“The Actor’s Life for Me:” A Conversation With David Greenspan

David Greenspan keeps busy. Just two weeks after closing his monumental solo rendition of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude with the Transport Group he began rehearsals for New Saloon’s production of Milo Cramer’s new play Cute Activist at the Bushwick Starr. Then he was off to Two River Theater in Redbank, New Jersey to star in his own adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, in which he plays the “aged Harlequin” Uncle Pio, a charming, if disreputable, man of the theater described as resembling “a soiled pack of cards.” I recently met up with him at...

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Contemporary “Electra” by DumbWise at The Bunker Theatre

Electra is the protagonist in two Ancient Greek tragedies, one by Sophocles and the other by Euripides. The story is typically bloody: as the daughter of King Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra, she wants to revenge the murder of her father by her mother. In her sights are both Clytemnestra and her mother’s new lover, Aegisthus. But unable to do the deed herself, Electra awaits the return of her long-lost brother Orestes, who everyone else says is dead. He isn’t, of course, and when he returns there is much spillage of blood. It is, after all, a revenge tragedy....

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Moulting Of Traditions

Staged at the ongoing 8th Theatre Olympics, Sabir Khan’s Doodhan mirrors the hardships of Kalbeliyas, the traditional protectors of snakes. We tend to believe that we are moving forward but sometimes a little anecdote or observation jolts you out of complacency. You realize that the march of modernity is not a straight line and that many traditions and customs that we left behind were not as atavistic as we were made to believe. This is precisely what happened with veteran director Sabir Khan whose Rajasthani play Doodhan was staged recently at the ongoing 8th Theatre Olympics. The story follows the life of...

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“Gundog” at The Royal Court

First the goats, and now the sheep—has this venue become an urban farm? Rural life, which was once so central to our English pastoral culture, is now largely absent from metropolitan stages. And from our culture. Apart from The Archers or the village gothic of shows like The League Of Gentlemen, the countryside has become a lost world, a blank space on which any playwright can project their imaginary stories. So Gundog, Simon Longman’s Royal Court debut, comes across not as a real account of farming folk, but as a highly symbolic rural no-space of shepherds and sheep in a forgotten corner of...

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Alan Bennett’s Next Play Is Set In A Hospital–And It’s Threatened With Closure Thanks To Cuts

Alan Bennett’s next play will focus on an NHS hospital threatened with closure thanks to government cuts. Allelujah! will open at the Bridge Theatre in London this July. Its setting is The Beth, “an old-fashioned cradle-to-grave hospital serving a town on the edge of the Pennines” now facing the chop. Dream Ticket It will be Mr. Bennett’s tenth collaboration with former National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner. Allelujah! has been described as “as sharp as The History Boys and as funny as The Lady In The Van”–both of which were also directed by Mr. Hytner. “Hapless Hunt” Mr. Bennett has...

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“Privacy:” The Impact Of The Digital Revolution On Private Life

Inspired by the Edward Snowden case, James Graham’s Privacy shows us the consequences of living life online where everything we share can be used by governments and corporations that monitor our information without being aware of it. Written by James Graham and Josie Rourke, it was launched in London in 2014, and then it was performed in New York in 2016, with Daniel Radcliffe in the leading role. Nowadays it is performing in Mexico City starring Diego Luna and Luis Gerardo Méndez, who alternate roles, along with eight actors on stage, in a magnificent multimedia production directed by Francisco Franco,...

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“Forked” Privilege Gets Served

Jo Tan’s playwriting debut offers a simple yet familiar story of one Singaporean girl with big dreams. In Forked, Ethel Yap plays Jeanette, a young aspiring actor who heads to London for drama school. Upon arrival in London, Jeanette gets the biggest culture shock of her life when she’s sidelined as one of the “Asian” kids. Determined to fit in, Jeanette tosses away any semblance of her Singaporean roots to put on a new “posh” accent to fit in, discovering a boyfriend, some hard truths and even herself along the way. Forked is filled with plenty of ideas, which will chime...

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The Great Australian Plays: “The Cake Man” And The Indigenous Mission Experience

In the introduction to her seminal book Creating Frames: Contemporary Indigenous Theatre, Mary Rose Casey observes: Indigenous Australian activists and artists have consistently utilized the potential for theatre… to create different frames…of Indigenous Australians…In a show like Basically Black (1972), the “gaze” as an expression of racial objectification was returned…Following this work, writers such as Robert Merritt, Kevin Gilbert, Gerry Bostock and Jack Davis individually and collectively altered the range of representations of Indigenous Australians in Australian theatres and writing. In doing so, they increased awareness of issues affecting Indigenous people and related those issues to [them] as human...

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“Imaginationship” at The Finborough Theatre Explores a Divided Nation

It’s the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Finborough Arms pub, so Neil McPherson, artistic director of its upstairs theatre, is in a celebratory mood. He’s promoting an appetizing menu of new writing, classic revivals, and other events. An early success is Sue Healy’s Imaginationship, a highly entertaining and freshly written play which explores the idea of a divided nation by setting the story in Great Yarmouth, a place which voted for Brexit with a 72 percent majority in 2016. With its falling wage levels, low percentage of university graduates and high proportion of working-class residents, the town symbolizes all the left-behind...

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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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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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“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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Sin Muros: Interview with “Neighbors” Playwright Bernardo Cubría

This February, playwright Bernardo Cubría’s Neighbors: A Fair Trade Agreement will receive a staged reading at Stages Repertory Theatre’s inaugural Sin Muros Latinx Theatre Festival in Houston. The staged reading marks a homecoming of sorts for Cubría, who was born in Mexico City but grew up in Houston and graduated from the University of Houston. Cubría’s involvement with Sin Muros demonstrates how theatre artists can maintain ties to their hometowns even after they have left to pursue their art-making in other cities. Now based in Los Angeles, Cubría’s plays include The Redhead is Coming, The Judgement of Fools, and...

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‘Les Incorrigibles’: The Publishing House Championing Spanish Theatre in France

Despite Spain being a near neighbor, Spanish theatre has enjoyed relatively little exposure in France.  After a decade living and working in the Spanish capital, editor, translator and theatre practitioner David Ferré set out to change this.  I discovered theatre by discovering a language:  Spanish.  The ten years I spent in the Madrid theatre scene, from 1991-2001, are the foundation of the work I do today as a translator and publisher, in Spain, Mexico, and France. Spanish playwriting is exceptionally vibrant.  Playwrights are at the center of a renewal in Spanish theatre aesthetics, raising the stakes in our understanding...

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In Photos: “Forsa Saeeda” Play Opens At Cairo’s El-Salam Theatre

The latest play by the Modern Theatre troupe, titled Forsa Saeeda (Nice To Meet You), has opened on December 29 on El-Salam Theatre. Directed by Mohamed Gomaa and written by Salah Arabi, the play stars well-known theatre and film actor Ahmed Bedir, alongside Fetouh Ahmed, Mohamed El-Sawy, Ahmed El-Demerdash, and Eman Abu Taleb. Forsa Saeeda is a social comedy about a 79-year-old man who is lonely at home, with no friends or family, until a series of surprising events present an opportunity for change. Music for the play is by Ehab Hamdy, set design by Mosafa Hamed, with poetry...

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“Akhmatova. Poem Without A Hero”- Akhmatova for a New Generation At Moscow’s Gogol Center

Akhmatova. Poema Bez Geroia (Akhmatova. Poem Without A Hero) has been nominated for a 2017 Golden Mask award and is the third in a set of five plays in the Zvezda (“Star”) series at Moscow’s Gogol Center. The Zvezda project, announced by Kirill Serebrennikov in February 2016, features theatrical productions built around key works by some of the most important Russian poets of the 20th century: Pasternak, Mandelshtam, Akhmatova, Kuzmin, and Mayakovsky. The project, which spans the 2016-2017 seasons, includes Pasternak. My Sister Life, directed by Maksim Didenko and featuring Veniamin Smekhov as one of the actors who plays...

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Lucy Kirkwood’s “The Children” – The Environmental Disaster and Ethics

Annoying as it is, I have to start with a spoiler alert. That’s because what’s most interesting to me about Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children—now playing in a splendid Royal Court Theatre production at MTC’s Friedman Theatre, directed by James Macdonald—just can’t be explained without giving away the plot-rabbit that she hides up her sleeve for about two-thirds of the play’s 110-minute action. Stop reading now if you want to save this surprise for the theater. I can’t cater to that desire because I think the mini-mystery that prolongs Kirkwood’s spring is her play’s one major blemish. The Children presents itself for over...

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Monster Mashup: Mabou Mines Takes On Tennessee Williams

The ghost of Mary Shelley keeps rudely interrupting Mabou Mines’s Glass Guignol: The Brother And Sister Play, an exquisitely overstuffed assemblage of Tennessee Williams’s texts about his troubled sister Rose. Shelley appears at the top of the piece as an empty dress, texting back and forth with her companion Lord Byron about misplaced playbills, initial impressions of the performers, and aesthetic theory. What we are about to see is an “essay play contrived of Readymades,” she writes, alluding to Duchamp, “The Brother And Sister Play pretends there are such things as ‘Literary Readymades.’” Her analysis is sound, instructive, and...

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In “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda Turned The Story Of A Forgotten Founding Father Into A Modern Musical Classic

It begins “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore/And a Scotsman/ dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence impoverished,/In squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” It’s a good question, and the rest of the musical Hamilton–all three glorious hours of it–offers many answers. A similar question might be asked of the show itself, which began with startlingly unpromising materials. How does the story of an 18th-century American statesman, an elitist quasi-monarchist, and a federalist, all but forgotten, left out of most popular American histories, set to rap...

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