How many of us can say that they’ve actually got around to reading Melville’s novel, easily considered a treasure of world literature?
Peninsula Arts with Plymouth University have made the daunting task a little easier with their 21st century-friendly project, the Big Read. Readers such as Tilda Swinton and Stephen Fry embellish a chapter of Moby Dick each with their voice and skill. The project also curated 136 artists to create an accompanying illustration for each of the chapters of the book.
No better way to revisit a classic than by bringing it to the arts-hungry culture in such a digestible format.
Should you need me these next few days, I’ll be diving into these deeper waters.
Officially announced yesterday: ROCKY’s coming to the Great White Way.
Yes, everyone’s favorite “little boxer that could” is getting his chance to belt it out.
Skeptical? No need. The production got rave reviews over in Germany on its first tryout of the material. Features music from Ahrens and Flaherty (Ragtime, The Glorious Ones, Once on this Island) and what appears to be pretty thrilling direction from Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson).
How do you think Rocky will fare?
A young Ian McKellen works through a line from Merchant of Venice in the RSC’s Playing Shakespeare from a few decades past.
The director seen here, John Barton, was asked to write a book about his robust knowledge of the Bard but promptly refused, stating that it was impossible to talk about Shakespeare without having living, breathing actors available to demonstrate the subtleties and poetry of the text. The result is a party full of some the acting greats taking apart classic texts piece by piece and uncovering centuries worth of subtext in the process.
Lookbook: The Crucible, Arthur Miller
Great words conjure up great images. And The Crucible is nothing if not a master class in playwriting. Miller’s text ignites with its mix of magic, hysteria, and faith.
“Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.”
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”
“I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
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“I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response. Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself—as if nothing is being asked for and nothing given. They are trifling with life’s most precious commodity, being deceived because it is an intangible thing, not open to inspection and therefore reckoned very cheap—in fact, almost without any value. People are delighted to accept pensions and gratuities, for which they hire out their labor or their support or their services. But nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing. But if death threatens these same people, you will see them praying to their doctors; if they are in fear of capital punishment, you will see them prepared to spend their all to stay alive. So inconsistent are they in their feelings. But if each of us could have the tally of his future years set before him, as we can of our past years, how alarmed would be those who saw only a few years ahead, and how carefully would they use them! And yet it is easy to organize an amount, however small, which is assured; we have to be more careful in preserving what will cease at an unknown point.
No one will bring back the years; no one will restore you to yourself. Life will follow the path it began to take and will neither reverse nor check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. It will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favor. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside. What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that.
Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately. Listen to the cry of our greatest poet, who as though inspired with divine utterance sings salutary verses: “Life’s finest day for wretched mortals here/Is always first to flee.” “Why do you linger?” he means. “Why are you idle? If you don’t grasp it first, it flees.” And even if you do grasp it, it will still flee. So you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.”
Known for being a titular Roman figure around 55AD, these thoughts come from his essay “On the Shortness of Life.” Ready, set, grasp the present – for all it’s worth.
In the midst of creating new patterns for yourself? Make sure you have the first ingredient.
“Things start out as hopes and end up as habits.”
- Lillian Hellman
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This playwright’s pretty renowned for his ability to craft beautiful stories. Maybe here’s the reason why:
“Telling takes away the need to write. It relieves the pressure. And once that tension dissipates, so does the need to relieve it. First write it, then we’ll talk about it.”
- Donald Margulies
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As part of preparations for See Rock City and Other Destinations, a musical travelogue about people’s stories at various American destinations, we’re talking to real folks about their travel experiences around the U.S. Giving people a taste of others’ authentic, fun, and hard-to-believe stories one interview at a time.
Today, we’re talking to nouveau-Brooklynite Abigail’s visits to the age-old wonderland of Coney Island.
I’m Abigail. I’m a graduate student in creative writing and book publicist, and I moved from Wisconsin to Brooklyn in 2009 after taking a two-month trip around the country on Greyhound buses. I love travel and languages, and I studied in Spain and Japan as an undergrad. So far, the highlight of my travels has probably been learning how to ride an elephant in Chiang Mai, Thailand, then lying on the ground as it walked over me.
What inspired your move from Wisconsin to Brooklyn?
Brooklyn felt like where I needed to be. To quote Calvin & Hobbes, “They say the secret of success is being at the right place at the right time. But since you never know when the right time is going to be, I figure the trick is to find the right place, and wait around.”
What was your first experience with Coney Island?
My first trip to Coney Island was with a few close friends who had all moved to the city after graduation. I loved seeing the glimpses of olden-day carnival Coney Island, and the experience of walking along the boardwalk eating a corn dog from Nathan’s. We spent the day taking turns lying on the beach and braving the water, which was still freezing because it was so early in the summer.
How did your trips there change over time?
I think it’s more accurate to say that the feeling I get from visiting Coney Island and putting my feet in the ocean has stayed constant — even though the past few years of my life have involved a lot of flux. Since I’m from the Midwest, I wasn’t used to living close to an ocean — and in most of New York City, it’s strangely easy to forget how close you are to the water. I recently moved further south into Brooklyn to Bath Beach — just a few subway stops away from Coney Island — so I’m hoping I’ll begin to feel even more like it’s “mine” now that I can get there in less than 15 minutes on a bus or train.
Strangest thing you ever saw at Coney?
I’m not sure if I could pick just one. Every year, Coney Island hosts the Mermaid Parade, which typically involves a lot of glitter and naked people. So, basically like liberal arts college. I’m kidding. There are so many amazing costumes: mermaids with octopus pasties, transformers, giant birds, circus performers on unicycles. I recommend Google-imaging “Mermaid Parade” if you’re not at work.
Off-season photos of Coney look like a deserted wonderworld. Have you ever visited when no other tourists were around?
I have! I remember one unseasonably warm day in early March a few years back, and I decided it would be fun to go out to Coney Island by myself and take a walk along the beach, and maybe go for a swim. I got there and immediately realized that I had totally misjudged how cold it would be with the wind, but because I didn’t want to feel like I’d made the trip for nothing, I sat on the beach and read, even though it was freezing. There were maybe two other people on the beach, and it felt almost post-apocalyptic.
Do you think America will always have nostalgia for its beachside communities (Coney, Atlantic City, etc.)?
America loves nostalgia. I don’t think it’s necessarily specific for beach communities, though I think there is something special about places that simultaneously encompass two different worlds (one for the people that live there, and one for the tourists). The coast is also a place where fun and danger can easily meet, so maybe there’s a glamour factor in that, too.
How does Coney Island play into the modern day notion of New York? (Escapism, a much needed retreat, danger zone, etc.)
I think it’s a place where there’s tremendous tension between the old and the new. This is true for a lot of New York, but it seems especially palpable on Coney Island.
Any other fascinating finds in NY that you would recommend folks visit if they’re near the city?
My favorite thing to recommend to visitors is the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free, you get to be on a boat, and you get a great view of the Statue of Liberty. My biggest recommendation, though, is to spend some time people-watching. New York has the best people-watching in the world.
All photos courtesy of Abigail. Thanks!
“We got work to do. We can cry about it. Or we can dance about it.”
I love that. Out of the mouth of babes…What if we approached every difficult impasse in our lives as an opportunity for a dance party? A chance to shine versus an impossible mountain to climb?
A wonderful reminder that we always have a choice of how we feel, what we do, and how awesome we wish our path to be. And since we’re all on the same team, only way to go from here is onward and upward.
“Americans have always been eager for travel, that being how they got to the New World in the first place.”
- Otto Friedrich
Thrilled to be working on See Rock City and Other Destinations, a musical travelogue that tells the stories of folks across the U. S. of A. This show is made up of a set of short vignettes, small American plays that attempt to answer the questions of what are we seeking and what holds us back from realizing the things we want. It’s told through story songs and feels akin to a particularly good episode of This American Life on NPR.
Today we’ve started our Meet Rock City series to allow folks to meet the cast and wanted to share the fun with all y’all.
These folks are an incredibly talented bunch that are telling these honest stories in some inspiring ways. And while the show keeps up the pace with its humor, the takeaway seems to make us question our basic anxieties or fears – of connecting, of missing out, of seeking, of believing or no longer being able to believe.
Welcome to the journey. Glad to have you along for the ride.