Monthly Archives: March 2024

‘THE KALEVALA’  (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 4–IN OUR TIME–DISCUSSION PROGRAM) ·

THE KALEVALA

Listen now

In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Finnish epic poem that first appeared in print in 1835 in what was then the Grand Duchy of Finland, part of the Russian Empire and until recently part of Sweden. The compiler of this epic was a doctor, Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), who had travelled the land to hear traditional poems about mythical heroes being sung in Finnish, the language of the peasantry, and writing them down in his own order to create this landmark work. In creating The Kalevala, Lönnrot helped the Finns realise they were a distinct people apart from Sweden and Russia, who deserved their own nation state and who came to demand independence, which they won in 1917. With Riitta Valijärvi Associate Professor in Finnish and Minority Languages at University College London Thomas Dubois The Halls-Bascom Professor of Scandinavian Folklore and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison And Daniel Abondolo Formerly Reader in Hungarian at University College

London Producer: Simon Tillotson

 

DREAM UP–THE DOWNTOWN FESTIVAL FOR SUMMER THEATER    ·

New York’s vibrant downtown theater scene ignites once more, under the direction of Crystal Field, with the Dream Up Festival, a haven for groundbreaking works taking center stage at Theater for the New City (TNC) this August (25th-September 15th). Think a kaleidoscope of daring plays, dance that defies gravity, and solo performances that burrow into the soul. Forget traditional drawing-room comedies – Dream Up, with its motto “Invent, Concoct,” embraces art, the artist, and your imagination.

The best part? You can become part of it. Playwrights and performers have until May 28th to submit their best, most innovative creations – world premieres, genre-bending pieces, anything that pushes boundaries and ignites the spirit.  Visit: (www.theaterforthenewcity.net)

Curated by the visionary Michael Scott-Price, the festival promises a potent brew of global voices and artistic insurgency. Imagine evenings where expectations are shattered, realities reimagined, and the very definition of art is playfully reconsidered, if not challenged.

Tickets are reasonable at $15-$20, making this a feast for the senses without breaking the bank.

TNC maintains a distinctive commitment to high artistic values and community service—as it always has. In an effort to make theater accessible to all, TNC also presents an assortment of distinct, exceptional events throughout the year, including the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, which celebrates the artistic and cultural diversity of TNC’s Lower East Side community; an annual Village Halloween Ball and an annual summer Street Theater tour that presents a free, live, original musical in thirteen neighborhoods in all five boroughs. Most of these are free of charge to the public.  

TNC is located at 155 First Ave., at East 10th Street.

Wondering what to do this summer?

DREAM UP THE EXPERIENCE YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR.

–via Jonathan Slaff; written with Gemini

‘MAGIC TO DO – JUST FOR YOU’: THE MIRACLE OF STEPHEN SCHWARTZ’S MUSICAL PIPPIN ·

(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/25; ‘Such a parable’ … Patina Miller, centre, as the Leading Player in Pippin on Broadway in 2013. Photograph: Joan Marcus.)

In the 2019 bio-series Fosse/Verdon, Sam Rockwell breaks out a vulpine smile in a rehearsal room scene, playing the groundbreaking choreographer and director Bob Fosse. As he outlines his outlandish plans for a new musical called Pippin, about the son of the holy Roman emperor Charlemagne, eyebrows are raised among his ensemble. “I know that look,” he says, spotting their scepticism. “Remember that look, ladies and germs. It means we’re on to something good. We’re gonna take what’s here and we’re gonna blow it all up and we’re gonna see what happens.”

What happened? A Broadway run of almost 2,000 performances and five Tony awards (from 11 nominations). Fosse’s production of Pippin opened in 1972 and when it closed in 1977 it was among the longest-running productions in Broadway history. Not bad for a meta musical which continually breaks down how it tells its story. With a book by Roger O Hirson, it spins a mordant existential picaresque set in the middle ages following a restless, rather whiny prince who learns life lessons from a colourful cast and, at one point, a sickly duck named Otto.

Its composer and lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, would later achieve one of the all-time musical theatre successes with Wicked (currently being turned into two movies with Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande). But when Pippin opened, he was just 24 years old, hot from an off-Broadway and London hit with Godspell. Schwartz could seductively sell a story and whet your appetite just like Fosse in the rehearsal room. Take the lyrics of Pippin’s opening number: “We’ve got magic to do, just for you / We’ve got miracle plays to play / We’ve got parts to perform, hearts to warm.”

Few songs capture the wonder of theatre like Magic to Do. “But also the magic of life,” adds Broadway and Glee star Alex Newell, on a break from rehearsals for a 50th anniversary Pippin concert at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in April. Newell is taking the role of the Leading Player, whose job is “to seduce not just the audience but also Pippin and the players around him” as the prince searches for answers through sex, war and politics.

Newell has had unfinished business with Pippin for years. “I was supposed to do it in high school but I couldn’t because I had to go film Glee,” says the actor, who in 2023 made history with J Harrison Ghee as the Tony awards’ first two out non-binary winners. Newell stayed with the musical theatre series for several years, playing trans teenager Unique Adams. “I missed that time to do Pippin as a teenager so doing it as an adult is wild.” For Newell, “Pippin is such a parable it can stand the test of time.” They saw Patina Miller as the Leading Player in the 2013 New York revival; the role was originated by Ben Vereen who can be seen in a filmed version of that production.

“There have been two amazing people [on Broadway] who have come before me in this role, both award-winning,” says Newell. “Both of them got to show such a different side of what everyone thought they were and what they could do. If you’re a big vocalist or a giant dancer you never get to mesh them together – they just know you for one thing. To have something that’s known for movement and storytelling, and the dark humour of it all, is just so brilliant.”

London had never seen anything like it – and didn’t know what to make of it–Patricia Hodge

In the Drury Lane concert – which features a 20-piece orchestra and a choir of 50 – Pippin will be played by Jac Yarrow, who made an acclaimed professional debut in 2019 in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Palladium. The cast includes Lucie Jones (Waitress), Cedric Neal (Guys & Dolls) and Zizi Strallen (Mary Poppins) – plus the coup of having Patricia Hodge playing Pippin’s wisely humorous grandmother Berthe. Hodge played the role of Catherine, who falls for the prince, when Schwartz’s musical first ran in the West End in 1973.

(Read more)

OFF-oFF THE (4th) WALL:  NEW SHOWS ANNOUNCED  ·

And don’t forget . . .

Off-Off Broadway

  1. How to Eat an Orange

Experience the narrative of visual artist and activist Claudia Bernardi in “How to Eat an Orange,” written by Catherine Filloux and directed by Elena Araoz. This one-person drama explores Bernardi’s upbringing in Argentina during the military junta and her quest to uncover the past.

Catch this compelling production from May 30 to June 16, 2024, at La MaMa ETC. Downstairs Theater (66 East 4th Street New York, NY 10003). Tickets are priced at $30 and can be purchased at La MaMa’s website.—Emily Owens

  1. Herself

Delve into the comedic tale of Maureen in “Herself,” written by Tim McGillicuddy and directed by Hamilton Clancy. Presented by The Drilling Company Theatrical Productions, this play navigates Maureen’s return to her Irish hometown for her brother’s funeral, inheriting his pub, and confronting family dynamics and local gossip.

Enjoy the laughter from March 29 to April 20, 2024, at the Gural Theatre at A.R.T/New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street). Tickets range from $20 to $35 and can be purchased at The Drilling Company’s website or by calling 212-877-0099.—Jonathan Slaff

  1. Redemption Story

Experience the poignant journey of aging actress Connie Lee in “Redemption Story,” written by Peregrine Teng Heard and directed by Sarah Blush. Presented by The Associates Theater Ensemble and featuring a talented cast led by Christine Toy Johnson and José Espinosa, this drama unfolds against the backdrop of 1970s Los Angeles.

Witness “Redemption Story” from May 4 to May 19, 2024, at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019). Ticket prices range from $15 to $45 and can be purchased at Universe.–Emily Owens

  4. La Musica Deuxième

Journey into the complex world of former lovers in Marguerite Duras’s “La Musica Deuxième,” directed by Jessica Burr and produced by Blessed Unrest. Featuring Taylor Valentine and Matilda Woods, this drama unfolds with charged dialogue, revealing the intricacies of a past filled with passion, betrayal, and desire.

Experience this riveting play from May 2 to 18, 2024, at the Drawing Room (247 West 30th Street, Unit 9R, New York, NY 10001). Tickets are priced at $25 and can be purchased at Blessed Unrest’s website.–Paul Siebold

  1. Tuesdays with Morrie (EXTENDED)

Join the heartfelt journey of Mitch Albom’s bestselling memoir in “Tuesdays with Morrie,” adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, and directed by Erwin Maas. Produced by Sea Dog Theater and starring Tony Award winner Len Cariou and Chris Domig, this poignant drama explores life’s profound lessons through the bond between a journalist and his former sociology professor.

Now catch this moving production from April 1 to 20, 2024, at St. George’s Episcopal Church (209 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003). Ticket prices range from $35 to $75 and can be purchased at Sea Dog Theater’s website.–David Gibbs

SPEAK FOR THEM: ARTISTS THEY CAME FOR (MARCH 11TH, 2024 – MARCH 25TH, 2024) ·

The world continues to witness the silencing of artistic expression. This week’s list focuses on artists facing persecution between March 11th and March 25th, 2024. Let us delve deeper into their stories and understand the forces that seek to suppress their voices.

  1. Mariatu Kamara, Filmmaker, Sierra Leone (March 18th): Detained and questioned in Freetown after a screening of her documentary, “Kissi Flowers,” which criticizes the deep-rooted practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sierra Leonean culture. While released, Mariatu fears future harassment for tackling such a sensitive topic that challenges societal norms. (Enforced by: Sierra Leonean police)
  2. Xu Xiaodong, Martial Artist and Blogger, China (March 15th): Xu’s online channel, “Iron Tiger Fight Club,” known for hosting interviews with intellectuals and activists critical of government censorship, was abruptly shut down. Videos deemed “subversive” were removed, and his whereabouts remain unknown. This crackdown highlights China’s ongoing efforts to control online discourse. (Enforced by: Chinese authorities)
  3. The No Name Orchestra, Musicians, Belarus (March 22nd): During a performance in Minsk, the No Name Orchestra, known for its blend of rock and folk music with lyrics that often touch on social issues, had their performance interrupted by police. Instruments were confiscated after the band refused to stop playing songs deemed “subversive” by the authorities. Facing fines and potential performance bans, the band’s future remains uncertain. (Enforced by: Belarusian police)
  4. Dmitry Ivanov, Cartoonist, Russia (March 12th): Security forces raided Dmitry’s apartment in Moscow, detaining him for questioning. His satirical cartoons, often mocking government corruption and political figures, have gained popularity online. Released with a warning, Dmitry’s case exemplifies the chilling effect on free expression in Russia. (Enforced by: Russian security forces)
  5. Layla Nasir, Poet, Palestine (March 20th): Summoned for interrogation by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem after a public reading of her poems. Layla’s work frequently criticizes the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. This incident highlights the ongoing restrictions on Palestinian freedom of expression, particularly regarding political speech. (Enforced by: Israeli authorities)
  6. A group of bloggers, Vietnam (March 17th): Multiple bloggers were arrested in Hanoi for their online criticism of a proposed environmental development project in central Vietnam. The project, suspected to involve government corruption, has sparked public outcry. Facing charges of “disrupting public order,” these arrests demonstrate Vietnam’s tightening grip on online dissent. (Enforced by: Vietnamese government)
  7. Nguyen Van Trung, Journalist, Vietnam (March 24th): Nguyen, a reporter for a local newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City, was fired after publishing investigative reports on human rights abuses by local officials. He now faces potential criminal charges, highlighting the risks faced by journalists in Vietnam who dare to expose wrongdoing. (Enforced by: Vietnamese government)
  8. Kim Min-seo, Singer, South Korea (March 13th): During a live broadcast on a popular talent show, Kim expressed support for LGBTQ+ rights. This act of defiance resulted in her immediate removal from the competition. The incident sparked online discussions about South Korea’s social conservatism and the silencing of those who advocate for marginalized groups. (Enforced by: South Korean television network)
  9. Barbara Rodriguez, Painter, Cuba (March 21st): Barbara’s exhibition showcasing paintings that depicted themes of political and social unrest was abruptly shut down by the Cuban Ministry of Culture. Her artwork was confiscated, and she faces potential fines and suspension of her art license. This incident reflects the Cuban government’s restrictions on artistic expression that does not conform to the state’s ideology. (Enforced by: Cuban Ministry of Culture)
  10. Mustafa Kemal, Playwright, Turkey (March 19th): Mustafa’s play, “Children of Ararat,” which explores themes of Kurdish cultural identity, was banned from production by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. The Kurdish population in Turkey faces ongoing government restrictions on their cultural expression. This incident highlights the suppression of minority voices in the country. (Enforced by: Turkish Ministry of Culture)

What can you do?

  • Stay informed about artists and writers facing injustice. Share their stories and raise awareness.
  • Support organizations working for freedom of expression and human rights.
  • Contact your local representatives and urge them to advocate for these individuals.
  • Consider donating to organizations providing legal aid and support to persecuted artists.

Remember, silence is complicity. Lend your voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

First they came for the artists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an artist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a journalist. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller

Art by Luba Lukova

The information presented in the list of artists and writers facing injustice is based on reports and statements from the following reputable human rights organizations:

  • Disclaimer: This information is based on publicly available reports and may not be complete or entirely accurate. For the latest updates and details, please consult reputable human rights organizations.

(Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

OPINION: REMEMBRANCE AND TREACHERY SIDE-BY-SIDE IN TODAY’S UKRAINE ·

(Andriy Kurkov’s article appeared in the Kyiv Post, 3/24.  Photo: Candles are displayed on letters reading the word “Children” in Russian language during a commemorative event to mark the first anniversary of the bombing of the Mariupol Drama Theatre, held in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 16, 2023. YURIY DYACHYSHYN / AFP)

Across Ukraine theaters that were once places of joy and entertainment have become memorials to one of the largest tragedies experienced during Russia’s war on Kyiv.

In many Ukrainian cities, people gaze sadly at almost every theater, in front of which the word “Children” is written in large letters often with candles burning next to the inscription.

Two years ago, on March 16, a Russian bomber attacked the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol in which hundreds of citizens, including children, were sheltering. On the asphalt outside, the word “children” was written in huge letters, especially intended to alert Russian pilots of their presence. But it did not prevent the destruction of the theater and the murder of the innocent people inside.

In memory of all the civilians who died in Mariupol, on March 16 this year, actors who had escaped from the city painted the word “children” in front of the theater in Uzhhorod where they now live and work.

This date is not an official day of remembrance, included in the state calendar of memorial events. This might be understandable, as there are now so many tragic dates that almost every day could be one of mourning. But some events should be remembered and kept in the public eye, even as Russia commits more crimes.

Ukrainians themselves took to the streets to honor the memory of soldiers and volunteers murdered by Russia in the Olenevka prisoner of war camp, on July 29, 2022, and to remember the victims of the bombing and shelling of residential buildings in Vinnytsia, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Odesa.

Odesa residents will now have another day of mourning on their calendar – March 15. Among the 21 dead and more than 45 injured in the missile attack, just last week, were many police officers and rescue workers. City officials who went to the scene of devastation were also killed. The mayor of the city, Gennady Trukhanov, who was once considered to be a pro-Russian politician, was almost killed.

Another mayor who before the war was considered pro-Russian is Yuri Vilkul – the mayor of President Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih. Today he heads the city’s military administration doing everything possible to protect Kryvyi Rih from Russian attacks.

There are no pro-Russian politicians left in Ukraine, but it seems that there are still some ordinary citizens who, for money or because of pro-Russian beliefs, pass information to the Russian army.

(Read more)

NOW ON BROADWAY: NEW SHOWS ROUNDUP (MARCH 16TH – MARCH 23RD, 2024) ·

This week on Broadway, we saw the arrival of a powerful new production:

On Broadway:

  • An Enemy of the People (Drama): Opened Monday, March 18th. A scathing social commentary by Ibsen, this new production tackles themes of truth, power, and the dangers of conformity in a modern light.
  • Where it’s playing: Circle in the Square Theatre (1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019)
  • Reviews (so far):
    • Positive: “A powerful and timely production, with a searing performance by Jeremy Strong.” – Ben Brantley, The New York Times
    • Mixed: “Intriguing themes and sharp dialogue, but the pacing feels uneven at times.” – Aisha Sultan, Time Out New York

Looking Ahead

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the shows expected to open on Broadway and Off-Broadway in the next month :

Broadway:

  • The Who’s Tommy(Rock Musical): Opens Thursday, March 28th. The iconic rock opera returns to Broadway in a new production.

Off-Broadway:

  • Agreement(Drama): Opens Thursday, April 11th at Irish Arts Center. A timely drama exploring the complexities of international adoption.

(Bard [Gemini], the large language model from Google AI, and Perplexity AI, the innovative AI search engine and knowledge discovery platform, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

MOSCOW ATTACK: VIDEO CAPTURES GUNMEN STORMING CONCERT HALL AND SHOOTING 40 DEAD | BBC NEWS ·

*** WARNING graphic content Russia’s state security services say at least forty people are dead, and over a hundred injured, after heavily armed gunmen burst into a packed theatre near Moscow,  and opened fire. It happened at the Crocus Concert Hall, part of which is in flames, after explosives were detonated. Video images show the gunmen, in military camouflage, walking through the venue and shooting their victims. Ukraine has said it had nothing to do with the atrocity. The Islamic State group has said that it was behind the attack but that has not been confirmed. Clive Myrie presents BBC News at Ten reporting by Steve Rosenberg in Moscow, Sarah Smith in Washington, Sarah Rainsford in Kyiv and security correspondent Gordon Corera. Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/1rbfUog For more news, analysis and features visit: www.bbc.com/news #BBCNews

Photo: The Mirror

OFF-oFF THE (4th) WALL:  NEW SHOWS ANNOUNCED, 3/12-3/22, 2024  ·

Discovering the vibrant landscape of Off-Off Broadway reveals a tapestry of diverse narratives and artistic innovations that defy conventional norms. Here’s a glimpse into the upcoming performances that promise to captivate audiences with their unique storytelling and creative prowess.

Off-Off Broadway Shows

  1. Orlando: A Rhapsody

Discover the enchanting narrative woven by Vinora Epp and Steven Epp in “Orlando: A Rhapsody.” This captivating drama, infused with elements of autobiography, feminist philosophy, movement, and music, draws inspiration from Virginia Woolf’s timeless novel “Orlando: A Biography.” Witness the transformative journey of a character spanning centuries and genders, portrayed by the talented father-daughter duo.

Experience “Orlando: A Rhapsody” from April 17 to 24 at The Tank (312 West 36th Street, New York, NY 10018). Tickets ranging from $20 to $40 are available at The Tank.  —Andrea Alton

  1. Stalker

Prepare to be spellbound by “Stalker,” an immersive blend of street magic, illusions, and mentalism crafted by Swedish magic duo Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung. Produced under the guidance of Penn & Teller and Lifeline Entertainment, this mesmerizing show promises an unforgettable journey culminating in a jaw-dropping finale.

Catch the magic starting April 1 at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street, New York, NY), with previews beginning March 18.  —Shane Marshall Brown, Jim Byk, Christian Heino

  1. Epidermis Circus

Step into the whimsical world of “Epidermis Circus,” a delightful adult puppetry cabaret created by Ingrid Hansen and Britt Small. Featuring mind-bending illusions, spicy humor, and creative vignettes crafted from household objects, this limited engagement promises a hilarious and unforgettable experience.

Don’t miss “Epidermis Circus” from March 20 to 24 at SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam St, New York, NY). –David Gibbs

  1. Five: The Parody Musical

Indulge in laughter with “Five: The Parody Musical,” a musical comedy revue poking fun at the eccentricities of Donald Trump’s life. With witty book and lyrics by Shimmy Braun, Moshiel Newman Daphna, and catchy tunes by Billy Recce, this irreverent production at Theater 555 (555 W 42nd St, NYC) promises a satirical take on Trump’s world.

Experience the hilarity through April 21, with tickets ranging from $49 to $89 and a VIP “Mar-a-lago Package” option available. –Logan Metzler

  1. Experiments in Opera: The Lives and Dreams of Nikola Tesla as summoned by the Honorable Spirits of the Grand Gotham Hotel

Join the artistic exploration of Nikola Tesla’s life and dreams in a work-in-progress opera by Phil Kline and Jim Jarmusch. Delve into this unique experience on April 15 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10128), where history and artistry converge in a captivating narrative.  —Alexandra Shapiro

  1. Bettye and the Jockettes Spinning Records at the Holiday Inn

Transport yourself to 1956 with “Bettye and the Jockettes Spinning Records at the Holiday Inn,” a comedic escapade set against the backdrop of America’s first all-girl radio station. Witness the chaos and hilarity unfold from May 3 to 18 at the Gene Frankel Theatre (24 Bond Street, New York, NY 10012).  —Andrea Alton

  1. Rubber

Delve into the challenges faced by educators in “Rubber,” a gripping drama by Vinnie Nardiello. Set in a “rubber room” where teachers await uncertain futures, this production at Theater for the New City (151 First Ave., New York, NY) explores themes of resilience and the complexities of the education system.

Experience “Rubber” from April 4 to 21, with special discounted rates available for educators. —Vinnie Nardiello

 

Be part of Off-off’s vibrant landscape!

(Gemini, Perplexity, and Chat GPT provided writing  for this article.)