We over at Applause Books have partnered with Erie Gay News to give away a copy two of our books. From November 17 to December 8 you have a chance to enter to win Mark Clark’s book, Star Wars FAQ. And starting today you can enter for a chance to win A Chorus Line FAQ by Tom Rowan! The contest for A Chorus Line FAQ ends on Friday, December 11, 2015 so make sure to enter before it’s too late!
The ultimate treasure trove of information, A Chorus Line FAQ presents history and fun facts, including: the unique workshop process through which the show was developed and written, the stories of its creators, the record-breaking Broadway run and numerous touring productions, and the captivating movie version. The book also features all-new chapters on the Broadway revival, the two London productions, and notable regional productions around the country. In addition to a chapter on A Chorus Line cultural history – with a guide to all the pop cultural references in the show – the book includes extensive photos as well as biographical information on the casts of the major productions. There are also chapters on recordings, previous books on the topic, and the landmark show’s influence on subsequent Broadway musicals and films.
In his foreword to Star Wars FAQ Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies, Alan Dean Foster, critically acclaimed author of more than a hundred science fiction and fantasy novels, sums up what the Star Wars FAQ is all about: “Reading a book like Star Wars FAQ is a bit like strolling the streets of London without a guidebook. You know where Big Ben is, but stumbling across the first public drinking fountain in Britain is apt, in its own more modest way, to be even more enchanting.”
Star Wars FAQ offers an original analysis of the series’ enduring appeal and cultural impact. In the process, author Mark Clark tells a story as thrilling and action-packed as the movies themselves, with bold characters facing apparently insurmountable odds.
Masterworks Broadway recently reviewed Tom Rowan’s book A Chorus Line FAQ. While this is an FAQ book, Peter Filichia points out that Rowan doesn’t set it up as a simple question and answer book. Instead Rowan “gives a straightforward account of how one of the most beloved of Broadway musicals got started and succeeded.” To celebrate the musical’s 40th anniversary, Filichia soured A Chorus Line FAQ, for 40 fun facts…
In honor of the show’s fortieth anniversary, here are the forty facts from A Chorus Line FAQ that most interested me:
- Baayork Lee, the original Connie, calls A Chorus Line “the first reality show.” (All right, not quite, but I see her point.)
- The real Coco Chanel liked director-choreographer Michael Bennett so much that she “tried to persuade him to give up the theater in favor of the fashion industry.”
- Co-librettist Nicholas Dante’s real last name was Morales – a name that was certainly put to use in the finished product.
- Dante was one of two finalists for the ensemble of Applause; the other was Sammy Williams, who five years later would tell Dante’s story as Paul in A Chorus Line.
- Co-librettist James Kirkwood’s life story is one, as Jack Kruschen sings in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, “that only Turgenev maybe could write.” (How harrowing! I won’t spoil it for you here.)
- Bobby Thomas, a drummer, turned out to be far more important to the show than the average drummer is on a musical. (Once again, I won’t give away the story.)
- “Hamlisch was irritated by Kleban’s smoking.” So should we all have been; it cost the lyricist his life at the much-too-earlyage of forty-eight.
- Many who were involved early on doubted that the show was ever going to amount to anything, but the day that Hamlisch and Kleban performed “At the Ballet” gave them newfound hope.
- For the finale, the original plan was to have Zach, , the martinet director-choreographer, choose a person from the audience who would then be the centerpiece and star of “One.” (This isn’t in the book, but Number Eight started me thinking: How about a benefit performance of A Chorus Line in which our favorite female stars – Chenoweth, Foster, LuPone, McDonald, Menzel, Peters, et al. – take turns in being the star celebrated in “One”? As H.C. Curry says in 110 in the Shade, “I’d like to see that.”)
- There was much discussion on whether to keep to the time-honored two-couple structure of the average musical; you know, Billy and Julie aren’t alone in Carousel, for Carrie and Enoch are there, too. For a while, the Chorus Line creators thought that Zach and Cassie shouldn’t be the only ones with a romantic history, but that Sheila and Don should have previously been lovers, too.
Read the rest of the facts over at Masterworks Broadway!
The author of the book, The Shakespeare Audition, Laura Wayth has explained why some of us find Shakespeare so overwhelming. Is it the old English? The accent? Believe it or not it’s something else entirely. Read below for to find out why Laura Wayth thinks Shakespeare shouldn’t make you scared but excited.
I kind of hate calling him “The Bard,” don’t you? But that’s what people often call Shakespeare. In medieval Gaelic and British culture, a bard was a professional poet employed by a patron (be it a monarch or nobleman) to write. Shakespeare is called The Bard because many people consider him the greatest poet that ever lived. And the idea that Shakespeare is first and foremost a poet is important for us to think about.
You see, the thing that probably makes you afraid of Shakespeare is the very thing that makes Shakespeare easy and fun. Shakespeare is poetry.
Although Shakespeare wrote prose, the majority of his work is in verse, aka poetry. Poetry has a specific shape and structure. Poetry has some rules governing the way it’s created. Once you learn those rules and that structure, Shakespeare begins to make perfect, exquisite sense! The rules that shape the creation of poetry give the actor a kind of roadmap to follow. Learn how to read the map, and the road to Shakespeare-land rolls out before you and your performance springs to life. Once you understand the form, you unlock the key to actor fun and freedom. I’m going to give you an idea of how to do this in a little while.
But first, let’s talk a little more about this dreaded P word—poetry. It sounds so formal, doesn’t it? It seems like something reserved for Valentine’s Day, or something archaic, ancient, and separate from our own experience. It seems fancy and formal and not how we express our truth. The biggest complaint I get from students who are new to Shakespeare when
they speak his words goes something like this: “But I just don’t feel like I’m being honest.” This is the single biggest problem actors have in approaching Shakespeare—they just don’t feel truthful speaking his words. And being truthful, after all, is the thing we actors value the most. To not feel truthful on stage is to feel fake, fraudulent, disconnected, self-conscious, and downright get-me-off-the-stage wrong.
But let’s think of it another way. Poetry isn’t our normal, everyday kind of truth. Poetry is greater than that. It offers an uplifted, larger-scale truth connected to all of humanity and to the divine. It isn’t the way we speak—it’s bigger and more powerful. So let’s think of poetry like an even greater revelation of our thoughts and of ourselves. Let’s think of it like music.
A song or a piece of instrumental music can take us to a place that is emotionally poignant and full of energy, encapsulating human experience even better than ordinary speech could. Music contains images. It is dense with a kind of information that we can understand not only on an intellectual level, but viscerally. Music can communicate what speech alone cannot. A violin can sing what someone’s heart is feeling. A driving rhythm can capture all that is raw and primitive in our individual or collective experience. A soaring line can lift us up. A minor key can bring us to a down and dark place. Poetry does this. And poetry does this because poetry is a kind of music.
Tomorrow marks the fourth annual installment of Star Wars Reads Day! We over at Hal Leonard can’t wait to celebrate with one of our published books, Star Wars FAQ. It has gotten great reviews and the online blog, The Bearded Trio, has even said:
“One thing I’ve learned since 1977 — you can ever know too much about Star Wars, and there will always be something you don’t know. I’m constantly (and pleasantly) surprised when I run across a fact or image that is new to me, and Star Wars FAQ did not disappoint on this count. Highly recommended!”
Read the full review here.
To prepare you for a day that is sure to become more and more popular each year, below is an excerpt of Mark Clark’s, Star Wars FAQ Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies. Enjoy!
Even before George Lucas had completed his Star Wars screenplay he was faced with finding actors to portray his still-evolving characters. Auditions began in late August 1975, while Lucas was finishing the fourth draft of the script. While not quite as excruciating a process as writing the film (see Chapter 4), casting soon became another protracted ordeal—both for Lucas and for the actors under consideration for major roles.
Lucas wanted to hire young, unknown performers for the picture’s leading roles, as he had for American Graffiti. This was in part a cost-containment strategy, but he also believed that actors not already associated with other characters would be more effective in the fantasy context of Star Wars. It was one thing to ask viewers to accept Wookiees, lightsabers, and the Force, but something else again to ask viewers to accept someone like, say, Ron Howard as Luke Skywalker. To assist with the talent search, Lucas again relied on casting director Fred Roos, who had served marvelously on Graffiti. At the beginning of the process, Lucas, Roos, and several assistants worked twelve-hour days, seeing as many as 250 actors per day. After three grueling weeks of this, to save time and money Lucas joined forces with another young director, Brian De Palma, who was looking for a group of young unknowns to star in his film Carrie (1976). Lucas and De Palma took the unusual step of hosting joint auditions. Hundreds more actors were invited to come in and try out for both films. Lucas’ demeanor during this process was so low-key that some of the would-be cast members mistook him for De Palma’s assistant.
Nevertheless Lucas had definite ideas about what he wanted and placed a premium on chemistry between his leads. During callbacks (without De Palma), he screen-tested actors as ensembles to see how various would-be Leias, Lukes, and Hanses worked in concert with one another. Early on, Lucas wanted to hire legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune to play Ben Kenobi, but Mifune declined. “If I’d gotten Mifune, I would’ve used a Japanese princess, and then I would have probably cast a black Han Solo,” said Lucas in J. W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars. One of the trios in contention for the leading roles featured newcomer Will Seltzer as Luke, former Penthouse centerfold Terri Nunn as Leia, and a young Christopher Walken
Jodie Foster was given serious consideration as Princess Leia. She was screen-tested but not hired because she was only thirteen years old at the time, and casting a minor would introduce restrictions on the shooting schedule. (De Palma declined to cast her in Carrie for the same reason.) Other performers in the running for major roles included John Travolta, Amy Irving (both eventually hired for Carrie), Nick Nolte, Tommy Lee Jones, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (later “Boom Boom” Washington on Welcome Back, Kotter)—a potential Han Solo. Ultimately, of course, Lucas settled on Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher for the leads; a pair of distinguished British actors for key supporting parts; and four performers with specialized talents (and physiques) for the remainder of the primary cast.
None of their lives would ever be the same.
Last week at New York’s Drama Book Shop, David Rothenberg, author of Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion, and James Grissom, author of Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog traded Broadway tales.
In an excerpt from that talk, Grissom recalls how he and Rothenberg first met.
David 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.
An extraordinary book; one that almost magically makes clear how Tennessee Williams wrote; how he came to his visions of Amanda Wingfield, his Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, Alma Winemiller, Lady Torrance, and the other characters of his plays that transformed the American theater of the mid-twentieth century; a book that does, from the inside, the almost impossible—revealing the heart and soul of artistic inspiration and the unwitting collaboration between playwright and actress, playwright and director.
When September rolls around, there are always new Broadway shows right behind it. Applause Books is celebrating the new Broadway season — and one of the most popular and successful musicals of all time — with A Chorus Line FAQ by Tom Rowan. Here’s an excerpt from Tom’s introduction!
A Chorus Line is, arguably, the most popular and successful American musical of all time. It opened in 1975 and won nine Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and a slew of other awards. In 1983, it broke the record as the longest-running show in Broadway history: a distinction it held for fourteen years. Ten different touring companies have crisscrossed the nation, and the show has been translated into over twenty languages and produced all over the world. A hit Broadway revival in 2006, which ran for two years, and its subsequent tours revived interest in the show, and today it is nearly always onstage somewhere, in regional theatres, summer stock venues, dinner theatres, community theatres, high schools, and colleges.
What is the appeal of this unique musical, and how has it so thoroughly captured, and held, the imagination of the American public?
The show plays directly into dreams and values that are deeply rooted in the American psyche. The idea of an audition, a competition, a group of people risking it all for a job—to prove they’re the best—has long been a central trope in our culture. It’s one of the reasons Americans are so obsessed with sports, or beauty pageants. Baayork Lee has referred to A Chorus Line as “the first reality show,” and indeed, the explosion in the 1990s and 2000s of competition-based reality TV programs fed into that same American obsession with Cinderella stories: the every man putting himself on the line for a chance at a dream, being judged a winner or a loser. Anyone who’s ever gone on a job interview can identify with the auditionees fighting for an opportunity to do what they love—and let’s admit it, once in a while we all like, if only vicariously, to be the judge as well, the one actually making the selections. A Chorus Line gave us a chance to root for the underdog, to choose our favorites, and then hold our breath till we found out who got the job—and weep for those who didn’t. Current television shows like American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, and so forth satisfy those same deep-seated needs. There have even been a few (such as the British How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and the American Grease: You’re the One That I Want!) where the prize was an actual role in a West End or Broadway musical!
A closer look, though, reveals that A Chorus Line is something subtler, something deeper than this, perhaps even slyly subversive. Dancers in the show have expressed indignation at the existence of programs like You’re the One That I Want!; the implication that anybody off the street could be a Broadway star seems to negate the years of discipline and self-sacrifice and grueling, expensive training real dancers commit to in pursuit of their goals. And after all, the seventeen auditionees standing on that white line are not competing for a shot at stardom or celebrity; as the show’s finale makes startlingly clear, they are asking for a chanceto dance in a uniform, anonymous kick line behind a star. It’s love of the work itself that drives them, not any misplaced desire for wealth (which won’t be forthcoming in any case) or the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. Somewhere in there can perhaps be seen a metaphorical critique of the American dream: do we chase success by competing to be as much like everybody else as possible?
Classic Movie Hub is hosting a You Fascinate Me So:
The Life and Times of Cy Coleman Book Giveaway!
From 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):
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!
Boze Hadleigh, author of An Actor Succeeds talks with Patrick Phillips of “Pop Culture Tonight” about his new book!
An Actor Succeeds is a very special collection containing all the best trade secrets of the biggest and most successful film and theater professionals. Presented in an informative format, An Actor Succeeds is a useful yet entertaining how-to, tips-and-advice book comprising nearly 900 quotes mostly from actors but also directors, writers, casting directors, and more. The book is conveniently divided into five chapters: Acting, Auditioning, Connecting, Working, and Coping. Here’s a sampling of quotes from each section:
“Of course we all learn that acting is basically reacting. The least acting you ever have to do is in a close-up. The close-up may require an actor’s reaction, but a small, subtle one. Generally speaking, the less you ‘act’ in a close-up, the better.” -Sir John Gielgud
“Acting, especially in motion pictures, is very hierarchical, like a caste system. The stars are royalty, the other actors are serfs-okay, commoners… If you’re not a big shot, you gotta be careful not to push or intrude. You gotta watch what you say, how you say it, and, especially, when you say it.” -Bruce Dern
“Acting in front of a camera or a live audience requires intense concentration, to shut out the real world and create the character’s reality. Focus is just as important for an actor as for a cinematographer.” -Keira Knightley
“Partly I got into show business to become rich and famous and thus show up anyone who’d treated me badly growing up. But doesn’t one evolve with maturity? My focus ultimately changed from negative to positive, as I found that I enjoyed the work, even the struggle, for its own sake.” -Michael Landon