Peter Sellars and Maya Zbib shared a year and circumnavigated the globe. The enfant terrible of the American stage is best known for his contemporary treatments of classical plays, including an industrial take on King Lear, and his groundbreaking direction of new operas. Both Sellars and his Rolex Arts Initiative protégé, Lebanese actor, writer and director Maya Zbib, believe that theater can do much more than entertain. They agree that it is an agent for social change. To emphasize this point, Sellars brought Zbib to the Congo. She brought him to Beirut.
The 1945 film version with Margaret Rutherford, far left.
One would never think that “Blithe Spirit,” the 1941 play by Noel Coward could ever have been considered controversial. Theatrical productions almost always follow the script to the letter, setting the story in an overstuffed living room draped with tasseled shawls and lace doilies. It’s difficult to imagine that this sort of age-worn setting ever shocked censors. But after the play met with overwhelming success in London, setting box office records with nearly 2,000 consecutive performances, director David Lean (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER RIVER KWAI) took on the film adaptation in 1945, but had to cut one “extremely risque” line for the U.S. release. During an argument with his wife, Ruth, Charles says, “If you’re trying to compile an inventory of my sex life, I feel it only fair to warn you that you’ve omitted several episodes. I shall consult my diary and give you a complete list after lunch.”
Before the play begins the director walks on stage and explains a few things about the production to the audience. But because you’ve been prepped to expect that “You’re Welcome: A cycle of bad plays,” the latest from the inimitable foursome at The Debate Society, will, no doubt, involve a few bad play gags, you go along with it. But then, after the director leaves the stage and comes back again and again to tell you just a few more specifics, like the fact that the play we’re about to see involves an imaginary door, a retractable knife and is bound to be very funny but the actors are professionals and our laughter won’t disturb them, you realize that this, the director’s back and forth, is the play. Which of course we already know since in the opening titles we were told that Play #1 is “The Director Ruins the Play.”
While certified green theatre may still be an anomaly, the live entertainment design community is discussing its environmental impact, as well as broader notions of sustainability, both online and in person. Yesterday, Live Design magazine published a blog post (the first in a series) from lighting designer and theatre consultant Curtis Kasefang on the concept of “sustainable theatres.” Kasefang’s notion of a sustainable performance space can be summed in up in one word: reuse.
Chita Rivera onstage at New York City’s Birdland Jazz Club – October 13, 2009.
Saxophone giant Charlie “Bird” Parker called it the “crossroads of the world.” New York City’s famed jazz club, Birdland, was just that on Tuesday for the launch of beloved Broadway star Chita Rivera’s new album, And Now I Swing.
If you take a look at the current season for Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Company, none of the plays should strike you as particularly “green.” Yet on September 29, Aurora became the first professional residential theater company in the Bay Area to be certified as a green business by the Alameda County Green Business Program and the Bay Area Green Business Program. The Company accomplished this not by staging plays on climate change and recycling, but by implementing some major changes in operations, including:
I’m not sure that a depressing play about money lending is the most appropriate choice for the times, and though the adept and talented Propeller company did not manage to make The Merchant Venice the comedy it is forever miscategorized as, they did do many things right. Merchant is one of my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, which is maybe why I’m always so keen to see it performed. This time it’s set not in Venice but in a prison with a sort of come-and-go-as-you-please attitude.
Lots of activities all over the US this week in celebration of Earth Day, but if you’re in New York, and looking for something to do after the recycling demonstrations and green product pitches, you may want to check out Swimming with the Polar Bears. In this one-man show, veteran stage actor Mel England (Israel…