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LIFE SKETCHES (SHORT SCENES AND MONOLOGUES): “AT THE DOG PARK” (5) ·

By Bob Shuman

Photo of Juno (Junie)

SCENE: A dog park in the Bronx. There are two benches. The first is near the entrance to the run—the second is toward the opposite end.

MARY JANE, early 70’s, sits on one side of the bench closest to the entrance of the dog run. Using a launcher, SHE plays fetch with her spaniel, LANTERN. CHRISTIE, late 50’s (male), is standing in the run reprimanding one of his two Jack Russell terriers, JASPER. The other dog, JUNO is digging a hole, near MARY JANE, which Lantern has started. There is a large container of water near the front of the run. A sunny day. April.

MARY JANE wears a glove on the hand she throws her ball with; CHRISTIE wears surgical gloves and a thicker glove on .

(Suddenly:)

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper, seeing he has taken the green ball from Lantern.) You’re a little thief!

MARY JANE:: When Lantern was younger, he would do that.

CHRISTIE: Stealing the ball right from under Lantern’s nose.

MARY JANE: He used to do it if he found a ball he liked better than his.

(Pause.)

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper.) I thought you wanted your orange ball.

MARY JANE: They’re playing a little game (with the green ball).

CHRISTIE: Come on—get your own. It’s right over here. (The dogs have no interest.)

MARY JANE: Look at how nicely Junie is enjoying the sun. (And Junie is sunning herself.)

CHRISTIE: Let Lantern have his own ball, for a change.

(Silence. MARY JANE and CHRISTIE begin throwing the green ball for Lantern and Jasper to fetch. )

MARY JANE: Lantern almost got out of the back run yesterday. He was headed toward the field–Natan had to get him back in.

(Silence.)

(MARY JANE and CHRISTIE sit on different benches, looking over the park.)

MARY JANE: The white cars are Enforcement. They’re the ones who disperse crowds. The green trucks are park maintenance.

CHRISTIE: The tennis nets are gone. I saw that this morning.

MARY JANE: Did they take the hoops down in the basketball courts? Just look. Are the hoops still in the baskets?

CHRISTIE: (He looks through the fence across the street.) Yes.

MARY JANE: They’re closing parks in New York City because people aren’t social distancing. One woman was having a children’s birthday party with twelve guests.

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper.) Get the orange ball.

MARY JANE: Washington State, they listened. California has been doing a very good job. But in New York they won’t.

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper.) You’re a little thief.

MARY JANE: I don’t want them to put locks on the run. I don’t have anyone else who can walk him now–Gina has an underlying condition.

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper.) Leave Lantern alone.

MARY JANE: (About underlying conditions.) I’ve learned that I have three: heart, diabetes, high blood pressure—and now they consider obesity one. 

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper.) Stop barking at Lantern.

MARY JANE: I left the gate ajar this morning so no one will have to touch it.

(Jasper barks at Lantern. Subsides.)

CHRISTIE: There’s a story about an epidemic. “Pale Horse, Pale Rider.” Takes place in Colorado, during the early 1900s. I read it in college. Always remembered it. Really good.

MARY JANE: (Seeing Lantern at the keg of water.) Lantern, stop acting so crazy.

CHRISTIE: What’s going on over there?

MARY JANE: He’s been acting this way all morning.

CHRISTIE: He’s knocking over the water.

MARY JANE: (To Lantern.) Enough.

CHRISTIE: (Christie picks up the water jug and pours water into the tin bowl.) I’m sorry, Lantern. I’ll get you water. I thought you had it.

(Lantern drinks, followed by Jasper.)

MARY JANE: Did you hear from your school?

CHRISTIE: I heard from them about two weeks ago. The course seems to be going online. I still seem to have it.

MARY JANE: I don’t know whether it’s true, but in Wuhan–I heard it in two places–they’ve found people with the virus locked in their rooms, from the outside.

CHRISTIE: So no one can get out.

(Pause.)

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper.) Why do you keep bringing me the green ball? What’s wrong with the orange one?

MARY JANE: Emergency services will leave you if they can’t find a pulse. They won’t make any attempts to revive you. They used to try to resuscitate you and take you to the hospital.

CHRISTIE: I didn’t hear that.

MARY JANE: Now, if you’re dead, you’re dead.

(Silence.)

CHRISTIE: What’s the matter Lantern?

MARY JANE: (About Lantern.) Sometimes I think he doesn’t get enough oxygen to his brain.

CHRISTIE: (To Lantern.) That was so nice that you dug that hole for Junie to lie in.

MARY JANE: (Lantern is lying in front of the gate.) He wants to go. Look at him. He wants to leave.

(Silence.)

CHRISTIE: Lantern’s trying to get out—he wants to get out of the gate.

MARY JANE: You come back here.

CHRISTIE: Juno. Jasper. You stay here.

(CHRISTIE closes the gate.)

MARY JANE: (About Lantern.) He’s out of the fence.

CHRISTIE: Lantern, come back here!

MARY JANE: I’m afraid he’ll run into the street and get hit by a car.

CHRISTIE: Lantern, get back.

MARY JANE: Help me get him.

CHRISTIE: He’s running.

MARY JANE: They’ll lock the fence at the run.

CHRISTIE: Do you see him? Look at him go. Out on the field. He has the orange ball. He’s running.

MARY JANE: Lantern, come here!

CHRISTIE: He’s turned around. He’s on his way back! You were beautiful, Lantern.

(End.)

(c) 2020 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

LIFE SKETCHES (SHORT SCENES AND MONOLOGUES): “AT THE DOG PARK” 4 ·

(Photo of Jasper)

SCENE: A dog park in the Bronx.  Today, it is warmer—and there is sun.  

(MARY JANE, early 70’s, sits on a bench in the dog park. Using a launcher, SHE plays fetch with her spaniel, LANTERN. Today, CHRISTIE (male), late 50’s, is standing at the beginning of the scene, but because of social distancing, he will be sitting on a second bench in this part of the run. JUNO and JASPER are CHRISTIE’s two Jack Russell terriers.)                        

(LANTERN is digging a hole to lie in; JUNO and JASPER are at the far end of the run.)

 

MARY JANE:  What are these dogs eating? Mud?

CHRISTIE:  Jasper you come over here!

MARY JANE:  What are they eating? Lantern was eating mud yesterday.

CHRISTIE:  You come over here, Jasper.  You, too, Junie.

MARY JANE:   I don’t mind if he eats a little mud.

CHRISTIE: (Suspecting Jasper is going to eat poop.)  Jasper, you get away from there.  

MARY JANE:   If he’s eating a lot of it, I care.  Is it poop?

CHRISTIE: I don’t know what it is.

MARY JANE: (Standing.)   I’ve heard about a powder for dogs who eat their own poop—makes it taste bad and they stop. But that wouldn’t help your dogs, because they eat other dogs’ poop.

CHRISTIE: Probably mud. (CHRISTIE kicks the ground where Jasper has been.)

MARY JANE:  (About a small piece of dog poop on the ground.) See, that’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t normally pick up.

(CHRISTIE picks it up anyway.)

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  Uh-oh.  Lantern’s going. (Lantern is pooping.)

CHRISTIE: (Moving straight into action.) JASPER!

MARY JANE:  Do you have a bag?

CHRISTIE: I have a bag. (Chasing Jasper.) No!

MARY JANE:  Come on, Jasper, you come up here by me.

CHRISTIE: (Yelling at Jasper, running after him, trying to get him away from the poop.) Drop it! You drop that! You drop that! You drop that, Jasper!  Drop that.

(Pause. JASPER does not listen.)

MARY JANE:  Did he get it?

CHRISTIE: I don’t think so.  Junie, you get up there, too.

(Silence.  CHRISTIE cleans up LANTERN’s poop.  JUNO sits by Mary Jane.)

MARY JANE:  Thank you for picking it up.

CHRISTIE: No problem.

MARY JANE:  I don’t think he’ll go again, but you never know–he’s been going a lot lately.

CHRISTIE: (To Jasper.)  No eating.  You know full well you’re not supposed to be eating that!  The last thing I need is a sick little dog.

(LANTERNsettles down with his ball and begins “woofing” seven or eight times.)

MARY JANE:  (About the barking.) Lantern.  Stop being so loud!

(MARY JANE coughs and uses her launcher to play fetch.)

MARY JANE:  I’ve been coughing for four weeks. (since) March 1.  I take my temperature every day—I’ve never had one.  Cuomo says this is going to peak in 21 days—he changed it from 45. 

(Pause.)

CHRISTIE: Prince Charles has Caronavirus. (CHRISTIE is throwing balls to the dogs, as well.)

MARY JANE:  He does?  That must have just happened.  I listen to the news when I’m getting ready in the morning.   

CHRISTIE: Junie, don’t you go down there.  I don’t want you eating mud. 

MARY JANE:  A lot of people around here say they’ve already had Coronavirus. Coughing, headaches, sniffling, diarrhea, they’ve been doing that all winter. They have chapped hands from washing so much.   They need to put hand cream in the bathroom, and use it. If not, they’ll forget. 

(Pause.)

MARY JANE:  This cold I have–I think it saved my life. My friend Jerome tested positive—after waiting two weeks to receive the results. He texted me he’s getting better, but he’s still in quarantine.  If I didn’t have this (cold) Jerome and I would have been going out a few times a week. He has money, doesn’t mind paying. Getting lunch at Smashburger, riding up to Dobbs Ferry for drinks on the water. I would have gotten it. 

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  Jasper always puts the ball between feet, like croquet.  Lantern learned that from him. Now he does it too.  Is it the game called croquet where they aim the ball through a (she curves her arms and hands.

CHRISTIE:  (Seeing that JASPER has done this to CHRISTIE’s feet.) Yes.  Croquet.

MARY JANE:  (To LANTERN.) Now you want the orange ball.

CHRISTIE:  I don’t know what this is.  Last week everybody wanted the green ball.  Now it has to be orange.

MARY JANE:  (Lantern’s coloring is orange.) An orange ball for an orange dog.

CHRISTIE:  Trends can change at a moment’s notice.  Turn on a dime.  Everyone was fine with the green bacon ball until 11:17 this morning.  Then you couldn’t give it away. They got tired of it. No one will touch it. 

MARY JANE:  More and more I notice Lantern doesn’t like me leaving him.

CHRISTIE:  (Still talking about balls for dogs.) Jasper won’t even pick it up. Look at him. It’s right next to him. 

MARY JANE:  (About LANTERN.) He gets restless at night, can’t make himself comfortable.  Doesn’t want to be petted very long—and only when he’s lying down.  

CHRISTIE:  Lantern never likes to be petted.

(Silence.)

MARY JANE:  He has arthritis of the spine. He’s getting old fast.  He’ll be my last dog. He’s already eleven. 

(Pause.)

MARY JANE:  Uh-oh.

CHRISTIE:  (Yelling at Jasper, running after him, trying to get him away from the poop.) Drop it! You drop that! You drop that! You drop that!

MARY JANE:  Do you have a bag?

CHRISTIE:   (Running to pick up poop.) How long do you say you’ve been doing this?

MARY JANE:  I’ve had dogs since I was sixteen.  That’s when my father felt he could trust me to take care of one–when I wouldn’t mind cleaning up after them and taking them outside.  But I wanted one longer than that—I have the dog gene.

(End)

(c) 2020 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

GREAT THEATER, DANCE AND CLASSICAL MUSIC TO TUNE INTO WHILE STUCK AT HOME ·

(Published 3/20 in The New York Times; via Marit Shuman.)

If you’re stuck at home and hankering for the fine arts, there’s plenty online. Since the coronavirus pandemic began temporarily shutting down performing arts venues and museums around the world, cultural organizations have been finding ways to share their work digitally. Performances are being live-streamed, archival material is being resurfaced and social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube and Facebook are serving as makeshift stages, concert halls and gallery spaces.

Here’s a list of some of what’s streaming and otherwise available on the Internet. The offerings are increasing by the day, so be sure to check in with your favorite arts institutions to see what they’re providing as things develop. And check back here for updates.

Theater

“The Rosie O’Donnell Show” will return for one night only on Sunday at 7 p.m., in support of the Actors Fund. Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth, Harvey Fierstein, Stephanie J. Block and other Broadway stars will appear or perform. The broadcast will be on Broadway.com and the site’s YouTube channel.

The Sirius XM host Seth Rudetsky and his husband, James Wesley, are also producing a daily online mini-show called “Stars in the House,” with actors performing from home, to raise money for the Actors Fund.

Tickets to watch a video of Ren Dara Santiago’s “The Siblings Play” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater are now available.

At Berkeley Repertory Theater, ticket holders for Jocelyn Bioh’s “School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play” and “Culture Clash (Still) in America” will be able to access a production broadcast of the show through BroadwayHD.

American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco is offering the opportunity for ticket holders to watch Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s “Gloria” and Lydia R. Diamond’s “Toni Stone” from home on BroadwayHD.

Irish Repertory Theater is releasing videos of its actors performing songs, poems and monologues on its social media channels.

Melissa Errico’s concert performance of her “Sondheim Sublime” album will stream on Sunday at 4 p.m. on the Guild Hall’s YouTube channel.

Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater is offering a free series of live-streamed and archival performances on its YouTube channel.

The 24 Hour Plays, a group that brings actors, writers, directors and composers together to produce new work in a single day, released “Viral Monologues,” videos that paired performers like Hugh Dancy and Bobby Moreno with playwrights including Stephen Adly Guirgis and Jenny Rachel Weiner.

HERE Arts Center is hosting weekly watch parties of full-length past productions, as well as collaborative live-streamed creative activities led by HERE artists and staff members.

Dance

New York Live Arts has posted three full-length performances from its back catalog online.

The Paris Opera Ballet will broadcast “Swan Lake” and its “Tribute to Jerome Robbins.”

All Arts, an arts and culture channel from WNET, offers dance videos on its site.

Members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater banded together to perform “I Been ’Buked,” a section of Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece, “Revelations,” which is now available on Instagram.

Boston Ballet has posted a collection of clips from canceled productions on YouTube.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Samantha van Wissen shared instructional videos to guide dancers at home through the choreographer’s seminal piece “Rosas danst Rosas.”

Mariana Oliveira posted a video on Vimeo of Carolina Ballet performing her piece “Blue Jay Eyes,” whose run was interrupted.

Bayerisches Staatsballett will offer a streamed performance of “Jewels” by George Balanchine from March 21 at 2:30 p.m. to March 22 at 6:59 p.m.

Classical and Opera

The Metropolitan Opera features “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” which are free encore Live in HD presentations. Tune in on Monday for a week of Wagner.

Berliner Philharmoniker is offering free access to all concerts and films in its “Digital Concert Hall.”

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is regularly releasing online playlists of chamber music concerts and events from its archive.

On Site Opera, a company that performs in site-specific settings, is hosting live-streamed “watch parties” of past productions through mid-April.

The 92nd Street Y’s streaming archives have recordings of classical concerts, and there are upcoming live streams from the likes of the Junction Trio (the violinist Stefan Jackiw, the pianist Conrad Tao and the cellist Jay Campbell) and the pianist Jonathan Biss.

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony’s “Keeping Score” project is streaming on the Symphony’s YouTube channel. Episodes are being released in weekly batches and make a good alternative for those who planned on attending Thomas’s final Carnegie Hall performances as the Symphony’s music director this month, before they were canceled.

(Read more)

IN HAMLET AND IN LIFE, RUTH NEGGA DOES NOT HOLD BACK ·

(Robert Ito’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/17; via Pam Green.)

The Ethiopian-Irish actress returns to a “completely destroying” stage role. Next: a film adaptation of a 1920s novel about passing for white.

LOS ANGELES — What stage actor wouldn’t jump at the chance to play Hamlet? Ruth Negga, for one. When she was offered the role at Dublin’s Gate Theater in 2018, her first impulse was to say thanks, but no. Too tough, too daunting, “too much,” she said. In 2010, Negga had tackled Ophelia at the National Theater in London — surely that experience would give her a leg up?

Nothing helps you play Hamlet,” she laughed.

Negga ultimately took the role, however, earning rave reviews. The Guardian praised her “priceless ability to savor the language,” while the Irish edition of The Times of London called her performance “a stunning gift for Irish theatergoers.”

If she made it all look easy, however, it was anything but. “It nearly killed me,” said Negga, who is perhaps best known for her Oscar-nominated turn in the 2016 biopic “Loving,” in which she played a woman who endures jail time and exile for the then-crime of being married to a white man in 1950s Virginia. “If you ask anyone who’s played Hamlet, it’s completely destroying,” she said. “It cracks you open, and you feel like you’re this mass of nerves and open skin.”

(Read more)

Credit…Chantal Anderson for The New York Times

CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (63) ·

We exaggerated the outward and external side of manners. . . . . This resulted in naked naturalism. And the nearer it was to reality, the more ethnographical it was—the worse it was for us.  There was no spiritual darkness, and therefore the outward and naturalistic darkness proved unnecessary. It had nothing to round out and illustrate. Ethnography choked literature and the art of the actor. (MLIA)

ALAN BENNETT: DIARY ·

(from the London Review of Books, 12/19, where he reads the entries.)

1 January 2019, Yorkshire. The New Inn, the village pub, always lays on a quarter of an hour of fireworks at midnight, which we can see if not actually from our bed then certainly from the bedroom window. Brushing my teeth this morning, I catch a glimpse of my New Year self and am depressed to see how depleted I’m looking, though not quite as much as Raymond Briggs, who’s pretty much my age, and a good documentary on whom we watched earlier yesterday evening. He’s almost two-dimensional, thinned to a knife blade. Still, he drives, which after the latest bout of arthritis in my ankle, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do.

7 January, Yorkshire. On the war memorial at Malham is the inscription:

Live thou for England
We for England died

I don’t know if this is a quotation, or an injunction that was, as it were, custom-made, but I find it – if only slightly – misplaced, and I don’t wholly concur, as the sentiment reduces what was a sacrifice to more of a bargain: we did this for you, now see you do your bit in return by living in a way the dead might have approved (whatever that might be). It’s an admonition, which I don’t like, but war memorials often take this finger-wagging tone. ‘Do better.’

8 January. My six-monthly aorta scan at University College Hospital. Due at 12.30 I’m early, so that by 12.45 I’m back home. It’s a model service, today’s radiographer a bearded young man who asks about Allelujah!, and shows me the screen and how he measures the width of my (quite small) aneurysms. Good young medics always cheer me and offer hope, not for my future but for the world in general.

19 January. Wake this morning thinking of a line that I’ve always remembered Burt Lancaster delivering in a costume drama. Caught out after curfew, he says: ‘I am apothecary Manzoni on an errand of mercy for the Sisters.’ What the film was I’ve no idea. The Crimson Pirate? Doubtless some LRB-reading cinema buff even sillier than I am will be able to tell me.

26 January. We are comfortably ensconced in our Weekend First seats at King’s Cross when John Bercow comes along the platform. Not quite the elegant, slightly flamboyant figure one sees in the Commons, he’s in a scruffy suede jacket and, according to the trolley attendant, sitting in standard class, where he is happy to have a conversation about Brexit and related matters. I’m hoping he will come down the train at some point, when I’d shake his hand and say how much of the country is with him. However, when we get to Grantham, my eye is taken by an old man with an enchanting blond Labrador, and now Bercow comes along the platform and the dog makes a great fuss of him, the old man equally delighted.

9 February. This evening we watch the much vaunted The Favourite, which is good if a bit – and perhaps deliberately – casual about period details and language, ‘letters’ becoming ‘mail’ and (a battle I had in The Madness of King George) the occasional ‘OK’ and ‘fine’. The film owes something to ours, beginning slightly as I intended to begin, with the court seen from the cramped perspective of the royal servants. Not looking at the monarch is made something of a feature, though not as specifically as we tried to do, and our film was more physical than this is allowed to be. ‘Cunt’ occurs quite often, possibly less as a deliberate attempt to shock than to show how down to earth these courtiers were. Or it may just be laziness, there being some skill in inventing euphemisms or devising elaborations that get round obscenity. Still, an enjoyable film, if an anachronistic one, e.g. ‘the opposition’ not a feature of Parliament in the 18th century.

(Read more)

Photo: Keplarllp.com

FOR ENTERTAINING MUSICALS, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN … PARIS ·

(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/5; via Pam Green.)

The genre has long been seen as minor in the French capital, but a string of English-language productions is creating a pleasingly upbeat dynamic.

The answer is unlikely to be musicals. While one of the genre’s ancestors, the 19th-century operetta, once thrived in France, musicals have long been considered minor in this country, which prizes conceptual seriousness over entertainment onstage. Yet a string of successful English-language productions has jazz hands and fidgety feet working their way into the local parlance.

“An American in Paris,” back from a Tony Award-winning Broadway run and an international tour, is competing this month with a sparkling new revival of “Funny Girl” at the Théâtre Marigny. And the two productions share a producer who has played a major role in the wave of musicals in Paris this past decade: Jean-Luc Choplin, who directed the Théâtre du Châtelet from 2004 to 2017 and is now leading the Théâtre Marigny down a similar path.

While some production companies have translated American musicals into French in recent years, Choplin has invested in English-language productions presented with subtitles. It’s a sensible choice, because the upbeat earnestness of the genre sits awkwardly with the taste for irony that is built into French discourse.

(Read more)

Photo: The New York Times

CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (53) ·

Doctor Stockman became popular at once in Moscow, and especially so in Petrograd. “The Enemy of the People” became the favorite play of the revolutionists, notwithstanding the fact that Stockman himself despised the solid majority and believed in individuals to whom he would entrust the conduct of life. But Stockman protested, Stockman told the truth, and that was considered enough. (MLIA)