Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category
Once upon a time Broadway theater-goers’ mantra was “bring on the girls,” and shows were mostly opulent costumes, engaging settings and pure, unadulterated fun. Ever since Oklahoma, ostensibly the first big hit with a thought-provoking book and integrated musical numbers, writers and directors have searched, sometimes in vain, for ways to raise the stakes and engage audiences minds as well as their hearts.
The Austrian Cultural Forum in New York (ACFNY, or Österreichische Kulturforum New York/ÖKF), apart from the recent events mentioned in our account of the “Vienna, City of Dreams” Festival centered at Carnegie Hall, hosts a lively series of concerts and exhibitions in its clean, if somewhat edgy, modernistic structure on 51st Street, just East of Fifth Avenue—the design of Raimund Abraham, a Vienna-trained architect from the Tyrol, who has practiced in New York since 1971. As this example suggests, the Forum takes care to balance cultural initiatives from Austria with local creativity, often collaborating with the equally progressive Czech Center, housed in its equally up-to-date facility on East 74th Street.
Of all the places frequented by humankind, the theater must surely be the one where we are most vital. Forget playing fields, museums, churches, mountain tops, bedrooms, and all that. One might say the proof is that they are so often inhabited by ghosts, as Sir Donald Sinden is always careful to note in the delightful series of documentaries about the theatres of London’s West End he and his son Marc are in the process of creating. (Ten have been finished so far. There will be forty in all.) The thing is that even if there is no haunting, one should take due note and make some attempt to identify the personage—usually an actor or manager, or both in one. Or perhaps all we need to do is be aware of how we feel, body and soul, after a truly excellent performance on stage. Never have I felt more alive than after a great evening or afternoon in the theatre. There words, gestures, and humanity become lifeblood.
One of the most remarkable theatrical presentations I saw in 2013, continuing on at various theaters in the United States and Europe, is Sylvia Milo’s The Other Mozart, a rich one-woman play she has conceived, written, and plays in, about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister Anna Maria, or Nannerl, as she was known in the family. Today it is easiest to identify her as “Mozart’s sister,” since even specialists know her mainly as one of the composer’s closest confidantes and correspondents. They shared parents, provincial Salzburg, travels, musical gifts, and scatological humor. While “Wolfi,” as she calls him, went to Vienna to seek his fortune in the odd limbo between musical servant, entrepreneur, and stable employment, at least in a preliminary form—which is what was available to him at the time, she accepted the conventional prescriptions of her father. A child prodigy at the keyboard, her musical scope became severely limited once she reached marriageable age. Music became an ornament rather than a profession for her; she had to learn housekeeping—all to attract a husband. At the late age of thirty-three, she was finally married to a husband chosen for her by father Leopold and lost whatever was left of her continually diminishing self-determination.
Vivian Nesbitt, born in Ohio and currently active in Albuquerque New Mexico, where she is Director of the Sol Acting Academy, studied acting in New York, and has been working in theater for many years as an actor, writer and teacher. Her play, The Bark and the Tree, is substantially autobiographical, but it transcends her personal perspective and the specifics of her own life into potent themes, like what is passed down in families, ancestry, history and its deliberate remaking, one’s debt to the past, art, creativity, and, ultimately, our spiritual lives, which form a continuum beyond life and death. She addresses all this from deep personal experience, which gives all these different aspects of her play substance and ballast, so that one would have to be a total clod, or stone drunk, not to be engulfed by her story and enlightened by it. You know what it’s like when the faeries and leprechauns come out. I assure you there are none of them here.
Being a little out of touch with mainstream movies and TV nowadays, I came to the RSC’s new production of Richard II without the usual expectations associated with a famous face (from the screen) in the lead, and this feels like an advantage to me. It is easier to enjoy a play expecting a rounder cast, or indeed expecting nothing in the way of faces and mannerisms. I had forgotten about the new Doctor Whos and that David Tennant had been one, and avoided the Harry Potter films, so the squeals and the mad applause were a surprise. But even so, in reality, it was a balanced cast, and fame doesn’t mean a thing, especially to Shakespeare.
By curious coincidence, three of the most anticipated plays in New York this season—Betrayal, Domesticated, and Macbeth—explore the subject of marriage, infidelity and betrayal, offering, as a package, new insights into these timeless themes.
Grzegorz Jarzyna’s Nosferatu, after Bram Stoker’s Dracula from TR Warszawa and Teatr Narodowy to BAM
BAM celebrated Hallowe’en with a production of Nosferatu, Grzegorz Jarzyna’s own adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, performed by his own TR Warszawa in a co-production with the Teatr Narodowy. I’m a particular admirer of Polish theater, but not of what I’ve seen of Pan Jarzyna’s worka. When TR Warzawa’s production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth came to Brooklyn under the auspices of St. Ann’s Warehouse, I came away with quite a negative impression, largely because I thought it arbitrary and self-indulgent. Shakespeare’s words, which have been translated into Polish very ably more than once, can bring across his plays so powerfully, if we only hear them from that actors mouths, not through complex electronics and sound effects. Unlike Macbeth, Nosferatu, sporting the name Stoker’s estate forced Prana-Film to adopt for F. R Murnau’s classic film, presents itself as Jarzyna’s own work, and for that reason, I’m not inclined to purism. The Irish playwright, critic, impresario, and theatrical manager created in Dracula a great novel with complex resonances which have inspired theater and cinema audiences for generations, and seems to go on spawning adaptations generation after generation, much as Shakespeare’s plays did from the Restoration to the present day, not that the process doesn’t continue today. However, we adhere more to observe the text today, however we might play with the rest of his creation. I came to BAM mainly curious about what the Polish slant on the Dracula story might be.