Monthly Archives: May 2021

IRELAND: ALL THE WORLD IS A VAN: SHAKESPEARE IN A TIME OF COVID ·

(Patrick Freyne’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 5/5; King Lear in a Van: Arthur Riordan as King Lear with Karen McCartney as Cordelia and Matthew Malone as Kent. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.)

King Lear in a Van is a clever way of bringing theatre and drama to the masses

If you were loitering around Ely Place in Dublin recently you may have heard some worrying bellowing from the car park/loading bay of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). Don’t worry, it was just King Lear, sitting on a yellow Ikea throne in the back of a converted van having it out with his daughters Cordelia, Regan and Goneril.

“Where we’re rehearsing today is the first time we have had good acoustics,” says Matthew Malone who plays Goneril, Regan, Gloucester and Kent in this production of King Lear in a van. “And Arthur is booming.” King Lear is played by Arthur Riordan. “It’s been a while since I’ve heard that. It’s like the Abbey, this car park.”

King Lear in a Van is the new offering from Festival in a Van which was devised at the outset of the pandemic by regular Irish Times contributor Gemma Tipton. King Lear is on the Leaving Cert this year and the team are available to perform at schools with help from the Bank of Ireland/Business to Arts Begin Together grant. Tipton has form with festivals. She ran the Kinsale Arts Festival and the Backwater Opera Festival. “I’d been writing about festivals closing down, talking to people who didn’t know when they were going to work again,” she says. “I thought, well, is there a way to do live performance safely?”

She had an epiphany and woke in the middle of the night saying: “Festival in a Van!” She enlisted production manager Rob Furey and production manager and health and safety expert Pete Jordan and, with financial support from Creative Ireland, they bought a van, hired two more vans and built sets that could be unfolded from them in just 10 minutes. “To start with,” she says, “I thought, ‘Oh, people won’t want to be in a van.’”

She hadn’t reckoned with how hungry performers were to perform and how hungry audiences were for live performance. They’ve worked with storytelling group Candlelit Tales, opera singers like Gavin Ring and drag performers like Avoca Reaction and arranged performances at schools, care homes, direct provision centres and housing estates. “One of the things that’s been good about Covid is the forgotten spaces have been looked at again,” says Tipton. “Who cared about care homes and direct provision centres?”

‘Heartbreakingly gorgeous’

She is now aware of a “map” of isolated care homes scattered all over the country and thinks there could be scope for projects like this to continue beyond the pandemic, bringing art and music to people that don’t always have access to it. Some of the experiences they’ve had, she says, have been “heartbreakingly gorgeous”. Furey recalls an 84-year-old former session musician moved to tears experiencing live music from the van. Tipton tells me about a letter she received from a woman who runs a care home after a performance by Gavin Ring. “She wrote saying ‘This is the only nice thing that’s happened in 12 months’, which also makes you realise how shitty it’s been for them.”

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CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (116) ·

The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

[It was in our production of Cricket on the Hearth, based on Dickens], perhaps, that there sounded for the first time those deep and heartfelt tones of superconscious feeling in the measure and the form in which I dreamed of them at that time, and which did not find place in the large and uncomfortable auditorium of a regular theatre where the actors were forced to raise and strain their voices and to stress their acting theatrically. The spectator did not know the true reasons, nor our ingenuity which gave him a feeling of and nearness with the actors, and credited the whole result to the actors themselves. The scenery and properties were of the simplest, without any unnecessary details. (MLIA)

TWITTER’S MOST HEARTFELT LIZA MINNELLI TRIBUTE ·

(Rachel Syme’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 5/1 Photo: Illustration by Ohni Lisle; Source photograph by Ken McKay / Shutterstock.)

The superfan behind @LiZaOutlives says, “I will always consider it my duty to look out for her.”

In the past year alone, Liza Minnelli has outlived the Copacabana, Christopher Plummer, and Robert F. Kennedy’s Instagram account. She has outlived Larry King, Mary-Kate Olsen’s marriage, and the blockage of the Suez Canal. She has outlived Queen Elizabeth II’s dachshund-corgi mix, Vulcan, and the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. She has outlived the Pacific Theatres and ArcLight Cinemas, Century 21, the search for Lady Gaga’s kidnapped French bulldogs, and the Manhattan restaurateur Sirio Maccioni, at whose now-defunct French eatery Le Cirque she once performed an impromptu version of “New York, New York,” during the birthday party of the gossip columnist Liz Smith. (Smith died in 2017, so Minnelli has outlived her, too.)

All of these testaments to Minnelli’s longevity come courtesy of a Twitter account called @LiZaOutlives, which sprang into existence, in February of 2020, with the declaration that “Liza Minnelli outlived the marriage of Jon Peters and Pamela Anderson.” I first became aware of the account a few months later, when someone I follow retweeted the update “Liza Minnelli has outlived Disney’s ‘Frozen,’ which will not reopen on Broadway.” With that news item and many others, whoever was running the account revealed themselves to be remarkably quick on the draw. They posted news of celebrity passings faster than some obituary sections and always seemed to have the scoop on divorces and bankruptcies. The updates, which came once or sometimes twice a day, sounded overly triumphant at a time when the coronavirus was claiming thousands of American lives every day. Wasn’t it glib, or even ghoulish, to celebrate the survival of one woman in the face of so many casualties? At the same time, @LiZaOutlives had a sly way of commenting on the times. It noted when Minnelli outlived the television program “Cops,” Mitch McConnell’s control of the Senate, the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, and Scott Atlas’s employment as Trump’s special adviser on covid-19. The message was clear: old structures are crumbling, yet Liza persists, a bedazzled Energizer Bunny running on gusto and guile. The account was like a Twitter version of the famous “Follies” lyrics: “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all / And, my dear, I’m still here.”

I figured that the person behind @LiZaOutlives would be some Very Online millennial feeding social media’s appetite for the matriarch as meme—a form of homage that is dynamite for clicks but doesn’t always do its subjects justice. (See, for instance, the quippy Lucille Bluth clips that lit up the Internet after Liza outlived her “Arrested Development” co-star Jessica Walter, in March.) But when I got in touch I found someone different: Scott Gorenstein, a soft-spoken, middle-aged man who is not only a dyed-in-the-wool, lifelong Minnelli superfan but also her former employee. For more than a decade, Gorenstein worked as Minnelli’s press representative, and he told me that he still can’t resist doing unofficial publicity for her. “I will always consider it my duty to look out for her,” he said.

Gorenstein shares Minnelli’s compact stature and wears a studious-looking pair of round spectacles. The walls of his Jersey City apartment are covered in Liza Playbills, signed posters, and a framed copy of her 1987 Revlon campaign. He recalled, by phone, that he has worshipped both Minnelli and her mother, Judy Garland, since his childhood in Philadelphia—“ ‘Judy at Carnegie,’ to me, is the Bible,” he said. In junior high, he begged his parents to take him to the Shubert Theatre to see Minnelli’s 1979 concert tour. Gorenstein knew by then that he was gay, and he did not intend to come out to his family. He bonded with a childhood friend named Scott Schechter over their shared love of all things Liza, and the pair would spend hours listening to records and watching Liza and Judy on TV.

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REDISCOVERING FRANCE’S EARLY FEMALE PLAYWRIGHTS ·

(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/28; via Pam Green.  Photo: From left, Marie Langlet, Julie Ménard and Marine Ségalen in a production of Madame de Villedieu’s “Le Favori” [“The Male Favorite”] directed by Aurore Evain. The play was written in 1665 and was first performed at Versailles.Credit…Pierre Majek.)

A growing movement within French theater is reclaiming the work of forgotten female artists, and reviving a lost concept: le matrimoine.

PARIS — How many women had professional careers as playwrights in prerevolutionary France, between the 16th and 18th centuries? Go on, hazard a guess.

The answer, according to recent scholarship, is around 150. Yet if you guessed the number was close to zero, you’re not alone. For decades, the default assumption has been that deep-seated inequality prevented women from writing professionally until the 20th century.

Now a growing movement within French theater is reclaiming the work of forgotten female artists, and reviving a lost concept along the way: le matrimoineMatrimoine is the feminine equivalent of patrimoine — translated as patrimony, or what is inherited from male ancestors. In French, however, patrimoine is also the catchall term to describe cultural heritage. By way of matrimoine, artists and academics are pushing for the belated recognition of women’s contribution to art history, and the return of their plays to the stage.

Matrimoine is no neologism. “The word was used in the Middle Ages but has been erased,” said the scholar and stage director Aurore Evain. “Patrimoine and matrimoine once coexisted, yet at the end of the day all we were left with was matrimonial agencies.”

When Dr. Evain started researching prerevolutionary female authors, around 2000, she quickly realized that French academics were behind their American peers. In the early 1990s, Perry Gethner, a professor of French at Oklahoma State University, had already translated plays by Françoise Pascal, Catherine Bernard and other 17th- and 18th-century women into English, and published them.

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OLYMPIA DUKAKIS DIES: OSCAR-WINNING ACTRESS FOR ‘MOONSTRUCK’ WAS 89 ·

(Bruce Haring’s and Erik Pedersen’s article appeared on Deadline, 5/1; via Pam Green. Photo: Olympia Dukakis in ‘Moonstruck’Everett Collection.)

Olympia Dukakis, who won an Oscar for her supporting role in the 1987 hit Moonstruck also starred in Away From Her, the three Look Who’s Talking films and Mr. Holland’s Opus, died today at her home in New York City. She was 89 and had been in ill health for some time.

“My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City,” wrote her brother Apollo, who confirmed her death on his Facebook page. “After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her [husband] Louis [Zorich].” The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Her other film credits include Steel Magnolias (1989) Look Who’s Talking (1989), Over the Hill (1992), I Love Trouble (1994), Picture Perfect (1997).

Michael McKean, Bradley Whitford, George Takei & More Pay Tribute To “Brilliant, Strong, Hilarious” Olympia Dukakis

Her television credits include the 1993 transgender drama Tales of the City and its 1998 sequel, which earned her an Emmy nomination. Dukakis also appeared in Netflix’s 2019 revival, titled Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.

Dukakis was a theater veteran who struck gold in the film business later in life. She was 56 when she played Cher’s sardonic mother, Rose Castorini, in Norman Jewison’s classic romantic comedy Moonstruck. Her portrayal of a woman overly involved her daughter’s love life earned her an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA nomination.

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