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Friday, January 31, 2014

Freedom

“Freedom is not possible without authority - otherwise it would turn into chaos and authority is not possible without freedom - otherwise it would turn into tyranny.”
Stefan Zweig

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kris Kristofferson In Austin 2009

Enough of robots. Here's a real man. Okay, his guitar is out of tune and his voice has lost some of its magic. But, oh, his song is still one of the master pieces of songwriting. I will never stop to admire him for these lyrics.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

About Robot Behavior

“Why give a robot an order to obey orders—why aren't the original orders enough? Why command a robot not to do harm—wouldn't it be easier never to command it to do harm in the first place? Does the universe contain a mysterious force pulling entities toward malevolence, so that a positronic brain must be programmed to withstand it? Do intelligent beings inevitably develop an attitude problem? (…) Now that computers really have become smarter and more powerful, the anxiety has waned. Today's ubiquitous, networked computers have an unprecedented ability to do mischief should they ever go to the bad. But the only mayhem comes from unpredictable chaos or from human malice in the form of viruses. We no longer worry about electronic serial killers or subversive silicon cabals because we are beginning to appreciate that malevolence—like vision, motor coordination, and common sense—does not come free with computation but has to be programmed in. (…) Aggression, like every other part of human behavior we take for granted, is a challenging engineering problem!”
Steven Pinker (How the Mind Works)
Steven Arthur Pinker is a prominent Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and author of popular science. Pinker is known for his wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, and is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Robots At The Stage Door

The 56th annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday night reflected new respect for electronic music. Daft Punk, a French duo who hide their faces under robot-like helmets and have become elder statesmen of the electronic dance music, won four prizes including album of the year for “Random Access Memories” and record of the year for “Get Lucky,” their ubiquitous hit with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers. The same evening Kraftwerk was honored with a alifetime award grammy. It seems about time that the musical theatre discovers electronic music. It should be easy to convince producers. I'm sure they'd love to replace live musicians by robots, samples and computers!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Fourier Quotations

"Equality of rights is another chimera, praiseworthy when considered in the abstract and ridiculous from the standpoint of the means employed to introduce it in civilisation. The first right of men is the right to work and the right to a minimum [income]. This is precisely what has gone unrecognised in all the constitutions. Their primary concern is with favoured individuals who are not in need of work."

"Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

"The extension of women's rights is the basic principle of all social progress."

Charles Fourier
Can you believe that the man who said this lived from 1772 to 1837?



Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Spirit Of Charles Fourier

One of the best parts of Sherill Tippins' book on the Chelsea Hotel is a section about the building’s 1880s start as an association modeled on Charles Fourier’s utopian principles. Fourier believed that there were twelve common passions which resulted in 810 types of character, so the ideal phalanx would have exactly 1620 people. These communities, or “phalanxes,” were thought capable of creating a system of “perfect harmony” that would be “the next stage in human evolution.” Tippins argues that the Chelsea, when functioning at its best, was effectively that: a revolutionary social experiment through which residents found “strength through diversity,” implying that Fourier's ideas lived on in the spirit of the Chelsea Hotel.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Chelsea

Mantattan’s Chelsea Hotel, a picturesque, red-brick edifice at West 23rd Street, is not only a landmark, but an icon of American culture. Since 1884 generations of artists lived, cohabited and worked there, among them John Sloan, Edgar Lee Masters, Thomas Wolfe, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Sam Shepard, Sid Vicious, and Dee Dee Ramone, to name just a few. I heard from the Chelsea in the early 80’s when I worked with Leonard Cohen in Los Angeles. He told me about his time there and his tryst with Janis Joplin whom he had met in the hotel’s elevator (he also has written a song about that episode). One wonders why the Chelsea has become the largest and longest-lived artists’ community in the known world? Now I know, because I just read Inside the Dream Palace, a new book by Sherill Tippins. It is pure joy to read this smart and well-written chronological account of the Chelsea’s history, and I warmly recommend it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stephen Ward - The Musical

Unfortunately I could not attend the opening of Don Black, Christopher Hampton and Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Stephen Ward at London's Aldwych Theatre in December. The reviews were mixed, what was to be expected. The show's topic is too controversial. The musical starts with Ward gazing at a replica of himself in the Blackpool Chamber of Horrors and performing the song Human Sacrifice. Then it backtracks to show how Ward enjoyed manipulating the great and not-so-good and first introduced the pretty call girl Christine Keeler to Britain's secretary of state for war, John Profumo in 1961. Their affair might have been forgotten but for the fact that Keeler was also involved with a Soviet naval attache and was later violently attacked by a jealous lover. When all this came out in 1963, society found a scapegoat in Ward who was tried for pimping and took his life before a verdict could be pronounced. The show's stance is that he was a victim of justice. Michael Billington wrote in The Guardian: "It's a story that requires the same tone of mordant irony that Kander and Ebb brought to Chicago or The Scottsboro Boys. But Lloyd Webber's great gift is for exploring fulfilled or thwarted desire… For the most part this is a musical in which technical proficiency outweighs retrospective anger." This may be true, but I still admire Andrew for leaving the beaten track, and Don and Christopher for agreeing to try something completely different.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tallulah

Most probably Daphne Du Maurier thought of the American actress Tallulah Bankhead when she wrote Rebecca. Tallulah had an affair with Daphne's father, and his daughter hated her for that. She was in good company. Miss Bankhead was a woman people loved to hate. She was vulgar, beautiful and very good with words. Many things she said are still to be found among celebrity quotations. The one I like best goes like this: "Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Hope In New York

Sylvester and I just received the following press release from our hard hit Broadway Producers:
"Lead producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza, announced today that REBECCA, the musical based on the classic novel by Daphne du Maurier, has officially extended its rights through December 31, 2014 and is eyeing a Winter 2014 start.  They are now joined by Co Producers Steven Colson, Peter Bezemes and Barbara Sellinger, along with the previously announced co-producers, who all remained committed to the project.
REBECCA’s previous delay was initially the result of the fraud perpetrated by Mark Hotton (who is now serving time in jail) and then, more damagingly, the consequence of anonymous and malicious e-mails that were revealed to have been sent by the show’s previous press agent Marc Thibodeau to a new investor who was replacing a major portion of Hotton’s investors.  Thibodeau’s emails, which were sent as recently as three days before rehearsals were to begin, resulted in the new investor’s abrupt withdrawal and the delay of the show in the Fall of 2012.  A civil litigation against Thibodeau and unnamed others remains pending and is scheduled to be ready for trial in the middle of 2014."
See also: http://lunerontheatre.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/rebecca-the-musical-aiming-for-a-winter-2014-broadway-bow/

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Valuable

“The most valuable of all talents is never using two words when one will do.”
Thomas Jefferson

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lies & Fear

“The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We live in denial of what we do, even what we think. We do this because we're afraid. We fear we will not find love, and when we find it we fear we'll lose it. We fear that if we do not have love we will be unhappy.”
Richard Bach

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Headlights?

E. L. Doctorow compared writing a book - and I think that stand for any major project -
to driving a car at night; you can only see to the end of your headlights … but you can make the whole trip that way. I don't quite agree. You will only make the trip if you know where you want to go. You need some navigation tool. I mention that because I know young writers who forget or don't believe they need to structure their work before they start writing. They will follow the headlights of their talent alright, but more often than not they end up in nowhere land.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Time Management

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”
Carl Sandburg

Friday, January 17, 2014

Rule Of Life

“Just when you think it can't get any worse, it can. And just when you think it can't get any better, it can.”
Nicholas Sparks

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Beautiful Review

The New York Times' Ben Brantley writes in his Beautiful review: "Modesty is not the usual stuff of Broadway showstoppers. And if “Beautiful” never acquires the flashy momentum of “Jersey Boys,” it may come in part from the deferential gentleness of its heroine.
But when Ms. Mueller sings the show’s title song — sitting at a keyboard in, of course, Carnegie for the production’s finale — she delivers something you don’t expect from a jukebox musical. That’s a complex, revitalizing portrait of how a very familiar song came into existence, and of the real, conflicted person within the reluctant star."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Life's A Masquerade

“You can't believe people when they look you in the eyes. You gotta' look behind them. See what they're standing in front of. What they're hiding. Everyone's hiding, Wes. Everybody. Nobody look like what they are.”
Sam Shepard

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jessie Mueller



Monday, January 13, 2014

"Beautiful" Jessie

Yesterday opened Beautiful, the Carol King Musical on Broadway's Stephen Sondheim Theatre. I had a chance to see one of the last previews. The show is based on reality. Long before its protagonist became Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a hot career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n' roll. But it wasn't until her fairytale life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice. 'Beautiful' tells of King's rise to stardom, alongside husband and co-writer Gerry Goffin and fellow song writers Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil, set to the music that made her one of the recording industry's most enduring icons. While I enjoyed hearing the songs of King-Goffin and Weil-Mann again, I became bored during the second act. Nevertheless I recommend you see the show if you get a chance. Jessie Mueller who plays Carole King is a phenomenal singer. In a fair world she would become a superstar.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Shakespeare Story

Who was Shakespeare? What kind of character was he? Historical sources are very scarce, but a story told by his contemporaries sheds some light on him. It was jotted down in March 1602 by John Manningham, a law student, but the episode may have already been in circulation for a few years. It goes like this:
Upon a time when Burbage (the star of the theatre company to which Shakespeare belonged) played Richard III, there was a citizen grown so far in liking with him, that before she went from the play she appointed him to come that night unto her by the name of Richard III. Shakespeare, overhearing their conclusion, went before, was entertained, and at his game ere Burbage came. Then message being brought that Richard III was at the door, Shakespeare caused return to be made that William the Conquerer was before Richard III.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Again: Author's Rights

The Dramatists Guild Of America just reminded me of its Bill of Rights. Any contract that appears to limit, circumvent, or diverge from these rights should be amended or avoided. For example, the director must not have control over the artistic elements of the musical's libretto or music and must not be permitted to exclude the playwright from the production process. This violates two well-established rights. First, the author has the “right to be present” at all casting and rehearsal sessions, as well as all previews and performances of the show.  The playwright does not need permission from the director or any other person to be involved with his or her creation. Second, playwrights are entitled to mutual approval with the Producer over the cast, director, choreographer, conductor, orchestrator, arranger, musical director, and designer of a show, including their replacements.  This is called “artistic approval.” These rights are based in the U.S. Constitution, the Copyright Act, case law, and centuries of industry practice.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A New Sound On Broadway

Who says Broadway doesn't adjust to changes in musical taste? Holler If Ya Hear Me, a new musical based on the music of late rapper Tupac Shakur, also known by his stage names 2Pac and briefly as Makaveli, will premiere on Broadway at the Palace Theatre May 26 under the direction of Tony Award nominee Kenny Leon.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tracy Letts Nominated for Writers Guild of America Award


Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County" has been nominated by The Writers Guild of America for outstanding achievement in writing for the screen during 2013. Winners will be honored at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards Feb. 1 at simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles at the JW Marriott L.A. LIVE and New York City at the Edison Ballroom. Also nominated in that category are "Before Midnight," written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke; "Captain Phillips," screenplay by Billy Ray; "Lone Survivor," written by Peter Berg; and "The Wolf of Wall Street," screenplay by Terence Winter. The Writers Guild Awards honor "outstanding writing in film, television, new media, videogames, news, radio, promotional, and graphic animation categories."


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Motto

"What's past is prologue."
Shakespeare, The Tempest

Four words, and an admirable sentence. Short, precise, meaningfull. Coined by a genius.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Keep It Short!

“When a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Thus, brevity is a by-product of vigor.”
William Strunk Jr.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Writers Must Be Merciless

The British writer Arthur Quiller-Couch said it bluntly: "Kill your darlings!" When we fall in love with our words we may end up writing something bad. America's famous teacher of style, William Strunk, stated: "Vigorous writing is concise... A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts." My late father, a journalist and a gifted illustrator, spent days bent over his drawing paper, redrawing the same picture over and over again as he tried to reduce the lines needed. It took me a life of writing to understand why he did this.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cookies For The Performers

Schmackary's is a beautiful coffeeshop with bakery in Manhattan (362 West 45th Street). It's not only a place to go before or after a show, you can also send a thank-you gift from there to the people that etertained you. Specialized on delivering respectively preferred cookies backstage to any Broadway theater they keep cast and crew favorites on file.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Digital Theatre

Only now did I find out about the web page Digital Theatre which offers live films of some interesting British theatre productions for download. Among others, the West End revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along, directed by Olivier Award winner Maria Friedman. That revival premiered at the Menier Chocolate Factory in fall 2012 and began its West End engagement April 23 at the Harold Pinter Theatre for a limited run through July 27. Digital Theatre also offers plays, operas and ballett performances.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Joe Allen's Wall

There is a wall in Joe Allen's West 46th Street restaurant that commemorates Broadway flops, among them notorious failures like Breakfast At Tiffany's and Carey. Joe just refused to hang a poster of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark in the restaurant's dining room. Although Spider-Man will have racked up losses of up to $60 million by the time it closes on January 4, the show does not qualify because it ran for three years. I can say with pride that one my shows, Dance Of The Vampires, has made it to Joe Allen's wall. It's no small achievement to have licked the mighty Spider Man.






Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Stephen Schwartz Goes To Vienna

Stephen Schwartz' musical “Wicked” set a Broadway record for the highest one-week gross, taking in $3,201,333 for the week ending Dec. 29. The show becomes the first Broadway show to gross over $3 million in one week. (It broke the previous record of $2,947,172, which it also held, for the week ending Dec. 30, 2012.)  In a new project he will compose the score for “Schikaneder,” a German-language musical about the creative and sometimes tempestuous relationship between Emanuel Schikaneder, the 18th- and 19th-century impresario, composer, librettist and singer, and his wife and sometime business partner, Eleonore. The work will have a libretto by Christian Struppeck, the general artistic director of the Raimund and Ronacher Theaters in Vienna. It is scheduled to have its premiere at one of the theaters during the 2015-16 season. Opera fans will immediately recognize Schikaneder as the librettist of Mozart’s 1791 opera “The Magic Flute,” who also sang Papageno in the original production. Schikaneder was a character in the interationally successful musical "Mozart!" by Sylvester Levay and Yours Truly, so we regard this project as a spin-off of our show. May it become as awesome as "Wicked".