Category Archives: Events

15 SUMMER THEATER FESTIVALS, FROM STRATFORD TO WILLIAMSTOWN ·

(Steven McElroy’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/17; via Pam Green.)

Selections from the warm-weather season, including Shakespeare, new plays and musicals in development. We also picked our favorite festivals in danceclassical music and pop.

Shaw and Stratford Festivals

NIAGARA-ON-THE LAKE, ONTARIO, THROUGH OCT. 28; STRATFORD, ONTARIO, THROUGH NOV. 4 Free will is the theme at the Stratford Festival this year, where productions of “The Tempest” (starring Martha Henry as Prospero), “Coriolanus” (directed by Robert Lepage) and Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (directed by Miles Potter) are among the dozen shows planned. Over at another Canada mainstay, the Shaw Festival, a new adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s “The Magician’s Nephew,” written by Michael O’Brien and directed by festival’s artistic director, Tim Carroll, will have its world premiere. Sarah Ruhl’s “Stage Kiss,” a reimagined “Henry V” and plenty of other productions are also planned for the Shaw’s three stages. stratfordfestival.cashawfest.com

Clubbed Thumb Summerworks

NEW YORK CITY, MAY 19-JUNE 30 As sure a sign of summer as Shakespeare in the Park, the Off Off Broadway company Clubbed Thumb, known for finding and nurturing unusual new works, will present its 23rd summer season of three world premieres. Prior summers have introduced theatergoers to new plays by Ethan Lipton, Sarah Ruhl, Jordan Harrison, Madeleine George and Erin Courtney — a list of Clubbed Thumb alums that also includes a lot of really good directors like Leigh Silverman and Lear deBessonet. The new plays in the 2018 lineup — and the new playwrights we’ll want to keep an eye on — are “Tin Cat Shoes,” by Trish Harnetiaux; “Wilder Gone,” by Angela Hanks; and “Plano,” by Will Arbery. clubbedthumb.org

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CHERRY ORCHARD FESTIVAL PRESENTS RUSSIA’S STATE THEATRE OF NATIONS ACCLAIMED PRODUCTION OF CHEKHOV’S ‘IVANOV’,  JUNE 14-17 ONLY (NY) ·

Russia’s Theatre of Nations returns to New York with Anton Chekhov’s Ivanov, a dramatic play about an antihero, a melancholic upper-class man who is struggling to regain his former glory, on June 14-17 at New York City Center (131 W. 55th Street), as part of the VI Cherry Orchard Festival of the Arts, produced by its founders Maria Shclover and Irina Shabshis.

The prolific theater and opera director Timofey Kulyabin, best known for his controversial take on Wagner’s Tannhäuser at Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre in 2014, directs an award-winning cast for Ivanov, led by Evgeny Mironov, Chulpan Khamatova, Elizaveta Boyarskaya, and Victor Verzhbitsky. Premiered in Moscow on December 23, 2016, the production was nominated for the prestigious Golden Mask National Theatre Award (the equivalent of the Tony Award) in multiple categories.

The State Theatre of Nations has a special connection to Anton Chekhov, who made his debut as a playwright with this play in 1887 at the request of Fyodor Korsh, founder of the very first private theatre in Moscow, which is now the home of the State Theatre of Nations.  

The schedule of performances is Thursday, June 14, Friday, June 15, and Saturday, June 16 at 7:30 PM; Sunday, June 17 at 2:00 PM. Tickets for the performances are priced at $45. – $155. and are available at the New York City Center Box Office in person or by calling CityTix® 212.581.1212, by visiting http://www.nycitycenter.org/tickets or by visiting CherryOrchardFestival.org.  Student discounts are available at the box office with valid ID. For group sales, please contact the Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation directly 800.349.0021 or by emailing info@cherryorchardfestival.org

WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE ART OF MONSTROUS MEN? ·

 

(Claire Dederer’s article appeared in The Paris Review, 11/20/17.)

Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, William Burroughs, Richard Wagner, Sid Vicious, V. S. Naipaul, John Galliano, Norman Mailer, Ezra Pound, Caravaggio, Floyd Mayweather, though if we start listing athletes we’ll never stop. And what about the women? The list immediately becomes much more difficult and tentative: Anne Sexton? Joan Crawford? Sylvia Plath? Does self-harm count? Okay, well, it’s back to the men I guess: Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Lead Belly, Miles Davis, Phil Spector.

They did or said something awful, and made something great. The awful thing disrupts the great work; we can’t watch or listen to or read the great work without remembering the awful thing. Flooded with knowledge of the maker’s monstrousness, we turn away, overcome by disgust. Or … we don’t. We continue watching, separating or trying to separate the artist from the art. Either way: disruption. They are monster geniuses, and I don’t know what to do about them.

We’ve all been thinking about monsters in the Trump era. For me, it began a few years ago. I was researching Roman Polanski for a book I was writing and found myself awed by his monstrousness. It was monumental, like the Grand Canyon. And yet. When I watched his movies, their beauty was another kind of monument, impervious to my knowledge of his iniquities. I had exhaustively read about his rape of thirteen-year-old Samantha Gailey; I feel sure no detail on record remained unfamiliar to me. Despite this knowledge, I was still able to consume his work. Eager to. The more I researched Polanski, the more I became drawn to his films, and I watched them again and again—especially the major ones: Repulsion, Rosemary’s BabyChinatown. Like all works of genius, they invited repetition. I ate them. They became part of me, the way something loved does.

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‘TWELFTH NIGHT’ AT THE POLONSKY SHAKESPEARE CENTER–FROM THE ACTING CO. AND DELAWARE’S RESIDENT ENSEMBLE PLAYERS (REP) (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Maria Aitken takes the edge off overwrought Summer Shakespeare with a droll, whimsical Twelfth Night from the Acting Co. in a co-production with Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players (REP), now playing until May 27, at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn (an essential theatrical destination, which seems to transfigure for each new presentation).  Her light surrealism sets Illyria in the Thirties, maybe in California, probably not on the Adriatic and far away from traditional England or Trump’s America. What matters to her is the hair, the wigs (which go uncredited):  bouffants, bobs, punk dreadlocks, pageboys, coiffures piled high and on the verge of Versailles.  The costume designer, Candice Donnelly, provides veils, tams, netting and curlers, party hats, berets, and kerchiefs; variegated livery, period golf wear, ruffles at the neck, asymmetrical gowns, and old-fashioned black swimsuits–she even makes an allowance for nothing at all.  Some might surmise that to dwell on costumes is another way of saying that there isn’t much going for the show, but here, Shakespeare is what happens when the audience is looking the other way. 

The play has been called the finest of the bard’s comedies, and Aitken’s may be one director who can actually prove that, by insisting on lucidity–she does not clutter her stage, for example, for all her satirical idiosyncrasies, and the design, by Lee Savage, is white and clear, a little beat up, maybe a deck on a ship or the villa of a Hollywood star, a mystical swirl of eternity at the apex.  The backdrop, virtually a map, is as vivid and impersonal as the screensaver of a Dell computer.  As Viola, the page searching for her lost brother after a shipwreck, Susanna Stahlmann reminds of a young Isabella Rossellini—she’s giving a classic portrait, placing a knee up on a bench to intimidate or intimate virility or putting hands on hips to imitate manliness.  At the other extreme is Michael Gotch, as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a role typically seen as secondary—however, in this Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole incarnation, he is the one through which the audience realizes it can laugh.  Gotch is thin and inventive, always in the moment, on, maybe like a Robin Williams.  Aitken and her cast are looking at what’s really comic in a Shakespeare comedy, such a Sir Tobey Belch (Lee E. Ernst) line: “She’s a beagle,” insulting and whacked out at the same time. 

The simplicity of the textual structure is allowed to be contemplated, without unnecessary stress from too much music, ham acting, and societal comment.  The director’s specific detail in scene work, one including a fake pheasant, for instance, highlights the lunacy. By the end of the evening, she will have brought in the kazoos and ukuleles, even guns and terrorists; the cold white scenic design, sometimes like reflective tiles, with bright lighting, by Philip S. Rosenberg, can project fissures of red and blue.  Shakespearean comedy is not often seen so unconventionally, with secrets of the interpretation, known only to the auteur, kept intact, yet a love of absurd eccentricity and lyricism on the verge of slapstick are apparent; very dry, of course.  Elizabeth Heflin, as Olivia, seems Californian, an American with a pioneering spirit–a self-assured woman who might roll the dice for love in the city of angels or star in a silent-era two-reeler.  Stephen Pelinski may be the one Malvolio who has found a way to recite his speeches without eliciting impatience.  Others in the cast are also actors to take note of, if they are not known to readers already: Kate Forbes, John Skelley, Michael Stewart Allen, Hassan El-Amin, Mathew Greer, Mic Matarrese, Antoinette Robinson, Joshua David Robinson, and Mickey Theis.  They add credence to the idea that the best way to enjoy Shakespeare is to not think about him . . . or Donald Trump . . .  or the number 1 train on weekends . . . or the rain.

Copyright © 2018 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.   

Photos: The New York Times; University of Delaware.  All rights reserved.      

Twelfth Night

Directed by Maria Aitken 

Visit The Polonsky Shakespeare Center:

262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn, NY, 11217

 

About The Acting Company

Founded in 1972 by John Houseman and Margot Harley, The Acting Company (Ian Belknap, Artistic Director; Elisa Spencer-Kaplan, Executive Director) is “the major touring classical theater in the United States” (The New York Times) and the only professional repertory company dedicated to the development of classical actors. The Company has reached 4 million people in 48 states and 10 foreign countries with its productions and education programs, and has helped to launch the careers of some 400 actors, including Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Rainn Wilson, Jesse L. Martin, Keith David, Frances Conroy, David Ogden Stiers, Harriet Harris, David Schramm, Jeffrey Wright and Hamish Linklater. Over a dozen commissioned new works and adaptations include plays by Lynn Nottage, Tony Kushner, John Guare, David Mamet, Beth Henley, Rebecca Gilman, Maria Irene Fornes, William Finn, Ntozake Shange, and more. The Company received a special Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater in 2003 for its contributions to the American theater.

About Resident Ensemble Players

The Resident Ensemble Players (REP) is a professional theatre company located at the University of Delaware, headed by Producing Artistic Director Sanford (Sandy) Robbins. The REP offers frequent productions of outstanding classic, modern and contemporary plays performed in a wide variety of styles that celebrate and demonstrate the range and breadth of its resident acting company.  The REP is committed to create future audiences for live theatre by offering its productions at low prices that enable and encourage the attendance of everyone in the region, regardless of income.

Press: Sam Parrott, Blake Zidell & Associates

MICA PARIS ON JOSEPHINE BAKER ·

Listen

For soul singer Mica Paris, when she first dreamt of becoming a singer it was Josephine Baker who inspired her most. Baker was a young black American dancer who became an overnight sensation in Paris in 1925 after performing wild, uninhibited routines in the skimpiest of costumes. So can Mica Paris make the case for Baker who wore a string of bananas and little else while performing the ‘banana dance? Helping to tell the story of Josephine Baker is author Andrea Stuart.

The presenter is Matthew Parris and the producer is Perminder Khatkar.

TOM MURPHY, REST IN PEACE (1935-2018) ·

(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 5/16.)

Murphy gave the Irish canon a series of masterpieces. Peter Crawley assesses his drama

In 2006, during a public interview, Tom Murphy enumerated the three most common questions asked of a playwright: How do you write a play? What’s your play about? Where did you get the idea?

In his meticulous manner of speaking, lending unhurried emphasis to each word, he chose to answer the list in reverse.

“Where did you get the idea?” he began. “I think you might as well say, ‘Somewhere between heaven and Woolworths.’ Which is quite true. What’s the play about? I’d say a reasonable answer is to say, ‘My life.’ It’s not just an autobiographical thing, but it’s how I would apprehend life and in the course of creating a play to transcend that self and move it into art.”

He turned again to the first question – How do you write a play? – and answered, without a trace of flippancy, “I don’t know.”

Over the course of his long and distinguished career, one that gave the Irish canon a series of masterpieces, Murphy found a different answer to the question each time. “The most distinctive, the most restless, the most obsessive imagination at work in the Irish theatre today is Tom Murphy’s,” said Brian Friel, in 1980, before Murphy’s career had reached its midpoint, and the achievements of these two distinctly different artists became comparable.

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Photo: Irish Times

LAUREN RIDLOFF’S QUIET POWER: ‘MY LIFE HAS CHANGED IN EVERY WAY’ ·

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 02: Lauren Ridloff attends the 2018 Tony Awards Meet The Nominees Press Junket on May 2, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/11; via Pam Green.)  

Reviews like these are hard to come by. “Stupendously bold and expressive,” said The Wall Street Journal. “Instinctive brilliance,” said New York magazine. “Downright powerful,” said Entertainment Weekly. “Blistering” and “a knockout” said The New York Times.

But Lauren Ridloff, starring on Broadway in “Children of a Lesser God,” is so new to the theater world that she’s not sure what to make of it. On the day she was nominated for a Drama League award, she wondered, “Should I be excited?” as she searched for information about the contest. A week later, glancing at a phone at home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she beamed as she saw that she had been nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award. And then came the Tony nomination, on a rough morning when her 6-year-old had woken her at 5 a.m., demanding a bath.

It’s been a long journey in a short time for this 40-year-old former kindergarten teacher who has been deaf since birth, has no professional stage acting experience, and who describes herself on her Google Plus bio as a “stay at home mama.” As the play’s run nears its end, she is taking meetings with casting directors, posing for photographers, signing autographs at the stage door, saying good night to her two boys (the younger son is now 4; both are deaf) via FaceTime.

“My life has changed in every way,” she said in one of several interviews conducted with the assistance of an American Sign Language interpreter.

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BROADWAY ‘MOCKINGBIRD’ IS BACK ON TRACK, AS COURT DISPUTE ENDS ·

(Michael Paulson’s and Alexandra Alter’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/10; via Pam Green.)  

Atticus Finch is coming to Broadway. But how closely he will resemble the iconic figure from Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” remains a mystery.

The highly anticipated stage production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is proceeding after a blistering pair of federal lawsuits over a $7 million stage adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” were settled on Thursday, according to a statement from the parties.

That settlement means that the play, with a new script by the prominent Hollywood screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, will be allowed to go forward. The production, with Jeff Daniels starring as the heroic lawyer Atticus Finch and Bartlett Sher as its director, is scheduled to begin rehearsals in September, with previews starting in November and the show opening in December at the Shubert Theater.

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Photo: Famous Biographies

***** ‘LIFE AND FATE’ REVIEW – A REMARKABLE EPIC OF SOVIET HORROR AND HEARTBREAK (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/9.)

Consciously modelled on War and Peace, Vasily Grossman’s epic novel – written in 1960 but not published in Russia until 1988 – is not the easiest to transfer to the stage. Lev Dodin, as adapter and director, and the Maly Theatre of St Petersburg have done a heroic job in encompassing the book’s main themes, including the historic parallels between communism and fascism, and in giving the complex action, including the battle of Stalingrad, a miraculous fluidity.

Wisely, Dodin does not try to give us the whole book but focuses on key issues. Central to the story is the tortured conscience of a Jewish nuclear physicist, Viktor Shtrum, who in 1943 finds himself at odds with his scientific masters. This yields two unforgettable scenes. In the first we see the exultation of the suddenly indispensable Shtrum when he receives an approving phone call from Stalin. In the second, with its potent echoes of Brecht’s Galileo, Shtrum agonises over whether, to continue his research, he should sign a letter effectively condoning the death of Soviet dissidents.

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JOAN ACOCELLA ON BOB FOSSE: CROTCH SHOTS GALORE ·

(Acocella’s article appeared in the 5/24 issue of The New York Review of Books.)

Big Deal: Bob Fosse and Dance in the American Musical

by Kevin Winkler

Oxford University Press, 350 pp., $29.95

All That Jazz: The Life and Times of the Musical “Chicago”

by Ethan Mordden

Oxford University Press, 260 pp., $29.95

 

When people think of the work of Bob Fosse, Broadway’s foremost choreographer-director in the 1960s and 1970s, what they are likely to see in their minds is a group of dancers, in bowler hats and white gloves, standing in a stiff configuration and bobbing up and down in a cool sort of way. The dancers may rotate their wrists or splay their fingers, but they don’t stick out too many parts of themselves at one time, and they generally don’t travel around the stage much. They are often dressed in some combination of panties and garters and sheer silks; and even in the live shows, not to speak of the films, they offer you crotch shots galore. Not that they’re planning to do much with their crotches. Most of them would as soon knife you as go out with you. The sex is not sexual but satirical. It’s there to show us that every word we speak is a lie, that every promise will be broken.

That is what Fosse came to think about life, but even he was a child once. He was born in Chicago in 1927, the son of a salesman and a housewife, and he wandered into dance in what, for boys of the period, was the usual way, or the way they later claimed: his sister went to dance lessons, and he accompanied her. She quit; he stayed and became a star.

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