That Old Black Magic Has Me In Its Spell

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.

candles“There is prodigious fear in seeking loose spirits”

cantsleep“I cannot sleep for dreaming; I cannot dream but I wake and walk about the house as though I’d find you comin’ through the door.”

breathe a word“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.”

fireflies“A child’s spirit is like a child, you can never catch it by running after it; you must stand still, and, for love, it will soon itself come back.”

hysteria“it’s the proper morning to fly into Hell.”

possession“Until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.”

names“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!”

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Belarus

Theater was made to push the boundaries, but what happens when your country wants to maintain those artificial limits? One theatre group in Belarus has made a commitment from allowing their home to silence their (powerful) voices.

Belarus Free Theatre is an underground theatre group that operates primarily in secret, holding unofficial rehearsals and free performances in small private apartments, cafes, or wooded areas. Seen as theatrical vigilantes at constant risk of persecution, they constantly change their venues and have no specific theatrical home. Members of the theatre have been attacked by the police and held for their participation in the Belarus Free Theatre activities. The stage director and other associates were fired from their jobs at state-run theatres for their involvement in the movement.

beingharoldpinter

Being Harold Pinter at the mid-April 2007 conference Artist and Citizen: 50 Years of Performing Pinter, in England

The group was established in March 2005 by human rights activist, playwright and journalist, Nikolai Khalezin, and Natalia Koliada, a theatre producer and Khalezin’s wife. The group’s mission was to resist the overwhelming pressure and censorship of Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenka.

As the only modern theatre force in the country, the government is challenged by Belarus Free Theatre’s commitment to performing uncensored works. All other theatre is state-run, allowing the country to dictate the programming, resulting in a stale version of theatre which cannot appropriately discuss all aspects of contemporary life. The guerilla theatre group pushes for its creative freedom daily, risking their own security for the promise of truth in art.

storm

Belarus Free Theatre in the short play by Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, one of the 12 featured in ‘Eurepica. Challenge.’

On 22 August 2007, during the Free Theatre’s première of Edward Bond’s theatrical piece Eleven Vests, Belarusian special forces stormed a performance in a private apartment in Minsk, and arrested actors, directors, and audience members. The founder, Khalezin, has now unfortunately become accustomed to these surprises, stating that the police would regularly burst into performances with machine guns in order to demonstrate power. At this point he does not fear for himself, but does notice that it is taking its toll on those who have never been arrested before. He’s afraid that these brave audience members won’t come back. Regardless of the pressure, the show resumed the next day in one of the private houses outside of Minsk. Police took video of the event from the forest.

The next few years were moderately less tumultuous but on December 19, 2010, fifty thousand citizens took to the streets to protest what they believed to be the rigged election of Alexander Lukashenko. More than a thousand of those were beaten and arrested, including Artistic Director Natalia Koliada, along with other artistic figures.  At the Belarus Embassy in London, Ian McKellen and a number of leaders from the artistic community protested the arrests, bringing international attention to the issue. Natalia Koliada was released, while Nikolai Khalezin went into hiding, where he remains.

The turmoil  has been worth it for those in the ensemble, almost all of whom have served time behind bars. Notable playwrights (Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Václav Havel, and Arthur Kopit) have supported the Free Theatre, with Pinter himself  so impressed by their biographical work [Being Harold Pinter] that he gave the troupe rights to perform any of his plays for free. 


Image Sources: 1, 2

Bite-sized Wisdom: Norman

Because the whisperings of one heart can speak the truth for many:

greece

“The theater is a communal event, like church. The playwright constructs a mass to be performed for a lot of people. She writes a prayer, which is really just the longings of one heart.”

― Marsha Norman

Image Source

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Bite-sized Wisdom: Christie

Welcome to Friday! Crime writing gave this lady a glimpse into the darker parts of human life but she still offers a sense of grace:

vasy

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

-Agatha Christie

 

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Nothing Is Too Scandalous To Be True

Acclaimed book. Troubled Financier. Broadway dreams.
$4.5 million on the line.

If it sounds like the start of a great Hollywood film, or perhaps the plot ripe for the theatrical stage, it’s because this stranger-than-fiction Broadway showdown is one of the juiciest unravelings of a production that the Great White Way has seen in recent years.

Yes, many productions have trouble making it to the stage. Which is why Broadway transfers need beaucoup bucks behind them if they hope to make the leap. The German mega-musical Rebecca (based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel) was poised for the jump until the mysterious death of a “key investor” just a few months ago. But the strange thing? No one knew who this man, Paul Abrams, really was. That’s because he did not exist.

Mark C. Hotton was arrested yesterday for defrauding the show’s producers. Four times over. Hotton, a middle-man financier for the production,  faked the lives of four different investors, leaving the show on the hook for nearly $5 million when the main imposter/investor “passed away” this summer.

“To carry out the alleged fraud, Hotton faked lives, faked companies and even staged a fake death, pretending that one imaginary investor had suddenly died from malaria. Ultimately, Hotton’s imagination was no match for the FBI which uncovered, with lightning speed, his alleged financial misdeeds.” 

And apparently it’s not the first time Hotton’s gotten his feet wet in the fraud pool. The Broadway producers also discovered a $750,000 real estate scheme he headed which featured some of the same slight of hand.

A story so full of twists and turns that it makes your head spin.
And once the spinning subsides, it makes you want to  write a musical about the musical-that-could-have-been.

Quote from Broadway World, Image Source

How A Rhinoceros Might Be a Reminder to Start Living

Les morts sont plus nombreux que les vivants. Leur nombre augmente.
Les vivants sont rares

“There are more dead people than living. And their numbers are increasing. The living are getting rarer.”

-IONESCO, Rhinoceros

It was a weekend chock full of theatre. From a brilliant musical parody of Silence of the Lambs (that anyone in L.A. should run out to see if they’re able) to an ambitious but somewhat underwhelming production of Rhinoceros,  it was quite a spread.

While this Ionesco absurdist turn is classically difficult to dramatize, the meat of the play is one of my favorites to unravel. It explores the negative consequences of groupthink and implications of a society ruled by fear, but marries these ideas with the impossible, the zany, and yes, the absurd.

The central character Bérenger, a mild-mannered self-deprecating everyman, struggles as he watches all the people in his small town turn into Rhinos. (Yes, really.) Upon his writing, the rhinos were meant to signal the communist and fascist movements that exploded in the years before World War II. But today the play reads as a clever exploration of a number of other movements including the far-right Tea Party, Scientology, and other niche groups.  The addicting domino-effect of adopting the traits and mindsets of those around you to fit in or to escape judgement serves as a stark reminder to maintain one’s personal truths. Even when the tide has swept away those around you, hold tight. One person can be enough stand against the masses.

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Red is Not Just Red – It’s Not That Simple

ROTHKO: What does ‘red’ mean to me? You mean scarlet? You mean crimson? You mean plum-mulberry-magenta-burgundy-salmon-carmine-carnelian-coral? Anything but ‘red’! What is ‘RED’?

KEN: Sunrise is red and red is sunrise… Red is a heart beat. Red is passion. Red wine. Red roses. Red lipstick. Beets. Tulips. Peppers.
ROTHKO: Arterial blood.
KEN: That too.
ROTHKO: Rust on the bike on the lawn.
KEN: And apples…And tomatoes.
ROTHKO: Dresden firestorm at night. The sun in Rousseau, the flag in Delacroix, the robe in El Greco.
KEN: A rabbit’s nose. An albino’s eye. A parakeet.
ROTHKO: Florentine marble. Atomic flash. Nick yourself shaving, blood in the Barbasol.
KEN: The Ruby Slippers. Technicolor. That phone to the Kremlin on the President’s desk.
ROTHKO: Russian flag, Nazi flag, Chinese flag.
KEN: Persimmons. Pomegranates. Red Light District. Red tape. Rouge.
ROTHKO: Lava. Lobsters. Scorpions.
KEN: Stop sign. Sports car. A blush.
ROTHKO: Viscera. Flame. Dead Fauvists.
KEN: Traffic lights. Titian hair.
ROTHKO: Slash your wrists. Blood in the sink.
KEN: Santa Claus.
ROTHKO: Satan.

ROTHKO: So…red.

Inspired by one reader’s astute observation regarding yesterday’s post, I thought it would be worthwhile to share one of my favorite moments from the recent Tony Winner for Best Play, Red. This passage comments on the specificity required of an artist. How a single color can mean a hundred things to one person and just one to another. But through finite definition we give a piece exactly what it requires. To paint only in broad strokes, whether it be in terms of vocabulary of whatever your artistic medium may be, results in messy work.

Why You’re Probably Better off Than Most Famous Theatre Couples this Valentine’s Day

We’re getting close to Valentine’s Day. Of course that means we’ll have those few who are grumbling “what’s so great about it anyway?” Whether you’ve got a special someone or if you’re celebrating your own awesome self this year, it’s always helpful to take stock of how much better your life is than those of these classic couples of the stage. By definition, these couples needed to have drama going on in their lives.

Romeo and Juliet, Romeo & Juliet

Ah young love. What could be more romantic than hiding your crush from Daddy since he’s not too fond of your new beau? Super cute until you learn that faking your own death sends your quick-to-react boyfriend to pull a little stunt of his own. If you’re still alive, than you already have it better than either of the main characters in this Shakespearean classic.

Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow, Carousel

Boy meets girl. Girl lets boy put arm around her on the carousel and gets banished from the ride. Boy mocks his boss at the carousel and gets fired from his job. Thus begins this charming love story. But ah, soon the two are wed! And Billy only gets involved with a little bit of robbery, wife-beating, and gambling – nothing enough to stop their love. Billy kills himself after a theft-gone-wrong, leaving the now pregnant Julie alone. And while second act sees Billy sent back down to earth to redeem himself, this love story ending is no where nearly as charming as Ghost (maybe a sexy pottery scene would’ve helped).

Porgy and Bess, Porgy and Bess

Bess, a beautiful cocaine addict, meets Porgy, a sweet disabled beggar, after her ex-boyfriend/dealer kills another man over a game of craps and flees. Porgy falls madly in love. Bess can’t decide if she prefers the more glamorous life of gamblers and drug dealers. She shows her love through the little things – like going to a picnic across the lake and leaving Porgy behind when his disability prevents him from getting on the boat. But nothing stops Porgy from loving that woman. He seeks her out endlessly, even when she leaves for New York with another drug dealer. If your love life is less coke-fueled, and a little bit more reciprocal, you’re already doing better than good ol’ Porgy and Bess.

Jane and Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte’s famous tale has been adapted for the stage, yes. Meaning these lovebirds qualify as some of the theatre’s most tragic.  Jane, once an abused orphan, is now a bookish governess. She goes to work for the “gruff-on-the-exterior-but-of-course-he’s-got-a-heart-of-gold” Rochester. They fall deeply in love then Ed lets an itty bitty secret slip out on their wedding day: he’s already married…to a crazy lady…who now resides in the attic. Jane gets mad and runs away. Years of broken-heartedness later, she returns after hearing that a fire destroyed Rochester’s mansion, killed his (other) wife, and left him blind.  Love triumphs. If you have successfully avoided polygamy, horrendous natural disasters, or losing your eyesight – you’re doing worlds better than these two.

Aida and Radames, Aida

Seen in both opera and musical theatre, this love story follows Aida, an Ethiopian princess who is captured and enslaved in Egypt, and Radames, a sexy Egyptian hunk. Forget that Radames is supposed to be loyal to the Pharaoh, or that the Pharaoh’s daughter has the hots for him. Forget that Aida should probably be pissed off that his kingdom is trying to force her into slavery.  Their love is so wrong it’s right.  Eventually, Pharaoh sentences Radames to death and the two are buried alive. If your room still has air in it, you’re doing just fine.

Peter Pan and Wendy, Peter Pan

I’m not even going to touch the potential Oedipus complex going on here.

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