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Essays About Culture

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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 Persuasive 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…

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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…

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…

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…

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….

‘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…

Lights! Candelabras! Liberace! Essay

Nov. 22, 1963, lives in infamy as the day John F. Kennedy was shot. But it was also the day that one of America’s best-loved performers nearly poisoned himself to death with his own costumes. Liberace had been feeling ill all day. He was scheduled to play a concert that night in Hershey, Penn., and…

Street Scene Essay

When one character assassinated another’s musical taste in The Lisbon Traviata with the observation, “He’s into crossover albums. He just bought Teresa Stratas in Funny Girl,” I laughed so hard in the theatre, I had to be shushed. The idea of Ms. Stratas, a diva not known for a merry disposition, portraying Ziegfeld comedienne Fanny…

Take money from thy verse Essay

At the risk of turning my own creeping anecdotage into a shortcut to perceptible truth, I’m prepared to share a tale told me in Houston some months ago, a familiar tale, one might say, about a poet confronted by a mob. Seven young acting interns with Houston’s Alley Theatre were scheduled to perform a mini-version…

Volgograd, Ohio Essay

On June 13, the New Experimental Theatre of Volgograd, Russia, opens a Russian-language version of A Streetcar Named Desire – at the Cleveland Play House. By then, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater will have just closed a revival of Our Town – at the Omsk State Drama Theatre in Siberia. At the joint behest of the…

A fire in the basement Essay

A jolt of energy, imagination, color and creativity hit the San Francisco and New York theatre communities this past season, and it came from an unexpected quarter: the Soviet Union. Not from the new Russia, jittery and vibrant with the ongoing process of perestroika; not from the twilight of old Russia, where Chekhov and Stanislavsky…

A vessel too fragile Essay

Among the more ambitious and exotic offerings this season at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival is the American premiere of Ophelia, a vivid and compelling variation on the Hamlet story, created by the Kyoto-based NOHO theatre group. NOHO may not exactly be the father of Japanese-American cross-cultural fusion, but it has been so prolific and…

American sentiment, British sensibility Essay

For a country that mounts a lot of American theatre, England doesn’t seem particularly to like it. Reviewing Tina Howe’s Painting Churhes, which expired on the West End after several weeks in February following the worst set of reviews in recent memory, Michael Billington in the Guardia wrote of a “crisis in American drama from…

Art & uprising Essay

The fires are out in Los Angeles, but cultural institutions may have been permanently scorched. It was late in the afternoon of Thursday, April 30, and much of Los Angles was, quite literally, in flames–burning in an uprising sparked by the acquittal of four white police officers in the savage beating of motorist Rodney King….

Bay sayers Essay

Up until the last week of April, the Marsh was located in the back room of an artsy little Mission District espresso joint called Cafe Beano. Patrons would walk in off Valencia Street, maybe get a cup of something or a health-foody hunk of pastry from the cafe counter, and head through a narrow door…

Julianne Boyd & Joan Micklin Silver: A smooth-as-silk partnership Essay

As collaborators, Julianne Boyd and Joan Micklin Silver are a hand-in-glove match. They share the same artistic and political values, they laugh at the same things, they even finish each other’s sentences. So what if they only work together every eight years? They’ll be the first to say they plan their projects in response to…

Lost horizon Essay

I must confess that I am not a proper estimator of theatre in America because I see too few productions. But I have my own experience as reference as well as reports I get from writer, actor and director friends. It seems clear, now in 1992, that we are the end of something. Without indulging…

NEA vetoes unleash protests, walkouts Essay

Escalating controversy leaves the Endowment in disarray Within just two weeks of assuming her position, the new acting chairman of the National Edowment for the Arts sparked a new round of controversy for the agency, creating a volatile atmosphere just as its annual congressional appropriations process was getting underway. Anne-Imelda Radice, who took over the…

Nelson, Newell honored Essay

Actor Ruth Nelson is the recipient of the 1992 Zeisler Award for distinguished service to the nonprofit professional theatre. The award, established in 1986 by Actors Theatre of Louisville producing director Jon Jory and named for TCG’s executive director Peter Zeisler, is given annually by Theatre Communications Group to a director, designer, actor or administrator…

No justice, no peace Essay

The fire is burning/ It lights up the sky/ From high on the rock/ Down into the sea/ It is taking the children/ It is eating the future/ Smother the fire/ Open your hearts. — The Song of Jacob Zulu The fire that rages through Tug Yourgrau’s powerful new play with music, unveiled this spring…

Paul Tazewell: you are what you wear Essay

From Halo Wines’s first entrance as psychoanalyst Melanie Klein in the recent production Mrs. Klein at Washington’s Arena Stage, her costume said worlds about the character’s background and personality. With its somber palette, careful detailing and fine fabric, the beautiful clothing established this woman’s place as a renowned professional living in 1930s London. Paul Tazewell…

Steve Tesich: the only kind of real rebel left, he figures, is a moral person Essay

How do political plays function in an apolitical society? What is the purpose of art in a bankrupt culture? Steve Tesich ruminates on these questions with the weariness of on whose work is inseparable from the social context of its time. Alternately wry and wary as he discusses his most recent play, On the Open…

The Ayckbourn sting Essay

Unofficially, and without ever planning it, the city of Seattle has become the site of an Alan Ayckbourn performance festival. Three theatres have independently slated Ayckbourn productions running into the fall, including Seattle Children’s Theatre’s Invisible Friends, and Intiman Theatre Company’s How the Other Half Loves. The major theatres have gotten into a slapjack game…

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