Theatre and Politics

These are two things that go together and have been since the beginnings. The Ancient Greeks had The Trojan Women and Lysistrata which were commentaries on events that the Greeks faced during the Peloponnesian War. Shakespeare did a great job at working politics into his works as well. This was transformed by the Soviets into Agitprop (Agitation propaganda). Politics have always been an influence to playwrights and still inspires directors today.

So when the news that the New York City’s Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar was using Donald Trump as a model for their Julius Caesar. I didn’t think it was out of line over the year many a President has been taken as a way for the audience to relate with the story. As Michael Kahn, Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC, notes in a Time article it is pretty hard to avoid mixing contemporary politics and Shakespeare together. It was a lens for us to look at the story and society has been doing it since at least a 1937 Orson Welles production where Caesar has fascist overtones, and over the years he’s been interpreted into just about every major political figure. Julius Caesar isn’t about the assassination or saying it is a good thing, Caesar even dies halfway through the play making Brutus perhaps the main character in the play.

Now we need to be able to live in a world where we are not walking on egg shells all the time and this seems to be what is happening in the world today. Everyone is on edge and ready to snap at the smallest problem. Yet if we look at other shows and even movies we can get to similar interpretation like how the upcoming film Geostorm, a film coming out this October, is a response to Trump withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

News Roundup

Space X: Space X has announced a crazy plan to go to Mars and even farther, here’s the video. How any of this will work and when it will happen but Elon Musk has been planning for a Mars mission in the mid 2020s.

Movies: Martin Scorsese’s latest film based on Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence has a release date. It is about the Japanese persecution of the Catholics in the 1600s. The film will come out in selected places on December 23 and later on across the country. This is so that the film qualifies for this upcoming years Oscars. I’m looking forward to the first trailer as this movie is one that I will be going to see this winter along with Rogue One.

The August Wilson play Fences is also coming to the screen. This will be the first of Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle to be made into a film and hopefully this film is successful. If it brings all ten of the show on to the screen it would be amazing as Wilson’s works are wonderful. He is one of a few playwrights to win two Pulitzer Prizes and most of the others are considered among the pantheon of American Drama (Edward Albee, Eugene O’Neill, George S. Kaufman, Thornton Wilder, and Tennessee Williams). It would be wonderful if more people went to see plays but if they were made into movies that would fix the problem as well.

Theater tickets

I am a big fan of theater, I was a part of the theater department in high school and flirted with majoring in theater in College. So it’s an important aspect of my life, sure I don’t have the thousands of dollars to drop to go up to New York and see something on Broadway. I also don’t have the hundreds of dollars to go to all the shows that I’d like to see in Washington DC.  So reading this article made some sense, Ticket prices for live theater is expensive and it is mostly attracting an old white audience. However just look at the market for Hamilton the American Musical, with tickets ranging from $140 to $550 from the box office which are sold out and on resale go from $800 to $3000+, but the audience seems to be as diverse as the other show it might be a bit younger but that’s about it.

The NPR piece looks at Signature Theatre in NYC who have done a radical thing and that is subsidized tickets for everyone. So you are not paying about fifty per ticket plus fees but around thirty.  This is a great thing as it gets more people access to live theater. Back in Shakespeare’s day tickets started at like a penny and went up to around six pennies. This is why it was popular entertainment, if live theater were about the same price of a movie ticket I really think that Hollywood would be scared as there are so many niche markets across the country where this might work real well but other places the best live theater they get to see might just be the local high schools or colleges productions. Perhaps it is time that live theater became an important form of entertainment for all races and ages of people.

News Roundup

FilmStruck: TCM and Criterion have announced that they are partnering to create a new subscription streaming service designed for people who love independent, art-house, and international cinema. It seems like a real cool idea since Turner Classic Movies does a wonderful job at programing their network with a nice selection of film, I especially like the month of February which is devoted to the Oscars. Criterion has done a wonderful thing with the Criterion Collection which is around 900 films ranging in genre and from locations around the world. If the service simply offers the complete catalogues of TCM and Criterion it will be worth the price.

College Education: The White House has announced plans to roll out a $100 million program which would work towards free Community College. This was something President Obama indicated was important in his 2015 State of the Union address and the democratic presidential candidates Clinton and Sanders both have free community college as part of their agenda. This seems like it is going to happen since so many jobs are now requiring post secondary education.  Tennessee is among the first in the nation to already provide this through the Tennessee Promise. Let hope that it gets more individuals into an extra couple years of education.

Theater: The stage musical based on the film Waitress, with music by Sara Bareilles, has opened on Broadway and this show is unlike every other show ever. Since there is an olfactory aspect to the show. If you haven’t seen the movie it is set in a diner which specializes in pies. So one of the producers of the musical insisted that that the aroma be there. They tried many way but lo and behold it turns out that cooking an actual pie is the best solution.

Beer: This is a unique story as an Israeli Brewery has recreated a 2000 year old beer. Well sort of It isn’t something that we would consider as beer. They were prompted to make this after researchers found a 2000 year old strain of wheat the brewers decided they wanted to try and brew with it. They made a five gallon batch and all that remains is a single bottle and there aren’t plans to make it again since the results weren’t something that would be marketable.

News Round up

Hamilton:  This is the story which keeps on growing as  the cast album debuted as the No. 1 Broadway Cast Album, as well as No. 3 on the Rap Album and No. 9 on the Top Current Albums chart. Talk about general interest and there hasn’t been any $1.99 sales on this album and it hasn’t won any Tony Awards yet, so I expect numbers to rise when it wins a Tony and doubt that Amazon will be having a sale on it any time soon.

Elections: Yes in the US yesterday was Election Day but it wasn’t a Presidential election so not many people when out to vote. It was mostly local elections but in Ohio there were some interesting issues on the ballot one was a marijuana legalization measure which didn’t pass and there was one about gerrymandering which Passed and will reform the process of how redistricting works in Ohio by making it bipartisan, it basically bans partisan gerrymandering. I hope that this can catch on in other states.

Space: This is pretty cool we’ve been living in space for the past 15 years. The International Space Station has been in space since 1998, but the Expedition 1 crew didn’t arrive until 2000. We are currently on Expedition 45. For all those people who like to day we don’t live in the future there have been people living in space for 15 years.

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

My Dinner with Andre is an interesting little independent film, since it’s two people having a conversation at dinner together and that is it. There isn’t a huge conflict it’s two people sharing ideas at a meal together. The film stars Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory and the story is sort of kind of based on their lives but not really.  My first encounter with My Dinner with Andre was with the show Community (2×19) “Critical Film Studies”, which was an homage to My Dinner with Andre.

This is a lovingly realized idea and as an added bonus it hits one of the major theme of the movie the fakeness of real life.

So in the film Wallace ‘Wally’ Shawn (playwright, actor) has been invited out to dinner with Andre Gregory (director, actor) Andre and Wally are good friends. The first half of the film is Andre talking about what he has been doing since stepping away from directing in 1975. It is a wide variety of things working with Polish actors in a forest with Jerzy Grotowski, going to Findhorn in Scotland, a trip to the Sahara to inspire a play version of St. Exupéry’s The Little Prince, and a performance art group on Long Island where he was buried alive on Halloween. Andre has embraces the spiritual aspects of life. The other half of the film is Wally arguing that what Andre did over the past five year really isn’t living compared to what most people think living is, however Andre counters that what accounts for real life with all the pleasures of life is more like a dream. Then the film is over with Wally and Andre going home.

One of the cool things I learned by watching the film is that it was film in Virginia, it wasn’t until later when I checked Wikipedia that I learn that it was filmed in the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, and I’ve been there. I felt at times the film felt a little bit like A Guide to the Perplexed, with it diving into philosophy, I think that the next time I watch it I’ll have a different opinion of the film. This McSweeney’s piece about an audience participation type viewing ala Rocky Horror is a riot. Perhaps I should watch it like this once.

News Roundup

August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle the ten plays which covers the black experience in 20th Century written by August Wilson will be coming to HBO in the near future. At a USC event last week Denzel Washington announced that he would produce and direct every play at the pace of one a year for HBO. This sounds like a really cool event because Wilson is one of the biggest African American name in the  world of theater, Wilson even has a theater on Broadway named for him.

Stupid Kills: Selfies have caused more deaths this year than sharks. As more and more people are taking selfies and generally ignoring the world around them this figure might increase as time goes on. These deaths are once again a reminder that dumb kills.

Pope: With the Pope currently in the United States I happen to really like The Onion’s article which takes the media’s obsession on all things Pope to the next level. There was also a good article over on Eye of the Tiber.

As for the actual events. Today Pope Francis will meet with President Obama at the White House at 9am for the Official Welcome and they will both give a speech and maybe chat a little bit as well. At 11:30 Francis will be joined by some bishops from across the US for midday prayer, then he will bide his time do some sightseeing before the big event of the day the Canonization Mass of Juniper Serra at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Tomorrow,  Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress, this will be an interesting event as I really wonder if Congress will listen to the Pope and do something about what he says.  After this he joins Catholic Charities for an event before heading up the NYC which will begin with Vespers at 6:45 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. On Friday he will address the UN,  visit the 9/11 memorial tour central park and then celebrate Mass at MSG.  Saturday Pope Francis will make his way to Philly and the World Meeting of Families. Francis will still be there on Sunday and he will close the meeting with Mass that afternoon.

 

High school finds

I was going through some papers from high school this weekend and stumbled upon something I wrote up which I still find funny. First off is about the International Baccalaureate program, my school was\is an IB school, IB is basically like the AP courses where the course load is geared towards individuals who are looking forward to college. These courses may also lessen the load in college but that really depends on the university which you attend.

1066135 says Ritz Crackers has the IB hexagon guys It’s been forced into our minds that IB is good because Ritz Crackers are good. Damn those IB people and Damn the Director General (head of IB to those who don’t know) Now I’ll never be able to eat a Ritz cracker as long as I live

The other thing I found was a bunch of quotes from my old high school Drama teacher. Now these are still funny as well.

Bring a Bucket
Serenity Now!
The Cheyenne Social Club is now closed
Well, people in Hell want water.
You know what they say in Russia…
Soup to Nuts
Do it again, this time without the suck.
I want an Oompa Loompa Now
…but that’s a story for another time.
Questions, Comments, Concerns, Criticism
If “ifs” and “buts” were candies and nuts everyday would be Christmas.

News Roundup

Broadway: This has to be my favorite story in quite some time. Talk about audience etiquette. This past week up at Hand to God on Broadway an audience member thought it would be a good idea to charge his phone on stage while the show was going on.  He saw an electric outlet and thought that looks like a great place to charge, the only problem with the outlet was it was on stage and not a real socket. This took place before the show began but who in their right mind  would think that a set would have live wires in them.

Apple Watch: No one wants to buy an Apple Watch, or perhaps more accurately everyone who wants an Apple Watch already has one. This is the first product that is not by Jobs so it means something, according to the article two-thirds of all watches sold have been the Sport model those at the lowest price. It took the iPod about three years before it was that popular but as I said in April when the Watch came out, if you’ve got an iPhone already it’s bound to be on you so by getting the watch it’s a little bit more convenient and you can pay by like waving your wrist or something. If wearable technology is the future and Apple makes it more than an accessory for your phone then it might have a item people will want to buy, but it would be cool if the wristwatch makes a comeback

X-Files: Only 200 days left until the miniseries event of the winter. Fox teases us with a trailer for the upcoming season which reminds us about the show and says that with if we watch an episode everyday we will be done by the premiere in January. There isn’t much new footage in the teaser, it’s Mulder and Scully running into a room with flashlights and guns. I am looking forward to this, I’ve already started a re-watch of the series and have made it about halfway through season 4.

Newsies: The Musical

I don’t know how many times I watched this with my older sister growing up it was one of her favorite movies and she watched it so many times that the audio track was off, or so we thought. It turns out that the audio track had been re-dubbed in some parts of the movie. So when the news that it was being made into a stage musical came out I was sure to get here the Cast Recording and the next time I saw her she had listened to it and could go through and say what all was changed. So when the announcement that Newsies was coming to the National Theater in DC we put it on our calendars and noted that we had to go see it.

So the time had come and we finally went to see it and while it was thoroughly enjoyable and is a big youth empowerment musical and is about the Newsboys’ strike of 1899 and is mostly  true story about when they effectively shut down the World and Journal as Pulitzer and Hearst refused to reduced prices for the newsboy bundle back to the 50 cents for 100 papers as it was before the Spanish American War. Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t arrive at the nick of time to save the day and it wasn’t led by Jack Kelly but by Kid Blink who was from Brooklyn. The story ends with a rather draw as the price doesn’t get lowered from 60 cents but Hearst and Pulitzer agree to buy back any unsold papers.

In the musical there were some things that I really liked and other things that I didn’t. In this part there will be spoilers so please read with some caution. I am a huge fan of the set that they used it as it could be twisted and moved and they had a great use of projections, from which we had some cool moments. As for the adaptation from screen to stage there were things that changed for the better and some that seemed completely unnecessary. A big improvement is the character of Medda Larkin is scaled back and the most annoying songs in the movie has been replaced with a new one. The other big change is making the reporter a young female and merging both the reporter and Les and Davey’s sister into one individual, this new character Katherine Plummer is the new love interest as well. Katherine ends up being the daughter of Joseph Pulitzer which just seems like they were shoehorning the character in the story as well as the romance between Katherine and Jack. Of the things that really didn’t change was Davey, he isn’t that great of a character in the movie or the stage version, and that is completely the fault of the book as I am sure they could have made him more likeable. I was joking with my sister before we saw it that they should end it just like the movie with a boy, I think it’s Les, jump up into the air and they freeze it until the credits are all over and then he falls on the ground. That would have been really funny, but holding in the air like that would be impossible in real life.

If you get a chance to go see this musical it is worth the time and money even if you aren’t that big of a fan of the movie as the audience consisted of a bunch of families with young children. This is a nice musical to take your son to see even perhaps as their first stage musical, as are most Disney musicals.  If you are a part of the cult following of the film then you are seeing the stage version no matter what as it was created for them after all their demands for a stage version of the film were heard.