Monthly Archives: March 2022


(Ryan Gilbey’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/31; Photo:  Taut with tension … Toby Osmond and George Kemp in Diary of a Somebody. Photograph: Brittain Photography.)

Seven Dials Playhouse, London
The playwright’s relationship with Kenneth Halliwell is given new clarity in a play that is both hilarious and chilling

‘I’ve high hopes of dying young,” announces Joe Orton cheerfully in Diary of a Somebody. He got his wish: the author of barbed, subversive comedies such as Entertaining Mr Sloane and Loot was murdered in 1967 at the age of 34 by his lover Kenneth Halliwell. This play, pieced together by John Lahr from Orton’s journal as well as from correspondence and interviews, has often been overshadowed by the diaries themselves and by Stephen Frears’ 1987 film Prick Up Your Ears, adapted by Alan Bennett from Lahr’s biography of the same name.

Seen here in Nico Rao Pimparé’s punchy new staging, its own merits and insights are inarguable. Distance helps: with Aids dominating gay life in the 1980s, and Clause 28 on the horizon, Orton’s priapic endeavours made him seem then like a purely heroic sexual swashbuckler. Now his callousness, along with Halliwell’s suffering, emerge with greater clarity and force.

Breakneck action involving nearly 50 minor characters (shared among four supporting cast members: Jemma Churchill, Sorcha Kennedy, Ryan Rajan Mal and Jamie Zubairi) is squeezed on to the cramped stage like glad rags in an overstuffed suitcase. The floor of Valentine Gigandet’s set is tiled with pink-and-yellow squares which visually underscore the tension between the cocksure Orton (George Kemp) and the saturnine, self-loathing Halliwell (Toby Osmond), who keeps adding to the monochrome collage that spreads like damp across the walls of their flat. A black sheet placed on the couple’s bed during a funeral scene provides a chilling harbinger of doom.

(Read more)


(The following article was compiled and written after listening to an interview with artistic collaborators from Belarus Free Theatre, 3/22; by Bob Shuman, Stage Voices. )

An old saying: “When the guns are singing, the muses are silent.” The original may actually have been: “When the guns are singing the laws are silent.”  We are those muses who hope not to stay silent when the guns are singing; who do not stay silent when the guns are silent, also.  We don’t have the right to another way.  We have to be the back-up, to help those who are fighting, because there is no one else who will do this; because there are those, from the arts and elsewhere, who are actually fighting on the streets.–Nicolai Khalezin, Belarus Free Theatre

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, silently, as they screamed, from behind a deflating transparent plastic globe, Belarus Free Theatre, in Being Harold Pinter (2011), warned the west of the price of dictatorship in Eastern Europe. Their works for the stage, often short and urgent, left audiences feeling that little could change for them—in their country, so remote geographically, linguistically, and politically—but we did not think it could become worse, and so our response was largely acquiescent. Now, eleven years later, the company, along with approximately 3.7 million refugees from Ukraine (and uncounted numbers from neighboring countries, have been in flight (France24; updated to 4 million on 3/30/22),  uprooted, running, homeless, and given paperwork, while rushed escape plans are made for the U.S., the United Kingdom, the EU or other points where there is, hopefully, no war—something the actress and director Liv Ullmann has stated needs to be addressed immediately and legally:  “I get very shocked. . . .  To be honest, I know that the same thing will happen in Norway. But at least I can fight it more easily because I belong to that country. I don’t belong to the US. But I can say what I mean.”

New work from Belarus Free Theatre remains prescient, as if from Cassandras at the Trojan War.  Dogs of Europe, based on dystopian fiction –which feels like a current documentary novel, although it was written in 2018/2019 and is “one of the best pieces of literature written in Belarus in the last thirty years,” according to Nicolai Khalezin, co-founder of Belarus Free Theatre, along with Natalia Kaliada. Alhierd Bacharevic, its author, presents life in a future Russia, where their own land has “disappeared,” along with literature and the European Union, replaced by authoritarianism and indifference. Frank Hentschker, interviewing two company members, Svetlana Sugako and Khalezin, for Segal Talks (Daniella Kaliada provides English translation), on Wednesday, 3/23/22, led the discussion, concerning what is on their minds, what is on everyone’s minds: the war in Ukraine, during its twenty-eighth day, a day that:  sees the continued devastation of Mariupol, the destruction of a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile launcher, strikes on Ukrainian military infrastructure,  and Putin’s announcement that payment for Russian natural gas must be made in rubles, among other critical issues.

Livestreaming on the global, commons-based, peer produced HowlRound TV network, Khalezin, who is also an award-winning director, playwright, designer, educator, political campaigner, journalist, and who was put in prison for his activism, begins bluntly, “Thinking people tried to scream and shout of dangers awaiting, but ultimately, we failed in our mission; we all share collective blame for allowing Putin to exist—but artists must use the historical moment.”  Sugako, an activist, musician, and actor who is leading on a new campaign for LGBTQI rights for the company, was also jailed, before she left the country, for protesting Lukashenko’s seizure of a sixth term as president, in 2020.  On Zoom, she looks boyish and thoughtful (both of those interviewed wore their hair in bouffant styles), and, since 2011, she had been running the entire operation for the Minsk theatre, before taking refuge in Poland and England (she is, currently, in the process of taking props from Warsaw to London  for a new show called How Man Had a Speaking Sparrow; the Artistic Directors of the Belarus Free Theatre, at the time, were forced into exile in London. She once built a wooden raft and sailed down one of the rivers in Belarus, it is explained, to talk to people in small villages, to bring theatre to them. Comparisons to a Huckleberry Finn are not warranted, however, as even performing and speaking in Belarusian, her native language (or wearing a t-shirt  or placing a decal on a car window with the flag of the country), carries an arrest sentence; looking for work in the state theatre, was prohibited and unsafe, as well, because of associations with the underground stage.

Khalezin explains, from Washington, D.C., that actually Belarus Free Theatre did not start politically.  Instead, at its inception, the company was incorporating and reconfiguring, theatrically, a philosophy based on the principles of Total Football (Soccer), as conceptualized and implemented, during the ‘70s, by Rinus Michels, of the Netherlands National Football team.  The ensemble is still trained in total immersion: quick transitions (from offense to defense), forced spread throughout the field, as well as sincerity and actuality (the Belarus Free Theatre School, Fortinbras, which came into existence twelve years ago, incorporates the method, along with  physical theater, actor perception, and other techniques).  At the time, those in the company were also questioned about what mattered to them—“what gave us strength and what bothered us.”  In turn, audiences would begin thinking about what bothered them.  Today, Khalezin, moustached, with a chin strip goatee and earring, is still asking about the problem of us—which now includes a war in Europe, the largest since World War II.

Hearing from artists, who are stuck and do not know how to react, Sugako  discusses the issues and solutions with Natalia Kaliada (who is currently in Washington, D.C., speaking to representatives in Congress,  the Senate, White House, Pentagon, and foreign ministry, about the Ukraine invasion).  Part of a response, the theatremakers believe, is to “continue to do” and be active: “express, show, and shout!” (“You have to do it, you are artists.”)—even in a time “when we can do nothing and even as art can not change the situation.”  Václav Havel, Czech president, dissident, and playwright, who spent almost eight years in prison, said,“fight, no matter where you are. Just continue to fight.”  Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Mick Jagger, and Steven Spielberg, may not talk much, but they are “engaged socially and politically,” and have discussed major issues concerning Eastern Europe with Khalezin.  Part of our solutions may be to question; “looking at the world as questions.”  Face problems.  “Ask,” even as “it is not the goal of the arts to look for answers.”  Learning is crucial, of course, “but learning in dialogue.” This technique is “more important than a master class.” Khalezin also believes we must continue on our paths: “When you realize your resilience, you start enjoying it more, but  be patient,  because you may want to take the road of least resistance, which might not sustain you, as an individual.” 

Khalezin does not actually believe that most people want to talk about My Fair Lady and Book of Mormon—the same “jolly” shows that had filled houses before the emergence of COVID, more than two years ago.  He believes the theatrical community wants to talk about “the poignant topics,” what’s going on in real life. He even finds the positive reception of the Belarus Free Theatre production of Dogs of Europe, in the U.K., suspect (the play recently closed, on 2/22, at London’s Barbican), in lockstep, critically, with other 4-star reviews (only the Financial Times gave the work 5-stars (below). This may suggest a lack of critical thinking in the art world, with rote determination on the part of reviewers.  Perhaps they are simply playing it safe during such a dangerous time.  Khalezin, nevertheless, notes that the lack of strong positions did not stop the production from being sold-out during its run, meaning that ticket buyers wanted to see and talk about the work, no matter what mainstream sources wrote. 

He knows also that those involved with, and working in theatre, want to respond to arts leadership, because those in institutions, are, in fact, marginalizing artists, and are not letting them speak freely–or taking them seriously.  Khalezin maintains: “I really do think it is up to institutions to provide and provoke artists to allow them to express their real thoughts and feelings. Then, through  discussion, both can finally discover a world where the things seen onstage are relevant.”

Khalezin is speaking about “every single one of us,” no matter our circumstances:  Belarus, war, Europe–they are “stories about me”—and Khalezin maintains that art must talk about me (“I am not Hamlet; I am not Hamilton;  I am a Belarusian, I’m an émigré, my country is involved in a war, I’m a European  . . .  my friends are currently dying”).  He thinks of those who have lost their jobs, singers whose livelihoods have been destroyed in Belarus and the Donbas region of Ukraine.  He wants to write an opera for them called, The Wild Hunt of the King’s Stag.  The story concerns  a group of wealthy people who dress up and pretend to be ghosts. They go on a wild hunt, marauding.  The project is employment for those fired in Belarus and those from now bombed-out theatres in Ukraine; for the singers of Kharkiv Opera Theatre; the singers from the Belarusian Opera Theatre who, fired for political motives, were also forced to leave.  Also the proposal is for actors of the Belarusian theatre who can’t be found, are gone, and are now literally homeless.  He wants to involve a big European theatre, and allow creators, who have lost everything, to work close together with other artists, after so much suffering.  The world needs to understand how close we are to each other and how we all suffer.  

On the twenty-eighth day of the Ukraine invasion, Sky News is reporting that the largest Kyiv fire since the beginning of the war is blazing, according to a female firefighter on video, coming from the scene; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is calling for Putin to stop saber-rattling over concerns of a Russian nuclear attack.  Sugako talks of bringing people together, those who are displaced and rootless, who have only a backpack and no choices.  She calls those in Belarus Free Theatre part of her own family, whom she has grown up with, amid creation, smiling, crying, hugs and laughter (as well as well as political campaigns, actions, and activism).  If and when she returns to her homeland, she talks about continuing her work on the river, bringing theatre to those who can not come to a city, reaching them on her raft.


The full interview:


About the Artists:

Svetlana Sugako studied graphic design then music & choreography at Belarusian National University. She has been involved with BFT Belarus Free Theatre in Minsk since its inception in 2005, and has been running the entire operation in Belarus since the Artistic Directors were forced into exile in 2011. Formally the production manager, Svetlana is an activist, musician, actor and is leading on a new campaign of BFT on LGBTQI rights. Sugar is featured in the book Two Women in Their Time, by photographer Misha Friedman and The New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen portraying Svetlana Sugako and Nadya Brodskaya as the power couple spearheading the day-to-day activities of the celebrated Belarus Free Theatre in Minsk.​ In August 2020 longtime Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko won the vote to seize his sixth term, despite widespread evidence of vote-rigging. The result sparked the largest protests that Belarus had seen in decades​—as well as an unprecedented level of police brutality. Sugako and Brodskaya both went to the protests, and were quickly arrested. The pair were placed with 34 others in a cell designed for only four. They were also not given water or food for three days. ​Before the protests, the Belarus Free Theatre had been one of the few dissenting voices in the country. Sugako believes that through its 16 years of activity, the theatre played an essential role in keeping Belarus’ critical spirit alive, in turn contributing to recent wave of protests.

Nicolai Khalezin is the co-founding Artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre (BFT), an award-winning director, playwright, designer, educator, political campaigner and journalist. 

Prior to co-founding BFT in 2005, Nicolai was Editor-in-Chief of the leading social-political weekly newspapers in Belarus – Name, News and Our Freedom – all of which were shut down by the regime.  Khalezin was the owner of the only contemporary art gallery in Minsk, which was also closed down by the authorities. His works were exhibited at the Istanbul Biennale, Milan Expo, in Rome, Berlin and at the Moscow Centre of Contemporary Art. 

Nicolai served time in prison in Belarus for his involvement in political campaigns and was recognised as a Prisoner of Consciousness by Amnesty International. This experience inspired one of BFT’s most celebrated shows, Generation Jeans, an autobiographical duologue about rock music and resistance. Written, directed and performed by Nicolai Khalezin, with live music by DJ Laurel, Generation Jeans has been performed more than 100 times around the world to date, including at the home of President Vaclav Havel upon his invitation in 2008 and at the UK’s House of Commons together with BFT Trustee Jude Law in 2012. 

Further playwriting credits for BFT include Burning Doors, Master Had A Talking Sparrow, Discover Love, Trash Cuisine, Time of Women, all of which he also directed, and the adaptation of King Learwhich was staged at the Globe to Globe Festival, as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Nicolai is the co-founder of BFT’s theatre laboratory, Fortinbras, the only independent arts school in Belarus.

The Segal Talk will be hosted and moderated by Frank Hentschker, Executive Director of The Segal Center.


The Segal Theatre Center’s online conversation series SEGAL TALKS was created in March of 2020 after the abrupt closing of the Graduate Center for any kind of public activities due to Corona and the cancellation of the entire spring season. The SEGAL TALKS during The Time of Corona offered conversations on theatre, performance and art during the pandemic featuring with more than 200 theater artists from over 50 countries. New York, US, and international theatre artists, curators, writers, and academics talked daily during the week for one hour with Segal Center’s director, Frank Hentschker, about life and art in the Time of Corona and speak about challenges, sorrows, and hopes for the new Weltzustand— the State of the World. In the summer of 2021 Segal Talks continued to focus on Theatre, Performance and The Political, the Segal Center’s 2023 New York International Festival of the Arts Project and the 2022 Center’s Public Park Project. During the pandemic The Segal Center was for a long period globally the only theatre institution creating new, original, daily content for the global field of theater and performance five days a week. Currently the Center is preparing the 4th edition of the Segal Center’s global Film Festival on Theatre and Performance.

 are free, open access, without ads will be live-streamed in English from Wednesday to Friday on HowlRound Theatre Commons and on the Segal Center Facebook. This program is presented in collaboration with HowlRound Theatre Commons, based at Emerson College. All SEGAL TALKS are archived on HowlRound, and on the Segal Center YouTube Channel.


Send us your questions during the live streaming at

Contact for more information on SEGAL TALKS.

Contact Frank Hentschker at for press information.

Follow us @segalcenter on FacebookInstagram or Twitter 


Originally founded in 1979 as the Center for Advanced Studies in Theatre Arts (CASTA), The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center was renamed in March of 1999 to recognize Martin E. Segal, one of New York City’s outstanding leaders of the arts. The Segal Center curates over thirty events throughout the Spring and Fall academic seasons, all free and open to the public. Dedicated to bridging the gap between the professional and academic theatre communities, the Segal Center presents readings, performance, lectures, and artists and academics in conversation. In addition, the Segal Center presents three annual festivals (PRELUDE, PEN World Voices: International Pay Festival, and The Segal Center Film Festival on Theatre and Performance) and publishes and maintains three open access online journals (Arab Stages, European Stages, and The Journal of American Drama and Theatre). The Segal Center also publishes many volumes of plays in translation and is the leading publisher of plays from the Arab world. The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center (MESTC) is a vital component of the Theatre Program’s academic culture and creating in close collaboration a research nexus, focusing on dramaturgy, new media, and global theatre. The Segal Center provides an intimate platform where both artists and theatre professionals can actively participate with audiences to advance awareness and appreciation.


Executive Director: Frank Hentschker

Associate Producers: Andie Lerner & Tanvi Shah

, of which the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center is an integral part, is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York (CUNY). An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs, as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to twenty-eight interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns. Located in a landmark Fifth Avenue building, The Graduate Center has become a vital part of New York City’s intellectual and cultural life with its extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events.

HowlRound Theatre Commons
 at is a free and open platform for theatre makers worldwide that amplifies progressive, disruptive ideas about the art form and facilitates connection between diverse practitioners. HowlRound envisions a theatre field where resources and power are shared equitably in all directions, contributing to a more just and sustainable world. HowlRound was founded on an organizing principle in the “commons”—a social structure that invites open participation around shared values. HowlRound is a knowledge commons that encourages freely sharing intellectual and artistic resources and expertise. It is our strong belief that the power of live theatre connects us across difference, puts us in proximity of one another, and strengthens our tether to our commonalities. HowlRound is based at Emerson College, Boston.


Review of Dogs of  Europe in the Financial Times:

MARCH 17 2022 0 Print this page Belarus Free Theatre’s ‘Dogs of Europe’ © Linda Nylind

Dogs of Europe


“You will not be relaxed,” warned co-director Natalia Kaliada during the pre-performance talk for the Belarus Free Theatre’s show Dogs of Europe. Placed on each seat in the auditorium was a placard bearing the face of a persecuted Belarusian activist; mine was baby-faced Dmitri Gopta, born 1999, jailed for throwing stones at police vehicles. Every member of the BFT troupe is a refugee, having been arrested, harassed or detained under the country’s dictatorship. This three-hour adaptation of Alhierd Bacharevic’s novel, about a Russian “New Reich” facing down the rest of Europe, sounded like a gruelling prospect.

What a surprise, then, to be constantly beguiled, amused and intrigued over the show’s entire running time by a joyous mix of acrobatics, dance, folk song, clowning, slapstick and absurdism. From underground performances in Minsk, it has been spectacularly opened up for the Barbican stage. (The show’s brief three-night run has now ended.) Images of vast fields and forests projected on a screen behind the actors fly us to the remote village of White Dews in the year 2049, with its riotously eccentric inhabitants.

Drink is quaffed, defiant songs sung and guns waved, sometimes to comic effect, sometimes not. A covert parachutist floats down while trees shuffle about, Birnam Wood-style. Four interlocking trolleys of varying heights on castors become steps, bookshelves and beds.

Periodically a naked man trudges across the rear of the stage, effortfully pushing a large globe made out of books. There’s always something fascinating or weird to gaze at. 

Nylind Kaliada and her co-director Nicolai Khalezin privilege imagery over plot; even with the help of the surtitles projected over the actors’ heads, it’s hard to make out the story. Dogs of Europe is firmly in the east European tradition of satirical obliquity in the face of censorship.

The mockery of the preening military man might be overt, but why does one character always carry around a toy goose? A mysterious “agent” trawls the last bookstores in Europe in search of a poet who always carried a feather. Why a fire dance? Who’s the guy with the accordion? What’s the significance of the naked man running round in circles? With exceptional sound design (Ella Wahlström, the thrilling vocal and musical skills of Marichka and Mark Markzyc) and visual flair (Richard Williamson), it barely matters. ★★★★★

(

Photo credits: From top: Howl/Round; copyright: Linda Nylind; U.K. Guardian; U.K. Telegraph


(Mary McNamara’s appeared in the Los Angeles Times, 3/29; Photo: Holland Taylor portrays former Texas Gov. Ann Richards in “Ann” at the Pasadena Playhouse. [Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times.])

As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott criminalizes women’s health and support for transgender children while turning his state into a witch-trial system of citizen informants, one has to wonder where, exactly, this man thinks he is going to go when he dies.

He will certainly not have a theatrical afterlife at, say, the Pasadena Playhouse, immortalized by a Tony-nominated, Emmy-winning performer in a brief and shining monument of humor and hope.

That honor belongs solely to Ann Richards, the folksy, firebrand feminist who galvanized the 1988 Democratic convention and, two years later, became only the second, and thus far, last female governor of Texas.

That’s right. A folksy firebrand feminist once sat at the helm of the Lone Star State, and Holland Taylor is determined that we won’t forget it.

“Ann,” the one-woman play Taylor wrote and stars in, was developed at NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood, opened at Lincoln Center in 2013 and was supposed to debut in Pasadena in 2020. It was shut down, like so many productions, by the COVID-19 pandemic, making Taylor’s return to the stage that much sweeter.

At Saturday’s ebullient opening night, it was tough to tell which woman the audience appreciated most — Richards, with her famous combination of homespun wit and political grit, or Taylor, who at 79 managed to schedule a reprise of her Tony-nominated role into a schedule bursting with terrific television performances, most lately in “Hollywood,” “The Morning Show” and “The Chair.”

The show, which runs through April 24 and is both its West Coast premiere and its farewell performance, opens with Richards delivering a graduation speech at a non-identified university. (In case the audience needs reminding of who she is, the speech is prefaced by a clip of Richards’ actual convention speech.) When she walks onto Michael Fagin’s spare but evocative set to say — “I know what you thought when I walked on: ‘God she looks good’” — the appreciative roar could have been for Richards, Taylor or both.

(Read more)


(Rebecca Mead’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 3/26; illustration: from The New Yorker.)

How David Hare took a few Moses-esque liberties when writing “Straight Line Crazy,” which partly drew upon Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” and stars Ralph Fiennes.

In 1965, when David Hare, the British playwright, was eighteen, he visited New York City for the first time. He prowled the Village, hoping to bump into Bob Dylan, and spent time hanging out in Washington Square. “It was exactly as it is now—it was always people with guitars, people playing chess, mothers with baby carriages,” he said recently. At the time, Hare was unaware that a few years earlier a battle had been fought over the integrity of Washington Square Park, with Robert Moses, the ambitious mid-century urban planner who aimed to drive Fifth Avenue traffic straight through the square, pitted against a coalition of neighborhood activists including Jane Jacobs, who was to become the author of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”

(Read more)


(Andrea Kasiske’s article appeared in DW, 3/27; Photo: A scene from “The Artist is Present.”)

The Serbian artist is redesigning her legendary 2010 performance “The Artist is Present,” and will auction tickets to the installation at the Sean Kelly gallery in New York. Proceeds will go to a charity for Ukraine.

“What is the duty of an artist? What is the duty of a human being? How we can help?” Marina Abramovic wondered in an interview last week with DW, deeply upset by the war in Ukraine.

The day after the Russian invasion, she said in a video that “an attack on Ukraine is an attack on all of us. It is an attack on humanity and it must be stopped.” Unlike the earlier wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria, this one, she says, feels close, virtually in her own “backyard.”

So she found a way, using her art, to support an aid organization. On April 16 at New York’s Sean Kelly Gallery, the three people who donated the most in a recent auction will sit opposite her in the new edition of her iconic 2010 performance “The Artist is Present.”

The auction on the Artsy platform ended on March 25, and the proceeds went to the Direct Relief aid organization, which, in cooperation with the Ukrainian Health Ministry, provides medical aid as well as long-term support for people affected by the war in Ukraine.

Active in Ukraine before the war

For an artist living in New York, the perceived proximity of the war may sound strange. But Abramovic grew up as the daughter of partisans in Yugoslav Serbia, and has visited Ukraine several times. Just last year, she visited the Babyn Jar Holocaust memorial outside Kyiv, where her most expansive installation to date was inaugurated.

“The Crystal Wall of Crying” is a 40-meter-long interactive “wailing wall” made of coal and studded with giant quartz crystals. It commemorates the site of one of the largest mass shootings in World War II: Over two days in September 1941, more than 33,000 people, mainly Jewish, were murdered by members of the German Wehrmacht and the Sonderkommando SS in the ravine of Babyn Jar.

(Read more)


(Vanessa Friedman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/25; via Pam Green; Photo: Emma Stone in “Cruella.” The costume designer for the film was Jenny Beavan, who is nominated for an Oscar this year for her work.Laurie Sparham/Disney, via Associated Press.)

. . . there’s another Oscar-related clothes issue currently getting Hollywood all worked up: the fight for equal pay being waged by the members of the Costume Designers Guild.
(Bear with me: This newsletter is going to be a bit longer than usual, but it’s important.)


I mean, just think of the fashion trends started by streaming TV shows and movies over the last few years. Think of this year’s nominees for Best Costume Design, like “Cruella,” “Dune” and “West Side Story.”
Then, think of how important clothes are, not only to character (the ruby slippers! Superman’s cape! the “Flashdance” sweatshirt!), but also to the financial health of a film (merch).


And then consider that costume designers, who are 83 percent female, are paid 30 percent less than production designers (their organizational-chart peers), who are 80 percent male, according to research from the U.S.C. Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the Annenberg Foundation.
Also consider that because costume designers are paid a flat weekly fee rather than by the hour, despite routinely working 80- to 100-hour weeks, and because pensions and health and welfare benefits are tied to an hourly wage, they “often make less than the wardrobe supervisors we hire, who are paid an hourly wage,” according to Arianne Phillips, a member of the guild’s pay equity committee. “We can’t afford to retire.”


Also, they no longer own the rights to their own designs, the way costume designers like Edith Head once did, so they don’t make any money from film extensions like Halloween costumes or limited-edition collaborations like Halston x Netflix.
No wonder they have finally decided to do something about it.


“It’s a direct result of the age of awareness in our industry tied to #TimesUp and the drive for inclusivity,” Ms. Phillips said. “And also watching Megan Rapinoe and the women’s soccer team and their fight for equal pay. We just want to even the playing field for the next generation coming after us. We believe this is an archaic system based on the presumption that costumes are women’s work and thus somehow less valuable.”
Well, you know, set construction = manly. Clothes = frivolous.


The guild members are hoping that when it comes time for their next negotiation sessions with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union and producers, they will reach an agreement to set their base pay on par with that of production designers.
Ahead of that, the guild, which has 1,200 members, has embarked on an awareness campaign, starting with actors and directors, who apparently were as surprised as you may be (as I was) about the devaluing of the costume designer. Now 100 of said boldface names, including Elle Fanning, Michael Douglas, Olivia Wilde and Barry Jenkins, are part of a social media campaign called #nakedwithoutus. It’s worth a listen.


Meantime, I wanted to thank all of you for the responses to my “What to do with old ties?” missive. Your photos and inventiveness were inspiring, though what struck me most was the deep emotional connections and memories we attach to garments. Those ties contained multitudes, and history, and I loved hearing what they meant to you.
Finally, for some non-Oscar-related reading, meet Campbell Addy, a young photographer changing the definition of beauty; catch up on the last shows, including Ralph Lauren and Willy Chavarria; and consider the symbolism of Volodymyr Zelensky’s olive green tee.


(The legendary Liv Ullmann, recipient of an honorary Oscar in 2022, answered two questions, in the UK Guardian, from Bob Shuman of Stage Voices Web site [BobStageVoices]. Read her responses below, as well as queries from other participants in Catherine Shoard’s Reader Interview.  Thank  you!!!)



(As told to Catherine Shoard in the Guardian, 3/24; Photo:  Liv Ullmann … ‘Since turning 80, it’s not blue light any more – it’s something else, it’s not darkness’ Photograph: Charlie Clift/Camera Press.)

The actor and director answers your questions on how Ingmar Bergman changed her life, her feelings at receiving an honorary Oscar, and holidaying at a leper colony in Japan

When you were working with Ingmar Bergman, were you aware that you were creating some of the greatest films in history, or did that realisation only happen with time? PaulMarnier

When I met him, I had been an actor for seven years and knew he was looked on as a genius. That’s what I thought, too. So when he said he would really like to have me in a film, and wrote Persona for Bibi Andersson and me, I was aware I was to work with an incredible man. But I never knew it would mean I would be in 11 of his movies and direct some of his scripts. I had no idea it would mean a big change in my life.

How did you and Bibi Andersson prepare for your roles in Persona? TheBigBadWolf

If I really feel the role inside, even if it’s very different from me, I will allow it to become a part of me. I’m very happy to work with great directors because they give you the words and the circumstances and then allow you to find the person within yourself. That’s how I work.

What do you think brings people back to Persona after all these years? For all the ways society and expression have expanded, this is still one of the most compelling and truthful portraits of intimacy between women I have seen on-screen (speaking as a gay woman in her 30s) rnsinsf

‘The love we felt was very easy to find’ … Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann in Persona. Photograph: United Artists/Allstar

At that time – and maybe even today – it was a new kind of movie. Bibi and I were the best of friends and so free towards each other, and the love we felt was very easy to find. I believe I was speaking in the film for Bergman. I was 25, and he was 21 years older, but I believe so much had happened in his life that he used a young woman to present what he was thinking and feeling. Perhaps a woman is not so scared of showing the truth.

Then he fell in love with one of the actresses making the movie [Bergman and Ullmann were together for five years and had a daughter, Linn, who is now 55]. I think that love was part of it. He was in despair and suddenly he saw a new beginning. Not through me, but he experienced what happened between these two women – who looked as if they were quarrelling but who reached each other tremendously – as a solution. He ended his former life after that movie.

I think the film does reflect how society’s perception of gender and identity has changed if we look for it. If we allow that to happen. But I think in many ways today we are closing our ears to other people’s moods and despair. But also this terrible war [in Ukraine] has woken people up. And once awakened they want to be a part of it, they want to help. They feel empathy for all the people who are suffering so much. It’s a terrible war, but good things happen in people; they understand things better. We are not alone. We are part of everything. We are not witnesses.

As you are a co-founder of the Women’s Refugee Commission, will the organisation assist in the crisis in Ukraine? BobStageVoices

They are very much involved, as they were with women and children in Afghanistan not so long ago. They are trying to make people in the US open their homes and take an active part in helping them. When we founded the organisation more than 30 years ago with four people, I didn’t know we would grow so big. I’ve also been part of the International Rescue Committee for 45 years. It is an incredible organisation founded by Einstein after the second world war to help Jewish people escape Germany. They thought they would only be needed for a short time.

When you went to the US, how did you handle working in another language in a different culture? BobStageVoices

I’m very Norwegian. I’ve had a green card for many years but I think in Norwegian and have my morals and very often react inside as a Norwegian. There are things I admire tremendously in the US but there are also things that make me happy I am Norwegian. I have to be very careful because many Norwegians have been brought up differently and not everything I say and feel is the right thing.

Something I react to with horror now is that it’s so strict for Ukrainians who want to come to the US. There should be a law that people in such horror don’t have to have all their papers and agree to leave immediately. I get very shocked by that. To be honest, I know that the same thing will happen in Norway. But at least I can fight it more easily because I belong to that country. I don’t belong to the US. But I can say what I mean.

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In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what is reputedly the most performed of all Greek tragedies. Antigone, by Sophocles (c496-c406 BC), is powerfully ambiguous, inviting the audience to reassess its values constantly before the climax of the play resolves the plot if not the issues. Antigone is barely a teenager and is prepared to defy her uncle Creon, the new king of Thebes, who has decreed that nobody should bury the body of her brother, a traitor, on pain of death. This sets up a conflict between generations, between the state and the individual, uncle and niece, autocracy and pluralism, and it releases an enormous tragic energy that brings sudden death to Antigone, her fiance Haemon who is also Creon’s son, and to Creon’s wife Eurydice, while Creon himself is condemned to a living death of grief.


Edith Hall
Professor of Classics at Durham University

Oliver Taplin
Emeritus Professor of Classics, University of Oxford


Lyndsay Coo
Senior Lecturer in Ancient Greek Language and Literature at the University of Bristol

Producer: Simon Tillotson


(Michael Kaufmann’s article appeared 3/22/22 on Limelight; Photo: Back to Back Theatre’s The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes. Photo © Jeff Busby.)

The pioneering group’s work with neurodiverse performers has been recognised with the ‘Nobel Prize’ of theatre awards.

Geelong’s Back to Back Theatre has received the 2022 International Ibsen Award, becoming the first Australian company to be recognised. Established and funded by the Norwegian Government to mark the legacy of playwright Henrik Ibsen, the prestigious award recognises excellence and innovation in the international theatre industry. The award will be presented in September during the International Ibsen Festival.

The Victoria-based company works with neurodiverse performers and artists, creating productions that challenge public perceptions about neurodiversity and people who live with it. The works are developed internally by the creative staff and the performers. Back to Back has toured successfully both nationally and abroad, receiving acclaim from international publications, including the New York Times.

On 20 March, members of the company were invited to a digital meeting with the award committee to discuss a future guest performance at the festival. This was in reality a guise, and the committee broke the news that Back to Back Theatre had been selected as this year’s recipients.

“Back to Back put people first. Their work is first and foremost a matter of being a person and after that a matter of action – the agency of doing, of making, of sharing, of taking responsibility. A poetics of action that has had far-reaching consequences on the lives of those – who encounter the work,” said the committee in announcing the award.

Dubbed the “Nobel Prize” of theatre awards, the recipients will receive 2.5 million Norwegian Kroner ($385,000 AUD) and will be invited to participate in the annual International Ibsen Festival in Oslo this September. Past winners include Théâtre du Soleil, American performer Taylor Mac and legendary British director Peter Brook, who received the inaugural award in 2008.

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(David Gormezano’s article appeared on France24, 3/21; Photo: Alex Borovensky, Tetiana Shelepko and their friends sit in front of the ProEnglish Theatre in Kyiv, on March 20.)

The ProEnglish Theatre used to be known as a small independent Kyiv ensemble that put on English-language plays and offered drama classes. But in the four weeks since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the theatre has become an “art shelter”, where actors come together to bear witness to war atrocities and scale an all-out artistic resistance. FRANCE 24 went to meet the troupe determined to help Ukraine win the war against Russia.

On February 24, Alex Borovensky, the director of the ProEnglish Theatre, received a phone call telling him that war had broken out and that Russian tanks had entered Ukraine. “I hung up, and then I heard explosions, and then sirens. It was unreal, I didn’t want to believe what was happening. My partner and I packed our bags and decided to take shelter in the theatre, which is located in a basement. At the end of the day, we all watched Mission Impossible 4 together, because at the end of the film, Tom Cruise destroys the Kremlin.”

In just a few short days, the actor and former English teacher had become a resistance fighter. The windows of the theatre overlooking the street have been secured, and the performance hall has been turned into a dormitory where people living in the building can take shelter at night whenever the city’s air raid alarms ring out. Borovensky is also helping to spread information about what is happening in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine by speaking to English-language media. When humanitarian aid trucks roll into the city, he helps unload and distribute the goods in the neighbourhood surrounding the theatre. Survival and solidarity is the order of the day.

“Every day, people ask me to come and take refuge with them, but I want to stay here. I want to see what is happening with my own eyes. Art is my resistance, and that’s what I want to share, that’s why I’m staying in Kyiv.”

On this Sunday, March 20, the 25th day of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the unreal has become the new normal in Kyiv. There is currently a strange calm reigning over the city, occasionally disrupted by the dull rumble of Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence systems. In the past few days, Russian missiles have hit apartment buildings and killed several people, all the while army-to-army clashes continue some 30 kilometres north of the capital. The clear blue sky and the warming rays of the sun seem to indicate that spring is approaching. Borovensky and his friends have therefore decided to take the day off to relax.

“There is no massive bombing so we’re venturing out a little more in the city, we’re starting to drive around Kyiv again. But there have been direct strikes on the city. One of them hit a building next to where one of the theatre’s actresses live and the windows of her apartment exploded. So we’re waiting to see what happens.”

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