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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, Report from New Orleans in March 2015
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
THIS WAS THE FRENCH QUARTER AS ATCA DISCOVERED IT… *
FROM THE O'NEILL CENTER TO THE THEATRES OF AMERICA *
The Astonishing Birth of Regional Theatres & Not For Profits in the 1960s *
PASSING GLANCES AT SHOW SCENES SEEN: *
At The Rivertown Theatres for the Performing Arts: Ricky Graham's WHEN YA SMILIN' [****] *
At The Herman Grima House: Tennessee Williams' HOTEL PLAYS [****] *
At Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré: Donald Margulies' DINNER WITH FRIENDS *
At The Southern Rep's Ashe Powerhouse Theatre: Tennessee Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER *
At The Monteleone Hotel Ballroom Theatre: Tennessee Williams' I NEVER GET DRESSED TILL AFTER DARK ON SUNDAYS *
At The Monteleone Hotel Ballroom Theatre: Author/Critic John Lahr's MADMAN'S PILGRIMAGE OF THE FLESH *
THIS WAS THE FRENCH QUARTER AS ATCA DISCOVERED IT…
If you are a Big Fan of Acronyms, you may well be interested in ATCA & FATCA.
These are not, however, New Pharmaceuticals!
In fact, ATCA stands for the American Theatre Critics Association, which held its Annual Conference in "The Big Easy," almost on Bourbon Street!
The Big Reason for heading down to "The Queen City" was its own Annual Tennessee Williams Festival.
This meant that all our Cultural Events were Ready Made, with Mardi Gras Beads & Praline Treats readily available in the Conference Room of the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Thanks to our "Crescent City" Host, Alan Smason, we all got on the Buses on time, as well as receiving Goodie Bags tied with Yellow Bandanas that celebrated both Tennessee & Honoré Daumier's Caricature of "The Critic," a Nineteenth Century Artifact that is strangely appropriate for what may be a Dying Breed of Opinion Makers…
It's a Long Way from Eugene O'Neill onward to Tennessee Williams, but ATCA Members have met even the Challenges of Reviewing Shakespeare in Ashland, OR.
Not to Overlook that time that they took a Side Trip from Miami to see Late Tennessee down in Key West!
Originally, The O'Neill Center was created on the Connecticut Shore--near the Historic O'Neill Cottage, celebrated in Long Day's Journey into Night--in order to develop New Plays through Staged Readings & Subsequent Discussions.
Discussions with the Playwrights & their Play Readers were all very well, but they lacked the Cutting Edge of Real Critiques by Regional Professionals who had No Personal Stake in the Eventual Outcomes, which often then meant Subsequent Productions On or Off Broadway!
But there was an Additional Problem: were there really that many Regional Professionals who could offer Advice & Critiques that would be both Valid & Helpful?
Ernie Schier--Resident Critic of the Philadelphia Enquirer--was Doubtful.
So he prevailed on the O'Neill Center Authorities--including Designer David Hayes, who kept his Yacht just Offshore--to create the O'Neill Center Critics Seminars.
Established Critics like Ernie Schier & Boston's highly respected Elliot Norton would tutor Young Critics at the O'Neill Center to prepare them for Whistle Blowing Duties in the American Regional Theatres.
Among the ATCA Founders were Rhode Island's Generous & Thoughtful Bill Gale, the West Coast's Self Important Welton Jones, & Larry Devine--a Detroit Dissenter.
They met under a Copper Beech Tree, which, in time, led to a Book of Interviews called Under the Copper Beech--Copies of which are Still Available!
Summers I was mostly in Europe, reporting on Major Opera & Theatre Festivals, but Ernie would always ask me to come up to the O'Neill Center beforehand to offer what he called the Cultural Enrichment Lecture.
This had Nothing at All to do with either Drama Criticism or Play Reviewing.
My Favorite Lecture was based on the Idea of Time & Time Passing…
There was a time when San Francisco, Chicago, & New York City were the Production Generators of the Nation.
In the 1920s--thanks in part to The New Stagecraft--the Little Theatre Movement developed. Among its Apostles were the Pasadena Playhouse & the Palo Alto Community Theatre.
Oddly enough, America's Regional Theatre Explosion was touched off by our Canadian Neighbors who decided to Federally Fund Professional Theatres all across Canada in the 1960s.
Not to be Bested by Winnepeg & Vancouver, American Cities quickly responded to this Dramatic Challenge.
The Perceived Problem, however, was that Run of the Mill Local Reviewers were not deemed Up to the Task of providing Expert Professional Opinions.
Given the Advent of the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, the Ford Foundation thought it might be a Good Idea to send the young Danny Sullivan off to London, to see how Real Critics worked.
In the event, when Dan Sullivan returned to the States, it was not to the Twin Cities, but to LA, where I soon became a "Stringer" in Theatre for Dan & Theatre Editor Silvie Drake.
Nonetheless--despite O'Neill Efforts & Ernie Schier--in many American Venues, the Gold Standard was still Play Reviewing, rather than Drama Criticism.
But What About FACTA? What Does That Added F Signify?
Glad You Asked!
FACTA is the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association, which was established to Give Away Money.
In some cases, Funds would be dispersed to enable a Critic Member to Journey Abroad to hold a Young Critics Seminar.
How about Seoul, in South Korea?
But--at a time when Newspapers were dying like Exhausted Typos--this seemed rather like Paying Hard Cash to be Replaced by Bloggers.
Nonetheless, if Blogging were to be the Future of Criticism, wouldn't it be a Good Idea to establish some Critical Standards for ATCA Bloggers to Be?
Anyone can have an Opinion, as Web Trolls have amply demonstrated.
Local Boy Writes Love Lorn Love Letters to Lana Turner & Dorothy Lamour--New Orleans 1950s!
Paulie Dufour is smitten with the Idea of Hollywood Stardom.
His Fondest Dream is to Escape from New Orleans & live with Lana in Far Off LA.
Paulie is not the Least Bit Interested in doing Guy Stuff like Throwing Around Footballs, to the Immense Disappointment of his Desperate Dad: Where Did I Go Wrong?
Pauli--as played by the rosily Fresh Faced Tucker Godbold--is a Period Photoplay Delight!
What is even more Impressive is the Fact that Godbold is Only a Sophomore at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts!
So Young, but yet, so Self Possessed & so Sexily Professional…
Paulie's Tempest Tossed Family & Next Door Neighbors are Hilariously Caricatured by Six Resourceful Actors, who are entirely Over the Top All of the Time.
I loved this show, invented & staged by Local Talent Ricky Graham.
Although it has a number of Queen City Characters who might need some Footnoting, it is such a Jolly Show--tinged with a kind of Sadness--that it might be Magical if translated to Theatre Row on Forty Second Street.
Unfortunately, my Hopes Were Dashed when I was informed by some Sour ATCA Savants that this was only "Community Theatre"…
But then, what do I know about Theatre Criticism?
Calling The Shots: Critiques vs. Consumer Guides?
In All the Years that I have been a Dues Paying ATCA Member, I have never been asked to offer a Perspective on Criticism.
For Many Years, FATCA has been paying Air Fare, Hotel Costs, & even Critics Fees to invite the Great & Famous of American Critics to come to our Annual Conference to tell us How To Write About Plays.
I much remember Time Magazine's William Henry III, who was Seriously Overweight, but who was also able to afford a Very Expensive Suit, which almost made Bill look Slim.
Unfortunately, he Died of a Heart Attack not long after…
Then, there was the NY Post's Gossip Starved Michael Riedel, who was once My Colleague at Other Stages--or was it Theatre Week?
Michael was our Titular Managing Editor, but he spent most of his time devising Piquant Insults for Alexis Wichel, the Wife of Frank Rich, then The Man from The Times.
Aside from often Celebrating Themselves, these Major Voices generally had more to say about Play Reviewing than about Drama Criticism.
There Is a Difference…
Oddly Enough, when a Critic Member of our International Federation Affiliates asked Each Nation for a Critical Statement, all our own ATCA Experts passed, deferring to Yours Truly.
This may have something to do with the Fact that the Request--to be Incorporated into a Bound Book--came from Our Lady in Tehran.
So I have never seen My Extended Report In Print, aside from what's still On My Computer.
Including Lord Byron's Love Letter & Our Lady of Larkspur Lotion-- But Fortunately Not In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel, One of Williams' Weakest…
The Novel Idea of these Stagings was that they would occur in Historical Rooms of the Grima House, but in Rotating Shifts, so that Different Groups found themselves Standing on Stairways, waiting for Hands On Drama.
Most Effective was The Last of My Solid Gold Watches, Tennessee's Interesting Reduction of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
Colleague Scott Bennett & I were later able to Encounter its Genial Star outside the Grima House, in St. Louis Street: Kudos!!!!
In Such an Historic Locale, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Always an Admirer of the Stagecraft of Donald Margulies, I was looking forward to this Crescent City Version of a Tennessee Free Family Meal.
Unfortunately, I'd already seen Two Excellent Stagings of Dinner with Friends Up North & this one did Not Make the Cut…
At The Ursuline Convent:
John Waters & Others Featured in THE TENNESSEE WILLIAMS TRIBUTE [****]
No Sisters of Saint Ursula on the Menu, But a White Wedding Tent Provided a Pleasant Pavilion…
Providential or Provincial Play Readings mostly, but John Patrick Shanley did His Own Thing.
John Waters was Surprisingly Restrained, considering Pink Flamingos & All That.
But Who Was St. Ursula & Why a Convent in NOLA?
Well, the Legendary Saint Ursula is said to have voyaged either Up or Down the River Rhine with a Thousand Virgins!
Neither Metaphoric Nor Actual Cannibalism Really My Thing, So How About Houses of the Dead?
The Real Reason I made an Earnest Effort to go down to NOLA immediately after Two Weeks in Saudi Arabia--aside from Moral & Financial Obligations to FATCA--was my Long Standing Longing to Photograph the Monumental Marble Mausoleums standing above Groundwater Soaked St. Louis Cemetery.
On Previous New Orleans Expeditions, I had been Ordered Out as I was warned that it wasn't Safe for a Single Man to be roaming alone with Expensive Equipment.
There was No Way to get back in time to get the Bus to the Ashe Powerhouse Theatre…
Sounds Like a Good Idea, Tennessee!
This was a NOLA Project & the Kids did OK.
Nonetheless, after The Rose Tattoo, I began to believe that it was All Downhill for the Playwriting Career of Thomas Lanier Williams.
"The Catastrophe of Success" Doomed The Lad from Saint Louis…
Having first met Tennessee in a Midtown Orgy, when I first came to Manhattan in 1960, from time to time, I'd interview him about his Latest Play Projects.
Just as Arthur Miller could never write another Death of a Salesman--or Carl Orff another Carmina Burana--so also was it almost Impossible to Top Glass Menagerie & Streetcar Named Desire.
Rose Tattoo had a kind of Wry Charm, but "Maggie the Cat" didn't much Move Me.
Looking back at the Raves for Menagerie & Streetcar, Tennessee once told me--as I am sure he did Others, many times: It's the Catastrophe of Success…
Glenn, you cannot Retire from Being an Artist! [Emphasis Added]
Nonetheless, he was deeply wounded when Small Craft Warnings opened down at Lucille Lortel's Theatre de Lys, only to be greeted by Yours Truly with a Real Warning that Small Craft was indeed involved in His Latest Effort.
Alan Schneider To The Rescue: Defending & Decoding the Later Plays…
The Time came when Major Broadway Producers didn't even want to look at Tennessee's Latest Efforts.
But my Great Good Friend, the Broadway Director Alan Schneider, never abandoned him. Even when he had to put Polly & Molly onstage, endlessly rocking…
Born in Moscow as Avram Goldschneider, Alan knew well what it was like to be an Outsider, Unknown, Neglected, Forgotten.
Thus it was that Alan Schneider was a Great Champion of both Tennessee Williams & of Samuel Beckett.
Godot is not Streetcar, but Beckett's Happy Days could certainly Share a Chair with Polly & Molly.
For Murdered Playwright Joe Orton's Old Pen Pal, the Main Event of our NOLA Weekend was John Lahr's discussion of his New & Definitive Biography of Tennessee, whom he has come to regard as a Constant Hysteric.
John noted that the Crafting of Biographies is often more about Typing than about Writing.
I do wish I could here share a Transcription or a Recording of what John had to say about his Exhaustive Research & his Explorations of Tennessee's Self Described "Stoned Age," when he was taking enough Pharmaceuticals & "Controlled Substances" to have terminated a Lesser Drugs Abuser Aggressor.
Failing that, Buy The Book!
What was Especially Gratifying--even before the Interview Got Underway--was John's coming over to me, way in the back of the Ballroom, to Greet Me, whom he instantly recognized because of my Ubiquitous Prinz Heinrich Yachting Cap.
John Lahr & I have a Long History.
When the Insanely Jealous & Militantly Untalented Kenneth Halliwell one night smashed Avant Garde Playwright Joe Orton's Skull repeatedly with a Hammer, John was chosen to write the Definitive Biography.
But I had been Joe's Only Pen Pal & Long Distance Confidante after his Entertaining Mr. Sloane opened on Broadway, directed by my Old Buddy, Alan Schneider.
John had never known Joe, but Peggy Ramsay--one of London's Hottest Agents--chose John to write Prick Up Your Ears.
At that time, Peggy & I were Good Friends--even Sparring Partners--but she pointed out: Your Father isn't Bert Lahr & you didn't write Notes on a Cowardly Lion.
Also, Peggy--played on the Silver Screen by Vanessa Redgrave--reminded me that She Was Not My Agent…
John Lahr has been, for many years, Drama Critic for The New Yorker, but I remember him with Greater Fondness for the Friday Afternoon Teas he & Anthea Mander Lahr used to have over in Hamstead.
All Were Welcome; the Tea was Free, but you were expected to bring some Scones or Jam.
Everyone Who Was Anyone that Week in London was apt to Turn Up.
Thus is was that I met the Incomparable Interpreter Martha Schlamme, who subsequently let me come to all her Study Sessions with Budding Actor Singers down at HB Studios & even At Home.
Thank You, John, Anthea, & Martha!
At The ATCA Conference in The Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel:
Heading for The Last Roundup: Retiring ATCA President Chicago's Own Jonathan Abarbanel Passes the Ceremonial Hat--
Actually--in addition to a Variety of Panels & Information Sessions--a great deal of time was spent in Procedural Wrangling.
Nonetheless, Local ATCA Host Alan Smason was always on hand with NOLA Backgrounders, Trail Mix, Bottled Water, & Tour Tips.
Not to Overlook the Thoughtful Ministrations of ATCA's Procedural Watchdog, Chris Rawson, who was always on hand with his Trade Mark Dapper Hat & Colorfully Patterned Sox--Different Each Day.
You Cannot Stop People From Writing Plays, So Multiple Awards May Not Be Necessary--
But What About Some Recognition for the Designers Who Give Shows That Definitive Look?
Way back in 2014--because almost all my Early Theatre Activity was Focused on Design & Staging--I proposed a New ATCA/FATCA Award.
Instead of Saluting Gay & Lesbian Playwrights, how about Honoring the Ingenious Insights & Innovative Imaginations of Scenic, Costume, Lighting, & Video Designers who help bring High Drama & Low Camp to Alarming Life on Regional & Manhattan Stages?
To This End, I have proposed an Annual Award of $2,500--to be presented at the Humana Festival, as the ATCA Steinberg Award now is--for Outstanding Design in Overview. Not an Award for a Specific Production…
The Steinberg--presented by the Genial & Generous Jim Steinberg, whose Theatre Benefactions are spread across America's Regional Theatres--is a whopping great $25,000!
Unfortunately, the Glenn Loney Charitable Trust--I still take Late Night Buses, instead of Taxis--cannot match the Steinberg Sum.
But it seems a Good Idea--with Design so long Neglected--to Enhance this Award with Two Honorable Mentions of $250 each.
Nowhere during our ATCA Proceedings was this Proposal mentioned, although I waited & waited for some Discussion.
I could have gone instead to yet another Monumental Marble Mausoleum…
Copyright © Glenn Loney 20015. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney Arts Rambles." Reproduction rights please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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