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Theatre Essays

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Murmuring Judges Essay

Is Arthur Miller really “America’s finest living playwright,” as the British like to tag him, or has he been conveniently drafted to serve that necessary function in the ecology of the English theatre? This country, after all, likes nothing better than lionizing American intellectuals and artists who have been either ignored or undervalued at home….

NEA offers ’91 grants, more info Essay

New information programs, new appointments and a slate of new grants to assist the nation’s artistically underserved communities have been announced by the National Endowment for the Arts. The United States Travel and Tourism Administration has teamed up with the NEA to develop a plan to help instill an increased awareness of America’s cultural diversity…

Not just a cabaret Essay

Weimar recreated at Louisville Classics Festival, highlighted by rare visit of the Berliner Ensemble. In the 1920s, Berlin was a city with a case of the jitters. From the abdication of the Kaiser in 1918 to the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of the Third Reich in 1933, Berlin and Germany experienced, in the…

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The Black Rider Essay

As I recently screened a video for my students of Robert Wilson’s celebrated Hamburg production of The Black Rider — I had seen a performance two summers ago at the Vienna Festival, where Wilson adapted it for Austrian television — I was reminded of what a loss it was for American audiences when the appearance…

The Ride Down Mt. Morgan Essay

Is Arthur Miller really “America’s finest living playwright,” as the British like to tag him, or has he been conveniently drafted to serve that necessary function in the ecology of the English theatre? This country, after all, likes nothing better than lionizing American intellectuals and artists who have been either ignored or undervalued at home….

Winning writers Essay

Chicago-based playwright and actor Scott McPherson has been named a recipient of a 1991 Whiting Writers’ Award for his second play, Marvin’s Room, a black comedy originally produced at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and currently running at New York’s Playwrights Horizons. The Whiting Foundation, now in its seventh year, annually awards $30,000 grants to each of…

A new progressivism Essay

Never before have we had to rely so much on nonprofit organizations to maintain elementary decency in our society as we do today, but at the same time never before have the challenges for nonprofits been tougher. Some of the difficulties arise from the nature of American culture. At our best, Americans have the enthusiasm,…

Birds of a feather Essay

Think of play that has a character who always dresses in black; a child disinherited because of a parent’s remarriage; a young man with an Oedipal complex; meditations on the nature of writing and art; and a play-within-a-play. If you guessed Hamlet, you’d be right. But you’d also be right if you guessed The Seagull….

Golden streets of San Francisco Essay

Golden streets of San Francisco In 1899, when Frank Norris published his epic novel McTeague, San Francisco was still reeling from the excesses of the 1849 Gold Rush. Fortune-hunters had swelled the city’s ranks, and while most remained poor, the tantalizing aroma of instant wealth hung in the air. In McTeague, Norris captured this San Francisco…

Hamlet Essay

Think of a play that has a character who always dresses in black; a child disinherited because of a parent’s remarriage; a young man with an Oedipal complex; meditations on the nature of writing and art; and a play-within-a-play. If you guessed Hamlet, you’d be right. But you’d also be right if you guessed The…

Hellraiser Essay

A chorus of nine naked males clog dance to bouncy rhythms of “THE Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.” A boy with green hair is immersed upside down in a fish tank and whipped, his nude body sparking with rings through his tongue, nipples, stomach and genitals. Somebody’s Fairy Godmother is carried onstage: a four-foot-high…

How safe is it? Essay

At a recent meeting of representatives from different arts fields, one of the participants offered a suggestion: In this increasingly conservative climate, with the religious right and conservative politicians nibbling away at the National Endowment for the Arts, perhaps it is time to look for alternative funding sources for those “controversial” art forms that are…

Making waves Essay

Exit, pursued by a bear” is a bit of a stretch for most theatres producing The Winter’s Tale. But on radio, this stage direction stretches imagination rather than resources: A bear’s roar, a man’s terrified scream and off? Maybe a narrator stating it simply and chillingly? Or with a smile in his voice, as with…

McTeague Essay

Golden streets of san francisco In 1899, when Frank Norris published his epic novel McTeague, San Francisco was still reeling from the excesses of the 1849 Gold Rush. Fortune-hunters had swelled the city’s ranks, and while the most remained poor, the tantalizing aroma of instant wealth hung in the air. In McTeague, Norris captured this…

Power to the actor Essay

Faced so consistently with actors maneuvered by auteur-directors who disdain them almost as much as they loathe the transparency of good playwriting, I”m prepared, at last, to confess that Donald Wolfit was one of the greatest actors I ever saw. By which I mean to indicate, quixotically perhaps, that great actors in the full sway…

The Seagull Essay

Think of a play that has a character who always dresses in black; a child disinherited because of a parent’s remarriage; a young man with an Oedipal complex; meditations on the nature of writing and art; and a play-within-a-play. If you guessed Hamlet, you’d be right. But you’d also be right if you guessed The…

Three Women Talking Essay

Women on men and vice versa Toward the end of Arnold Wesker’s new play Three Women Talking, a slightly tipsy character named Claire Dawn Hope delivers a long speech at an all-female dinner party. Introduced mock-portentously as “the Puzaltski story,” the speech is a vulgar joke about a wife who fills in for her football-player husband…

Women on men (and vice versa) Essay

Women on men (and vicversa) Toward the end of Arnold Wesker’s new play Three Women Talking, a slightly tipsy character named Claire Dawn Hope delivers a long speech at an all-female dinner party. Introduced mock-portentously as “the Puzaltski story,” the speech is a vulgar joke about a wife who fills in for her football-player husband…

Brecht our contemporary: Berlin in crisis Essay

In the second year of the so-called unified Germany, one is aware of the unmistakable dividedness in this jagged new city Berlin. Against a backdrop of demolition and reconstruction, attempts are being made to rejoin the two halves of the city. Transit routes and telephone lines are being remapped local politicians struggle to integrate two…

Broadway ballyhoo Essay

TWENTY-ONE PRODUCTIONS are scheduled to open on Broadway this spring, nearly as many as opened in the first six months of the season. And an unusually high number of Hollywood celebrities will ride into town with the productions, raising expectations among some that Broadway may once again become a vibrant part of New York’s cultural…

Council kills 2 grants to visual arts centers: sex, quality at issue in panel-picked applications Essay

The National Council on the Arts, the presidentially appointed advisory body for the National Endowment for the Arts, set off yet another NEA controversy in late January when it overturned two Visual Arts grants that had been recommended by the peer review panel. The Franklin Furnace Archive, a New York avant-garde art center, was denied…

Last one out Essay

In August 1991, Brass Tacks Theatre of Minneapolis announced it was closing, effective immediately. The theatre had no debt, the board and artists were united, the past season successful and fund-raising for the upcoming season secure. The theatre thanked all of its funders prior to the public announcement and served notice it would not be…

The Good Woman of Sezuan Essay

The newest production of The Good Woman of Sezuan in repertory at the Ensemble, starring Carmen-Maja Antoni, is a powerful mirror of Germany’s current sociopolitical predicament. Brecht’s Sezuan has all too much in common with post-unification Berlin — both are unpredictable environments where fear and uncertainty, as well as increasing unemployment and homelessness, are rife….

These guys do ‘Hamlet’ backwards: soup-to-nuts Shakespeare in two hours flat Essay

The first American Shakespeare company to claim the distinction of having its entire repertoire booked into London’s West End offers a succinct statement of its artistic philosophy: “To put the shake’ back into Shakespeare.” Indeed, the American RSC Reduced Shakespeare Company, that is does everything succinctly. The three-actor troupe crams all 37 plays plus the…

‘Waltz’ in three dimensions Essay

Paula Vogel always encourages the students in her MFA playwriting workshop at Brown University to write plays that can be staged for under $100. The exercise is less concerned with teaching her novice playwrights how to negotiate the deplorable state of funding for the arts than it is to get them to rethink the theatrical…

Acting’s in my blood Essay

The playbill for a show presented at Arizona State University’s Institute for Studies in the Arts reads: “Two One-Act Plays performed as part of the Performance Induced Personality Transformation & Immunity Project.” Further along, the program contains this eye-opener: “Because we need to draw blood and have it shipped by 5 p.m. each day, we…

Adrienne Kennedy Essay

Like the shy, obsessive heroines of her earliest plays, Adrienne Kennedy led something of a sheltered childhood. She grew up in the 1930s and ’40s in the integrated and culturally diverse middle-class neighborhoods of Mt. Pleasant and Glenville on the east side of Cleveland. “It was an exciting neighborhood, an exciting mixture of people, immigrant…

Art attack Essay

The show ended at San Francisco’s Theater Rhinoceros one February night like any other. The audience applauded and went home; the cast washed up and headed out. One actor, pleased enough with his performance in a variety of roles in Joe Pintauro’s Wild Blue – among them, a gay uncle making amends with an estranged…

At home in the world Essay

For everyone, home is a basic existential experience. What a person perceives as home (in the philosophical sense of the word) can be compared to a set of concentric circles, with one’s “I” at the center. My home is the room I live in for a time, the room I’ve grown accustomed to and have,…

Blood Memory: An Autobiography. Essay

One day in the late 1920s, in a crowded studio at the Neighborhood Playhouse on New York’s Lower East Side, Irene Lewisohn asked an assembled group of young performers to improvise on the theme of the Israelites at the Wailing Wall. She was rewarded with an unprecedented display of histrionics – weeping, moaning, a general…

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