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Posts Tagged ‘theater

“If there really is such a thing as turning in one’s grave, Shakespeare must get a lot of exercise”*…

 

Your correspondent is off on a whistle tour of the Midwest.  While altogether auspicious, it packs what may be too many stops into too few days…  Thus, regular service will likely be interrupted until late this month…  See you all again as Independence Day approaches.  Meantime, something to keep you amusedly occupied…

A newly redesigned website from Emory University, Shakespeare & the Players, displays a collection of nearly a thousand photo postcards of actors depicting Shakespearean characters on stage, in the late -19th and early-20th centuries. The site is browsable by actor, character, and play.

In the 19th century, scholar Lawrence W. Levine writes, many Americans, even if illiterate, knew and loved Shakespeare’s plays; they were the source material for endless parodies, skits, and songs on the American stage… in the first half of the 19th century, theater “played the role that movies played in the first half of the twentieth … a kaleidoscopic, democratic institution presenting a widely varying bill of fare to all classes and socioeconomic groups.”…

from The Taming of the Shrew

Richard Carline, writing in 1971, says:

Those who only know the postcards of today can scarcely be expected to appreciate what they meant to people sixty or more years ago. Many of us seldom think of buying a picture postcard, except as a matter of convenience; but during the quarter of a century that preceded the Great War in 1914, it would have been hard to find anyone who did not buy postcards from genuine pleasure…

More at “Browse Nearly 1,000 Photo Postcards of Late-19th-Century Stage Productions of Shakespeare,” and at the curator’s preface.

* George Orwell

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As we bark the Bard, we might recall that it was on this ate in 1910 that Florenz Ziegfeld, in a blow against racial prejudice, opened the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910, with actor Bert Williams as co-star, marking the first time white and black entertainers appeared on stage together in a major Broadway production.  Williams was one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He was by far the best-selling black recording artist before 1920. In 1918, the New York Dramatic Mirror called him “one of the great comedians of the world.”  Fellow vaudevillian W.C. Fields, who appeared in productions with Williams, described him as “the funniest man I ever saw – and the saddest man I ever knew.”

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Written by LW

June 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

“There is so much to do on a film set”*…

 

Legendary director Billy Wilder– Some Like it Hot, Sunset Boulevard, Double IndemnityThe Apartment, et al.– and equally-legendary designers Charles and Ray Eames were long-time friends, from the days when Charles worked as an MGM set designer. The three famously collaborated on “Glimpses of the USA,” a multimedia installation at the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow. Moreover, Ray designed the opening credits for Wilder’s Love in the Afternoon.

Wilder (left) with Charles and Ray Eames

The Eames were multimedia masters, frequently—and brilliantly—communicating their philosophy through film and photography.  Over the years, their image archive grew to include over 750,000 snapshots that document everything from travels through India to the circus.  One series in particular—Movie Sets—is the focus of a new exhibition new exhibition at the Art & Design Atomium Museum in Brussels.  Curated by Alexandra Midal, the photographs date from 1951 to 1971 and are all Charles’s snapshots from the sets of Wilder  films

More at “Hollywood’s Golden Age, As Photographed By Charles [and Ray] Eames.”

* Sir Ben Kingsley

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As we take our marks, we might send extravagant birthday greetings to Florenz Edward “Flo” Ziegfeld, Jr.; he was born on this date in 1867.  One of the greatest theatrical showmen in American history, he was a Broadway impresario who produced dozens of shows, mostly (like one of his biggest hits, Showboat) musical spectacles.  But he is best remembered for his 25-year series of elaborate annual theatrical revues, the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris– a run that introduced such stars as Fanny Brice, Bert Williams, Ed Wynn, W.C. Fields, Marion Davies, Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers.

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Written by LW

March 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”*…

 

Each night Dion McGregor would fall asleep; then he would narrate his dreams in astonishing detail.  Happily, his roommate recorded them– and the resulting tapes reveal the truly strange places our minds go to at night.

“Do you know Edwina didn’t even cry when that crocodile popped off her leg? She didn’t even cry, Edwina. She was fascinated, just fascinated. Her mother fainted dead away, and her father fainted dead away. Half the attendants fainted dead away. And Edwina just stood there and watched him chew up her leg… You know what? She said she always wanted to be Long John Silver!”

Welcome to the strange dream-world of the late Dion McGregor. By day, McGregor was an aspiring songwriter, whose Where Is The Wonder was eventually recorded by Barbra Streisand; by night, the world’s most dramatic sleep-talker…

More “Adventures in Slumberland” at “The dark tales of the world’s most epic sleep-talker.”

* Edgar Allan Poe

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As we nod off, we might stage a dramatic memorial for dramatist and scenic innovator James Morrison Steele (“Steele”) MacKaye; he died on this date in 1894.  A well-known theatrical actor and producer in his time, he is best remembered for his revolutionary contributions to theatrical design.  MacKaye opened the Madison Square Theatre in 1879, where he created a huge elevator with two stages stacked one on top of the other so that elaborate furnishings could be changed quickly between scenes.  MacKaye was the first to light a New York theatre– the Lyceum, which he founded in 1884– entirely by electricity.  And he invented and installed overhead and indirect stage lighting, movable stage wagons, artificial ventilation, the disappearing orchestra pit, and folding seats.  In all, MacKaye patented over a hundred inventions, mostly for the improvement of theatrical production and its experience.

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Written by LW

February 25, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own”*…

 

Olympic National Park: the stone marking the quietest square inch in the U.S. (stolen by vandals in 2009)

Reaching the quietest square inch of land in the U.S. is literally a walk in the park. Well, a rainforest, to be precise. To find it, you hike along the Hoh River in the heart of Olympic National Park, past bigleaf maples carpeted in spike-mosses and around epiphytic ferns sprouting out of the saturated Northwest soil. Eventually you pass through the split trunk of a Sitka spruce to enter an even muddier, mossier, more verdant nook of the forest. Look to your left and you may notice a tiny red pebble resting on a mossy nurse log, marking 47°51’57.5″N, 123°52’13.3″W. That’s America’s quietest wild place.

The quietest inch isn’t a sound vacuum. It represents a place with a minimum of human-made noise. The discipline of acoustic ecology, which is dedicated to understanding the natural sounds that come through loud and clear when we’re not around, outlines an important distinction between sound and noise. The blip of water droplets from a forest canopy? Sound. The tinny din of Taylor Swift through smartphone speakers? Noise. For example, the inch, as it’s often called, is exposed to flute-like bugling from Roosevelt elk, the Morse-code chirp of the American Dipper, and assertive hooting from the endangered Northern Spotted Owl. The steady rush of the Hoh River rounding the shoulder of Mount Olympus whooshes nearby, and summer snowmelt punctuates the setting with staccato droplets. In spite of the natural sound, dense forest engulfs the inch in a hush that is, at times, below 20 decibels—quieter than most recording studios…

Understand why silence is golden at “Welcome to the Quietest Square Inch in the U.S.“; dive more deeply at “The Unintended Consequences of Noise.”

* Chaim Potok, The Chosen

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As we keep it down, we might spare a thought for Oscar Hammerstein; he died on this date in 1919.  As a newly-arrived immigrant to the U.S., Hammerstein worked in a cigar factory, where he discovered ways to automate the rolling process.  He patented his innovation and made a fortune– which he promptly reinvested in his true passions, music and the arts.  Possessed of a sharp sense of design and an equally good acoustical sense, he built and ran theaters and concert halls, becoming one of Americas first great impressarios…  a fact worth honoring, as history tends to overlook “Oscar the First” in favor of his grandson, Oscar Hammerstein II, the gifted librettist/lyricist and partner of Richard Rodgers.

Hammerstein (on left, with cigar) and conductor Cleofonte Campagnini

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Written by LW

August 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I find it soothing, the thought of a movie theater”*…

 

 

Saubine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche are intrepid photographers of thought-provoking things.  Here, they discuss their series on movie theaters in India…

In three journeys between 2010 and 2013 we have photographed movie theatres from the ‘Thirties to the ‘Seventies in South India. The photos of these buildings give eloquent testimony to the rich cinematic culture of those times. We are particularly interested in the culturally influenced reinterpretation of modern building style apparent in the architectural style, which displays an unusual mixture of Modernism, local architectural elements, a strong use of colour and, in the case of some older cinema halls, of Art Deco…

Many movie theatres in South India are left in their original state. Nonetheless, remodelling into multiplex cinemas is already underway, in particular in major cities, and will result in these buildings’ disappearance as witnesses to their times. The photographs document a part of cinema culture that has already largely vanished in Europe and the USA, and is increasingly being supplanted by commercial interests and technical developments in India, as well.

Take the tour at here.

* Theophilus London

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As we lounge in the loge, we might recall that it was on this date in 1915 that Vitagraph released Miss Jekyll and Madame Hyde, a retelling of Stevenson’s famous tale in which Helen Gardner played the lead role(s).  Ms Gardner, whose career consisted mostly of portrayals of strong women (Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair, Cleopatra, et al.) was herself a formidable player in the film industry, one of the first actors to form an independent production company (The Helen Gardner Players).

Helen Gardner, c. 1912 (the time of her break-out role, Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair)

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Written by LW

June 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”*…

 

If New York, as E.B. White said, is a city that “never quite catches up with itself,” no one may be more aware of it than [Paul] Schweitzer. He is believed to be among the nation’s last typewriter repairmen, and he largely rejects computers, iPhones, laptops, and even credit cards in his workplace. Like a speaker of a vanishing language, he laments the loss of his tribe.

“There are fewer and fewer of us that do this,” he said. “Years ago, if you looked at the yellow pages, there were six pages of typewriter companies in Manhattan. Now, there’s us.”…

The poignant– and powerful– story of “The Last of the Typewriter Men.”

* Ernest Hemingway

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As we tap away, we might send darkly humorous birthday greetings to Samuel Barclay Beckett; he was born on this date in 1906.  A novelist, poet, and theatrical director, Beckett is best remembered as the playwright who created (with Eugéne Ionesco) what Martin Esslin dubbed “The Theater of the Absurd.”  His Modernist masterpieces– Krapp’s Last Tape and Waiting for Godot, for instance had a profound influence on writers like Václav Havel, John Banville, Tom Stoppard, and Harold Pinter.  Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.

No mean typist, Beckett turned out typescript for James Joyce (to whom he was an assistant in the 1920s), for the French Resistance during World War II, and of course, for himself.

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Written by LW

April 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising”*…

 

A ghostsign for Black Cat cigarettes

 

Ghostsigns are the typically faded remains of advertising that was once painted by hand onto the brickwork of buildings.  In 2006 London resident Sam Roberts began the Ghostsigns Project, collecting the work amateurs and professionals in appreciation of the painted history found on walls around the world.

Philadelphia Belting Company (Lawrence O’Toole)

 

More at Ghostsigns

* Mark Twain

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As we admire ancient advertising, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Archibald MacLeish’s JB premiered at the ANTA Playhouse in New York.  The play, a retelling of the Biblical story of Job in free verse, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony for Best Play and Best Direction (Elia Kazan).

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Written by LW

December 11, 2014 at 1:01 am

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