(cont’d.)We’ll have two expresso coffees, please…
(cont’d.)We’ll have two expresso coffees, please…
Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comic masterpiece 'The School for Scandal' premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in May 1777. The play was an immediate success earning Drury Lane, which Sheridan owned and managed an enormous amount of money. 'The School for Scandal' explores a fashionable society at once addicted to gossip and yet fearful of exposure. Jokes are had at the expense of aging husbands, the socially inexpert, and, most of all, the falsely sentimental.Add a Comment
I can take no credit in the creation of my library's longest-running teen-led program (teen programming guideline 3), and only a little for it's continued existence since I took it over in 2007. Project Playbill is an intense, 5-week summer theater program. Teens meet together at the library three days a week to write, produce and perform an original short play. Besides the inherent value in their participation, we also entice them with volunteer service credit.
In 2008, My then-supervisor told me that I could cancel Playbill if more teens didn't participate, because it sucks up a tremendous amount of time. In fact, because Playbill depends on teen leadership and labor to run, the fewer teens who show up, the more work I end up doing. That's one of the reasons why no teen is ever turned away: you can't host a teen-led program without teen participation. For the first couple of years I ran it, attendance hovered around five teens. I seriously considered putting Playbill out of its misery.
Then, in 2009, it took off. Three teens who I'd pulled in the previous year (a pair of sisters and one of their guy pals) were not only passionate about theater, but supremely talented and driven. They recruited new members on their own before summer even began. They set up a facebook page and cajoled their like-minded friends into joining. As their friends pulled in more friends, the program spread by word of mouth. Attendance grew to the point where there wasn't a lot of work for me to do other than the occasional odd job that no one else could (to purchase spray paint in my town, for instance, you need to be over 18).
The teens do it all: write and edit the script, lead rehearsals, throw costumes together, paint the set, play sound effects, run the lights, and even decide on casting -- with my okay, but I've never had to say "no" to their choices. Attendance at every rehearsal is not mandatory, but the teens understand that the success of their play depends on their active participation. The skills they learn go beyond the obvious writing and acting to sticking to a schedule, working as a team, problem-solving and decision-making.
One thing I've learned is that, for the most part, teens are good at self-selecting the right roles for them. Some teens know right away that they only want to be on crew, and others are ready to do a little of everything. The younger actors are sometimes disappointed when bigger parts go to older, more experienced actors; but are usually satisfied with their smaller assignments. As they come back year after year, the teens gradually take on more responsibility. It's gratifying to watch a goofy, misfit kid grow into a funny, talented writer who gets along with everyone.
Attendance does go up and down a bit from year to year, as teens graduate high school and move on. Some teens have gone on to study theater or related fields in college, and I've heard that those three key members from 2009 have started their own nonprofit to help other young actors.
Last year we had 18 participate, and I'm not sure how many to expect this year. Promoting the program and recruiting new members from schools and other organizations is one area where I could do better -- the truth is that I haven't needed to promote it much over the last few years. I'm determined that as long as the teens keep showing up, however, I'll keep Project Playbill going.Add a Comment
Inspired by Stanley Wells' recent book on Great Shakespeare Actors, we asked OUP staff members to remember a time when a theatrical production of a Shakespeare play shocked them. We discovered that some Shakespeare plays have the ability to surprise even the hardiest of Oxford University Press employees. Grab an ice-cream on your way in, take a seat, and enjoy the descriptions of shocking Shakespeare productions.
The post Which Shakespeare performance shocked you the most? appeared first on OUPblog.Add a Comment
Stanley Wells’ latest book, Great Shakespeare Actors, offers a series of beautifully written, illuminating, and entertaining accounts of many of the most famous stage performers of Shakespeare from his time to ours. In a video interview, Wells revealed some of the ‘lesser’ remembered actors of the past he would have loved to have seen perform live on stage. The edited transcript below offers an insight into three of these great Shakespeare actors.Add a Comment
As mentioned on numerous occasions in this blog, patience isn't one of my strong points. This usually doesn't work in my favor especially when it comes to waiting for updates/news regarding the fate of my plays. Many of them took cyber trips to numerous geographical locations around the globe in the hope that they would see a stage but so far, no response one way or the other.
According to the various playwriting related sites where this topic is discussed and digested, this is not a good sign but perhaps no definitive decision has been made as to their stage-a-bility. At least that's what I tell myself.
There is a pattern as to my follow up process, which includes avowing to myself that I will wait to receive "the word."
"Gotta give it time," I tell myself. "People don't respond because you want them to. Your plays are among hundreds, maybe thousands, that are submitted with dreams of production."
Patience today, patience tomorrow, inevitably, and when experiencing a particularly discouraging "why do I bother" or "maybe my plays suck" period, a follow-up e-mail is sent out. Usually, the end result is no response followed by a period of "why didn't I wait."
Upon reflection, perhaps a follow-up questionnaire to the submitted theatres would facilitate the process. Something to the effect:
Dear blah-blah (insert theatre name/producer/to whom it may concern),
Recently, (insert date that play was submitted), you were the lucky recipient of my play, blah-blah (insert name of play).
It has been (number of days/weeks/months/years/who remembers) since there has been any updates as to whether said play strikes your fancy. Perhaps the lack of communication on your part is a result of (pick one) a) stunning dialogue requiring further thought b) seeking a period of time in which to program the play to optimize audience participation c) unable to open file.
When could a decision on its fate one way or the other be expected: a) days b) months c)years d) never (please circle one)
Yours forever in hope,
It's worth a shot. Am I right?
Sitting down in front of the computer, chin in hand and thinking about playwriting. Again. Note the word, "thinking" but not the actual act of taking fingers to keyboard and producing some worthwhile dialogue. Still further delayed the process by going over finished plays and assessing whether they need fixing or editing, something I'm prone to do in both my writing and painting. Frequently, the end result is ruining any progress on whatever project I'm "fixing."
I'm an inordinate "fixer" of all my artistic undertakings, which really don't require further adjusting. Recently, I applied what I swore were the absolute final strokes to a black and white painting first started three years ago, which has been "fixed" over the years. Perhaps this will be the reality and then again, who knows.
In as far as my plays are concerned, some have been altered to the point where all objectivity has been lost as to the strongest version. Most often, the changes are relegated to small dialogue adjustments or altering what appears to me to be a weak a scene. In the end, a decision has to be made which version is the best version to submit, followed by a period of self-doubt and whether my plays are actually produce-able. Perhaps this is a common pattern with writers in general in that the selection of the right words is paramount to the whole story line. In as far as dialogue is concerned, the character has to utter words and phrases that suit her/his mannerisms, personality and mien and therein lies the challenge.
Although the actual act of submitting plays is a positive move, there is also the self-doubt that creeps in waiting for updates on their fate. Negative thoughts like:
- perhaps the wrong version was sent - whatever that is
- maybe I don't have what it takes to be a "real" playwright
- given the volume of experienced and produced playwrights, many of whom are familiar names to
the public and within the theatre community, do my literary gems stand a chance?
And so the uncertainty continues but something drives me to persevere. The possibility, whatever the odds that there is a theatre "out there" somewhere that will see something special in my plays is enough to keep me going and press on. Meanwhile, some fine tuning of the dialogue and changes to the story arc is required to Dead Writes. Really.
P.S.: just read that Larry David's new play, "Fish In the Dark" is a big hit on Broadway. It should only happen to me! Mazel-tov, Larry...or Mr. David. Good to note that good comedy will always draw a crowd.
It’s holiday time so some shows based on outstanding children’s books are currently being performed in Sydney and surrounds, as well as in other cities around Australia. A highlight is The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Penguin), a production created around four books by Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, of course, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse – […]Add a Comment
The company, Playwrights Horizons, announced on Tuesday that it has started covering roughly 50 percent of the health care premiums for its writers during the season in which their works are produced. The theater is also paying the writers for “preproduction activities,” like rehearsals and meetings with the directors, designers and producers.Add a Comment
A group of officials from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism attended the production in Ankara last Tuesday and reportedly stalked out without applauding; the play was promptly replaced on the schedule. Last month the now-former director of Turkey’s State Theaters resigned, complaining of censorship by the Culture Ministry.Add a Comment
Starring in The Elephant Man on Broadway “is serious business for the actor: a scoop of earth following his gradual but precipitous soar into the showbiz stratosphere, with its thinner, giddy-making air.” It’s also a role he’s been fixated on since age 12.Add a Comment
“Earned income was up an impressive 40.8 percent (adjusted for inflation), although total attendance was up only 0.4 percent.”Add a Comment
“The internet means a lot of people can listen to the [BBC] World Service online. No writer is going to turn up their nose at a potential 40 million listeners.”Add a Comment
“The union is seeking London living wage – £8.80 – for workers on three pay grades below that rate, and a 6% rise for all other members.”Add a Comment
“Having received no offers for a takeover, the organization that occupies the Prince Music Theater on Friday terminated its lease with the owners of the building on Chestnut Street just west of Broad Street. American Music Theater Festival, founded in 1984, also intends to dissolve. The future of the building is uncertain.”Add a Comment
“Kids love it” – his brother’s kids, specifically, loved the Disney movie – “so I had that affinity. I got stuck with the story, and there was little I could change, but, as the strike happened during the time of the women’s struggle to vote, I began thinking about my own recent turn of the century.”Add a Comment
I am a massive Sadie Jones fan. The Outcast was a debut from a writer of the highest calibre that could easily stand up to comparisons to Ian McEwan. Small Wars only confirmed this but The Uninvited Guests didn’t connect with me. So there was a little trepidation before I started reading her new book. Completely unnecessary trepidation because not only was this the Sadie Jones I loved, this was Sadie Jones at her absolute best.
The novel is set in and around the world of London theatre in the early 1970s. Luke Kanowski is a young playwright destined for big things. Big things not possible until he meets Paul Driscoll and Leigh Radley. Their friendship allows Luke to put his turbulent past behind him and introduces him to the fringes of the London theatre scene. Together they look set to change the world.
Interspersed with Luke, Paul and Leigh’s story is Nina Jacobs. The daughter of a failed actress she is bullied into the same career. Her marriage to a producer supplements her mother’s cruelty. When her life intersects with Luke their affair threatens to consume everything and everyone. And the world Luke is set to change threatens to shatter completely
This is a wonderfully constructed novel that unfolds like a play. Each character is so vividly drawn especially Luke whose internal and external emotional confusion ricochets around everybody he meets. It is an intense novel of friendship and a deeply passionate love story. But it is also deceptively volatile keeping you enthralled until the very last words on the page.
Sadie Jones is an author like no other. The Outcast reminded me a mot of Ian McEwan but she is well beyond that now. I may not have liked her last book but that means nothing. Great writers should always strive to be different and take their craft where they see fit and The Uninvited Guestsresonated with many other readers. Her new novel though is simply sublime and I am over the moon that she has reaffirmed, for me, her immense talent.Add a Comment
Sometimes, too frequently, I bore myself.
"Why would you say (or write) a statement like that, Eleanor?"
On occasion when things are in a static state (like the sound of those two words together), I begin to question my playwriting ability. Thinking back, the impetus for taking up writing plays in the first place was my love for dialogue. It seemed only natural, at least for me, that playwriting, which consists of telling a story through the spoken word, was a natural progression. However - it's always the 'howevers' in life that get you - there are times when one questions the quest (still more words when said repeatedly that have a pleasant sound) for recognition by theatres...producers...directors...or anybody, actually.
"So what has you bummed, Eleanor?"
Nothing new or momentous (I wish!) to report. As shared in previous blogs, I actually submitted some of my plays to theatres that seemed like a good fit in addition to entering a competition. As is frequently the case, I'm in a waiting state of being. Waiting and patience is not one of my strong points.
Rant time. Can't understand or maybe don't want to understand why theatres or playwriting competition organizers don't advise playwrights when their plays are rejected. As a playwright, hope is frequently the only thing we have to cling to and waiting is tortuous. Okay - I exaggerate. It's definitely nerve-wracking. All it would take is for somebody to write up a few sentences to indicate a rejection:
Sorry but your play doesn't cut it. We may not even have read it given the amount of submissions we receive. Or perhaps it didn't have enough potential to attract investors. Then again, it needs more editing. Go know.
The person who has been designated to send rejections to playwrights
Now, I mean, that seems simple enough to me. Anything is better than nothing and waiting and hoping for some news. Right playwrights?
Still in the finishing stages and last few pages of "Neighbors", which in itself is a personal achievement but it's only the first draft. It will be put into storage for a period of time and then brought out again for changes or - heaven forbid - an indefinite storage never to see the light of day. No new updates on my "Old Soldiers" submission or the play reading series in which "Retribution" will be introduced to actors - and the world - for the first time. As I've said many times, we live in hope. In the end, that's all we have.
In February, fans learned that Diahann Carroll had withdrawn from A Raisin in the Sun. The most recent revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning 1959 drama opened in April, and is now nominated for five Tony awards. Carroll relinquished her role as Lena Younger, the widowed matriarch in an African-American family living on the South Side of Chicago, due to the “demands of the vigorous rehearsal schedule and the subsequent eight-performances-a-week playing schedule,” according to a spokesperson for Raisin. The 78-year-old Carroll’s choice is easy to understand, but it also invites the question — what kind of Lena Younger might Carroll have been? How would an actress long known for her elegance and haute couture wardrobe have shed the trappings of high fashion to take on the part of a working class black mother who wants to use her dead husband’s insurance money to buy a home and improve the life of her family?
If Julia cemented Carroll’s reputation as a barrier-breaking international celebrity, it also in some senses profoundly limited her career. Indeed, the first time Carroll played against type after Julia, her efforts had mixed results. In 1974, she starred in Claudine. The film was set in Harlem, and Carroll portrayed the 36-year-old single mother of six on welfare who struggles to combine motherhood and romance (with James Earl Jones, as garbage man Rupert Marshall). Claudine was notable for its critique of a welfare system that policed working class black women, and its portrayal of a single black mother who loves and cares for her children even if she also curses and beats her daughter in one scene. More remarkably, for the time, the film showed that a poor black unmarried woman could be sexually active and a good mother. With its largely African American cast and urban landscape, and with a contemporary soundtrack featuring Gladys Knight and the Pips, Claudine stood out as a rare alternative to the more violent and (mostly) male-centered blaxploitation films that were popular in the early 1970s. A critic in the Chicago Defender applauded it as a film that could “uplift” those who had “been ignored on film until now, the ADC mother” (ADC was the acronym for Aid to Dependent Children, and shorthand for welfare in that era). Carroll’s performance as Claudine earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress in a leading role—only the fourth time a black woman had ever been nominated in that category.
But fans and critics were divided in their response to Carroll, precisely because the role was such a departure. Some applauded her for being willing and able to take on the role of Claudine. (She inherited the part from actress Diana Sands, ill with cancer in the 1970s but who had starred in the original production of Raisin in 1959, another link between Claudine and Raisin.) A “deglamorized Diahann Carroll is surprisingly effective as a 36-year old city wise and world weary mother who battles welfare department bureaucracy,” wrote one reviewer. Many more came to the opposite conclusion, asserting that Carroll did not have the life experiences to represent working class black women and could not tell their stories with any degree of authenticity. “Even without makeup, she still looks and acts like Julia,” wrote one; Time attacked the star for a “slumming expedition by a woman best known for playing the upwardly mobile Julia on TV.” With her family’s middle class background and her long association with well-dressed and glamorous heroines, Carroll simply could not “presume to speak for all black women.” The Oscar nomination was a significant milestone, but it did not open many doors thereafter; Carroll later said that she felt that her career floundered after Claudine.
Certainly, the question of who gets to tell black women’s stories is no less fraught in 2014 than it was in 1974—as critiques of the film The Help (2011) for hijacking black women’s voices, protests that actress Zoe Saldana is not the right artist to portray singer Nina Simone in a forthcoming biopic, and more recent debates about Beyoncé all begin to suggest. For decades, Diahann Carroll has been at the center of these debates—from her role as a model in an interracial romance in the Broadway play No Strings, to her role as Dominque Deveraux on the nighttime soap opera Dynasty in the 1980s– the “first black bitch on television” as Carroll herself put it. Would Carroll have encountered the same resistance today that she did forty years earlier? Would she have been able to navigate that chasm between her off-stage aura of glamour and an on-stage role of a weary yet strong working class woman who dreams about owning a home more easily in 2014 than she did in 1974? And would media-savvy audiences today, tuned into the ways that any public person is always performing some version of him or herself, have been more open to Carroll and what she could have brought to Lena with her decades of stardom than they were to the former “Julia” when she transformed into the working class Claudine? I respect Carroll’s choice to withdraw from Raisin, and the splendid Latanya Richardson Jackson has infused the part of Lena Younger with a humanity and dignity. But with the Tony awards season underway and with Carroll’s under-rated but sensitive and subversive portrayal of a poor black woman in the film Claudine in mind, I also can’t help but regret what we’ve all missed out on.
Ruth Feldstein is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, Newark. She is the author of How it Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement.
The post What kind of Lena Younger would Diahann Carroll have been? appeared first on OUPblog.
People who drop by this blog regularly or from time-to-time are aware of my moaning, groaning and general kvetching about my play writing and all the hang-ups thereof. This includes unfinished plays that appear to have potential but end up stored in the to-be-examined-at-a-later-date file. Later could mean a month or years. Sometimes though,. things just seem to work.
I've been in a play submission mode of late and decided that my play, "Retribution" deserved to be seen and heard by the world. To this end and after submitting to the Sundog Theatre of Staten Island, I am pleased - nay - delighted to report that they have selected Retribution to be part of their Summer Reading Series to be held on Thursday, August 7, 7:30 p.m. at the St. George Theatre in Staten Island. A one-act play, a drama, focuses on revenge specifically (adapted from the synopsis) "after years of patiently waiting and planning for their paths to cross, a hairdresser has an opportunity to exact revenge for a horrific past crime that has gone unpunished." Drop by and see the drama play out in person if you live in the New York area since admission is free of charge.
Still more progress to report in other areas. Finally finished the first draft of "Neighbors" now called, "The Shrubs." It took me a year or more to complete but I'm very pleased with the end result. This is yet another play that started out as a short 10-minute writing exercise but over the years - yes years - evolved into a one act and then a full two-act play. There were a lot of twists and turns along the way and change of story lines but in the end, it wrote itself. All the good plays seem to write themselves. In any case, I'm going to put it away for a while before embarking upon the editing process.
"So tell us, Eleanor - what's on your agenda for your next project?"
I'm planning to take a serious read-through of "Dead Writes" and see where this story can go. It's a fun play with touches of the supernatural concerning an old, crusty newspaper reporter (Felicia) who lead a rough-and ready life that focused on getting a story at any cost. Having been relegated to a holding position where a decision will be made on her next step into either heaven or hell, she accepts the responsibility of training a newly hired, naïve reporter, but doesn't anticipate the moral issues and challenges that arise along the way. Only the newbie reporter is aware of the dead reporter's presence, which makes for some interesting and humorous proceedings. Her progress will be monitored by a heavenly spiritual adviser who is assigned to keep Felicia on the straight and narrow. Think this just may work...
More news will be forthcoming on the play reading and hopefully more positive news on other submissions.
One of the most thought-provoking plays I've seen this year was Your Mother's Copy of the Kama Sutra, at Playwrights Horizons, by the playwright Kirk Lynn. The theatre distributed a printed Q&A with Mr. Lynn after the show, and I've kept it for several months because there's a lot in the following that really resonates with me about art and life:
Q: You recently started running the UT Austin Playwriting and Directing program. What’s your pedagogy? What’s required reading in your playwriting courses?
A: ... The most controversial thing about me as a teacher, which surprises me, is that I—trained by my wife, who’s a poet—have really come to believe in a catholic taste: you should like everything; you should read everything. And this ties back to the no-experts thing. If you see something and think it’s totally full of shit, then you probably haven’t studied it enough. And you should spend time in its presence. I say this sentence, which I borrow from this classical music scholar Charles Rosen, who’s now dead. He said, “Admirers are never wrong.” For example, I find Shaw to be really stuffy. But people who authentically like Shaw aren’t lying. They’re not idiots. They’re not wrong. And if I place myself in their proximity, I can learn to appreciate—you can learn to appreciate any kind of art. I say this to my students and, more than any other crazy shit I say, that’s the one where people just get outraged. They think the avant-garde is full of shit, or they think the Well-Made-Play is full of shit. They don’t want to task themselves with the possibility that they’re full of shit and they can learn something from all of these.
When I was first dating my wife, I would wake up and she’d be sitting up in a chair, with a little light on, reading poetry constantly, every morning. I would always ask her, “What are you reading?” She would tell me, and I’d be like, “Do you like it? Is it good?” And she’d be like, “No.” And, just, the discipline of reading everything in the world because you’re an artist, and to be in conversation with it, seemed so radical to me. It has since become a practice of mine, to try and place myself—as much as I want to be in the company of plays that speak to me about my life—to put myself in the company of Shaw because I do not understand what he’s doing or why, and I need to stretch those muscles.
If nothing else, it’s just a more interesting world to live in.
I believe in this Wittgensteinian philosophy that words don’t correspond to meaning. There’s not a thing called “love” that actually corresponds to the word, there’s a kind of cloud of understanding that is different for each of us. So if I say I love you, you understand it as you understand love, but you don’t understand it as I understand it, and there’s a Venn diagram of how we sort of overlap in understanding. And if every word works like that, then making meaning together as humans is very complicated and we have to agree that there’s some leeway, that there’s not a right understanding of those things. That there’s not a right way to live, even.
So you got a text from your wife last night after the preview, about how your daughter Olive has a crush—
—I don’t know if we should say his name! It’s Daniel.
We’ll just call him “D---.” And you were so excited about it. Can you talk about why?
Yeah, this’ll probably make me cry more than anything else. Some of it’s just longing, because I miss my daughter and it’s fun to know about her life. It’s also such a great mystery. It’s interesting to have kids and realize that I’m not the central character in Olive’s life; Olive is the central character in her life. And [my son] Judah is the central character in his life. …I think there’s a little bit of fear in me that it will turn out that something like Christianity’s true, and I’ll become a crazy person who, like, wanders up and down the highway with a cross on my shoulder, shouting like, “Pleeeease repent.” Because if any of that is true, if what Christians believe is true, then everything you do is all wrong. There’s no sense in doing any of this. Making plays, being married. There’s just heaven and hell, and everyone’s fucking up really bad. I’m fucking up really bad. I don’t believe that’s true, thank goodness, but I do think placing yourself in service to people, there is a kind of—
You sort of make up for your narcissism by loving people. Does that make any sense? So knowing that my daughter is having this life, outside me, where she has her own friends at school, and she won’t tell me about any of them, and she has a crush at age three and a half, it just seems like a miracle. It seems like magic. And my job is to serve Olive so that she can have better and better crushes with crazier and crazier three-year-olds, and then four-year-olds, and then five-year-olds. That seems to me to be in the presence of the great mystery. It is insane that there’s a living being that I’m responsible for in some sense, and then that living being will jump ship and go off into the world and have the same experiences, both terribly traumatic and hard. And just the crushing sorrow and depression and, god forbid, addiction, anxiety, abuse, all those things. But then she’ll also have the experiences of friendship, and love—it’s insane. It’s a terrible system that we’re involved with! It seems poorly structured. My daughter’s life is this great thing that’s gonna unfold before me, and I get to watch it, and even participate a little bit. By recommending Daniel over, say, Ethan.
“It is crucial that the NT, with its £17.5m of annual public investment, is seen to be reaching all theatregoers in the UK, not merely those who live within easy reach of London’s South Bank. That means the NT needs to make available much larger parts of its repertoire to theatre lovers in all parts of the country.”Add a Comment
“With its graphic depiction of the slave trade (black actors play characters suffering under the branding iron) as well as overt religious content (God rescues Newton’s soul), ‘Amazing Grace’ would be unlike any other recent Broadway production.”Add a Comment