Category Archives: Theatre and Art

Now that the Political Season is 0ver…

After the most expensive and longest and most frustrating presidential campaign in our history, we can now get back to0 the important stuff. To me, of course, that is the Arts, especially Visual Arts and Theatre. To kick off my searches and good feelings, here’s some verse by Kurt Vonnegut that my pal Joe Bratcher uploaded to Facebook:

I agree with you, Kurt. We have enough investment bankers, corporate execs and politicians already. Artists we need more of.

The questions you ask yourself…

I’m discovering as I face brain surgery and it’s unknown consequences that I find myself asking questions about what I have and have not accomplished over the last 66 or so years. It’s not a pleasant experience, btw, only one that makes me realize how many things I REALLY wanted to do which will probably never be realized. I guess, however, that this is common to just about everyone.

(Sorry… this is much longer than I expected and it will not hurt my feelings if you sign out right now,   – Bill)

Starting with the basics:

  • I have a wonderful wife who is taking care of me when she also maintains a full time teaching job that keeps us supported and in our mandatory health insurance mode.
  • I have three impressive and incredible grown children, Cassandra, Penny and Will (who we call Buddy… I don’t know where “Will” came from), and four wonderful grandsons, 3 in Maryland and one in Connecticut. (Allow me to say while I’m in this particular note about how lucky I am to have my son-in-law Matthew Corrigan in Connecticut who has made sure Cassandra could be down here with me during all of this.)
  • I set out many years ago for a life in the Arts, something I really discovered while a prep-school student at Tabor Academy in Marion, MA.  Between painting and sculpture creation under Lou LaVoie, drama and theatre discoveries under Tom Weisshaus, ending as President of the Drama Club where i acted, but didn’t do much in tech theatre, I was poised to take off when I headed for The School Of Speech/Theatre Department at Northwestern University in 1964.

And just what did I do that I remember proudly?:

  • After I discovered systems analysis through an amazing engineer, art collector and professor, Dr. Gustave J. Rath, I created my first small theatre company, Systems Theatre, which applied this amazing intellectual technology to performance creation. Our first major production was an adaptation of Frank Zappa’s “Lumpy Gravy” which eventually played Chicago’s Performing Warehouse between sets by the two great bluesmen B.B. King and Albert King (who I got to give a ride home to later… wow!) When I ended up in NYC in 1971 I restarted Systems Theatre with some of the same people who were with me at Northwestern
  • There were a couple of plays that we did at Theatre at St. Clement’s, one of the really great off-off Broadway locations in the city. Well reviewed, well attended and most important to me was my adaptation of Thomas Merton’s “Original Child Bomb” which had gothic-y chants composed by a wonderful musician, Ed Roberts, who I had met when teaching for a year at Tabor. Ed and I went on to do several shows together… at St. Clement’s and other places. My greatest pride came in a project we did a little later:
  • Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”, an opera for children, was presented at the Whitney

    The Whitney

    Museum of American Art, thanks to a contact I made with one of the most  influential people in my life and someone who I am so proud to call a friend today, Berta Walker. Berta was working as the Administrative Assistant to Steve Weil at the Whitney and was looking for children’s programming. Ed and I suggested doing “Snark” which we had just started working on and now we had a reason for pushing through. We opened to great reception at the Whitney and, a little bit later on, Berta and I produced it for a few weekends at a little theater on the East Side of Manhattan. Following that, it was taken to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, a major museum which had been started by Berta’s grandfather, where it was also successful.

  • My friend and former Northwestern student John Driver, who played the original Bellman in “Snark” had been writing a musical based on Samurai warrior Mushami called “Ride The Wind” with pretty much of a rock ‘n roll score and martial arts based choreography. This was during the time that “Kung Fu” was a big television show, and we thought we were really on something here, so Berta and I decided to produce it (the company we created was called Snarkophilus Productions after our big success). We started out aiming for Off-Broadway, but then the Bijou Theater, a little house at the end of Shubert Alley, became available and we booked it. We were now a Broadway show… albeit a very small one. My set design professor, Sam Ball, agreed to do the sets, which were built by Northwestern students and which I brought to New York driving a truck across country. A number of the actors who auditioned were folks I had known from the New Theatre Workshop, a small non-profit group which acted as a try-out location for new plays that writers were working on. I was their stage electrician for a year before they tore the theater down to build the CitiPlace Center on 57th Street.
  • Unfortunately, “Ride The Winds” didn’t pass the New York Times test and I was no longer a Broadway producer.
  • I had to work, so I took a job as Administrator of the Jamaica Arts Center in Queens, where I structured classes, set up concerts, scheduled movies and ran the books. It was there I met Elly, my current wife, who I hired to teach Photography in the class size darkroom I had built in the Center’s basement (I took up photography, too… something I really loved.)  Eddy came down and we did a little revival of “Snark” in Jamaica for the kids in Queens. When I was hired later on by The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, by their Board President (you can probably see this coming… it was Berta Walker), Elly came with me and we settled in on  lower Cape Cod. I helped the Work Center fund raise, grow and prosper over three years, then spent another three years on it’s Board. Elly and I however, moved down to the mid-Cape where we started a business that would keep us in debt and development for the next decade: Our photo studio, Photography Associates of New England Inc., and U-Design, Inc.
  • The appearance of the Apple Macintosh computer, the laser printer, a piece of software called Aldus PageMaker and things like scanners, modems, etc., inspired us to set up a rental-area business where folks would come in, rent space in a booth, and lay out, with our help, their ads and brochures. After a couple of years, we moved it to Hartford, CT… back in my home state. At one point we had U-Designs in three cities in CT (that was a mistake!) and we started doing more jobs for clients ourselves rather than booth rentals. We worked with major and minor companies, lots of non-profits, plus we offered desktop publishing classes. At one time we had a dozen or so employees. During this time I did no theatre, maybe a little painting, but not much (Elly was our painter and her work was wonderful.) While in Marlborough, however, I was recruited to be a Justice of the Peace, where I married several couples (I specialized in non-believers who I thought should have a person of their own.) I did start designing computer fonts at this time… still do it, especially my “picture fonts” which have been used on this blog many times. U-Design Type Foundry has attracted hundreds of buyers, for which I have great appreciation.

More recent years… “Things fall apart, the center does not hold” – TS Eliot.

  • We had built a passive solar house in Marlborough, CT, where we moved so Buddy could go to school there and we could lead the suburban life (eventually, we moved the last vestige of U-Design to Marlborough where it finally ended up in our house until it died.) I started going out and getting jobs as an Information Technologist at some larger companies, finally ending up at Computer Sciences Corporation, where I spent five working years. For most of that I was commuting to the Maryland-DC area every week to do a major piece of work for the Internal Revenue Service with a bunch of my colleagues. I made more money here than I ever had before. When my whole department was laid off after three years I even got six months of part-time work for the IRS itself to finish some of the project stuff.
  • Elly and I sold the Marlborough house and bought a historic co-op space in Old Greenbelt, MD, where I was still doing CSC work. Eventually, when there was no more work and a guy in his late fifties had a hard time finding IT jobs when the market was stuffed with lower earning young guys. I had to take early retirement which, thanks to CSC’s salary, brought me a higher Social Security than I had expected. Elly took a teaching job in Graphic Design at Hagerstown Community College in Hagerstown, MD, and we eventually moved to

    Ride The Winds

    Hagerstown, then Shepherdstown (our favorite) and now Harper’s Ferry. While I was living in Greenbelt, I got involved with two community theatres, the Laurel Mill Playhouse and the Greenbelt Arts Center. Amazingly enough, with the entrance to all of this I made by meeting Linda Bartash, I directed several plays and musicals. The highlight of these was a revival of “Ride The Winds” which I got John Driver to rewrite the second act for. It was well-reviewed in the Washington Post and local papers and I breathed a sight of final relief. I also, amid all the shows I did, had a really good production of that unusual musical “Urinetown” at Greenbelt, also a success.

  • I got involved with a new Community Theater in Shepherdstown, The Full Circle Theater, where I

    The Hunting of the Snark, in Shepherdstown

    became the House Electrician and ran lights on a bunch of shows, And then, can you believe it, I go to to do a revival of “The Hunting of the Snark” and Eddy, who was then living in Pennsylvania, came down from time to time to help my friend and music director, Ruth Raubertas, get our favorite opera for kids off the ground. Everyone seemed to like it, but this was my last chance to direct anything and I sank into an ongoing depression hoping I would get to do it again some day. I don’t think, now, that it will happen. I have to say, though, that I made a great friend of John Case who played the Butcher in that last production. John had a weekday morning radio show on WSCH 89.7FM on Shepherd University’s radio station and originally he invited me on for an interview and eventually I was on every Friday, which John started promoting as “The Bill and John Show.” I guess I did OK, since a few months later the station manager, Todd Cottgreave, gave me a show of my own on Saturday mornings which I called “Talk To Me” and which I made into a call-in production. I think the radio shows really saved my intelligence and ability to carry on while under depression.

So those are things I’ve been thinking about. What I haven’t discussed here is this blog, which is the major occupation of an old, retired guy’s day. I hope I can keep it going for years (as you can see, I love to talk)… if it has to cease, however, someone will put up a final post.

Time to feed the dogs.

So the world’s culture changes… not necessarily for the better…

Is our view of social interaction unusually influenced by television crime drama? You Betcha!

For instance:

Dorothy, Dorothy! And what are you doing with your attack dog Toto?

Hey, did you see that they auctioned off the gingham dress that Judy Garland wore in the movie for $480,000.00?

I have such an urge to direct again…

… and what I really am eager to do is a production of the 1953 musical “Kismet“, whose music was adapted from classical work of Borodin.

The wonderful Arabian Nights story of 16th Century Baghdad about a fortune teller, a Wazir, a young Caliph and two very lovely women is something I have loved most of my life.

Many of it’s musical numbers became song classics. “Baubles, Bangles and Beads“, “Stranger in Paradise” and this:


“This is My Beloved.”

The show was a starring vehicle for Alfred Drake and the Broadway debut of Richard Kiley.

Unfortunately, my current physical condition makes it seem like I will never be able to direct again. If the tumor is removed it will probably endanger the part of my brain where cognitive creativity is connected. If we don’t solve the problem and I keep having seizures I will never be able to drive again and won’t be able to put in the solid effort that coordinating a musical production, especially a large and complex one as this, would be very difficult. It could certainly, however, make West Virginia community theatre history.

And then I have to find one of the local community playhouses who might let me do it… find 20 great performers … get a nice piano score for my dear collaborator Ruth Robertas to play from… and find a local choreographer who can bring the dancing girls to life.

If I get through this surgery and all that accompanies it, it will take at least a year before I can even get started (apart from notes I am doing now) putting it together. One can hope. It gives me something to focus on.

 

Some words about this blog and me…

I often get e-mail from folks out there in the web world who want to know about Under The LobsterScope and why I keep it going and put a major part of each day into it. It is for that reason that I’ve decided to say a few things that will clarify my relationship with UTL and, perhaps, encourage you to get involved as a commentor.

I started this blog through another editing site, Blogspot, during the 2004 presidential election year. I did several thousand entries over five years or so and then something happened. For some reason, someone got into my blog at Blogspot and did some fairly confusing stuff leaving it impossible for me to post on. I cancelled my relationship with Blogspot and over 4000 posts ago I started UTL up again through WordPress where it remains today.

While I was interested in electoral politics (originally in Maryland before my wife and I moved to West Virginia), my biggest interest at the time – and even now, a little – was in theatre directing. I got to do a couple of musicals and some plays at local community theatres and spent a lot of time attending theatre events (one of the reasons we moved to the Shepherdstown, WV, area was to be closer to the Contemporary American Theater Festival which we attend every year.

I also have a great interest in the visual arts… Elly’s background is as a painter and visual artist. That means heading off to galleries locally, in DC and other places. Add to the visual stuff an interest in music and poetry and dance. The arts in general are very important parts of my life.

As to politics, during the past couple of years beginning with the election of Barack Obama, I have become more and more an active Democrat and have felt it is my obligation, since this is a published item read by thousands of people a week, to expose the really awful things Republicans and extreme conservatives are trying to pull off.

Several of you have also noted that I often expose dangerous things being done by religious organizations. As you probably know I am a non-believer… an atheist, a humanist… and cannot understand how people with developed intellectual capacity can believe this stuff. I have no problem exposing things that might make readers see what I see. I am, however, as opposed to pushing my atheism on others as I am of them pushing their religious beliefs on me.

Now that my current age and health keeps me in the house most of the days of the week, I have much time to read other web sites, magazines and other publications, many of which I quote or comment on in the blog. On an average day I do at least 5 posts.

I have established some regular features in this blog that I hope you enjoy. Cartoon(s) of the Week is the one people think of first when I talk about regular features. I have been interested in editorial cartoons for many years. During the current election I have regularly been posting poll results which I see by the search term roundups many of you are looking for. And, of course, there is my regular posting of celebrity obituaries.

If there is any kind of post I do that you would like to see become a regular feature, just let me know and it’s likely to happen.

- Bill

 

Gosh… did you see the news about recovery of a missing Roy Lichtenstein painting?

Famed Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s “Electric Cord” was painted in 1961.  If you weren’t an active viewer of pop art in the 60s, you have most likely never seen it. Why? Because in January 1970 art dealer Leo Castelli sent it to art restorer Daniel Goldreyer for cleaning. It was never seen again.

Lichtenstein, of course, is best known for his paintings based on printed cartoon images. The black and white electric cord painting was announced missing in 2006 by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the artist’s legacy. The Foundation published an image of the black and white work on the front of its holiday card and appealed to its community for help locate the work.

The late Roy Lichtenstein

Last summer, the painting was discovered at the Hayes Storage Facility in New York, where it was being stored by the Quinta Gallery art gallery of Bogotá, Colombia, on consignment from restorer Goldreyer’s widow, Sally Goldreyer. Apparently someone connected with the restorer’s consignments asked her to sell the “Electric Cord” for him. She claims that she offered to sell it to the Quinta Galeria, but refunded the gallery’s deposit when she found a missing notice for the painting posted on the Internet. It was not something she had been aware of.

“Electric Cord” has been returned to Barbara Bertozzi Castelli, Leo Castelli’s widow.

Finding something to do to keep from going mad!

 

I’ve had a bad day today… physically tripped up by a small seizure while I was doing dishes and an afternoon of trying to stay awake. This is, unfortunately, what life has become… I can’t drive (by law…until I’ve gone a year without a seizure as certified by a doctor) and, since Elly works (which I can’t do outside of the house), I bounce off the walls and am bombarded by televised boredom. If it were not for my laptop and the internet I might as well be in a coma.

So I guess I’m going to start writing something outside of my blog. There is a joy in constructing ideas out of words which I am beginning to look forward to each morning. What I do with what I write is not apparent right now, but I expect it will be realized sooner or later.

I’m tending toward creating a radio drama that I might be able to add to my Saturday show at WSHC, or do with John on the Friday morning show. I’ve been researching radio scripts from the 30s and 40s and I find them fascinating. Some are funny, some are adventures, all of them are strongly character-based since there is little opportunity for scenery (other than sound effects) in radio work.

When I get something finished I’ll let you know.

 

The Christmas Present I Am Looking Forward To…

Les Misérables (musical)Les Misérables“, the movie, opens in the US on December 25th. I can’t wait. I’ve been playing the Broadway Cast album over and over… love the music.

And, from the 25th Anniversary TV special, here are four different Jean Valjeans singing “Bring Him Home“. The first soloist, Colm Wilkinson — the original Jean Valjean — will be playing the Bishop of Digne in the Les Misérables movie. Truly magnificent!

 

Colm Wilkinson is worth the whole gig!

My thanks to all of you who responded to my personal notice yesterday…

 

I can’t tell you how much your sympathy and suggestions meant to me. Just getting through this part of my life is so difficult. This poor old fatman (22 pounds down on my diet in the second month) has to come to some kind of way of extending his purpose.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to direct theatre again… can’t get to rehearsals and can’t find a theatre group that might want to do one of my experimental pieces. That is pretty depressing, too, having been creating such events since 1967.

Oh well… lots of blog writing to do what with a big election coming up (that’s how this blog started years ago)…at least that exercises my mind.

 

Actor Jerome Kilty dead at 90 …

 

He was one of my favorite actors as I headed off to Northwestern for my theatre education. I left Connecticut and Kilty, a Scotsman born in Baltimore on June 24, 1922, but raised on an Indian reservation in Southern California, moved there. He died in Norwalk after a car accident which led to a heart attack.

He was famous for acting in most of the plays of George Bernard Shaw and actually played Shaw in the play, which he constructed, “Dear Liar” based on the British playwright’s correspondence with Mrs. Patrick Campbell. It was the first of what Mr. Kilty called his “ ‘dear’ plays,” including “Dear Love,” based on the correspondence between the poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and “Dear Life,” from the letters exchanged between Anton Chekhov and his wife, Olga Knipper.

Mr. Kilty attended Harvard under the G.I. Bill, and in 1948 he helped found the Brattle Theater Company in Cambridge, Mass. By the early 1950s, he was appearing on television shows like “Kraft Television Theater” and “Hallmark Hall of Fame.”

 

Bill Nye the Science Guy is a true hero…

… but he did not, as a mischievously placed article put out by the Daily Currant stated, use foul language and push science versus creationism arguments challenging Todd Akin to a debate.

This happened after a video was released on You Tube saying evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. According to Bill Nye, aka “the science guy,” if grownups want to “deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them.”

Here’s the video:

See. Pretty damned specific.

Just for your entertainment, however, here is Bill Nye on Seattle’sAlmost Live” in his superhero guise as Speed Walker:

Thanks, thanks, thanks to Bill Nye. It’s good having him around.

Director Albert Marre Dead at 86…

 

I remember sitting in the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut back in the mid sixties watching the premiere performance of “Man of La Mancha“. The musical, directed by Albert Marre, eventually won him a Best Director Tony when it appeared on Broadway at the ANTA Theatre.

I went to the La Mancha performance not because I knew anything about the show, nor did I know anything about Marre, but because my friend Charlie Leipart was in the cast (it was our summer break from Northwestern University’s Theatre Department.) I discovered, however, what a wonderful musical it was… I couldn’t wait for an Original Cast album to be released.

Marre began his theatre career as an actor, making his Broadway debut as both performer and associate director in 1950 in The Relapse. One year later, he was director alone, on The Little Blue Light.

In 1948, Mr. Marre was a co-founders of the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA, one of the country’s first classical repertory companies. In 1953, he was hired by Lincoln Kirstein to be the first artistic director of the New York City Drama Company at City Center, where he staged Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Merchant of Venice and Shaw’s Misalliance, all in 1953.

The musical classic Kismet came next, and he won a 1954 Donaldson Award for Best Director of a Musical.

Marre introduced Broadway audiences to composer Jerry Herman in 1961, when he staged Herman’s tale of the birth of Israel, Milk and Honey.  He wrote the book for the 1970 musical Cry for Us All and the 1975 musical Home Sweet Homer.  His final non-La Mancha Broadway credit was the musical Chu Chem in 1989.

 

I really need your support to keep this blog up to date and functional…

 

…and I will give you a free gift if you make a donation of $5.00 or more…

…you get my absolutely most popular picture font:“Bill’s Broadway DECOrations” These images created from many traditional and period sources are very usable at any size in designs and publications. The font comes for Mac and PC, and I usually sell it for $29.95. It’s my way of saying “Thank You” to offer it to $5 or more donors.

So many of you have been following this blog since 2004 that I feel like a member of a huge web community.

I have enjoyed bringing you the Cartoon(s) of the Week, the Quotes, the Political and Arts News, the Blogrolls of the best sites in America and beyond… They are all a joy to put together. Often we get the breaking political stories before you see them anywhere else. And our wide open communication channels with readers can’t be beat. I offer your participation at all times and appreciate the hundreds of subscribers who sign up every year.

I really need YOUR help to keep it going. I’m hoping you will make a small contribution, by PayPal or credit/debit card, in support of Under The LobsterScope. You’d be amazed at how much $5.00 can do to help me bring more and more to these pages. And it is probably the LOWEST annual subscription fee you will make to any publication… interactive or not. I often receive larger contributions and I certainly appreciate those.

Remember, for a contribution of $5.00 (or MORE) you will receive a copy of my Picture Font, Bill’s Broadway DECOrations and the knowledge that this blog will continue onward.

(I send you font versions for both Macs and PCs by email, and include a typeface keyboard directory.
See the Sample Below.)

I should note that even a donation of $1.00 gets my thanks and helps to keep this blog going. By clicking on the DONATE button below, you tell me that Under The LobsterScope makes a difference in your time on the web.

Thanks,

- Bill T.

 

Art and Commerce Meet in a Fabulous Format…

English: Andy Warhol

Before you do your food shopping this week let me ask you a question. Are you planning on buying tomato soup?  If so, you could bring home some Andy Warhol for your pantry.

Campbell‘s announced Wednesday that a new limited-edition line of Warhol-themed condensed tomato soup cans will go on sale starting Sept. 2 at most Target stores across the country.

These cost 75 cents each and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Warhol’s first paintings of the familiar soup cans.

Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, 1962. Dis...

PHOTOS: Turning 50 in 2012

The soup will come in a variety of intensely colored cans meant to mimic Warhol’s pop-art style. The artist exhibited his soup-can paintings in 1962, and they became his signature works.

Campbell’s said the new cans are being sold in partnership with the Andy Warhol Foundation, which controls the licensing of the artist’s name and images.

A great loss to my memories of Children’s Theatre in NYC – Remy Charlip dies at 83…

 

Abraham Remy Charlip  was an American artist, writer, choreographer, theatre director, designer and teacher.

In the 1960s Charlip created a unique form of choreography, which he called “air mail dances”. He would send a set of drawings to a dance company, and the dancers would then order the positions and create transitions and context.

He performed with John Cage, he was a founder member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for which he also designed sets and costumes, he directed plays for the Judson Poet’s Theater.

I remember him most as a co founder of the Paper Bag Players, one of the most important children’s theatres in the world.  He served as head of the Children’s Theater and Literature Department at Sarah Lawrence College,  was a winner of two Village Voice Obie Awards, three New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year citations, and was awarded a six-month residency in Kyoto from the Japan/U.S. Commission on the Arts. He wrote and/or illustrated 29 children’s books.

Charlip was the model for illustrations of Georges Méliès in the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret ( if you saw the wonderful movie “Hugo” you know this story), written and illustrated by Brian Selznick.

Great artist. Great loss. Fortunately he left so much behind.

 

Al Freeman, Jr.— actor, director dies at 78.

 

From NPR we have the story of the death of Al Freeman, Jr... go HERE.

 

Ron Palillo Dies at 63 – Played Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter

 

Ron Palillo, who portrayed the goofy high school underachiever Arnold Horshack in the hit 1970s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” with such definitive oddballness that he had trouble for years afterward finding work as an actor, died on Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 63.

The apparent cause was a heart attack, said his agent, Scott Stander.

Horshack typified him as a character.

“I know him, love what he does, not right for the part,” Mr. Palillo said in a 1997 newspaper interview, repeating what he said was the mantra of every casting director he met after his years on “Kotter,” which was on ABC from 1975 to 1979. “Everybody thought of me as Arnold Horshack. I resented Horshack for so many years.”

Mr. Palillo had supporting roles on television series like “The Love Boat” and “The A-Team.” But the Horshack typecasting became chronic.

“I think producers could smell the desperation in me,” he told The Akron Beacon Journal in 1997.

In 1991 he moved to New York to be in the daytime drama “One Life to Live”and he also had the lead role in an Off Off Broadway production of “Amadeus.” He taught drama at the University of Connecticut, his alma mater. In 2010, in West Hartford, Conn., he directed the first production of “The Lost Boy,” a musical he wrote based on the life of J. M. Barrie, author of “Peter Pan.”

 

Robert Hughes, art critic & historian, dies at age 74.

I remember him most for The Shock of the New, his evaluation of 20th century art, and The Fatal Shore, his history of the settling of his native Australia.

Hughes attended Sydney University, an architecture major, where he was academically undistinguished. In his words:

“I actually succeeded in failing first year arts, which any moderately intelligent amoeba could have passed.”

A the age of 28 he wrote The Art of Australia, which he later dismissed as “juvenalia.”  After its publication the popular historian Alan Moorehead advised him to go to Europe.

Hughes traveled around the great art capitals of the world, landed in London and wrote art criticism for the Sunday Times. He wrote a book called Heaven and Hell in Western Art (1969) that bombed. However, a Time magazine executive read it, and promptly hired Hughes as art critic. In 1970 he moved to Manhattan and wrote for Time for the rest of the century.

Composer Marvin Hamlisch dies at 68

 

Marvin Hamlisch, who composed the scores for dozens of movies including “The Sting” and won a Tony for “A Chorus Line,” has died in Los Angeles at 68.

The composer won every major award in his career, including three Academy Awards, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes. He composed more than 40 film scores, including “Sophie’s Choice,” `’Ordinary People” and “Take the Money and Run.” He won his third Oscar for his adaptation of Scott Joplin‘s music for “The Sting.” On Broadway, Hamlisch received the Pulitzer Prize for long-running favorite “The Chorus Line” and wrote “The Goodbye Girl” and “Sweet Smell of Success.”

Family spokesman Jason Lee said Hamlisch died Monday after a brief illness. Other details weren’t being released.

Hamlisch had been scheduled to fly to Nashville, Tennessee, this week to see a production of his hit musical “The Nutty Professor.”

 

Morgan Paull, Cult-Favorite ‘Blade Runner’ Actor, Dies at 67

 

I missed this last week, for which I apologize. When a great character actor dies it is a loss that should be recognized by those of us in Theatre, film and other areas of entertainment.

On July 17th, Morgan Paull died of stomach cancer in Ashland, Oregon.

From his website:

Even by Hollywood standards, the breadth of Morgan Paull’s career is striking.

In a span of four decades, he’s starred in scores of movies, TV shows and plays; owned and run a talent agency for actors and writers; appeared in numerous commercials; been a leader in major industry organizations; and had good enough pipes to convince Old Blue Eyes to re-record his demo into another Sinatra chart-topper.

Morgan started early, and started fast, jumping right from Culver Academy to the famed Barter Theatre of Virginia. True to its reputation, Barter burnished his skills and nourished his desires. As his talent ripened, it became clear that Morgan was ready for the bigger challenges of the Big Apple, challenges he met and mastered in countless productions with New Dramatists and the Cherry Lane Theater. What had begun as a dream had become destiny.

 

Morgan Paull on TV’s Ironside with Pat Hingle and Raymond Burr, 1971

As surely as Barter groomed Morgan for New York, New York prepared him for Hollywood. After the obligatory struggle, he rocketed from obscurity to a coveted role in the blockbuster “Patton.” His film resume includes both critical and commercial successes, including the acclaimed “Norma Rae,” the futuristic cult classic “Blade Runner,” and “Cahill, U.S. Marshall,” which paired him with childhood hero John Wayne.

While making enduring movies, he made enduring friendships – not only with some of screen’s biggest stars, but talented directors and powerful producers who taught Morgan how to make things happen on the other side of the camera, knowledge that would prepare him for the next leg of his career – representation.

By now a savvy and connected insider, Morgan was a natural as an agent and manager. A shrewd investor in both human and financial capital, he was a tough and able negotiator for the people and projects he took on. In a way, he was born to the role, being a direct descendant of 18th century naval hero John Paul Jones (“I have not yet begun to fight.”).

 

Fluent Magazine is NOW AVAILABLE!

Take a look at Fluent Magazine, the on-line Arts, Culture and Events magazine for the Eastern Panhandle area.

Yours truly is one of the Associate Editors on it, having written reviews of the CATF season and an article on CATF Director Ed Herendeen.

What’s more there are articles on art, poetry, fiction and much more. And you can subscribe for free!

I hope you’ll take a look at it.

Art Collector Herb Vogel has died…

If you were an artist living in New York in the latter part of the twentieth century and early years of the twenty first, you knew the names Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. They were not rich people. They lived in a one bedroom apartment with their cats and turtles… and thousands of works of art by major American artists piled floor to ceiling.

Herb was a postal worker who loved art. He met his wife, Dorothy, while visiting the National Gallery in Washington, DC in 1962. They built their art collection by purchasing smaller works, often on a monthly payment plan, from younger artists who had not yet gained fame. Their biggest rule for purchase, beside the work being something they took a liking to, was that it would fit in a taxi cab to take it home.

In the early 1990s. after long negotiations, the Vogels left much of their collection to the National Gallery, where they met.

“We wanted to do something for the nation. The National Gallery doesn’t sell works they acquire. They’ll keep the collection together. And they don’t charge admission.”

- Herb Vogel

They lived simply, eating at neighborhood diners and Chinese restaurants.When they bought art hey usually paid cash or worked out novel arrangements with artists.

“When they came to the studio, they always came with a wad of cash. You’d always wind up selling something for a fraction of what it was worth.”

- artist Chuck Close

The Vogels were featured on “60 Minutes” and in a 2008 documentary film by Megumi Sasaki called “Herb and Dorothy.” Their names have been carved in the wall at the entrance to the National Gallery’s West Building alongside those of other major benefactors.

Herb died Sunday, at age 89, at a nursing home in New York City. His wife survives.

Trailer from the 2009 film “Herb and Dorothy”

Actress Celeste Holm, 95, Dies…

Celeste Holm, the versatile actress who achieved fame on Broadway in the original production of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s hit musical “Oklahoma!” in 1943 and five years later won an Oscar for best supporting actress, died today.

In a career of over 70 years, Holm did other Broadway shows such as “Bloomer Girl” and as the replacement for Gertrude Lawrence in “The King and I.” She made films like “Three Little Girls In Blue,” “The Snake Pit” and “All About Eve.”

Celeste Holm won an Academy Award for supporting actress in the 1947 film “Gentleman’s Agreement” and was nominated two other times. She also had frequent roles on television, including in the 1990s series ‘Promised Land.’

Holm died in her apartment on Central Park West in New York City.


My brief reviews of the CATF plays this season

It is the 22nd season of the Contemporary American Theater Festival and I’ve been reviewing the five plays that go on throughout July for WSHC.

Here are transcripts of those reviews.

Gidion’s Knot by Johnna Adams. World Premiere. Directed by Ed Herendeen

What begins as an elementary school parent-teacher conference rapidly becomes a volatile conflict between a distressed mother and a reticent fifth grade teacher. The problem? Why did Gidion come home on a Friday with a note suspending him from school? As his story progresses, the women assemble the elements of Gidion’s behavior like a complex jigsaw puzzle.

 
As we descend toward the unexpected and painful outcome, the roles that a teacher and a mother play in a child’s life are revealed in an interaction of deception, vehemence and accountability. The audience follows this conflict and learns in the removal of layer after layer of information the actions leading to the fate of a fifth grader.

 
I particularly liked Margaret McKowen’s set that turned the entire performance space and audience area into an actual schoolroom. Director Ed Herendeen has children going through the classroom, using lockers in the audience lobby area, and planting the usual “turn your cellphones off” instruction into a teacher’s admonition to a student.

Joey Parsons, as the teacher, and Robin Walsh, as the mother, give intense and involving performances, aided by playwright Johnna Adams’ stylized dialogue.
“Gidion’s Knot” is an emotional and dangerous exploration into the freedom of expression.

The Exceptionals by Bob Clyman. Directed by Tracy Brigden

Not too far in the future, two mothers from very different backgrounds, face choices that are to be made for their extraordinarily gifted sons, the results of a genetic experiment in a fertility program. The question is how far will ordinary people go to provide opportunities for exceptional children? Is it a competition among parents? This is something that Gwen and Allie, and her husband Tom, must come to terms with in the course of the play.

They are steered through this process by Claire, a program manager for the program, who tries to get them to both understand the education process that the children could be going through and to give up part of the parental shelter of their sons. It is not an easy progression.

Director Tracy Brigden has taken the characters developed by playwright Bob Clyman through a series of duo and trio scenes until everyone comes together with a resolute view of where the future will be. The play is about a half an hour longer than it needs to be, but this is the kind of thing that benefits playwrights at the CATF, where they can edit and rewrite as part of the “new play” process.

The Exceptionals is worth the effort of the talent involved and is certainly worth the participation of the audience.

Barcelona by Bess Wohl. Directed by Charles Morey.

What happens when an intoxicated American girl goes home with an aggressive Spaniard for a one-night stand in the shadows of the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous cathedral in Barcelona?  After meeting in a bar and falling into a funny and lusty meeting of cross-cultural opposites, Irene and Manuel make us laugh party with them — until the party changes into a dangerous and political lesson in truth.

Two people who have met as surface level characters reveal more and more about themselves and their real lives discovering things that push them apart rather than bring them closer. Partly it is what it means to be an American in a Spain that has reason to hate Americans. Partly it is the very personal lives of each of the two characters that redefine their needs for the other.

Bess Wohl has written a fantastic play with the best interactive dialog I have heard this season. Every year there is one CATF play that becomes my favorite and this year it is, hands down, Barcelona. Charles Morey’s direction is the kind I think of as perfect… the director is invisible. Things happen as if they are actually being lived.

Anne Marie Nest and Jason Manuel Olazabel are exceptional actors and certainly, along with playwright and director, deserved the standing ovation they received from an enthusiastic audience.

In A Forest, Dark and Deep by Neil LaBute. Directed by Ed Herendeen

Bobby and Betty, a brother and sister, get together in the woods to clean out her cottage to show to a new tenant. At least this is what Bobby thinks as he wonders why his University Dean sister can’t have her husband and kids around helping her… and why she would want the brother she has been estranged from for years to assist with the packing?

Is this a cottage Betty and her husband own? Or is it a place her husband knows nothing about? Is there a student who has been living here having an affair with Betty? Every lie leads to the revelation of another truth as Bobby gets to the bottom of Betty’s story. And what will he do when he learns all of her secrets?

LaBute’s play is about the lies people tell themselves and each other, and about the way lies can become increasingly vicious and escalate to a point that is out of control. The play exposes the desperation of a woman who realizes she has aged past her early attractiveness and become more or less “transparent” to men.

The set for this stormy night in the woods is spectacular, designed by David M. Barber. It focuses the audience in the very large Frank Center into the confined world of two actors in a country cabin. Johanna Day, as Betty, and Joey Collins, as Bobby, are steered through LaBute’s often violent language by Director Ed Herendeen with an inspired verbal choreography.

As the dialogue says: “the truth it hurts.. don’t it?”

Captors by Evan M. Wiener. Directed by Ed Herendeen

In 1960, a group of Israeli Intelligence agents capture escaped Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires and confine him for 10 days in a hidden safe house. Eichmann, the world’s most wanted war criminal and the architect of the Holocaust, has spent 15 years in Argentina leading an assumed life. His captors now want to transport him to Jerusalem, by his own will, to be publicly tried.

The play focuses on two men: Eichmann, the “Good German” who was following orders and Peter Malkin, the Mossad agent and artist burdened with bringing evil to justice. The Nazi uses charm and sophistication, lies and compliments, to ease out of the captive situation. Malkin’s main objective is to disguise the prisoner so he can board an Israeli plane leaving Buenos Aires without being discovered. He must also convince Eichmann to sign a release saying he leaves of his own free will… something that seems impossible.

The conflict between Malkin, his associates and Eichmann -  between Jews and the murderer of Jews – is haunting and challenging. Combine this with Malkin’s jumping thirty years ahead to write a book about the events with a  co-author who seeks to clarify the actual facts, and you have a complex dramatic presentation which will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Special praise should be given to the characterizations of Malkin, played by Joey Collins, and Eichman, portrayed by Philip Goodwin, and the involving dialogue of Evan M. Wiener. Ed Herendeen has made it all work to perfection.

Captors appears on the 50th anniversary of Eichmann’s conviction and execution, a haunting reminder of the darkest part of the last century.

I hope you get to see some or all of these plays… but hurry. I understand Barcelona is pretty much sold out now.

Our Second Night of CATF…

Contemporary American Theater Festival

Last night we saw two plays at the Contemporary American Theater Festival… and I have to have seen all five by Sunday so I can get my WSHC reviews in by Monday.

Our friends Linda and Cecil are up from Silver Spring to see them all with Elly and me… this is our annual couples get together. Linda and I go way back to our time at Laurel Mill Playhouse.

Last night we saw “Gideon’s Knot” by Johnna Adams (a workd premiere), and “The Exceptionals” by Bob Clyman. Tonight we go to “Barcelona” by Bess Wohl (another world premiere.)

When I finish my reviews I’ll post them here as well… the Festival goes on throughout the month and I hope you’ll use my reviews to make your attendance decisions.

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