Monthly Archives: March 2017

THE BATTLE OF ‘MISS SAIGON’: YELLOWFACE, ART AND OPPORTUNITY ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/17; via Pam Green.)

“Miss Saigon” started with an audacious idea — create a musical that explores the end of the Vietnam War through an ill-fated romance between a virginal Vietnamese bargirl and a hunky American G.I.

It would become much more than that. Over 28 years, “Miss Saigon” has turned into one of the most successful hits in musical theater — as well as one of the most polarizing and most protested.

Now, it’s back on Broadway, for the first time since 2001. It is in the same theater, tells the same operatically tragic story, and again features a hovering helicopter.

But the show has changed significantly over the years, and those shifts tell another story — one about how much the controversy over “Miss Saigon” has affected the industry.

“Miss Saigon” opened in London in 1989, with an acclaimed white British actor, Jonathan Pryce, wearing prosthetics to alter the shape of his eyes and makeup to alter the color of his skin as he played the show’s leading man, a scheming Eurasian pimp called the Engineer. But by the time the show reached Broadway in 1991, Mr. Pryce had abandoned those practices, and, after he won a Tony Award and left the show, the producers changed their approach — in the years since, they have chosen only actors of Asian heritage to play the Engineer, both on Broadway and on the United States tours.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/theater/the-battle-of-miss-saigon-yellowface-art-and-opportunity.html

TRUMP PROPOSES ELIMINATING THE ARTS AND HUMANITIES ENDOWMENTS ·

(Sopan Deb’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/15; via Pam Green.)

A deep fear came to pass for many artists, museums, and cultural organizations nationwide early Thursday morning when President Trump, in his first federal budget plan, proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

President Trump also proposed scrapping the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a key revenue source for PBS and National Public Radio stations, as well as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

It was the first time a president has called for ending the endowments. They were created in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation declaring that any “advanced civilization” must fully value the arts, the humanities, and cultural activity.

While the combined annual budgets of both endowments — about $300 million — are a tiny fraction of the $1.1 trillion of total annual discretionary spending, grants from these agencies have been deeply valued financial lifelines and highly coveted honors for artists, musicians, writers and scholars for decades.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/arts/nea-neh-endowments-trump.html?_r=0

Photo: Chicago Tribune

***** SHAKESPEARE: ‘THE ROMAN TRAGEDIES’ FROM IVO VAN HOVE (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/19.)

Hans Kesting is about to give his funeral oration as Mark Antony. He stumbles towards the lectern, wild-eyed and dishevelled. He suddenly throws away his carefully prepared notes, slumps in front of the stand, loosens his tie and appears to spontaneously address the crowd. But is it an honest, grief-stricken response to the death of Julius Caesar? Or a cleverly staged, managed and calculated piece of performance designed to enhance his own political ambitions? One that is conveniently caught on camera and broadcast on screens everywhere.

It’s one of several electrifying moments in Ivo van Hove’s lean, clean, condensed six-hour version of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra which returns to the Barbican where it was first staged in 2009. My, it’s still in great shape, the ensemble playing ferocious and purposeful. Jan Versweyveld’s designreframes Barbican’s stage as a bland, modern international conference hall, complete with pot plants, screens displaying the action, news bulletins and interviews with the lead actors, and an LED displays bringing news from the outside world – reminding us that in an era of instant communication and 24-hour news it is as easy to be misinformed as well informed. Unsurprisingly, in the opening minutes some screens briefly show a clip from Donald Trump’s inauguration.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/19/the-roman-tragedies-review-barbican-ivo-van-hove-barbican

MAY ADRALES’S ‘STRANGEST’ INTERVIEW II: REAL LIFE, REAL WORK AS A PROFESSIONAL DIRECTOR; PEOPLE, PLAYS, PERSPIRATION—RUNNING LONG-DISTANCE AND CREATING THE MOST POWERFUL THEATRE POSSIBLE ·

MAY ADRALES is a freelance director and teacher based in New York City.  She helmed the world premieres of Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club/South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Seattle Rep; Luce at LCT3, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Actors Theater of Louisville; after all the terrible things I do at Milwaukee Rep; Mary at The Goodman Theatre; In This House at Two River Theater Company; Qui Nguyen’s Five Days Till Saturday (NYU Tisch); Richard Dresser’s Trouble Cometh at San Francisco Playhouse; and  Katori Hall’s Whaddabloodclot!!! at Williamstown Theater Festival.  Upcoming:  Imani Uzuri and Zakiyyah Alexander’s girl shakes loose at Penumbra Theater; Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest at East 4th Theater; and Chisa Hutchinson’s Somebody’s Daughter at Second Stage Theatre.

Adrales is the recipient of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s inaugural Denham Fellowship and the Paul Green Emerging Directing Award.  She is a recipient of a TCG New Generations grant.  She has been awarded directing fellowships at New York Theater Workshop,  Women’s Project, SoHo Rep, and The Drama League.  She is a proud Artistic Associate at Milwaukee Rep.  Adrales has directed and taught at NYU, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Fordham University, and Bard College.  She served as a faculty member for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab (2006-2009).  She is on faculty at Einhorn School of Performing Arts at Primary Stages and taught Directing Shakespeare at Brown/Trinity MFA program.  Adrales is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and currently serves on the faculty.  

A first-generation Filipina American, Adrales grew up in southwest Virginia with her three sisters JoAnn, Gina, and Tricia and had a backyard full of chickens, pheasant, and dogs.  Her father, Dr. Mamerto B. Adrales, is a general surgeon and her mother, Jocelyn Divinagracia Adrales, is a nurse.  They established a home and successful family practice in Covington, Virginia.  May is a lover of ice cream and martinis, and she balances this love with a passion for running and marathon racing.   Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband-to-be, architect and theater designer, Brad Kisicki.  

Visit May’s Web site: http://www.mayadrales.net  

 

May Adrales gets immersive with SV’s Bob Shuman—Part II.

One skill a director must have?

A strong curiosity about the world we are living in.  And an ability to translate that curiosity into the work. 

How should a playwright best interact with a director?  How are the boundaries between the two best set—and what are they?  How do you work with Betty Shamieh? 

Every playwright/director relationship is different.  You are in a marriage of sorts, so you have to work out how best to communicate with one another.   I think you must build an innate trust and know that you both want to create the most powerful theatrical event possible.  I also don’t try to go out to “fix” a play.  I believe unequivocally in the power of The Strangest and only wish to interpret what’s on the page in the most persuasive and moving way possible. 

What’s different about being a professional director than you suspected as a student? How would you advise a young director, or your students, trying to break into the business today?

I teach a class at Yale called “Bridge to the Profession,” which aims to prepare students for the professional world.  I try to get them to think more specifically about who they are–what drives them, what are they curious about in the world–and also what work they want to put out in the world.  I try to guide them, practically speaking, by teaching them a little about self-producing, budgeting, and also balancing personal and work life.  

Would you tell them to read reviews—and what kinds of things might they learn from critics?

It’s helpful to read reviews sometimes.  I always do.  It’s always painful to read about your work in sound bites when you have dedicated at least half a year, usually more, to the project.  But my professor, Liz Diamond, once advised us to read reviews and reflect on the facts of the review– what the reviewer saw–rather than the adjectives.  It was an important lesson for me. I was able to cut through the biting critique and better understand the work I put on stage.  Now, as a teacher, I try to lead a class discussion on failure and success and ask students to determine what their own criteria for success is, rather than a reviewer’s.  

Most influential director, person in theatre, or mentor in your life?

Lee Breuer of Mabou Mines.  He taught me to dare inventively, shake off fear, and eschew the need for acceptance in my work. 

How do you beat the stress that comes with your job?

I used to smoke. Now I long-distance run.  But red wine and good company makes the stress always go away.

Best recent Broadway or Off-Broadway play? How do you know what fine directorial work is?

Simon McBurney’s Mnemonic opened my eyes to what technology could do in theater; Lee Breuer’s The Doll’s House showed me the skillful hand of a director and how a director can push the envelope again and again within one production; and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters– it was the first play I ever saw Off-Broadway that had characters that resembled me and my family.   

Must all good stage work be political?

I think by nature all theater is political.  It’s a political act to engage in a community that presents you with another way to live life and empathize with people other than yourself.  But good theater is a rare alchemy–there are so many elements that must cohere in order for it to be impactful and powerful.  Theater with only a political message often bores me, but theater that can ignite real questions, about what it means to live in this world, and that questions my own way of thinking is what I go to the theater for.   

When are or were you happiest in the theatre?

When I see the strange and the beautiful collide in an unexpected way.  When I see dissonance on stage and it shakes me to the core.  When I see pure joy expressed and feel free myself.  It’s a wondrous thing to be moved by such fiction.

Thank you so much.

Read Part I of the interview with May Adrales: 

http://stagevoices.com/2017/03/09/may-adrales-says-the-strangest-things-the-director-on-a-new-project-at-east-4th-theater-311-41-work-with-playwright-betty-shamieh-and-her-marriage-proposal-the-night/

The Semitic Root presents

The Strangest

An Immersive Murder Mystery Experience Set in French Algiers

Inspired by Albert Camus’ Classic Novel, The Stranger

Written by Betty Shamieh

Directed by May Adrales

March 12 – April 1

Fourth Street Theatre

TICKETS:

Regular Price: $25

Premium: $45 (Includes a reserved seat and a signed program)

Purchase: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2822899

Press: Hanna Raskin/GOGO Public Relations and Marketing

(c) 2017 by May Adrales (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Photo:  Stephanie Keith (Alok Tewari as Abu)

PUSSY RIOT DECLARE NEW REVOLUTION FROM THE STAGE ·

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L) and Maria Alekhina members of the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot pose for photographs at Amnesty International UK headquarters in East London on November 14, 2014, before speaking at a reception with activists who campaigned for their release from prison. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW COWIE (Photo credit should read ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images)

(Shaun Tandon’s article appeared on Yahoo, 3/18.)

New York (AFP) – Still relishing provocation three years after their release from a Russian prison, the punk rockers Pussy Riot are reviving their challenge to President Vladimir Putin in an action-packed autobiographical theatrical piece.

Maria Alyokhina, one of two key members of the group who went to prison, has taken Pussy Riot in a new avant-garde direction in an hour-long performance called “Revolution” that merges punk, electronica, theater, documentary footage and plenty of snide references to Putin.

Characterized by Alyokhina as a “living book,” the piece is based on a memoir she will publish later this year. It kicks off with an allusion to Russia’s Bolshevik takeover 100 years ago and a rhetorical question about whether her piece is about that revolution.

 (Read more)

https://www.yahoo.com/news/pussy-riot-declare-revolution-stage-182652662.html

***** BECKETT: ‘EH, JOE’–MICHAEL GAMBON’S PERFORMANCE OF A LIFETIME (SV PICK, IE) ·

(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 3/17.)

Gate Theatre, Dublin

In Beckett’s short television play Eh, Joe, here ingeniously and still faithfully transposed to the stage, the great actor Michael Gambon gives the performance of a lifetime, in more senses than one. First staged in 2006, for the Beckett Centenary, and now revived for the Gate’s Beckett Friel Pinter Festival, it asks Gambon to portray an entire personal history in just 30 minutes, and to do so wordlessly, while film-maker Atom Egoyan seizes on the actor’s long experience of stage and screen, artfully combining both mediums.

To see Gambon, sitting glum and inert on the edge of a stingy bed, you could be forgiven for thinking he is doing nothing at all, as a voice needles him into remembrance of things past. But to see his face, held steady by a stealthily advancing camera and projected on to a ghostly scrim at the front of the stage, is to see a performance of almost microscopic detail. The film actor knows that, on screen, the smallest gesture can carry a huge effect. The theatre actor understands that sometimes presence is enough. Here Gambon does both.

Penelope Wilton, who supplies the calmly interrogating voice, gives a performance that is harder to observe but no less nuanced, playing an ex-partner who has been absorbed into “that penny-farthing hell you call a mind”. There is nowhere to hide: we first see Gambon, a vulnerable figure in pyjamas, checking under the bed for threats.

(Read more)

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/stage/michael-gambon-at-the-gate-the-performance-of-a-lifetime-1.3013486

Photo: Irish Times

 

PHOENIX THEATRE ENSEMBLE PRESENTS WH AUDEN’S TRANSLATION OF COCTEAU’S ‘THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE’ IN STAGED READING ON MARCH 26TH ·

 

Rare Presentation of Twisted Retelling of the Story of Camelot

Yes, it’s King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot in Camelot but not as you might expect them. Written in 1937 when Jean Cocteau was emerging from opium addiction, he dreamed Camelot as a barren wasteland. King Arthur is a bumbling fool. Queen Guinevere is teetering toward religious fanaticism. Sir Lancelot is wracked with guilt over his affair with the Queen and Galahad is pure outsider hero. And this was the basis for this one-of-a-kind retelling of the story of Camelot, a genuine rarity in the English translation by celebrated and noted poet WH Auden.

Part manic farce and part mystical adventure, THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE  is being presented as a staged reading on Sunday, March 26 at 3:00 pm at Downtown  Art,   70 East 4th Street  (next door to La Mama). This reading is supported by the Florence Gould Foundation.   

The Knights of the Round Table is being directed by NYIT nominee Karen Case Cook. The cast includes  John Lenartz as Arthur, Elise Stone as Guinevere, Morgan  Rosse as Blandine,   John  Cosentinoas Segramor,   Desmond Confoy as Gawain, Vinson German as Lancelot, Josh Tyson as Galahad, and Craig Smith as Merlin. Original music and sound by Ellen Mandel and Light Design  by Darielle Shandler.

Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at 212-352-3101 or at PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org

What:   The Knights of the  Round Table by Jean Cocteau Translation by WH Auden

Schedule: Sunday, March 26 @  3:00 PM

Information: http://www.phoenixtheatreensemble.org/;   212-465-3446

Tickets:   Tickets are $25 each; TDF Accepted.  Call 212-352-3101 or visit www.PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org.

Where: Downtown  Art @ 70 East 4th Street (between 2nd and Bowery)

Transportation Subway: #6 to Astor Place, R&N to 8th Street; by Bus M103  4th Street .

Information: http://www.phoenixtheatreensemble.org/;   212-465-3446

CELEBRATING ARTISTRY, EXCELLENCE, COMPANY & COMMUNITY

One of the Best!”  – Wall Street Journal   

Six 2014-15 NYIT Award Nominations

Top Ten Shows of 2016 New York Theatre Guide

Winner Best Revival 2014 NYIT Award

Winner Best Performance by a Leading Actor

Winner Best Solo Production Audelco Award

Auden Photo:  Mark B. Anstendig.

JONATHAN GROFF: FROM MILLIE TO PIAZZA, THE STAR SHARES HIS 10 FAVORITE THEATREGOING EXPERIENCES ·

(Andrew Gans’s article appeared in Playbill, 3/15; via Pam Green.)

The Hamilton and Glee star reveals the show that moved him to tears and his favorite musical of all time.

Jonathan Groff, a two-time Tony nominee for his performances in Spring Awakening and Hamilton, will be seen in the new Netflix series Mindhunter, which debuts in October and casts the Glee star as an FBI agent in the 1970s. Here, the acclaimed singing actor recalls the Broadway performances that most affected him as part of the audience.

Sutton Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie

Sutton Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie Joan Marcus

In the greatest real life star-is-born moment that I’ve ever witnessed, this understudy that was pushed downstage center blew my mind. The heat that was coming off her was palpable. I saw her do it six times. When she sang “Gimme Gimme,” I had so many chills my body went numb.

Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin in Waiting for Godot

(Read more)

http://www.playbill.com/article/from-millie-to-piazza-jonathan-groff-shares-his-10-favorite-theatregoing-experiences

Photo:  Facebook

WHERE ARE ALL THE BROADWAY BELLES NOW? ·

(Joe Gambino’s article appeared in Playbill Online, 2/17; via Pam Green.)

Beauty and the Beast—the tale as old as time—returns to the big screen March 17 starring Emma Watson, but Broadway fans have been completely obsessed with this Disney classic and its titular “Beauty” since it opened on the Great White Way in 1994. Over the course of its 13-year run on Broadway, over 20 actors performed the role of Belle. But what roles had they taken on before the headstrong princess, and where are they now? Be our guest as Playbill looks back on eight of them.

Susan Egan originated the role of bookworm Belle on Broadway in 1994 and was nominated for a Tony Award for her work. After leaving the Broadway production, she reprised her role in Los Angeles in 1995. This actor is no stranger to Disney. In 1997, Egan provided both the singing and speaking voices for Hercules’ Megara. Her most recent Broadway credits include Sally Bowles in the 1998 revival of Cabaret and as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Egan now permanently resides in Los Angeles, where she voices Rose Quartz on Steven Universe. She recently published a blog post detailing her time as Belle on her personal website. Read it here.

(Read more)

http://www.playbill.com/article/where-are-all-the-broadway-belles-now

FROM BRECHT TO LORCA, THE PLAYWRIGHTS WHO BECAME THEATRE’S FREEDOM FIGHTERS ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/11.)

I suspect the popular image of theatre in the 30s is one of gilt-edged escapism. In Britain, Noël Coward and Gertrude Lawrence romped fastidiously through Private Lives and Tonight at 8.30 while Ivor Novello peddled Ruritanian romance in Glamorous Night and Careless Rapture. On Broadway, it was the decade of sublimely frivolous musicals such as Gershwin’s Girl Crazy, Rodgers and Hart’s Babes in Arms, and Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.

Yet it would be misleading to charge theatre guilty of sticking its head in the sand and ignoring political reality. In Europe and America a surprising number of plays alerted audiences to the danger of fascism; no one was more passionate on the subject than Bertolt Brecht.

He and his family had fled Germany in 1933 after the Reichstag fire and settled in Denmark, where Brecht wrote the 24 short plays that make up Fear and Misery of the Third Reich. They derived from eyewitness accounts and newspaper reports, and today offer theatre’s most vivid account of life under the Nazis. Rarely played in full, they acquired an icy relevance when London’s Union theatre presented a selection of them in 2016.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/11/brecht-lorca-playwrights-theatre-freedom-fighters

Photo: American Theater