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Posts Tagged ‘Drama

“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

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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

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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

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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

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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

“The act of a pro is to make it look easy. Fred Astaire doesn’t grunt when he dances to let you know how hard it is. If you’re good at it, you leave no fingerprints.”*…

 

 

Overbey-Rothman-Lillian-Ross

Lillian Ross was a journalist and author who was a staff writer at The New Yorker for seven decades.  Her novelistic reporting and writing style, apparent in early stories about Ernest Hemingway and John Huston, is widely understood to have been a primary influence on what would later be called “literary journalism” or “new journalism.”

Novelist– and one-time Ross friend– Andrew O’Hagan offers a remembrance on the occasion of the republication of Ross’s Picture, her account of the making of John Huston’s screen adaptation of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage [she’s pictured above, at work on the piece]…

I’ve never met anybody who hated as many people as Lillian Ross did. She would count their names off on her fingers, regularly within spitting distance of them, and her voice wasn’t quiet and she wasn’t shy. Bending back each digit and making a face, she’d offer a defining word after each name:

Gloria Steinem – phoney
Janet Malcolm – pretentious
Renata Adler – crackpot
Susan Sontag – nobody
Nora Ephron – liar

Other hand:

Kenneth Tynan – creep
Truman Capote – leech
George Plimpton – slick
Tom Wolfe – talentless
Philip Roth – jerk

It was a mercy she only had two hands…

Great reporting isn’t usually harmed by the reporter having a poor character. It may even be improved by it. Lillian just happened to be hard-bitten in the right way. Her pieces relied on a ruthlessness, sometimes a viciousness, that she didn’t try to hide and that other people liked to comment on. She talked a lot about not being egotistical and so on, but reporters who talk a great deal about not obtruding on the reporting are usually quite aware, at some level, that objectivity is probably a fiction, and that they are most present when imagining they’re invisible. (Lillian was in at least two minds about this, possibly six. One minute she’d say a reporter had to let the story be the story, the next she’d say it was ridiculous: a reporter is ‘chemically’ involved in the story she is writing.)…

More on the complicated question of character and and the work that it produces at “Not Enough Delilahs.”

{Image above: source]

* Lillian Ross

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As we consider the source, we might send delightful birthday greetings to Sir Tom Stoppard; he was born on this date in 1937.  A playwright and screenwriter, he has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, earning acclaim for such plays such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul, The Real Thing, The Invention of Love, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and for the screenplays for Brazil, The Russia House, and Shakespeare in Love; he has received an Academy Award and four Tony Awards.

220px-Image-Tom_Stoppard_1_(cropped) source

 

Written by LW

July 3, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”*…

 

Chacaltaya_Ski_Resort_2

 

The Chacaltaya Ski Resort was once the only ski resort in Bolivia. The popular resort also had the honor of being both the highest ski resort in the world and home to the world’s highest restaurant. But when the mountain’s glacier melted, it was all but abandoned.

The ski resort was opened in the late-1930s, and soon middle- and upper-class residents of nearby La Paz were flocking to its slopes. For seven or eight months of the year, people came to ski and go sledding down the Chacaltaya Glacier, at least until the cold and extreme altitude made them return to lower ground.

At 17,519 feet above sea level, the Chacaltaya Ski Resort was higher than the North Base Camp of Mount Everest. For decades it held the record as the world’s highest ski resort, and the resort’s restaurant is still recognized by Guinness as the highest restaurant in the world.

But in the 1990s, scientists at the Mount Chacaltaya Laboratory began to make some stark predictions. By 2015, they warned, the Chacaltaya Glacier would be gone. As it turned out, they were being optimistic. By 2009, the 18,000-year-old glacier was completely gone…

The sad story in full– and more photos– at “Abandoned Chacaltaya Ski Resort.”

* lyrics by Sammy Cahn; music by Jule Styne– written in 1945, in Hollywood, California  as Cahn and Styne imagined cooler conditions during a heat wave

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As we try to beat the heat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1613 that the Globe Theater in London, built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, was destroyed by fire.  The venue went up in flames during a performance of Henry VIII; a theatrical cannon, set off during the performance, misfired, igniting the wooden beams and thatching.  The theater was rebuilt the following year.

The Globe was the initial stage for most of Shakespeare’s plays, but for other playwrights as well.  Indeed, the first performance for which a firm record remains was Ben Jonson’s Every Man out of His Humour—with its first scene welcoming the “gracious and kind spectators”—at the end of 1599.

220px-Hollar_Globe

The second Globe, preliminary sketch (c. 1638) for Hollar’s 1647 Long View of London

source

 

Written by LW

June 29, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Emergencies have always been necessary to progress”*…

 

economy

The 2008 financial crisis continues to plague the world economy and our politics. It’s also messing with how we understand our narratives of global integration. Until recently, going global implied exuberant stories about one-world connectivity and technocratic togetherness. Now, it’s the other way around: the stories of our times are consumed with collapses, extinctions and doom. It’s a playbook for nativists, who see interdependence as a recipe for catastrophe.

Our big narratives were once capable of more nuance than the pendular swing from euphoria to dysphoria. For every 18th-century Enlightenment story of hope, there was a shadow of decline; in the 19th century, liberals had to joust with conservative and radical prophets of demise. Some even saw crisis as an opportunity. Influenced by Karl Marx, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942 made a virtue out of ruin. There could be something creative about bringing down tired old institutions. The late German-born economist Albert O Hirschman thought of disequilibria as a potential source of new thinking. In 1981, he distinguished between two types of crisis: the kind that disintegrates societies and sends members scrambling for the exits, and what he called an ‘integrative crisis’, one in which people together imagine new ways forward…

Jeremy Adelman, the Henry Charles Lea professor of history and director of the Global History Lab at Princeton, argues that we should look for opportunities in our travails: “Why we need to be wary of narratives of economic catastrophe.”

See also: “The Three Revolutions Economics Needs.

* “Emergencies have always been necessary to progress. It was darkness which produced the lamp. It was fog that produced the compass. It was hunger that drove us to exploration. And it took a depression to teach us the real value of a job.”                               – Victor Hugo

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As we search for silver linings, we might recall that it was on this date in 1728 that John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera premiered at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in London.  It ran for 62 consecutive performances, the longest run in English theater history and second longest run in the Western world up to that time (after 146 performances of Robert Cambert’s Pomone in Paris in 1671).

260px-william_hogarth_016

Painting based on scene 11 Act III of The Beggar’s Opera; by William Hogarth, c. 1728 [source]

Written by LW

January 29, 2019 at 1:01 am

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