Friday, March 17, 2017

Arthur Miller Revivals

In addition to the much lauded local production of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, recently produced by Ferndale Rep and Arcata Playhouse, directed by Jane Hill, there is currently a Broadway revival of Miller's play The Price.  President Obama attended a performance with his daughter Malia.  The last time The Price was in New York was in 1992, when the playwright was alive.  It was the occasion for this interview with Charlie Rose.  Much of what he says about American theatre still pertains (though perhaps the quality of older actors in regional theatre is better), and what he says about playwriting and the role of theatre in society is perennially relevant.

It seems also that Miller's stature as an American playwright continues to grow. Both The Crucible and Death of a Salesman are produced frequently around the world by professional theatres as well as others.  In an American Theatre interview, contemporary playwright Theresa Rebeck said, "I have a theory that anyone who ends up with a career in the theatre was in either Our Town or The Crucible in high school or college."

Now other of his better known plays like The Price, All My Sons and A View From the Bridge are being done more often as well.  But Miller wrote other fine plays, including some shorter works with small casts late in his career.  These are at least as stageworthy as many such contemporary plays, and deserve to be seen.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The President Who Read Shakespeare

Only one more reason this country is going to miss this extraordinary President:

"Mr. Obama’s long view of history and the optimism (combined with a stirring reminder of the hard work required by democracy) that he articulated in his farewell speech last week are part of a hard-won faith, grounded in his reading, in his knowledge of history (and its unexpected zigs and zags), and his embrace of artists like Shakespeare who saw the human situation entire: its follies, cruelties and mad blunders, but also its resilience, decencies and acts of grace. The playwright’s tragedies, he says, have been “foundational for me in understanding how certain patterns repeat themselves and play themselves out between human beings.”"

Michiko Kakutani
New York Times 1/19/2017

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Guess Who Turns Out to Be Shakespeare? (Hint: It Starts With S)

The so-called controversy over who wrote Shakespeare's plays has always been irritating, based mostly on the uninformed and class-ridden assumption that a glover's son from little Stratford couldn't possibly have gone to London and written all those plays of genius.

While textual arguments may go on, a writer for the Guardian asserts that new research findings by manuscript scholar Heather Wolfe pretty much prove that the Shakespeare who wrote the plays was indeed the Shakespeare from Stratford, and not some Earl or other.

Whenever the "controversy" is resurrected, with everybody presenting their evidence, it's routinely asserted that alas nobody has the proof and the available information has been so thoroughly analyzed that it's unlikely to be settled unless something completely new turns up.

That turns out to be nonsense as well. Because Heather Wolfe found the evidence in the library. She just looked where earlier researchers didn't--in the controversy over the Stratford Shakespeare's attempts to get a family coat of arms approved.  Though she doesn't make sweeping claims, she found enough to settle the matter--contemporaries knew that the Stratford Shakespeare and the playwright were the same.

This adds to what was already a pretty convincing case made by other scholars for Shakespeare as the author of his own plays.  Opponents built their doubts on the class system.   They assumed that someone  brought up in a provincial town couldn't get an adequate education, but the Stratford Shakespeare had a classical education more rigorous than most Americans get today, even in PhD programs.  

So if it wasn't education, it must be because lower middle class provincials, perhaps even raised Catholic, couldn't possibly have that level of verbal expression, let alone genius.

Well, guess what?