Category Archives: Current Affairs

RICHARD EYRE:  THE PLAY THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: ‘COMEDIANS GOT ME THE JOB RUNNING THE NATIONAL THEATRE’ ·

(Eyre’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/17; as told to Lindesay Irvine. Photo: Jimmy Jewel, Dave Hill and Jonathan Pryce in Comedians at the National Theatre in 1975. Photograph: Donald Cooper/Alamy)

Our series on theatrical discoveries continues with Trevor Griffiths’ incandescent examination of laughter and prejudice, remembered by the director who first put it on

I very nearly lost my job in advance over Comedians. Apart from that, it led me to work with a group of actors who then went on to be astonishingly well-known – Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Rea, Tom Wilkinson. It was transformative for all of us. And it had one catalytic accident that got me the job of artistic director of the National Theatre.

I was 30 and running Nottingham Playhouse. In those days, I had a sort of kamikaze poicy. I thought if a writer would commit to writing a play, then I announced it was going to be done. The writer would be forced to walk the gangplank.

I’d met Trevor Griffiths a couple of years earlier in Edinburgh and asked him, are you going to write a play? He said: “I’ve got this idea about an evening class for club comedians.” Once you write it, what’s it called? “Comedians.” About a year later, he delivered the play.

The first act is in a classroom. Six would-be comedians are being taught, by an old pro, the difference between good and bad comedy; bad in the sense of belittling races or classes or sexes. Underpinning it was a sense of, are you trying to achieve some sort of social justice through your comedy? Or are you simply looking for a fast buck?

The second act is the club acts performed live. So you watch through the lens of what you’ve learned in the first act, only to find yourself laughing at these sort of Bernard Manning-style jokes told by a couple of comedians who have decided to completely ignore the advice of the teacher.

It forced you to examine the mechanism of laughter and your own prejudices. And then the last act was done by Jonathan Pryce as an almost sociopathic revolutionary who just took it out on the audience and wasn’t really funny.

I had told the board that this was a play we were going to do. And they read it and said: “You can’t do this.” Partly because of the politics and partly because there were a sprinkling of swear words. Very demure by today’s standards. I said if it fails, I’m out.

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CARYL CHURCHILL: ‘LOVE AND INFORMATION’ (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO DRAMA ON 3) ·

Love and Information

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Drama on 3

The first audio production of Caryl Churchill’s insightful drama about human relationships in the post-information age.

Love and Information is a vivid mosaic of contemporary consciousness. In a series of fascinating vignettes, characters withhold, extract and disclose information; they believe things that aren’t true and disbelieve things that are true; they interpret and misinterpret; they go to great lengths to discover pointless things; they regret a lack of connectivity. The scenes consider the relationship between knowledge and faith and between feeling and knowing; how memory works and whether it’s always better to know.

A company of ten stage and screen actors play over a hundred characters in over fifty scenes. They are: Michelle Austin, Josh Barrow, Rosie Cavaliero, Kathleen Cranham, Emma Fielding, Karl Johnson, Joel MacCormack, Sam Swann, Danielle Vitalis and Alan Williams. Multi-award-winning sound designer Jon Nicholls creates a whole soundscape for each tiny drama and artfully weaves them together.

Playwright: Caryl Churchill
Director: Mary Peate
Composer and Sound Designer: Jon Nicholls
‘Du bist die Ruh’ singer: Helen Wright
‘Du bist die Ruh’ pianist: John Wright
Producer: Jessica Dromgoole

Love and Information is made for BBC Radio 3 by Hooley Productions Limited.

Caryl Churchill
One of Britain’s greatest playwrights, Caryl Churchill has influenced dramatists across the world throughout her sixty-year career. She continues to innovate, inventing new theatrical forms with each new play. As Andrew Dickson puts it in the New Yorker, ‘she has continued to speak powerfully to the present moment.

‘LITTLE WOMEN’ AT THE HERMITAGE MUSEUM, HO-HO-KUS, N.J.: THE PLAY, SATURDAY & SUNDAY, JULY 20TH & 21ST, 2024 7PM ·

Visit The Hermitage

Directions to The Hermitage

335 North Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ 07423

From Rt. 17: Take the Hollywood Avenue exit. Bear left after exiting, following signs for The Hermitage Museum. Follow Hollywood Avenue west to N. Franklin Turnpike. Turn right onto N. Franklin Turnpike. The Hermitage will be on the left.

From the Garden State Parkway: Take exit 165, go west 1/3 mile on Ridgewood Ave. to Route 17 North on right. Follow the directions above.

From New Jersey Turnpike:Take exit 16W to Route 3 West, exit at Route 17 North and follow directions for Route 17.

From Route 287: Merge onto Route 208 South, take exit on Ewing Avenue and turn left onto Route 502 E. Follow Route 502 E. right at the traffic light (Franklin Avenue). Franklin Avenue becomes Wyckoff Avenue. Turn right onto Franklin Turnpike in Waldwick. The Hermitage is on your right.

From New York City: Take the George Washington Bridge to Route 4 West to Route 17 North, follow directions for Route 17.

Revolution, Ghosts & More!

The Hermitage is one of America’s outstanding examples of the romantic Gothic Revival architecture. Take a step back in time and learn about the important role the women and men of the Hermitage played throughout history, from the American Revolution to the preservation of this National Historic Landmark! We hope to see you soon!

Address: 335 North Franklin Turnpike
Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey 07423

Phone: 201.445.8311, ext. 102
Email:  info@thehermitage.org

Business Hours:
Tuesday-Friday 10 am to 4 pm

Saturday-Sunday 12 pm to 4 pm

Tours:
Friday-Sunday – 1:15 pm, 2:15 pm, and 3:15 pm

Admission:
Adults $10, Children 10 and under $5.

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH/ ‘THIS GHOST OF SLAVERY’: A SOLO READING ·

(Premiered Jul 8, 2024; Illustration: The Atlantic)

Anna Deavere Smith

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Award-winning actress, playwright, and professor Anna Deavere Smith explores performance as a way of knowing in this four-part series. Since 1980, Smith has been interviewing Americans through her project “On the Road: A Search for American Character,” which she developed into a new form of theater. Delivered with segments of performance, these lectures examine this material collected over the course of Smith’s career: https://www.nga.gov/research/casva/me… Lecture 1 of 4: “On the Road: A Search for American Character”    • On the Road: A Search for American Ch…   Lecture 2 of 4:

“This Ghost of Slavery: A Solo Reading” Smith conducts a solo reading from her newest play “This Ghost of Slavery,” published in The Atlantic (December 2023).    • This Ghost of Slavery: A Solo Reading   Lecture 3 of 4: “Let Me Down Easy: On the Vulnerability of Our Bodies / The Resilience of Our Spirits” Featuring photographs by Diana Walker.    • Let Me Down Easy: On the Vulnerabilit…   Lecture 4 of 4: “Me: Shot Out of a Moving Canon—Black, Female, and the 1970s”    • Me: Shot Out of a Moving Canon—Black,…   The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts is the longest-running lecture series at the National Gallery of Art. Past lecturers have included art historians, artists, poets, and musicologists: https://www.nga.gov/research/casva/me… Still haven’t subscribed to our YouTube channels? National Gallery of Art ►►   / nationalgalleryofartus   National Gallery of Art Talks ►►   / nationalgalleryofarttalks  

ABOUT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART The National Gallery of Art serves the nation by welcoming all people to explore and experience art, creativity, and our shared humanity. More National Gallery of Art Content: Facebook:   / nationalgalleryofart   Twitter:   / ngadc   Instagram:   / ngadc   Pinterest:   / _created   E-News: https://nga.us4.list-manage.com/subsc

HOMEGROWN SHAKESPEARE: ‘A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM’ (RIVER’S EDGE THEATRE CO, NY) ·

HOMEGROWN SHAKESPEARE:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Directed by Jessica Irons

Shakespeare never looked so sustainable! Earth conscious actors are assigned their roles 30 days before the performance. Forbidden to rehearse with one another, each actor must craft their own character, costume, and props in the privacy of their own home with sustainability in mind. Nothing can be purchased. Use of recycled materials is encouraged. Coming together for the first time on the weekend of the show, these actors perform onstage in front of a live audience. NO HOLDS BARD! Recommended for ages 8 and up.

July 20th at 4pm and 7pm

July 21st at 4 and 7pm

Bethany Arts Community, Ossining (INDOORS)

Tickets: $20 seniors and students/$25  general admission

10% of Ticket sales go to Groundwork Hudson Valley. a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating sustainable environmental change in urban neighborhoods through community based partnerships.

​This project is made possible with funds from Arts Alive, a regrant program of ArtsWestchester with support from the Office of the Governor, the New York State Legislature, and the New York State Council on the arts.

TICKETS HERE.

PEEK-A-BOO

(an immersive theatrical romp)

By Meghan Covington

Welcome, guys and gals, to the 1920s in Tarrytown, NY. You are invited to the Peek-a-boo flats, a paltry little club nestled on the banks of the Hudson. Here you may imbibe the potions, delight in the dancers, and let your senses run wild, but try not to get too spellbound. Once you walk in you might never find your way out again. Spooky local history and immersive theatre unite in this torrid tale of love and longing on the Hudson River. Mature audiences only.

Oct 17-20th and 24-27, 7:30pm

Bethany Arts Community, Ossining

Tickets: $30 seniors and students/ $35 general admission

Tickets on sale soon!

RUSSIA AIMING TO DESTROY UKRAINE’S CULTURAL IDENTITY ·

(Jason Jay Smart’s article appeared in the Kyiv Post, 7/7.)

Incredibly, due to years of Russian occupation, many Ukrainian soldiers do not recognize some of the “classic” Ukrainian songs that Benny Stewart sings for them when visiting the front. However, Stewart keeps performing with the certainty that more Ukrainian folk culture is a healthy respite and from the war they fighting and uplifting. What adds a degree of uniqueness to Stewart’s passionate support for Ukraine’s language, folk culture, and music is that he himself is an outlier: Stewart is not Ukrainian. He is an American without any Ukrainian roots.

Nonetheless, Stewart is a convinced and tireless evangelist of Ukraine’s traditions.

In the eyes of Stewart and much of the outside world, Ukrainians are fighting and dying to preserve the territory and border they acquired legally i in 1991. But for those on the ground, the war is not only about territory and sovereignty.  It’s also a war really a war in defense of national  identity – culture, language and history, things that Russian imperialists in whatever political shape have been trying to destroy for centuries.

Benya has visited the frontline five times with the Ukrainian organization UA Firstaid to deliver medical supplies and to perform and spend time with beleaguered troops. He co-founded the “From Ohio With Love” campaign which raised over $100,000 for humanitarian aid in the first year of the invasion. He has taught folk singing and performed all over Ukraine, most recently organizing a “de-occupation tour” of cities and towns in the Kharkiv region which endured Russian occupation.

(Visit)

 

O, CANADA! THE BARD IS RIBBED AND REVERED AT ONTARIO’S STRATFORD FESTIVAL ·

(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/28; Photo: God, I hate Shakespeare … Mark Uhre as Nick Bottom in Something Rotten! Photograph: Ann Baggley.)

The side-splitting Something Rotten! fondly mocks Shakespeare and musicals at the annual arts jamboree celebrated for both. It is a witty accompaniment to fresh takes on Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and Cymbeline

Something is rotten in the province of Ontario. It is the second number of the tentpole musical at Canada’s Stratford festival, the Shakespeare jamboree that has celebrated the British Bard of Avon for more than 70 years. This is a town where a street, a school and a pet hospital are called Romeo. But what’s that I hear? “God, I hate Shakespeare!” fumes the fellow on the revolutionary thrust stage of Stratford’s Festival theatre, asking how “a mediocre actor from a measly little town” managed to become “the brightest jewel in England’s royal crown”. The sacrilege rages on as the showboating Bard himself strides on to hog the spotlight for the song Will Power, and the “sultan of sonnets” brandishes a huge quill like a mic and shamelessly flirts with fans.

Bawdy, barmy and almost incessantly hilarious, Something Rotten! is the standout show of the 2024 Stratford season, fusing the festival’s two major traditions of Shakespeare and musical theatre. This Renaissance tale of budding playwright brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (Mark Uhre and Henry Firmston), toiling in the shadow of the all-conquering Shakespeare (Jeff Lillico), picked up 10 Tony award nominations on its premiere in 2015 including best score (for brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick) and best book (co-written by longtime Guardian columnist John O’Farrell). Despite such success, it has inexplicably taken almost a decade for it to receive a UK premiere – but now a concert version will be staged for two nights at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane in August.

It is perfectly at home in Canada’s Stratford – settled in 1832 and surrounded by farmland – which has a theatrical reputation to rival its British namesake. There are irreverent gags galore about musical theatre as the Bottom brothers take advice from a soothsayer who assures them it’s the next big thing – cue fond mockery in a brassy, high-kicking, dizzyingly meta number that breaks down the genre’s key ingredients with references to Les Mis, Annie and scores of other shows. A Hamilton-style rap battle finds rhyming couplets fired across the stage and the show has a touch of The Producers, too, as the Bottoms workshop the song The Black Death (opening line: “What’s that coming up the Silk Road?”) complete with a chorus line of grim reapers.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WORLD’S BIGGEST THEATRE FESTIVAL ·

(Eve Jackson’s, Olivia Salazar-Winspear’s, Marion Cheval’s, Natacha Milleret’s , Solène Clausse’s, and Magali Faure’s report appeared on France24, 7/4/2024.)

Culture reporter Olivia Salazar-Winspear speaks to Eve Jackson about the highlights from the Avignon Theatre Festival in the south of France, including Greek tragedy “Hecuba, not Hecuba” from the event’s artistic director Tiago Rodrigues, and French director Boris Charmatz’s delightful outdoor style rave “Circles”. The directors also comment on the importance of immigration and openness for artistic creation in the current political context in France. Also on the programme, we hear from the all-female metal band Voice of Baceprot, who made history at Glastonbury as the first Indonesian group ever to play at the iconic event.

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BEHIND THE SCENES AT THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY, 7/2/2024 ·

On 7/2/2024, director Frank Farrell and playwright Bob Shuman went for a 1:00pm meeting with Dream Up Festival director, Michael Scott-Price, at Theater for the New City (TNC) to have a walk-through of the space (with other groups who will also present shows).  The stage where their project, Tongs and Bones Shakespeare, will be playing, for approximately five performances (between 8/26 and 9/15), is the Community Theater, a mid-sized space within the TNC complex–of the dimensions they had been hoping for.  You can see it below, as it is,  before they attempt to create an uninhabited (by human life) island for “From a Cloven Pine,” a prequel to The Tempest; the forest of Arden in “The Coxcomb’s Wedding,” inspired by As You Like It; and a fairy bower for “The Wanton Wind,” based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The first idea that came to mind for the creators was, “Can we get another ladder? 
  
 
Jotting down notes on pre-sale discount codes, press releases, and lighting (with Michael and Clara, their tech contact), they were then taken to a downstairs storage area for sets, props, and costumes, to meet  Susan Hemley, the volunteer, veteran  mistress of the above.  When Bob mentioned a gorilla mask, she did not bat an eyelash. The team is to gather on “pull days,” for which they will receive notification, to tape index cards to the properties they would like to use for their project, and even arrange shares with those who would like the same items (apparently blocks and cubes are highly prized). How amazing to see the imagined become tangible.  Like Christmas in July.

 

Follow the progress of the staging of Tongs and Bones Shakespeare weekly on 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 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.  

(c) 2024 by Bob Shuman.