Monthly Archives: October 2017


(Liz Dunphy’s article appeared in Mail Online,  10/27.)

  • Alexander Waugh says the poet is buried at Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey
  • This contradicts the view that he lies at Holy Trinity church, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • He said he discovered the new theory after decoding encryptions in the title and dedication pages of Aspley’s edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets of 1609

A new theory has emerged about the final resting place to William Shakespeare

A scholar claims he has cracked a secret code which unearths the real resting place of Britain’s best known bard, William Shakespeare.

Alexander Waugh says that the literary luminary is actually buried beneath Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey – not the Holy Trinity church in Stratford-upon-Avon as previously thought.

The writer, who is grandson of novelist Evelyn Waugh, said that he discovered the new theory after decoding encryptions in the title and dedication pages of Aspley’s edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets of 1609.

He is due to present his research at a conference tomorrow at the Globe Theatre in London, which is a reconstruction of an Elizabethan playhouse.

(Read more)

Photo: Javen Tanner


(from the Guardian, 10/27; by Antonia Fraser and Harold Pinter.)  

I did something I’ve never done before. I scribbled some notes on a page from one of Harold’s yellow legal pads because I was waiting for a taxi to go to Mass, and too lazy to go upstairs.

I took all the leftover pads when Harold died on Christmas Eve 2008, and for sentimental reasons kept them. Although up till now, I have never written anything on any of them. But about a month ago, I installed one in a writing case in the drawing room in theory for occasional use, but really out of tenderness for the past.

When I had written the note, I stripped off the yellow page. Then I nearly fainted. Beneath lay Harold’s unforgettable handwriting – although rather frail – and a title: “The Pres and the Officer”.

(Read more)



 (Frank Gagliano’s article appeared 10/28.)
Early Wilbur 
He left a legacy of significant poetry, of course, but my guess is (and such is the way of the world) that Richard Wilbur will largely be remembered for the superb lyrics he supplied for the first production of Leonard Bernstein’s legendary Broadway musical score for “Candide.” 
How I met the poet/lyricist Richard Wilbur involved the Regional Theatre movement, the Ford Foundation, Houston’s Alley Theatre  — and my first professional production. 
Leonard Bernstein
In the early 1960s, The Ford Foundation’s W. McNeil Lowry funded a number of professional Regional Theaters to set up permanent acting companies (the beginning of the Regional Theatre movement). Nina Vance, then Artistic Director of Houston’s Alley Theatre, wanted a new play to kick off the Ford Foundation program and selected my play, “The Library Raid” (later produced Off-Broadway by Edward Albee as, “Night Of The Dunce”). “The Library Raid” was my first professional production. 
There was also a parallel Ford Foundation program supporting prominent poets and novelists to attend rehearsals at Regional Theaters, to see if writing for the theatre might turn them on to writing plays. Poet Richard Wilbur and poet/novelist George Garret were the in-residence observers at the Alley during my “Library Raid” production. 
I didn’t know Mr. Garret’s work or Mr.Wilbur’s poetry then—but I did know Mr. Wilbur’s superb lyrics for the Leonard Bernstein comic operetta, “Candide,”based on the Voltaire satire. I had seen the original production twice on Broadway. Bernstein’s score was magnificent and the show’s lyrics were some of the wittiest I had ever heard in the theatre. 
When I was introduced to Mr. Wilbur at The Alley, he was beginning work on his translation of Molière’s Misanthrope (which became the gold standard for his Molière translations)

I vaguely recall, over dinners, my constantly questioning Mr. Wilbur about his “Candide” experiences. Never took notes, alas. Had I done so, I might have been able—now— to better navigate through the difficulties of finding out who did what lyric in  Candide.” I knew that John Latouche had been an early  Candide” lyricist, but he died before his collaboration with Bernstein had progressed. Other contributors apparently included Dorothy Parker, James Agee, Lillian Hellman (who wrote the original book) and Bernstein himself, who wrote his own lyric for the “Candide” song, “I Am Easily Assimilated.”  In later productions, Stephen Sondheim and John Wells and others contributed songs. The subsequent productions — especial the wildly successful Hal Prince productions — offer a dizzying array of talents and major revisions. But, in the original production, poet Richard Wilbur was listed as “Lyrics By” on the cast album. My recent research reveals that, besides writing the complete dazzling aria, “Glitter and Be Gay,” he also wrote the finale, “Make Our Garden Grow”(both pieces, I believe, were used in all subsequent Candide” productions), and Mr Wilber, in that first production, apparently doctored lyrics of other writers’ lyrics throughout the piece. But it is hard to pin down the titles of the other complete lyrics Mr. Wilber wrote for that first production.

Decades later, at poet Sam Hazo’s unique Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, I attended Mr. Wilbur’s poetry reading of his own poems and, after the reading, we chatted a bit and reminisced about the Alley experience. But, regretfully, I never stayed in touch with him.
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In Mr. Wilbur’s poems, (as in the poetry of all poets) the inherent music is embedded in his poetic lines. In musical theatre, the sung words need to conform to the external music of the composer (usually a different artist) — and to the needs of characters in a dramatic event. Richard Wilbur had the chops to satisfy those musical theatre needs and collaborated magnificently with Leonard Bernstein on“Candide” — and seemingly effortlessly — as if to the lyricist manor born.
Here are links to the Bernstein/Wilbur “Glitter And Be Gay.” The two times I saw the original “Candide,” Barbara Cook, the first Cunegonde, stopped the show. All the sopranos who tackle this sung scene always seem to stop the show. The first link— — has soprano Dawn Upshaw singing the aria, while all the lyrics are posted for you to follow. The second link — — has Kristin Chenoweth acting and singing the entire scene in an hilarious concert staging that includes the jewel props needed for Cunegonde to resolve her comic moral conflict: Namely, how to justify the jewelry she loves and has accumulated from her many lovers. The final link is from the original cast album, Barbara Cook singing—
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THE POET: In his poems, I love how poet Wilbur often used rhyme — Good preparation, as it turns out, for slipping easily into the making of songs (which usually require rhyme). 
Here’s a favorite Wilbur poem I love to share and show: It’s called, THE BOY AT THE WINDOW. The sense of empathy from the boy’s point of view and then from the snowman’s, standing alone outside in the freezing snow, I find very moving—and the rhymes, for me, contribute to the song-like feeling of the piece. (American composers, looking to set poems for Lieder concerts, take note) 

“Seeing the snowman standing all alone
In dusk and cold is more than he can bear.
The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare
A night of gnashings and enormous moan.
His tearful sight can hardly reach to where
The pale-faced figure with bitumen eyes
Returns him such a God-forsaken stare
As outcast Adam gave to paradise.

“The man of snow is, nonetheless, content,
Having no wish to go inside and die.
Still, he is moved to see the youngster cry.
Though frozen water is his element,
He melts enough to drop from one soft eye
A trickle of the purest rain, a tear
For the child at the bright pane surrounded by
Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.”
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Later Wilbur
Here’s to the memory of a great American poet who — in collaboration with the genius Leonard Bernstein — and in one lyricist leap — contributed some stunning lyrics to our musical theatre legacy. 
RIP Richard Wilbur: Artist, stylist, erudite mensch, gentleman, man of humor — and heart. 
Read Richard Wilbur’s obituary in The New York Times:
Visit Frank Gagliano’s Web site:


(Aryssa Damron’s article appeared in the Yale University College Fix, 10/27; via the Drudge Report.)

English majors no longer required to take class focused on Chaucer, Shakespeare

A year and a half after a petition circulated calling for Yale to “decolonize the English department,” the first students are enrolled in a new course created by the department to increase the breadth of the curriculum and combat claims of departmental racism.

What’s more, new requirements are in place to ensure a more “diversified” slate of courses.

Previous requirements for the major included two courses in “Major English Poets,” including Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton and Eliot, among others. But that two-course series petitioners had deemed actively harmful due to its focus on white male poets. The series is no longer a graduation requirement for Yale’s English majors.

The petition, a Google document which has since been made private, critiqued the perceived whiteness of the English department requirements: “A year spent around a seminar table where the literary contributions of women, people of color, and queer folk are absent actively harms all students, regardless of their identity.”

“It’s time for the English major to decolonize — not diversify — its course offerings,” the petition added. “A 21st century education is a diverse education: we write to you today inspired by student activism across the university, and to make sure that you know that the English department is not immune from the collective call to action.”

Nearly a year after the petition, around seven months ago, Yale’s English faculty voted to “diversity” the curriculum. At the time of the vote, the director of the department’s undergraduate studies, Jessica Brantley, told The Yale Daily News: “We’ve constructed a curriculum that has inclusion as its goal, embedded in the structures of its requirements, and I’m very excited to implement and develop that curriculum further.”

The reconfiguring of the English department’s required courses did not directly address the demands of the petition to do away with the Major English Poets sequences altogether; the courses still exist. The reconfiguration also did not refocus the program’s pre-1800 and pre-1900 literature requirement to address issues of race, gender, and sexuality as demanded by the petition.

Instead, the English department now allows students to fill three required prerequisites from a choice of four different courses: Readings in English Poetry 1, Readings in English Poetry 2, Readings in American Literature, and a newly created course, Readings in Comparative World English Literature.

(Read more)


(Suzy Evans’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/18; via Pam Green.)

At a Wednesday evening rehearsal for the musical “Into the Woods,” the actors playing two lovesick princes were practicing the choreography for their big Act I duet, “Agony.” The director, Lia Boyle, wanted them to rip their shirts open at the end of the number, and the costume designer asked how far down their bodies the tear should go.

“Just to the bottom of the xiphoid process,” Ms. Boyle said.

Mid-chest would have been just as suitable a descriptor, but dropping anatomical references in design discussions is standard practice for the Bard Hall Players, as every member in the troupe is studying to join the medical profession.

The student-run theater company at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was preparing for its production of this Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine riff on classic children’s fairy tales. The production, the final show of the company’s 50th anniversary season, will run Oct. 26 to 28.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times


(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The  New York Times, 10/22; via Pam Green.)

Eugene O’Neill’s soapy saga “Strange Interlude” was nearly six hours long when it opened on Broadway in 1928, and the audience got only one intermission, long enough for an unhurried dinner. Transport Group’s uncut revival, at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn, has a similar running time, but the pace is less punishing: two intermissions and a 30-minute dinner break. After every act or two, the audience gets up and moves to a different set.

Having those moments to pause and peregrinate keeps us nimble for the duration — and I can only imagine how salutary they are for the cast. While there were nine actors in that original production, at Irondale there is just one: the extraordinary David Greenspan, whose performance is such a feat of daring that merely getting through it would have been an accomplishment.

Yet he is masterful. Watching him is like witnessing a recitation, a prayer, a madness, a modern ballet.

Directed by Jack Cummings III, this production is storytelling at its purest. At once faithful and irreverent, it’s an illuminating interpretation that is alert to the script’s inadvertent comedy and delighted to mine it.

O’Neill won his third Pulitzer Prize with “Strange Interlude,” the kind of play that makes you want to go back in time and talk some sense into the people handing out the award. Florid, emotionally overwrought and saddled with a ridiculous plot, it’s proof that not every work by a great artist is great art.

Continue reading the main story

Photo: Playbill


(Erik Piepenburg’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/13; via Pam Green.)

If you’ve walked just about anywhere in New York City, you’ve seen the work of Paula Scher. A partner in the design firm Pentagram, Ms. Scher is the creative hand behind some of the most recognizable graphic identities that dot the city, including logos (CitibankShake Shack), poster art (Public Theater) and organizational branding (New York City Ballet).

Southern California is getting its own Paula Scher moment courtesy of the Pasadena Playhouse, which is presenting a revival of “Our Town” in a production with Deaf West Theater.

Ms. Scher’s poster for “Our Town” takes a minimalist approach, mirroring the ordered storytelling of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play about life and death in a small New Hampshire town. Drawing on the show’s typical bare-bones staging, the image features a sturdy-looking, mauve chair that floats in the center of a vivid teal background. The play’s title and the theater’s name are rendered in a font, created for the playhouse, that references the rounded contours prevalent in Pasadena’s architecture.

The poster is part of the theater’s rebranding campaign as it celebrates its 100th birthday.

“The playhouse was a good theater in its day, the place where everybody in L.A. went to see works of intelligence with less commercial expectation that still managed to entertain,” Ms. Scher said. “It fell on some dodgy times. Our job here is to make people recognize it again.”

Continue reading the main story


Carnival Girls Production of ‘The Werewolf of Washington Heights’


When a teenager vanishes, loved ones are forced to face hidden monsters and terrifying truths.

Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street, NYC

Wednesday, October 11 @ 7 pm
Thursday, October 12 @ 7 pm
Friday, October 13 @ 7 pm
Saturday, October 14 @ 7 pm

Thursday, October 19 @ 7 pm
Friday, October 20 @ 7 pm
Saturday, October 21 @ 7 pm
Sunday, October 22 @ 2 pm

Director – Charmaine Broad, Choreographer – Anissa Barbato, Stage Manager – Erinn Conlon, Light Designer – Helen Blash, Set Guru – Stephanie Ervin, Costume Mistress – Tanya Bernardson, Box Office Manager – Ann Shepherd, Production Assistant – Zoe Scott, Charity Coordinator – Elizabeth Pitman Gretter

Rosina Fernhoff*, Lori Funk*, Pilar Gonzalez, Stephanie Annette Johnson, Zarra Kaahn, Arlene McGruder, Sheila Joon Ostadazim*, Melanie Ryan, Galit Sperling

*These actors are appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association
The Werewolf of Washington Heights is an Equity approved Showcase


Performances take place at Kraine Theater, located at 85 East 4th Street
(Between 2nd & 3rd F to 2nd Avenue 4/6 to Astor Place N/R to 8th Street)



(Lin-Manuel Miranda’s interview appeared in the The New York Times, 10/16; via Pam Green.)

Lin-Manuel Miranda speaks to the man who has consistently remade the American musical over his 60-year career — and who is trying to surprise us one more time.

This story is one of the seven covers of T Magazine’s Greats issue, on newsstands Oct. 22.

Sondheim: I hope you don’t mind doing this upstairs, I’m feeling a bit under the weather.

It’s July 2017. We are on the second floor of Stephen Sondheim’s Midtown Manhattan townhouse, and he’s nestled on his writing couch. There’s a famous picture of him reclining in this very spot from 1960: young Sondheim staring intently at a pad of paper, Blackwing pencil at the ready, framed by two windows. His right hand on his face, deep in thought.

Sondheim: The writing’s not going well today.

Nearly 60 years later, Sondheim is on the same couch. He is 87 years old. He’s wearing his rumpled-writer T-shirt and sweatpants, he’s got a sour stomach. He is writing a new musical with David Ives for the Public Theater, an adaptation of two films by the late Spanish director Luis Buñuel, and he’s staring down a deadline. And here I am, interrupting his writing day for this interview.

It’s hard to overemphasize Sondheim’s influence on American musical theater. As a young man, he was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the songwriting duo who revolutionized musicals with “Oklahoma!” in 1943. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote fully integrated songs that advanced the plot and revealed hidden depths in their characters; in their hands, musical theater matured into a storytelling art form. Sondheim built on Hammerstein’s innovations by experimenting relentlessly with subject matter and form: from his early lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s music in the seminal “West Side Story” (1957) and for Jule Styne’s music in “Gypsy” (1959) to more than 50 years’ worth of scores that have pushed the boundaries and subject matter of musical theater in every conceivable direction. He is musical theater’s greatest lyricist, full stop. The days of competition with other musical theater songwriters are done: We now talk about his work the way we talk about Shakespeare or Dickens or Picasso — a master of his form, both invisible within his work and everywhere at once.

(Read more)

Photos: The New York Times (Sondheim); (Miranda)



(Roisin O’Connor’s article appeared in the Independent,  10/19.)    

Academics have criticised “trigger warnings” after Cambridge University students were warned about “potentially distressing topics” in plays by Shakespeare

English literature undergraduates were apparently cautioned that a lecture focusing on Titus Andronicus and The Comedy of Errors would include “discussions of sexual violence” and “sexual assault“. 

According to The Telegraphthe trigger warnings were posted in the English Faculty’s ‘Notes on Lectures’ document which is circulated to students at the university. 

(Read more)