Monthly Archives: July 2022


(Clare Brennan’s article appeared in the Observer, 7/31.)

Watermill, Newbury
Tom Jackson Greaves thrillingly fuses movement with music in his revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Louisiana-set take on the classic 60s film

Many will remember Whistle Down the Wind from the 1961 film starring Hayley Mills as the young girl who mistakes Alan Bates’s injured criminal on the run for Jesus Christ. She hides him in the family barn, where she and her siblings and other children bring him gifts and ask him for Bible-style stories. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1996 musical relocates the action from rural Lancashire to steamy, late-50s Louisiana (the musical palette smudges bluegrass, rock, ballads, gospel; Stuart Morley’s arrangements). With lyrics from Jim Steinman, whose writing credits include’s Bat Out of Hell, the feel is less Sunday school, more gothic noir.

In Tom Jackson Greaves’s tightly honed production, the tonal contrasts are most stark (and moving) in the pre-interval crescendo scene: children gather in the barn around The Man (whom they believe is Jesus), singing a gentle, chiming lyric, “The demons are gone, The young are strong”. Meanwhile, circling adults in the world beyond menacingly pound a heavy-on-the-bass, revivalist number, “You’ve got to wrestle with the devil”. Elsewhere, though, the book (by Lloyd Webber with Patricia Knop and Gale Edwards) does not present oppositions so simplistically.

(Read more)



(Gregoire Sauvage’s article appeared on France 24, 7/20/22; videos: Little Big and Boris Grebenchtchikov.)

The Kremlin has effectively taken over Russia’s culture industry as the invasion of Ukraine prompted intensifying repression – with cancelled concerts, theatre directors sacked and artists arrested. All this poses a dilemma for Russian writers, singers, directors and the like: do they leave to ensure their safety and free expression, or do they stay at all costs in solidarity with the Russian people?

Punk-rave band Little Big were among the latest figures in Russian culture to have to flee the country last month. The lyrics to the new song they released upon their exile says it all: “I’ve got no, I’ve got no / I’ve got no voice / Die or leave, die or leave / I’ve got no choice,” goes one verse in this tune, “Generation Cancellation”.

“We condemn the Russian government’s actions and we are so disgusted by the Kremlin’s military propaganda that we’ve decided to drop everything and leave the country,” the band wrote in a statement quoted by independent news site Meduza.

This hitherto apolitical band, formed in St Petersburg in 2013, are the latest in a stream of cultural figures who have left Russia after opposing the invasion of Ukraine – including rock star Zemfira, who recently fled to France, and Boris Grebenchtchikov, leader of the band Aquarium, who has described Vladimir Putin’s war as “pure madness”.

‘Our Caesar’s Napoleonic plans’

“Grebenchtchikov left because he thought he could express himself better abroad,” said Clementine Fujimora, a professor of anthropology and Russia analyst at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. “This way he can carry on playing concerts and post new songs on Telegram, Instagram and Facebook.”

The singer recently released two songs about the horrors of the war in Ukraine, “Obdidaba” and “Vorozhba”. In the latter, Grebenchtchikov sings about dark magical spells that make “coffins grow in our hearts”.

(Read more)


(Daniel Politi’s article appeared on the AP, 7/27; via the Drudge Report.)

BUENOS AIRES (AP) — María Eva Noble says she is carrying out the legacy of her namesake as she labors in a soup kitchen in a working class neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

She was named after iconic Argentine former first lady María Eva Duarte de Perón, better known as Eva Perón, or Evita, who died 70 years ago Tuesday. The soup kitchen where Noble does volunteer duty in the Flores district gives daily lunches to about 200 people and is run by an organization that also carries the name of the late leader.

Though not related to Eva Perón, Noble says, “I carry Evita in my DNA.” And she is hardly the only one who feels this way.

Seven decades after her death, Evita continues to awaken passions in Argentina as her followers believe her image as a champion of the poor is more relevant than ever at a time when inequality and poverty are rising as the economy remains stagnated amid galloping inflation.

Evita has been the subject of countless books, movies, TV shows and even a Broadway musical but for some of her oldest, most ardent followers the connection with the actress turned political leader is much more personal.

Juana Marta Barro was one of dozens of people who lined up Tuesday morning to leave flowers and pay her respects at Evita’s tomb, located in the Recoleta neighborhood in Argentina’s capital.

With tears in her eyes, the 84-year-old Barro, daughter of a housekeeper, recalled how her life in northern Tucumán province improved after Evita came on the political scene, and she suddenly received better shoes and school uniform.

“It was thanks to her that I had my first backpack,” said Barro, who still recalls the excitement of seeing Evita pass by her town on a train. “She is a torch that shines in my heart.”

(Read more)



(Via Jim Byk/Kelly Guiod, The Press Room; Sajous’s interview was recorded for “A Wonderful World.”)

Floyd Collins is the finest work of American musical theater, 
not excluding opera, to come along
since Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.”
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

Out of the Box Theatrics
to present 
the first Off-Broadway revival of
Music and Lyrics by 
Adam Guettel
Book by 
Tina Landau
Directed by 
Christina Sajous
November 11-December 18 at Theatre 71
Opening Night November 28

Out of the Box Theatrics (Elizabeth Flemming, Founder and Producing Artistic Director; Ethan Paulini, Associate Artistic Director) is thrilled to announce that the company will produce the first Off-Broadway revival of the critically acclaimed musical, Floyd Collins. The production, to be directed by Christina Sajous (Broadway’s SpongeBob SquarePantsSpider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, American Idiot; Out of the Box Theatrics’ 2019 production of Baby), will play from November 11 through December 18, 2022 at Theatre 71 at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament (152 West 71st Street). Opening night is Monday, November 28. 

 Floyd Collins features music and lyrics by two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award winner Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza), with a book by Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Tina Landau (member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Broadway’s SpongeBob SquarePantsSuperior Donuts). The musical was originally commissioned by The American Musical Theatre Festival in Philadelphia, which produced its world premiere in 1994. The Off-Broadway premiere, directed by Landau, was produced in 1996 by Playwrights Horizons. It won the 1996 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and Guettel won a 1996 Obie Award for Music for the score’s unique mix of bluegrass and folk music with other contemporary musical forms and influences. The show has been viewed by many critics as a modern classic of musical theatre, with John Simon, New York Magazine, hailing it as “the original and daring musical of our day.” After its brief original New York run, it has since been produced throughout the United States, in London and elsewhere. 
Floyd Collins is based on the true-life incident of the “Cave Wars” that took place in Central Kentucky in the early 20th century, where explorers and landowners fought each other to exploit the system of interconnected caves for commercial profit. In 1925, while chasing a dream of fame and fortune by turning a Kentucky cave into a tourist attraction, Floyd Collins himself becomes the attraction when he gets trapped 200 feet underground. Alone but for sporadic contact with the outside world, Floyd fights for his sanity – and, ultimately, his life – as the rescue effort above explodes into the first genuine media circus. Reporters and gawkers from across the country descend on the property, fueling the hysteria and manipulating the nation into holding its collective breath.
Out of the Box Theatrics, an Off-Broadway company founded in 2015, stages inventive and site-specific productions of new and classic plays and musicals, while challenging audiences to experience work outside of their expectations. The company has earned recent attention for its critically acclaimed streaming co-production of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last 5 Years (New York Times’ Critic’s Pick, 2021 Drama League Nominee for Outstanding Digital Theater, 2022 Antonyo Award nominee for Best Digital Theater Production), and its new production of the 1983 Broadway musical Baby, originally staged in 2019 and revived in 2021 (2022 Drama Desk Award nominee for Outstanding Revival of a Musical). 
Out of the Box Theatrics’ production will explore the sensationalist news reporting in the show’s world, which almost 100 years later reflects our own era of ‘fake news’ and ‘click bait.’ The production will also examine the racial elements at play in the segregated Kentucky of the 1920s. 
Known for staging site-specific productions, Out of the Box Theatrics selected Theatre 71 in the basement of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament for the underground feeling the intimate space generates. The church was in danger of closing during the pandemic, and Out of the Box Theatrics is thrilled to perform at this hidden gem of the Upper West Side. 

The creative team for Floyd Collins will include Billy Bustamante as Associate Director and Choreographer, Adam Rothenberg as Music Director, Ant Ma as Scenic Designer, Brynne Oster-Bainnson as Costume Designer, Christopher Wong as Lighting Designer and Germán Martínez as Sound Designer. Tyler Danhaus is Stage Manager. Egypt Dixon is Assistant Stage Manager. 
Casting and additional production details will be announced in coming weeks. 
Adam Guettel (Music and Lyrics) is a composer/lyricist living in New York City. His musical The Light in the Piazza, with a book by Craig Lucas, premiered on Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater in April 2005, following a world premiere at the Intiman Theater in Summer 2003, and a second engagement at Chicago’s Goodman Theater in early 2004 (where it received three Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Musical). The Light in the Piazza received six Tony Awards, including two for Mr. Guettel. Piazza received its UK premiere at the Curve Theater in Leicester in April 2009. Mr. Guettel wrote music and lyrics for Floyd Collins (cast album on Nonesuch Records), which received the 1996 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical and earned Mr. Guettel the Obie Award for Best Music. Floyd Collins has been presented at Playwrights Horizons, New York; Prince Theatre, Philadelphia; Goodman Theatre, Chicago; Old Globe, San Diego; Bridewell, London; and elsewhere. His other works include Love’s Fire, a collaboration with John Guare for The Acting Company, and Saturn Returns, a concert at Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival. Saturn Returns was recorded by Nonesuch Records under the title Myths and Hymns. Four of Mr. Guettel’s songs were featured on Audra McDonald’s Nonesuch Records album Way Back to Paradise (1998). Two more appear on her 2000 album How Glory Goes (including the title track), and two more are on Build a Bridge (2007), including the title track. Mr. Guettel performed a concert evening of his works at New York’s Town Hall in 1999. He can be heard singing four duets with Meryl Streep in the short film The Music of Regret (2008). Film scores include Arguing the World, a feature documentary by Joe Dorman (1999), and the score for Jack, a two-hour documentary for CBS by Peter Davis (1994). Awards for Mr. Guettel include the Stephen Sondheim Award (1990), the ASCAP New Horizons Award (1997), and the American Composers Orchestra Award (2005).
Tina Landau (Book) is a writer and director whose work has been produced on Broadway and Off-, internationally and regionally, and most frequently at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, where she is an ensemble member. Known for her original, large-scale musical and ensemble work, Tina has been recognized by the Tony Awards, Drama Desks, Drama League, Outer Critics, Lucille Lortel and Obies, and is a recipient of a United States Artist Fellowship, the Princess Grace Statuette, a NEA/TCG Directing Fellowship and Rockefeller and Pew grants. On Broadway, Tina has directed SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical (also conceiver; Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle winner for Best Direction and Best Musical, 12 Tony Award nominations), Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts and the revival of Bells Are Ringing (Tony nomination). Her Off-Broadway productions include Bill Irwin/David Shiner’s Old Hats, Chuck Mee’s Big Love and Iphigenia 2.0, all at the Signature; Tarell McCraney’s Head of Passes (also Steppenwolf, Berkeley Rep, Mark Taper Forum, NAACP Best Director) and In the Red and Brown Water, both at the Public Theater; Paula Vogel’s A Civil War Christmas at NYTW; McCraney’s Wig Out! and her original musical Dream True written with Ricky Ian Gordon, both at the Vineyard; her musical Floyd Collins, written with Adam Guettel, at Playwrights Horizons, the Old Globe and the Goodman (Lucille Lortel Best Musical, Obie Award, Barrymore Best Direction, etc.); and En Garde Arts’ site specific productions of Orestes, The Trojan Women: A Love Story and Stonewall: Night Variations (also writer). Tina has created over 20 productions at Steppenwolf, which include Ms. Blakk for President (which she co-authored with Tarell McCraney), Matthew-Lee Erlbach’s The Doppelgänger, McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays, Zinnie Harris’ The Wheel, Mee’s Berlin Circle and Time to Burn, classics such as The Tempest, Time of Your Life, The Cherry Orchard and The Diary of Anne Frank, and her own plays Space (also Mark Taper and NYC Public Theater) and Theatrical Essays. Regionally, Tina has directed the musical Dave by Tom Kitt and Nell Benjamin (Arena Stage, Helen Hayes Award for Best Director); her own play Beauty (Old Globe, San Diego Critics’ Award for Best Play), and productions of A Midsummer Night’s DreamOf Thee I Sing, and many more. She teaches regularly in the U.S. and abroad, and is the co-author, with Anne Bogart, of The Viewpoints Book.
Christina Sajous (Director). Sajous’ Broadway acting credits include Spongebob SquarepantsSpider-Man: Turn Off the DarkAmerican IdiotBaby It’s You! and Tupac Shakur’s Holler If Ya Hear Me. Off-Broadway, she has been seen in Joe Iconis’ Broadway Bounty Hunter and Out of the Box Theatrics’ 2019 production of Baby. Regionally, she performed in Paradise Square (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), The Prince of Egypt (TheatreWorks), Carmen: An Afro Cuban Musical (Tectonic Theatre Project), directed by Moisés Kaufman, Romeo & Juliet (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra), and Disgraced (Denver Center of Performing Arts). She appeared in the Emmy Award-winning “Jesus Christ Superstar Live” (NBC) starring John Legend and Sara Bareilles and “The SpongeBob Musical: Live On Stage!” (Nickelodeon). Her other TV and film credits include “Run the World” (Starz), “Chicago Med” (NBC), “Blue Bloods” (CBS), “Alpha House” (Amazon), “One Life to Live” (ABC), Broadway Idiot (Netflix), and Brazzaville Teen-Ager directed by Michael Cera. Christina attended New York University: Tisch School of the Arts, and the International Theatre Wing in Amsterdam.
Out of the Box Theatrics (OOTB) is an Off-Broadway not-for-profit committed to lifting the voices of marginalized communities through the stories they tell. OOTB also produces site specific theatre to provide a more intimate and challenging experience to our audiences’ expectation of theater. Out of the Box Theatrics was founded in 2015 by Elizabeth Flemming. Recent nominations include 2020 Off Broadway Alliance Best Musical Revival and 2022 Drama Desk for Outstanding Revival of a Musical (Baby) and 2021 Drama League Outstanding Digital Theater, Individual Production and 2022 Antonyo Award, Best Digital Theater Production (The Last 5 Years).
Follow Out of the Box Theatrics on
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The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

[Tommaso] Salvini said: ‘The great actor should be full of feeling, and especially he should feel the thing he is portraying.  He must feel an emotion not only once or twice while he is studying his part, but to a greater or lesser degree every time he plays it, no matter whether it is the first or thousandth time.’  Unfortunately this is not within our control. (AP)


(Matt Wolf’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/21/22; via Pam Green.)

In London, a new play about President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and a revival of “The Seagull” explore undercurrents of pain.

LONDON — There’s a chill in the air at the Almeida Theater, notwithstanding the record-breaking heat here. That drop in temperature comes from the coolly unnerving “Patriots,” a new drama whose look at power politics in Russia over the last quarter-century induces a shiver at despotism’s rise.

The gripping production, directed by Rupert Goold, runs through Aug. 20.

Written by Peter Morgan (“The Crown,” “Frost/Nixon”), “Patriots” surveys the sad, shortened life of Boris Berezovsky, the brainiac billionaire who died in 2013, age 67, in political exile in London. An inquest into Berezovsky’s mysterious death returned an unusual “open verdict,” but on this occasion, it is unequivocally presented as a suicide: The play ends with this balding man, bereft of authority, preparing to end his life.

An academic whiz-turned-oligarch who expedited the rise of the younger Vladimir V. Putin, Berezovsky later fell out with the onetime ally who enlarged his power base, according to the play, with promises of “liberalizing Russia,” yet proceeded to do anything but.

Morgan introduces Berezovsky, age 9, as a math prodigy whose mother hoped he might become a doctor. (A gleaming-eyed Tom Hollander plays the role throughout.) From there, we move forward 40 years to find Berezovsky an integral member of Russia’s moneyed elite welcoming to his office an obsequious Putin, then deputy mayor of St. Petersburg.

“Respected Mr. Berezovsky,” says an initially indrawn, ferret-like Putin, “one would have to live on another planet not to know you!” But it isn’t long before Putin has changed his tune, and his tone, as he rises from prime minister to president and consolidates power around himself. In one notably effective wordless scene, Putin tries out poses in front of a mirror to see which makes him look most impressive. His earlier hesitancy has given way to a man in love with his own heroism.

Berezovsky looks on at so dramatic a change in character appalled, urging the former K.G.B. operative to “know your place.” But Putin by this point simply won’t be sidelined. And besides, reasons Putin, why hold your enemies close when they can just as easily be destroyed?

(Read more)



(Miriam Gillinsons’article appeared in the Guardian, 7/24.)

 Leicester Curve
Nikolai Foster’s new version is more like a play with dance and songs, giving ideas around love and loss, community and isolation, passion and violence room to breathe

In director Nikolai Foster’s unforgettable new version of Billy Elliot the Musical, all the lines have been blurred. When the miners strike, they run through the aisles and scream their protests just over our heads. Billy’s bedroom sits atop a portable mining shaft, the personal and political packaged as one. When Billy dances, it doesn’t really feel like a dance under Lucy Hind’s beautifully empathic choreography. It is a boxing match. A street fight. An angry conversation. Art isn’t an add-on luxury in Billy’s world. It is his life.

Where Stephen Daldry’s original production, which ran for 11 years, felt like Billy Elliot the Musical – with a capital Musical – Foster’s new version is more like a play with dance and songs. Lee Hall’s script is given plenty of room to breathe and rings with ideas around love and loss, community and isolation, passion and violence. The result is a musical of unusual depth that distils Hall’s play to its essence but also feels nuanced and truthful.

(Read more)

‘Shut UP, Emily Dickinson’ AT ABRONS ARTS CENTER, JULY 28 – AUGUST 13 ·

(Via Andrea Alton/Alton PR; Photo: Tanya O’Debra and Gregg Bellón in Shut UP, Emily Dickinson. Photo by Molly Broxton.)

Tanya O’Debra’s award-winning play Shut UP, Emily Dickinson, will be performed at Abrons Arts Center as a part of the @Abrons Series – c

“I found myself admiring O’Debra’s wild balancing act that captures Dickinson’s odd soul… you’ll find yourself laughing guiltily.” – CityBeat

“Part comedy roast, and part celebration of Dickinson and her work.” – Daily Hampshire Gazette

Award-winning playwright Tanya O’Debra’s dark comedic play Shut Up, Emily Dickinson will be performed at Abrons Arts Center as part of the @Abrons Series. The limited run plays July 28 – August 13. This two-hander features O’Debra as the title character with Gregg Bellón playing additional characters such as Master, Cats and Pizza Delivery Guy. Sara Wolkowitz serves as director. O’Debra and Wolkowitz are longtime collaborators who first worked together at Dixon Place in 2012 on the play The Ultimate Stimulus.

Shut Up, Emily Dickinson won the 2018 Jill Cummins MacLean Prize and the Ada Comstock Magic Grant at Smith College. The play was previously produced at the Orlando Fringe and Cincinnati Fringe Festival. This production marks the play’s New York Premiere.
O’Debra discussed what drew her to write the play, “A friend gave me a book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry many years ago, and I had a sense that she would have been a deeply annoying person. I got to Googling and sure enough I found a quote from her editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson: “Without touching her, she drew from me. I am glad not to live near her.” The character “Emily Dickinson” grew from there. I went on to study her work and life and ultimately came to adore her, but I was fascinated by the way people seemed to see whatever they wanted in her.”

Emily Dickinson: poet, recluse, a**hole. Loosely based on her Master Letters, Shut UP, Emily Dickinson is a pseudo-historical, quasi-biographical, hysterically existential, sadomasochistic psycho-romance about America’s most brilliant and annoying poetess. Holed up for all eternity in the bedroom of our minds, “the woman in white” stretches into a projection screen for truths, half-truths, truthiness, and truth-less-ness.

The creative team includes original music by Andrew Moreyellow, lighting design by Vadim Ledvin, and sound/projections design by Gregg Bellón.

Shut UP, Emily Dickinson runs July 28 – August 13; Wednesday – Saturday at 7:30pm at Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street at Pitt Street, NYC, NY 10002. Running time: 75 minutes. Tickets are $20 (students), $30 (general) and are available at

Tanya O’Debra (Playwright, Emily Dickinson)
 is a New York City-based playwright, performer, and MFA candidate at NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Department of Dramatic Writing. Off-Off Broadway: Fuck You (Excellence Award in Overall Production at Fringe NYC); Radio Star (published by Original Works, Best of the San Francisco Fringe, nominations from the Montreal Fringe & NYIT Awards); The Secrets of Avondale Falls, written by The O’Debra Twins (Cincy Fringe Festival). A graduate of Smith College, she won The Denis Johnston Playwriting Award, The Elizabeth Wanning Harries Prize, and The Elizabeth Drew Prize. Other theater credits include Patrice O’Debra in Straight Up Vampire (Joe’s Pub), The Evil Queen in Snow White (The New Acting Company), and Amanda McCloud in The Ultimate Stimulus (Dixon Place, The Brick), as well as being one half of the long-time comedic sister duo, The O’Debra Twins.

Sara Wolkowitz (Director) is an independent filmmaker and theater director. New York theater credits include Silent Sky (Hudson River Planetarium), The Ultimate Stimulus (FringeNYC 2014, Dixon Place, Under St Marks), Really Rosie (The Mint Theater), Eleanor Is Sibling Challenged (The Magnet Theater), War Crimes (Planet Connections Festivity), and Brooklyn Labyrinth (the BoCoCa Arts Festival). Her film/TV credits include Still On The Road (PBS, Lincoln Center), Lightning Bugs in a Jar (Short Corner at Cannes Film Festival), and Never After (starring Gillian Anderson). She has a BA in Film from Vassar College.

The @Abrons Series Program is a subsidized theater rental program that provides access to our spaces as well as production services at subsidized rates. While @Abrons is not curated, priority is given to shows and events that align with our mission and that are committed to anti-oppression. For shows, events or artistic projects working to build community projects that are socially or civically inclusive – yet have very small budgets – there is an application for an extra–subsidized rate.

@AbronsArtsCenter or #AbronsArtsCenter #shutupemilydickinson


The new two hander play Shut UP, Emily Dickinson opens on Thursday, July 28 at Abrons Arts. 

Performance dates:
Thursday, July 28 at 7:30pm (opening night)
Friday, July 29 at 7:30pm
Saturday, July 30 at 7:30pm
Wednesday, August 3 at 7:30pm
Thursday, August 4 at 7:30pm
Friday, August 5 at 7:30pm
Saturday, August 6 at 7:30pm
Wednesday, August 10 at 7:30pm
Thursday, August 11 at 7:30pm
Friday, August 12 at 7:30pm
Saturday. August 13 at 7:30pm 


(from Radio Free Europe, 7/20/22.)

Influential Russian playwright Mikhail Durnenkov fled Russia for Finland shortly after Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Durnenkov’s opposition to Russia’s war against Ukraine has had severe personal consequences. Theaters in Russia have stopped showing his plays, and there have been calls to prosecute him for his anti-war position.