Results tagged “orson welles” from Drama Queen

I know, it's been a long time, and I've missed you too. But it's not like I was just sitting around ignoring theater. In fact, I've been in graduate school working on a paper about classical performance reception theory and Lysistrata. Wanna see it? No? Fine, I wouldn't either.

Here's something I very much want to see: a gift guide for lovers of Philadelphia theater. Broadway bundles abound, and that's great, especially when they benefit fabulous organizations such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

But giving one of these gifts is practically like giving your loved ones a backstage (or green room) pass to street cred, that street being the Avenue of the Arts, of course. Best part? When you've finished snapping up and doling out all the merchandise, your friends and relatives might just take the hint and get you a subscription of your very own for next season.  Even out-of-towners can get in on the action with a few of these, and perhaps sporting/owning some Philly swag might inspire others to get here and check out the theater scene (hint: September = awesome), which is still under the radar enough to have an entrant in the Under the Radar Festival, but appreciated enough on its home turf to make a hot ticket something of a commodity. 


1. Read all about it: The nation's oldest theater, the Walnut Street Theatre, just celebrated its 200th birthday and put out a pretty cool little tome about it. In fact, it's sits prominently placed in my guest bathroom today, and judging by how often I have to straighten things up in there, it sees much leisure-time riffling by visitors. Don't want to play favorites? Try Philadelphia Theaters, a Pictorial Architectural History, which traces all 200 years of our sawdust-coated, gaslit stages. The American Theatre Wing's (ATW) The Play That Changed My Life has both a great premise and a local connection; it includes a chapter by Philadelphia-born Pulitzer-winning playwright Charles Fuller. Finally, if, like me, you're annoyed that ATW cut journalists from its Tony voting ranks this year, then go on and support your local critics--we don't get paid enough anyway. Philadelphia Inquirer critic and University of the Arts professor Toby Zinman wrote Edward Albee last year, and though yeah, I know, it kills you to do something nice for a critic, American Theatre magazine gave it a great review, and they don't care what you think of her. Go on, maybe you'll learn something.

2. Someone still wants A Christmas Carol, right? Otherwise there wouldn't be an entire section in my paper devoted to places you can see it. Rose Valley's Hedgerow Theatre hosts tea parties before performances on the second Sunday of every month, and they don't cost anything extra, which is nice, because even though your kids/grandma might be having the time of their lives, you're probably thinking Hedgerow owes you big. Have a scone and consider the debt paid. Jews, however, generally don't care for Scrooge and his tsouris, so Hedgerow has wisely brought them an offering, and it's better than frankincense: a bus trip to New York to see The Addams Family musical. And no, a bus trip to New York doesn't defeat the whole purpose of Philly theater gifts, because lookit, for some reason Jews always want to take bus trips to New York, no matter what you try to tell them, so at least this way a local theater still gets to make a buck off them.

3. Screw Teams Jacob and Edward. Romance-minded adolescents and teens need to get with Team Romeo. The Arden Theatre offers a full-day Shakespeare workshop--yes, it includes stage combat--for kids in 6th through 12th grades. Philly heartthrob Evan Jonigkeit (he also recently finished a successful run as Dakin in the Arden's production of The History Boys), who just happens to play Romeo in the company's Romeo and Juliet later that afternoon, leads the workshop. Also included? A ticket to the show and all the raw materials for weeks of copious swooning, parries and ripostes at the dog, and sudden cries of "Alack the day!" No teens? That's okay, the Arden's date night package gets you a pair of Romeo and Juliet tickets and a $25 gift certificate to Serrano restaurant, and you can do your own swooning afterward, in private, where it won't annoy anyone.

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4. You may have noticed that I think Pig Iron Theatre Company is pretty dope. Chances are, you do too, but even if you don't, there's no denying their steampunk-ish, Edward Gorey-esque, line-drawn, Trey Lyford-designed logo looks great. It's compelling on a t-shirt or tote bag without being too obvious, but recognizable enough to elicit appreciative nods when you're trolling the Piazza for hipster camaraderie. Best of all, they're both so cheap that if you stuff the bag with the t-shirt and toss in a copy of the company's indie-pop Lucia Joyce Cabaret CD, you will reap all the benefits of being cool and generous even if you're neither.
UPDATE: Apparently Sens. John McCain (You remember him, right? Old guy, has a thing for crazy backwoods ladies?) and Tom Coburn think Pig Iron is JUST LIKE SHAKESPEARE! Sort of, anyway. Like, because they both drain the public coffers (See items #25 and #26). But I guess that's even more reason to buy their stuff; get 'em off the dole and into your hearts.

4. Relive the glory days when every crappy play that didn't make it to Broadway met its maker right here, and a couple of decent ones lived to see another day. Yiddish theater's mammeleh Molly Picon in How to Be a Jewish Mother? Nah, never heard of it. Orson Welles' "Around the World," with music by Cole Porter? Why haven't I heard of it? Today, there are 38 Playbills available on EBay from these lost treasures. Tomorrow there might be more. Wait until the 7th day of Chanukah or the night before Christmas, and who knows? You might never learn how to be a Jewish mother. Not that that seemed to bother anyone who watched Ms. Picon when she was doing the teaching.

5. Go back to where it all began. Philly owes much of its theatrical genetic code to the Barrymore family (insert your own comment about our alcoholic actors here), as evidenced by our naming the city's theater awards ceremony after them. This item might not do much to enhance the family's reputation, but it sure would make a swell gift for someone. 

If all else fails, go to the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, get a few gift certificates, and let your friends/lovers/family to pick their own damn show. Just make sure they take you.

December 1, 2009 2:12 PM | | Comments (0)


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This week I'm macking on: Mark Pinsky's New Republic article on why Barack Obama's economic stimulus proposal should include a new New Deal-style Federal Writer's Project. Journalism is imploding just as much as car manufacturing and Wall Street hedge fund pimping, and it's arguably better for us than either. Since the jury's still out on whether Congress will allow the people who brought us Hummers and those who deal in unfettered capitalism to die on the same sword by which they thrived, at the very least it ought to throw a lifeline to the one industry clairvoyant enough to call attention to this garbage long before it started to rot. And even if that industry was as retrograde in its preparation for this day as the others, well, at least we were only hurting ourselves. 

You can hear Pinsky discuss the Federal Writer's Project here on NPR's program Day to Day, which on Wednesday was cancelled and its staff laid off. You can also read Pinsky's chilling account of being axed from the Orlando Sentinel. And if you're feeling particularly masochistic, check out Paper Cuts' graphic map of 2008's layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers. The Federal Writer's Project employed 6,600 people; last year alone we lost over 15,000 newspaper jobs. Brother (and by brother, I mean Mr. Obama), can you spare a dime; or rather, can you afford not to?

And I'm hating on: The fact that in his article Pinsky sideswipes the New Deal's Federal Theatre Project. What, it's less controversial or overtly political to federally subsidize journalists instead of artists? Are you kidding? Anyone who believes the right (and often the left) thinks journalism is politically neutral needs someone to remove their blinders and give them a good kick in the ass. There, did that hurt? Good. Now maybe you won't be so surprised when Obama's Federal Writer's Project (from your visionary mouth, Mr. Pinsky, to G-d's ears) gets backhanded by Congress. And you'll be able to see better when you sock them right right back with a fistful of arts programs.

Just reading through the Federal Theatre Project's accomplishments brings tears to my eyes, and I'm talking real, wet, chest-swelling tears of amazement that when things were going so terribly wrong, this country did something so right. So much of Depression-era government-sponsored artistic propaganda was concerned with integration and racial equality, it seems less than coincidental that now, as we teeter again on the abyss, we have our first African-American president waiting to take office. It also makes the possibility of a WPA-style out-of-the-closet, new-work-developing, status-quo-challenging arts program seem slightly less-far-fetched than under, say, a Bush administration... Any Bush administration. 

The FTP brought touring productions to rural areas; produced work that ranged in content from Yiddish theater to the "Living Newspaper" plays (which, though they were indeed controversial, employed plenty of out-of-work journalists); and perhaps most spectacularly, produced with its Negro Unit an all-black "Voodoo Macbeth" in Harlem, directed by the 20-year-old Orson Welles. That last one alone is the sort of miraculous event that could induce me to wear a flag pin. But more important, it underscores the point that federal support for the arts is both the hallmark and legacy of a great civilization. We, as a nation, could sure use that sort of reminder right now.

Below: Newsreel of Voodoo Macbeth

December 11, 2008 3:37 PM | | Comments (0)
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