Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The cast of the Mint Theater’s acclaimed Off-Broadway show, Temporal Powers, will visit the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York City’s Times Square to celebrate the play’s Aug. 29 opening. In honor of the occasion, Rosie Benton (in photo with Aidan Redmond) and the rest of the cast will ring today's Closing Bell beginning at 3:45 p.m. at NASDAQ MarketSite – 4 Times Square – 43rd & Broadway in the Broadcast Studio.
Temporal Powers, set in Ireland in the 1920s, is a story of love and loss, where hope and despair are two sides of the same contested coin. Michael and Min are stone-broke and homeless, but the greatest test of their marriage comes when, after taking shelter in a crumbling ruin, they stumble upon hidden treasure. Min sees a chance to start a new life; Michael fears it’s stolen and wants to give it to the priest. As the night grows dark, neither one is left able to see right from wrong. Selected as a Critic's Pick by The New York Times.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
I wrote thsi feature for the Aug. 28, 2011 issue of The Living Church Magazine.
She had six plays produced at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in six years in the 1930s. When her seventh met with rejection, she began writing for radio, despite having been deaf since 19, the result of Meniere’s disease developed several years earlier. In 1954 she was elected to the prestigious Irish Academy of Letters. The Irish Times called her one of the most significant Irish playwrights of the 20th century. Yet few people in Ireland today and even fewer in America know the name of Teresa Deevy.
The Mint Theater Company, an award-winning Off-Broadway theatre, is tackling that obscurity with its two-year Teresa Deevy Project, producing three of her plays as well as offering readings, recordings and publications.
“I found her because I asked the question ‘Who were the women writing plays in the first 50 years of the Abbey?’” said Jonathan Bank, the Mint’s artistic director. “I began with the perception that the history of theatre in Ireland was a lot of men and then, oh, yeah, there was Lady Gregory.”
He found that other women’s plays had been produced, but only Deevy’s had been published, and then only a few.
“What gets remembered and produced is a little bit arbitrary,” he said, adding that if people haven’t heard of a work they assume it wasn’t good in the first place. “That’s not a great measure of talent of the playwright and the worth of the play, but once that idea gets set it’s hard to overcome, which is why we’re trying to throw as much muscle as we have behind her.”
Bank began his latest resurrection effort — the Mint’s mission is to find lost or forgotten work and restore it to mint condition — last summer when he directed Wife to James Whelan, the play rejected by the Abbey in 1937. Its critically acclaimed run at the Mint was extended for as long as the space was available.
This summer Bank is directing Temporal Powers, a moving story of Michael and Min Donovan, a couple whose love has been strained by years of poverty. That love is pushed to the limits after they are evicted from their home and take refuge in a crumbling ruin, where they find a large sum of money buried within the walls and end up bitterly divided over the morality of keeping it. Michael says it doesn’t belong to them and that their poverty must be God’s will. Min sees it differently.
“’Tis the hand of God I see in this as clear as me own,” she says. “A wonder but you’d see! What would it be but the Providence of God looking down on his poor children and they destitute.”
Bank thinks the argument is Deevy’s way of “really attacking the question of what should the Church be doing about poverty.”
What Bank finds in all of Deevy’s work is a deep spirituality rooted in her Roman Catholic upbringing. Deevy was born in 1894 in Waterford as one of 13 children. She died in 1963.
“She was a devout, daily Mass-attending Catholic,” Bank said. She also made yearly pilgrimages to Lourdes as a stretcher-bearer for the sick, and on a trip to Rome had an audience with the pope. Her plays, however, offer no moral certitude.
“She posses a question but doesn’t resolve it,” he says.
In Temporal Powers, which plays through Oct. 2, it’s “the eternal question of salvation.”
“She does not come down on one side or the other,” he says. “She makes a really balanced argument and we’re left to make that decision ourselves. That’s true of all her work. You can’t quite find her point of view.”
Wife’s rejection by the Abbey after six straight years of acceptance can be attributed to political factors, Bank said, mentioning the new Irish constitution of 1937 that made it illegal for married women to work. The prevailing atmosphere would have been unfavorable to a woman playwright, even one who wasn’t married.
That her plays are unknown now is because so few of them were published. The Mint will publish her collected works in two volumes. The first will be released in August or September, with the second to follow next year, and will be available through the theatre’s website (www.minttheater.org).
“She had a profound insight into human behavior, human psychology,” Bank said.
In preparing to launch the Teresa Deevy Project, Bank made his first visit to Ireland to meet with her family and study her writings, which were heaped in boxes with no filing system. Wife to James Whelan had disappeared for 40 years because it had been misfiled. Pages from some plays were missing, rendering them useless for production. Her family told him stories of her life and allowed him to copy her work.
“She was a very spiritual Catholic,” Bank says. “She took it to heart. It was not knee-jerk to her. Although her plays are to a certain extent thrashing with this issue, they don’t read as a woman without conflict. As firm as her beliefs would have been, so were her questions.”
Thursday, August 18, 2011
We all know what it’s like to lose our heads over a love interest, but fortunately the loss is only figurative. Not so for Charlotte in Tina Howe’s wacky new short play Some Women In Their Thirties Simply Start To Fall . Charlotte’s head and body part ways on a busy shopping stretch of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In typical New York fashion, passersby offer their two cents in this absurdist jaunt directed by Billy Hopkins, one of eight one acts in 59E59 Theaters Summer Shorts 5 festival, which opened last night.
Trying to keep her cool under these most unusual circumstances, Charlotte (Crystal Finn, in photo center) sings Broadway songs while trying to will her body (Kate Geller covered head to toe in black), which can’t see or hear without its head and is running amok, back to her. An alarmed shopper, Rene (Kathryn Grody, left) whips out her cell phone to call 911 and report a woman’s head singing show tunes in front of Citarella. Howard (Arthur French, right) joins the commotion, also calling for help on his cell.
The concern of these two Good Samaritans turns to star-struck curiosity when they learn Charlotte is the author of books beloved by their grandchildren. Instantly they reach for their phones again and begin snapping photos, then digress into a conversation about their little ones. The zaniness mounts when Dr. Sudhir Singh (Ryan Shams) arrives and quickly, and accurately, diagnoses the cause of Charlotte’s dismembering -- she’s in love with a married man who won’t leave his wife for her. Rene and Howard have plenty to say about that too, offering advice from their own romantic entanglements.
It’s a nice little slice of Tina Howe, whose breakout 1983 play, Painting Churches, will be revised this season Off-Broadway by the Keen Company. Some Women was my favorite of the four shows I saw. I also liked Keith Reddin’s Clap Your Hands, which lacked Howe’s originality -- two couples on New Year’s Eve who really let insults fly after too much champagne -- but it was fun because of the excellent timing of the four actors -- Meg Gibson, J.J. Kandel, Megan Ketch, Victor Slezak. Hopkins directs this one as well.
The other two in Series B were José Rivera’s Lessons For An Unaccustomed Bride, about a devote young Roman Catholic woman who seeks love advice from a witch doctor, and The Green Book, “an Alchemical Comedy” written and directed by Will Scheffer about dementia, incontinence, gay marriage, sibling rivalry and the Holocaust -- all in one act. I felt I was back in my MFA play-writing workshop in both. After the first my friend Brenda commented that she wondered how work like that got produced. After the second she looked at me and asked, “What was that about?” My reactions to each had been the same.
59E59 Theaters’ fifth annual festival of new American short plays from established and emerging writers offers eight world premiere one-act plays in two separate evenings. The two series will run in rotating repertory through Sept. 3. Series A, which I haven’t seen, features In This, Our Time... by Alexander Dinelaris, Triple Trouble With Love, written and directed by Christopher Durang, The New Testament by Neil Labute and Carrie & Francine by Ruby Rae Spiegel.
George Xenos designed the minimalist sets, Michael Bevins the costumes and Greg MacPherson the lighting for each of the plays.
For more information,visit www.59e59.org or www.throughlineartists.org.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
"My lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you will never leave me to face my perils alone."
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
“The movement to gratitude involves the discovery that God is the God of history and that things are quietly and slowly unfolding as they should. My spiritual task is to learn to listen to all that is going on and trust that God’s hand is guiding me. Then life is no longer a series of interruptions to my schedule and plans, but rather the patient and purposeful way by which God forms and leads me day by day. Gratitude makes the interruption into an invitation, and the occasion of complaint into a moment for contemplation.”
-- Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
In a small, barely half-filled theatre Tuesday night, I experienced a tiny theatrical miracle, the New York premiere of a lighthearted romantic comedy by one of the greatest American playwrights of the 20th century, or any century as far as I’m concerned.
It’s a story of a domineering southern mother, her painfully shy daughter, her son who works in a factory but dreams of becoming a writer, and the coworker he brings home to dinner, having been nagged by his mother, to meet his sister. Sounds familiar, right? Except for the idea that the thwarted worlds of Amanda, Laura and Tom Wingfield would ever be seen as lighthearted, romantic or comedic.
The Pretty Trap, which opened last night at the Acorn Theatre, is Williams' improbable one-act precursor to The Glass Menagerie. Starring Katharine Houghton as Amanda (left, standing), Nisi Sturgis as Laura, Robert Eli as Tom and Loren Dunn as Jim Delaney, the Gentleman Caller (standing), and directed by Antony Marsellis, the Cause Celebrè production is a pleasant, under-an-hour summer night’s diversion. But more important, it’s a fascinating look into the creative process of a playwright and one of his most exquisite works.
While some funny moments are peppered throughout, mostly relating to the awkwardness of Jimmy’s presence and Amanda’s pushiness, it’s hard to see this play as a comedy because the ghosts of the more well-known characters haunt our minds.
At the time, Williams described The Pretty Trap (which is what Amanda says every young woman should be) as the second act of a longer work to come. I don’t know what could have happened for him to follow such a dramatically different path for Menagerie and, given the two plays I’d certainly choose the later work, but it is nice to see Laura --and the unicorn -- have a happy ending for a change.
It’s also a relief to have an Amanda who isn’t as cruel toward her children. Although she doesn’t utter the famous “the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it” warning, she does still want the best for her children’s future, as she sees it. But here she prods more than belittles.
Another character difference is that this Laura doesn’t have a limp and is better at standing up to her mother.
Houghton seems to enjoy portraying this Amanda-lite. She has played Laura, but says she never had any desire to take on the more formidable matriarch, a role which her aunt, Katharine Hepburn, assumed and won an Emmy nomination for in a 1973 TV adaptation. Although she has numerous stage and film credits and is a produced playwright, Houghton probably will always be best known as the sunny young daughter who brings home a black fiancé (Sidney Poitier) to her liberal parents (Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) in the controversial 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
The other cast members also seem comfortable in their roles. Ray Klausen has created a shabbily comfy flat in St. Louis, absent the grim alley and fire escape that set the tone in Menagerie. Bernie Dove’s lighting effectively shifts the moods.
Gone too is the expressionism that lends Menagerie its “dream play” quality. The Pretty Trap is a fast-paced, straightforward naturalist play, which runs through Aug. 21 and is well worth journeying over the Theater Row to see.