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pre-publish

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – TONY GOLDWYN

I had been a member of Actor’s Equity for over a decade before making my Broadway debut.  The opportunity finally arose in 1995 with a revival of Philip Barry’s Holiday, directed by David Warren at the Circle in the Square.  Laura Linney played Linda Seton opposite my Johnny Case.  Also in the cast were Reg Rogers as Ned Seton and Kim Raver as Julia Seton.  From the first day of rehearsal, I was in a state of euphoria.  I had done a number of plays Off-Broadway, as well as in regional theater.  But Broadway really did feel different.

Unlike most kids who grow up in Los Angeles, my parents took me to the theater a lot and I can recite every show I ever saw — don’t worry, I won’t.  My first was Fiddler on the Roof with Zero Mostel.  I was 4 years old and spent most of the play under my seat convinced that the ghost of Golde’s grandmother Tzeitel would reappear to pluck me out of the audience.   Despite my terror, I was hooked.

David Warren’s production of Holiday was excellent and, from what I was told, received rave notices.  I learned early on in my career to avoid reading reviews like the plague — which is exactly how I view them.  Reviews are totally debilitating to an actor.  Read a bad one and you can quote it word for word until the day you die.  Read a good one and your performance is forever cursed with a voice in your brain saying, “Oh, this is the bit they liked.”  I find it much healthier to glean a general “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” from the degree of elation or awkwardness on everyone’s faces the day after Opening Night.

During the run of Holiday, I will admit to a bit of a hitch in my “critical discipline.”  One night, a couple of old friends who were not in the business came to see the show.  As we walked to grab a late bite at B. Smith, one of them said, “How do you handle bad reviews?”  “I don’t read them.”  “Yeah, but what about the really bad ones?”  Gulp.  She didn’t stop there. “Like the one in New York Magazine?”  Apparently, the raves were not unanimous.  Another life lesson: they never are.  John Simon, the legendary chief critic for New York Magazine, was universally loathed in the theater community for his viciously clever eviscerations of actors, invidiously centering on references to their physical attributes — or lack thereof.  My first stop after supper was the late night newsstand on 8th Avenue to rip through the current issue of New York.  I had to laugh out loud when I saw that Laura Linney was a “goddess” (which she is) but that “Tony Goldwyn with his raw, somehow unfinished face, was sadly miscast in the role of Johnny Case.”  I have no idea what a “raw, somehow unfinished face” actually is.  But that’s what I looked like to Mr. Simon.  Like I said, you remember ever word of the bad ones.

John Simon’s snark notwithstanding, the run of Holiday was pure joy.  Laura, of course, was magic and so was Kim in her New York debut.  Reg Rogers gave a hilarious and heartbreaking performance as their alcoholic brother, Ned.

One night about three months into the run, Reg and I were doing one of our favorite scenes.  The entire second act of the play is set in the attic gymnasium of the Seton mansion.  My character, Johnny, never leaves the stage while the others enter and exit in rapid-fire succession.  We had played the scene a hundred times but, as can happen to the best of us, my mind inexplicably went blank.  In theater parlance, I “went up.”  Badly.  Pace is everything in a Philip Barry play, so my brain freeze gave me the sensation of being shoved off a cliff.  Fortunately, what seemed like five minutes probably lasted less than five seconds.  Reg saw the panic in my face and looked at me like, “Don’t worry, I got you.”  The calm confidence in his eyes somehow coaxed the words to start firing out of my mouth again, as Mr. Barry had written them.

Crisis averted.  Or so I thought.  Unfortunately, the body has some unpredictable reactions to stress;  one of them is commonly known as a “flop sweat.”  Not a pleasant experience for an actor decked out in white tie and tails.  About thirty seconds after getting the train back on the rails, a surge of heat flooded my face and my fancy suit was instantly drenched in sweat.  As each new actor entered the stage, I watched their faces go from puzzled to concerned to horrified. When the lights came down at the end of the act, I descended through a trap door in the stage to the basement below, where the entire company was gathered, along with two paramedics ready to wheel me into an ambulance.  Everyone thought I’d had a heart attack.  The EMT’s made me lie down on a stretcher and it was no small task to convince them that the only thing I needed was a change of clothes.

And, as they say, the show went on.

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pre-publish

FIRST BREAK – Jayne Atkinson

By Jayne Atkinson

The moment that changed my life: I was working with Kathy Borowitz (Wonderful actress and married to John Tuturro) in a patisserie on 72nd and Columbus- I think there’s a sock shop there now. I had just graduated from Northwestern and was trying a summer out in New York. She had just graduated from Yale Drama School. She was so lovely and funny. She would practice her French accent on our customers. She was also rehearsing Cloud 9 down at the public. ( She was amazing).

I had only known of one person who had gone to Yale Drama School… Meryl Streep. To me, the idea of going there was a star that was so out of my reach. Meeting Kathy made me realize that a regular actress like myself could reach for that star. She encouraged me and helped me believe in myself. I auditioned…and I got in! It was the first step to believing in myself and seeing myself succeed and that moment changed my life forever!

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Creative

ARMIE HAMMER WITHDRAWS FROM THE MINUTES ON BROADWAY

PRODUCTION STILL ON TRACK FOR 2021-2022 SEASON

(New York, NY) Armie Hammer has withdrawn from the production of The Minutes for personal reasons.  

“I have loved every single second of working on The Minutes with the family I made from Steppenwolf. But right now I need to focus on myself and my health for the sake of my family. Consequently, I will not be returning to Broadway with the production.” – Armie Hammer

“Armie remains a valued colleague to all of us who have worked with him onstage and offstage on The Minutes. We wish only the best for him and respect his decision.” – A statement from The Minutes

As previously announced, Steppenwolf’s production of The Minutes by Tracy Letts, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, will return to Broadway in the 2021-2022 season.

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE- Pearl Cleage

by Pearl Cleage

In 1990, the year that Anna Campbell would have first performed her protest piece, “Naked Wilson,” at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the word intersectionality was not yet in common usage. The idea that individual bodies can collide with multiple, often overlapping forms of oppression simply because of their race, gender, and sexual identities was not widely acknowledged or understood. For African American women like me, hoping to craft careers in the American theatre, the work of August Wilson presented a special challenge by forcing considerations of race and gender to be viewed exclusively through a passionate and undeniably black male lens. Many late-night sessions examined and reexamined the plays hoping they would reveal themselves to be love letters if we could just break the code. “Naked Wilson” would certainly have been part of those conversations.


Pearl Cleage is an Atlanta-based writer whose works include three novels, What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day (Avon Books, 1997), I Wish I Had A Red Dress (Morrow/Avon, 2001), and Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do, (Ballantine/One World, August, 2003); a dozen plays, including Flyin’ West, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Hospice and Bourbon at the Border; two books of essays, Mad at Miles: A Blackwoman’s Guide to Truth and Deals With the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot; and a book of short fiction, The Brass Bed and Other Stories (Third World Press).  She is also a performance artist, collaborating frequently with her husband, Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., under the title Live at Club Zebra.  The two have performed sold out shows at both the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and The National Black Arts Festival in  Atlanta, Georgia.

She is a frequent contributor to anthologies and has been featured recently in Proverbs for the People, Contemporary African American Fiction , edited by Tracy Price-Thompson and TaRessa Stovall and in Mending theWorld, Stories of Family by Contemporary Black Writers, edited by Rosemarie Robotham.