Sunday, May 24, 2015

I Finally Make it to the Fisher Center at Bard College

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of seeing The Aaron Diehl Trio featuring Cécile McLorin Salvant at the stunning Frank Gehry designed Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College. 

It was truly a pleasant getaway. I started the Spring evening by having a Mediterranean inspired dinner at The Corner at the art-filled Tivoli Hotel. While sipping cocktails on the patio, I watched passerbys in the small Hudson Valley town and then I got busy with my tagine chicken and the rest of my meal. 

After coffee, I headed down the road to the Fisher Center. It was a sight to behold as I descended on this piece of art. I truly wish I had given myself a little more time to just stand outside on the perfectly manicured grounds and admire the structure and backdrop.

The evening only got better as I was transported to another time - a Jazz age - as Cécile McLorin Salvant, and the Aaron Diehl trio augmented with a brass section of musicians honored the music of Billie Holiday. Ms. Salvant, a true talent, served Billie Holiday well, making those who never had the opportunity to see THE original live, understand why we are still moved in 2015, Billie Holiday's centennial birth year.

Overall, just a wonderful evening... 

And with that, here is a piece that Ms. Salvant pointed out in her tribute - a recorded live performance of Jeepers Creepers featuring the incomparable Billie Holiday. 


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Quote from Jon Robin Baitz's "Other Desert Cities"

Brooke in Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities
...I need seasons to mark where I am. Last winter I was still pretty blue, as you know, but this odd thing - when spring started to just hint - those crazy flowers popping up out of the snow - it matched where I was, I was coming out of it. My winter. I was popping up too. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Happiness Study Fact - Experiences May Us Happier Than Things

It saddens me when a Broadway show fails and is forced to close - especially when I enjoy the show as was the case with the recent freak show musical Side Show. Sitting in the audience, it is so so easy to see how much effort goes into the productions - the scenic design, lighting, the stellar acting, and of course the writing and composing.

Back in January, there was an article in the NY Post - 4 out of 5 Musicals Failed Their Investors. Shows may take years to produce and cost millions to mount, but few will recoup (or profit). 

Yet, season after season, shows continue to be mounted on Broadway. 

I've always wondered why?  

Yeah, yeah, I know that investors can make a killing (did someone say Wicked), but chances are they won't. 

So why continue to invest? 

A recent Forbes article by Lee Seymour - How To Lose Money And Stay Happy attempts to answer this question. It turns out that Broadway investors are pretty satisfied and tend to invest over and over. Even though a show may not fully recoup, a portion of the investment is typically returned, and most of all investors..."do it to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and to foster new pieces of American culture."  It's experiential. 

Last year, I checked out the Broadway investment platform Maxolev when they were campaigning for On the Town. The opportunity to invest in an upcoming Broadway musical peaked my interest. The site offered investors an opportunity to diversify their portfolios, extolled that a successful musical could produce a return in six months, but warned that Broadway investing is risky. I deflated though when I realized that I did not meet the definition of an accredited investor. 

It is easy for any theater aficionado to see that producers have been playing it safe on Broadway for years, shunning plays (check out Terry Teachout's WSJ article - Trying To Get on Broadway? Don’t Write a Play) and opting for jukebox musicals and Hollywood stars to minimize losses. And frankly, had I been qualified and invested in On the Town, I would see that despite decent reviews the musical is not doing well financially, grossing only about 30% of its potential these days. 

Yet, in the past month alone, I have been running back and forth to Broadway to experience musicals such as Gigi, Something Rotten and Doctor Zhivago while they are in previews. 

I simply cannot imagine a life without Broadway. Maybe one day, in addition to being a devoted fan in the audience, I can also be an investor. I've saved the Maxolev link, modified my budget...who knows... 

Other Posts
Robert Anderson ~ "You can make a killing in the theater but not a living" 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Quote from Ferenc Molnár's "Fashion for Men"

Peter Juhász in Ferenc Molnár's Fashion for Men: can't expect the sun to shine all the time. There must be cloudy days, too. But they pass.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Edward Albee's "The Goat or, Who is Sylvia?" on Sunday. NY Mag's "I Lost My Virginity to a Horse" on Tuesday...

On Sunday, while millions prepared to watch the Oscars hosted by Broadway darling Neil Patrick Harris, I wrapped a 3 foot scarf around my neck, donned the rest of my winter armor and braved the cold as I headed to Lincoln Center Plaza to see my very first Julliard production - Edward Albee's The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? - by the 4th Year Drama Division.

In the minutes leading up to the start of the 2002 Tony Award winning play about bestiality, other taboos and intolerance, I flipped through the program and was struck by the following quote from the playwright:
What I wanted people to do is not just sit there being judges of the characters. I wanted people to go to the play, and image themselves in the situation. Put yourself there. "How the fuck would I react? Why am I making this judgment about those people? Because I probably wouldn't make it if it was happening to me."
After the play, as I walked back across the Plaza, I have to admit - I judged. While I think that I'm an open person, I just couldn't quite understand. 

This morning, as I enjoyed the simple pleasure of sipping my morning cup of coffee, I picked up the latest copy of New York Magazine and flipped through it - of course starting with the approval matrix and then skimming to the front of the magazine, making a mental note of the articles that I planned to read one day. It was around this time, my eyes landed on the article - I lost my virginity to a horse. Had I not seen Albee's play less than 48 hours before, I probably would not have paid much attention to such an article at that hour of the morning. But I did...

It is night now. The sun set hours ago...and because of Mr. Albee, I have returned to the article and I am now reading about zoophilia... 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Violaine Huisman's "Paris Review" Article - "The Fabric of a Life: An Interview with Yasmina Reza"

While in NY promoting her book - Happy are the Happy, writer Yasmina Reza sat down with Violaine Huisman for a conversation that was published in the Paris Review. In The Fabric of a Life: An Interview with Yasmina RezaMs Reza shares a few insights on the theater... A very interesting article...Francofiles and theater enthusiasts must check it out...

On productions of her plays that lack vision... 
I’ve sat in the audience, mortified...the actors were bad, the rhythm was off, there was no intimate understanding of the lines, no vision … 
Today, related to production of her plays all around the world Ms Reza thinks -- It’s not a good idea to intervene—you have to let it be.

On the conciseness of her writing... impatience is to blame. Nothing bores me more than long introductions, explanations of childhood, that heavy backpack of contextualization....
I feel much closer to a painter than a writer. A painter doesn’t waste any time.
 On French theater..
When I started out...there were dozens of great directors in France, but the theater landscape has been completely decimated...Today...I can’t think of a single stage director I’d like to work with in my own language.
On American and British theater...
I feel it’s too neat, too well done, too structured, there’s too much of a desire to entertain. 
And English actors are just so extravagant—they really overdo it. I kept thinking as I watched them perform, Hold it, rein it in a little!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

August Wilson - "My plays are ultimately about love, honor, duty, betrayal" and "the foundation of my playwriting is poetry"

As I grabbed a drink at the cafe bar before a performance of Signature's 2012 revival of The Piano Lesson, I chit chatted with a woman who proudly noted that she had seen August Wilson's [1945 - 2005] ten play cycle about African American life in the 20th century. Moreover, she was from Pittsburgh and was very familiar with the Hill District where all but one of the plays is set. She was definitely a fan of the famed playwright.

It is now a wintry Sunday morning in February 2015. I am placing a reminder on my calendar to watch the upcoming American Masters' August Wilson episode. I am reading a synopsis of the 10 plays. And I am remembering the Pittsburgh woman and my unmet promise to complete the cycle and read the plays I had not yet seen...    

American Masters — August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand airs February 20. It commemorates the 70th anniversary of Wilson’s birth, the 10th anniversary of his death and Black History Month.

The Cycle

1) Jitney (1979) - Set in the 1970s - Only play not mounted on Broadway

2) Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1982) - Set in Chicago in the 1920s

3) Fences (1984) - Pulitzer Prize  & Tony Award - Set in the 1950s

4) Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1984) - Set in 1910s

5) The Piano Lesson (1986) - Pulitzer Prize - Set in 1930s

6) Two Trains Running (1990) - Set in 1960s

7) Seven Guitars (1985) - Set in 1940s

8) King Hedley II (1991) - Set in 1980s

9) Gem of the Ocean (2003) - Set in 1900s

10) Radio Golf (2005) - Set in the 1990s

August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand
11 Things You Should Know About August Wilson

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Quote From Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's "You Can't Take It With You"

Grandpa Vanderhof and Boris Kolenkhov in Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's You Can't Take It With You:
KOLENKHOV: How can you relax in times like these?
GRANDPA: Well, if they'd relax there wouldn't be times like these. That's just my point. Life is kind of beautiful if you let it come to you. But the trouble is, people forget that. I know I did. I was right in the thick of it...fighting, and scratching and clawing. Regular jungle. One day it just kind of struck me, I wasn't having any fun.
KOLENKHOV: So you did what? 
GRANDPA: Just relaxed. Thirty-five years ago, that was. And I've been a happy man ever since.