Monthly Archives: June 2018


(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/7; via Pam Green.)

PARIS — Have the times finally caught up with Virginie Despentes? A quarter-century after the release of her novel “Baise-moi,” a savage tale of rape, revenge and murder that propelled her to fame, the French author reads like a prescient feminist voice in the #MeToo era.

“Vernon Subutex 1,” her latest book to be translated into English, was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize; a big-budget TV adaptation, headlined by the French movie star Romain Duris, is scheduled to start filming this year. And in Paris, a staging of Ms. Despentes’s 2006 memoir, “King Kong Theory,” is a timely reminder that she has long been a vital thinker, who deserves better than the aura of scandal that has defined much of her career.

“King Kong Theory” doesn’t attempt to appeal to fair-weather feminists. Ms. Despentes pulls no punches in this manifesto against the patriarchy, in which she recounts how she was raped at age 17 and subsequently worked as a prostitute. At no point does she court pity. Instead, as in most of her works, her writing is alive with no-holds-barred anger.

Vanessa Larré wasn’t the first director to see potential for a stage version, but she shrewdly opted to turn Ms. Despentes’s monologue into something more polyphonic. First performed in 2015, her “King Kong Theory” reopened at the Théâtre de l’Atelier in late May with a new cast and runs through July 7. Three women (Anne Azoulay, Marie Denarnaud and Valérie de Dietrich) take turns center stage: They all highlight individual aspects of the text, yet together they project the strength of a small army.

And they deliver Ms. Despentes’s blows without a hint of sensationalism. Ms. de Dietrich, who adapted the book along with Ms. Larré and who opens the performance, sets a no-nonsense tone from the first scene. She describes herself wryly as “more King Kong than Kate Moss,” “too noisy, too fat” and “too masculine,” and excoriates the male gaze and its influence on women’s lives — later calling on men to free themselves from it, too.

(Read more)


(Peter Libbey’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/10; via Pam Green.)

The 72nd annual Tony Awards rewarded “The Band’s Visit” with best musical and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” with best play.

The full list of winners is below.

Best Musical: The Band’s Visit

Best Play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Best Revival of a Musical: Once on This Island

Best Revival of a Play: “Angels in America

Best Book of a Musical: “The Band’s Visit,” Itamar Moses

Best Original Score: “The Band’s Visit,” Music and Lyrics: David Yazbek

Best Leading Actor in a Play: Andrew Garfield, “Angels in America”

Best Leading Actress in a Play: Glenda Jackson, “Three Tall Women”

(Read more)

Photo:  Matthew Murphy


(via the Drama Desk Awards)

Award winners are highlighted

Outstanding Play

Admissions, by Joshua Harmon, Lincoln Center Theater
Mary Jane, by Amy Herzog, New York Theatre Workshop

Miles for Mary, by The Mad Ones, Playwrights Horizons People, Places & Things, by Duncan Macmillan, National Theatre/St. Ann’s Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong 
School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, by Jocelyn Bioh, MCC Theater

Outstanding Musical

Desperate Measures, The York Theatre Company 
KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theatre Company/Woodshed Collective 
Mean Girls 
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2b Theatre Company/59E59 
SpongeBob SquarePants

Outstanding Revival of a Play

Angels in America 
Hindle Wakes, Mint Theater Company 
In the Blood, Signature Theatre Company 
Three Tall Women 
Travesties, Menier Chocolate Factory/Roundabout Theatre Company

(Read more)


(Grigory Zaslavsky’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 5/31.)

From Fonvizin and Chekhov to Tolstoy, all on stage.

The most famous Russian authors wrote not only voluminous novels but also plays for theater. Most of them retain their relevance and are staged the world over to this day. Russia Beyond asked Grigory Zaslavsky, the prominent theater critic and director of GITIS, the Moscow-based Russian Institute of Theater Arts (one of the biggest theatrical institutions in the world) to compile a list of the most famous Russian plays and suggest the theaters in Moscow and St. Petersburg where one can see them. 

  1. The Minor, Maly Theater, Moscow

Maly Theater

The first plays for the Russian theater were written in the second half of the 18th century. But their language sounds so archaic to the modern ear that it’s practically impossible to find them in today’s repertoire. But The Minor by Denis Fonvizin is a rare exception. What is more, some quotes from the play are still in use in more or less everyday Russian – for example, the words uttered by the central character, teenager Mitrofanushka: “I don’t want to study, I want to marry.” Today you can see the comedy in Moscow at the Maly Theater.

(Read more)

Photos: Maly Theatre: Wikipedia; The Minor: Russia Beyond the Headlines


(from the Folger Shakespeare Library; via Pam Green.)

 Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 98

In 2012 the Royal Shakespeare Company staged the first-ever, high-profile, all-black British Shakespeare production, Julius Caesar, set in Africa. The actor who played Brutus, Paterson Joseph, recently wrote a book about the experience called Julius Caesar and Me: Exploring Shakespeare’s African Play.

Paterson Joseph in Julius Caesar. Photo by Kwame Lestrade © RSC

On this podcast episode, he also talks about his early work, his thoughts about race in the British theater, about the proper way to play Brutus, and much more. Paterson Joseph is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Listen on iTunesGoogle PlaySoundCloud, or NPR One.


(Matt Wolf’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/31; via Pam Green.)

LONDON — Shakespeare’s Globe may have had a spring cleaning, but don’t for a second think that the deservedly popular playhouse is playing it safe.

You could be forgiven for expecting a conservative, back-to-basics approach following the controversial artistic tenure of Emma Rice, who parted company with the theater in 2017 after only two years. But if “As You Like It” and “Hamlet,” the opening productions by the new artistic director, Michelle Terry, are any gauge, the Globe looks poised to continue provoking — albeit in new ways. Already, Ms. Terry’s tenure promises to throw norms to the wind by casting without regard to gender, race or ethnicity. Eyebrows have been raised, but there has been hefty applause as well.

Ms. Rice had ruffled feathers by modernizing a space that Globe hard-liners defend fiercely. They took issue with her use of amplification, contemporary lighting rigs and a pop aesthetic that introduced Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” for instance, into her Bollywood-inflected “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Her “Twelfth Night” included the London drag artist Le Gateau Chocolat as a disco diva Feste.

No less provocative was Ms. Rice’s candid admission that she found Shakespeare difficult — a sentiment she expressed in her first news conference as artistic director and in various interviews.

Ms. Terry, by contrast, has spoken from the outset of an apprenticeship to Shakespeare that began when she was a child. And because she, unlike Ms. Rice, is an actress — and an Olivier Award-winning one at that — she comes to her current position steeped in the playwright’s work. The result is that you feel at every turn a direct engagement with a dramatist whom Ms. Rice, by contrast, sometimes seemed at odds with, as if the verse were an irritation to be overcome.

(Read more)

Photo: Virgin Experience Days



(Ben Brantley’s and Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/1; via Pam Green.)

“The Great Work begins.” When we first heard the Angel of America bellow that bulletin as the curtain came down on Part 1 of the play named for her and her band of anxious immortals, many of us who look to the theater for inspiration were, in fact, inspired. Tony Kushner’s “gay fantasia,” fusing the ambition, morality and underdog sympathies of earlier 20th century masters, felt not only like a great American play but like a culmination and reimagining of great American playness. It slammed a door open.

That was 1993. Exactly 25 years later, the first Broadway revival of “Angels in America” started us thinking about what has happened to American plays in the meantime. Have they been as great? Is their greatness different from what it was? Is “greatness” even a meaningful category anymore?


Photo: Newsela



Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great Norwegian playwright and poet, best known for his middle class tragedies such as The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler, A Doll’s House and An Enemy of the People. These are set in a world where the middle class is dominant and explore the qualities of that life, its weaknesses and boundaries and the ways in which it takes away freedoms. It is the women who fare the worst in this society, something Ibsen explored in A Doll’s House among others, a play that created a sensation with audiences shocked to watch a woman break free of her bourgeois family life to find her destiny. He explored dark secrets such as incest and, in Ghosts, hereditary syphilis, which attracted the censors. He gave actresses parts they had rarely had before, and audiences plays that, after Shakespeare, became the most performed in the world.


Tore Rem
Professor of English Literature at the University of Oslo

Kirsten Shepherd-Barr
Professor of English and Theatre Studies and Tutorial Fellow, St Catherine’s College at the University of Oxford


Dinah Birch
Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Cultural Engagement at the University of Liverpool

Producer: Simon Tillotson.