Category Archives: Commentary

TRIAL OF RUSSIAN THEATER DIRECTOR ADJOURNED AFTER AMBULANCE CALLED IN COURTROOM ·

(From Radio Free Europe. Photo: Theatre director Zhenya Berkovich, left, and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk are seen in a glass cage prior to a hearing in a court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 20, 2024.(Photo | AP).)

A Moscow court adjourned to an unspecified date the trial of theater director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk, who are charged with justifying terrorism, after Berkovich felt unwell and an ambulance was called to the courtroom on June 10. The two women have maintained their innocence in the trial, which started on May 20. Berkovich and Petriichuk were arrested last year following a production of the play Finist — The Brave Falcon. The play is about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria. If convicted, the women face up to five years in prison each. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.

(Go to Radio Free Europe)

 

4 IN 1: AUDITIONS ANNOUNCED FOR 4 PRODUCTIONS, 6/15/24, NYC–INCLUDING ‘TONGS AND BONES SHAKESPEARE’ AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY (BY BOB SHUMAN, DIRECTED BY FRANK FARRELL) ·

(6/7/2024) Director Frank Farrell is announcing auditions for four productions – Saturday, June 15 from 2pm – 7pm at Houghton Hall Arts Community, 22 East 30th Street in NYC.  Actors are asked to present a one-minute memorized monologue from Shakespeare or another playwright.  Actors will be given material from the plays to read at the audition.  Email frankfarrellproductions@gmail.com to schedule an audition. Frank will get back to confirm.

The productions will be produced by three companies: the First Flight Theatre Company, Frank Farrell Productions, and Stage Voices Productions.

The Four Productions:

1. Tongs and Bones Shakespeare by Bob Shuman, directed by Frank Farrell

($50 per actor)

Stage Voices Productions, as part of the Dream Up Festival at Theater for the New City in NYC

Looking for 7 Non-Equity actors comfortable with Shakespeare text.

Rehearsals will begin on Zoom.

In Person Rehearsals in August TBD.

Four Performances TBD between August 25 – September 18

 

2. Little Women adapted and directed by Frank Farrell ($150 per actor)

First Flight Theatre Company at the Hermitage, 335 Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey

Role available: Meg

Rehearsals will begin on Zoom on July 1, 2024.

In person rehearsals at the Hermitage in New Jersey are on July 16, 17, 18, 19 from 5:30pm – 8pm.

Two Performances at the Hermitage on July 20 &; 21 with a 6pm call time for actors for 7pm Curtain.

 

3. Stories of Poe (working title) directed by Frank Farrell (100 per actor)

First Flight Theatre Company at the Hermitage, 335 Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey

Looking for 5 actors comfortable with Story Theater Format

Rehearsals will begin on Zoom.

In Person Rehearsals at the Hermitage on October 17 & 18 at 6pm, October 19 at 5:30pm

One Performance at the Hermitage on October 19 at 7pm.

 

4. Dickens Presents A Christmas Carol by Jean Oberholtzer directed by TBA

($200 per actor)

First Flight Theatre Company at the Hermitage, 335 Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey

Rehearsals will begin on Zoom.

In Person Rehearsals at the Hermitage on December 11, 12, 13 from 6:30pm –9:30pm, December 22 at 3pm

Four Performances at the Hermitage on December 14 & 21 at 7pm, December 15 & 22 at 3pm

Visit www.firstflighttheatreco.com & www.stagevoices.com

Support This Artistic Endeavor

‘TONGS AND BONES SHAKESPEARE’ AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY (BY BOB SHUMAN; DIRECTED BY FRANK FARRELL)

Stage Voices Web site (www.stagevoices.com) will be following the course of the production with information and rehearsal updates.  To bring this ambitious project to life, we are seeking the generous support of our community.  To start, we are beginning a GoFundMe campaign: Please consider donating, as the cast, in keeping with those in Shakespeare’s plays, is rather large—there are, of course, costume and rehearsal space costs, as well; a long list of expenditures.  Your contributions, no matter the size, will play a vital role in ensuring the success of this production—and we give many thanks for your help.

Please use the following GoFundMe link for the crowdsourcing platform to donate.  

Photo by Miguel Garzón Martínez presented as part of the FRIGID New York Little Shakespeare Festival.

***** ‘VIOLA’S ROOM’ REVIEW – PUNCHDRUNK’S GOTHIC TALE OF PUZZLING WONDER   ·

(Arifa Akbar’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/3; Photo: Teenage kicks … an audience member in Viola’s Room. 

Photograph: Julian Abrams.)

One Cartridge Place, London
Helena Bonham Carter narrates as a bare-footed audience explore exquisite rooms in this unsettling, grief-soaked journey into the night

The immersive adventure begins with a sleep. We are invited to lie down as the lights fade and the story begins, narrated by Helena Bonham Carter. Her voice pours into our ears through binaural headphones, sometimes velvety and playful, other times a scratching whisper.

She tells a tangled tale, written by Booker-nominated novelist Daisy Johnson and featuring the parallel lives of a modern-day teenager alongside a princess. A re-imagining of Barry Pain’s 1901 short story The Moon-Slave, it is steeped in Victorian gothic, featuring Dionysian femininity, but also a prince, a disappearance and a grief-soaked journey into the night.

There is unfinished business to the concept: the company’s first show in 2000 was an interpretation of Pain’s story, only seen by four people due to cost constraints. Two decades on, the story is squeezed into a winding series of unlit corridors through which we travel wearing our headsets, and in which the everyday intersects with the otherworldly, from the teenager’s sparkly, poster-clad bedroom to a castle’s gothic interior and glittering forests. Johnson’s parallel worlds hold shades of Narnia – we wander through children’s dens and wardrobes to find fantasy realms nestling within the quotidian.

Conceived by Punchdrunk’s Felix Barrett who co-directs with Hector Harkness, it is a darkly alluring production which plays with well-worn tropes but spins them in unfamiliar ways. “It’s all a dream, surely?” says the narrator as the tale takes strange twists and it feels like a beautiful, enveloping one that hovers delicately between bedtime story, fairytale, children’s game and nightmare.

Where The Burnt City, the company’s inaugural show in their sprawling new south-east London home, left you stranded in its depths, this is its polar opposite. It is tightly story-lined with only one way to go: towards the lights winking a path ahead of us.

 (Read more)

ELLA FITZGERALD, BOUND FOR FREEDOM, IN “ELLA THE UNGOVERNABLE” ·

LEFT: Ella Fitzgerald in 1940. Photo by Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress. RIGHT: Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb Orchestra (undated, uncredited).

Theater for the New City to present “Ella The Ungovernable,” a play by David McDonald about 15 year-old Ella Fitzgerald’s incarceration in Hudson, NY, in 1933 and the escape that launched her singing career.

Theater for the New City is set to present “Ella The Ungovernable,” a poignant play by David McDonald, from June 20 to July 7, 2024. This production reveals a little-known chapter of Ella Fitzgerald’s life: her 1933 incarceration and escape from the New York Training School for Girls in Hudson, which launched her legendary singing career. Performances will be held at 155 First Ave (at E. 10th Street) Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 3:00 PM.

McDonald, a filmmaker-turned-playwright, meticulously captures the resilience of 15-year-old Fitzgerald, who overcame significant adversity. The play stars Christian Neal as young Ella, with co-direction by McDonald and Michele Baldwin. Neal’s portrayal is complemented by Tyra Hughes as Alice, a fictional cellmate, and an ensemble cast that brings to life the harsh realities of Fitzgerald’s youth.

Rooted in extensive research, the play integrates songs like “A Tisket A Tasket,” highlighting Fitzgerald’s early musical influences. McDonald’s transition from film to theater embodies the community spirit of Theater for the New City, aiming to inspire with a message of perseverance.

For more information, visit Theater for the New City or call (212) 254-1109.

WHERE AND WHEN:

June 20 and July 7, 2024

Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave (at E. 10th Street)

Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM

$18 gen adm., $15 seniors & students

Box office: www.theaterforthenewcity.net, (212) 254-1109

Running time: 90 min.

(via Jonathan Slaff; ChatGPT)

FANGS FOR THE MEMORIES: HOW DRACULA WAS MADE IN DERBY (U.K.) ·

(Caroline Butterwick’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/3; Cape fear … Bela Lugosi in a publicity still for the 1931 film of Dracula. Photograph: Universal/Allstar.)

The iconography of modern vampires can be traced back to a 1924 English stage version of Bram Stoker’s novel. On its centenary, the suave bloodsucker is returning to where it all began

With his high-collared cape and piercing fangs, Dracula is every inch the quintessential vampire – instantly recognisable across culture. Portrayed hundreds of times in film, theatre, video games and spin-off books, the character is always evolving – an evolution that began in Derby.

When the curtain rose at Derby’s Grand theatre in May 1924, the monster of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel was transformed into an elegant figure, swooping around the stage in a long opera cloak. Written by Irish actor and playwright Hamilton Deane, the first authorised play of Dracula premiered here, and went on to shape how the character was adapted by Hollywood. “Derby is the genesis point for the visualisation of Count Dracula,” says Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker and co-author of Dracula: The Un-Dead, a sequel to Dracula.

A 14-month programme of events will mark the 100th anniversary of Dracula’s first appearance on stage, under the banner of Dracula Returns to Derby, an Art and Humanities Research Council-funded project led by the University of Derby that will celebrate and explore this legacy.

The recognition is long overdue. In 2019, Dr Matthew Cheeseman, associate professor of creative writing at the University of Derby, realised the connection while writing a preface for The Derby Critical Edition of Dracula. “It was something no one else really talked about,” says Cheeseman, who is leading the Dracula Returns to Derby project. “What Derby gave was freedom to adapt the character.”

The 1924 production took place at the Grand theatre, now an adult crazy golf venue. Adapting the novel into that first official staging came with challenges. “Number one was to get Florence Stoker – Bram’s widow – to agree,” says Dacre. Florence was in dispute over the unauthorised adaptation of Dracula into Nosferatu, FW Murnau’s celebrated 1922 silent film. “So she was under great stress,” says Dacre. “But she had some comfort because Hamilton Deane was an Irishman from the same area that Bram was from. Before the novel was published, Bram had laid the groundwork by holding a staged reading at the Lyceum theatre in London. In terms of the dramatic rights, that was writing a blank cheque and leaving it to her.”

While she won the Nosferatu case, with a court ruling that all copies of the film should be destroyed (thankfully some survived), Florence didn’t get any money, as the film’s production company was bankrupt. But winning “gave her the conviction to go to somebody and get this thing on stage”.

(Read more)

ANNOUNCING: ‘TONGS AND BONES SHAKESPEARE’ AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY (BY BOB SHUMAN; DIRECTED BY FRANK FARRELL) ·

Get ready for a theatrical experience like no other, based on characters from the plays of Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, and The Tempest)!  The highly anticipated Tongs and Bones* Shakespeare: Tempestuous Amusements, Interludes, Noises, and Drollery is coming to Theater for the New City from August 25th through September 15th (final dates are forthcoming). Written by Stage Voices’ own Bob Shuman, the play is directed by theatre veteran Frank Farrell, whose most recent show, Walt Kelly’s Songs of the Pogo, won Best Ensemble at the 2024 New York City Fringe Festival (Farrell wrote and directed that play).

Tongs and Bones Shakespeare takes audiences on a captivating journey into the world, and heart, of the Bard. It even tracks what he had no more room for in his great plays. Find out, for example:  

What became of the Little Indian Boy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

How did Jacques, in As You Like It, lose his mirth?

And why did Ariel need to be freed, even before meeting Prospero, in The Tempest?

Plus, more unexpected answers. 

Support This Artistic Endeavor

Stage Voices Web site (www.stagevoices.com) will be following the course of the production with information and rehearsal updates.  To bring this ambitious project to life, we are seeking the generous support of our community.  To start, we are beginning a GoFundMe campaign: Please consider donating, as the cast, in keeping with those in Shakespeare’s plays, is rather large—there are, of course, costume and rehearsal space costs, as well; a long list of expenditures.  Your contributions, no matter the size, will play a vital role in ensuring the success of this production—and we give many thanks for your help. Please use the following link for the crowdsourcing platform.  

Thank you, Readers.  Rejoice with our opportunity to work in Off-Off Broadway’s finest theatre.

Best,

Bob Shuman

Stage Voices

THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY

Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director

155 First Avenue
(between 9th and 10th Streets)
New York, NY 10003

* Tongs and Bones: Makeshift musical instruments, used by people on the streets or in taverns (Oxford University Press)

Photo by Miguel Garzón Martínez presented as part of the FRIGID New York Little Shakespeare Festival.

EXIT, PURSUED BY A PANDA: THE BRITS BRINGING EYE-POPPING SHAKESPEARE TO THE BALTICS ·

(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/27; Photo: Not your traditional Shakespeare … Winter’s Tale at Dailes theatre. Latvia. Photograph: Marcis Baltskars.)

The Winter’s Tale is retold with a virtual reality plot set in Silicon Valley and hardly any lines from the original, staged at a bold Latvian theatre elevating English talent

John Malkovich is directing Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, there are dramas by Dennis Kelly and Duncan Macmillan, Sarah Ruhl adapts Eurydice, and The Play That Goes Wrong is packed to the rafters. You might well be surveying London-wide theatre listings but this is the singular programme at Dailes theatre in Riga, Latvia’s capital where, alongside some American heavyweights, British talents are at the forefront this season.

Among them are writer-director Jeff James and designer Rosanna Vize with an eye-popping version of The Winter’s Tale, commissioned by Dailes’s artistic director, Viesturs Kairišs. It opens with Hermione pleasuring herself to VR porn, reimagines Bohemia as a deadly video game and turns theatre’s most famous stage direction into the supporting character of a hot-headed panda.

Time’s “swift passage” speech, fast-forwarding 16 years in the plot, is just about all that remains from the original text, although Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds”) is shrewdly added and complemented by a scene featuring Leonard Cohen’s Treaty (“I wish there was a treaty / between your love and mine”). It ends with a full ensemble jig to Beyoncé’s Texas Hold ’Em. Did I mention the nuptials are officiated by a banana avatar?

 “What I am doing would be illegal in the UK,” says James with a laugh, a couple of hours before the show’s premiere on a sweltering May evening. Completely rewriting Shakespeare could well be met with frosty suspicion at home. Never mind setting half the play inside a video game filmed with characters wearing “beautiful, insane, faux heads” and shown on a huge screen which mostly obscures the stage actors who stomp around behind, their oversized red boots poking out underneath.

“These are quite obviously distancing effects,” he deadpans. “But I would say that even these effects in combination are not as distancing as performing The Winter’s Tale in the original Shakespearean verse. I think that is the ultimate alienation effect. To take the story and structure of the play and find a kind of contemporary language and world for it, makes the play – I hope – much more immediate to an audience today.” It is an often daft yet clever and ultimately moving evening, which knowingly toys with the risible elements of the original play yet honours its delicate blend of hope and regret.

Vize has designed an office playground in pink and yellow to suit this play about injured innocence and a childish tyrant. The Silicon Valley company AppZapp is ruled by billionaire boss Leo (the Leontes role) who has built a Bohemia metaverse, where baby Rose will be spirited away. Everyone is in disguise in Shakespeare’s Bohemia, James points out. “I thought: where do people go today and appear to be someone they are not? The internet.”

The trial runs for Leo’s game have led to the deaths of several players, ratcheting up his trepidation and helping to explain his suspicion that Hermione is having an affair – something directors often have to work hard to establish. James, who happened to be expecting a second child with his partner while writing the script, was interested less in Leontes’s sexual jealousy than in the character’s anxiety about having another child. “I thought, is there a story here of birth trauma and postnatal depression, and a really complex shared experience that Hermione and Leontes had?” It is this fear that ultimately leads Leo to accuse Hermione of infidelity. “If you’ve got someone who is shaping the whole world through their technologies, and has staggering wealth, what could a man like that do if he had this mistaken idea?”

(Read more)

 

CASTING CALL – SHAKESPEARE CHARACTERS PLAY ·

Seeking: Non-union male actors, of any race, aged 45-60 for a play about Shakespeare characters. Experience with Shakespeare plays is helpful but not required.

Production:

Play to be performed at Theater for the New City in late August through early September 2024

Produced by Stage Voices Productions

Please email electronic headshot photo and acting resume, including your e-mail address, to Bob Shuman at Bobjshuman@gmail.com

Actors from the Riverdale section of the Bronx are preferred, and general area, or those able to travel there for auditions

Actors need present a memorized 1-minute Shakespeare monologue at the audition

Specific audition dates and location to be announced  

About the Play:
This new play explores the lives and personalities of various characters in Shakespeare. It blends drama, comedy, and fantasy as these characters interact in unexpected ways. Strong acting skills and the ability to handle and memorize Shakespearean language is a must.

Audition Notice Expiration: June 30, 2024

Please share this notice with any interested actors meeting the age range and requirements. We look forward to receiving your submissions!

NEED PROOF WHO WROTE SHAKESPEARE’S PLAYS? SEE THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/20.  Photo Lucy Tregear as Meg Page, Richard Cordery as Sir John Falstaff and Claire Carrie as Alice Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Old Vic, London, in 2003. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)

Set for revival at the RSC, this perfectly structured revenge comedy has an earthy vitality that no aristo or scholar could have created

I have a question for those theatrical luminaries (and I’m looking at you Sir Mark and Sir Derek) who doubt the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. Do they seriously believe that a capricious aristo such as the Earl of Oxford or a legalistic scholar like Francis Bacon could have written The Merry Wives of Windsor? In case they have forgotten, this brilliant comedy – about to be revived by the RSC – shows the middle classes getting their revenge on a knightly predator, Sir John Falstaff. It could only have been written by someone who understood the intricacies of a close-knit, provincial community.

What strikes me about the play is its quintessential Englishness, and you see this in myriad ways. One is in the earthy vitality of the language. There is a classic example when Anne Page, offered the prospect of marriage to a preposterous Frenchman, says: “Alas, I had rather be set quick i’th’earth / And bowled to death with turnips.” It is an extraordinarily vivid image and one of the play’s rare excursions into verse: 90% of it is in prose. But the language throughout has a localised vigour that stems from a writer steeped in English life. At one point Mistress Ford urges her servants to take the buck-basket containing Falstaff and “carry it among the whisters in Datchet Mead.” The “whisters” were the bleachers of linen who could be seen by any English river bank including the Avon.

That Englishness also takes the form of running gags at the expense of language-mangling foreigners: something today we may find mildly offensive but, if we are honest, a constant strain in English stage, film and TV comedy. In The Merry Wives, Dr Caius is the archetypal funny Frenchman who, invited to join a small, select twosome, blithely announces: “I shall make-a the turd.” Shakespeare, who had a fascination with the Welsh – think of Fluellen and Owen Glendower – here creates a voluble parson, Sir Hugh Evans, finally dismissed by Falstaff as “one that makes fritters of English”. A reminder that even today we use the language as a test of assimilation.

But how to represent this Englishness on stage? Broadly, there are two approaches. One is to treat the play as a realistic slice of Elizabethan life: the other is to find modern equivalents. Terry Hands – who deserves credit for putting the play back on the map and who directed it for the RSC in 1968 and 1975 and at the National in 1995 – and Trevor Nunn who directed it for the RSC in 1979 were both slice-of-life men. From Nunn’s production I remember half-timbered houses, mullioned windows and choirboys playing conkers. But both directors realised that it is the jealous bourgeois, Ford, who drives the play as much as Falstaff. In Hands’s RSC productions Ian Richardson displayed a sustained frenzy that made the jealousy of Othello and Leontes look like very small beer. In Nunn’s version Ben Kingsley exuded a wheezy jollity in the scenes where he accosts Falstaff in disguise, only to let out a manic scream of rage the second the fat knight left the room.

(Read more)

TAKE ME TO THE CIRCUS: THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY’S OFFBEAT DOUBLE BILL– “PARTY CLOWN OF THE RICH & FAMOUS AND THE HUNGRY MIND BUFFET” ·

“PARTY CLOWN OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS,” written & performed by Stan Baker. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The first act, at Theater for the New City, features Stan Baker, a man with a treasure trove of tales from the fringes of fame. Baker’s one-man show, “Party Clown of the Rich & Famous,” delves into his 1980s stint entertaining the city’s elite. Imagine, if you dare, rubbing elbows with Salvador Dali, swapping jokes with Bob Hope, or perhaps even encountering a pre-presidential Donald Trump dispensing dubious financial advice. Baker promises a hilarious, and likely cautionary, tale of the allure and emptiness of easy money amidst the excesses of the privileged few.

Act Two, “The Hungry Mind Buffet,” is a thought-provoking smorgasbord of short plays by a quirky ensemble. Playwright Peter Dizozza takes a comedic operatic swipe at Dante’s Inferno, while Richard West offers a man’s pointed, and no doubt humorous, conversation with a possibly exasperated God. Georgia James explores the darker side of indulgence through a woman whose weapon of choice is a decadent dessert. Finally, Lissa Moira, the production’s director and a known champion of the avant-garde, delivers a stark but powerful commentary on war with “The Colonel and the Woman Take Tea in the Rubble.”

L-R: Violinist Susan Mitchell, Mia Sasson as the food-loving Woman, Alisa Ermolaev as the waitress in “YUM” by Georgia James, directed by Lissa Moira. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Moira, whose eclectic sensibilities have long graced the downtown theater scene, promises a production that’s both entertaining and intellectually stimulating. Think a theatrical amuse-bouche followed by a philosophical espresso. Those seeking a theatrical adventure, which lingers long after the curtain falls, need apply.

Theater for the New City presents

“Party Clown of the Rich & Famous and The Hungry Mind Buffet,” an evening of cuckoo playlets on subjects from celebrities to the celestial.

Program includes works by Stan Baker, Peter Dizzoza, Richard West, Georgia James and Lissa Moira, all directed by Lissa Moira.

May 30 to June 16, 2024

Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave.

Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM

$18 general admission; $15 students & seniors

Box office www.theaterforthenewcity.net, (212) 254-1109

runs 2:05 with intermission

Press: Jonathan Slaff