Monthly Archives: July 2020

ALAN BENNETT: ‘AN ORDINARY WOMAN’–A MONOLOGUE ·

(Bennett’s monologue appeared in the London Review of Books, 7/16.)

 An ordinary kitchen. Gwen, a middle-aged wo­man, talks to the camera.

He​ pulled up his trousers.

‘You are nice to me,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t have shown it to anybody else.’

I said, ‘Well, I hope you haven’t been doing.’

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Not much chance of that. No demand at the moment.’

He’d come home from school looking a bit down and retreats upstairs to his room and doesn’t even bother to raid the fridge, by which I take it something’s amiss. He plays his music for a bit and I’m ironing when he comes down barefoot and sits at the table watching me, which is an event in itself. Suddenly he gets up and says, ‘Mum, I’m going to show you this, but it’ll be the last time you’ll ever see it.’

And he undoes his trousers and pulls down his shorts.

He said, ‘Now, what’s that?’

Well, it was nothing. I couldn’t even see where he meant until he points it out, just a bit of a spot. Only it was the other I couldn’t get over. I hadn’t been keeping track and I don’t know when I last saw it exactly, but he can’t have been much more than twelve. And he’s only fifteen now but you wouldn’t know.

He said, ‘Are you sure?’

I said, ‘Michael. It’s a spot, love, that’s all it is,’ and I got him some stuff to put on.

He gets his trousers up sharp.

He said, ‘Don’t tell Dad.’

‘Why should I tell Dad? Why should I tell Dad anything?’

‘And don’t tell our Maureen.’

‘As if,’ I said (which is what he’s always saying).

‘I don’t want my private parts mulled over by my sister.’ He’s getting some pie from the fridge.

I said, ‘Wash your hands.’

He said, ‘You said it was nothing.’

I said, ‘It is nothing but wash your hands.’

*

It’s an aerodrome we go to, disused. We shouldn’t but he’s only fifteen so it would be illegal anywhere else, and I’m not altogether sure it’s legal there, but it’s off the road and he’s desperate to start driving. His dad’s not keen but he doesn’t have the patience to teach him anyway.

I nearly killed him though today. There was a lad gunning his motorbike about and Michael nearly went into him, scraped him. It was my fault. I should have been looking in the mirror. He scarcely touched us, this lad, and just belted off, only I had my hand gripping Michael’s leg I was so shocked. And he was trembling. He said, ‘Mum, let go my leg.’ I said, ‘I hope it hasn’t scratched the bodywork.’ He said, ‘It’s my bodywork I’m bothered about, let go my leg.’ Anyway, there was only a tiny mark on the bumper. I couldn’t hardly see it, only I said I’d tell Dad it was me that was driving.

I’d brought a flask, so we sat there on this runway having some coffee. I said, shouted actually, with having his music on, ‘Is this what they call “quality time”?’

And he nods, though whether at me or the music I couldn’t tell. And then he’s looking at his phone.

Later on, Maureen saw me checking the bumper. She said, ‘Is that a scratch?’ 

‘No, it fucking well isn’t,’ Michael said. ‘And anyway Mum was driving.’

He winks at me. And I wink back, only I can’t wink so just screwed my face up.

He looks more than fifteen.

Thinking about it afterwards, I didn’t see the bike because I was looking at Michael’s hands on the wheel and thinking how much nicer they are than my hands.

(Read  more)

 

FORGOTTEN PLAYS: NO 7 – ‘SKYVERS’ (1963) BY BARRY RECKORD ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/12;  Riveting drama … from left, David Hemmings, Chloe Ashcroft and Phillip Martin in Skyvers at the Royal Court. Photograph: ANL/Rex/Shutterstock.)

Reckord’s unflinchingly honest social document pinned down the flaws in a UK education system that consigned an underclass to a dead-end future

Why are there so few good plays about school life? A handful have achieved iconic status. Alan Bennett’s The History Boys (2004) was once voted the nation’s favourite play. Terence Rattigan’s The Browning Version (1948) is a moving study of despised teacher. Nigel Williams’s Class Enemy (1978) captures the anarchy of an inner-city school. But, good as Williams’s play is, it is more than matched by Barry Reckord’s Skyvers (1963). The piece had a fierce champion in the late Pam Brighton, who directed a superb revival in 1971, but it remains curiously little-known.

Reckord’s story is significant. Born in Jamaica, he studied at Cambridge, became a teacher and then a full-time writer who, as Yvonne Brewster has said, “laid a foundation for later emerging Caribbean playwrights such as Mustapha Matura, Michael Abbensetts and Alfred Fagon”. All found a home at the Royal Court in the 60s and 70s, but it was Reckord who paved the way.

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QUEER KIDS, NERDS AND SWORD FIGHTS: IT’S THE HOT SCHOOL PLAY ·

(from The New York Times, 7/2; Photo: The New York Times; via Pam Green.)  

This is a narrative about youngsters who make up tales. This is a narrative through which ladies wield swords, queer youngsters are cool and nerds rule the earth.

This is a narrative about “She Kills Monsters,” and those that find it irresistible.

Qui Nguyen’s spirited play about discovering your actual and metaphorical households, in addition to your self, by means of Dungeons & Dragons did nicely sufficient when it premiered on the Flea Theater in 2011 — Eric Grode referred to as it a “deceptively breezy and somewhat ingenious comedy” in The New York Times. The play ran, closed, and Nguyen moved on, most notably to his acclaimed semi-autobiographical breakthrough “Vietgone,” and writing gigs for Disney.

“She Kills Monsters,” in the meantime, had simply gotten began. In the intervening years, it has blossomed into considered one of America’s hottest exhibits, with 797 productions (carried out and deliberate) between 2013 and subsequent 12 months. Of these, one was an expert revival, 144 had been by beginner firms and a whopping 652 had been performed on faculty and school campuses.

“We’re coping with themes that each excessive schooler, each school scholar confronts in some unspecified time in the future, whether or not or not it’s this concept of the underdog or familial wrestle or sexuality or gender,” mentioned Kelly Trumbull, who’s co-directing a web based manufacturing slated for July 12 on the University of Pittsburgh, the place she is a educating artist. (The dwell 7:30 p.m. webcast is free; the present will stay accessible for a small price till July 26.)

In the present, the teenage Tilly dies early on in a automotive crash and her older sister, Agnes, should take care of not simply with grief however with how little she knew about her sibling: studying a pocket book left behind, she learns that Tilly was a role-playing aficionado, as an example, and that she had a girlfriend in her recreation world. (The presence of sturdy feminine characters is one other large issue for the present’s reputation on campuses, as ladies are usually overrepresented in drama departments.)

These topics don’t fly in every single place, however obstacles have solely energized followers of the play. DeAnna Tart, who runs the theater division at Trinidad High School in rural Texas, needed to overcome many hurdles earlier than she might enter her manufacturing of “She Kills Monsters” within the 2017-18 version of her state’s University Interscholastic League contest.

“It could be very comedic, nevertheless it’s additionally very tragic,’’ she mentioned by phone. “It dives into sexuality, which some folks deem controversial even for top school-age college students, sadly.’’

Once her principal gave her the greenlight, Tart needed to observe the competition’s parameters, trimming for size and enhancing out some curse phrases, whereas preserving the present’s integrity. “And we gained the state championship,” she mentioned. “It was fairly superior.”

Nguyen, 43, is delighted by the eye the script has obtained, even whereas sounding a little bit nonplused.

(Read more)

DIXON PLACE: THE HOT FESTIVAL—THE NYC CELEBRATION OF QUEER CULTURE ·

JULY 6 – AUGUST 1, 2020

 

Theater, dance, music, literature and homoeroticism for the whole family! Since 1992, it remains the longest running festival of its kind in the world. 

 

In support of LGBTQ+ people of color, a portion of donations & ticket sales will be donated to: Ali Forney CenterAudre Lorde Project, Black Visions CollectiveDestination TomorrowGays Against GunsINCITE!Marsha P. Johnson instituteNational Black Justice CoalitionNY Transgender Advocacy GroupThe Okra Project and more.

 

The HOT Festival is made possible w/public funds from NYC Dept of Cultural Affairs w/the City Council and NY State Council on the Arts w/the support of Gov Andrew Cuomo & the NY State Legislature; and donors like you.

 

WEEK 2 SCHEDULE

 

 

 

MON JUL 13, 2020 6:30 PM

PREMIERE ON YOUTUBE

HAND WASH

Jeff McMahon

Frenemies share a fret-over via Zoom. Social Distances (camera-close): new short works written & directed by Jeff McMahon.

Tickets & more info >>

TUE JUL 14, 2020 7:00 PM

LIVE ON ZOOM

A Socially Acceptable Breakdown

Patrick Roche

Acclaimed poet Patrick Roche blends storytelling, poetry, dance and comedy, challenging us to find connection and laughter through our many breakdowns.

Tickets & more info >>

TUE JUL 14, 2020 8:30 PM PREMIERE ON YOUTUBE

Experiments & Disorders Goes Virtual

Sur Rodney (Sur) and Bishakh Som

Fiction, nonfiction, poetry & performance texts by the most adventurous, cross-genre established & emerging writers.

Tickets & more info >>

 

 

JUL 16 – 25, 2020

LIVE ON ZOOM!

Spanking Machine

written & performed by Marga Gomez

directed by Adrian Alexander Alea

In “Spanking Machine” GLAAD Award-winning writer/performer Marga Gomez shifts across gender, latitudes and generations in a darkly comic memoir about the first boy she ever sloppy-kissed and how it made them gay forever. “His real name was Agamemnon Perez Jr. but he shortened it to “Scotty” because he thought Agamemnon sounded too Cuban.” By turns funny and disturbing, Gomez recounts growing up brown and queer in Washington Heights, sadistic nuns on poppers, tender vampires, childhood misdemeanors, parental post-nasal drip, fear, assault and suppressed memory. The 70-minute show will blend Marga performing live from her “virtual stage” with footage from Spanking Machine’s final invited dress rehearsal before the pandemic.

 

Tickets & more info >>

 

CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (86) ·

In Duse, Yermolova, Fedotova, Savina, Salvini, Chaliapin, Rossi, as well as in the actors of our Theatre when they appeared to best advantage in their roles, I felt the presence of something that was common to them all, something by which they reminded me of each other. What was this quality, common to all great talents? It was easiest of all for me to notice this likeness in their physical freedom, in the lack of all strain. Their bodies were at the call and beck of the inner demands of their wills. (MLIA)

FORGOTTEN PLAYS: NO 6 – ‘OCCUPATIONS’ (1970) BY TREVOR GRIFFITHS ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/5,)

The collapse of the 1968 protests left this incisive political dramatist searching for answers – and his response delved brilliantly into the dilemmas of revolution

Aside from Comedians (1975), the work of Trevor Griffiths is shockingly neglected. Yet he is one of the most questioning, intelligent political dramatists Britain has ever produced. Why does no one revive The Party (1973) which marked Olivier’s farewell to the stage? Why does the BBC, as we celebrate the NHS, not reshow Griffiths’ TV play about Aneurin Bevan, Food for Ravens (1997)? Above all – assuming theatre ever returns to something like normality – how about re-examining Occupations, which is a genuine modern classic?

First seen at the Manchester Stables in 1970, Occupations was given a superb Buzz Goodbody production, starring Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley, the following year by the RSC. Like a lot of Griffiths’ early work, the play was a response to the failure of the 1968 revolution in France. But, rather than deal directly with recent events, Griffiths finds what he calls a “historical correlative” in the abortive socialist uprising in Italy in 1920. We see Christo Kabak, a Bulgarian communist and representative of the Third International, arriving in Turin to await, and even influence, political events.

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HAMILTON REVIEW – BROADWAY HIT IS NOW A BREATHTAKING SCREEN SENSATION ·

(Arifa Akbar’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/30; photo: The Guardian.)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical is smart, witty, funky and leaves us reflecting on America’s past and future

Hamilton was hailed as revolutionary theatre in 2015, with its rapping 18th-century statesmen, its funky, feelgood hip-hop and a cast predominantly comprising actors of colour. It went on to conquer Broadway and West End audiences. How does that original Broadway staging fare on the flat screen, streamed by Disney+ in the midst of lockdown?

It spoke to the moment then, and it speaks to us now, say director Thomas Kail and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star, in their short, socially distanced preamble to this highly anticipated film of the show. “We are all thinking about what it means to be American,” they add. Even if these words are not in direct reference to the America of the past few weeks, with its upsurge of anti-racist protest, their story of the Caribbean-born immigrant hero and founding father of the US, Alexander Hamilton, speaks to us obliquely of all that remains neglected in America’s history while shifting the parameters at the same time.

Its rousing opening scenes remind us of that great American ideal of equality and speaks of slavery and civil rights in the 18th century. “I never thought I’d live past 20. Where I come from, some get half as many,” sings Hamilton at the start, and his words echo the dangerous fate that awaits so many of America’s black or immigrant underclass now, as debate around Black Lives Matter protests has highlighted.

Even more remarkably, it keeps all the power of a live performance while simultaneously adding a filmic pizzazz including some breathtaking aerial shots. There is extraordinary direction – again under Kail – so that the cameras capture the mise en scène of theatre without losing any of the closeup intimacy of film.

(Read more)

BEYOND BROADWAY, THE SHOW DOES GO ON ·

(from the New York Times, 7/4; Photo: The New York Times; via Pam Green.)

Inside a former firehouse in Richmond, Va., a lone actor performs “The Picture of Dorian Gray” for audiences as small as two. In a Denver parking lot, theatergoers in cars watch, through their windshields, four performers costumed as grasshoppers. On a 600-acre property in Arkansas, a cast of about 130 re-enacts the story of Jesus for several hundred ticket-holders spread across a 4,000-seat outdoor amphitheater.

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered Broadway through the end of the year (at least), and the nation’s big regional theaters and major outdoor festivals have mostly pivoted to streaming. But even as infections surge in the United States, many theaters are finding ways to present live performances before live audiences.

Of course, there is social distancing. Also, in some places, masks. Temperature checks. Touchless ticketing. Intermissionless shows. And lots of disinfectant. At the Footlights Theater, in Falmouth, Maine, actors will perform behind plexiglass.

But these precautions mean there is dinner theater in Florida. Street theater in Chicago. Drive-in theater in Iowa.

Members of Denver’s Buntport Theater, thinking drive-in theater would be pandemic-proof, tried to imagine what kind of creatures belong on a lawn. Their solution: “The Grasshoppers.”Credit…Rachel Woolf for The New York Times

“Our commitment is to do live theater — there’s a huge difference between that and seeing something on a computer screen,” said Susan Claassen, managing artistic director of Invisible Theater in Tucson, Ariz., a state that has emerged as a Covid-19 hot spot. The theater, which has been running a four-character play called “Filming O’Keefe” indoors, installed an air ionizer, allowed patrons in only one-quarter of its seats, mandated that they wear masks, and put on a show.

“Our theater got its name from the invisible energy that flows between performers and the audience,” Claassen said. “Even with 22 people in the audience with masks on, that energy is so strong.”

There are also financial reasons for continuing: Some theaters say they cannot survive a year without revenue.

“We’d rather go down creating good theater than die the slow death behind our desks,” said Bryan Fonseca, the producing director of Fonseca Theater Company in Indianapolis. The company plans to stage “Hype Man,” a three-character play by Idris Goodwin, outdoors, for 65 mask-wearing patrons. “I am hopeful and also very cautious,” Fonseca said, “careful that I don’t create a problem.”

By putting on shows, some theater artists are, in effect, making the case that it is a mistake for the industry to wait for New York to lead the way, given the risks there. “Someone has to be the first to take that cautious step into the dark to see what works and what doesn’t,” said Phil Kenny, a sometime Broadway producer who has a role in “Willy Wonka” in Orem, Utah.

But even in New York City there are signs of theatrical life. Food for Thought Productions, a company that presents staged readings of one-act plays, is planning to restart in a private club on July 13, with Louise Lasser and Bob Dishy performing and attendees required to have taken coronavirus tests.

“If we can prove that we can do this safely, maybe other groups can do safe theater as well,” said Susan Charlotte, the founding artistic director.

(Read more)