Category Archives: Interviews

WAYNE ALLENSWORTH’S AMERICAN SHOWDOWN II: THE AUTHOR OF ‘FIELD OF BLOOD’ ON THE EPIC, RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE/WESTERN ASSUMPTIONS, AND CHARACTERS WITH HARD CHOICES ·

Wayne Allensworth worked as an analyst for the Foreign Broadcast Information Service from 1991 to 2002.  He is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 1998.  He is a Corresponding Editor of Chronicles magazine.  His short story, Man of the West, was nominated for a Western Writers of America Spur award. He has contributed to the following collections: Exploring American History (Marshall Cavendish, 2008); Peace in the Promised Land: A Realist Scenario (Chronicles Books, 2006); Immigration and the American Identity (Chronicles Books, 2008); and Russian Nationalism and the National Reassertion of Russia, edited by Marlene Laruelle (Johns Hopkins University). He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas. 

Read Part 1 of Wayne Allensworth’s interview:

http://stagevoices.com/2017/04/15/wayne-allensworths-american-showdown-the-author-of-field-of-blood-on-modern-westerns-frontier-situations-and-the-best-books-and-films-in-the-genre-including-his/

Wayne Allensworth saddles up with SV’s Bob Shuman to talk about writing, formal institutions, and informal structures, in the conclusion to his two-part interview.

Read the prologue to FIELD OF BLOOD at the end of this post.

You mentioned Lonesome Dove as an example of an epic Western.  What makes a Western an epic?  Is “Field of Blood” an epic?

Epic Westerns are poetic, heroic, and tragic in the way of the ancient epics. There is a Homeric quality about them. They have a sweeping scope, taking in a series of adventures on a long trek, like the cattle drives in Red River and Lonesome Dove.  The backdrop is the mythic West, Ford’s Monument Valley, for instance.  The narrative may take place over a long period of time, maybe years, as in The Searchers, both Alan LeMay’s novel and Ford’s film.  But all good Westerns, books and movies, carry the elements of the epic within them to some degree, the tragedy of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, for example, the fatal last shootout, fatal both literally and mythically, in The Wild Bunch or The Shootist. Every good Western evokes mythic heroes and storied battles.  My Darling ClementineGunfight at the OK Corral, and Tombstone did that with the Earps and the Clantons.

My novel, Field of Blood, is an American epic, covering decades in time, encompassing wars, peacetime, and the new frontier situation the characters are confronted with. It’s about who we were, who we are, and what we are becoming. It is tragic, and in scope covers landscapes across the world and here at home. It’s a modern Western in the ways I’ve already covered, including a showdown very much in the vein of the old Westerns.  So I hope it might be thought of as an epic story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you come to write the novel–what was its inspiration?  Why was it important to tell this story?

My professional life has been spent on following events in Russia and the former Soviet Union. In trying to explain that reality, I had to look closely at what had happened in a country that had collapsed, where the old structures had been swept away.  There was a crisis of identity, as well as an economic and social crisis.

When the formal institutions of a country cease to function, or function only at a minimum level, then informal structures arise to fill the vacuum.  Those informal structures often include organized crime, as well as economic and political “clans” that actually govern, and of course, family, a few close friends acting together. The circle of trust shrinks.  The world becomes smaller. Life outside that circle becomes precarious.

Elections, court proceedings, these are mostly surface formalities. The rules are informal and are enforced outside the law and courts.  It may not be the legal system or police who punish those who violate the rules, but the hit man, the enforcer, or the police acting on behalf of informal “clans” or the criminal world.  On the other side of the coin, defending yourself means either seeking the protection of those who have the will and the weapons to do that, or acting yourself.  Just look at vigilante groups in Mexico for an example of that.  Often, it’s either current or former police or military, acting informally, who fill the gap.

Men belonging to a self-defense group stand at a checkpoint in the town of Las Colonias, Mexico, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Two leaders of the main vigilante groups in western Michoacan state said Tuesday that they are pulling back from confronting the Knights Templar drug cartel because the Mexican government has promised to oust traffickers from the area. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

I found that a lot of Americans were quite naïve about how much, probably most, of the rest of the world operates. Americans have taken a law-based country, one with high levels of social trust, for granted, as the norm, when in fact it’s a very rare thing. 

I lived in the Washington D.C. area for a number of years, and each time I visited my native Texas, I could see with my own eyes what was happening.  And I could read about the crime and corruption I was familiar with from my professional life gaining a foothold in a place and among people I cared very much about.  I could see what globalism meant for ordinary people.  And I could see that it was happening all over the country. Nobody had asked us about this.  People with power and influence were intent on creating a world they wanted, one in which our country and people were expendable. That explains where the premise for the book came from.

Do you consider yourself a political writer?

I didn’t set out to write a book about politics, but about people in a certain situation.  It carries my world view with it, of course.  Every writer has one.  I didn’t intend the book to be overly didactic, though I think the point or points made are pretty clear.  I think the situation we are in is plain to see now and all this is being talked about in a way it wasn’t when I started formulating this book and began writing back in 2010-2011. The story is about the characters and the choices they have to make. In the context of the story, what’s right or wrong and what can or should be done isn’t always clear.  That’s the way life is.

A good story puts its characters in situations that require them to make hard choices, situations that test them, that present them with a dilemma, or make them think about the most fundamental issues. Life, death, God, meaning, loyalty, identity, fight or flight.  Who is right, who is wrong, who the good guys or bad guys are isn’t always clear.  I was aiming for that kind of story.

Thank you so much, Wayne.

Read the prologue to FIELD OF BLOOD: Field of Blood Prologue

(c) 2017 by Wayne Allensworth (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Credits: Wayne Allensworth photo (c) 2017 by Elizabeth Allensworth Merino.  All rights reserved.

Photo Lonesome Dove: Cowboys and Indians Magazine.

Vigilante Group: Jammedup News

Texas: Free Creatives.

(c) 2017 by Wayne Allensworth (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV: ON THE STAGE IT’S JUST ME, AND BRODSKY’S POEMS ·

Mikhail Baryshnikov performs Brodsky/ Baryshnikov, based on the poems of Joseph Brodsky at BAC on March 8, 2016.
Photo Credit: ©Stephanie Berger

(Irene Kukota’s article appeared on Russia Beyound the Headlines, 4/17.)

Russian Art and Culture: How would you describe Brodsky/Baryshnikovin one sentence?

Mikhail Baryshnikov:. A poetic journey

What made you say “yes” to participating in Brodsky/Baryshnikov project staged by Alvis Hermanis?

M.B.: Alvis Hermanis invited me to do it, and I was honored to work with such a remarkable director. I couldn’t say no! I prefer live theater. The immediacy, the terror; it’s the ultimate challenge

Did you take part in the writing of the performance script? 

M.B.: There was never a script. The director, Alvis Hermanis, selected a range of poems including very early and very late ones. To explain the staging of this show would take a long time. We lived with this text for some time and it was a fascinating process for both Alvis and me.

It is frequently said that this show is about death, powerlessness against time and age. Do you also see it this way?

M.B.: I think that’s up to the audience to decide. They are the main participant after all. The goal is always to stay true to the director’s original vision. The set is a beautifully decrepit glass winter garden from the turn of the 20th century. I think it captures the quiet introspection and pensive mood of the play perfectly and Joseph would have loved it. It can be lonely out there, speaking of the ultimate challenge, but I love it.

(Read more)

http://rbth.com/arts/literature/2017/04/17/mikhail-baryshnikov-on-the-stage-its-just-me-and-brodkys-poems_742825

Photo Observer.

WAYNE ALLENSWORTH’S AMERICAN SHOWDOWN: THE AUTHOR OF ‘FIELD OF BLOOD’ ON MODERN WESTERNS, FRONTIER SITUATIONS, AND THE BEST BOOKS AND FILMS IN THE GENRE—INCLUDING HIS OWN ·

Wayne Allensworth worked as an analyst for the Foreign Broadcast Information Service from 1991 to 2002.  He is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 1998.  He is a Corresponding Editor of Chronicles magazine.  His short story, Man of the West, was nominated for a Western Writers of America Spur award. He has contributed to the following collections: Exploring American History (Marshall Cavendish, 2008); Peace in the Promised Land: A Realist Scenario (Chronicles Books, 2006); Immigration and the American Identity (Chronicles Books, 2008); and Russian Nationalism and the National Reassertion of Russia, edited by Marlene Laruelle (Johns Hopkins University). He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Wayne Allensworth saddles up with SV’s Bob Shuman to talk about writing the epic, the poetic, and the tragic in a two-part interview—Part 2 will be published 4/25.   Read the prologue to FIELD OF BLOOD at the end of this post.

Wayne, tell us about your new book—would it be fair to call it a “Western”?

 The themes and setting make Field of Blood what some might call a “modern Western.” I think of the book as taking place in an imagined present— a small Texas town is transformed as the American Southwest gradually melds with Mexico.  America is merging with Latin America, with all the dislocations, conflicts, and moral dilemmas that arise out of a clash of cultures.  We aren’t quite there yet, but are headed in that direction at a rapid pace. If the elite of both countries had their way, that’s where we would be now. That was my starting point.

I tried to imagine what that would look like. It’s very much a frontier situation.  The rule of law is breaking down where the old America is passing away, the globalized world bringing with it chaos and disorientation.  The corruption and frenzied violence of today’s Mexico are crossing the border.  That’s what’s coming. You might say that the drug cartels and their accomplices are a criminal counterpart to trans-national corporations, both out to take advantage of the erosion of borders and national institutions.  They share an interest in dissolving boundaries, doing away with the old institutions, and exploiting the situation for profit, no matter what the cost to ordinary people. 

My characters are struggling with the new reality and their own sense of identity, as well as a sense of loss.  I tried to get at the surrealism of globalization, and the bizarre situations it creates.  America is being forcibly merged with Latin America, but it doesn’t stop there, not for us or them. It’s really an anti-human and anti-humane world, one without reference points, that benefits the most ruthless among us the most.

In this setting, I set up a situation that forces people to take sides in a way that is especially pronounced on a frontier.  It’s the kind of dilemma that leads to an inevitable showdown. That’s very much like a traditional Western, but in a modern, or post-modern, setting.

How did you become interested in Westerns–and what is it about them that made you want to write them?

My grandfather told me stories about the Old West when I was a boy.  I heard stories about Quanah Parker, the range wars, about his meeting Frank James, and seeing Geronimo.  Westerns are uniquely American, they are elemental, dealing with fundamental issues—survival, identity, loyalty—and they are about us, about our people and how we came to be what and who we are.

I read Westerns my grandfather would pass along to me after he had read them, books by writers like Louis L’Amour, Ernest Haycox, Jack Schaefer, and Alan LeMay.  Later on in life, I read Larry McMurtry, Charles Portis, and Cormac McCarthy.  McMurtry wrote his great epic Western, Lonesome Dove, in an urbanized, technological era when Westerns had fallen out of fashion.  I think he revived the Western.  McCarthy wrote his masterpiece, Blood Meridian, as a metaphysical Western, one that drew on authors like Melville and Conrad, but the violence and stylistics of the novel were from a later period. McCarthy took the Western to places it hadn’t been before.  You might call some of these books “modern Westerns,” books like McMurtry’s Horseman Pass By, McCarthy’s border trilogy, and his No Country for Old Men.  Modern Westerns, especially, have an elegiac quality about them; they are stories chronicling the passing of an era, the passing of the old America, its values and way of life.  But that sense of something dying out, that something we’ll miss, the good and the bad, is part of a lot of Westerns.

Westerns were once a very important genre in America cinema, and movie Westerns and Western books drew on each other. It was a two-way street, the books, dating back to the dime novels of the 19th century, to the authors I’ve mentioned.  They provided much of the raw material for movie Westerns, and the films provided a lot of the imagery used in subsequent Western stories. The great movie Westerns, films like StagecoachRed RiverShaneHigh NoonThe Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, gave the genre its stock of characters and themes, and the imagery of a mythical West.  Directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks set the standard for movie Westerns and made them art. Movie stars like John Wayne and Gary Cooper became the face of American Westerns. John Wayne, in particular, became a symbol of the American Western.  Clint Eastwood took up Wayne’s mantle to a certain degree. He was in Westerns on TV and in the movies, and, together with director Don Siegel, made modern Westerns like Coogan’s Bluff and, some would say, Dirty Harry, which I’ve heard called an “urban Western.” 

I think films like Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country and his best movie, The Wild Bunch, drew on the somber tone and texture of elegiac Westerns.  The Wild Bunch took Western films into some of the places Cormac McCarthy would take the literary Western.  Peckinpah made modern Westerns like Junior Bonner and The Getaway, while films based on McMurtry’s books, Hud and The Last Picture Show, contrasted the Old West with the new one, the ideal of the West as we like to think of it, and the realities of modern life.  That kind of movie is still with us—just look at the success of Hell or High Water.

Thank you so much.  Looking forward to next week.

Read the prologue to FIELD OF BLOOD: Field of Blood Prologue

Read Part II of this interview: http://stagevoices.com/2017/04/26/wayne-allensworths-american-showdown-ii-the-author-of-field-of-blood-on-the-epic-russian-intelligence-western-assumptions-and-asking-his-characters-to-make-hard-choices/

Wayne Allensworth photo (c) 2017 by Elizabeth Allensworth Merino.  All rights reserved.

(c) 2017 by Wayne Allensworth (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved. 

ON TIME, WITH DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PART II: THE AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF “YOUR BEST AGE IS NOW” CALLS FOR SOUL-SATISFYING LIVES, CALLS OUT CULTURALLY INDUCED FEAR ABOUT AGING, AND CALLS UP THE ADOLESCENT WITHIN ·

Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. is a nationally known psychotherapist, award-winning reporter, and author. She is a relationship contributor for Investigation Discovery Network’s Scorned, and has hosted TLC’s reality show One Week to Save Your Marriage and GSN’s Without Prejudice? Dr. Ludwig is a regular guest on CNN, Fox News, and Headline News, discussing psychological and lifestyle issues as well as the criminal mind. She has appeared on Today, Entertainment Tonight, 20/20, World News Tonight, Nightline, The View, Fox and Friends, Steve Harvey, The Wendy Williams Show, and is on the medical board and a contributor for BELLA Magazine. She also writes for the Huffington Post. Dr. Ludwig lives in New York City.

Dr. Robi Ludwig helps Bob Shuman through the golden years, in the final part of her Stage Voices interview.  

One quality a survivor in the aging wars must cultivate?  

I see two qualities being crucial:  cultivating a little bit of moxie–and resiliency!

What are people missing about themselves, people who do feel that age is creeping up on them? 

I’m not sure that people are missing anything, but there is a culturally induced fear about aging—somehow we believe we will become less in some way: less relevant, less wanted, less noticed.

This is what I address in Your Best Age Is Now, that we are improving in so many ways as we age. We continue to make new brain cells, showing that we are not “losing it”; many midlifers describe feeling more confident. We are able to problem-solve better; we become wiser and better able to plug into what’s important. We know what we want out of life and from the people in our lives. Many even describe themselves as getting better with age: having a better body, and looking better. Our personalities continue to change all the way into our 60s. We become more conscientious and agreeable. Due to the changes going on in our brains, we become more likely to see the world and the people in our world through a more optimistic lens.

How would you advise a woman who wants to–or has to–change careers after age 50 and is scared?

Don’t follow your fear, follow your plan.

It’s important to do some preliminary research about the field you’d like to go into.

Reach out to any connections you’ve made over the years who might be able to help you. Sometimes it’s our acquaintances who are the most helpful when it comes to providing new connections.

Don’t give up your day job before you fully explore what opportunities are available.

And be willing to get some experience via exploring this new career, as a hobby or via an internship. Sometimes volunteering one’s time can lead to the perfect opportunity for that new career transition.

Are women’s concerns about aging differently than men’s?

I think women in the past had it harder than men. Society was certainly tougher on the aging woman than the aging man. But things have changed. Men can be just as hard on themselves about the aging process

What do you recommend to your clients—or what do you see as first steps that they are taking—to break the cycle of being defined by age?

First, I advise them to get acquainted with the new science about midlife. It’s a lot more positive than what we’ve been led to believe. Then, it’s important to get in touch with your teen energy, since there are similarities between midlife and adolescence:

-Learn how to say “Yes” to life

-Get in touch with your inner moxie

-Find both older and younger role models

-Live with a “You Only Live Once” attitude

-And surround yourself with supportive friends and family

We really do lead more with our essence than our age. I think this is an important point for all of us to keep in mind.

How do you beat feelings of age, should they come up?

I follow the advice in my book Your Best Age is Now, and I continue to follow my passions and the fun in life.

Who did you give a copy of your book to at the holidays?

I gave a copy to some of my closest friends: mother and sister, and they were both very appreciative.

Thank you so much for talking with us.

View Your Best Age Is Now, from HarperOne, on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Your-Best-Age-Now-Soul-Satisfying/dp/0062357190/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490750224&sr=8-1&keywords=your+best+age+now

Visit Dr. Ludwig’s Web site:  http://drrobiludwig.com/

Read Part 1 of the Dr. Ludwig interview:  http://stagevoices.com/2017/03/29/robi-ludwig-on-time-the-psychotherapist-thinks-through-the-aging-crisis-counters-hollywood-expiration-dates-and-celebrates-the-new-release-of-her-paperback-edition-of-you/

(c) 2017 by Robi Ludwig, Psy.D (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

 

ON TIME, WITH DR. ROBI LUDWIG: THE PSYCHOTHERAPIST THINKS THROUGH THE AGING CRISIS, COUNTERS HOLLYWOOD “EXPIRATION DATES,” AND CELEBRATES THE NEW RELEASE OF HER PAPERBACK EDITION OF “YOUR BEST AGE IS NOW” ·

Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. is a nationally known psychotherapist, award-winning reporter, and author. She is a relationship contributor for Investigation Discovery Network’s Scorned, and has hosted TLC’s reality show One Week to Save Your Marriage and GSN’s Without Prejudice? Dr. Ludwig is a regular guest on CNN, Fox News, and Headline News, discussing psychological and lifestyle issues as well as the criminal mind. She has appeared on Today, Entertainment Tonight, 20/20, World News Tonight, Nightline, The View, Fox and Friends, Steve Harvey, The Wendy Williams Show, and is on the medical board and a contributor for BELLA Magazine. She also writes for the Huffington Post. Dr. Ludwig lives in New York City.

Dr. Robi Ludwig helps SV’s Bob Shuman through the golden years, in a two-part interview—Part 2 will be published 4/4.   

What led you to write Your Best Age Is Now—and when did you discover aging was something you were interested in?

It was really my own personal experiences that led me to write about midlife and aging: I perceived how age was being discussed during certain TV interviews, what the information about aging really was out there, and how the myths about midlife were not jiving or in sync with what I was seeing. Midlife, typically, is described as a time of loss or losing it, yet I was seeing much more positive and youthful examples of midlife and aging, both in my daily life and in my professional life. I felt the need to write about them.

How about if people are fine with their aging—they just don’t think society knows how to deal with it. 

I think that’s great! If a person is fine with aging I say, “Go, you!” My book can be for people who are fine with aging, too. I just have observed, in general, that our culture makes it hard to age, because of the very internalized and incorrect biases our society holds onto so tightly.

Did you laugh at Jimmy Kimmel’s joke at the Oscars when he said, “we are very welcoming to outsiders here in Hollywood—we [only] discriminate against them based on their age and weight?”  Isn’t he right?  Are we dealing with real discrimination or is it in our heads?

I do think Hollywood is particularly guilty of age and weight discrimination because it tends to be youth-obsessed and movies are a business that caters to visual perfection and fantasy. Having said that, cultural ideas, even if they are biased and incorrect, can creep into the social consciousness of our collective psyches and create arbitrary expiration dates, which can be very dangerous emotionally–both for individuals and our society.

How would you describe what your book is about?

Your Best Age Is Now highlights some of the distortions about midlife and aging and combats them with the latest science. I also have midlife mentors, in each chapter, who are quite inspiring—they discuss how they live life passionately and successfully. We all need role models!  So my book offers a program for people to follow, so they can inspire themselves to fight ageism with new and more accurate information–and in doing so, open up life possibilities 

What mistakes do you see women making regarding their ages that bother you?

The biggest mistake I see people make is when they go into a self-attack regarding the aging process. They may be experiencing getting older as a way to rule themselves out of the kind of lives they want to experience.

Can’t women age gracefully anymore?

Women can absolutely age gracefully, and many do. But the biggest part of aging gracefully is first to be able to age gracefully in your mind. The rest of the process can–and often does–happen from there.

But you’re well-educated and successful—isn’t this subject different for someone like you?

I think there is a universality to the human experience, even if you’re well-educated and successful. Everyone wants to remain relevant, no matter how well-educated or successful he or she appears to the outside world.

For those who have worked in other careers or raised a family, how can they respond to the presumption that their “experience is from some time ago and might not translate well into a role in the present day”?

The midlife worker, who has taken time out from the working world, will need to get back up to speed. When it comes to a career someone is looking to get back into, this can be done by reading and becoming informed. It might also mean taking some new courses. But what’s nice about midlife workers, who have taken some time out, is that they have so many more connections than they did when they were younger. And many of these connections can be helpful when segueing back into the work world.

Isn’t it better for companies to have younger employees, though—wouldn’t the bottom line be less and wouldn’t it be easier to pass on corporate ways of working?

I think there is a place for all workers and that the right employees should be hired on more than just age criteria. Employment should be based on hiring the best person for the job, her relevance, how she is staying current, how she is passionate about the work, and what value she–or he–adds to the company or team.

The most amazing transformation you’ve seen in a client or acquaintance regarding aging?

The most amazing transformation I’ve seen was with one of my clients, who considered herself unlucky and a failure at love.  She changed her mind, found the man of her dreams during midlife, and went on to live the life she always wanted to liveShe’s never been happier or felt more satisfied.

Thank you so much.  We’ll look forward to next week.

Read Part 2 of the Dr. Ludwig interview: 

http://stagevoices.com/2017/04/05/on-time-with-dr-robi-ludwig-part-ii-the-award-winning-reporter-calls-out-culturally-induced-fear-about-aging-calls-on-the-new-release-of-her-paperback-edition-of-your-best-age-is-now/

View Your Best Age Is Now, from HarperOne, on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Your-Best-Age-Now-Soul-Satisfying/dp/0062357190/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490750224&sr=8-1&keywords=your+best+age+now

Visit Dr. Ludwig’s Web site:  http://drrobiludwig.com/

(c) 2017 by Robi Ludwig, Psy.D (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

SIR TIM RICE DISCUSSES MUSIC AND HIS MUSICALS (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3–LINK BELOW) ·

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05sxy5j

Tim Rice has written the lyrics for some of the most successful musicals of our generation: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat … Jesus Christ Superstar … Evita … For 45 years he has been creating hit songs, collaborating first and famously with Andrew Lloyd Webber, then with Abba, Elton John, Freddy Mercury and Madonna. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, thanks to the success of his songs in Disney movies The Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. A three-time Oscar winner, he has been knighted for services to music.

In Private Passions, he talks to Michael Berkeley about the process of lyric-writing, about why it’s an extraordinary experience to work with Elton John, and about what it is that makes a successful song lyric. He also reveals that his early ambition was to be a pop star, and that he started out as a singer – in fact, he recorded a single.

Music choices include a satirical operetta by Offenbach, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony, The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius, Malcolm Arnold’s Peterloo Overture and Britten’s arrangement of the folk song The Plough Boy. And Tim Rice ends by revealing which is his favourite musical of all – music his father introduced him to as a boy: My Fair Lady.

Produced by Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 3.

Photo: D23.com

 

LARS EIDINGER INTERVIEW IN BERLIN ·

(Philip Oltermann’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/23.)

When Lars Eidinger first appeared as a careerist Nazi officer in the BBC’s recent TV show SS-GB, some drama critics snapped their pencils in despair. Here was one of Europe’s finest young actors, already hailed as one of the great Hamlets of the 21st century, cheapening himself as a cartoon Nazi, complete with creaky leather trench coat, shiny boots and skull-and-crossbones cap. And all that for a series with a whiff of Brexit agitprop about it, as the new German rulers of Britain rhapsodise about “citizens of a united Europe” while plotting expansions for Siemens and Bosch.

But by last Sunday’s final episode of this alt-history of the second world war, something had changed. Eidinger’s SS officer, Oskar Huth, who had stormed into post-Battle of Britain London as a snappy workaholic, had quietly transformed into a world-weary existentialist, overcome by the futility of it all yet stoically refusing a blindfold as he faces the firing squad. It was an audacious heist of a performance: even the Daily Telegraph thought the Nazi had stolen the show.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/23/lars-eidinger-ss-gb-personal-shopper-interview

Photo:  Schaubuhne

MAY ADRALES’S ‘STRANGEST’ INTERVIEW II: REAL LIFE, REAL WORK AS A PROFESSIONAL DIRECTOR; PEOPLE, PLAYS, PERSPIRATION—RUNNING LONG-DISTANCE AND CREATING THE MOST POWERFUL THEATRE POSSIBLE ·

MAY ADRALES is a freelance director and teacher based in New York City.  She helmed the world premieres of Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club/South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Seattle Rep; Luce at LCT3, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Actors Theater of Louisville; after all the terrible things I do at Milwaukee Rep; Mary at The Goodman Theatre; In This House at Two River Theater Company; Qui Nguyen’s Five Days Till Saturday (NYU Tisch); Richard Dresser’s Trouble Cometh at San Francisco Playhouse; and  Katori Hall’s Whaddabloodclot!!! at Williamstown Theater Festival.  Upcoming:  Imani Uzuri and Zakiyyah Alexander’s girl shakes loose at Penumbra Theater; Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest at East 4th Theater; and Chisa Hutchinson’s Somebody’s Daughter at Second Stage Theatre.

Adrales is the recipient of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s inaugural Denham Fellowship and the Paul Green Emerging Directing Award.  She is a recipient of a TCG New Generations grant.  She has been awarded directing fellowships at New York Theater Workshop,  Women’s Project, SoHo Rep, and The Drama League.  She is a proud Artistic Associate at Milwaukee Rep.  Adrales has directed and taught at NYU, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Fordham University, and Bard College.  She served as a faculty member for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab (2006-2009).  She is on faculty at Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages and taught Directing Shakespeare at Brown/Trinity MFA program.  Adrales is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and currently serves on the faculty.  

A first-generation Filipina American, Adrales grew up in southwest Virginia with her three sisters JoAnn, Gina, and Tricia and had a backyard full of chickens, pheasant, and dogs.  Her father, Dr. Mamerto B. Adrales, is a general surgeon and her mother, Jocelyn Divinagracia Adrales, is a nurse.  They established a home and successful family practice in Covington, Virginia.  May is a lover of ice cream and martinis, and she balances this love with a passion for running and marathon racing.   Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband-to-be, architect and theater designer, Brad Kisicki.  

Visit May’s Web site: http://www.mayadrales.net  

 

May Adrales gets immersive with SV’s Bob Shuman—Part II.

One skill a director must have?

A strong curiosity about the world we are living in.  And an ability to translate that curiosity into the work. 

How should a playwright best interact with a director?  How are the boundaries between the two best set—and what are they?  How do you work with Betty Shamieh? 

Every playwright/director relationship is different.  You are in a marriage of sorts, so you have to work out how best to communicate with one another.   I think you must build an innate trust and know that you both want to create the most powerful theatrical event possible.  I also don’t try to go out to “fix” a play.  I believe unequivocally in the power of The Strangest and only wish to interpret what’s on the page in the most persuasive and moving way possible. 

What’s different about being a professional director than you suspected as a student? How would you advise a young director, or your students, trying to break into the business today?

I teach a class at Yale called “Bridge to the Profession,” which aims to prepare students for the professional world.  I try to get them to think more specifically about who they are–what drives them, what are they curious about in the world–and also what work they want to put out in the world.  I try to guide them, practically speaking, by teaching them a little about self-producing, budgeting, and also balancing personal and work life.  

Would you tell them to read reviews—and what kinds of things might they learn from critics?

It’s helpful to read reviews sometimes.  I always do.  It’s always painful to read about your work in sound bites when you have dedicated at least half a year, usually more, to the project.  But my professor, Liz Diamond, once advised us to read reviews and reflect on the facts of the review– what the reviewer saw–rather than the adjectives.  It was an important lesson for me. I was able to cut through the biting critique and better understand the work I put on stage.  Now, as a teacher, I try to lead a class discussion on failure and success and ask students to determine what their own criteria for success is, rather than a reviewer’s.  

Most influential director, person in theatre, or mentor in your life?

Lee Breuer of Mabou Mines.  He taught me to dare inventively, shake off fear, and eschew the need for acceptance in my work. 

How do you beat the stress that comes with your job?

I used to smoke. Now I long-distance run.  But red wine and good company makes the stress always go away.

Best recent Broadway or Off-Broadway play? How do you know what fine directorial work is?

Simon McBurney’s Mnemonic opened my eyes to what technology could do in theater; Lee Breuer’s The Doll’s House showed me the skillful hand of a director and how a director can push the envelope again and again within one production; and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters– it was the first play I ever saw Off-Broadway that had characters that resembled me and my family.   

Must all good stage work be political?

I think by nature all theater is political.  It’s a political act to engage in a community that presents you with another way to live life and empathize with people other than yourself.  But good theater is a rare alchemy–there are so many elements that must cohere in order for it to be impactful and powerful.  Theater with only a political message often bores me, but theater that can ignite real questions, about what it means to live in this world, and that questions my own way of thinking is what I go to the theater for.   

When are or were you happiest in the theatre?

When I see the strange and the beautiful collide in an unexpected way.  When I see dissonance on stage and it shakes me to the core.  When I see pure joy expressed and feel free myself.  It’s a wondrous thing to be moved by such fiction.

Thank you so much.

Read Part I of the interview with May Adrales: 

http://stagevoices.com/2017/03/09/may-adrales-says-the-strangest-things-the-director-on-a-new-project-at-east-4th-theater-311-41-work-with-playwright-betty-shamieh-and-her-marriage-proposal-the-night/

The Semitic Root presents

The Strangest

An Immersive Murder Mystery Experience Set in French Algiers

Inspired by Albert Camus’ Classic Novel, The Stranger

Written by Betty Shamieh

Directed by May Adrales

March 12 – April 1

Fourth Street Theatre

TICKETS:

Regular Price: $25

Premium: $45 (Includes a reserved seat and a signed program)

Purchase: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2822899

Press: Hanna Raskin/GOGO Public Relations and Marketing

(c) 2017 by May Adrales (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Photo:  Stephanie Keith (Alok Tewari as Abu)

MAY ADRALES’S ‘STRANGEST’ INTERVIEW: THE DIRECTOR ON WORK WITH PLAYWRIGHT BETTY SHAMIEH, IMMERSION AT FOURTH STREET THEATRE (3/12–4/1), AND HER MARRIAGE PROPOSAL–THE NIGHT BEFORE TECH ·

MAY ADRALES is a freelance director and teacher based in New York City.  She helmed the world premieres of Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club/South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Seattle Rep; Luce at LCT3, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Actors Theater of Louisville; after all the terrible things I do at Milwaukee Rep; Mary at The Goodman Theatre; In This House at Two River Theater Company; Qui Nguyen’s Five Days Till Saturday (NYU Tisch); Richard Dresser’s Trouble Cometh at San Francisco Playhouse; and  Katori Hall’s Whaddabloodclot!!! at Williamstown Theater Festival.  Upcoming:  Imani Uzuri and Zakiyyah Alexander’s girl shakes loose at Penumbra Theater; Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest at East 4th Theater; and Chisa Hutchinson’s Somebody’s Daughter at Second Stage Theatre.

Adrales is the recipient of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s inaugural Denham Fellowship and the Paul Green Emerging Directing Award.  She is a recipient of a TCG New Generations grant.  She has been awarded directing fellowships at New York Theater Workshop,  Women’s Project, SoHo Rep, and The Drama League.  She is a proud Artistic Associate at Milwaukee Rep.  Adrales has directed and taught at NYU, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Fordham University, and Bard College.  She served as a faculty member for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab (2006-2009).  She is on faculty at Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages and taught Directing Shakespeare at Brown/Trinity MFA program.  Adrales is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and currently serves on the faculty.  

A first-generation Filipina American, Adrales grew up in southwest Virginia with her three sisters JoAnn, Gina, and Tricia and had a backyard full of chickens, pheasant, and dogs.  Her father, Dr. Mamerto B. Adrales, is a general surgeon and her mother, Jocelyn Divinagracia Adrales, is a nurse.  They established a home and successful family practice in Covington, Virginia.  May is a lover of ice cream and martinis, and she balances this love with a passion for running and marathon racing.   Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband-to-be, architect and theater designer, Brad Kisicki.  

Visit May’s Web site: http://www.mayadrales.net  

May Adrales gets immersive with SV’s Bob Shuman in a tw0-part interview—Part 2 will be published 3/18.  

Isn’t it easier to deal with a dead playwright? 

It may be easier to work with a dead playwright, but not nearly as gratifying, or as much fun.  I gravitate towards new writers because I thrive from those collaborations.  I love working on a play from the ground up.  And I love the thrill and challenge of trying out choices for the first time.  There is nothing more exhilarating and terrifying than sitting in the audience for a first preview.

What does a typical day look like when you’re in rehearsal or running a show—and what is it like before that, when you are preparing for a play?  

For the last few years, I’ve mainly been in rehearsals for one production while preparing for another at the same time. And more often than not, I’m also doing the groundwork for the production which will come after them.  I do savor the rare moments when I just have the time to meditate and reflect on a play, without having to make hard production decisions. It takes a lot of focus to manage each project successfully.  But I’m at my best when I get at least 5-6 hours of sleep a night and have a nice run first thing in the morning–then I  can welcome the workday with a clear head.  

After the success of Vietgone, why did you decide to do The Strangest, Betty Shamieh’s play inspired by Camus—and how did you become involved?

I have a long history with this play and with Betty.  I’ve admired and supported her work for a long time.  We did a workshop production of the play while she was in residence at Here Arts Center five years ago, and I think it’s one of her strongest works to date.  At this point in time, I want to do plays that are part of a larger resistance to what is happening politically in this country.  This play centers on two Middle Eastern female protagonists and their fierce fight for equality.  It also explains their need to reframe a narrative that has been dominated by colonial power.  Despite the fact that it is painfully difficult to independently produce, I feel it’s the most urgent story I can tell right now. 

Tell us about casting—who are your actors for The Strangest and what did you need to keep in mind while you were making your decisions?

I have the most extraordinary cast.  These are actors whom I have known and admired for a long time. Many of them have done development workshops and readings, including the extraordinary, powerful, and imaginative Jacqueline Antaramian. Roxanna Hope Radja has consistently blown me away in performance.  And now she is doing breathtaking work in rehearsals.   We were so lucky to secure the ever-powerful, yet gentle and sensual Alok Tewari, who did the first workshop production at Here, five years ago.  I was lucky to meet Juri Henley Cohn and Louis Sallan at an audition for a production of Disgraced.  They ultimately were not in that production, but I was so impressed with their talent that I cast them in this without an audition.  The ever-fun, imaginative, and talented Andrew Guilarte had just played the lead for me in a production, and he has returned to The Strangest, after being part of its development. 

Directorially, what are the challenges of working on immersive theatre?

The liveness of immersive theater is the most unpredictable and most influential element.  I think the proximity of the actors to spectators gives a sense of urgency and now-ness, unparalleled in film and TV and even in other proscenium-type houses.  The actors have to step up their games; they are always in close-up and the second they let go of their circumstances, characters, or stakes, the audience knows that–and feels it. 

Most insane problem you’ve encountered as a director in the last year?

Oh … so many problems to choose from … but last September, my schedule was so packed that the only time my boyfriend could propose to me was the night before I went into tech.  Not exactly a problem, but certainly an extraordinary event and circumstance.   He proposed in Central Park, and I had my backpack on filled with script and production notes. 

Thanks so much, May. Looking forward to next week.

Read Part 2 of this interview: https://stagevoices.com/2017/03/19/may-adraless-strangest-interview-ii-real-life-real-work-as-a-professional-director-people-plays-perspiration-best-shows-best-practise-running-long-distance-and-creating-the-m/ 

The Semitic Root presents

The Strangest 

An Immersive Murder Mystery Experience Set in French Algiers

Inspired by Albert Camus’ Classic Novel, The Stranger

 Written by Betty Shamieh

Directed by May Adrales

 March 12 – April 1

Fourth Street Theatre

TICKETS:

Regular Price: $25; Premium: $45 (Includes a reserved seat and a signed program)

 Purchase: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2822899

Press: Hanna Raskin/GOGO Public Relations and Marketing

(c) 2017 by May Adrales (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT MERYL STREEP ·

(Maria Ward’s article appeared in Vogue, 2/25; via Pam Green.

Meryl Streep has played many roles in her 40-year-long film career, most recently a tone-deaf opera singer with dreams to perform at Carnegie Hall, which earned her a Best Actress in a Leading Role Academy Award nomination. “I’m curious about other people,” Streep has said. “That’s the essence of my acting. I’m interested in what it would be like to be you.” Streep has always been interested in transformation; as she once told Vogue, when she was little, she would draw age lines on her face, pretending to be her own grandmother. Since making her film debut at age 28 in Julia, Streep has racked up three Oscar wins and 20 nominations in acting awards—more nominations than any other actor in the history of the Academy Awards. Here, in honor of her most recent recognition, five other things you may not have known about the inimitable Meryl Streep.

  1. Jane Fonda was Streep’s mentor.In a 2014 interview with Good Morning America,Fonda recalled her own experiences as an up-and-coming actress: “I was close to Bette Davis. I was close to Barbara Stanwyck [and] Katharine Hepburn. And why didn’t I ask them endless questions? ‘What do you do when you are nervous? How do you overcome fear?’ And I didn’t!” Fonda said. “You know the only person who has ever asked me those kinds of questions? And of course it would be her: Meryl Streep.” Streep previously acknowledged this career coaching (which began on the set of the 1977 drama, Julia) while paying tribute to Fonda at the 2014 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony: “I was so nervous because all of my scenes were going to be with you,” Streep confessed. “[Fonda] had this almost feral alertness, like this bright blue attentiveness to everything that was around her that was completely intimidating—and made me feel like I was lumpy and from New Jersey, which . . . I am.”

(Read more)

http://www.vogue.com/article/meryl-streep-5-things-you-didnt-know?mbid=social_facebook

(Photo: Awards Daily)