There was a time when ballet fans (who probably preferred being called afficianados) thought of ballerinas as novitiates of the stage.
Like Mary Magadalene, mother to the nuns that followed, we see our novice sometimes succumbing to the siren call of the ballet master. His charisma and artistic prowess were irresistible draws, as were his faith in her abilities. He may see himself as a Svengali, but in truth he only teases out her innate talent; his actions do not endow her with her natural gifts.
The dancer and the dance-maker are colleagues, co-equal partners in the dance we are fortunate to witness. Ballerinas have an ethereal quality that makes them shine more brilliantly, if also more distantly. They are our stars, revealing through movement the stories of our lives..
These intriguing press releases cross my in-box (old school: call it my desk). Theater going has become increasingly an aspirational rather than a real thing for me, so I sort through for the most interesting offers to share with you. This one proposes a kick-ass combination of style and content.
The Talmudis the name of the show directed by Jesse Friedman, and taking its cues not just from the Rabbinic text but also from Kung-Fu films. Intrigued?
Here’s what he says: “The Talmud is a very exciting and important Jewish text, and, is incredibly difficult to understand. I was watching a Kung-Fu movie and thought “this Kung-Fu movie reminds me of the Talmud”. I started to learn more Talmud and thought “this reminds me of Kung-Fu movies”. I started to watch and learn more about Chinese Martial cinema, my appreciation for them deepened, and the world of the Talmud, which had previously been opaque to me, started to make sense.” He goes on to say, “The further I went down this rabbit-hole of Chinese martial arts cinema and Talmud, my picture of the world history started to radically change.”
The Talmud was developed through the Target Margin Artist Residence, and the Exponential Theater Festival. It will play at Target Margin for a three week limited run from September 12th through the 28th. Click here for information and tickets.
Sure, Broadway can do it bigger and splashier. It’s Off-Broadway, and its sister wife, off-off, that can take the bigger risks.
This means that, often enough, it is the offs’ productions that are the more interesting and provocative.
This is not to say that we don’t appreciate the tone and tenor of a big show, but we are inspired by what is accomplished by the off-the-main-stem houses. Sometimes, like the Tony-favored Hadestown, there is novelty and innovation, along with a touch of provocation, on the Broadway stage as well.
Some of these are the usual suspects– Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, The Mint, Classic Stage Company, New York Theatre Workshop, to name a few– who come up with exciting theater year in and year out.
Not all of these are “small” productions, of course. For instance at CSC, the artistic director, John Doyle, has slated big names Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers to play the lead and his lady in the Scottish play. Shakespeare’s Macbeth will run this fall from October 10 through December 15. The season at the Classic will continue with two new iterations of iconic tales of horror presented in repertory in January-March 2020: Dracula by Kate Hamill, adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker, and Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s original work, and adapted by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm. In April-June 2020, it concludes with Assassins, which completes the trilogy of Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musicals John Doyle has staged,
Playwrights Horizons opens its main stage fall season with a play about our political dystopias. Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning, directed by Danya Taymor, gets its world premiere beginning September 13. Mr. Arbery is the playwright in residence for 2019-20 at PH thanks to a grant from the Tow Foundation. PH does not disappoint.
Later in the year, Lucas Hnath returns to PH with The Thin Place, beginning November 22. Consider this a Thanksgiving present from PH to you! If you are unfamiliar with this particular talent, before we saw Hnath’s The Christians at PH we were too. Then came A Doll’s House Part 2, an exceptionally imaginative reimagining of Ibsen, in which Laurie Metcalf won the 2017 Tony for Best Actress in a Play. Also on the PH bill for the 2019-20 season is a musical, An Unknown Soldier ( book and lyrics by Daniel Goldstein; music and lyrics by Michael Friedman) set to begin on Valentine’s Day. There’s more to it than just what we’ve listed, so please go to phnyc.org for more information, tickets etc etc.
Going off off the beaten path can be very rewarding. The immersive, site specific Unmaking of Toulouse-Lautrecis a kind of boheme rhapsody, and perhaps a throw-back to the Belle Epoque. This interactive production is conceived and directed by Mara Lieberman and devised by members of the Bated Breath Theatre Company . The show continues where it started in May through October 30th at Madame X in Greenwich Village, where you can imbibe cocktails along with the atmosphere of creative decadence.
Still following the path to the off off, we might stop by at The Flea to see The Invention of Tragedy, an exploration of how to tell grief by Mac Wellman. The world premiere is scheduled to run from September 7 through October 14. Or, for a limited engagement at The Tank catch the Spanish language En El Ojo de la Aguaja (In the Eye of the Needle) story of our present dystopias and how we solve them.
David Staller brings the Gingold Theatrical Group production of Shaw’s Caesar & Cleopatrato Theatre Row from September 3 through October 12. History in a Shavian warp gives us a comedy of sex, murder, intrigue. Very timely, doncha think?
Modern dance, like modern painting, or architecture or any of the other arts afflicted with the prefacing descriptive, is only as modern as its times.
History places the origin of this genre of choreography at the turn of the last century. Those origins were reactive in nature, as an antidote as it were to “classical ballet.” The style is meant to be expressive of the inner feelings of the dancer; the expressions are free from the restrictions of structured steps. The modern dancer uses movement to reveal his/her inner soul. Today, modern dance is some 100 years old, and yet it is still expected to emote and move with all the flexibility of a youngster.
The style represented by the pioneers of the form has come to be codified. Its spontaneity is no longer its main vision or purpose. Dance may be a step in time, a fleeting movement, quick and quickly forgotten, but we keep records of its progress nonetheless.
Many of those pioneers are no longer with us; some have left behind active companies to carry on their legacy. Their companies carry their name as a banner; it is a reminder that the master who founded the troupe set the style for it. Just as we recall the steps of the waltz or the cha cha or the fox trot, the choreography that underpins Martha Graham‘s or Merce Cunningham‘s endowment can be notated and remembered. Dancers who know the steps pass on this knowledge f or future generations; there are videotapes of works by Paul Taylor, Jose Limon. even Isadora Duncan extant. The Balanchine style of ballet is preserved and inherited in much the same way.
Then what happens to the dancers who worked under the founding modern dance choreographer after s/he is gone? Their careers will change. Some will be absorbed into other groups. Others will band together to form new dance ensembles. They will turn to choreography themselves, or find star turns in other modern companies.
Paul Taylor foresaw a succession for his company, as Alvin Ailey had before him. He started presenting the works of emerging artists alongside his own several years before his death last August. He had gone so far as to rename his company Paul Taylor American Modern Dance to allow for the collaborations he incorporated into the troupe. Like Ailey, he appointed a successor, Michael Novak, from within the ranks of the company. For 3 weeks this fall, October 17 through November 20, the company will honor Taylor in its Lincoln Center Season; the dancers, who can’t seem to settle on PTDC or the more inclusive moniker of PTAMD, will present 10 of Taylor’s masterpieces alongside commissioned works by Kyle Abraham and L.C. premieres by guest resident choreographers Pam Tanowitz and Margie Gillis.
His alumni remain loyal to the company. Some also have seen fit to test their wings with other projects. Two PTDC alumni, Laura Halzack and Michael Trusnovec join current PTDC dancer Michelle Fleet and film exec VJ Carbone in bringing the Asbury Park Dance Festival to inaugurate on September 14th. Another Paul Taylor dancer’s Parisa Khobdeh Dance Company, for instance, has just completed its premiere outing with a piece called Nevertheless, which will also be at the Dumbo Dance Festival on the 12-13 of October. Khobdeh will be dancing in the upcomng PTAMD season, but she is forging a place for women-centric dance works with her own company.
In a way, we can consider this kind of after-life of dance company members to be part of the legacy of the masters who founded the great modern dance movement.
The headlines can definitely leave one feeling helpless. Children incarcerated, separated from their parents, sit in cages near the southern boundary of the USA. It seems there is little we can do but post our outrage.
Latin Grammy-winning bilingual duo 123 Andrés returns to New York City on Sunday, September 1st to perform a concert is at the Marlene Meyerson JCC at 334 Amsterdam Avenue, beginning at 10:30 am.
Immigrant Families Together helps reunite migrant families that have been separated at the border by paying for release bonds, legal services, and ongoing support. All proceeds from this show will help support the effort to bring families, separated at the border, back together. Tickets are just $18. Click here for more information. 123 Andrés will also be in DC on Saturday, October 19th.
Avenue Q went there after its Broadway run ran down. Now Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, and even The Play That Goes Wrong, have come to Worldwide Plaza’s New World Stages for a chance at a little longevity. The place offers off-Broadway alchemy to shows that still have a little more life in them, but aren’t filling the big house seats anymore.
They also offer the audience a new prospective:Avenue Q, for instance, was more enjoyable in the smaller house when we saw it. It had won pretty big at the 2004 Tony®ceremonies, of course, but we found the intimate setting at New World more appropriate to its tone and style. Worldwide has lots of stages where a fun show can frolic a bit longer.
Off off-Broadway has traditionally been the place where new and innovative get their start. The seeds of a more forward thinking theater have taken root on the stages of LaMaMa, a famously “experimental theater club,” or its ilk. Little but prominent theater companies have always flourished in NYC. Some of them have made advances in theater history, others have been playgrounds for more or less minor productions.
Of late, Broadway has taken on the tone of some of these “variety houses” with shows such as The Prom and Be More Chill hitting the great white way. The latter won its composer Joe Iconis a 2019 Tony ®for Best Original Score. For his fans the emergence of his next show, Broadway Bounty Hunter at the off-Bway Greenwich House Theater may have been great news; the show will close after a mere 48 performances on August 18th.
The off and off-off houses are more nimble than the main stem theaters. Production costs allow them to transform the audience experience, and try new things. A short run is less of a failure in this environment.
Shows like Be More Chill or The Prom might have had greater success at the old Promenade on 76th and Broadway, or The Little Shubert (now Stage 42). Neither of them thrived as full-on Broadway house productions; the former closed on August 11th after just about 200 performances all told; The Prom also closed on the 11th after332 performances including previews. Perhaps they too will find theimselves at New World Stages, a place where variety is really the spice of life, for a little extended life of their own.
Judy and Mickey may have been able to put up a show on a wing (time step) and a prayer. You likely need more than just that barn. If you want to be an impressario, you need some skills.
Those with curiousity about what it takes to be a Broadway (or off and off-off) producter can explore these options with the Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) in an intro program on August 20th.
The free informational program will introduce prospective theater showmen in the intricacies involved in mounting a show. .At this meet-and-greet info session about TRU’s Producer Development and Mentorship Program (PDMP), the would-be producer will have the chance to learn from and network with TRU’s commercial producer instructors and successful program graduates.
PDMP’s mission is to give members the resources and mastery to become commercial theater producers, non-profit theater producers and/or self-producing artists. TRU’s classes, which are reasonably priced, will give you the necessary know-how, such as developing a business plan, raising money, budgeting, marketing and putting together creative production teams. For those theater artists who may need to self-produce, they also provide the tools with which to create your own opportunities .