Category Archives: Current Affairs

‘HOWLING ANGER’: HOW ANGELS IN AMERICA AND THE NORMAL HEART CONFRONTED THE AIDS CRISIS ·

(Ryan Gilbey’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/5; Photo: The Guardian.)

‘You couldn’t phone it in’ … Andrew Garfield and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in the National Theatre’s 2017 revival of Angels in America. Photograph: Helen Maybanks

The pandemic inspired many works of art but two furious, turbulent plays written at its onset still tower over the rest. As both return, we explore their enduring power

On 3 July 1981, a single-column item appeared on page 20 of the New York Times under the headline: “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” In the four decades since, the cultural response to Aids has spanned every art form. It’s a Sin, Russell T Davies’s Channel 4 series, is only the most recent entry on a very long list. But even now, after all those works, the conversation about Aids is still dominated by two American plays that arrived in the early days of that pandemic.

In The Normal Heart, which opened off-Broadway in April 1985, playwright and activist Larry Kramer dramatised his own struggle to force politicians, doctors and the gay community to confront a disease many were treating with scepticism or indifference. In front of a set on which the rising fatalities and the names of the dead were scrawled and updated with each performance, Kramer’s crusading onstage alter-ego Ned Weeks ranted, raged and fell desperately in love. He was played by Brad Davis, the star of Midnight Express and Querelle, who died of Aids six years later.

Fantastical … Nancy Crane and Stephen Dillane in Angels In America at the NT in 1993. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Angels in America adopts a more expansive, fantastical approach. Tony Kushner’s two-part, seven-hour epic, which was commissioned in the late 1980s and opened in its entirety on Broadway in 1993, mixes fictional characters with real-life figures such as Roy Cohn, the ruthless lawyer who died of Aids, and Ethel Rosenberg, the woman he sent to the electric chair for spying. The play’s settings range from Central Park cruising grounds to Antarctica and the afterlife. In place of Kramer’s rawness and austerity is spectacle: Marianne Elliott’s 2017 revival at the National Theatre in London featured neon, puppetry, roaring flames, and Andrew Garfield as the dying New Yorker visited by an angel crashing through his ceiling.

Neither play looks likely to fall from favour. Angels in America is currently streaming on NT at Home, while The Normal Heart – which reached Broadway in 2011 and was adapted for TV in 2014 with Mark Ruffalo – is to be staged at the National, directed by Dominic Cooke.

Back in 1985, however, when the actor DW Moffett was cast as Ned’s lover, the material was seen by some as taboo. “A gay friend told me, ‘Don’t you fucking go near Larry Kramer, that guy is toxic!’” he recalls. “I was like, ‘But it’s all about Aids.’ He said, ‘I know what it’s about! How we can’t fuck one another any more, and all that puritan bullshit.’ Even in New York, people were not ready to digest either the rage or the amount of doomsday information Larry was downloading on to American society.”

Kramer had decried gay promiscuity in the 1970s on moral grounds. Although his argument acquired, with Aids, an existential imperative, those who were enjoying hard-won freedoms were in no mood to curb their desires. “It’s Cassandra, isn’t it?” says Dominic Cooke. “He knows what’s coming and he’s not being listened to. Larry was saying that promiscuity is a choice, but it shouldn’t be the destination. The destination is that we should feel worthy of love.”

(Read more)

OST/TODOROFF/HARCUM: THEATER RESOURCES UNLIMITED (TRU) ON ADVOCACY, OPPORTUNITY AND INSPIRATION DURING (AND AFTER) COVID ·

TRU community Gathering of Friday 4/9/21.

In the room with Bob Ost, TRU Executive Director, President, and
Co-founder: Aimee Todoroff, director, Managing Director of the League of Independent Theater and Chris Harcum, award-winning actor, producer, and playwright (and Director of a Bright Future for LIT). They are co-founders of Elephant Run District indie theater company. The power of advocacy and the founding and evolution of the League of Independent Theater, including initiatives to help theater venues, as well as theater artists, survive the shutdown. And the difference between Open Culture and NY Pop Ups, and their roles in bringing back live performance.

VisitTheater Resources Unlimited

FRENCH AUDIENCES DEVELOP A TASTE FOR WINDOW THEATRE ·

(from Reuters, 4/11; via the Drudge Report.)

PARIS, April 11 (Reuters) – French actress Isabelle Cagnat is pining to get back on stage once the pandemic is over, but on Sunday she had to be content with performing from behind the windows of a fashion boutique.

Outside the hip apparel store in central Paris, a small crowd of several dozen people gathered under a cold grey sky, some passers-by, others who had seen notices on social media. Organisers implored the audience to stand well apart to avoid trouble with police.

“It’s an act of defiance to say ‘we’re here, we’re ready to perform anywhere’,” Cagnat said after an hour-long performance of “Amnesiacs Haven’t Experienced Anything Unforgettable” based on the book by French writer Herve Le Tellier.

“(It’s) to show that in life we need art, we need to think, to dream, to cry. You could see the audience was emotional. Everyone misses the theatre.”

Theatres, cinemas, art galleries and other cultural spaces have been shut since October and with France in a third nationwide lockdown as coronavirus infections sweep Europe, it is unclear when they will reopen.

In the street, the audience depended on a speaker to convey the lines of Cagnat and her co-performer Etienne Coquereau.

Inside the boutique, Coquereau said, any intimacy was reduced by the wall of glass that separated him from the audience, but there was still a connection.

(Read more)

MILLIONS TO WATCH “COME TO EGYPT” MOVIE  ·

“Ancient Egyptians were a unique, powerful, and very advanced people.”–Khaled El-Nabawy

Correspondent Adam Sullivan wrote about Khaled El-Nabawy’s new venture in Egypt.  Filmed in a number of archaeological sites, as part of the country’s plan to promote Egyptian destinations–and raise awareness among citizens—the project introduces ancient Egyptian civilization to Egyptians and promotes Egypt on an Arab and international scale. The aim of the film is to showcase Egypt’s tourism offerings, especially cultural tourism, which is  very important for Egyptian tourism. 

The Egyptian cultural ministry chose internationally renowned actor Khaled El-Nabawy to star in the film because he had launched a campaign to promote Egypt’s tourist and archaeological sites, called “Come to Egypt,” to invite people from all over the world to visit his country.

Watch scenes from “Come to Egypt” here.

 

 

ACTORS’ EQUITY ISSUES NEW PROTOCOLS FOR ‘FULLY VACCINATED’ PRODUCTIONS ·

(Ryan McPhee’s article appeared in Playbill, 4/5; via Pam Green; Photo: 45th Street Playbill Staff.)  

As the U.S. approaches COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for all adults, the union has updated its guidelines for a slowly reopening theatrical landscape.

Actors’ Equity Association has released updated guidelines for theatres that intend to employ its members, which include performers and stage managers, as indoor productions begin to take the stage once again following the pandemic shutdown. The protocols are specifically for “fully vaccinated” companies, in which Equity members and all those who would be in contact with them are at least 14 days past receiving their final COVID-19 vaccination shots.

The newly issued guidelines arrive after Equity faced scrutiny by employers and members alike, who claimed that the union’s slow response compared to other similar guilds—as well as restrictive and costly measures like private transportation and extended breaks from rehearsal—were preventing work instead of protecting workers. In response to a petition that cited these concerns, Equity will hold a town hall on reopening-focused safety protocols April 8.

Among the union’s requirements is the implementation of COVID-19 safety officers. Productions would have to have one for every 20 people in the company (which includes actors, stage managers, and anyone who comes in contact with them). Officers would ensure compliance with health protocols, overseeing testing, symptom monitoring, cleaning, contact tracing, and more. The guidelines stipulate that actors and stage managers cannot act as safety officers for their production.

(Read more)

THEATER RESOURCES UNLIMITED (TRU) PRESENTS WRITER-PRODUCER VIRTUAL SPEED DATE: THE ART OF THE PITCH SUNDAY, APRIL 25, 2021 AT 2:30PM ·

(via Michelle Tabnick.)

Theater Resources Unlimited

presents

Writer-Producer Virtual Speed Date: The Art of the Pitch

Sunday, April 25, 2021 at 2:30pm

Submission Deadline: Thursday, April 15, 2021

 

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) presents a Writer-Producer Virtual Speed Date: The Art of the Pitch, on Sunday, April 25, 2021. The popular event is now reformatted for Zoom, with more tech and less noise: each writer will be in an individual breakout room with each of the eleven producers. The submission deadline is Thursday, April 15, 2021. To apply, fill out the application here and email to TRUStaff1@gmail.com. The application fee is $65 for TRU members and $75 for non-members or observers. When naming the application document, please include your full name first.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to rethink all TRU programs for Zoom presentation. Turns out that what seemed at first to be a drastic inconvenience has paid off with surprising benefits,” said Bob Ost, executive director of TRU. “We now have extended our reach well beyond the New York area, throughout the US and as far away as England, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. Now writers from all over the world can come meet and pitch to a lineup of New York producers.”

There will be two Zoom sessions:

Session 1

2:30pm ET: Coaching

One-hour break

4:30pm ET: Pitching

Session 2

3:30pm ET: Coaching

One-hour break

5:30pm ET: Pitching

You meet a producer at a party and have two minutes to interest them in your work. Do you have the skill to sell yourself? Here’s a chance to practice your pitching with real producers who are open to and interested in meeting you. Okay, they probably won’t option you on the spot, but they’ll give you valuable feedback about your work and your ability to talk about it. And you’ll have the opportunity to start developing a relationship. And that’s what this business is all about. Relationships.

The Speed Date is the only event I know of that gives writers the chance to meet high level producers one-on-one in a room. To me, that’s what makes the Speed Dates so valuable. And you do it with kindness, which I value in life. ~Vincent Amelio (How Alfo Learned to Love)

We’ll have eleven producers lined up, from both the commercial and not-for-profit worlds, all with an interest in new projects; we also may have eleven aspiring producers from our Producer Development program. So you’ll be pitching to as many as 22 producers in total! Come with a willingness to learn, because the real value is the chance to practice your pitching. And you’ll be getting invaluable coaching from experts, as well.

Confirmed producers include:

Margot Astrachan, producer (The Prom, A Gentleman’s Guide…, Ghost the musical, Around the World in 80 Days, Nice Work If You Can Get It, On a Clear Day…)

Patrick Blake, producer (The 39 Steps, Bedlam Theatre’s Hamlet/St. Joan, My Life Is a Musical, Play Dead, The Exonerated), founding artistic director of Rhymes Over Beats Hip Hop Theater Collective

Charlotte Cohn, producer (Church and State, Handle with Care, Rated P for Parenthood)

Sharon Fallon/Sharon Fallon Productions, general manager, theatrical consultant, producer (IndecentBeautiful Broadway, London & National Tour, Matilda The Musical, Lysistrata Jones)

William Franzblau, producer (Rocktopia, Tony Award-nominated Say Goodnight GracieAmerican Buffalo and Wonderland on Broadway; tour of Little House on the Prairie the Musical; off-Broadway Sistas, Jewtopia, Evil Dead the MusicalRespect, Illuminate)

Sue Gilad/In Fine Company, producer (Moulin Rouge, Angels in America, Jagged Little Pill, Company, Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812; M. Butterfly; Disaster! The Musical; Significant Other. Upcoming: The Outsiders. Off-Broadway: The Other Josh Cohen)

Jennifer Manocherian, producer (Meteor Shower, Dead Accounts, Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Mountaintop, War Horse, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, August: Osage County)

Tamra Pica, producer and casting director for WriteAct Repertory, and the new Park Performing Arts Center’s (PPAC) in Union City, NJ

Jonathan Pollard, producer (Broadway: All Shook Up; off-Broadway: Disenchanted!, Dai (enough), The Thing About Men, Over the River and Through the Woods, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change)

Markus Potter, theatre director, Artistic Director of Kansas Repertory Theatre, Founding Producing Artistic Director of NewYorkRep, Co-Producer of the Velocity of Autumn on Broadway

One more producer to be announced

Coaches: Emileena Pedigo, Samantha Saltzman, Joanne Zippel

I really am impressed with the info and support from TRU. I’ve done several of these with [another] group. I quit last year. With you guys it’s like you’re setting us up for success, what a concept. ~Kurt Johns

I just wanted to relay a huge thanks to you and everyone at TRU for this experience, it was awesome! We really felt supported the whole way through, and we feel so much better prepared to market our show after getting the chance to practice pitching. If there’s anywhere we can write a review or something for this experience, please let us know. And thank you and the rest of the team for all the tech effort behind this. ~Daniel Rosen & Alara Magritte

Just wanted to say “thanks” for your Herculean efforts in making the event so worthwhile…. Honestly, I much preferred pitching via Zoom than in person with everyone else within earshot. ~Sam Affoumado

My experience was one of the rare occasions where several producers expressed real interest in my work. Later, one attended my reading, and followed up with a coffee meeting to talk financing. We’re still in touch. Again, this is never promised, but it does happen for some of us. In my opinion, the price of $85 for all that value is a BARGAIN! ~Ed Zareh (Long Lost John)

I’ve had follow-up meetings with two people I met from the event and provided scripts to three others. If you have a project where you’d like to practice and receive feedback on your pitch; potentially make some connections that would be useful for script development or early production; and meet some other playwrights – this is an ideal opportunity. ~William Roetzheim

About the Coaches

Emileena Pedigo’s work focuses on building sustainable careers #AnotherWay, using entrepreneurial strategies that prioritize the artist over their art. Her company, The Show Goes On Productions provides coaching and artist management, as well as produces workshops, showcases, and events. Before that Emileena was managing producer of the Midtown International Theater Festival. She helped expand the annual festival into seven venues, presenting up to 60 shows in one month during her seven-year tenure. Emileena also general-managed for several nonprofits, assisted Stewart F. Lane on four Broadway shows, including the Off-Broadway transfer of The 39 Steps, and worked on various film and music festivals. She toured theaters, music arenas, and schools across the country, working with artists from all artistic disciplines. Emileena has served on the board of Conscious Capitalism NYC, and is currently helping to build Arts programming within the Chelsea Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. She is a graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute, SUNY/Kaufmann’s Fasttrac program for entrepreneurs, and a Purdue University alum. 

Samantha Saltzman’s credits include: Current Directing Projects: Drama League Gala Honoring Steve Martin, and Bryant Park Christmas Skatetacular. Resident Director: Matilda the Musical (1st National Tour). Assistant Resident Director: Matilda the Musical (Broadway).  Additional Associate/Assistant Directing credits: Southern Comfort (The Public), Sarah Brightman’s Dreamchaser World TourOn the Town (Barrington Stage), An Iliad (National Tour), Academia Nuts, and multiple shows at NYMF and FringeNYC. Select Directing credits include: The Arkadina ProjectUrinetown210 Amlent Ave, and Madam Fury’s Traveling Show. Drama League Directing Fellow. www.samanthasaltzman.com

 

Joanne Zippel is a collaborator and communicator who has an extensive network of relationships in both the creative and corporate worlds. She has over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, working in theatre and live event production, promotion, sponsorship, B2B and B2C sales and marketing, creative development, literary management and creative coaching in the entertainment business. Joanne ‘s creative coaching business evolved out of her work as a manager of playwrights and screenwriters – guiding their careers and helping them to pursue their passions in what is well known as an often difficult, changeable and sometimes arbitrary business. Through her company Zip Creative, she works with clients helping them to open themselves up to their creative capacity, build a solid foundation from which to make authentic work and life decisions and take practical action on them. For more information go to www.zipcreative.net. Joanne graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and did graduate work at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She is a graduate of the Hoffman Institute.

About the Producers

Margot Astrachan is a Tony Award winning commercial theatrical producer based in New York. Broadway: Tony Award winning A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and MurderThe Realistic JonesesNice Work If You Can Get It, the revival of On a Clear Day You Can See ForeverBonnie & ClydeBusker AlleyGhost the Musical National Tour, and the only staging of Stephen Sondheim’s Evening Primrose. She also recently produced The Sting starring Harry Connick Jr. at The Papermill Playhouse. Upcoming: Diana, A New Musical (La Jolla, February 2019). Margot wrote, produced and performed five one-woman cabaret shows. New York: Danny’s Skylight Room, Judy’s, The Plaza Hotel, The Oak Room of The Algonquin Hotel, the Triad, The National Arts Club, and Don’t Tell Mama’s, among others. With dancer/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, she wrote the book of a new Jazz musical, which has been read at Lincoln Center and at The York Theater.Margot was the American Artistic Director of the Jermyn Street Theatre in London and The Kings Head Theatre in London, and has had over 30 years’ experience producing special events for Arts Organizations such as The York Theatre Company, The Theatre Museum, and Brit-Arts of The St. George’s Society, which with Jim Dale, featured British and American theatre professionals in readings and panels in New York. She is the Vice Chair of The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), a board member of The Alumni & Friends of The LaGuardia High School for the Arts, The League of Professional Theater Women, and The Theater Board of The Kaufman Cultural Center. She is a graduate of CTI (The Commercial Theatre Institute) and is a member of The Association of Performing Arts Presenters, The National Alliance For Musical Theatre, The Broadway League, The Dramatists Guild, the Advisory Board of TRU, British American Business, Inc. and BAFTA East Coast. She is the past chair and current board member of The American Friends of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Her latest project is Radio Galaxy by Michele Aldin Kushner (found in the TRU Voices series) and directed by Mark Waldrop, currently in development.

 

Patrick Blake is a writer/producer based in New York and San Francisco, and Founding Artistic Director of Rhymes Over Beats, a hip hop theater company. In New York theater, he is a producer of the off-Broadway revival of The 39 Steps, the off-Broadway transfer of Bedlam Theater Company’s dual productions of Hamlet and Saint Joan, and is currently producing My Life Is a Musical (from the TRU Voices series) which had a debut production at Bay Street Theatre. He was one of the producers of Play Dead! at The Players Theatre, he has produced In the Continuum at Perry Street Theatre, Noah’s ArchiveJoe FearlessThe Exonerated (Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Court TV’s Scales of Justice Award) and The Soap Myth at Southstreet Seaport. He also produced Dirty Works at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He was Executive Producer for the short film, The Igloo, and the feature film Mr. Smith Gets a Hustler. Patrick is a proud board member of TRU.

 

Charlotte Cohn was born in Denmark and raised in Israel where she served in the Israeli Army as a commanding officer. She was the lead producer of The NY Times critics’ pick Handle With Care and the critically acclaimed Church & State, both written by Jason Odell Williams. Directing highlights include Best Friends at JAZZ at Lincoln Center and Church & State at Berkshire Theatre Group. Acting highlights include La Boheme and Coram Boy on Broadway. Charlotte is an Ovation Award Winner and was nominated for the Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award for her performance as ‘Hallelujah Lil’ in Happy End at A.C.T. For more please visit:  www.charlottecohn.com

 

William Franzblau created and produced the recent Broadway Rocktopia, the Tony Nominated Best Play Say Goodnight Gracie, produced David Mamet’s American Buffalo on Broadway, and the tour of Little House on the Prairie the Musical starring Melissa Gilbert. He also served as the Executive and Lead Producer for Broadway’s Wonderland. He licensed and produced the off-Broadway shows, SISTAS the Musical (recently shot and broadcast on BET, now in its sixth year off Broadway), This One’s for the GirlsJewtopiaEvil Dead the Musicalthe male intellect: an oxymoronRespect and ILuminate (America’s Got Talent Finalist) while developing several Broadway shows including Paramount’s Crazy People and the new Rupert Holmes play, Kennedy/Reagan. He produced and Co-Directed Rocktopia for the 2016 PBS National Pledge Broadcast with a 2017 tour. As Chief Executive Officer of the high technology company, KATrix Inc. he created strategic alliances with the Walt Disney Company, Microsoft Corporation, MGM and the Intel Corporation. In the early nineties, Mr. Franzblau co-founded Interfilm Inc., a publicly traded company combining interactive technologies with cinematic art. He was the driving force in putting together an $18 million initial public offering underwritten by Smith Barney and subsequently facilitated the sale of the company via a reverse triangular merger with Palatin Technologies, Inc. From 1990 through 1992 Mr. Franzblau served as producer of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles touring show, a 21-month tour involving 500 appearances in 200 cities and 10 countries, for which he managed all aspects of the business development and operations. The tours grossed over $60 million in sponsorships, ticket sales and merchandising as well as spinning off a double platinum record and a national pay-per-view. Previous to the above Mr. Franzblau served as Executive Producer of three tours of the Moscow Circus on Broadway and North America and produced the touring productions of BEATLEMANIA.

Suzanne Gilad was the lead producer of the award-winning hit musical The Other Josh Cohen, at the Westside Theatre. Sue’s recent Broadway credits include Moulin Rouge!Jagged Little PillAngels in America (Tony Award winner for Best Revival of a Play), Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812M. ButterflyDisaster! and Significant Other. She is the co-founder of InFineCompany.com, BroadwayCustom.com, and CustomBroadway.com, which provides individualized, Broadway-level concerts and shows for theaters and Performing Arts centers around the world. Sue’s career started with voiceovers for TV, film, radio and Broadway. Sue is the Co-Chair on the Leadership Council of Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS. Her favorite gig is playing the Voice of God for the Broadway Cares’ annual Broadway Backwards benefit. Before entering the world of producing, she was an entrepreneur. Sue is the co-author of The Real Estate Millionaire (McGraw-Hill) and author of Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies (Wiley). She is the creator of PaidToProofread.com, which sells books and video programs. Sue is a mom of three very active kids who promise not to become performers.

Jennifer Manocherian’s credits include Meteor ShowerNice Work If You Can Get ItBloody Bloody Andrew JacksonDead AccountsThe MountaintopA Little Night MusicLa Cage aux FollesThe Norman ConquestsThe 39 StepsAugust: Osage CountySpring AwakeningThe Little Dog LaughedCaroline, or ChangeMa Rainey’s Black BottomThoroughly Modern MillieThe CrucibleJane EyreStomp.

Tamra Pica is producer and casting director for WriteAct Repertory, and the new Park Performing Arts Center’s (PPAC) in Union City, NJ. Tamra’s theater and television work spans 33 years and over 250 productions as a prop designer, AEA Stage Manager, producer and casting director of plays, musicals, dance and ice shows. She produces both Off Broadway, as well as, managing the Los Angeles theater presence for Write Act.  Recent credits include the long-running FrankensteinWicked City Blues, and Swing. Other credits include: Lili MarleneCaldwell’s Bomb for the New York Venus/Adonis Theater Festival, RenewalYour Name on My Lips at Theater for the New City and the long running musical Fabulous! Queen of the New Musicals where she served as a casting director and producer. Alongside theater, Tamra’s work production, casting, and development television work can be seen for companies such as Disney, Sony, Cartoon Network, NBC Studios, TBS, CBS, MTV, ABC and FOX.  She currently works on the animated Disney series Mira, Royal Detective.

Markus Potter is a theatre director, Producer, and Professor of Theatre at the University of Kansas, where he also serves as Artistic Director of the Kansas Repertory Theatre. He is the Founding Producing Artistic Director of NewYorkRep, and previously served as Interim Artistic Director of Theatre Aspen. Key directing projects include Stalking the Bogeyman off-Broadway at New World Stages (Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, NYTimes critics pick), London’s Southwark Playhouse (Off West End Award nomination for best production and direction), Red Speedo by Lucas Hnath at Center Rep, Lost Boy Found In Whole Foods by Tammy Ryan at The Portland Stage Company, Why You Beasting? (Time Out NY critic’s pick), As an actor: Guthrie Theatre, Long Wharf, Berkeley Rep, ACT, Denver Center, tour of Death of a Salesman with Christopher Lloyd. As Producer: The Velocity of Autumn on Broadway (Estelle Parsons’s Tony Award nomination). SDC and AEA member. MFA Columbia University. MarkusPotter.com

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) is the leading network for developing theater professionals, a twenty-seven-year-old 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to help producers produce, emerging theater companies to emerge healthily and all theater professionals to understand and navigate the business of the arts. Membership includes self-producing artists as well as career producers and theater companies.

TRU publishes an email community newsletter of services, goods and productions; presents monthly panels as well as the new weekly Community Gatherings; offers a Producer Development & Mentorship Program taught by prominent producers and general managers in New York theater, and also presents Producer Boot Camp workshops to help aspirants develop business skills. TRU serves writers through the TRU Voices Play Reading Series, Writer-Producer Speed Date, a Practical Playwriting Workshop, How to Write a Musical That Works and a Director-Writer Communications Lab.

Programs of Theater Resources Unlimited are supported in part by the Montage Foundation and the Leibowitz Greenway Foundation.

For more information about TRU membership and programs, visit www.truonline.org.

 

 

ARTHUR KOPIT, WHOSE ‘OH DAD’ SHOOK UP THE THEATER, DIES AT 83 ·

(Anita Gates’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/3; via Pam Green. Photo: The playwright Arthur Kopit with the cast of his play “Wings” in 1978. Constance Cummings, second from left, won Tony, Drama Desk and Obie awards for her performance as a woman who has had a stroke.Credit…Jack Mitchell/Getty Images. )

A three-time Tony nominee, he first became known for avant-garde works, many of them christened with rambling titles, that sparked spirited reactions.

Arthur Kopit, the avant-garde playwright who thrust Off Broadway into a new era with the absurdist satirical farce “Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad” and earned Tony Award nominations for two wildly different plays, “Indians” and “Wings,” and the musical “Nine,” died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.

His death was announced by a spokesman, Rick Miramontez, who did not specify the cause.

In 1962, when “Oh Dad, Poor Dad” opened at the 300-seat Phoenix Theater on East 74th Street, American popular culture was shifting. Julie Andrews was between the idealistic “Camelot” and the wholesome “Mary Poppins”; Lenny Bruce, the hot comic of the moment, was known for what came to be called “sick humor.” Broadway was dominated by “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “A Man for All Seasons.”

Along came a 24-year-old playwright with a script about an older woman who liked traveling with her virginal adult son and her husband’s preserved corpse. The New York Times critic, Howard Taubman, had reservations — he called it “funny” and “stageworthy” but “nonsensical” — but it won the Drama Desk Award (then the Vernon Rice Award) and even transferred to Broadway for a few months in 1963.

There was often vehement disagreement about Mr. Kopit’s work. Before “Indians” (1969) — a dreamlike production that positioned Buffalo Bill Cody as the first guilty white American liberal and prominently featured his 19th-century Wild West show — arrived on Broadway, there was a production in London, where critical reaction was decidedly mixed. The script included the rape of one Native American and the casual murder (for sport) of another.

Clive Barnes, writing in The Times, called the Broadway production, starring Stacy Keach, “a gentle triumph” and praised Mr. Kopit for “trying to do something virtually no one has done before: the multilinear epic.” But Walter Kerr, his Times colleague, compared it to “bad burlesque.”

John Lahr, writing in The Village Voice, summarized “Indians” as “never less than scintillating” and called it the “most probing and the most totally theatrical Broadway play of this decade.” “Indians” received three Tony nominations, including for best play.

Mr. Kopit professed a very specific social conscience. “I’m not concerned in the play with the terrible plight of the Indians now — they were finished from the moment the first white man arrived,” he told a London newspaper in 1968. “What I want to show is a series of confrontations between two alien systems.” Many saw parallels to the Vietnam War, then at its peak.

When Mr. Kopit returned to Broadway a decade later, his subject could not have been more different. “Wings,” which opened at the Public Theater in 1978 and moved to Broadway the next year, followed the journey of a 70-year-old woman (played by Constance Cummings) having a stroke and reacting to it with fear, determination and kaleidoscopic verbal confusion. As The Washington Post reported, when the main character is asked to repeat the sentence “We live across the street from the school,” she replies, “Malacats on the forturay are the kesterfacts of the romancers.”

Richard Eder of The Times called “Wings,” which had been inspired by the post-stroke rehabilitation experiences of Mr. Kopit’s stepfather, “a brilliant work” — “complex at first glance,” he wrote, “yet utterly lucid, written with great sensitivity and with the excitement of a voyage of discovery.”

(Read more)

ROBERT DWYER & AUSTIN WRIGHT’S ACE IN THE HOLE: “THE SHERIFF” FROM TWODOT BOOKS (INTERVIEW, Part 1) ·

Robert Dwyer & Austin Wright posse up with SV’s Bob Shuman to talk about big ideas, big landscapes, and tackling the biggest questions–like what it means to be human.

Robert Dwyer is a history buff with an abiding interest in the West, which looms large in the American psyche–a canvas for big stories and big ideas. He lives with his wife and dog in Alexandria, Virginia.

Austin Wright started watching John Wayne movies with his dad before he was old enough to talk–and he’s been hooked on Westerns ever since. He lives with his wife, son, and daughter in Annandale, Virginia.

“Has a chance to be judged one of those rare modern Western–fiction classics.”—Jeff Guinn, New York Times best-selling author

(Photos, from top: Austin Wright and Robert Dwyer.)

For both of you, name your favorite sheriff, besides your own character, from books or film (or both).  Why do you like him or her best?

Rob: Ed Tom Bell of No Country for Old Men, both the book and the movie. It’s one of my favorite stories—I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy and the Coen brothers—and I’m riveted by Bell’s pathos as he confronts this new violence in the modern west. He embodies that clash between an idealized western past and a modern western reality. Even though The Sheriff is set eight decades earlier, I think it still grapples with some of those same questions of change. Along with Bell we wonder: Has the modern age become worse, more violent? Or has it always been so?

Austin: My four-year-old son is obsessed with Toy Story, so lately my favorite has been Sheriff Woody. But every time I revisit the Lonesome Dove miniseries, I am deeply moved by Chris Cooper’s portrayal of Sheriff July Johnson. He’s a rather pathetic man who nonetheless wins me over for his plodding commitment to goodness even as his personal life implodes for reasons understood by the viewer but beyond his comprehension. I’m fascinated by Larry McMurtry’s decision to include Johnson as a major character—such a wonderful foil to the supremely competent Gus and Call, the buddies at the heart of the greatest buddy story ever told.

Why do you think people are drawn to read Westerns and does anything  about the genre need to be corrected for today?  What are the issues involved with writing a Western—and how did you approach and resolve them?

The Western is an ideal canvas for big stories. It shows mankind unfettered, inhabiting a land where the big machines of government and society are stripped away, and what’s left are those primordial struggles: man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. himself. Even the landscape itself is expressive of this—the barren desert, the endless plain. In a certain way the Western genre is like the fantasy genre in that the landscape becomes a character, expressive of mood. We also think the long relationship between Westerns and movies lends a cinematic feel to these stories, which only enhances the effect.

The biggest issue with the Western is popular perception—that the genre is archaic, and socially problematic. And, certainly, it can be. But there are great stories and storytellers in the Western’s past and present. We tried to tell a story that’s more inclusive, that presents a wide array of characters without making inclusion the only aim of the story. We think that’s the trick—modernizing the Western without making it about something else, without making it political.

What interested you about writing  a Western—why did you choose to write one?

As a kid, Austin’s favorite John Wayne movie was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and when we revisited the film as adults, it made clear to us how effectively the small frontier town could function as a microcosm to deal with larger, societal themes. We wanted to do that, but with more modern themes that wouldn’t have been as apparent in the Westerns of the 1960s. Our goal was to write a novel that paid loving homage to the Westerns we cherished as kids, while also recognizing the failures of these stories and modernizing the genre for a new era.

Tell us about your novel.

Our first draft centered around one character, Sheriff John Donovan, clinging to power over the town he views as his, unwilling to pass the torch to a new generation, even as cancer consumes his body. Our idea was to take the quintessential Western hero, the lawman, and imbue him with moral ambiguity so the reader is constantly unsure whether he’s good or bad. (We felt it would be cowardly to raise this question in the reader’s mind without answering it ourselves—so we do, eventually, reveal the color of Donovan’s hat…)

At the time we started planning our second draft, we were both into the Game of Thrones books, with their sprawling cast of characters. We thought how cool it would be to fill out our own story with more point-of-view characters, each a subversive take on a stereotypical Western archetype. Kat is a prostitute with a heart of steel rather than gold. Jack is a fearsome, half-Comanche outlaw who seeks not riches but to right historical wrongs. Annabel is a schoolmarm who, rather than pine after our protagonist, rejects him to seize control over her own story. We try to give each of these characters their own inner lives and ambitions—and, for most of them, a gun at their hips. And then we nudge them toward a series of indomitable clashes of will, much like the duels at the end of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western.

You have known each other for a good part of your lives—where did you meet and how long have you known each other?

We met in 2001 as high schoolers in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. That year, our school system launched a program to equip every student with a laptop. We both aspired to write novels, and we quickly put our slick new iBooks to work writing stories in class when we should have been taking notes. We would email our stories back and forth—and then, without really ever asking, we started expanding on each other’s work. It became clear almost immediately we brought complementary skills to the writing process, and a natural partnership formed.

In the intervening years, we’ve written several complete novels and screenplays—plus more than a dozen aborted projects—some of which are cringeworthy in retrospect, and none of which will ever see the light of day. It wasn’t until The Sheriff, which we started in 2013, that we felt we were writing something worthy of publication.

Discuss your working methods—do you find that you both write in the same way?  What tips might you give to other writers to help them with their own work?

Austin does more of the plotting and focuses on the big picture. Rob is more focused on making sure individual scenes are packed with tension and reveal something interesting about the characters. We’d like to believe this has led to a novel that works on both a micro and macro level—a series of memorable moments that add up to something larger than the sum of their parts.

As far as tips for writers, worry about process over payoff. Writer’s block creeps in when you start thinking about the finished house instead of how to lay the next brick. This is as much an admonition to ourselves as to anyone else.

What exactly can a Western give a reader besides escapism? 

Westerns are inherently allegorical. The horse is freedom of movement; the gun the right to exert one’s will, to self-actualize; the town a microcosm of society. The west means something different to everyone; it’s an idea, an idealized setting. It offers a means for writers to ask fundamental questions about morality, freedom, human nature, and purpose. We think fantasy and sci-fi are similar in this way. Sure, a story about space and future technology is inherently escapist, but it allows authors to tackle the biggest questions, like what it means to be human, in a way that would be harder in a more conventional setting.

Thank you, Rob & Austin.  We’ll look forward to more next week.

View  The Sheriff on Amazon.

The second part of this interview will be available 4/9.

(c) 2021 by Robert Dwyer & Austin Wright  (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Cover photo: TwoDot.

KURT WEILL’S PATH FROM EUROPE TO BROADWAY WAS A STRAIGHT LINE ·

(Joshua Barone’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/15; via Pam Green; Photo: When the composer Kurt Weill was a teenager in Germany, as seen here in 1919, he was already showing signs of what would shape his Broadway sound.Credit…Hoenisch, via Weill-Lenya Research Center, Kurt Weill Foundation for Music.)

Weill’s early, Weimar-era works reveal the qualities that found a natural home in his golden age American musicals.

Kurt Weill is often described as if he were two composers. One spun quintessential sounds of Weimar-era Berlin in works like “The Threepenny Opera,” and the other wrote innovative earworms for Broadway’s golden age. His career was bifurcated, so the story goes — split not only by a shift in style, but also by the Atlantic Ocean, when he fled Nazi Germany and eventually settled in the United States.

Yet it’s possible to trace an unbroken line from Weill’s earliest works, as a teenager, to his final projects for the American stage, before his death in 1950. This path is evident in a recent wave of streamed performances — from his hometown, Dessau, as well as from Berlin, Milan and elsewhere — that together form a rough survey of his European output and reveal a spongy mind, a desire for novelty and a steady progression toward simplicity that found a natural home in his pathbreaking Broadway musicals.

The oldest piece on offer came, appropriately, from Dessau, where Weill was born in 1900. Today it’s a dreary town in the former East Germany, but it has a rich cultural heritage: The Kurt Weill Center is inside one of the Masters’ Houses of the Bauhaus school, which is a local landmark and a venue for the annual Kurt Weill Festival. That celebration went online this year, with events including a spirited recital by the young pianist Frank Dupree.

Between duets with the trumpeter Simon Höfele, Dupree played “Intermezzo,” a short piano solo from 1917, before Weill had studied with the likes of Engelbert Humperdinck and Ferruccio Busoni or worked under the conductor Hans Knappertsbusch. You can already hear, in this tender work, a gift for melody, as well as the textural sophistication of Brahms.

(Read more)

‘SHAKESPEARE WALLAH’: MERCHANT IVORY’S BITTERSWEET TALE OF BOLLYWOOD AND THE BARD ·

(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/30/2021; Photo: Shashi Kapoor and Felicity Kendal in Shakespeare Wallah, the second feature by Merchant Ivory Productions. Photograph: Allstar/Merchant Ivory Productions.)

The Kendal family of actors star in a story inspired by their travels around India, whose booming film industry upstages their theatrical troupe.

The actor Geoffrey Bragg was born in 1909 in the Lake District and later adopted the name of his birth town of Kendal but, at schools and theatres across India in the 1940s and 50s, he was recognised simply as the “Shakespeare Wallah”. The adventurous troupe of performers he led in productions of classic plays included his wife, Laura Liddell, daughter Jennifer and youngest daughter Felicity Kendal, who worked first as a stage hand then made her acting debut aged nine as Macduff’s son in Macbeth.

Geoffrey Kendal and his family star together in the film Shakespeare Wallah (1965), produced by Ismail Merchant and directed by James Ivory as the second feature for their fledgling Merchant Ivory stable. In the film, the Kendals’ theatre ensemble, which was named Shakespeareana, morphs into a troupe called the Buckingham Players. In this motley company, Geoffrey and Laura play the parents, essaying the great tragic and comic roles on stage while keeping the books for their winding third-class travels around the subcontinent. Eighteen-year-old Felicity plays their daughter, Lizzie, giving her Desdemona and Ophelia by night while embarking on a romance with playboy Sanju (Shashi Kapoor). Jennifer Kendal, who was Kapoor’s offscreen wife, has a small supporting role and designed costumes for the film.

Shakespeare Wallah is set in a rapidly modernising India whose pop culture is eclipsing English traditions and rendering the Buckingham Players an anachronism. The booming homegrown film industry is represented by Bollywood star Manjula (played by actor turned chef Madhur Jaffrey) who also has a relationship with Sanju. Lizzie finds herself directly competing against a glamorous screen icon, just as the stage views cinema as a rival.

Although the film is rooted in a specific sociocultural moment for India, the threat posed to theatre by screen entertainment remains as universal now as it did then. In his Guardian obituary for Geoffrey Kendal in 1998, Ivory wrote about the tensions during the production with the veteran actor: “He let me know how he despised the cinema – that the cinema was his enemy, causing theatres to be empty and tours to be cancelled.” But Kendal – who has an ease in front of the camera despite his lack of film experience – came to recognise that thanks to Ivory “it was the despised cinema that told the world of my existence and to a certain extent of my fight”.

And the despised cinema is here undeniably beautiful. Shot in black and white (for budgetary reasons) by Subrata Mitra, the film has a stately pace, is sensitively written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and comes with music by the esteemed director Satyajit Ray. The bumpy travels of theatre troupes often make for bittersweet comic escapades such as in Fellini’s Variety Lights (1950) or George Cukor’s Heller in Pink Tights (1960). But Shakespeare Wallah has a clear-eyed view of the company’s itinerant life as they veer from private performances in palaces to remote school audiences, the thrill of acting offset by umpteen card games and window gazing in between.

(Read more)