Monthly Archives: April 2016


(Sean Coughlan’s article appeared on BBC News, 4/22; via Pam Green.)

The original classroom where William Shakespeare is believed to have studied and seen his first plays opens to the public for the first time this weekend.

The classroom is owned by the King Edward VI school, the direct successor to the grammar school in Stratford-upon-Avon attended by Shakespeare from about 1571.

It will be open to visitors after a £1.8m lottery-funded renovation.

Among the discoveries was a hidden pre-Reformation wall painting.

Bennet Carr, headmaster of the modern day grammar school, says of the atmospheric building: "If I'm on my own in there sometimes, the hairs stand on the back of my neck."

His school is now going to share the classroom with visitors, with the renovated building opening on Saturday, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

The schoolroom where Shakespeare studied from the age of seven was the upper floor of the town's half-timbered medieval guildhall.


(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/20.)

Arnold Wesker in The Kitchen  introduced us to the idea that work was inherently dramatic. This astonishing play by the US playwright Annie Baker is in the same tradition, in that it shows how work can be a way in to exploring human relationships as well as social and ethical issues. I should say straight off that this is a quiet play that slowly unfolds its meaning over three and a quarter hours. By the simple act of not demanding our attention, however, Baker rivetingly compels it.

The two previous Baker plays seen in Britain, The Aliens and Circle, Mirror, Transformation, both dealt with enclosed worlds. In this play, her setting is a small movie house in Massachusetts: the audience is in the position of the screen, confronted by rows of empty seats and a projection booth. The three main characters work in the cinema. Sam is a burly 35-year-old whose job is to clear the debris from the auditorium and supervise the toilets. He is joined this particular summer by Avery, a 20-year-old African American on a break from his studies at a college where his dad teaches semiotics. The third figure in this exquisite triangle is Rose, the projectionist in one of the few cinemas yet to switch to the digital process.



(Michael Gioia’s articled 4/19 on; via Pam Green.)

In an intimate conversation with Wicked producer Marc Platt, Idina Menzel reveals details about her upcoming album, her relationship with her son, her real thoughts about being called “Adele Dazeem” and more.

As part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Tony Award winner Idina Menzel sat down with Marc Platt, a producer on both Wicked and If/Then, to talk about her life and career in the theatre. Here are the ten things we learned about Menzel in the hour-long conversation.

  1. An ex-boyfriend got Menzel her gig as Maureen in Rent… sort of: “I had a boyfriend who was working at an acting agency,” she explained. “He faxed my resume kind of secretly through to [casting director] Bernie Telsey. I got in; they were looking for unknowns, and there I am in this show in its early incarnation, and the composer wants to work with us and develop it around us.” Platt asked her about being part of projects that became a phenomenon. She confessed, “[With] Rent, I needed a job. I didn’t know Michael Greif, I didn’t know Jonathan Larson. I just went in; I needed a gig.”
  2. She wore green to her Wicked audition and cried when she left: “I remember, actually, your audition for Wicked,” Platt said to Menzel. “Every wonderful actor/actress on Broadway came in and auditioned, and Idina came in. I believe you were wearing green glitter [eye shadow], if I recall, and [it was decided] she’s pretty much playing the role. It wasn’t much conversation after she left the room.”



Orson Welles read Whitman's trailblazing poem for the BBC Third Programme in 1953. In a new landmark reading of the poem, Welles' voice is interwoven with readings from a small cast of acclaimed actors – Michael Sheen, Clarke Peters, Julianna Jennings, Kyle Soller and Eleanor Bron. With an introduction from poet, Mark Doty.

Produced by Emma Harding.


(Callow’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/20.)

Shakespeare’s inclusiveness, the overwhelming sense in the plays that all human life is there, means that focusing on any aspect of the work will produce dividends. Shakespeare and war, Shakespeare and love, Shakespeare and medicine, Shakespeare and sodomy: all provocative, all surprising, all resonant. But Shakespeare and the family is in a different league. He is, in a particularly potent sense, the Family Man. These fundamental relationships – mothers, sons, fathers, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, cousins – are at the heart of one play after another. How else could it be for a writer whose theme is the experience of being human? Which of us has not been formed, for better or for worse, by those relationships, or by their absence? And beyond the domestic kingdom, the family looms large in his work in quite another way: the destinies of nations, equally determined by blood ties.



(Alexandra Alter’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/19; via the Drudge Report.)

He gushed about Mr. Walker, who brings an edgy, coiled energy and an unpredictable quality to the charming psychopath Patrick Bateman.

“It’s not how I pictured the character, but Christian Bale wasn’t how I pictured the character, either,” he said, referring to the 2000 feature film adaptation starring Mr. Bale.

During the second act, the violence and chaos escalates as Bateman goes on a killing spree, acting out after an oppressively boring vacation in the Hamptons.

After the final scene, the crowd rose for a standing ovation, and a press agent arrived to escort Mr. Ellis backstage to meet the cast. Mr. Ellis, who was wearing jeans, sneakers, a black shirt and blazer and thick black glasses, had gone unnoticed in the theater, and the actors didn’t seem to recognize him until he was introduced.

One of the actors jokingly asked Mr. Ellis if he was familiar with the material.



(Michael Dervan’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 4/16.)

Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia) is a young person’s opera. It’s a story in which young love triumphs, as wily heroine Rosina wins out against the efforts of her greedy ward, Dr Bartolo, who wants to marry her for her inheritance. At the time of its disastrous first night in Rome in February 1816, its composer was just a week shy of his 24th birthday.

Director Michael Barker-Caven’s new Wide Open Opera production, with a highly mobile set by Jamie Vartan, updates the setting to the 20th century and the years when the LP reigned and Spain was ruled by General Franco.

Barker-Caven’s Dr Bartolo is a music mogul of some kind and Rosina is his latest find. This allows for a nice transformation of the opera’s singing lesson into a session in a recording studio with a wall lined with platinum discs.


 (Michael M. Grynbaum’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/18.)

The Associated Press won the Pulitzer Prize for public service on Monday for a series that exposed slavery and vicious abuse in the Southeast Asia fishing trade, leading to the release of 2,000 captives and broad reforms in the United States and overseas.

The series, “Seafood From Slaves,” involved a sprawling reportorial effort across several countries that discovered scores of fishermen in captivity — and sometimes locked in cages — in an industry that supplies seafood to American restaurants, pet-food brands and big retailers like Walmart. The A.P.’s reporting prompted arrests, ship seizures and action by the federal government.

One year after magazines became eligible in some Pulitzer categories, The New Yorker received two prizes: for Emily Nussbaum’s television criticism, and for “The Really Big One,” Kathryn Schulz’s ominous article about the potential for a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest, which won for feature writing. William Finnegan, a New Yorker staff writer, won the biography award for his memoir, “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.”

In an honor that was widely predicted, the musical “Hamilton,” a hip-hop retelling of the founding fathers story, received the prize for drama. The musical’s creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, reacted joyfully on Twitter, writing: “PULITZER?!”



(Dave Simpson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/19.)

Laurie Anderson, singer-songwriter

In 1979, Iranian students stormed the US embassy in Tehran. America went blazing in with helicopters to get the hostages out. But it backfired majorly. A helicopter and a plane crashed in the desert. We were left with dead bodies, a pile of burning debris and the hostages nowhere to be seen. So I thought I’d write a song about all that and the failure of technology.

I’d just heard this beautiful 19th-century aria by Massenet that began: “O sovereign …” It was a prayer to authority, which I thought was interesting, so I started writing: “O Superman …” The lyrics are a one-sided conversation, like a prayer to God. It sounds sinister – but it is sinister when you start talking to power. I juxtaposed sinister and mundane imagery: “Hold me Mom in your long arms, your petrochemical arms, your military arms.” We’d always been told that America was the motherland, to appeal to our love of mom and dad, but it’s really not like that. I put the US post office slogan in, too: “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”


(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/15; via Pam Green.)

The producers of “Hamilton,” a show that could well make hundreds of millions of dollars, on Friday bowed to pressure and said they would share some of the musical’s profits with original cast members.

The deal, which was announced by a lawyer representing more than two dozen actors and dancers who were part of the show’s development and first productions, is a major victory for the cast and could have ripple effects in the theater industry, where the huge success of “Hamilton,” and the lack of profit-sharing, catalyzed a growing debate about actor compensation.

The agreement means that actors will have a piece of “the profit stream from the play,” Ronald H. Shechtman, a leading labor lawyer in the theater industry who represented the “Hamilton” performers, said in a statement.