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.
In no way does humor (or a good beat) trivialize the necessity for a cognizant citizenry. Theater can use the power of laughter to foster and encourage us towards a better world. Ionesco was a most politically conscious satirist. Conscience leads the way to express the ideals a regressive government attempts to suppress.
Theater aspiring to inspire has always been with us. Many of us feel the need now more than ever for a side order of politically awareness with our drama. We can be grateful to the many theater artists who look to elucidate while they entertain.
This season, for instance, the New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF) has several galvanizing works on offer. In Leaving Eden, for instnace, Jenny Waxman (Book and Lyrics) and Ben Page (Music) ask us to envision a more progressive creation (myth) than the strictly Biblical one.
Donald Rupe (Book and Music) and Cesar de la Rosa (Music) offer a historical perspective inFlying Lessons, in which their heroine, an eighth grader named Isabella finds a “recipe for greatness” by looking to the past.
George Bernard Shaw was a forward thinker, and Project Shaw which celebrates his legacy in one-night only productions is showing The Stepmother by Githa Sowerby, a protege of GBS, on July 22nd. The play will undoubtedly present a case for a more “woke” world from a 1920s stance.
This is a short list of a few upcoming shows that offer a vision for a better world. (Click on each to find out where/when to get tickets.) The number of allegories and presentations that have graced our stages over the years is long. Woke theater shows us how matters civic and social sh/could unfold.
Artists have found various expressions of racial harmony and discord. Seinfeld, a show considered famously lacking in diversity, used the black and white cookie to make its point about the cultural divide.
The musical Hair exalted in the difference with the anthem Black Boys/White Boys. Its progressive themes made it an iconic operetta of the 1960s; in its most recent revival Broadway at the St. James Theatre in 2011, Hair, with a cast of mostly relative unknowns from the road company tour of the 2009 production, was as timely and exciting as ever. (See TB’s review: here.)
All this said, I have no intention to minimize or trivialize the real and substantial issues of race and our relationship to each other.
Theatricality is a fraught concept. It can just be dramatic and thought-provoking, or it can be over-the-top, dramatic and thought-provoking. Kristen Childs has written a musical that is theatrical to the nth degree. Bella: An American Tall Talealso gives us a little slice of African-American history mixed in with the fable.
Politics and theater are getting a bad rep. Actually politics and their practitioners have had a reputation for honesty meaning any means that is necessary, aka I’ll lie if I have to, and theater has always been a forum for exposing truths. Ms. Nixon stirred the political pot a tiny bit in her acceptance speech at the 2017 Tony Awards Ceremonies. Now, it is the mixing of politics into theater that has caused quite the controversy (see what is happening with The Public’s Julius Caesar for instance.) It is unwarranted. Art is meant to comment on our realities.
At any rate, one of those realities, Lost and Guided, a play by Irene Kapustina about Syrian refuges in their own words, is on view at Conrad Fischer and The Angle Project, at Under St Marks (94 St. Marks Place, from August 3 through 27th. For tickets, click here.
A similar but perhaps more intitmate project is The Play Company’s Oh My Sweet Land another look at the Syrian refuge crisis. The play is due to launch this fall in private homes and communal spaces where people have been invited to host this multi-sensory experience. Those wishing to participate by providing a venue can do so by filling out the questionnaire here. Nadine Malouf stars, perhaps in your own kitchen, in Oh My Sweet Land, a play developed by Amir Nizar Zuabi with German-Syrian actor Corinne Jaber.
Shakespeare wrote plays reflecting timely events, for his time and all times. This may explain why The Public is in such hot water over their production of Julius Caesar. The brouhaha, perhaps like the staging, is way out of proportion. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare also explores issues to do with power and justice. Theatre for a New Audience is presenting a new modernized staging by Simon Godwin from June 17th through July 16th. Tickets for this show which will be held at Polansky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn are available at TFANA’s website.
Henrik Ibsen had his own take on both the personal and the political. For instnace, Ibsen’s drama, An Enemy of the People is a play about populism and its discontents.
An Enemy of the Peoplecomes to us from the Wheelhouse Theater Company under the direction of Jeff Wise, at the Gene Frankel Theater, beginning June 9th and running through June 24th is conceived as a meditation on the “tyranny of the majority.”
Following on the success of Ibsen’s feminist tale as revisited by Lucas Hnath in A Doll’s House, Part 2, see the US Premiere of Victoria Benedictsson’s 1887 Swedish original, The Enchantment in a new English translation and adaptation by Tommy Lexen. Ducdame Ensemble introduces us to the woman behind Ibsen’s Nora; Benedictsson, who wrote under the pen name Ernst Ahlgren, was not only Ibsen’s inspiration but also Strindberg’s for Miss Julie. The Enchantment opens at HERE on July 6th, with previews beginning June 28th.
Dystopia is the normal atmosphere of an Ibsen play. It is poignantly a main event in the classic 1984. George Orwell’s novel in which Big Brother government controls its citizens has been turned into a play by the same name. The play by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan was first performed in 2013 at England’s Nottingham Playhoouse. 1984 , a place where mind control involves convincing us that up is down, “freedom is slavery,” is now at Broadway’s newly renovated Hudson Theatre, with an opening on June 22nd, and starring Olivia Wilde and Tom Sturridge.
For the Fischer family in Steven Levenson’s new play, If I Forget, closing at the Laura Pels on April 30th, the realities of their identity are fraught.
Of the siblings, Michael (Jeremy Shamos), sees the Jewish Studies he teaches at an university from the perspective of liberal politics gone awry. He is not observant, and his book on Jewish ties to Israel is causing a rift with his sisters, Sharon (Maria Dizzia) and Holly (Kate Walsh) and their father, Lou (Larry Bryggman). Michael also feels that the connection to Israel that his non-Jewish wife, Ellen Manning (Tasha Lawrence) encourage in their daughter is not in keeping with his beliefs.
To suggest that this is a controversial position for a play on a Jewish subject to voice is a gross understatement. The subtlety of Michael’s arguments is lost on his family, but not on the audience.
Rounding out the cast of characters in this excellent production under Daniel Sullivan’s direction are Holly’s husband, Howard Kilberg (Gary Wilmes) and her son Joey (Seth Michael Steinberg).
If I Forgetis thoughtful and thought-provoking, although it loses some credibility with a mystifying and seemingly mystical ending.
For tickets and information, please visit the Roundabout production’s website.
“Staying out of the dark ages,” as Michael would have it, may be the cri du coeur for secularists of all stripes.
In The Profane, playing at Playwrights Horizons through May 7th, identity is as much a tetter-totter for the Arab-American Raif (Ali Reza Farahnakian) who has distanced himself from his heritage, and his daughter Emina (Tala Ashe) who is running to connect with it, as it is for the Fischers.
Zayd Dohrn’s intelligent play is inspiring and provocative. (For my more in depth analyses, click here, or here, or here.
For moe information and tickets, please visit PHnyc’s website.
As I am from that neck of the woods, this item caught my eye. Perhaps it will interest you as well– Origin Theatre Company presents “Re-Building the Balkans,” a two day mini festival on contemporary Balkan culture on February 7-9, in conjunction with the NYPL for the Performing Arts.
“Re-Building” represents a spectrum of works that address issues of reclaiming a country after war has ravaged it. Among the offerings is a reading of the play “Control,” by Croatian playwright Marjan Alcevki (Saturday February 7 at 1:30pm), about a psychological experiment gone awry at a Zagreb university. Alcevki’s play was a 2012 finalist for the BBC International Radio Award.
Also on the weekend’s program is a screening of “Mothers” by the Oscar-nominated director from Macedonia, Milcho Manchevski (Monday February 9 at 6pm), which captures the heartbreaking state of contemporary Macedonia through the eyes of several mothers. Manchevski’s “Before the Rain” won the Golden Lion at Venice as well as earning a best foreign film Oscar nomination. Manchevski takes part in a Q&A following the screening.
Origin Theatre Company, the only New York company devoted to bringing fresh perspectives and new theatre voices from across Europe to local audiences, has specially curated this program. The region’s history of strife and conflict has made, as Matthew Torney, Origin’s director of programming, sees it a “hugely fertile environment for artists.”
The panel discussion on Saturday February 7 at 3pm, examines the pressures of making art in the complex environment of Southeastern Europe. Led by Professor Larry Wolff, the Silver Professor of History and the director of the Department of European and Mediterranean Studies at NYU, the panel includes Tea Alagic (a theater director and writer from Bosnia), and Aisling Reidy (the senior legal advisor for Human Rights Watch, and a former prosecuting attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia).