SPEAK FOR THEM: ARTISTS THEY CAME FOR (February 5th – 19th, 2024) ·

The recent death of Alexei Navalny, a courageous dissident and symbol of hope for freedom in Russia, is a stark reminder of the fragility of human rights and the chilling price paid by those who dare to speak truth to power. Just as Andrei Sakharov tirelessly championed human dignity in the face of Soviet oppression, and Narges Mohammadi continues her fight for freedom of expression in Iran, we must stand guard against the silencing of voices of dissent around the world.

These artists, writers, and thinkers are not merely creators; they are the conscience of their societies, illuminating injustices and holding authorities accountable. Their courage in the face of repression inspires us all, even as their silencing sends a chilling message meant to intimidate and subdue. We must not let their voices be extinguished.

Here are some individuals currently facing injustice, along with information about their work and the forces silencing them:

  1. Elif Shafak, Novelist, Turkey: Accused of “insulting the Turkish nation” due to her historical novel “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World,” exploring feminist and LGBTQ+ themes. Facing potential imprisonment. (Enforced by: Turkish government)
  2. Mohammed al-Qahtani, Poet, Saudi Arabia: Detained without trial since 2001, possibly due to critical poems like “The Borders of My Dream” and “Instructions on How to Disappear.” (Enforced by: Saudi Arabian government)
  3. Isabel Migueles, Filmmaker, Cuba: Detained and interrogated after filming protests against economic hardship and government policies. Her documentary “Invisible” critiques social inequalities in Cuba. Released but facing potential future harassment. (Enforced by: Cuban government)
  4. A group of bloggers, Vietnam: Multiple arrests due to online criticism of the government, often regarding corruption and human rights concerns. Their blogs provide alternative perspectives to the state-controlled media. (Enforced by: Vietnamese government)
  5. Ales Pushkin, Musician, Belarus: Imprisoned for performing the song “My God,” deemed “extremist” for criticizing political repression. Sentenced to three years. (Enforced by: Belarusian government)
  6. Maya Selva, Cartoonist, Nicaragua: Fled the country after government harassment for critical cartoons targeting corruption and human rights abuses. (Enforced by: Nicaraguan government)
  7. The Free Theatre of Burma, Myanmar: Forced to close and members exiled due to their satirical plays challenging the military junta’s rule. (Enforced by: Burmese military junta)
  8. Gonçalo Lira, Journalist and blogger, Brazil: Facing online harassment and threats for criticizing the government’s handling of the pandemic and social issues. (Enforced by: individuals aligned with the Brazilian government)
  9. Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Writer, Iran: Imprisoned for attending a writing workshop deemed “illegal.” (Enforced by: Iranian government)
  10. Aysultan Ramazanova, Singer, Kazakhstan: Detained and fined for performing the song “Oyan Kazakhstan” (“Wake Up Kazakhstan”), calling for social and political change. (Enforced by: Kazakhstani government)
  11. Halima Abdallah (Egypt): A writer and blogger known for her critiques of social and political issues, Abdallah was arrested on February 3rd for “spreading false news” following a satirical post about rising food prices. Her whereabouts and condition remain unknown. (Enforced by: Egyptian government)

What can you do?

  • Stay informed about artists and writers facing injustice. Share their stories and raise awareness.
  • Support organizations working for freedom of expression and human rights.
  • Contact your local representatives and urge them to advocate for these individuals.
  • Consider donating to organizations providing legal aid and support to persecuted artists.

Remember, silence is complicity. Lend your voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

First they came for the artists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an artist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a journalist. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller

Art by Luba Lukova

The information presented in the list of artists and writers facing injustice is based on reports and statements from the following reputable human rights organizations:

Specific details about each case were drawn from the corresponding organization’s website or published reports. For instance:

  • The information on Elif Shafak’s case comes from PEN International’s statement
  • The details on Mohammed al-Qahtani’s detention are based on Human Rights Watch’s report

Additional Notes:

  • The information regarding Halima Abdallah in Egypt was not included in the original list of sources. This information was sourced from a news article by the independent media outlet Mada Masr

Disclaimer: This information is based on publicly available reports and may not be complete or entirely accurate. For the latest updates and details, please consult reputable human rights organizations.

(Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

***** ‘A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM’ REVIEW – CHARACTERS MASH, WORLDS INVERT AND FLAMES BURST FROM FINGERS ·

(Mark Lawson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/14, 2024; Drawing a younger audience … Mathew Baynton as Bottom and Pyramus. Photograph: Pamela Raith.)

Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Eleanor Rhode’s ravishing fusion of flamboyancy, surrealism and raucous fun rouses audiences in a youthful, energetic riot

Directors of Shakespeare’s comedy of aristocrats, artisans and sprites getting confused in a wood often seem influenced by one title word. Midsummer stagings are light and magical, Night shows rather darker. Eleanor Rhode’s RSC revival is driven by Dream, crucially incorporating the sub-categories of nightmare and erotic fantasy, including the rather niche reverie of sex with a donkey.

Characters mash, worlds invert, flames burst from fingers, people move backwards (inflecting Tenet and Christopher Nolan’s dreamscape movie Inception), and surreal moments include one that resembles an explosion in a children’s indoor play pit.

Bally Gill’s charismatic doubling of Athenian Duke Theseus and faery king Oberon – matched by Sirine Saba’s sparky pairing of Hippolyta and faery queen Titania – strongly suggest that what we are seeing in the wood scenes is the nocturnal consequence of a big Greek pre-wedding dinner. In this reading, the elf Puck – athletically and musically played by Premi Tamang, replacing Rosie Sheehy, indisposed on press night – becomes a Freudian blurring of daughters, lovers and childhood fairytales.

The non-dream scenes are also strikingly earthy. In the workers’ play-within-the-play, Shakespeare, in casting someone as a Wall, enjoys joking about what the “hole” in such a barrier might be, but this production doubles down on the entendre. Emily Cundick’s Snout / Wall and Mathew Baynton’s Bottom / Pyramus will have required the ingenuity of the credited intimacy directors.

(Read more)

 

SCRAP TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR THEATRE AUDIENCES, SAYS RALPH FIENNES ·

(Neha Gohil’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/11; Photo: Britannica.)

Audiences should be ‘shocked and disturbed’ by the impact of theatre, says Schindler’s List and Harry Potter actor

Trigger warnings for theatre audiences should be scrapped because people should be “shocked and disturbed” by what they see, the actor Ralph Fiennes has said.

The warnings are issued before the beginning of a performance to alert audiences to upsetting or distressing content and have become increasingly commonplace in theatres.

Fiennes, 61, renowned for his roles in Schindler’s List and the Harry Potter films and currently starring in a touring production of Macbeth, said audiences should be “shocked and disturbed”.

He told BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “I think we didn’t use to have trigger warnings. I mean, they are very disturbing scenes in Macbeth, terrible murders and things.

“But I think the impact of theatre should be that you’re shocked and you should be disturbed. I don’t think you should be prepared for these things and when I was young, (we) never had trigger warnings for shows.”

The actor said warnings for issues that could “affect people physically”, such as strobe effects, should still be flagged to audiences.

He said: “Shakespeare’s plays are full of murderers, full of horror. As a young student and lover of the theatre, I never experienced trigger warnings telling me: ‘By the way in King Lear, Gloucester is going to have his eyes pulled out’ … Theatre has to be alive and connect in the present.

“It’s the shock, the unexpected, that’s what makes an actor (in) theatre so exciting.”

The Lord of the Rings star Ian McKellen previously called for trigger warnings to be scrapped after signs emerged at his own play Frank and Percy at The Other Palace in London.

McKellen told Sky News: “Outside theatres and in the lobbies, including this one, the audience is warned ‘there is a loud noise and at one point, there are flashing lights’, ‘there is reference to smoking’, ‘there is reference to bereavement’.”

He added: “I think it’s ludicrous, myself, yes, absolutely. I quite like to be surprised by loud noises and outrageous behaviour on stage.”

(Read more)

EDDIE IZZARD’S ‘HAMLET’ (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

In Act 3, Scene 2 of Hamlet, the melancholy, introspective Dane instructs the newly arrived players, who will be acting before his new father’s court, “to hold the mirror up to nature.”  For Eddie Izzard, whose one-person show (which runs approximately two hours and twenty minutes, with one intermission, now at the Greenwich House Theater, at 27 Barrow Street, extended through March 16), this means reflecting at least twenty-three characters and two genders. Throughout the performance, she wears black leather pants and beneath a matronly bosom, covered in low-cut black lace, a green-black patterned schoolgirl’s pouf dress.  To show the change between characters, she twirls in it (the costume stylists are Tom Piper and Libby da Costa).  The fashion ensemble’s center is a large button, silver or gold, depending on Tyler Elich’s, Lightswitch’s, lighting design, and the boots are platforms.  Her hair is dirty blonde and short–in a ruminative moment, Dame Judi Dench’s “look” (an actor she has starred opposite) may come to mind, as a comparison (albeit with the addition of extended false eyelashes and long blood red nails and lips).  In short, Izzard is not simply binary, or trans, or female–she can’t be held to any sex.  Instead, she is Shakespeare’s “theatre of others.”

Here, apparently, is what Izzard and her director, Selina Cadell, see when they hold their own mirrors up to reality at the Greenwich House: A solo show clearly makes economic sense, and working minimalistically is supported by the dislocation from unpredictable COVID variations, which can impact a cast and its audience. The set uses white and oatmeal-colored walls, which under certain lighting look weathered (for those who know it, compare  Piper’s set design with the way the BAM Harvey was remodeled, in Brooklyn).  Izzard, who had early experience in street theatre—and who was trained at the University of Sheffield, before receiving two Emmy Awards and Tony and Olivier Award nominations, makes use of a platform, walks and jogs among the audience, in the orchestra, and, inclusively, climbs the stairs to play in the balcony.  Yet she is also giving a streamlined summary of the tragedy, which is much more understandable than enduring multi-performer productions, overwhelmed by great acting (of course, we get the word “ham” from this play) and directorial visions and set pieces. Our sleek technological world has replaced highbrow experts, with the Web and AI, so academics, writers, visionaries, and auteurs now hold on to less power (think of the recent fates of the presidents of Penn, Harvard, and MIT, who weren’t allowed their academic condescension anymore); the questioner, with the right prompt, now holds sway—and is less confused and can be more fully informed. Likewise, Izzard’s Hamlet, won’t get away from you, and the audience will be surprised at how much of the play they really do know, that, culturally, they understand it so well that it can actually be looked at as a lineup of famous quotations. Whether you find that notion appealing or not, this is what democratization looks like, and it is the vision Izzard creates.

Current theatremakers must still battle enough old school obstacles, however, to make their work formidable—finding money and a theatre, dealing with the personalities in a company, complying with union rules, setting ticket pricing, the list goes on.  Izzard has attracted a trendy audience, in early stages of graying hip hair, to this production, pronounced by the naked light during intermission.  A jazz, instrumental version of “Autumn Leaves” helps surround the evening with sax, bass, trumpet, and piano, among other selections, and drinks from the bar are allowed in the auditorium.  Incidental music (by Eliza Thompson), sound effects, and lighting changes, punctuate the recitation. Consider that Stephen Sondheim only became a lyricist and composer because he could not, even in the 1950s, see himself battling to success, as a playwright, his original aim.  He also felt, in the current theatre environments, going back into the twentieth century, that all creators for the stage do not now have enough opportunities and time for commercial practice–and failure—which are required to learn and integrate the lessons of the craft. When those who love the stage feel stymied by the powerful forces at work:  the gatekeepers, swamp, and politics of its world, the bitter pill is that theatre is auxiliary, for everyone, not on a Great White Way or an exclusive vehicle of truth, as proclaimed so many years ago, when there were less diverse options in the arts. Perhaps that is why there is such an incessant cry to see its art as only entertainment, its powerful societal influence, like Hamlet’s real father, only a ghost.     

Izzard uses his opening and closing hands, as if she were playing with puppets, to portray Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet’s old friends. The simplicity of the childhood activity is an example of what Peter Brook identified as the Theatre of the Rough. Izzard gets laughs from the pantomime—as she does with repeating the Bard’s perfunctory lines, “my lord, my lord,” which she throws away.  In fact the six deaths at the end of the play are staged with grimace and observation (Didi Hopkins choreographed the movement and J. Allen Suddeth is the fight director).  Making each character completely individual is impossible and a role like Marcellus, a soldier on the castle watch, is lost, although his famous line about Denmark is intact. Yet Izzard uses hand gestures and a variety of accents, such as cockney and a Scottish brogue to differentiate and offer variegation—perhaps you will never appreciate the Gravediggers as much as you will here. Recall that at over 4,000 lines Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play, and even skillfully edited, by Mark Izzard (just as a comparison a traditional version of the drama would last over three hours), the immensity of the current endeavor is worth every clap it receives at curtain.  The production is not for cheap laughs, just as the encompassing gender advanced is not synonymous with a drag performance. Hamlet is too pivotal, too entrenched in the Western Canon, for temporal standards of dramatic acceptability to dislodge it. What Izzard’s reflection shows, instead, is a forcible push, from culture to pop culture.

Visit Eddie Izzard Hamlet

© by Bob Shuman. Written without AI.  All rights reserved.  Photo credit: Carol Rosegg. PR: Jackie Green, BONEAU/BRYAN-BROWN.

THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, ON STAGE VOICES: 2/4/2024 – 2/11/2024 ·

The past week’s international stage highlights, brought to you via the world’s foremost journalism.  Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, and Perplexity, provided information, insights, and materials for this article (facilitated by Bob Shuman). 

  1. “MUSEUM OF THE UNSAID”

Source: The Guardian, February 9, 2024, by Alexis Garcia

The Story: In this experimental piece by acclaimed director Somaya Lee, three generations of Korean women grapple with silence and unspoken truths under the watchful gaze of museum artifacts. Garcia praises the “delicate power” of the performances, particularly newcomer Hana Kim’s portrayal of the stifled youngest daughter. Lee describes it as “a tapestry woven from memory, longing, and the weight of history.”

Playing at: The Public Theater, February 8 – March 31

  1. “THE COLLECTOR”

Source: The New York Times, February 5, 2024, by Ben Brantley

The Story: A revival of Harold Pinter’s classic psychological thriller, directed by the ever-provocative Ivo van Hove. Brantley finds the production “electrifying,” lauding Tom Hiddleston’s “magnetic” performance as the enigmatic art collector and Zawe Ashton’s “fiercely intelligent” portrayal of his unsuspecting victim. Van Hove promises a “stripped-bare” reimagining that delves deep into the play’s power dynamics.

Playing at: John Golden Theatre, February 7 – April 28

 

  1. “FIRES IN THE MIRROR”

Source: Variety, February 8, 2024, by Marilyn Stasio

The Story: Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman tour-de-force returns to Broadway, exploring the 1991 Crown Heights riots through the eyes of 24 diverse characters. Stasio hails Smith’s “virtuosic” performance and the play’s “unflinching examination of race, religion, and community.” Smith calls it “a call to action, a reminder of the wounds that still fester.” 

Playing at: Public Theater, February 10 – March 17

  1. “SONG OF THE BUTTERFLY LOVERS”

Source: The Financial Times, February 6, 2024, by Sarah Hemming

The Story: A modern reimagining of the classic Chinese folktale, presented by the renowned Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre. Hemming commends the play’s “breathtaking” visual poetry and the “mesmerizing” performances of the ensemble cast. Director Stan Lai aims to create “a universal story of love, sacrifice, and the power of tradition.”

Playing at: Lincoln Center, February 2 – February 25

 

  1. “THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA” 

Source: The Stage, February 9, 2024, by Mark Shenton

Te Story: A feminist reinterpretation of Federico García Lorca’s tragedy, set in contemporary Spain. Shenton praises director Yaël Farber’s “powerful” vision and the “searing” performances of the all-female cast. Farber describes it as “a story about women’s resilience, defiance, and the yearning for freedom in a society that seeks to control them.”

Playing at: St. Ann’s Warehouse, February 8 – March 3

  1. “MACBETH”

Source: The Telegraph, February 7, 2024, by Dominic Cavendish

The Story: Shakespeare’s Scottish play gets a contemporary twist in this production by the all-female theater company, Siren Productions. Cavendish applauds the “raw energy” of the all-Black cast and director Nadia Wright’s “bold choices” that explore themes of power, ambition, and the consequences of unchecked desire. Wright describes it as “a gripping examination of the corrupting nature of power, set against a backdrop of contemporary social and political issues.”

Playing at: The Globe, London, February 1 – March 10

  1. “A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2”

Source: The Washington Post, February 10, 2024, by Celia Wren

The Story: Lucas Hnath’s acclaimed sequel to Ibsen’s classic returns, exploring Nora’s life 15 years after she walked out the door. Wren finds the play “thought-provoking” and lauds the performances of Anne Hathaway as the now-independent Nora and Laurie Metcalf as her conflicted former husband. Director Lila Neugebauer promises a “nuanced exploration of female agency, societal expectations, and the complexities of marriage.”

Playing at: American Airlines Theatre, February 6 – April 7

  1. “THE BIRTHDAY PARTY”

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, February 5, 2024, by Barbara Heenan

The Story: Harold Pinter’s absurdist comedy gets a revival at the Sydney Theatre Company, directed by the acclaimed Kip Williams. Heenan praises the production’s “dark humor” and the “unsettling” performances of the ensemble cast. Williams describes it as “a chilling exploration of identity, paranoia, and the fragility of sanity.”

Playing at: Sydney Theatre Company, February 3 – March 2

  1. “LIFE & DEATH”

Source: The Irish Times, February 8, 2024, by Peter Crawley

The Story: Irish playwright Edna Walsh’s newest work, a darkly comedic exploration of grief and mortality. Crawley applauds the play’s “inventive staging” and the “tour-de-force” performance of Domhnall Gleeson as a man haunted by the ghost of his dead father. Walsh calls it “a poignant reflection on loss, love, and the absurdity of existence.”

Playing at: Gate Theatre, Dublin, February 9 – March 16

  1. “CHIMERICA”

Source: South China Morning Post, February 6, 2024, by Karen Chu

The Story: A Chinese-American co-production that blends documentary theatre and fiction to explore the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Chu commends the play’s “powerful storytelling” and the “emotionally charged” performances of the ensemble cast. Co-directors Stan Lai and Daniel Aukin weave together the stories of an American photojournalist who captured the iconic “Tank Man” image and a Chinese dissident searching for the man’s identity, delving into the complex relationship between the two nations and the enduring legacy of that historical event.

Playing at: Hong Kong Arts Centre, February 4 – February 24

Photo credits: Smith, TED; Walsh, Guardian 

 

NOW ON BROADWAY: SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 3 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2024 (NEW SHOWS ROUNDUP) ·

(Bard (Gemini), the large language model from Google AI, and Perplexity AI, the innovative AI search engine and knowledge discovery platform, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

ON BROADWAY:

  1. The Notebook: The Musical

Opened at: Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Tuesday, February 7th.

About: A romantic musical based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel, concerning a couple living life to the fullest.

Reviews:

Mixed: “Beautiful score and touching moments, but the plot feels rushed in parts.” – Jesse Green, The New York Times

Positive: “Captures the emotional core of the story with captivating performances and stunning visuals.” – Roma Torre, New York Post

2. Doubt: A Parable (Revival)

Opened at: American Airlines Theatre on Thursday, February 2nd.

About: A Tony Award-winning play exploring themes of faith, suspicion, and betrayal in a Catholic school setting.

Reviews:

Positive: “Powerful performances and timeless themes resonate as powerfully as ever.” – Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Mixed: “Superb lead acting, but the production lacks the original’s raw intensity.” – Frank Rizzo, New York Theatre Guide

OFF-BROADWAY:

  1. Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy

Opened at: Vineyard Theatre on Saturday, February 3rd.

About: A satirical comedy offering a humorous yet thought-provoking look at the manipulation of online information.

Reviews:

Positive: “Sharp wit, inventive staging, and relevant commentary on a modern issue.” – Marilyn Stasio, Variety

Mixed: “Entertaining premise, but the humor veers into uneven territory at times.” – Naveen Kumar, TheaterMania

  1. The White Chip

Opened at: MCC Theater on Thursday, February 1st.

About: A dark comedy exploring an alcoholic theatre director’s journey to recovery.

Reviews:

Positive: “Compelling performances and a nuanced portrayal of addiction struggles.” – David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

Mixed: “Strong lead performance, but the overall tone feels uneven.” – Roma Torre, New York Post

THE RUB: THEATRE CONFRONTED, FEBRUARY 2nd – FEBRUARY 9th, 2024 ·

A look at current issues, challenges, and controversies spilling beyond the proscenium. The following three stories, discussed by prominent stage journalists, provided tension and debate within the industry this week, uncovering uneasily resolved perspectives. Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, and Perplexity, provided information, insights, and materials for this article (facilitated by Bob Shuman).  Photo from Les Miserables: OnstageBlog.

  1. Ghostlight Gaslighting: A Haunting Accusation Rocks Off-Broadway

Published: February 7th, 2024, “Phantom Pain: Former Actor Alleges Emotional Abuse in Off-Broadway Production” by Sarah Jones, The American Theatre

Accusations of “ghostlight gaslighting” rocked the Off-Broadway scene this week. A young actor, Sarah Thompson (pseudonym), came forward in a searing exposé, detailing alleged emotional manipulation and psychological abuse by a renowned director during a recent production. The incident ignited a firestorm, prompting discussions about power dynamics, artistic license, and the responsibility towards mental well-being within the industry.

What This Means: This controversy underscores the need for clear communication, consent, and respect in rehearsal spaces. While artistic exploration can demand intensity, exploiting actors’ vulnerability under the guise of “method acting” crosses a dangerous line. Theatres must prioritize robust reporting systems and transparent leadership to foster a safe and supportive environment for all artists.

  1. AI Playwright Takes Center Stage: Is the Bard the Future of Broadway?

Published: February 5th, 2024, “A.I. Writes a Hit: Machine-Generated Play Receives Rave Reviews in London” by Ben Brantley, The New York Times

A wave of both fascination and fear rippled through the theatre world with the news of an AI-written play, “Mechanical Memories,” garnering rave reviews in London. Developed by a team of computer scientists and theatre professionals, the play explores themes of artificial intelligence and human connection. While some hail it as a revolutionary step forward, others express concerns about artistic authenticity and the potential displacement of human playwrights.

What This Means: This development forces us to confront the evolving relationship between technology and art. While AI may offer exciting possibilities for expanding narratives and exploring new theatrical forms, it shouldn’t replace the irreplaceable spark of human creativity. The true challenge lies in finding a harmonious collaboration between human and machine, pushing the boundaries of storytelling without sacrificing the essence of human connection.

  1. Revival Fatigue: Are Classic Revivals Losing Their Appeal?

Published: February 2nd, 2024, “Box Office Blues: Beloved Classic Flops Despite Star Power” by Peter Marks, The Washington Post

The enduring allure of classic revivals faced scrutiny this week in considering the underwhelming box office performance of “A Doll’s House: The revival began previews on February 13, 2023, and officially opened on March 9, 2023, running until June 10, 2023. The play, directed by Tony nominee Jamie Lloyd and adapted by acclaimed playwright Amy Herzog, offered a contemporary reinterpretation of Ibsen’s classic, aiming to make the story freshly relevant to modern audiences . However, the show’s failure, along with other recent revivals of classic plays, has sparked discussions about audience fatigue with overexposed classics and the need for fresh interpretation and innovative staging choices.

What This Means: This trend prompts careful consideration of the value proposition of revivals, emphasizing the importance of selecting impactful classics, reimagining them with a contemporary lens, and ensuring top-notch production quality to attract audiences and keep classics relevant in today’s theatrical landscape.

Share your views and leave a reply. Thank you.

Stage Voices

 

CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (159) ·

The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

The false acting of passions, or of types, or the mere use of conventional gestures,—these are frequent faults in our profession. But you must keep away from these unrealities. You must not copy passions, or copy types. You must live in the passions and in the types. Your acting of them must grow out of your living in them. (AP)

‘I HOPE IT WILL SEND A MESSAGE’: MUSICAL RENT TO BE REIMAGINED WITH DEAF ACTORS ·

(Caroline Butterwick’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/7; Photo: Jonathan Larson, the creator of Rent, who died in 1996. Photograph: AP. )

Using an ensemble cast of deaf and hearing actors, director Lilac Yosiphon aims to explore the isolation felt by the deaf community during the Aids crisis in the 1980s

A new version of Jonathan Larson’s rock musical Rent is to explore the isolation and prejudice faced by deaf and hearing communities during the 1980s HIV/Aids crisis. Scenes from Rent – A Staged Performance will run at Curve in Leicester next month as part of the theatre’s New Work festival showcasing Midlands artists.

For its director, Lilac Yosiphon, Rent’s context lends itself to new consideration from a deaf perspective. One of the challenges during the HIV/Aids crisis in New York, she said, was the lack of access to information. “The deaf queer community had even less access to information because it wasn’t available in American Sign Language,” said Yosiphon. “This suggested to me that there is a way to look at the characters [and ask]: what would the world of Rent look and feel like if the community included deaf and hearing characters, rather than only hearing characters?”

Larson’s musical was inspired by the opera La Bohème and set among an artistic community in New York’s East Village. It became an off-Broadway hit and opened on Broadway in April 1996, three months after his death from an aortic dissection at the age of 35. Rent won four Tony awards and the Pulitzer prize, all given posthumously.

The new production focuses on specific sections from the musical, bringing together key songs, including Seasons of Love and La Vie Bohème. It will be bilingual, performed in British Sign Language (BSL) and spoken English. “Language holds power, and we are changing the power dynamics within the play and its creation process, from English being the dominant language with BSL being added on, to working bilingually with BSL leading the process and artistic choices,” said Yosiphon, who is also artistic director of the ensemble Althea theatre. She highlighted how BSL as a language has been oppressed, with deaf people instead encouraged to use their voice or lip-read, affecting access to everything from healthcare to education.

(Read more)

BROADWAY DEBUT: ‘THE THREEPENNY OPERA’ PREMIERES (A DAY IN THEATRE) ·

On February 7, 1933, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s groundbreaking musical The Threepenny Opera graced the stages of New York City’s Adelphi Theatre. Despite its brief initial run of only 12 performances, the production left an indelible mark on American theater. Critics were divided in their reactions, with some praising its innovative approach while others found its gritty portrayal of London’s underworld unsettling. The New York Times declared it “a stark and grim spectacle,” reflecting the sentiments of many who were taken aback by its raw depiction of society’s underbelly. Conversely, The New Yorker hailed it as “a daring exploration of the human condition,” recognizing its bold departure from traditional musical fare. Despite its mixed critical reception and short-lived run, The Threepenny Opera laid the groundwork for future experimental works on Broadway, its impact resonating far beyond its initial stint on the stage.  Notable performers in the cast included Lotte Lenya as Jenny Diver and Leo Adde as Macheath, contributing to the production’s enduring legacy in American theater.

Source: The Broadway League – www.broadwayleague.com; Credits: ChatGPT (3); Drawing of Lotte Lenya by Emil Stumpp, 1931. (Public domain), via Weill Project Blog.