Category Archives: Events

AUSTIN PENDLETON IS STILL ON BROADWAY, STILL A BABE MAGNET ·

(Henry Alford’s article appeared in the The New Yorker, 5/16; Photo: WFMJ.com.)

The actor and director hangs at the lounge of Studio 54, where he is performing in “The Minutes,” to discuss sixty years in the theatre, casting a young Laurie Metcalf and John Malkovich, and being an octogenarian object of desire.

Spend an hour talking with the actor and director Austin Pendleton in the lounge above Studio 54, and three slightly alarming things happen. First, the diminutive eighty-two-year-old, in the manner of a sleepy hedgehog, will gradually slouch down into the banquette, so that his head ends up where his shoulders once were. This will cause what Pendleton calls his “very excitable hair” to pouf up vertiginously. Finally, an extension cord under the table will somehow get wrapped around his ankles.

Pendleton is currently performing in a play at the theatre downstairs: Steppenwolf’s production of Tracy Letts’s dark comedy “The Minutes,” which is a parody of a Midwestern city-council meeting that descends into bloody political chaos. Pendleton plays a querulous council member named Mr. Oldfield. “It’s almost uncomfortable how readily I’m able to identify with this character,” he said, explaining that in real life he’s on the council of the Dramatists Guild. “Sometimes when I ask a question at a guild meeting it becomes clear that I haven’t followed anything that was said in the last half hour.”

Pendleton, best known for his supporting roles in movies—the nerdy musicologist Frederick Larrabee, in “What’s Up, Doc?”; Charles Durning’s shy sidekick, Max, in “The Muppet Movie”; Gurgle, in “Finding Nemo”—has worked with Steppenwolf for forty-three years. But it’s a relationship that almost didn’t happen. In 1979, when the fledgling Chicago-based troupe asked him to direct “Say Goodnight, Gracie,” he declined at first. He wasn’t a Broadway regular at the time (though he’d originated the role of Motel the tailor, in “Fiddler on the Roof” and would go on to direct Elizabeth Taylor in “The Little Foxes”), but his wife was pregnant, and he didn’t want to move. Also, the name bugged him: “Either they’d named themselves after a rock group, which is beyond pathetic,” he said, “or after a novel by my least favorite novelist.” But he ended up taking the gig and started auditioning the troupe—twelve relative unknowns. “For one role, I had to choose between Laurie Metcalf and Joan Allen,” he said. A second role went to a guy named John Malkovich.

(Read more)

‘WE KEPT OUR BEARDS’: OBERAMMERGAU’S PASSION PLAY EMERGES FROM PANDEMIC ·

(Kate Connolly’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/14/22; Photo:  Frederik Mayet as Jesus Christ in the 42nd Oberammergau passion play. Photograph: Lukas Barth/Reuters.)

In 1633 the Bavarian village vowed to stage its play every 10 years if it survived the plague. It did then and has again

From his perch in the orchestra pit of the Oberammergau stage, Christian Stückl nods and points to his players above, trying to offer them helpful instructions as their dress rehearsal to a half-full house of mainly local people gets under way.

“It is hard to believe we’ve got this far. I keep waiting for something to go wrong, but apart from a couple of older men forgetting their lines there’s really nothing to complain about,” the director says at the end of the five-and-a-half-hour show.

The villagers of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps are in a state of excitement. Their “passion play” – which in 1633 their forebears vowed to God they would stage every 10 years if they were spared further deaths from the plague (they were) – is back again after having been thrown off its usual schedule by two years owing to the latest pandemic.

Depicting the life, persecution, death and resurrection of Jesus, the 42nd season of what is believed to be the oldest continuous running amateur theatre production in the world will open on Saturday with a 103-performance run until October.

The play is the village’s raison d’etre. It is taken for granted that almost every one of the 5,200 residents who is eligible, from babies to nonagenarians, plays a part either on or off the stage. All children are allowed, as is anyone who has lived in the village for 20 years or more.

After being postponed for two years due to Covid, the passion play will be performed from 14 May to 2 October. 

“The last time we had to delay was 100 years ago, due to the Spanish flu, as well as deaths and injuries from the first world war, after which it was rescheduled for 1922,” Stückl says. “Pandemics and the passion play have a certain tradition.”

Despite misgivings over whether it would be able to go ahead, the usual decree went out on Ash Wednesday last year, forbidding male participants from cutting their hair or shaving their beards until the production closed the following October.

“It was hard for us to believe until recently that it would actually go ahead as the coronavirus infection rate had exploded, but most of us stuck to the rules and didn’t cut our beards in the hope it still would,” said Werner Richter, a taxi driver who has taken part in every production since 1970. His grandchildren are among the 400 youngsters on stage and his son, Andreas, a former Jesus and a psychologist by profession, has one of the lead roles as the high priest Caiaphas.

About 400 players who had signed up to take part in 2020 were forced to drop out, some due to changing life plans, others owing to their refusal to be vaccinated or to take a daily test. The Catalan donkey Sancho, on whose back Jesus was due to ride into Jerusalem, has gone into retirement, replaced by the younger Aramis.

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‘A STRANGE LOOP’ REVIEW: A DAZZLING RIDE ON A MENTAL MERRY-GO-ROUND ·

(Maya Phillips’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/26; Photo: Jaquel Spivey, center, as Usher, a 25-year-old Broadway usher, in “A Strange Loop” at the Lyceum Theater in Manhattan. Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.)

Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meta musical arrives on Broadway with its uproarious dialogue, complex psychology and eclectic score intact.

 

A Strange Loop

NYT Critic’s Pick

Broadway, Musical

1 hour 45 minutes

Open Run

Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St.

212-541-8457

When the homophobic, God-fearing, Tyler Perry-loving mother of Usher, the protagonist of the remarkable musical “A Strange Loop,” describes her son’s art, she uses the word “radical.” She doesn’t mean it as a compliment.

But “A Strange Loop,” Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meta musical about a Black queer man’s self-perception in relation to his art, is radical. And I definitely mean that as a compliment.

This musical, a production of Page 73, Playwrights Horizons and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, forgoes the commercial niceties and digestible narratives of many Broadway shows, delivering a story that’s searing and softhearted, uproarious and disquieting.

“A Strange Loop,” which opened Tuesday night, isn’t just the musical I saw in the packed Lyceum Theater a few evenings ago; it’s also the musical Usher (Jaquel Spivey), a 25-year-old usher at the Broadway production of “The Lion King,” is writing right in front of us.

He’s facing a few hurdles, namely his intrusive thoughts, embodied by the same six actors who originated the roles in the 2019 Off Broadway premiere: L Morgan Lee, James Jackson Jr., John-Michael Lyles, John-Andrew Morrison, Jason Veasey and Antwayn Hopper. They give voice to his anxieties of being a plus-size Black queer man, his alcoholic father’s constant denigration and his mother’s pleas to stop running “up there in the homosexsh’alities” and produce a wholesome gospel play instead.

Through scenes that move between Usher’s interactions with the outside world, like a phone conversation with his mother or a hookup, and a constant congress with his most devastating notions of himself, “A Strange Loop” pulls off an amazing feat: condensing a complex idea, full of paradoxes and abstractions, into the form of a Broadway musical.

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DRAMA DESK AWARDS 2022–NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED  ·

DRAMA DESK AWARDS 2022

NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED 

 

 (via Scott Klein / Logan Metzler at Keith Sherman & Associates; visit www.DramaDeskAwards.com .)

 

 

(Monday, May 16, 2022) – Nominations for the 66th Annual Drama Desk Awards were announced today, and the full list of nominees is available below.

 

In keeping with the Drama Desk‘s mission, the nominators considered shows that opened on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway during the 2021-2022 New York theater season, that the Drama Desk determined ended as of May 1, 2022. Only live performances were eligible – if performances were also available for streaming, 21 or more unique live performances were required. 

 

Due to the realities of Covid, the 2022 Drama Desk Awards ceremony will be different this year. Winners will be announced the week of June 6. The Awards will be presented during an abbreviated ceremony at Sardi’s (234 West 44th Street) on Tuesday, June 14 from 3:00 – 6:00PM. 

 

The Drama Desk Awards are produced by Tony Award winner Scott Mauro/Scott Mauro Entertainment and the show is being written by six-time Emmy Award winner Bruce Vilanch.

 

In determining eligibility of the Broadway productions of A Strange LoopFor Colored Girls, Hangmen, Is This a Room, Skeleton Crew, and The Lehman Trilogy which had recent Off-Broadway runs in previous seasons, the nominating committee considered only those elements that constituted new work. 

 

Additional productions on and off Broadway not eligible as they were considered in their entirety in prior seasons included Beyond BabelCoal CountryDana H.Get on Your KneesGirl from the North CountryThe Patsy, and What to Send Up When It Goes Down.

 

Trouble in Mind was considered a revival due to its Drama Desk-eligible 1955 off-Broadway production. 

 

The 2021-2022 Drama Desk Nominating Committee is composed of: Martha Wade Steketee (Chair; freelance, UrbanExcavations.com), Peter Filichia (Broadway Radio), Kenji Fujishima (freelance: TheaterMania), Juan Michael Porter II (TheBody.com; freelance: TDF StagesDid They Like It?New York Theatre Guide, Queerty), Ayanna Prescod (freelance: VarietyNew York Theatre GuideToday Tix), Zachary Stewart (TheaterMania), and Diep Tran (freelance: BackstageAmerican TheatreBroadway NewsNew York Theatre Guide).

 

Follow the Drama Desk Awards: @DramaDeskAwards on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for updates

 

*   *   *

 

About The Drama Desk

The Drama Desk was founded in 1949 to explore key issues in the theater and to bring together critics and writers in an organization to support the ongoing development of theater in New York. The organization began presenting its awards in 1955, and it is the only critics’ organization to honor achievement in the theater with competition among Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions in the same categories.

 

 

 www.DramaDeskAwards.com 

 

 

Follow the Drama Desk Awards 

@DramaDeskAwards 

on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for updates

 

2022 DRAMA DESK NOMINATIONS: 

 

 

Outstanding Play

Cullud Wattah, by Erika Dickerson-Despenza, The Public Theater

English, by Sanaz Toossi, Atlantic Theater Company

Prayer for the French Republic, by Joshua Harmon, Manhattan Theatre Club

Sanctuary City, by Martyna Majok, New York Theatre Workshop

Selling Kabul, by Sylvia Khoury, Playwrights Horizons

The Chinese Lady, by Lloyd Suh, The Public Theater

 

Outstanding Musical

Harmony, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Six

The Hang, HERE Arts Center

 

Outstanding Revival of a Play

for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf

How I Learned to Drive, Manhattan Theatre Club

Lackawanna Blues, Manhattan Theatre Club

Skeleton Crew, Manhattan Theatre Club

Trouble in Mind, Roundabout Theatre Company

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Signature Theatre

 

Outstanding Revival of a Musical

Assassins, Classic Stage Company

Baby, Out of the Box Theatrics

Caroline, or Change, Roundabout Theatre Company

Company

 

Outstanding Actor in a Play

Brandon J. Dirden, Skeleton Crew, Manhattan Theatre Club

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Take Me Out, Second Stage Theater

Jacob Ming-Trent, Merry Wives, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues, Manhattan Theatre Club

John Douglas Thompson, The Merchant of Venice, Theatre for a New Audience

 

Outstanding Actress in a Play

Tala Ashe, English, Atlantic Theater Company

Ruth Negga, Macbeth

Andrea Patterson, Cullud Wattah, The Public Theater

Phylicia Rashad, Skeleton Crew, Manhattan Theatre Club

Shannon Tyo, The Chinese Lady, The Public Theater

Michelle Wilson, Confederates, Signature Theatre

 

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Billy Crystal, Mr. Saturday Night

Myles Frost, MJ

Rob McClure, Mrs. Doubtfire

Jaquel Spivey, A Strange Loop

Chip Zien, Harmony, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

 

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Kearstin Piper Brown, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Victoria Clark, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Sharon D. Clarke, Caroline, or Change, Roundabout Theatre Company

Jeanna de Waal, Diana

Joaquina Kalukango, Paradise Square

 

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

Joshua Boone, Skeleton Crew, Manhattan Theatre Club

Chuck Cooper, Trouble in Mind, Roundabout Theatre Company

Daniel K. Isaac, The Chinese Lady, The Public Theater

Billy Eugene Jones, On Sugarland, New York Theatre Workshop

Ron Cephas Jones, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater

 

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play

Francis Benhamou, Prayer for the French Republic, Manhattan Theatre Club

Stephanie Berry, On Sugarland, New York Theatre Workshop

Sonnie Brown, what you are now, Ensemble Studio Theatre

Page Leong, Out of Time, NAATCO and The Public Theater

Kenita R. Miller, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf

Kara Young, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater

 

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical

Justin Austin, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Justin Cooley, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Matt Doyle, Company

Jared Grimes, Funny Girl

Tavon Olds-Sample, MJ

 

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

Judy Kuhn, Assassins, Classic Stage Company

Tamika Lawrence, Black No More, The New Group

Patti LuPone, Company

Bonnie Milligan, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Jennifer Simard, Company

 

Outstanding Director of a Play

Knud Adams, English, Atlantic Theater Company

Saheem Ali, Merry Wives, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

Rebecca Frecknall, Sanctuary City, New York Theatre Workshop

Taibi Magar, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Signature Theatre

Whitney White, On Sugarland, New York Theatre Workshop

 

Outstanding Director of a Musical

John Doyle, Assassins, Classic Stage Company

Marianne Elliott, Company

Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, Six

Bartlett Sher, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Jessica Stone, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company 

 

Outstanding Choreography

Ayodele Casel (tap choreography), Funny Girl

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, Six

Bill T. Jones, Garrett Coleman, and Jason Oremus (Irish + Hammerstep), Gelan Lambert and Chloe Davis (associates), Paradise Square

Liam Steel, Company

Christopher Wheeldon, Michael Balderrama (associate), Rich + Tone Taleuega (Michael Jackson movement), MJ 

 

Outstanding Music

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six

Jason Howland, Paradise Square

Matt Ray, The Hang, HERE Arts Center

Carrie Rodriguez, ¡Americano!

Jeanine Tesori, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

 

Outstanding Lyrics 

Amanda Green, Mr. Saturday Night

Taylor Mac, The Hang, HERE Arts Center

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six

David Lindsay-Abaire, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Lynn Nottage, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Shaina Taub, Suffs, The Public Theater

 

Outstanding Book of a Musical 

Billy Crystal, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel, Mr. Saturday Night

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six

Lynn Nottage, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

Bruce Sussman, Harmony, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

 

Outstanding Orchestrations

Tom Curran, Six

Greg Jarrett, Assassins, Classic Stage Company

Mark Hartman and Yasuhiko Fukuoka, The Streets of New York, Irish Repertory Theatre 

Jason Michael Webb and David Holcenberg, MJ

 

Outstanding Music in a Play

Te’La and Kamauu, Thoughts of a Colored Man

Bill Sims Jr., Lackawanna Blues, Manhattan Theatre Club

Michael Thurber and Farai Malianga (drum compositions), Merry Wives, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

 

Outstanding Scenic Design for a Play

Beowulf Boritt, Merry Wives, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

Wilson Chin, Pass Over

Marsha Ginsberg, English, Atlantic Theater Company

Takeshi Kata, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater

Junghyun Georgia Lee, Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, New York Theatre Workshop

 

Outstanding Scenic Design for a Musical 

Emma Bailey, Six

Beowulf Boritt, Flying Over Sunset, Lincoln Center Theater

Bunny Christie, Company

David Zinn, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

 

Outstanding Costume Design for a Play

Linda Cho, The Chinese Lady, The Public Theater

Gregory Gale, Fairycakes

Tilly Grimes, The Alchemist, Red Bull Theater

Qween Jean, On Sugarland, New York Theatre Workshop

Jennifer Moeller, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater

 

Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical 

Machine Dazzle, The Hang, HERE Arts Center

Susan Hilferty, Funny Girl

Santo Loquasto, The Music Man

Gabriella Slade, Six

Catherine Zuber, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

 

Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play

Christopher Akerlind, Clyde’s, Second Stage Theater

Reza Behjat, English, Atlantic Theater Company

Isabella Byrd, Sanctuary City, New York Theatre Workshop

Amith Chandrashaker, Prayer for the French Republic, Manhattan Theatre Club

Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, Cullud Wattah, The Public Theater

 

Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical

Natasha Katz, Diana

Natasha Katz, MJ

Bradley King, Flying Over Sunset, Lincoln Center Theater

Jennifer Tipton, Intimate Apparel, Lincoln Center Theater

 

Outstanding Projection Design

59 Productions, Flying Over Sunset, Lincoln Center Theater

David Bengali, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Signature Theatre

Stephania Bulbarella and Alex Basco Koch, Space Dogs, MCC Theater

Shawn Duan, The Chinese Lady, The Public Theater

Sven Ortel, Thoughts of a Colored Man

 

Outstanding Sound Design for a Play

Tyler Kieffer, Seven Deadly Sins, Tectonic Theater Project and Madison Wells Live

Hidenori Nakajo and Ryan Rumery, Autumn Royal, Irish Repertory Theatre

Ben and Max Ringham, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Jamie Lloyd Company at Brooklyn Academy of Music

Mikaal Sulaiman, Sanctuary City, New York Theatre Workshop

Lee Kinney, Selling Kabul, Playwrights Horizons

 

Outstanding Sound Design for a Musical

Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Company

Paul Gatehouse, Six

Kai Harada, Kimberly Akimbo, Atlantic Theater Company

Gareth Owen, MJ

 

Outstanding Wig and Hair

Matthew B. Armentrout, Paradise Square

David Brian Brown, Mrs. Doubtfire

Paul Huntley, Diana

Charles G. LaPointe, MJ

 

Outstanding Solo Performance

Alex Edelman, Just for Us,  Cherry Lane Theatre

Arturo Luís Soria, Ni Mi Madre, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

Kristina Wong, Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, New York Theatre Workshop

 

Unique Theatrical Experience

Seven Deadly Sins, Tectonic Theater Project & Madison Wells Live

 

Outstanding Adaptation 

Merry Wives, by Jocelyn Bioh, The Public Theater (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

The Alchemist, by Jeffrey Hatcher, Red Bull Theater

 

Outstanding Puppet Design

Amanda Villalobos, Wolf Play, Soho Rep.

James Ortiz, The Skin of Our Teeth, Lincoln Center Theater

Rockefeller Productions, Winnie the Pooh, The Hundred Acre Theatre 

 

Harold S. Prince Lifetime Achievement Award:

In four decades as playwright, novelist, actor, and director, Alice Childress (1912-1994) challenged racism with engrossing stories and memorable characters. When a New York producer demanded revisions to soften the impact of Trouble in Mind, after an initial run Off Broadway and prior to its Broadway debut, Childress withdrew the script. Sixty-five years later, the Drama Desk celebrates the long-delayed Broadway premiere of this timeless masterpiece and salutes Childress as a towering figure in contemporary theater history.

 

Ensemble Award:

In Six, Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Brittney Mack, Abby Mueller, Samantha Pauly, and Anna Uzele bring to musical life the women who married England’s King Henry VIII. The fanciful result is a buoyant dramatization of their individually purposeful and collectively empowering journeys.

 

The Sam Norkin Off-Broadway Award:

This season, as a woman hiding her brother from the Taliban in Sylvia Khoury’s Selling Kabul and an English instructor straddling two very different cultures in Sanaz Toossi’s EnglishMarjan Neshat embodied disparate characters so fully that it was hard to recognize the single actor in the two roles. Whether in drama or comedy, Neshat mines the playwright’s text for a vast panoply of emotions that yield vivid, intricate portrayals of the parts she undertakes.

 

Additional Special Awards:

Dede Ayite seems to have costumed half the actors of this theater season with her designs for Merry WivesSeven Deadly SinsThe Last of the Love LettersChicken and BiscuitsSlave PlayNollywood DreamsAmerican Buffalo, and How I learned to Drive. Whether dressing working-class Marylanders of the 1960s, amateur criminals of the 1970s, or West African immigrants in today’s Harlem, Ayite has a knack for conveying characters’ means, values, and aspirations before the actors utter a word.

 

Adam Rigg enhanced storytelling through wildly varying scenic designs this season including: a house in wood, shadow, and reflective glass that draws the audience into the Flint, Michigan water crisis in Cullud Wattah; a community cul-de-sac where trauma and history are celebrated in On Sugarland; and the falling walls, flower-covered hillsides, and functional seaside fun ride of The Skin of Our Teeth.

 

With the category-defying Oratorio for Living Things, Heather Christian aims to encompass all human existence in a single inventive and startlingly beautiful work. In times of pandemic, war, and social upheaval, Christian’s work (directed by Lee Sunday Evans and brought to life by a superb cast and creative team) is an awe-inspiring reminder that, even in the darkest times, there will always be artistic peaks to scale.

 

 

Productions with multiple nominations:

 

Six: 10

Kimberly Akimbo: 9

Company: 8

Intimate Apparel: 8

MJ: 7

Clyde’s: 5

English: 5

Merry Wives: 5

The Chinese Lady: 5

Assassins: 4

On Sugarland: 4

Paradise Square: 4

Sanctuary City: 4

Skeleton Crew: 4

The Hang: 4

Cullud Wattah: 3

Diana: The Musical: 3

Flying Over Sunset

‘SOMEWHERE IN THE BODY’: SHINING A LIGHT ON THE REAL LUCIA JOYCE ·

(Michael Seaver’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 5/14; Photos (top to bottom): Choreographer Áine Stapleton has spent eight years exploring Joyce’s artistry; Lucia Joyce: Whenever her name is mentioned, the words ‘daughter of James Joyce’ aren’t far away.)

Whenever the name of Lucia Joyce is mentioned, the words “daughter of James Joyce” are never far away. A talented dancer, writer and musician, Lucia’s career was cut short after she had a nervous breakdown and was – some say inaccurately – diagnosed with schizophrenia. She spent the rest of her life in institutions where she was subjected to experimental treatments.

According to dance historian Deirdre Mulrooney, many accounts of her life are Mills & Boon-style narratives, where the real protagonists are famous male writers, including her father and Samuel Beckett, with whom Lucia had a relationship. Writing in Joyce Studies Annual, Mulrooney claims: “This misunderstood artist has been reduced to a ‘mad girl’, synonymous with mental illness, considered primarily in relation to her father, and filed away under ‘miscellaneous’ in coveted James Joyce special collections around the world.”

This two-dimensional caricature would be different had she fulfilled her artistic potential. In 1928 the Paris Times stated that, “When she reaches her full capacity for rhythmic dancing, James Joyce may yet be known as his daughter’s father”.

Choreographer Áine Stapleton has spent the past eight years forefronting Lucia Joyce’s artistry and will premiere a dance film installation, Somewhere in the Body, at this year’s Dublin Dance Festival. “In 2014 I was working with some friends in a band who had created musical interpretations of Joyce’s major works for Bloomsday,” she says. “During the rehearsals, they told me a bit about Lucia and her dance career. That same week, I managed to source some letters that were written by Lucia during her later years in psychiatric care. I could instantly see a clear divide between the clichéd accounts of Lucia in the press and media, compared to the kind, intelligent and loving person that came through in her letters. These writings inspired me to make my first work about Lucia and I’ve been immersed in her story ever since.” Stapleton would concur with Mulrooney’s disdain for the superficial accounts of Lucia’s life.

“I try to avoid the clichés that are so often associated with her story, so it’s always important for me to research as thoroughly as possible. But it’s very difficult to find information about Lucia, due in part to the fact that Stephen Joyce, James Joyce’s grandson and long-time estate administrator, is known to have had part of Lucia’s correspondence with her father and Samuel Beckett destroyed following her death.” Poems and an unpublished novel have also been lost or destroyed.

Stapleton has created two previous dance films. Medicated Milk was based on a period of time that Lucia spent in Bray, Co Wicklow (“close to where I grew up, which Lucia described as a magnificent place, full of flowers”), and Horrible Creature, based on her life in Switzerland between 1915 and the late 1930s.

“Somewhere in the Body takes a different approach to my previous work about Lucia, which relies heavily on her biographical details,” she says. “For this film installation, I examine the psychic spaces that Lucia inhabited in her father’s mind, and how she appears in his writings, with a particular focus on Finnegans Wake.”

(Read more)

‘IT’S HARD TO FIND A TEACHER FOR SWORD-SWALLOWING’: THE THRILLING SKILLS OF CIRCUS SHOWWOMEN ·

(Kate Wyver’s article appeared in the guardian 5.9; via Pam Green;  Photo: The stars of Showwomen: (left to right) Fancy Chance, Marisa Carnesky, Lucifire and Livia Kojo Alour. Photograph: Sarah Hickson.)

Pioneering female entertainers, including a 1930s clown and a Wall of Death stunt rider, are celebrated in a show by a fearless group of performers

Female performers in British variety acts have long been termed “showgirls”. For the illusionist Marisa Carnesky, this demeans them. “What happens when the showgirl grows up?” she asks.

A performance artist and creator of the interactive show Ghost Train – which was in residence at Blackpool for five years – Carnesky is using first-hand testimony, archival research and a healthy dose of guesswork to conjure the world of late 19th and early 20th-century female circus performers. The lives explored in her new production, Showwomen, include those of a sword climber, a clown, an aerialist and a daredevil. “The British seaside was always this extraordinary melting pot,” Carnesky says with glee. “Women weren’t just mute leg-kickers in a lineup.”

First: the women who work with swords. Making the show with Carnesky is sword swallower Livia Kojo Alour, who was naturally drawn to the story of the sword artist, crocodile charmer and glass-walker Koringa. Working in the 1930s, Koringa was rumoured to hypnotise farm animals on enemy lines so soldiers could cross unnoticed. “There’s this picture where Koringa climbs up a high ladder of swords,” Kojo Alour says. “I do the same. I have a ladder of swords. I swallow swords; I lay on beds of nails.” She moves her hands as she speaks, occasionally flashing an intricate tattoo of a sword from elbow to wrist.

In pictures, Koringa has dark skin, but it is uncertain whether she was an Indian performer, as touted by the Bertram Mills Circus posters, or whether she was encouraged to lean on a racist British fascination for the “exotic”. This is a term Kojo Alour has had to deal with often. “When I was starting out, I had a hard time. I was one of the very few Black performers on the London scene. I was constantly searching for something that made me stand out, and not in an exotic way, which is how I was described a lot back in the day.” She was drawn to extremities in performance. “The only way to carve my way was to do something dangerous that nobody else could do.”

Another of the show’s main characters is the pioneering 1930s clown Lulu Adams. Her act would have felt something akin to drag kinging, Carnesky suggests, as clowning was only done by men. Carnesky and Kojo Alour will also be performing with the self-taught hair hanger Fancy Chance, who will explore the 1880s aerialist Miss La La, whom Degas painted hanging from her teeth. In some shows, they will be joined by the fire artist Lucifire, who will look into the life of the 1920s stuntwoman and Wall of Death rider Marjorie Dare.

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‘THE LIDO IS FINISHED’: FAMED PARIS CABARET SET FOR FINAL CURTAIN AMID MASS LAY-OFFS ·

(from France24, 5/13; Photo: Dancers perform at the Lido cabaret in Paris on September 10, 2019. © Christophe Archambault, AFP.)

High-kicking showgirls and nightly cabaret shows at the famed Parisian Lido club on the Champs-Elysees are set to be a thing of the past after the venue’s new owner confirmed mass lay-offs on Thursday.

Created in the aftermath of World War II, the Lido has drawn fans for more than seven decades with its racy dance routines featuring towering women in feathers, high heels and little else.

But though it has sought to modernise its shows and adapt to the times, the venue has been losing money for years and changed hands at the end of 2021.

The new owner, French hotels giant Accor, told staff on Thursday it would lay off 157 of 184 employees, including its “Bluebell girls” troupe of dancers, according to several sources who spoke to AFP.

“The Lido is finished,” one trade union representative said on condition of anonymity, adding Accor intended to turn the prime real estate into a venue for other musical events.

“All the artistic staff, meaning around 60 people, will disappear,” the source added.

Cabaret dancing first appeared during France’s “Belle Epoque” at the end of the 19th century, when the French capital was a hotbed of artistic creation.

The Moulin Rouge remains the best-known show in the city and is still going strong, thanks largely to the publicity from the 2001 film of the same name by Baz Luhrmann.

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PUSSY RIOT MEMBER LEAVES RUSSIA DISGUISED AS DELIVERY COURIER ·

Maria Alekhina, a jailed member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who was found guilty of hooliganism after a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin, poses for a photo in the Committee against Torture as she has been released from prison in Nizhny Novgorod, on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Alekhina, and two other band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow’s main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence. (AP Photo/The Committee against Torture) MANDATORY CREDIT

(By AFP-Agence France Presse, 5/11/22; via Drudge Report.)

Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina has left Russia, she said in an interview, after disguising herself as a food delivery courier to escape police.

Alyokhina joins thousands of Russians who have fled their country since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

In September, Alyokhina was sentenced to one year restricted movement while protesting in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, but in April authorities moved to convert her sentence into real jail time.

In an interview with the New York Times late on Tuesday, Alyokhina, 33, described how she dressed up as a food courier to avoid the Moscow police that were staking her out and left her cellphone behind so she couldn’t be tracked.

Then a friend drove her to the border with neighbouring Belarus and a week later she managed to cross into EU member Lithuania after several attempts, according to the interview.

“I was happy that I made it, because it was an unpredictable and big ‘kiss-off’ to the Russian authorities,” she told NYT.

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‘FAT HAM’ WINS 2022 PULITZER PRIZE FOR BEST DRAMA (MORE)   ·

(Hillel Italie’s article for the Associated Press, appeared in USA TODAY, 5/9.)

Joshua Cohen’s “The Netanyahus” has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

The work, titled in full “The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family,” is a comic and rigorous campus novel set around 1959-60 and based on the true story of the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking a job in academia. The novel has been highly praised for its blend of wit and intellectual debate about Zionism and Jewish identity.

“It is an infuriating, frustrating, pretentious piece of work — and also absorbing, delightful, hilarious, breathtaking and the best and most relevant novel I’ve read in what feels like forever,” The New York Times’ Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote last June.

The winners of seven arts categories were announced Monday afternoon at Columbia University, which administers the awards. This year’s Pulitzers recognize work done in 2021, and many of the winners in the arts were explorations of race and class, in the past and the present. 

The late artist Winfred Rembert won in biography for “Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South,” as told to Erin I. Kelly. Rembert, who survived years in prison and a near-lynching in rural Georgia in the 1960s, died last year at age 75.

In an interview Monday, Kelly spoke of the book’s long and unexpected back story. She is a professor of philosophy at Tufts University and had come across his work several years ago while working on a different project, on criminal justice. She contacted Rembert, who was living in New Haven, Connecticut, and found him so compelling that she wanted to make sure his life was properly documented.

“He was both charismatic and down to earth,” she said. “He had an incredible grasp of language and an incredible visual memory.”

Rembert had been in poor health and died before “Chasing Me to My Grave” came out, although he did get to see an edited manuscript.

“We both felt a great sense of urgency to get the book done,” Kelly said.

Andrea Elliott’s “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City,” which builds upon her New York Times investigative series about a homeless Black girl from Brooklyn, received a Pulitzer for general nonfiction. Elliott’s book has already won the Gotham Prize for outstanding work about New York City.

Two prizes were awarded Monday in history: Nicole Eustace’s “Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America” and Ada Ferrer’s “Cuba: An American History,” which traces the centuries-long relationship between U.S. and its Southern neighbor.

Diane Seuss won in poetry for “frank: sonnets.” Her collection, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Prize, draws in part on her roots in rural Michigan and features her fierce and lyrical reflections on gender, class and substance abuse among other subjects.

“My father died very young. My mom raised my sister and me. Young me came to poetry by instinct alone,” Seuss said Monday, also citing influences ranging from Frank O’Hara to Amy Winehouse. “I consider ‘frank: sonnets’ a collaborative effort — with the living and the dead.”

The music award Monday was given to Raven Chacon for his composition for organ and ensemble, “Voiceless Mass.” Chacon created “Voiceless Mass” specifically for the pipe organ at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee, where it premiered in November 2021. Chacon is a composer, performer and installation artist from the Navajo Nation. His art work, currently on display at the Whitney Biennial, is inspired by protestors at the Oceti Sakowin near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

“This was my first time writing for a church organ and I wanted to make a statement about the space that this organ is housed in,” said Chacon, who is Diné, the Navajo word for “the people.” “I wanted to think about the church’s role in the forming of the country, particularly as it pertains to Indigenous people.”

His 2020 opera, “Sweet Land,” co-composed with Du Yun, was performed outdoors at the Los Angeles State Historic Park earned critical praise for its revisionist telling of American history using different narratives simultaneously. The opera was awarded best opera by the Music Critics Association of North America for 2021.

Chacon has been mentoring hundreds of Native high school composers in the writing of string quartets through the Native American Composer Apprenticeship Project since 2004.

Chacon told The Associated Press in an interview after learning of the Pulitzer win that he wants his work to stand as a reminder that Indigenous people are involved in chamber music and classical music.

“I am happy that this work was heard. I think overall chamber music is not something that can always be accessible to a broad audience,” Chacon said. “There’s an opportunity for anyone to listen to chamber music and I am happy I am able to contribute to that.”

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez congratulated Chacon, saying the artist exemplifies the tremendous potential of Navajos.

“His award showcases the talent, innovation and creativity of Indigenous people and shows our young people that anything is possible through hard work and prayer,” Nez said in a statement to the AP.

Chacon graduated from the University of New Mexico and the California Institute of the Arts and is scheduled to start a residency at the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage in Philadelphia in 2022.

His solo artworks have been displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Smithsonian Institute’s American Art Museum and National Museum of the American Indian and many more.

Drama finalists included “Selling Kabul” by Sylvia Khoury and “Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord” by Kristina Wong.

The drama award is “for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.” Ijames is a Philadelphia-based playwright and Wilma Theater co-artistic director whose “Fat Ham” production was streamed last summer. 

The Pulitzers are considered the most prestigious honor in American journalism. Winners of each category get a prize of $15,000, except for the public service award, which comes with a gold medal.

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REVEALED: NOËL COWARD’S UNSEEN PLAYS AIMED TO DEAL WITH HOMOSEXUALITY ·

(Dalya Alberge’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/8; Photo:  Noël Coward in 1953. Photograph: Haywood Magee/Getty Images.)

Playwright planned scenes on same-sex relationship at a time when it was illegal and British theatres faced strict censorship

Noël Coward worked on two plays that openly featured same-sex relationships at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in England, and strict censorship laws governed theatres, new research reveals.

The master playwright was planning to write about a homosexual triangle in one play and to confront homophobic prejudice in another, according to an unpublished letter of 1960 and an unknown scene for an unfinished 1967 drama.

The discoveries have been made by Russell Jackson, emeritus professor of drama at the University of Birmingham, who told the Observer: “I was surprised to find this evidence that Coward wanted to deal more frankly with homosexuality than he had ever been able to before in a play.”

It was not until 1967 that the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised private homosexual acts between men in England and Wales aged 21 and over, and 1968 when the Theatres Act repealed a law that had enabled the Lord Chamberlain’s Office to censor or ban any play.

Under the Licensing Act of 1737 and the Theatres Act of 1843, it had been a legal requirement for all plays intended for public performance to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office for licensing. Plays deemed indecent or offensive could be rejected or censored, although by the end of the 1950s, playwrights sensed new freedoms.

Jackson said: “As a gay man, Coward exercised discretion in his public persona. And as a playwright, until the last decade of his career, he was constrained by the theatrical censorship of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office from directly addressing homosexuality.”

He continued: “A number of Coward’s published and performed plays had included identifiably – if not explicitly – gay or lesbian characters. The emphasis in A Song at Twilight in 1966 would not be on the central character’s homosexuality in itself, but the subterfuges by which he had managed to pass as heterosexual.”

Coward, a playwright, actor and composer, died in 1973, aged 73. He was the son of an unsuccessful piano salesman and was raised as a working-class boy in the south-west London suburb of Teddington.

Making his name in 1924 with a serious play, The Vortex, about a drug-addicted son and dissolute mother, he became one of the foremost playwrights of the 20th century, best-known for classic comedies including Hay Fever, Blithe Spirit and Private Lives and as the co-writer of David Lean’s classic 1945 film, Brief Encounter.

The 1960 letter was written by his much-loved assistant Lorn Loraine, who had worked for him since the 1930s and whose opinions he greatly valued. It reveals that Coward had created a love triangle between three men – called Owen, Trevor and John – one of whom appears to be married.

“Darling master,” Loraine wrote, “I have thought a lot about this play outline and I feel strongly that [it] must be treated entirely psychologically and with restraint and no sign of melodrama.

“I have been wondering whether it would be a good idea for Trevor to have had an affair with Owen Fletcher but to be really, all the time, deeply and jealously in love with John – a love which John has never returned and which has therefore turned sour.”

Jackson said that in 1967 Coward started writing a play called Age Cannot Wither, some of which has been published: “But there’s a part of it that’s not – the second scene.”

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