Now we add The Mint’s Summer Stock Streaming (free to all) which will present three plays, and engage 30 theater artists, in programming available from July 6th through 19th.
Here’s how the Mint puts it: “Our archival videos are shot during a live performance with three high-definition cameras, edited to make a satisfying, close-up look at our productions. Of course there’s nothing like seeing a play in a theater, but our videos will provide you with an intimate and enjoyable experience.” The actors and stage managers connected with the shows are on payroll for two weeks, providing them with employment in these fallow times, and us with a chance to visit or revisit some of the beloved repertory.
We have given up a lot to the coronavirus. For our own safety and that of those around us, we voluntarily restricted our freedom of movement (#Stay_Home) and our love of congeniality (#SocialDistancing). We traded our daily routines of work and cocktail hour for being at home and meeting via Zoom. We have become shutins and anti-social. We don’t go out except to walk six feet apart from others, just for the sake of getting some air.
What we give up when we indulge in at-home theater viewing is
1. the live-actors-in-real-time theater experience
2. the 4th wall
2a. “great seats”
3. the chance to go out, dress up and make a night of it
4. the spontaneity of a flubbed line and a good save
1. The action is pre-recorded, or, if contemporaneous, involves only one actor
2. The distance between you and the stage is filtered through a screen.
2a. You still have the best seats in the house.
3. You may well be in your pjs, as so many of us are these days, or workout clothes.
3a. Your dinner may have been oreos or a box of mini-wheats.
4. If there is a flub or a falter, it ceases to be spontaneous once taped.
5.. You are likely watching alone on a laptop or tablet.
5a. At most, you are likely part of an audience of 2.
The privacy of your home is a sanctuary into which you are bringing a sacred event. Cool. But not the same as experiencing theatrical expressions in a theater space.
As I said in a recent post, theater artists also yearn to stay active, contribute and engage in what they love. Audiences are part and parcel of what they love to do. Broadway World is sharing updates about shutdowns and “Living Room Concerts” with me as well as “Songs from the Vault” and “157 Musicals and Shows You Can Watch Online.” Their “Broadway Rewind” took me down memory lane to some productions I really enjoyed over the years.
Roundabout Theatre Company sent an email with encouraging tidbits, including this montage from last season’s Kiss Me Kate:
Dance Theater of Harlem reached out with a newsletter on their 50 Forward which includes a video of a signature dance by Louis Johnson, who died in March, created by him for the company in 1972. Forces of Rhythm remained in the DTH repertory alongside works by Arthur Mitchell and George Balanchine.
New York Theatre Workshop’s email announced Virtual Programming; it is no great wonder that these companies are also looking for donations to help them tide over in these tough “shutdown” days. It is remarkable how much creativity is being put to alternative use!
We’ve got sort of shoot the messenger administration in power. Senator Durbin reports an appalling truth and he’s faulted for the fact that the Congress can’t pass DACA legislation. People who’ve contributed to America, and lived here for years are being deported, and surely we can’t blame Dick Durbin for regressive policies carried out by the administration and its cohorts. Clearly, it’s their racism that is responsible for failing to allow immigrants who dream of a better life and whose dreams have been fulfilled during nearly a lifetime in the United States to continue living the American dream.
Most Americans come from a long line of dreamers. We are descendents of men and women who came here to start over and to do better. Chances are that your grandpa was an immigrant, or that great grandma came through Ellis Island. An ancestor worked the railroads or participated in the gold rush of 1849. There may be a Revolutionary War veteran on your family tree; he came to America to escape persecution. Some came for economic opportunities. Others travelled across the seas to find a freer society.
Still others were forced here against their will, and lived here enslaved until the Emancipation Proclamation attempted to integrate them into American life. Racism, then as now, worked to keep these newly minted citizens from enjoying their liberties and rights. Americans who were brought here in shackles have traversed a tougher road in becoming part of the fabric of this democracy.
The main agenda for the dominant party today is a kind of war against people of color. The urban poor are the principal targets of this unprincipled party line. The tax bill, immigration policy, the fight over healthcare, attacks on Medicaid and the defunding of CHIP, the call to close the borders, all affect services. Education, transportation, housing, are all left to flounder and founder under the burdens of making the wealthy a lot richer. Tax cuts to businesses and their owners will not trickle down to citizens living in or on the boundaries of poverty.
The predominantly white, rural poor may still support the underlying principles of a racist political regime. They are also financially at risk, but they may feel gratified that inequality takes precedence in our national life, and white supremacy is not just condoned but a guiding political ideal. Is having token representation reward enough for their loyalty?
Reprinting because, alas, still true and working towards another election cycle. From February 2017:
I am writing a drama about a failed businessman, who sees himself as a great visionary. One day he walks into a bar, and sits on a stool, pronouncing that he knows he could do a better job than the “so-called politicians.” The guys at the bar perked up and listened to him as he went on to prove how much he could do for them.
You know, I could get you your jobs back, he tells them. The world is not treating any of us fairly, he points out. I get that all the time. It’s so unfair. It’s hard being a white Christian. I got audited. Can you imagine? It’s so unfair.
Sad when a smart person like me isn’t appreciated, he goes on. Let me tell you, I am very smart. I can get your jobs back from China. It’ll be huge.
The plot goes on from there, where the trial balloons of his “campaign” which seem destined to unravel are picked up by news media. He becomes something of a media darling because what he says is always outrageous. He entertains. He’s a headline grabber.
He tells tall tales, some would call lies, but for now the media just laps it up. His lies don’t worry the press, because at every turn, it looks like his progress will be thwarted. His supporters do too.
They love him, despite the disparity of their circumstances with his. They like that he says he can do anything and still win at the polls. They believe him, and they make it come true.
The plot is easy, although motivation and dialog are more of a challenge.The story has a storybook ending for our central character. For others it is the stuff of true nightmare and horror films.
The beauty of my drama is that it relies on a fact in the new America: Lying has become an art form for a segment of our society. One with faithful and believing acolytes.
Satire is an ineffective tool that only acts as an irritant to those in power and a balm to the rest of us. What is actually going on, the reality is already unbelievably absurd.
The actions of our leaders, sometimes extra-legal, unAmerican, anti-democratic, unpatriotic are already beyond the pale. They cannot be mocked. They are mocking us.
Diversions diverge from the democratic. Divisive cries deviate from the democracy. Demonic acts dictate a dictatorial regime.
Never has preaching to the choir expressed the state of the union more completely. The New Yorker has a cartoon (by Sipress) in which there is a weather forecast for Dems and another for our friends across the aisle.
While art ofttimes adds clarity to life issues, life, on many an occasion, is a mere imitation. This is certainly true of the farce in which we are living now.
These days we are not playing out a great Shakespearean history, or even one of the Bard’s lesser comedies. We are thrown headlong into theater of the absurd. The pseudo- patriotic disruptors give us the chaotic spectacle of performance art.
There is hint of Macbeth, and a whiff of Tamburlaine, too, in some of the actors, of course, but the plots are thin melodrama. We have embraced Pirandello, accepted Ionesco, mimed Beckett. We are in the midst of a Brecht dystopia, without his or Kurt Weill’s humor.
They–the lead actors in this vaudeville– speak in barely disguised code, and catch-phrases. The language could be Mamet, if the f-bombs were race-baiters. The text is bombast, full of sounds, and fury, and signifying. The play, on the other hand, is… nothing.
The emperor has no conscience. Exit the king. The enemy within. The theater will answer the despair this reality show puts forth, not only with panels and forums, but with new works and new art. Artists will “speak truth to power” as they usually do.
Before he became the President-Elect, Trump was still a blowhard and a bully. Now he has the ultimate “bully pulpit” from which to trumpet his ideas and plans and build more of his own empire. As he would tweet, SAD.
His ego was truly stroked when Taiwan called to congratulate him. Not content with taking the call against US interests and precedents, DJT had to tweet about it. (New developments: December 2, 2016.)
Believe me when I tell you he can certainly blow his own horn. In fact, he’s famous for it, but when the man with the yellow face and huge ego comes out, give him a trumpets-blaring welcome. …
This election year is reality TV, or, perhaps, unreality theater, unscripted and unwelcome in so many ways. The circus atmosphere in no way diminishes the importance of the choice we make on November 8th:
The people have spoken. Who says no one listens to you. You said you did not want professional politicians running the country. Congratulations. The tea party congress has consistently acted most …
Some of us are saying, this can’t be happening. Others are pleased to see it unfold as it has.
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.”
It’s no secret that if you walk anywhere in New York, some interesting and unusual sight, sound and site will greet you. Midtown, no matter how familiar, always offers up a new view or two. For instance, did you know there was a lobster cart pop-up in front of Oceana, a nice dining establishment in […]
Watching movies about the civil war is a fraught experience. Whose side am I on? Which side is represented by Jimmy Stewart when he picks up his gun? Can we admire the artistry with which DW Griffiths gives the KKK a valiant star turn? Does irony excuse the racial politics when a mixed-race band of […]
Dance evolves with the times as do all things, artistic or run-of-the-mill. It is what we need to keep in perspective as we watch young choreographers take on the creation of the next new ballet. They will be influenced by what has been termed modern dance, a genre dating back to Isadora Duncan’s day and represented prominently today by, among others, Paul Taylor (and his) American Modern Dance.
Modern dance is meant to be less formal, to eschew the stodgy. Not that Jerome Robbins, or George Balanchine, for that matter, can be thought of as stodgy. The ballets that are stepping, best foot forward, these days, tend to –not exactly relax, since many are as frenetic as they are innovative– be freer in mixing the metaphors of dance forms.
Lauren Lovett and Peter Walker, two of the more recently minted NYCB dance-makers, have emerged as rising stars of ballet. Lovett tends towards a romantic view of the classical. Walker is a bit of a renegade, although his second work, the 2018 dance odyssey, moves to a more traditional line.
The older guard is equally willng to mix things up. At 40, and after many years dancing as a principal with New York City Ballet, and working with his own troupe and as head of the Paris Opera Ballet, Benjamin Millepied is an elder statesman in the world of choreography. Millepied, whose Neverwhere was a lovely revelation at a recent NYCB performance, is a case in point. His work uses classical style married to contemporary scores–Neverwhere is set to music by Nico Muhly– and refreshing ideas about movement. Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence at the American Ballet Theatre since 2008, has given NYCB some delightful novelties, as well. His Odessa and Songs of Bukovina are works that join diverse styles of folk and ballet in beautiful complexity.