Category Archives: Events

5 FOREIGNERS WHO HAVE BECOME BALLET STARS IN RUSSIA ·

(Anna Galayda’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 7/7; Photo: Olga Kereluk.)

 

Young dancers from other countries frequently come to study at Russia’s prestigious ballet schools, but some stay afterwards and have gone on to become lead performers at Russian theater companies—and what’s more, not just in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
1. May Nagahisa, Japan 

May Nagahisa was recently promoted to first soloist at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. In the ballet hierarchy, this is just one step from the very top—the title of a principal. For a dancer at one of the world’s leading theaters, this is a meteoric rise. Nagahisa made her debut at the Mariinsky at the age of 15, which is extremely rare and essentially unprecedented for a foreigner. At the time, May was a student at the famous Princess Grace Academy in Monaco, having won a spot there thanks to the Youth America Grand Prix competition. It was almost as if fate itself was leading her to Jean-Christophe Maillot’s famous Monte Carlo Ballet, but Maillot recognized that Nagahisa’s potential in classical ballet was much greater and broader than what was required for his productions and released her into the big world.

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FUNDING CUTS TO GO AHEAD FOR UNIVERSITY ARTS COURSES IN ENGLAND DESPITE OPPOSITION ·

(Sally Weale’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/20; Photo: The education secretary, Gavin Williamson. Arts groups have warned cuts would affect the viability of some courses at universities, leading to possible closures. Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock.)

Education secretary Gavin Williamson says money will be put towards Stem and medicine courses

Ministers have been accused of “one of the biggest attacks on arts and entertainment in English universities in living memory” after proposals to cut funding for arts and creative subjects in higher education were confirmed by the universities regulator.

When the planned cuts emerged earlier this year, artists and musicians launched a campaign to fight the proposals, accusing the government of neglecting the country’s “cultural national health” by pursuing what they described as “catastrophic” funding cuts to arts subjects at universities.

The controversial reforms affect a specific funding stream which is directed at high-cost subjects in higher education and will result in money being taken away from creative arts subjects, while more is invested in other high-cost subjects, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem), medicine and healthcare, in line the government’s priorities.

The Public Campaign for the Arts warned the cuts would threaten the viability of arts courses in universities, leading to possible closures, which would in turn damage the pipeline of talent leading from higher education into the creative industries, which are worth £111bn a year to the UK economy. Courses affected include music, dance, performing arts, art and design and media studies.

The cuts will halve the high-cost funding subsidy for creative and arts subjects from the start of the next academic year. The universities regulator for England, the Office for Students (OfS) insisted the reduction was only equivalent to about 1% of the combined course fee and OfS funding, but campaigners said together with other cuts the impact would be devastating.

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OPERA: THE SUBLIME TERROR OF KAIJA SAARIAHO’S “INNOCENCE” ·

(Alex Ross’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 7/19; illustration: The opera’s atmosphere is at once sensual and unsettled—dread in vivid colors. Illustration by Jun Cen.)

The new opera, which anchored the Aix-en-Provence Festival, is a monumental cry against gun violence.

Kaija Saariaho’s opera “Innocence,” which had its première at the Aix-en-Provence Festival on July 3rd, contains one of the most unnerving scenes I’ve witnessed at a theatre. About forty minutes into the piece, in a scene marked “IT,” the chorus chants the phrase “When it happened” in staggered rhythm, with low piano and double-basses punching up each syllable. A frame drum raps out sixteenth notes in rapid-fire bursts, and two trumpets let loose a series of “rips”—quick, shrieking upward glissandos. Then the orchestral mayhem cuts off abruptly; sopranos oscillate queasily between the notes A-flat and G; and the brutal rhythm resumes in the percussion. The terror is made explicit onstage, as a high-school student stumbles through a door, his arms covered in blood. A shooter, a fellow-student, is laying siege to a Finnish international school. Opera, which has been making art from death for more than four centuries, is recording a new kind of horror.

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MABOU MINES: ‘VS.’–A NEW DIGITAL THEATRE PIECE BY CARL HANCOCK RUX ·

Vs. indulges in a virtual game of ‘tag’

Mabou Mines presents 

Vs. 
written by
Carl Hancock Rux
directed by
Mallory Catlett

Online premiere July 30 – August 8

Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm
Sundays at 2pm
featuring
Becca Blackwell, David Thomson, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp,
and Perry Yung 
Video design by
Onome Ekeh 
Digital Streaming design by
Eamonn Farrell
GET TICKETS
Vs. can be considered part tribunal of evidence — guided and constrained by the statutory powers of the “Interrogator” — and part psychodynamic investigation of a sovereign polity, a collective of accused citizenry. Vs. creates a philosophical tribunal to acquit or prosecute crimes against humanity. As writer Carl Hancock Rux and team work within the new parameters that “zoom performance” affords, Vs. indulges in a virtual game of ‘tag’ in which members of the audience find themselves complicit when randomly selected as “The Interrogator” — an identity hack that speaks a new digital patois.

Support for Vs. was provided by Venturous Theater Fund, a fund of Tides Foundation.

VTF supports ambitious new work for the stage and the artists who create it. We seek to fund ambitious and challenging work by creating room for experimentation and risk in new play production. Our goal is to help writers achieve the freedom to write the plays they fear would otherwise go unproduced; and to enable producing organizations to say “yes” instead of “no” to worthy but challenging author-driven projects. We are particularly interested in seeding new play productions that involve controversial subject matter, large casts, or other perceived obstacles.

SUPPORT FOR MABOU MINES is provided by  the National Endowment for the Arts, The New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council and Materials for the Arts, The NYC Women’s Fund by the City of New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment/The New York Foundation for the Arts, Axe-Houghton Foundation, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, The Jerome Foundation, David and Leni Moore Family Foundation, New Music USA, The NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund in The New York Community Trust, Shubert Foundation, the W Trust and Emma A. Shaefer Charitable Trust.

Visit Mabou Mines

Photo of Carl Hancock Rux: Carl Hancock Rux

***** ‘SOUTH PACIFIC’ REVIEW – A ROOF-RAISING RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN TRIUMPH ·

(Mark Lawson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/14; Photo: The tones converge … South Pacific, with choreography by Ann Yee. Photograph: Johan Persson.)

Old shows often pass nervously through today’s ideological mettle-detectors, especially when depicting racial and international relations. But Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, a 1949 musical about American military and French economic exploitation of paradise islands, sets off impressively few alarms.

Oscar Hammerstein was an anti-racism writer and campaigner as early as 1927’s Show Boat, and South Pacific expands the agenda. Nurse Nellie Forbush’s rejection of Parisian émigré Emile de Becque – who has earlier stimulated her to sing “I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy!” – when she discovers the widower has mixed-race children seems contemptible now, but was also condemned in the show 72 years ago.

A Rodgers and Hammerstein song, You’ll Never Walk Alone (from Carousel), is already a football anthem, and South Pacific’s You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught, arguing that racism is not innate but incubated within societies and families, might, after recent events, usefully be played on a loop outside Wembley Stadium, 10 Downing Street and the Home Office.

Hammerstein mentored Stephen Sondheim, and the pupil’s Pacific Overtures (1976) nods, in title and critique of colonialism, to the earlier work. That through-line feels emphasised in this South Pacific by director Daniel Evans, musical director Cat Beveridge and choreographer Ann Yee.

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I’VE BEEN CAST AS BITCHY THEATRE CRITIC MR SNARL – IT’S A ROLE I COULDN’T TURN DOWN ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/13; Photograph: Marilyn Kingwill.)

Starring in a Zoom production of the play Masks and Faces tested my acting skills – not to mention my singing

About six weeks ago a small bombshell landed in my inbox. Headed “A Job Offer”, it was an email from Neil McPherson, director of the Finborough theatre in London, asking if I would like to play the role of a theatre critic in a Zoom recording of a Victorian play, Masks and Faces, by Tom Taylor and Charles Reade. I hesitated for a while (don’t real actors need the work?) but eventually accepted, deciding it would be cowardly to chicken out. And I’m glad I did as the experience was an eye-opener.

One good reason for saying yes was the play itself: a hidden gem that I had seen at the Finborough in 2004. The play, which was first performed in 1852, is a paean to Peg Woffington, the Dublin-born actor who conquered the London stage in the 18th century. During the action we see her returning an infatuated admirer to his rustic wife and rescuing an impoverished dramatist from penury. But there is much wit in this Woffington: when the dramatist claims that his wife laughs at nothing, Peg replies: “Try her with one of your tragedies.” The play also contains an intriguing debate about illusion and reality with Peg concluding: “We oft confound the actor with the part” – as true now as when the play was written?

But what on earth could I bring to the role? For a start, there are two critics in the play – the waspish Mr Snarl and the oily Mr Soaper – and it was left to me and my colleague Fiona Mountford to decide who was to play which. Fiona generously ceded to me the role of Mr Snarl, who bitches about the players with whom he hobnobs and who is given to loftily sententious remarks about art. As a critic, I may be prone to the latter, but I hope not the former. Early in our two-day rehearsal period, I said to our director, Matthew Iliffe, that I was going to model my performance on that of George Sanders as Addison DeWitt in All About Eve. I don’t come within spitting distance of Sanders’s supercilious arrogance but that, at least, was my inspiration.

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AVIGNON FESTIVAL SHINES SPOTLIGHT ON ACTORS WITH DISABILITIES ·

(from France24 )

The Avignon Festival is back after 2020’s Covid-19 hiatus. France’s biggest performing arts festival sees thousands of actors, dancers and musicians from around the world perform to audiences in the southern French city for three weeks every summer. FRANCE 24’s Julie Dungelhoeff and Claire Paccalin met a group of actors with learning disabilities whose play “Bouger les Lignes, histoires de cartes” (Pushing boundaries, stories about maps) has been selected as part of Avignon’s official “in” section.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELDS (SV REVIEW PICK, IRELAND) ·

(Mary Coll’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 7/8; Photo: Kathy Rose O’Brien stars as Vera in In the Middle of the Fields.)

★★★★

West Wall Walkway, Kilmallock

Timing is everything and what better time to explore the themes of isolation, grief and loss than after a period of collective trauma such as we have all experienced in this recent pandemic.

Being back in a theatre again felt both poignant and a little surreal, especially as the theatre was an open-sided tent in a field in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, but it was a perfectly apposite setting, with a soft summer breeze blowing and horses grazing happily nearby.

This exquisite world premiere staging of writer Mary Lavin’s 1967 short story by director Joan Sheehy and Geoff Gould’s Blood In The Alley Theatre Company finds its feet with calm assurance in the shadow of the #MeToo movement, confronting as it does timeless questions about what is appropriate behaviour and who holds the power in any situation between a man and a woman. Vera (Kathy Rose O’Brien) is a young widow with small children living alone on a farm, she needs some help with the land and perhaps with more than that, which is what brings her married neighbour Bartley Crossen (Seamus Moran) to her door on the recommendation of trusted farm hand Ned (Mark O’Regan). There is a gentle undercurrent between O’Brien and Moran by day, he is the contractor and she owns the land but the temperature changes and the ground shifts when he calls to her farmhouse in the dark of night and everything that is then said or unsaid between them has a deeply unsettling tension.

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***** ‘ALL OF THIS UNREAL TIME’ REVIEW – CILLIAN MURPHY CONFESSES ALL IN POUNDING SOUND AND BLINDING LIGHT ·

(Kate Wyver’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/4; Photo:  Contrition mission … Cillian Murphy in All of This Unreal Time. Photograph: MIF.) 

Central Hall, Manchester Central, and online

In a grimy and intense film installation, the actor unleashes a torrent of regret, superbly scripted by Max Porter

Cillian Murphy, wearing a black hoodie and heavy coat, is projected on to a giant screen in Manchester’s cavernous Central Hall. On a murky, sleepless night, he walks through city streets, confessing all that he is sorry for. Around us, the space is dark and thrumming, beams of blue light sweeping and blinding. The whole room is crackling. Grimy and electric, this new film installation, a collaboration between Murphy and the writer Max Porter, is exquisitely intense.

In dripping tunnels, car parks and abandoned roads, Murphy performs with a wide-eyed despair. His apologies are wide-ranging and told without self-pity. Some funny, some sad, they encompass the violence and failures of previous generations. Under torrential rain, his unnamed character’s words are spewing, purging, searching for a way out.

Porter’s prose is recognisably strange and beautiful. His novels have played with the way sound works on the page. Here, you can feel the delight in writing to be read aloud. Working under Murphy’s barrage of regrets and missed opportunities, the score by Jon Hopkins, Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner is sublime. With binaural layers of expansive piano and breathy synths, the loud, pummelling soundscape feels as if it’s pushing its way inside you.

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STOREFRONTS TURNED STAGES FOR ‘SEVEN DEADLY SINS’ ·

(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/23; via Pam Green.)

One afternoon in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, a small crowd gathered around a storefront window, where a neon-lit pole dancer in purple platform stilettos performed an engaging routine. Seeing the silent spectacle, the passersby stopped. Some took out their camera phones.

They had no way of knowing whether it was a rehearsal of a little play called “Lust” or that soon the dancer would be performing it nine times a night. On the sidewalk, director Moises Kaufmann sat in a bistro chair, surrounded by members of his Tectonic Theater Project. Through his headset he heard what pedestrians couldn’t: pulsing music and narrated views of the character.

Across the street, other empty storefronts in flashy establishments—a grave site, a Dominatrix’s dungeon—were also set for plays, one about greed, the other about anger. And that open storage container is standing on the curb? This would become the stage for a piece about jealousy. There would be wide windows in an unused space two blocks away in the cracks on gluttony, pride and sloth.

As New York begins its hot wax summer, Kaufman and Tectonic Theater are bringing “Seven Deadly Sins” to the streets. A sensual, high-lit evening of short plays performed extensively in storefronts for peripatetic audiences supplied with headphones To hear the dialogue, it began previews on Tuesday, which is part of a restless, exuberant rebirth of live theater — experimental and in the open air.

“The urgency I feel about making these plays is something I haven’t felt in years,” Kaufman said in an interview. “Because we – artists, actors, playwrights – we need it. We have this hunger. But I also deeply believe that audiences share that hunger.”

Possibly best known for Matthew Shepard’s play “The Laramie Project”, Kaufman imported the concept for the show in bulk from Miami Beach, where Miami New Drama’s artistic director Michelle Hausman produced the first version of “Seven Deadly Sins”. staged. .

In the Florida iteration, Kaufman wrote and directed just one piece, “All I Want Is Everything”, about greed. For New York, he is directing an entire 90-minute evening, surrounded by a new crop of playwrights: Ngozi Anyanu (Glut), Thomas Bradshaw (Laziness), MJ Kaufman (Proud), Jeffrey LaHoste (Jealousy). , Ming Pfeffer (anger) and Bess Wohl (lust).

Under the eyes of Tony Award-winning set designer David Rockwell, the show has adapted its aesthetic to neighborhoods, past and present. Once infamous for gritty sex clubs and streets laden with animal blood, the Meatpacking District has grown into a chic backdrop for modeling shoots and home to the High Line and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The plays in “Seven Deadly Sins” tend to be political, in line with the tradition of tectonic. And as warned on the show’s website, some of the material can be disturbing, such as a toxic confrontation between two characters in Pfeiffer’s play. Children under 13 are not allowed.

When Kaufman approached Pfeiffer about the “Seven Deadly Sins”—which she called “the height of Asian hatred” right after the Atlanta shooting that left six women of Asian descent dead—she knew she was about to rage. I would love to write In “Longhorn”, she imagines an encounter between an Asian Dominatrix and her client, a white man.

“The thing that I wanted to achieve with my play is that different people, depending on their identity – their cultural identity, their racial identity, their gender identity – can express their anger in different ways. allowed to express,” Piffer said.

Or in the case of women, she added, not allowed, “because, you know, you’re called crazy or you’re passionate or you’re on your period or whatever the hell.”

Wohl, who wrote the pole-dancing play and is a Tony nominee for “Grand Horizons,” said she chose her sin because “you can’t turn down lust when you’re at the table.” She, too, has used the project to investigate sexual politics and violence as well as the viewfinder element of storefront displays.

“There was something really stimulating to me about creating these little spaces and trapping actors in them and asking them to repeat the action over and over again for different audiences,” she said.

Kaufman’s own play is in the same city block as “Lust” and “Longhorn”. Seeing where it falls into the rhythm of the evening, he decided he needed to reshape his script to what it was in Miami Beach.

“The playwright Moises Kaufmann had to talk to the artistic director Moises Kaufmann,” he said, deadpan, “and the artistic director said to the playwright, ‘I like your play, but all the other plays that are here are very deep and very difficult. You have to make your play comedic.’”

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