Monthly Archives: June 2010


Event: Die Roten Punkte: Robot/Lion Tour 2010

Venue: Barrow Street Theatre

The German sibling comedy team Otto and Astrid Rot, fringe-festival favorites, present . . .

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Event: Falling for Eve

Venue: St. Peter's Theatre

The world première of a new musical, with a book by Joe . . .


Event: I’ll Be Damned

Venue: Vineyard Theatre

Mary Testa and Kenita Miller star in a new musical comedy by . . .

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Event: The Merchant of Venice

Venue: Delacorte Theatre

The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park season includes this classic tale of . . .


Event: undergroundzero festival

Venue: P.S. 122

Experimental companies such as the Shalimar, terraNOVA Collective, and Performance Lab 115 . . .


Event: The Winter’s Tale

Venue: Delacorte Theatre

The Shakespeare romance, directed by Michael Greif, runs in repertory with “The . . .


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(From Diane Levinson, Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, 6/28.)


John A. Willis, who as editor of the Theatre World and Screen World annual series for over 45 years was often considered one of the most important theatre and film historians in America, died June 25, 2010, at his home in Manhattan, of complications from lung cancer. He was ninety-three years old. Willis was also the longtime producer of the Theatre World Awards, given to actors for outstanding Broadway and Off-Broadway debut performances. It is one of the oldest awards bestowed on New York stage actors and helped launch the careers of Alan Alda, Bernadette Peters, and John Leguizamo among many others.


As editor of Theatre World from 1965 to 2008, Mr. Willis meticulously chronicled the seasons of Broadway, regional theatre, summer stock, touring companies, actors’ biographies, obituaries, major theatrical awards, and as they came into existence, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. During the same time period, Mr. Willis also edited Screen World, the annual record of foreign and domestic film releases. Both annual series have been published by Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, an imprint of Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, since 1993. In 2009 Ben Hodges took over editing Theatre World and Barry Monush took over Screen World.


John Cerullo, group publisher of Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, said, “All of us at Applause Books enjoyed our long working relationship with John. He will be sorely missed by all of us. We are privileged and proud to continue working with Ben and Barry in publishing both Theatre World and Screen World, an important part of John Willis’s legacy.”


Mr. Willis is highly regarded for his long-standing dedication as producer of the Theatre World Awards, which were created in 1945. Mr. Willis’s Theatre World Award ceremonies were legendary in the New York theatre scene for their informality, as they warmly welcomed a new crop of actors into the community of New York stage performers.


During his introduction to the ceremony Mr. Willis would goodheartedly admonish the winners “there is no need for a long speech” and “were it not for luck, looks, and supportive parents, you probably wouldn’t be here,” ending with the tongue-in-cheek advice “be brief, be beautiful for our photographers, and be off.” This supposedly curmudgeonly demeanor delighted those in the know, who recognized it as an act put on ironically by a man who felt great affection for actors just beginning a stage career.


The parties thrown at Mr. Willis’s Riverside Drive home following the Theatre World Awards in their 1960s-80s heyday were the stuff of legend, the space large enough to accommodate a salon of exuberant current and previous winners. Regular fixtures were Carol Channing, Colleen Dewhurst, Dorothy Loudon, Bob Fosse’s first wife and dance partner, Marianne Niles, and Maureen Stapleton, among many other theatrical elite. Ms. Loudon (most notable for her role as Miss Hannigan in Annie) would regularly recall at Theatre World Awards gatherings that Mr. Willis had presented her with an award from a Broadway production that lasted only one week, 1962’s appropriately titled Nowhere to Go But Up.


John Alvin Willis was born in Morristown, Tennessee, on October 16, 1916, to John Bradford Willis, a pharmacist, and George Ann Meyers, the daughter of a wealthy landowner. He graduated cum laude from Milligan College in Johnson City, Tennessee, in 1938, and received a MA from the University of Tennessee in 1941. Enlisting in the United States Navy in 1941, he served a two-year stint in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, becoming a part of the US Naval Reserves until 1945.


He moved to New York City in 1945 to become an actor. That summer he was participating in summer stock in Cedarhurst, Long Island when Norman MacDonald, director of the production, mentioned that he and Theatre World co-founder Daniel Blum were looking for a typist to type the entries for the annual series. Mr. Willis put in for the job, and got it, having been the assistant typing teacher at alma mater Milligan College in Tennessee.


Mr. Willis holds the unofficial record of seeing more Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway shows than any other person. It is surmised that he attended between seven and nine shows a week for over fifty-eight years, with the exception of a two-week vacation in June of every year. In addition, Mr. Willis was a New York City public school teacher for over twenty years, lastly at Haaren High School. Both of Mr. Willis’s marriages—to Claire Olivier in 1960 and Marina Sarda in 1978—ended in divorce. He had no children.


On behalf of Theatre World, Mr. Willis received a 2001 Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre, the 2003 Broadway Theater Institute Lifetime Achievement Award, a 1994 special Drama Desk Award, and in 1993, the first Outstanding Special Lucille Lortel Award. On behalf of Screen World, he received the 1998 National Board of Review William K. Everson Award for Film History. Mr. Willis served on the Tony Award nominating committee, the New York University Musical Hall of Fame selection committee, and the board of directors of the National Board of Review. In 1996 he received a caricature on the wall of Sardi’s.


Having compiled obituaries annually for Theatre World for over fifty years, Mr. Willis was known to express dismay when causes of death, especially of older celebrities, were not cited. He was fond of saying: “Everyone dies of something. I don’t understand why they say natural causes, when all causes are natural unless you’re murdered or die in an accident, so they should print what it was that killed them!” He would then add that “When I go, please mention what killed me.” For the record, Mr. Willis succumbed to complications from lung cancer.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Theatre World, c/o 190 Riverside Dr. #1D, New York, NY 10025


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Antony and Cleopatra is Shakespeare's last great tragedy.

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Telling the story of one of history's most famous couples, Antony and Cleopatra contains some of the most beautiful poetry in the English Language.

Shakespeare's last great tragedy is an epic play of action set against a huge political and geographical backdrop, but at the centre of the play is a story about what happens when two people fall in love. In this play, love is a madness that leads to excess and imbalance. Antony and Cleopatra are middle-aged people who have loved before and often and they seize this late love as if it is their last chance. Their love possesses them and destroys all rational behaviour.

Antony and Cleopatra are a celebrity couple – they live their lives in public and they wield tremendous power. They are 'great' figures, and very conscious of their greatness – both are preoccupied with the figure they will cut in history. But they are also 'a soldier and his lass', driven by common human emotions. Shakespeare shows that great natures can produce great vices as well as great virtues – we see their vanity, cruelty and irresponsibility. Like glamorous stars, Antony and Cleopatra are both deeply attractive and open to harsh judgement.

Cleopatra ….. Frances Barber
Mark Antony ….. David Harewood
Enobarbus ….. Roger Allam
Ocatavius Caesar ….. Colin Tierney
Lepidus / Clown ….. Ewan Hooper
Octavia ….. Amanda Root
Pompey / Sentry ….. Garry Cooper
Charmian ….. Claire Rushbrook
Iras ….. Helen Longworth
Eros / Varrius ….. Paul Hilton
Scarus / Alexas ….. Ben Onwukwe
Decretes / Thidias / Taurus ….. Martin Hyder
Philo / Canidius / Dolabella ….. Gerard McDermott
Maecenas / Demetrius ….. Sean Baker
Agrippa ….. Peter Marinker
Ventidius / Proculeius ….. Ben Crowe
Menas / Seleucus ….. Jonny Phillips
Ambassador / Soothsayer ….. Ian Masters
Mardian / Menecrates / Gallus ….. Peter Darney
Diomedes / Watchman ….. Carl Prekopp

Original music composed by Sylvia Hallett
Directed by Mary Peate.

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(Stephens’s article ran in the Guardian, 6/25.)

The most memorable experience I've had watching one of my own plays wasn't at the National Theatre or in Manchester's Royal Exchange. It wasn't at the Traverse in Edinburgh or London's Royal Court or at the Kammerspiele Vienna, or the Deutsches Theater Berlin. It was in the converted gallows of Wandsworth jail, six years ago, watching my play Country Music, which is currently being revived and toured to prisons by West Yorkshire Playhouse.


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(Feingold’s article appeared June 22.)

Last month, I wrote an essay for the Obie Awards issue (Voice, May 18, 2010) asking if our theater might not be living in a new Golden Age. I hadn't expected much reaction from outside the limited circle of my loyal readership. So the response, of which there was a good deal, took me by surprise. For once, it seemed, a lot of people agreed with me: The New York theater is living through a time unbelievably rich in gifted artists, whose gifts are not being effectively employed or sufficiently recognized. Something in our theater's system is deeply out of synch with itself.


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(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/20.)

Roy Williams, as we know from Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads, is adept at using sport as metaphor. The big difference with Sucker Punch is that he shows as well as tells. Under Miriam Buether's design, the Court has been radically restructured around a boxing ring in which we see two young black fighters skipping, sparring and engaging in a title bout. Far from being liberated, however, they remain pawns in a larger game: as someone points out: "White people love nuttin' better than to see two black men beat up on each other."


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