(Michael Billington’s and Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/30.)
This brilliant festival of high-quality work made by disabled artists returns. Look out for Liz Carr’s Assisted Suicide: the Musical, which considers the legalisation of suicide as a humane choice, and Cherophobia, in which Noemi Lakmaier will spend 48 hours attempting to lift her immobilised body off the ground using 20,000 helium balloons. There is plenty more, including a solo show fromBackstage in Biscuit Land’s Jess Thom. • 6 to 11 September, Southbank Centre, London. Box office: 020-7960 4200.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Maxine Peake, following striking performances in Hamlet and The Skriker, now plays Blanche DuBois in the Tennessee Williams classic. It will be fascinating to see whether Peake plays Blanche as an embodiment of the poetic spirit rather than a cracked southern belle. With Sarah Frankcom directing and Ben Batt as Stanley Kowalski, the omens look good. • 8 September to 15 October, Royal Exchange, Manchester. Box office: 0161-833 9833.
No Man’s Land
Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, having bonded in a revival of Waiting for Godot, star in Sean Mathias’s production of Harold Pinter’s austere masterpiece about the meeting of an aged literary lion and a pushy minor poet. Owen Teale and Damien Molony play the manservants in a work that, with its echoes of Eliot and Beckett, ushers one into an unforgettable twilight zone. • From 8 September, Wyndham’s, London. Box office: 0844-482 5120.
(Kate Taylor’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/24; via Pam Green. )
ASHLAND, Ore. — Lisa Loomer has written plays about how women’s bodies are tortured in the name of beauty and about the relationship between white mothers and their Latina nannies in Los Angeles. Taking on the politics of abortion would seem right up her alley.
But when her friend Bill Rauch, the artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, first asked if she would be interested in writing a play about Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case establishing abortion rights, she wasn’t so sure.
“My first reaction was: ‘A court case? I don’t know, that sounds kind of dry,’” Ms. Loomer said in an interview here. But the more she read, the more she realized how wrong she was. The story behind the case was bursting with dramatic potential.
Henry Street Settlement has named Craig Peterson as Artistic Director and Deputy Program Officer for the Abrons Arts Center/Visual and Performing Arts division. Peterson will assume his duties on September 6, 2016.
Peterson comes to Henry Street with 25 years of experience in the arts most recently as Director of Programs and Presentation at Gibney Dance in New York. During his tenure there, he built an array of arts programs at the organization and helped facilitate the creation of nearly 100 new works that have been presented on stages across the city. He previously was Director of the Philly Fringe Festival and the Live Arts Brewery, where he championed a range of artists including Young Jean Lee, Lucinda Childs, Romeo Castellucci, Jérôme Bel, Geoff Sobelle, and Pig Iron Theatre Company. Before relocating to Philadelphia, Peterson spent ten years at New York’s Dance Theater Workshop, rising from Director of Artist Services to Co-Artistic Director and Senior Producer. At Dance Theater Workshop, he helped build a new performance arts center and helped produce early works by David Lindsay-Abaire, Ronald K. Brown, Lisa Kron, Annie-B Parson, Bill Irwin, and Ain Gordon.
“We’re thrilled to bring Craig’s leadership and talent to Henry Street to help write the next incredible chapter for the Abrons and the constellation of artists, audiences, and community stakeholders that engage in our work,” said David Garza, Executive Director of Henry Street. “Our future in the arts deserves to be as rich and exciting as our venerable history and we're confident Craig can make that happen.”
“I believe that the arts are critical to the advancement of cultural citizenship; that education is most transformative when paired with artistic expression; and that social change and understanding is best achieved through creative expression,” said Peterson.
“It’s clear that Henry Street is deeply invested in the success of its forward thinking arts programming,” said Peterson. “The Settlement has a long history of making art and artists a central component of their valuable work in communities. I look forward to being a part of this organization's incredible legacy of social change.”
(Marina Shimadina’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 8/30.)
St. Petersburg’s storied Alexandrinsky Theater and its well-known artistic director Valery Fokin are celebrating a double anniversary in 2016. Fokin spoke to RBTH about the state of theater in the country, and how he is trying to forge closer cultural ties with Russia’s neighbors despite the political climate.
The Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg turns 260 this year, making it the oldest theater in Russia. Founded on Aug. 30, 1756 on the personal order of Empress Elizabeth, the first state-owned theater in the Empire would go on to become a model for most other Russian theaters, with a permanent professional troupe, a fixed repertoire and financial support provided by the state.
The theater has now been headed for over a decade by director Valery Fokin, who by happy coincidence also celebrated a significant birthday this year – he turned 70 on Feb. 28. It was Fokin who managed to transform the “Alexandrinka” from an archaic theatrical backwater into one of Russia’s most flourishing cultural venues.
(Steven McElroy’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/26; via Pam Green.)
“Life According to Saki,” an ensemble-driven play set in the trenches of World War I, is the winner of the annual Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award, to be announced in Edinburgh on Friday.
The award, presented each year to one outstanding theater production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, comes with a valuable prize: A production in New York next winter. “Life According to Saki” will be presented Feb. 9 to March 5 at New York Theater Workshop’s Fourth Street Theater.
The show, inspired by Saki’s short stories and written by the children’s book author Katherine Rundell (who also likes to do some tightrope walking in her spare time) imagines Saki reminiscing about his life and entertaining his fellow soldiers by recounting some of his previously published work. (Saki, born Hector Hugh Munro, died in the trenches in 1916.)
(Stephen Holden’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/24; via Pam Green.)
As much as any two performers, Michael Feinstein and Marilyn Maye embody the traditional concept of show business professionalism, in which an entertainer is expected to wow an audience by doing it all. And on Tuesday night, they joined forces for a satisfying evening of upbeat camaraderie and nostalgia at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Their program, “Summertime Swing,” was an old-fashioned variety show, blending standards with Catskill humor, celebrity impersonations and other vaudevillian shenanigans. Mr. Feinstein alternated on piano with the musical director, Tedd Firth; Sean Smith on bass and Mark McLean on drums kept the tempos and dynamics continuously fluid.
For Mr. Feinstein, doing it all means delivering classic ballads from the American Songbook in a creamy, faraway voice while accompanying himself on rippling piano, then letting loose with impersonations of Louis Armstrong singing “Hello, Dolly!” and Jerry Lee Lewis hollering and banging out “Great Balls of Fire.”
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Announces Mainstage Shows and A September Weeklong Series of Staged Readings Entitled F*ck~ng Good Plays Festival
NEW YORK – Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, announces mainstage picks for the upcoming season and a weeklong September mini-festival of free staged readings entitledF*ck~ng Good Plays Festival.
Rattlestick's first presentation, a co-production with Page 73, is Basil Kreimendahl's Orange Julius directed by Dustin Wills (Foundry's O, Earth). In Orange Julius, Nut grew up the youngest child of Julius, a Vietnam vet, in 1980s and 90s working-class America. As Julius suffers the toxic effects of Agent Orange, Nut worries their time together may run out before they can embrace something essential about their relationship. Paging through forgotten photo albums and acting out old war movies about brothers-in-arms, Nut leaps through time and memory, tracing the complex intimacy between father and child when the child is transgender, fighting for a mutual recognition before it's too late. This will be Mr. Kreimendahl's first NY production. Orange Julius previews January 11 for an opening January 22 and runs through February 12.
The second production is an Amoralists' production of Ken Urban's Nibbler. In the summer of 1992 in Medford, N.J., Adam and his gang of friends face life after high school. But when the fivesome encounter a mysterious visitor from another world, their lives are forever changed. A dark comedy about that time when everything and nothing seems possible. Urban's The Correspondent was featured at Rattlestick in 2014. Nibbler will run from Feb 23- March 19.
Rattlestick's third selection of the season is Martin Zimmerman'sSeven Spots onthe Sunpresented in partnership with The Sol Project, directed by rising Canadian star director Weyni Mengesha. Mr. Zimmerman was inspired to write Seven Spots on the Sun after he went to Argentina in 2007 and interviewed family members of people who were "disappeared" by the junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. Seven Spots on the Sun is set in an unnamed Central American country where a civil war changes the people who had to cope with profound violence and loss, and face the conflicts of revenge, justice, and forgiveness. Mr. Zimmerman developed the play with regional productions at Boston Court in Los Angeles (in association with Rattlestick) and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Rattlestick will partner with The Sol Project, a new initiative that advocates for the production of Latino work by off-Broadway theaters. Seven Spots on the Sun will perform in May-June 2017.
F*ck~ng Good Plays Festival is exactly what the name declares.
"These seven plays are provocative, courageous, complex, and very, very new," said Ms. Topol. "Most of these playwrights have yet to have a world premiere in New York. Almost all of these readings are being presented in partnership with other theaters, demonstrating Rattlestick's commitment to creating alliances with theaters in New York and across the country to launch ambitious new work."
The Roundabout presents a new musical featuring the songs of Irving Berlin, based on the classic 1942 film; Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu fill in, respectively, for Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. In previews.
The Public’s Public Works program mounts a free musical adaptation of the comedy, featuring songs by Shaina Taub and a mixed cast of professionals (including Nikki M. James, as Viola) and community members. Sept. 2-5.
(Richard Natale’s article appeared in 8/29; via the Drudge Report)
Gene Wilder, who regularly stole the show in such comedic gems as “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Stir Crazy,” died Monday at his home in Stamford, Conn. His nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said he died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.
His nephew said in a statement, “We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.