GLENN LONEY'S ARTS RAMBLES
THIS WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS…
In past Weeks, Months, & Years, Your Roving Arts Reporter has chronicled new productions On & Off & Off Off Broadway as Show Notes for the NYTheatre Wire, as well as new & often challenging Exhibitions at Major Museums & Interesting Art Galleries for NYMuseums.com.
I’m now apparently on the No Fly List at the Metropolitan Opera, so there will be No More Reports on Met Extravaganzas, even though, for many years, I have been reporting on New Productions for such publications as Opera News—the House Organ of the Met Opera Guild, Opera, Opera Monthly, Theatre Crafts, Entertainment Design, &&&&&
Obviously, the Met’s Director, Peter Gelb, is not Eating His Heart Out because Your Arts Reporter is no longer permitted to write about his New Mountings of Old Operas, some of which appear to be Imported from Stages Abroad…
Although I immensely enjoy the Press Previews of major new Museum Exhibitions—you can actually get really Close to the Artworks, unlike on Ordinary Days—I’ve previously felt obligated to write about them at some kind of Length…
The same is true of seeing new Stage Productions, although—as a Board Member, Historian, Awards Nominator, & Voter for the Outer Critics Circle, as well as an Awards Voter for the Drama Desk—I am not required to write extensive Reviews.
All this reporting is Unpaid, so—considering that I’ll be 83 on Christmas Eve—I’ve resolved, instead, to offer a Weekly Survey of The Week That Was, to be posted on NYTheatre Wire.com, NYMuseums.com, & my new Website, GlennLoneyArtsArchive.com.
I’m hoping this initiative will cut down on the Keystrokes & relieve the Pressure that mounts up when I keep adding more Playbills to the stack awaiting the composition of what used to be a Monthly Report.
But this could turn out to be even more Hard Work, with No Pay & No Thanx…
PASSING GLANCES AT SCENES SEEN:
•Savoring Early Picassos at the Frick: From Collage to Cubism & Onward!
•With Woodie King at the Castillo: New Federal Moves To 42nd Street!
•David Smith’s Steel Constructions at the Whitney: Welders of the World Unite!
•Martin Luther King’s Last Night at the Lorraine Motel: Early Check Out—
•Actress Zoe Kazan Writes a Play: We Live Here at Manhattan Theatre Club.
•Could Edgar Bergen Have Done This: A Singing Ventriloquist in a Musical?
•Nicky Silver Strikes Again: Linda Lavin Is Your Basic Jewish Mother!
•Another Kind of Jewish Mother at 59E59: She Deserts Her Husband for a Paramour!
End of Week Rambles Summary:
No Friction at the Frick!
Early in the week of 3 9 October, I rambled off to the Frick Collection to see some important Early Picassos. As I live across the street from the Frick, this was not a Major Expedition…
This small scale show is titled: PICASSO’S DRAWINGS, 1890 1921: Reinventing Tradition.
Was Pablo Picasso a Thief? Did he steal—or appropriate—styles or subjects from El Greco, Goya, Renoir, or Ingres?
The fascinating new show at the Frick suggests that he was miles ahead of most of his Contemporaries, but he certainly still could sketch a remarkably accurate portrait of, say, Ambrose Vollard or Mme. Wildenstein.
Picasso’s early experiments in Collage & Cubist fracturing of the facial planes & the body’s frame are also brilliantly explored in this show of some sixty drawings: in pencil, ink, watercolor, gouache, pastel, chalk, & collaged materials…
Theatre for the Whole City: Way Out West on Forty Second Street!
Way down on First Avenue at 9th Street in the East Village, Crystal Field has long been presiding over a Four Theatre & Art Gallery Complex she is pleased to call The Theatre for the New City.
But now, not far from the Chinese Embassy & Signature Theatre on West 42nd Street, the Castillo Theatre is offering New Yorkers a Theatre for the Whole City.
Fred Newman, founder of the Socially Engaged Castillo, died this past summer. But Dan Newman soldiers on.
Some seasons ago, I used to make an effort to see Fred Newman’s productions, even though the Castillo was then located in a rather remote venue.
I stopped covering the shows, however, when eager Castillo Acolytes began to badger me over the phone, like Scientologists in Training…
Unlike Mormon Missionaries, they did not make House Calls.
But I did get a call to come down to 42 Street to hear about the Season Lineup for the Castillo.
There was Free Food, so that was a Plus!
Everybody at the Castillo is very Warm & Welcoming. You are, in fact, welcome just to come in to sit, rest your feet, & read. Or snooze…
As at Crystal Field’s Complex, there are several Performance Venues, Rehearsal Spaces, & Other Amenities.
I’m sure I got the Castillo Call because my good friend & former Brooklyn College Student, Moshe Yassur, is directing Dan Newman’s drama, The Learning Play of Rabbi Levi Yitzhok, Son of Sara, of Berditchev. [Opening 21 October at the Castillo, 543W42—between Avenues 10 & 11.]
But, along with Moshe on stage, were others who were promoting their Programs at the Castillo.
Among them was Woodie King, jr., whose New Federal Theatre productions I’ve been accustomed to seeing down at the Henry Street Settlement House.
No more. Woodie couldn’t Pay the Rent, so Henry Street made "other arrangements."
The Castillo’s Theatre for the Whole City has, however, warmly welcomed Woodie & his forthcoming productions!
One of them immediately grabbed my attention: Jeff Sweet’s Court Martial at Fort Devens.
Jeff is not only an Award Winning Playwright—an Expert on the Chicago Theatre Scene—but also a Critic Colleague.
Jeff tells me he discovered about this Miss Carriage of Military Justice by accident, when researching something entirely different in an old newspaper.
Can you believe the US Army detailing four Black WAACs to clean Toilets & only to Clean Toilets?
They finally refused, were Court Martialed, & Convicted. Eleanor Roosevelt got them Off the Hook!
Also at the Castillo on the Line Up Evening was my old friend & Fellow Critic, the Internationally Produced Playwright, Mario Fratti. He & Dan Newman are sponsoring a Political Play Contest!
To find out more about the varied Castillo Programs, try www.Castillo.org…
Looking Out Marcel Breuer’s Unusual Windows up at the Whitney!
Just up Madison Avenue from Your Arts Reporter, the Whitney Museum is now showing Real/Surreal, with Old Favorites, drawn from its own Collections.
Cheaper & easier than importing & insuring Blockbusters from Europa…
But, more importantly, it devotes an Entire Floor to DAVID SMITH: Cubes & Anarchy. Welders of America, Eat Your Hearts Out!
David Smith emulated the skills of Blacksmiths & Welders in the Realms of Abstract Modern Art.
But he went far beyond making Horseshoes or even Ornamental Fences…
His shining silver Verticals of welded Metal Slabs & his rusted/oxidized & Painted Constructions have caused some Art Mavens to posit the idea that his work was the Equivalent in Sculpture to the adventurous experiments his Painter Friends were conducting on Canvas & other Receptive Surfaces.
Actually, the works now on view at the Whitney are far more interesting & rewarding. You can study them from various angles. Something you cannot do with a de Kooning or a Pollock…
IKONS, But Not Greek Orthodox Images…
This was a week in which more than one cover page featured this Headline: STEVE JOBS: An Icon Is Dead!
Now, I’m waiting expectantly for a similar Caption: CARL: An Icahn Is Dead!
Where’s Ralph Abernathy & Those Pall Malls He Went Out to Buy for Me?
Not so long ago, at 59E59, audiences entered a Theatre Auditorium through the Motel Room of Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.
It was the Last Night of His Doomed Life & his Career was reviewed in an impassioned Monologue…
Now, at the Late Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre—formerly the Shubert Brother’s Royale—Designer David Gallo has recreated Room 306 as accurately as possible. There’s even a two page spread on this design in New York Magazine!
When the Curtain rises, there is a raging Rainstorm—Plus Thunder & Lightning—outside.
Dr. King is fretting because he’d sent Room mate Ralph Abernathy out to get him some Pall Malls, but he’s not yet returned…
So he calls Room Service for something: Maybe coffee?
The new Night Maid does have some Pall Malls. But she’s Not What She Seems…
Critics have been asked Not To Disclose Plot Twists.
So all I can say is that Samuel L. Jackson & Angela Bassett MUST get Tony Awards© this season. Bassett has energy enough to fill two or three stages!
Playwright Katori Hall should get the Pulitzer Prize for Drama!
Oh, the Rev. Ralph never turns up with those Pall Malls…
Zoe Kazan’s Dysfunctional Family Lives in a Very Detailed Interior…
In a week featuring Dysfunctional Jewish Families on stage, with Difficult Jewish Mothers making life even more difficult for Dads & Kids, it was something of a surprise to see Amy Irving, as Mother Maggie, busily opening all her soon to be wed Daughter’s Wedding Presents…
It’s good to see her back on stage, as she’s not only the daughter of my old friend, the late Jules Irving—who once ran the Lincoln Center Repertory ensemble—but she’s also the ex Mrs. Stephen Spielberg!
Actress Zoe Kazan has written this drama, in which the on going Sibling Rivalry of two sisters is the Mainspring for the Action.
Their Father is concerned about Harmartia. He seems to be a Philosophical Grecophile, as he named a daughter Andromeda…
For Your Roving Arts Reporter, however, the Center of Attention was the incredibly detailed Set Interior of John Lee Beatty!
Ever since I initially interviewed John Lee for Theatre Crafts, I’ve been fascinated with his dazzling Stage Realism. Where does he find all those Decorative Accents?
Sam Gold staged…
Could Charlie McCarthy Have Actually Sung in an Off Broadway Musical?
Down at Theatre for the New City—where we were seeing a New Musical, The Capitalist Ventriloquist—my mind kept wandering back to Edgar Bergen, father of Candace, & his Signature Dummy, Charlie McCarthy.
Could Charlie have been able to sing as fluently as the floppy Dummy of Our Hero, whose obese Wall Street Type Father wants him to write Code, instead of warble?
It is, after all, not easy any more to find a Ventriloquist who can create the Illusion that his Dummy can both talk & sing!
Then I was reminded that Edgar Bergen made his name performing during the Golden Age of Radio, so we never actually saw whether his lips moved. Or not.
Nor did Charlie’s sidekick, Mortimer Snerd, ever try a Musical Scale…
There may also have been a Jewish Mother or two on stage, but the Big Problem really was Wall Street vs. Comedy Clubs.
Linda Lavin Creates the Quintessential Jewish Mother from Hell!
This Tony Time, there should be a Special Award for Jewish Motherness.
Unfortunately, the hilariously voluble Rita Lyons of Linda Lavin won’t be eligible…
Unless Nicky Silver’s no holds barred Dysfunctional Jewish Family, The Lyons, moves to Broadway.
The Tonys©™© are reserved for Broadway Shows, even though the best of Manhattan Theatre is often to be found Off Broadway, in Limited Runs…
That’s certainly true of Lavin & the entire Lyons Family, whose bitter, mean, angry old Dad [fiercely amusing Dick Latessa] is dying of Cancer in a sparely appointed Hospital Room, while Rita rattles on about redecorating their Ugly Living Room as soon as Dad is dead.
If not before…
Rita never loved Ben Lyons. She even vomited when they had Sex…
That may be why their Daughter [Kate Jennings Grant, as an Alcoholic] & Son [Michael Esper, as a feckless, talentless Gay would be Writer of Short Stories] have turned out so badly. Detested by their Father…
Mark Brokaw staged.
What Is It with Jewish Mothers This Week?
Just in case you now may be thinking that ditzy or devastating Jewish Mothers are distinctive to New York—Does the State of Israel permit Israeli Women to behave like Jewish Mothers?—Bruce Graham’s Any Given Monday is set in the Philadelphia Area!
The Marital Problem for Risa [Hillary B. Smith] is not that she vomited when Lenny [Paul Michael Valley] touched her, but that he is, for her taste, too Soft, too Wimpy. He is a Wuss…
So she’s running off with a sexy Rich Guy, who has made a Pass at her Daughter [Lauren Ashley Carter], which she doesn’t yet know about.
But the Award of Awards this season should go to Michael Mastro, as the fast talking, sports loving Mickey, who helps his Buddy out by killing his Rival!
Right On! That will Teach him a Lesson he won’t forget!
STARS IN THEIR CROWNS:
This Week’s Rational Ratings—
Katori Hall’s THE MOUNTAINTOP [★★★★★]
Zoe Kazan’s WE LIVE HERE [★★★]
Atea & Abrams’ THE CAPITALIST VENTRILOQUIST [★★] [A New Musical]
Nickey Silver’s THE LYONS [★★★★]
Bruce Graham’s ANY GIVEN MONDAY [★★★]
BETWEEN THE BOOK ENDS:
Channeling a Great Diva: Giuditta Pasta!
Opera Lovers & Theatre History Buffs alike will want to get a freshly minted copy of the handsomely designed & remarkably researched story of the Great 19th Century Diva, Giuditta Pasta!
This is Kenneth Stern’s fascinating but still Magisterial study of Pasta, who’s been all but forgotten by Opera Modernists, who think Renée Fleming, Debbie Voigt, & Anna Netrebko do it better than anyone who came before.
But before there was Anna as Anna Bolena, there were Beverly Sills & Mara Callas.
But, long, long before—even before Young Tom Edison invented the Talking Machine, so we don’t have any Sound Recordings to check up on the Rave Reviews Pasta customarily received—she was the Consummate Diva!
Pasta was also a remarkable Anna Bolena…
What was so remarkable about Giuditta Pasta was that she had an uncanny instinct for melding her amazing vocal talents with a powerful emotive/gestural projection of her varied Opera Roles.
She was a real Singer/Actor long long before that became really important on the Lyric Stage. In her Era & into much of the 20th century, most opera productions remained Concerts in Costume.
Much of the so called information about Pasta & her career has been based on accounts by the French Novelist, Stendahl, at one time her Neighbor & her Lover.
Kenneth Stern has been careful to correct all the errors. But, more than that, he has followed her career all over Europe, even to the point of inspecting her trove of letters in the Villa Trampa.
There are 28 Chapters in Dr. Stern’s excellent & highly readable study, complete with actual Musical Quotations & Period Photographs of Pasta herself & Pasta In Character.
I could only wish that I’d had the time, energy, determination, & Focus to do for the now forgotten Career of the first Girl of the Golden West, the 19th century High Sierras Soprano, Emma Nevada, what Ken Stern has done for Giuditta Pasta…
Your Roving Arts Reporter—in the interest of Full Disclosure—should note that he was one of the three PhD Dissertation Advisors for Dr. Stern’s study when it was still a Research Manuscript.
It was Cross Disciplinary, with the late Music Critic & Professor Edward Downes, of the CUNY Graduate Center PhD in Music Program, joining the PhD in Theatre Panel.
Dr. Stern’s excellent account of the Pasta Career & Aesthetic is titled: GUIDITTA PASTA: A Life on the Lyric Stage. It’s published by Operaphile Press, available for only $49.95. You can get it directly from the Author, cutting out Amazonian Middle Men! [firstname.lastname@example.org]
High Art or Naughty Naked Men?
An astonishing Photo Book has just arrived in the mail: UNCOVERED [RARE VINTAGE MALE NUDES].
It has been published by Universe, a division of Rizzoli, from whom you can get a copy over on West 57th Street. Rizzoli also stocks SELF EXPOSURE: The Male Nude Self Portrait, as well as the Erotic Titles of Bernard Taschen…
This handsomely designed & bound volume reached Your Roving Arts Reporter after he shared with its Author/Editor, Reed Massengill, some ancient information about the late George Haimsohn, one of the creators of Dames at Sea, which introduced Bernadette Peters to the Musical Theatre.
Massengill is writing a book about some notable names who have written Erotic Male Fiction, not always with their own names attached.
George Haimsohn was one of these. Alexander Goodman was one of his Noms de Plume de Ma Tante…
This was an aspect of George’s Career of which I was completely In Ignorance.
Possibly because I once told George that I had less than No Interest in Porn in Words. So he never showed me his short stories…
But I knew George at UC/Berkeley, years before I had come to New York & re discovered him.
Intending a Complete Biography, Massengill was eager to have the Blanks Filled In.
So, in the interest of Sharing, here’s what I wrote to him:
We may have met when some of us were helping Dolores Fox [George’s sister, from Sun City] clean out George Haimsohn’s cluttered apartment. I think Peter Harvey let me take most of the video tapes…
Peter Harvey has just sent me your most informative account of George’s hectic pursuit of some kind of Productive Life, plus trying to get a few pay checks for the various projects he completed.
I first met Peter when I did a feature on him as a stage designer for Theatre Crafts: It was titled Busby Berkeley on a Budget. This was about his ingenious set for Dames at Sea.
But first, a bit of background: One stormy night, I was down in the Village when it began to rain fiercely. I must have been on Cornelia Street, as I took shelter in the first place I could find that was open: The Caffé Cino.
I’d never been there before, although I certainly had heard about it & how Joe Cino tapped into the electrical system next door.
There was this 4’x6’ box beside the door, with tables opposite.
I took a seat, ordered a coffee, & was surprised to see my old buddy, George Haimsohn, seated at the next table, with someone he said was Jim Wise, like myself, a CUNY Professor.
Then David Christmas, Bernadette Peters, & others cast their Magic Spell, performing a bare bones Dames at Sea on that small box stage!
Who knew how that would turn out—especially for George, who, as you know, lived on the Royalties for years…
When it moved & Peter Harvey created his spare but eloquent Battleship set, I wrote not only about his designs, but also about the performers & creators.
I had just returned from London, where I’d been staying with my friend, Robin Miller, who had been brought in to help with the book & lyrics.
In fact, he’d told me about his collaboration on a new Off Off Broadway Musical, but, as I knew nothing about the show previously, it meant nothing to me.
He didn’t say he had been working with George or Jim, as he assumed I’d not know of them anyway…
So, what a surprise to see George again! He hadn’t aged much since I knew him at UC/Berkeley.
I graduated in 1950, so that must have been as early as 1947 or 48.
At that time, I was both Science Editor & Religion Editor for the five days a week DAILY CALIFORNIAN, "Monarch of the College Dailies."
Our Newsroom was a long chamber in Eshleman Hall—the ASUC Student Activities Building, across from Wheeler Hall & just down from the Campanile.
On either side of this long room were glassed cubicles, one for the Sports Staff, one for the Art Director, one for our Cartoonist, Irv Krauss, one for the Editor, & one for OCCIDENT, our campus Literary Magazine.
A friend on the Sports Staff complained to me that one of the "Poets" in the Occident Office was trying to get "funny" with him. As I made a practice of getting to know everyone on the floor, he thought I could talk to George & warn him off.
The Berkeley Poet, Jack Spicer, was also a frequent visitor to the Occident Office. Not to overlook Anaïs Nin, whose brother, Joaquin Nin Culmell, was Chairman of the Music Department.
One day, Anaïs came to our front desk & asked me to do an interview with her about her Life & Writings. I couldn’t see how this fit under either Science or Religion, but I did the chat anyway…
[How odd that George would "inherit" her Manhattan apartment…]
I liked George, so we became friends. He told me he’d been in the Navy & was on the GI Bill. I told him I thought Sailor Suits were just dandy, so he put his Uniform on for me!
[Another chum was Wyatt Cooper, with whom I worked on productions in University Theatre. As with George, I didn’t see him again for years, also in Manhattan. But, by this time, he’d married Gloria Vanderbilt & fathered Anderson Cooper…]
Your bio was something of a Revelation. I had no idea that George was a writer of Erotic/Porn Fiction.
But he’d made quite a stir at UC when he wrote a story for OCCIDENT, about a teen age boy being picked up by an Older Man & taken back to his apartment…
That was a First & they almost suppressed that issue of the quarterly magazine.
Perhaps because I’d already told George I had no interest in porn fiction, he never mentioned it to me. He did give me copies of The Bedside Faust & The Portable Hamlet, of which he was very proud.
George did make some money by making very small, beautifully designed & illustrated books for Mini Book Collectors. They were jewels, as the saying goes.
He also got the idea of making color gel collages that could be put over the screens of black & white TV sets, the flickering programming behind providing jumpy & constantly changing color patterns.
This did not work out, as he didn’t know how to market it & he wrongly assumed people would rather look at his random patterns than watch Leave It To Beaver.
You mentioned that George’s ZING never had a NY production. In fact, it was mounted at the Cherry Lane Theatre, but—among other critics—I didn’t think it was very clever. Certainly not another Dames at Sea.
George didn’t speak for a while, as he thought I, at least, should have had some kind words for the show.
Climbing those five flights of stairs to his apartment was a real chore, the only reward being the chance to chat with George, sit out on the tiny terrace, & look at his latest projects, some of which, as you noted, were photos of people like John Converse & Maxwell Caulfield, who later became Mr. Haley Mills!
Initially, I was surprised that George would approach young men in the street, offering to photograph them in trendy new swim suits! Later, he moved on to fairly chaste Nudes…
When George & I re connected, I didn’t know that he was also Plato. When he told me his Secret, I asked to have a look at his Photo Files: "George! This are just kids…"
Most of the time, I’d meet George at whatever theatre I had Press Tickets for on the night.
He thought he ought to pay me back in some way by offering his opinions of the show.
"Please, George! Don’t do that. I have to write a review & I don’t need all your observations to deal with before I start typing."
Usually, I’d take George out after the show for hot apple pie & vanilla ice cream à la mode, with coffee.
I knew he was largely living off Dames at Sea checks, but I had no idea how desperate his finances were. He never asked me for a loan or a handout…
Every once in a while, he’d insist on taking me to a really fine dinner before a show.
It occurred to me that he probably couldn’t afford this generosity, but, when I’d offer to pick up the check, he’d be mock offended: "This is MY Treat for my friend Glenn!"
When he’d meet friends I didn’t know, George would introduce me as "that famous Broadway Critic who writes for AFTER DARK."
A fairly innocent California Farm Boy, I certainly learned a lot as a Contributing Editor at AD.
First, if you wanted your story on the Cover, you’d better come up with some dynamite photos of handsome young men, preferably with Their Shirts Off…
What I didn’t at first realize was that outstanding photographers who occasionally illustrated some of my features, such as Jack Mitchell, Van Williams, & Arthur Tress, also had interesting Side Lines…
Early on, before its untimely demise, I was Contributing Editor & Reviewer for the lamented THEATRE ARTS MAGAZINE.
It died because the Publisher was a Crook & didn’t pay the Printer for six whole months!
One day, the Editor, Leota Diesel, after introducing me to the Broadway Legend Harold Clurman—who was later to have an office next to mine at the CUNY Grad Center on 42nd Street—presented our new Art Editor to me: "Here’s the man who will give us a New Look! Glenn, this is Tony Guyther."
When Leota had left us alone so we could lay out the next issue, I said: "Well, Vulcan, how does it feel to be doing something respectable?"
Tony went white: "Oh my god! You’re not going to tell Leota, are you?"
I have the Haimsohn Chapter Manuscript you sent to Peter.
Shall I return it to you, or give it back to Peter?
He made a note in a margin about St. Elizabeth’s Hospital [in Washington, DC, where they kept the Crazies], wanting to know if this is the same facility as the one in which Ezra Pound was impounded?
Well, yes it was, but Porn Provider Lynn Womack’s crimes were not those of a Fascist Sympathizer…
For the Record: If you are interested in seeing some of Plato & Vulcan’s Art Photos, do take a look at UNCOVERED [RARE VINTAGE MALE NUDES], if you can find it at Your Local Bookstore.
If you still have a local bookstore, that is…
Although the Physique Photography of such talents as George Haimsohn & others in Uncovered is now regarded as Art & is increasingly Collectible, George & Tony’s Initial Markets were Lonely Men, Old & Young, many of whom lived in small towns where they had No Best Friends…
Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.
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