(Erik Piepenburg’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/13; via Pam Green.)

If you’ve walked just about anywhere in New York City, you’ve seen the work of Paula Scher. A partner in the design firm Pentagram, Ms. Scher is the creative hand behind some of the most recognizable graphic identities that dot the city, including logos (CitibankShake Shack), poster art (Public Theater) and organizational branding (New York City Ballet).

Southern California is getting its own Paula Scher moment courtesy of the Pasadena Playhouse, which is presenting a revival of “Our Town” in a production with Deaf West Theater.

Ms. Scher’s poster for “Our Town” takes a minimalist approach, mirroring the ordered storytelling of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play about life and death in a small New Hampshire town. Drawing on the show’s typical bare-bones staging, the image features a sturdy-looking, mauve chair that floats in the center of a vivid teal background. The play’s title and the theater’s name are rendered in a font, created for the playhouse, that references the rounded contours prevalent in Pasadena’s architecture.

The poster is part of the theater’s rebranding campaign as it celebrates its 100th birthday.

“The playhouse was a good theater in its day, the place where everybody in L.A. went to see works of intelligence with less commercial expectation that still managed to entertain,” Ms. Scher said. “It fell on some dodgy times. Our job here is to make people recognize it again.”

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Carnival Girls Production of ‘The Werewolf of Washington Heights’


When a teenager vanishes, loved ones are forced to face hidden monsters and terrifying truths.

Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street, NYC

Wednesday, October 11 @ 7 pm
Thursday, October 12 @ 7 pm
Friday, October 13 @ 7 pm
Saturday, October 14 @ 7 pm

Thursday, October 19 @ 7 pm
Friday, October 20 @ 7 pm
Saturday, October 21 @ 7 pm
Sunday, October 22 @ 2 pm

Director – Charmaine Broad, Choreographer – Anissa Barbato, Stage Manager – Erinn Conlon, Light Designer – Helen Blash, Set Guru – Stephanie Ervin, Costume Mistress – Tanya Bernardson, Box Office Manager – Ann Shepherd, Production Assistant – Zoe Scott, Charity Coordinator – Elizabeth Pitman Gretter

Rosina Fernhoff*, Lori Funk*, Pilar Gonzalez, Stephanie Annette Johnson, Zarra Kaahn, Arlene McGruder, Sheila Joon Ostadazim*, Melanie Ryan, Galit Sperling

*These actors are appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association
The Werewolf of Washington Heights is an Equity approved Showcase


Performances take place at Kraine Theater, located at 85 East 4th Street
(Between 2nd & 3rd F to 2nd Avenue 4/6 to Astor Place N/R to 8th Street)



(Lin-Manuel Miranda’s interview appeared in the The New York Times, 10/16; via Pam Green.)

Lin-Manuel Miranda speaks to the man who has consistently remade the American musical over his 60-year career — and who is trying to surprise us one more time.

This story is one of the seven covers of T Magazine’s Greats issue, on newsstands Oct. 22.

Sondheim: I hope you don’t mind doing this upstairs, I’m feeling a bit under the weather.

It’s July 2017. We are on the second floor of Stephen Sondheim’s Midtown Manhattan townhouse, and he’s nestled on his writing couch. There’s a famous picture of him reclining in this very spot from 1960: young Sondheim staring intently at a pad of paper, Blackwing pencil at the ready, framed by two windows. His right hand on his face, deep in thought.

Sondheim: The writing’s not going well today.

Nearly 60 years later, Sondheim is on the same couch. He is 87 years old. He’s wearing his rumpled-writer T-shirt and sweatpants, he’s got a sour stomach. He is writing a new musical with David Ives for the Public Theater, an adaptation of two films by the late Spanish director Luis Buñuel, and he’s staring down a deadline. And here I am, interrupting his writing day for this interview.

It’s hard to overemphasize Sondheim’s influence on American musical theater. As a young man, he was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the songwriting duo who revolutionized musicals with “Oklahoma!” in 1943. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote fully integrated songs that advanced the plot and revealed hidden depths in their characters; in their hands, musical theater matured into a storytelling art form. Sondheim built on Hammerstein’s innovations by experimenting relentlessly with subject matter and form: from his early lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s music in the seminal “West Side Story” (1957) and for Jule Styne’s music in “Gypsy” (1959) to more than 50 years’ worth of scores that have pushed the boundaries and subject matter of musical theater in every conceivable direction. He is musical theater’s greatest lyricist, full stop. The days of competition with other musical theater songwriters are done: We now talk about his work the way we talk about Shakespeare or Dickens or Picasso — a master of his form, both invisible within his work and everywhere at once.

(Read more)

Photos: The New York Times (Sondheim); (Miranda)



(Roisin O’Connor’s article appeared in the Independent,  10/19.)    

Academics have criticised “trigger warnings” after Cambridge University students were warned about “potentially distressing topics” in plays by Shakespeare

English literature undergraduates were apparently cautioned that a lecture focusing on Titus Andronicus and The Comedy of Errors would include “discussions of sexual violence” and “sexual assault“. 

According to The Telegraphthe trigger warnings were posted in the English Faculty’s ‘Notes on Lectures’ document which is circulated to students at the university. 

(Read more)


(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in the New York Times, 10/17.)

No matter what the laws of physics decree, there is untold and explosive energy in resistance. Or such is the evidence of “Burning Doors,” the Belarus Free Theater’s bruising exploration of the dynamics of resistance — the kind that occurs in the intersection of art and politics — at La MaMa.

This galvanizing production, which runs through Oct. 22, finds a host of able-bodied young women and men subjecting themselves to, and transcending, a spectrum of trials and tortures. These include being wrestled repeatedly to the ground, interrogated in a circular infinity of verbal assaults, harnessed to bungee cords while running desperately in place, strung high in nooses and dunked again and again in a bathtub, while trying to recite a poem.

The woman in the bathtub knows whereof she speaks, or gasps. She’s Maria Alyokhina, a member of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot who made international headlines when they were imprisoned for staging an anti-Putin performance (of 40 seconds’ duration) in a Moscow cathedral.

Then again, it seems safe to say that most members of the Belarus troupe, which is banned from performing in its native country, have firsthand knowledge of the repression they’re re-enacting and responding to onstage. (Program biographies include references to arrests and prison terms.)

Only blocks away from La MaMa, at New York University’s Skirball Center, another set of visitors from abroad are channeling recent history into confrontational drama. There’ll you find the Freedom Theater, a storied West Bank-based company that describes itself in the program as “a platform for cultural resistance.”

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(c) Alex Brenner. Belarus Free Theatre presents Burning Doors.

NATALIA KALIADA, founding co-artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre, and MIA YOO, Artistic Director or of La MaMa, talk with SV’s Bob Shuman about their creative partnership, the U.S. premiere of ‘Burning Doors’, and how two companies set the world on fire.

The underground Belarus Free Theatre is in New York, at La MaMa, with Burning Doors, a production that examines how art persists under oppression. The troupe is everything Ellen Stewart wanted for her stage: illustrative and imaginative, their sacred theatre powerful, transformative, and moving.  Those who have read about the company know that they perform in apartments, cafes, at weddings and birthdays, and in the forests in their native country, stealthily hiding from established power, the situation so dangerous that founding members were forced to find refuge in England. They are beacons of resistance, bravery, morality in a world of human rights abuses, censorship, and brutality.  Stewart  found ways to bring them to the United States at the Under the Radar Festival, in January 2011, in a triumphant run—but it is here also where she died, leaving an unrecoverable emotional hole in her organization, as well as in the world’s theatre.  Six years later, Artistic Director, Mia Yoo, continues on at La MaMa, producing 60-70 plays a season; for two years prior to Stewart’s death, she was communicating with the founder daily on programming, as well as running the East Village-based company’s day-to-day operations. On the evening of Stewart’s passing, Yoo, gracious, smart, a stabilizer at the center of the madness of art, ensured that La MaMa’s signature cowbell rang, as it has since. Belarus Free Theatre took to the stage–an indelible image from Being Harold Pinter, one of its plays performed at the time, is of a young girl inside a plastic, transparent globe, trying to be recognized by punching her way out.  Two companies, from opposite ends of the earth–both reckoning with their own tragedies–entwined.

Today, just after humidity has broken in a warm October, Yoo recalls the first time she saw Belarus Free Theatre, at a Theatre without Borders conference, in 2009.  She didn’t know the company and was watching their play Discover Love, a true story of the Belarus opposition movement, finding herself moved not only by strength, but by vulnerability.   She found the work of the group intellectual and emotional—also of the body, about the body.  Unlike most theatre lovers, however, Yoo cannot simply praise:  she has to find production funding.  Around her, financial backing is drying up, particularly with the president’s destruction of the NEA, one of her theatre’s main national funding sources. 

Natalia Kaliada, founder and artistic director of Belarus Free Theatre. Photograph © Jane Hobson.

A group of singers for Simchat Torah is dispersing on the street below La Mama’s Fourth Street, third floor office. Natalia Kaliada, the founding co-artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre–and the co-author of Discover Love—is here to discuss Burning Doors, which, with Nicolai Khalezin, she co-directed and supplied Dramaturgy for.  She explains that the three dissidents her play highlights “put their voices on the front line, using their art to challenge the system”: Maria Alyokhina, of Pussy Riot  (she acts in Burning Doors and gives testimony regarding her nearly two-year imprisonment in the Russian system);  Petr Pavlensky (a radical actionist who sewed his lips shut after the Pussy Riot conviction, wrapped himself in barbed wire, and, as “a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of modern Russian society,” nailed his scrotum to Red Square); and Oleg Sentsov (a Ukrainian filmmaker, fallaciously accused of terrorism, who has served three years of a twenty-year prison sentence). Kaliada herself may be accused of being a dissident, for her involvement in spearheading her theatre group.  When asked about Belarus Free Theatre, however, the Minister of Culture in Belarus responded by saying: “those people do not exist.”

Intense, visceral, and true to Yoo’s observation, Burning Doors is about the body.  Naked, sweating,  heaving, exhausted:  bodies as power, bodies as strength, bodies isometric, bodies scatological,  kicked, slammed, propelled, hit, choked, hanging, twisted, smashed, violated, betrayed, tortured.   The result is extreme-action dance, physical theatre, circus, combat training; a documentary of perception; an artistic expression of desperation and systematic violence, living unnoticed, unheard, under unknown totalitarianism (Burning Doors is performed in Russian and Belarusian with English surtitles). Kaliada and Khalezin are making a powerful statement on the horror of the failed state, a failed economy, the failure of justice, and the failure of democracy and freedom. The theatrical techniques used to produce such effects include use of the absurd, mime, dense sketch material, nonlinearity, existentialism, the appeals of the silenced, the folksongs of the deep past, cultural masterpieces by Dostoevsky, and philosophy by Foucault.  Kaliada calls her system:  Total Immersion. “We don’t talk about classics,” she clarifies. “We are not interested in them because today’s life is more challenging and interesting.”  Kaliada was not allowed to become an actress, her first calling at age sixteen, she explains, because her father was a former vice-Chancellor of the Academy of Arts in Belarus, and her name would stop her from advancing.  Her brother recommended that she become a diplomat, instead, because they also “pretend all the time.” She was hired by the American government, moving nuclear weapons from Belarus, but believes that had they not been transferred, Belarus would be more widely known today.  (Countries with nuclear weapons, as Kim Jong-un proves, have a way of getting noticed.)  “We do what we do because we believe in it. We have enemies. We also have families, mothers and fathers.”

Kaliada wonders what her children would think about her if she did not resist. Pausing for a moment, thin, her hair cut short, she says that, coming from Eastern Europe, she does not seem very polite, compared to those in the West.  “In a dictatorship, knowing that your friend has been killed, when death surrounds you, you become direct.  Belarus Free Theatre travels around the world. We work in illegal refugee camps in Africa and you understand that if people have a chance to access some arts and some money it would really help the world find solutions, peaceful solutions, nonviolent-resistance solutions.  My fear is that companies, like ours, may disappear.  We really tackle society.  You go to see other shows and there are so many jokes.  Human beings do not matter anymore! No one is connecting.  Humanity and the morality in politics are completely lost.  All the talk that the fourth wall was destroyed in theatre—that’s not true: It’s much stronger.”

When played, the recording of the discussion with Yoo and Kaliada reveals the insistent sound of the city’s voice: sirens, jackhammers, horns, traffic,  ringing and buzzing devices, which were not apparent during the focused interview.   These artistic partners—Yoo considers Belarus Free Theatre a resident company–one from a presenting organization, the other from a theatre company that’s creating vivid, critical theatre, work together, with missions that are aligned.  They are attempting to sustain and support what Yoo believes is “one of the most important theatre companies in the world today.”  She is not alone in her estimation.
“I hate to say that art has to come out of suffering,” Yoo comments, “but there is something to that, when you must push up against and challenge. There is a rigor and a boldness that comes out in the work that might not surface otherwise.  A different kind of theatre emerges.  There’s urgency.”


A theatre of urgency.

Burning Doors continues at La MaMa until October 22.

© 2017 by Bob Shuman, Mia Yoo, and Natalia Kaliada.  All rights reserved.

Photos: Mia Yoo (The New York Times); Burning Doors–men (Evening Standard); Pavlensky (; Sentsov (the Voice Project). 

Visit La MaMa:

Visit Belarus Free Theatre:

Read the Stage Voices review of the work of Belarus Free Theatre from 2011:



Returns to La MaMa with

NY premiere of


October 12-22, 2017

 Cast includes Maria Alyokhina from PUSSY RIOT

 Belarus Free Theatre (BFT) – the internationally acclaimed troupe known for its stage works that confront some of the most urgent issues of the day – returns to La MaMa (66 E. 4 St. in NYC) with the NY premiere of BURNING DOORS:  previews are set to begin October 12 prior to a press opening Oct. 16.  La MaMa presents BURNING DOORS in association with Belarus Free Theatre, the only theatre in Europe banned by its government on political grounds.

 Devised and performed by Belarus Free Theatre, BURNING DOORS is directed by Nicolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada.  DOORS is written by Mr. Khalezin, with dramatury by Mr. Khalezin and Ms. Kaliada, choreography by Bridget Fiske and Maryia Sazonava and original testimony is by Maria Alyokhina. 

 The cast of BURNING DOORS includes guest performer and collaborator Maria Alyokhina of PUSSY RIOT, the Russian feminist punk-rock group, along with performers and co-creators Pavel Haradnitski, Kiryl Masheka, Siarhei Kvachonak, Maryia Sazonava, Stanislava Shablinskaya, Andrei Urazau and Marnya Yurevich.

 As governments clamp down and walls go up, BURNING DOORS examines how art persists under oppression, and how artists living under dictatorship illuminate complacency in democratic societies, reminding us of the true cost of freedom and the danger of passivity.  BURNING DOORS draws from the personal experiences of three dissidents who were arrested and imprisoned by the government of Vladmir Putin of Russia – Ms. Alyokhina, Petr Pavlensky and Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian national who has been imprisoned in Russia on terrorism charges after Russia invaded Crimea.

In the case of Mr. Sentsov, who has served three years of his 20-year sentence, his experiences are depicted as told to the creators of BURNING DOORS by members of his family, who have been allowed rare visits and received one smuggled correspondence from him during his time in prison.

BURNING DOORS debuted last year in London, where critics called it:

            “A scorching piece of theatre:  uncompromising, urgent and angry.  4 stars.”

                                    Financial Times

            “A spiky, furious mosaic.  4 stars.”  The Sunday Times


Belarus Free Theatre is the leading refugee-led theatre company in the UK. BURNING DOORS draws on the company’s own experience of political oppression and continues their campaign to stand up to artistic freedom and human rights across the globe.

Belarus Free Theatre has previously performed at La MaMa:  TRASH CUISINE, BEING HAROLD PINTER, DISCOVER LOVE and ZONE OF SILENCE.

BURNING DOORS is dedicated to Pavel Sheremet, Oleg Sentsov and all the Kremlin hostages.  The production features the following contributions: 

            –“Fear” and “Russian Contemporary Artist in a Russian Jail.” By Petr Pavlensky

            –“Final Statement” by Oleg Sentsov

            –Extract from “How to Start a Revolution” by Maria Alyokhina

            –“Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault

            –“The Idiot” and “The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

            –“Lonely” by Boombox

            –Russian and Belarusian folk songs

BURNING DOORS was created in partnership with ArtReach as part of Journeys Festival International; Co-commissioned by Arts Centre Melbourne; Developed at Falmouth University’s Academy of Music and Theatre Arts (AMATA), and funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

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.

La MaMa’s 56th season highlights artists of different generations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, who question social mores and confront stereotypes, corruption, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia in their work.  Our stages embrace diversity in every form and present artists that persevere with bold self-expression despite social, economic, and political struggle and the 56th season reflects the urgency of reaffirming human interconnectedness.

Scheduled October 12 to 22, BURNING DOORS will perform weeknights at 8 pm (no performance October 17), Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 4 pm.  Tickets are $30 ($25 for students/seniors) and can be purchased by calling 212-352-3101 or online at


(Charles Passy’s article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 10/16; via the Drudge Report.)

Tickets for Bruce Springsteen’s one-man Broadway show are going for as much as $12,500 on the resale market, putting the musician into “Hamilton” territory.

The New Jersey-born rocker’s “Springsteen on Broadway” show, which opened Thursday to mostly positive reviews after a brief preview period, is sold-out for its entire run through Feb. 3. Seats on StubHub, the resale site, start around $1,500 for most performances, with select tickets costing five figures in a few instances.

The original prices ranged from $213.50 to $875, not including 26 tickets made available for every performance through a lottery for $75.

Last week, the show took in $1.9 million at the box office, according to figures released Monday by the Broadway League, a trade group. That puts “Springsteen on Broadway” almost in the same league as such sales juggernauts as “Hamilton,” “The Lion King” and “Hello, Dolly!”

(Read more)

Photo: Backstage


(Hardeep Phull’s article appeared in the New York Post, 10/12.)

When legendary record producer and talent scout John Hammond signed Bruce Springsteen in 1972, the scraggly Jersey kid was envisioned as a lyrically intricate singer-songwriter, who might be New Jersey’s answer to Bob Dylan.

Now, after 45 years of tearing up stages all over the world with the E Street Band, the Boss has returned to the stripped-down sound that first got him noticed. On Thursday, Springsteen began his residency at Broadway’s 975-seat Walter Kerr Theatre and, in a sense, went full circle on his career.

(Read more)


(Andy Greene’s article appeared in Rolling Stone, 10/12; via The New York Times.)

‘Springsteen on Broadway’ takes the audience on a journey through the singer’s life story using many of his most iconic songs

A little over four minutes into Bruce’s Springsteen‘s Broadway show, he stops playing the opening song, “Growin’ Up,” and speaks to the crowd, his voice entirely unamplified. “I have never held an honest job in my entire life,” he says in a near-shout. “I’ve never worked nine to five. I’ve never done any hard labor, and yet is all that I’ve written about.”

With last year’s myth-shattering, deeply evocative memoir Born to Run, Springsteen introduced readers to the real, vulnerable, complex human being behind his larger-than-life persona. Springsteen on Broadway, at the 975-seat Walter Kerr theater, is in many ways a live version of the book, even if reports that he’d be “reading” from it aren’t quite right: Most of the extensive spoken-word segments are brand new or heavily altered from the book versions. It’s clear from the beginning that this is nothing like a typical latter-day Springsteen concert, where set lists can vary wildly from night to night and Bruce often has little to say between songs. There’s no room for his usual athleticism here – Springsteen just shuffles a few feet between a piano on stage left and a microphone at center stage. The intensity is, instead, emotional, as Springsteen digs hard into the bedrock of his life story, and ours: childhood, religion, work, death. The performance is hard to categorize. It’s not a concert; not a typical one-man-show; certainly not a Broadway musical. But it is one of the most compelling and profound shows by a rock musician in recent memory.

(Read more)


Starts on 12 Oct 2017,
Ends on 15 Oct 2017

This fall Le Skyroom is hosting the US Premiere of “No Longer Without You” as part of Crossing the Line Festival. The show is a searing, outrageous, hilarious conversation between a real-life mother and daughter. Havva Oral is a traditional Muslim immigrant living in the Netherlands; her westernized daughter Nazmiye Oral is a journalist and modern Dutch woman. In the intimate circle of a staged living room, they confront each other’s faith, sexuality, and values, with both love and anger. Directed by Adelheid Roosen and set to live music by Seval OkyayNo Longer Without You is a theatrical look at an important rite. 

Buy tickets here.

“No Longer Without You”

Out of love for her progressive daughter Nazmiye, the Islamic, traditional, headscarf-wearing mother Havva Oral (68) goes on stage week after week to talk through, in the presence of the audience, everything they haven’t spoken about with each other for years: the hymen, marriage, sex, children, faith and homosexuality. “My mother is prepared to risk the condemnation of the Dutch Islamic community to fight with me, her daughter, in public. There is nothing I wouldn’t dare tell my mother anymore. Saying everything to each other on stage has become a kind of experiment, the exploration on no two nights the same. To me, this is a majestic act of her love”, says Nazmiye.

Brave residents share their story! In every town that Zina plants itself, the team goes in search of people who carry a No Longer Without You story within themselves. So too in New York, Zina sought out stories about things such as homosexuality, so-called honor killings, love, generational conflict, shame, vulnerability, and freedom. These New Yorkers don’t just open debate behind closed doors but join the public mother and daughter conversation by sharing their story as part of the performance.

Nederland, Amsterdam, 20-6-2015
Adelheid Roosen, carabetiere en programmamaker.
FOTO : Guus Dubbelman / de Volkskrant

About Adelheid Roosen

Dutch filmmaker, actress, and director Adelheid Roosen has been making theater about “unspeakable” topics since 1989. Her mission is to shift perspectives about what we see as “other” and whom we call strangers. Roosen uses theater to lay bare some of our most sensitive social issues, and to deepen public discussion.

About Nazmiye Oral

Dutch writer and actress Nazmiye Oral has an extensive theater career in the Netherlands and abroad. She is a co-founder, with Adelheid Roosen, of Zinaplatform, a theater company that travels to different neighborhoods throughout the Netherlands and stages performances based on the lives of locals in the community. Her collaborations with Roosen on the plays The Veiled Monologues and No Longer Without You have met with great success. Since its creation, No Longer Without You has toured extensively throughout the world. It was presented during the prestigious Holland Festival in 2015 where Nazmiye won the Audience Award for her performance. In 2016 she won a Golden Calf Award for her role in the film In Vrijheid (In Freedom).

About Crossing The Line Festival 

Crossing the Line is an international arts festival for New York City produced by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) in partnership with leading cultural institutions. 

France has a long history of supporting national and international cultural practices, welcoming and nurturing new ideas and influential perspectives from around the world. FIAF, as the leading French cultural institution in the US, critically maintains that practice through the Crossing the Line Festival, presenting leading-edge artists from France and the US alongside their peers from around the world. 

Since its inauguration in 2007, Crossing the Line has cultivated an increasingly large and diverse following, and received numerous accolades in the press including “Best of” in The New York TimesWall Street JournalThe New YorkerTime Out New YorkArtforum, and Frieze. Festival performances have earned Obie and Bessie awards.

Oral photo: Aicha Qandisha

Via Selman Aqiqi, Toneelgroep Amsterdam; Dutch Culture U.S.A.