20 April 2015

Texts from the Aisle


Miranda (far right) and company.

New York’s theater world has been in a tizzy since Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the hit musical Hamilton, revealed that he’d asked stage management not to let a celebrity come backstage after a recent performance. She’d been texting throughout the second act, he said. While many have speculated that the celebrity in question was the pop star Madonna, there’s been no official confirmation — but many of the text messages have now become public, and we present them here.

Hamilton. He’s the guy on the money, right? I heart money.

He’s Latin. Did not know that about him.

OMG this totally hot guy from Grindr is sitting in the balcony

Remember to schedule cleansing after the show

I don’t care what people say my new album is great

Sure, THESE dancers don’t make the star trip and fall. Need new dancers

Fresh blood keeps the act fresh. Also nutritious and good for complexion


Unidentified celebrities must express themselves.

They totally copied those dresses from Vogue at MTV awards. Call attorney tomorrow a.m.

Thought Andrew Jackson was in this. He has a nice butt

Call my personal asst ask her what money Jackson is on

I know she is sitting right next to me fuck U call her NOW

This explains why Jackson butt twice as good as Hamilton butt

So dark in here I can’t see Grindr guy. Frownie face. Ask them to turn up the lights.

Personally I don’t see what all the fuss is about 50 Shades.

They should have asked me to direct

Lets go to Pyramid later

Is Pyramid still open. Probably not. This city has changed so much. Fuck Giuliani

Jesus they let people bring drinks into theater now. No class

Fuck Giuliani

I heart Broadway. Why my name never comes up when people talk about Gypsy revivals?

Hot guy from Grindr def not using current pic. #chelseainches

Why is that woman staring at me she looks really mad

Dim ur own screen U slut

Fuck U, I’m a bitch & I get exactly what I want

What time is it I have places to be

Going backstage, try to steal some of these dancers

I swear, I smell hydrangeas in here. Call an usher. This must stop





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06 April 2015

I Vow Never to Make a Pizza for a Gay Wedding, If You Send Me $100,000


Behold, I stand at the door and knock;
if any heterosexual man hear My voice,
and open the door, I will come in to him,
and will sup with him, and he with Me.
(In a totally straight, bro-type way.)

In recent days, the owners of an Indiana pizza parlor announced that they would refuse to cater gay weddings, feeling that to do so would violate their faith. A horrible backlash ensued, including Internet bullying and unconscionable threats of violence; swiftly, the owners closed down their pizza parlor. But then, something wonderful occurred. People began to raise money to send to them, and the last I saw, they had raised $100,000.

That is why I want to take this opportunity to say to you that, if you will send me $100,000 — whether in a lump sum or in aggregate smaller individual donations via a crowdfunding network — I will never, ever make a pizza for a gay wedding, so help me, G*d.

It is true that never before have I made a pizza for a gay wedding. Never has anyone asked me to make a pizza for a gay wedding. In point of fact, I have never actually made a pizza, except for reheating the prefabricated, store-bought kind, whether frozen or refrigerated.

But I understand that making even a single pizza is a slippery slope. Just one pizza, and the next thing you know, I could be making pizzas for man–dog weddings, or just simply moving to Indiana. Thanks to your generosity, I will be able to resist that temptation to sin.

Making a pizza would violate many of my most deeply held personal religious beliefs. These include the commandments “Thou shalt not step within three feet of a brick oven” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s mozzarella,” and of course, the teachings of Jesus, who said, “Reserve the right to refuse to love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Yea, though I was born partially Italian, and though I would probably make a truly excellent pizza chef, I will shun those who ask me to make a pizza — if you will just send me $100,000.

And hurry, please. The rent is due, and tax day is coming up. Thanks.

UPDATE: I understand that supporters of the owners of the Indiana pizzeria have now raised close to $1 million. I’m not greedy: I’ll settle for $100,000. But if you want to give me $1 million, I won’t say no.



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01 April 2015

Fort Worth Opera Scraps Festival, Announces New Premiere


Little and Vavrek.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS -- At a surprise press conference this morning, Fort Worth Opera general director Darren K. Woods unveiled a plan that would scrap this year’s festival in favor of an entirely new work by composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek, for three weeks of performances. The Haushofmeister’s Revenge, an opera in five acts, will premiere on April 24.

“A lot of our energy has been focused on a different project, J.F.K., commissioned by Fort Worth, which we had hoped to present next year,” Vavrek told reporters. “But as creative artists, David and I have to follow our instincts, to tell the real stories that speak most clearly to people’s lives.”

“We realized that there is no story more compelling than that of an imperious Viennese butler and his campaign to murder each of the singers and commedia artists who ruined his boss’ dinner party,” Little said. “I mean, sure, the last night on earth of a beloved U.S. President is interesting. But this story, it’s got everything!”


Woods.

“Obviously the people who’ve been working on our other operas this season — La Traviata, Hamlet, and Dog Days — will be disappointed,” Woods explained. “But I’ve spoken with each of them, and they understand what an extraordinary opportunity David and Royce are offering this company. We have a commitment to operas that speak to us as a community — sometimes in a normal voice, and other times in a shrill German accent.”

Haushofmeister’s Revenge is unusual in that the central character, the Viennese butler, is a speaking role. At press time, Fort Worth Opera was unable to confirm casting. “We’ve been trying to reach James Franco for days now,” Woods said, “but he doesn’t return our calls. We may have to go with somebody else.”


Get your tickets to the REAL 2015 Fort Worth Opera Festival — Verdi’s La Traviata, Thomas’ Hamlet, and David and Royce’s Dog Days — on sale NOW! Just click here! (No foolin’.)




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16 March 2015

Coleman, Comden & Green’s ‘On the Twentieth Century’ Returns to Broadway


Oscar & Lily, Pygmalion & Pygmalia:
Chenoweth & Gallagher.

The Roundabout Theatre’s revival of On the Twentieth Century is just that: a production that gives new life to this musical comedy by Cy Coleman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The work is steeped in nostalgia to begin with, not only for the original production that starred Madeline Kahn, but also for the Howard Hawks film Twentieth Century (which, because of the copyright, Comden & Green couldn’t touch), and the play by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur on which the movie was based — and above all for an earlier, grander era of Broadway theater, one dominated by larger-than-life personalities both onstage and back-. Hawks’ film starred no less than John Barrymore as a character modeled on the legendary impresario David Belasco, after all. But 37 years after the first On the Twentieth Century, and 83 years after the Hawks movie, the only people who remember Belasco are opera fans who acknowledge him as the author of the plays that inspired Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and The Girl of the Golden West.

What director Scott Ellis has done, quite astonishingly, is to deliver a production that’s faithful to the grand traditions of yore and yet gives them fresh new interpretations for audiences who may not even know that “Twentieth Century” was the name of a train. We see the new approach clearly in David Rockwell’s set design, which echoes Robin Wagner’s Tony-winning original without copying it. It’s still a surprise to see lavish Art Deco staterooms and a looming locomotive steaming right toward us; it’s still a delight to see Rockwell play with the scale of the train, as Wagner did. The designs function much as Wagner’s did, but when you compare them to photos of the originals, then you confirm that Rockwell came up with a look of his own.


Lily Garland makes an entrance: Chenoweth and friends.

It’s a relief to say that Kristin Chenoweth prevails as Lily Garland, a role that nearly destroyed its creator, Madeline Kahn. They’re different performers in many ways, though. Chenoweth is more physical — she dances more confidently, for one thing, and she’s given some elaborate choreography here, especially in the production numbers “Veronique” and “Babbette.” Feistier than elegant, more fireball than grande dame, Chenoweth zips and spins all over the stage, and when co-star Andy Karl uses her body like a barbell to do his biceps curls, she’s game.

Chenoweth’s name came up virtually every time I discussed Twentieth Century in interviews for Madeline’s biography; as Victor Garber put it, “At any given moment, there are maybe five people on earth who can sing that role,” and he cited Judy Kaye (who replaced Madeline in the original production) and Chenoweth as examples. Like Kaye, Chenoweth appears to find no difficulty in singing a strenuously demanding score that Madeline feared would wreck her voice; more comfortable in her chest voice than Madeline ever was, Chenoweth romps throughout the range of Lily’s music.


Romping through “Babbette.”

As her former paramour–Svengali and current nemesis, Oscar Jaffee, Peter Gallagher brings matinée idol looks and a pleasingly affected accent that comes and goes. He’s a strong singer, though his baritone voice is lighter than that of John Cullum, who created the role: he can’t quite reach the vocal bravado that Cullum exploited, and Gallagher’s Oscar is consequently less grandiose. But this chimes with Ellis’ production, showing us glimpses of the real man beneath the bravado, and Oscar’s eleventh-hour scena, “The Legacy,” here gets new lyrics, now a straight-from-the-heart ballad, “Because of Her.” The other characters still treat Oscar as a monstre sacré, and in the twenty-first century, when we’re more likely to watch Barrymore on a hand-held personal device than on a vast silver screen, audiences arguably are more comfortable with a somewhat smaller scale.


“I Rise Again”: Gallagher, McGrath, Linn-Baker.

As the religious fanatic Letitia Primrose, Mary Louise Wilson gives a sly performance with scarcely a clue that “She’s a Nut,” not even attempting to duplicate the demented-pixie quality that the first Primrose, Imogene Coca, brought to almost everything she did. Really, Wilson’s Big Edie in Grey Gardens was nuttier by far, and thus it’s easy to see how Oscar and his cohorts fall for her story. The payoff is tremendous, though, and even the audience may be surprised when the truth comes out and Primrose is chased through the train, affording Wilson a couple of moments I won’t spoil for you — but I’ll treasure them forever.

As Lily’s lunkheaded boyfriend, Karl isn’t quite as acrobatic as enduring legend maintains that his predecessor, Kevin Kline, was — but he’s light on his feet and very funny. In Mark Linn-Baker and Michael McGrath (as Oscar’s sidekicks), and in Jim Walton (the original Frank Shepherd from Merrily We Roll Along, here as Conductor Flanagan), we get the definition of luxury casting, and they’re all marvelous. And the tap-dancing Porters — Rick Faugno, Richard Riaz Yoder, Phillip Attmore, and Drew King — raise the roof in every one of their numbers, expertly choreographed by Warren Carlyle. Indeed, on Friday night, the Porters rivaled Chenoweth herself for the title of audience favorite, eliciting enthusiastic responses again and again.


Operatic: A sextet about a contract.
Chenoweth, Gallagher, Wilson (foreground);
Linn-Baker, McGrath, Karl (background).

My own favorites, though, were Ellis** and music director Kevin Stites, who kept the entire show as fizzy, fleet, and fun as it is faithful: I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job with this material. It’s a complex show, after all, at once invoking and spoofing long-ago show-biz traditions, not only Broadway’s. Oscar and Lily over-inflate their petty dramas to grand-operatic proportions, with allusions to everything from Lucia to Faust to Tristan. Coleman’s music both celebrates and mocks their grandiosity, and Comden & Green apply the same mixture of sass and encyclopedic knowledge that elevated their work in collaborations as diverse as Singin’ in the Rain and the Revuers’ operetta parody, “Baroness Bazooka.”

Much of that tradition is lost to modern audiences: the sources of nostalgia in 1978 are relics of ancient history in 2015. Whether they come to this revival of On the Twentieth Century having seen the original production, whether they merely listened to the cast album, or whether they spent seven years immersed in the material as they researched Madeline Kahn’s biography,* they’ll find plenty to please them.

And if On the Twentieth Century is a “classic,” worthy of revival, then it’s got to have meaning today, and the roles can’t belong to any one performer: not Madeline, not Judy Kaye, not Kristin Chenoweth. In that sense, it’s completely unfair to compare the present production and performances to the originals — and you should ignore just about everything I’ve written here.


“Veronique,” a number that brought all Madeline’s anxieties to the fore.

*NOTE: Okay, I may be the only person who came to 42nd Street with that last particular credential. But bear in mind that, before Friday night, I’d never seen this show.

**Ellis also directed Madeline in her last stage appearance, a reading of Jerry Herman’s Dear World at the Roundabout, in 1998.




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01 March 2015

No Federal Court Is Going to Rob Me of My Right to Discriminate Against Pharisees and Sadducees


Vipers, the lot of them.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about special rights for minorities, but one thing gets overlooked: my deeply held personal religious beliefs require me to discriminate against Pharisees and Sadducees. That’s why we need a law to protect my right to refuse to serve Pharisees and Sadducees in my small business, a law that, for the first time in American history, will uphold my freedom of religion.

As a Christian, my beliefs come into conflict with those of the Pharisees and Sadducees in a number of important areas, and I have only Scripture to guide me. For example, I know that, if a Pharisee or Sadducee comes into my family-style restaurant, he may test me by asking me to show a sign. Therefore, I will have to point to the sign that says, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

Yes, it’s wrong to give in to temptation, but you have to put your foot down, and I know the Lord will forgive me.


Love thy neighbor, except when thy neighbor is of a different demographic group.

Now, say that a Pharisee or Sadducee comes into my bakery to order a cake for a Pharisee or Sadducee wedding. My Lord and Savior has commanded me to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And just to make things extra clear, He added, “How is it that you do not understand that I was not talking to you about bread?” Obviously, He was talking about cake.

There is no yeast in cake! Everybody knows that! This is another trap set for Christians by the Pharisees and Sadducees! And so, if someone were to come up and say, “Please make me a big yeasty wedding cake for my big yeasty Pharisee or Sadducee wedding,” then I would have to reply, “My religious beliefs require me to call you a viper and tell you to get out of my bake shop. Have a nice day!”

And let’s not even get into the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ conflicting ideas about the purity of spilled water — let’s just agree that my florist shop would be in big trouble if I tried to do business with any of them, no matter how many pieces of silver they offer me.

We know that Pharisees and Sadducees were very important to Jesus, because He talked about them so often. This isn’t one of those things He mentioned only a couple of times, like “Love thy neighbor” or cursing figs; it’s certainly not one of those moral questions that Jesus never even got around to mentioning. I honor my Lord and His agenda.

I realize that my faith-based behavior may cause pain to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and their adulterous so-called “families,” but I must obey my Lord, who said, “Suffer, the little children.”

The Bible is the word of God, and I must follow it to the letter, excepting where pork, shellfish, and divorce are concerned, of course. I mean, really, Jesus Him Self called the Pharisees and Sadducees “an evil and adulterous kindred.” Can’t you see that to treat them kindly would violate my faith?

I don’t even understand how this Christian nation can have courts, when Jesus was very clear about “Judge not.” Yet federal courts and some legislatures are rapidly moving to the point where I’m going to have to treat everybody equally well. My faith won’t permit that.

After all, Jesus commanded me to cast the first stone, and He didn’t mean for me to cast it willy-nilly. He meant for me to cast it at someone, or possibly at some figs.

Meanwhile, I’m looking up what He said about wedding photography. I’m sure there are some important rules about that, too.


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28 February 2015

Leonard Nimoy


“I have been and always shall be your friend.”

Growing up, my brother and I divided everything, much as Spain and Portugal once divided the globe between them. He got blue, I got red. He got Mickey Mouse, I got Donald Duck. And when we got older, he got Mr. Spock, I got Dr. McCoy. I’m not complaining: Donald and McCoy suited me. And yet since learning yesterday of the death of Leonard Nimoy, I’ve been on the brink of highly illogical tears.

Nimoy’s Spock was a grand creation, “the most human” soul in the universe, as Kirk once said, able to withstand the vagaries of scriptwriting and special effects, rising to the loftiest rank of popular culture. When I was a boy, I saw mostly Spock’s devotion to science — another of my brother’s territories — and his steely resistance to human emotion. I rather liked emotion, and I still do. So I wound up with McCoy.

Yet looking at Spock now, I see something else. Quite a number of people, including the President of the United States, talk about how Spock was different, an alien among earthlings on the Enterprise and a half-human among Vulcans. Yet Spock chose his sides: he held himself to the Vulcan standard. And he failed.


Spock’s failures were glorious to witness. Logic didn’t dictate that he snipe at McCoy, but wasn’t it fun when he did? When spores, or pon farr, or mind control, or some other force broke down his defenses, Spock fell in love or raging lust, he laughed and cried. Emotions were uncomfortable for him, and yet Nimoy made us see that Spock always felt them, that he had to work to keep them down, and that he was terribly lonely as a result.

Somehow he found friends who understood what he felt for them, who recognized what a tremendous gift Spock’s love must be. It took Dr. McCoy longer to realize this — we recall with fondness Bones’ “who, me?” reaction in “Amok Time,” when Spock invites him to be a best man at his wedding. Later, in Star Trek II and the most significant of all mind-melds, we also saw that, in the irascible old country doctor, Spock chose the right vessel for his “most human” soul.

Kirk knew from the beginning that Spock’s deepest feelings were reserved for him alone. It’s not terribly surprising that slash fiction as a genre developed from this relationship, a friendship so loving and so rare that some people can hardly understand it without sexualizing it somehow. That’s a shame.

Star Trek brought my brother and me together at an age when we shared less and less. It also brought us into a circle of friends — oddballs like us, too smart for our own good, too stubborn to fit in with other kids. For earlier viewers of the show, Star Trek presented a vision of a hopeful future, primarily because the Earth hadn’t been destroyed in a nuclear war, and because the bridge was peopled with a black woman, an Asian man, and a resolutely Soviet-style Russian.

For our little gang, though, I believe hope sprang from a different source: the idea that, some day in the future, we would be valued, not bullied, for our intelligence. We would find friends. We would explore the galaxy. We would live out our adventures — as a crew. Just the way we used to pile into a van to attend Star Trek conventions. Maybe we looked silly, but that was only the beginning of our voyages. We were certain of it.

My brother wanted to be so very much like Spock, and in failing, he has succeeded. He feels so deeply that nothing, not science, not logic, not any remedy at all can suppress his emotions — whether he shows them or not. Spock might not approve, but he’d understand.

I might have understood, too, a little sooner, if I’d taken the time to analyze my brother. But teenage boys are not tricorders. It took me years to see that Spock really does live in my brother. There’s beauty in that.

So I’m grieving today. For Spock and the actor who played him. For the boys we are no more, for the timeworn friendships we made and the vanished dreams we shared. For the sense that the future would always be infinite.




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17 February 2015

‘Fifty Shades’ May Lead to Unreasonable Expectations, Experts Say


Heteronormative:
Ceci n’est pas un ménage à trois.

Given Fifty Shades of Grey’s potent surge at the box office over the Valentine’s weekend, many experts now worry about the movie’s influence on younger audiences. Based on a best-selling series of novels by E.L. James, in turn inspired by Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight books, Fifty Shades depicts a dominant/submissive relationship between wealthy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and naïve Anastasia “Ana” Steel (Dakota Johnson) that could lead to unreasonable expectations for viewers in their late teens and early 20s.

“Young people really don’t have the experience to process what they’re seeing,” said Dr. Ima Lippbiter, distinguished professor at Starfleet Christian Academy and author of The Pon Farr Diaries. “They don’t have the kinds of relationships with fan fiction to understand that what happens between Christian and Ana is very, very rare, starting with the fact that these characters are heterosexual.”

Edward and Bella, the Twilight characters on whom Christian and Ana are based, are also heterosexual, Lippbiter says, “and the result is that young people watching the films may try to duplicate these kinds of relationships in their own lives. I can’t underscore enough what a danger that is, and what kind of impact it can have on their reading habits of fan fiction.”


Where no man has gone before.

Lippbiter’s principal characters, Kirk and Spock of Star Trek, express their feelings for each other every seven years, when Spock is unable to find a female during his Vulcan mating period, or “pon farr.” “In other circumstances, Kirk and Spock may engage in heterosexual behavior, but that’s really not the norm in fan fiction,” observes Polly Grangerford-Wilks, a fan-fiction author specializing in “Huck/Jim” stories.

Elements of titillation and illicit love play an important role in fan fiction, Grangerford-Wilks says, which is why she finds Fifty Shades so troubling. “A man dominating a woman, you see that all the time in source fiction,” she says, “at least, in the source fiction that has any women characters at all. So where’s the drama? Where’s the taboo-breaking that’s at the heart of erotic fan fiction?”


Also, more paraffin, please.
(I found this picture with the writing already on it, honest.)

If E.L. James had written about a dom/sub relationship between characters based on Edward and Jacob, “that would be worth reading,” Arwen Meriadoc agrees. She bases her work on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and she believes she knows what women readers want. “I mean, if you had Edward stripping Jacob, tying him up, and dripping hot wax across his bare chest, for example, then slowly dripping the wax down the narrow, trembling valley between his clenched abdominal muscles, and then — I’m sorry, I forgot what I was saying.”

“We treat these books and movies as if they’re somehow okay for young people,” says Lippbiter, “as if they’re unlikely to have any effect on their attitudes — at home and for the rest of their lives. But what is the message young people are going to take away from Fifty Shades? If they expect all erotic fan fiction to be like this, they’ll be bitterly disillusioned.”

Lippbiter is now exploring Arthur/Bedivere fiction based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Grangerford-Wilks’ most recent Huck/Finn story, “Call Me Honey, and Pet Me,” is currently ranked at #135,930,0137 on Amazon. Meriadoc’s latest novel, My Precious: The Forbidden Passion of Frodo and Gollum, will be released next month. Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, an Atticus/Scout story, is expected in July.


Is that a ring in its pocketses,
or is it just happy to see me?


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