american-theatre

9

“Measure for Measure” by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare in the Park, 2011

Starring Danai Gurira, Michael Hayden, Lorenzo Pisoni, Carson Elrod, Andre Holland, Reg Rogers, Annie Parisse, John Cullum, Tonya Pinkins, Kristen Connolly, Joe Forbrich, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Caitlin O’Connell, Jordan Lund, David Manis

“His beauty was shattering. It made you happy and embarrassed and awkward all at the same time. It was just too much. And then he could act! And so brilliantly. He was not like anyone–male or female–I had ever seen before. He was Dresden or bisque china. He was slighter then, not so muscular, and beautifully mannered. I have never gotten over those first encounters, and now he calls me and he’s sad and feels he doesn’t have a life, and it kills me. He changed my life in so many ways. Doesn’t he know this?”–Marian Seldes on meeting Marlon Brando in the 1940s/Interview with James Grissom/Photograph of Brando when he appeared in “I Remember Mama,” in 1944.

4

Today in 1959, Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic play, A Raisin in the Sun, debuted on Broadway. The original cast included Sidney Poitier as Walter Lee Younger and Ruby Dee as his wife, Ruth.

A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by an African American woman, and the first to be directed by an African American, to be produced on Broadway.

After its original run, it was adapted into a film (starring the play’s original cast), and has been revived on Broadway several times. 

Source images (1, 2, 3) from the play, with its original cast. The final image (4) is a photo of Lorraine Hansberry with director Lloyd Richards, producer Philip Rose, and Sidney Poitier. All images from The New York Public Library. 

10

“Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare in the Park, 2009

Starring Raúl Esparza, Herb Foster, Anne Hathaway, Jay O. Sanders, Julie White, Hamish Linklater, David Pittu, Audra McDonald, Michael Cumpsty, Charles Borland, Stark Sands & Jon Patrick Walker

The moment that you say Hamlet is a university student, then Gertrude is 39, Claudius is 42 and Hamlet’s dad was 44 and died inexplicably in his prime. Hamlet discovers this affair while still believing he was part of an incredibly happy family. It derails and deranges him. In 2004, I did it with a boy called Ben Whishaw, who was just 23 and had only recently finished drama school. It was extraordinary.

“All of us, all the time, on the line, end of the road, edge of town. We revise and we reconsider. We are all of us heading toward oblivion all the time. We can re-shape and alter–through art, through religion, through love, through sex, through demented denial–but we do not have a clear line from birth to death. We dance a lot. We dream a lot. We are betrayed and we betray a great, great deal. And this is Blanche, who has been dancing a long time, and is now tired, and who is suspended from life for a time at the conclusion of this play, to gather her wits, to dance another dance, to meet another strange. Of course I am Blanche. But so are you. And so is everyone else out there. The comedy comes from the denial of so many that they can’t understand her.”–Tennessee Williams on the character of Blanche, from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” played in the film by Vivien Leigh/Interview with James Grissom/

Night flight to San Francisco; chase the moon across America. God, it’s been years since I was on a plane. When we hit 35,000 feet we’ll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air, as close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something that only I could see because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them and was repaired. Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.
—  Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika - Tony Kushner