Tag: Drama

How I Learned to Drive – NYTIMES Review

It’s rare to encounter the kind of breathless silence I experienced during an unnerving hotel room scene in the unforgettable revival of Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive.”

On the night I saw the production, hundreds of audience members listened with rapt attention — I didn’t hear anyone unwrap a mint or fumble for a tissue. I didn’t even hear a whisper break the stillness in the air. There was just the steady buzz of the lights, suddenly deafeningly loud, as if they were performing their own monologue.

If I could direct a scene representing why I love theater, it would look something like this: Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse delivering crushing performances — both sentimental and horrific, utterly complex — of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play to an enthralled audience.

‘How I Learned to Drive’ Review: Many Miles to Go Before a Reckoning
Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse have returned to Paula Vogel’s 1997 Pulitzer-winning play about sexual abuse for its Broadway debut.
Maya Phillips

Harvey Fierstein Interview – Village Voice

FP: After downtown celeb Harry Koutoukas’s apartment caught fire, in 1972, you authored In Search of the Cobra Jewels, a show about his attempt to help clean up the mess. You played Koutoukas. Your memoir recounts that Village Voice culture writer Arthur Bell “was arrested for holding another man’s hand as they crossed the street” from the theater. Progress has been made, but with record-breaking trans deaths and a Conservative backlash, are we moving backward on queer issues?

HF: I don’t believe it’s possible to move backward. We must allow each generation to find its way. What we see happening now with MAGA is the death throes of a generation that can’t stop progress. Conservatives want to move back to a time when they felt more comfortable. But that time is coming to an end.

FP: But there’s such a strident push to recreate the past.

HF: There’s a saying in the antique business—“You can’t go broke by selling people their childhood.” Hucksters are selling back to MAGA a picture of America that no longer exists. Think of it as the difference between weather and climate. The weather changes (MAGA arises) but not the overall (political) climate of ongoing, unstoppable change. That makes them all nervous.

FP: Hyperbole abounds while critical thinking skills evaporate.

HF: My “eBay theory” helps to explain. A postage stamp for sale is displayed in a 3-by-4-inch screen image. A Rolls Royce is presented in the same image size. Over time, Internet and social media technologies have us believing all things are equal.

FP: As in, my opinion is as legitimate as your evidence-proven fact?

HF: Yes. The idiot next door is a COVID expert because he says he is. If everything is equal, then what are critical thinking skills for? As the COVID pandemic progressed, we learned new ways to treat, what/what not to do regarding transmission. It’s a constantly moving target. What was true last month may not be true today, so we adjust our perceptions. We evaluate with critical thinking skills. Many have lost the ability to do that.

Harvey Fierstein Cleaned Off His Desk During COVID
The actor, playwright, and screenwriter talks about his memoir, sobriety, women in politics, and what’s next
by FRANK PIZZOLI

God and Lou Reed

Well, let me tell you something: my God – I believe in God – my God is a capricious little fucker. Or should I say “big fucker”? I mean, here’s a guy – we’re all clear here on who God is, right? The most powerful being in the universe! Has to be, if He weren’t, if there were some other being more powerful than Him, well then . . . he’d be God wouldn’t he?

My God is all powerful. He can do anything. My God could feed every hungry person on the planet Earth – like that (Snaps fingers) – tomorrow! He could rid the world of disease – like that. All those little bald children on the Cancer Channel? Gone, healthy, in great shape! (Snaps fingers) God could do that.

He could give us an extra hour of sunshine every day. Create a few more parking spaces. But noooooo! That would be too easy. He doesn’t want to do that! No, my God doesn’t like to do the easy stuff, it’s boring to Him. He doesn’t want to do what everybody wants Him to do. Kind of like Lou Reed, He does what He wants to do. He’s got integrity. He’s not going to sell out.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
Eric Bogosian

Charlie Munger and Major Barbara – Life Imitates Art

‘I’d rather be a billionaire and not be loved by everybody’: Charlie Munger shrugs off controversy over $200M donation for nearly windowless dorm

News of McFadden’s resignation sparked the latest round of criticism of elite philanthropists and their sway over public projects. “It’s one thing to put your name on a building, [and] it’s another level of egomania to condition a gift on accepting the donor’s architectural plan entirely without modification,” wrote Stanford political scientist Rob Reich, author of “Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better,” on Twitter.

Munger shrugged off charges that billionaires are too influential. “You’ve got to get used to the fact that billionaires aren’t the most popular people in our society,” he told MarketWatch. “I’d rather be a billionaire and not be loved by everybody than not have any money.”

Marketwatch
Leslie Albrecht

SHIRLEY [angrily] Who made your millions for you? Me and my like. What’s kep us poor? Keepin you rich. I wouldn’t have your conscience, not for all your income.

UNDERSHAFT. I wouldn’t have your income, not for all your conscience, Mr Shirley.

Major Barbara
George Bernard Shaw

Major Barbara is a three-act English play by George Bernard Shaw, written and premiered in 1905 and first published in 1907. The story concerns an idealistic young woman, Barbara Undershaft, who is engaged in helping the poor as a Major in the Salvation Army in London. For many years, Barbara and her siblings have been estranged from their father, Andrew Undershaft, who now reappears as a rich and successful munitions maker. Undershaft, the father, gives money to the Salvation Army, offending Major Barbara, who does not want to be connected to his “tainted” wealth. However, the father argues that poverty is a worse problem than munitions, and claims that he is doing more to help society by giving his workers jobs and a steady income than Major Barbara is doing to help them by giving them bread and soup.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_Barbara

Taglines

Tag lines seek to express the essential appeal of a movie in a phrase which pithily encapsulates its theme, its interest and its mood. This form embraces a number of techniques:

The Rule of Three, including: ‘Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas’ (Army ofDarkness); ‘Small town, big crime, dead cold’ (Fargo); ‘Movies were his passion. Women were his inspiration. Angora sweaters were his weakness’ (Ed Wood); ‘For better. For worse. Forever’ (Tom and Viv).

Wordplay, as in: ‘His Majesty was all-powerful and allknowing. But he wasn’t quite all there’ (The Madness of King George); ‘Paul Sheldon used to write for a living. Now he’s writing to stay alive’ (Misery); ‘They overcame the impossible by doing the unthinkable’ (Alive).

Contradictions, such as: ‘They’re having a secret love affair. Only 50,000 people know about it’ (Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter); ‘Fifty million people watched. But no one saw a thing’ (Quiz Show).

Twists, like: ‘In the Wild West a woman had only two choices. She could be a wife or she could be a whore… Josephine Monaghan chose to be a man’ (The Ballad of Little Jo).

How Plays Work
David Edgar

10 Gallon Bucket – August Wilson Quote

And in 1979, I was visiting Pittsburgh and one of the old men called me over to him. He called me, Youngblood. He say, ‘Youngblood.” I go, ‘Yes, sir.” He said, “I heard you moved.” And I said, “Yes sir, I moved to Minnesota.” He said, “Well how often do you get back to Pittsburgh?” And I said, “Well, I get back about twice a year.” And he said, “Well, I ain’t going to be here when you come back. But, I want to tell you this. I’ve been watching you for about six or seven years now. See, and you going through life carrying a ten-gallon bucket. And if you go through life carrying a ten-gallon bucket, you always going to be disappointed. ‘Cause it ain’t never going to be filled.” And he said, “Don’t you go through life carrying no ten-gallon bucket. Get you a little cup and carry that through life. And that way somebody put a little bit in it and then you have something.” And I go, ‘Yes, sir.”

I do want you to know that since then I have been working on it and I have got it cut down to about a gallon bucket. But, I do want you to know this also. That it ain’t never going to get down to that little cup. See, and it ain’t never going to get down to that little cup because I deserve more.

How I Learned What I Learned
August Wilson

August Wilson, American Bard – The New York Times

While worthy on its own, the play is just one-tenth of the monumental project that defined Wilson’s career. With “Jitney,” a story about a group of ’70s-era cabdrivers that he wrote in 1979, he began his Pittsburgh Cycle (a.k.a., the American Century Cycle): a decalogue about Black life, one for each decade of the 20th century, all — except for “Ma Rainey” — set in his Pennsylvania hometown, where he was born in 1945. He completed the plays out of chronological order, for he didn’t initially set out to create a series, but nonetheless found a story and characters to represent each decade. And he wrote right up to the end: In 2005, the year of his death from cancer at the age of 60, he finished the last one, “Radio Golf,” about white encroachment and local politics in the 1990s. In addition to these 10 dramas, he wrote six others, but it was the Cycle that solidified his legacy as one of the country’s most important playwrights, an essential figure in not just Black theater but the American canon as a whole; two weeks after his death, Broadway’s Virginia Theater was renamed in his honor.


Chief among them, perhaps, is the 65-year-old actor Denzel Washington, a producer of the new “Ma Rainey” film and one of the playwright’s leading advocates. In 2010, Washington won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the protagonist, a 1950s sanitation worker named Troy Maxson, in the Broadway revival of Wilson’s most lauded work, “Fences” (1985). In 2014, the Wilson estate, led by the playwright’s widow, Constanza Romero, now 62, approached the actor about adapting the entire Pittsburgh Cycle to film, beginning with the 2016 film version of “Fences,” which Washington directed, produced and starred in opposite Davis, who won an Oscar for her role as Maxson’s beleaguered wife, Rose.

Washington sees his responsibility as both Hollywood connector and Wilson custodian. He convinced Wolfe, 66, the renowned theater director, to helm the new film; and then worked with Romero to hire his friend Samuel L. Jackson and his son, John David Washington, to appear in the next Wilson film, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Piano Lesson” (1987), a 1930s saga about ghosts and a family heirloom that will be overseen by Barry Jenkins. For the rest of the Cycle, which will be shot out of order over the following years, directors and actors such as Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay and Laurence Fishburne are all “circling,” Washington says. Over the phone this fall, he compared this undertaking to a relay race, passing on the baton in hopes of winning new audiences for the classics that Wilson left behind. “Lord knows he couldn’t take them with him,” Washington says. “And thank God he did leave them. Now they’ve left them in my hands, and I put them in other people’s hands.”

August Wilson, American Bard
Perhaps no playwright has asserted the richness and complexity of everyday Black lives and language so deeply. Now, two screen projects affirm his legacy for new audiences.
Maya Phillips, NYTIMES

You and Other People – Drama and Character

…the distinction we live with each day remains simply that between oneself and other people. And the primordial group of other people – our family  – makes up the original cast of characters in the drama of life, a drama that we keep on reviving later with more and more people cast for the same few parts. As for oneself, one is the invisible man. One cannot see oneself, one can only see those with whom one has chosen to be identified.

The raw material of character, then, is not very raw after all. It has already been worked over. It has already been turned into a kind of art: the art of fantasy. Life is a double fiction. We do not see others so much as certain substitutions for others. We do not see ourselves so much as others with whom we are identified. When Plato said we see, not life, but shadows of life flickering in the firelight on the wall of a cave, he was an optimist. Or perhaps he made allowances for the extraordinary distortions and suppressions of shadow play.

Eric Bentley. The Life of the Drama
From chapter 2, Character

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot – Is it Dramatic?

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot has established itself as the most original contribution to dramatic literature since 1950. The distinction of the writing is undeniable. All kinds Of good things may be said about the dialogue, “but is it dramatic?” Let us set aside the fact that very little happens in the play, for this is true of so many good plays. And many good plays have wrongly been found undramatic (“not a play”) by their first critics. The first critic to make the point, and repeatedly, that Beckett’s dialogue is not dramatic is Beckett himself — in that dialogue. For this “criticism” is inherent in the recurrent joke of letting the conversation simply dry up and having one character tell the other to say something. In this, Beckett has put into a play what “cannot be put into a play.” For in a play, the dialogue cannot conceivably dry up. A play is, so to speak, a much longer piece of dialogue, reduced to the number of lines one sees in the final text by the craftsmanship of compression. Pauses can only occur when they are equivalent to dialogue, when their silence is more eloquent and packed with meaning than words would be. The dramatist fights against time. He cannot “get it all in.” His craft is the filling out of every nook and cranny that each second as it passes may offer him, just as the painter’s craft is the filling in of each square inch of canvas. That any part of the dramatist’s precious couple of hours should stand empty, and that there should be any difficulty about filling it, is absurd. But Waiting for Godot is ‘drama of the absurd.”

Eric Bentley. The Life of the Drama

10 Great Theater Books

Selections mine, blubs via Amazon.

Theatre Writings, Kenneth Tynan
The best of Kenneth Tynan’s theatre criticism, selected and edited by his biographer Dominic Shellard – with a foreword by Tom Stoppard.

This volume is an edited selection of theatre criticism by one of the most significant and influential writers on British theatre. Spanning the years 1944 to 1965, it includes all of Tynan’s major theatre reviews and articles written for the Evening Standard, the Daily Sketch and the Observer.

It also includes the text of his substantial 1964 speech to the Royal Society of Arts, setting out his vision for the National Theatre.

Tynan’s writings on theatre, according to eminent theatre historian Dominic Shellard, influenced the evolution of the whole of post-war theatre in Britain. And, with their characteristic mix of hyperbole, irreverence and prescience, they remain brilliantly entertaining today.

‘You can open this book on almost any page and come across a phrase or a vignette which is the next best thing to having been there’ – Tom Stoppard, from his Foreword

The Life of the Drama, Eric Bentley
“Eric Bentley’s radical new look at the grammar of theatre…is a work of exceptional virtue… The book justifies its title by being precisely about the ways in which life manifests itself in the theatre…This is a book to be read again and again.” – Frank Kermode, The New York Review of Books

How Plays Work, David Edgar
Distinguished playwright David Edgar examines the mechanisms and techniques which dramatists throughout the ages have employed to structure their plays and to express their meaning.

Written for playwrights and playgoers alike, Edgar’s analysis starts with the building blocks of whole plays – plot, character creation, genre and structure – and moves on to scenes and devices. He shows how plays share a common architecture without which the uniqueness of their authors’ vision would be invisible.

What does King Lear have in common with Cinderella? What does Jaws owe to Ibsen? From Aeschylus to Alan Ayckbourn, from Chekhov to Caryl Churchill, are there common principles by which all plays work?

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre, Keith Johnstone
Impro isn’t just about the theater, it’s about life, about the ability to live improvisationally. Read it. Try the exercises out for yourself.

Great Moments in the Theatre, Benedict Nightingale
Renowned critic Benedict Nightingale, who served as chief theatre critic for the London Times from 1990–2010, collects what he considers the greatest moments from the past 2,500 years of theater. His informative and entertaining essays cover and celebrate a vast array of diverse, historical and important openings and events

On Acting, Laurence Olivier
If you want to read Olivier has to say about acting, read this. It’s fascinating. Amazon, having asked me to give a review, refuses to publish it unless I write five more words beyo the prior sentence, but I have nothing to add.

Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s most famous play is one of the greatest stories in the literature of the world.

Distressed by his father’s death and his mother’s over-hasty remarriage, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is faced by a specter from beyond the grave bearing a grim message of murder and revenge. The young prince is driven to the edge of madness by his struggle to understand the situation he finds himself in and to do his duty. Many others, including Hamlet’s beloved, the innocent Ophelia, are swept up in his tragedy.

The Best of Off-Broadway: Eight Contemporary Obie-Winning Plays
David Mamet –  Edmond
Wallace Shawn –  Aunt Dan and Lemon
Maria Irene Fornes – The Danube
Susan-Lori Parks – The Imperceptible Mutablilities of the Third Kingdom
Samuel Beckett – Ohio Impromptu
Christopher Durang –  The Marriage of Bette and Boo
Eric Bogosian – Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll
Craig Lucas –  Prelude to a Kiss

27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Other Plays, Tennessee Williams
The thirteen one-act plays collected in this volume include some of Tennessee Williams’s finest and most powerful work.

They are full of the perception of life as it is, and the passion for life as it ought to be, which have made The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire classics of the American theater.

Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead, Eric Bogosian
In his fifth, brashest solo show, Eric Bogosian again aims scorching social commentary at the contemporary urban and suburban scene. From subway panhandlers to barbecue-crazed millionaires, Bogosian reveals the hidden humor, fear, hypocrisy and rage of Americans – including, for the first time, “Eric Bogosian,” a hyperaggressive standup comic. With this seductive element of self-revelation, he heightens the disturbing connections between his characters and, by extension, between us and the people we try not to see – and not to be – every day.