Smith as self-aware Yum Yum; Rebecca Hargrove as maiden sister Peep-Bo, and mellifluous mezzo Amy Maude Helfer as adventurous Pitti-Sing.

The production will showcase scenery designed by Anshuman Bhatia, costumes by Quinto Ott and lighting by Benjamin Weill.  The Mikado is produced by NYGASP Executive Director David Wannen. 

NYGASP has been hailed as “the leading custodian of the G&S classics” by New York Magazine and has created its own special niche in the cultural mosaic of New York City and the nation.  According to the Company’s Founder/Artistic Director/General Manager Albert Bergeret, NYGASP’s mission is “giving vitality to the living legacy of Gilbert & Sullivan.” He further adds that “everyone loves The Mikado and our new production, with its celebrated premise of imagination, keeps the revered story alive and colorful.”  As for his own participation in the storied production Bergeret states “I’m delighted to once more be involved in elevating the humor and musical values of this evolving and very theatrical production, while alternating on the conductor’s podium with my colleague, Joseph Rubin, as part of NYGASP’s commitment to the future development of the Company”.

 Performances:

Friday, Dec. 27, 2019 — 7:30 PM

Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019 — 2 PM* & 7:30 PM

Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 — 3 PM

Monday, Dec. 30, 2019 — 3 PM**

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 — 2 PM* & 7:30 PM

Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020 — 3 PM

*Family Overture – Sat., Dec. 28 & Sat., Jan 4, at 12:45 PM (prior to the 2PM show) – Musical introduction and plot summary made entertaining for the entire family. Free to all ticket holders.

**Bring Your Grandparents Day – Monday, Dec. 30, at 1:45 PM – Respect your elders with a pre-show Family Overture and a backstage tour after the performance.

Ticket Prices

Orchestra: $95

Balcony: $50

Rear Balcony: $25

*Please note there is no elevator to the balcony*

Special Discounts:  50% off for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult. 10% off for seniors 65 and older.

Order by Phone:  212-772-4448

Order Online:  www.nygasp.org

Purchase in Person:  The Kaye Playhouse Box Office, 68thStreet between Park and Lexington Avenues. (Box Office Hours: Monday-Friday 12 PM-7PM)

Photo: Carol Rosegg

LET’S GO: ‘END ZONE’ AT DIXON PLACE ·

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bob Shuman, Bobjshuman@gmail.com
Dixon Place Presents End Zone by Bob Shuman, starring Roger Hendricks Simon, the Simon Studio; Matt de Rogatis*; Michael Siktberg*;
directed by Tania Fisher
Equity Approved Showcase
PLEASE JOIN US:
Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 7:30pm
RSVP to Bob Shuman, Bobjshuman@gmail.com
AT Dixon Place: After spawning Dixon Place as a salon in her Paris apartment in ‘85, Artistic Director Ellie Covan pioneered the organization in her NYC living room for 23 years. After organic development & expansion, DP is now a leading professional, state-of-the-art facility for artistic expression. While other venues of its kind have since died off, or now only present established artists, Dixon Place remains at the heart of the New York experimental performance scene.
Covan has received a NY Dance & Performance Award (a Bessie), two Obies, a BAXten Award & the NY Innovation Theater Foundation’s Stewardship Award for service to the community. DP has also received CUNY’s Edwin Booth Award, & the Alliance of NY State Arts Organization’s Celebrate the Arts Award for outstanding contributions to NYC.
Many artists, such as Deb Margolin, Blue Man Group, John Leguizamo, Lisa Kron, David Cale, Penny Arcade, and Reno began their careers at Dixon Place. In addition to emerging artists, Dixon Place has also been privileged to present evenings of new and experimental work by more established artists, such as: Theatre/Performance by Justin Vivian Bond, Taylor Mac, Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn, Craig Lucas, BD Wong, James Lecesne, John Fleck, Kate Bornstein, Ethyl Eichelberger, Holly Hughes, Karen Finley, Kate Clinton, Peggy Shaw, Mac Wellman, Big Art Group; Literary: A.M. Homes, Rick Moody, and Oscar Huelos; Dance: Mark Dendy, Jane Comfort, Sarah Michelson, Douglas Dunn and Yoshiko Chuma; Music: Vernon Reid, Rodney Crowell, Diamanda Galas, Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Suzy Roche, Maggie Roche, Rodney Crowell and They Might Be Giants.
Dixon Place presents 
END ZONE 
Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 7:30 pm 
Directed by Tania Fisher
Produced by Bob Shuman, Stage Voices
Starring Roger Hendricks Simon, Michael Siktberg*
Rob Lariviere, Production Manager
Benjamin Soencksen, Business and Finance Director
Mike Griffiths, Marketing & Audience Development Associate
Ashley Brockington, Artistic Associate
Mark Hayes, Artistic Associate
Kai Chieh Tu, Marketing/Administrative Associate
Keshi Taryan-Kigel, Administrative Intern
The last thing a performance artist needs is a larger cast—yet that is exactly what he gets in End Zone, by Bob Shuman, set in the absurd world of a New England football reunion for a septuagenarian father, the teams he coached, and the sons he keeps forgetting.  Best characterized as a cross between That Championship Season and True West, the expressionistic tragicomedy chronicles new heights of dysfunction, both on and off the field, in workplace politics, multiple marriages, elder care—and even on a joyride in a hearse.
Performance length: 75 minutes, no intermission
Ticket prices at Dixon Place:
Students / Seniors / ID NYC $15 in advance $17 at the door
 
SAT JAN 25 2020 7:30PM
General Admission $17 in advance $20 at the door
Students / Seniors / ID NYC $15 in advance $17 at the door
AEA Showcase
Equity members will be entitled to one complimentary ticket upon presentation of their union card on
a stand-by basis at show time.
The Dixon Place Lounge is open before and after the show, and you can bring your drink in the theater! Bar proceeds directly support DP’s artists and mission.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

A partial credits listing for Roger Hendricks Simon includes Yale Repertory Company founding member, director and actor for the New York Shakespeare Festival and London’s Royal Court Theatre, among many others.  Elected to Notable Names in American Theatre, he has premiered works by Williams, Shepard, Hare, and directed Lithgow, Travolta, Jones, to name only a few. As a teacher, his influence has been felt from the U.S.I.A. and U.S. State Department to UCLA, Columbia University, Yale University, N.Y.U., and beyond. Founder of The Simon Studio and the Los Angeles Theatre Center Classical Theatre Lab, he has been a producing director for NPR. His films include ‘Wall Street 2’ and, currently, ‘Love in Kilnerry.’
Bob Shuman (MFA, Tisch School of the Arts/NYU) is an award-winning playwright, professor, author, reviewer, composer, and owner of Marit Literary Agency and Stage Voices Web site.  The coeditor of several drama complications from Northwestern University Press and Applause Theater and Cinema Books, he is a Lark Fellow, and has presented his work at Second Stage, Hunter College, Ursinus College, the Amoralists,Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, and Sewanee Writers’ Conference, among others. 
Tania Fisher: Voice-over artist at 15.  By 20, acting in feature films. Became familiar face on Australian TV, guest starring in iconic soaps ‘Neighbours,’ ‘Secret Life of Us,’ ‘Gladrags,’ several national TVCs.  Attended Cannes Film Festival as actress in 2003, then film producer 2004 winning Co-Producer award. Starred in Alan Bennett’s ‘Kafka’s Dick’ Garrick Theater, UK, 2006. In NYC acted in theater/films, produced/managed Off-Broadway theater/films, writes industry-insider articles, is a theater reviewer, and children’s book author.
Matt de Rogatis* has played “Tom” in The Glass Menagerie (Wild Project), “Ken” in Red (Jim Kempner Fine Art Gallery), “Frederick Clegg” in the United States premiere of The Collector (59E59 Theaters), “Roy” in Lone Star (The Triad/13th Street Rep), and “Richard III” in Austin Pendleton’s Shakespearean mashup, Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III, also directed by Pendleton and Peter Bloch (124 Bank Street Theater). Other favorite NYC and regional credits include playing “Hamlet,” “Stanley Kowalski” in A Streetcar Named Desire, and “The Elephant Man” in The Exhibition. This summer he will be playing “Brick” in an Off-Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Wild Project.
Michael Siktberg* has extensive credits in musical theater, having performed in Rock and Roll Man (Bucks County Playhouse), Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story (Theatre By the Sea),  Million Dollar Quartet (St. Michael’s Playhouse), Saturday Night Fever (Ogunquit Playhouse), Million Dollar Quartet, (Fireside Theatre), Crude: The Musical (NYMF), Girlfriend From Hell (54 Below), and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Cumberland County Playhouse).  He has studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and the Simon Studio.
Dixon Place: An artistic incubator since 1986, Dixon Place is a Bessie and Obie Award-winning non-profit institution committed to supporting the creative process by presenting original works of theater, dance, music, puppetry, circus arts, literature & visual art at all stages of development. Presenting over 1000 creators a year, this local haven inspires & encourages diverse artists of all stripes & callings to take risks, generate new ideas & consummate new practices.
The artist’s experience is given top priority through our professional atmosphere and remuneration, and their process is enhanced through the reaction of our adventurous audiences. Dixon Place is a local haven for creativity as well as an international model for the open exploration of the process of creation. If you have work that would be appropriate for Dixon Place, please read our open submissions policy.

DIXON PLACE DIRECTIONS

All shows are at 161A Chrystie Street, between Rivington and Delancey.
Nearby Subway Stops:
F to 2nd Avenue
J Z to Bowery
C to Spring
M to Essex
B D to Grand
You may also use Google Maps for DRIVING or WALKING directions or HopStop.com for SUBWAY, BUS & WALKING directions.st’s experience is given top priority through our professional atmosphere and remuneration, and their process is enhanced through the reaction of our adventurous audiences. Dixon Place is a local haven for creativity as well as an international model for the open exploration of the process of creation. 
Follow Bob Shuman:
Twitter: @DixonPlace; @Bobjshuman
#Dixonplace

THEATERS IN HUNGARY FEEL THE CHILL OF VIKTOR ORBAN’S CULTURE WAR ·

(Palko Karasz’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/13; via Pam Green.)

With new rules on funding, the government has taken a further step in controlling arts in the country, prompting an outcry in Budapest.

BUDAPEST — The applause was still going strong after an evening performance at Jozsef Katona Theater in Budapest this week when one of the actors, his shirt and face covered in stage blood, turned to the audience with a request. He asked the theatergoers to gather and pose for a photograph with the cast, hands held up in protest.

The demonstration was an act of defiance against moves by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to tighten its control over the performing arts by changing the way theaters receive state funding, a significant source of income.

Although the measures, enacted by Parliament on Wednesday, did not hand as much direct control to the government as documents leaked to the news media last week had suggested, the move sent a chill through the Hungarian arts scene. Shows of discontent similar to that at the Katona Theater took place in other playhouses around Budapest, the capital.

“When we defend the freedom of theaters today, we defend the city’s freedom,” Budapest’s mayor, Gergely Karacsony, an environmentalist who is backed by an opposition alliance, said on Monday at a rally against the law.

(Read more)

Photo Credit: Bea Szokodi

FRANK GAGLIANO:  ON  RENÈ AUBERJONOIS ·

By Frank Gagliano, 12/10

The death of actor Renè Auberjonois (at age 79) is another sad RIP instance of a recent extraordinary theatre personality who once touched my life. 

In 1968, John Lahr asked me to take over an Adult Ed class he was teaching in Dramatic Lit, at NY’s Hunter College. I had never taught anything, anywhere before — and was nervous. I decided to start the class with “King Lear” because I had just seen the production at Lincoln Center, with Lee J. Cobb as Lear. Renè Auberjonois was the very physical, very clear spoken, very funny, Fool in that production. 

I invited Mr Auberjonois  to the class. He accepted. I wish now I could remember the one question about his role and about the Lincoln Center production that I was dying to ask him — and DID ask him in the class; but I can’t recall it. I do know that Mr. Auberjonois delighted the class with his Shakespeare/Lear/intellectual, and practical theatre, expertise, and that his appearance stimulated and relaxed me into opening myself up to a life of teaching, as well as writing.

And in reviewing the Clive Barnes 1968 NYTimes review (which beautifully brought to life that production), from the list of players in the review, I discovered that there were actors in that Lear that had been in my plays; and that John Gleason (who had designed the lighting for my “Father Uxbridge Wants To Marry” Off Broadway, had done the lighting design for “King Lear.” It was probably Gleason who helped arrange for Mr. Auberjonois to visit my class in 1968. Gleason (who died young) was a close associate and colleague of that rare man of the theatre, J Ranelli, who died some weeks ago, and to whom I paid tribute in Facebook last week. J had a more involving through line in my life than Renè Auberjonois. But that opening touch of Renè Auberjonois . . . Well . . 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/08/obituaries/rene-auberjonois-dead.html

Photo: https://www.aspenideas.org/speakers/rene-auberjonois

JONATHAN MILLER, BOLD DIRECTOR OF THEATER AND OPERA, IS DEAD AT 85 ·

(Benedict Nightingale’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/27; via Pam Green.  Listen to a BBC interview with Jonathan Miller.)

Known for his radical restagings of classic works, Mr. Miller was also a doctor who periodically left the stage to practice medicine.

LONDON — Jonathan Miller, the British theater and opera director known for his radical restagings of classic works, died on Wednesday at his home in London. He was 85.

His death was confirmed by his son William Miller, who said his father had had Alzheimer’s disease.

Although he was best known as a director, Mr. Miller was a man of many talents and regularly called a Renaissance man, although he disliked the term, which he said was almost invariably used “by people unacquainted with the Renaissance.”

He first achieved fame as an actor in the anti-establishment revue “Beyond the Fringe,” a hit in both London and New York. He went on to win acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic for his productions of Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado” and other works. He also produced and hosted television shows.

Most unusually, he was a medical doctor, with a special interest in neurology; he occasionally left the theater to practice medicine. But his absences — as, for instance, a research fellow in neuropsychology at the University of Sussex in 1983 — never lasted long.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times

 

‘MACBETH’ AT CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY–ONLY THROUGH DEC. 15 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

John Doyle’s production of Macbeth, playing through December 15 at Classic Stage Company (CSC), should fit into the current zeitgeist exactly.  In a world of 280-character tweets and multitasking, the story, enacted in this 90-minute version, demonstrates the kind of revenge corporate staff relish:  a power couple, who are promoted too swiftly—and need more on-the-job training–get their comeuppances.  Even seemingly sensible cutting can lose an article–or book or play, however.  What sometimes seems like arbitrary writing, pared away, may actually be necessary connective tissue, even if it isn’t very good—and especially if a magic spell has been placed on it.  Macbeth is no exception—the story can grow long, as any thirteen-year-old will tell you, especially after, say, Lady Macbeth’s handwashing scene. What most people probably like best, anyway, are the cauldron and witches; forests and ghosts; battle scenes and blood: the tragedy’s elements, instead of its telling. These are also areas known generally, which actors don’t always go much further into researching (so different from the way Stanislavski would approach work, sending a team into the very environments he was working on—to learn history, seek objects for sets and design, and talk to the people who knew something of the past, place, and people).

Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers, in the doomed central marriage of the play, as well as the other characters, too, only refract the contemporary: points made in glossy magazines about gender roles and hair and better liberal politics. Doyle, extolled for his minimalism, seems to have given us a rehearsal for a production yet to come, although he ensures racial and gender balance, he hasn’t found the universal.  Perhaps he realized, in his streamlined, fast-paced Macbeth, in the round, that after he took everything away, the center wasn’t really there. And maybe that is an astute, frightening way to describe today.

 

© 2019 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Visit Classic Stage Company

Classic Stage Company (136 E. 13th St, New York)

Macbeth

John Doyle, Scenic Design
Ann Hould-Ward, Costume Designer
Solomon Weisbard, Lighting Designer
Matt Stine, Sound Designer
Tom Schall, Fight Director
Telsey + Company, Casting
Bernita Robinson, Production Stage Manager
Stephanie Macchia,  Assistant Stage Manager

 

Macduff, Captain………………………………………………………………….BARZIN AKHAVAN Malcolm ……………………………………………………………………………..RAFFI BARSOUMIAN Lady Macbeth …………………………………………………………………………… NADIA BOWERS Lady Macduff, Gentlewoman …………………………………………… N’JAMEH CAMARA Banquo, Old Siward…………………………………………………………….ERIK LOCHTEFELD Duncan, Old Woman……………………………………………………………….MARY BETH PEIL Macbeth………………………………………………………………………………………… COREY STOLL Ross …………………………………………………………………………………………..BARBARA WALSH Fleance, Young Macduff, Young Siward…………. ANTONIO MICHAEL WOODARD

Photos by Joan Marcus

MY FIRST PRODUCED PLAY? AH, I REMEMBER IT WELL ·

(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/11; via Pam Green.)

The return of Tony Kushner’s “A Bright Room Called Day” prompted us to ask leading writers: How did it go for you? And what did you learn?

Tony Kushner was in his 20s when he wrote “A Bright Room Called Day,” on the graveyard shift at his job as a hotel switchboard operator.

Ronald Reagan had just been re-elected, and Kushner, political to the core, channeled his alarm into the play. When his theater company, Heat & Light, staged it in 1985, Oskar Eustis — now the artistic director of the Public Theater — was there. That’s how they met.

“There’s a scene where the characters sing ‘The Internationale,’” Kushner said the other day, “and someone in the audience started singing along with them. And that was Oskar.”

Eustis, who gave Kushner his professional debut two years later when he staged “Bright Room” at the Eureka Theater in San Francisco, is now directing a revival at the Public.

(Read more)

Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

 

DRUIDSHAKESPEARE: ‘RICHARD III’ (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Aaron Monaghan, as Richard III, in Ireland’s Druid Theatre U.S. production premiere of Shakespeare’s history–it plays until November 23 as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, at John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater–appears like Mikhail Baryshnikov’s crippled twin, obsessively jerking forward, planning, always thinking.  Probably a delight to the Tony-winning director Garry Hynes–who apparently loves the low, comic staging of old Warner Brothers and Saturday morning cartoons, he can’t stand still, amid posing royals, played by working people—here, Richard’s deformity is pronounced in his lower half, instead of in a humpback and claw hand.  As the king, Monaghan is witty, sarcastic, and sadistic—as out of touch and privileged, as a Prince Andrew, who can’t sweat.  Shakespeare calls Richard a “hellhound,” but rarely do most audiences feel the banality of mundane murder, which can be overridden, in other productions, by pageantry and towering sets; a star turn.  Hynes is interested in the earthbound: smoke and weather (actually, she has brought her Richard III to New York, during our dull and rainy fall, which coincides with mention of All Souls’ Day in the text).  She rejects the pomp, like she is knocking over Civil War monuments, although, akin to another Irish director, Maria Aitkens, she and her set and costume designer, Francis O’Connor, fall for hats, thankfully foregoing the one that American men, at least, actually do over-wear:  the baseball cap.  There is plenty else on display, though: derbies, Beckett’s bowlers (especially relevant to Hynes, given her 2018 staging of Waiting for Godot), antique military wear, puff hats, hoods, veils, and mitres. Richard is one of her rare characters who does not wear headgear—his crown is so temporary. 

In costume, whether by convention or necessity, Hynes and O’Connor want to accentuate gender, as well as class.  Men wear half-kilts and robes—Clarence plays in white, but much of the design is in black leather–and women play men, or, at least, boys: those young princes taken to the tower.  Hynes’s theatrical revolt is larger than not wanting the audience to identify with a story or character, however—she is taking on, and extending philosophies, from Beckett and the Bard, as well as Brecht.  Her audiences are aware that they are alienated, as in Epic theatre, but she also wants viewers to understand that the situation is not limited, constrained, or contained. There are cycles of life surrounding the dead wood and industrial rust of her boards and proscenium, an issue men in the house may not think or even care about (Camille Paglia has brought this issue up, regarding Beckett)Hynes’s Godot insists on asserting life beyond confines—and Richard III emphasizes, of course, death.  The metaphor for her setting is too inspired and original to spoil for anyone who will see this work, especially for those who do not automatically identify it—when the pieces come together, the revelation is at once apparent and incisive. Viewers, however, may want to investigate Conor Linehan’s Celtic-tinged minimalist music.  

On the one hand, Hynes gives futurist punk costuming and Shakespearean oration, scraped clean, and on the other, she intersperses scenes with expressionist images and horror movie chills—such as a corpse being pulled on the train of Lady Anne’s gown.  There is an indebtedness to Strindberg, as well, who also knew of a pagan, agrarian cosmos, as Hynes allows her queens to crawl, like pigs, in the dirt.

© 2019 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Directed by Garry Hynes

Produced by Druid

Starring Aaron Monaghan as Richard III

Francis O’Connor, set and costume design

James F. Ingalls, lighting design

Gregory Clarke, sound design

Conor Linehan, music             

David Bolger, movement and fight choreography

Doreen McKenna, co-costume design

 

With Marie Mullen, Jane Brennan, Ingrid Craigie, Garrett Lombard, Rory Nolan, Marty Rea, Bosco Hogan, Peter Daly, John Olohan, Siobhan Cullen, Frank Blake, Emma Dargan-Reid

Performance length: Three hours, including intermission

Visit Lincoln Center

Photos:  (from top)  Robbie Jack, Richard Termine

Press:  Michelle Tabnick

 

BACK ON CATFISH ROW ·

Eric Owens as Porgy and Angel Blue as Bess in Porgy and Bess at the Metropolitan Opera

(Geoffrey O’Brien’s article appeared in the New York Review of Books, 11/21.)  

Porgy and Bess

an opera by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin, at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, September 23, 2019–February 1, 2020

Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music

by Richard Crawford

Norton, 594 pp., $39.95

Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway in 1935, to mixed reviews and insufficient box office receipts, but I am unable to disassociate it from the musical culture I grew up with in the 1950s, a decade when George Gershwin’s opera seemed to be everywhere. In 1951, at the dawn of the LP era, the first ostensibly complete recording was released by Columbia Masterworks.1 Earlier recordings had consisted only of hit songs from the show—“Summertime,” “My Man’s Gone Now,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Columbia’s lavish three-record set offered more music than the original Broadway version, which had been shortened by at least thirty minutes before the New York opening. More crucially, it presented Porgy and Bess as an opera of densely interwoven parts, unlike productions that in the decade following Gershwin’s death in 1937 had made drastic cuts and replaced recitatives with spoken dialogue, turning it into something more like a musical.2

For my oldest brother, Robert, a precocious student of musical theater and orchestral arrangement, the Columbia recording became a constant object of study. At mid-decade, when he was fourteen and I was seven, I had the benefit of hearing many passages played repeatedly, along with a running commentary on fine points of harmony and instrumentation often beyond my comprehension. Robert’s ultimate concern being formal, he impressed on me the sense of an invisible architecture beyond words, delineated by the baton he sometimes waved in accompaniment.

No technical explanation was needed to grasp the tidal power of Gershwin’s music in the choral surges and Porgy’s final departure, especially at the volume my brother preferred. At the same time, an intimacy of feeling throughout suggested a community, almost a household, of voices running through all the possible levels of speaking, singing, crying out. To listen closely was to be pulled into an encompassing sonic environment within which lives were being lived under constant stress, in the imaginary but very real space around the record player.

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Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera