Category Archives: Commentary


(Mark Fisher’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/14.)

 The Hub, Edinburgh
Liz Lochhead’s Scots verse spits wit and venom as male power meets female determination with operatic intensity, in this National Theatre of Scotland staging

Unerring … Adura Onashile as Medea with the chorus. Photograph: Jessica Shurte

Everybody is larger than life in Michael Boyd’s tremendous staging of Liz Lochhead’s play, still queasily contentious 2,500 years after the Euripides original. In one sense, this is literally the case. Tom Piper’s set is a catwalk that overshadows the audience as we stand like a mob gathered to witness an execution. Dissecting the main hall of the Hub, it compels us to look up at the actors, making us more like acolytes than equals.

Even the 10-strong female chorus has a grandeur. They emerge from within the crowd – a nice democratic touch – but when they climb on to the stage, talking as one, they too stand above us.

But, more than that, the protagonists in this bloody family battle are metaphorically large. No more so than Adura Onashile’s formidable Medea who, having been given a slow build-up in Lochhead’s rich and spiky version from 2000, emerges from a door in a rusting metal wall with an awesome authority. She achieves it not through grandstanding or histrionics, but an unerring air of certainty.

She seems to taste Lochhead’s poetry in her mouth, relishing each word, be it the grand statements of intent or the funny shifts in tone to sarcasm or deadpan wit. You can see why the locals regard her as an outsider, yet this is a woman who would stand out in any company.

(Read more)


(Sarah Bahr’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/12; via Pam Green.)

The group recently arrived in New York to perform “Mom on Skype,” first staged in April in Lviv, at the Irondale Center this weekend.

In a converted Sunday school space in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn on Monday, eight children, who recently arrived from Ukraine, gathered on a pair of risers and broke into song.

Hanna Oneshchak, 12, on the accordion, accompanied the other seven as they sang a Ukrainian folk song, “Ta nema toho Mykyty,” about a man who decides to leave the country to seek better work, but then looks to the mountains and, struck by their beauty, changes his mind.

“Whatever the grief we have,” they sang in Ukrainian, “I won’t go to the American land.”

“We share our emotions with Americans,” Anastasiia Mysiuha, 14, said in English. And, she said, she hopes that audience members will “better understand what’s happening in Ukraine.”

The show, which will be performed in Ukrainian with English subtitles, is a series of seven monologues about family separation told from the perspective of children. Written by contemporary writers from Lviv, the true stories were inspired by the mass exodus from Ukraine in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union. At that time, many men and women went to other countries to work so they could provide for their families back home.

“Mom on Skype” was first staged in a warehouse-turned-bomb shelter in Lviv, in western Ukraine, in April, just two months after the Russian invasion began. There it was directed by an arts teacher turned active-duty Ukrainian soldier, Oleg Oneshchak, who is the father of two of the children in the play: Hanna and Oleksii, 7. It was one of the few cultural events to take place in Ukraine at that time.

“Lots of people were crying when we did it in Ukraine,” said Khrystyna Hniedko, 14, one of the performers.

Now, the children, ages 7 to 14, are performing for audiences in Brooklyn this weekend.

The idea for the visit came about when Jim Niesen, artistic director of the Irondale Center, the home of the nonprofit Irondale Ensemble Project theater company, saw a photo essay in The New York Times in late April about the performance in Ukraine.

“I was so inspired by them,” Niesen said in an interview at the theater this week. “There was this horrific war going on, and here they were, doing a play.”

He and the theater’s executive director, Terry Greiss, tracked down Oneshchak on Facebook Messenger and proposed an idea: Would he and the children consider bringing the show to BrooklynImage

(Read more)


(Catherine Shoard’s article appear appeared in the Guardian, 8/9, via Pam Green.)

The BBC kids’ channel is known for its wit, invention and credo of inclusivity – but can its take on As You Like It captivate children? Just throw in a property developer baddie and some non-binary casting …


Steven Kynman leans forward to show me his arm. “Look! All the hairs standing up! And that’s just from thinking about being on stage at the Globe.” Yesterday, when he actually rehearsed there, “I swear to God, those hairs didn’t go down the whole time.”

He leans back. He’s just had Covid, he says, still feels a bit emotional. His eyes shine. “I believe in the spirit of spaces. The wood is from Shakespeare’s time. It’s like a musical instrument; like standing in the middle of a guitar. I have never in my life felt more giddy about working somewhere.”

Kynman is 46 and looks on the anonymous end of a young Derek Jacobi. He’s not much recognised. Working recently with a famous actor, Kynman mentioned that he knew Justin Fletcher, the CBeebies star who has popularised Makaton, a sign language for children with special needs.

The actor began to cry. “He said, ‘Can you please tell Justin I learned to communicate with my son because of him?’” Then he asked Kynman what he did. “I said: ‘Oh, I’m Robert the Robot.’ He just repeated ‘Oh my God’ for about 30 seconds and then said: ‘I have to call my wife.’”

(Read more)


(Laura Studarus’s article appeared on BBC 4, 8/9.)

Once a decade, ever since 1634, German village Oberammergau has staged a remarkable, epic play about Jesus Christ involving thousands of residents. Laura Studarus gets a front-row view.

 Visiting Oberammergau, a small village located in Germany’s Bavarian Alps, feels like stepping into a Disney film. From the rolling mountains that frame the village, to the wooden houses covered with swirling folk art paintings and carvings – a practice that dates back to the 16th Century there – the words “quaint”, “cute” and “postcard-worthy” come easily. It doesn’t even seem outrageous that the area has its own wine and cheese vending machine… because why wouldn’t they encourage visitors to enjoy this setting as much as possible?

Located near the centre of the village is St Peter und Paul, a baroque Catholic church. It was here, in 1634, in the Rococo-style church, that the villagers first made a historic pledge. In a turn of events that feel eerily resonant now, the black plague had come to the village and decimated almost 20% of the population in only a few months. In an attempt to turn the tide, the residents promised that they would perform a passion play – aka a dramatic retelling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – once every 10 years, if God spared the rest of the city. The first productions were performed in the church graveyard, just above the bodies of those taken by the disease, and – as the story goes – no one else died. 

Since those first performances, plenty of events have conspired to stop the plays, which are typically performed at the beginning of every decade, including the Franco-Prussian War, the Spanish Flu – and yes, Covid-19, with the 2020 production postponed until this year, when it is running as usual from May to October. Historically, it’s experienced mixed support: in 1770 the Duke of Bavaria Maximilian III Joseph tried to ban it, claiming “the theatre stage is no place for the greatest secret of our holy religion”. However, in 1900, entrepreneur Thomas Cook found such a value in the performance, he compelled the city to build a 4,400-seat theatre so that he could sell foreign audiences on the idea of seeing a five-hour play (with an additional three-hour dinner break) in a language they didn’t speak, a move that effectively introduced tourism to the region.

A group effort

Now in its 388th year, the passion play influences nearly every aspect of the life in the village. Nearly 2,000 of the Oberammergau’s 5,000 residents take part both in front and behind the stage. Main actors commit to taking almost a year off work for rehearsals, a group trip to Israel, and the six-month play performance schedule. And every man commits to growing out his hair for the year leading up to the show, and keeps his shaggy do until it’s cut during the wrap party. (Their hair is later displayed in ropes in the Oberammergau Museum, a building covered in blue denim costumes from 2000 and 2010 Passion Plays.)

As Frederik Mayet, one of the two actors alternating in the role of Jesus this year, says, all group sacrifices are in service of what they see as the greater good. They’ve been literally training for this their entire lives.

(Read more)



(via BBB, Adrian Bryan-Brown / Michelle Farabaugh / Angela Yamarone )



Sir Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece. GO!”

The Independent


Stoppard’s 19th Production on Broadway,

Begins Rehearsals

Full Casting Announced

Previews Begin Wednesday, September 14

Opening Sunday, October 2

In a Limited Engagement at the Longacre Theatre


Broadway rehearsals have begun for Leopoldstadt, Tom Stoppard’s Olivier Award-winning Best New Play, directed by two-time Tony Award nominee Patrick Marber and produced by Sonia Friedman ProductionsRoy Furman, and Lorne Michaels.


Leopoldstadt’s full 38-member company, which includes several members of the original West End company and 24 actors making their Broadway debuts, will feature Jesse Aaronson* (The Play That Goes Wrong off-Broadway), Betsy Aidem (Prayer for the French Republic), Jenna Augen* (Leopoldstadt in the West End), Japhet Balaban* (The Thing About Harry on Freeform), Corey Brill (“The Walking Dead,” Gore Vidal’s The Best Man), Daniel Cantor* (Tuesdays with Morrie off-Broadway), Faye Castelow* (Leopoldstadt in the West End), Erica Dasher* (“Jane By Design”), Eden Epstein* (“Sweetbitter” on Starz, “See” on Apple TV+), Gina Ferrall (Big RiverA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), Arty Froushan* (Leopoldstadt in the West End), Charlotte Graham* (The Tempest at A.R.T.), Matt Harrington (Matilda The Musical), Jacqueline Jarrold (The Cherry Orchard), Sarah Killough (Travesties), David Krumholtz (“Numb3rs,” Oppenheimer), Caissie Levy (The BedwetterCaroline, or Change), Colleen Litchfield* (“The Crowded Room” on Apple TV+), Tedra Millan (Present LaughterThe Wolves), Aaron Neil* (Leopoldstadt in the West End), Theatre World Award winner Seth Numrich (TravestiesWar Horse), Anthony Rosenthal (Falsettos), Chris Stevens*, Sara Topham (Travesties), three-time Tony Award nominee Brandon Uranowitz (Assassins, FalsettosBurn This), Dylan S. Wallach (Betrayal), Reese Bogin*, Max Ryan Burach*Calvin James Davis*, Michael Deaner*, Romy Fay* (“Best Foot Forward” on Apple TV+), Pearl Scarlett Gold*, Jaxon Cain Grundleger*, Wesley Holloway*, Ava Michele Hyl*, Joshua Satine*, Aaron Shuf*, and Drew Ryan Squire*.


* indicates an actor making their Broadway debut.


Leopoldstadt’s limited Broadway engagement begins previews Wednesday, September 14 ahead of a Sunday, October 2 opening night at the Longacre Theatre (220 West 48th Street).


Perhaps the most personal play of Stoppard’s unmatched career, Leopoldstadt opened in London’s West End to rave critical acclaim on January 25, 2020. A planned extension due to overwhelming demand was curtailed due to the COVID-19 lockdown seven weeks later. In late 2021, the play returned for a further 12-week engagement. Both runs completely sold out and Leopoldstadt received the Olivier Award for Best New Play in October 2020.


Leopoldstadt will mark Tom Stoppard’s 19th play on Broadway since his groundbreaking Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead opened 55 years ago. Stoppard has won four Best Play Tony Awards, more than any other playwright in history.


Set in Vienna, Leopoldstadt takes its title from the Jewish quarter. This passionate drama of love and endurance begins in the last days of 1899 and follows one extended family deep into the heart of the 20th Century. Full of his customary wit and beauty, Tom Stoppard’s late work spans fifty years of time over two hours. The Financial Times said, “This is a momentous new play. Tom Stoppard has reached back into his own family history to craft a work that is both epic and intimate; that is profoundly personal, but which concerns us all.” With a cast of 38 and direction by Patrick MarberLeopoldstadt is a “magnificent masterpiece” (The Independent) that must not be missed.

Leopoldstadt’s creative team includes scenic design by Tony Award winner Richard Hudson (The Lion KingLa Bête), costume design by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, lighting design by three-time Tony Award winner Neil Austin (Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildCompanyTravesties), sound and original music by Tony Award winner Adam Cork (RedTravesties), video design by Isaac Madge, movement by Emily Jane Boyle, and hair, wig & makeup design by Campbell Young & Associates. Casting is by Jim Carnahan and Maureen Kelleher, and UK casting is by Amy Ball CDG.

Co-producers of Leopoldstadt include Stephanie P. McClelland, Gavin Kalin, Delman Sloan, Brad Edgerton, Eilene Davidson, Patrick Gracey, Burnt Umber Productions, Cue to Cue Productions, No Guarantees, Robert Nederlander, Jr., Thomas S. Perakos, Sanford Robertson, Iris Smith, The Factor Gavin Partnership, Jamie deRoy / Catherine Adler, Dodge Hall Productions / Waverly Productions, Ricardo Hornos / Robert Tichio, Heni Koenigsberg / Wendy Federman, Brian Spector / Judith Seinfeld, and Richard Winkler / Alan Shorr.


Tickets are on sale online at or by phone at 212-239-6200.


For 10+ Group Sales information contact Broadway Inbound at or call 866-302-0995.

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(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/3/22.)

A veteran actor, he was also a founder of Theater for the New City and Theater Three Collaborative, Manhattan groups known for experimental productions.

George Bartenieff, an actor and producer who was a significant figure in the Off Off Broadway and experimental theater world as a founder of two theater groups, died on Saturday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 89.

His wife, the playwright Karen Malpede, said the cause was the cumulative effects of several advanced illnesses.

Mr. Bartenieff had credentials that might have led to a mainstream acting career. He was on Broadway before he was 15 and in the 1960s appeared there in plays by Edward Albee and John Guare. His smattering of film and television credits suggest that he could have made a character-actor’s career just out of playing a judge or a doctor on series like “Law & Order.”

But he much preferred to be involved in the kinds of socially conscious, form-bending plays staged in downtown Manhattan and, sometimes, out on the street.

When Judith Malina and Julian Beck of the Living Theater, the avant-garde repertory company they founded in the 1940s, presented Kenneth H. Brown’s scalding play about a Marine prison, “The Brig,” in 1963, Mr. Bartenieff was in the cast. He appeared in productions of the Judson Poets’ Theater, an experimental group in the same period. Later in the 1960s he worked with the director Andre Gregory at the Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia. After he returned to New York, he and his wife at the time, Crystal Field, founded Theater for the New City in 1971.

That group has been presenting adventurous theatrical works, many on social and political themes, ever since. After a divorce from Ms. Field, Mr. Bartenieff married Ms. Malpede in 1995, the year they and Lee Nagrin founded Theater Three Collective. It, too, has presented numerous plays since, many of them avant-garde, socially conscious works by Ms. Malpede, with Mr. Bartenieff in the casts.

Continue reading the main story



(Peter Marks’s article appeared in The Washington Post, 8/5; via msn and the Drudge Report.)

It started with a photo album, submitted over the transom to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, and an archivist who grasped its extraordinary historical value. In the customary story arc of such finds, the photos — of Nazi officers, their families and colleagues wining and dining and relaxing in the sun at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and killing center — would have been authenticated and put in the collection, for inspection by scholars and museumgoers.

This astonishing album, however, was also destined for the stage.

News of the photographs, acquired in 2006 by the museum and archivist Rebecca Erbelding from a retired counterintelligence officer in Virginia, came to the attention of Moisés Kaufman, an American stage director and son of Holocaust survivors who had immigrated to Venezuela. With longtime colleague Amanda Gronich at Kaufman’s Tectonic Theater Project — creators of “The Laramie Project” — he set about reframing the story behind the photos as dramatic art.

The result is the play “Here There Are Blueberries,” having its world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse in Southern California through Aug. 21, with New York-based Tectonic’s sights set on a East Coast debut. The 90-minute play, directed by Kaufman, features eight actors in multiple roles and, centrally, Elizabeth Stahlmann as Erbelding.

“You know, I’m not used to being a protagonist,” Erbelding said in a recent Zoom interview. “So, talking about how the Rebecca character changes became a very newsstrange, out-of-body thing.”

Imagining how 116 snapshots could be the source for anything more dynamic than an elaborate PowerPoint presentation was the challenge facing Kaufman and Gronich when they embarked on the project several years ago.

“I never thought I would write a play about [the Holocaust],” Kaufman said, adding that his Romanian-born father spent the war hiding in a basement, and sought refuge in Venezuela afterward, in an era when the United States put curbs on Jewish immigration.

It is in fact a historical event about which the most has been written in the history of literature,” Kaufman said. “So the idea of doing something about it seemed redundant. But then I was shown those photographs, and something really struck a chord. These people sunbathing next to a concentration camp, or eating blueberries. I felt that this is a discourse that has not really been addressed. How do you eat blueberries and celebrate next to a concentration camp?”)

(Read more)


The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski: 

Our art teaches us first of all to create consciously and rightly, because that will best prepare the way for the blossoming of the subconscious, which is inspiration.  The more you have of conscious creative moments in your role the more chance you will have of a flow of inspiration. (AP) 



Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Euripides’ great tragedy, which was first performed in Athens in 405 BC when the Athenians were on the point of defeat and humiliation in a long war with Sparta. The action seen or described on stage was brutal: Pentheus, king of Thebes, is torn into pieces by his mother in a Bacchic frenzy and his grandparents condemned to crawl away as snakes. All this happened because Pentheus had denied the divinity of his cousin Dionysus, known to the audience as god of wine, theatre, fertility and religious ecstasy. The image above is a detail of a Red-Figure Cup showing the death of Pentheus (exterior) and a Maenad (interior), painted c. 480 BC by the Douris painter. This object can be found at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. With Edith Hall Professor of Classics at King’s College London Emily Wilson Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania And Rosie Wyles Lecturer in Classical History and Literature at the University of Kent Producer: Simon Tillotson