Category Archives: Uncategorized

‘THE CLIMBERS’ BY CLYDE FITCH (METROPOLITAN PLAYHOUSE–9/8-10/8)—NEXT ON THE STAGE VOICES CALENDAR ·

‘THE CLIMBERS’ BY CLYDE FITCH (METROPOLITAN PLAYHOUSE)

ABOUT:

ARE WE THERE, YET?

By Alex Roe

In the land of opportunity, no star is beyond our grasp. No aspiration is too high, if only we will reach for it.  But is the invitation to continually strive a gift, or a curse? Is opportunity-worship devotion to a jealous idol? Is it, in fact, a goblin haunting the American dream? 

Farcical and heartbreaking by turns, Clyde Fitch’s 1901 The Climbers defies easy categorization, but by changing its own tone, this long-overlooked play captures  an elusive quarry and an essential conundrum for the American social animal.  At the dawn of the 20th century, the altruistic and esteemed head of the Hunter family  has died before his time, leaving his wife and three daughters with an unwelcome surprise. Desperate in his final months to keep up with the demands of their extravagant social life, he made a risky investment and lost the family’s once substantial fortune, leaving them with no assets or income at all. 

If the fires of adversity prove one’s mettle, the various members of this family seem to be made of different stuff. Mr. Hunter’s widow, youngest daughter, and son-in-law scheme to dupe others into making up their losses. Meanwhile, his sister and two elder  daughters vow to care for themselves and their families whatever the personal costs.  From these different campaigns spring both the wicked comedy and tender pathos of the play. 

(Read more)

http://metropolitanplayhouse.org/essayclimbers

and Read more….The Clyde Fitch Report

Photo: L to R: Levi Adkins, Becca Ballenger, Margaret Catov, Matt McAllister
Alexandra Anne, Erin Leigh Schmoyer, Marc LeVasseur, David Licht,
Erin Beirnard (concealed), Alyssa Simonb
photo: Tanya Parks

ELEVATOR REPAIR SERVICE TACKLES SHAKESPEARE’S ‘MEASURE FOR MEASURE’ ·

(Jason Zinoman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/14; via Pam Green.)

Elevator Repair Service, one of the city’s few truly essential theater companies, has always delighted in a good problem, whether it’s how to dramatize oral arguments from the Supreme Court or stage the famously difficult-to-adapt novel “The Great Gatsby” without sacrificing a word. So it makes sense that when its artistic director, John Collins, decided to direct his first Shakespeare, he decided on “Measure for Measure,” perhaps Shakespeare’s most problematic of problem plays.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/theater/elevator-repair-service-tackles-shakespeares-problem-play.html

Photo: Elevator Repair Service

WILL THE OLD GAY PLAY HAVE SOMETHING NEW TO SAY? ·

(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/7; via Pam Green.)  

Many of us who arrived in New York in the last decades of the last century, looking to the theater for news about what it meant to be gay, found ourselves serially disheartened.

Starting with Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band” in 1968, and continuing with Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song Trilogy” about a dozen years later, we faced quite a fun house mirror of gay life. Or perhaps a house of horrors.

“The Boys in the Band,” daring in its forthrightness, situated its characters on a Kinsey scale from four to six and a psychological spectrum from damaged to desperate. Arnold Beckoff, the protagonist of “Torch Song Trilogy,” could have been one of them. Though sympathetic and sassy, he was still a drag queen in an era that did not valorize that.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/theater/will-the-old-gay-play-have-something-new-to-say.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fjesse-green&action=click&contentCollection=undefined&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection

 

THE KITCHEN IS HER STAGE. (IT COULD ACTUALLY BE YOUR KITCHEN.) ·

(Ligaya Mishan’s article appeared in The New York Time, 8/30; via Pam Green.)

The rehearsal room smelled of onions slackening in a pan. They hissed on the stove, in the basement of a Lutheran church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as Nadine Malouf hacked at a slab of beef, her eyes fixed on her director, Amir Nizar Zuabi, and not the knife, which was closing in on her fingertips.

“I don’t want her to cut herself,” Mr. Zuabi said, seated in a folding chair nearby. “But I want her to make mistakes.”

It was the third day of rehearsals for “Oh My Sweet Land,” Mr. Zuabi’s 2013 play about a woman (Ms. Malouf) of Syrian-German descent whose search for a lost lover takes her from a sheltered life in Paris to the refugee camps of Lebanon and Jordan and finally into Syria, to confront the smoldering remains of her cultural inheritance. First performed in Lausanne, Switzerland, and then in London at the Young Vic, where Mr. Zuabi is an international associate, the one-woman show will have its United States premiere in New York on Friday, Sept. 8, presented by the Play Company.

But the location is a mystery — even to Ms. Malouf, 30, who won’t have a chance to see where she’ll be performing until half an hour before showtime almost every night. For Mr. Zuabi, displacement is integral to the narrative. Ms. Malouf will be forced to navigate unfamiliar surroundings again and again. “Every kitchen will have a new geography,” Mr. Zuabi, 41, said. “Every evening will be a new voyage.”

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/theater/oh-my-sweet-land-amir-nizar-zuabi.html

RACE, MONEY AND BROADWAY: HOW ‘GREAT COMET’ BURNED OUT ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/29; via Pam Green.)

“Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” is closing on Broadway after a racially charged and distinctly contemporary conflagration. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

The young, flamboyant and unusually diverse collective of actors and musicians who brought “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” to Broadway enjoyed the giddy highs of theater’s most glamorous perch — a run at the grand Imperial Theater, a season-topping 12 Tony nominations, a spotlight shared with the pop star Josh Groban.

For most of the performers, it was their first time on a Broadway stage. Costumed as punkified peasants and aristocrats in a bold musical adaptation of Tolstoy, they danced down the aisles, handing out pierogies and creating an unusually immersive musical experience.

Now they are seeing the sharp edge of Broadway. The show is collapsing after a conflagration that was racially charged and distinctly contemporary: a social media uproar prompted by the financially motivated decision to bring in a white actor to replace a black actor who had succeeded a white actor.

The result: Investors will lose most of the production’s $14 million capitalization, and more than 100 people will be out of jobs after the final performance on Sunday.

Even in a flop-prone industry, the sudden crash of the musical stands out, reflecting competing challenges for commercial theater: the benefits of star power, the hunger for diversity and the high costs of producing on Broadway. Add in Twitter, and things can get messy.

Continue reading the main story

PHOENIX THEATRE ENSEMBLE: CASTING ANNOUNCED FOR MOLIERE’S HILARIOUS ‘TARTUFFE’ ·

PTE’s 2017-18 season is dedicated to “The Charismatic”–why do we often quite unreasonably follow certain people, faiths or ideas.  We start off with Moliere’s brilliant comedy! Tartuffe is a charismatic who has been touched by God. He is a visionary. He practices religious devotion and self-sacrifice. He has fits. He converses with the divine. He can be very scary. Orgon invites him home to live with his family and introduces him to his beautiful wife Elmire…. what could possibly go wrong? Join us for Moliere’s brilliant comedy….

 TICKETS NOW ON SALE
or call 212-352-3101
Low Price Previews: 10/21, 10/24-26; NO TDF for This Show

Josh Tyson
Tartuffe
Ariel Estrada
Cleante
John  Lenartz
Orgon
Oscar Klausner
Laurant
Alicia Marie Beatty
Marianne
Elise Stone
Elmire
Morgan Rosse
Dorine
Adapted by David Ball; Directed by Craig Smith; Costume Design by Debbi Hobson; Music and Sound Design by Ellen Mandel; Video Design by Attilio Rigotti, Stage Management by Meghan McVann, Assistant Director Karen Case Cook.
Wes Spencer
Valere
Matt Baguth
Damis
Eileen Glenn
Pernelle
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WAS BRITISH SPY, NOVELIST, AND PLAYWRIGHT, SOMERSET MAUGHAM SENT TO KILL LENIN? ·

(Alexey Timofeychev’s article appeared in Russia Beyound the Headlines, 7/13.)

Everyone knows Maugham’s plays and novels, but his work for British intelligence in Russia in 1917 is less known. He had a daunting mission and was certain that if he’d had more time he could have averted the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Revolution.

The author of Theatre, and The Razor’s Edge was an agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service during World War I, and he was entrusted with a secret mission to Russia, the true nature of which remains a mystery even 100 years later.

The trip to Russia in 1917 was not Maugham’s first experience as a secret agent for British Intelligence. By then he had already worked a couple of years for what later would be known as MI-6. After his first mission in Switzerland in 1915 he wanted to quit for personal reasons – he had divorced and his male lover had been sent out of Britain. However, according to one of his biographers, Maugham was intrigued by the life of a secret agent because he liked pulling strings from behind the scenes.

Nevertheless, when he was approached with the chance to go to Russia, he was uncertain. As he recalled afterwards, he thought that he didn’t have the right qualities for the task. In the end, the desire “to see the country of Tolstoi, Dostoievski and Chekov” outweighed any doubts, and he accepted.

(Read more)

https://www.rbth.com/arts/history/2017/07/13/was-british-spy-somerset-maugham-sent-to-kill-lenin_800942

 

‘THE GREAT GATSBY’ AT THE GATE: A MAGNIFICENTLY ENTERTAINING, DIZZYING PARTY (SV PICK, IE) ·

(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 7/13.)

The Great Gatsby ★★★★   
Gate Theatre Dublin 

There’s an old story in which the actor playing the doctor in A Streetcar Named Desire – a very minor character – was asked to describe the plot. “Well,” he said, “it’s about this doctor who takes this crazy lady off to an asylum.” From each perspective, everyone is the star of the show.

In The Great Gatsby, a riveting immersive production that sends F Scott Fitzgerald’s characters – major and minor – skittering throughout Jay Gatsby’s mansion, you may feel the same. In a bold bit of casting, the mansion is played by the full expanse of the Gate theatre, marvellously transformed in Ciaran Bagnall’s fastidious design.

Sheaved into groups between its shimmering jazz bar, speakeasy, and several lush private rooms, you might witness the poignant dreams of a tragi-comic Mr McKee (who barely get five pages from Fitzgerald) and decide from Raymond Scannell’s deft performance that the show is about this inebriated photographer who will never find focus.

(Read more)

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/stage/the-great-gatsby-at-the-gate-a-magnificently-entertaining-dizzying-party-1.3153835

Photo: The Irish Times

ITALY’S ELITE LA SCALA APPALLED AT OPERA GOERS TURNING UP IN T-SHIRTS, MINI-SKIRTS AND FLIP-FLOPS ·

(Nick Squires’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 7/14.; via the Drudge Report.)  

As one of the world’s most celebrated opera houses, La Scala in Milan expects a certain degree of decorum, but guardians of the elite institution have been appalled at the shabby state of audiences this summer.

Instead of donning jackets and evening dresses, ticket holders are turning up as if dressed for the beach, as temperatures reach 95F or more during one of Italy’s hottest summers for years.

The worst culprits are normally foreign tourists but even Italians, who are normally renowned for their stylish dress, are not averse to arriving in shorts, mini-skirts and sandals.

(Read more)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/14/italys-elite-la-scala-appalled-opera-goers-turning-t-shirts/

 

SHERMAN YELLEN’S OWN LIFETIME (iii): WRITING TIPS FROM THE WINNER OF TWO EMMYS, DEALING WITH HARD KNOCKS IN SHOW BIZ, AND WHAT HIS MEMOIR ‘SPOTLESS’ IS REALLY ABOUT ·

(SHERMAN YELLEN WILL BE INTERVIEWED ABOUT “SPOTLESS,” BY DONNA HANOVER, ON CUNY TV IN THE “ARTS IN THE CITY” SHOW.  THE PROGRAM FIRST AIRS ON FRIDAY, JULY 14TH, AT 10 A.M.  THE EPISODE WILL SUBSEQUENTLY BE SHOWN SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE MONTH—THE OFFICIAL SCHEDULE IS: 2ND AND 4TH FRIDAYS IN JULY, AT 10 A.M., 3 P.M., AND 8:30 P.M. THE SHOW THEN CAN BE SEEN THE FOLLOWING SUNDAYS AT NOON.  SHORTLY AFTER THE FIRST AIRING, THE INTERVIEW WILL BE ONLINE AT WWW.CUNY.TV. CLICK ON ARTS, SCROLL DOWN TO “ARTS IN THE CITY,” AND THERE THE SHOW WILL BE.)

Sherman Yellen was nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the 1970 musical The Rothschilds, with a score by Fiddler on the Roof songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, which he and Harnick have recently reimagined as Rothschild & Sons. Sherman wrote the libretto for the Will Holt and Gary William Friedman musical Treasure Island, winner of the Broadway World Best Regional Musical Award (2012). Among his many theater works is his satirical sketch “Delicious Indignities,” which appeared in the New York and London revue Oh! Calcutta! His straight plays on and off Broadway include New Gods for LoversStrangers, and December Fools.

Sherman was librettist and lyricist for Josephine Tonight, an original musical he wrote with the late composer Wally Harper, about the early life of Josephine Baker, which The Chicago Sun-Times called “a shining new musical” and which the D.C. press praised for being “so hot that it sizzles.”

In his youth he worked as a librettist with legendary composer Richard Rodgers. Together with Sheldon Harnick they recently revised the Rodgers-Harnick musical Rex about Henry VIII. This new version had a successful premiere in Toronto.  Yellen’s teleplays have won him two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award, first for his John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America broadcast on NBC, as well as an Emmy Nomination for his Hallmark Hall of Fame version of Beauty and the Beast starring George C. Scott. Sherman’s screenplay adaptations of classic novels range from Great Expectations to Phantom of the Opera. He has received awards in Arts and Letters from Bard College, and he is a frequent contributor of essays on the arts, literature, and politics to online publications such as The Huffington Post.

Sherman recently published his autobiographical novella Cousin Bella–The Whore of Minsk, available in a volume, which also includes his holiday short story A Christmas Lilly,” and a collection of three plays, December Fools and Other Plays (December Fools * Budapest * Gin Lane).  Sherman is married, the father of two sons, Nicholas and Christopher, and has three much loved granddaughters. He has lived in London and Los Angeles, worked in Berlin and Budapest, but home was, is, and always will be New York City.

Sherman Yellen talks, with SV’s Bob Shuman, about his new memoir Spotless: Memories of a New York City Childhood.  The final part, of this three-part interview, will appear, 7/5.

View ‘Spotless’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp725x 

Sherman Yellen was nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the 1970 musical The Rothschilds, with a score by Fiddler on the Roof songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, which he and Harnick have recently reimagined as Rothschild & Sons. Sherman wrote the libretto for the Will Holt and Gary William Friedman musical Treasure Island, winner of the Broadway World Best Regional Musical Award (2012). Among his many theater works is his satirical sketch “Delicious Indignities,” which appeared in the New York and London revue Oh! Calcutta! His straight plays on and off Broadway include New Gods for LoversStrangers, and December Fools.  

Sherman was librettist and lyricist for Josephine Tonight, an original musical he wrote with the late composer Wally Harper, about the early life of Josephine Baker, which The Chicago Sun-Times called “a shining new musical” and which the D.C. press praised for being “so hot that it sizzles.”

In his youth he worked as a librettist with legendary composer Richard Rodgers. Together with Sheldon Harnick they recently revised the Rodgers-Harnick musical Rex about Henry VIII. This new version had a successful premiere in Toronto.  Yellen’s teleplays have won him two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award, first for his John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America broadcast on NBC, as well as an Emmy Nomination for his Hallmark Hall of Fame version of Beauty and the Beast starring George C. Scott. Sherman’s screenplay adaptations of classic novels range from Great Expectations to Phantom of the Opera. He has received awards in Arts and Letters from Bard College, and he is a frequent contributor of essays on the arts, literature, and politics to online publications such as The Huffington Post.

Sherman recently published his autobiographical novella Cousin Bella–The Whore of Minsk, available in a volume, which also includes his holiday short story A Christmas Lilly,” and a collection of three plays, December Fools and Other Plays (December Fools * Budapest * Gin Lane).  Sherman is married, the father of two sons, Nicholas and Christopher, and has three much loved granddaughters. He has lived in London and Los Angeles, worked in Berlin and Budapest, but home was, is, and always will be New York City. 

Sherman Yellen talks, with SV’s Bob Shuman, about his new memoir Spotless: Memories of a New York City Childhood in the interview’s final installment.

View ‘Spotless’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp725x 

Best time of the day for you to write?

I rise at five or six and I write early in the morning.  Walk my dog at eight, and go back to work later that afternoon.   I love mornings when the world is beginning to awaken.  Living in NYC, the early mornings allow me to hear birdsong from the warbler who is sitting on the fire escape outside my window.   Stillness and quiet give me a blank page for thinking. 

Best piece of writing advice you can give someone?

To playwrights or memoirists?   Do not be afraid to produce a terrible first draft.  Be the totally driven writer, not the destructive self-critic when you start on a project.  Let the critic in you come out in your revisions, your subsequent drafts–but get that first draft down–and be generous with yourself as you start to work.  The ruthlessness can be put off for later.  And read–read plays–read Ibsen, read Dickens–just read during dry periods–and the company of a great book or a great writer will urge you to go on. 

What was the easiest part of writing Spotless?  The hardest?

The easiest part of writing Spotless was dealing with my mother’s early life on the Lower East Side, her life as a runway model, and her meeting with my father.  She had told me enough during my childhood to give me the material I needed.  And being a curious child I never stopped asking questions about the past.  As I note in the book she was an intelligent woman totally lacking in imagination–so she spoke the plain truth and although she had risen in the world from the worst poverty to affluence–mainly through her astonishing beauty–she felt no shame about her humble origins.   It was harder for me to write about my father.  I knew that I didn’t love him as a son should–because of his intermittent rages and the violence that often accompanied them, and I was afraid that I would demonize a man who was at his core decent and loving.   No, I did not love him in life and yet writing this book allowed me to look closely at his life and my own early years, so, strange as it may seem, I came to love him, if only posthumously.    Spotless also allowed me to live again with those I deeply loved, my late sister and my mother, and all the odd uncles and aunts who are long gone.  Although it is an intensely personal book ,so many readers of different backgrounds and religions tell me that they found their own past in mine, so it confirms my belief that the universal lives in the particular.  

You don’t seem to have been deeply religious, but how important is being Jewish, identifying as Jewish to you today?  Did it become more so as you wrote The Rothschilds?

I was raised as a cultural Jew.  That meant that in our house bacon had undergone a religious conversion together with milk accompanying meat, so that my mother’s two skinny children could put on some weight.   I had to do much research into Jewish life in the 18th and 19th centuries in writing The Rothschilds, since I decided only to use the first few pages of Fred Morton’s wonderful biography of the family as my material.   As readers of Spotless will discover in the last chapter, “An Italian Table Cloth” I came to understand the meaning of being born a Jew through life itself.   

How do you recover from failure?  Or the failure of not seeing your favorite works produced and embraced?  

The first answer is just keep working–you train yourself to live in the day and let go of the past failure, as best you can, or of the lost work that you loved.   Easy to say.  Hard to do. Not so sure I can ever do that with my musical Josephine Tonight or with my play Budapest–the best of my unproduced dramas –but I have the plays published in the book December Fools and Other Plays so if they do not reach the stage as I want them to do, they can reach the minds of readers.  

Spotless seems to be about New York, as much as its characters.   How hard would it be for you to leave it–or would that be easy for you to do?

For years NYC was my base.  I worked in London, Budapest, Berlin, but NYC was always my home.   Summers were spent in a ridiculously cheap farmhouse in Bridgehampton when it was a world of potato farmers and fishermen.  And there was a lost decade in Los Angeles when I worked in TV, writing the scripts that would allow me to pay for college for my sons.  But I am in love with my city and the people in it. Leaving it is inconceivable–certainly not at this stage of my late life.  Hell, I am eighty-five, still working, still hoping, still walking, still loving my family and friends and the world I inhabit. 

No, I do not leave NYC these days–not even for weekends.  The city has become one of my best late-life friends–and I assume that it would strongly object should I abandon Central Park and my surviving friends and family even for a weekend.  Spotless is more than about NYC–I think it is NYC.   At the end of the day it is not so much the story of a precocious child in an odd family but a love story between that child and the city of his birth. 

Thank you so much for this interview.

(c) 2017 by Sherman Yellen (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved. 

Read Part 1 of this interview at: http://stagevoices.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=10594&action=edit

Read Part 2 of this interview at: http://stagevoices.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=10694&action=edit

Read Part 3 of this interview at: http://stagevoices.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=10782&action=edit

View ‘Spotless’ on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y7hp725x

Photograph permissions

Yellen photos courtesy of Sherman Yellen: (top to bottom) Sherman Yellen’s twin granddaughters; Sherman and collaborator Wally Harper; himself at age 40; Sherman’s wife, Joan.