Monthly Archives: July 2023


(David Ng’s article appeared on Breitbart, 7/15.)

New York’s prestigious Public Theater — which staged the assassination of President Donald Trump in its infamous 2017 production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar — is laying off 19 percent of its staff as it faces a catastrophic financial crisis brought on by plummeting attendance and soaring operating costs.

Public Theater leaders announced Friday that nearly 1 in 5 workers will receive a pink slip in a bid to save the institution. Artistic director Oskar Eustis told the New York Times that attendance has cratered by 30 percent while the theater’s costs have skyrocketed by as much as 45 percent.

“We have kept our donor base, but it’s static. Put that all together, and you get budget shortfalls — big budget shortfalls,” he said.

Eustis directed the Public’s 2017 Central Park production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in which the title character was costumed to resemble President Donald Trump. The assassination scene featured Trump being stabbed to death in a violent melee of knife play in the U.S. Senate.


Caesar’s wife Calpurnia spoke with a Slavic accent intended to mimic First Lady Melania Trump.

The production shocked many audience members and even provoked conservative influencers Laura Loomer and Jack Posobiec to interrupt a performance in protest.

The Public Theater posted a statement blaming the incident on “paid protesters.”

“While we are champions of the first amendment, this interruption unfortunately was part of a paid strategy driven by social media,” the message read.

 (Read more)


(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/4; Photo: Divine … Stephen Jackman-Torkoff as Richard II. Photograph: David Hou.)

A disco king hits the dancefloor, Beatrice and Benedick’s romcom gets a feminist framing and Lear faces dystopia as the revered rep company returns in full force

Drive west of Toronto for over an hour, beyond a hamlet called Punkeydoodles Corners, and you reach the village of Shakespeare, with a pie shop and truck centre bearing the Bard’s name. Up the road lies Stratford, an affable town where Romeo Street leads you to the banks of the river Avon (pronounced, unlike its English cousin, with a short A).

Here, 70 years ago this month, the inaugural Stratford Shakespearean festival took place beneath a leaky canvas tent roof, with Alec Guinness holding court in Richard III and All’s Well That Ends Well, both directed by Tyrone Guthrie over a six-week season. It almost didn’t happen: a black hole in the finances meant an emergency meeting was held the day before Guinness set sail to determine whether he should bother making the journey.

The festival’s success gave Stratford, which was settled in 1832, a theatrical reputation to match its British namesake – an improbable achievement for this former railroad town, which is surrounded by farmland. Canada’s largest theatre festival, it now runs for more than half the year, with 13 productions staged in four different buildings in 2023, including the striking new Tom Patterson theatre, named after the journalist who founded the festival. Visitors who remember the early tent years are still returning, prompted – as is tradition here – to take their seats by a fanfare played live outside the Festival theatre. The musicians – with four herald trumpets and a parade snare drum – assemble to announce each performance there, as popular a local custom as the annual release of swans into the Avon.

Maev Beaty as Beatrice and Graham Abbey as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing at Stratford festival. Photograph: David Hou

You could, perhaps, be forgiven for expecting those shows to be something akin to ye olde heritage Shakespeare, preserved in aspic for tourists fitting a matinee around trips to the city’s smart eateries. But there are no mothballs in this season. Actor turned artistic director Antoni Cimolino, whose Stratford roles have included Romeo and Laertes, tells me they resist the idea of a “house” approach to productions. “If Shakespeare seems dusty and old, we haven’t done our jobs.”

Take the opening of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Chris Abraham and bookended by new scenes written by Erin Shields, known for previous feminist takes on King Lear and Paradise Lost. Staged on Julie Fox’s lush garden set, with succulents including outrageously phallic cacti, this comedy does not open with the usual back-slapping, macho banter about the “feats of a lion” in war. Instead, Maev Beaty’s Beatrice rises amid the audience, as Allison Edwards-Crewe’s Hero appears upstage before a mirror that resembles both a huge moon and a band of gold.

In a wry, softly saucy prologue, Beatrice invites us to consider the expectations faced by Hero specifically and by all women then and now. As well as providing ample satire – “it is exhausting to be innocent,” says Beatrice, with a witty rhyme about Hero needing to mute the strumming of her “private lute” – this is a canny way of ensuring we focus from the start on the inner life of a character whose reticence is all the more marked by the quicksilver exchanges between Benedick and Beatrice.

‘If Shakespeare seems dusty and old, we haven’t done our jobs’ … the Stratford Festival theatre. Photograph: Stratford Shakespeare festival/Richard Bain

Shields’s prologue is true to Beatrice’s wit and the spirit of Much Ado as, with the gentlest waft around her groin, she reminds us that “nothing” was once slang for vagina. The play unfolds with a lighting level that allows the audience to see each other, essential for some deft crowd work at the edges of the Festival theatre’s beloved thrust stage, with its pioneering design by Tanya Moiseiwitsch. The venue fits an audience of 1,800 but no one here is further than 65ft from the stage.

(Read more)



How Thomas Lanier Williams Became Tennessee | The New Yorker

(Casey Cep’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 7/10,17/23; Photograph by Vandamm Studio © Billy Rose Theatre Division / NYPL for Performing Arts.)

A collection of previously unpublished stories offers a portrait of the playwright as a young artist.

Williams’s early stories feature the outlines of the spinsters, sirens, hotheads, and ministers whom he later made famous.

If you ever have to lie about your age, try to do it with as much creativity and conviction as Tennessee Williams. When he was nearly twenty-eight, the playwright submitted a handful of one-act plays to a contest for writers under twenty-five. Worried that his deception would be discovered, he changed his name and mailed the submission not from St. Louis, where he lived, but from Memphis, using his grandparents’ home there as the return address. Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in Mississippi, he first considered calling himself Valentine Sevier, after an ancestor on his father’s side whose brother was the first governor of Tennessee. But he decided to instead keep his last name and change only his first.

“Mr. ‘Tennessee’ Williams got a telegram last night,” he wrote to his mother a few months later, in March, 1939, letting her know that he’d won the contest, receiving a hundred-dollar prize from the Group Theatre, in New York City. “Do not spread this around till the checque has arrived, as some of my ‘friends’ . . . might feel morally obliged to inform the Group that I am over 25.”

If Williams had any scruples of his own, he shed them with an elegant explanation. After dropping out of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he’d spent the fall of 1932 through the spring of 1935 as a clerk at the International Shoe Company, in St. Louis. His father, a sales manager there, got him the position, which Williams described as “hard labor,” though it mostly involved dusting sample shoes in the morning and typing factory orders for the rest of the day. He took a smoke break every half hour and got paid sixty-five dollars a month. “The job was designed for insanity,” he later remembered. “It was a living death.” He therefore felt entitled to excise that period from his personal history. That’s why Tennessee was three years younger than Tom, and eligible to enter the playwriting contest that brought him to the attention of East Coast agents and West Coast directors.

But all that is only a technical explanation of how Tom became Tennessee. The deeper questions about Williams’s transformation are the stuff of endless debates and dissertations, fuelled by interviews, letters, memoirs, biographies, and Williams’s own writing, including posthumous publications. Most of us don’t mind literary grave robbing, especially when it comes to authors we love, in which case we don’t mind cradle robbing, either: the boyhood diary of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the miniature books of the young Brontë sisters, the childhood newspaper of Virginia Woolf. In this spirit, New Directions is publishing a volume of the early work of Tennessee Williams, who died forty years ago. Slightly less jejune than the abovementioned efforts, this set of short stories is more like the university-era poetry written by T. S. Eliot in the notebook he titled “Inventions of the March Hare,” or Vladimir Nabokov’s blank-verse play “The Tragedy of Mister Morn,” which he wrote as a twentysomething.

The Caterpillar Dogs and Other Early Stories” includes seven works of short fiction by Williams, culled from the seventy-six boxes of his archival materials at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. They are introduced by Tom Mitchell, an emeritus theatre professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who previously adapted several of Williams’s stories for the stage. Written during the Great Depression, the stories are mostly from the era of Tom’s life that Tennessee erased, when he was living in what he called the City of St. Pollution, writing in the evenings after work, hopped up on black coffee and cigarettes, struggling to find a form and an audience for his art.

(Read more)


(Rana Moussaoui’s article appeared on Barron’s, 7/12; via Drudge Report; Pictures by Clement Mahoudeau.)

Brazilian performer Carolina Bianchi was herself raped after being drugged on a night out

A play about sexual violence against women, in which its author takes a “date rape” drug live on stage, has shocked Europe’s biggest theatre festival.

Brazilian performer Carolina Bianchi — who was herself raped after being drugged on a night out — wrote “The Bride and Good Night Cinderella” describing the “journey into hell” that so many women are put through.

Some people have walked out of the performance at the Avignon Festival in France, which its creator admitted is shocking, with the organisers warning that it could disturb.

Bianchi told AFP that she decided to tackle the issue head-on because it “happened to me. I was the victim of a rape 10 years ago. I stayed silent because it happened after a ‘rape drink'” which had been spiked to muddle her memory.

“So I cannot access what happened. You want to know what happened and at the same time you cannot access that memory. So you start to construct. You start to use your imagination. And then everything starts to connect.”

But Blanchi insisted that “I’m not doing this because I need catharsis. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in being cured because what happened will never disappear.”

The play, which is set to tour Europe, ends with what appears to be a live gynaecological examination of the by-then drugged and sleeping Bianchi, on the bonnet of a car that is projected onto a screen.

Earlier, as she took the “date rape” drug popularly known as “Goodnight Cinderella”, she told the audience that “you may perhaps be disturbed”.

As Bianchi slowly falls asleep from the controlled mix of tranquillisers — with doctors standing by offstage — other performers emerge and a mass grave full of skeletons is revealed while the stories of murdered women appear on screen.

“I don’t ask the audience to feel the emotion (the victim is going through) but to sit and listen to these stories of sexual violence,” she said.

(Read more)


(Richard Lea’s and Sian Cain’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/12 Photo: Questions, not answers … Milan Kundera in 2002. Photograph: -/AFP.)

The Czech novelist found himself silenced by the communist regime at home, but achieved international fame with playfully philosophical fiction

 ‘To be a writer means to discover a truth’: Milan Kundera – a life in quotes

Czech writer Milan Kundera, who explored being and betrayal over half a century in poems, plays, essays and novels including The Unbearable Lightness of Being, has died aged 94 after a prolonged illness, Anna Mrazova, spokeswoman for the Milan Kundera Library, has confirmed.

Famously leaving his homeland for France in 1975 after earlier being expelled from the Czechoslovakian Communist party for “anti-communist activities”, Kundera spent 40 years living in exile in Paris after his Czech citizenship was revoked in 1979. There he wrote his most famous works, including Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) and later left behind his mother tongue to write novels in French, beginning with 1995’s La Lenteur (Slowness) and his final novel, 2014’s The Festival of Insignificance. He was often cited as a contender for the Nobel prize in literature.

“Like all great writers, Milan Kundera leaves indelible marks on his readers’ imaginations,” Salman Rushdie told the Guardian. “‘The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.’ Ever since I read this sentence in his The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, it has remained with me, and illuminated my understanding of events all over the world.

“Later, a second idea of his, that the novel descended from two parents, Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa and Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, gave me a valuable way to think about my own literary parentage – definitely on the Shandean side of the family tree,” the novelist added. “A third concept, that of the ‘lightness of being’, warned us that life allows us no revisions or second drafts, and this could be ‘unbearable’, but it could also be liberating.”

Born on 1 April 1929 in Brno, Kundera studied music with his father, a noted pianist and musicologist, before turning to writing, becoming a lecturer in world literature at Prague’s film academy in 1952. Despite rejecting the socialist realism required of writers in 50s Czechoslovakia, his literary reputation grew with the publication of a series of poems and plays, including an ode to the communist hero Julius Fučík, Poslední máj (The Last May), published in 1955. He later rejected these early works, saying that he was “working in many different directions – looking for my voice, my style and myself.”

An enthusiastic member of the Communist party in his youth, Kundera was expelled from the party twice, once after “anti-communist activities” in 1950, and again in 1970 during the clampdown that followed the 1968 Prague Spring, of which he was one of the leading voices, publicly calling for freedom of speech and equal rights for all. His first novel, 1967’s Žert (The Joke), was inspired by the period and became a great success. A polyphonic examination of fate and rationality set around a joke about Trotsky that a student writes to impress a girl, the novel vanished from bookshops and libraries after Russian tanks arrived in Wenceslas Square. Kundera found himself blacklisted and fired from his teaching job. Working in small-town cabarets as a jazz trumpeter, he found artistic freedom at last – the impossibility of publication had, in a way, lifted the burden of censorship from his shoulders.

(Read more)


(from Radio Free Europe, 7/11; Photo: Ales Pushkin in his workshop in Minsk in June 2020.)

Belarusian artist and political prisoner Ales Pushkin has died in intensive care under unknown circumstances, his wife said on July 11. The 57-year-old had been sentenced to five years in prison for “mocking state symbols” and inciting “social enmity or strife.” In his most famous work, Dung For The President, he overturned a wheelbarrow of manure in front of the presidential building in Minsk in 1999. Opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya reacted to Pushkin’s death, saying “people should not die in prisons” and praising Pushkin’s work as “the embodiment of the indomitable spirit of the Belarusian people.” 

Visit Radio Free Europe


BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3, Emperor and Galilean. Part 1: Young Julian


Drama on 3

The second part of Ibsen’s epic two-part stage play telling the story of Julian the Apostate and his ill-fated attempt to abolish Christianity in the Roman Empire. In the aftermath of his wife’s murder, Julian is proclaimed Emperor. Writer Ben Power’s version premiered at the National Theatre in 2011.

Julian ….. Freddie Fox
Maxima ….. Siân Phillips
Peter ….. Jonathan Forbes
Gregory ….. Samuel James
Agathon ….. Nye Occomore
Eutherius ….. Gerard McDermott
Ursulus ….. Ewan Bailey
Jovian ….. Joshua Manning
Ammian ….. Will Kirk
Myhhra ….. Kymberley Cochrane
Publia ….. Leah Marks

Written by Henrik Ibsen
Adapted by Ben Power from literal translations from Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife and Marie Wells

Production Coordinator ….. Jonathan Powell
Sound Design ….. Peter Ringrose, Caleb Knightley, Alison Craig, Keith Graham

Directed by Carl Prekopp
A BBC Audio Production for Radio 3.



(Laura Döing’s article appeared on DW, 7/7; Photo: Wolf Biermann in Cologne in November 1976: He didn’t even play his most critical songs — out of caution Image: Wilhelm Bertram/dpa/picture-alliance’)

A new exhibition dedicated to German singer-songwriter and famous former East German dissident Wolf Biermann reflects

Wolf Biermann‘s career is so directly intertwined with the history of East and West Germany that Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum (German History Museum) is now dedicating an exhibition to the poet and songwriter. Upon finishing school, he left Hamburg to emigrate to East Germany, as he believed he could live out his communist ideals there. But then the protest singer was spied upon by the Stasi, the German Democratic Republic’s (GDR) secret police. Banned from performing in the East, he was eventually expatriated back to the West.

Learning he was expatriated from the radio

After being forbidden to perform publicly for 11 years by the East German authorities, on November 13, 1976, Wolf Biermann was surprised to be allowed to travel to Cologne for a concert. That night, sitting on a bar stool with his sleeves rolled up, armed with only his a guitar, he mocked and protested against the (GDR) to a crowd of 7,000 people.

Although the singer-songwriter was not allowed to distribute his recordings in East Germany, his songs were so popular in West Germany that they had found their way back into the GDR in the form of clandestine copies. 

Three days later, still on tour in West Germany, Biermann learned while listening to the radio that he would be deprived of his East German citizenship for betrayal and defamation of the GDR.

“I felt cast away,” he wrote about the anxiety the news provoked in his 2016 memoirs, titled “Wolf Biermann: Warte nicht auf bessre Zeiten!” (Do not wait for better times).

His expatriation triggered protests. A petition to the government was signed by the GDR’s most important intellectuals, including Stephan Hermlin, Christa Wolf, Stefan Heym, Günter Kunert, Heiner Müller and Jurek Becker. This response made the regime nervous: Surveillance, work bans and arrests increased.

The actors Manfred Krug and Armin Mueller-Stahl left the country. “The East German authorities were expecting an angry media reaction from the West, but they didn’t expect that a group of recognized authors and artists from the GDR would protest for the first time publicly through a petition,” Biermann wrote in his autobiography.

(Read more)


(via Emily Owens PR)



FRIGID New York has announced the schedule of performances for their 3rd annual Little Shakespeare Festival at UNDER St. Marks (94 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009) which will run August 3-19. Tickets ($25 in-person; $20 streaming) are available for advance purchase at Most performances will also be available to livestream from home.

This year the Little Shakespeare Festival is doing Shakespeare (and Shakespeare-inspired) performances that celebrate or center gender diversity in the Bard’s canon. These might be shows where roles traditionally played by cis men are opened to all genders, where male characters have their gender changed, bent, or broken, or where non-male characters usually left to the sidelines are brought into the spotlight.

As You Will

Created by Conor D Mullen, David Brummer & George Hider

Friends, foes, fools! Do you ever bemoan the fact that the 884,647 words William Shakespeare wrote have been performed already? Do you yearn for the experience of seeing The Bard’s works for the first time? Then celebrate the glad tidings of As You Will and our Unscripted Shakespeare Show! These Shakespearean Scholars are here to present all the monumental works the immortal Bard would’ve written if he hadn’t gone and died. With just the title given by the audience the players of As You Will bring a Shakespearean comedy to life complete with Shakspeare’s themes, language, poetic verse, and some scholarly footnotes thrown in for good measure. As You Will have performed such classics as “Eight Merry Spiders,” “That Doth Not Go There,” “1601: A Space Odyssey” and, though those shows will never be seen again, there’s always a Shakespearean world premiere in our makeshift Globe Theatre. Thu 8/3 at 7pm, Fri 8/4 at 6pm, Sat 8/12 at 7pm, Thu 8/17 at 7pm, & Sat 8/19 at 9pm

Lady Capulet

Presented by Barefoot Shakespeare Company

What caused the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets? This prequel to Romeo and Juliet follows the story of Rose from country girl to lady of Verona and explores the betrayal, revenge, and manipulations that set the houses of Capulet and Montague against one another in a time when the influence of family, money, power, and gender determine everything. Using evocative language, Lady Capulet asks large questions about women’s place in culture today through a Shakespearean lens. Thu 8/3 at 9pm, Sat 8/5 at 5pm & Sat 8/5 at 9pm

Wheel of Fortune

Presented by Djingo Productions

This two-act comedy play draws inspiration from Shakespeare’s works, transporting the themes and characters into the digital age of loners, online communities, and mass shooters. A “problem play” that Shakespeare might write about in this day and age if he was still alive. Our dark comedy explores contemporary themes of isolation, modern day human connections, and how one person’s show of kindness could prevent someone’s possible violent acts. Fri 8/4 at 8pm, Thu 8/10 at 7pm, Fri 8/18 at 10pm & Sat 8/19 at 5pm

THE ROOM of Falsehood

Presented by C.A.G.E. Theatre Company

The cult classic film now becomes Shakespearean, as the love story of the ages is adapted for the stage. The story involves Johnny the businessman dealing with the betrayal of his wife Lisa and his best friend Mark. Fri 8/4 at 10pm, Sat 8/5 at 7pm, Fri 8/11 at 6pm & Thu 8/17 at 9pm

Double Bill: Shakespeare’s Deaths Shakespeare’s Ladies at Tea

Presented by First Flight Theatre Company

The First Flight Theatre Company will present a Shakespearian double bill!  In Shakespeare’s Deaths 5 actors will act out all the deaths found in the plays by William Shakespeare in 15 minutes, maybe 10. Shakespeare’s Ladies at Tea is a sketch of what might happen if eight Shakespearean ladies were to get together for tea. Each character is only able to speak the lines the Bard gave her, and the women are at first embarrassed and uncertain what to say at all, but Cleopatra is fearless and Lady Macbeth keeps things rolling along pretty well: in all the party is a triumph. 

Thu 8/10 at 9pm, Fri 8/11 at 10pm, Sat 8/12 at 5pm, Fri 8/18 at 6pm & Sat 8/19 at 7pm

Shrew You!

Presented by Hamlet Isn’t Dead

A fast and funny reimagining of Taming of the Shrew with 4 actors. These actors will play versions of themselves and work towards “fixing” Taming of the Shrew. The roles are gender swapped as well in the hopes of reexamining the importance of gender in the original text. It is fast, funny, and rooted in the pillars of Hamlet Isn’t Dead; accessibility, joy, and musically vibrant.  

Fri 8/11 at 8pm, Sat 8/12 at 9pm & Fri 8/18 at 8pm

FRIGID New York’s mission is to provide both emerging and established artists the opportunity to create and produce original work of varied content, form, and style, and to amplify their diverse voices. We do this by presenting an array of monthly programming, mainstage productions, an artist residency, and eight annual theater festivals that create an environment of collaboration, resourcefulness, and innovation. Founded in 1998, the aim was and is to form a structure, allowing multiple artists to focus on creating and staging new work and providing affordable rental space to scores of independent artists. Now in our third decade we have produced a massive quantity of stimulating downtown theater.  


(Emma Bockes’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/5; Photo:  ‘All the neglect he suffered meant he made sure that that was not my life’ … Jennifer Grant. Photograph: Andrzej Lawnik/The Guardian.)

Born into extreme poverty, Grant was told as a child his mother had died. She had actually been placed in a psychiatric institution. It was the start of a life of repression and extraordinary reinvention

During the casting process for Archie – a forthcoming series for ITVX – about the life of Cary Grant, the late actor’s daughter, Jennifer, had several, unbreakable criteria. The actor playing her dad needed to be suave, of course, per Cary’s public persona. He had to be cerebral – her dad was an avid self-improver. And he had to wow her in a way that reflected the intensity of her relationship with a man who, at the age of 62, gave up a huge career to devote himself exclusively to raising her. Even by the standards of Hollywood, this last detail was eccentric.

It is more than 35 years since Cary died and to talk to his daughter, the sadness is still, sometimes, immediate. Jennifer Grant was a baby when her parents divorced – her mother is the actor, Dyan Cannon – and it was her father with whom she primarily lived until his death, when she was 20. “When will I stop missing him?” wrote Grant in her 2011 memoir and although, of course, the answer is never, working on the TV show has helped her close the circuit between the father she knew and the incongruity of his concealed origins – a hardscrabble upbringing in England. “I think it’s a story that deserves to be told,” says Jennifer, 57, from her house in Los Angeles, where she lives with her two children and works as an actor – most recently in the Brad Pitt film, Babylon. “It makes one appreciate Dad so much more. He had repressed so much – it was somewhat of a secret and it didn’t have to be. It was nothing shameful that he did, as a six-year-old boy.”

No aspect of his background showed up in his persona as the star of such classics as The Philadelphia Story and An Affair to Remember. It is hard to conceive now just how famous Cary was and what he represented: an idea of the sophisticated Englishman that made him Hollywood’s biggest male movie star of the prewar period, up there with Clark Gable and James Stewart. The question is how precisely he pulled this off and in the show, which has been written by Jeff Pope, who also co-wrote the Oscar-nominated movie, Philomena, the story flips between the childhood of Archibald Alexander Leach, as he was then known, and the mature Cary, who with his daughter’s approval, is played by Jason Isaacs. It was “clear from the outset,” she says, that he was the right actor for the role.

(Read more)

View Good Stuff on Amazon

View Evenings with Cary Grant on Amazon