Category Archives: Events

HAMILTON REVIEW – BROADWAY HIT IS NOW A BREATHTAKING SCREEN SENSATION ·

(Arifa Akbar’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/30; photo: The Guardian.)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical is smart, witty, funky and leaves us reflecting on America’s past and future

Hamilton was hailed as revolutionary theatre in 2015, with its rapping 18th-century statesmen, its funky, feelgood hip-hop and a cast predominantly comprising actors of colour. It went on to conquer Broadway and West End audiences. How does that original Broadway staging fare on the flat screen, streamed by Disney+ in the midst of lockdown?

It spoke to the moment then, and it speaks to us now, say director Thomas Kail and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star, in their short, socially distanced preamble to this highly anticipated film of the show. “We are all thinking about what it means to be American,” they add. Even if these words are not in direct reference to the America of the past few weeks, with its upsurge of anti-racist protest, their story of the Caribbean-born immigrant hero and founding father of the US, Alexander Hamilton, speaks to us obliquely of all that remains neglected in America’s history while shifting the parameters at the same time.

Its rousing opening scenes remind us of that great American ideal of equality and speaks of slavery and civil rights in the 18th century. “I never thought I’d live past 20. Where I come from, some get half as many,” sings Hamilton at the start, and his words echo the dangerous fate that awaits so many of America’s black or immigrant underclass now, as debate around Black Lives Matter protests has highlighted.

Even more remarkably, it keeps all the power of a live performance while simultaneously adding a filmic pizzazz including some breathtaking aerial shots. There is extraordinary direction – again under Kail – so that the cameras capture the mise en scène of theatre without losing any of the closeup intimacy of film.

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BEYOND BROADWAY, THE SHOW DOES GO ON ·

(from the New York Times, 7/4; Photo: The New York Times; via Pam Green.)

Inside a former firehouse in Richmond, Va., a lone actor performs “The Picture of Dorian Gray” for audiences as small as two. In a Denver parking lot, theatergoers in cars watch, through their windshields, four performers costumed as grasshoppers. On a 600-acre property in Arkansas, a cast of about 130 re-enacts the story of Jesus for several hundred ticket-holders spread across a 4,000-seat outdoor amphitheater.

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered Broadway through the end of the year (at least), and the nation’s big regional theaters and major outdoor festivals have mostly pivoted to streaming. But even as infections surge in the United States, many theaters are finding ways to present live performances before live audiences.

Of course, there is social distancing. Also, in some places, masks. Temperature checks. Touchless ticketing. Intermissionless shows. And lots of disinfectant. At the Footlights Theater, in Falmouth, Maine, actors will perform behind plexiglass.

But these precautions mean there is dinner theater in Florida. Street theater in Chicago. Drive-in theater in Iowa.

Members of Denver’s Buntport Theater, thinking drive-in theater would be pandemic-proof, tried to imagine what kind of creatures belong on a lawn. Their solution: “The Grasshoppers.”Credit…Rachel Woolf for The New York Times

“Our commitment is to do live theater — there’s a huge difference between that and seeing something on a computer screen,” said Susan Claassen, managing artistic director of Invisible Theater in Tucson, Ariz., a state that has emerged as a Covid-19 hot spot. The theater, which has been running a four-character play called “Filming O’Keefe” indoors, installed an air ionizer, allowed patrons in only one-quarter of its seats, mandated that they wear masks, and put on a show.

“Our theater got its name from the invisible energy that flows between performers and the audience,” Claassen said. “Even with 22 people in the audience with masks on, that energy is so strong.”

There are also financial reasons for continuing: Some theaters say they cannot survive a year without revenue.

“We’d rather go down creating good theater than die the slow death behind our desks,” said Bryan Fonseca, the producing director of Fonseca Theater Company in Indianapolis. The company plans to stage “Hype Man,” a three-character play by Idris Goodwin, outdoors, for 65 mask-wearing patrons. “I am hopeful and also very cautious,” Fonseca said, “careful that I don’t create a problem.”

By putting on shows, some theater artists are, in effect, making the case that it is a mistake for the industry to wait for New York to lead the way, given the risks there. “Someone has to be the first to take that cautious step into the dark to see what works and what doesn’t,” said Phil Kenny, a sometime Broadway producer who has a role in “Willy Wonka” in Orem, Utah.

But even in New York City there are signs of theatrical life. Food for Thought Productions, a company that presents staged readings of one-act plays, is planning to restart in a private club on July 13, with Louise Lasser and Bob Dishy performing and attendees required to have taken coronavirus tests.

“If we can prove that we can do this safely, maybe other groups can do safe theater as well,” said Susan Charlotte, the founding artistic director.

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CARL REINER, MULTIFACETED MASTER OF COMEDY, IS DEAD AT 98 ·

(From the New York Times, 6/30; photo: The New York Times; via Pam Green.)

Carl Reiner, who as performer, writer and director earned a place in comedy history several times over, died on Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 98.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Annie Reiner.

Mr. Reiner first attracted national attention in 1950 as Sid Caesar’s multitalented second banana on the television variety show “Your Show of Shows,” for which he was also a writer. A decade later he created “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” one of the most celebrated situation comedies in television history, and teamed with Mel Brooks on the hugely successful “2000 Year Old Man” records. His novel “Enter Laughing” became both a hit Broadway play and the first of many movies he would direct; among the others were four of Steve Martin’s early starring vehicles.

He won praise as an actor as well, with memorable roles in films like “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” and, more recently, “Ocean’s Eleven” and its sequels. But he spent most of his career just slightly out of the spotlight, letting others get the laughs.

His contributions were recognized by his peers, by comedy aficionados and, in 2000, by the Kennedy Center, which awarded him the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He was the third recipient, after Richard Pryor and Jonathan Winters.

In his performances with Mr. Brooks and before that with Mr. Caesar, Mr. Reiner specialized in portraying the voice of sanity, a calm presence in a chaotic universe. But despite his claim to the contrary, he was never “just the straight man.”

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MISERY AND MEGALOMANIA: HOW DAVID ADJMI BECAME A PLAYWRIGHT ·

(From The New York Times, 6/24; photo: The New York Times; via Pam Green.)

It took David Adjmi 10 years to write his new memoir, “Lot Six” (HarperCollins). The last four months were spent ensuring there were no legal issues.

“I never wanted to write a roman à clef but it ended up being that because you can’t use all these names,” the playwright said recently. “I had enough trouble already,” he added, laughing.

Perhaps he was alluding to his satire “3C,” which brought on a legal battle with the copyright holder of the sitcom “Three’s Company.” (Adjmi won the case in 2015.) Or perhaps the reference was to his experience at Juilliard, when he fell on the bad side of a teacher he calls Gloria in the book.

Adjmi’s Off Broadway debut, “Stunning,” in 2009, drew from his childhood in Brooklyn’s Syrian-Jewish enclave. The book’s title refers to a pricing code for three, an odd number associated with gayness — “as in three-dollar bill,” he said. The stylized, bitingly funny show, and its author’s unorthodox back story, attracted the attention of HarperCollins. Adjmi, now 47, set out to compose essays about his cultural influences, but started sliding toward more personal territory — a move his publisher encouraged.

“They said, ‘You need to make it about how you became a writer,’” he recalled.

Adjmi may be a relatively niche playwright (the memoir ends with the closing of “Stunning”), but his lifelong devotion to art as an identity-defining tool of self-expression gives the book a fervid tone that is hard to resist; his talent for laugh-out-loud funny set pieces does the rest.

He is the same in conversation, pin-balling from raucous laughter to tears, and sending an interviewer to the dictionary to check out what “agon” means (it’s ancient Greek for conflict, naturally).

“David is so witty and he’s also quite precise,” said the actress Cristin Milioti, who counts “Stunning” as one of the best shows she’s ever done. “The way he writes is so rhythmic.”

It’s not a surprise, then, that music features prominently in Adjmi’s new stage projects. These are edited excerpts from the conversation, by FaceTime from Los Angeles.

Your life has not always gone smoothly but the Juilliard period, with the instructor you call Gloria, stands out as a painful low. How did you recover?

To this day, I talk to my peers about that experience and they’re like, “No, she likes you, she cares about you.” I think I was looking for a certain kind of permission, and I had to give myself the authority. Art is a disruption, you’re declaring war in a certain way, you’re telling everybody else, “This is my point of view.”

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THE ANGLE PROJECT IS INVITING YOU TO SHARE YOUR STORY ABOUT COVID-19 HEALTH PROFESSIONALS ·

The Angle Project is inviting you to share your story.

We are creating a storytelling series to showcase humanity behind the COVID 19 pandemic. TAP is seeking partnerships with hospitals, community organizations, and individuals who had direct experience with battling the virus and who would like to share their stories with us. We will then develop the stories and produce an event where the storytellers will have an opportunity to present in front of a live audience.

What do we look for in a story? A detailed account of a personal experienceThe event described in a story can be big or small, joyous or sorrowful (or both); most importantly, it has to be personal and transformative.

We are specifically interested in hearing from first responders, persons of color, seniors, refugees, and immigrants. For the live presentation in front of an audience (planned for late fall or early winter this year), The Angle Project will organize an expert panel discussion that will follow the performance and have a reflective and interactive conversation about the systemic changes that are necessary to take place today to strengthen and uplift our society and the less advantaged communities in particular.

If you wish to be a part of the project, please email Irene at info@theangleproject.com with “Heroes of Our Time” in the subject line.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

contact the Angle Project at info@theangleproject.com

A BACKSTAGE WALK THAT’S PURE DRAMA ·

(from The New York Times, 6/11; via Pam Green.)

STUTTGART, Germany — Midway through “We Are Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On,” a theatrical walkabout through the Stuttgart State Theaters, I had one of the most intense experiences of my theatergoing life.

Standing in front of a two-way mirror, I stared in fascination, and a little discomfort, as the actress Therese Dörr locked eyes with me from the other side and recited a monologue that conjured up an apartment — and a life — gone to ruin, “like in Pompeii,” she kept repeating. The world around me faded away, too. I seemed to fall into her eyes and into her speech.

It lasted no more than five minutes, but that was enough time for the hypnosis to take effect. Such theatrical intimacy came about because of, not despite, the social distancing requirements that have made conventional live performance — onstage before a packed house — impossible so far during the pandemic.

All over Germany, cultural life is sputtering back to life, with new distancing and hygiene protocols. In Stuttgart, in the south of the country, the State Theaters, which administer a playhouse, opera company and ballet troupe, have flung their doors open for a one-of-a-kind backstage tour curated by Burkhard C. Kominski, who leads the drama division. Rather than trying to merely work around the new rules, Mr. Kominski has taken these regulations as a set of formal constraints and created a new kind of aesthetic experience.

Along the 12 stations on this packed, 75-minute route, dance, theater and music are performed with a rare level of intimacy and immediacy, coalescing into a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk. The audience is led through in groups of up to four. The carefully plotted and executed journey at times brings to mind a haunted house or carnival ride.

The production unfolds across the State Theaters’ building complex, and my group began in the theater’s foyer, where I waited wearing a face covering along with two other people. When summoned by our guide, we were allowed to remove our masks as we wended our way backstage, maintaining a five-foot distance from one another.

Sometimes, our calm and deliberate chaperone seemed to be leading us through a theatrical underworld. Parts of the opera house looked abandoned, with dried leaves littering the floors and blown into the stairwells, and toppled chairs and upturned and overgrown plants in the lobby. But these gothic elements were kept to a minimum, and things never got hammy. In hallways and on landings, we regularly passed ushers in face masks, their eyes downcast and their arms outstretched, pointing the way like human signposts.

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STRATFORD FESTIVAL ON FILM: ‘KING JOHN’ ·

Stratford Festival

King John house program: https://cdscloud.stratfordfestival.ca… When the rule of a hedonistic king is questioned, rebellion ensues, culminating in the chilling attempt to commit an atrocity against a child, whose mother’s anguished grief cannot atone for her blinkered ambitions for her son. Don’t miss the rare opportunity to see Shakespeare’s King John, in this magnificent, “deliciously contemporary” production.

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After seeing this production of ‘King John’, on 6/21, Father’s Day, Bob Shuman has now seen all the plays of Shakespeare, including ‘Cardenio’.

WATCH KATRINA LENK, PATTI LUPONE, AND THE CAST OF COMPANY PERFORM THE SHOW’S OPENING NUMBER ·

(from Theatermania, 6/15; via Pam Green.)

Marianne Elliott directs the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical.

Author

Locations

June 15, 2020

The cast of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Company gathered once again to record a virtual quarantined performance of the show’s title number. Watch Katrina Lenk, Patti LuPone, and the cast sing below:

Lenk and LuPone star as Bobbie and Joanne, alongside Greg Hildreth as Peter, Matt Doyle as Jamie, Christopher Fitzgerald as David, Christopher Sieber as Harry, Jennifer Simard as Sarah, Rashidra Scott as Susan, Terence Archie as Larry, Etai Benson as Paul, Nikki Renée Daniels as Jenny, Claybourne Elder as Andy, Kyle Dean Massey as Theo, and Bobby Conte Thornton as P.J. Kathryn Allison, Stanley Bahorek, Britney Coleman, John Arthur Greene, Javier Ignacio, Anisha Nagarajan, Tally Sessions, and Matt Wall round out the ensemble.

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MOLIÈRE IN THE PARK TO PRESENT LIVE STREAM PRESENTATION OF MOLIÈRE’S TARTUFFE, 6/27 ·

(via David Gibbs, DARR Publicity)

MOLIÈRE IN THE PARK TO PRESENT LIVE STREAM PRESENTATION OF MOLIÈRE’S 

TARTUFFE

 starring Raúl E. Esparza & Samira Wiley, directed by MIP’s Founding Artistic Director Lucie Tiberghien 

Streams live June 27 at 2pm EST & 7pm EST,

Replays available through July 1, 2pm EST 

Brooklyn, NY – Molière in the Park, co-presented with the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) in partnership with the Prospect Park Alliance and LeFrak Center at Lakeside, is proud to present a live stream presentation of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Wilbur’s translation of Molière’s TARTUFFE, directed by Molière in the Park’s Founding Artistic Director Lucie Tiberghien.

The cast includes four-time Tony Award nominee and Obie Award winner Raúl E. Esparza (Seared at MCC, Company on Broadway), Emmy and SAG Award winner Samira Wiley (Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”), Kaliswa Brewster (Showtime’s “Billions,” Intelligence at NYTW), Naomi Lorrain (Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” Behind the Sheet at EST), Jared McNeill (Battlefield at BAM, The Valley of Astonishment at Theatre for a New Audience), Jennifer Mudge (The Irishman, Into the Woods at Roundabout – Lucille Lortel Award nominee), Rosemary Prinz (Tribute on Broadway, CBS’s “As the World Turns”) and Carter Redwood (When January Feels Like Summer at EST, Gertrude Stein Saints at Abrons).

Molière in the Park’s Founding Artistic Director Lucie Tiberghien and Co-Founding Producer Garth Belcon state, “We are disturbed and appalled by the corrosive and dangerously divisive nature of religious double standards and questionable moral righteousness we are currently witnessing. Turning to Tartuffe, with this company of actors and creative team has been healing. Our goal is to reinforce the power of faith, love and respect for every human life, versus religious posturing for economic or political gain.”

The production team includes Garth Belcon – MIP Co-Founding Producer, Kris Stone – Production Design, Andrew Carluccio – Video Programmer & Technology Consultant (MIP’s The Misanthrope, TFANA/Bard Fisher Center’s Mad Forest), Paul Pinto – Sound Designer/Composer (TFANA/Bard Fisher Center’s Mad Forest, thingNY’s SubtracTTTTTTTTT), Emily Rawson & Jonathan Kokotajlo – Animation, John Freeman/Century Tree – Visual Director, Thyra Hartshorn – Production Manager and Celine Ariniello – Communications & Marketing Associate.

REMAINS OF EARLIEST PURPOSE-BUILT PLAYHOUSE FOUND IN EAST LONDON ·

(Mark Brown’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/10.)

Location of the Red Lion, which predated the Globe, has been subject of debate for years

Archaeologists believe they have found remains of one of the most elusive of all known Elizabethan structures – the earliest purpose-built playhouse in Britain and a prototype for a theatre that staged plays by a young William Shakespeare.

The Red Lion is thought to have been built around 1567 and probably played host to travelling groups of players. Its precise location has been the subject of conjecture and debate for a number of years, but archaeologists are as certain as they can be that they have found its remains at a site in the East End of London where a self-storage facility once stood.

“It is not what I was expecting when I turned up to do an excavation in Whitechapel, I have to be honest,” said Stephen White, the lead archaeologist on a team from UCL Archaeology South-East. “This is one of the most extraordinary sites I’ve worked on.”

The Red Lion playhouse was created by John Brayne, who nine years later went on to construct the Theatre in Shoreditch with James Burbage, the father of the Elizabethan actor Richard Burbage. The Theatre was the first permanent home for acting troupes and staged plays by Shakespeare in 1590. After a dispute it was dismantled and its timbers used in the construction of the more famous Globe on Bankside.

Before the Globe and the Theatre, there was the Red Lion, which was in effect a prototype, said White.

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