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Archive for the ‘Plays & Playwrights’ Category

D'Lugoff“Art D’Lugoff, who was widely regarded as the dean of New York nightclub impresarios and whose storied spot, the Village Gate, was for more than 30 years home to performers as celebrated, and diverse, as Duke Ellington, Allen Ginsberg and John Belushi, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 85 and lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. . . .

“Opened in 1958, the Village Gate was on the corner of Bleecker and Thompson Streets. The cavernous basement space it occupied — the building’s upper floors were then a flophouse — had once been a laundry. . . .

“The club closed its doors in 1994, amid rising rents, a changing market for live music and the aftermath of some unsuccessful investments by Mr. D’Lugoff. It briefly reappeared on West 52nd Street in 1996 but sputtered out after less than a year. . . .

“The Gate may have lacked the cachet of the Village Vanguard, a more intimate West Village club, but it was a bright star in the city’s cultural firmament for decades. A young Woody Allen did stand-up comedy there. The playwright-to-be Sam Shepard bused tables there. A waiter named Dustin Hoffman was fired there for being so engrossed in the performances that he neglected his customers, though service was by all accounts never the club’s strength. Dozens of albums were recorded there, by musicians like Pete Seeger and Nina Simone and by comics like Dick Gregory.

“Though most often thought of as a jazz space — among the eminences heard there over the years were John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk — the Gate offered nearly every type of performance imaginable. There were blues artists like B. B. King; soul singers like Aretha Franklin; rockers like Jimi Hendrix; comics like Mort Sahl and Richard Pryor; and Beat poets.” (more @ NY Times)

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Sine Wave Goodbye Poster

Shameless plug for The Paper Industry‘s “Sine Wave Goodbye” which opens Thursday at Richard Foreman‘s Ontological-Hysteric Theater in Manhattan’s East Village . . . featuring my son (at left).

From the Press Release:

In The Paper Industry’s latest ‘ugly opera’ a man named M escapes the social machine only to lose himself inside his mind, rife with falling walls, forced dancing and maybe just a little bit of truth about Isaac Newton. M finds himself confronted by four oddball strangers in a landscape shaped by his subconscious in Sine Wave Goodbye, and through the use of dance, an original score and original text he hopes to discover what it is exactly that makes us tick. Exploring a fantastic and fatalistic interpretation of the laws of motion M will discover the tragic, glorious freedom of choice and consequence in a larger social context. The Paper Industry aims to exalt the singular experience of being human by distilling the most potent experiences into viscerally digestible moments. They unveil shadows of the human condition in order to illuminate intersection of sentiment between performers and audience members. For each of their pieces original music and text is combined with elements of the space towards one specific, cogent visceral effect.

Tickets can be purchased here.

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Posting will be spotty between now and the first week in June. I’ll be in DUMBO next week to see my son in “Sine Wave Goodbye” at the Ontological-Hysteric Theater and to attend my daughter’s commencement at Fordham University where she’s receiving her M.S. in TESOL Education. On the 17th my wife and I are off to Italy for two-plus weeks: Venice, Naples (Pompeii, Herculaneum), Sorrento & the Amalfi Coast, Rome. While in Italy I’ll post my impressions — especially of the food — on Twitter (you can follow my feedings either through the Twitter widget on the NSRG home page or directly on my Twitter page). Arrivederci!

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marin-reasonsCONGRATULATIONS to Marin Ireland for her 2009 TONY nomination for “Best Performance By A Featured Actress In A Play” for her performance as Steph in Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty.

reasons marks Marin’s Broadway debut after many successful roles both Off-Broadway and in regional theaters. My wife costumed Marin during her formative summer stock days and my son appeared opposite Marin in a summer stock children’s theater adaptation of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (Marin was Goldilocks, my son Baby Bear). We have been BIG Marin fans since those long ago summer days and have attended as many of her New York performances as possible. Finally, long overdue recognition for a fine, fine actor.

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shakespeare-on-bookBaptized on April 26, 1564, William Shakespeare‘s actual birthday is unknown but is traditionally observed on April 23rd, St. George’s Day. But how likely is it that today is the Bard of Avon’s real birthday?

“There is no evidence, alas, to support the popular belief that William Shakespeare was born — as fifty-two years later he was to die — on 23 April, the date celebrated in England since 1222 as the feast day of dragon-slaying St George. As the poet’s posthumous fame grew, securing a unique niche for his country in the cultural history of the world, it was a natural enough temptation for posterity to unite the birthday of England’s national poet with that of its patron saint. But the tradition is based on a false assumption, that Elizabethan baptisms invariably took place three days after the birth.” (more @ English History)

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“On inauguration day, Tom Brokaw was moved to compare Barack Obama’s election to Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution. At the eye of each storm, of course, was an icon who merged the political and the aesthetic–Václav Havel, the rock-star poet and prophet, and Barack Obama, the post-soul master of his own story. Both struck down eras of monocultural repression with their pens.

“Artists played a largely unheralded role in Obama’s victory. But they had been tugging the national unconscious forward for decades, from the multiculturalist avant-gardes of the 1970s and ’80s to the hip-hop rebels of the ’90s and 2000s, plying a fearless, sometimes even unruly kind of polyculturalism. By the final months of the election season, these artists had secured Obama as the waking image of change.

“Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon’s 1968 election sealed the backlash of the ‘silent majority‘ were community organizer and artist.

“Obama was both. So why haven’t community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?” (cont’d @ The Nation)

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rossetFrom NPR, a profile of publisher Barney Rosset, former owner of Grove Press and The Evergreen Review, in advance of the publication of his autobiography, The Subject Is Left Handed, which takes its name from his FBI file. The article includes a clip from Obscene,” a film biography (2007) of Rosset, in which Rosset discusses acquiring Samuel Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot.

“Independent publisher Barney Rosset was there for some of the most important — and controversial — developments in 20th century American literary history. The first to publish Samuel Beckett in the United States, Rosset has been honored by the National Book Foundation, the Association of American Publishers and the French Ministry of Culture.

“Born to a wealthy Chicago banker, Rosset served as a photographer in World War II and afterward tried his hand at filmmaking and writing before buying a small, nearly defunct publishing company named Grove Press in 1951. . . .

“Rosset knew nothing about the business of publishing, but one of the first books Grove put out in 1954 became one of its most important: Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett. . . .

“Over the years Grove did have a couple of best-sellers, including A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole and Games People Play, by Eric Bern. And Grove championed the avant garde and politically inflammatory. It published the work of noted 20th century playwrights like Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard and David Mamet, as well as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which had been dropped by Doubleday.

“In 1957 Grove Press got into magazine publishing; The Evergreen Review became one of the most important magazines of the counterculture . . . Two years after launching The Evergreen Review, Rosset stepped into the national headlines when he decided that Grove would publish Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which other American publishers had shunned because of its frank sexuality. After the postal service impounded more than a hundred copies of the book, Rosset went to court claiming it was protected under the First Amendment. He won, but that was only part of his strategy. His real goal, Rosset says, was to publish another banned book: Henry Miller’s 1934 autobiographical novel, Tropic of Cancer.” (more @ NPR)

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[INTERVIEWER: Didn’t you say somewhere, “I am for obscenity and against pornography”?

MILLER: Well, it’s very simple. The obscene would be the forthright, and pornography would be the roundabout. I believe in saying the truth, coming out with it cold, shocking if necessary, not disguising it. In other words, obscenity is a cleansing process, whereas pornography only adds to the murk.]

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sontag“Authorities in Sarajevo plan to name a city square after the late U.S. author and activist Susan Sontag, who, during the Bosnian war, staged Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot there. . . .

“Sontag’s insistence on staging the existential play in the besieged city drew attention to the country’s civil war. The Washington Post dubbed Sontag’s production ‘Waiting for Clinton.’

“‘Beckett’s play, written over 40 years ago, seems written for, and about, Sarajevo,’ noted Sontag at the time.

“The writer died in 2004 at age 71 from leukemia.” (more @ CBC News)

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amherst250logoAs part of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Amherst, Massachusetts, home to the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst College, Hampshire College and the University of Masachusetts, a number of literary events are scheduled for the month of April. Events include a “Children’s Literary Scavenger Hunt,” an “Emerging Young Writers Event,” and “A Reading by Poet, Essayist, Editor and Translator: Martin Espada,” to name a few.

A complete schedule of events in the “Amherst Lit Series” can be found here.

Additional information “About Amherst 250” can be found here.

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bookfairArguably the most important annual book fair in the United States will be held this coming weekend, April 3-5, at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Avenue, at 67th Street) in New York City. General information (hours, entrance fees, etc) about the 49th annual event, organized by Sanford L. Smith and Associates and sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America can be found here.

The list of international exhibitors can be found here.

The annual New York fair is well worth the admission price even for those uninterested in writing large checks – as an exhibition of incunabula, rare and unusual books, periodicals and literary ephemera, the New York event is unrivaled in the United States, and probably the rest of the world as well.

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purdy2James Purdy, whose dark, often savagely comic fiction evoked a psychic American landscape of deluded innocence, sexual obsession, violence and isolation, died Friday in Englewood, N.J. He was 94 and lived in Brooklyn Heights. . . .

“Wayward and unclassifiable, Mr. Purdy, the author of the novels ‘Malcolm’ and ‘The Nephew,’ labored at the margins of the literary mainstream, inspiring veneration or disdain. His nearly 20 novels and numerous short stories and plays either enchanted or baffled critics with their gothic treatment of small-town innocents adrift in a corrupt and meaningless world, his distinctive blend of plain speech with ornate, florid locutions, and the hallucinatory quality of his often degraded scenes. . . .

“If Mr. Purdy made limited headway against what he called, in an autobiographical sketch, ‘the anesthetic, hypocritical, preppy and stagnant New York literary establishment,’ he was proclaimed ‘an authentic American genius’ by Gore Vidal and admired extravagantly by writers like Angus Wilson, John Cowper Powys and Edith Sitwell, who, reviewing the stories and short plays collected in ‘Children Is All’ (1962), wrote that Mr. Purdy would ‘come to be recognized as one of the greatest living writers of fiction in our language.’ (more @ NY Times)

RelatedWho is James Purdy? Edward Albee Tells

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shakespearebooksIn The Guardian, Jeanette Winterson, after a recent visit, recounts a bit of the history of Shakespeare and Company, Paris’ renowned Left Bank bookstore, first opened in 1913 and since 1962 owned by George Whitman. No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to this venerable literary institution which always recalls for me New York’s recently closed literary landmark, Gotham Book Mart 

“Way back, in 1913, the original Shakespeare and Company was opened by a young American called Sylvia Beach. Her shop in rue de l’Odéon soon became the place for all the English-speaking writers in Paris. Her lover, Adrienne Monnier, owned the French bookstore across the road, and she and Beach ran back and forth, finding penniless writers a place to stay, lending them books, arranging loans, taking their mail, sending their work to small magazines and, most spectacularly, publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922 when no one else would touch it.

“Hemingway was a regular at the shop, and writes about it in his memoir A Moveable Feast. . . . It was Hemingway, as a major in the US army, who at the liberation of Paris in 1945 drove his tank straight to the shuttered Shakespeare and Company and personally liberated Sylvia Beach. ‘No one that I ever knew was nicer to me,’ he said later, rich, famous and with a Nobel prize.

“But after the war, Beach was older and tired. She didn’t reopen the shop that had been forced into closure by the occupation. It was George Whitman who took over the spirit of what she had made, but not the name – until 1962, when Beach attended a reading by Lawrence Durrell at the bookstore and they all agreed that it should be renamed Shakespeare and Company.

“George took in the beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Henry Miller ate from the stewpot, but was too grand to sleep in the tiny writers’ room. Anaïs Nin left her will under George’s bed. There are signed photos from Rudolf Nureyev and Jackie Kennedy, signed copies of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.” (via Books, Inq.)

A New York Times article offering a brief history of Gotham Book Mart can be found here:

PHOTO: A December 1948 party at for Osbert and Edith Sitwell (seated, center) drew a roomful of bright lights to the Gotham Book Mart: clockwise from W. H. Auden, on the ladder at top right, were Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, Charles Henri Ford (cross-legged, on the floor), William Rose Benét, Stephen Spender, Marya Zaturenska, Horace Gregory, Tennessee Williams, Richard Eberhart, Gore Vidal and José Garcia Villa. (Photo: Gotham Book Mart)

RelatedThe Gotham Book Mart’s Final Chapter?

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“It opened nearly three years ago at an army drill hall in Edinburgh and has toured the world from New York to Sydney. But the play Black Watch only reached London last year – allowing it entry to the UK’s most prestigious theatre awards. Last night it walked away with four.

“The National Theatre of Scotland‘s story of the now amalgamated regiment came away with the most Olivier awards for an individual production, including best new play and, for John Tiffany, best director. . . . An unforgettable play based on interviews with soldiers who served in Iraq, it also won for sound design and choreography.” (more @ The Guardian)

A complete list of 2009 Olivier Award winners can be found here.

The New York Times review from the first of Black Watch‘s two runs at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn (2007) can be found here.

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[As much as I admire Black Watch — which I saw during both of its New York runs — I was disappointed that Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County, which I also attended twice, and which won both the 2008 Tony Award for Best Play and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, did not win the Olivier best new play award. My sense is that the war-tested Scottish regiment enjoyed a bit of a home field advantage in London over Letts’s dysfunctional and hard-drinking Oklahoma family.]

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PD*27420284“Professor Stanley Wells, Chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and one of the world’s leading experts on Shakespearean studies, today announced the discovery of a portrait of William Shakespeare, which he believes is almost certainly the only authentic image of Shakespeare made from life.

“The newly discovered picture has descended for centuries in the same family, the Cobbes. It hung in their Irish home, under another identification, until the 1980s, when it was inherited by Alec Cobbe who was a co-heir of the Cobbe estate and whose heirlooms were transferred into a trust. In 2006 Alec Cobbe visited the National Portrait Gallery exhibition ‘Searching for Shakespeare’ where he saw a painting that now hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington. It had been accepted as a life portrait of Shakespeare until some 70 years ago, but fell from grace when it was found to have been altered. Mr Cobbe immediately realised that this was a copy of the painting in his family collection. . . .

“Up to now only two images have been accepted as authentic representations of what Shakespeare may have looked like. One is the engraving by Martin Droeshout published in the First Folio of 1623. The other is the portrait bust in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon; the monument is mentioned in the Folio and therefore must have been in place by 1623. Both are posthumous – Shakespeare died in 1616. The engraver, who was only in his teens when Shakespeare died, must have had a picture, until now unidentified, to work from. Professor Wells believes it to be the one he has revealed today and that it was done from life, in about 1610, when he was 46 years old.” 

The portrait will be on exhibit at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon beginning April 23 (which may be both the anniversary of his birth in 1564 and of his death in 1616). (via NY Times)

A video report on the painting’s discovery was featured on the CBS News “Early Show” and can be found here.

Related

UpdateShakespeare Unfound(ed)?

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nea“Unemployment rates are up among working artists and the artist workforce has contracted, according to new research from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Artists in a Year of Recession: Impact on Jobs in 2008 examines how the economic slowdown has affected the nation’s working artists.  The study looks at artist employment patterns during two spikes in the current recession – the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008.  This downturn reflects larger economic declines: a Commerce Department report last week noted a 6.2 percent decrease in the gross domestic product in the last quarter of 2008.

“Among the findings:

  • Artists are unemployed at twice the rate of professional workers
  • Unemployment rates for artists have risen more rapidly than for U.S. workers as a whole
  • Artist unemployment rates would be even higher if not for the large number of artists leaving the workforce
  • Unemployment rose for most types of artist occupations
  • The job market for artists is unlikely to improve until long after the U.S. economy starts to recover” (via mediabistro)

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05foote-480Horton Foote, who chronicled a wistful American odyssey through the 20th century in plays and films mostly set in a small town in Texas and who left a literary legacy as one of the country’s foremost storytellers, died on Wednesday in Hartford. He was 92 and lived in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Wharton, Tex.

“Mr. Foote died after a brief illness, his daughter Hallie Foote said. He had recently been living in Hartford while adapting his nine-play “Orphans’ Home Cycle” into a three-part production that will be staged next fall at the Hartford Stage Company and the Signature Theater in New York. In a body of work for which he won the Pulitzer Prize and two Academy Awards, Mr. Foote was known as a writer’s writer, an author who never abandoned his vision even when Broadway and Hollywood temporarily turned their backs on him.

“In screenplays for movies like “Tender Mercies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Trip to Bountiful,” and in plays like “The Young Man From Atlanta” and “The Carpetbagger’s Children,” Mr. Foote depicted the way ordinary people shoulder the ordinary burdens of life, finding drama in the resilience by which they carry on in the face of change, economic hardship, disappointment, loss and death.” (more @ NY Times)

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dollhouse

Mabou Mines’ Dollhouse, which first opened in late 2003 at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, returned to St. Ann’s last month after five years of touring the world, for what is likely the final staging of the celebrated adaptation of Ibsen’s “protofeminist” classic, A Doll’s House. This exhilarating, bawdy and broadly comic production, in which the male actors are all “little people,” standing between 40 and 53 inches tall, and the women are all nearly 6 feet tall, closes next Sunday, March 8th.

An interview with Mabou Mines co-founder and Dollhouse director Lee Breuer can be found here.

A slideshow of images from the current run can be found here; or watch the promotional video –

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The original New York Times review from 2003 can be found here.

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churchillThe New York Times earlier this week reported that the New York Theater Workshop is considering mounting Caryl Churchill‘s controversial new play, “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza,” which is critical of Israel’s recent military offensive in Gaza. The play, which runs for only ten minutes, is currently being performed at the Royal Court Theater in London – on the theater’s website, Churchill, described as “one of the titans of British theatre,” is quoted as saying, “Israel has done lots of terrible things in the past, but what happened in Gaza seemed particularly extreme.” The play is being performed without an admission charge – audience members are asked afterwards for contributions to the charity “Medical Aid for Palestinians.”

In today’s New York Times, Robert Mackey gathers opinions from both sides of the Atlantic as well as the Middle East: included are columnists; theater critics; the vice chairman of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, Jonathan Hoffman; and Susannah Tarbush, who writes in The Saudi Gazette that the play “succinctly dramatizes the tragedies and ironies of history for both sides.”

The full text (.pdf) of “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza,” can be downloaded here.

Update: (3/26/09) ‘Tell Her the Truth’ (A response to Churchill’s play by Tony Kushner & Alisa Solomon)

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Robert Anderson, a playwright whose intimate emotional dramas like ‘Tea and Sympathy’ and ‘I Never Sang for My Father’ attracted big names to the Broadway stage if not always substantial audiences to Broadway theaters, died Monday at home in Manhattan. He was 91. . . .

“Mr. Anderson was a contemporary of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, and though his reputation never ascended to the artistic heights that theirs did — his plays often walked a tightrope between realism and sentimentality — he was among the theater’s most visible, serious playwrights of the 1950s and ’60s.

“‘Tea and Sympathy,’ the story of a sensitive, artistic boy who is ostracized by his prep school classmates as a supposed homosexual but who is befriended — and ultimately sexually initiated — by the housemaster’s wife . . . ends with a scene considered salacious at the time and a famous final line. The housemaster’s wife, after leaving her husband, draws the student into her arms and says, ‘Years from now when you talk of this, and you will, be kind.'”

(via NY Times)

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