Monday, April 8, 2013

2,909,547 Reasons To Ask Artists For Free Labor

(Part of a series in which I make up for not updating my blog recently.)

The CitiCenter's education department asked me to perform for free at a festival they were organizing.

I declined.

I then dug into their 2010 tax forms (perfectly legal, as the CitiCenter is a 501(c)3 non-profit and is required to make their tax returns public) and discovered that this same organization that was asking me for free labor had, in 2010, paid its top five most highly compensated officers and one bank executive a total of $2,909,547.

As I observe in my column at The Clyde Fitch Report:

Nathan Pusey, an officer at CitiBank, in 2010 received a total of $1,685,240 from the CitiCenter; more than the five highest compensated officers within the organization combined.

If one reads Pusey’s LinkedIn profile very carefully, one will see that he is so modest, that he (or the assistant who keeps his profile updated) doesn’t even hint at what it was he did for CitiCenter that warranted that $1,685,240 transaction to his person.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Richard II's Federalist Tea Party

(Part of a series in which I make up for not updating my blog recently.)

As in previous years, I attended the annual "Shakespeare & The Law" panel co-sponsored by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and a local chapter of the Federalist Society, an association of politically conservative and libertarian judges and attorneys.

One of the featured panelists, David G. Tuereck, a Suffolk University economics professor with connections to the Tea Party movement, chose to read Richard II as an allegory of the current political situation and only days before Inauguration Day, stopped just short of advocating an armed coup d'etat against President Obama.

And then things got weird, as I recount at The Clyde Fitch Report:

Tuerck missed the most obvious reason why Thomas Jefferson never read Karl Marx or John Manyard Keynes: they hadn’t published anything of significance yet.

Of course, this little problem of chronology was the least of Tuerck’s problems. Like a great many associated with the Tea Party (and, for that matter, other cults), Tuerck is drunk on symbols. Without delving into his scholarly writings in economics, his public rhetoric indicates someone more interested in iconography and allegory than in evidence and hypotheses; free-association rather than reason and causality.

This is, of course, how lawyers seek to sway a jury if they think they can get away with it.

I previously wrote about the Federalist Society's and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's takes on Henry V and The Merchant of Venice.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Joshua Sobol interviewed on "Sinners."

In February, The Arts Fuse's Editor, Bill Marx and I sat down for an email interview with Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol while his play, Sinners was being presented as a staged reading by Israeli Stage.

The play is a powerful one dealing with the fate of intellectually and sexually independent women in Islamic-fundamentalist societies. I hope that Guy Ben-Aharon gets to stage this play in the near future.

Sobol's answer to one question was particularly interesting-- since it revealed the degree to which political-correctitude often means an abandonment of humanist values:

AF: What were the obstacles presented in dramatizing a story that had neither an Israeli nor Jewish theme or setting?

Sobol: The main obstacle to overcome was the so-called politically-correct, recently established taboos. As a white, atheist male, I am told it is none of my business to deal with what’s going on in the so-called de-colonized societies enforcing their religious laws on their citizens. But as a human being, I cannot and should not respect that dictum, and as a dramatist, it is exactly my affair and my responsibility to give a voice to the voiceless victims of inhuman savagery. A woman sentenced to death for having loved a man who is not her husband, and thus being buried alive up to her bosom and waiting for a crowd of wild males to stone her to death, is the epitome of the voiceless victim, whose voice should shatter the fundaments of our world. The duty to carry this stifled voice from one end of the world to the other has nothing to do with being Israeli, Jewish, or Christian. It has to do with being human or giving up one’s humanity.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Yale Repertory Theatre's "The Servant of Two Masters."

(Part of a series in which I make up for not updating my blog recently.)

As one of Boston's more verbose commedia dell'arte enthusiasts, it was only natural that I was asked to review Yale Repertory Theatre's presentation of Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters when their tour brought them to ArtsEmerson this past winter.

As I write in The Arts Fuse:

This inventive adaptation opens with light pouring through a doorway that opens upon a dark stage. Two silhouetted figures enter with flashlights, discover and open two large crates, and then discuss the contents in an Italian grammalot. The pair list off the names of the iconic masks of the commedia dell’arte: Pantalone, Dottore, Brighella, and of course, the eponymous servant, Truffaldino. It as if they are discovering something vital stored away.

Soon after the flashlights become fireflies dancing against a night sky, over a maquette of Venezia. The sun rises over a city square. Under the Paramount’s own proscenium stage stands a much smaller proscenium from which the cast emerges. Katherine Akiko Day’s stage concept brilliantly references the earliest commedia troupes, while Chaun-Chi Chan’s lighting design evokes the blazing sun under which these troupes performed as well as forecasting the arrival of dusk at the story’s end.

Goldoni’s comic gift comes down to a genius for narrative design: he arranges a convoluted story of mistaken identities, disguises, miscommunications, and matters of honor by which true lovers are kept apart and then, as if by clockwork, are finally brought together. Goldoni lacks the poetic gifts and thematic depth of Shakespeare, but the Bard of Avon never plotted so tightly. Goldoni’s plot becomes so complex that he seems compelled to include a recap of the plot for the audience in the final scenes of his comedies.

Note that I also wrote about a modern adaptation of The Servant of Two Masters when I reviewed Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Theresia Walser's A Little Calm Before the Storm

(Part of a series in which I make up for not updating my blog recently.)

In December, I attended German Stage's presentation of a staged reading of Theresia Walser's A Little Calm Before the Storm featuring Johnny Lee Davenport, Jeremiah Kissel, and Ted Hewlett, playing three actors waiting to be ushered before the camera of a television talk show.

As I wrote in The Arts Fuse:

In Theresia Walser’s A Little Calm Before the Storm, three actors sit in the green room waiting to be part of a televised discussion on the challenges of playing Hitler. The 2006 play has been both popular in Germany (reportedly a five-year run) and controversial. Consul General Rolf Schütte, who was in attendance at the staged reading, said that he could not imagine such play being produced in Germany 15 years prior.

[...]On one level, A Little Calm Before the Storm is only a prelude to a discussion about how evil can be portrayed in art. During the one-act play Prächtel, Söst, and Lerch talk about this difficult topic and then dance away from it. Walser provides plenty of comic distraction: Prächtel becomes exasperated that he cannot get a glass of tap water in the television studio; Söst attempts to coach Lerch on how to pull off irrelevant talk show banter. Waiting for the television host who never comes, the impatient actors begin to taunt each other, appraising each other’s performances, questioning if the other actor can do justice to such a hated historical figure as Hitler.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gilad Evron's Ulysses on Bottles

(Part of a series in which I make up for not updating my blog recently.)

Back in November I attended Israeli Stage's presentation of a staged reading of Gilad Evron's play Ulysses
on Bottles.
It's a powerful piece that explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with some subtlety and moral complexity. Hopefully, director Guy Ben-Aharon will be able to give it a fully-mounted production sometime soon.

As I wrote in The Arts Fuse:

At first, no one quite knows what to make of the prisoner (played by Johnny Lee Davenport). Neither the Defense Ministry, prosecutors, nor defense attorney Saul Izakov (Jeremiah Kissel) can make sense of his actions. He offers no political argument, expresses no sympathy for the Hamas regime in charge of Gaza, no animosity towards Israel (he seems wholly content with his life as an Arab citizen of Israel). Of course, Ulysses’s actions would make sense if his cargo had been food or medical supplies or even if he were a terrorist sympathizer. However, Ulysses only asserts his conviction that “the Gazans are dying to study Russian literature. It’s a breeze that rises higher than the kites they fly on the shore.” Psychiatrists determine that, however quixotic his mission, the man is quite sane.

The issue of food and medicine is central to Izakov’s other client: the Defense Ministry. Izakov meets with an official named Seinfeld (Will Lyman) to sort out the latter’s legal conundrum: how to legally contend with the population of a Gaza governed by a de facto state-within-a-state constitutionally sworn to Israel’s destruction? Despite the hostilities, the blockade makes the government “responsible for their food, their drink, their sewage, their literature,their security, their iron, their contraceptives, their toys, their pots and pans, their spices, their flowers, their meat, their electricity, their paper, their medications, their engines [. . .] even their anti-diarrheal pills!” Seinfeld wants to make sure that no one under his command can be charged with crimes, but he also understands that, given the political stalemate, abiding by the law will not ward off armed conflict, such as the one that began just days before the November 18th reading. Izakov grasps that the law to which he is dedicated is not sufficient to help his most powerful client.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Israel Horovitz' Lebensraum

As well as adjusting to my new day-job, I have also been busy working with one of Boston's newest fringe-theatre companies: The Hub Theatre Company of Boston. The company's inaugural production is Israel Horovitz' Lebensraum. I have been serving as dramaturg and puppetry coach on this production. It's been a joy working at different stages and aspects of the production.

The production is directed by John Geoffrion, who along with Lauren Elias, co-founded Hub Theatre Company of Boston just a few months ago.

The play is a fantasy in which the Chancellor of an early 21st century Germany invites six-million Jews to come reside in Germany-- the play is all about how ordinary people, both Germans and Jews, respond to that invitation (written late night during tech rehearsals.)

As I say in my dramaturgical notes:

A key theme of Israel Horovitz' Lebensraum is the role that ordinary people have in determining the future, whether they choose to love, hate, forgive, or take vengeance.

Almost contemporary to the play's composition (the introduction is dated to 1997) was the 1996 publication of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's controversial book, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.

Previous studies of the Holocaust had largely concentrated on the scale, organization, engineering, and its top decision-makers. Goldhagen, instead, asked what had motivated so many ordinary Germans to participate in the “Final Solution” to “The Jewish Question.”

Goldhagen's thesis was that the ordinary Germans of the Nazi era were willing participants in the Holocaust because they were already prone to seeing Jews as something they needed to be rid of. The National Socialist German Workers' Party simply offered the the most decisive solution.

In Lebensraum, Chancellor Stroiber boldly invites six-million Jews to live in Germany (incidentally, Germany's Jewish population was never more that 525,000-- most of the six-million killed in the Holocaust had been citizens of other countries.) It is up to individual Germans and Jews to decide whether Stroiber is acting to undo or complete the work of an earlier Chancellor; whether they will cooperate, or resist; and whether they will do so on principle or opportunistically.

In Horovitz' play, neither the German nor Jewish characters passively allow their fate to be determined for them-- and in the years since the play was written, both Jews and Germans have made a somewhat different set of choices.

Lebensraum runs to April 14th at the First Church of Boston at 66 Marlborough Street in Boston. All tickets are pay-what-you-can.

Apologies for the lack of recent updates.

This blog has been rather inactive as of late because I have been terribly busy, mostly with my new job as Community Editor for The Jewish Advocate where any given week, I might be writing two to four articles. Yes, friends, blogging can lead to job opportunities.

(Sorry, but the online edition is behind a paywall.)