- “Milestone” birthdays: What do we do with them? And why do they keep coming? At “Lovin’ the Alien,” WVFC’s Alexandra MacAaron takes that challenge and runs with it, with “Fifty reasons to be glad” to turn 50. Some of the fifty will feel familiar—”I don’t have to feel guilty if I want to go to bed early” and “I don’t even try to wear high heels anymore (except on very special occasions),” and some less familiar but still entertaining: “Once, thanks to my best friend’s mother, I got to meet Mr. Rogers.” Click over for the rest, if only for the hilarious Ethel Barrymore movie poster.
- WVFC fashion editor Stacey Bewkes has had a packed year, crossing continents and winning awards for her design blog Quintessence. And last week, Bewkes covered a special event closer to home: Design on a Dime, which Bewkes called “one of the most popular design events in the New York community. Benefiting Housing Works‘ programs for homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, it attracts more than 50 top tier designers who create rooms with donated merchandise, which is then sold for 50-70% off retail.” At the event’s opening night, she adds, “This spring’s vignettes were fabulous and judging by the lines at checkout, the evening was a huge success.” As befits a former art director at Simon & Schuster, Bewkes sees some of the interiors as fine art: “The open fretwork-like American walnut folding screen from High Point favorite Lazy Susan gave the space the illusion of height, giving the “impression of a space beyond what we can see.” Click over for more, including glowing photos of it all.
- The just-announced Tony nominations include many goodies for WVFC (more on that later), not least a nod to 51, for her role playing Judy Garland in Under the Rainbow. At Broadway&Me, Jan Simpson explains why: “Bennett is giving the kind of leave-your-heart-on-the-stage performance that even Garland might applaud.” Simpson felt only so-so about the play itself, she explains, but “Bennett is a dynamo onstage and, like Garland, she seems willing to do anything to make you love her. According to the New York Post, Bennett is even playing hostess at a bar that’s been set up backstage to entertain visiting celebrities after the show Although she doesn’t really look like Garland, isn’t as magnetically charismatic (who is?) and isn’t as soulful a singer . . . Bennett is terrific when it comes to portraying the star’s desperate neediness, maddening stubbornness, and endearing ability to laugh at herself.” Buy your tickets now.
- Nashville TV journalist Renee Syler has seen a lot of transitions over the years, but finds herself reflecting at her blog Good Enough Mother about one of the most puzzling: “My mission, when I accepted it nearly 17 years ago, was to raise first one and then (SURPRISE!) two kids. My objective in life had shifted from writing the All American Novel destined to change the world to turning these two drooling tiny little miniature people into giving, caring, and productive members of society. This week, I blinked to find that, for one of the boys, that ride is almost over.” Syler describes an unaccustomed lunch with her older son, 17: “There was something humbling in watching my child grow up, make grown up decisions, and hold an adult conversation right before my very eyes.” Syler takes a deep breath and reminds herself that “baby steps I guess is the thing to remember. Lots and lots of baby steps. As for my overall goal to change the world via my children . . . well . . . we’ll count this lunch as a mid-term exam of sorts.”
- Our profile yesterday of umpire Perry Barber came just in time for the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that opened the world of sports to more women. On the Issues‘ spring issue explores that legacy in depth, including where it still falls short—including the movies, writes producer Ariel Dougherty in “Films Lag in Sharing Women’s Athletic Dreams.” “I was 13 when Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three Olympic gold medals in track and field in Rome in 1960,” writes Dougherty, a co-founder of Women Make Movies, who pulled in Rudolph to narrate her first documentary about it in 1972: “We envisioned a documentary that explored different levels of sport by focusing on a professional team, an amateur team and a community sports activity.” Forty years later, she says, there are still far too few films to provide role models women: only “31 dramatic features and documentaries” are on a list from The Women’s Sports Foundation. It’s important because “Women’s sports media on the Internet has a huge potential,” Dougherty concludes, “These tales of courage and overcoming adversity are powerful film subjects.” Click over for a thorough discussion, including history, analysis, and clips like the one below, about an early 20th-century girls’ basketball team at the Fort Shaw Indian School (portrayed top right), who became world champions in 1902 competing with non-Indian teams from all over the country.
This week’s blog assortment turned out purely aspirational, from an interview with Iran’s greatest living poet, to honors for Ada Lovelace Day, the country’s first computer programmer, to Anjelica Huston reflecting on what she knows now that she didn’t at 20.
- We’ve often featured Tish Jett’s A Femme d’un Certain Age, but we agree with WVFC’s Stacey Bewkes that this week Jett has outdone herself with Famous Faces of a Certain Age. Click over for iconic and new photos of Toni Morrison, Gloria Steinem, Brigitte Bardot, Dominique Sanda, and many others, well-narrated: “As Jacqueline pointed out yesterday, broaden the issue, ‘Let’s discuss what makes these women beautiful.’ Someone else said, ‘They are themselves with a vengeance.’ How great is that?”
- In her Fall Theater Review at Broadway & Me, Jan Simpson calls our attention to the latest work by one of our most beloved actors: “Linda Lavin passed on both the chance to play the showbiz trouper Hattie Walker who sings “Broadway Baby” in Follies and the role of the aunt in Other Desert Cities so that she could portray the mother in The Lyons, Nicky Silver’s new play about a family struggling to come to terms with the death of the husband and father who bound them together. Mark Brokaw is directing the play, which is being done at the Vineyard Theatre. I don’t know anything more about it than that. But if it’s good enough for the prodigiously talented Lavin to give up a shot at two Broadway shows, that’s more than good enough for me.”
- Did you know that this Friday is Ada Lovelace Day, dedicated to women in science, technology, engineering, and math? We just found out, and the birthday of the country’s first computer programmer is worth both a cheer and a push to embrace the next generation. At Big Think, Megan Ericksen asks the not-yet-obsolete question, “Where Are All the Women Scientists?” With video of First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Science Foundation, Ericksen says they’re not born without early encouragement: “Of course there’s nothing wrong with a long, financially-dependent life in the liberal arts, but there is something amiss when you’ve decided — or been told — that you’re just no good at math and science before you’ve hit fifteen. As teachers and parents will attest, whatever sociological forces are dividing women and men into paths as nurses or radiologists, daycare providers or professors, they are in full swing by high school.”
- We’re guessing that Jacki Lyden —WVFC contributor, NPR journalist, and author of Daughter of the Queen of Sheba — will be glad to to see Guernica Magazine‘s interview with Iran’s most prominent poet, two-time Nobel nominee, Simin Behbahāni, who speaks about “the greatest epic in history, the nightmare of censorship, and why her country will eventually achieve democracy.” The poet, writes interviewer Shiva Rahnbaran, “is optimistic about where Persian thought and literature are headed despite Iranian society’s many post-revolution disillusionments.”
- Also optimistic, it seems, is Anjelica Huston, who just gave a series of interviews at Style Goes Strong, the new style section of Life Goes Strong. In the second, she answers our perpetual question, What Do You Now Know That You Didn’t Know When You were 20? A lot, apparently: “I don’t think you want life to just be the same old, same old. You don’t want it to be old hat. I still want to feel my nerves sizzling. For instance, I just started on a new series called ‘Smash’ about Broadway and it’s filmed in NYC. I moved from California to New York and I’ll be in a brand new city for six or seven months of the year now… I’ve been living in California for the past 30 years. I took my dogs and moved into an apartment in New York. I can’t believe that I moved cross country! Life is changing very fast for me now, but at the same time it’s not a bad thing. All my friends are saying it’s good. Yes, it’s scary, but what I know now that I didn’t know when I was younger is that change is not a bad thing. It’s new and it’s good. You embrace your fears and you just do it.” Below, two clips — one of Huston’s dazzling 20-something debut in Prizzi’s Honor, and one talking about her new film, 50/50:
Folks give and get presents all year long but, but judging by the number of recent searches for last year’s gift suggestions on my site, Broadway & Me, the intensity increases during the holiday season. So here’s my annual list of 12 treats, one for each day of Christmas, that any theater lover would be delighted to find under the tree or Chanukah bush. (Prices listed are at Amazon.com unless otherwise indicated.):
Tickets. You can’t go wrong if you give a theater lover the chance to see more shows, and this year Telecharge has introduced a new gift card that can be used to buy tickets online (Telecharge.com), by phone or in person at the box office. The cards are available in any amount from $25 to $500.
Carols for a Cure. What’s a holiday season without holiday songs? This album features the casts from 21 Broadway and Off-Broadway shows performing a mix of familiar and less so songs from the Altar Boyz company’s “O Chanukah, O Chanukah” and the In the Heights crew’s “Campana Sobre Campana” to Jersey Boys’ “12 Days of a Jersey Christmas” and Rock of Ages’ “O Holy Night.” And in the spirit of the season, the proceeds go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. $20 at playbillstore.com.
2010 Calendars. This year’s wall calendar suggestions include something naughty (a Broadway Bares calendar with photos of 13 hunky guys who’ve gone the full monty, or nearly so, to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS) and something nice (a Wicked calendar that not only features scenes from the blockbuster musical but is made entirely with eco-friendly recycled paper and soy-based inks). Broadway Bares is available at Out in America for $21.99, and you can get Wicked at barnesandnoble.com for $13.45.
The American Theatre Wing Presents the Play That Changed My Life: Americas Foremost Playwrights on the Plays That Influenced Them. Every theater lover has a story about the play that first made him or her fall for theater. In this collection, 19 of America’s best playwrights share the stories about the shows that made that difference for them. $12.91 at amazon.com. And for an extra goodie, you might add a ticket to the playwrights reading on Sunday, Jan. 10 at the Times Center in The New York Times building where Beth Henley, Donald Margulies and John Patrick Shanley will read their stories. $30 at artsandleisureweekend.com.
The Alvin Ailey Barbie. It’s hard to get more theatrical than the Ailey dance company, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, Mattel has created a collectible Barbie Doll dressed in the “Wade in the Water” costume from Ailey’s beloved masterpiece Revelations. $65 at aileyboutique.com.
A Theatergoer’s Journal. Even in this world of blogs and tweets, there’s room for an old-fashioned journal where you can record your thoughts about the plays you’ve seen. This one even helps you out with a ratings chart where you can grade your favorite actors, composers and designers. $16.95 at shakespearesden.com.
The Playbill Broadway Yearbook. Imagine Broadway as the high school you wish you’d gone to and this as its annual keepsake filled with 6,000 photos and an insider’s view of all 78 shows that opened or ran on Broadway between June 2008 and May 2009, plus all the season’s major theatrical events from the Tony Awards ceremony to the Broadway softball championship. $22.95 at playbillstore.com.
A Personalized Marquee Print. Your name (or that of your favorite theater lover) can appear in lights on this custom-made print of a theater marquee. Prices range from $24.95 for an 8×10 copy mounted on poster board to $159.90 for a framed print on canvas from that’smyticket.com. It takes 2–3 weeks to produce each print. So you need to order now if you want to get one before the end of the year.
The Sound of Music Pop-Up Book. The Rodgers & Hammerstein classic debuted at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre 50 years ago, and now this new book commemorates the occasion with an illustrated picture book based on scenes from the musical. Each page includes mini-pops with lyrics from such songs as “Do-Re-Mi” and “Climb Every Mountain.” $17.81.
Walkin’ Broadway. This anecdote-filled audio tour through the Broadway theater district features an all-star group of guest guides which includes the too-many-great-shows-to-name-here director and producer Hal Prince and Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz. $7.95 at CityListen.com.
Free for All: Joe Papp, The Public and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told by Kenneth Turan and Joseph Papp. I haven’t yet read this oral history of the theater impresario Joe Papp and his founding of the Public Theater, where such landmark shows as Hair and A Chorus Line were incubated. But I feel confident about recommending the book because I haven’t been able to pry it out of my husband K’s hands since he got a copy for his birthday last month. $26.37.
Olivier’s Shakespeare, the Criterion Collection. Most theater lovers have heard how great a classic actor Laurence Olivier was, but this boxed set gives you the chance to see that for yourself. Just his Richard III alone, as deliciously over-the-top as a double-fudge layer cake with chocolate ice cream à la mode, is worth the price of the set. $71.99.
Finally, I hope you’ll forgive me if I toot my own horn, but there are also some really fun (and affordable) gifts, such as the tan tote above, at the Broadway & Me store at http://www.cafepress.com/broadwayandme.
Happy shopping. Happy holidays. And, of course, happy theatregoing.
Janice C. Simpson, a former Arts editor for TIME magazine and a lifelong theater lover, is a member of the Advisory Committee of the American Theatre Wing, the Outer Critics Circle and the Independent Theater Bloggers Association. She currently teaches arts reporting at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism and writes the blog Broadway and Me, an already essential bookmark for those in the know. Simpson is married to the musician Kamau Adilifu.
Photo of Simpson, above, by Joseph Moran.
Voices for Change and Protest Edition: Amanpour on Genocide; Yoko On John Lennon’s Memory; Northrop on 30 Years of ACTing UP; Jan Simpson on Liza Minnelli and Ourselves
Scream Against Bloody Murder: Today marks the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on Genocide. For most of the last year, Christine Amanpour, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent has been conducting interviews for her documentary “Scream Bloody Murder,” which premiered December 4, on CNN. In the Washington Post’s Guest Voices on Faith, Amanpour writes that when she returned from her travels, discussing them often became a struggle. “I often wonder, when I’ve come back from a place like Rwanda or Bosnia, why people ask me: Is it really that bad?”