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Favorite Things

Insiders/Outsiders and the U.S. Stage

- By Len Berkman

(Andrew DeVries, The Other Side of Eden. Courtesy of the artist.)

Among the lesser discussed aspects of “mainstream” theater (and film as well as TV) in the U.S. is its overarching goal to stir proud “insider” feelings in its large-scale audiences. Realism became a major implement in that regard. What could make “us ticket-holders” feel more welcome than the stage’s invisible fourth wall: for us to see and hear through, as we sit invisible in the dark, “flies on the wall,” our only hoped for sounds to be our collective laughter, tears, or resounding climactic applause.

Needless to say, “outsiders” too are invariably, in far smaller numbers, among these audiences....


Favorite Things

William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance: A Meditative Choreographic Act

- By Mark Franko

Photo: Ander Zabala (left), Parvaneh Sharafali (right) in A Quiet Evening of Dance. Photo: Mohamed Sadek. Courtesy of The Shed.

This fall Peter Brook presented Why?, a play-as-conversation between three actors in which they reflect intellectually and performatively in deftly sketched scenes on theater-making from the actor’s perspective. This chamber work, composed of discussions about the actor’s craft, is directed in part toward the audience with no lack of enlightening, whimsical, and sometimes quite moving illustrations. Why? is a theoretical and historical brief on theater’s infinite possibilities and mortal dangers, a fit addition to the distinguished career of Peter Brook, which now spans seven decades. In the play’s...


Favorite Things

Teodor Currentzis’s Verdi: Ecclesiastic or Sublimative?

- By Alexei Parin

Photo: Teodor Currentzis. Courtesy of Anton Zavjyalov and MusicAeterna.

Some works in the history of music have received directly opposing assessments. Throughout his life, Giuseppe Verdi wrote operas. And then, suddenly, at the same time as Aida, he composed his Messa da Requiem. At first, in 1868, he created only one part—the last section (Libera Me). This was to be his contribution to a collective composition, a ­­Requiem in memory of Rossini. It was never performed, however. And when in 1873 Alessandro Manzoni, the author of I Promessi Sposi (a novel that Verdi read when he was only sixteen!) died, the next day the composer decided to create a grand memorial—a requiem—to “our Saint.”...


Favorite Things

At a Distance: Sadness in Bartók's Final Quartet

- By Edward Dusinberre

(Cover image courtesy of Decca Music Group, Limited)

My music is open on the stand, yet at the beginning of Bela Bartók's sixth string quartet I can only listen. A string quartet is usually a collaborative effort, but for nearly a full minute our violist Geri plays the tune alone: Mesto—sad. At first I feel as if I am eavesdropping on a private sorrow, then, as the melody climbs higher, the viola becomes more declamatory, as if conscious of an audience. Like the listeners in the hall, I cannot evade the sad mood.

The initial outpouring dissipates and the melody fades away. Together we break the silence by playing the same loud notes and rhythm—vigorous bow strokes that banish the melancholy. No more sadness then. After another pause, we exchange...


Favorite Things

Don’t Call African-American Theatre Black Theatre: It’s Like Calling a Dog a Cat

- By Dominic Taylor

(Wadsworth Jarrell, Heritage (1973), The Cleveland Museum of Art. With kind permission of the artist.)
 

I’ve been trying to find a way to frame an idea, and I believe my somewhat pithy title above basically catches it.

When social upheavals occur, people do many things to find solace, including looking to pets for comfort. What is true of pets will also help us understand certain recent cultural phenomena. In short, what I have in mind is not just an assessment involving nomenclature or semantics; I’m thinking about what a work of art or entertainment fundamentally is. Dogs and cats are both contemporary domestic animals, yet anyone who has had either can attest to the fact that they are very different life forms.

With the election of the...


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