Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Written by Kelli Marino
Athol Fugard has created theater of power, glory, and majestic language. - The New York Times
Once identified by Time Magazine as “the greatest active playwright in the English – speaking world,” Athol Fugard is known for his deeply rooted and controversial anti-apartheid dramas. Raised in Port Elizabeth since the age of three, Fugard deems himself the mongrel son of an English speaking father of Polish/Irish descent and an Afrikaner mother. Before becoming a playwright, young Fugard traveled through Africa, worked on a merchant ship, and served as a clerk in the pass-law court where he witnessed, first-hand, the extremities of Apartheid. As a playwright, Fugard has come into much conflict and controversy. He has been subjected to government surveillance, restricted in his play development and travel by the South African government, and has been able to collaborate with several native, black South Africans to create confrontational and necessary theatre about the curse and price of apartheid both in South Africa and abroad.
There are critics who believe that a white Afrikaner like Fugard can not speak to the tragedies and challenges faced by the black native South Africans of which Fugard writes. People “see a white man being a spokesman for what has happened to black people and they are naturally intolerant. My response,” Fugard says, “is that I haven’t been anybody’s spokesman. I’ve written very selfishly, not to be representative of anybody but myself.”1 This racial identification with which Fugard and his work is often associated is exactly what Fugard has been contesting since he began as a playwright.
The “perception of myself as a political writer disturbs me. An attitude like that closes off an individual to an important thing I have tried to do. I’ve tried to celebrate the human spirit—its capacity to create, its capacity to endure, its capacity to forgive, its capacity to love, even though every conceivable barrier is set up to thwart the act of loving.” – Fugard 2
His works, though concerned with race and politics, should not be viewed as such, but viewed with an eye for creating a better planet, a more understanding and loving world.
In fifty years of writing plays, Fugard’s work ranges from real-life-inspired stories and personal accounts to political theatre protesting South Africa’s inhumane practices and laws. Regardless of his themes, or where his plays lie in his overall body of work, Fugard’s dramas can be summed up as powerful, honest, and thought-provoking. There are six play categories to which Fugard’s work can be ascribed: the Port Elizabeth plays, the Township plays, Exile plays, Statements, My Africa plays, and Sorrows. For the purposes of this article I will only focus on a few of Fugard’s Port Elizabeth, Statements, and My Africa plays, those which deal primarily with apartheid’s effects.3
The plays set in Port Elizabeth (roughly 1961-1982) feature some of Fugard’s most notable and personal works, depicting the familial and personal struggles which are caused by apartheid. The Blood Knot (later known as Blood Knot) tells the story of two Coloured brothers (one light skinned and one dark) who are confronted with the reality of their skin tones when a prospective white pen-pal may visit. The brothers must come to terms with the ways the colors of their skin dictate how both are treated and how they treat each other. Hello and Goodbye, a personal play for Fugard, dramatizes a brother and sister who have been estranged for more than ten years.
Once the fact that their father is dead and there is no inheritance money is learned, the sister leaves and the brother is once again alone; there is no love between them. Fugard’s extremely personal “Master Harold” …and the boys recounts and dramatizes the relationship a young Fugard had with two servants who worked in his mother’s boarding house and tea room. The play confronts racism and bigotry as passed down through generations and is absorbed into one’s culture without ever perceivably accepting it or making the choice to accept it. “Master Harold” examines the father and son relationships between one white boy and two fathers (one black, one white), and the differences in impact these have on the young boy’s views and relationships in the midst of Apartheid’s reign.
Fugard’s Statement plays (1972) directly attack apartheid. These collaborative efforts created through the improvisations of John Kani and Winston Ntshona have brought much acclaim to Fugard’s works and an awareness of Apartheid’s effects to the rest of the world. Sizwe Bansi is Dead illustrates the struggles of Sizwe Bansi, a man who is unable to work because of an incorrect stamp in his pass-book. When a corpse is discovered, Sizwe must decide whether taking the deceased man’s identity is worth the risk, even though in doing so it means working and living. This play is a direct reaction to Fugard’s work as a law clerk at the Native Commissioner’s Court in Johannesburg where he saw blacks jailed daily for not having their pass-books in proper order. The Island, often produced with Sizwe Bansi is Dead, is another play, inspired by true events and directly attacks apartheid.4 Jon and Winston are cell mates and must produce a staged version of Antigone for their fellow inmates, but when one of the men learns his sentence has been reduced, tensions flare and emotions are shaken as the men recreate the final scene of Antigone. Questioning the political reasons for imprisonment and punishment, both for Antigone and the men, The Island evaluates the strength of friendship in the face of oppressive regimes and altering circumstances. Finally, Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act explores the love relationship between a black man and white woman during the times when inter-racial mixing of any kind was prohibited.
As Apartheid was ending in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Fugard’s My Africa plays (1989-1996) confront the new challenges that face post-apartheid South Africa. My Children! My Africa!, created by Fugard in protest to the African National Congress’s decision to close African schools and not allow black students an education, depicts two students, one white and one black, debating the values and rights of education in light of recent political action. In the end, as their friendship is interrupted by boycotts, the plays’ black teacher is murdered by a mob and the students are forced to stand by their ideals and take charge of their futures. Valley Song is a play about a Coloured grandfather and his black granddaughter exploring their generational differences, family heritage, and living a simple versus fantastic life in South Africa when they learn that a white man is interested in buying their farm. Playland centers on “two men—one black, one white—with violent pasts [who] meet in an amusement park and in the course of the action confront each other, their pasts, and themselves. It suggests a microcosm of South Africa in which an exorcism of white-black experience and guilt is played out.”5
Because of the strong hold apartheid kept on South Africa’s people and culture, Fugard’s works were un-producible within the country until 1994 (after the end of apartheid), therefore, many of his works premiered in London and at Yale Repertory Theatre. Fugard’s American debut was The Blood Knot, produced Off-Broadway in 1964 by Lucille Lortel at the Cricket Theatre. Five of Fugard’s plays have since played on Broadway: Sizwe Bansi is Dead (1974), The Island (1974), Lesson from Aloes (1980), “Master Harold” and the boys (1982 original and 2003 revival), and Blood Knot (1985 revival).
As to how Fugard’s works have been received by his own South Africa:
“Fugard is now in a somewhat anomalous position in South Africa. Blacks have criticized him for dealing with themes that they feel are more properly developed by black writers. At the same time, he is ostracized by white South African society because of his sympathies toward blacks”6
“I am totally unacceptable, a radical nationalist Afrikaner politician because of the attitudes I have. And I know that both within South Africa now, and certainly in the exiled black community outside of South Africa, I am regarded in a very, very uncertain light. Inside the country my old style liberalism is not radical enough; outside the country I've gone on to be an embarrassment because, so far, in terms of theater at least, I appear to have been the only person who has got around to talking about black realities in South Africa, and I've got a white skin.”7
After decades of government surveillance on Fugard and his family, opening mail, tapping phone lines, being subject to midnight police searches, losing friends and actors to Apartheid, and being given the “choice” to either leave the country or remain without the ability to leave, Fugard has finally been able to rejoice in his plays in South Africa’s theatres free of oppression, and the government has stopped interfering with his life. Fugard states that the government “realized it would be wiser to leave me alone, even though I was an irritant, because the adverse publicity that would come from it would outweigh any benefits to them. I think their sense of me is that, even though he makes a lot of noise, he’s one of those dogs that bark but don’t bite.” 8
Fugard and his works have received many awards and nominations including the Tony, Obie, Lucille Lortel, Evening Standard, Drama Desk, and Audie Awards. He has been honored with the 2005 Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for his “excellent contribution and achievements in the theatre” from the government of South Africa, and he is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Fugard has written over twenty plays, four film scripts, two books (one of which he dumped into a lagoon in Fiji) 9, and two memoirs. He is an Adjunct Professor of Playwriting, Acting, and Directing at the University of California, San Diego.
1. Allen, Paul. “Interview with Athol Fugard”. New Statesman & Society; Sep 7, 1990; 3, 117; ABI/INFORM Global. p. 38.
2. Fugard in a lecture to inaugurate the annual Joe A. Callaway Distinguished Lecture Series in Drama at New York University on October 16, 1990.
3. For more information on Fugard’s other plays, click here.
4. To hear Fugard speak about this real life influence for The Island and also his views on Antigone, click here.
5. Brockett, Oscar G., and Franklin J. Hildy. History of the Theatre. 9th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2003. p. 608.
6. The Bedford Introduction to Drama. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 2nd ed. Boston: St. Martin's, 1993. p. 1228-9.
7. 1982 Interview with Athol Fugard by Heinrich von Staden (pieced together from [The Bedford Introduction to Drama, 2nd ed. Edited by Lee Jacobus pp. 1251-2.] & [The Harcourt Brace Casebook Series in Literature for “Master Harold” …and
the boys. Contributing editor Kimberly J. Allison. pp. 95-101.]
8. Fugard in a lecture to inaugurate the annual Joe A. Callaway Distinguished Lecture Series in Drama at New York University on October 16, 1990.
9. Maclennan, Don. “A Tribute for Athol Fugard at Sixty.” Given in June of 1992 at the Winter School of the Grahamstown Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa. Reprinted in Twentieth Century Literature: A Scholarly and Critical Journal. Athol Fugard Issue. Guest Editor Jack Barbera. Hofstra University. Winter 1993; Vol. 39, Issue 4. p. 517.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
While the "Heroes" cast are working out how to haul their stone canine friend--in between listening to great interviews with Mike Nussbaum on NPR and on tv, commemorating Veterans' Day and regaling us with tales of WWII service--I have been swashing and smashing along in the front lines of stage combat in the city and opening more mayhem on the theatre front. There has been "Ernani" at Lyric Opera (possibly should be titled "Inane-i" if it weren't for the stellar, and very lovely, principals, and an amazing beautiful set and costumes by Scott Marr); and "High Holidays" at the Goodman ("Brighton Beach Memoirs" meets "August: Osage County," with a dose of Yiddish thrown in--literally); and "Holes" at Theatre School at DePaul (I love to hear 500 schoolkids scream and stand when the fights begin!).
But nothing has been nearly as exciting as what I did this past Saturday--I danced with wolves, literally! I went, with my wife Patrice, to Wolf Creek Habitat, near Brookville in southern Indiana (very southern, like 33 miles from Cincinnati) where a lovely couple rescue wolves that cannot be released back into the wild, usually because they have been "imprinted" by humans. And there are four siblings that were born at Wolf Creek and raised by hand, so that they can be used for educational purposes. Visiting with those four wolves was an amazing experience! It is not for the faint of heart, because they are still very large, very fierce animals--as the dead deer debris scattered throughout their penned areas makes clear--and one definitely has to play by the rules, their rules. But they are beautiful and powerful, playful and mischievous, welcoming and warm. I had wolf kisses and nibbles on the neck. I had wolf noses poking all over me. I had wolves standing with their paws on my shoulders, nose to nose, or literally stepping onto my shoulders from a platform above me. And just when you think the Alpha male has had enough, he trots over and rolls on his back to have his belly rubbed, just like a regular big dog. But just to keep you in perspective, one of the females then wanders passed with a deer's scalp in her teeth. If you are interested in wildlife and in experiencing the great animals of the world, check this place out, or donate to support them (they have a great website and you can see lots of pictures of the wolves with their friends).
We stayed near by in Metamora, a quaint, bizarre little historic town, built by the Whitewater Canal, full of historic buildings, strange little country stores and antiques shops. And we ate at the Ertel Winery in near by Batesville, where there are free wine tastings of the local brew while you wait for a table--and the food was pretty good too! (apparently the only decent restaurant in the area).
Now I am off to Baltimore to tech in the remount of Lookingglass' "Around The World In 80 Days" and then I start rehearsals for Marriott's "My Fair Lady".
Happy Thanksgiving and howl at the moon!
Friday, October 23, 2009
The Warrior Poetry Project is a free post-show poetry reading featuring poets and veterans Matt Ping, Timothy Brien, A.D. Moore, Tyler Zabel, and other friends of Remy Bumppo. The reading will take place after the show on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 5:30 p.m.
Five paintings which focus on the universality of war are on display in the lobby of the Greenhouse Theatre, provided by the National Vietnam Veterans Museum. Artists include Michael Cox, Robert Hanson, and Robert Spicher. Also featured in the lobby are two kinetic sculptures created by Heroes set designer Tim Morrison.
James Bohnen on Bringing the Past to the Present
"I was determined to keep the war in the play. Mike Nussbaum, who fought in World War II, and I had spoken about this before rehearsal began. I felt, and he corroborated, that these memories and injuries would loom large in their lives. One of the things we spoke about at length was the sense that they ended up at this home because there was nowhere else to go....meaning that family ties had ended, through death, or argument or whatever. Once we all agreed that the war needed to be the fourth character then it became a challenge to chart the places we could connect.”
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Now we have to get down to the tough business of finalizing our season for next year, just as this season officially begins--how weird is that! But the subscriptions seem to be coming along nicely--thank you all who have joined us thus far and a little nudge to those who are still thinking. If this show gets the response is deserves, tickets could be scarce--so get 'em now!
Monday, October 12, 2009
by Allyson Gonzalez, Dramaturg for Heroes
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Mike Nussbaum, David Darlow and Roderick Peeples star as three WWI veterans who get a second chance at one momentous mission in Heroes, opening in just two weeks!
Mike Nussbaum is an actor and director. He received a Jeff Award in 1997 for his work in David Hare's Racing Demon. He originated roles in many of David Mamet's plays including Richard in A Life in the Theatre, John in The Shawl and Aaronow in Glengarry Glen Ross. He also originated the roles of Marcus in Claudia Allen's Winter and Shlomo in Charles L. Mee's Time to Burn. Chicago Shakespeare Theater stage credits include Macbeth, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, and Romeo and Juliet. Film credits include Field of Dreams and Men in Black.
David Darlow is an Artistic Associate at Remy Bumppo Theatre, where he has been seen in over 10 shows, including The Voysey Inheritance and Major Barbara (After Dark Award). Other Chicago stage credits include A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Misanthrope at Goodman Theatre; Othello, and As You Like It at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; and Stephen Sondheim's Passion with Patty Lupone and Audra McDonald at Ravinia Festival. He won a Joseph Jefferson Award for his performance in Endgame at American Theater Company (with Mike Nussbaum). Film credits include The Weather Man, Road to Perdition, and Ride with the Devil.
Roderick Peeples appeared last season in Remy Bumppo's production of The Voysey Inheritance. Chicago work includes Oedipus Complex at Goodman Theatre; Morning Star at Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Hamlet, Pacific Overtures, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Richard III at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. He won a Jeff Award for Dealer's Choice at Roadworks Theatre and was a company member at Famous Door Theater. Film work includes Robert Altman's The Company, Road to Perdition and The Hudsucker Proxy.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Heroes enters first week of rehearsals and I am thrilled. What a great cast and what a fun challenge of a play! I am sure all four gentlemen will have a great time and I am really pleased that I got to be a crucial part of that process that brought the play to us, arranging the public reading last year and listening to our subscribers and regular audience-goers. I am convinced that the play is still waiting for its best production to date and I know that we have the potential to deliver it.
As for my own crazy schedule--while our "veterans" contemplate the absurdism of post-world-war trauma and camaraderie, I find myself simply surrounded by violence. Having choreographed the contretemps in Timeline's "All My Sons" (a play that should have been ours!), I find myself not only teaching combat at the Theatre School at DePaul, but also directing fights for "Faust" at Lyric Opera; and for "1001" at the Theatre School; and for "The Castle of Otranto" at First Folio. So I am knee-deep in sabres, rapiers, and scimitars! Already looking forward to the relative single-mindedness of seduction and smallswords in "Liaisons."
Meantime, always remember--Fight Light, Act Violent!
Friday, September 4, 2009
Henry V features Matt Schwader who has performed previously on the Remy Bumppo stage.
Yesterday Henry V received a terrific review from the Wall Street Journal critic Tery Teachout who sad, "APT's version [of Henry V is] staged with dashing directness by James Bohnen, the artistic director of Chicago's Remy Bumppo Theatre. The 39 speaking parts are played by 13 hard-working actors James Ridge delivers [the opening] speech with an incisive authority that sets the tone for the evening. What follows is a show that hurtles pell-mell from scene to scene, led by Matt Schwader, who plays King Henry with youthful fire."
Photo by: Zane Williams
To see the whole article click here.
Monday, August 17, 2009
In a video of David discussing his concept for As You Like It, he said, “The forest of Arden becomes a place for an internal journey where the characters begin to find their own true voice.”
David also spent the summer reunited with Roderick Peeples (featured in photo by Karl Hugh), who plays Duke Senior in As You Like It. He and Roderick were both recently seen in Remy Bumppo’s production of The Voysey Inheritance and will be seen together again in the 09-10 season opener, Heroes.
David just finished filming a movie titled, No God, No Master, in which he plays the character John D. Rockefeller, starring David Strathairn Good Night and Good Luck.
Monday, August 10, 2009
After a busy season of acting, directing, teaching, speech consulting and casting, I'm taking a break this summer. Heroes and Les Liaisons Dangereuses were cast by the end of May and The Island will be cast by the end of August. I took at trip to Minnesota with Guy (photo of us at Cascade Falls near Lake Superior) where we camped for three days (including a 7.7 mile hike and seeing a fresh bear print near our campsite when we returned).
We then drove an hour inland to my sister's cabin where we met her and my parents. Lots of fishing, food and relaxation. Then on to St. Paul where my nephew flew in and I treated everyone to a performance of Cirque du Soleil (my friend Jim Slonina is in their travelling show KOOZA). Jim and his wife Robin took us all backstage for a tour which was a highlight. Spending many of my summer days painting my apartment and redecorating as well as playing beach volleyball. Trying to hide my facial sunburn when going in on commercial auditions! Happy summer to everyone.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Summer is icumen in! And it has been as exhausting as it has been damp! Nevertheless, life in Summer Shakespeareland continues, and has actually been highly rewarding. It is always a process of compromises, with the weather, with the tight schedule (three weeks is insane!!!), with the facilities, with the experience (or lack thereof) of the company, but it is also a thrilling challenge and so much can be achieved, taught, imagined, striven for, and one should always count the victories and then use the scars as insights for next time.
So this summer was my first time directing Macbeth, at First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook--a play that I know very well, having acted in it five times and choreographed at least another four, published academic papers on and taught. This time I was choreographing and directing--note to self: never do this again on a three week schedule! And I'm pretty pleased with the final product, which manages a few moments of genuine surprise and terror, a few moments of unusual and interpretative staging, a few moments of really true emotion, and a couple of kick-ass fights. I also learnt some new things about the play--always a pleasant bonus--such as how parallel the journeys and the language/imagery of the Macbeths are (they begin the play as the most happily married couple in Shakespeare), how crucial it is to integrate the witches into the play so that they are part of the world, and how important it is to play with the theatricality of terror (making an audience sitting on blankets jump is an art in itself). I also believe I grew and am emboldened as a director of Shakespeare, which is likewise a bonus.
But there is no time to linger on victories--I am now in the thick of rehearsals for Higgins in My Fair Lady for Light Opera Works, which opens Aug 15th, and has been a real challenge in a whole other way. I haven't done a musical for 20 years, and even though my "singing" in this production is a la Harrison (though I do sing quite a bit more than he did), I am finding learning songs like this to be very difficult, a different type of muscle. My admiration goes out to all those who do musical theatre and make it look easy--which is of course the art of all good performance--sprezzatura, to use Castiglione's term--because I am certainly finding it hard work. But that may not be helped by having an exhausted brain. And there is no break in sight!!! AAARgghghH! Happy summer!
Friday, May 15, 2009
Time was when Harold Pinter's shorthand dialogue struck most people as impenetrably mysterious -- and times, truth to tell, haven't changed all that much. Yet his best plays continue to make a powerful impression, and "Old Times," first seen on Broadway in 1971, has even become something of a regional-theater staple in recent years, partly because it can be produced so cheaply (three actors, one simple set) and partly because it's so theatrically effective. Pinter never wrote anything more potent than the enigmatic story of Deeley and Kate, an uneasily married couple whose life is disrupted by a visit from Anna, who knew Kate 20 years ago and appears (or maybe not) to have been romantically involved with her. Remy Bumppo Theatre, one of my favorite Chicago companies, is presenting this icy sparring match in an exceptionally satisfying production that has been staged with surgical skill by James Bohnen, the company's artistic director. Nick Sandys, Jenny McKnight and Linda Gillum all give tightly coiled performances that keep the tension rising all the way from curtain to curtain.
Mr. Teachout, the Journal's drama critic, blogs about theater and the other arts at www.terryteachout.com. Write to him at email@example.com.
Friday, May 8, 2009
And in the midst of this we are also in the thick of Liaisons auditions, exhausting but exciting work, which I am trying not to let influence Deeley’s demeanor. David Darlow, herr Direktor, has got his work cut out because we just saw a great group of wonderful actresses, a lot of my favorite leading ladies from around Chicago theatres whose work I have admired and some beautiful young actresses new to me and to Remy Bumppo, and he has to make a choice for each role. We could probably cast the show three times over at this point. And I get paid to do this all day!—well, actually I don’t, but it’s the thought that…. counts.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
It's nice here in the desert. Nice and hot. Lots of sandys...
Actual line: “My mother would have a fit!”
Possible line: “ I can see right through to the other side, wow!” Thinking: “Right, then, all right, then, right, well, there you go, that is it, enough is enough, if you ask my opinion…. I know it is something to do with sex.”
Thinking: “ Enough of this British reticence and subtlety. Time to do some good ol’ Chicago shouting! Maybe that’ll help.”
Possible line: “You can hear the sea sometimes, if you listen very carefully.”
Thinking: “Come on, woman, blink, blink! All right, I suppose you aren’t even going to do that for me.”
Possible line: “If I try the Vulcan mind-meld on myself, maybe I’ll be smart enough to understand this play—or at least understand this woman!”
Thinking: “Phew, we have reached the final tableau, the cage of infinity, I am a teary, nose-drippy mess, my character’s life is in tatters, his emotions are flayed, his psyche shredded—aah, it’s just one more night in the theatre… I believe I’ve earned this drink.”
Friday, April 24, 2009
Review by Mary Shen Barnidge
They met in a pub earlier that evening. Spooner is a garrulous down-at-heels poet given to soliloquizing after the style of T.S.Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Hirst, to whose home they have repaired, is a laconic square who responds with polite deference to his guest’s vulgar speculations about their respective marital histories. After imbibing an extraordinary amount of undiluted liquor in dainty nibbles, Hirst literally crawls off to bed and Spooner proceeds to steal all the cigarettes from the humidor, only to be interrupted by two rough-trade houseboys who warn him to watch his step. The next morning, Hirst is revealed to be a prestigious Man of Letters whose literary status soon reduces the arrogant Spooner to an obsequious acolyte pleading for favor.
Or so one may interpret the dynamic in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. Spooner and HIrst might also be a pair of poufs dancing around the closet door. Or a couple of impotent hets crying over the women who left them. Or maybe their claim to have been school chums is genuine and this encounter a big-chill lament for their lost youth. And what’s with those domestic guard-dogs, Briggs and Foster, and the latter’s boast of hustling—girls, of course—in the fleshpots of the Far East? Pinter, renowned for his enigmatic iconography, offers us no overt signposts, instead inviting us to impose our own contexts on the action.
Neither does Remy Bumppo director James Bohnen nudge us in one direction over another, but allows us, if we wish, to ignore context altogether and just enjoy David Darlow and Joe Van Slyke in roles originally created by (and perhaps for) John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. Together these seasoned players generate a tag-team sensitivity—how often do actors actually LISTEN to one another?—that transforms the long and almost exclusively two-character first act into a symphony of starts, stops, silences and significant stares.
Giving them a breather from time to time are Nick Sandys and Mark L. Montgomery as the ominous caretakers. Kudos also to Tim Morrison and Allison Boland’s excruciatingly tasteful décor whose very tidiness shimmers with suppressed menace.
Pictured above: NO MANS LAND: Nick Sandys, Joe Van Slyke, Mark Montgomery, David Darlow (2001)
Monday, April 20, 2009
The set looks great—very simple and elegant, and yet floating in a void—and JR’s lighting, as always, really enhances the atmospherics, playing up the ghostly woods and the distant horizon, and, as James has commented, creating little Cornell boxes, “cages of infinity” (in Michael Billington’s phrase). The last moment is excitingly theatrical and haunting—I will say no more at this juncture. You’ll have to come and see me tortured from the inside for yourselves.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Our first preview picture of the show has come out. To think this was taken on the first day of rehearsal and already our cast is looking the part. Tension. Hidden secrets. Memories. Its all there!
Stay tuned to this spot as all three give you a taste of whats to come in OLD TIMES.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Okay, okay, okay, here we are, deep in the Pinterlands and I had forgotten how mind-bending it can be. I feel pretty confident nowadays about delving into a script and finding through-lines and clues to the characters inner-life, and analyzing a character's specific use of language. But then here comes Mr. Pinter and makes you realise how pathetic your toolbox really is. It is like returning to Acting 101 and finding yourself without mooring, floating along in the profoundly disturbing cesspool of his characters' inner monologues--and the waters never clear. In fact, though I usually love tablework, I found that, on this one, I was massively relieved to get up on my feet--or, in this case, slump in an armchair in the corner of the stage and watch like a hawk. Suddenly, what had appeared to be an Escher-like maelstrom of dark emotions disappearing into primeval depths became more playable, more playful, and the opportunity to drive along the surface of his brilliantly bare language provided a wonderfully simple map--once you tune in. There are still multiple hidden turnings to negotiate, but it was not as frightening, or as mentally tiring, as digging into the text and debating the multivalency of his simplest images and relationships. I begin to see sunlight through the clouds--or is that the horizon through the trees--and can appreciate the amazing skill of the writing. Now I just have to brave enough to hurl myself on board this speedboat and set course for this particular Scylla and Charybdis. But hey, I get to act opposite two gorgeous women--I need to stop complaining and smell the coffee. Ahhhh, nothing like bad rehearsal coffee to get the juices flowing!
Friday, March 27, 2009
As an actor and an artist its been a great growth process for me as well, giving me the opportunity to hone some of my writing, figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t, and what do I need to be able to tell a story clearly, AND stylistically. Its been dope, its been real, and I am excited to see where we can take this show- around the country, festivals…the sky is the limit.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
So yes, it is absolutely living the dream in so many different ways, and thank you so much to everybody who’s come out to support the show – it means so so much! We’re having convo’s right now about the future life of the show, so hopefully it will be in a city near you – and if you are a presenting organization or school that would like to bring us out – most definitely let us know! I know the words, thoughts, experiences, and post-show discussions evoked by the show will be staying with me and my art for a very long time
Friday, March 20, 2009
To continue reading this blog, click http://chicagovulture.blogspot.com/
"this is one helluva show. Three writer-performers occupy the stage like they're standing on the ledge of a building...it is entirely about the here and now." - New City Stage
"a new, unexpected and inspiring experience...It's very smart. It's very moving." - Annabel Armour, Actress and Remy Bumppo Artistic Associate
"The writer-performers ... are clearly aware of the complexities involved in viewing modern media through this lens..." - Brian Nemtusak, TimeOut Chicago
"The profound sketches...did cause me to reflect on some of my own ideas about the topics ... It was enlightening." - Katheryne Lumous, Remy Bumppo patron"It's Cheap. It's Unexpected. It's Great. Go." - Karen Aldridge, Actress
Did you know you can listen to all American Ethnic post-show discussions from your home?
Log on to ChicagoPublicRadio.org and search "Chicago Amplified Archives" for all of Remy Bumppo's programs.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I moved to
We have just finished our tech weekend and are jumping into tech/opening week. Tech week is my favorite week...I get to be "hands on" with the production, helping to pull all the pieces together and watch it take shape. This collaberation, has been extremely rewarding for me - to work with such talented individuals and produce something that can cause change, it's a rarity (though not at Remy Bumppo :).
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Well the weekend was grueling. A ten hour tech on Saturday and another 5 hours on Sunday, but it was well worth it. The show is in great shape, the lights and sound adding a great deal of color, vibrancy and immediacy to the production. It’s great working with sound expert Nick Keenan, and lighting wizz Stephanette. Under the guiding eye of stage manager Amy Bertacini and director Nick Sandys, tech weekend was unusually relaxed but efficient at the same time.
As for the performers, we are getting a little antsy, ready to put this show up in front of an audience! I can’t believe opening is so soon, and the nervous energy is getting the better of me! I am ready!
Shameless plug: Sunday evening Kelly and I will be at the Green Mill’s Uptown Poetry Slam this Sunday the 15th of March.
Then catch us at Café Mestizo Wednesday 18th March.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
What's up RB family? 10 days until opening night, and I'm SO excited. I'm really proud of the work that we're doing and seeing the possibilities, the borders and boundaries of the work and how to collaboratively and collectively lift text and performance from these humble pages in the 3-dimensional space of the theater. Something that Nick told us in rehearsal last week really resonates with me -- He mentioned how in the UK -- actors are trained to explore what emotion the character is going through and then hide it, since that's what most people do in real life. For me, as a spoken word artist, this totally flies in the face of what I think we usually do as spoken word artists.
Nick and I were talking how poetry (and particularly spoken word) is more often like music -- The performance is written into the musicality of the work -- you become the instrument through which the emotion is played as opposed to the ways that text and performance and emotion play out in theater. It's been a good exploration for me through the poetry and monologue work and rudimentary character development. I'm looking forward to fleshing out more and more the layers of what we've written into the work. Making all those discoveries that we maybe did not even know ourselves about race, gender, and media in
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
For a Pakistani seeing images of gunman firing at cricket players in a bus is one of the saddest sights ever. Cricket is a more than a national pastime for my people. Its something that binds us all together, and is in fact an obsession. Pakistani treat cricketers from all over the world like royalty, amazed at the talent, aggression and intelligence they show on the field. It is hard for an American to fully understand how the term "aggression" can be used in the same sentence as cricket, and because of the terrorist attack today, the word term has found a new, completely disgusting connection with our sport.
Pakistanis love aggressive bombastic cricket, but we love to see it on the field. We love to see a batsmen thrash a quick bowler who has been sending the ball down at him at over 99 Miles/hour.
We love to see the wickets smash when that bowler has got his revenge, chest thumping and being mobbed by his teammates. We blow horns in the crowd, we dance, we sing, we taunt the opposition. The andrenaline is so powerful.
As someone who played the game competitively for many years, there was no better feeling than winning a trying, tiring test match.
We love cricket. We love cricketers. We even love cricketers from other countries. We huddle around televisions and watch, and for a moment all the rest of the hardships of life, the suicide bombings, the taliban, the political instability, all of it doesnt matter anymore.
So, when cricketers are the targets of attacks by fanatical idiots, we feel outraged, ashamed and at total despair. This attack will kill cricket in Pakistan, and the biggest step to the death of our people. I am thankful that our friends the Sri Lankan cricket team were saved from serious harm. But now, no teams will tour Pakistan, and the stadiums will remain empty.
Its interesting watching these images on the screen from here in the states, so far away from the devastation, and then hearing my fathers voice on the phone lamenting the death of all civilization in Pakistan. He has a tendency to be melodramatic, but I have heard him say this over and over again this year and the last. This coming from a man who only a few years ago would never have said something like this about his own country. Pakistan is being slowly overrun but a small minority of nutjobs, who are unfortunately misrepresenting the entire population. How much can I really blame the media representations of me, when I see this violence by my people against my own people. How often can we shift the blame, pass the buck.
Over there bombs are going off, over here I'm writing a show about how unfair it is to be an actor of color. Sometimes, our perspective is so out of whack.
But, I know that just because things are worse somewhere else doesnt meant our own country should be immune from criticism. Voices of dissent, and outrage are what separate us from crazy nutjobs....both the Taliban types, and the ultra nationalists here in America.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
I had told myself to immerse myself in the writing scene, and hit up all the spots regularly performing my style of spoken word....but that didnt quite happen. Instead I've hit up the Green Mill a few times, been a featured performer, and done Public Enemy last year for thinkTank. The focus for the last two years in this city has been on acting...only. And thats been great! just fine with me, since thats what my degree is in...so I've worked with Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf and Lookingglass to name a few, and been gaining really important professional experience.
So as you can imagine, its taken me a bit to flex that writing muscle and get back into the writing, while during the rehearsals so much of my energy has been in the actions, the motivations for each piece. I hunger to find specificity in choices on stage, how to enliven a piece, but thankfully with the editting and conversational help of my co-horts, the writing has come along grandly! as well!
Its an amazing feeling when it feels like things are chugging along, and you are artistically connecting to a piece both as a writer and hip hop kid, but also as an actor.
So for me, we are in that place right now, where the writing is all coming together, we are more and more satisfied with what is on the page, and now its time to build, create, make choices, make more choices, and bring it all onto the stage. That great, nitty gritty stuff that all actors love.
I was reading Hanif Kureishi's Strangers When We Meet, and he has a great thought in there. He says "The depth and passion Florence has on stage is clear to me. But, I know what an artist finds interesting about their own work, the part they consider original and penetrating, will not necessarily compel an audience, who might not even notice it, but only attend to the story."
Very well put.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Today the show started to really take shape and find its direction--which is good for me, as director! As we began to put sections together and see how they fit, I realised that the initial sections that we had created early on were not quite making sense--which makes sense! As our three intrepid writers are still writing, and have responded to their recent experiences and feelings (Usman's return to his Pakistani homeland, Kelly's response to current hiphop music), the shows pieces begin to change tone and to crossfade/mix with each other in different combinations. Now a section on television can be divided into two, one half on role models and creation myths, a second on news and its censorship of experience. This devlopment then changes the section before, and changes where the comedy and lightness needs to be. So this process, so alive and so exciting, just took another step into scary territory, since I am far more comfortable, or expereinced at least, in carving up Shakespeare's text, than I am in analyzing Idris', Kelly's, and Usman's soft rhymes, riffs, ragings--but I love their passion, their opinions, and their words. This is a wild ride into hiphophopeland, and today the show just grew another super power!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
by CRM Interactive - Monday, October 13, 2008, 08:17 AM
Toni Nealie's class recently discussed media reports about Barack Obama being "too black", "not black enough" or off on an "exotic holiday". Some examples include the NY Times article about steel workers not wanting to vote for Obama because he is black, Cokie Roberts statements about obama's exotic holiday and Time magazine's cover story is Obama black enough. (see New York Times Article). The students in Toni's class explored personal and media schemas about African-American males and how news reports about black male criminals, shootings on the South side etc provide a shorthand version but not a wider picture. How do those schemas play into media commentary about Senator Obama?
For more and to see student dialogue, click on the picture.
Monday, February 9, 2009
MY NOSE AND ME: A TRAGEDYLITE OR TRAGIDELIGHT IN 33 SCENES
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 7:30 PM
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 East Grand Avenue
Admission is free, but reservations are recommended.
Call 312.595.5460 or visit www.chicagoshakes.com/nose.
My Nose and Me: A TragedyLite or TragiDelight in 33 Scenes by John Surowiecki is the inaugural winner of the Poetry Foundation’s Verse Drama Prize. It makes its Chicago debut here, under the direction of Bernard Sahlins.
“Loosely inspired by Gogol's comic masterpiece ‘The Nose,’ master poet John Surowiecki has written a laugh-out-loud gem of a play. In some 30 short, fast-paced scenes, this award-winning work carries us through time and across continents, taking shots at pompous doctors, randy nurses, and intellectual quackery in general while attesting to the unity of our physical constituents—including our noses.”—Bernard Sahlins
John Surowiecki is the author of Watching Cartoons before Attending a Funeral, The Hat City after Men Stopped Wearing Hats, and five chapbooks. He won Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize and has received fellowships from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. He makes his home in Connecticut, where he is a freelance writer and teaches poetry courses at Manchester Community College.
Bernard Sahlins co-founded the Second City Theater and the International Theatre Festival of Chicago. He has produced and directed shows in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, London, and Toronto. His memoir, Days and Nights at the Second City, appeared from Ivan R. Dee in 2002.
Presented by Poetry Foundation
Friday, February 6, 2009
For this week's blog entry, we borrow a post from Usman Ally's own personal blog.
Usman recently returned from Pakistan, where he was fascinated by what he calls the "creeping Americanisation of Pakistani Media."
Here's his excerpt: (for more of his blog check out http://usmanally.blogspot.com
Life is strange: I finally become used to sitting next to my mother, watching Pakistani dramas and Indian movies when the world outside all of a sudden rudely interrupts our awkwardly beautiful moments of reconnection. The news on the telly has been flooded with images of death and destruction in Gaza, and the perception of the Arab-Israeli conflict is presented in a completely different light than it is in Chicago, Illinois.
However the media here uses much of the same tools. There is a FOX News here too, and it features radical perspectives calling for an armed military intervention by Pakistan in Gaza to “teach Israel a lesson” much in the same way Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity wanted America to “bomb them to bits” a few years ago. Thankfully the sane, sober news stations far outnumber the crazy ones, but it still leaves an impression in your mind when you see how different yet similar things are here.
As the conflict in Gaza grows many Arab nations and peoples have been looking to Pakistan as a muslim force that might be able to halt Israel. I say hogwash to that. Pakistan has plenty of its own problems to deal with what with inner turmoil of terror organizations, the Afghan border and India. And besides Arab nations love to beckon Pakistan to do something because this country has armed nuclear power, but Arabs still treat Pakistani people in a very pejorative way. But, I think I have mentioned this in a previous post already so I won’t waffle on now. I’ll just say that hopefully the armed offensive will end soon before more Palestinians are killed.
Back to war time terminology though…here terrorist organizations that lurk in the shadows of the northern areas of Pakistan feel galvanized and find justification of their actions because of the United States’ inaction, and seemingly pro-Israeli standpoint. Today 2 bombs went off in a part of Punjab that is not too far off from where we live. Far enough that it doesn’t affect us here in Islamabad at all, but still eerily close. I wonder if Americans back in Chicago realize that the terror organizations that plant these bombs that kill women and children use the same language as the US armed forces. When innocents are killed they call it “collateral damage” and those that have been killed are “casualties of war.” When more Pakistanis die than those who are targeted they say that it is due to “friendly fire.” They justify their war in exactly the same way that the US Armed Forces justify their own military actions in the Middle East. Interesting huh?"
Thursday, January 29, 2009
With the election of our lovely new and improved President, one can’t help but notice the wave of anticipation, and excitement in the air. Most everyone (yes even some Republican Americans) cannot help but be swept up into the electric atmosphere. I have never seen people so giddy every time that man comes up on the screen. People smile when he bobs his head to Aretha Franklin, people tear up when he speaks about his mother, people applaud when he quotes the great Sam Cooke saying “A Change Gonna Come!”
Of course all of this has begged the question of whether we live in a post-racial word. In an earlier blog entry my co-horts Kelly Tsai and Idris Goodwin responded to the bizarre question posed in the Chicago RedEye “Is Racism Dead?” If I can be permitted to paraphrase them, “Hells No!” I perfectly understand that it is monumental and historic that Obama is now in the white house, no longer is a man of color (not a black man, but a man of color, lets be real) unable to go higher up than a General Colin Powell, or a Condi Rice, this man of color is DA MAN! But, this means very little in the real day to day world. There are still forms of institutional racism that exist today, still a lack of investment in schools in poor neighborhoods, still a disproportionate level of punishment for African American narcotics offenders, still a lack of representation of people of color in investment firms, in the legal system and in HOLLYWOOD to ever say that racism is dead or that we live in a post-racial world. Obama’s election does not in the slightest way make everything ok, and while that might seem an obvious statement, you would be surprised to know how many people interact with me as if I have suddenly been liberated.
At the end of the day, I am still a perceived threat to many in this country because of my ethnicity, I am still suspect. I am still having a harder time getting apartments to rent when people see my face after talking to me on the phone, and I know that if I lived in Inglewood, Chicago and decided to raise a family, my kids would get a poor education based on the demographic and geographic environment.
Now, what the election of our President does pose is….(drum roll please) HOPE. Obama brings the possibility that the ball will start rolling on these issues, that he will kindly remind his advisers that they need to think about what the little guy needs, that other people of color who are consistently overlooked or misrepresented need to be brought to the table. Here’s hoping.
I feel for him though…coming into this economic climate, the mess from the previous administration and the war in Gaza it almost seems like he has been set up to fail in some way.
I don’t think my expectations are lofty though….I think he just needs to deliver, like any president would have to…regardless of race.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
I’m not saying I wasn’t as excited as you. I’m not saying it’s not historic. I’m just saying I didn’t ask to get involved.
From the moment Obama accepted his nomination the strangest thing happened. Middle-aged white people began stopping me at random in the street, at the grocery store, while hiking, to engage in racial dialogue.
I should be excited by this - when I was coming up the only people interested in public conversations about race were those who had been victims of racism. By that I mean, up until Obama ran, white people tended to shy away from talking with me about race in a non-p.c., I-don’t-see-color kind of way (except of course for that whole OJ thing).
So it was jarring when grown, respectable, upstanding baby boomers began giving me goofy eyes, knowing nods, awkwardly shifting gears from “nice weather we’re’ having” to trips down memory lane: the 60’s when hands interlocked and Motown bridged the gaps and on and on and on and on.
It got real deep when I worked this summer at an outdoor newsstand in downtown Santa Fe, NM, which is incidentally where east coast leftists escape for retirement and death. It’s the sort of place where every store, restaurant and street has a Spanish or Native American name, yet all the Spanish speaking and Native American people are nowhere in sight.
And it should come as no surprise that while Santa Fe has an abundance of sunlight and parking spots, it is desperately lacking in the 31-year-old black guy department.
You get what I’m saying.
So there I was, sitting on a busy Santa Fe street in front of rows and rows of magazines featuring everyone’s favorite brown boy on the cover. I was an easy target.
The day after Obama won the primary someone yelled from across the street -- maybe 20 feet away -- “I bet you’re happy!”
Considering their logic they should have been happy when McCain won his respective primary. After all he is old, white and rich. Of course I never said that. I am no agitator.
I didn’t even respond to the woman who shook her head conspiratorially, “Can you believe he picked Biden? Always gotta shoulder up with the white man, right?”
It was getting out of control.
I couldn’t wait for the whole thing to hurry up and just get decided already. Then the tokenism would stop and things could back to the way they were. You know, when we would tip toe gingerly around the old race maypole, talk color with our skin-folk. It was hard enough for me to deal with my own day-to-day trials without having to participate – without having to be the sounding board for the wish fulfillment and redemption of the older generation.
I was sure that when it was over the dust would settle. But then he won. And it dawned on me, I’ve got four more years of this. Maybe eight.
So the night of Nov.4th, after Obama’s acceptance speech, after the bells and whistles and good tidings of joy, I found myself conflicted, weighing the consequences. Reflecting on how now everyone will assume that racism and it’s legacy is a thing of the past.
Suddenly, inexplicably, my great great great grandfather appeared beside me on the couch. Obama’s speech still hanging in the air, the ghost of my grandfather to my right, and me in-between.
Of course I immediately apologized for not keeping in better touch with him. He told me to shove my apology, then proceeded to remind me that in his day it was not only Illegal for black people to vote but it was illegal for black people to be people. In his day the house slave was allotted maybe 15 minutes for dreaming, but his dreams were confined to that of better ways to serve his or her master.
He continued on and on and on like the ghosts of our great great great grandfather’s tend to do, reminding me of all the privileges I now enjoy and that the last thing I should be concerned about is white people wanting to talk to me in a positive way about a black man that they aren’t interested in lynching or betting on to win the superbowl.
And with that, he was gone. So were my petty annoyances. I now accept my role in Obama’s unofficial cabinet. In fact, I welcome all testimonials, opinions and cash donations. (The last thing I’d want to do is come off rude.)
So let’s talk about race, America.
Yes, this extraordinary biracial politician (that everyone calls black; see the one drop rule) defeated the candidate of the crippled Republican Party. Does this signal the dawn of a post racial America? For those who answered yes, you are a sad and hilarious example of irony, like low-fat junk food.
Racism is a disease. It’s the AIDS virus of the “isms.” It’s responsible for countless deaths, deferred dreams, horrific atrocities. I don’t know if any of you have read Frederick Douglas, but homeboy could’ve talked circles around Obama and led our country in his sleep, though I doubt he could have raised the necessary funds at the time. Why? Racism. It’s ingrained, woven tightly into the fabric of our country. It’s the reason I am an American citizen and have the last name Goodwin. It’s the reason why initially we didn’t think Obama had a Lobster’s chance in boiling water. It’s what prompted someone in Delaware to deface Obama-Biden campaign posters with KKK.
You could say racism is our national pastime.
You could say America is Dr. Frankenstein and racism is its monster – but we can’t scare it with fire-lit torches.
Do I think things are better? Of course. When my parents entered their teens, Jim Crow laws were still in effect. However, my black and brown cohorts continue to be profiled by state troopers and affluent liberals alike. This country is ripe with generations of brown-skinned people for whom racism has robbed of the ability to dream, to actualize, to even imagine being the president of the student council let alone the United States of America.
To suggest that racism is over because the browner guy won the game underestimates the weight and power of its legacy and insults its victims.