Category Archives: Events

JAPAN: SECRETS OF THE OSLO ACCORDS COME TO LIGHT ON STAGE ·

(Nobuko Tanaka’s article appeared in The Japan Times, 2/10; Photo: Behind closed doors: Playwright J.T. Rogers’ drama, “Oslo,” is based on the true-life clandestine meetings that took place leading up to the Oslo Accords, which sought to set up a framework toward peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Photo: Japan Times.)

He may live in New York, but playwright J.T. Rogers has spent a lot of time in Japan over the past few years, and it’s not just because he loves the food here (“especially the white sliced bread,” he says). One reason is that he’s the creator of an upcoming HBO series based on “Tokyo Vice,” a 2009 memoir by long-time Japan-based journalist and Japan Times columnist Jake Adelstein. Another is that his Tony award-winning drama, “Oslo,” opened recently with an all-Japanese cast at the New National Theatre, Tokyo, where it runs through Feb. 23.

“Jake and I have been friends since high school in Missouri,” Rogers, 53, says, “and I’d always wanted to make a show inspired by him creating a new life here as a crime reporter — because, you know, the stakes aren’t like covering insurance,” he adds, referring to Adelstein’s work covering Japan’s yakuza.

But moving on to his more immediate project, Rogers notes that “Oslo” also has dark undercurrents, as it focuses on the clandestine talks that led to the Oslo Accords, in which the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) recognized the State of Israel and Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. The play tells the true story of the diplomats and delegates who met outside Oslo in 1993 to work toward peace.

“If the Palestinians were discovered to be doing that, they would be killed; while if the Israeli people were exposed, the government would fall,” Rogers explains in a recent interview.

Rather than presenting a history of the discussions, Rogers’ play — directed by foreign drama specialist Satoshi Kamimura — mixes facts and fiction to dramatize the discussions themselves and show how a Norwegian diplomat couple, Mona Juul (played by Kei Aran) and Terje Rod-Larsen (Masayuki Sakamoto), played key roles in making them happen.

“Rod-Larsen came to New York to see my play ‘Blood and Gifts’ about CIA spies in Afghanistan,” Rogers says. “He loved it, especially how it’s authentic about diplomacy and what he calls the ‘double gaming’ you have in politics, chess and with spies — there’s what you see and something underneath that you don’t.

“So we had a drink together, and though I didn’t know him and never met him before, he told me the story of the Oslo Accords from his point of view.”

Rogers says that like most Americans he’d thought President Clinton’s administration was responsible for the landmark agreement, but he was astonished to learn then that there was much more to the story than what was presented in history books.

Instantly fascinated, Rogers thought: “That’s a play I want to write — it’s not a play with a message; it’s a more exciting and thrilling story about politics and people’s passion — and it has humor.”

Soon after, he flew to Norway to interview Rod-Larsen, Juul and others who were involved.

“Rod-Larsen told me that he, his wife and other Norwegian diplomats came up with the idea to secretly bring PLO and Israeli government representatives to a mansion in the middle of the woods to drink Scotch and talk about their families and try to make peace,” he says.

Hence, “Oslo” is what Rogers describes as “historically true fiction.

“What I mean is though the main events in the play actually happened, all the dialogue and characters are invented by me but based on real people,” he says. Some of the characters even very closely resemble their real-life counterparts.

As a dramatist, Rogers says that it was the “super-high tension” surrounding the whole chain of events that appealed to him.

“It was like an actual thriller. People secretly coming into a country. It would be like a revelation that North Korea and South Korea were secretly meeting to end the war. That’s how dangerous these meetings were — but when you write a play, you want the stakes to be high,” he says.

“Also, I was very moved by a story about adversaries who had the courage to come into a room, talk to each other and treat each other not as enemies, animals or evil people, but as human beings. In other words, saying ‘I hate your ideas, but I acknowledge that you are a person and I have learned to like you.’ The play is about how people are changed by seeing the humanity in others.”

Regarding the practicalities of fashioning this “historically true fiction,” Rogers says he usually makes rules when he’s creating a story so he doesn’t “get lost with too many options.”

(Read more)

REMEMBERING HAL HOLBROOK; HE GAVE US TWAIN AND THEN HIMSELF ·

 

(Keith C. Burris’s article appeared in the Journal Inquirer, 2/8.)

I have known, in my life, many men who thought of themselves as “great,” and were anything but. And I have known a precious few who were exceptionally skilled at what they did and also became magnificent human beings — my definition of greatness.

And none, interestingly, considered themselves special. If they considered themselves at all, which they tried not to do, they saw their own folly — the cracks in everything, but especially themselves.

The actor Hal Holbrook, who died Jan. 23 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., at 95, and whose death was announced last week by his family, was such a man.

I was lucky enough to know him and call myself a friend during the last 20 years or so of his life.

Holbrook really had three careers, which intersected and sometimes overshadowed each other. One was his career as Mark Twain, which deserves its own accounting and tribute. He did his one-man show — “Mark Twain Tonight!” — from 1954 to 2017, never missing a year, though in some years did only a few shows. He performed it 2,344 times, still doing 20 shows a year into his 90s.

Holbrook’s Twain was the longest-running show in American theatrical history. But, far more important, it taught the country about one of its most important, and original, writers. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Hal Holbrook jump-started the popular and scholarly interest in Mark Twain, showing us that he was not primarily a humorist or an author of children’s books, but the font of American satire, and, along with Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Lincoln and others, founder of a distinctly American literary form and tone. It is hard to imagine Tom Wolfe without Twain. Or Ernest Hemingway.

Hal Holbrook gave us back Mark Twain — the real, unvarnished, bitter Twain.

Holbrook loved the man. His was an almost 70-year love affair, in which the two men seemed, in some lucky and strange way, to finally merge into one.

Holbrook took it as his mission to bring Twain to the heartland and the midsize cities of the USA — to let America hear one of its truest voices. He took the show to all 50 states, as well as to Europe, including behind the Iron Curtain when it still stood.

He was not a scholar, he insisted upon that, but he approached Twain as a scholar — digging into his writing anew each time he went on the road and expanding his store of performable material. The show was 90 minutes, but Holbrook had 16 hours of interchangeable material by the end. All of it was committed to memory, of course. All of it was original — only Twain’s own words were used. Nothing was updated for the times. No transitional scripting was added.

I saw the Twain show eight times, usually in the company of one or two of my children. It was never the same show twice.

Holbrook had a second career — in television and film. TV was in a sort of second golden age in the 1970s and Holbrook was a major star and staple of what was then called the TV movie. He chose projects that meant something — from the first TV film about environmental pollution, to the first one about a gay male couple, to one about the Pueblo incident. My favorite from this period was a short-lived series called “The Senator.” This was an extraordinarily well-acted and well-written show about an idealistic senator who was also trying to legislate and lead — sort of a cross between Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. The show took on topics like the Kent State shootings, the right to dissent, and the political clout of the mafia.

Hal told me that when it was canceled he learned an important lesson: Show business is a business. Commerce trumps art every time.

He continued to do significant things in television — from “The Sopranos” to “The West Wing” to “The Sons of Anarchy” — into his 10th decade. His last appearance on the small screen was as a doctor who could not save his dying wife, on “Grey’s Anatomy.” He said once that it took him decades to learn how to act on film. You just have to “be” before the camera, he said, not really act at all. That performance was a clinic in being.

And that’s exactly what he did in his later movie roles. The most notable of which was his Oscar-nominated performance as Ron Franz in “Into the Wild.”

But I wish more people could see “That Evening Sun,” in which 60-some years of acting and 80-some of living are brought fully to bear. He should have won acting’s highest honor for those two roles, if not for his body of work.

He did, of course, win the Emmy (for TV), several times as well as the Tony (for theater). After his great success with Twain in the 1960s (the cover of “Life” magazine and 30 million people tuning in to watch the show on CBS in 1967), he joined a repertory company to hone his theater chops and play as many kinds of parts as he could. And not to be trapped by his first love — Twain. He figured that would diminish them both.

Holbrook always went back to the theater, in addition to Twain. This was his third career. After the financing of a film he was to direct collapsed, in his later years, he resolved to always do at least one new play a year. And he did. Just as he played every conceivable character in film, from country doctor to murderous cop, he played in every kind of stage work — from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller to David Mamet to “Man of La Mancha.”

I met him for the first time when he came to Hartford, Conn., where I then lived, to do Twain for one night. A pre-show interview had been arranged and we were to talk 15 to 20 minutes. We talked 90 minutes. He knew everyone in Hollywood and had worked with many. But he wanted to discuss two big things that day — national politics and Shakespeare.

The second time we met, he was in town to do a regional stage production of “Our Town.” He’d already done the play, and the part of the stage manager, both on stage and on film. But he was unhappy with his past performances. On film he felt his character had been too far removed from the other characters and the pathos of the play itself. This was another chance to get it right. Besides, he loved the play.

We met over black coffees and he had the play with him. We actually went over text together. He was at pains to show me how unsentimental and stark the play was; how its greatness was in the playwright’s cold eye, and how the warm, fuzzy feelings mined in every high school production were wrong. It’s a totally misunderstood play, he said. His performance, at Hartford Stage Company, was at once simple, transparent and majestic, as I imagine his rendering of Willy Loman was, though I was not lucky enough to see that.

(Read more)

 

THEATER RESOURCES UNLIMITED ANNOUNCES LINEUP FOR  TRUSPEAK … HEAR OUR VOICES! VIRTUAL FUNDRAISER:  ANN HARADA, BRENDA BRAXTON, CADY HUFFMAN,  ROBERT CUCCIOLI, TONYA PINKINS, REGINA TAYLOR, AND MORE! SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2021 AT 5PM ·

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) announces TRUSpeak … Hear Our Voices! Virtual Fundraiser on Sunday, February 21, 2021 at 5pm (eastern time) via Zoom, presented with the generous sponsorship of R.K. Greene and The Storyline Project, Patrick Blake and Rhymes Over Beats, Neal Rubinstein and Dangerous the Musical, Merrie L. Davis and Cheryl Wiesenfeld. Join TRU for an evening of awareness at an annual fundraising gala reinvented for these virtual – and challenging – times. Tickets start at $55. For more information and tickets, visit https://truonline.org/events/tru-speak-hear-our-voices/.

TRUSpeak is a curated selection of short plays and musicals by TRU writers, produced by TRU producers and directed by TRU directors, all touching upon current social issues. The stellar cast includes Broadway veterans like Brenda Braxton (Tony nominee for Smokey Joe’s Café), Robert Cuccioli (Tony nominee for Jekyll & Hyde, Les Miz, Spider-Man), Ann Harada (Avenue Q, Cinderella), Cady Huffman (Tony nominee The Will Rogers Follies, Tony winner The Producers), Jana Robbins (Gypsy, Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Romance, Romance), Lauren Molina (Rock of Ages, Sweeney Todd revival; off-Broadway Desperate Measures), Crystal Kellogg (Finding Neverland, School of Rock) and theater, film and TV star Regina Taylor (Golden Globe for I’ll Fly Away, The Blacklist, The Unit; plus Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and As You Like It on Broadway). 

Equally prominent in the cast: off-Broadway favorite Jim Brochu (Drama Desk Award for Zero Hour, The Big Voice: God or Merman?), Maggie Baird (who manages daughter Billie Eilish when she isn’t doing TV shows like Bones and The X-Files), TV actor Dickie Hearts (Tales of the City, Grace and Frankie), Nick Cearley who along with Lauren Molina forms the cabaret phenomenon, The Skivvies; plus stars on the rise Tatiana Wechsler, Brendan Bradley, Andrea Lynn Green, Robert Baptiste, Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, Adante Carter, Shariff Sinclair, Tyrone Hall, Crystal Tigney, Jianzi Colon-Soto, Will Mader and internet musician Taiya. There will also be special appearances by Broadway stars Jill Paice and Tonya Pinkins, as well as actress-activist Dominique Sharpton.

“The shutdown has forced us all to rethink our business, our art, our assumptions about life itself,” says Bob Ost, executive director of TRU and producer of TRUSpeak. “Social awareness has been thrust into the spotlight, and virtual presentation has become our strongest means of expression. We are excited to offer a platform for the voices of seven talented writers, guided by directors and tech advisors collaborating to use this new medium in interesting ways. And we are so lucky to have 24 incredibly talented actors to bring these plays to life. I don’t know if TRU could make this happen in a live event.”

Each of the TRUSpeak shows will be introduced by former TRU honorees including 

James Morgan, producing artistic director of the York Theatre; two-time Tony winning director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell; performer/choreographer and A Chorus Line legend Baayork Lee; four-time Tony winning producer Ron Simons; and four-time Tony winning producer Cheryl Wiesenfeld

TRUSpeak will also include an after party meet-and-greet for VIP ticket holders, a chance to meet the cast, TRU board and other VIP’s.

Program

Virtual Happy Hour, an online musical by Richard Castle & Matthew Levine

Directed by Jesica Garrou, Music Directed by Ben Doyle McCormick, Produced by James Rocco; starring Brendan Bradley, Nick Cearly, Lauren Molina, Tatiana Wechsler

 

Game Boy by Melissa Bell

Directed by Bryanda Minix, Technical Editor Carley Santori, Produced by Stephanie Pope; starring Cady Huffman, Will Mader, Jianzi Colon-Soto

 

Change of Plans by Michele Ann Miller

Directed by Cate Cammarata, Technical Editor Andrea Lynn Green, Produced by Jonathan Hogue; starring Crystal Kellogg

 

Out of Order, a memory play by T. Cat Ford

Directed by Glynn Borders, Produced by Claudia Zahn; starring Maggie Baird, Andrea Lynn Green, Crystal Tigney

 

A Woman’s Perspective by Melvina Douse Manuel

Directed by Van Dirk Fisher, Technical Eidotr Iben Cenholt, Produced by Stephanie Pope; starring Regina Taylor, Robert Baptiste, Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, Adante Carter, Shariff Sinclair, Tyrone Hall, Taiya

 

Zoom, a monologue by Joe Nelms

Directed by Dennis Corsi, Technical editor Henry Garrou, Produced by Jonathan Hogue with Jim Brochu, Brenda Braxton, Bob Cuccioli, Dickie Hearts, Ann Harada, Jana Robbins

 

For more information and tickets, visit https://truonline.org/tru-speak-hear-our-voices/

Theater Resources Unlimited

(TRU) is the leading network for developing theater professionals, a twenty-seven-year-old 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to help producers produce, emerging theater companies to emerge healthily and all theater professionals to understand and navigate the business of the arts. Membership includes self-producing artists as well as career producers and theater companies.

TRU publishes an email community newsletter of services, goods and productions; presents monthly panels as well as the new weekly Community Gatherings; offers a Producer Development & Mentorship Program taught by prominent producers and general managers in New York theater, and also presents Producer Boot Camp workshops to help aspirants develop business skills. TRU serves writers through the TRU Voices Play Reading Series, Writer-Producer Speed Date, a Practical Playwriting Workshop, How to Write a Musical That Works and a Director-Writer Communications Lab.

Programs of Theater Resources Unlimited are supported in part by the Montage Foundation, the Storyline Project and the Leibowitz Greenway Foundation.

For more information about TRU membership and programs, visit www.truonline.org.

 

MARIA GUARNASCHELLI, INFLUENTIAL COOKBOOK EDITOR, DIES AT 79 ·

(Emily Langer’s article appeared in the Washington Post, 2/10; via Karen Schimmel;  PHOTO:  Maria Guarnaschelli, right, with her daughter, chef Alex Guarnaschelli, in New York in 2013. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Network Magazine.)

Maria Guarnaschelli, an indomitable cookbook editor who forged a new canon of kitchen classics and brought her exacting tastes — both literary and culinary — to undertakings including a massive update of the time-honored tome “Joy of Cooking,” died Feb. 6 in Manhasset, N.Y. She was 79.

Her death was confirmed by her daughter, Alex Guarnaschelli, a prominent New York chef and regular on Food Network programming. The cause was complications of heart disease, according to an announcement from the publishing house W.W. Norton, where Mrs. Guarnaschelli had been a vice president and senior editor for nearly two decades until her retirement in 2017. She had spent the earlier years of her career at Scribner and William Morrow.

Mrs. Guarnaschelli was widely recognized as one of the most influential forces in the world of cookbook publishing, cultivating writers whose cooking guides became mainstays of American kitchens. Her reputation grew along with their success.

“I’m a powerful woman,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1997. “Even my husband has told me he’s a little afraid of me. I’m unconventional. I’m relentless. I’m passionate. When I believe in something, I’m like a … warrior. That’s frightening to people. Maybe in another century I would have been a witch and burned at the stake.”

She earned the devoted loyalty of many of her writers, who over the years included Jeff Smith of the “Frugal Gourmet” franchise; Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of “The Cake Bible” (1988) and other baking classics; Lynne Rossetto Kasper, former host of the popular public radio program “The Splendid Table”; Judy Rodgers, author of “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook” (2002); Molly Stevens, author of “All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking” (2004); and J. Kenji López-Alt, author of “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” (2015).

“She didn’t just make beautiful cookbooks,” culinary expert Rick Rodgers said in an interview, reflecting on Mrs. Guarnaschelli’s career. “She made cookbooks that changed the way Americans cook.”

For Mrs. Guarnaschelli, her manuscripts were not the kitchen equivalent of coffee table books — things of beauty that telegraphed sophistication but rarely imparted it from their places of repose. Rather, cookbooks were essential tools to be written with professionalism and precision.

Working on “The Cake Bible,” Mrs. Guarnaschelli supported the author when she insisted that the book include weight as well as volume, affording more exact measurements of flour and sugar than the cups and tablespoons most commonly used in American kitchens.

“Who but Maria would have had the daring to publish a cookbook with charts and weights and put her heart and soul into the work,” Levy Beranbaum wrote in a tribute to Mrs. Guarnaschelli. They worked together on seven volumes, Levy Beranbaum said in an interview; ‘The Cake Bible” is today in its 56th printing.

In international cuisine, Mrs. Guarnaschelli was credited with elevating the sophistication of books available to American home chefs through her work with writers including Julie Sahni — author of “Classic Indian Cooking” (1980), which was Mrs. Guarnaschelli’s first cookbook — Rick Bayless, a doyen of Mexican cuisine; and Fuchsia Dunlop, a food writer who specializes in Chinese cooking.

She allowed them “to use unusual and exotic ingredients with no apology,” Rodgers observed. “The reader had to come up to the level of the author. The author did not come down to the level of the home cook and make excuses like, ‘I know you’re not going to be able to find this chili . . .’ ”

Mrs. Guarnaschelli took on her most high-profile project in the early 1990s at Scribner, which by then was the publisher of “Joy of Cooking,” the gargantuan red-and-white volume that generations of women received when they married or otherwise left home. By the time Mrs. Guarnaschelli’s update of the book was published in 1997, the saga had become, in the description of the Los Angeles Times, “one of the biggest cookbook stories of the decade.”

(Read more)

 

GOVERNOR CUOMO OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES EXPANSIVE “NY PopsUp” FESTIVAL IN NEW YORK ·

GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO

MARSHALS THE RETURN OF THE PERFORMING ARTS TO NEW YORK

WITH

“NY PopsUp”

 

AN EXPANSIVE STATEWIDE FESTIVAL OF POP-UP EVENTS

DELIVERED RIGHT INTO THE DAILY LIFE OF NEW YORKERS,

TRANSFORMING EXISTING NEW YORK LANDSCAPES

INTO STAGES FOR WORLD-CLASS PERFORMANCE

MORE THAN 300 POP-UP EVENTS PLANNED

THROUGHOUT THE FIVE BOROUGHS AND ACROSS NEW YORK STATE

IN 100 DAYS

 

ALL MADE BY NEW YORK ARTISTS

TO REVITALIZE NEW YORK AUDIENCES

AND BRING THE STRUGGLING LIVE ENTERTAINMENT SECTOR

ROARING BACK TO LIFE

 

FESTIVAL TO SERVE AS A BRIDGE

TO THE FULL SAFE RETURN

OF LIVE PERFORMANCE

BACK TO NEW YORK

 

BEGINS FEBRUARY 20th

 

MULTI-DISCIPLINARY EVENTS TO GROW IN SCALE,

VOLUME, AND GEOGRAPHICAL FOOTPRINT

THROUGH LABOR DAY

 

New York, NY – NY PopsUp, an unprecedented and expansive festival featuring hundreds of pop-up performances (many of which are free of charge and all open to the public) that will intersect with the daily lives of New Yorkers, has been announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. This series of events, intended to revitalize the spirit and emotional well-being of New York citizens with the energy of live performance while jumpstarting New York’s struggling live entertainment sector, is a private / public partnership overseen by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and Empire State Development (ESD). The Festival will serve as a “pilot program,” creating the state’s first large-scale model for how to bring live performance back safely after this prolonged COVID-related shutdown. The programming for NY PopsUp will be curated by the interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur, in partnership with a hand-selected council of artistic advisors who represent the diversity of New York’s dynamic performing arts scene and artistic communities. NY PopsUp will launch on Saturday, February 20 and run through Labor Day. The Festival will reach its climax with the 20th Anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and The Festival at Little Island at Pier 55, bringing the total number of performances to more than 1,000. NY PopsUp is being coordinated in lock step with state public health officials and will strictly adhere to Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 protocols.

“Cities have taken a real blow during COVID, and the economy will not come back fast enough on its own – we must bring it back,” Governor Cuomo said“Creative synergies are vital for cities to survive, and our arts and cultural industries have been shut down all across the country, taking a terrible toll on workers and the economy. We want to be aggressive with reopening the State and getting our economy back on track, and NY PopsUp will be an important bridge to the broader reopening of our world-class performance venues and institutions. New York has been a leader throughout this entire pandemic, and we will lead once again with bringing back the arts.”

The events produced by NY PopsUp, in addition to being free of charge, will be staged across every type of neighborhood and district in all five boroughs of New York City, throughout upstate and into Western New York. As the current realities of COVID-19 make mass gatherings and large, destination-style events impossible, NY PopsUp will meet New York City and State residents where they are, infusing their daily lives with the surprise and joy of live performance. The hundreds of free, pop-up events that constitute NY PopsUp will make stages out of New York’s existing landscapes, including iconic transit stations, parks, subway platforms, museums, skate parks, street corners, fire escapes, parking lots, storefronts, and upstate venues, transforming everyday commutes, local communities, and locations never used for performances into canvases of awe and exhilaration. Instead of there being masses of audience members at a handful of events, this Festival is a mass of events, each for a safe and secure ‘handful’ of audience members.

As COVID restrictions begin to loosen, the model that NY PopsUp builds for holding safe live events will pave the way for, and incept the reopening of, multidisciplinary flexible venues (“flex venues”) throughout New York State to open and participate in the Festival. These will be the very first indoor performances since the pandemic began and will mark a major moment in New York’s recovery efforts. Not only will these indoor events be a symbol to the entire world that New York is back, they will also be a key step in the long process of getting tens-of-thousands of arts professionals around New York State back to work; and a bridge to getting Broadway and all of the New York cultural world open. These Flex Venues are established union and non-union performance spaces without fixed seating and are thus able to be adapted for social distancing. Examples of these venues would include The SHED, The Apollo, Harlem Stage, La MaMa, and The Glimmerglass Festival’s Alice Busch Opera Theater. All indoor events will strictly follow Department of Health public health and safety guidance.

“Having artists call on other artists as a means to build this festival’s giant creative community will spur opportunities for wild, bold, and intimate collaborations that would never otherwise have been possible. As a result, the work presented will represent a near limitless range, colliding disparate styles, disciplines, and points-of-view to infiltrate the daily lives of New Yorkers in genuinely surprising and unprecedented ways,” Zack Winokur explained, adding: “Ultimately, this Festival is about using art as a means of reestablishing human connection. With NY PopsUp, there is no mediating force between artist and artist, or artist and audience. It’s humans in direct contact with each other, and the context of this particular moment will make that connection all the more profound.” 

The council of artistic advisors, who are all collaborating and co-curating NY PopsUp, is comprised of a unique group of New York’s premier artistic visionaries, all hailing from different disciplinary backgrounds and each a leader in their own field. These advisors are charged with inviting other artists to join the NY PopsUp community. The artists they engage will, in turn, engage their own networks, ultimately populating the festival with the broadest, most diverse coalition of performers ever united around a single mission. In short, NY PopsUp is being built by artists asking artists to participate.

The council includes renowned choreographer and MacArthur Fellow, Kyle Abraham; three-time Grammy Award nominated jazz musician, Jon Batiste; choreographer and Hoofer Award-winning tap dancer Ayodele Casel; Grammy Award nominated singer, actor, and international opera star, Anthony Roth Costanzo; the playwright of Slave Play, the most Tony Award nominated play in history, Jeremy O. Harris; Tony Award-winning set designer Mimi Lien; the legendary nine-time Grammy Award-winning musician, Wynton Marsalis; two-time National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poet, essayist, and playwright, Claudia Rankine; Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist, Cécile McLorin Salvant; leading member of the Punch Brothers and four-time Grammy Award winner, Chris Thile; acclaimed “Saturday Night Live” writer, comedian, and actor, Julio Torres; and acclaimed director and musician, Whitney White

The public will encounter a range of artists representing all areas of performance – from theater to dance, from poetry to comedy, from pop music to opera, and so much more. Among the confirmed artists are Hugh JackmanRenée FlemingAmy Schumer, Alec BaldwinChris RockMatthew BroderickSarah Jessica ParkerIsabel LeonardNico MuhlyJoyce DiDonatoJohn Early and Kate BerlantPatti SmithMandy PatinkinRaja Feather KellyJ’Nai BridgesKenan ThompsonGavin CreelGarth FaganLarry OwensQ-TipBilly Porter, Conrad TaoBobbi Jene Smith and Or SchraiberTina LandauRhiannon GiddensAparna NancherlaAnthony RodriguezJonathan GroffSavion GloverDormeshia Sumbry-EdwardsChris CelizChristine GoerkeKelli O’HaraDev HynesPhoebe RobinsonSara MearnsGeorge SaundersCaleb TeicherDanielle BrooksJeremy DenkIdina Menzel, Sondra RadvanovskyGaby MorenoDavóne TinesJerrod CarmichaelTaylor MacSutton FosterJessie Mueller, and Courtney ToPanga Washington, among many others. The events themselves will ignite imaginative collisions of different artforms.

Mr. Rudin and Ms. Rosenthal remarked, in a joint statement, “As two lifelong New Yorkers, it has been utterly devastating to see our creative community brought to an absolute standstill for a year. It’s inconceivable. We both spend our lives generating opportunities for artists, so we were both thrilled to be asked by Governor Cuomo to try to ignite a spark to bring art and performance back to life for the State. The passionate enthusiasm of every person we asked to join us in this incentive is going to make this a labor of both love and invention. We’re honored to be spearheading this campaign. Frankly, our most profound hope is that by the time NY PopsUp culminates on Labor Day, New York will be fully on the way to being reopened and revitalized and that this initiative, having served its purpose, will no longer be necessary. It’s the spark, not the fire — the fire is the complete return of all the arts, in their full glory, standing as they always have for the rich, emotional life of the city and state in which we both live.”

During the run of the festival, NY PopsUp will grow in its scale, volume of performances, and geographical footprint, with events throughout New York State, from the Bronx to Staten Island, from Buffalo to Suffolk County, from the Hudson Valley to the Capitol.

NY PopsUp will reach its apex over the summer, as we celebrate both the 20th Anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival (June 9 through 20) and the opening of one of New York’s most highly anticipated projects: Little Island (June).

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by Rosenthal and Robert DeNiro in the aftermath of 9/11 to revitalize Lower Manhattan. Tribeca has come to symbolize the resilience of New Yorkers, the importance of our artistic communities, and their impact on the economic activity of our city. This year’s 20th event will be the first in-person film festival in the entirety of North America since the pandemic began to host its filmmakers and their premieres in front of a live audience. With over 300 ticketed and non-ticketed events, the film festival will have screenings, panel discussions, concerts, and more, in parks, on piers, on buildings, and on barges. Tribeca will reach all five boroughs in celebration of the spirit of New York with a closing night celebration of Juneteenth.

The idea for Little Island, a soon-to-open, first-of-its-kind public park on the Hudson River that merges nature and art, was dreamt up as a solution to repair and reinvigorate New York’s West Side after the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy. A Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation project, this is yet another example of the unique power of the arts to revitalize New York in the aftermath of crisis. Little Island, which will begin hosting performances in June, will serve as a permanent, year-round home for easily accessible, multidisciplinary programming, and it will continue bringing artists and audiences together long after NY PopsUp hosts its final performance. Little Island will host its own festival, The Festival at Little Island, in conjunction with the final weeks of NY PopsUp. The Festival at Little Island, which kicks off August 11, 2021 and runs through September 5, will host an average of 16 events per day, for a total of 325 performances by approximately 500 artists.

More details about NY PopsUp will be announced soon. Please note that, given the impromptu nature and surprise element of the pop-up format, not all performances will be announced in advance. Please follow @NYPopsUp on Twitter and Instagram for the latest.

The first performances will include, among others still to be announced, the following:

Beginning Saturday, February 20 (Opening Day), members of the artists council will lead a performance at the Javits Center as a special tribute to our healthcare workers. The performance will feature Jon BatisteAnthony Roth CostanzoCecile McLorin SalvantAyodele Casel, and additional special guests joining forces for a one-of-a-kind live performance. 

 Throughout the day, the performers will travel around New York City, meeting audiences at various locations throughout all five boroughs in courtyards, workplaces, parks, and street corners, at the footsteps of locations such as, Flushing Post Office, Elmhurst Hospital, and St. Barnabas Hospital. Saturday will conclude with one of Jon Batiste’s signature Love Riots beginning at Walt Whitman Park and ending at Golconda Playground in Brooklyn.

On Sunday, February 21, legendary choreographer Garth Fagan’s company will lead a special performance at the MAGIC Spell Studios at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a tribute for the staff who have made it possible for RIT to stay open and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Mr. Fagan said, “I remember with great pride and pleasure receiving a NYS Governor’s Arts Award from then Governor Mario Cuomo and his wife Matilda in 1986. It is fitting that during our 50th anniversary season, we work with their son, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York to revive the magic of live performance in Rochester, NY, simultaneously honoring our unheralded RIT essential workers. We look forward to NY PopsUp creating more opportunities for artists in New York State in the months to come!”

ALSO:

Patti Smith performing at the Brooklyn Museum in remembrance of the passing of Robert Mapplethorpe.

Partnership with “Works & Process” at the Guggenheim, that will take brilliant new performances beyond the famed Rotunda to locations around the boroughs. These collaborations include George Gershwin’s anthem to New York City, Rhapsody in Blue, performed by New York’s own pianist and composer, Conrad Tao, with new choreography by Caleb TeicherThe Missing Element, a beatbox and street dance collaboration, featuring Chris Celiz and Anthony Rodriguez’s “Invertebrate”; and Masterz at Work Dance Family performing a brand-new dance by choreographer Courtney ToPanga Washington.

A series of performances in storefront windows, amplified out onto the street, from artists Gavin CreelJ’Nai BridgesDavóne TinesBobbi Jene SmithOr Schraiber, and more.

A new live radio show hosted by Chris Thile, broadcast from stoops all over New York State, from Brooklyn and the East Village to the steps of Albany’s Empire State Plaza across from the Capitol building.

A series of dynamic and participatory performances created by Ayodele Casel taking place in the lobbies of free museums throughout the City of New York, including the Brooklyn Museum and Queens Museum.

NY PopsUp, the Tribeca Film Festival, and The Festival at Little Island will together bring a total of more than 1,000 performances to New York State between February 20 and Labor Day, signaling an event unmatched in scale and unrivaled in scope.

(via Rick Miramontez / Marie Bshara)

 

KYOTO EXPERIMENT MARKS A NEW ERA ·

  • (Andrew Eglinton’s and Mika Eglinton’s article appeared in the Japan Times, 2/5; Photo: Shared history: “This Song Father Used to Sing (Three Days in May),” a play by Thai director Wichaya Artamat, will streamed online from March 24 to 28 during the Kyoto Experiment performing arts festival. | WICHAYA ARTAMAT. )

The Kyoto Experiment (KEX) performing arts festival is marking the beginning of a new era. Not only does it have three new program directors at the helm, it also has a fresh logo and renewed focus on experimentation to boot. Despite a four-month delay due to the spread of COVID-19, the 11th edition of KEX is set to run from Feb. 6 to March 28.

Ever since Yusuke Hashimoto, the former director who stepped down in 2019 after a 10-year reign, launched KEX in 2010, the festival has become a major cultural event, as well as a forum for freedom of expression. Now, with Yoko Kawasaki, Yuya Tsukahara and Juliet Reiko Knapp leading the team, this year’s program will bring the festival’s keyword — experiment — back to the forefront.

During early discussions about shaping their first edition, the directors asked themselves, “What relationship should this experimental festival have with the city of Kyoto, the Kansai region and beyond?” and “What does it mean to create performance experiments in a time of crisis?”

In working through such questions, the directors shaped a framework for the festival with three core programs: Super Knowledge for the Future (SKF), an idea exchange program; Kansai Studies, a research program; and Shows, a performance program.

These three core strands of the festival are represented in string-like form in the new KEX logo. Designed by the festival’s art director, Aiko Koike, the logo represents a range of ideas, from improvisation and experimentation to incompleteness and uncertainty. It is also accessible — anyone could draw it. It could easily turn up in everyday life, perhaps in a bowl of spaghetti or a tangle of shoelaces. “It’s the idea of something that’s very close to you personally,” says Knapp. “In that sense, how can we bring the performing arts closer to people’s lives in a personal way?”

Highlighting the presence of art in the everyday and making it more accessible to audiences is an important element of this year’s KEX. Knapp points out that since the spread of COVID-19, the changing scope of the programs has become all the more relevant to the emerging social, political and cultural landscapes. And so, while each program has a specific function, they overlap in their emphasis on “process.” Highlighting the creative process involved in producing each artistic work is one of the biggest curatorial and editorial shifts at KEX.

Take Kansai Studies. “It’s a program in which we ask artists to research the Kansai area over a long period of time and without a particular purpose at the start. The process is recorded and shared with the audience,” Knapp says. As the participants’ research progresses, the findings are archived on the program’s dedicated website, so that interested visitors can track the findings of each of the research projects.

“It is an experiment to see what can happen on a slower production scale, sharing the processes that the artists go through instead of (presenting) a finished product, which often becomes very sellable on a touring circuit,” Knapp says. The artists currently involved in the research program, which will span three years with a focus on the theme of water, include Toshikatsu Ienari, one of the founders of the Kyoto-based firm Dot Architects, and theater director Nagara Wada.

(Read more)

BRINGING OUT THE BEST OF SONDHEIM, HERMAN AND … SCHRAUBSTADER? ·

(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/3; via Pam Green; Photo: Emily Skinner performing “The Ladies Who Lunch” as part of the Signature Theater’s “Simply Sondheim” revue.Credit…Christopher Mueller.)

Three new revues offer war horses, showstoppers and standards — but, even better, rarities.

It may be that a million songs have been deposited for copyright in the United States since 1900. So why do we keep hearing the same 25 in revues?

I’m not completely complaining. When the songs are of the caliber of “Losing My Mind” by Stephen Sondheim and “Before the Parade Passes By” by Jerry Herman, it’s a comfort, like a lullaby, to encounter them again and again.

But three revues now streaming online — two featuring the work of those titans, one the work of writers long forgotten — make me especially glad for the wake-up call of rarities. If Sondheim’s “Something Just Broke” and Herman’s “Confession to a Park Avenue Mother” don’t ring any bells for you, so much the better. And if “Last Night on the Back Porch (I Loved Him Best of All),” a 1923 song by Carl Schraubstader and Lew Brown, does, congratulations: You’re a lewd centenarian.

“Something Just Broke” is an example of what’s best about “Simply Sondheim,” the revue conceived by David Loud and Eric Schaeffer for the Signature Theater in Arlington, Va. For one thing, it’s a left-field choice; the song is from “Assassins,” a niche show about the killing of presidents, and wasn’t even in the original production. (It was added in London.) Nor has it been sampled in any of the six other Sondheim revues I’ve seen.

But even if you’ve heard “Something Just Broke” before, Loud’s exquisite arrangement for seven singers makes you hear it anew. That newness prevents your ears from coasting on comfortable harmonic patterns and forces you to engage with the ideas they give shape to. You can’t miss how the lyrics, with their widely spaced rhymes and halting imagery, simulate the way tragedy is absorbed piecemeal by a country in shock, as for many of us our country is now.

(Read more)

 

ARS NOVA ANNOUNCES NEW FEBRUARY EVENTS INCLUDING VISION RESIDENCY PROGRAMMING FROM RONA SIDDIQUI  ·

(Via John Wyszniewski, Everyman Agency; Photo: Rona Siddiqui.)

Ars Nova, “a company known for pop-culture-savvy experimentation, with a hipness that sets it apart” (New York Times), under the leadership of Founding Artistic Director Jason Eagan and Managing Director Renee Blinkwolt, is proud to announce its second slate of 2021 programming including six new events curated by composer Rona Siddiqui as part of the new Ars Nova Vision Residency program. All events will take place on Ars Nova Supra, a new streaming platform from Ars Nova that showcases some of New York City’s most promising emerging artists and currently serves as the online home for the majority of Ars Nova presentations.

Designed to foreground Ars Nova’s values through the creation of more equitable and power-sharing curatorial practices, the Vision Residency expands Ars Nova’s artistic vision by inviting seven artist-curators to each program one month of events on Ars Nova Supra. Programming can include their own work as well as work by artists they champion and admire, with Ars Nova providing financial and staff resources to develop each piece. In addition to Siddiqui, the 2020-2021 Vision Residents are Starr BusbynicHi douglasJJJJJerome Ellisraja feather kellyJenny Koons, and David Mendizábal.

Founding Artistic Director Jason Eagan commented, “I feel so fortunate to get to share the curation of our season on Ars Nova Supra with this newly formed cohort. Bringing this incredible group of artists and thinkers into a conversation about who and what will be featured on our platform this year expands our — and their — potential. The Ars Nova community has always thrived most when it is looking forward, and I am thrilled to discover where these visionaries will take us next.”

Vision Resident Rona Siddiqui said, “I brought together a small group of MENASA friends to brainstorm ideas for my residency’s programming, and so many ideas and phenomenal artists immediately came to mind. It goes to show how easy it is to spotlight brilliant brown people when you just reach out and collaborate. So, in making MENASA voices the focus of my residency, I want to show the world that we’re here, and we’re creating and contributing to the vitality of America and the dream of its potential. In heightening our visibility, I want to show that we’re multi-faceted: We’re complex, we’re independent, we’re queer, we’re disabled, we’re silly, we’re fierce — and we’re also about to take you on a multi-sensory ride through these six events.”

In addition to Vision Residency programming, Ars Nova presents a special digital edition of Showgasm, Ars Nova’s own monthly variety-show-meets-party, guest hosted by triple-threat prince Joél Perez and on February 11.

Tickets for Ars Nova Supra livestream events are $5-10 per event, with subscriptions available for $15 per month. Subscribers receive access to all monthly livestreams at one low price, plus exclusive on-demand access to the Ars Nova Supra library, where they can catch any shows they may have missed.

More details follow and can be found at https://arsnovanyc.com/SUPRA.

Continue reading

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, SOUND OF MUSIC STAR AND OLDEST ACTOR TO WIN AN OSCAR, DIES AGED 91 ·

(Andrew Pulver’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/5; via Pam Green; Christopher Plummer, who has died aged 91. Photograph: Vera Anderson/WireImage.)

Veteran and respected actor had a career stretching back to the 1950s, but won his Oscar for best supporting actor for Beginners in 2011.

Christopher Plummer, the dazzlingly versatile Canadian actor whose screen career straddled seven decades, including such high-profile films as The Sound of Music, The Man Who Would Be King and All the Money in the World, has died aged 91.

His family confirmed the news, saying he died peacefully at home in Connecticut with his wife of 53 years, Elaine Taylor, by his side.

Lou Pitt, his longtime friend and manager of 46 years said:

“Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self deprecating humour and the music of words. He was a national treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come. He will forever be with us.”

Plummer’s first film appearance was in 1958’s Stage Struck, a backstage drama in which he plays a writer in love with Susan Strasberg’s ingenue. His biggest hit, and arguably best-known role, was as singing anti-Nazi Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music in 1965. More recently, in 2017, he stepped in at short notice to replace Kevin Spacey in the Ridley Scott-directed All the Money in the World, after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct. Scott praised Plummer at the time, telling the Guardian that “[he’s] got this enormous charm whether he’s doing King Lear or The Sound of Music”. Scott added: “This guy’s a real colouring book, he can do anything.”

Born Arthur Plummer in Toronto in 1929, the great-grandson of John Abbott, Canada’s third prime minister, and grew up in Quebec speaking English and French fluently. After leaving school he joined the Montreal Repertory Theatre, and after a short spell on Broadway achieved his first leading role as Hal in Henry V at the 1956 Stratford festival in Ontario. More stage roles followed, in both Stratford and on Broadway, including his first Tony nomination in 1959 for best actor in Archibald MacLeish’s JB, which was directed by Elia Kazan. He also secured roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK, playing Benedick in the 1961 production of Much Ado About Nothing (opposite Geraldine McEwan) and the title role of Richard III in the same year.

The Sound of Music, released to huge success in 1965, proved Plummer’s breakthrough to stardom. Adapted from the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical about the real-life singing Von Trapp family, Plummer was originally reluctant to take on the role, and in 2018 told the Guardian he was “furious” when he found out his singing voice was going to be dubbed. “I’d worked on my singing for so long, but in those days, they’d have someone trained who would sing through dubbing. I said: ‘The only reason I did this bloody thing was so I could do a musical on stage on film!’”

His well-known distaste for the film mellowed over time: “I’ve made my peace with it,” he added. “It annoyed the hell out of me at first. I thought: ‘Don’t these people ever see another movie? Is this the only one they’ve ever seen?’ … But I’m grateful to the film, and to Robert Wise, who’s a great director and a gentleman, and to Julie [Andrews], who’s remained a terrific friend.”

(Read more)

FRANZ KAFKA’S ‘LETTER TO MY FATHER’ LIVE ONLINE – DIRECTED BY M-34’S JAMES RUTHERFORD, 2/19 – 3/28 ·

(via David Gibbs, DARR Publicity; Photo of Michael Guagno: Bailey Bretz; photo of scene: Eileen Meny Photography.)

Brooklyn, NY – M-34 presents Franz Kafka’s Letter To My Father, translated by Hannah Stokes and Richard Stokes, developed by James Rutherford and Michael Guagno, directed by James Rutherford, and performed by Michael Guagno.

In 1919, an ailing Franz Kafka wrote a letter to his father. He filled it with his deep conflicts and contradictions — anger and gratitude, pride and shame — at everything his father represents, as well as his hope and fear that he might one day measure up to such a terrifying man. It never reached its destination. Now, the tensions of this unresolved relationship between father and son come alive in a startling multi-camera live broadcast that allows viewers to choose their own perspective — part YouTube confessional, part hidden-camera show, part seance.

M-34’s Artistic Director James Rutherford says, “We believe that to be successful, theater requires a commitment of energy from its audience. For this piece, we ask for your active engagement, uninterrupted time, and audio/visual isolation. It’s not a stream to have playing in the background as you scroll through the news. We are attempting to reclaim some of the immediacy of live theater: the feeling of sitting in a dark room experiencing something personal and unique. Kafka sat at the cusp of a terrifying future and wrote about his mounting horror at the world around him. We believe that engaging with his struggle can be a source of strength and resilience in the chaos of these times.”

The production team includes Dave Harrington (Original Music), Oona Curley and Stacey DeRosier (Scenic & Lighting Design), Pinwheel Pinwheel (Costume Design), Lacey Erb (Media Design), Casey Robinson (Technology Design), Isaac VanCuren (Production Stage Manager) and David Rudi Utter (Technical Director).

Online live performances run February 19 – March 28, 2021. Previews begin February 19 for a February 26 opening. Showtimes are Fridays at 7pm EST and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are pay-what-you-can with a suggested donation of $15. Reserve at https://www.M-34.org. The running time is approximately 75 minutes.

M-34 is a fake mustache, a white phosphorous grenade, a star cluster and a crosstown bus. Founded in 2008 by James Rutherford, it is a rotating ensemble of theater artists attempting to be rigorous, critical, and curious in a culture that degrades all such values. Letter To My Father represents M-34’s first attempt to produce telematic performance under COVID. We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars. More info at https://www.M-34.org.

M-34’s previous production of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé was featured in The New York Times’ “The Week in Culture” column and Time Out NY’s “Best Off-Off Broadway shows in NYC.” Hyperallergic praised Salomé as “a vital and relevant parable of criminalized otherness.” Past M-34 productions have been featured in New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix, and described as “excellent and well worth a viewing” (Broadway World) and “brilliantly performed” (New York Theatre Review).

James Rutherford (he/him/his) is an international theater director and third-generation New Yorker, currently in quarantine in Brooklyn. He is the founding artistic director of the theater company M-34. Selected work includes Salomé (Irondale Center), The Constitution: A Secular Oratorio (Vertical Player Repertory), As You Like It (Classic Stage Company), Hymn To Life (FiveMyles, St. Ann’s and the Holy Trinity), Sweat & Tears (JACK), All That Dies And Rises (IATI), The Importance of Being Ernest Hemingway (Access Theatre) and previous productions of Letter To My Father (AXA in Action, Magic Futurebox). James has assisted Peter Brook, Andrei Serban, and Richard Foreman. Proud son of Columbia University’s MFA Directing program. (https://www.james-rutherford.com)

Michael Guagno is a New York City based actor originally from Bedminster Township, Pennsylvania. He graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts having studied at the Atlantic Acting School and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art while there. This is his fourth time performing in a production of Letter To My Father. Previous iterations took place at Columbia University, the AXA in Action festival in Prague and Magic Future Box in Brooklyn. More recently, he appeared in Animals Out of Paper at Hudson Stage Company and in Much Ado About Nothing for South Brooklyn Shakespeare. His film credits include The Truth About Lies and Fort Tilden. On television and the web, he has had roles on The Deuce, Z: the Beginning of Everything, Blue Bloods and High Maintenance.