Category Archives: Current Affairs

RITA MORENO & EDWARD JAMES OLMOS ON THE DISCRIMINATION LATINX ACTORS FACED ·

(via Pam Green

Despite Raúl Juliá’s talents, opportunities for Latino actors were scarce. Rubén Blades, Andy Garcia, and others discuss how Raúl Juliá overcame discrimination to make a name for himself as an actor — without losing his Puerto Rican accent or changing his name — helping to pave the way for Latinx actors today.

American Masters presents the first documentary film exploring the remarkable life and legacy of the enthralling actor: Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage, premiering nationwide Friday, September 13 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS Video app.

UNDERGROUND CULTURE: UKRAINE THEATER REOPENS IN BOMBARDED CITY ·

JULIE ANDREWS AND EMMA WALTON HAMILTON TALK ABOUT TAKING THEIR CHILDREN’S BOOK EMPIRE TO THE STAGE ·

(Harry Haun’s article appeared in the Observer, 8/22; via Pam Green.)

‘The Great American Mousical’ — one of the 31 children’s books written by the mother and daughter team — takes it first steps toward a 2023 run in Los Angeles.

Sometime after Victor/Victoria opened on Broadway in 1995, a small, solitary mouse made its way up from the bowels of the Marriott Marquis Theater and into the theater’s wardrobe room. Julie Andrews, then inhabiting both title roles, got the word from her hairdresser, who told her traps were set.

The actress reacted to this news with a combination of horror and compassion that one could expect from somebody who owes her Mary Poppins Oscar to the guy who created Mickey Mouse: “Oh, could you please make sure they put down humane traps? If you catch the little mouse, don’t kill it. Take it out somewhere far away so it can have a life in the country.”

Andrews sheepishly confesses to this response: “The hairdresser looked at me as if I were mad, then said, ‘Julie, the theaters on Broadway are riddled with mice in the basement. There are probably hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of mice under here. This one probably just came up to look at all the stars.’ And that made us laugh. Then, I suddenly had a lightbulb about that notion and started thinking, ‘Oh, my God! A troupe of mice in the basement of a great theater! Wonder if they are putting on their own shows downstairs for their own audiences.’”

She took this idea to her usual collaborator—her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, who is as theater-savvy as her mother. With husband Stephen Hamilton and producer Sybil Christopher, Hamilton founded the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York, 31 years ago and has been running it ever since—all this, while simultaneously writing 31 children’s books with Andrews.

 “The more we talked about it, the more excited we became,” Hamilton admits. “What a way to bring the magic of theater down to a kind of manageable scale for young readers! Within this troupe of mice could be all the classic characters of any theater, whether human or mouse: the director, the difficult leading lady, the intern, the weary producer, the hysterical hairdresser. 

(Read more)

DRUID’S ‘THE LAST RETURN’ BY SONYA KELLY WINS AWARD AT EDINBURGH FRINGE ·

(Deirdre Falvey’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 8/12.)

Fringe First Award for play about conflict, peace and the pursuit of territory at any cost follows rave reviews

Druid theatre company has won a prestigious Scotsman Fringe First Award for its production of The Last Return by Irish writer Sonya Kelly at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Kelly’s sharply written, blisteringly funny play had its world premiere at Galway International Arts Festival last month, where it played to packed, enthusiastic (side-split) houses at Druid’s home, the Mick Lally Theatre. It is currently running at the Traverse Theatre in the heart of Edinburgh, and returns to Ireland to play at Dublin’s Gate Theatre as part of Dublin Theatre Festival in October and November.

Directed by Sara Joyce, The Last Return is a comedy about conflict, peace and the pursuit of territory at any cost. Set in a theatre foyer as five people queue for a ticket to the hottest show in town, it escalates into something more complicated and surreal. Reviewing it in The Irish Times, in July, Sara Keating described how this “shocking and very funny play” with “endless surprises” explored how “the pursuit of a high-quality cultural experience turns political”.

News of the Scotsman Fringe First Award for The Last Return follows rave reviews, including five-star ratings from What’s On Stage, The Arts Desk and The Wee Review, and praise such as “pitch-black comic mayhem” from The Guardian and “wonderful” from The New York Times.

This is Kelly’s second Scotsman Fringe First, previously winning in 2012 for her play The Wheelchair on My Face. Druid has won numerous awards at Edinburgh’s Fringe over the years, including in 1980 for two plays: Island Protected by a Bridge of Glass and The Pursuit of Pleasure (both written by Garry Hynes); in 2007 for The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh; and in 2008 for another Enda Walsh play, The New Electric Ballroom.

Designed to encourage performers to bring new work to Edinburgh in the spirit of adventure and experiment, the Fringe Firsts are internationally recognised and are the most prestigious theatre awards at the Fringe, this week returning after two years of lockdown.

On Friday morning, after the first week of the festival, the judging team of critics from the Scotsman newspaper announced its first six awards, which also included: Breathless by Laura Horton; And Then The Rodeo Burned Down by Chloe Rice and Natasha Roland; The Beatles Were a Boyband by Rachel O’Regan; Happy Meal by Tabby Lamb; and Masterclass by Feidlim Cannon, Gary Keegan and Adrienne Truscott.

(Read more)

TWO UKRAINIAN PLAYS REVIEW – MASTERFUL FRAMING OF A NATION’S TRAGEDY ·

(Mark Lawson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/12; via Pam Green.)

Finborough theatre, London
A ghostly tale and a potent monologue form a double bill that uses the 2014 conflict to remark movingly on current events

Because theatres schedule so far ahead, they tend to be better at marking historical anniversaries than current events. So the tiny but enterprising above-a-pub Finborough theatre deserves a bouquet of blue and yellow flowers for nimbly premiering, just over five months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two plays from the threatened nation.

When a country gains sudden international sympathy – as writers in South Africa, Northern Ireland and the former Yugoslavia have found at various times – the headline emergency is seen as the only subject for discussion. It’s too soon for such plays from Ukraine yet but the Finborough has cleverly chosen scripts foreshadowing and illuminating the 2022 invasion by focusing on the period in 2014 when Russia took over Crimea(Read more and the Donbas region, a rehearsal for Vladimir Putin of his bigger ambitions and the west’s apparent insouciance to such intrusions.

Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s Take the Rubbish Out, Sasha, translated by Sasha Dugdale, was seen in a National Theatre of Scotland version seven years ago. In Kyiv, Katya and her daughter Oksana, both clad in black, are cooking dumplings and other delicacies for the local tradition of a ritual mourning picnic. This includes a full plate and glass set in front of a photo of Sasha, a Ukrainian army colonel who died of natural causes. But Sasha’s unquiet ghost, a regular presence, maintains a desire to fight for his homeland. The spirit soldier’s urge must have seemed touching in 2015, when his surviving colleagues had lost only a portion of the nation, but is almost unbearably emotive now.

(Read more)

***** ‘MEDEA’ REVIEW – ADURA ONASHILE EXUDES AWESOME AUTHORITY IN BLOODY TRAGEDY ·

(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)

UKRAINIAN CHILDREN BRING A PLAY FROM A BOMB SHELTER TO BROOKLYN ·

(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)

AUTHOR SALMAN RUSHDIE STABBED ON LECTURE STAGE IN NEW YORK ·

(Joshua Goodman’s article appeared on the AP, 8/13.)

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. (AP) — Salman Rushdie, whose novel “The Satanic Verses” drew death threats from Iran’s leader in the 1980s, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen Friday by a man who rushed the stage as the author was about to give a lecture in western New York.

A bloodied Rushdie, 75, was flown to a hospital and underwent surgery. His agent, Andrew Wylie, said the writer was on a ventilator Friday evening, with a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm and an eye he was likely to lose.

Police identified the attacker as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey. He was arrested at the scene and was awaiting arraignment. Matar was born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” was published. The motive for the attack was unclear, State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said.

An Associated Press reporter witnessed the attacker confront Rushdie on stage at the Chautauqua Institution and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as he was being introduced. The author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was arrested.

Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, a co-founder of an organization that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, was also attacked. Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie were due to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile.

A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Rushdie’s lecture, and state police said the trooper made the arrest. But after the attack, some longtime visitors to the center questioned why there wasn’t tighter security for the event, given the decades of threats against Rushdie and a bounty on his head offering more than $3 million for anyone who kills him.

Rabbi Charles Savenor was among the roughly 2,500 people in the audience. Amid gasps, spectators were ushered out of the outdoor amphitheater.

The assailant ran onto the platform “and started pounding on Mr. Rushdie. At first you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it became abundantly clear in a few seconds that he was being beaten,” Savenor said. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.

Another spectator, Kathleen James, said the attacker was dressed in black, with a black mask.

“We thought perhaps it was part of a stunt to show that there’s still a lot of controversy around this author. But it became evident in a few seconds” that it wasn’t, she said.

Matar, like other visitors, had obtained a pass to enter the Chautauqua Institution’s 750-acre grounds, Michael Hill, the president of the nonprofit education center and resort, said.

(Read more)

 

 

‘I’D CRAWL OVER BROKEN GLASS TO WORK HERE’: CBEEBIES TAKE ON SHAKESPEARE ·

(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)