(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘theater

“The theatre is certainly a place for learning about the brevity of human glory”*…

 

riot

 

In May of 1849, at the now-demolished Astor Opera House in Manhattan, a riot left… 31 dead, and more than 120 people injured.  It was the deadliest to that date of a number of civic disturbances in Manhattan, which generally pitted immigrants and nativists against each other, or together against the wealthy who controlled the city’s police and the state militia.

The riot resulted in the largest number of civilian casualties due to military action in the United States since the American Revolutionary War, and led to increased police militarization (for example, riot control training and larger, heavier batons)…

There’s something both grimly funny and profound… about the riot; it seems to express the madness of American history. A mob of thousands attempted to storm a theater over a performance of Macbeth, the National Guard had to be called up, 31 people were killed and more than 100 wounded all over the personal jealousies of two vain and insecure actors, an Englishman with aristocratic airs named William Macready, and an American, Edward “Ned” Forrest, who seemed to his audiences to embody a new democratic energy…

The Astor Place riot combined two of 19th-century America’s favorite pastimes: going to the theater and rioting. This was especially true in the period after the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828, who was swept into office on a wave of raucous populism and expanded suffrage to all white men. Jackson’s inauguration was very nearly a riot itself: a horde of drunken men packed the White House, destroyed furniture and overturned the food laid out. The crowd could only be lured onto the lawn with the promise that more whiskey-spiked punch would be served outside. The violence peaked in 1835, when the country saw some 147 riots, according to David Grimsted’s American Mobbing: 1828-1861: Toward Civil War...

The remarkable true tale of the competing Shakespeareans who (literally) drew blood: “The most fascinating riot you’ve never heard of.”

* Iris Murdoch

###

As we agree that all the world’s a stage, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that James M. Cain’s stage adaptation of his 1934 novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, opened on Broadway.  Cain had hoped to have the novel adapted as a movie, but the Hays Office (the Production Code Administration, the Motion Picture Industry’s self-policing moral authority) deemed it too steamy for the screen.

Cain’s play ran only 72 performances.  But it was adapted as a motion picture the following year in France (by Pierre Chenal), then in Italy in 1943 (by Luchino Visconti); finally– emboldened by Paramount’s success with Cain’s Double Indemnity (which had raised many of the same moral concerns)– MGM moved ahead.  Its 1946 production of The Postman Always Rings Twice was a huge hit, and is now considered a film noir classic.

Postman source

 

“Don’t try to make children grow up to be like you, or they may do it”*…

 

Your correspondent is headed several time zones away, so (Roughly) Daily will be on hiatus until February the 10th or so.  Meantime…

15 year olds

 

In 2000, the OECD asked 15-year-olds what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some 47% of boys and 53% of girls picked 10 careers, including doctors, teachers, lawyers and business managers.

In 2018, the OECD asked again. Though the nature of work has changed dramatically since the turn of the century, kids’ answers have not: An even larger share of both boys and girls say they want to go into the same 10 professions…

See the breakdown at “The world of work is changing, but the career aspirations of teenagers are not.”

[image above, source]

* Russell Baker

###

As we reassess our aspirations, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers premiered at the Old Vic in London.  A satire of academic philosophy– likening it to a less-than-skillful competitive display of gymnastics and juggling– the play is set in an alternative future in which British astronauts have landed on the moon… leading to fears that the landing  would ruin the moon as a poetic trope and result in a collapse of moral values.

Egad!

Michael Hordern as philosopher George Moore (from the playtext cover). Moore is about to loose the arrow and disprove Zeno’s arrow paradox.

 source

Happy Groundhog Day!

 source

 

Written by LW

February 2, 2020 at 1:01 am

“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

 

“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”*…

 

Beer

 

Of all the substances people intoxicate themselves with, alcohol is the least restricted and causes the most harm. Many illegal drugs are more dangerous to those who use them, but are relatively hard to obtain, which limits their impact. In contrast, alcohol is omnipresent, so far more people suffer from its adverse effects. In 2010 a group of drug experts scored the total harm in Britain caused by 20 common intoxicants and concluded that alcohol inflicted the greatest cost, mostly because of the damage it does to non-consumers such as the victims of drunk drivers…

No Western country has banned alcohol since America repealed Prohibition in 1933. It is popular and easy to produce. Making it illegal enriches criminals and starts turf wars. In recent years governments have begun legalising other drugs. Instead, to limit the harm caused by alcohol, states have tried to dissuade people from drinking, using taxes, awareness campaigns and limits on where, when and to whom booze is sold.

The alcohol industry has pitched itself as part of the solution. In Britain more than 100 producers and retailers have signed a “responsibility deal” and promised to “help people to drink within guidelines”, mostly by buying ads promoting moderation. However, if these campaigns were effective, they would ruin their sponsors’ finances. According to researchers from the Institute of Alcohol Studies, a think-tank, and the University of Sheffield, some two-fifths of alcohol consumed in Britain is in excess of the recommended weekly maximum of 14 units (about one glass of wine per day). Industry executives say they want the public to “drink less, but drink better”, meaning fewer, fancier tipples. But people would need to pay 22-98% more per drink to make up for the revenue loss that such a steep drop in consumption would cause.

Health officials have taken note of such arithmetic. Some now wonder if Big Booze is sincere in its efforts to discourage boozing. In 2018 America’s National Institutes of Health stopped a $100m study of moderate drinking, which was partly funded by alcohol firms, because its design was biased in their products’ favour. And this year the World Health Organisation and England’s public-health authority banned their staff from working with the industry…

alcohol

Governments are growing more suspicious of Big Booze: “Alcohol firms promote moderate drinking, but it would ruin them.”

See also “How much beer does your state drink? In the thirstiest, about 40 gallons a year per person,” source of the image at top.

* Homer Simpson

###

As we muse on moderation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1944 that Harvey, a play by Mary Chase, opened on Broadway.  It ran for 1,775 performances and won the (1945) Pulitzer prize for Drama.  The story of a care-free dipsomaniac named Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend was a “pooka” (an imaginary rabbit named Harvey), it was directed by Antoinette Perry– the actress, director, and co-founder of the American Theater Wing, for whom the Tony Awards are named.  It’s been regularly revived on-stage, and was adapted into an Oscar-winning film that starred Jimmy Stewart as Elwood.

220px-Harvey-FE-1953 source

 

Written by LW

November 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

“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

“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

###

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

%d bloggers like this: