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The Siege Review and Pics: Palestinian Theater about Bethlehem Standoff

Faisal Abualhayjaa and Hassan Taha in The Siege

The Siege, a play dramatizing the 2002 siege by armed Palestinians of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, is in several ways the exact opposite of Oslo, the last drama about the Palestinian-Israel conflict to run in New York.

Oslo, which won the 2017 Tony for Best Play, was American playwright J.T. Rogers’ attempt at a balanced look at the high-level negotiations that led to the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. The Siege is Palestinian playwright Nabil Al-Raee and his co-director Zoe Lafferty’s ground-level look, from a Palestinian point of view, at a half dozen of the people who were holed up in the church, one of the holiest sites in the Christian religion, for the 39-day standoff. It is produced by the Freedom Theatre, a Palestinian company in the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank, which is presenting the play for the first time in the United States, at NYU’s Skirball Center through October 22.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Baraa Sharqawi. Skip Schiel  or Ian Douglas to see them enlarged.
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The Treasurer: Review and pics

Max Posner’s play is called The Treasurer because a grown man is forced to take responsibility for the finances of his aged, widowed mother. But the title also suggests that he will take stock of the sort of debts that can never be repaid – the emotional ones accrued within a family.

 

If the premise is not novel, one look at the theater artists involved in The Treasurer offers the promise of a big payout. Deanna Dunagan, who won a Tony for her role as Violet Weston in the Broadway production of August: Osage County, portrays the mother. The son is Peter Friedman, a veteran Off-Broadway actor (Circle Mirror Transformation, Hamlet with Oscar Isaac) whose presence elevates nearly everything he’s in. Its director, David Cromer (Our Town, Tribes, The Band’s Visit, soon to be on Broadway), has an ability to turn even an old warhorse into something aesthetically fresh and emotionally real.

The Treasurer is, as expected, wonderfully acted, and there are a good number of solid scenes, some funny, some moving. But one walks away from The Treasurer as from a family reunion that wasn’t as satisfying as one had hoped.

Full review on D.C. Theatre Scene

Google Celebrates West Side Story

“West Side Story” opened on Broadway on September 26, 1957. To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Google Arts & Culture is presenting a virtual exhibition that explains its history, profiles its makers, assesses its impact, and showers us with imagery  (some of it digitized for the first time).The online collection was created in partnership with Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Museum of the City of New York, and the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Below is a glimpse (Click on any photograph to read the captions supplied by Google.). Check out Google Arts and Culture’s whole West Side Story exhibition.

 

A 360-video of “Cool”, one of the most popular songs of the musical, performed at the Knockdown Center in Queens, NY as part of Carnegie Hall’s, The Somewhere Project.

Frozen Opens Tonight: First Pics

The first production photographs of Frozen the Musical, which opens tonight at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. It will move to Broadway’s St. James Theater on February 22.

Click on any photograph by Deen van Meer to see it enlarged.

Buy tickets to Frozen in Denver and/or Broadway

From Sarah Bernhardt to Meryl Streep: the new BAM Archives

Performances by Sarah Bernhardt, Martha Graham, and Meryl Streep; meetings about equal rights with Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass  in 1869; a lecture by Helen Keller in 1913.  These are among the  people and events chronicled in some 70,000 items now available in an online archives of The Brooklyn Academy of Music, starting with the cultural institution’s grand opening in 1861 attended by First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.

If BAM is now known primarily as a venue for avant-garde performance, its long history demonstrates the huge variety of uses over the years for its buildings in Brooklyn. Some 40,000 artists are searchable in the archives.

Check out the newly launched Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive

Click on any image below to see it enlarged and read the caption.

 

Best Moments on 2017 Tonys, Seen and Unseen

Many moments in the three hours of the 71st annual Tony Awards (complete list of winners) were worth experiencing just once, if that — Bette Midler NOT singing, yet rambling endlessly during her acceptance speech,  telling the orchestra  trying to nudge her off to “Shut that crap off.”

True, this was followed by Kevin Spacey, appearing as President Frank Underwood from “House of Cards,” as he handed the best musical envelope to presenter Lin-Manuel Miranda, saying: “I want to get the hell out of here before Bette Midler thanks anyone else.”

But there were some moments worth savoring.

Performances

Waving through a Window from Dear Evan Hansen

Welcome to the Rock from Come From Away

“Dust and Ashes” and “The Abduction” from Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Opening number

 

Politics

There was surprisingly little politics for an awards ceremony being held during the Trump presidency, but there were  a few such moments:

Cynthia Nixon,  while accepting the award as best featured actress for “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.”  quoted a famous line from the play  ‘There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it, other people who just stand around and watch them do it,” She then added: “My love, my gratitude and my undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it.”

At the end of his acceptance speech, Kevin Kline gave a shout-out to two federal arts agencies that President Trump wants to eliminate: “I’d like to thank a couple of organizations without which maybe half the people in this room would not be here: that would be the National Endowment for the Arts] and the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

In her acceptance speech  for her (well-deserved) Tony for best direction of a play, for Indecent, Rebecca Taichman said: “This is about making art when one is in great danger.”

Stephen Colbert as a presenter  injected the most bluntly political remarks.

“It is my honor to be here presenting the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. And it’s been a great year for revivals in general, especially that one they revived down in Washington D.C. It started off-Broadway in the ‘80s, way off-Broadway, over on 5th Avenue. Huge production values. A couple of problems. The main character is totally unbelievable, and the hair and makeup, yeesh.

“This D.C. production is supposed to have a four-year run, but the reviews have not been kind. Could close early, we don’t know, best of luck to everyone involved.”

He then called “Miss Saigon,” one of the nominated revivals,  “the only pageant whose locker room our president hasn’t walked in on.” and  greeted the groans with “Lot of Trump fans here tonight, evidently,”

Dramatists Rule

The four playwrights who were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play — all Americans — were given time on stage of the 71st annual Tony Awards to describe their plays — J.T. Rogers on Oslo (which won); Lucas Hnath on A Doll’s House, Part 2, Paula Vogel on Indecent; Lynn Nottage on Sweat,

“We are in a golden age of American playwriting,” Lincoln Center Theater producer Andre Bishop said as he accepted the “Oslo” award with Rogers. When will the Tony Award broadcast fully realize this?

 

Heartfelt Thanks to Their Parents

Ben Platt, best lead actor in a musical, Dear Evan Hansen:

“I want to thank my parents, who are my heroes, Julie Platt and Marc Platt, the greatest people I’ve ever met. Everybody always says that about their parents, but it’s true, I will fight you. They are the best people in the world. Dad, you’re my hero, you taught me that you have to be a decent human being to be a decent artist, and I love you for it. And finally to all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful. Thank you.”

Michael Aronov, best  featured actor in a play, Oslo

“My aunt and uncle and their two kids in New Jersey opened their hearts and home to me about 20 years ago when I first moved to New York to try to be an actor. They took me in and treated me like I was their son. I would have about five sets of keys in my bag at all times because when I missed the bus from doing shows in the city I had friends, rare and remarkable ones, that kept their doors open to me at any hour of the night. I finally was able to save up a couple of dollars and move into the city, a tiny, tiny studio apartment where if you walked in too fast you’d fly out the window. My mom and dad didn’t know that I was living off of pasta and cheese and rice pudding to be a frugal actor, because it would break their hearts and they’d try to turn the world upside down to help me be O.K. Because when I hurt they hurt more. and when I smile and soar they’re able to breathe. Thanks to Bart and J.T., this is the biggest honor of my life — but mainly because my mom and dad are here with me tonight. Solomon and Anna Aronov, you’ve always had my back more than anybody else in the world and you love me and Greg more than you love yourselves. My victories mean nothing to me unless I’m sharing them with you. Thank you.”

Awards and Acceptance Speeches Not Broadcast

Best Book of a Musical

 

Best Choreography

James Earl Jones speech accepting his Special Tony for Lifetime Achievement

In Memorium

2017 Tony Nominees: A Closer Look…and Listen.

Below are 2017 Tony Award nominees who spoke at the Meet the Nominees press reception the day after the announcement, grouped more or less show by show. Click on individual photographs to read sometimes extensive captions that quote what they said about their show or their career or the theater in general.

More to come.