Category Archives: Current Affairs

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?”

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MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND: **ALL FREE** FULL SCHEDULE RELEASED FOR THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY’S LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS, MAY 24 TO 26 ·

Memorial Day Weekend. MAY 24, 25, 26 2024 – Friday, Saturday, Sunday
THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY
Executive Director, Crystal Field, with
The LES Committee, Presents:

The 29TH Annual LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS

FREE!!!

Memorial Day Weekend. MAY 24, 25, 26 2024 – Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue. (btw E 9th and E 10th Street)
New York, NY 10003
212-254-1109

Theater for the New City has currently scheduled over 200 performing arts organizations, independent artists, poets, puppeteers and film makers for its 29th annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts.

Admission is free but donations will be gratefully accepted.

Indoor performances will take stage from 6:00 PM to midnight each day, utilizing two of TNC’s four theaters. From 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Saturday, vendors and food sellers, including booths from nearby restaurants, will set up in the closed-off block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues.

ARTISTS IN THE LES FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS EXHIBIT – CHECK OUT THE GALLERY GUIDE HERE: DEMOCRACY: USE IT OR LOSE IT

FULL SCHEDULE RELEASED FOR
THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY’S
LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS
MAY 24 TO 26

Theater for the New City has posted the full schedule of performing arts organizations, independent artists, poets, puppeteers and film makers appearing in its 29th annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, which will be mounted May 24 to 26 in and around Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street). Admission is free but donations will be gratefully accepted.

A cohort of theater, dance, performance, music, film, literary and visual artists are participating on all three days. An afternoon of performances for and by kids will be presented Saturday afternoon. A fine art show will be hanging throughout the fest in the theater’s lobby gallery. A film program will be presented Saturday from 1:00 PM to 11:00 PM, featuring works by auteurs from the Lower East Side/East Village along with works that reflect the essence of the neighborhood.

Friday, May 24th
6pm – Midnight

Performers and Performances
in the Johnson Theater and the Cabaret Theater

Saturday, May 25th
12pm – 5pm
Cultural Festival on East 10th Street between 1st & 2nd Aves.
Performers, Music, Vendors, Food and More!

2pm – 5pm
Youth Performance Program
In the Johnson Theater

1pm – 11pm
Film Program
in the Cabaret Theater

6pm – Midnight
Performers and Performances
in the Johnson Theater

Sunday, May 26th
4pm – 7pm
Poetry Slam with Prose on the Side
in the Community Space Theater

6pm – Midnight
Performers and Performances
in the Johnson Theater and the Cabaret Theater

VISUAL ART ON DISPLAY IN THE LOBBY
ALL WEEKEND

All Events are FREE!

Click here for a full schedule of
performers and performances

 

BACKGROUND

The first festival, presented June 14 to 16, 1996, was a three-day, indoor and outdoor multi-arts festival, organized by TNC and a coalition of civic, cultural and business leaders. The aim was to demonstrate the creative explosion of the Lower East Side and the area’s importance to culture and tourism for New York City. It employed two theater spaces at TNC plus the block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues, featured over 100 attractions, drew favorable press and attracted crowds from all around the City. Its success prompted TNC to continue the festival annually on Memorial Day Weekend. For 28 years it has been presented free each year to an average attendance of 4,000. (In 2020 it was held online due to pandemic concerns).

The concept of the festival was developed by Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director of TNC and Esther Cartegena (d. 2006), President of Loisaida, Inc., to portray the Lower East Side (LES) as a haven for artists and artistic creation. The region is a unique multi-ethnic community with an unusually high level of artistic vitality. Large populations with differing languages and cultures coexist there successfully and a large artistic population helps glue the neighborhood together. Its theaters are also an unprecedented source of tourism. Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Buried Child,” was commissioned and first produced by TNC. The committee envisioned an event that would demonstrate the region’s cultural fervor, its large artistic population and its multiplicity of ethnic influences to contradict the neighborhood’s stereotype as a dangerous refuge for drug dealers and criminal activity.

Disciplines presented have always included theater, music, dance, poetry, puppetry, cabaret, visual art, film and children’s programming.

 

SPECIAL CREDITS

Festival Director is Crystal Field. Assistant Directors are Sammy Ferber, Sarah Iles and Dianne Ramirez.

The LES Committee for 2024 is: Crystal Field, JC Augustin, Joe John Battista, Alex Bartenieff, Walter Corwin, Eva Dorrepaal, Myrna Duarte, Carol Dudgeon, Alberto Ferraras, Andrea Fulton, Robert Gonzales Jr., Melanie Goodreaux, Robert Greer, Philip Hackett, Alan Hanna, Barbara Kahn, Anne Lucas, Lissa Moira, Stephan Morrow, Emily Pezzella, Richard Ploetz, Michael Scott Price, Carolyn Ratcliffe, Ramiro Sandoval, Jonathan Slaff, David F. Slone Esq., Mary Tierney, Jenne Vath, Jimmy Walker, Jonathan Weber, John David West, Richard West, Roman Primitivo, Miguel Loyola and Lewis Widoff.  Press Representative is Jonathan Slaff.

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.

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NEW YORK DRAMA CRITICS’ CIRCLE AWARD WINNERS: ‘STEREOPHONIC’ AND ‘DEAD OUTLAW’ WIN TOP HONORS ·

The New York Drama Critics’ Circle has unveiled its annual awards, and this year’s ceremony promises exciting winners. David Adjmi’s “Stereophonic,” a play that premiered at Playwrights Horizons before swiftly transferring to Broadway, won the prize for Best Play. Described as a deep dive into the pressure cooker of a recording studio, “Stereophonic” follows a fictional rock band on the cusp of superstardom as they grapple with creative tensions and the perils of success.

Meanwhile, the musical “Dead Outlaw,” with music and lyrics by the duo of David Yazbek and Erik Della Penna and a book by Itamar Moses, took home Best Musical honors. “Dead Outlaw” is a darkly comedic exploration of the bizarre afterlife of a failed outlaw, whose mummified body becomes a carnival sideshow attraction. With the ever-inventive Yazbek’s involvement, one can expect a captivating and perhaps unconventional musical experience.

The ceremony, to be held on May 21st, will be a night of recognition beyond these two top awards. A joint special citation celebrates the revivals of “Merrily We Roll Along” and “Purlie Victorious,” a testament to the enduring power of classic productions. The ever-illustrious Maryann Plunkett and Jay O. Sanders, both gracing the stage this season, received a joint lifetime achievement award. Writer-composer Heather Christian’s “Terce: A Practical Breviary” also received a special citation, a nod to innovation on the downtown scene.

Mark your calendars, theater aficionados! This year’s Drama Critics’ Circle awards promise a fascinating glimpse into the vibrant tapestry of New York theater.

For more information on the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, please visit www.dramacritics.org. A full breakdown of this year’s voting will be posted tonight on the organization’s website.

Written by Gemini

Press: Don Summa, Richard Kornberg & Associates

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

CATHERINE FILLOUX AT LA MAMA: ‘HOW TO EAT AN ORANGE’–5/30-6/16, 2024 ·

FOR THE PAST THREE DECADES FRENCH ALGERIAN AMERICAN AWARD-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT, LIBRETTIST AND ACTIVIST CATHERINE FILLOUX HAS BEEN TRAVELING TO CONFLICT AREAS WRITING PLAYS THAT ADDRESS HUMAN RIGHTS . . .

HOW TO EAT AN ORANGE

A one-person play about the visual artist and activist Claudia Bernardi, who grows up in Argentina under the military junta, and her subsequent work digging up the past . . .

The sensuous braiding of desaparecidos’ stories through the lens of a survivor . . .

A kaleidoscopic play of histories woven together, which depicts how both families and justice may be reconfigured . . . 

Time travel, subverting and countering realities . . . 

The fight for excavation, the archeology of a lifetime–of lifetimes . . . 

Filloux’s narrative of Bernardi in “How to Eat an Orange,” directed by Elena Araoz, accentuates justice and hope, the subterranean world, and Argentina’s Dirty War.

Above (l to r), Paula Pizzi (the actor in How to Eat an Orange) and playwright Catherine Filloux at La MaMa. Photo credit Karen Oughtred.

FILLOUX: What will inspire you in my new play is how justice and hope are won. The military junta during Argentina’s Dirty War were not held accountable for their crimes but our protagonist displays a stunning new solution with “juicio politico.” This visual artist and her family time travel in a lush, colorful theatrical symphony where new ways of seeing abound. Claudia shows you a subterranean world, where ants are as interesting as flowers–and her epistolary spans generations. Unexpected action heroes change our landscape, when letters are mailed and show up decades later.

Filloux’s most recent play reunites her with Suttirat Larlarb, James Bond No Time to Die costume designer, who also designed her plays Selma ’65 and Eyes of the Heart, and Elena Araoz, the director of her play Kidnap Road about the hostage Ingrid Betancourt

WHERE: the Downstairs Theater at La MaMa (66 East 4th Street New York, NY 10003), May 30-June 16, 2024. Tickets ($30) are available for advance purchase at www.lamama.org/shows/how-to-eat-an-orange-2024How to Eat an Orange is a New Georges Supported Production. 

La MaMa ETC. will present the World Premiere of How to Eat an Orange, written by Catherine Filloux (Kidnap Road at La MaMa; Turning Your Body Into a Compass with CultureHub), directed by Elena Araoz (Alligator with New Georges/The Sol Project; Architecture of Becoming with WP Theatre), and performed by Paula Pizzi (underneathmybed at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater; Where’s My Money? with Manhattan Theatre Club/LAByrinth Theater Company).

Press: Emily Owens

OUT OF THE DARK: REVISITING COMPOSERS SUPPRESSED BY THE NAZIS ·

(Alex Ross’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 5/13; Zemlinsky, once regarded as a weak-willed eclecticist, is attracting modern admirers. Illustration by Romy Blümel.)

The Musica Non Grata series, in Prague, explores the glittering, elusive world of Alexander Zemlinsky.

Alexander Zemlinsky, who composed several of the most subtly entrancing operas of the early twentieth century, embodied the cosmopolitan chaos of the old Austrian Empire. His father came from a Slovakian Catholic family; his mother was a Sarajevo native of Sephardic Jewish and Muslim descent. Born in Vienna in 1871, Zemlinsky apprenticed there under Gustav Mahler; had an illustrious stint conducting at the New German Theatre, in Prague; and later landed at the radical-minded Kroll Opera, in Berlin. His mature works draw, variously, on Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Rabindranath Tagore, and Langston Hughes. To what nation or tradition does such a polymorphous figure belong? A sorcerer of orchestration, Zemlinsky wrote music that glimmers ambiguously in the air, and his life seemed to do the same.

In April, I went to Prague for the final installment of a four-year series called Musica Non Grata, which focussed on German-speaking Jewish composers who thrived in the First Czechoslovak Republic, between 1918 and 1938. The principal venue was the Prague State Opera, as the New German Theatre is now known. The German government provided support, memorializing the Germanophone culture that once flourished in Czech lands. Two of Zemlinsky’s operas, “A Florentine Tragedy” and “Kleider Machen Leute” (“Clothes Make the Man”), were presented on the final Musica Non Grata weekend. As it happens, I had recently seen Zemlinsky’s “Der Zwerg” (“The Dwarf”) at L.A. Opera, whose music director, James Conlon, is a tireless advocate of composers who lost their careers—and sometimes their lives—to the Nazis.

Efforts to recuperate artists who were victims of prejudice might be seen as special pleading. Would the music of the historically oppressed—whether the composers are Jewish, Black, or female—compel our attention if we knew nothing of their struggles? Aren’t we rewriting history to compensate for past misdeeds? Such questions suffer from the dubious assumption that the core repertory has emerged from a purely organic process unaffected by sentimental factors. Consider how the cult of Mozart dwells on his early death, or how that of Beethoven emphasizes his deafness. In any case, no revival of a forgotten composer can be rooted in anything but love, and Zemlinsky’s circle of devotees, while not exactly vast, is steadily expanding.

His musical gifts were never in doubt. Recordings of his work as a conductor are meagre, but his contemporaries praised him as an expert, elegant interpreter of modern and classic repertory alike. Igor Stravinsky, not one to hand out compliments freely, recalled a Zemlinsky-led performance of “The Marriage of Figaro” as the “most satisfying operatic experience of my life.” In Prague, Zemlinsky selflessly promoted not only his fellow-Viennese, like his brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg and members of the Schoenberg school, but also Stravinsky, Bartók, Hindemith, and Weill. Having begun as an acolyte of Brahms, Zemlinsky brushed against atonality, neoclassicism, and popular song. His openness to myriad influences caused him to be perceived as a weak-willed eclecticist. But Theodor W. Adorno, in a beautiful defense of Zemlinsky’s music, questioned the belief that “force is an integral part of greatness,” arguing that there is genius in sensitivity, empathy, and reticence.

“Der Zwerg” (1919-21), an adaptation of Wilde’s story “The Birthday of the Infanta,” has long been the most often performed of Zemlinsky’s eight operas. I had previously seen productions at the Spoleto Festival, in 1993, and at the Komische Oper, in Berlin, in 2002. The story, in which a dwarf falls in love with a cruelly teasing princess, has autobiographical dimensions: throughout his life, Zemlinsky felt like a freakish outsider. In 1900, he became smitten with the composer Alma Schindler, who found him at once “horribly ugly” and “touchingly sweet.” (She dropped him in favor of Mahler, who was neither.) The omnipresence of antisemitism in Vienna must have shadowed the opera’s conception.

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“GRENFELL: IN THE WORDS OF SURVIVORS” ON DEMOCRACY NOW!: SURVIVOR RECOUNTS DEADLY 2017 LONDON FIRE THAT INSPIRED PLAY—ONLY THROUGH SUN., 5/12 AT ST. ANN’S WAREHOUSE, NYC ·

(On Democracy Now!, 5/10.)

The play Grenfell: In the Words of Survivors, which is being staged this week in Brooklyn, tells the story of the 2017 apartment fire at Grenfell Tower in London that killed 72 people. It was the worst fire in Britain since World War II, and survivors blamed the government for mismanaging the public housing block and neglecting maintenance. The play tells the story of how the residents of Grenfell Tower, from the Caribbean, Portugal, Syria, Morocco, Ethiopia and Britain, created a thriving community even as their homes fell into disrepair in the years before the fire. Playwright Gillian Slovo says she was moved to create the play after watching “in absolute horror as that building burned,” wondering how such a tragedy could happen in one of the richest neighborhoods of London. We also hear from Grenfell survivor Ed Daffarn, who barely escaped the inferno with his life. “I’m here. It’s like a million-to-one chance,” Daffarn says. Democracy Now! is an independent global news hour that airs on over 1,500 TV and radio stations Monday through Friday. Watch our livestream at democracynow.org Mondays to Fridays 8-9 a.m. ET.  Support our work: https://www.democracynow.org/donate?c…

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Interview with playwright Gillian Slovo below:

 

‘THEY’RE TEACHING ME’: GREG DORAN ON STAGING SHAKESPEARE’S UNLOVED TWO GENTS WITH STUDENTS ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/10;  Photograph: Geraint Lewis.

The theatre director, now teaching at Oxford after years running the RSC, thinks The Two Gentlemen of Verona is perfect for a young cast to argue over. We go into rehearsals

Which is Shakespeare’s least loved play? The Two Gentlemen of Verona would come high on many people’s lists. It is clearly apprentice-work. It has had few significant revivals. And it also raises problematic issues since the treacherous Proteus threatens at one point to rape Silvia who is betrothed to his best friend, Valentine. For these and other reasons it is no one’s favourite play.

This could, however, be about to change. Greg Doran – now officially Sir Gregory – is staging a production at the Oxford Playhouse with student actors. After 35 years as an actor and then director with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Doran is this year’s Cameron Mackintosh visiting professor of contemporary theatre at St Catherine’s College. It is a seductive post – whose previous occupants include Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Miller, Deborah Warner and Adjoa Andoh – which involves giving lectures and workshops. But Doran has had the bright idea of using his tenure to direct the one play in the First Folio that has so far eluded him: The Two Gents. After spending time watching him at work, I have a hunch that he may have cracked some of the problems posed by one of Shakespeare’s early works.

“It is an ideal play,” says Doran, “to do with students. It is about young people leaving home, falling in love, discovering their identities. It even brings back memories of my own experience of leaving Preston to study at Bristol just as Shakespeare’s characters quit Verona to go to Milan. But working on the play has been genuinely collaborative. It’s been a funny old couple of years since the death of my husband [Sir Antony Sher]. I’ve filled it with various displacement activities such as going round the world studying existing copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio. What this production enables me to do is get back into a rehearsal room and to pass on what I have learned to the next generation. They are also teaching me. There’s a scene where Launce and Speed, two comic servants, discuss the attributes of a milkmaid. One of the actors said to me that it was exactly like a Hinge profile. I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about until he explained that it was a dating app.”

How, though, do you cast a play when you are unfamiliar with the students’ work? “Well,” says Doran, “80 initially sent in videos. I saw 40 of them in person and cast 20. What is extraordinary is the range of experience. Half the cast are undergraduates: the other half are doing DPhils or master’s degrees in subjects that include neuroscience, the history of art and professional theatre in the Soviet gulags. Three of the cast I’ve discovered also do drag acts.”

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