In “The Contest”, in the first act of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney matches skills and egos with Pirelli, with Beadle Bamford looking on, at barbering—and then (in the original Broadway production in 1979) in a second section, at dentistry (tooth pulling, no more no less). The tooth pulling section doesn’t appear in later productions. Why did Sondheim delete it? It serves to underscore what a louse Pirelli is, because he has to conscript a healthy Toby in order to have a patient to work on, and hence we have no sympathy for Pirelli when Sweeney offs him. It has one of my favorite Sondheim rhymes: saliva and drive-a you mad. And it’s not like Pirelli gets all that much stage time.
- Bird-friendly coffee is also pollinator-friendly and good for the farmer, too, according to new research from Alejandra MartÃnez-Salinas et al.
- Jennifer Vanasco’s story about playback of long-unheard mystery wax cylinders buries the lede, in my humble option. The Endpoint Cylinder and Dictabelt Machine also plays back dictabelts, such as would have been used by Sid Sorokin.
- Annie Lindsay and fellow bird banders at Powdermill Avian Research Center devised an air compressor adapted to be a blower for bird feathers. Gently blowing on a bird’s body plumage exposes how much fat the bird is carrying, and is sometimes used for other measurements. Using the machine in preference to the traditional technique (the bander’s own breath) means that COVID-19 prevention protocols can remain in place.
WATCH assignments are out for the calendar year, and after a run of 2002-2019, I do not have a year’s worth of shows to judge. I am sitting out until the COVID-19 situation calms down, if it ever does. Hard same from two of my other judges, and my fourth has departed the metro for Albany. Fortunately, through the grapevine I’ve been able to recruit four judges for Silver Spring Stage. I remain ambivalent about all this: the last thing we should be doing is sitting in a box with a bunch of strangers projecting. Anyway, among other shows, my team will be seeing A Little Night Music (Sondheim/Wheeler) and Prelude to a Kiss (Lucas).
Best use of inset text, Snark Division:
You can find the title of this show rendered in different official places as Diana: The Musical; Diana, The Musical; and even Diana the Musical, as if Diana were either the name of the musical (like Garfield the Cat) or Diana were something you were encouraged to do to the musical (like Pat The Bunny). I have gone with Diana, The Musical.
Plus Oxford semicolons! How did that get past the copy editors?
EsmÃ© Weijun Wang explains the value of pandemic theater to a particular community.
The first time I saw Hamilton, after I left the Richard Rodgers Theater I was too sick to remember most of what had happened.
Anita Gates has the obit for Arthur Kopit, playwright of Wings (1978), a piece that really deserves to the produced more often.
A couple of theater-connected stories:
- Muriel Zagha reports on the restoration of Marie Antoinette’s theater in the Petit Trianon complex: the carvings and statues were true stagecraft, made of papier-machÃ© and wood.
- Emily Robinson describes how D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre moved from Capitol Hill to 7th Street. (Back before the move, I studied with Mikel Lambert in a classroom across East Capitol Street from the Folger.)
Something that I make sure to ask about on my next community theater gig:
TOM MOORE: I put the blame squarely on the Nederlanders. I donâ€™t think Jimmy Sr. had any fondness for [1981’s Frankenstein]. And Woman of the Year was waiting in the wings.
VICTOR GIALANELLA: Lauren Bacall had done Applause at the Palace, and her dressing room still had the paint color she had wanted.
Casting calls can be miserable. But, in the 17th century, Nathaniel Giles pushed into really bad behavior: he and Henry Evans, exercising a royal warrant, illicitly kidnapped children to perform at Evans’ Blackfriars Theater. They snatched thirteen-year-old Thomas Clifton off the street,
… handed the boy a script and threatened him with a beating if he didnâ€™t learn his lines.
Ben Brantley puts aside his notebook, but not his love for theater.
I can honestly say Iâ€™ve never been bored at the theater during the past several decades. Thatâ€™s because Iâ€™ve learned that nothing is boring if you really focus on it.
The Vermont collective brings a touring version of its low-tech didactic theater to the Washington Monument grounds. It’s a collection of satiric sketches (with some utterly corny gags), provocations, and tableaux—with, shall we say, some stately transitions between—perfectly matched to the outdoor scene of kids running around, cyclists and scooters passing in front of the stage on the paved walkway, and the occasional bark of critique from a dog over my right shoulder. The vibe is a little Woodstock ’69, a little Medieval mystery play. Equally strong and effective are a lament in song for the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and an enormous five-person puppet that suggests the world tree Yggdrasil, the branches of its crown brushing the proscenium arch. The loose structure of the work admits of breaking-news topicality: a brief memorial dance for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a silly re-enactment of the recently observed collision of two black holes. If the puppeteer-actors paint with an overly broad brush, at least their earnestness is restorative.
- Insurrection Resurrection Service Circus, Bread and Puppet Theater, National Sylvan Theater, Washington
The play, as seen from the side, seemed to have little to do with her. She watched it, the way you watch an oncoming train, wondering if it will stop at a far platform—and suddenly you realise it is coming straight at you. There was no avoiding this thing. She would have to step into it, a kind of collision in time. The play was alive. It was made of air, with rules of iron. It was a marvel, and when it was over you were also Marvelous, Darling.—Anne Enright, Actress, p. 50
Fight call at the National Theatre: The Hour by Pinny Grylls.