Playwriting

The Drama Of Independence

Eimuntas Nekrošius and Lithuania’s Youth Theatre May 2018 marks thirty years since an event of central importance to Lithuanian culture: the National Youth Theatre’s month-long American tour. Taking place as Lithuania began to shake loose of Soviet control, it was the first commercial tour of the USA by any group of professional artists from Lithuania– and further reinforced the legend of the theatre’s enigmatic star, director Eimuntas Nekrošius. Beginnings During the romantic 19th century, even at the beginning of the 20th, art legends were born in the attics and garrets, preferably Parisian. During the more practical decades of the late...

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“Masterpieces” at The Finborough Theatre

Neil McPherson, the long-serving head of this London fringe theatre, has a brilliant record of succeeding where many other venues have failed—namely in reviving both modern postwar classics and restaging the forgotten plays of recent decades. And all on a shoestring. His current revival of Sarah Daniels’s 1983 feminist classic, Masterpieces, is his latest good idea. It’s a play that is often seen, in textbooks, as typical of a militant femintern style of theatre-making so, in the #MeToo moment, it now acquires a renewed relevance. But is it really such a good play? The first professional London production in 35 years, Masterpieces tells...

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“Nine Night” at The National Theatre: The Play About Grief

The good news about so-called black drama on British stages is that it has broken out of its gangland violence ghetto and now talks about a whole variety of other subjects. Like loss. Like death. Like mourning. So London-born actress Natasha Gordon’s warmhearted play, Nine Night, now making its first appearance at the National Theatre, is as much about family, music, and mourning as it is about ethnicity or migration. Inspired by the ritual of Jamaican funerals, in which the final ninth night of a wake is the time that the deceased’s spirit must finally leave this world, the play looks...

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“Absolute Hell” at The National Theatre

Rodney Ackland must be the most well-known forgotten man in postwar British theatre. His legend goes like this: Absolute Hell was originally titled The Pink Room, and first staged in 1952 at the Lyric Hammersmith, where it got a critical mauling. The Sunday Times’s Harold Hobson said that the audience “had the impression of being present, if not at the death of talent, at least at its very serious illness.” Hurt by such criticism, Ackland fell silent for almost four decades. Then, as he struggled against leukemia in the 1980s, he rewrote the play. Produced by the Orange Tree Theatre in 1988, it...

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Battle Cries For Liberation

At a staging in Kerala in January, Sara Matchett’s Walk: South Africa proved to be a harrowing but cathartic experience, and not very typical, what seemed to be a projection of its closing credits followed the performance. Names scrolled upwards, and at first, the visual was a testament to the reach of this remarkably resonant project, since so many artists and technicians appeared to have collaborated on it. Yet, the roll continued long beyond what one might expect to be a list of those behind a powerful but finite creative endeavor performed invariably as an intimate three-hander. Midway through, one realized...

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“Ameryka”- Critical Mass And Block Party 2018

In 2017, Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group launched a new, and frankly exciting, idea known as Block Party wherein 3 out of the over 250 theatre companies in the city are chosen to remount productions from their most recent season with all of the support and resources the CTG has at their disposal.  Each of the three productions is granted a little over a week in The Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City on the west side of LA.  The second of the three this year is Critical Mass Performance Group’s Ameryka, written and directed by Nancy Keystone [Founding Artistic Director/Executive...

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Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women”: A Dissent

My reaction to Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women when it first arrived in New York in 1994 was nicely glossed by the illustrious Uta Hagen in describing why she turned down the play’s central role: “I think that the old woman is relentlessly hateful—boring.” Just so. Ever since this play won the Pulitzer Prize that year, its fans have insisted that the hatefulness of its lead character—called simply A—served profound, redeeming ends. Critics across the “brow” spectrum, tired of hammering the talented, once lionized author for his string of disappointments over two decades, found themselves faced with an interesting, somewhat better...

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Interview With Sergio Blanco: “A Creator Must Know The Times In Which He Lives”

The acclaimed Franco-Uruguayan playwright Sergio Blanco was in Madrid to stage his play Ostia at the Pavón Kamikaze Theatre while Thebes Land, another of his plays, continues its run, directed by Natalia Menéndez. My year of theatre ends with Blanco. With Sergio Blanco. Fade to white, like the life of Roland Barthes, who was run over by a laundry van (he had a death worthy of himself, “a semiotic death,” says Sergio). Pasolini also had a death worthy of himself, violent, exaggerated, though lacking in humanity, says Sergio, the humanity that impregnates the entire body of work of the...

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Jacob Storms’ “Tennessee Rising”: Remembering Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Rising is a theatre piece that requires yet easily commands your full attention. The journey is made up of fascinating recounts of the life and times of young Tom Williams, from his first-person point of view, as he interacts with key figures that impacted, inspired and shaped the personal and professional life of the mid-twentieth century playwright that he metamorphoses into during the course of the play, Mr. Tennessee Williams. The stories begin with Williams as a youngster and continue to unfold all the way through Williams’ first great success with his play The Glass Menagerie. This important new...

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“Possession:” Music And Movement Dominate Performance On Hermits, Deserts And Demons

Possession was performed twice during D-Caf festival, and is directed by Tom Bailey. English director Tom Bailey worked with Egyptian actors from El-Warsha troupe to create Possession, a performance based on the experiences and writings of Egyptian Desert Hermits from the third century, blending choreography, music, dance, and poetry. The play was performed twice at Studio Nasibian Theatre as part of the D-Caf festival, which concluded on March 29. The subject came to Bailey’s attention through the work of French author Gustave Flaubert, who in 1874 published a book about St. Anthony, an Egyptian hermit of the 3rd and 4th...

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Bearing Down On The Bechdel Test: Laurie Fyffee At The Ergo Arts Pink Festival!

In 2017, I came across the Ergo Arts Pink Festival with a mandate as follows: “Ergo Pink Fest is a 3-day theatre festival of staged readings in Toronto conceived and hosted by Ergo Arts Theatre. The idea for the festival was formed when Ergo Arts Theatre’s Artistic Director, Anna Pappas, read in the 2015 Equity in Theatre study by the Playwrights Guild of Canada that: The greatest disparity in gender equity happens in the playwright category. While some progress has been made over the past two years in changing the dominant voice in theatre, Ergo Arts is committed to continuing the push forward toward equitable and...

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“The Delightful Journey Of Mr. Goldoni”: A National Premiere In Pavia

Since 2007, the year of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793), Ghislieri College–one of the oldest and most prestigious university colleges in Italy–has celebrated this famous pupil with “Goldoni Day.” The great Venetian playwright discovered his theatrical vocation while he was a student in Pavia, from 1723 to 1725, and his emblematic description of that period is found in his Memoirs. This is not only an autobiography: we can consider it one of the most important works of the eighteenth century, with a particular fortune on the stage due to its several adaptations for theatre....

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“All Those Unnatural Bonds:” Talking Sexuality, Shame, And Female Friendship With Hannah Moscovitch

Alt.theatre web editor Hayley Malouin interviews playwright Hannah Moscovitch about female representation in Canadian theatre, ‘vagina pieces,’ and her current works in production (Bunny, What A Young Wife Ought To Know, and Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story): “Honestly, I have a branding issue,” Hannah Moscovitch tells me. With show programs and press releases full of juicily quotable lines like “a young woman discovers the power of her allure” and “a young working-class wife who has a lot to learn about love, sex, and birth control,” it’s easy to forget that Moscovitch’s work breaks with traditional characterizations of women far more than it establishes them. “I tend to...

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Cherry Play “Rule Of Thumb” Captures Challenges And Culture Brilliantly

If you’re fortunate, you have at least one friend who’s a creative and adventurous cook—and who occasionally invites you over for a predictably intriguing meal. A mix of the familiar and the strange, the fare is almost perfectly satisfying yet leaves you a bit puzzled, curious for more. Ultimately, it’s unforgettable—very much like the offerings we’re asked to share at Ithaca’s Cherry Artspace: new works with unusual perspectives from diverse cultures. Currently being staged is the world premiere of Rule Of Thumb, by Serbian playwright Iva Brdar, translated to English by her sister, Ana Brdar. The first thumbs in question...

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“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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