Category Archives: Theatre

Theodore Bikel: The Original Captain Georg von Trapp

Theodore Bikel, who died on Tuesday, toured for decades as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” but, before he mused about being a rich man, Bikel created the role of Baron von Trapp in the original Broadway production of “The Sound of Music.”  In The Sound of Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Maria, the von Trapps, and Our Favorite Things, author Barry Monush profiled Bikel.


00123101Being not only authentically Austrian but accomplished at playing the guitar, Theodore Bikel (born in Vienna on May 2, 1924) proved ideal casting for Captain von Trapp. His own family had, in fact, faced a similar dilemma as the Trapps, having to flee Austria once the Nazis took power in 1938. In Bikel’s case, however, being Jewish, the threat was even greater. Settling in Israel, he took an interest in dramatics, joining the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv and then journeying to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. A role in a 1948 revival of You Can’t Take It with You led to director Laurence Olivier casting him as one of Stanley and Mitch’s poker-playing pals in the London debut (October 12, 1949) of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh. This, in turn, brought him his first film, John Huston’s Oscar-winning The African Queen (1951), popping up near the climax as a German sailor. That same year he returned to the West End to play a Russian in Peter Ustinov’s comedy The Love of Four Colonels, which he would stay with for two years.

Continuing his run of supporting roles in movies, Bikel covered nearly every nationality possible, playing a Serbian king in the Oscar-nominated Moulin Rouge (1952); a Belgian opera director in Melba (1953), which featured Robert Morley playing Oscar Hammerstein II’s father); a Dutch doctor living in Canada in The Little Kidnappers (1953); a German naval officer in Above Us the Waves (1955); and a French general in The Pride and the Passion (1956). During this time he made his Broadway debut (February 1955), playing an imposing French police inspector in the short-lived Tonight in Samarkand, followed later that year by the more successful The Lark, as a French captain pressured into helping Joan of Arc (Julie Harris). (The cast included Christopher Plummer, putting the two future Captain von Trapps in the same property for the only time). For playing a doctor in the drama The Rope Dancers (1957), Bikel earned his first Tony nomination. He finally appeared in an American-made movie when Stanley Kramer cast him as the sympathetic southern sheriff in The Defiant Ones (1958), which brought him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor. He was also seen in another of the year’s top releases, as a psychiatrist offering assistance to condemned prisoner Susan Hayward in I Want to Live!, directed by Robert Wise.

After the head of Elektra Records, Jac Holzman, heard Bikel perform, he signed him to his label, launching his second career as a noted folk singer with a 1955 album, known alternately as Theodore Bikel Sings Songs of Israel and Folksongs of Israel. There followed An Actor’s Holiday (1956) and Songs of a Russian Gypsy (1958), among others. He did not shut down this side of his career to concentrate exclusively on TSOM, however, appearing for two concerts at Town Hall on November 29, 1959, only two weeks after the musical’s Broadway opening.

At the time The Sound of Music premiered on Broadway, Bikel was thirty-five, a decade and a year younger than the real Captain von Trapp was at the time he and Maria first crossed paths.

New edition of The Best American Short Plays (2013-2014)

Applause Books is proud to continue another series in this enormous diversity of contemporary American theater. This new edition of William W. Demastes Best American Short Plays contains fresh-voiced, cutting-edge works by twenty-six playwrights. Demastaes has published widely on modern theater and drama, including Comedy Matters, Spalding Gray’s America, Staging Consciousness, and Theatre of Chaos. As William Demastes brings together his selection of short plays there seems to be a common theme within each play, uncertainty. Below is an introduction as to what will await you upon reading Demastes’ best picks of American Short Plays.


Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 12.23.01 PM“Uncertain seems to be the watchword of today’s world, filled as it is with surprises, shocks, and even a few delights. Uncertainty brings with it fear and insecurity, and a nostalgic longing for the good old days. But for some, uncertainty means opportunity, and along with that opportunity comes the prospect of change for the better. Fifty years ago, Bob Dylan inserted a catchy phrase into our cultural consciousness: The times they are a-changing. The 1960s did in fact mark changes of all sorts for our world, many good and even revolutionary. It was an amazing time marked by triumph and tragedy both great and small. But think about how much more times have changed in the half-century since Dylan’s declaration. Things not even envisioned by science-fiction visionaries are now part of our daily fabric. Technology has transformed our lives by placing information of all sorts literally at our fingertips. It has made us far more efficient in the workplace. And it has provided us the opportunity to share our lives with anyone at any time from any distance. Of course, this is not all good. Rapid pace and shrinking distance have reduced opportunities to reflect and contemplate. They have cut out times for creative play, for daydreaming, and so many other not-for-profit enterprises that make life worth living.

Then there are all those other changes, the ones that somehow have made us more alienated from one another than ever before. It is fortunate today that political adversaries remain unarmed, as oppositional political enmity has torn our country into enclaves of fear and mistrust. Race relations have reached both new highs and new lows. Sex and gender issues have received unprecedented public exposure, again for good and ill. And religion (traditional as well as New Age) continues its struggle against erosions of faith, leading to visions of godlessness and attendant despair. The triumph of tearing down the cold-war wall has brought on innumerable unintended negative consequences, opening the way for countless brush-fire tyrannies, and making the world in many ways more dangerous than ever before since we can’t even be sure who our enemies are, or what they want, or why they hate us.”


Make sure to read and learn more by purchasing The Best American Short Plays (2013-2014). We would love to hear from you and your thoughts on a short play of your choice within the book.

How One Extra Minute Can Make For Your Best Audition Ever

Dramatic Circumstances: On Acting, Singing, and Living Inside the Stories We Tell author William Wesbrooks was recently featured on GetAcceptd! In this blog post, he provides advice for performing your best audition ever!

How One Extra Minute Can Make For Your Best Audition Ever

Here’s the scenario: You wait outside the audition room minutes away from being called through the door. You feel your nerves kicking into “overdrive” and your confidence slipping away. You know that you are prepared to do good work, but experience tells you that your nerves are likely to get in the way.

This is what you do: Give yourself one minute — one full minute — to engage your brain, your imagination, and your power of concentration to move yourself away from nervousness and into your dramatic circumstance. Living inside your story is a much more powerful, and fun, place to be than waiting in a crowded room for your name to be called.

Create Your Dramatic Circumstance

  1. Think of your song as a story in which you are the central character.
  2. Determine what events in your story have brought you to the point where you have to sing this song in order to get what you want.
  3. Determine your other — the person to whom you are singing.
  4. Check in with your body (either sitting or standing) and feel yourself “long” through the torso and “wide” across the chest.
  5. Inhale deeply (3 counts in) and exhale completely (6 counts out).
  6. Imagine that your other is standing in front of you.
  7. Continue your deep breathing and give it some time.

By taking these steps you will learn how to become a part of the story you are telling, and as you spend this time “living inside” your story, you will find that your dramatic circumstance comes to life, your “other” comes to life, and — most importantly — you come to life with increasing clarity, power, and freedom. Most importantly, you will also discover that the time it takes to get inside your story — to get inside each song you prepare — will get shorter and shorter.

Give Yourself a Minute

You are back in the waiting room. You feel your nervous system starting to run amuck.   It’s time for you to take charge. So start by sitting up straight in your chair and finding a spot across the room on which you can focus all of your attention.

  • 15 seconds – Inhale deeply (3 counts in) and exhale completely (6 counts out).
  • 15 seconds – In your imagination, in just a few sentences, tell yourself the events of your story that lead you to this point of interaction with your other.
  • 15 seconds – Allow your imagination to turn that spot across the room into the other person in your story.
  • 15 seconds – In your imagination, again in just a few sentences, recreate the dialogue that compels you to take the action that is your song.

Any performer, from the novice to the experienced professional, knows that fear is the thing that can too often keep us from doing our best work. Fear can erase hours of practice, a well-developed technique, and — most critically — our belief in our own ability. I find — based on my experiences as an actor, director, writer, and teacher — that the steps laid out in the Dramatic Circumstance process are a consistently effective and powerful way to combat the effects of fear on a performer’s work.

Give it a try. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

https://getacceptd.com/blog/

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Congratulations, David Rothenberg!

Last night marked the 25th Annual Village Awards, presented by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation! GVSHP is a leader in protecting the sense of place and human scale that define the Village’s unique community. GVSHP recognizes those people, places, and organizations which make a significant contribution to the quality of life in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. This year, David Rothenberg was one of the Village Award winners!

00138534David Rothenberg’s multilayered life thrust him into Broadway’s brightest lights, prison riots, political campaigns, civil rights sit-ins, and a Central American civil war. In his memoir, Fortune in My Eyes, his journey includes many of the most celebrated names in the theater: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Sir John Gielgud, Peggy Lee, Alvin Ailey, Lauren Bacall, Christine Ebersole, and numerous others.

He produced an Off-Broadway prison drama, Fortune and Men’s Eyes, which reshaped his life. John Herbert’s chilling play led directly to the creation of the Fortune Society, which has evolved into one of the nation’s most formidable advocacy and service organizations in criminal justice.

Rothenberg was Elizabeth Taylor’s opening night date at the Richard Burton Hamlet – a distant cry from his entering Attica prison during that institution’s famed inmate uprising; these are just two of the experiences revealed in this memoir. As a theater publicist and producer – and as a social activist – he shares experiences with politicians and with anonymous men and women, out of prison, who have fought to reclaim their lives. The human drama of the formerly incarcerated that unfolds in this book is a match for many of the entertainment world’s most fabled characters.

Check out the GVSHP blog about Rothenberg here!

1 Funny Lady, 6 Hilarious Monologue Books

Alisha Gaddis, author of both Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny and Men’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny, was recently interviewed by Rebecca Strassberg of Backstage.com!

00123100“You have an audition. One where you are supposed to be funny. Really funny. They want you to actually make them laugh…in an audition,” writes Alisha Gaddis in the introduction to her book Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny.

“But you have to have a comedic monologue, and if you see another person do that tuna fish one one more time, you may gouge y
our eyes out! And wedon’t want that. You need your eyes to see the standing ovation that you will get once you snag the job that one of these monologues helps you land.”And with the help of Applause Theatre & Cinema Books and Hal Leonard, humorist, writer, and performer Gaddis is just beginning to deliver on that promise.

A go-getter by nature, the Indiana native currently stars with her husband on the PBS show “Lishy Lou and Lucky Too”—the music for 00130770which won the duo a Latin Grammy—and has been doing standup comedy since her days at NYU. She has acted on and Off-Broadway and has a long list of credits on TV shows, including “Mad Men,” “House,” and others. But Gaddis says she’s always been writing, and she started weekly magazine Say Something Funny…B*tch in 2010.

In conjunction with the magazine, its writers put on Say Something Funny…B*tch live shows until Gaddis saw yet another opportunity.

“Only a select number of people were hearing the words at the shows, and I thought these could really be funny monologues,” she says. “So I wrote the pitch in the middle of the night and sent it to my literary agent.”

Leonard and Applause “thought they were really fresh, really funny, and really current,” she explains.

Since the00130749 book’s publication, five more in the series have been ordered, including collections for men and teen boys (both coming in July), teen girls (currently being edited), kids (set for 2016), and the one Gaddis is most excited about: an LGBT 00130748version.

“There’s not anything like that right now out there, and I’m, like, ‘Come on, let’s be strong for our community!’

“It’s going to be more all-encompassing, so it’ll be all different ages, different categories,” she adds. “I’m working with one of my friends, the president of Swish [Ally Fund], and he’s going to help me guide it and make sure everything’s sussed out properly.”

With over 60 monologues in each book, Gaddis is establishing a monologue empire—the success of which was unanticipated.

Read the rest of the interview here.

2015 Tony Season and Stephen Schwartz

Congratulations, Stephen Schwartz! Schwartz received an honorary Tony award last night! In light of this recent event, Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked author Carol de Giere has contributed a blog post in honor of the award recipient!

By Carol de Giere, author of Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked (Applause 2008) and The Godspell Experience (Scene 1 Publishing, 2015).

00314791Famed Broadway and film composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked, et. al.) is not short on recognition by awarding agencies. A glass case in his home is filled with golden Grammy trophies, Oscar statuettes, plaques and various other symbols representing the way his achievements have been honored. Some are remembered in photos, like his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition and images from receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree this year at Carnegie Mellon University where he originally received his B.F.A. in 1968.

His new honor this Tony Award season is an unusual one. He receives the 2015 “Isabelle Stevenson Award” (named for the late president of the American Theatre Wing, Isabelle Stevenson). This award is presented annually to a member of the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations.

Although Schwartz received Tony nominations for Godspell, Pippin, Working, Rags, and Wicked, his award from the American Theatre Wing is not for his many achievements but for his years of contributions to help writers around him and for donating his time to important causes. They honor “his commitment to serving artists and fostering new talent through his work with ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop, ASCAP Foundation and helping develop new partnerships as President of the Dramatists Guild,” according to a press statement.

Also, he recently served as President of the Dramatist Guild for six years. In that position he worked “…to strengthen and protect the rights of American dramatists, including battling censorship and piracy and improving the relationship between writers and directors, actors and producers,” the press statement adds.

As I was writing his biography, Defying Gravity, I noticed innumerable situations in which he helped other writers with some aspect of their new musical, especially during the annual workshops at ASCAP that he has led for over twenty years. In addition, he regularly performs for benefit concerts organized by friends. He helped with last fall’s Uprising of Love concert at the Gershwin Theatre to benefit and raise awareness of LGBT people in hostile countries. The list goes on.

His award doesn’t mark any kind of ending. Schwartz, now 67 years old, still has many irons in the fire, including a new stage musical Emanuel and Eleonore, scheduled to open in Vienna in the fall of 2016, a stage musical version of the DreamWorks film The Prince of Egypt, and several movie projects, among other things. He took time to write a Foreword to my new book The Godspell Experience, reflecting on his first major success: writing the score for Godspell at age 23.

An online newsletter The Schwartz Scene follows this artist’s ongoing efforts. http://www.theschwartzscene.com/ 

Cy Coleman Book Giveaway – Classic Movie Hub

Classic Movie Hub is hosting a You Fascinate Me So:

The Life and Times of Cy Coleman Book Giveaway!

00122483From now through Saturday, June 6th, Classic Movie Hub will be giving away a total of SIX copies of You Fascinate Me So: The Life and Times of Cy Coleman by Andy Propst!

THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO ENTER:

TO ENTER via TWITTER (Four Chances to Win):

1.) Follow @ClassicMovieHub on Twitter for the contest announcements.

2.) Successfully complete a qualifying entry task during the specified contest week.

3.) One winner will be chosen at random at the end of each specified contest week and announced on Twitter the following day.

4.) One book will be given away each specified contest week during the contest period, for a total giveaway of four books within four weeks.

TO ENTER via FACEBOOK (Two Chances to Win):

1.) Visit Classic Movie Hub on Facebook or the CMH Blog for the contest announcement.

2.) Successfully complete a qualifying entry task during the specified contest period.

3.) Two winners will be chosen at random at the end of the specified contest period and announced on Facebook and the Blog the following day.

4.) Two books will be given away during the contest period, for a total giveaway of two books within one month.

PLEASE NOTE for all prizing: Only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico) and Canada residents are eligible.

For more information, click here!

On the Aisle with Larry

Larry Harbison, editor of How I Did It: Establishing a Playwriting Career, recently reviewed On the Twentieth Century in his Playfixer blog! Read his opinion on the musical revival, as well as his opinions on several other musicals currently on and off Broadway!

On the Aisle with Larry

Lawrence Harbison, The Playfixer, brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. In this column, Larry reports on AIRLINE HIGHWAY, DISENCHANTED, SOMETHING ROTTEN, THE VISIT, ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY and IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU.

AIR279x238pxLisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway, a Steppenwolf import currently at the Samuel J.Friedman Theatre, is something of a throwback which put me in mind of the glory days of Circle Rep. It’s a thoroughly realistic large-cast slice of life play more about its characters than its plot. Think The Hot L Baltimore. Think Balm in Gilead (which was also a Steppenwolf import, directed by John Malkovich, with a sensational performance by an unknown-to-New York actress named Laurie Metcalfe. Both plays were by the late Lanford Wilson). D’Amour’s play is about the denizens of a seedy motel in New Orleans called The Humming Bird. There’s a seen-better-days hooker (played wonderfully by Julie White); there’s a transvestite with a heart of gold named Sissy Na Na, played with quite a flair by J. Todd Freedman (both actors are nominated for Tony Awards, by the way). What plot there is concerned the funeral of an elderly resident named Miss Ruby, once a madam. She ain’t dead yet (she’s in bad shape up in her room) but has requested that her funeral be held before her imminent demise so she can attend it. Joe Mantello has elicited fantastic performances from his ensemble cast.

As a Lanford Wilson fan, I was thrilled to see that his legacy is carrying on.

Disenchanted, at the Westside Theatre, spoofs heroines from Disney animated films, such as Belle and the Little Mermaid, done by an energetic cast of 5 women. The songs by Dennis T. deal_1413916803Giacino (who also wrote the sorta one-joke book) are tuneful and clever. This is a great “Girls Night Out” show. I rolled my eyes more than once, but the ladies in  the audience were whooping it up.

Something Rotten, at the St. James Theatre, is that SR-0026M-TelechargeLogos-176x176rarity these days – a Broadway musical which is not based on a popular film. It’s about a failing theatre troupe in Elizabethan London who need to come up with a New Idea which will trump their main competition, a guy named Shakespeare. Nick Bottom, the troupe’s leader, goes to a soothsayer, who predicts that the Next Big Thing will be musical comedy, so Nigel and his writer brother, Nigel, come up with a ridiculous musical comedy called “Omelette,” about a Danish prince trying to make eggs (The addled soothsayer, trying to come up with Shakespeare’s next hit so the Bottom brothers can beat him to the punch, scrambles the title, as it were).

Brian D’Arcy James and John Cariani are hilarious as the Bottoms, and Brad Oscar equally so as the Soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus (not him – his nephew). The book, by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell and the  music and lyrics by Wayne and Carey Kirkpatrick are as funny as The Producers or Spamalot, loaded with witty references to musicals of the future, such as Cats.

You won’t find a funnier show on Broadway, except for maybe The Book of Mormon, and who can get into that?

The Visit, at the Lyceum Theatre, is a musicalization by Kander and Ebb of the great play of the99492 same title by Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, about the world’s wealthiest woman who returns to her impoverished home town to enact revenge on the man who wronged her as a girl. She offers to give every citizen a million marks if they will kill the guy. Of course, everyone refuses – and then starts buying things on credit. Chita Rivera, although she’s more than a little creaky by this point, is striking as Claire, the rich woman intent on revenge, and Rogers Rees is touching her lover long ago whom she wants killed.

I think this is well worth seeing – but do so soon, because after the Tony Awards I don’t think it will be around much longer. There’s just too much competition, and this is not exactly an “audience-friendly” show.

The revival of On the Twentieth Century (book by Comden and Green, music by Cy Coleman), at the American Airlines Theatre is, if anything, even better than the original on-the-20th-century-large-643x441production. It stars Peter Gallagher as an insolvent Broadway producer named Oscar Jaffe and Kristin Chenoweth as the screen goddess he discovered and bedded years ago, named Lili Garland. who are both on the Twentieth Century Limited on its way from Chicago to New York. If Oscar can get Lily to star in his next Broadway project, a ridiculous epic of Joan of Arc which hasn’t even been written yet, all his woes are over. Problem is, she hates him. She’s travelling with her boy toy and recent co-star, Bruce Granit, played wonderfully by Andy Karl. Gallagher and Chenoweth and simply sensational, as are Scott Ellis’ direction, Warren Carlyle’s choreography and William Ivey Long’s sumptuous costumes.

You’ll get real bang for your buck with this one. Don’t miss it.

On the other hand, you could skip It Shoulda Been You at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, a itshouldabeenyoucontrived, unfunny musical loaded with tired ethnic humor about a wedding. She’s Jewish – he’s a goy. Both, it turns out, are gay. Oy, vey …

 

 

Also, be sure to check out both How I Did It: Establishing a Playwriting Career and You Fascinate Me So: The Life and Times of Cy Coleman!

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Andy Propst on Sunday Show Tunes with Nate & Paul

You Fascinate Me So author Andy Propst was recently featured on Sunday Show Tunes with Nate & Paul! During the interview, they talk about Cy Coleman and Andy’s new book!

>>LISTEN HERE<<

00122483He penned songs such as “Witchcraft” and “The Best Is Yet to Come” (signature tunes for Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, respectively) and wrote such musicals as Sweet CharityI Love My WifeOn the Twentieth Century, and The Will Rogers Follies—yet his life has gone entirely unexplored until now. You Fascinate Me So takes readers into the world and work of Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning composer/performer Cy Coleman, exploring his days as a child prodigy in the 1930s, his time as a hot jazz pianist and early television celebrity in the 1950s, and his life as one of Broadway’s preeminent composers.

This first-time biography of Coleman has been written with the full cooperation of his estate, and it is filled with previously unknown details about his body of work. Additionally, interviews with colleagues and friends, including Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Ken Howard, Michele Lee, James Naughton, Bebe Neuwirth, Hal Prince, Chita Rivera, and Tommy Tune, provide insight into Coleman’s personality and career.

A Celebration of Cy Coleman

On Monday, April 27, Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Birdland became the place to celebrate Andy Propst’s new book, You Fascinate Me So: The Life and Times of Cy Coleman. Some of Cy’s favorite singers, including Lillias White, Cady Huffman, Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano, Steve Leeds, John Miller, Ilene Graff & Ben Lanzarone, and Billy Stritch came to sing his praises and songs accompanied by the Cast Party Symphony Orchestra, which included Mr. Stritch on piano, Steve Doyle on bass and Mark McLean on drums. As Cast Party is an extreme open mic night, each impromptu performance was completely unrehearsed, but endlessly “bewitching!”

Watch this video assembled by Jane Marino to see some of the activities from the Cy Coleman-themed evening!

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