Category Archives: Current Affairs


(from Reuters, 2/22)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – “The Shape of Water,” a contender for this year’s best picture Oscar, was hit with a plagiarism lawsuit on Wednesday, alleging that its fantastical plot about a romance between a cleaning woman and a mysterious river creature was lifted directly from an American stage play.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleged that director Guillermo del Toro, producer Daniel Kraus and movie studio Fox Searchlight <FOXA.0> “brazenly copies the story, elements, characters and themes” from a 1969 play by the late Paul Zindel.

“The Shape of Water” has a leading 13 Oscar nominations at the March 4 Academy Awards ceremony, including nods for best picture and best director. The lawsuit was filed the day after ballots went out to some 8,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who vote on the Oscar winners.

(Read more)


(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/12; via Pam Green.)

Tennessee Williams’s most reliable instrument of release — and torture — glows impiously in the hushed white gallery of the Morgan Library & Museum, like a neon sign in a church.

It is only a manual typewriter, one of the many that did hard labor under the fingers of this great American playwright, who is the subject of “Tennessee Williams: No Refuge but Writing,” a profoundly affecting new exhibition of manuscripts and memorabilia.

But the color of this sleek machine, an Olivetti Lettera 32, belies its utilitarian function. How to describe this particular shade of blue? To call it aqua or teal seems too pedestrian for the man under consideration here. Williams (1911-1983) delighted in finding names for blues — chromatic, spiritual, emotional.

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(Photo: The New York Times)



(Deborah Cole’s article appeared on Yahoo, 2/18; via the Drudge Report.

Berlin (AFP) – Gay cinema pioneer Rupert Everett said his new biopic about legendary literary dandy Oscar Wilde captures him as a “Christ-like” figure who sacrificed himself for the future global LBGTQ rights movement.

Everett penned, directed and starred in his years-long passion project about the flamboyant 19th century Irish writer, “The Happy Prince”, screening this week at the Berlin film festival.

The 58-year-old British actor focuses in the film on Wilde’s self-imposed exile after serving two years’ hard labour from 1895 on “gross indecency” charges for sex with men.

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(Ruthie Fierberg’s article appeared in Playbill Online, 2/13.)

The theatrical publisher opens the U.K. version of New York City’s Drama Book Shop.

The Royal Court Theatre in London’s Sloane Square is a landmark of the theatre scene across the pond. On February 13, the U.K. division of Samuel French announced there will be an addition to the theatre space: a theatre bookshop.

The Bookshop will be located in the theatre’s Balcony Bar and will open its doors March 5.

“We are thrilled to reopen a bookshop in London, especially at the iconic Royal Court Theatre. When we closed our shop in Fitzroy Street last year, we were overwhelmed by messages of support,” said managing director of Samuel French U.K. Douglas Schatz in a statement.

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(Chris Jones’s article appeared in The Chicago Tribune, 2/13.)

Kelly Felthous, who plays Sally Bowles in the Paramount Theatre production of “Cabaret” did not get a lick of applause Saturday at the end of the show’s famous title number, despite this being opening night. Was it down to frostbite?

No. That is also what happened when I saw Natasha Richardson do Sally in the 1998 Broadway revival, the one directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, the one that made a star out of Alan Cumming, the one that has influenced every subsequent staging of the title, even to the point of blending into our perception of the material. Richardson’s drugged-out Sally was desperate and despairing; she turned the number into a furious cry of nihilistic anguish, shocking an audience expecting Liza Minnelli-like resilience into total silence.

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Bruxelles 4 Decembre 2015
Conference de presse de Ismael Saidi a propos de son nouveau livre ‘ Djihad, la piece ‘
Pix…. Ismael Saidi
Credit Frederic Sierakowski / Isopix/ISOPIX_1705.017/Credit:Frederic Sierakowski/Isop/SIPA/1603231716

(Daniel Boffey’s, Constanze Letsch’s, Philip Oltermann’s, Helena Smith’s, and Kit Gillet’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/12.)

Ismael Saïdi, Belgium

A comedy about jihad? At first, no one wanted to touch it, says Belgian playwright Ismael Saïdi. “They didn’t think anyone could laugh at that.” Called Djihad, the French word for jihad, his play follows three hapless Belgian Muslims who feel compelled – for a range of tragicomic reasons – to travel to Syria, where their eyes are opened to the reality of holy war.

Echoing Four Lions, Chris Morris’s 2010 film, the satire highlights some of the absurdities of the terrorist cause and the frustrations of those drawn to it. Saïdi, whose parents are Moroccan, had plenty of material to work with. He was born in Brussels, in the suburb of Schaerbeek, an area caricatured as a breeding ground for terrorists.

“People coming from Muslim countries to Belgium was very new,” he says. “When you are young, you feel any difference in a negative way – you are afraid, you want to be like the others. You want to be the good, beautiful guy. And I was not. I didn’t know how to play soccer. But later, I felt being different was a positive, an opportunity.”

Unsure of what to do after school, he responded to a police drive for recruits from migrant communities. He expected to stay a month but, after a bumpy start, saw out 16 years. “At the beginning, we were two or three people among 2,000. Some colleagues don’t want to drive with you – they don’t feel comfortable, they don’t trust you. After three or four years, things were better.” Eventually, he left to pursue his writing.

Saïdi started Djihad in 2012, after watching French far-right leader Marine Le Pentalking about young people going to Syria. “She was saying she didn’t care about them. She didn’t want them to come back. I thought that was awful. You have to understand why people go there to fight – as they will come back to kill people. And I saw a picture on Facebook of a friend from when I was at school. He was in Syria in front of an Isis flag with a Kalashnikov in his hand. I was thinking, ‘How can this be possible? How can he be a terrorist? He was with me at school. He played with me. He went to the cinema with me. What happened?’ That’s the reason I wrote it.”

Its first performance, at a small venue in 2014, sold out without any advertising. Then, in the wake of the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, schools started to get in touch with him. Parents who had taken their children to see the play were recommending it to teachers as an eye-opener.

Of the 250,000 who have now seen Djihad, 150,000 are teenagers. Saïdi is touring with a sequel, Géhenne, which follows one of the three Djihad characters into a Belgian prison. “People laugh at lot,” says Saïdi. “And at the end they cry.” Daniel Boffey

(Read more)


(Johnny Oleksinski’s article appeared in the New York Post, 2/10.)

When Tina Fey’s film “Mean Girls” came out in 2004, the comedy was lauded as a silly, satirical excoriation of modern high-school life and its cliques, cafeteria antics and materialism. “Mean Girls” was a “Clueless” for the millennial age. And it was so fetch.

Fast forward to 2018. “Mean Girls” is about to begin a new life as a Broadway musical in March. But some Broadway watchers believe the subject matter is too mean for these kinder, gentler times.

“It just might not be the moment for ‘Mean Girls,’ ” one Broadway insider told me on the condition of anonymity. “It might feel stale and tone-deaf to the critics. And while this is something that could be critic-proof, maybe not.”

The fear of offending audiences isn’t limited to musicals about bratty teens. In this oversensitive era, TV shows, Oscar-worthy movies and pop music are all under pressure to be as nice as Betty Crocker. For millennia the best art has offended, tantalized, frightened, riled up and, of course, been life-affirming. But today the American public, looking more than ever like Soviet Russia, has just one rule for entertainers: Don’t rock the boat.

(Read more)



(Alison Flood’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/9.)

Plagiarism software more commonly used to check student essays for overly assiduous borrowings has uncovered a long-forgotten, handwritten document from 1576 as the possible source for more than 20 monologues and passages from Shakespeare’s plays.

Independent scholar Dennis McCarthy and LaFayette College professor June Schlueter used WCopyfind software to compare passages from Shakespeare’s plays with George North’s 1576 unpublished manuscript, A Brief Discourse of Rebellion, about the dangers of rebelling against a king. They were able to trace more than 20 passages back to the essay, including Gloucester’s opening soliloquy in Richard III, Macbeth’s comparison of dog breeds to different classes of men, the Fool’s Merlin prophecy in King Lear, and the events surrounding Jack Cade’s fatal fight with Alexander Iden in Henry VI.

“Until now, no Shakespeare scholar has studied the manuscript, and it has probably remained little read. Yet, as our analysis has revealed, Discourse is not merely the only uniquely existent, evidently uncopied document to have had a substantial impact on the canon; it is one of the most influential Shakespearean source texts in any form,” they write in a new book, A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels by George North, which is published on 16 February by Boydell & Brewer, in collaboration with the British Library. “In terms of the number of plays, scenes and passages affected, the scope of the manuscript’s influence likely exceeds all other known Shakespearean sources, excepting only the Chronicles of Hall and Holinshed and Thomas North’s Plutarch’s Lives.”

(Read more)



(John Williams’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/4; via Pam Green.) 

When “Angels in America” premiered on Broadway in 1993, The New York Times’s Frank Rich called it “the most thrilling American play in years.” Tony Kushner’s two-part epic about American life, set against the AIDS crisis and Ronald Reagan’s presidency, quickly became, by consensus, one of the 20th century’s most essential works of theater. (The play is coming back to New York, at the Neil Simon Theater, beginning previews this month and opening in March.) In 2016, Slate published an oral history of the show, in which Mr. Kushner and more than 50 others talked about the production’s long and often difficult road to success. Now the authors of that history — Isaac Butler, a theater director himself, and Dan Kois, an editor and writer for Slate — have published a new book that expands on it: “The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of ‘Angels in America.’” The book covers the development and life of the play, as well as Mike Nichols’s adaptation of it as a mini-series for HBO in 2003. Below, Butler and Kois talk about the influence of the political climate on their book, a film adaptation of “Angels” that never came to pass and more.


When did you first get the idea to write this book?


DAN KOIS Isaac and I were conducting interviews for the Slate story in spring 2016. We kept getting so much amazing stuff. Every single person we talked to would tell us the kind of story you tell about the defining artistic and intellectual moment of your life. No one was like, “Oh yeah, it was great. I don’t remember much about it.” One week, we each interviewed members of the original cast. I interviewed Kathleen Chalfant … 

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Photo: Newsweek


(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/2; via Pam Green.)

Louis Zorich, a busy actor who appeared on Broadway with stars like Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman, on television in the comedy “Mad About You” and in numerous projects with his wife, the Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.

His son Peter confirmed his death.

In a career of some 60 years, Mr. Zorich played scores of roles, mostly of the character-actor variety. He was the father to Paul Reiser’s character on NBC’s “Mad About You” from 1993 to 1999 and the grandfather on “Brooklyn Bridge,” a well-regarded CBS series that ran for two seasons earlier in the 1990s.

But he also occasionally tackled the big roles. The year before “Brooklyn Bridge” made its debut in 1991, he played King Lear in a production at the Whole Theater in Montclair, N.J., of which he and Ms. Dukakis were founding members. In 2004 he portrayed the title character in an Off Broadway version of Aeschylus’ “Agamemnon” by the Aquila Theater Company, opposite Ms. Dukakis’s Clytemnestra.

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Photo: Playbill