Posted in comedy, comedy about a serious subject, improv, Uncategorized

Pride, sure, but…

Originally published today on https://myword377.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/pride-sure-but/
Jamie Benson and Hannah Goldman aka The Straight Man duo. Photo by Benjamin Stone.

What is the Straight Pride Parade, I ask myself as I read Jamie Benson’s email. Subject line: “Queer Comedy Duo Reacts to Straight Pride Parade with “The Straight Man Celebrates Gay Pride” on June 29th.”

I Googled the “Straight” part of this new meme and found that there are many protests to its offensiveness. It is the elitist equivalent to “White Lives Matter” as if the #BlackLivesMatter movement takes anything away from people not of color. As if it could? Power and privilege really do put some of us at an advantage.

Inclusiveness or inclusitivity needs more practitioners.

Save yourself the fare for the trip to Boston where you will be ridiculed for your life choices and poor behavior, and go instead to see Jamie Benson’s comedy duo, The Straight Man (TSM-Hannah Goldman and Benson) and others.

Their program The Straight Man Celebrates Gay Pride is at the PIT (People’s Improv Theatre) on June 29th at 9:30pm.

The comedy duo and friends perform throughout the year as well. Says Jamie Benson, co-producer of TSM: “Considering that NYC comedy is still dominated by straight males, our search for queer comedic sanctuary is still so damn relevant. It’s a sad need that we’re filling with joy.”

Posted in #newShakespeareanplay, #technology-and-theater, #weARlive, based on a Shakespeare play, Shakespeare, Technodramatists

A.I.=Artfully Intelligent

A portrait of William Shakespeare,

Finally, Shakespeare is playing with the big boys. As a businessman, he probably would have welcomed all the attention he still gets. As an artist, he might have been fascinated by the “strange new world” in which theater can be turned into a CGI experience.

There is a burgeoning technology, called weARlive, developed by Technodramatists, a new company that combines technological innovations with drama.

It uses something described as a “face-sync application” and is being premiered by their Technodramatists Performance  Laboratory ; weARlive allows one actor to take on many roles through animated creations motion-captured in real time.

Their first production using weARlive is Error: A Comedy Of, in which actress Claire Tyers is the live action model for the avatars of all the characters in the play, based on the Bard’s original.

Note that the emphasis here is not on the technical but on the artistry. Artfully intelligent applications of the new are a tradition in the theater, but the new today is much more surprising than it was in, say ancient Greece when cranes were introduced as the “Deus Ex Machina.”

Be prepared to be astounded and awed at TheaterLab where the latest in technological artistry will be presented by Technodramatists beginning June 6th through June 22nd .

Posted in film, Gwyneth Paltrow, Idina Menzel, musicals, musicals and dramas, Nicolas Cage, riff, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, The Tony Awards

Real-time Alternatives — Serendipity

This year I am making no Tony predictions, but reminiscing about years past. Here is one such meander.

(Reprinted from https://serendipity342791844.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/real-time-alternatives/ )

Family ManSliding Doors, and the Broadway musical If/Then all take a deep dive into questions of alternate realities. They involve shifting time, as does the Sandra Bullock-Keanu Reeves romance The Lake House to slightly disparate effect.

Sliding Doors and Family Man are films which explore what might have been by letting it happen to Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicolas Cage respectively. Similarly, If/Then let Idina Menzel experience a different life if she made different life choices. (The alternate reality I would have liked to see is for the musical play to be honored with a Tony in its 2014 bid.)

It is a giddy fact that the divergent paths the hero or heroine takes leads to different outcomes for him/her in each of these works. Makes you wonder what you might have done had you done differently!

Posted in #immersive-theater, drama, drama based on real events, historical drama

Theater at the Park Avenue Armory

#BackInTheDay

Of late, I’ve had this urge to see theater at the Park Avenue Armory as if I had never been there. In fact, I did see a play there. And what an iconic one it was. The Park Avenue is a sterling setting for avant garde productions and this one was decidely ahead of its time.

Sotheby’s

My namesake multi-room drama, Tamara which landed here in November 1987 from Hollywood where it went after its debut in Toronto. At the time, the structure and approach were very novel. The play was an in-situ production, making use of the space, and having the audience confront it as they moved about from room to room. Immersive theater was a relatively unusual construction for the theater when John Krizanc wrote Tamara.

The award-winning play was performed wherever a large house could be converted to a villa, as at an American Legion post in LA where it lasted for a nine-year run by public petition for constant extensions, despite near weekly notices that it was on the verge of closing.

John Krizanc’s play is based on a historical moment when Gabriele d’Annunzio invited the painter Tamara de Lempicka to his villa in Lombardy, Il Vittoriale degli Italiani. The painter hoped for a commission to paint a portrait of the poet. He hoped she would lend her voice to his universalist political ideals; de Lempicka maintained her materialist stance.

To experience Tamara, one had many choices. Stay in one room and “overhear” the actors’ conversations as they enter. Follow an actor in and out of the rooms of Il Vittoriale. You may wish to switch and stay with a different character after a while. Or, after following an actor to a different room in the villa, you may choose to stay in that room and wait to see what transpires.

In New York, the fascinations of all these possibilities had it running for five years. When I saw it, I wandered through the rooms of the set to easedrop on the actors as they came and went. Trying to piece together the plot lines made the audience an “actor” in Tamara as well.

Its form as a puzzle proved to be an enduring and fascinating element in the play’s international success. It was revived in 2003 in Toronto on its 20th anniversary, and staged for a mere six weeks in 2004 at a landmarked synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Posted in based on a Shakespeare play, DrunkenShakespeare, ShakesBeer, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in the Bar, Shakespeare in the Park

The Bard

NYSX – Photos 2019 ShakesBEER – Photos by Martin Harris

Shakespeare speaks to so many of us on so many levels.

It’s not just that he is required reading in our high schools. Nor is it because the stories he re-animated were already timeless and embedded in human consciousness, and then passed down in our experience of the world.

And it probably is not because his playfulness lends his plays so readily to translate into song. The musical theater is rife with musicals,– Kiss Me Kate, Westside Story, Two Gentlemen of Verona are just a few–, that sprung from the Bard’s tales.

There are Shakespeare bar crawls, a populist version of the classic style of presentation when the audience famously ate and drank and talked during the performance. Free Shakespeare in the Parks (courtesy of the Public Theatre) and numerous iterations of the Shakespearean playbook. One of these is the current crossed-gender King Lear with the great Glenda Jackson in the title role.

NYSX – Photos Freestyle Lab Photos by Cristina Lundy

Celebrating Memorial Day with some of Shakespeare’s soldiers in snippets from his plays, New York Shakespeare Exchange‘s Freestyle Lab presents Armor As Strong: Trans Warriors through a Shakespearean Lens, on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 from 7-9pm (doors open to audience at 6:30pm) at the 53rd Street Library Theater. (This event is free. ) The production features a group of actors from New York’s trans/gender non-conforming community performing speeches and short scenes featuring some of Shakespeare’s best known soldiers.

Inspiring new plays is another way for an old fellow like the Bard to stay current. John Minigan has written a sort of play within a play–and a love story– called Breaking the Shakespeare Code, playing for a two week-run, May 23 – June 2, at The Black Box at 440 Studios. After sold-out runs in Chicago and the New York International Fringe Festival, Breaking the Shakespeare Code  returns directed by Stephen Brotebeck and starring the original cast Miranda Jonte and Tim Weinert .

Posted in #1972TonyAwardWinner, #CliftonDavis, #DianaDavila, #Hair, #JeffGoldblum, #Jonel;leAllen, #RaulJulia, #SheilaGibbs, #StockardChanning, #TwoGentlemenOfVerona, musicals

#Throwback

It’s May 20th, and this week’s theater throwback is from 1971. Like Hamilton, this rock musical had ties to the Public Theatre, previewing at the Delacorte and moving to Broadway, where it won multiple Tony Awards. of course, Hamilton‘s 11 were record breaking, and in the bad old days, a mere two were a nice win.

Two Gentlemen of Verona, based on Shakespeare’s comedy of the same name,  is an unique rock musical. Its creators were John Guare and Mel Shapiro (book), lyrics by Guare and music by Galt MacDermot, all of whom had great success with Hair, a staple of revivals, which opened at the Public. The musical starred Raul Julia and Clifton Davis as the two gents and Jonelle Allen and Diana Davila as their ladies. It featured an unknown Stockard Channing, in her Broadway debut in the chorus, along with Jeff Goldblum and Sheila Gibbs. The original Broadway production, in 1971, won the Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical.

Coincidentally, Two Gentlemen closed its Broadway run on May 20, 1973, after 614 performances.

Let’s close with Jonelle Allen belting out Night Letter along (with Clifton Davis.)

Posted in actors, musicals, musicals and dramas

Coincidence?

There are those who do not believe that anything happens by accident. Dr. Freud most famously disdained the idea of the inadvertent.

Can you dig it? Know the score….

For instance, it is a matter of fact and history that my husband has crossed paths with several composers of pop tunes. Meeting famous people is a trick of Burt’s. We have spoken to stars like Jerry Stiller, and Burt sat next to him at Avenue Q when it opened on Broadway. He spoke to Stiller’s old castmate, Jerry Seinfeld at the Brooklyn Diner as well. Burt shook hands with Donald Sutherland on a New York street, and with Debbie Reynolds in Vegas back in the day, just to name a few.

On his pop circuit, Burt came in contact with the famous early on. Joe Shapiro was head of the English Department at Lafayette High in the 1950s. Shapiro’s hit song (written with Lou Stallman) was Round and Round, recorded by Perry Como and topping the charts in 1957. Also hitting #1 was Stallman and Shapiro’s Treasure of Love (1956) but for some reason there was less buzz over that Drifters hit in the school corridors when it did.

Manny Kurtz was related to one of Burt’s neighbprs. His Let It Be Me was a big success, Recorded by The Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley (among others) it hit the top of the pop charts more than once. Kurtz worked as Mann Curtis and Manny Curtis as well, and it turns out has a very extensive and impressive discography.

Some years later, when Burt met his first wife, it turned out, she was also related to the pop world through a cousin. The name Phil Spector is both infamous and famous. His pop star bona fides range over many decades of rock and roll. Spector has known a lot of the greats in his career.

The biggest of all the musical stars was one Burt met as a teenager, One of his boys dated Carol Klein for a while. They all hung out in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Her name in lights today is Carole King. Coincidently, we ran into her when she was on her way to her starring role in Blood Brothers on Broadway (she replaced Petula Clark during the musical’s run.) Naturally Burt introduced us. That was very exciting, and isn’t that just Beautiful.