Category Archives: Uncategorized

HARVEY SCHMIDT, CO-CREATOR OF ‘THE FANTASTICKS,’ IS DEAD AT 88 ·

(Richard Sandomir’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/2; via Pam Green.)

Harvey Schmidt, whose career as a commercial artist took a long, lucrative and unexpected detour when he teamed with a former college pal to create “The Fantasticks,” the Off Broadway romance that became the world’s longest-running musical, died on Wednesday in Tomball, Tex., near Houston. He was 88.

Rachel Scholl, a niece, said the cause was complications of congestive heart failure. He had no immediate survivors.

A love story about a boy and a girl and their feuding fathers, “The Fantasticks,” with music by Mr. Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones, opened in 1960 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village and ran for 17,162 performances.

A revival that began in 2006 ran 4,390 more times at the Jerry Orbach Theater in Midtown Manhattan, named for the actor who originated the role of El Gallo, the show’s narrator.

Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Jones became nearly inseparable collaborators on a host of shows for more than 50 years. Mr. Schmidt was the quiet one; Mr. Jones, the more gregarious.

Continue reading the main story

Photo: Getty Images

 

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, RESTLESS AND REVISING ·

(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/12; via Pam Green.)

Tennessee Williams’s most reliable instrument of release — and torture — glows impiously in the hushed white gallery of the Morgan Library & Museum, like a neon sign in a church.

It is only a manual typewriter, one of the many that did hard labor under the fingers of this great American playwright, who is the subject of “Tennessee Williams: No Refuge but Writing,” a profoundly affecting new exhibition of manuscripts and memorabilia.

But the color of this sleek machine, an Olivetti Lettera 32, belies its utilitarian function. How to describe this particular shade of blue? To call it aqua or teal seems too pedestrian for the man under consideration here. Williams (1911-1983) delighted in finding names for blues — chromatic, spiritual, emotional.

(Read more)

(Photo: The New York Times)

 

SAMUEL FRENCH WILL OPEN THE BOOKSHOP AT LONDON’S ROYAL COURT THEATRE ·


(Ruthie Fierberg’s article appeared in Playbill Online, 2/13.)

The theatrical publisher opens the U.K. version of New York City’s Drama Book Shop.

The Royal Court Theatre in London’s Sloane Square is a landmark of the theatre scene across the pond. On February 13, the U.K. division of Samuel French announced there will be an addition to the theatre space: a theatre bookshop.

The Bookshop will be located in the theatre’s Balcony Bar and will open its doors March 5.

“We are thrilled to reopen a bookshop in London, especially at the iconic Royal Court Theatre. When we closed our shop in Fitzroy Street last year, we were overwhelmed by messages of support,” said managing director of Samuel French U.K. Douglas Schatz in a statement.

(Read more)

ADRIENNE KENNEDY: ‘HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX’ (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

For those who have lived in the South, Adrienne Kennedy’s He Brought Her Heart Back in a Boxfrom Theatre for a New Audiencenow playing, until February 11,  at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, offers the recognizable.  Donald Holder’s lighting captures a Georgia morning–where there are perhaps some of the most beautiful mornings in the world–and the period drama, set in the 1940s, does not exploit racial violence (Christopher Barreca’s unit set features the utilitarian chairs, stairs, and doorway of a high school). Kennedy’s two-character play, written using the ambiguous imagery of a poet, is made up almost entirely of monologues, and the director, Evan Yionoulis, allows the audience to listen to the young actors, to want to listen and watch their fine abilities, which includes Tom Pecinka’s splendid singing. Kennedy’s story is as old-fashioned as the plot of an operetta:  a mixed-race schoolgirl (Juliana Canfield) accepts a declaration of love from a young white opera singer (Pecinka), whose family has helped build their town.  He hopes she will come with him to marry in Harlem and live in New York and Paris–but to tell more would give away too much. What can be said is that the characters are allowed innocence, unrushed, and history.  “Dear Little Café,” from Noël Coward’s Bittersweet, is heard during the evening (the score was written in 1929, although a movie was made in 1940). When this correspondent lived in Georgia, in the early 1980s, two older maiden sisters, one a lawyer, helped the poor and black in the town do their taxes, free of charge—one favorite topic of conversation for them was speaking of the beautiful voice of American soprano Geraldine Farrar.  Jazz, of course, was not the only song of the South, despite the fact that its birthplace was New Orleans, yet the great form is what is stereotypically heard on soundtracks.  Eudora Welty also talks about hymns and popular classical music in her autobiography, One Writer’s Beginnings, where, as a child, she listened, and “moved” to:  “Overture to Daughter of the Regiment,”  “Selections from The Fortune Teller,”  “Kiss Me Again,” and  “Gypsy Dance from Carmen,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and “When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam.”

 

In an interview in BOMB magazine, with Suzan-Lori Parks, Kennedy explains that she writes “little scenes” about “what’s going on in life,” yet her Georgia contains “contradictions,” which is how she describes her white grandfather in her poem “Forget”:  He  sent her African-American sister and half-sister “to college, bought them beautiful things/but still maintained the distance. They called him by his surname and he never shared a meal with them.” Part of the dilemma, in talking about the South today, remains its contradictions and “complexities” (another word that Kennedy uses in “Forget”), ones that may not be present in other areas of the country, at least not to the same degree.  Even Southern literature is a tangle of styles: gothic (Flannery O’Connor) and mythic (William Faulkner), literary historic (Alice Walker) and real (Tennessee Williams), comic (Mark Twain) and tragic (William Styron), and ideological (Thomas Jefferson) and MGM (Margaret Mitchell), to give a sampling.  Yet, someone from outside the South may believe the media: that its inhabitants are dishonest, bigoted, deplorable or worse: stereotypes repeated until they appear to be true.  Kennedy, fortunately, continues to hope, for what can be found in He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, is the aspiration to live side by side. Activists may not want the South to have had its past, but instead of attempting to erase it, to take down Confederate monuments and change state flags (South Carolina did this after the Charleston church shootings of Dylann Roof), Kennedy places markers within her work, which may be used for explication:  the rise of Nazism, for example, or Segregation, the underworld in The Aeneid, and even the mass murder of the Huguenots.  Patrick J. Buchanan has written that, “Since the ’60s, there has arisen an ideology that holds that the Confederacy was the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany and those who fought under its battle flag should be regarded as traitors or worse,” yet Kennedy does not seem to be advocating for retaliation, although she may be inferring that she is watching, noting.   Likewise, her opinion of the industrial North is also not without suspicion, for this is where the overt continental violence in her play takes place.  While historians may decide to write on the continued complexities of agrarianism vs. modernity in the history of America’s South and North, what theatregoers will observe, in He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, is how such complex subject matter can find this kind of formal clarity and simplicity:  as simple as a Georgia morning.  

© 2018 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. Photo (top to bottom): The New York Times; Bob Shuman 

ADRIENNE KENNEDY’S

HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX

Cast

Juliana Canfield (Kay)

Tom Pecinka (Chris)

Creative Team

Adrienne Kennedy (Playwright)

Evan Yionoulis (Director

Christopher Barreca (Set Designer)

Montana Levi Blanco (Costume Designer)

Donald Holder (Lighting Designer)

Justin Ellington (Composer & Sound Designer

Austin Switser (Video Designer

Press: Blake Zidell

Visit Theatre for a New Audience

STEVE COSSON: ‘THE UNDERTAKING’ FROM THE CIVILIANS (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

In Steve Cosson’s stage documentary on dying , The Undertaking (conceived in collaboration with Jessica Mitrani)–playing until February 4, at 59E59–vibrant, theatrical life comes from Aysan Celik and Dan Domingues jumping in and out of characters, like ones possessed, “ventriloquizing.” The term, discussed by philosopher Simon Critchley, who is impersonated in the show (and has been interviewed for it) posits that actors, in character, are  haunted by ghosts (the dramatic role itself), “a being about whom we cannot know for sure whether it is alive or dead.  It seems to be both.” Because Cosson provides a number of varied personalities in the work, The Undertaking highlights the transformative abilities of its two actors, speaking verbatim dialogue and imitating the playwright’s interviewees (whom the audience hears in recordings), whether they be Critchley or a South American who has eaten hallucinogenic plants, the actor and director of the Ridiculous Theatre Everett Quinton, or a woman recounting a near-death experience, among others. 

Yet, despite his “palpable fear,” Cosson, who approaches current secular, perhaps faddish, thinking on dying, does not mention popular writers of the recent past, such as Harold M. Sherman and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (what Ms. Celik would do with a German accent), who could actually help him. Whether or not Marcel Duchamp has a pithy quotation about death on his gravestone only helps people think about death fashionably, and Cosson seems to limit his discussion by not incorporating wider religious or spiritual perspectives.  Obviously, the subject is uncomfortable for many, yet probably most maintain thoughts similar to the writer’s:  “I feel like my particular relationship to [the] fear is that it’s so constant and so integrated that I rarely even experience it as fear. I just experience it as this, uh, this sort of, u uh, disquieting presence.”  Still, Cosson can’t dramatize his feeling, beyond constructing a combine and describing it.  Whereas Williams, Albee, Beckett, or Bergman would show the cold terror–maybe even solemn grandeur–in moving close to death, Cosson decides to throw a blanket over his head and hide.

Director, as well as a writer, he also uses footage of classic film, a technique, in the avant-garde toolkit, overused today (also in January, Split Britches  rolled  clips from Dr. Strangelove for Unexploded Ordnances, for example).  Orpheus, the film referred to in Cosson’s piece, can be seen as parallel to the events of The Undertaking and is also drawn from an earlier story: the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Cocteau sets his version in the modern day (the middle of the last century), and the script is the product of imaginative dramatic writing. Comparatively, Cosson has so overintellectualized his search for an understanding of dying that his performance piece can seem like a dramatic lecture or nonfiction book, a well-paced, well-produced evening of staged footnotes.  He also misses dramatizing the story of his mother, not portrayed,  whom the audience is told is currently in a nursing home with MS.  Like Hamlet’s father, however, she may be the ghost demanding to be remembered most.

© 2018 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.

Photo:  Dan Domingues and Aysan Celik in THE UNDERTAKING at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Visit 59E59

THE UNDERTAKING

CAST

Aysan Celik*
Dan Domingues* 

CREATIVE TEAM

Written and directed by Steve Cosson
Creative Collaborator and Psychopomp: Jessica Mitrani
Set and Costume Design: Marsha Ginsberg
Lighting Design: Thomas Dunn
Sound Design: Mikhail Fiksel
Projection Design: Tal Yarden
Stage Manager: Geoff Boronda*
Assistant Stage Manager: Rachael Gass*
Production Manager: Ron Nilson
Producer: Margaret Moll 

ADDITIONAL STAFF FOR THE UNDERTAKING

Assistant Set and Costume Designer: Blake Palmer
Sound Design Associate: Lee Kinney

Dramaturgy: Jocelyn Clarke and Jacey Erwin

Interviews conducted by Steve Cosson, Jessica Mitrani, and Leonie Ettinger.

*appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association
member of United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829

Press: Karen Greco

AUGUST STRINDBERG REP: ‘THE BLACK GLOVE’–ONLY UNTIL 12/16 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

Pilar Garcia as Tomte, Mary Tierney as Christmas Angel. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

By Bob Shuman

Although audiences are aware of Strindberg’s Easter, many do not know of his rarely performed 1911 Christmas lyrical fantasy, The Black Glove, now in production from Strindberg Rep at the Gene Frankel Theatre, only through December 16.  A children’s holiday show by the stern Swedish master?  Yes, even with an elf and Christmas angel (butter cookies are also served at the door by director, Robert Greer).  Apparently, this fifth chamber play missed opportunities to be widely anthologized (the current verse translation is by Charlotte Hanes Harvey) because it opened after Strindberg’s Intimate Theater had closed. What this means is that there is a new, classic option for the holidays—an old-fashioned yule tale, cast today with women—a fact that may surprise, in performance), and led by the charming actress Pilar Garcia.  She’s so good, some will wonder why the art of mime is not, currently, taken more seriously, much less seen more.  Her work is specific, professional, and good-natured (she might even be compared to a Robin Williams): after seeing her, you can just start believing in the magic of Christmas again, and children will be enchanted.

Jo Vetter as Curator, Diane Perell as CaretakerPhoto by Kamoier Williams. 

All seven actors are strong, in fact, and include Jo Vetter, as a drowsy old professor; Diane Perell, as the caretaker of an apartment building that is falling apart; and the maids, Crystal Edn and Amy Fulgham, perennially in trouble with their mistress, Amber CrawfordMary Tierney is the Christmas angel, wearing a Santa Lucia crown (costumes are by Janet Mervin; lighting design is by Gilbert “Lucky” Pearto; production designer is Donna Miskend; sound design is by Giovanni Villari, and stage manager is Charles Casano).  Those who are studying Strindberg and drama may be reminded of A Dream Play and even a tad of Miss Julie—but really this is A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the dark half of the year, with Ms. Garcia as a sprightly Puck.

Visit August Strindberg Rep: http://www.strindbergrep.com/

Visit Gene Frankel Theatre: http://www.genefrankeltheatre.com/

Press: Jonathan Slaff

© 2017 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

IVO VAN HOVE AT BAM : ‘THE FOUNTAINHEAD’ BY AYN RAND (ONLY 11-28–12-2) ·

(Andrew Todd’s article, from the Avignon Festival, appeared 7/16/14 in the Guardian.)

Olivier Py‘s first outing as Avignon festival director has been hobbled by bad weather and strikes, in the context of a bitter national renegotiation of theatre workers’ contract status; it has also been dismissed as humdrum and wordy. He might be relieved then, by the awesome, air-clearing thunderclap brought about by Ivo van Hove‘s mammoth production of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

Van Hove puts on stage the philosophical storm surrounding the collective and the individual. He provides a fresh and complex rereading of Ayn Rand’s novel, which has been in danger of becoming a one-line footnote to the neocon revolution. He also creates electrifying theatre in which word and spectacle find a perfect, symbiotic balance.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/jul/16/the-fountainhead-review-ivo-van-howe-ayn-rand-avignon-festival

“CONQUEST OF THE UNIVERSE OR WHEN QUEENS COLLIDE” BY CHARLES LUDLAM–ONLY UNTIL 11/19 AT LA MAMA ·

LA MAMA

In Association with HOWL ARTS

Proudly Presents

“CONQUEST OF THE UNIVERSE OR WHEN QUEENS COLLIDE”

By Charles Ludlam

The 50th Anniversary Production

 

Strictly Limited Engagement // November 2nd – 19th, 2017

Opening Night: Monday, November 6 at 8pm

CONQUEST OF THE UNIVERSE OR WHEN QUEENS COLLIDE – which marked the birth of the The Ridiculous Theatrical Company, co-founded by the late groundbreaking playwright and performer Charles Ludlam in 1967 – will return on the occasion of the play and the company’s 50th anniversary with a production, starring and directed by Everett Quinton, a long-standing member of RTC who assumed leadership as Artistic Director when Mr. Ludlam died 30 years ago, in 1987.  With previews starting November 2 prior to an official press opening on Monday, November 6 at 8pm, CONQUEST OF THE UNIVERSE OR WHEN QUEENS COLLIDE is presented by La MaMa in association with Howl Arts at the Ellen Stewart Theatre (66 E. 4 St.) in Manhattan.

CONQUEST OF THE UNIVERSE is an epic collage inspired by Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great that is as outrageous and timely today as it was when first performed in 1967. It’s a futuristic tale of war across the universe. Tamburlaine, President of Earth, proceeds from planet to planet, capturing and enslaving Bajazeth and Zabina-King and Queen of Mars-Venus, and Natolia, Queen of Saturn, among others. Cosroe-a Martian prince and twin brother of Zabina-leads the rebel forces against Tamberlaine in Ludlam’s mind-bending experimental classic, his theater of “sexual, imperialistic war.” Literary, film, and dramatic treasures are ransacked and pillaged, resulting in hilarious dialogue and multiple ts in this original, humorous tale of unbridled space queens!

The play embodies Mr. Ludlam’s core belief, and the mandate for The Ridiculous Theatrical Company:  that every play/production was an experiment.  According to Mr. Quinton, even Ludlam’s breakout ‘commercial’ success – THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP, a long-running hit at the Sheridan Square Theatre – was totally abstract and as such, an experiment.  Mr. Quinton adds that RTC and its trademark outlandishness resulted as a reaction to the cultural upheaval of the 50’s and 60’s and the perceived Fascism during that time. 

“There was much to rage at in the 60’s,” Mr. Quinton states.  “And the theater of rage often made good company with the high comedy.”

Performance Schedule

November 2 through 19:  Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM; Sunday at 4:00 PM and Monday, Nov. 6th at 8:00 PM.

VENUE: The Ellen Stewart Theatre at La Mama, 66 E. 4th St., NYC

TICKETS: All tickets $30 // $25 students and seniors

To purchase, please visit: www.lamama.org or call OvationTix at: 212-352-3101

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Charles Ludlam was an American actor, director, and playwright. Ludlam joined John Vaccaro’s Play-House of the Ridiculous, and after a falling out, became one of the founders of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company in New York City in 1967. He taught or staged productions at New York University, Connecticut College for Women, Yale University, and Carnegie Mellon University. He won fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. He won six Obie Awards, the Rosamund Gilder Award for distinguished achievement in the theater in 1986 and in 2009, Ludlam was inducted posthumously into the American Theater Hall of Fame. He wrote nearly 30 plays, some of which include: Turds in Hell, an adaptation of The Satyricon (1969); Bluebeard (1970), an adaptation of H. G. Wells’s TheIsland of Dr Moreau; Corn (1972); Camille (1973); Der Ring Gott Farblonjet (1977), an adaptation of The Ring Cycle; The Enchanted Pig (1979); Exquisite Torture (1982); The Mystery of Irma Vep (1984); Galas (1983), inspired by the life of Maria Callas; and The Artificial Jungle (1986)

Everett Quinton recently directed Charles Ludlam’s, THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE with Theater Breaking Through Barriers.  Everett also directed IN THE BAR OF A TOKYO HOTEL by Tennessee Willliams with Theater 292 and THE WINTER’S TALE by William Shakespeare with Yorick Theater. As an actor Everett recently appeared as Enobarbus and one of five Cleopatras in Shakespeare’s ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.  Everett also appeared as Paulina and Autolycus in THE WINTER’S TALE, and Idris Seabright in DROP DEAD PERFECT, to name a few. Everett is a long time member of THE RIDICULOUS THEATRICAL COMPANY where he appeared in Charles Ludlam’s CAMILLE, BLUEBEARD AND THE SECRET LIVES OF THE SEXISTS.  Georg Osterman’s DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE and BROTHER TRUCKERS.  As well as his own plays, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, LINDA AND CARMEN.

CONQUEST OF THE UNIVERSE cast includes: Everett Quinton, Géraldine Dulex,
Beth Dodye Bass, Grant Neale, Jeanne Lauren Smith, John Gutierrez, Lenys Samá, Sommer Carbuccia, Shane Baker, Brian Belovitch & Eugene the Poogene.

About La MaMa

La MaMa is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theatre. The organization has a worldwide reputation for producing daring performance works that defy form and transcend barriers of ethnic and cultural identity. Founded in 1961 by award-winning theatre pioneer Ellen Stewart, La MaMa has presented more than 5,000 productions by 150,000 artists from more than 70 nations. A recipient of more than 30 Obie Awards and dozens of Drama Desk, Bessie, and Villager Awards, La MaMa has helped launch the careers of countless artists, many of whom have made important contributions to American and international arts milieus.

Our 56th season reflects the urgency of reaffirming human interconnectedness. Our stages will embrace diversity in every form and present artists that persevere with bold self-expression despite social, economic, and political struggle.

MEMBERSHIPS — La MaMa continues its popular Experimental Theatre Club Memberships, offering $10 Tickets to all shows and other perks to members for the full season. Memberships start at $56.

www.lamama.org

 

***** IVO VAN HOVE/LEE HALL: ‘NETWORK’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/13.)

I am normally wary of people ransacking the movie archive to make plays, but this version of the Oscar-winning Network is an almost total triumph. Lee Hall has kept the best of Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 script while excising its excesses. Bryan Cranston, best known for the hit series Breaking Bad, brings a wiry magnetism to the role of the TV news anchor, Howard Beale. Ivo van Hoveand his designer, Jan Versweyveld, have also transformed the National Theatre’s normally inflexible Lyttelton stage into an extraordinary blend of television studio and public restaurant.

The most obvious point to make about the Chayefsky script is how uncannily prophetic it seems. It is famously based on the idea of a veteran newsman experiencing a public breakdown. Having first threatened to kill himself on air, he launches a series of on-screen jeremiads, which turn him into a pop Savonarolaand rescue a failing network by achieving astronomical ratings.

As a satire it hits several targets dead centre. It imagines a world where news becomes a branch of show business, where profit margins dictate editorial content and where nation states are subordinate to “a college of corporations”. But Beale’s success lies in articulating public rage and persuading people to open their windows and shout: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more.” Even if the internet has now replaced network television as the new reality, Chayefsky foresaw how power could be achieved by tapping into popular anger. While preserving the original’s insights, Hall has subtly altered the balance of the story.

Read more

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/nov/13/network-review-bryan-cranston-lyttelton-national-theatre-lee-hall

Photo: The Stage

SHAKESPEARE AND WAR: STEPHAN WOLFERT ·

(from the Folger Shakespeare Library; via Pam Green.)

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 81

In his one-man show Cry Havoc! actor Stephan Wolfert, a US Army veteran, draws together lines in Shakespeare’s plays spoken by soldiers and former soldiers—including MacbethOthello, and Richard III.

He puts those words to the task of explaining the toll that soldiering and war can take on the psyches of the men and women who volunteer for military duty. Wolfert also runs free weekly veterans-only acting classes aimed at helping them readjust to life as civilians.

He is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published September 5, 2017. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This episode, To the Battle Came He, was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington. Esther French is the web producer. We had help from Beth Emelson, Associate Artistic Producer of Folger Theatre; Eric Tucker, Artistic Director of Bedlam; Melissa Kuypers at NPR-West in Culver City, California; and from Ray Cruz at Hawaii Public Radio.

For more information on Cry Havoc!, or to find one of the acting classes Wolfert offers for veterans, visit decruit.org.

(Read more)

https://www.folger.edu/shakespeare-unlimited/war-stephan-wolfert

Photo: Berkshire On Stage