| go to lobby page | more reviews | go to other departments |
GLENN LONEY'S PERFORMING ARTS BOOKSHELF
 Who Calls the Shots on NY & London Stages?
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
 Eastern European Theatre After the Iron Curtain
 Peter Brook: From Oxford to Orghast
 Peter Brook's "Dream"
 The Best of BOMB Interviews
 New Views of Stanislavsky & His "System"
 Recommended New Classical CDs
You can use your browser's "find" function to skip to articles on any of these topics instead of scrolling down. Click the "FIND" button or drop down the "EDIT" menu and choose "FIND."
Special Subjects from G & B Arts International—NOTE: The two volumes briefly reviewed far below should have appeared on-line sooner, but they arrived as I was departing for Europe for the summer. I was promised that they would be augmented by two new books in which I had a personal interest. I've been waiting, but they have not yet arrived, four months afterward.
G & B stands for the Gordon & Breach Publishing Group, whose imprints include Harwood Academic Publishers, Craftsman House, Harvey Miller Publishers, and Verlag der Kunst.
I learned of them and Harwood initially when they published that excellent study of New York Theatre Critics, Who Calls the Shots On the New York Stages?
This was written by Dr. Kalina Stefanova, a professor of theatre in Sofia, Bulgaria. She had come to New York on a Fulbright, and sought me out for backgrounds on Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre.
I introduced her to Newsweek's Jack Kroll, to Clive Barnes, and to other friends and colleagues. The rest is history.
Everyone spoke quite frankly about his or her likes and dislikes in the theatre—and also about his or her own work, publications, and colleagues. Some critics who were interviewed were very forthcoming, because they thought the book—if it ever got into print—would be published in Bulgaria.
What is especially valuable about Dr. Stefanova's study—in addition to the astounding honesty of some reviewers—is its structure. Instead of a series of edited interviews, organized alphabetically by critics' names, specific topics or problems are examined.
But she did not limit her interviews to reviewers.
After some months of investigating the New York theatre-scene, Dr. Stefanova realized that the "shots" of her title are not only "called" by critics.
So she also talked to playwrights, performers, directors, producers, and even press-agents. Among her choices: Glenn Close, Arthur Miller, Harold Prince, August Wilson, Stephen Sondheim, Ellen Stewart, Gerry Schoenfeld, Rocco Landesman, Manny Azenberg, George Wolfe, Marsha Norman, Zelda Fichhandler, Wendy Wasserstein, and Adrian Bryan-Brown.
From her trove of interview materials, the author selected only those critical comments relevant to each topic. This makes fascinating and revealing reading. Although it appeared initially in 1993, it is still a very valuable reference.
Personal Disclosure: I have to admit I was surprised and flattered—and a bit embarrassed—when the book arrived.
Dr. Stefanova had not only included my comments in various chapters, among the experts. But she had also ranked me as a "Veteran"—along with Stanley Kauffmann, Walter Kerr, and Gordon Rogoff—at the top of her list of "the usual suspects."
This book was so well received, she went on to write a companion-volume on the London theatre-scene. With the first book in circulation, British critics were a bit more circumspect in their comments. Obviously, their remarks would have a much wider audience than Bulgarian theatre-fans.
The Berlin Wall & Arts Subsidies:
When the Berlin Wall came down with such a crash in November 1989, I knew this was the beginning of a new era in Eastern Europe. As who did not?
But—because I had traveled widely in that area between 1956 and the Fall of the Wall—I also knew that the remarkable system of state-subsidized theatres and opera-houses would be at immediate risk.
Formerly, not only American professors and drama-critics, but also the most humble Polish shipyard workers—could buy a ticket to a splendid opera production in Warsaw's magnificent Grand Theatre for about 25 cents.
Shortly before the collapse of Communism, I had seen Richard Wagner's entire RING—produced for the first time in Poland—staged by Germany's August Everding and designed by Austria's Günter Schneider-Siemssen. If I hadn't already had free press-tickets, the four operas—all 16 hours!—would have cost me only $1.
And I could buy a lovely piece of toast with caviar and egg-slices at the intermission buffet for a quarter.
Once the subsidies were slashed—or, as has often been the case—cut entirely—all this would come to an end. Opera and theatre tickets—as in New York and London—would have to reflect actual production costs. Or nearly so.
Worse, thousands of regular theatre, concert, dance, and opera-goers would now have all those videos of American and Western European movies they'd never seen over a span of decades! Not to mention western TV broadcasts.
The effect of changed economic priorities, virtual economic collapse in some areas, and loss of audiences—as I foresaw—has been catastrophic.
I thought someone ought to survey the damage and the damage-control in the arts, if any. I suggested this to Kalina Stefanova—and she has done the research and written her report. It's called Eastern European Theatre After the Iron Curtain.
Here's the list:
Who Calls the Shots On the New York Stages? By Kalina Stefanova-Peteva. Harwood Academic Publishers, 1993. 171 pp.
Who Keeps the Score On the London Stages? By Kalina Stefanova. Harwood Academic Publishers.
Eastern European Theatre After the Iron Curtain. By Kalina Stefanova. Harwood Academic Publishers.
I cannot offer accurate publishing information on the latter two titles, for they are the books I was promised and am still awaiting arrival.
Additional Personal Disclosure: I have to admit I was able to publish a Peter Brook Book—after finding no interest elsewhere—with Harwood because Dr. Stefanova put me in touch with their theatre-editor. But it took a very long time for it to get into print after the manuscript and computer-disk were delivered.
I still do not have the promised catalogue with the definitive entry for the Brook Book. Nor have I ever seen an ad for it. But that's not unusual these days. And now you are lucky to get even an unfavorable review, if any at all.
Here's an improvised listing for the book, which is Volume 27 in the Contemporary Theatre Studies Series:
PETER BROOK: From Oxford to Orghast. Edited by Richard Helfer & Glenn Loney. Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998. 329 pp. ISBN 90-5702-207-9 [hardback] .
I assume the "hardback" designation must mean it's also available in paper? If so, I've never seen a copy.
The bulk of the book are chronological listings of all Peter Brook's theatre-productions before he moved definitively to Paris. Later work at the Bouffes du Nord had already been documented in French publications, but there was previously no chrono for the earlier work.
I had constructed a roughly sequential production-list for a City University Graduate Center PhD Theatre Seminar [CUNY]. This was held in conjunction with the performances of Brook's marathon Mahabharata at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, or BAM.
Doctoral candidates fleshed out the chronology—including all Brook's film and television productions—with dates, casts, production details, summaries, and even capsule critical reactions.
Theatre talents who had worked with Brook—such as composer Richard Peaslee and producer Edwin Wilson—discussed previous projects. And company members from the Mahabharata, like Robert Langdon Lloyd and Bruce Myers, shared their experiences in rehearsal and performance.
My CUNY critic colleague, Stanley Kauffmann, analyzed and evaluated Brook's work, especially his films. Critic Margaret Croyden provided insights into both the man and his work.
The highlight of the semester was the final evening of the seminar, thrown open to a wider audience, many also theatre experts. Brook had agreed to appear, but he said he didn't want to make a speech.
Instead, he suggested I interview him—asking questions to which many would like answers—as I had already done four or five times for national publications.
Almost half of the book—the second section—is composed of these interviews, seminar sharings, and features I wrote about Brook, incorporating his own quotations.
Professor Richard Helfer—who was a member of the seminar—generously edited all the class contributions to the chronology and put that entire section into publishable form. He also proofed all my interviews, transcriptions, and essays.
Some of the materials were adapted from a production-book I once edited for Brook and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Its epic title is:
Peter Brook's Production of William Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM for The Royal Shakespeare Company. The Complete & Authorized Acting Edition. Edited with Interviews by Glenn Loney. Chicago: The Dramatic Publishing Company, 1974. 128 pp. plus 85 pp.
The first section is comprised of introductions, backgrounds, production details, and interviews. The second is the actual playscript with Brook's stage-directions. I thought it was an effective handbook—and there were some very favorable reviews.
But a famous academic colleague rounded on me in real anger: "You should be ashamed of yourself for doing a book like that! Now every high school and college will copy the Brook production badly. Instead of exploring the play for themselves!"
I was amazed. I thought I'd at least provided a detailed account of how this famed production had been created—a Production Record.
It never occurred to me that trying to emulate Peter Brook would be a bad thing. Especially considering all the dreadful school and college productions I'd seen over the years. Some of them even staged by my accuser!
I suspect the DREAM Book is long out of print. I hope the Brook Book is not, but I get no statements on either volume so I have no way of knowing.
The Brook Book should have had illustrations of many of his productions—from my large archive. The only one used, however, is on the cover. It's a fuzzy shot of Peter I took on the wing in his old Paris headquarters at the Gobelins.
This was just before the last rehearsal—before its international tour—of The Conference of the Birds. Brook looks both earnest and inscrutable.
And now a brief note on the two G &B theatre-books which have arrived:
Speak theater and film!: The best of BOMB magazine's interviews with playwrights, actors, and directors. Edited by Betsy Sussler, with Susan Sherman and Ronalde Shavers. New York: New Art Publications/G & B Arts International, 1999. 283 pp. Cloth: $49.95. Paper: $24.95.
This volume completes a trio of books of artists-interviewing-artists, culled from Betsy Sussler's BOMB. The earlier compilations deal with art and with fiction & poetry.
Sussler's innovation in arts-interviewing was to have talented and functioning artists—instead of inexperienced students, unprepared journalists, or contentious academics—query other artists about their ideas, values, obsessions, methods, and dreams. Among other items.
Not surprisingly, the results are less interviews than really stimulating—and often emotional and/or amusing—conversations. Some of the artist-interviewers draw out their subjects, keeping their own agendas on simmer instead of boil.
Others engage in not entirely Socratic Dialogues, discussions between equals with shared concerns and ample outrage.
The difference between typical Arts & Leisure interviews and these selected from BOMB is the immediate sense of trust generated by having a sympathetic artist talk to another artist in whose work he or she is obviously interested.
Rather than cull some gems of revelation and insight—there are too many of them anyway—noting some of the pairings should make you want to own—or borrow—this book:
Craig Lucas interviews Edward Albee; Han Ong talks to Suzan-Lori Parks; Willem Dafoe queries Frances McDormand; Eric Bogosian sympathizes with Richard Foreman; Thulani Davis draws out Anna Deavere Smith; Mary-Louise Parker probes Paula Vogel, and Ron Rifkin riffs with Arthur Miller.
Each encounter is briefly introduced to put the conversants in context—especially for readers who may not be familiar with one or both. There are also black-and-white portrait and production photos.
Stanislavsky in Focus. By Sharon M. Carnicke. Harwood Academic Publishers, 1999. 235 pp. 12 illustrations. Cloth: $40. Paper: $23.
This is Volume 17 in G & B's 20 books in the Russian Theatre Archives Series. Considering the quality and interest of this study, you might want to have a look at other titles in the series.
I'm intrigued by Volume 15: Two Comedies by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia: Oh, These Times! & The Siberian Shaman.
I hadn't exactly imagined the Empress of All the Russias writing plays when she could have been dallying with Potemkin. But her greatest modern impersonator, Mae West, was a playwright, so why not her Imperial Model?
Stanislavsky in Focus is an important book, but it won't immediately do much to displace or dispel the misunderstandings about the great actor/director/teacher/theorist's so-called "System."
Especially in the United States, where the heirs, acolytes, and disciples of Lee Strasberg, Sandy Meisner, and Stella Adler have too much invested in their own distinctive interpretations.
Some of these misunderstandings have been deliberate. But a number have been the result of censorship and mistranslation, as Carnicke demonstrates.
Only recently—with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of Communist Censorship—have important documents come to light and previously guarded archives been opened.
These, as Carnicke discusses, restore some vital aspects of Konstantin Stanislavsky's theories and practical theatre training which had been suppressed, forgotten, or not deemed valuable—or even valid.
At UC/Berkeley in the 1940s and even later, the Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood translations of the basic Stanislavsky texts for Theatre Arts Books were regarded with a reverence otherwise reserved only for the Ten Commandments.
I remember struggling with Emotion Memory in order to BE a bowl of Jell-O slowly melting under a blazing sun. I also worked very hard with Five-Sense Reality, to savor an imaginary glass of tea from Uncle Vanya's samovar.
More than two decades later, Stella Adler made a big splash in the New York theatre-pond by insisting that The Master had changed his mind about his early pronouncements. That he'd discovered some new, even superior, aids to building a character over a long life of acting.
It had been Adler's good-fortune to talk with Stanislavsky long after the Reynolds Hapgood Canon was in place. He communicated some surprising—and some obvious—insights to her.
These Adler characterized as "Stanislavsky's Legacy," superseding the Gospel According to Hapgood. And especially displacing the teachings of the Guru of The Method, Lee Strasberg.
Notable, she insisted, was his discovery—after repeating a role many, many times—that his Emotion Memory wasn't working so well for him. That the act of putting on makeup and getting into costume actually helped him get into the role.
He suggested, said Adler, that this was rather like an airplane pilot turning the propellor to get the engine started. This also suggested that Stanislavsky hadn't kept up with Soviet strides in airpower.
Adler explained that this revalation showed that Stanislavsky had discovered that actors could work from the Outside Inward, as well as from the Inside Outward.
Some distinguished State Artists of the Moscow Art Theatre—in Manhattan for a rep run at City Center—as guests of Adler at a series of seminars across from the UN, concurred and added their own Socialist Realist spin to the Master's Message.
The question was raised, in fact, about the validity of referring to Stanislavsky's dicta for actors as a "System" at all.
The Hapgood translations had, of course, been questioned much earlier, as Carnicke notes, in tracing the problems of translation and interpretation.
The importance of Yoga to the actor in training, rehearsal, performance, and daily-life—something certainly alien to Strasberg's and Adler's versions of the System—is here introduced and explained in a way which should encourage an immediate re-thinking of current methods of teaching acting.
Carnicke's detailed analysis of Stanislavsky's System—in theory and in practice—from what she has learned or inferred from the new sources makes fascinating reading. And re-reading, for it cannot replace years of misinterpretation or even malpractice overnight.
Her account of Stanislavsky's declining years under Stalin make sad reading. He was too famous internationally to exterminate or exile. And he was certainly not to be encouraged. So he was kept under virtual house-arrest.
His System was pruned and even perverted to serve the dogmas of Socialist Realism. That happened even before he was old and dying.
Konstantin Stanislavsky, the spiritual Mentor of generations of American actors, became a Living Icon.
Sharon Carnicke has lit a lot of candles in this book. Let's hope the Iconic Image will be illuminated, itself glowing with light and life again. So Stanislavsky's real Legacy can come in to its own!
Glenn Loney'sEvery summer, I make the rounds of Hospitality Suites of major recording companies during the Salzburg Festival. I'm always gladly greeted, but, sadly, fewer companies are represented now.
Recommended New Classical CDs
Deutsche Gramaphone Gesellschaft not only welcomes the press, but also provides critics with yellow fans and even yellow ponchos. It often rains in Salzburg, but it can be sweltering inside some venues. So these are very handy.
DGG and other leading firms present their most recent opera and classical CDs to the press at the Salzburg Festival. Often, there are press-conferences with noted artists and conductors to discuss their current work and recordings.
Thomas Hampson is a very intelligent charmer. Maxim Vengerov's enthusiasm for composers and music he is exploring is infectious. Elisabeth Leonskaya's insights into her repertoire and her interpretations are shared with thoughtful intensity.
I had to go to Ireland to the Wexford Opera Festival and the Dublin Festival, so I did not have time to comment on the CDs I received in Salzburg. But I do want to recommend some of them.
Some major companies are not represented at all here—or only minimally. The reason for this is that their reps in Salzburg suggested I get their new releases from their New York offices. Rather than have to mail them back from Austria.
This seems a good idea, but I haven't had time since my return to find out who and where to call. And, as collectors know, when European releases cross the Atlantic, they undergo a sea-change. Most arrive on these shores under the banner of an affiliated company with a different name.
FROM DGG:DER ROSENKAVALIER/Richard Strauss. Herbert von Karajan conducting Vienna Philharmonic/1960. This is but one of the now extensive series of archival releases of historic Salzburg Festival performances, known as Festspiel Dokumente. Among its stars: Lisa della Casa, Otto Edelmann, Sena Jurinac, Hilda Güden, Erich Kunz. Mono: #453-200-2.
THE RAKE'S PROGRESS/Igor Stravinsky. John Eliot Gardiner conducting London Symphony Orchestra & Monteverdi Choir/1999. Principals: Ian Bostridge, Deborah York, Bryn Terfel, Anne Sofie von Otter, Anne Howells. #459-648-2.
ROMANTIC ECHOES/Richard Strauss/Antonin Dvorák/Fritz Kreisler. Gidon Kremer, violin & Oleg Maisenberg, piano/1999. #453-440-2.
FROM EMI:RACHMANINOV VESPERS/Sergei Rachmaninov. Stephen Cleobury & Choir of King's College, Cambridge/1999. #5-56752-2.
VERDI PER DUE/Giuseppe Verdi Duets. Angela Gheorghiu & Roberto Alagna. Claudio Abbado conducting Berlin Philharmonic/1998. #5-56656-2.
OPERETTA ARIAS. Thomas Hampson—from Emmerich Kálmán to Carl Zeller. Franz Welser-Möst conducting London Symphony Orchestra/1999. #5-56758-2.
BRITTEN/Serenade/O Waly/Hunting Fathers/Cromwell. Ian Bostridge. Bamberger Symphoniker & Britten Sinfonia/1998. #5-56871-2.
WONDERFUL TOWN/Leonard Bernstein. Thomas Hampson/Kim Criswell/Audra McDonald et al. Sir Simon Rattle conducting Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/1999. #5-56753-2.
FROM TELDEC:BACH 2000/Collected Works of Johann Sebastian Bach. To salute the New Millennium and celebrate the 250th Birthday of the Kantor of Leipzig's Thomaskirche, Teldec has collected outstanding interpretations of his works by major conductors, soloists, choirs, orchestras, and ensembles. The result is a big box of 153 CDs, plus a 250-page illustrated reference-book and a bonus CD.
Obviously, this cannot be the Complete Collected Works of Bach, for his widow sold invaluable manuscripts as waste-paper. Musical tastes were changing. If Felix Mendelssohn had not championed a rediscovery of Bach's music, even more manuscripts might have been recycled as "note-paper."
In my Salzburg Teldec Bach 2000 Box, I found a sampling of the CDs. These include an Introductory CD and 7 discs from Volume Seven: 1—Motets/BWV 225-230, 2-Chorales/BWV 253-301, 3-Chorales/BWV 302-342, 4-Chorales/BWV 343-388, 5-Chorales/BWV 389-438, 6-Sacred Songs, 7-Chorales, Quodlibet &. #3984-25712-2.
This is a remarkable and clearly costly undertaking, obviously requiring outstanding scholarship, encyclopaedic knowledge of existing recordings, and the ability to enlist major Bach interpreters for the project.
DIE BRAUTWAHL/Ferruccio Busoni. "Musical-fantastical comedy" based on a Tale of E. T. A, Hoffmann. Daniel Barenboim conducting Staatskapelle Berlin/1999. #3984-25250-2.
HARMONIE-MESSE/TE DEUM/Joseph Haydn. Das Alte Werk Series. Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting Concentus Musicus Wien/1999. #3984-21474-2.
CHOPIN PIANO CONCERTOS. Elisabeth Leonskaya, piano. Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting Czech Philharmonic/1999. #3984-23449-2.
DEUTSCHE VOLKSLIEDER/Johannes Brahms. Stephen Genz, baritone. Roger Vignoles, piano/1999. #3984-23700-2.
OHANN STRAUSS IN BERLIN/Selections. Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting Berlin Philharmonic/1999. #3984-24489-2.
DON JUAN/VIER LETZTE LIEDER/TOD UND VERKLÄRUNG/Richard Strauss. Deborah Voigt, soprano. Kurt Masur conducting New York Philharmonic/1999. #3984-25990-2.
BELLEZZA VOCALE/Opera Duets. Jennifer Larmore & Hei-Kyung. Jesús López Cobos conducting Münchner Rundfunk Orchester/1999. #3984-22801-2.
NO TENORS ALLOWED/Baritone & Bass Duets. Thomas Hampson & Samuel Ramey. Miguel Gómez-Martínez conducting Münchner Rundfunk Orchester/1999. #0630-13149-2.
DISTANT LIGHT/VOICES/Péteris Vasks. Gidon Kremer, violin. Kremer ATA Baltica Ensemble/1999. #3984-22660-2.
FROM ORF—KOCH/SCHWANN:[This CD-album is not from Salzburg, but from the BREGENZ FESTIVAL. It is but one of an impressive series of recordings made by Austrian Radio-TV of major festival stagings of neglected or forgotten operas.]
FRANCESCA DA RIMINI/Riccardo Zandonai. Fabio Luisi conducting Vienna Symphony/1994. #3-1368-2. [Loney]
Return to top of page.
Copyright © Glenn Loney 1999. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, New York Theatre Wire." Reproduction rights please contact: email@example.com.
| home | listings | columnists | reviews | what's new? | cue-to-cue | people | welcome |
| museums | recordings | what's cool? | who's hot? | coupons | publications | classified |