‘THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR’ OFFERS STRONG EVIDENCE THAT SHAKESPEARE WAS NOT ITS AUTHOR ·

(Jacobi’s and Anderson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/13; Photo/ illustrations: Relentless in his self-satire … Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Photograph: Alamy.)

Derek Jacobi and Margo Anderson on how local lore and biographical specificity found in the comedy point to the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, as its writer

Michael Billington says Shakespeare’s romantic comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor offers clues to the Bard’s identity (Need proof who wrote Shakespeare’s plays? See The Merry Wives of Windsor, 20 May). “It could only have been written by someone who understood the intricacies of a close-knit, provincial community,” Billington writes.

We wholeheartedly agree. The action in Merry Wives centres on an inn in Windsor, the only town in England with a whole Shakespeare play devoted to it. Local geography and lore are faithfully reported, including accurate references to the nearby village of Frogmore, the laundry place at Datchet Mead and Windsor Castle’s Great Park.

This, we suggest, is for good reason. The author of The Merry Wives of Windsor is drawing from personal experience of having once lived in Windsor.

When he was a young adult in 1570, the downwardly mobile Elizabethan court poet and playwright Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, recuperated from an illness at an inn in Windsor. Around the same time, he was wooing Anne Cecil, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth’s chief adviser William Cecil. Around that time an overachieving young go-getter in Cecil’s orbit, Philip Sidney, was also seeking kindly Anne’s hand. But De Vere ultimately got the girl. And his 1571 marriage to Anne soon spiralled into fiery disarray, brought about in part by the outraged De Vere jealously accusing her of infidelity.

And it’s all right there in The Merry Wives. The author of this play, relentless in his own self-satire, had a more modern artistic consciousness than critics traditionally allow. It’s as if he split portions of his life story into three and set these triplet strands of memory and clashing personality traits chaotically into motion.

The author’s three protagonist avatars – Fenton, Ford and Falstaff – represent the wooer, the jealous husband, and the wild gadabout. In Merry Wives, Fenton’s chief rival for the hand of “sweet Anne Page” is a milksop called Slender, whose pointed correspondences to the historical Philip Sidney zing with specificity. Sidney, like Slender, had a power broker of a kinsman who pressed Anne’s family for the marriage; Sidney, like Slender, could lay claim to a £300 annuity; Anne in Merry Wives as well as the historical Anne Cecil both had £700 inheritances awaiting them.

(Read more)

IAN MCKELLEN HOSPITALIZED AFTER FALLING OFF STAGE DURING WEST END PERFORMANCE ·

(Ethan Shanfeld’s article appeared in Variety, 6/17. Photo:  Ian McKellen plays John Falstaff in Player Kings. Photograph: Manuel Harlanthe Guardian.)

Ian McKellen was hospitalized after falling off stage during a performance of “Player Kings” at the Noël Coward Theatre on the West End in London, according to the BBC.

McKellen was reportedly in a battle scene when he lost his footing and fell. The audience was evacuated from the theater and the evening show was canceled. A representative for the theater shared a statement that McKellen will “make a speedy and full recovery” and that the 85-year-old actor is “in good spirits.”

“Thank you to our audience and the general public for their well wishes following Ian’s fall during this evening’s performance of ‘Player Kings,’” reads the statement. “Following a scan, the brilliant NHS team have assured us that he will make a speedy and full recovery and Ian is in good spirits. The production has made the decision to cancel the performance on Tuesday 18 June so Ian can rest. Those affected will be contacted by their point of purchase as soon as possible tomorrow. Thank you to doctors Rachel and Lee who were on hand in the audience and to all the venue staff for their support.”

Variety has reached out to McKellen’s representative for further comment.

McKellen plays John Falstaff in “Player Kings,” which is a production of William Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Parts One and Two.” It started its 12-week run on the West End in April. After circling a fight scene involving two other characters, McKellen apparently fell off the front of the stage. Per the BBC, “As the house lights came up, the actor cried out and staff rushed to help.”

An audience member speaking to the BBC called the incident “very shocking,” adding, “As far as I saw, he was conscious because he was asking for assistance.”

(Read more)

TONY AWARD WINNERS 2024: THE FULL LIST ·

(Rachel Sherman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/17. Photo: Mashable SEA.)

The Tony Awards were held on Sunday at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater in New York City.

Maleah Joi Moon made her Broadway debut this year as the teenager at the heart of the Alicia Keys musical “Hell’s Kitchen.” On Sunday night, she won the Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

After a very crowded spring in which 18 Broadway shows opened in two months, theatergoers and actors alike could finally exhale — and celebrate.

The Tony Awards were handed out on Sunday during a ceremony hosted, for the third year, by the Oscar-winning actress Ariana DeBose. A handful of awards were presented during a preshow on Pluto TV, followed by the main ceremony on CBS and Paramount+.

This Broadway season — comprising plays and musicals that opened during the eligibility period between April 28, 2023, and April 25, 2024 — featured scores of screen actors who took to the stage. Most of the winners were first-time Tony nominees, many of whom made their Broadway debuts.

Jeremy Strong won the Tony for best leading actor in a play for “An Enemy of the People”; Daniel Radcliffe scored his first Tony Award (in his fifth Broadway show) for his role in “Merrily We Roll Along”; Sarah Paulson took home a Tony for best leading actress in a play as the combustible Toni Lafayette in “Appropriate.” And Kara Young took home her first Tony Award for her performance in the comedic revival of “Purlie Victorious,” making her the first Black actor to be nominated for a Tony three years in a row.

“The Outsiders” won best new musical, and “Stereophonic,” which received the most nominations for a play in Tonys history, was awarded best new play. “Merrily We Roll Along,” Stephen Sondheim’s onetime flop, took home the honor for best musical revival.

A complete list of winners is below.

The Tony Award for best play went to “Stereophonic,” David Adjmi’s hit show about a 1970s band trying to record an album.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Best New Play

“Stereophonic” (Read our review.)

“The Outsiders” won best new musical. As The New York Times’s chief theater critic, Jesse Green, put it, Tony voters went with “the underdog show about perennial underdogs.”Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Best New Musical

“The Outsiders” (Read our review.)

The playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is joined by cast and crew from “Appropriate,” the Tony winner for best play revival. Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Best Play Revival

“Appropriate” (Read our review.)

“Merrily We Roll Along” won the Tony for best musical revival. Sondheim’s original 1981 production, long considered a flop, closed just 12 days after opening.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Best Musical Revival

“Merrily We Roll Along” (Read our review.)

Best Book of a Musical

Shaina Taub, “Suffs” (Read our feature.)

Jeremy Strong’s turn as the doctor in “An Enemy of the People” took the prize for best leading actor in a play. It’s the “Succession” star’s first 

Best Leading Actor in a Play

Jeremy Strong, “An Enemy of the People” (Read our feature.)

Best Leading Actress in a Play

Sarah Paulson, “Appropriate” (Read our profile.)

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FIELDING’S ‘TOM JONES’ (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 4–IN OUR TIME–DISCUSSION PROGRAM) ·

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In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss “The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling” (1749) by Henry Fielding (1707-1754), one of the most influential of the early English novels and a favourite of Dickens. Coleridge wrote that it had one of the ‘three most perfect plots ever planned’. Fielding had made his name in the theatre with satirical plays that were so painful for their targets in government that, from then until the 1960s, plays required approval before being staged; seeking other ways to make a living, Fielding turned to law and to fiction. ‘Tom Jones’ is one of the great comic novels, with the tightness of a farce and the ambition of a Greek epic as told by the finest raconteur. While other authors might present Tom as a rake and a libertine, Fielding makes him the hero for his fundamental good nature, so offering a caution not to judge anyone too soon, if ever.

With Judith Hawley Professor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

Henry Power Professor of English Literature at the University of Exeter

And Charlotte Roberts Associate Professor of English Literature at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

In Our Time is a BBC Studios Audio Production

TRIAL OF RUSSIAN THEATER DIRECTOR ADJOURNED AFTER AMBULANCE CALLED IN COURTROOM ·

(From Radio Free Europe. Photo: Theatre director Zhenya Berkovich, left, and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk are seen in a glass cage prior to a hearing in a court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 20, 2024.(Photo | AP).)

A Moscow court adjourned to an unspecified date the trial of theater director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk, who are charged with justifying terrorism, after Berkovich felt unwell and an ambulance was called to the courtroom on June 10. The two women have maintained their innocence in the trial, which started on May 20. Berkovich and Petriichuk were arrested last year following a production of the play Finist — The Brave Falcon. The play is about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria. If convicted, the women face up to five years in prison each. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.

(Go to Radio Free Europe)

 

4 IN 1: AUDITIONS ANNOUNCED FOR 4 PRODUCTIONS, 6/15/24, NYC–INCLUDING ‘TONGS AND BONES SHAKESPEARE’ AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY (BY BOB SHUMAN, DIRECTED BY FRANK FARRELL) ·

(6/7/2024) Director Frank Farrell is announcing auditions for four productions – Saturday, June 15 from 2pm – 7pm at Houghton Hall Arts Community, 22 East 30th Street in NYC.  Actors are asked to present a one-minute memorized monologue from Shakespeare or another playwright.  Actors will be given material from the plays to read at the audition.  Email frankfarrellproductions@gmail.com to schedule an audition. Frank will get back to confirm.

The productions will be produced by three companies: the First Flight Theatre Company, Frank Farrell Productions, and Stage Voices Productions.

The Four Productions:

1. Tongs and Bones Shakespeare by Bob Shuman, directed by Frank Farrell

($50 per actor)

Stage Voices Productions, as part of the Dream Up Festival at Theater for the New City in NYC

Looking for 7 Non-Equity actors comfortable with Shakespeare text.

Rehearsals will begin on Zoom.

In Person Rehearsals in August TBD.

Four Performances TBD between August 25 – September 18

 

2. Little Women adapted and directed by Frank Farrell ($150 per actor)

First Flight Theatre Company at the Hermitage, 335 Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey

Role available: Meg

Rehearsals will begin on Zoom on July 1, 2024.

In person rehearsals at the Hermitage in New Jersey are on July 16, 17, 18, 19 from 5:30pm – 8pm.

Two Performances at the Hermitage on July 20 &; 21 with a 6pm call time for actors for 7pm Curtain.

 

3. Stories of Poe (working title) directed by Frank Farrell (100 per actor)

First Flight Theatre Company at the Hermitage, 335 Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey

Looking for 5 actors comfortable with Story Theater Format

Rehearsals will begin on Zoom.

In Person Rehearsals at the Hermitage on October 17 & 18 at 6pm, October 19 at 5:30pm

One Performance at the Hermitage on October 19 at 7pm.

 

4. Dickens Presents A Christmas Carol by Jean Oberholtzer directed by TBA

($200 per actor)

First Flight Theatre Company at the Hermitage, 335 Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey

Rehearsals will begin on Zoom.

In Person Rehearsals at the Hermitage on December 11, 12, 13 from 6:30pm –9:30pm, December 22 at 3pm

Four Performances at the Hermitage on December 14 & 21 at 7pm, December 15 & 22 at 3pm

Visit www.firstflighttheatreco.com & www.stagevoices.com

Support This Artistic Endeavor

‘TONGS AND BONES SHAKESPEARE’ AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY (BY BOB SHUMAN; DIRECTED BY FRANK FARRELL)

Stage Voices Web site (www.stagevoices.com) will be following the course of the production with information and rehearsal updates.  To bring this ambitious project to life, we are seeking the generous support of our community.  To start, we are beginning a GoFundMe campaign: Please consider donating, as the cast, in keeping with those in Shakespeare’s plays, is rather large—there are, of course, costume and rehearsal space costs, as well; a long list of expenditures.  Your contributions, no matter the size, will play a vital role in ensuring the success of this production—and we give many thanks for your help.

Please use the following GoFundMe link for the crowdsourcing platform to donate.  

Photo by Miguel Garzón Martínez presented as part of the FRIGID New York Little Shakespeare Festival.

***** ‘VIOLA’S ROOM’ REVIEW – PUNCHDRUNK’S GOTHIC TALE OF PUZZLING WONDER   ·

(Arifa Akbar’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/3; Photo: Teenage kicks … an audience member in Viola’s Room. 

Photograph: Julian Abrams.)

One Cartridge Place, London
Helena Bonham Carter narrates as a bare-footed audience explore exquisite rooms in this unsettling, grief-soaked journey into the night

The immersive adventure begins with a sleep. We are invited to lie down as the lights fade and the story begins, narrated by Helena Bonham Carter. Her voice pours into our ears through binaural headphones, sometimes velvety and playful, other times a scratching whisper.

She tells a tangled tale, written by Booker-nominated novelist Daisy Johnson and featuring the parallel lives of a modern-day teenager alongside a princess. A re-imagining of Barry Pain’s 1901 short story The Moon-Slave, it is steeped in Victorian gothic, featuring Dionysian femininity, but also a prince, a disappearance and a grief-soaked journey into the night.

There is unfinished business to the concept: the company’s first show in 2000 was an interpretation of Pain’s story, only seen by four people due to cost constraints. Two decades on, the story is squeezed into a winding series of unlit corridors through which we travel wearing our headsets, and in which the everyday intersects with the otherworldly, from the teenager’s sparkly, poster-clad bedroom to a castle’s gothic interior and glittering forests. Johnson’s parallel worlds hold shades of Narnia – we wander through children’s dens and wardrobes to find fantasy realms nestling within the quotidian.

Conceived by Punchdrunk’s Felix Barrett who co-directs with Hector Harkness, it is a darkly alluring production which plays with well-worn tropes but spins them in unfamiliar ways. “It’s all a dream, surely?” says the narrator as the tale takes strange twists and it feels like a beautiful, enveloping one that hovers delicately between bedtime story, fairytale, children’s game and nightmare.

Where The Burnt City, the company’s inaugural show in their sprawling new south-east London home, left you stranded in its depths, this is its polar opposite. It is tightly story-lined with only one way to go: towards the lights winking a path ahead of us.

 (Read more)

ELLA FITZGERALD, BOUND FOR FREEDOM, IN “ELLA THE UNGOVERNABLE” ·

LEFT: Ella Fitzgerald in 1940. Photo by Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress. RIGHT: Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb Orchestra (undated, uncredited).

Theater for the New City to present “Ella The Ungovernable,” a play by David McDonald about 15 year-old Ella Fitzgerald’s incarceration in Hudson, NY, in 1933 and the escape that launched her singing career.

Theater for the New City is set to present “Ella The Ungovernable,” a poignant play by David McDonald, from June 20 to July 7, 2024. This production reveals a little-known chapter of Ella Fitzgerald’s life: her 1933 incarceration and escape from the New York Training School for Girls in Hudson, which launched her legendary singing career. Performances will be held at 155 First Ave (at E. 10th Street) Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 3:00 PM.

McDonald, a filmmaker-turned-playwright, meticulously captures the resilience of 15-year-old Fitzgerald, who overcame significant adversity. The play stars Christian Neal as young Ella, with co-direction by McDonald and Michele Baldwin. Neal’s portrayal is complemented by Tyra Hughes as Alice, a fictional cellmate, and an ensemble cast that brings to life the harsh realities of Fitzgerald’s youth.

Rooted in extensive research, the play integrates songs like “A Tisket A Tasket,” highlighting Fitzgerald’s early musical influences. McDonald’s transition from film to theater embodies the community spirit of Theater for the New City, aiming to inspire with a message of perseverance.

For more information, visit Theater for the New City or call (212) 254-1109.

WHERE AND WHEN:

June 20 and July 7, 2024

Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave (at E. 10th Street)

Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM

$18 gen adm., $15 seniors & students

Box office: www.theaterforthenewcity.net, (212) 254-1109

Running time: 90 min.

(via Jonathan Slaff; ChatGPT)

FANGS FOR THE MEMORIES: HOW DRACULA WAS MADE IN DERBY (U.K.) ·

(Caroline Butterwick’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/3; Cape fear … Bela Lugosi in a publicity still for the 1931 film of Dracula. Photograph: Universal/Allstar.)

The iconography of modern vampires can be traced back to a 1924 English stage version of Bram Stoker’s novel. On its centenary, the suave bloodsucker is returning to where it all began

With his high-collared cape and piercing fangs, Dracula is every inch the quintessential vampire – instantly recognisable across culture. Portrayed hundreds of times in film, theatre, video games and spin-off books, the character is always evolving – an evolution that began in Derby.

When the curtain rose at Derby’s Grand theatre in May 1924, the monster of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel was transformed into an elegant figure, swooping around the stage in a long opera cloak. Written by Irish actor and playwright Hamilton Deane, the first authorised play of Dracula premiered here, and went on to shape how the character was adapted by Hollywood. “Derby is the genesis point for the visualisation of Count Dracula,” says Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker and co-author of Dracula: The Un-Dead, a sequel to Dracula.

A 14-month programme of events will mark the 100th anniversary of Dracula’s first appearance on stage, under the banner of Dracula Returns to Derby, an Art and Humanities Research Council-funded project led by the University of Derby that will celebrate and explore this legacy.

The recognition is long overdue. In 2019, Dr Matthew Cheeseman, associate professor of creative writing at the University of Derby, realised the connection while writing a preface for The Derby Critical Edition of Dracula. “It was something no one else really talked about,” says Cheeseman, who is leading the Dracula Returns to Derby project. “What Derby gave was freedom to adapt the character.”

The 1924 production took place at the Grand theatre, now an adult crazy golf venue. Adapting the novel into that first official staging came with challenges. “Number one was to get Florence Stoker – Bram’s widow – to agree,” says Dacre. Florence was in dispute over the unauthorised adaptation of Dracula into Nosferatu, FW Murnau’s celebrated 1922 silent film. “So she was under great stress,” says Dacre. “But she had some comfort because Hamilton Deane was an Irishman from the same area that Bram was from. Before the novel was published, Bram had laid the groundwork by holding a staged reading at the Lyceum theatre in London. In terms of the dramatic rights, that was writing a blank cheque and leaving it to her.”

While she won the Nosferatu case, with a court ruling that all copies of the film should be destroyed (thankfully some survived), Florence didn’t get any money, as the film’s production company was bankrupt. But winning “gave her the conviction to go to somebody and get this thing on stage”.

(Read more)

‘ANTIGONE’ BY JEAN ANOUILH (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3; LINK BELOW) ·

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Drama on 3

Antigone by Jean Anouilh
Translated by Barbara Bray

After the deaths of Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, the king Creon, orders that Polynices’s body be left unburied, rotting under the sun. Antigone, however is hell-bent on burying her brother, in full knowledge that she will be killed for defying the law; free from dictatorship, she is liberated, and ‘can be herself at last’.

This powerful play was an instant success when first staged in Paris in 1944. It represented the French Resistance movement against the forces of the Vichy government during Nazi occupation. It takes on a new, profound significance today exploring personal and political truth and liberty, and action versus passivity.

Prologue-Chorus ….. Jonathan Keeble
Creon ….. Sean Bean
Antigone ….. Rosy McEwen
Ismene ….. Norah Lopez-Holden
Nurse ….. Maureen Beattie
Haemon/Messenger ….. Joseph Ayre
Jonus ….. Owen Whitelaw

Introduction by Professor Emma Smith from Hertford College, Oxford
Production Co-ordinator – Gaelan Davis-Connolly
Sound by Andrew Garratt, and Alison Craig
Adapted, and directed by Pauline Harris

A BBC Studios Audio Production for BBC Radio 3

Further info:-
This is the first audio production in 40 years, and Sean Bean’s first Audio Drama in 25 years. Sean has recently won Leading Actor BAFTA’s and International Emmy Awards for his performances in Jimmy McGovern’s Time, Broken and Accused for BBC One. He co-starred in Marriage, BBC, “Pitch Perfect” The Guardian.

Rosy McEwen who plays Antigone makes her debut audio drama performance – McEwen had the lead role in the independent film Blue Jean released in the United Kingdom in February 2023. For the portrayal McEwen earned the award for Best Lead Performance at the British Independent Film Awards in December 2022, a category in which McEwen beat Sally Hawkins, Florence Pugh and Bill Nighy. Her performance was variously described as a “revelation”, “riveting”, and “excellent”, as well as being “a powerful, internalised performance”.

Rosy played Desdemona in Othello (Clint Dyer’s production at the National) ‘… it is Desdemona who steals this show – I have never seen the part better played. She is too often no more than a lamb to the slaughter, a trampled petal. Rosy McEwen is brave, upright, her own woman – and movingly embodies absolute trust right up to the end’. Kate Kellaway, The Observer

On screen, she appeared with Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning in the Netflix series The Alienist. She played Christopher Eccleston’s daughter in the Channel 4 miniseries Close to Me and alongside Eddie Marsan in the science fiction film Vesper. She also has an upcoming role in the Rosemary’s Baby prequel, Apartment 7A alongside Julia Garner.

Photo: Jean Anouilh, 1937