Month: January 2018

“The Birthday Party” – Revival at Harold Pinter Theatre

Is modernism dead and buried? Anyone considering the long haul of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party from resounding flop in 1958 to West End crowd-pleasing classic today might be forgiven for wondering whether self-consciously difficult literary texts have had their day. In Brexit Britain, where everyone is a populist now, there might not be much of a demand for difficult art, but people still seem to crave entertainment. So it’s good to see that this 60th-anniversary revival of Pinter’s most canonical drama still works both as a funny situation comedy and as a thought-provoking disturber of the peace. And with a crowd...

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Sin Muros: Interview With “Living Sculpture” Playwright Mando Alvarado

While native Texas playwright Mando Alvarado now lives in Los Angeles working in theatre, television, and film, he still maintains close ties to the Lone Star State. Next month, Alvarado will be in Houston to see his new play, Living Sculpture, receive a developmental workshop and staged reading under the direction of Abigail Vega as part of the inaugural Sin Muros: A Latina/o Theatre Festival at Stages Repertory Theatre. At Sin Muros, Alvarado will also be seen on stage acting in Tanya Saracho’s Songs For The Disappeared. In this interview, Alvarado discusses his relationship with Texas, writing for television,...

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“Between The Lines” (Entrelinhas): What Women Do to Survive Oppressive Regimes

The show Between The Lines is a manifesto about the barbarity that women suffer from an oppressive system. Take your hands off our bodies When a country is taken by a conservative wave, groups that are discriminated by society–women, black people, and LGBT–are the first ones to lose their rights. Recently, in Brazil, a special commission from the Chamber of Deputies approved a Constitutional Amendment Proposal that completely prohibits abortion. This amendment can make abortion illegal in cases that are currently allowed by law like in cases of rape, anencephaly (fetus with cerebral malformation), or when the mother’s life...

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“Rita, Sue And Bob Too” at The Royal Court: The Revival for #MeToo Era

Vicky Featherstone, the artistic director of this new writing venue, is riding high. Very high. A couple of weeks ago, she was voted the most influential person in British theatre by The Stage, the industry newspaper which annually compiles a top 100 list. Number one! This is not only because of her programming—which has included Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman—but also her activism. She is one of the most prominent voices to speak out against sexual harassment and the abuse of power in the theatre industry. Her support of the #MeToo campaign and organization of the No Grey Area event at the Court in...

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“A Crash Course In Cloudspotting (The Subversive Act Of Horizontality)”: Bringing Awareness Through Art

What does it take to become a cloudspotter? It may sound a romantic idea, but is a term used by Raquel Meseguer for the thousands of people in the UK living with chronic pain from conditions that require individuals to rest, lying down at frequent intervals. Meseguer was a successful contemporary dancer, and the other half of dance theatre company Lost Dog, when a slipped disc left her with increasingly debilitating neurological symptoms in 2007. She began thinking about creating performances that explore chronic pain and interrogate the kickback she received for lying down in arts venues and other...

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“The Pursuit Of Happiness” At Under The Radar Festival

New York-based experimental troupe Nature Theater of Oklahoma (NTO) teams up with Slovenia’s EnKnapGroup dance company in Pursuit Of Happiness, an uneven performance presented as part of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival. Pursuit offers a deconstruction of the Hollywood cowboy mythos in all its John Ford glory, as well as a deconstruction of Vietnam era war pics. Concept, text, and directing credits are shared by Pavol Liška and Kelly Copper, in a co-production by Théâtre de la Ville and steirischer herbst. The current political climate highlighting transgressions by powerful men towards mostly female victims seems a ripe time...

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Robert O’Hara’s “Mankind”: Desperately Trying to Get in Trouble

I want the experience for the audience to be a sort of speeding train that gets completely and totally out of hand. –Robert O’Hara (New York Times interview, Dec. 20, 2017) Robert O’Hara’s Mankind, directed by the author at Playwrights Horizons, is a play desperately trying to get in trouble. It satirizes religion, men, feminism, social conservatism, and hookup culture, all with the same sassy irreverence. The trouble is, effective satire works through precision strikes, not cluster-bombing. The only sure way to get people good and outraged is to settle on a target and demonstrate that you know it better than...

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Sin Muros: Interview With “Purple Eyes” Playwright Josh Inocéncio

Born and raised in Houston, Josh Inocéncio is a playwright and performer who focuses on queer and Indigenous reclamations within Latinx and Euro-American cultures. As a cultural worker, storyteller, and bridge-maker, Inocéncio’s purpose, in his words, “is to bridge my ancestries and nourish the memories. With each generation preserving fewer fragments, I perform to remember.” This February, Inocéncio brings to Stages Repertory Theatre’s Sin Muros: A Latina/o Theatre Festival the world premiere production of Purple Eyes, the first in a trilogy that looks at his three cultures. Splintered in Three: An American Trilogy also includes The Little Edelweiss: Or,...

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“Ada/Ava”: Silent Film In The 21st Century

ArtsEmerson is dedicated to bringing compelling and experimental theatre from all parts of the world to Boston. On January 10, Manual Cinema, a company that devises works that cross the line between cinema and theatre brought Ada/Ava to ArtsEmerson’s Paramount Theatre.  First produced in 2013, Ada/Ava is the second full-length production by this young Chicago collective of five. Since then they have added three more productions and become known in the US and abroad. Although Manual Cinema has its roots in shadow puppetry, they take pride in their films which are created anew at each performance in full sight of the audience. Onstage...

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“887”: A Shared Collective History About the Nature of Memory Itself

Like pinpoints of light scattered across the map of shows, I have attended over thirty years, a Robert Lepage production always stands out as something special. His reach into the subject matter of any endeavour he conceives, develops, and then as much as embodies as performs, triggers all the receptors in the theatrical brain. In 887, Lepage re-creates a past that is intimately his own, and yet also a shared collective history.  This isn’t just a memory play, so much as a play about the nature of memory itself. Recalling the past in 887 requires looking through the windows of time – literally – to...

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“The Town Hall Affair” Brings Germaine Greer’s 1970s Feminist Debate Roaring Into The Present

The moment was 1971, Labour Day’s eve. The context: a biting critique of feminism published by journalist-novelist Norman Mailer in Harper’s magazine earlier that year. Mailer’s essay, The Prisoner Of Sex, sold more than any previous Harper’s edition. The event: a sell-out fundraiser billed as A Dialogue On Women’s Liberation promised an explosive line-up. Mailer was set to debate literary critic Diana Trilling, feminist-activist Jacqueline Ceballos, Village Voice author Jill Johnston and Germaine Greer. A raucous audience of New York’s intellectual elite crammed in to witness the fallout. The year is now 2018 and New York experimental theatre company...

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OLT’s “An Inspector Calls”: Dark Comedy or Impactful Social Drama?

The Ottawa Little Theatre’s production of An Inspector Calls, the classic mid-20th-century drama by British writer J.B. Priestley and directed by Jim McNabb, is one which leaves something to be desired for the more socially-conscious viewer. As a performance given by actors, it is not entirely unsuccessful; the laughter elicited from the audience at even odd moments during the show attests to this. The task of meaningfully transmitting Priestley’s message of social responsibility for others, however, is where McNabb’s vision falls short. Set in April 1912, the play begins with a scene of celebration at the home of the...

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Border Force: The Scottish Arts Festival That’s Bringing Two Nations Together

“The Big Burns Supper aims to heal political rifts between the Scots and the English with 11 days of arts events–and plenty of haggis,” reports Nick Harding To the outsider, the border region between England and Scotland might seem like a giant wound in Britain’s body, dividing English Brexiteers and Scottish Remainers. It has received a fresh rub of salt in the last few days, too, after SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon announced that her party will decide whether to push for a second independence referendum, depending on the terms of Brexit. While politicians have done little to heal the...

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The “Very Last Wedding” At The Divine Comedy Festival

Traditionally, the veil of a Polish bride—removed at the end of the ceremony to mark her passage into womanhood, then tossed to or passed around her wedding party—would grace her again in death, part of the preparations for her burial. Perhaps You’ll Be Pleased, Madam, Or The Very Last Wedding In Kamyk Village is only customary, then, in its conflation of merry nuptials and much darker affairs. The production, which premiered at Poznań’s Nowy Teatr last March, took two prizes at the Divine Comedy festival in December—Best Director, awarded to Agata Duda-Gracz, and Best Actress, to Edyta Łukaszewska. As inspiration, Duda-Gracz—also...

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A Stark, Beautiful “Uncle Vanya” from the Vakhtangov Theatre and Stage Russia HD

Amid the deep velvety gloom that submerges the entire upstage in Rimas Tuminas’s Uncle Vanya, the sparse objects of the world stand out: sawdust and shavings scattered across an oversized, rough-hewn worktable at the proscenium; the silvery glint of a large metal hoop with which the actors play children’s games; the weather-worn, life-sized stone statue of a reclining lion that peeks out from the darkness. The soundscape of the play is similarly textured: at moments, the staccato plucking of violins highlights the tension between characters, while at others the rich, jazzy lamentations of horns lend a sense of wistfulness...

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“Miruga Vidhushagam:” Contemporary Theme And Haunting Idioms

S. Murugabhoopathy’s Miruga Vidhushagam is a comment on civil society that stands mute spectators to fellow brethren struggling for life in war-ravaged countries S. Murugabhoopathy stands out from his fellow theatre exponents with his distinct presentation. In Miruga Vidhushagam he once again uses the tribal imagery and sounds to create that eerie feeling. Presented by Manalmagudi Theatre Land and staged in association with the Arul Anandar College, the play talks about how people in war-ravaged towns suffer not only physically but also mentally. “Vidhushagam means clown. A clown is a person who can travel from past to present and vice versa. I thought...

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Actor Sello Maake kaNcube’s Can Themba Speaks His Truth In Mahala’s “The House Of Truth”

It’s the perfect storm when the playwright, director, and actor all come together this sweetly as it did in Mahala’s The House Of Truth. Telling stories from our past, especially in this country, South Africa, reminds us of where we come from, what we have lost and how many lives were affected, often devastated by the laws in a land functioning for a handful of white people. And while it takes us back to a dark past which we should never forget, that is not what The House Of Truth is about. The focus is on Can Themba, a...

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Leaving For Good: Two New Plays On Korean Immigrants And The Cold War | Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Read Part 1 here. From Caregiver to Citizen The Nurses, Who Do Not Return Home, written and directed by Kim Jae-yeop, also depicts Korean migrants who no longer see South Korea as their home country. The play is also based on the memories of actual immigrants; Kim interviewed a group of Korean-German women during a year-long stay in Berlin. But while A Room deals almost entirely with painful memories, The Nurses, which premiered at Seoul Arts Center’s Jayu Theater, focuses on the happy and liberating experiences of several Korean women in West Germany,...

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The New Play Dramaturgy in Russia

The movement for the renewal of the repertoire and new playwriting in Russia is hardly more than fifteen years old. In that time a powerful network has been created, an infrastructure that covers Russia and the former Soviet republics. This network has become involved with the selection and cross-country distribution of plays; experimental work; the education of playwrights, directors, and actors in the new aesthetic; and the presence of the contemporary play in social networks. Today, dramaturgical life is both highly saturated and fiercely active. Seminars, laboratories, readings, student performances, festivals, discussions, and competitions extend across all of Russia,...

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Sin Muros: Creating a Space for Latinx Theatre in Houston

Since moving to Houston, Texas, in 2012, I’ve been amazed at the abundance of theatre happening throughout the city. Houston is home to over forty theatre companies of varying levels, budgets, aesthetics, and missions. While local pillars such as the Alley Theatre and Main Street Theater consistently stage work in conversation with mainstream theatre nationally, smaller companies pop up year in and year out filling the gaps and helping create a well-rounded theatre scene in the country’s fourth-biggest city. And while Houston features several theatre companies dedicated to African-American theatre (Ensemble Theatre Company, Encore Theatre, Fade to Black), a...

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