Monthly Archives: February 2018


(Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 91; via Pam Green)

Renowned actor Derek Jacobi talks about the Shakespearean role for which he is best known, Hamlet. Beginning at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1957, Jacobi has acted this role on stage nearly 400 times, and as you can imagine, he’s devoted hours to thinking about Hamlet’s words, Hamlet’s motivations, and the best way to play the role. Derek Jacobi was interviewed by Barbara Bogaev. 

This is the first of a two-part interview. In part two, Derek Jacobi talks about his career more broadly, including sharing the stage with Laurence Olivier, performing King Lear in 2010, and a struggle with paralyzing stage fright that drove him away from the theater for two years in the 1980s.




(Jim Rendon’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/23; via Pam Green.)

ATLANTA — Inside the Cobb Galleria Centre, a vast conference hall here, David Scott, the licensing director for Disney Theatrical Productions, reached across a chest-high cube for a round, golden sticker. He handed it to Brynn Hall, a 13-year-old actor with the Forsyth Academy of Performing Arts, a youth theater group in Cumming, Ga.

“Write down your wish and stick it on the cube,” Mr. Scott instructed.

“What is your wish?” he asked as Ms. Hall jotted a few lines on the sticker.

“Do you want to be on Broadway?”

“Yes,” she said.

“That’s a good wish,” he said,

“I know, right,” she replied as she put the sticker up next to hundreds of others.

Ms. Hall was attending the Junior Theater Festival, an annual celebration of musical theater that attracts nearly 6,000 attendees, including 3,200 middle school students. It is organized by iTheatrics, a company that adapts Broadway musicals for the youth market.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times




By Bob Shuman

When the eye-catching actress, Becca Schneider, tells Platonov, the title character in Chekhov’s first unfinished drama (1878), he needs to “slow down,” she’s explaining the directorial concept of Jessica Burr’s production from Blessed Unrest, now playing at the New Ohio Theatre until March 11.  The momentum of her version is fast, and for a while, the speed, the mobility and the fluidity, along with the loose physicality of the actors, seems like a way to bring the early modernist playwright into the postmodernist world of downtown theatre–the way Eric Tucker did for Shakespeare, in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, as an example. Platonov gets away from Burr, though, because Chekhov depends on connectivity, not fragments, in a way that Shakespeare’s mostly second-hand materials don’t. She emphasizes mechanics, and ultimately, the pace seems like a refutation of this supremely empathetic author.

One miscalculation may have been underestimating how much people want to listen to him—they want to see a significant Platonov (even if its five hours are cut), not a literalized one or one that feels truncated, especially given the potential of the cast (of multiple races and ethnicities, playing multiple parts, some across genders). Probably most notable are a tantalizing Irina Abraham, as Anna, a general’s daughter, and the handsome Darrell Stokes in the title role, a womanizer, subdued by female vigilante justice.  Many could argue that he is a product of soul-destroying ennui, but this production, apparently politicized,  has been timed to echo the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein case—in a reductionist assault, perhaps too gratified in taking Chekhov apart and setting him whirling. 

The author, however, may have simply been learning to tell a story and creating a multidimensional world, not a legal brief, just as Ibsen did not think A Doll’s House was a feminist tract. What happens to Burr is that her center gets lost—the play arrives at one hundred minutes (the translation, with slangy colloquialisms, is by Laura Wickens) and the piece is skeletal, missing the connective tissue of character development and builds.  Working in the round, the director uses a minimal set, by Matt Opatrny, based on vodka bottles, chess pieces, and an oriental rug, and her staging is especially physicalized; her Russia, spinning and kaleidoscopic, can’t be still and can’t be bored. The last moments of the play aren’t prepared for, and they don’t shock or surprise in the way that a well-directed version of The Seagull can. Perhaps to contemplate the play, we have to comprehend the playwright—understanding his own time and his own purposes more fully–not our own–in slow motion.

Platonov by Anton Chekhov


Irina Abraham, Ashley N. Hildreth, Javon Q. Minter,
Becca Schneider, Darrell Stokes, Taylor Valentine

Production Stage Manager
Darielle Shandler

Set Design
Matt Opatrny, Teddy Jefferson, Anna Alisa Belous

Costume Design
Sarah Thea

Lighting Design
Miriam Nilofa Crowe

Sound Design
Fan Zhang

Jessi Blue Gormezano

Fight Choreographer & Assistant Director
Ben Peterson

PR-ism, Kamila Slawinski & Ivan Talijančić

Visit Blessed Unrest

© by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Production Photos: Blessed Unrest



(from Reuters, 2/22)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – “The Shape of Water,” a contender for this year’s best picture Oscar, was hit with a plagiarism lawsuit on Wednesday, alleging that its fantastical plot about a romance between a cleaning woman and a mysterious river creature was lifted directly from an American stage play.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleged that director Guillermo del Toro, producer Daniel Kraus and movie studio Fox Searchlight <FOXA.0> “brazenly copies the story, elements, characters and themes” from a 1969 play by the late Paul Zindel.

“The Shape of Water” has a leading 13 Oscar nominations at the March 4 Academy Awards ceremony, including nods for best picture and best director. The lawsuit was filed the day after ballots went out to some 8,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who vote on the Oscar winners.

(Read more)


(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/12; via Pam Green.)

Tennessee Williams’s most reliable instrument of release — and torture — glows impiously in the hushed white gallery of the Morgan Library & Museum, like a neon sign in a church.

It is only a manual typewriter, one of the many that did hard labor under the fingers of this great American playwright, who is the subject of “Tennessee Williams: No Refuge but Writing,” a profoundly affecting new exhibition of manuscripts and memorabilia.

But the color of this sleek machine, an Olivetti Lettera 32, belies its utilitarian function. How to describe this particular shade of blue? To call it aqua or teal seems too pedestrian for the man under consideration here. Williams (1911-1983) delighted in finding names for blues — chromatic, spiritual, emotional.

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(Photo: The New York Times)



(Deborah Cole’s article appeared on Yahoo, 2/18; via the Drudge Report.

Berlin (AFP) – Gay cinema pioneer Rupert Everett said his new biopic about legendary literary dandy Oscar Wilde captures him as a “Christ-like” figure who sacrificed himself for the future global LBGTQ rights movement.

Everett penned, directed and starred in his years-long passion project about the flamboyant 19th century Irish writer, “The Happy Prince”, screening this week at the Berlin film festival.

The 58-year-old British actor focuses in the film on Wilde’s self-imposed exile after serving two years’ hard labour from 1895 on “gross indecency” charges for sex with men.

(Read more)


(Ruthie Fierberg’s article appeared in Playbill Online, 2/13.)

The theatrical publisher opens the U.K. version of New York City’s Drama Book Shop.

The Royal Court Theatre in London’s Sloane Square is a landmark of the theatre scene across the pond. On February 13, the U.K. division of Samuel French announced there will be an addition to the theatre space: a theatre bookshop.

The Bookshop will be located in the theatre’s Balcony Bar and will open its doors March 5.

“We are thrilled to reopen a bookshop in London, especially at the iconic Royal Court Theatre. When we closed our shop in Fitzroy Street last year, we were overwhelmed by messages of support,” said managing director of Samuel French U.K. Douglas Schatz in a statement.

(Read more)



Norwegian Jon Fosse, winner of the prestigious International Ibsen Prize in 2010, is one of the world’s most performed playwrights. His breakthrough came with Namnet (‘The Name’), written in 1995, and itremains one of his most widely produced plays. It tells the story of a pregnant young woman’s return to the claustrophobia of family home with the reluctant father-to-be in tow. Translated by Gregory Motton.

The Girl ….. Norah Lopez Holden
The Boy ….. Joseph Ayre
The Mother ….. Ellie Darvill
The Father ….. Philip Bretherton
The Sister ….. Isabella Inchbald
Bjarne ….. Nikhil Parmar

Directed by Toby Swift

British playwright Simon Stephens introduces the drama. His adaptation of Fosse’s play I AM THE WIND was performed at the Young Vic in 2011.


(Chris Jones’s article appeared in The Chicago Tribune, 2/13.)

Kelly Felthous, who plays Sally Bowles in the Paramount Theatre production of “Cabaret” did not get a lick of applause Saturday at the end of the show’s famous title number, despite this being opening night. Was it down to frostbite?

No. That is also what happened when I saw Natasha Richardson do Sally in the 1998 Broadway revival, the one directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, the one that made a star out of Alan Cumming, the one that has influenced every subsequent staging of the title, even to the point of blending into our perception of the material. Richardson’s drugged-out Sally was desperate and despairing; she turned the number into a furious cry of nihilistic anguish, shocking an audience expecting Liza Minnelli-like resilience into total silence.

(Read more)


Bruxelles 4 Decembre 2015
Conference de presse de Ismael Saidi a propos de son nouveau livre ‘ Djihad, la piece ‘
Pix…. Ismael Saidi
Credit Frederic Sierakowski / Isopix/ISOPIX_1705.017/Credit:Frederic Sierakowski/Isop/SIPA/1603231716

(Daniel Boffey’s, Constanze Letsch’s, Philip Oltermann’s, Helena Smith’s, and Kit Gillet’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/12.)

Ismael Saïdi, Belgium

A comedy about jihad? At first, no one wanted to touch it, says Belgian playwright Ismael Saïdi. “They didn’t think anyone could laugh at that.” Called Djihad, the French word for jihad, his play follows three hapless Belgian Muslims who feel compelled – for a range of tragicomic reasons – to travel to Syria, where their eyes are opened to the reality of holy war.

Echoing Four Lions, Chris Morris’s 2010 film, the satire highlights some of the absurdities of the terrorist cause and the frustrations of those drawn to it. Saïdi, whose parents are Moroccan, had plenty of material to work with. He was born in Brussels, in the suburb of Schaerbeek, an area caricatured as a breeding ground for terrorists.

“People coming from Muslim countries to Belgium was very new,” he says. “When you are young, you feel any difference in a negative way – you are afraid, you want to be like the others. You want to be the good, beautiful guy. And I was not. I didn’t know how to play soccer. But later, I felt being different was a positive, an opportunity.”

Unsure of what to do after school, he responded to a police drive for recruits from migrant communities. He expected to stay a month but, after a bumpy start, saw out 16 years. “At the beginning, we were two or three people among 2,000. Some colleagues don’t want to drive with you – they don’t feel comfortable, they don’t trust you. After three or four years, things were better.” Eventually, he left to pursue his writing.

Saïdi started Djihad in 2012, after watching French far-right leader Marine Le Pentalking about young people going to Syria. “She was saying she didn’t care about them. She didn’t want them to come back. I thought that was awful. You have to understand why people go there to fight – as they will come back to kill people. And I saw a picture on Facebook of a friend from when I was at school. He was in Syria in front of an Isis flag with a Kalashnikov in his hand. I was thinking, ‘How can this be possible? How can he be a terrorist? He was with me at school. He played with me. He went to the cinema with me. What happened?’ That’s the reason I wrote it.”

Its first performance, at a small venue in 2014, sold out without any advertising. Then, in the wake of the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, schools started to get in touch with him. Parents who had taken their children to see the play were recommending it to teachers as an eye-opener.

Of the 250,000 who have now seen Djihad, 150,000 are teenagers. Saïdi is touring with a sequel, Géhenne, which follows one of the three Djihad characters into a Belgian prison. “People laugh at lot,” says Saïdi. “And at the end they cry.” Daniel Boffey

(Read more)