Monthly Archives: June 2021

YALE DRAMA GOES TUITION-FREE WITH $150 MILLION GIFT FROM DAVID GEFFEN ·

(from The New York Times, 6/30; via the Drudge Report.)

The billionaire David Geffen is giving $150 million to Yale School of Drama, allowing one of the nation’s most prestigious programs to stop charging tuition.

The graduate school, which enrolls about 200 students in programs that include acting, design, directing and playwriting, announced the gift on Wednesday, and said it would rename itself the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University.

The gift, Yale said, is the largest in the history of American theater.

The school said that, starting in August, it would eliminate tuition for all returning and future students in its masters, doctoral and certificate programs. Tuition at the school had been $32,800 per year.

The move should remove a barrier to entry for low-income students and those worried about incurring high student debt before entering an often low-paying field.

The drama school is home to the Yale Repertory Theater, and its graduates include Meryl Streep, Lynn Nottage and Lupita Nyong’o.

It will become the second program at Yale to eliminate tuition; in 2005 the Yale School of Music did so. There are a handful of other tuition-free graduate programs around the country, including N.Y.U.’s medical school.

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CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (121) ·

The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

It remains unknown why certain places in a play are laughed at by everybody at all performances in one city, while altogether different places in the same play produce the same results in other cities. We did not know why the new spectator did not accept the famous laughing places in a play as such, nor did we know how to change our individual and collective performances in order to reach the seat of his emotions. (MLIA)

 

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN REOPENS BROADWAY ·

(Johnny Oleksinski’s article appeared in the New York Post, 6/27; via the Drudge Report; Photo: Broadway — and The Boss is back: Bruce Springsteen performs during reopening night of “Springsteen on Broadway” for a full-capacity, vaccinated audience at St. James Theatre on June 26, 2021.Taylor Hill/Getty Images.)

The 471-day shutdown of Broadway, the longest in its history, ended Saturday night in a way none of us ever expected  — with Bruce Springsteen.

Leapfrogging the traditional razzle-dazzle musicals like “Hamilton,” “Wicked” and “The Lion King,” which will return on Sept. 14, The Boss kicked off a 30-performance limited engagement of his solo show this weekend at the St. James Theatre.

While the summer stint is sure to help reinvigorate the struggling Times Square neighborhood — which has suffered from crime, homelessness and stagnation during the pandemic — Springsteen never uttered the word “Broadway” once on Saturday, despite his historic role in reopening it.

“It’s great to be here,” Springsteen said to his excited audience, who had to prove they were vaccinated to take their seats and shout “Bruuuuuuuuuce!”

“No masks, sitting next to each other in one room.”

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KEY UNION AGREES TO HEALTH AND SAFETY RULES FOR BROADWAY TOURS ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/14; via Pam Green; Photo: Shoshana Bean as Elphaba in the musical “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theater in 2005. A tour of the long-running show is scheduled to resume performances in Dallas in early August.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.)

Under the agreement that will pave the way to reopening the shows, touring company members will be required to be fully vaccinated.

Broadway producers and the labor union representing stage actors have reached an agreement on health protocols for touring shows that should allow hundreds of performers to return to work at theaters around the country beginning this summer.

The 17-page agreement says that producers must require all members of the traveling company to be fully vaccinated and mandates free weekly virus tests. Also: “absolutely no interaction” will be permitted between performers and audience members.

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9 NEW NAMES IN RUSSIAN BALLET THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ·

(Anna Galayda’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 6/21; Photo: Elena Svinko; The Hvorostovsky Krasnoyarsk Opera and Ballet Theater.)

We have rounded up the rising stars, not only from Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also regional theaters. 

1. Denis Zakharov

Denia Zakharov

Once again, as 30 years ago, the Bolshoi Theater has a whole new generation of rising stars. In the front row is 22-year-old Denis Zakharov. A powerful flying leap, a soft and, at the same time, dynamic pirouette and an ability to switch easily from the bucolic La Fille Mal Gardée to the ironic Cipollino – these were the qualities that got Zakharov noticed at his first appearances on the big stage. This was two years before he graduated from the Moscow State Academy of Choreography. During his last year at the Academy, at the invitation of the Bolshoi’s ballet director, Makhar Vaziev, Denis made his debut in The Sleeping Beauty, in which he danced the virtuoso part of the Bluebird. This was unprecedented in the history of the Bolshoi – until then, only girls had been given this honor.

It is not surprising that, at the Bolshoi, Denis has been given carte blanche to dance the parts of princes – in the past three years, he has appeared as the Nutcracker/Prince, Prince Désiré in the The Sleeping Beauty, Principal Dancer in Etudes and romantic James in La Sylphide.

But arguably his best role to date is the part of the Evil Geniust in Swan Lake. The part was passed on to him by one of its early performers, Valery Lagunov.

2. Maria Ilyushkina 

Maria Iliushkina and Julian MacKay perform at a gala concert held at the State Kremlin Palace

In the rankings of the Mariinsky Theater, she occupies the modest place of soloist. At present, there are not many leading parts in her repertoire, but each role has become an event.

Ilyushkina not only has excellent looks and physical qualities. Her style of dancing has its own incomparable “timbre”. She is a steadfast Odette and a naive Odile delighted to attend her first ball in Swan Lake; she is the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, who makes you believe that the good will triumph; and she is equally the youthful Raymonda.

Maria’s ballet career is typical of someone with a St. Petersburg background: She started with rhythmic gymnastics and then joined the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet; at the end of her time there, she was awarded a Gold Medal at the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition in New York and, in 2016, was accepted into the Mariinsky Theater company. Like everyone else, she started in the corps de ballet, but stood out even among the Big Swans in Swan Lake. And when she was given her first solo parts, ballet enthusiasts began to flock to three-act performances to see her variations of one or two minutes’ duration.

3. Ksenia Shevtsova

Ksenia Shevtsova and principal dancer Dmitry Sobolevsky during a rehearsal

After graduating from the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Ksenia was expected to join the Berlin State Ballet, but ended up in Moscow at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater. She has been no stranger to changes of cities and circumstances: She grew up in Samara and went to ballet school there. Mobility is what distinguishes Shevtsova. While still at the academy, she already performed a lot and had an extensive repertoire for a schoolgirl. Admittedly, she started in the theater with… “standing with a candelabra”. 

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CONTROL OF NEW YORK’S STAGES REMAINS IN WHITE HANDS, A STUDY FINDS ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/18; via Pam Green; Photo: Credit…David S. Allee for The New York Times.)

The Asian American Performers Action Coalition is hoping for a season of change when theaters reopen.

As New York’s theaters prepare to reopen following the twin crises of a pandemic and rising discontent over racial inequity, a new study which found that both power and money in the theater world have been disproportionately controlled by white people is calling for “a fundamental paradigm shift.”

The study, by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition, found that at the 18 major nonprofit theaters examined by the group, 100 percent of artistic directors were white, as were 88 percent of board members. On Broadway, 94 percent of producers were white, as were 100 percent of general managers.

The study offers a direct challenge, not only to theater leaders, but also to those who fund the institutions, saying, “it remains to be seen whether or not the multitude of antiracist solidarity statements and pledges to diversity will result in real action and systemic change.”

“Our expanded leadership stats confirm that almost every gatekeeper, employer and decision maker in the NYC theater industry is white,” the coalition declares in a letter introducing the study.

They examined the 2018-19 New York theater season — the last full season before the pandemic — looking at every Broadway show, as well as the work of the nonprofits.

The coalition called particular attention to a dearth of shows about Asian Americans. “Even as the industry has made small gains in diversity in recent years, particularly at the nonprofits, our work at AAPAC has shown that Asian-focused narratives remain consistently minimized and overlooked,” the report says.

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OPINIONS | THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE CIRCUS FROM AMERICAN LIFE LEAVES US LONELIER ·

(Les Standiford’s article appeared in the Washington Posts, 5/20; Photo: Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson says farewell to the crowd alongside Paulo Dos Santos, center, and Tatiana Tchalabaev, right, at the end of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Uniondale, N.Y., in 2017. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.)

Much about popular entertainment has changed over the past century — from movies to talkies to television to VHS to DVD to Blu-ray to streaming. But as platforms have come and gone, one remained a constant: the American circus.

The cry “the circus is coming to town” once signaled a fourth major holiday, equivalent with Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July. Shops, public offices and schools closed, and an entire populace assembled to witness the parade of bands, clowns, exotic animals and bejeweled performers marching from the rail yards to the circus grounds, paced by aromatic elephants and shrieking calliope music all the way. But the circus did more than entertain. It reassured Americans that anything was possible.

The circus has roots extending back to Greek and Roman times when emperors stalked wild beasts in coliseums to the delight of crowds. It was revived in Turkey in the Middle Ages when acrobats walked ropes that stretched from one ship’s mast to that of another. During the 18th century, British equestrians found gainful employment after life in the calvary corps by performing impossible feats of horsemanship inside a carefully measured ring (42 feet in diameter to this day, maximizing the centripetal force that plants a performer upon the mount).

Such acts captured early American audiences as well. George Washington took delight in shows featuring little besides horses and riders, an occasional juggler or tumbler and the necessary clown who did standup or slapstick while the next act was preparing. In the early 1800s, elephants — not seen in the United States before 1796 — took the spectacle to new heights.

What drew audiences of 7,000 to 10,000 beneath the big top day after day in whistle-stop after whistle-stop, however, was the prospect of seeing seemingly impossible things: human beings cavorting upon the backs and heads-in-the mouths of animals from storybooks, performing feats of daring on swings and slender wires 100 feet or more aloft that the Wallenda family would apotheosize. It was a nonstop array of death-defying activity punctuated by such 20th century astonishments as automobiles soaring into loop-the-loops and elephants performing ballet choreographed by Balanchine, the gone-mute clowns cavorting all the while.

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TOP 10 BOOKS ABOUT BALLET ·

(Erin Kelley’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/26; Photo: The Bolshoi ballet premieres its production Krakatuk in Moscow in January 2020. Photograph: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Tass.)

From Noel Streatfeild to David Hallberg, this is a literature of passion and madness, ambition and addiction

Two things that make us human are art and sport, and ballet is where those two things converge. When I was writing Watch Her Fall, a thriller about two rival ballerinas, I began with the basics: textbooks to learn the technical stuff; the big biographies. I was greedy for the ballerina’s routine, the rhythm of her day, the shape of her childhood.

More fascinating than the huge physical demands was the ballerina’s psychological steel. She must be tough enough to dance on bleeding toes and survive rejection and rivalry yet remain able to access vulnerability when she performs. The career is a time bomb, with few principals dancing beyond their 30s, and one wrong step can destroy everything. I read stories of passion and madness, ambition and addiction, heartland territory for a psychological thriller. The following are some of the best.

  1. Ballerina by Deirdre Kelly
    This is a comprehensive history of the ballet from its origins in the French courts, when the positions were more etiquette than art, and dancers were as much courtesans as artists. The book’s subtitle is Sex, Scandal, and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection, and Kelly expertly blends juicy gossip with an almost academic look at the contradictions of the ballerina: idealised, stylised, sexy but virginal, in constant pain but always, always poised.
  2. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
    This 1936 classic remains a touchstone for balletomane children. Orphans Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil are adopted by eccentric Great Uncle Matthew; when the money runs out, they take to the stage to pay the bills. I believe the book’s endurance is down to its depictions of adolescence as much as the dance detail. The characters are complicated, enviable, flawed. Pretty Pauline’s temper tantrum is one of the best meltdowns in any literature, and results in one of the most relatable comeuppances. The writing is suffused with a teenage sensuousness: costumier’s fabrics such as organza and taffeta seem to caress the reader’s skin as well as the characters’.
  3. Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
    There are surprisingly few adult novels about ballet, but this exquisitely written book sets the bar. It takes its title from legendary New York City Ballet choreographer George Balanchine’s command to his dancers, and his ghost is on every page. Joan, a young American dancer, helps Russian ballet star Arslan Ruskov defect from the USSR, then stages a defection of her own, to the Californian suburbs, to teach and raise a family. The book is as powerful on the sacrifices of motherhood as it is when evoking the heady atmosphere of 1970s Manhattan. But her son’s prodigious talent becomes impossible to ignore. She is pulled back to the east coast, and Arslan, with shattering results.

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THEATRE OF SCREAMS: TERRIFYING VIDEO SHOWS A PACK OF 30 WOLVES CHASING ACTORS ON STAGE AND LUNGING INTO THE AUDIENCE IN CHINESE THEATRE SHOW ·

(Jacob Bentley-York’s article appeared in the Sun, 6/18; via the Drudge Report.)

Terrifying video shows a pack of 30 wolves chasing actors on stage and lunging into the audience in Chinese theatre show

A TERRIFYING video of a live stage show in China has gone viral after it appeared to show a group of actors being chased by THIRTY wolves.

The clip, filmed in a theatre in the city of Xi’an, was posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo last week and has already gained 433 million views.

The footage features 30 wolves participating in a Chinese theatre showCredit: Weibo

In the clip, the animals can be seen pretending to chase cast membersCredit: Weibo

They even leap off stage and run between the seats of audience membersCredit: Weibo

 

In the dimly lit footage, the animals can be seen sprinting off stage as they pretend to chase their cast members.

Several of the animals leave the stage and run into the aisles between audience seats as they participate in a routine.

As part of the show, titled “Tuoling Legend” or “The Legend of Camel Bell,” the wolves also appear to act out fight scenes with the performers.

This includes actors being pinned down to the ground as they pretend to be mauled.

But, much to the dismay of viewers, the animals don’t appear to be wearing any harnesses, raising serious safety concerns.

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