I bet you thought, or some of you who think perhaps I am a bit on the wordy side, even hoped, I had run out of words, didn’t you? One day it is May 13th and the end of the semester, and then in the blink of an eye, it’s September 15th, I’m well into the Fall semester, and I haven’t written a single entry for the blog in four months. Yikes!
To what do I attribute the four months of silence? Does it mean I have quit attending plays or that the solo performance form has fizzled out? Not at all! As in past summers, I spent a large portion of the summer in Denver with the nephews, where I got to attend at least one of the youngest nephew’s swim meets as well as climb not one, but TWO fourteeners with him (Grays Peak and Mount Sherman), and if I’m being completely truthful we may have started together, but since he is fearless, he quickly flew past me, especially on the way back when he literally ran down the side of the mountain. I also attended the middle nephew’s orientation day AND move-in day at Colorado State University and got to annoy him by not being sympathetic to his not looking forward to English Composition, and snuck in time with the eldest nephew by playing ping-pong games when he was just waking up so I could be sure to win at least one game. So needless to say my theater-going habit diminished and my writing practice atrophied, though my reading practice was robust even despite the nephew’s new Westie named Finn insistence that I pay attention to him and to the book I was reading (he has a habit of nudging the book out of my hands/lap and then looking at me as if to say “why read when you can play with me?”).
I did also manage to get to a few plays over the summer, including Eve Ensler’s latest piece of theater for two actors, entitled Fruit Trilogy and though she was neither acting in nor directing it, she just happened to be attending that performance and was participating in a talk-back afterwards, and as usual, she rocked. I also got to see Rajiv Joseph’s devastating and heartbreaking Guards at the Taj again, but this time in Chicago at the Steppenwolf Theater and since it had the same cast and director, it was as powerful as ever. And then there was Lauren Yee’s remarkable play entitled The Great Leap about a young Chinese-American who is determined to play basketball and who talks his way into participating in an L.A. college’s “friendship” game with a Beijing team.
I also attended several musicals, including This Ain’t No Disco, about the heyday of Studio 54, consisting of a large, very young and immensely talented cast. I thought it was doing some very interesting things with the musical form, but I don’t think the critics got it. The musical is described as a rock opera and it was especially interesting to me because it really did feel more like opera, with characters like Andy Warhol and Steve Rubell singing recitatives to establish character and action. In addition I saw Head Over Heels which features the music of the Go-Go’s alongside the text of a 16th century work by Sir Philip Sidney entitled Arcadia so, of course, I had to go (because I grew up with the Go-Go’s and because I actually have read Arcadia). The play is fun, political (lots of gender high jinks), imaginative, and the talent on that stage will knock your socks off (whether it’s the all-female rock band finally revealed at the end, or the energetic/energizing chorus, or the amazingly varied talents of the principle actors)
Finally, I also saw an incredible, theater-history-making performance of Hello Dolly with Bernadette Peters. I have always heard that Bernadette Peters was pretty spectacular on stage and I sure did experience that spectacularness not just in her singing and acting, but also in her physical comedy. It was sheer theater magic which I have been lucky enough to experience a few times in my life including when I was sixteen and was transfixed by Yul Brynner’s performance in The King and I, and then much later when I saw Frank Langella in The Tempest and when, as Prospero, at the end of the play he asks us to release him “from my bands with the help of your good hands,” I hoped against hope that the audience wouldn’t clap so that he would be forced to stay on the stage, and when I fell in love (almost literally) with Kevin Kline’s inspired and mesmerizing Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, and several years ago in London when DESPITE severe sleep deficit due to jetlag, I wanted Imelda Staunton’s performance in Gypsy to continue forever.
But perhaps you are wondering why I am talking about all these plays/musicals with multiple actors when the blog’s focus is supposed to be solo performance. Well not to worry because the Fall 2018 season is shaping up to include quite a few solo performances and I plan to attend, and hopefully also blog about, many of them. So stay tuned to hear more about which solo performances, some of which I’ve already blogged about, are coming to NYC in the near future.