Feb 20, 2013

Daisey, Give Me Your Answer Do

Photo by Ursa Waz
One little-remembered wrinkle in the chronology of last year's Mike Daisey scandal is that, between the time he appeared in January on This American Life to talk about brutal labor conditions at Apple factories in China and the time the public-radio show retracted that episode in March, Daisey released the entire transcript online for anyone to read, download, and perform, free of royalties or restrictions. That meant, as I reported last April, that in the immediate aftermath of the retraction and the controversy over fabricated and conflated facts in Daisey's monologue, a number of productions around the country had to scramble to revise their scripts to reflect the questions that had been raised about the piece.

Daisey soon revised the piece himself in performance and later released a "version 2.0" on his site under the same generous terms, which is how The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs will have its L.A. premiere tonight, performed by Alex Lyras at Theatre Asylum in Hollywood. This seemed as good an excuse as any to chat with Daisey for the LA Times:
"I shared the concern that everything I'd done would actually cause more damage than good, but I spent a lot of obsessive time tracking all of it, and it's clear at this point that that's simply not the case at all," Daisey says, citing reports that pressure from Apple, and agitation by Chinese workers, has improved their lot.
Among activists and labor monitors he's spoken to, he admits that "no one is psyched that there was that retraction episode, no one is happy that things went that way — neither am I. But no one actually would deny that we are in a quantumly different position than we were a year ago."
RTWT here.

Feb 14, 2013


Dizzia and Keller in Cradle and All (photo by Joan Marcus)

Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller aren't a couple in real life, but the current New York Theatre Workshop production of Amy Herzog's Belleville represents the fourth time they've played husband and wife. It began in early 2011 when they played two married couples in Daniel Goldfarb's Cradle and All, and continued with the Yale Rep premiere of Belleville later that year. The paper of record thought it would be interesting to find out how they've created a believable fictional rapport onstage. It helped that they clicked from the start:
Ms. Dizzia...was already attached to [Cradle] and was reading with a series of potential lead actors. Then Mr. Keller walked in.

“Her response to him was so profound,” recalled the play’s director, Sam Buntrock. “‘Chemistry’ is a terrible word. It evokes for me something very clinical, with test tubes and sulfur. What I like to talk about is the physical and emotional space between two people. Greg and Maria had it from Day 1. Even if they were on opposite sides of the stage, the space between them was palpable.”
RTWT here.

Feb 8, 2013

A Tummler With Gravitas

Burstein at the 2012 Tonys, performing "Buddy's Blues" from Follies

I first spoke to the extraordinary, multifaceted actor Danny Burstein for a TDF story back in 2008, when he made a splash as Luther Billis in Bart Sher's South Pacific. That performance established him as the kind of actor who could both evoke vaudeville-era greats like Bert Lahr and George Burns and achieve a kind of gritty, grounded naturalism. It makes a kind of sense, then, that his favorite actors, as I learned more recently, are Spencer Tracy, Alec Guinness, and Marx Brothers.

The occasion for learning this was this profile for the paper of record, and the occasion for the profile is Burstein's role in Roundabout's revival of Lanford Wilson's bittersweet two-hander Talley's Folly. The part follows extremely closely on the heels of his very different supporting turn in Sher's exquisitely staged Golden Boy; indeed, this is shaping up to be a non-musical season for the versatile Burstein

“I’ve got the drama bug — I wanted to feed my play side again,” said Mr. Burstein while walking to dinner, past the former midtown site of his alma mater, La Guardia Performing Arts High School, as well as the Broadway theaters he’s worked in since the early 1990s.

Those Broadway credits didn’t come until he’d had a similar self-imposed furlough from musical theater. Though he’d gotten his Equity card doing musical summer stock in the 1980s, “I never particularly thought of myself as a musical actor,” he said. So he got an MFA in acting from the University of California, San Diego, which landed him the agent he still has today, Philip Adelman.

“You could tell even in his grad showcase that he was touched by genius,” said Mr. Adelman in a phone interview. But genius isn’t always an easy sell.

“He’s uncategorizable,” admitted Mr. Adelman, who in addition to stage roles has landed Mr. Burstein work on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and in several independent films. “The blessing and the challenge of being as unique as Danny is that there isn’t any identifiable slot for him. The perfect role wasn’t going to present itself, but there are so many roles he could do.”

Such is the character actor’s lot, but Mr. Burstein has embraced it with a vengeance.
RTWT here.

Feb 5, 2013

The Show Records Must Go On

Theater-related blogging has been light here, I'll confess. That's because whatever bloggy energies I have have been redirected to my music blog, where I've been revisiting formative albums in their entirety for about two months straight; meanwhile, my theater-related writing has been confined, if that's the word, to my day job and several freelance assignments.

Those formative albums do, of course, include some show records; though so far I've considered just two Broadway offerings, Fiddler on the Roof (and that in its film version) and Pacific Overtures, and two 20th-century operas (Turn of the Screw and Threepenny)--I'd almost count Tom Waits' Nighthawks at the Diner as a show record (though not Bowie's Ziggy Stardust film soundtrack)--there will be more. And there will be tears.

Feb 4, 2013

The Ringtone of Self-Hatred

Loved this anecdote from Julie Crosby, artistic director of the Women's Project: At a recent performance of Bethany (which, by the way, I can't recommend highly enough, as much for the taut, surprising writing of Laura Marks as for the searingly alert, ultimately moving lead turn by America Ferrera): A woman at a recent performance let her cellphone ring twice in the last two minutes of the show, then answered it as she noticeably walked out of the theater. Apparently she was heard telling the person who called that the play wasn't over yet. Oops.

The best part: Crosby approached her and told her, "That was very disruptive." The woman's response: "There's a lot about my life I don't like." What a wonderfully all-purpose excuse for bad behavior.