Monthly Archives: July 2011





(Ben Chu’s article appeared in the Independent, 8/1.)

Cabaret. What does the word mean to you? Perhaps it's Liza Minnelli in a bowler hat and suspenders. Or can-can dancers in fin-de-siècle Paris. Or a crooner in a 1950s' New York supper club.

Perhaps it means a scene that's preserved in aspic, a historic curiosity, a dead art form. Well, if so, it's time to reconsider.



(Tom Peck’s article appeared in the Independent, 7/30.)

The door of the pub swings open and, not for the first time, in walks Micky Lay.In one hand he is holding a roll-up cigarette he hasn't bothered to extinguish. In the other is a Tony Award, still in its branded velvet bag, which he plonks on the bar. "Do what you fucking like with it," he announces. "I'm going for a piss."If you've never been to Pewsey, a Wiltshire village half way between Stonehenge and Wootton Basset, the chances are you've never met the notorious 71-year-old figurehead of its far-from-thriving pub scene, but thousands feel they know him



(Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 7/22.)

Des McAnuff, the artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, North America's largest and arguably most prestigious, classically based theater, has announced his intention to leave his post in 2013.

Personal decisions are always complex, and this may well be just a negotiating position. Still, McAnuff should think hard. The marriage of this famously populist and audacious directing talent with the institutional resources, technical prowess, training, craft and, yes, dignity of a long-established theater forged by Tyrone Guthrie and the great designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch, serves the art and the interests of both parties uncommonly well.,0,6965064.column


(Janie Abernethy’s report appeared 7/29 for CBS News.)

U.S. college graduates are in war-torn Bosnia to bring together Muslims and Catholics trying to erase the scars of their country's bloody civil war. Former Dartmouth students with Professor Andrew Garrod lead young Bosnian actors to perform Shakespeare's The Tempest, a story about revenge and forgiveness.

Over a decade after the end of its civil war, Bosnia is still divided by race and religion. The production offers one of the few opportunities for young Bosniak Muslims and young Croat Catholics to come together. The multiethnic actors range from ages 14 to 24.

"Theater is an extraordinary medium for people to work cooperatively on a group project that demands selflessness, preparation, and trust," explains Professor Garrod, who is the director of the Bosnia program and an education professor at Dartmouth College. "If these young people really work hard…ethnicity will become redundant in the process. They will care so much about each other's success that they won't care who is Muslim and who is Catholic."


The Druid Theatre Company’s acclaimed production of Sean O’Casey’s The Silver Tassie is in New York for only 8 performances–from July 24 through July 31. Directed by Tony Award-Winner Garry Hynes, the controversial 1928 drama is about “two teenaged football heroes, plucked from the tenements of Dublin and lobbed into the French battlefields of World War I.”  It will be performed as part of the Lincoln Center Festival at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John J. College (Amsterdam Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets).

Verbatim Text and Reviews:

O'CASEY called the play, “A generous handful of stones, aimed indiscriminately, with the aim of breaking a few windows.”

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS said to O’CASEY:  “You have no subject.”

        COLIN MURPHY in the Irish Independent: “The Silver Tassie,  renowned since . . .  the 1920s emerges in Garry Hynes's fine new production as one of the great (anti-) war plays.”

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS continued, “The Abbey Theatre owed its recent prosperity to you, Sean.  If you had not brought your plays just at that moment I doubt it would now exist.”

       IAN SHUTTLEWORTH in the Financial Times: “Deserves to be far more widely seen. Five stars.”

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS: “I am sad and discouraged . . .  You were interested in the Irish Civil War, Sean, and at every moment of those plays . . . you were excited and we all caught your excitement . . .  but you are not interested in the great war."

SEAN O’CASEY: “How do you know I’m not interested in the great war?”

        Poet and playwright FRANK MCGUINESS:  “The cruelest play in all Irish literature.”

       LYN GARDNER in the Guardian: “Remarkable . . . particularly in form. The second act in the  rain-drenched trenches will come like a punch in the stomach.”

SEAN O’CASEY: (to Yeats) “Your statement is to me an impudently ignorant one to make, for it happens that I was and am passionately interested in the Great War.”

        GARRY HYNES:  “Written in the O’Casey language that is one of the  glories of English literature.”

        The Irish Times: “Monumental.”

YEATS: “You never stood on its battlefields or walked its hospitals, and so write out of your opinions.”

O’CASEY:  “Do you really mean that no one should or could write about or speak about a war because one has not stood on the battlefield?  Was Shakespeare at Actium or Philippi?” 

YEATS: “The mere greatness of the World War has thwarted you—”

        PETER CRAWLEY in the Irish Times: “Druid’s ambitious new production, directed by Garry Hynes, recognizes a play full of jarring juxtapositions – a tragi-comedy about horror and loss which is full of  movement and song.”

        Irish Theatre Magazine: Druid’s production is “definitive.”

YEATS: “The whole history of the world must be reduced to wallpaper in front of which the characters must pose and speak—”

O’CASEY:  (repeating) “The whole history of the world must be reduced to wallpaper in front of which the characters must pose and speak—”

BERNARD SHAW: “My Dear Sean, what a hell of a play! I wonder how it will hit the public.  Of course the Abbey should have produced it. . . . If Yeats had said, 'It’s too savage; I can’t stand it,’ he would have been in order.  Cheerio Titan.”

YEATS: “I see nothing for it but a new theme, something you have found and no newspaper writer has ever found.  What business have we with anything but the unique?”

O’CASEY: “I have created the very, very thing you were looking for . . . something . . . unique.”

LADY GREGORY:  “My mind goes back to the Tassie–We ought not to have rejected it.”

Call for The Silver Tassie tickets at 212-721-6500 or visit

(Quotations from O’Casey, Yeats, Shaw, and Gregory taken from Sean O’Casey: The Man and His Work by David Krause, The Macmillan Company, 1960, New York)

Photograph: Robert Day


Director/Photography: Marit Shuman

Text compilation: Bob Shuman

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(Philip Boroff’s article appeared on Bloomberg, 7/28.)

Three years after agreeing to buy its own Broadway house, New York’s Second Stage Theatre is struggling to close the deal.

The highly regarded company, whose hits include “Next to Normal” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” risks forfeiting a $3.65 million down payment should it fail to come up with the $21.1 million balance for the theater by May 2012, according to a financial statement filed with the New York State attorney general.

In April 2008, Second Stage announced its plan to purchase the 597-seat Helen Hayes Theater for $24 million. Like most nonprofits, it is still grappling with a recession that short- circuited capital fundraising.

The group is also navigating Broadway’s blurring boundaries between commercial and subsidized producers. Buying the Hayes would make it the fourth nonprofit with at least one Broadway house.


(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/28.)

It is now widely accepted that these two plays represent the twin summits of William Shakespeare's genius. Peter Hall, returning to them for the first time since he directed them at Stratford in 1964, has also realised them to perfection. He never lets us forget that they are about the search for order in a divided, burning land. Yet within the overall pattern, his productions are filled with a mass of complex human detail.

Hall has taken an initially surprising decision: to dress the plays in early Victorian costume. The move pays off handsomely. Sir John Falstaff's lowlife cronies have the spiky angularity of a Phiz illustration to a Dickens novel. And when Lizzie McInnerny's Mistress Quickly complains to Falstaff that "thou didst swear to me upon a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting in my dolphin chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire, upon Wednesday in Whitsun-week", she anticipates the garrulous particularity of Pickwick's Mrs Bardell. Yet the production retains its epic sweep thanks to Simon Higlett's superb set, in which a brick wall opens up to provide a panorama of English life.


(Charles Spencer’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 7/28.)

I thought I had Noël Coward neatly pigeon-holed – cocktails and laughter, clenched wit, and a nasty tendency among the stylish and sophisticated characters to mock those they believe to be less smart than they are. But there are other aspects to his work, too, not least a deep patriotism and a tendency to finger-wagging moralising.

This Happy Breed, however, written in 1939, reveals a very different Coward – and an extremely engaging one. Here he seems to drawing on his own humble origins in the London suburbs, the son of a failed piano salesman and a mother who took in lodgers and steered her son’s progress as a child actor. Only later did this “brazen odious little prodigy” (the description is Coward’s own) achieve the polished finesse for which he is best remembered.


(Laura Barnett’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/26.)

How much can you get out of a play if it's performed in a language you don't understand? This question was very much on my mind at the Avignon festival in the south of France. It was my first time at this large-scale, artistically ambitious arts shindig, which bears similarities to the Edinburgh International festival. Both started in the 1940s to cheer up a post-war populace; both have a large fringe festival alongside the main programme (though in Avignon this is known, delightfully, as the "Off"); both entirely commandeer their host town.

I was there at the invitation of the main festival's co-director, Vincent Baudriller; a few weeks back, he got in touch with me to say that he was keen to encourage more British audiences to visit Avignon. Theatre fans apparently flock there from all over Europe and beyond – Spain, Germany, Holland, Russia – and those countries' newspapers and websites devote reams of space to the festival. "But you Brits," he said, "generally stay away."



‘SAVAGE WORLD’ by STEPHEN FIFE (Playwright/Writer/Screenwriter)

Steve’s plays have been produced in NYC at The Jewish Repertory Theatre, Primary Stages, Circle Rep Lab, La Mama, Theater for the New City, the Samuel Beckett Theater, others.  Plays include Mickey’s Home, a suspenseful 3-character drama, and New Day, a dystopian satire about a future in which the attempt to eliminate the gene for violent behavior has had unexpected consequences.  His drama about racial strife in America, Savage World, was produced at the Met Theater in Hollywood, where Backstage West named it one of the Best Productions of 2008.  His evening of romantic comedies, This Is Not What I Ordered, was produced in Los Angeles and published by Samuel French.  The Jewish Repertory Theater commissioned him to do a new adaptation of Sholem Asch’s play God of Vengeance and produced it at Playhouse 91 in NYC, where the production received 17 rave reviews.  The play was later produced in Tel Aviv (in Hebrew) and in Atlanta as a joint production of 7 Stages and Jewish Theatre of the South, where it was directed by the late great Joseph Chaikin.  Steve wrote about this experience in his memoir, BEST REVENGE: How the Theater Saved My Life and Has Been Killing Me Ever Since, published by CUNE Press and hailed by American Theatre as “coming from deep inside the heart and mind of a struggling artist.” A graduate of Sarah Lawrence & Columbia’s School of the Arts (MFA), Steve was the first literary manager for the Off-Broadway company Primary Stages and is currently on the Board of Directors of the West Coast Jewish Theatre.  He has written feature articles on theater, film, and painting for The New York Times, New Republic, Village Voice, New York Newsday, American Theatre, many others.  He is very proud of his work with kids and teens in New York and Los Angeles, including in his drama group, The Young Actors Workshop, where he has written, directed and produced several original musicals. 

Visit Stephen Fife's Web site for more info:    

(Stage Voices highlights playwrights and performers–and their work. If you have had or been in a professional production, we will consider a 4-5 minute demo or audition tape for inclusion on this blog.  Please e-mail: with an easily uploadable file or link–YouTube is best.  Also send a short, written biography (a paragraph or two with info on how someone can reach you via e-mail). If we determine that your background/materials meet our qualifications, we will contact you within several weeks–our decisions are final. Help us alert others to your talent(s) today!)