Category Archives: Uncategorized

CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (146) ·

The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

An actor of our type is obliged to work so much more than others, both on his inner equipment, which creates the life of the part, and also on his outer physical apparatus, which should reproduce the results of the creative work of his emotions with precision. (AP)

EDDIE IZZARD RETURNS TO NEW YORK WITH CHARLES DICKENS’ ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS’ (12/9-1/22) ·

(via Kenya A. Williams, BoneauBryanBrown)

EDDIE IZZARD RETURNS TO NEW YORK WITH

CHARLES DICKENS’ GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Performances Begin December 9 

Opening Night December 15

Limited Engagement Ends on January 22 

 

Six Weeks Only at The Greenwich House Theater 

 

New York – Eddie Izzard will return to the New York stage this December for six weeks only playing 21 characters in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, a classic tale of convicts, mystery, friendship, rivalry, unrequited love, revenge, and redemption for six weeks only at The Greenwich House Theater (27 Barrow Street).

 

Performances begin on December 9 with a December 15 opening. The strictly limited engagement ends on January 22, 2023. Tickets are now on sale at www.eddieizzardgreatexpectations.com.

 

Dickens’ novel was adapted for the stage by Mark Izzard and is directed by Selina Cadell. The design team is Tom Piper (set), Tyler Elich/Lightswitch Inc. (lighting), Tom Piper and Libby da Costa (costume stylists), and Didi Hopkins (Movement Director).  It is produced by WestBeth Entertainment and Mick Perrin Worldwide.

 

Actor, comedian, and multi-marathon runner Eddie Izzard’s boundary-pushing career spans all of these with record-breaking comedy tours and critically acclaimed film, TV, and theatre performances.  But few know that acting was her first love. This show offers the chance to see Eddie in a solo performance of the master storyteller’s beloved epic, Great Expectations.

 

Eddie, who is dyslexic, had never read a great work of literature, but knowing that she was exactly 150 years younger than Dickens (7 Feb 1812 to 7 Feb 1962) decided to start by reading Great Expectations. She was then inspired to develop it as a solo performance for the stage.

 

Eddie said, “Charles Dickens loved performing his own works in America, and so I thought it would be a wonderful idea to launch Great Expectations here. I always feel at home in New York, and I believe if Charles Dickens were alive today, he would feel at home too.”

 

Director Selina Cadell said, “I find the combination of Eddie Izzard’s idiosyncratic wit and Charles Dickens’ ingenious storytelling irresistible and am looking forward to sharing it with New York audiences.”

 

Great Expectations is the 13th novel by Charles Dickens. Published in 1861, it depicts the education of an orphan nicknamed Pip. The novel was first published as a serial in Dickens’s weekly periodical, All the Year Round. Set in Kent and London in the 1820s to 1830s, it contains some of Dickens’s most celebrated scenes, starting in a graveyard, where the young Pip is accosted by the escaped convict Abel Magwitch. Great Expectations is full of extreme imagery – poverty, prison ships and chains, and fights to the death – and has a colorful cast of characters who have entered popular culture. These include the eccentric Miss Havisham, the beautiful but cold Estella, and Joe, the unsophisticated and kind blacksmith. Dickens’ themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. Great Expectations has been translated into many languages and adapted numerous times into various media. Upon its release, the novel received near-universal acclaim. During the serial publication, Dickens was pleased with the public response to Great Expectations and its sales; when the plot first formed in his mind, he called it “a very fine, new and grotesque idea”.

 

Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations running time is approximately two hours including an intermission. 

 

BIOGRAPHIES

 

Eddie Izzard’s Broadway credits are A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (Tony Award nomination) and Race. Her London stage credits include The CryptogramEdward II900 Oneonta, and Joe Egg. She is currently developing a one-woman performance of Hamlet. Eddie’s film credits include Stephen Frears’ Victoria & Abdul opposite Dame Judi Dench, ValkyrieOcean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen, Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe, Mystery Men, Shadow of the VampireThe Cat’s Meow and Six Minutes to Midnight. TV audiences also saw her as Dr. Abel Gideon in Bryan Fuller’s series, “Hannibal.” Izzard starred in and served as an executive producer on the critically acclaimed FX Networks series, “The Riches.” Her other notable films for television include “Castles in the Sky,” “Treasure Island,” and the Emmy winning “Lost Christmas.” Izzard made her West End stage debut in 1993 in the solo show Live at the Ambassadors, for which she received an Olivier Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement. That was followed by a succession of critically acclaimed shows: Unrepeatable, Definite Article, Glorious, Dress to Kill, Circle, Sexie, Stripped, Force Majeure, and Wunderbar. Eddie is the recipient of two Emmy Awards (for Dressed to Kill) and an Emmy Award nomination for the documentary, Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story. Her autobiography Believe Me entered the top ten in the New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller lists. She performs her comedy shows in four languages and since 2009 has run 131 marathons to raise money for Sport Relief and her ‘Make Humanity Great Again’ fund.

 

SELINA CADELL (Director) is a director, actress and coach. Theatre directing includes Love for Love (RSC), The Life I Lead (West End), The Double Dealer (Orange Tree London), The Rivals (Arcola London), The Way of the World (Wilton’s London), The Rake’s Progress (Wilton’s London). Films include The Turn of the Screw (Best Opera Film 2021 Critics Circle Award). Acting/Theatre includes Top Girls (NYC) /Obie Award, Stanley (NYC), Madness of King George (NYC), Twelfth Night, Cherry Orchard (NYC), A Monster Calls (London). TV includes “Midsomer Murders,” “Queens of Mystery,” “Poirot,” “Doc Martin” (Mrs. Tishell). Selina runs an opera company with Eliza Thompson, Operaglass Works.

 

MARK IZZARD (Adapter). Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is not Mark and Eddie’s first collaboration. In 1972 at Bede’s School in Eastbourne, UK Mark penned a play which might possibly have been called Hey! Watch That Fork! in which the all-boys cast donned jackets and ties over their pajamas and told a haunting story of death and cuisine. Serving as promoter and box office manager, Eddie (the younger sibling) sold tickets. Fast forward to recent years and the pair continues to work together including Mark translating Eddie’s shows into French, German and Spanish, as Mark is pretty fluent in those languages, being a qualified translator, and he speak it better than the other one.

 

DIDI HOPKINS (Movement Director) is one of the foremost practitioners of Commedia dell’Arte and works physically and visually in theatre. She worked with writer Richard Bean’s Broadway success, One Man, Two Guvnors, and has worked with director Selina Cadell at the Royal Shakespeare Company as movement director on Restoration Comedy. She was co-founder of Beryl and the Perils who were the ‘hottest thing part from the weather’ (Village Voice), performed at WOW festival, Central Park, TNC, the Mudd Club. The National Theatre made five films about her work in Commedia.

 

TYLER ELICH, LIGHTSWITCH (Lighting Designer). Tyler has always been drawn in by the energy an audience creates when sharing a live experience together. Since working in the theatre in high school he knew he wanted to be a part of that energy and turned that into a career when graduating from Ithaca College with a BFA in Lighting Design. That passion for creating a powerful shared experience has allowed Tyler to work in many different areas including rock concert touring, television broadcasts, corporate product launches, million square foot conventions, and special events. Tyler is a lifelong learner and treats every new project with enthusiasm and extreme attention to detail.

 

TOM PIPER (Scenic Designer/Costume Stylist) was Associate Designer at the RSC for 10 years and has designed over 30 productions for the company. He is Associate Designer at Kiln theatre London. Theatre work includes Medea (EIF/NTS); Girl on an Altar, White Teeth (Kiln); Faith (RSC/Coventry City of Culture); Nora: A Doll’s House (Young Vic); The Histories (RSC Olivier Award for Best Costume Design); As You Like It (RSC Armoury’s NY); Cyrano de Bergerac (NTS); Carmen La Cubana (Le Chatelet, Paris); Red Velvet Tricycle Theatre/St. Ann’s Warehouse NY); Orfeo (Royal Opera House); Tamburlaine The Great (TFNA, NY); The Great Wave (RNT). Turn of the Screw (Wiltons/OperaGlassworks film); Richard III, Tempest, As You Like It; The Bridge Project at BAM. Design credits: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London and received an MBE for services to Theatre and First World War commemorations. Exhibition credits: Alice Curiouser and CuriouserWinnie-the-PoohCurtain Up (V&A, Lincoln Center NY); Shakespeare Staging the World (British Museum).

 

LIBBY da COSTA (Costume Stylist) is a London based costume designer who trained at the prestigious London College of Fashion and Wimbledon College of Art. Over the course of her career, Libby has had the pleasure of working for a diverse range of clients, creating unique and powerful designs for television, film, commercials and now theatre! Libby recently designed the feature film Doctor Jekyll, the story of Jacqueline Hyde where Eddie played the lead role, Nina Jekyll. Whatever the brief or project, Libby combines her passion, insight and years of industry experience to realize any vision with imagination and flair. Libby has been seduced by the fast-paced, creative lifestyle involved in this line of work and is never afraid of a challenge. She is a storyteller and fantasist and through her costumes the characters are born. From contemporary through to period, Libby has worked with costumes that date back to as early as 1744.

 

WESTBETH ENTERTAINMENT (Arnold Engelman, Founder/President) has consistently delivered critically acclaimed, financially successful, groundbreaking productions for over 40 years. Beginning as The Westbeth Theatre Center and morphing into WestBeth Entertainment, developing and introducing artists and talent to North American audiences is a big part of WestBeth’s history. From Billy Connolly to Eddie Izzard, The Jim Henson Company to John Leguizamo and Trevor Noah to Hannah Gadsby, WBE has been the creative catalyst, partner and producer of some of the most innovative performances and productions on the continent in venues throughout North America including Madison Square Garden, The Hollywood Bowl, Toronto’s Massey Hall, Chicago’s Chicago Theatre and New York’s Radio City Musical Hall. WestBeth’s most recent productions include Professor Brian Cox’s Horizon‘ tour of North America, Eddie Izzard’s Wunderbar US and Canadian tours, Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas’ Off-Broadway run and Brian Henson’s Puppet Up! Uncensored for multiple runs in Los Angeles. Other productions include Eddie Izzard’s first US book tour for his memoir Believe Me, a New York Times Bestseller, North American debut of Australia’s comedy group Aunty Donna, Hannah Gadsby’s North American debut of Nanette, Dylan Moran’s Off The Hook North American Tour, Noel Fielding (of The Mighty Boosh and “The Great British Bake Off,”) North American debut tour An Evening with Noel Fielding, Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure American tour performed in all 50 states; Billy Connolly’s High Horse tour, the Off-Broadway debut run of comedian Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime; Eric Idle’s What About Dick? Filmed for Netflix; John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown on Broadway, the West End, in Colombia, South America; and the national tour; off-Broadway, Australian tour, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Las Vegas runs of Brian Henson’s Puppet Up! Uncensored.

 

MICK PERRIN WORLDWIDE (Producer). Mick Perrin is a UK based producer/promoter/agent with a company he began over 20 years ago. Mick spent his youth playing in various punk bands around the UK and was the original STOMP production/tour manager. A long career in tour management turned to promotion, with the first ever UK arena tour with Eddie Izzard’s Sexie Tour. Mick Perrin Worldwide currently tours over 50 artistes across 45 nations and is a major producer of comedy talent at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, first introducing the likes of Bo Burnham, Trevor Noah, Simon Amstell, and Brett Goldstein. Awards include an Emmy (Eddie Izzard’s “Dress to Kill,)” Olivier Award for La Clique, Olivier Award for La Soiree, and a Chortle Award for Off-Stage Contribution. www.mickperrin.com

 

Greenwich House was founded in 1902 with a mission to help New Yorkers lead more fulfilling lives through social and health services and cultural and education programs. Annually, nearly 15,000 people are served at their Senior Centers, Music School, Pottery, After-School and Summer Camp, Nursery School and clinics addressing behavioral health for seniors, adults overcoming addiction and for victims of child abuse. http://www.greenwichhouse.org.

 

www.eddieizzardgreatexpectations.com

REVIEW: ‘CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF’ KNOWS ITS GOOD ANGLES ·

(Juan A. Ramírez’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/31; via Pam Green.)

The Ruth Stage’s production understands the violence and identity crisis at the core of Brick’s character, but other elements fail to cohere.

We know from his personal writing (and context clues) that Tennessee Williams was into trade: hypermasculine men who are just as likely to have sex with men as they are to break their necks. These seductive brutes are strewn throughout his work, just as essential and memorable as his fading belles. There is no Blanche without Stanley.

Williams would probably love Matt de Rogatis’s Brick in Ruth Stage’s production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” which recently opened at Theater at St. Clement’s. The former football hero is still a depressive alcoholic whose drunken escapades earn him a cast, crutches and the growing contempt of his wife, Maggie. But de Rogatis, tatted up and ab-tastic from his backlit shower entrance, compellingly finds the violence and identity crisis at Brick’s core in this contemporary staging.

With the character mostly a punching bag for his bellicose Big Daddy Pollitt (Christian Jules LeBlanc) and the talkative Maggie (Sonoya Mizuno) to explode onto, he is often somewhat of a handsome blank slate. De Rogatis, who also produces, convincingly hints at a torrid inner life, congealed into an imposing physique but betrayed by the anguish he voices at the mention of his ambiguously close relationship with a male friend who died by suicide.

The performance matches the play, which like many of Williams’ works, is concerned with surfaces as much as its characters’ deeper worlds. A fine-tuned melodrama about a wealthy Mississippi family undone by its patriarch’s cancer diagnosis, the play melts down the characters’ kept-up appearances and oft-mentioned “mendacity” as they scramble for his inheritance.

This production, the play’s first Off Broadway staging licensed by the Williams estate, has several excellent surfaces, though not all the elements rise to the occasion. Joe Rosario’s direction, for example, handles the soap opera-style histrionics well but doesn’t land much of Williams’s wicked humor. His characters can often seem aimless and airless, when they should be pointedly animated.

The character of Maggie buckles most under this misfire, especially in the first act’s hourlong near-monologue, in which she breathlessly complains about the children of her snooty sister-in-law, Mae (Tiffan Borelli), then laments her own childlessness and the speculation it brings on. Mizuno, though game, lacks a clear focus in this key scene. Hers is not the determined, seductively self-assured feline immortalized onscreen by Elizabeth Taylor — a high bar, to be sure — but a frenzied kitten rattling against a cage. This does, intriguingly, transform her legendary voluptuousness into a believable portrait of an Ole Miss grad whose hard-won financial safety has started to crumble.

(Read more)

A MIGHTY GROOVE: SADLER’S WELLS SETS UP NEW DANCE HOME IN EAST LONDON ·

(Lyndsey Winship’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/26; via Pam Green.)

Due to open in Stratford next year, the sibling to the Islington institution will have a special emphasis on local talent, hip-hop and artists of colour

The sun is beaming across London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Next to West Ham’s London Stadium is the tangled red steel of the Orbit; nearby, a line of swan pedalos wait to be paddled up the River Lea. There are cranes everywhere, busy building. This is the view from the top-floor studios of a new theatre for dance, Sadler’s Wells East, a sister venue to the original Sadler’s Wells in Islington.

The O’Donnell + Tuomey-designed building has just celebrated its “topping out”, the completion of its concrete structure. It’s a significant milestone for Sadler’s Wells’ artistic director Sir Alistair Spalding, the wry, affable, recently knighted 64-year-old who is a driving force in UK dance. “This has been my mission all the time at Sadler’s Wells, to really put dance at the centre of cultural life in London,” he says. This new theatre is definitely in the cultural thick of things: due to open in November 2023, it is part of the £1.1bn East Bank project that includes a branch of the V&A, BBC studios and a vast new home for the London College of Fashion.

While on the current building site you can’t yet see the rusty-red Italian brick facade, the sawtooth roof or theatrically inspired lighting by designer Aideen Malone; even so, you can see its great potential. A huge, L-shaped foyer hugs the corner of the building across the bridge from Zaha Hadid’s curvaceous Aquatics centre, full-height windows inviting people in. There’ll be a movable stage for local dance companies to perform on, a bar and cafe. Spalding calls it “a people’s theatre”. “It’s not just about the art, it’s about who sees it,” he says, hoping that will include lots of people who haven’t yet discovered their love for dance. Young local people are already being invited to take part in workshops this summer to find dancers for the theatre’s opening show, Vicki Igbokwe’s Our Mighty Groove, about the power of the dancefloor.

Back in 2013, Spalding announced his desire to build a mid-scale venue and various developers got in touch, usually with offers to build a residential block with a theatre underground. The East Bank proposal offered much more, though; still, it’s had a few wobbles along the way, such as when it was realised that the residential towers that would have part-financed the site were going to interrupt a protected view of St Paul’s Cathedral from Richmond Hill on the opposite side of London. “That was nearly the end,” says Spalding. Then there was Covid, which delayed building work by about a year. And Brexit, with its resulting price increases for materials. Although the real Brexit impact is felt inside the theatre, where a new layer of admin and visas for touring shows means more costs and staff – the opposite of cutting red tape – plus switching to a European haulage firm because of cabotage laws. “If this soft power thing is going to work, you have to make it easy for people to travel around the world,” says Spalding

(Read more)

THE IRISH TIMES IRISH THEATRE AWARDS 2022: ALL THE WINNERS REVEALED ·

(Sara Keating’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 6/12; Photo: Best actress: Bríd Ní Neachtain won for her role in Happy Days. Photograph: Andrew Downes/Xposure.)

Six months ago Ireland’s theatre world was in lockdown. Tonight felt like a big win for the entire creative community

It felt like a big win for the entire theatre community at the 23rd Irish Times Theatre Awards ceremony on Sunday at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, in Dublin. Six months ago, venues, artists and producers across the country were still in lockdown, wondering when the live-performance sector might return to normality.

On paper, the artists shortlisted in the 15 categories, for productions staged in 2020-21, may have looked like competitors. Who was the better actor: Domhnall Gleeson playing a psychologically unstable patient in Enda Walsh’s Medicine or Matthew Malone playing an HIV-positive man in his dying days in Phillip McMahon’s Once Before I Go? But in the courtyard of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham the rivals came together as colleagues.

It seemed especially fitting, then, that the judges’ special award was presented to the National Campaign for the Arts for its “exceptional dedication to advocacy and political engagement on behalf of the arts, particularly during Covid”, an award that recognised the collective endeavour involved in keeping the lamps lit during a period when creating live performance was almost impossible.

In the end, neither Gleeson nor Malone was triumphant in the best-actor category, although Helen Atkinson, Teho Teardo and Seán Carpio won the best-soundscape award for their support of Gleeson, and Katie Davenport won best costume for dressing Malone, who was gloriously clad in celestial wings for his final scene in the Gate Theatre production. (Davenport’s costuming for Michael Gallen’s opera Elsewhere was also recognised in the award.) Instead the honour for best actor went to Stanley Townsend for his performance as Marcus Conway, the middle-aged protagonist of Solar Bones, adapted from the Mike McCormack novel by Michael West.

Solar Bones also saw Lynne Parker named best director; the Rough Magic Theatre production premiered at the Watergate Theatre as part of the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August 2020, marking the reopening of theatres after the first lockdown; the play’s themes of isolation, grief and anxiety chimed uncannily with Covid times.

The best-actress award went to Bríd Ní Neachtain for Laethanta Sona, the first Irish-language production of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, which was performed in the extreme environment of Inis Oírr last August as part of Galway International Arts Festival. Buried up to her waist and then her neck in the inhospitable landscape, it was a performance of physical endurance and a psychological challenge.

A big winner tonight was a sleeper hit of Galway International Arts Festival: Volcano, created by Luke Murphy’s Attic Projects, won four of the seven categories in which it was nominated, including best movement for Murphy and best lighting design for Stephen Dodd (who was also commended for his work on the Abbey Theatre’s production of The Long Christmas Dinner). Alyson Cummins and Pai Rathaya won best set for their claustrophobic reconstruction of Nun’s Island Theatre, in which audience members sat alone in booths to watch Murphy and Will Thompson perform a disturbing but life-affirming postapocalyptic tale that unfolded in four instalments over four nights. With any luck, a bigger audience will get the opportunity to see the remarkable work—which took the best-production honour—in the future.

As theatre artists reminded us as they advocated for each other over the past two years, the essence of theatre is its liveness, its ephemerality, its unrepeatable nature. Perhaps the most felicitous honour, then, was the award of the special-tribute prize to the photographer Ros Kavanagh, who has played a key role in preserving the artistic process and output of hundreds of theatre artists over the past two decades, including much of the work being celebrated at the awards. Selina Cartmell, director of the Gate Theatre, called Kavanagh a key collaborator who has a rare ability to “make you understand your role as a director”; the choreographer David Bolger highlighted the beauty of an archive of images that “will last forever when the show is gone”.

The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards 2020/21: The winners

Best actor

Stanley Townsend, Solar Bones (Kilkenny Arts Festival in partnership with Rough Magic in association with Watergate Theatre)

Best actress

Bríd Ní Neachtain, Laethanta Sona, (Company SJ and Abbey Theatre in association with Dublin Theatre Festival and Galway International Arts Festival)

Supporting actor

Bosco Hogan, One Good Turn (The Abbey Theatre) and The Enemy Within (An Grianán Theatre)

Supporting actress

Bláithín Mac Gabhann, The Seagull After Chekhov (Druid) and Our New Girl (The Gate Theatre)

Best director

Lynne Parker, Solar Bones (Kilkenny Arts Festival in partnership with Rough Magic in association with Watergate Theatre)

Best set

Alyson Cummins and Pai Rathaya, Volcano (Luke Murphy’s Attic Projects)

Best costume

Katie Davenport, Once Before I Go (The Gate Theatre) and Elsewhere (Straymaker and the Abbey Theatre in association with Miroirs Étendus and Once Off Productions)

Best lighting

Stephen Dodd, Volcano (Luke Murphy’s Attic Projects) and The Long Christmas Dinner (Abbey Theatre)

Best soundscape

Helen Atkinson, Teho Teardo and Seán Carpio, Medicine (Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival)

Best movement

Luke Murphy, Volcano (Luke Murphy’s Attic Projects)

Best ensemble

Mojo Mickeybo (Bruiser Theatre Company)

Best production

Volcano (Luke Murphy’s Attic Projects)

Best new play

Mark O’Halloran, Conversations After Sex (thisispopbaby)

(Read more)

 

 

UKRAINIAN THEATER PLAYS TO EVACUEE CHILDREN IN ODESA BOMB SHELTER ·

(via Radio Free Europe, 5/31)

It’s billed as an escape from anxiety for kids who have been evacuated from war-torn parts of Ukraine. The Odesa Youth Theater is staging special performances in bomb shelters. The play is also topical: It tells the story of how people unite to drive out a stranger who is occupying someone’s home. Originally published at – https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russi…

WHAT DO SHAKESPEARE AND MAMET HAVE IN COMMON? ·

(Sarah Larson’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 4/4/22; Illustration: Sam Rockwell, Darren Criss, Laurence FishburneIllustration by João Fazenda.)

“American Buffalo” ’s Laurence Fishburne, Darren Criss, and Sam Rockwell ruminate on junk and iambic pentameter on a visit to a thrift shop.

Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell, and Darren Criss, who star in the Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo,” at Circle in the Square, and Neil Pepe, who directs it, met up the other day at a West Side thrift shop called No Particular Hours (“Vintage Goods / Industrial Artifacts / Dead People’s Things”). The play, from 1975, is about three desperate characters in a junk shop; the group had planned to visit one in March, 2020, shortly before the show’s opening; two years later, there they were. The proprietor, Jerry Lerner—tall, grizzled, fisherman’s cap—let them wander, offering occasional commentary. (Of a carved statue: “I used to call that Bali Parton.”) The shop, a chockablock riot of curiosities—wagon-wheel chandelier here, helmeted mannequin head there—was a bit more festive than the “Buffalo” set, and the actors were a bit snazzier than their onstage counterparts. Fishburne (Donny, the junk-shop owner) wore an African-print-inspired combo from Moshood, of Brooklyn (“I modelled for them in the eighties”), with a drawstring waist. Criss (Bobby, Donny’s slow-witted gofer) gestured at his own plaid pants, and said, “I’m also rocking the drawstring.” Rockwell (Teach, their ne’er-do-well friend) looked mischievous—rascally mustache, sweater with “high end” in colorful letters. “It’s just a sweater I got because I’m a Hollywood phony,” he said, smirking. Criss and Fishburne laughed. “I’m a dickhead, and I wore a dickish sweater,” he said. They laughed more.

“American Buffalo,” a blunt, staccato symphony of F-bombs, haplessness, and simmering rage, centers on a scheme to steal a valuable nickel and culminates in mayhem. Pepe, a prolific director of Mamet with the presence of a director of much gentler fare, leafed through a bin of old wrenches. “We’ve been talking about what makes a lot of noise,” he said. “There’s stuff that happens physically—it will all be choreographed, hopefully, so that all is safe.” Fishburne got intrigued by an old brass fire extinguisher; earthenware jugs (“Jugs, baby! Now, that’s country”), one of which he blew into, jug-band style; and an early-twentieth-century toaster, which he picked up and carried around.

“Our shop is not as nice as this,” Rockwell said. “We don’t have a ‘Clash of the Titans’ poster. Boy, I would buy that.” He crossed to a wall of old posters. “Or ‘Carmen Jones,’ ” Fishburne said. “I have the one from ‘Black Orpheus.’ ”

“Dude, that Harry Belafonte–Danny Kaye video you sent me was awesome,” Rockwell said. They fist-bumped. Which video? Criss asked.

“It’s called ‘Mama Look a Boo-Boo,’ ” Fishburne said.

“Belafonte was a real sex symbol,” Rockwell said. A feed bag caught his eye. “ ‘Purina Goat Chow,’ ” he read. “I had that for breakfast.”

In 2020, they had rehearsed for three weeks before everything shut down, then continued for several more weeks via FaceTime. “This is the longest I’ve prepared for any show in my entire life,” Criss said. Pepe said that he hoped it would feel “lived in.” Fishburne said, “I’ve wanted to do this play since I was a kid.” When “Buffalo” first made waves, he added, “I was in the Philippines, doing ‘Apocalypse Now,’ ”—but “the talk of it . . . this play changed shit for the American theatre. Nobody had used language like this before.” Pepe said, “All of a sudden, Mamet’s doing iambic with the stuff of the streets.”

Mamet wrote “American Buffalo” while living in Chicago and hanging around with poker players in a junk shop. “Some of the guys were ex-cons, and in the business of thievery,” Pepe said. “He would hear their stories. The play has this idea of wanting a bigger piece of the pie.”

“ ‘Gatsby’s Tennis Nets,’ ” Fishburne said, reading a tag aloud.

On a counter in front, a wooden box displayed a mysterious object: ivory-like, rounded, and carved with dancing skeletons. The visitors leaned in. “I was cleaning out an apartment, and I said, ‘Oh, nice bowl,’ right?” Lerner said. “Then I turned it over and said, ‘Holy crap.’ ”

“It’s a turtle shell,” Fishburne said.

“It’s the top of somebody’s skull,” Lerner said.

“Holy shit!” Criss said. “That is intense! ”

(Read more)

 

HARPER LEE ESTATE TOLD TO PAY $2.5 MILLION IN DISPUTE OVER ‘MOCKINGBIRD’ PLAYS ·

(Alexandra Alter’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/10; via Pam Green; photo: In 1969, Harper Lee and Dramatic Publishing agreed on a contract that authorized the company to license a stage adaptation of her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”Credit…Donald Uhrbrock/Getty Images.)

The estate is contesting an arbitrator’s ruling that it had been too aggressive in limiting productions of a 1970 adaptation of the novel as Aaron Sorkin’s new staged version came to Broadway.

The ruling found that under pressure from Scott Rudin, then lead producer of a different adaptation of the book, which was intended for Broadway, the estate interfered with Dramatic’s contracts, and tried to prevent some productions of the work.

The ruling, made in January, comes nearly three years after Dramatic invoked an arbitration clause in its contract to prevent limits on productions of its adaptation.

Dramatic’s adaptation, by the playwright Christopher Sergel, has long been a staple at schools and community theaters around the country. It’s the version of that has been staged every year in Lee’s hometown, Monroeville, Ala. And for decades, Dramatic was the only publisher Lee had authorized to license a theatrical adaptation of her beloved 1960 novel about a crusading lawyer named Atticus Finch who represents a Black man who is unjustly accused of rape in a small town in Alabama.

Then, in 2018, Rudin brought the new Aaron Sorkin adaptation to Broadway, where it became a box office hit.

Christopher Sergel III, president of Dramatic Publishing Company and the grandson of the author of the first adaptation, claimed that the Lee estate acted in concert with Rudin to prevent some local productions of the play from going forward. In cease-and-desist letters to local theaters, Rudin’s lawyers claimed that those productions were no longer permissible because of the Sorkin adaptation. As a result, at least eight theaters canceled productions of Dramatic’s version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

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