Posted in #classism, #critique, #dystopia, #immersive-theater, #pointofview, activists, adaptation, Aditya Rawal, allegory, avant garde, Baruch Performing Arts Center, based on a novel, Brandon Walker, dark drama, drama, dysfunction, ensemble acting, equality, Erin Cronican, Ethan E. Litwin, experiments in theater, farce, George Bernard Shaw, Gingold Theatrical Group, Gwynn MacDonald, issue play, Jay O. Sanders, Kinding Sindaw Melayu, LaMama, Maryann Plunkett, off Broadway, opinion, play, political drama, politically inspired, politics, Potri Ranka Manis, premieres, refugees, riff, Siachen, storytelling, theater, theater for the common good, theatron or The Seeing Place, timely drama

All creatures, large and small

Theater can be distanced, ie by not breaking the fourth wall. It can be immersive, like Tamara at the Park Avenue Armory back in the day, or the McKittrick Hotel programs, Sleep No More or Woman in Black happening now. Audiences sit in the round, or follow the players from room to room, or sit in front of the proscenium, or on stage.

Form and presentation may contribute to the experimental nature of a play. Subject matters in making theater a relevant comment on our times.

These times need a healthy dose of cynical analysis and profound soul-searching. “All animals are equal,” George Orwell says in Animal Farm, “but some are more equal than others.” The Seeing Place, a ten year old theater collective, kicks off the season with a modern adaptation by Brandon Walker of Orwell’s novel.

The theme for this year is the Body Politic, and its Animal Farm focuses on drawing out the ways in which we are susceptible to the collective power of a group. The line between community and a folie à tous is subtle.

Executive Artistic Director, Erin Cronican says of TSP’s production; “By creating this play for just four actors playing 28 characters, we shine a spotlight on the malleability of people’s opinions and desires, which often depend upon who is in charge and what is promised to them.”

Another exploration of present day politics can be found in the works-in-process Siachen at Baruch Performing Arts Center, from April 30 through May 2. This anti-war play, written by Aditya Rawal, takes us to India’s disputed Kashmir region where a group of soldiers awaits rescue. Gwynn MacDonald directs.

George Bernard Shaw was a principled man, whose ideals of humanitarianism and universal human rights were a creed underpinning everything he wrote. His politics were always in evidence in his dramas. The Gingold Theatrical Group’s annual party, the Golden Shamrock Gala 2020, takes place on Monday, March 16th; they will be honoring Maryann Plunkett, Jay O. Sanders, and Ethan E. Litwin. The Gingold Theatrical Group creates theater in the activist spirit of GBS with regularly scheduled events through the year.

Kinding Sindaw – Photos by Josef Pinlac
.

LaMaMa, the mother of experimental theater, hosts a play appropriate for our time. Pananadem (Remembering) is about refugees brought to these shores by the Filipino troupe Kinding Sindaw. Potri Ranka Manis, the Founder and Artistic Director of Kinding Sindaw is the creative and choreographer behind this production, running from March 12th through March 15th in a New York premiere. The work uses the tradition of myth to capture the experience of the displaced.

Posted in #dystopia, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Bonobo, Chilean experimental theater group, George Bernard Shaw, GTG Project Shaw, J.M. Barrie, new work, politically inspired, politics, Shakespeare, Theater Resources Unlimited, troubled times, Tu Amaras, turmoil

Theater for troubled times

This is not the first era in history that has found itself in one or another kind of turmoil. Trouble, as often as not, is the friend of art. It provides the inspiration for high drama or low comedy. But… it often takes a perspecive to really examine our own times.

Shakespeare used his history plays to comment about Elizabethan mores, as well as display them in the context of history, power and politics. Not his most famous quote, but one I like for our times, is from Measure for Measure:

“We must not make a scarecrow of the law, setting it up to fear the birds of prey, and let it keep one shape till custom make it their perch and not their terror.”

Or perhaps in the midst of the impeachment dramedy we might look to Julius Caesar‘s Brutus when he mulls Caesar’s rise “Th’ abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” Or, lastly, since our current emperor lives in such delusion, we can quote Kent from King Lear “Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak when power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s bound when majesty falls to folly.”

May our playwrights continue to “speak truth to power” and let the voice of reason prevail for the 21st century. Or at least let that voice ring out clearly against all the “fake-news” conspiratorials that are invoked by those who seek to oppress and conceal truth. Amen.

Project Shaw, the Gingold Theatrical Group’s ongoing one-nighters looks to the works of George Bernard Shaw (and contemporaries) for a “montly guide to reason.” The theme for their 2020 season is “seeing clearly through art.” Next up on the schedule is the February 24th concert reading of J.M. Barrie’s What Every Woman Knows. On May 18th, they turn to Shaw’s Saint Joan for an inspiration of commonsense. For the full 2020 schedule, visit the GTG website.

Playwrights looking to develop their “voices” can turn to Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) for their 21st Annual TRU Voices New Plays Reading Series . The call for submissions is by January 31, 2020.. TRU is a twenty-seven-year-old 501(c)(3) nonprofit network established for the purpose of helping those involved in the theater understand and navigate the business of the arts

For the 2020 TRU Voices New Plays Reading Series, which will take place in June 2020, TRU will help pay for the developmental reading of new plays, connect finalists with producers, and assist in finding venues.

Please note that all links to shows in this “review” of theater for the disaffected, for the dystopia of our times, for progressives are for past dates except for the GTG schedule of Project Shaw. The dates for and info on TRU New Voices is also current.


By way of postscript: Dystopia takes many forms. The state of depravation and oppression can be answered by the comic as well as the tragic. For the experimental theater troupe from Chile, Bonobo, it takes a sci-fi turn.

In Tú Amarás (You Shall Love), doctors attending a conference on Prejudice in Medicine find the subject of their program disrupted by a group of extraterrestials seeking asylum after a genocide against them.

Bonobo developed the play during its residency at Baryshnikov Arts Center, where it will get the U.S. premiere in Spanish with English supertitles, Thursday, February 13, through Saturday, February 15.

Posted in #LaMama, #Macbeth, Bated Breath Theatre Company, Classic Stage Company, CSC, emerging playwright, George Bernard Shaw, Gingold Theatrical Group, Kate Hamill, known playwrights, LaMama, Lucas Hnath, New York Theatre Workshop, playwright, Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage Theatre, Sondheim, Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, The Flea Theater, The Mint Theatre, Will Arbery

Wish list

David Raposo & Nicole Orabona. Photo by Mia Aguirre: Unmaking of Toulouse-Lautrec

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 Assassinswhich 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-Lautrec is 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 & Cleopatra to 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?

LaMaMa, where it all began, in association with Theater Three Collaborative tackles the climate crisis in Other Than We, starting November 21.

Posted in #dystopia, Bloom's day, Bloom's Tavern, Bloomsday, Daily Prompt, dysfunction, George Bernard Shaw, Gingold Theatrical Group, Manhattan Theater Company, Origin Theatre Company, Origins Theatre Company, public performance in public spaces, Roundabout Theatre Company, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in the Park, Symphony Space, The Mint Theatre, The Public Theater, theatrical

In Retrospect

 

JamesJoycePula012
By Georges Jansoone (JoJan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Daily Prompt: Retrospective

“The past is prologue….” It’s a saying that suggests we learn from what has transpired before. At the theater, we certainly try hard to look at history and see where it has gotten us, how we approached our problems, what solutions were on offer. Great thinkers–and dramatists are definitely philosophers in action– have made their suggestions clear.

Shakespeare confronted every manner of political upheaval as well as all the dystopias of the soul. We regularly worship at his altar. This year, The Public Theater puts on a summer in the park season with his Othello and Twelfth Night.

George Bernard Shaw looked at askew the world from a totally original perspective. The Gingold Theatrical Group celebrates his musings in their regular Project Shaw series at Symphony Space and with Shaw Club meetings on Mondays. Manhattan Theater Company and the Roundabout folks have tackled Shaw over the years with productions of Major Barbara and, currently on stage at MTC’s Friedman, Saint Joan.

The roiling and effervescent stories told by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake are part of the annual Bloomsday readings, here in New York with one at Bloom’s Tavern and the other at the above mentioned Symphony Space. The Bloom’s Tavern event is coordinated through Origin Theatre Company and includes both celebrities and an Irish breakfast. To be more exacting, it also features a of the Joyce period costume contest.

 

 

Posted in 1st Irish Fesitval, George Bernard Shaw, Irish theatre, Samuel Beckett, Yiddish Waiting for Godot

Vahr ist Godot?

Poster from 1st Irish website

Samuel Beckett gets a fresh start as New Yiddish Rep renders his seminal absurdist masterwork “Waiting for Godot” in Yiddish for the first time, at the Barrow Street Theatre beginning tomorrow, Thursday, September 4th.  The play is translated by Shane Baker, and returns to New York for 12 performances only through September 21.

“Vartn Auf Godo” is presented in New York  on the heels of its European premiere in Northern Ireland where it opened the 3rd annual Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, which ran from July 31 to August 10. Beckett wrote the play in ’48-’49 although its world premiere at the Théatre de Babylone in Paris did not occur until 1953. 

This production of this Irish born playwright’s work is presented as part of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival.

Not part of the 1st Irish, but an Irishman nonetheless, and an oft-quoted playwright, George Bernard Shaw is the Gingold Theatrical Group’s “project” on Mondays at Symphony Space. 

GBSwas never shy about the breadth and places in which his ideas played out. His “Village Wooing,” written in 1933,is a romance set on the high seas. See the seldom-seen play for two voices at GTG at Symphony Space on Monday, Sep 29th. 

For more on “Vartn Auf Godo” and the Origin’s 1st Irish Festival, please visit http://1stirish.org/. To find out about GTG’s Shaw Project and “Village Wooing,” please visit http://www.symphonyspace.org/.

Posted in 9/11, existentialism, George Bernard Shaw, NYSX, PAC at World Trade Center, Paul Taylor, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Sartre, Shakespeare, The Pearl Theatre Company, Thomas F. Flynn, WTC

Around town

Thomas F. Flynn recounts his
esperiences on September 11th
in the new play based on his book of
the same name. At BMCC Tribeca
Performing Arts Center.

1. Raise a glass to the Bard 

2. King Lear for “A New Audience”

3. A noteworthy new venue takes shape at WTC

4. Remembering the day the Towers fell

5.  What would Sartre do?

6. Paul Taylor, Dancemaker

7. Project Shaw
8. Grifting, game theory and comics

Shakespeare and beer….
New York Shakespeare Exchange has come up with another brilliant way to promote the Bard of Avon: The first ShakesBEER of 2014 will kick off in March, with two “Stone Street” crawls scheduled for Saturday, March 1 and Saturday, March 8 with additional Shakespearean bar crawls scheduled throughout the year– 10 in all.

At each pub, the actors, cheek by jowl with the audience, break out a scene from one of the Bard’s works. The ShakesBEERean acting company includes many a Shakespeare hand from the city, NYSX past performances, and from around the country.

In case you need a remindeer, NYSX recently held The Sonnet Project as a tribute to William Shakespeare, and a way to encourage appreciation of his work in a modern context.

For tickets and information, visit www.shakespeareexchange.org/content/shakesbeer-2014

Kings in their dotage
For fans of “King Lear,” there can’t be too many productions of the great Shakespearean tragedy. There’s another one in Brooklyn this spring, following Frank Langella’s at BAM. This one features Michael Pennington, two-time Olivier Award nominee, an artist of international stature and one of England’s greatest classical actors, in the title role in William Shakespeare’s tragedy. Mr. Pennington leads a company of 22 actors. This is the second production in Theatre for a New Audience’s inaugural season, which kicked off with “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” at its first permanent home, the new Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place in Brooklyn, directed by Arin Arbus. “King Lear” begins previews March 14 for an opening March 27 and a run through May 4.

Find out more by visiting http://www.tfana.org/

The PAC at WTC
A new and noteable venue is emerging at the World Trade Center with the appointment of a core team to lead the The Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center (PAC.) David Lan, Artistic Director of London’s Young Vic, has been appointed as Consulting Artistic Director alongside Lucy Sexton as Associate Artistic Director. Andy Hayles, Managing Partner of innovative theater consultancy Charcoalblue, will be the theater design consultant. Film director Stephen Daldry has joined the PAC’s Board of Directors.

The artistic team is collaborating with the PAC’s staff, board and numerous consultants to create a global center that will produce and present new work, in multiple disciplines. All of this will take place in an adaptable venue with unprecedented digital connectivity.

Where were you on 9/11?
Thomas F. Flynn jumped on his bicycle outside his Greenwich Village home and followed the first plane downtown. There he became not a witness and reporter, but a participant, caught up in surviving the tragedy that rocked New York a little over a dozen years ago. In “Bikeman,”  Flynn, a veteran journalist, and an award winning writer and producer for the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, recounts his experiences on 9/11.  Flynn was there at the fall of the south tower. “Bikeman,” based on Flynn’s book, is  directed by Michael Bush and features Robert Cuccioli, Irungu Mutu, Angela Pierce, Elizabeth Ramos, and Rich Topol.

“Bikeman” began performances on January 26th and is set for an opening on February 18th at BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street.
For information, go to www.Bikeman911.com.  

“Hell is other people.”– Sartre
Can an existential attitude help us cope? Or might it drive us to solitude?  Find out when the Pearl Theatre presents Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit,” from February 25th through March 30th. Linda Ames Key directs this adaptation from the French by Paul Bowles.

To find out more, please visit http://www.pearltheatre.org/1314/noexit/

Fill your March with dance. 
Paul Taylor is still turning out modern dance classics with attitude, verve and abandon. Beginning in mid March, his company, PTDC begins its diamond anniversary season at Lincoln Center, with the sponsorship of Tiffany’s for its Spring gala. The repertory includes two newly minted pieces, so look for Marathon Cadenzas and American Dreamer on your dance card.

For a performance schedule and tickets, please visit www.ptdc.org.

And another thing….
Check out the Gingold Theatrical Group’s “Project Shaw” at Symphony Space. Each production is one Monday night only, with “The Philanderer” coming up on February 24th.

For more information and tickets, go to Project Shaw.

Cons are a family affair in “Fast Company”

 www.carlaching.com

Blue (Stephanie Hsu) is the daughter who is excluded from the family business of grifting and sent off to college. There she discovers that you can run a con using advanced mathematical theory.

Carla Ching’s new comedy “Fast Company,” under the direction of Robert Ross Parker, begins previews March 12th for a run through April 6th at the Ensemble Studio Theatre.

For tickets for “Fast Company,” please visit Ovation Tix.

Posted in caste, dentist, George Bernard Shaw, Gingold Theatrical Group, love story, Sean McNall, Shavian, socialism, The Pearl Theatre Company

Flaunting convention: GSB’s specialty

The polemical isn’t always preachy.

Sean McNall as Mr. Valentine is demonstrative with Amelia Pedlow’s Gloria Clandon. Dan Daily as Walter Boon, the waiter aka William in The Pearl’s production of GSB’s “You Never Can Tell.” Photo by Al Foote III.

Sometimes, as in George Bernard Shaw’s  “You Never Can Tell,” in a charming production by The Pearl Theatre Company in cooperation with the Gingold Theatrical Group whose Artisitic Director David Staller directs this presentation at the Pearl’s home on W42nd through October 17, it’s keen and cheeky.

Sean McNall, Ben Charles, Emma Wisniewski, Zachary Spicer, Dominic Cuskern. Photo by Al Foote III.

One expects a George Bernard Shaw play to avow socialism and eschew class, and uphold the view that women rule over men; these POVs show up in so much of what he wrote, even “Pygmalion,” the play on which “My Fair Lady” rests. They are on display also in the seldom-seen and lesser known “You Never Can Tell.” 

Robin Leslie Brown is Mrs. Margaret Clandon in GSB’s “You Never Can Tell.” Photo by Al Foote III.

In “You Never Can Tell,” Mrs. Margaret Clandon (Robin Leslie Brown) returns from an eighteen year exile in Madeira to an English seaside town. With her are her children Dolly (Emma Wisniewski), Philip (Ben Charles) and Gloria (Amelia Pedlow.) The two younger, Dolly and Ben are untamed and wild. It is an unabashed pleasure to watch newcomer Emma Wisniewski scampering about.

Mrs. Clandon earns an esteemable income and some celebrity from a series of books about 20th century manners in which she flaunts convention and espouses liberation for women. She has attained some of that liberation for herself, as she has succeeded in separating from her marriage without actually ending it.

Sean McNall as the dentist Mr. Valentine with Emma Wisniewski as Dolly Clandon in “You Never Can Tell” by George Bernard Shaw. Photo by Al Foote III.

Mrs. Clandon has raised her children to be independent. Her eldest, Gloria was brought up with a belief in her emancipation as a woman. Gloria’s self-reliance does not hold up so well when Dolly introduces her to her  new dentist, Mr. Valentine (Sean McNall.)

Mr. Valentine (Sean McNall) and Miss Gloria Clandon (Amelia Pedlow). Photo by Al Foote III.

Mr. Valentine, reduced to dentistry after several failed attempts at other medical practices, suffers from an excess of levity and a shortage of funds. He is so poor that he is forced to dupe his landlord, Fergus Crampton (Bradford Cover), in order to cover his past rent.

The first act of “You Never Can Tell” tends to mystify. But oh, when it all becomes clear in the second act, what a delight.

Rounding out the superior ensemble are Dan Daily as Walter Boon, called William by Miss Dolly; Zachary Spicer as Walter Bohun, a distinguished attorney brought in to mediate a case for Mrs. Clandon by her solicitor, Finch McComas (Dominic Cuskern). Barbar Bell has designed a plethora of lovely costumes for
the cast to wear in Harry Feiner’s lovely sets.

L-to-R, seated Dolly (Emma Wisniewski), Fergus Crampton (Bradford Cover), Gloria (Amelia Pedlow), Mr. Valentine (Sean McNall), Mrs. Margaret Clandon (Robin Leslie Brown), with Philip Clandon (Ben Charles) directly behind her. Standing L-to-R, Finch mcComas (Dominic Cuskern), Walter Bohun (Zachary Spicer), and Walter Boon (Dan Daily). Photo by Al Foote III. 

“You Never Can Tell” is as sparkling a production as the champagne uncorked for all to sip at the curtain.

For more information about “You Never Can Tell,” please visit The Pearl’s website.