Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hunka on Beckett

In long post George Hunka discusses the production history and influence of Beckett's Play.

The British production came off largely according to Beckett's vision, but the same cannot be said of the American premiere earlier that year. The play's producers (including Edward Albee, "of all people," Gontarski comments) refused to permit Alan Schneider's staging of the play according to the stage directions provided by Beckett and threatened to withdraw the play were the staging not rendered more audience-friendly (as they perceived it).

No Life Preserver for Madison Rep

When the now closed Madison Rep was going under it reached for a lifeline from an endowment foundation.

This from the story on Channel 3000 WISCTV:

Madison Community Foundation manages all kinds of funds, including the endowment funds for seven arts groups that reside at the Overture Center.

Foundation president Kathleen Woit said the Rep did not receive any endowment dollars this year from the Great Performance Fund because it did not have a "business plan," including a line of credit, for producing plays in 2009.

The Rep dissolved last month after canceling the last two shows of its 2008-09 season.

Woit said that without any planned productions, the Rep didn't meet the endowment's contracts for pay-outs or the intent of the original donor, Pleasant Rowland, who started the endowment with $23 million.

Rowland said there was nothing to pay on but debt, and she applauded the Madison Community Foundation's board of governors' decision to say no to distributing any money to the Rep.

"It's not something that any board or staff want to have to look at. It's unhappy. It's not building on assets. It's not what we like to do, and we almost have never done it. It's certainly has not been done in the 12 years I have been president of the Community Foundation," Woit said.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Louise Kennedy Can't Be Shocked

Louise Kennedy, writing in the Globe, talks about the underwhelming experience of seeing some recent plays that are supposed to be "shocking." Fair warning, there are spoilers in the article.

The more I hear that a play is full of startling revelations, daring honesty, fearless confrontations with hard truths, the more I dread what I'll be seeing onstage. I do try to lay aside my dread, not least because I believe absolutely in reviewing the play, not the hype, but also because I always hope for a real theatrical experience in the theater. Too often, however, I find that the advance word is only building on the hyped-up contents of the play itself; the playwright, not the publicist, is the one imagining that he's shocking the bourgeoisie rather than trotting out old tropes and twists we've seen too many times before.

Her primary target is the recent Speakeasy production of Blackbird.
The article seems to careen a little too much from one thought to the other. She blames most of it on playwrights who are influenced by too much CSI and Quentin Tarantino.

I have to admit she is on solid ground with her evidence against some of the trends in recent playwriting. However, she doesn't, (it seems,) want to even touch on the suggestion that some blame in recent cases may rest at the foot of performances and/or direction. For instance, Kennedy's comments about Blackbird kept bringing me back to Thom Garvey's charge that the production seemed to dodge some of the more incendiary stuff.

Some of the plays she mentioned seem to have gathered some very positive notices from critics in many places before they arrived here in Boston. Now, that doesn't mean some of those works aren't due for some type of critical puncturing, believe me they are, but sometimes I feel that performers and directors are RELYING on that pre-show hype with which some of these shocking productions have rolled into town.

Then again, maybe that's blurring a needed examination of the craft.

Also, I am not sure Kennedy makes enough distinctions. For instance, she includes The Lieutenant of Inishmore in her affidavit, but surely Martin McDonagh's farcical freak show is meant to make us laugh, not "to shock us from bourgeoisie complacency." Don't people see it as a commentary on Tarantinoesque cinematics, rather than an emulation of them?

There is an unusually active comment thread following the article. My favorite comment, from LoutheFig:

What about "Cats"? I was shocked to learn that felines can talk, sing & dance

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Superheroines - Teaser

Photo of the Day - Arts Supporters Confront Palin

Photo by Libby Sterling in this article in the Capital City Weekly.

Buy Outs at the Globe

Dan Kennedy of Media Nation and Adam Reilly of the Phoenix have been laser focused on what is happening at the Boston Globe right now.

Follow them each here and here.

Gail Caldwell, Pulitizer Prize Winning Book Critic and David Mahegan, literary beat reporter have taken buyouts.

It will be interesting to see how the Living Arts section shakes out after this current round of downsizing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hanging In There

A theatre reviewer for the alt weekly The Inlander which covers regions of The Inland Pacific Northwest, reflects on the intertwined decline of theatre and newspapers:

OK, so Spokane doesn't even qualify as a regional theater hub, certainly not from a New York City POV. And theaters will continue to struggle in this economic climate. But ya know -- when have people ever NOT said theaters were struggling? Shows like Together Again for the First Time at Interplayers and Cuckoo's Nest and Godspell at the Civic demonstrate that sufficient numbers of the public will take to a production and support it, at least enough to keep theater around here floating and maybe even thriving.

To reassure you: *Editor & Publisher,* a trade magazine, recently ran a good-news-in-very-bad-times article on small-market alt-weeklies that are, counter-intuitively, still making money. And The Inlander was one of ten profiled. And most of them, instead of declining, were showing annual growth rates of 1 or 2 or 3 percent.
The Inlander grew 9.6 percent last year. Our gross annual revenue is in the $3 million range.


And I still (mostly) like my job. Which means, I guess, the theater community is stuck with Bobo for awhile.

Which has its disadvantages.

But also advantages: Somebody advocating for theater, trying to treat it as important (in the sense of giving it as much space as, say, sports coverage). Somebody who, even if you disagree with him all the time, at least you're accustomed to what you're disagreeing with.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


100_4495, originally uploaded by arthennessey.

A photo I took behind the stage at the Company One Gala this past Thursday. The Superheroines performed a parody version of I Am Woman.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

The farceur does not show man as a little lower than the angels but as hardly higher than the apes. He shows us man in the mass, in the rough, in the raw, in anything but fine individual flower. If Mr. Auden is right in saying that "art can have but one subject; man as a conscious unique person," then farce is not art. The Oxford Companion seems to regret that the characters of farce are stupid. But they are deliberate monuments to stupidity, disturbing reminders that God has lavished stupidity on the human race with His own prodigality.

-Eric Bentley, The Life of the Drama

On the Comeback

Geoff Edgers interviews Steven Maler, founder of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, about rebuilding after the Wang Center years:

Maler, who appeared upbeat during the interview, shied away from looking back at his complicated, ultimately doomed relationship with the Citi Center, formerly the Wang Center for the Performing Arts, which helped grow the Shakespeare program from a budget of $570,414 in 2004 to nearly $1 million in 2006. Dramatic cuts in 2007 to the budget and production run strained the relationship, and eventually Maler, who had been brought on in a salaried management position at the Citi Center, saw his $105,000-a-year job disappear.

Last summer, the Citi Center hired Maler as a freelancer to stage "As You Like It"; it severed ties after the production.

Maler, who confirmed that he had signed a confidentiality agreement with the Citi Center, said he is not angry about the split and is excited to lead the company back to the Common.

Kudos to local actor Will Lyman! His generosity provides a great example. (Read the story to see what I mean.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Recession Continues

Not so Jake, originally uploaded by BradKellyPhotography.

A great photo by my friend, Photographer Brad Kelly

Please Keep It Down

After a particularly annoying audition waiting room experience, Chicago actor Josh Rollins makes an impassioned plea:

And here’s the deal- I get it. I know actors have to find their own way to prepare. For the most part, I respect and accept that. I do. I have seen some crazy shit. I used to think, when I first started acting, that the people on stage 1 hour before the show screaming at the top of their lungs and moaning like orgasmic banshees were the real actors and I, with my sony discman and earphones and thoughts… i was the imposter. But now, I have to admit, I don’t buy it. I have seen amazing actors who have to tone and stretch and scream and cry before a show. I have seen actors who have to strip naked and do yoga poses (sadly, it was a he) I have also seen actors who sleep up until 30 seconds before they go on stage, snoring away blissfully until the exact moment that they need to walk on.

I don’t care. Do what you need to do. But please please please realize for the love of god that if your warm-up affects every single other person in the room, you either need to find something else to do or somewhere else to do it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Just One Catch...

A small theatre company snags a Chicago premiere of a new play that got much buzz due to a major star's participation in the New York production.

They are just about to open when they have to start calling the local press they have invited. It seems they just noticed a clause in the contract Samuel French issued them...

No reviews are allowed.

Timeout Chicago has the story here.

H/T Storefront Rebellion

New Arts Management Blog

Leonard Jacobs points us to the blog of Jodi Shoenberg Carter, she has worked with Signature Theatre Company and the Westport County Playhouse.

In particular, Leonard highlights a long post Carter has written about funding models. You can read the post here.

How Many Endings Does a Cat Have?

Frank Rich said the following of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: "Act I belongs to Maggie, Act II to Big Daddy and the anti-climactic Act III (of which the author left several variants) to no one."

Tennessee Williams struggled hard to find an ending to his last major play, which is still showing through Saturday at the Lyric Stage here in Boston, (Georgia Lyman and Kelby T. Akin, pictured above left.) The degree of influence the famous director Elia Kazan exerted on the playwright during their initial Broadway collaboration is debated, but it is generally accepted that their working relationship at least partially fragmented Williams' original concept.

However, scholarship, along with Williams' letters and notebooks, shows us that he was troubled with his third act well beyond his Kazan problems. In structure, the play required a third act climax, but as it is currently stands, the play often feels like a Hamlet that ends after the visit to Gertrude's bedchamber. (Read Thom Garvey's recent post about how the father and son showdown is the major emotional high point of the evening.)

I have seen Cat performed with and without Big Daddy's return to the stage. For those who may not be aware, Williams was encouraged by Kazan to bring Big Daddy, Brick's plantation owner father, back on for the third act of the play, (this was one of three key suggestions made by the famous director.) In published versions of the play, the original Act III, (referred to by Williams as "Cat number one,") and the "Broadway Version," are printed. They are separated by a very brief explanation, an explanation that ends with Williams leaving the decision as to which is the best up to the reader.

The majority of productions bring Big Daddy back onstage, but some critics argue that just the simple fact that Williams published the two separate acts is proof of his preference for the original.

Somebody once observed, (I don't have attibution on hand) "Williams and the critics prefer Cat Number One, but Kazan and audiences prefer the rewritten Act III." I went back several times to see the Howard Davies production with Kathleen Turner. (Above right.) That production had a fantastic Charles Durning as Big Daddy ,who mesmerized every bit as much as Turner, but stayed true to William's original and kept him offstage in the concluding act.

A 2000 article in the Tennessee Williams Annual Review by Brian Parker discusses all the ways the playwright tried to work with having Big Daddy appear again. After looking over these scenarios it is apparent that Williams wanted to have Big Daddy remain more of a looming presence than an active agent. For instance, he worked with a couple of versions in which the curtain would rise higher and we would see Big Daddy revealed on the roof of the mansion. The older Pollitt would then comment, occasionally, on the action taking place below.

One thing that is clear after reading the sketches of different drafts and seeing the play performed recently at the Lyric Stage, is that Williams' most difficult challenge was deciding just what Big Daddy would do when he appeared amidst the other characters in the last moments. As Thom Garvey points out, there is not much more to be said between the two men. Brick has been made to face the truth and has revealed the truth to his father.

In the past, some critics have suggested the play seems to be missing the "obligatory scene" between Maggie and Big Daddy. Just what that would be remains a mystery, and I am fairly sure Williams would have balked at writing it because the play is Brick's and not Maggie's or Big Daddy's.

However, a stage direction that was cut during the play's Broadway tryouts is interesting. Originally, before Big Daddy confirms that "this girl has life in her," he pulls Maggie up against himself and ,with his hand, probes down her abdomen feeling for any signs of pregnancy. The physicality was then toned down, and what we have now is Big Daddy simply looking into Maggie's eyes.

Perhaps that direction is too grotesque, but its potential theatrical charge is undeniable, and it perhaps brings more clarity to the blessing Big Daddy confers on Maggie: Death to Life. (Big Daddy is, after all, in the robe like Brick.) This is the larger theme of the drama, punctuated in the center of the play by Big Daddy's Proustian recollection of an empty and decaying European continent. The wealthy old plantation owner realizes that he could subsidize the entire economy of one of those countries with his personal fortune. Most reviewers like to quote the famous line about the plantation acreage, but the dollar amount Big Daddy throws out - 10 million dollars!- merges the melodramatic elements of wills and inheritances into the larger themes. Maggie the Cat ain't getting off that gravy train any time soon, Skipper or no Skipper.

Which brings me to another point about revisions of the play. Tennessee Williams admitted that he grew to adore the character of Maggie and became less resistant to the idea, initially floated by Kazan, of making her more sympathetic to the audience.

It makes sense, because the more I study the play and see productions, the more I realize, (as Williams must have realized,) Brick just doesn't make for a sympathetic character on the surface. In the outlines, Brick is a spoiled, rich and entitled jerk. Here is a man who, rather than leave his college days behind, started a semi-pro football team to keep up his youthful passions. (Of course, we find out the real reasons he and Skipper kept wanting to "throw those long, high passes.") His obstinance in the pursuit of his goals actually mirrors Maggie's tenacious, aggressive nature, which is equally unflattering in many respects. The problem is that he just so outwardly inactive during the course of the play...aside from consuming his Scotch.

In an article in Modern Drama, Williams scholar Douglas Arrell related Brick's situation to that of the Victorian bachelor, caught in the double bind of male bonding and homosexual feelings and then retreating into a kind of sexual anesthesia. Arrell states, in his abstract, that a character like this "cannot convincingly be portrayed as escaping from this condition, and that this explains the problems Williams had with the last act of Cat. In his final version of the play, he shows Brick as unchanged after his scene with Big Daddy, a choice that is thematically right but dramatically unsatisfying."

Williams' struggle in structuring drama out of his portrait of Brick's moral paralysis is admirable, but also more experimental than most realize - sitting as it does in the center of a one-set melodrama, complete with the unity of time. Most people forget that the original Broadway concept was much more stylized, and Kazan even went so far as to have actors address the audience directly in the longer speeches. I have never seen a production that completely abandons the plantation motif, but there is some video of an Australian production on You Tube that really takes the play out of its traditional, steamy setting.

In the current production at the Lyric Stage, Scott Edmiston and his Brick, Kelby T. Akin, have the tough challenge of playing to three sides. Which they do well, but I sometimes felt this makes Brick is a little too mobile. His lashing rages, while adoitly executed by Akin, aren't as shocking coming from such a nimble invalid. Although there is a moment in Act Two where a particularly hard crash, (as Akin tries to escape the pressing questions of Spiro Veludos's Big Daddy,) sends ice flying across the balcony, and Akin's ensuing grimace, along with his pleading, hits the perfect note. Brick's immobility is a very precise convention that Williams employed, and I think characters are supposed to orbit him.
The third act is even harder to pull off. Brick, in any of Williams' variations, slides into the background while Maggie, Mae and Gooper marshal for the final battle over the inheritance. It is like watching the despondent Hamlet, in his first scene of Shakepeare's great tragedy, sitting, sullen, while the court conducts business around him.

Making things more difficult is the fact that the major arc of the play, the son's self destruction, appears to hinge its third act climax on the relatively quiet attempt of Brick to drink himself into oblivion. (Not to be? The rest is silence?) And since he is already three-fourths there, what's the suspense?
It is a very challenging play, made more challenging by its production history and the many attempts by Williams to resolve his dramatic experiment.
(Sorry for the long post, just didn't have the time to work on this enough and I wanted to get something out before the show closed.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where The Streets Have No Crowds

U2 Night Davis Square, originally uploaded by arthennessey.

Amanda and I walked down to Davis Square just to check out the supposed U2 throng that was supposed to descend.

The crowds were very underwhelming and dispersed pretty early. Here is a shot I took getting closer to the show time.

The audience for the show at the Somerville Theater came and went in chartered buses. I heard the band shook hands with fans when they arrived earlier in the evening.

Rep Ripple Effect

The Madison Rep's closing is reverberating a little bit. This article in the Badger Herald, a student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin, talks about the Overture Center, the venue the Rep will be vacating.

According to Dana Chabot, treasurer of MCAD, the loss of the Rep’s contract with the Play Circle will reduce the Center’s revenue, especially from resident companies. Although MCAD is working to replace the Rep, Chabot said the situation is more dire than MCAD anticipated.

Tom Carto, president and CEO of the Overture Center, said the Rep also owes money to the Center.

“We’re actually doing better than most peers in the same budget area,” Carto said. “I don’t see programming options as the panacea to solve the income problem. I think we’re on the right track from last year to maintain or slightly improve this kind of problem, but I think we’re going to feel the impact of the economy if the economy continues to flounder.”

Superheroines in their Element

Catwoman With a Great Offer

The entire cast of The Superheroine Monologues went to the Comic Spectacular in Boston this past Sunday. It was a fun day and the women really got to strut their stuff amidst some very nice fans.

I can't believe the show is getting so close, but we are already well into rehearsals under the direction of Greg Maraio. The day out at this convention provided a great marketing opportunity as well as a test for the endurance of the costumes. The ladies had to move around quite a bit and the garments held up very well.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reporter Has Some Explaining to Do

Milwaukee Arts Reporter Damien Jaques' post about the Madison Rep closing on his Acting Out blog has picked up many mentions: Leonard Jacobs, Garret Eisler and others have linked to it. (I linked to it in an earlier post.)

In it he makes the following statment:

According to the Associated Press, the news was disseminated in the same inept, clumsy way the company has conducted much of its business for the past five years. The acting artistic director told a Madison television station that the Rep board voted late last month to dissolve the group.

The Madison Rep's financial and public relations problems began long before the national economy tanked. Even a beautiful gem of a new performing home in the Overture Center could not save the company from itself. The Rep has provided a template on how not to run a theater company for the surviving state arts groups.

As Leonard Jacobs states: Harsh words.

Indeed. There is a problem though. Mr. Jaques gives absolutely no details or links to any articles to demonstrate or support these charges.

I did a Google news search and really couldn't find anything about it with an albeit quick search.

At the National Arts Journalism Project Webblog ARTicles, Laura Collins-Hughes praises Jacques for calling out the Rep:

Alas, Jaques doesn't anatomize how Madison Rep brought about its own downfall, but one can hope he'll do that later in a larger piece. For now, it's enough that he's refused to let what he sees as fatal mismanagement go unremarked, and particularly satisfying to see him draw a line between bumbling PR and going belly-up.

Not good enough, Laura. Jaques had BETTER do a follow up piece after making those statements, or a least give his readers some guidance on where to find articles that outline his accusations.

By the way, I am not defending Madison Rep, and I don't have really any stake in whether or not the charges are true, but, come on!

The Flip Side

Back when some of the first high-profile theater death spirals were gaining publicity, I linked to a post by Mr. 99 Seats in which he was casting a skeptical eye on some of these plights.

A few weeks ago, Adam Thurman, an Arts Marketer who runs The Mission Paradox weblog posted about yet another plea to help an arts organization:

I read the article, there's no sense of why the org is such trouble . . . just one of those vaugue "caused by the recession" sort of things.

I go to the website of the org. Again, no explanation of how they got there, no info about how they are going to get out of it . . . just talk of the recession.

Let's draw a distinction:

There are challenges caused by the recession

And there are challenges caused by bad decision making that the recession simply exposed.

If an organization is in the midst of a financial crisis they need to let us know if the recession caused it or exposed it.

Yesterday, I posted about the Madison Rep closing. Today, Leonard Jacobs at the Clyde Fitch Report points out that local Wisconsin journalists think it is inept management that closed the Rep.

Meanwhile, Isaac Butler at Parabasis notices something about Trinity Rep's line up for next season:

So we have a new Steven Dietz play, Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone, and then... Cabaret, The Odd Couple and Twelfth Night. This isn't all that different from Trinity Rep's recent seasons, but the presence of The Odd Couple on the slate of plays is telling. There is perhaps no safer play to do than The Odd Couple. It's so safe- having been immortalized in a pretty good movie, and having no angles into the material other than the obvious one- that there's actually no reason to produce it (unless you want to use it as a star vehicle, as the recent Broadway version did, a dubious reason to do a play if you ask me).

(Oh and by the way: Trinity Rep's mission?: "Trinity Rep reinvents the public square with dramatic art that stimulates, educates and engages our community in a continuing dialogue")

This season is Rock Solid. Impermeable. It's also not very exciting, and I have a feeling lots of seasons like it will be cropping up over the next couple of years.

What's Eligible

Michael Billington on what's wrong with the Olivier Awards in London:

For a start, the Oliviers are based on the dated notion that nothing really exists until it has been given the seal of metropolitan approval. I'm delighted that Black Watch won four awards. But this is a show that opened in Edinburgh in the summer of 2006, has been seen all over the UK and the world, and is only now eligible for an Olivier because it did a season at the Barbican. Had it played, as was always a possibility, in some non-official venue such as a converted warehouse or barracks, it would presumably have been excluded.

Monday, March 09, 2009

More on the SETC Conference

Scott Walters and Tom Loughlin both attened the SETC conference in which the Keynote was given by a Tony Award Winning Actress. Tom Loughlin has posted his shocked account of the speech already.

Scott Walters follows up with more thoughts on his own blog:

When, during the Q & A session, she was asked a question that had a preamble something like "In college, we're often encouraged to go to Chicago or New York after graduation..." she cut the young man off with "Really? Chicago? I mean, I don't know much about Chicago, except there are some important rep theatres there. I suppose you can make a living there. All I know is that if I want to work in Chicago, I have to be in New York; if I want to work in Seattle, which is a great theatre town, I have to be in New York; if I want to work in my home town of Raleigh, I have to be in New York." I started to think she was working on commission for the NYC Tourist Bureau. It was like a drumbeat. And these kids were eating this up, getting that imaginative high that eventually leads to the kind of addiction characterized by narrowed vision and lowered standards.

Not surprisingly, nobody ever asked, and clearly Beth Leavel never considered, the utter insanity of such an arrangement. Nope, it was all about New York, and Beth had made the leap from SETC to Broadway, and you can too. You just have to want it badly enough.


It isn't that no young artists should think about NYC (as if that were possible), but rather the fact that Ms. Leavel and the SETC organizers are so fixated on that place as the one and only worthy destination that all other alternatives are ignored entirely. From an early age, young theatre geeks are fed a steady diet of Broadway musicals, Tony(tm) Award broadcasts, and musical cast albums so that they emerge with brains addled and critical thinking abilities impaired to such an extent that 4-1/2 years in 42nd Street sounds like heaven rather than the hellish nightmare it truly is.

The Red Zone

In an article in TimeOut Chicago, Kris Vire outlines the theatre companies sitting on the faultlines:

For many arts nonprofits the size of About Face and the House, unfortunately, working week to week is their reality. Smaller companies without payroll or other fixed expenses can more easily roll with the punches; institutions the size of Steppenwolf or Goodman have deep-pocketed donors and budgets large enough to survive economic hiccups. (As Chicago magazine accounted last month in its salary report, the 300 grand that’s life or death for companies like About Face is equal to or less than the individual annual compensation of Goodman’s Robert Falls and Chicago Shakespeare’s Barbara Gaines.)

Midlevel companies with budgets between $250,000 and $1 million are the most at risk, the League reports; 70 percent of Chicago companies of that size report decreased ticket sales, with nearly as many lagging in contributed income.

Many theaters this size, particularly in Chicago, also face the challenges of itinerancy; producing in varying spaces can make fund-raising needs unpredictable. And many organizations at these levels don’t have much room for error in their budgets. “It’s common for a lot of theaters to only have two or three payrolls in their cash flow,” says arts marketing and development consultant Adam Thurman, who blogs about the nonprofit arts. “If they have a surplus, rather than set it aside, they roll it into next year’s budget and increase line items: hire more actors, increase staff pay. I understand that, but then something like [the downturn] happens. Then what?”

Another One Down

The Madison Repertory Theatre has officially closed its doors.

"We are not going to be producing theater again," said artistic director Trevin Gay. Friday was his last day on the job.

Madison's premiere professional theater company since 1987 first announced dire financial trouble at the end of January. The Rep canceled the remainder of its season and did not renew space in Overture Center at the Playhouse.

(H/T Isaac.)

Emasculating Bunny

Gary Schwartz, (writing in the Arts Fuse,) recently read, and extremely enjoyed Upton Sinclair's Oil and was very excited to see the Paul Thomas Anderson film "There will be blood..." for the first time.

I should have known better from the start. The first sentence of Oil! reads: “The road ran, smooth and flawless, precisely fourteen feet wide, the edges trimmed as if by shears, a ribbon of grey concrete, rolled out over the valley by a giant hand.” This was too lyrical for Anderson, but also too ordered. There are hardly any roads at all in There will be blood, and those there are are not smooth. They’re not even paved. Anderson shows his oilman hero and his son – a son adopted illegally; Sinclair’s was born in an unhappy marriage – bumpily raising dust on a dirt road running beside a railroad track. The difference tells a lot. Sinclair is writing about a country in the grasp of consumer rapture, whose manufactured beauties look like nature itself. Anderson wants rawness and a society-less world.

Still, I was jubilant that a half-forgotten book of this importance and quality had been filmed with such flair. That is, until characters and incidents came into the picture that aren’t in the book. First I doubted my memory. How could I have forgotten that the son lost his hearing in a dynamite blast set off to save a well? How senile can I be, not remembering just a few months after reading the book that the father was conned by a man who pretended to be his long-lost brother? It was only when the father killed the fake brother that I knew that I was being conned by Anderson.

Shwartz goes on to outline how Anderson's film completely purges Sinclair's novel of one of its most important elements: Socialism.

Getting Your Work Out in the World

Playwright Adam Szymkowicz:

I started writing plays about twelve years ago. I think I’m pretty good at it now. At the same time, I look at where my career is and I’m disappointed I haven’t yet had an off Broadway or regional show. My plays are being done by various small theaters throughout the country, mostly because I work really hard to get my work out there. I’m happy that people are seeing my plays but I really want them out in the world in a much larger way, a way I have no control over.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Boston Theatre - Friday Roundup

Last Chance:

You only have a few days left to be Tranced at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

The Alien rabbits of Paranormal are available for viewing only through this weekend at the Factory Theater.

Centastage's The Random Caruso packs up and heads out of the Boston Center for the Arts.

In Providence, the curtain will close on A Raisin in the Sun.


The Huntington Theater opens Richard Goodwin's The Two Men of Florence, a play about Galileo and Pope Urban.

Brian Tuttle could be tied with Patrick Gabridge as one of the most prolific playwrights that I know of in Boston, his latest play, The Quiet Infinite opens at the Calderwood pavillion this weekend.

Remember the Poseidon Adventure? The Morning After? Maureen McGovern visits the Wimberly stage to recap her early career in A Long and Winding Road.

J.M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World will be presented by the Wellesley Summer Theatre.


Maggie and Brick still occupy the same cage in Cat On Hot Tin Roof at the Lyric Stage.

Speakeasy keeps the breakroom open as Blackbird keeps on at the Roberts Theater.

Take a trip over the bridge to Chelsea for dark play or stories for boys.

The Athol Fugard play Exits and Entrances is at the New Rep.

The happy crew at the end of the world keeps on in Samuel Beckett's Endgame at the ART.

At the Boston Center for Arts, Tir Na Theatre Company's Swansong/Bottom of the Lake continues.

David Hare's The Secret Rapture plays on at Trinity Rep in Providence.

Of Mice and Mink is continuing at Machine.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Aurora Borealis - Frederic Edwin Church

From the press release for the now closed, "Ends of the Earth" exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum:

"This breathtaking, 7-foot-wide oil painting depicts the northern
lights as a brilliant curtain of turquoise, orange and yellow across the polar night sky. Church had journeyed to Labrador and Newfoundland in 1861, searching for icebergs to paint. He created Aurora Borealis, enhanced by his own imagination, in order to convey his quest for the sublime in nature."

Arctic Explorer - The Life of An Actor

Here I am getting my make-up on to play Admiral Phillip T. Berryman, Artic Explorer at a local museum.

Applying the Makeup

The costume was extremely warm, but effective. I stood very still, posed like a mannequin that was part of the exhibit. A group of children would be brought into the gallery and I would suddenly come to life. The first group of kids nearly jumped out of their skins, but then they loved being able to interact and talk with me. They had great questions and were very helpful to this arctic explorer who had lost his way.

A Ghostly Crew

That's me on the right in full gear. Ursina Amsler played a figurehead on a sailing vessel. Like me, she was made up and positioned to look like an exhibit, and then startled the children when she suddenly opened her eyes. She told them tales of sailing on the trade routes. Erik Rodenhiser served as a guide and MC, playing a security guard who seems to leave every time the gallery figures come to life.

I wore the snowshoes, but luckily I didn't have to be too mobile. (I think I lost ten pounds as it was.)

The gallery I was performing in was displaying absolutely stunning landscapes painted by artists who had traveled with some of the famous arctic expeditions. Sadly, the exhibit is now closed, or I would recommend getting up there quickly.