FROM THE DEEP ARCHIVES: Elaine May

October 24, 2018

Watching Elaine May’s shattering performance on Broadway in Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery as a feisty West Village widow descending into dementia threw me back in time to 1983, when I spent an entire summer on her trail as an earnest young arts reporter working on a magazine profile for Esquire. It was a plum assignment. Not too many interviews with Elaine May had ever been published. Just about the only ones I could find were the couple of riotously funny self-interviews that the New York Times Arts & Leisure section talked her into doing over the years. I quickly learned why you haven’t read many stories about her: she hates doing interviews and will do anything she can to avoid them.

The story I wrote has never appeared in public before now. I call it…

“One Moment with Miss May


MEDIA: the week in magazines

October 22, 2018
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had an unusually stimulating week reading magazines.
 
New York magazine’s current issue focuses on “Powerful Women Talk About Power (and Powerlessness).” I learned amazing things reading about Lena Waite, the three women who founded Black Lives Matter (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opel Tometi), Samantha Bee, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Gabrielle Hamilton, Amanda “Binky” Urban, Lilly Ledbetter, Hanya Yanagihara, Jenny Holzer, Drew Gilpin Faust, and others.
 
Among the New York Times’s T Magazine’s half dozen profiles of Great Artists, I became engrossed reading about Alessandro Michele and Solange, but I was even more fascinated to learn from Tom Delavan’s article “An Affair to Remember” about the important romance between Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly.
 
I don’t really care one way or the other about Melissa McCarthy but I now avidly look forward to anything by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, who profiled McCarthy for the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Brodesser-Akner has a sassy voice that you could call original if it didn’t so closely approximate what Libby Gelman-Waxner would sound like writing feature articles about movie stars rather than movie reviews.
 
And the New Yorker’s Money Issue drew me into one long article after another about Sinclair News (yikes!), Rent the Runway, Google’s legal battles with former star developer Anthony Levandowski, and cryptocurrency (a subject I thought I’d had enough of until Nick Paumgarten hipped me to the name Vitalik Buterin), along with critical essays on Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad and Swedish artist/mystic Hilma af Klint.
Okay, I’m going to take a little nap now…

Quote of the day: LOVE

September 25, 2018

LOVE

The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.

–Alain de Botton, “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”


Quote of the day: MYERS-BRIGGS

September 10, 2018

MYERS-BRIGGS

The key to the [Myers-Briggs Type Indicator’s] success is [Briggs’] insight that you can waste a lot of energy and bring on a lot of psychic pain if you think of these differences as incompatibilities that have to be ironed out. The differences are innate, and each type of personality is as “normal” as the others. There is no better way to be—logical or emotional, spontaneous or organized, party bro or brooder. These are not imperfections to be corrected. They are hardwired dispositions to be recognized and accommodated.

–Louis Menand, “Can You Type?” in the New Yorker

Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs


Performance Diary: THE GOSPEL AT COLONUS in Central Park

September 9, 2018

An old man seeking sanctuary is stopped at the border and separated from his two daughters, who are taken off to prison – especially cruel since the man is blind. The question of whether immigrants and refugees are welcome in this country was not in play when The Gospel at Colonus premiered in 1983, but it added another layer of sentiment to the beautiful 35th anniversary restaging at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park of Lee Breuer and Bob Telson’s musical mashup of Greek tragedy and an African-American church service, which had me in tears several times.

The evening was chilly and it drizzled steadily the first half of the show, but since it was the last night of a short run, the performers were real troupers. So great to hear this fantastic score again, with one killer song after another: “How Shall I See You Through My Tears?,” “Numberless Are The World’s Wonders,” “Sunlight of No Light,” “Eternal Sleep,” “Lift Him Up.” So great to see many of the original cast still working their magic (J.D. Steele, Kevin Davis, Carolyn Johnson-White); Bob Telson at the piano alongside the original musicians Sam Butler, Jr., Butch Heyward, and Leroy Clouden; the amazing Blind Boys of Alabama with a new lead singer, Jimmy Carter, in place of the late great Clarence Fountain (the first blind man to play the blind king Oedipus); Willie Rogers channeling Sam Cooke with the Legendary Soul Stirrers. A real preacher, the Reverend Dr. Earl F. Miller, played the Messenger, the role – part MC, part minister, part shadow Oedipus — first filled by Morgan Freeman, and the terrific Greta Oglesby (whom I admired as the lead in Caroline, or Change at the Guthrie Theater) played Antigone, the part memorably filled by Isabell Monk in the original production.

It’s such a strange piece, in its way, tapping the roots of theater in spiritual ceremony both conceptually and concretely. It’s a tribute to the genius of Lee Breuer that it hangs together the way it does. One of Breuer’s great gifts as a director is to empower talented performers to create performances that are authentically their own. We saw that all over the stage at the Delacorte. And the many forces (financial and administrative) that helped create this run in the park share a commitment to theater as a utopian proposition, a place to keep alive a strong, deep, inclusive vision of humanity and love. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


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