Weekly podcasts and personal ponder-wonders for our theatre-lovers and curious thinkers.
Kate Farrington, Director of Dramaturgy
Mikey Craighead, Dramaturgy Intern
24 MAR 2017
At the moment of her greatest triumph, flushed with success and basking in dreams of greater glories to come, Becky Sharp is brought up short by a twist in the plot.
Becky has spent a lifetime carefully crafting her rags-to-riches story: packaging her narrative for mass consumption, striving for the most winning narrative voice, selectively editing events to assure her rise to the heights of wealth and society. She has been forced to justify troubling choices and sometimes to sacrifice both her own and others’ comfort to get where she is. But despite almost insurmountable odds, she persists.
With the recent profile of Renee Fleming in “Vanity Fair,” I was thinking about the improbable journey of opera.
Opera is the penicillin of theatre.
No really! Back in the late 1920s Alexander Fleming pretty much left an experiment running while he was out of town, came back, and discovered that the mold on his samples was a cure for bacterial infections. It wasn’t planned, but it was awesome.
Opera is kind of like that.
Adaptive Theatre: A Doll’s House Revisited
17 APR 2017
Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House Part 2 is beginning its Broadway run. Here is the synopsis circulating right now:
In the final scene of Ibsen’s 1879 ground-breaking masterwork, Nora Helmer makes the shocking decision to leave her husband and children, and begin a life on her own. This climactic event — when Nora slams the door on everything in her life — instantly propelled world drama into the modern age. In “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” many years have passed since Nora’s exit. Now, there’s a knock on that same door. Nora has returned. But why? And what will it mean for those she left behind?
It’s the million dollar question: what happens to Nora?
I’m Ready for My Close-Up
10 APR 2017
In a class a few nights ago, I mentioned Ellen Terry and the AMAZING John Singer Sargent painting of her as Lady Macbeth, currently lording it over the Tate Gallery in London. It’s one of the greats—an iconic painter, character, and actor all rolled into one. And yet in another time and place it would never have occurred to an artist to paint Dame Ellen. The whole idea of portraying an actor on their own merit is (relatively) new.
Thanks for the Robots
3 APR 2017
Did you know the word “Robot” was first coined in the theatre? More than that, the basis for Science Fiction as a modern genre started on stage. It’s true! It’s something that Dramaturgs (read: nerds) are super proud of. Or, should be proud of. Or, I dunno. I’m proud of it, at least.
…Anyway, In the aftermath of Westworld’s first season, and on the eve of Blade Runner 2049, I am compelled to explore the theatrical catalyst of today’s Sci-fi hits: Czech writer Karel Čapek’s 1921 play Rossum’s Universal Robots (or, R.U.R.).
I went to a fight last night…
27 MAR 2017
We are almost insanely polite at the theatre.
In the (good? bad?) old days, there was none of this namby-pamby business about being quiet during a performance. If you didn’t like the play or the actors, you let them know—loudly and occasionally through rotten fruit. And the actors were perfectly ready to bawl right back at you. For many theatres in the 18th and 19th century, vocal disapproval escalating into the occasional kerfuffle in the aisle was a fact of life.
They Have Their Exits and Their Entrances
20 MAR 2017
There’s a moment in Vanity Fair where one of the characters, Jos Sedley, takes a bite of a muffin. Becky then asks him a question. And the script gives the following stage direction: “Jos Versus the Muffin.” Cracks me up every time.
A good stage direction is worth its weight in gold.
Throwback Thursday Theatre
13 MAR 2017
Sometimes, it’s fun to look at the road not taken.
Theatre is constantly in flux—generation to generation, artists sift through the innumerable ways they could tell their stories, and pick the way that seems most effective. Then they present their choice to an audience and . . . see what sticks. Have they told their story in a way the audience likes? Have they captured something specific about their cultural moment?
My Theatrical Salute to Lent
6 MAR 2017
I haven’t seen Everybody at Signature Theatre yet, but I REALLY want to. Because of Ninja Jesus.
To be clear, as far as I know there are no ninjas, divine or otherwise, in Everybody, Branden Jacob-Jenkins’ adaption of the medieval morality play, Everyman.
No, Ninja Jesus is my favorite medieval fresco. Its actual name is Christ in Limbo, by Fra Angelico, whose work I love based almost entirely on the multi-colored wings of his angels—those are some ostentatious seraphim!
Code Cracking Plays
27 FEB 2017
I used to really resent Eugene O’Neill. Whether it was an English course foisting Desire Under the Elms on me, or an acting class insisting I slog through a scene from Mourning Becomes Electra, every time O’Neill’s name appeared on a syllabus, I would groan.
20 FEB 2017
Anyone out there still making Living Newspaper? Or, remember Living Newspaper? Or even heard of it? Well, if you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry: you’re not alone. It is, after all, a theatrical form which thrived for decades in Russia but that the US government, drove to extinction in less than five years.
A Bumpy Start
13 FEB 2017
Did you know that professional theatre was essentially banned during the Revolution? The Continental Congress put out the following statement in 1774:
“We will, in our several stations, promote economy, frugality and industry, and promote agriculture, arts and the manufactures of this country . . . and we will discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse-racing, all kinds of gaming, cock-fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays and other expensive diversions and entertainments.”
Let It Go
6 FEB 2017
U.S. copyright law is dumb.
I’m sorry—that was reductive. U.S. copyright law is a labyrinthine muddle resulting from some pretty impressive corporate and dynastic maneuvering.
27 JAN 2017
Any time the cultural world fixates on a particular historical period (not just as escapism, but really spends some significant time there) I wonder what “metaphor” the past is offering to so mesmerize the present.
One Out of Three Ain’t Bad
23 JAN 2017
In the world of contemporary performance, how many of the plays of Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus actually work as standalone theatrical texts?
This question is particularly complicated because, in a sense, no Greek play was intended to be a standalone.