Monthly Archives: March 2021

CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (114) ·


The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

I had dreamed that the actor who grew up in [our Studios] would make his first timid steps in a small room which was built so as not to violate the inner creative life of the beginning artist. With this aim in mind the auditorium of the Studio was built in a private apartment and seated between one hundred and one hundred and fifty spectators, who were arranged in an amphitheatre that rose upward from the stage. . . . The actors were separated from the public by a simple cloth curtain. This created an altogether exceptional intimacy, and it seemed to the spectators that they were sitting in the very place where the action of the play was going on, that they were not spectators, but accidental witnesses of a strange life. (MLIA)

IRELAND’S LEADING WRITERS CHAMPION LITERARY TREASURES THAT DESERVE TO BE UNBURIED ·

(Martin Doyle’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 3/20.) 

The great Irish books you may never have heard of

It is all too easy for a good book to disappear into obscurity. Books slip by if critics and prize judges don’t pick up on them. Even a shortlisting might not save them as memories are even shorter and each year a tidal wave of new titles sweeps over bookshops’ shelves. Ironically the second-hand section of a bookshop often contains the most original work.

As in the scope of searchlights in a prison movie, there are always blind spots, two perhaps being writers from the North and the diaspora. (I hope the title of the brilliant What Was Lost by Birmingham-Irish writer Catherine O’Flynn, which won the 2007 Costa first novel award, is not prophetic.) There are also the works of well-known writers that don’t fit their usual mould.

Perhaps in elevating some writers on so high a pedestal, we risk unfairly overshadowing others. It would be almost a cardinal sin to let Bloomsday pass without genuflecting to the greatness of James Joyce, whereas poor old Joyce Cary is so neglected that a reviewer recently misgendered him, so unfamiliar were they with his life and work.

Just as Patrick and Brigid are not the only Irish saints, let us look beyond the usual suspects and celebrate the literary Columbas and Dympnas. Here, many of Ireland’s leading writers champion a treasure that deserves to be unburied.

SEBASTIAN BARRY:
THE HISTORY OF IRELAND BY GEOFFREY KEATING (1630)

THE HISTORY OF IRELAND BY GEOFFREY KEATING (1630)

Many people would be familiar with the influences of this work because its contents have poured out into so many tributaries that their origins maybe invisible. But Keating’s project is similar to Virgil’s in the Aeneid in respect of Rome, to create an origin myth for his country. My generation knew some of this material as stray stories and orphan histories. But reading it now in Dineen’s old translation, there is something incantatory and oddly punkish and wild in this work, written by a Catholic priest about whom less is known than Shakespeare, and whom no one in the written record ever remembers meeting.
Sebastian Barry’s latest novel is A Thousand Moons

SEÁN HEWITT:
A GARDEN DIARY BY EMILY LAWLESS (1901)

A GARDEN DIARY BY EMILY LAWLESS (1901)

Ostensibly taking the subject of a garden over a year-long period, Emily Lawless’s A Garden Diary (1901) weaves considerations of emigration, belonging, war, politics and the entrancement of the natural world. Taking native plants from the Burren and trying to cultivate them in her Surrey garden, Lawless considers the possibilities of rootedness and exile. As we move through, the prose becomes more searching, more expansive, until we meet nature “face to face”. We follow Lawless in hushed awe through the garden to meet its maker: “The air itself seemed changed; sanctified. The familiar little paths one walked along were like the approaches to some as yet invisible Temple.”
Seán Hewitt’s JM Synge: Nature, Politics, Modernism was published in January. His debut poetry collection, Tongues of Fire, came out last year

JOHN BANVILLE:
THE HORSE’S MOUTH BY JOYCE CARY (1944)

THE HORSE’S MOUTH BY JOYCE CARY (1944)

The well-nigh total neglect of the work of Derry-born Joyce Cary is inexplicable, for he is one of the finest of the 20th century’s Anglo-Irish novelists, fully the peer of Elizabeth Bowen and Iris Murdoch. His masterpiece undoubtedly is The Horse’s Mouth, featuring the rambunctious painter Gulley Jimson, partially based on Stanley Spencer. Jimson is a cadger and petty thief, whose energies are divided between his art, his old girlfriends and the pub. The novel is at once gloriously funny and deeply serious, but perhaps its finest achievement is the immediacy with which it renders the sense of what it is to be an artist.
John Banville’s latest novel is Snow

ÉILÍS NÍ DHUIBHNE:
TONN TUILE BY SÉAMUS Ó NÉILL (1947)

TONN TUILE BY SÉAMUS Ó NÉILL (1947)

Tonn Tuile (Tidal Wave) is a truly exceptional novel in the context of Irish-language literature. Groundbreaking in its day simply because it deals with what we might call “normal people” – a middle-class couple who live in Dublin during the Emergency. It explores with delicate precision the death of romantic love and youthful dreams under (mostly) everyday pressures. Ordinary urban life was not a common subject in Irish-language 20th-century fiction. Ó Néill’s style is simple, understated. He writes a lyrical, accessible prose. A little gem and my favourite novel as Gaeilge.
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne’s latest collection is Little Red and Other Stories (Blackstaff). Look! It’s a Woman Writer, which she has edited, is due next month from Arlen House

(Read more)

THE RSC AT 60: THE GLORIOUS PAST AND VITAL FUTURE OF A THEATRICAL REVOLUTION ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/19; Ambitious … Jonathan Slinger in Richard III by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Roundhouse, London, in 2008. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)

The Royal Shakespeare Company survived establishment resistance and economic storms to become a powerhouse. How should it now change?

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, as it happens. In 1960 Peter Hall created a theatrical revolution. He turned a summer Shakespeare festival in Stratford-on-Avon into a year-round enterprise based on a permanent ensemble, a second home in London and a mix of classical and contemporary work. But it wasn’t until 20 March 1961 that the whole enterprise was given the name we know today: the Royal Shakespeare Company. As the director William Gaskill cynically remarked of the new title: “It has everything in it except God.”

Sixty years on, even as we celebrate the RSC’s survival, new questions arise. What is it really for? How does it adapt to a changing world? Do we still believe in large theatrical institutions? What is fascinating, as you look back over the RSC’s history, is how it faced challenges right from the start. West End producers, led by the all-powerful Hugh Beaumont at HM Tennent, felt threatened by its presence in London. The Arts Council, committed to the establishment of a National Theatre, was slow to subsidise the enterprise and always ensured it was treated as the poor relation. Even the grand vision of permanent companies soon lost its idealistic sheen. As early as 1973, Hall, confronting a hostile Arts Council Drama Panel as he took over at the National Theatre, noted how “the radical dreams of yesterday become the institutions of today to be fought and despised”.

At least in the 1960s Hall had the advantage of creating something new. He also found different ways to give the RSC a distinct identity. One was by grand projects such as the 1963 production of The Wars of the Roses: this epic conflation of the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III epitomised the decade’s fascination with the brutality of power politics. Hall also licensed experiment: in 1963 he gave his co-director, Peter Brook, freedom to work on an Artaud-inspired collage, Theatre of Cruelty, with no obligation to achieve a public result but out of which came Brook’s sensational production of Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade. For me, however, one of the highlights of the Hall years was his own 1965 Aldwych production of Pinter’s The Homecoming, which offered the unprecedented spectacle of a new play being presented with the same attention to textual detail that the company brought to Shakespeare.

It is easy to romanticise the 1960s but they were heady times. The problem for Hall’s successors has been how to redefine the RSC in a changing world: against, for instance, the context of the economic storms of the 1970s and the Thatcherite marketisation of everything in the 1980s. Astonishingly, the RSC survived but it was often a close-run thing. In 1986 I was part of an Arts Council inquiry into theatre in England chaired by Sir Kenneth Cork. At one meeting, we were presented with a paper advocating the abolition of the RSC to allow its subsidy to be disseminated to regional theatres. The idea was rejected on the grounds that we would sacrifice a national asset without doing enough to salvage the regions. I only mention it now as an example of just how perilous the RSC’s survival sometimes was.

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SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK (NY) IS BACK ·

(via the Public Theater)

The Delacorte isn’t empty…

It’s full of HOPE, PURPOSE, PROMISE… and what it needs now is YOU.

We have spent the last year getting ready. We have been producing new work and preparing for a safe return. We’ve grieved, Zoomed, innovated, supported our communities, and connected our city. We’ve gathered brilliant artists to imagine a return to summers under the stars in Central Park. We have Saheem Ali and Jocelyn Bioh ready to fill The Delacorte with a rollicking new adaptation of Shakespeare’s MERRY WIVESset in South Harlem in a joyous celebration of New York’s West African community. We have the energy, the drive, and the absolute conviction that we will find a way to safely share a summer of Free Shakespeare in the Park with our city.

Help us get back to The Delacorte on July 5. 

Visit the Public Theater.

WHERE IS HOLLYWOOD WHEN BROADWAY NEEDS IT? ·

(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/10; via Pam Green. Illustration: Credit…Antoine Cossé.)

A critic writes a plea to the film and TV stars who got their starts in the theater and can do more to aid its rescue.

Dear Extremely Famous Friend of the American Theater,

You’ve been on my mind a lot lately. I realize the pandemic has turned life upside down, but you’ve gone so quiet that I’ve started to wonder if you ever truly meant it — if all the times you spoke of your love of the stage, if every time you reminisced in an interview about how profoundly it shaped you, you were just … what? Following a script? Trying to fit in with your cast mates while you briefly returned to the theater, this time as a star?

I’d rather not believe that. It was comforting to think of you, out there in the klieg-light glare of screen celebrity, as someone who loved the footlights with a kind of tenderness, the way we do the things we cherish most. And the theater — the people of the theater, the people who built their livelihoods telling us stories in the dark — could really, really use some public cherishing right now.

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JAMES LEVINE, MET OPERA CONDUCTOR FOR FOUR DECADES, DIES AT 77 ·

(Laurence Arnold’s article appeared on Bloomberg, 3/17; Photo:  James Levine leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 2010. Photographer: Hiroyuki Ito/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.)

Elevated opera company into the ranks of the world’s elite

He was fired in 2018 for sex harassment, abusive conduct

James Levine, who polished New York’s Metropolitan Opera into a world-renowned institution during four decades as conductor and director until he was fired for sexual harassment, has died. He was 77.

He died on March 9 in Palm Springs, California, according to the New York Times, citing Dr. Len Horovitz, his physician, who confirmed the news Wednesday morning. No cause was given. Levine’s health problems had included Parkinson’s disease.

A child prodigy on the piano, Levine became an ambassador for opera in the U.S. and was often compared to another American-born world-class conductor, Leonard Bernstein, who died in 1990.

His marathon tenure at the Met elevated the opera company into the ranks of the world’s elite. He made his debut in 1971 conducting “Tosca” and became principal conductor in 1973, music director in 1976 and the company’s first-ever artistic director in 1986. He led more than 2,500 performances of 85 different operas.

The Met had “blundered through seasons of painful disarray” before Levine became chief conductor in 1973, and he “moved decisively to remold the orchestra and chorus into proudly energized ensembles,” Joseph Horowitz wrote in his 2005 book, “Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall.”

Levine inaugurated the “Metropolitan Opera Presents” television show for the Public Broadcasting System, founded the Met’s Young Artist Development Program and, in 1991, began leading the Met’s orchestra on world tours.

His reputation plummeted in late 2017 when the Metropolitan Opera suspended Levine amid accusations of sexual abuse. An outside law firm investigated the allegations, which Levine called “unfounded.” He was fired in March 2018 for “sexually abusive and harassing conduct,” according to a statement from the opera company.

He conducted his final performance in the orchestra pit as the Met’s music director in May 2016. Because of his reliance on a motorized wheelchair, he couldn’t make it from the pit to the stage for the audience’s prolonged ovation, the New York Times reported.

His health issues over the years included chronic back pain from spinal stenosis, which compresses the spinal cord. In September 2011, the Met said Levine had suffered damage to one of his vertebrae in a fall and withdrew from performances.

Boston Symphony

Starting in 2004, while still leading the Met, Levine took on the added responsibilities of music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He resigned that post in 2011 as his health problems worsened.

(Read more)

DIXON PLACE ANNOUNCES SPRING 2021 PRODUCTION SEASON WITH FOUR COMMISSIONED PUPPETRY PREMIERES–IN-PERSON AND ONLINE ·

(Via Michelle Tabnick Public Relations)

Dixon Place

announces

Spring 2021 Production Season

With Four Commissioned Puppetry Premieres

In-Person and Online

 

Dixon Place announces its Spring 2021 Production Season, premiering four commissioned puppetry productions performed for in-person and virtual audiences, with video on demand (VOD) streaming available immediately following the live premieres. In-person performances will take place at 161A Chrystie Street, New York, NY. Tickets are $10.50-$35 and can be purchased online here. (dixonplace.org/productions-2021/).

MINE by Shayna Strype

April 21, 22, 23, 24, 2021 at 7:30pm EST (Live performances, live stream only)

Available to stream through May 4, 2021

A mountain, mined of her insides, collapses into rubble. Near the wreckage, a marriage ends and the home grieves the loss of the family it once housed. Underground, a groundhog hoards an enormous collection of the family’s discarded sentimental items. As the Rubble, the Home, and the Groundhog attempt to reassemble the remnants of their crumbled histories, their worlds begin to merge and intertwine. Mine uses a variety of puppetry styles, live-feed projections, stop-motion animation, wearable sculptures, and humor to weave together themes of nostalgia, excess, and the destructive human urge to colonize land, bodies, and minds. Approx. run time: 55 minutes. Rated E for Everyone.

 

Unicorn Afterlife by Justin Perkins

May 5, 6, 7, 8, 2021 at 7:30pm EST (Live performances with limited in-person audiences)

Available to stream through May 18, 2021

A Unicorn, a beast of pure goodness and light, wakes in a black void and discovers, horrified, that it’s dead; but in the hands of a team of puppeteers, it lives again and looks for a way to escape its past, and maybe escape its future too. Unicorn Afterlife is a grimy, synthesizer dream ballet about fantasy, greed, gender, glitter and the power of belief, designed and directed by Justin Perkins. Approx. run time: 60 minutes. Rated E for Everyone.

NEW MONY! by Maria Camia

May 19, 20, 21, 22, 2021 at 7:30pm EST (Live performances with limited in-person audiences)

Available to stream through June 1, 2021

Step into the colorful, comical, spiritual, sci-fi, psychedelic world of Aricama where we explore duality and ancestry with puppets, body costumes, Toy Theater, original live music, and projections in this full-length workshop production. In the human cloning family business, Allimah lives a quiet, regimented life with her parents on a tiny blue planet. But after experimenting with life, she recovers in a hospital. Slowly, her dreams become reality as she finds herself related to the prestigious Utopian planet Aricama, the land of practice, play, and healing. Will she be able to live a normal life after aligning with her truth? Join Allimah in her most groundbreaking awakening yet! Approx. run time: 65 minutes. Rated PG. 

Bills 44th by Andy Manjuck & Dorothy James

June 2, 3, 4, 5, 2021 at 7:30pm EST (Live performances with limited in-person audiences)

Available to stream through June 15, 2021

The streamers are hung, the punch has been spiked, and the cake is just begging to be eaten! Now all Bill has to do is wait for his guests to arrive. But waiting is hard. Bill’s 44th is an original comedic show that brings two puppeteers together to create one (very worried) protagonist. Many styles of puppetry, raucous balloons, and a cheeky piece of crudité all collide to examine the pitfalls of impatience and the wonder of loneliness. Approx. run time: 55 minutes. Rated PG.

 

These Dixon Place Commissioned Productions are made possible with private support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Cheryl Henson & the Jim Henson Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Scherman Foundation, and Shubert Foundation; and public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs with the City Council, and the NY State Council on the Arts w/the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NY State Legislature. 

 

About the Artists

 

Shayna Strype is a theater, film, and puppetry artist based in Brooklyn. Her latest film, Our Mine, was commissioned by Heather Henson and Handmade Puppet Dreams. Her short film Pink Fluffy Hope was awarded Best NY Film in the LA Puppetry Guild’s 48 hour Film Festival in 2020. In 2019, she was Director of Puppetry for Pig Iron Theater Company and Mimi Lien’s Superterranean. Shayna was an Artist in Residence at the Object Movement Puppetry Festival in 2018 where she created a multimedia puppetry piece called Antrak. She has an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. For more on Shayna, visit shaynastrype.com, follow her on Instagram @woosieparty, or check her out on Facebook here.

 

Justin Perkins has appeared in works by Ping Chong + Company, Basil Twist, Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, Tom Lee, Lake Simons, Patti Bradshaw, Puppet Cinema, Unitards, imnotlost, and more. Justin’s works have been presented at NYC venues including Dixon Place, 14th St Y, Center at West Park, Jim Henson Carriage House, and FlameCon. Justin is a curator at Object Movement Puppetry Festival, a residency program for puppet artists; and the Director of Programs at New Country Day Camp. For more on Justin and Unicorn Afterlife, follow them on Instagram @itsjustmejustinp and @unicorn_afterlife. 

 

Maria Camia is a visual theatre artist who creates spiritual/sci-fi plays, puppets, spiritual clothing, illustration, comics, and social media videos with the intention to globally inspire healing and play. Maria performed original work for La Mama, 7 Daughters of Eve’s Church Service, FEAST, Great Small Works, Dixon Place, The Center @ West Park’s Object Movement, and Pan Asian Repertory Theatre. She is a 2020 Jim Henson Workshop Grant Recipient and a participant in DP’s Puppetry Residency Program, both in support of her first full length puppetry production New Mony! premiering May 2021. For more on Maria, visit maricama.com or follow her on Instagram @themaricama. 

 

Andy Manjuck is a Brooklyn-based puppeteer, director, and voiceover artist. Recent work: Puppetry: Chimpanzee (Nick Lehane); The Plastic Bag StoreThe Pigeoning (Robin Frohardt); Made in ChinaBaby UniverseSaga (Wakka Wakka); UAE 48th National Day (Betty Productions); Petrushka (NY Philharmonic Orchestra, Giants Are Small), VO: Adam Ruins Everything (TruTV); Unavowed (Wadjet Eye Games); Whispers of a Machine (Clifftop Games); MooseTube (GoNoodle). Bills 44th, co-created with Dorothy James, was developed with Puppet Lab at St. Ann’s Warehouse, the New York State Puppet Festival, and Dixon Place, with support from the Jim Henson Foundation. Saturday nights, Andy is an intern on the Late Night Puppet Talk Show with Special Guest, a 100% live, 100% improvised puppet catastrophe on Saturday nights at 10pm on twitch.tv/talkpuppet2me. For more info, visit www.andymanjuck.com or @andymanjuck on Instagram. 

 

Dorothy James is a Brooklyn-based puppeteer, educator, and maker of tiny things. She’s performed with Basil Twist (Hansel & Gretel, Michigan Opera Theatre), Wakka Wakka (Made In ChinaThe Immortal Jellyfish Girl), the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (PetrushkaGiants Are Small), the Rockettes (The New York Spectacular, Radio City), and puppeteers for the new BBC children’s series Moon and Me. Her work has been seen at the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, Jim Henson Carriage House, St. Ann’s Warehouse, 59E59, Dixon Place, La MaMa, and overseas in Norway and the Czech Republic. Dorothy is a co-creator of Bills 44th, for which they received a Jim Henson Foundation Grant; and is co-creator/intern of the Late Night Puppet Talk Show With Special Guest, a 100% live, 100% improvised puppet catastrophe on twitch.tv/talkpuppet2me. More info: dorothy-james.com and Instagram @instadeej. 

 

About Dixon Place

An artistic incubator since 1986, Dixon Place (DP) is non-profit institution committed to supporting the creative process by presenting original works of theater, dance, music, puppetry, circus arts, literature and visual art. Presenting over 1000 creators a year, this local haven inspires and encourages diverse artists of all stripes and callings to take risks, generate new ideas, and consummate new practices. The artist’s experience is given top priority through our professional atmosphere and remuneration, and their process is enhanced by our adventurous audiences. With a renewed commitment to racial equity and justice, Dixon Place is a local haven for creativity as well as an international model for the open exploration of the creative process.

 

After spawning DP in 1985 as a salon in Paris, Ellie Covan pioneered the organization in her NYC living room for 23 years. Organic development and expansion, DP is now a leading professional, state-of-the-art facility that remains at the heart of the NYC experimental performance scene. In compliance with Covid19 restrictions, DP’s live programs were suspended March 13, 2020. Deeply committed to artists and patrons, DP began presenting virtual literary, dance, & theater programs on DP TV in April ’20. The theater is reopening in May 2021 for in-person performances. 

 

For service to the community, DP has received a NY Dance & Performance Award (a Bessie), two Obies, a BAXten Award, the NY Innovation Theater Foundation’s Stewardship Award, CUNY’s Edwin Booth Award, and the Alliance of NY State Arts Organization’s Celebrate the Arts Award for outstanding contributions to NYC.

Many artists, such as Deb Margolin, Blue Man Group, John Leguizamo, Lisa Kron, David Cale, Penny Arcade, and Reno began their careers at Dixon Place. Over the years, DP has also been privileged to present performances by established artists, such as: Justin Vivian Bond, Taylor Mac, Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn, Craig Lucas, BD Wong, James Lecesne, John Fleck, Kate Bornstein, Ethyl Eichelberger, Holly Hughes, Karen Finley, Kate Clinton, Peggy Shaw, Mac Wellman, Big Art Group; A.M. Homes, Rick Moody, and Oscar Huelos; Mark Dendy, Jane Comfort, Sarah Michelson, Douglas Dunn, Paul Taylor 2, and Yoshiko Chuma; Vernon Reid, Diamanda Galas, Martha Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Suzy Roche, Maggie Roche, and They Might Be Giants. 

 

For more information, visit dixonplace.org.

 

‘STAGE FRIGHT’: HITCHCOCK THRILLER MAKES THEATRE A CRIME SCENE ·

(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/16.)

A long-lost London playhouse and Rada’s headquarters feature in this 1950 caper starring a showstopping Marlene Dietrich

Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in his box at the theatre, and the killer’s bid to escape across the stage, is recreated in a whirlwind sequence in DW Griffith’s 1915 epic The Birth of a Nation. The killing of Lincoln, by the actor John Wilkes Booth, is the most famous murder in a theatre but several other films have since built mysteries around deadly crimes committed before a captive audience. Paul Leni’s dazzling The Last Warning (1928) concerns a Broadway actor’s on-stage death. In the British movie Murder at the Windmill (1949), directed by former stage actor Val Guest, a punter is killed during a burlesque show; his body is discovered along with a pipe, an umbrella and a pair of kippers when the theatre is being cleaned.

Murder at the Windmill was filmed in and around the eponymous revue in Soho. It was soon followed by Alfred Hitchcock’s London thriller Stage Fright (1950), partly shot on the other side of Oxford Street, in a playhouse called the Scala and also known as the Prince of Wales theatre but now demolished and not to be confused with either of those existing venues.

For his often comic tale of murder, intrigue and showbiz, based on a novel by Selwyn Jepson, Hitchcock takes full advantage of the location, showing off the Scala’s ornate, marble-pillared auditorium and exploring a warren of backstage corridors and hiding places. At the start of the film there is a close-up of a safety curtain (that name will prove grimly ironic) which lifts to reveal not the stage but a street scene with London landmarks.

Richard Todd as Jonathan, evading the police at Rada, in Stage Fright. Photograph: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy

Speeding along in a car are two actors, Jonathan and Eve, fleeing from a crime. The husband of leading lady Charlotte Inwood has been murdered. Jonathan is obsessed with Charlotte, Eve loves him, and Charlotte is having an affair with her manager but ultimately admires herself as much as the crowds adore her. These love triangles, which become more like Venn diagrams, involve plenty of role play: Eve assumes the persona of first a reporter and then a maid to protect Jonathan; Charlotte takes on the part of a grieving widow in black (though she says she’d prefer a plunging neckline and something a little more colourful). Eve’s father endeavours to bring some order to these shenanigans as if he is a stage manager.

(Read more)

BROADWAY’S ‘COMPANY’ ONE YEAR AFTER COVID SHUTDOWN: PATTI LUPONE, KATRINA LENK AND A DOZEN CO-STARS CHRONICLE A 12-MONTH PAUSE IN BEING ALIVE – AN ORAL HISTORY ·

(Greg Evans’s article appeared on Deadline, 3/12; via Pam Green.)

To hear the cast of Broadway’s Company tell it, the industry’s shutdown one year ago today was perhaps more shocking than surprising, arriving swiftly but maybe not swiftly enough. For at least a couple of the musical’s preview performances leading up to the city’s historic closing of March 12, 2020, the stage jitters had little to do with the usual pre-opening night nerves. In fact, the show was doing very well – the revival and its biggest star Patti LuPone had been a hit in London, Broadway performances with LuPone and an otherwise new American cast were falling into place, advance ticket sales were strong, audiences were delighted, and the spring Tony Award season had its most anticipated pairing in LuPone and The Band’s Visit‘s Katrina Lenk, one a true icon of the theater, the other one of two or three more recently arrived stars with the talent, the pull and the guts to stand beside her. And all in a revival of a Stephen Sondheim-George Furth masterpiece that had been given a fresh, gender-switching take by the Tony-winning Angels in America director Marianne Elliott.

“Everyone was feeling really secure in their work,” says actor Bobby Conte Thornton, who plays PJ, the Company character formerly named Marta and blessed with one of the show’s tongue-twisting show-stoppers “Another Hundred People.” “But then we heard rumblings about this virus from another continent. There was an usher at Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Booth who had it. I think that was sort of the beginning of the end.”

Everyone knows the rest. Broadway shut its doors and turned out its lights on March 12, 2020, an instant metaphor for Covid-19’s catastrophic impact on business, the arts and New York City itself. In the year since, Broadway has been a bellwether in the city’s ongoing hibernation, as one shutdown extension followed another until even Summer 2021 began to seem like a pipedream.

But now, with the arrival of no fewer than three effective vaccines and for the time in twelve very long months, producers can speak about a 2021-22 Broadway season without sounding like desperate Pollyannas or a mendacious president. “I’m hopeful that in the next couple of months the governor will give us the green light that Fall is possible,” says Company producer Chris Harper, “that around April or May we’ll have clarity as to when Broadway will be able to reopen with full capacity. That’s when we would announce tickets going back on sale.” The plan, Harper says, is to bring Company back in the fall, though Spring 2022 remains a possibility as well.

Until then, the $13 million production will have to sustain itself on what Broadway Journal editor Philip Boroff has reported is an $8.8 million business interruption insurance payout from Chubb, an amount roughly equivalent to nine weeks of 80% potential ticket sales at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

Even with the cast, crew and musicians off payroll, the past year, Harper says, has been difficult. (The producer would not confirm the specific dollar figures). “We’ve had to make sure that what money we do have is able to last us for a significant period of time,” he says. “It’s been very tricky, a really difficult process to survive.”

“The reason why I feel so confident about bringing the show back is because we had a fantastic advance when we closed,” Harper continued, expressing conviction that the entire Broadway cast will return. “People were booking in very large numbers, but once everything was canceled, all of the tickets were refunded. So we’ll be starting from zero.”

In recent months, Deadline has conducted a series of interviews with all 14 principal cast members of Company, each performer sharing insights, hopes and fears, and a year’s experiences – personally, professionally, economically, emotionally – as they find their way through an unprecedented crisis in their industry and their city.

“My dilemma,” says LuPone, “is, Will I have the energy to go back to work? Will I have the energy, especially, to go back on stage? I mean, I am a descendent of Italian peasants, so I have phenomenal energy. But will I have stage fright? Will I be able to get back on the bike? I don’t know that, and I also don’t know if I even want to. It’s been so long that I’m questioning my desire to continue in this business.”

In this first installment in a multi-part series, LuPone, Lenk, Thornton, Matt Doyle, Christopher Fitzgerald, Christopher Sieber, Jennifer Simard, Terence Archie, Etai Benson, Nikki Renée Daniels, Claybourne Elder, Greg Hildreth, Kyle Dean Massey and Rashidra Scott describe the walk-up to Company‘s first Broadway preview at the Shubert Organization’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on March 2, 2020. Opening night was scheduled for March 22, Sondheim’s 90th birthday.

(Read more)

 

‘SOLIDARITY IN EUROPE’: MARIA ABERG’S INTERNATIONAL THEATRE COMPANY LOOKS AHEAD ·

(Afrifa Akbar’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/15; Photo: Maria Aberg in the south of Sweden where she grew up. Photograph: Hanna-Katrina Jędrosz.)

The acclaimed Swedish director’s Projekt Europa will have a UK residency in Kent and collaborate with migrant theatre-makers

Maria Aberg was having one of the busiest times of her 20-year theatre career when the pandemic hit. But a month after theatres closed last spring, she was almost ready to give up on being a director despite a sparkling track record. Much of it was down to the disappointment of an aborted season of European theatre she had conceived for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which meant years of work down the pan. “It was completely devastating,” she says.

Aberg had begun preparing the RSC season, Projekt Europa, just after the EU referendum in 2016, and its focus on European theatre felt profoundly personal. “I’m a Swede who has lived in Italy, Berlin, Ireland and then in the UK for 20 years [she moved to London to study drama at Mountview]. I consider myself totally European. It was the culmination of years of interest and curiosity about European theatre-makers.”

Aberg was “not going to let it all disappear” and has launched a phoenix-like theatre company, Projekt Europa, whose focus is emphatically outward-looking. It will work with migrant theatre-makers, and hopes to configure new ways to stage work across the UK, Europe and the world. “I want to collaborate in a profound way, not just arrive somewhere, perform the show and pack up our bags again. I’m interested in collaborating in a deeper way with community groups and audiences.”

Setting up an international theatre company when the industry lies in fearful pause might be seen as high risk but what interested Aberg was the enthusiasm she encountered from so many quarters. “I began contacting people around Europe, from production houses to festivals and agents. I also started thinking about international collaboration. Because of the pandemic, people really wanted to talk, and they were excited about the work and ideas. Brexit hadn’t made anyone think that Britain wasn’t interesting any more.”

Neither does she think that British theatre will be diminished by Brexit or be any less European in its tradition. “It is a part of Europe whether or not it is in the EU. Britain’s history is European history. That legacy cannot be denied. It’s rich and it’s an asset. It’s food for creativity and thought.”

Her company has already found a UK residency at the Marlowe theatre in Canterbury, whose chief executive, Deborah Shaw, is a “real internationalist” says Aberg. “The location, which is the closest part of the UK to Europe, is very serendipitous.”

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