Category Archives: Events

STEVEN SPIELBERG’S ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ ADAPTATION IS GOING TO GET HIM CANCELED ·

(John Podhoretz’s article appeared in The New York Post, 6/30; via the Drudge Report.)

For more than four decades, screen mavens have been eagerly awaiting the time when Steven Spielberg would bite the bullet and make a full-blown movie musical. Now he’s done it. It comes out at Christmastime.

And he’s going to be canceled for it.

Yes, sometime around Thanksgiving, Spielberg — whose work over more than half a century now runs the gamut from unprecedented blockbusters and franchises (“Jaws,” “Indiana Jones,” “Jurassic Park”) to painful works about hinge moments in history (“Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan”) — is going to go through the fires of cultural and political hell.

Let me explain.

Two years ago, when he announced he was going into production on “West Side Story,” Hollywood cognoscenti understood Spielberg was swinging for the fences as a potential capstone of his glorious career.

The most successful director of all time remaking a beloved 1961 film that itself won an Academy Award for Best Picture and nine others besides? He would only take such a reputational risk if he saw gold — Oscar gold — at the end of the rainbow.

The eagerness to see what Spielberg could do as the director of a musical arises from a five-minute dance number he included in his notorious flop “1941” back in 1979, in which a sailor evades a beatdown from a soldier in a USO hall by sliding under tables, running up the sides of walls and Lindy-hopping himself to safety.

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YALE DRAMA GOES TUITION-FREE WITH $150 MILLION GIFT FROM DAVID GEFFEN ·

(from The New York Times, 6/30; via the Drudge Report.)

The billionaire David Geffen is giving $150 million to Yale School of Drama, allowing one of the nation’s most prestigious programs to stop charging tuition.

The graduate school, which enrolls about 200 students in programs that include acting, design, directing and playwriting, announced the gift on Wednesday, and said it would rename itself the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University.

The gift, Yale said, is the largest in the history of American theater.

The school said that, starting in August, it would eliminate tuition for all returning and future students in its masters, doctoral and certificate programs. Tuition at the school had been $32,800 per year.

The move should remove a barrier to entry for low-income students and those worried about incurring high student debt before entering an often low-paying field.

The drama school is home to the Yale Repertory Theater, and its graduates include Meryl Streep, Lynn Nottage and Lupita Nyong’o.

It will become the second program at Yale to eliminate tuition; in 2005 the Yale School of Music did so. There are a handful of other tuition-free graduate programs around the country, including N.Y.U.’s medical school.

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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN REOPENS BROADWAY ·

(Johnny Oleksinski’s article appeared in the New York Post, 6/27; via the Drudge Report; Photo: Broadway — and The Boss is back: Bruce Springsteen performs during reopening night of “Springsteen on Broadway” for a full-capacity, vaccinated audience at St. James Theatre on June 26, 2021.Taylor Hill/Getty Images.)

The 471-day shutdown of Broadway, the longest in its history, ended Saturday night in a way none of us ever expected  — with Bruce Springsteen.

Leapfrogging the traditional razzle-dazzle musicals like “Hamilton,” “Wicked” and “The Lion King,” which will return on Sept. 14, The Boss kicked off a 30-performance limited engagement of his solo show this weekend at the St. James Theatre.

While the summer stint is sure to help reinvigorate the struggling Times Square neighborhood — which has suffered from crime, homelessness and stagnation during the pandemic — Springsteen never uttered the word “Broadway” once on Saturday, despite his historic role in reopening it.

“It’s great to be here,” Springsteen said to his excited audience, who had to prove they were vaccinated to take their seats and shout “Bruuuuuuuuuce!”

“No masks, sitting next to each other in one room.”

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OPINIONS | THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE CIRCUS FROM AMERICAN LIFE LEAVES US LONELIER ·

(Les Standiford’s article appeared in the Washington Posts, 5/20; Photo: Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson says farewell to the crowd alongside Paulo Dos Santos, center, and Tatiana Tchalabaev, right, at the end of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Uniondale, N.Y., in 2017. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post.)

Much about popular entertainment has changed over the past century — from movies to talkies to television to VHS to DVD to Blu-ray to streaming. But as platforms have come and gone, one remained a constant: the American circus.

The cry “the circus is coming to town” once signaled a fourth major holiday, equivalent with Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July. Shops, public offices and schools closed, and an entire populace assembled to witness the parade of bands, clowns, exotic animals and bejeweled performers marching from the rail yards to the circus grounds, paced by aromatic elephants and shrieking calliope music all the way. But the circus did more than entertain. It reassured Americans that anything was possible.

The circus has roots extending back to Greek and Roman times when emperors stalked wild beasts in coliseums to the delight of crowds. It was revived in Turkey in the Middle Ages when acrobats walked ropes that stretched from one ship’s mast to that of another. During the 18th century, British equestrians found gainful employment after life in the calvary corps by performing impossible feats of horsemanship inside a carefully measured ring (42 feet in diameter to this day, maximizing the centripetal force that plants a performer upon the mount).

Such acts captured early American audiences as well. George Washington took delight in shows featuring little besides horses and riders, an occasional juggler or tumbler and the necessary clown who did standup or slapstick while the next act was preparing. In the early 1800s, elephants — not seen in the United States before 1796 — took the spectacle to new heights.

What drew audiences of 7,000 to 10,000 beneath the big top day after day in whistle-stop after whistle-stop, however, was the prospect of seeing seemingly impossible things: human beings cavorting upon the backs and heads-in-the mouths of animals from storybooks, performing feats of daring on swings and slender wires 100 feet or more aloft that the Wallenda family would apotheosize. It was a nonstop array of death-defying activity punctuated by such 20th century astonishments as automobiles soaring into loop-the-loops and elephants performing ballet choreographed by Balanchine, the gone-mute clowns cavorting all the while.

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THEATRE OF SCREAMS: TERRIFYING VIDEO SHOWS A PACK OF 30 WOLVES CHASING ACTORS ON STAGE AND LUNGING INTO THE AUDIENCE IN CHINESE THEATRE SHOW ·

(Jacob Bentley-York’s article appeared in the Sun, 6/18; via the Drudge Report.)

Terrifying video shows a pack of 30 wolves chasing actors on stage and lunging into the audience in Chinese theatre show

A TERRIFYING video of a live stage show in China has gone viral after it appeared to show a group of actors being chased by THIRTY wolves.

The clip, filmed in a theatre in the city of Xi’an, was posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo last week and has already gained 433 million views.

The footage features 30 wolves participating in a Chinese theatre showCredit: Weibo

In the clip, the animals can be seen pretending to chase cast membersCredit: Weibo

They even leap off stage and run between the seats of audience membersCredit: Weibo

 

In the dimly lit footage, the animals can be seen sprinting off stage as they pretend to chase their cast members.

Several of the animals leave the stage and run into the aisles between audience seats as they participate in a routine.

As part of the show, titled “Tuoling Legend” or “The Legend of Camel Bell,” the wolves also appear to act out fight scenes with the performers.

This includes actors being pinned down to the ground as they pretend to be mauled.

But, much to the dismay of viewers, the animals don’t appear to be wearing any harnesses, raising serious safety concerns.

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HOW A FAMILY TRANSFORMED THE LOOK OF EUROPEAN THEATER ·

(Joseph Cermatori’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/11; via Pam Green; Illustration: Rotating the perspective to depict massive, magnificent interiors, the Bibiena family transformed stage design in the 17th and 18th centuries.Credit…Morgan Library & Museum.)  

The Bibienas, the focus of an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum, dominated Baroque theatrical design.

Many of us have not seen the inside of a theater in well over a year. But as performance spaces around the country are on the verge of reopening, the Morgan Library & Museum is offering a quietly astonishing reminder of what we’ve been missing.

Open through Sept. 12 at the Morgan, “Architecture, Theater and Fantasy” is a small but exquisite show of drawings by the Bibiena family, which transformed theatrical design in the 17th and 18th centuries. Organized around a promised gift to the museum of 25 Bibiena works by Jules Fisher, the Tony Award-winning Broadway lighting designer, the exhibit is the first in the United States of the family’s drawings in over 30 years.

From Lisbon to St. Petersburg, Russia, the Bibienas dominated every major court theater in Baroque Europe. Their innovations in perspective opened new dramatic possibilities, and their lavish projects cost vast sums, with single spectacles running budgets of up to $10 million in today’s dollars. Writing to Alexander Pope of an opera performed outdoors in Vienna to consecrate the Austrian crown prince’s birth in 1716, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu described a massive stage constructed over a canal. Gilded flotillas sailed beneath it — a spectacle, she wrote, “so large that it is hard to carry the eye to the end of it.”

That production’s designer, Ferdinando Galli Bibiena (1657-1743), had arrived in Vienna in 1711 as the official scenographer for the Hapsburg court of Charles VII. His father, the Tuscan painter Giovanni Maria Galli (1618-65), came from a village in Arezzo called Bibbiena, and adapted its name as his own. Young Ferdinando started out in Bologna as a master of quadratura, or illusionistic ceiling painting. But his theatrical talents took his career in other directions in the 1680s.

Until that time, European scenery primarily utilized single-point perspective. This optical technique, perfected in 15th-century Italian visual art, arranged scenic images around a central vanishing point, creating the semblance of an infinitely receding space. (A Bibiena drawing already in the Morgan’s collection makes the regress dizzyingly, almost terrifyingly, steep.)

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RITA MORENO DEFENDS LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA OVER ‘IN THE HEIGHTS’ COLORISM CRITICISM: ‘YOU CAN NEVER DO RIGHT’ ·

(Ellise Shafer’s article appeared in Variety, 6/15; Photo: Samantha Okazaki.)

Rita Moreno is defending Lin-Manuel Miranda and “In the Heights” following criticism over the film’s lack of Afro-Latino representation.

On tonight’s episode of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” Moreno appeared to promote her documentary, “Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It,” and later brought up the “In the Heights” controversy.

“Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin-Manuel? That really upsets me,” Moreno said to Colbert.

Moreno is referring to criticism regarding the lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in the film’s cast, particularly in leading roles. Online discussion on the topic over the weekend stemmed from a video article in The Root, published on Wednesday. In an interview with “In the Heights” director Jon M. Chu and stars Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Gregory Diaz IV, journalist Felice León questioned the film’s casting decisions. “What would you say to folks who say that ‘In the Heights’ privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?” León asked, to which Chu replied: “I would say that’s a fair conversation to have. Listen, we’re not going to get everything right in a movie. We tried our best on all fronts of it.”

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HARMONY RULES IN “IN THE HEIGHTS” ·

(Anthony Lane’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 6/11; PHOTO: Anthony Ramos stars in Jon M. Chu’s film of the Broadway musical.Illustration by Katty Huertas.)

Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical presents an uplifting portrait of a Dominican neighborhood in New York where political strife rarely intrudes.

Morning in America, not yet six o’clock, and a couple of working stiffs, in the bright early glare of New York, are finding it hard to make a start. One of them is a crane operator, down at the docks, beside a U.S. Navy vessel. “I feel like I’m not out of bed yet,” he says—or sings, in a baritone as slow as a bear. Way uptown, close to the 181st Street subway stop, someone else has the same problem. “Lights up on Washington Heights, up at the break of day, I wake up, and I got this little punk I gotta chase away,” he says—or raps, in a voice as crisp as an apple. The first man, who is unnamed, initiates “On the Town” (1949), and the second is Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), the likable hero of “In the Heights.” Two guys, two movies, seventy-two years apart, both springing from stage musicals. Oh, and Usnavi is so called because his father, arriving from the Dominican Republic, saw a ship marked “U.S. Navy.” How much is truly new, under the sun?

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KATORI HALL WINS DRAMA PULITZER FOR ‘THE HOT WING KING’ ·

 (Julia Jacobs’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/11; via Pam Green. Photo:  Katori Hall in New York City last year. The playwright was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for “The Hot Wing King,” which uses a sitcom structure to explore Black masculinity.Credit…Amy Lombard for The New York Times.)

The play, which had its run cut short because of the pandemic, centers on a kitchen in Memphis, where a man is trying to concoct award-winning chicken wings.

Katori Hall, who has told stirring stories about Black life in America both onstage and onscreen, has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “The Hot Wing King,” a family dramedy that centers on a man’s quest to make award-winning chicken wings while personal conflict swirls around him.

The Off Broadway play — produced last year by the Pershing Square Signature Center, where it had a truncated run — drew praise for challenging conventional conceptions of Black masculinity and fatherhood.

Its main character, Cordell, has recently moved into a home in Memphis with his lover, Dwayne, whom Cordell enlists to help him make his submission to the annual “Hot Wang Festival.” Things get complicated when Dwayne wants to take in his 16-year-old nephew, whose mother died while being restrained by the police — a tragedy for which Dwayne blames himself.

In the awards announcements on Friday, the Pulitzer board called the play a “funny, deeply felt consideration of Black masculinity and how it is perceived, filtered through the experiences of a loving gay couple and their extended family as they prepare for a culinary competition.”

Hall, 40, the author of the Olivier Award-winning “The Mountaintop,” wrote a play that was full of frenetic action (stirring pots, dismembering chickens, spicing sauces), emotional exchanges and sitcom-style ribbing.

She also co-wrote the book for “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” which is nominated for numerous Tony Awards (including best musical and best book of a musical), and created the Starz drama “P-Valley,” which follows a crew of dancers at a strip club in the Mississippi Delta. Hall is currently working on Season 2 of the series, which is based on one of her plays.

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SCREAMING ARTIST ELECTRIFIES BELARUS PROTESTS IN WARSAW ·

(Dario Thuburn’s article appeared on Yahoo, 6/11; Photo: France24.)

Jana Shostak says her protests is ‘a scream of spite, of anger, of powerlessness over what is happening in our country’

With her blood-curdling, lung-bursting screams of protest outside the European Commission office in Warsaw, 28-year-old artist Jana Shostak has become the angry face of the Belarusian opposition movement in Poland.

Shostak began screaming last year following the disputed re-election of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994.

“It’s a scream of spite, of anger, of powerlessness over what is happening in our country,” Shostak told AFP this week after a minute bellowing out her howl of anguish at one of the near-daily protests outside the European Commission office in Warsaw.

Shostak arrived by taxi — already rallying the protesters by shouting from the car, wearing a cotton dress in the white-red-white colours used by the Belarusian opposition.

Fellow Belarusians and Polish allies have been joining the protests. Next to outdoor cafes crowded with patrons enjoying the end of lockdown, dozens of people have joined Shostak’s screams to demand the European Union take more action against Lukashenko.

“We’ve had enough. We want real sanctions,” Shostak said.

Their screams are now being heard far beyond Warsaw.

The unusual form of protest has gone viral on social media, and this week Polish actor Bartosz Bielenia surprised the European Parliament by screaming for Belarus after receiving an award.

– ‘Ultimate way to protest’ –

One of Shostak’s screams has proved particularly popular online.

It was on May 24 — a day after Lukashenko diverted a Ryanair flight between two EU capitals, forced it to land in Belarus and arrested a dissident journalist and his girlfriend on board.

That scream also attracted controversy in Poland because of a comment by a left-wing female parliamentarian, Anna Maria Zukowska, that appeared to criticise Shostak’s low neckline.

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