Monthly Archives: September 2018


(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/25.)  

Is it chance or synchronicity that brings “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” a muscular comedy about a woman unbound, to Broadway at this grim transitional moment in gender politics?

Either way, Theresa Rebeck’s new play, which opened on Tuesday at the American Airlines Theater, is so clever it uplifts, so timely it hurts.

That’s a depressing thing to say about a story set in 1899 in that temple of chauvinism, the French popular theater. Janet McTeer stars as Sarah Bernhardt, then in her mid-50s and aging out of the dying courtesan roles that made her world-famous. As far as Shakespeare is concerned, she is caught in the gap between Ophelia and Gertrude.

So why not try Hamlet?

Enter the men: Edmond Rostand (Jason Butler Harner), one of France’s greatest young dramatists; Alphonse Mucha (Matthew Saldivar), the Art Nouveau illustrator of Bernhardt’s gorgeous posters; and Louis (Tony Carlin), a critic so parsimonious with praise I suppose it’s only fair that he’s given no surname.

(Read more)

Photo: Chicago Tribune





Two iconic radio plays, first produced in the 1970s, now given brand new productions.
Introduced by Fiona Shaw as Angela Carter.

A young Englishman, travelling by bicycle through Transylvania, finds himself at the mercy of a ‘lovely lady vampire’ and her governess.

THE COUNTESS … Jessica Raine
THE COUNT … Anton Lesser
HERO … Oliver Chris
MRS BEANE … Doon Mackichan
BOY … William Gidney
VILLAGERS/PEASANTS … Pip Williams, Rose Reade, Lucy Mangan, Tré Gordon

Director/Producer – Fiona McAlpine
Sound Design – Wilfredo Acosta

Carter’s hallucinatory documentary drama about the murderous Victorian painter, Richard Dadd.

CARTER … Fiona Shaw
RICHARD DADD … James Anthony Rose
FRITH … Keith Hill
OBERON … Robert Pugh
TITANIA … Monica Dolan
PUCK/ROBERT DADD … Tom Forrister
CRAZY JANE … Jasmine Jones
LANDLADY … Tilly Vosburgh
DOCTOR/HOWARD … Nicholas Murchie

Violinist – Madeleine Brooks
Director – Robin Brooks
Producer – Fiona McAlpine
Sound Design – Wilfredo Acosta

Radio 3 presents new interpretations of two radio scripts by Angela Carter, originally written and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the 1970s. Both these scripts embody the combination of stylistic daring, playful wit, dazzling language, and high intellectual seriousness which is a hallmark of Carter’s best work. These productions will be introduced by Fiona Shaw, playing Carter, so that she may explain in her own words how she came to write them, and why she felt so strongly attracted to Radio drama as a medium.

VAMPIRELLA, Angela Carter’s first radio play was produced by Glyn Dearman, and broadcast in July 1976. As Carter describes it: the “lovely lady vampire’ skulks in her Transylvanian castle, “bored with the endless deaths and resurrections”, and caged by “hereditary appetites that she found both compulsive and loathsome”. A young British officer arrives, who kills her with the innocence of his kiss, and then goes off to die in a war “far more hideous than any of our fearful superstitious imaginings”.

COME UNTO THESE YELLOW SANDS tells the story of the painter Richard Dadd, who murdered his father and was confined to Broadmoor, where he created the Fairy paintings for which he is now famous. Carter uses the story, and animates the fairy figures themselves, in order to explore how “the distorted style of the paintings of Dadd’s madness, together with his archetypical crime of parricide, seems to be expressions of the dislocation of the real relations of humankind to itself, during Britain’s great period of high capitalism and imperialist triumph.”

Photo: BBC Radio 3


(Visit the IT AWARDS:

New York, NY: On Monday, September 24, 2018 Innovative Theatre Foundation, the organization who for the past 14 years has been dedicated to celebrating Off-Off-Broadway, presented 26 awards and four honorary awards for outstanding achievement in theatre at the 14th Annual New York Innovative Theatre Awards Ceremony, at Centennial Memorial Theatre (120 West 14th Street, NYC). If you were unable to attend, watch a replay online at

The ceremony was hosted by trans performer and writer Becca Blackwell; directed by 2014 Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award recipient Kevin R. Free; with script contributions by writer, director, and performer Joey Rizzolo. Presenters included Moe Angelos (The Builders Association), Beowulf Boritt (Scenic Designer), Leon Dobkowski (Costume Designer), Magie Dominic (Writer), Kit Goldstein Grant (Composer/Lyricist), Eva Kaminsky (Actress), Dorothy Lyman (Actress/Director/Producer), Charles Morey (Playwright), John Arthur Pinckard (Producer), Josh Prince (Choreographer), Everett Quinton (Actor/Director/Playwright), Charles Rice-Gonzalez (Writer), Bill Solly (Composer/Lyricist), G. Benjamin Swope (Lighting Designer), and Charles Turner (Actor).

The 2018 recipients were awarded from a pool of nominees that include 157 individual artists, 53 different productions, and 52 different theatre companies. Nominated productions were seen on stages in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. To date, the IT Awards have honored over 2,500 artists, over 700 productions and over 650 companies.

“We have studied the birth of Off-Off-Broadway for many years and this is a great opportunity to bring together two of our favorite Indie Theatre institutions, the Caffe Cino and the NY It Awards. We could not be more humbled to be receiving an award in honor of Joe and the Caffe Cino.” ~ Ralph Lewis, Co-Artistic Director of Peculiar Works Project



Denali Bennett, Victoria Bundonis, LaDonna Burns, Denise DeMars, Tia DeShazor, Susan Cohen DeStefano, Christine Donnelly, Andrea Dotto, Dan Entriken, Jonathan Fluck, Spencer Hansen, James Harter, Marcie Henderson, Greg Horton, Kathleen LaMagna, Andrea McCullough, Sharae Moultrie, Ben Northrup, Rusty Riegelman, Bruce Sabath, Carolyn Seiff, Cliff Sellers, Lauren Alice Smith, Lucy Sorlucco, Tina Stafford, Noah Virgile, Mandarin Wu

Follies, Astoria Performing Arts Center


Valerie Redd

You / Emma, Wandering Bark Theatre Company in association with IRT Theater  

Photo: Samantha Fairfield Walsh


Todd Ritch  

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, 5th Floor Theatre Company


LaDonna Burns

Follies, Astoria Performing Arts Center

Photo: Feinstein’s/54 Below


Ryan McCurdy

Greencard Wedding, Goode Productions  

Photo: Clyde Fitch Report


Maggie Low  

Chickens in the Yard, Adjusted Realists  


Sara Brians  

Follies, Astoria Performing Arts Center


Mark Lewis  

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Sea Dog Theater  


Photo of Becca Blackwell by Kevin Yatarola

Press: Kampfire


By Bob Shuman

The Emperor, Colin Teevan’s adaptation of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s reportage on the forty-four-year reign of Haile Selassie, from Theatre for a New Audience, now playing at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn until September 30, is more than an anti-Trump metaphor, although it does point to the impact of American politics on global theatre.  The subject is perhaps as little considered in the West today as when, in 1973, BBC correspondent Jonathan Dimbleby documented the horror of famine in East Africa, and the dramatization, cleanly directed by Walter Meierjohann, which played at the Young Vic, London; HOME, Manchester; and Les Theatre de la Ville de Luxembourg, mostly told through small monologues, offers a compelling, modern history of Ethiopia, during the early and mid-twentieth century. 

Kathryn Hunter’s Chaplinesque star turn allows her to play the “little man” as mime and social champion, which can remind of The Great Dictator and Modern Times. The audience doesn’t lose her when she talks, though, as they did when starting to turn away from Chaplin after hearing him speak literary English on screen.  They revel in her throaty, deep voice and accents, and attune to her slightly crooked, if flexible, body, a puppet clown, playing the menials and servants at the court:  from those among the pillow bearers to doormen; chauffeurs to clerks and ministers (Selassie is never shown or portrayed).  Perhaps ironically, none of her creations is a woman–of any race (Hunter is white); she is  always a man of color, which may be daring, but would be criticized if the role concept was taken by a white male in the States, opening up an Actors’ Equity nightmare.  Hunter is joined by musicians of Eastern African Krar, including Temesgren Zeleke, who spikes the evening with the sound of the electric lyre (the music is by Dave Price), unusual, penetrating, and rhythmic.

Visit Theatre for a New Audience

Doubtless, other artists will see the show and want to splice together anecdotes about the Trump White House, based on books by Bob Woodward, Michael Wolff, and Omarosa, but The Emperor concerns acting out lives lived in collusion, in order for a power structure to be maintained–blinding oneself to objective reality. Contradictorily, life outside the Trump administration is not a nation on its knees—it includes high employment statistics among diverse ethnic and racial populations.  At an evening of forum theatre, called Antigone in Fergusonwhich plays until October 13 at Harlem Stagefrom Theater of War, where passages from Antigone are placed alongside powerful Gospel music, sung by, according to the program note, “diverse choirs,” who “include police officers, activists, youth, teachers, and concerned citizens from Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.” One participant was even brave enough to say, “many people like Donald Trump.”  There was also a call made to vote during the midterm elections, which was not unanimously praised, room also being given to the idea, from  one woman, that there was little interest in dismantling “a system that I did not make.”  

Sophocles’ play, “about what happens when personal conviction and state law clash”—and which includes the dictatorial Creon–is simplified but clearly translated and adapted by Brian Doerrie, with musical direction and compositions by Phil Woodmore, who works with many roof-raising singers: soloists include De-Rance Blaylock, John Leggette, Duane Foster, Gheremi Clay, and Tamara Fingal.  The cast, which will change weekly during the run, on September 15, included the following actors:  Tamara Tunie, Tate Donovan, Chris Myers and Chinasa Obguagu. The audience, speaking their own truths, responded to questions, such as: “What crossed time about the story to touch you?” and “Do people have to die to come together as a community?”  Many agreed that the arts are not involved enough in politics and that most of us see something or someone the way we are conditioned to, which may have been at issue with Michael Brown, in 2014. 

This reviewer randomly wrote in the margin of his notes, during the audience participation section: “Art allows us to feel normal.”

Visit Harlem Stage

Visit Theater of War

Theatrical historians who look back on our period and see the current fascination with dictators may wonder why theatrical imaginations were stoked by an American president who legitimately won the 2016 election and improved the economy to the point where the nation’s middle-class income had never been higher.  What future investigators may not realize, however, is that theatregoers could have already stopped caring  about the continual subtexts of propagandistic artistic choices, with plays by Brecht and Shakespeare’s evil kings, African dictators, or Ancient Greek resisters filling stages. Instead, the current cultural metaphor about Trump and fascism might have been rejected for something more persuasive: the fun of watching actors excel at creating challenging antiheroes found in the pages and entertainments of villainy.

Copyright 2018 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Photos (top to bottom): Simon Annand; All Arts; Harlem Stage




(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared in Russia Beyond 9/14.)

The Stage Russia project continues to bring classic novels by leading theaters to big screens worldwide, all with English subtitles.

Don’t have the chance to visit Russia but you’re interested in the country’s rich theater tradition? Did you know that you can watch Russian theater productions in a cinema near you? Since 2016 Stage Russia HD has been bringing the best performances from leading Russian stages to cinemas worldwide.

The next season will soon open with a Shakespeare production, and will bring an experimental musical to a Tolstoy novel.

“These are timeless works that lend themselves to many reinventions,” said Eddie Aronoff, Stage Russia HD founder. “Similar to NT Live and the Metropolitan Opera HD, which have presented a variety of versions of classic titles (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, La Traviata, La Boheme, among others), we feel it’s entirely relevant to offer access to the full breadth of Russian theater in all its incarnations.”

  1. King Lear

In staging Shakespeare, director Yuri Butusov tries not to simplify the bard’s deep meanings. This is a metaphorical story about the collapse of a family, the collapse of a country, and the collapse of an individual and how they all are connected to each other.

The Satirikon Theater’s production features great actors and its artistic director, Konstantin Raikin, as King Lear. This role earned him Russia’s main national theater prize, the Golden Mask, for best male role. Maryana Spivak, a star of Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless” is playing Cordelia.

In cinemas from Sept. 20; find the nearest to you on the website

(Read more)

Photo: Viktor Dmitriev


(Mark Lawson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/19.)

Climbing high mountains is often used as a metaphor for other ominously difficult projects. So the experience of presiding, during a recession, over a £25m renovation of the Bristol Old Vic may have led artistic director Tom Morris to reopen the playhouse with David Greig’s adaptation of Touching the Void. Joe Simpson’s 1988 mountaineering memoir details how, when his co-climber Simon Yates was forced to cut their link rope, Simpson crawled, hopped and slid miles back to base-camp with a broken leg.

The book’s existence shows that Simpson must survive, and the events have already been visualised in a popular 2003 documentary. But Morris and Greig fracture this familiarity through a morbid framing device that seems daringly to have rewritten the book and by avoiding the easy option of video design for the Andes mountain.

(Read more)

Photo: Bristol Old Vic


(Callow’s article appeared in The New York Review of Books, 9/27.)

The Luck of Friendship: The Letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin

edited by Peggy L. Fox and Thomas Keith

Norton, 392 pp., $39.95

There can scarcely be a better-documented dramatist in the Western world than Tennessee Williams. His most recent, and best, biographer, John Lahr, counts forty books written about him since his death in 1983.1 Not that he was exactly unknown during his lifetime. After his epoch-making Broadway debut in 1945 with The Glass Menagerie and his subsequent and precipitate anointment as the savior of the modern American theater, his progress both as a writer and as a man was closely interrogated by the usual authorities. In this process Williams, like many a guileless artist before him, colluded, responding with a running commentary on the phenomenon of himself; in his startling essay “The Catastrophe of Success,” published in The New York Times in November 1947, just before the opening of his second Broadway play, A Streetcar Named Desire, he unsparingly describes what happened to him after the triumph of The Glass Menagerie. “I was snatched,” he said,out of virtual oblivion and thrust into sudden prominence, and from the precarious tenancy of furnished rooms about the country I was removed to a suite in a first-class Manhattan hotel. My experience was not unique. Success has often come that abruptly into the lives of Americans. The Cinderella story is our favorite national myth.

(Read more)

Photo: Literary Hub



(Teachout’s review appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 9/11.)

One of the British writer’s most unpopular plays, about a family of haute-bourgeoisie eccentrics who refuse to respond to the crumbling world around them, gets a much-needed tightening in this unique staging.

 New York

David Staller is best known as the artistic director of Project Shaw, a series of semistaged concert readings of the 60-odd plays of George Bernard Shaw that he has presented monthly in Manhattan since 2006. But he has also directed fully staged off-Broadway versions of several Shaw plays, including the Irish Repertory Theatre’s 2012 revival of “Man and Superman” and a 2016 production of “Widower’s Houses” mounted in collaboration with the now-defunct, lamented TACT/The Actors Company Theatre, both of which were not merely excellent but exceptionally memorable. Now Mr. Staller has taken on “Heartbreak House,” one of Shaw’s most challenging plays, with altogether extraordinary results.

(Read more)

Photo: The Wall Street Journal


Maria Shclover and Irina Shabshis, Cherry Orchard Festival co-founders and producers, have announced that Israel’s celebrated Gesher Theatre will return to New York City in early October with its two leading productions The Dybbuk and In the Tunnel at The Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College (524 West 59 Street).  Founded in 1991 in Tel Aviv by director Yevgeny Arye, these Gesher Theatre productions are being presented as part of a North American tour, which includes performances in Toronto and Pittsburgh. Performances are October 3 and 4 for The Dybbuk and October 6 and 7 for In the Tunnel. 

 The company begins its New York City engagement with a new production inspired by The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds by S. Ansky in a modern version written by Roy Chen, Gesher Theatre chief dramaturge. The Dybbuk, written in 1913 and arguably the most iconic play of the entire canon of Jewish drama, tells the story of a young Hasidic woman who became possessed on the eve of her wedding by the dead spirit of her beloved, a young scholar whom her parents forbade her to marry. The esteemed Gesher Artistic Director Yevgeny Arye directs the cast of 25. There will be performances, October 3 and 4 at 8 PM.

The Dybbuk will be followed by the political satire In the Tunnel, also by Mr. Chen, inspired by the Best Foreign Language Oscar-winning film No Man’s Land by Danis Tanovic. Two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinians are trapped in a tunnel dug by Hamas between Gaza and Israel. Enemies snared in a mousetrap, they try to find their way out. Should they kill or save each other? Meanwhile, above ground, a political and media circus is attempting to capture and cover the event. The cast of nine is directed by award-winner Irad Rubenstein| There will be two performances, October 6 at 8 PM and October 7 at 2 PM.  

The Dybbuk and In the Tunnel will be performed in Hebrew with English and Russian supertitles.

These performances had been made possible with the generous support of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Genesis Philanthropy Group.

Tickets for The Dybbuk and In the Tunnel at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College (524 W. 59th Street) are priced at $55. – $125. and are available online at

Premium VIP and Artist Reception tickets, located in the center of the orchestra, are available at $250 and include an exclusive Post-Show Cocktail Reception with the Gesher Theatre cast, featuring hors-d’oeuvres and an open bar. For group sales, please contact the Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation directly 800.349.0021 or by emailing

Free Screening and Panel on Dibukim

On Tuesday, October 2, from 7 to 9 pm, the public is invited to a free screening and panel at the New York Public Library18 W. 53rd Street, on the making of Dibukim, a 60-minute film by Ram Loevy, winner of the honorable mention at the Haifa International Film Festival, which documents the production process of The Dybbuk and follows the creative team and actors during rehearsals. The screening will be followed by a 30-minute question and answer session with director Yevgeny Arye and the cast. With English subtitles. More info & trailer.

Continue reading


(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/9.)

Wakako Yamauchi, whose plays exploring the Japanese-American experience drew on her own life of relocation, rootlessness, assimilation and internment during World War II, died on Aug. 16 at her home in Gardena, Calif. She was 93.

The death was confirmed by her granddaughter, Alyctra Matsushita.

Ms. Yamauchi’s plays were produced frequently, especially by the Asian-American troupe East West Players in Los Angeles. She was best known for “And the Soul Shall Dance,” a work she adapted from her own short story. East West Players staged it in 1977, a time when Asian-American voices, especially female ones, were rarely heard in the theater. The next year a film version was made for PBS.

(Read more)

Photo: Los Angeles Times