(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Drama

“Children are not deceived by fairy-tales; they are often and gravely deceived by school-stories. Adults are not deceived by science-fiction ; they can be deceived by the stories in the women’s magazines.”*…

 

the_ladies_home_journal_1948_14763671891

 

In the 1890s, empire building was in the air in New York, and magazine editors succumbed to the craze. As President Theodore Roosevelt sent troops to Cuba and the Philippines, the magazine men—they were nearly all men—had quieter plans to extend their influence. They used their brands to sell model homes, universities, and other offerings of middle-class life. It was, after all, the Progressive Era, when technological innovations and post-Victorian values were supposed to hasten the arrival of a more enlightened, egalitarian social order. Before the concept of branding even existed, these new magazine ventures represented an exercise in branding. But woven into this phenomenon lay a stealth traditionalism, a new way of packaging the often conservative, sometimes quixotic visions of a few titans of the press.

Editors Edward Bok (Ladies’ Home Journal), John Brisben Walker (Cosmopolitan), and S.S. McClure (McClure’s) saw a way to directly shape their readers’ class aspirations. In 1895 Ladies’ Home Journal began to offer unfrilly, family-friendly architectural plans in its pages. They were mainly colonial, Craftsman, or modern ranch-style houses, and many still stand today. The Cosmopolitan, as it was then known, advertised the Cosmopolitan University, a custom-designed college degree—for free!—by correspondence course. McClure’s magazine, the juggernaut of investigative journalism—home to Ida Tarbell’s landmark investigation of Standard Oil, among many other muckraking articles of the Gilded Age—began to plot an array of ventures, including a model town called McClure’s Ideal Settlement.

Cannily noting the trend for smaller, servantless suburban homes, Journal editor Bok [the grandfather of Harvard President Derek Bok] was selling more than home design. Every house should be occupied by a female homemaker, he decided, and every family should aspire to a simpler, more frugal way of life. The campaign rapidly succeeded. By 1916 the editors of the Journal claimed that thirty thousand of their homes had been built. Part of this was due to the Journal’s wide circulation—it was the first American magazine to surpass a million subscribers. Its sister publication, the weekly Saturday Evening Post, was a fixture of nearly every household…

fireproof_house_2

“A Fireproof House for $5,000,” illustration by Frank Lloyd Wright in Ladies’ Home Journal, 1907

When the (male) proprietors of women’s magazines believed that their publications could change lives on a grand scale: “Editorial Visions.”

* C.S. Lewis

###

As we shape society, we might recall that it was on this date in 1914 that George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion premiered in London, featuring Mrs Patrick Campbell (for whom Shaw had written the role) as Eliza Doolittle.

The Greek myth of Pygmalion, who fell in love with one of his sculptures, was a popular subject for Victorian English playwrights, including one of Shaw’s influences, W. S. Gilbert, who had written a successful play based on the story,  Pygmalion and Galatea, that was first presented in 1871.  Shaw’s play in turn has been adapted numerous times, most notably as the musical My Fair Lady and its film version.

220px-Mrs._Patrick_Campbell_as_Eliza_Doolittle_1914

A Sketch Magazine illustration of Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Eliza Doolittle from April, 1914

source

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing and it’s the not knowing that makes it interesting”*…

 

Gifanisquatsi

 

Koyaanisqatsi is a 1983 wordless documentary primarily made up of slow motion and time-lapse footage. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the trailer here.

I wondered how easy it would be to make an internet version using random Giphy ‘gifs’ which have been tagged as slow motion or time-lapse, playing them along with the Philip Glass soundtrack…

Rico Monkeon has built a “random Koyaanisquatsi generator.”

* Philip Glass

###

As we commune with the cosmic, we might send dandy birthday greetings to Sir Noël Peirce Coward; he was born on this date in 1899.  A playwright, composer, director, actor, and singer, he wrote more than 50 plays from his teens onwards.  Many of his works, such as Hay Fever, Private Lives, Design for Living, Present Laughter and Blithe Spirit, have remained in the regular theater repertoire.  He composed hundreds of songs, in addition to well over a dozen musical theater works (including the operetta Bitter Sweet and comic revues), screenplays, poetry, several volumes of short stories, the novel Pomp and Circumstance, and a three-volume autobiography.  Coward’s stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, during which he starred in many of his own works.

For all that, he may be best remembered for his persona, for his wit, flamboyance– and for what Time magazine called “a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise.”

220px-Noel_Coward_Allan_warren_edit_1 source

 

Written by LW

December 16, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot”*…

 

Lerner and Lowe

Composer Frederick Loewe (left) and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner in a 1956 photo

 

In the preparation for the Broadway debut of Camelot— on the heels of their shared successes with Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, and Gigi— the relationship between the creative team Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe began to fray…

By the end of the week Fritz and I were seeing less and less of each other. Irritations and differences between us that had been long forgotten and were of little consequence at the time had now become the subject of questions by interviewers. Our replies traveled from mouth to mouth and by the time they reached us they were unrecognizable distortions. If we had stayed steadfastly and constantly together as we always had in the past we would have laughed, rowed, or shrugged, but in the end gone on about our business. We did not. I do not know why we did not. I may have thought I knew then but whatever I thought, I am certain I was wrong. I have a feeling the reason was far more insidious, something of which neither of us was aware and which affected each of us in different ways. I have a feeling it may have been too much success.

Success, as I mentioned earlier, can be a creative stimulant. It encourages reaching in and reaching out. But it can also take the concessions of collaboration and call them compromise. It can embitter as often as it elates and inflates and it can weaken as much as it toughens. It can magnify faults and unearth a few new ones and its only virtue is when it is forgotten. Perhaps I was too disdainful of the words of others and Fritz too vulnerable. Perhaps I misinterpreted our differences as lack of support and he misinterpreted mine as heroics. Perhaps. Perhaps not. I will never know. Too much was never said. In the end we were a little like the couple being discussed in one of Noel Coward’s early plays. “Do they fight?” said one. “Oh, no,” said the other. “They’re much too unhappy to fight.”

From the memoir of Alan Jay Lerner, The Street Where I Live, via the ever-illuminating DelanceyPlace.com.

* Alan Jay Lerner, Camelot

###

As we contemplate collaboration, we might send dramatic birthday greetings to James Maxwell Anderson; he was born on this date in 1888.  A playwright, screenwriter, author, poet, journalist, and lyricist, Anderson had a string of theatrical successes (e.g., What Price Glory, Key Largo, Bad Seed, Anne of a Thousand Days), adapted his plays and the works of others and created original works for the screen (e.g., All Quiet on the Western Front, Joan of Arc, Ben-Hur), and wrote the book for two of Kurt Weill’s productions (including Knickerbocker Holiday, the standout number in which, “September Song”, became a popular standard).

Maxwell_Anderson source

 

“By reducing the scale of events it can introduce much larger events”*…

 

paper_theaters_the_home_entertainment_of_yesteryear_1050x700

 

In the Regency era (early 1800s), live theater was so popular that it regularly inspired riots. In 1809, when the Covent Garden Theater tried to raise ticket prices, audiences were so incensed that they revolted. For more than two months straight, they shouted, shook rattles, rung bells, and even brought pigs into the theater to drown out the actors. The protest was successful, and the administration gave up on the price hike.

Meanwhile, crowds packed into the “blood tubs,” unofficial performances held in abandoned warehouses and holes dug into the ground. The typical fare included lewd songs, dramatizations of shocking local crimes, and twenty-minute abridgements of Shakespeare. The shows changed so frequently that the actors tended to make up the stories as they went along. The theaters were unlicensed, meaning that both audiences and actors risked imprisonment for participating. Nonetheless, the blood tubs were so popular that they sometimes gave as many as six performances a day to audiences of hundreds, most of them children.

Clearly, people were hungry for entertainment. And in this time before Netflix and YouTube, enterprising toymakers developed a novel way to bring entertainment into the home: paper theaters. For “one penny plain, two cents colored,” you got a tiny cardboard stage about the size of a paperback book, complete with a proscenium arch, curtains, and sometimes even a paper audience. The characters were laid out on sheets of paper, frozen in dramatic poses: villains brandish revolvers capped with clouds of gunpowder, jolly sailors hook arms and dance, clowns emerge from barrels…

This short-lived children’s toy left… an enduring cultural legacy. Before Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, before Jean Cocteau directed his iconic, dreamlike Beauty and the Beast, before Wagner composed his Ring Cycle, they each acted out their big stories on these tiny stages. As the literary scholar Monica Cohens points out, Stevenson’s Treasure Island reads almost like a paper-theater drama writ large. Pirates were an unshakeable cliché of Victorian melodrama, and the grim tales of cruelty and violence that featured on the Victorian stage were brightened into candy colors in their miniature theater editions. Likewise, Stevenson’s dashing pirates come to us filtered through a sunny lens…

In the nineteenth century, enterprising toymakers developed a novel way to bring theater into the home.  An appreciation of the Dungeons and Dragons of its day: “Paper Theaters: The Home Entertainment of Yesteryear.”

* G. K. Chesterton

###

As we revel in role-playing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1951 that I Love Lucy premiered on CBS.  The chronicle of Lucy Ricardo’s (Lucille Ball’s) efforts to break into show business alongside her bandleader husband Desi (Desi Arnaz) via schemes hatched with her neighbors (William Frawley and Vivian Vance), it ran for six seasons, 180 episodes, it became the most watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and it was the first to end its run atop the Nielsen ratings (an accomplishment later matched only by The Andy Griffith Show in 1968 and Seinfeld in 1998).

A pioneer– it was the first scripted show shot in 35mm, the first ensemble cast, the first “three camera” scripted production– it created the template for sit-coms to come.  It won five Emmys and is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms in history. In 2012, it was voted the ‘Best TV Show of All Time’ in a survey conducted by ABC News and People magazine.

ILoveLucyTitleScreen source

 

 

 

Written by LW

October 15, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Why should things be easy to understand?”*…

 

Lee-Smolin_2K_02

 

The universe is kind of an impossible object. It has an inside but no outside; it’s a one-sided coin. This Möbius architecture presents a unique challenge for cosmologists, who find themselves in the awkward position of being stuck inside the very system they’re trying to comprehend.

It’s a situation that Lee Smolin has been thinking about for most of his career. A physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, Smolin works at the knotty intersection of quantum mechanics, relativity and cosmology. Don’t let his soft voice and quiet demeanor fool you — he’s known as a rebellious thinker and has always followed his own path. In the 1960s Smolin dropped out of high school, played in a rock band called Ideoplastos, and published an underground newspaper. Wanting to build geodesic domes like R. Buckminster Fuller, Smolin taught himself advanced mathematics — the same kind of math, it turned out, that you need to play with Einstein’s equations of general relativity. The moment he realized this was the moment he became a physicist. He studied at Harvard University and took a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, eventually becoming a founding faculty member at the Perimeter Institute.

“Perimeter,” in fact, is the perfect word to describe Smolin’s place near the boundary of mainstream physics. When most physicists dived headfirst into string theory, Smolin played a key role in working out the competing theory of loop quantum gravity. When most physicists said that the laws of physics are immutable, he said they evolve according to a kind of cosmic Darwinism. When most physicists said that time is an illusion, Smolin insisted that it’s real.

Smolin often finds himself inspired by conversations with biologists, economists, sculptors, playwrights, musicians and political theorists. But he finds his biggest inspiration, perhaps, in philosophy — particularly in the work of the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, active in the 17th and 18th centuries, who along with Isaac Newton invented calculus. Leibniz argued (against Newton) that there’s no fixed backdrop to the universe, no “stuff” of space; space is just a handy way of describing relationships. This relational framework captured Smolin’s imagination, as did Leibniz’s enigmatic text The Monadology, in which Leibniz suggests that the world’s fundamental ingredient is the “monad,” a kind of atom of reality, with each monad representing a unique view of the whole universe. It’s a concept that informs Smolin’s latest work as he attempts to build reality out of viewpoints, each one a partial perspective on a dynamically evolving universe. A universe as seen from the inside…

Lee Smolin explains his radical idea for how to understand an object with no exterior–imagine it built bit-by-bit from relationships between events: “How to Understand the Universe When You’re Stuck Inside of It.”

* Thomas Pynchon

###

As we muse on monads, we might send delightful birthday greetings to Fernando Arrabal Terán; he was born on this date in 1932.  A playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist, and poet, Arrabal co-founded the Panic Movement with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Roland Topor (inspired by the god Pan).

Early in his career, he spent three years as a member of André Breton’s surrealist group and was a friend of Andy Warhol and Tristan Tzara.  Later (in 1990), he was elected Transcendent Satrap of the Collège de  ‘pataphysique (following such predecessors as Marcel Duchamp, Eugène Ionesco, Man Ray, Boris Vian, Dario Fo, Umberto Eco, and Jean Baudrillard).

And throughout, he was very productive: Arrabal has directed seven full-length feature films and has published over 100 plays; 14 novels; 800 poetry collections, chapbooks, and artists’ books; several essays; and his notorious “Letter to General Franco” during the dictator’s lifetime.  His complete plays have been published, in multiple languages, in a two-volume edition totaling over two thousand pages. The New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow has called Arrabal the last survivor among the “three avatars of modernism.”

200px-Fernando_Arrabal,_2012 source

 

 

Written by LW

August 11, 2019 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: