May 30, 2014


Blogging has been light for much the same reasons as I noted here, but I feel I should catch readers up with my extra-curricular work.

  • I interviewed Norm Lewis, Broadway's first black Phantom, for the paper of record. A confession: When I was assigned the story (this does still happen occasionally), I thought, "Oh, good idea; he can't possibly be the first, right?" Well, yep; apart from Robert Guillaume's brief turn in the role in the Los Angeles run, a news item I recall from my time there (that's where I saw it, with Davis Gaines in the lead), this is indeed an historic first. Lewis started in the role on May 12 opposite Sierra Boggess (interestingly, he's on a six-month contract and she's only signed up for four--which makes me think that rumors I've heard about a Broadway return of this classic sometime in August may indeed be true), and I've been told that critics might be admitted to re-review at some point.
  • I spent a fascinating hour with Michael Shannon, a true American original whose work I've followed with interest since I caught him in Bug, which I count as one of the best things I've ever seen on a stage. For a piece in Time Out, we talked about his Chicago theater days (including this early appearance with Nick Offerman), about his hilarious "cunt punt" video, about religion and politics and Brooklyn but above all about his love for Ionesco, in whose seldom-performed play The Killer he's starring at Theatre for a New Audience. One gambit I tried was to trade favorite Ionesco quotes, like "I sometimes wonder if I exist myself" from Rhinoceros, or this choice one from Michael Feingold's new Killer translation: "As far as inner light is concerned, my electricity's about to shut off for nonpayment." The exercise foundered on my inability to recall my favorite of all, from Exit the King, which I half-remembered as being about how we should contemplate our own death, the details of our own inevitable physical extinction, for a certain amount of time each day to better prepare for it. A quick Google search for the quote led me to my own review of the 2009 Broadway revival with Geoffrey Rush, in which I helpfully preserved it, and with which I leave you now, as it is a timeless and actually quite useful piece of advice (not that I've followed it). Marguerite tells the dying Berenger: "You are doomed, and you should have thought about it from day one. And then every day after that, five minutes every day. That's not too much to ask. Five minutes a day. Then ten minutes, quarter of an hour, then half. That's the way to train yourself."

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