NYCPlaywrights May 10, 2014

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May 10, 2014, 5:13:42 PM5/10/14
Greetings NYCPlaywrights

*** The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park  FREE ***

Tuesday, June 3 - Sunday, July 6
The Delacorte Theater in Central Park
All performances begin at 8pm

Hamish Linklater and Tony® nominee Lily Rabe return to the Park this summer as the wise-cracking, would-be lovers Beatrice and Benedick in the beloved romantic comedy MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Central Park becomes sun-drenched Sicily at the turn of the last century, where the heat of summer ignites the fevered passions of lovesick ladies in corsets and pining gentlemen spying from the verandah. Three-time Tony winner Jack O’Brien directs this delightful skirmish of wit between two self-declared bachelors tricked by their mischief-making friends into falling in love against their will and in spite of their own hearts.

Tuesday, July 22 - Sunday, August 17
The Delacorte Theater in Central Park
All performances begin at 8pm

Revenge, rage, grief and delusion thunder upon the Delacorte as Tony® and Emmy® Award winner John Lithgow takes the stage as one of theater’s great tragic heroes, KING LEAR. Tony winner Daniel Sullivan directs Shakespeare’s classic drama about a King who loses everything—including his mind—when he disowns his favorite daughter, and finds himself betrayed in return.



1. Free Ticket Distribution in the Park

​Free tickets are distributed on each performance day via the Free Lines at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. We recognize that free ticket lines can sometimes be long and we appreciate the time and dedication of everyone. These ticket policies are designed to maximize fairness for visitors and to make everyone’s experience as smooth and pleasant as possible.​ ​
The theater will open approximately 30-minutes prior to curtain. Latecomers will be seated at the discretion of theater management. ​ ​
Free tickets are distributed at 12pm (NOON) every day there is a public performance.​ Performance days will vary from week to week. Check the performance calendar for more information.​ ​


2. Free Virtual Ticketing Lottery

Free tickets are distributed at 12pm (noon) each day there is a public performance via the Virtual Ticketing Lottery. ​
A request for tickets is not a guarantee you will receive them. You will be notified, via email, if you have been selected. Participants are randomly selected by the computer system, based on availability, and not in the order requests are received.
If you are new to Virtual Ticketing and you don’t have a account, you will need to first create one. Accounts are limited to one per person. Multiple accounts will be deleted and jeopardize your chance of receiving tickets. ​
If you already have one, go to STEP 2.
STEP 2: SIGN-IN​​​​​​​​​​
Once you have an account, you can sign-in between midnight and 12pm (noon) on the day of each public performance and request 2 tickets. You may indicate if your request is for General, Senior (65+), or Accessible (ADA) seating.
The link to enter the lottery will appear on this page when this summer's performances begin on June 3.



As a Summer Supporter, you are making a contribution towards Free Shakespeare in the Park and The Public Theater. Your support will make it possible for us to continue distributing thousands of free tickets year after year. In thanks for your gift, you will receive reserved seating for Shakespeare in the Park, as well as discount tickets to other Public Theater productions throughout the season!
All Summer Supporters Receive:
Reserved seats to Shakespeare in the Park
The opportunity to purchase tickets at 425 Lafayette Street at a discounted rate
No facility, ticketing, or exchange fees –a savings of up to $7.00 per ticket!
20% off food and beverages at Joe’s Pub, The Library at The Public, and The Lobby Bar
10% off Shakespeare in the Park merchandise, available at The Delacorte
Access to the Member Hotline to reserve seats and exchange tickets
The opportunity to secure additional reserved seats to Shakespeare in the Park
Your donation is fully tax deductible…

~*~*~* The Third Annual Thespis Theater Festival/Competition is open ~*~*~*
Plays compete for outstanding prizes!
$3500 for Best Play, $500 for Best Actor and $500 for Best Actress.
Judges from the industry decide on winners
Possibility for reviews

Only plays from NY and NJ
If you'd love to see your work onstage in a beautiful proscenium theater with 20 ft high ceilings and a professional lighting and sound system, we invite you to submit your play.    
Use of a grand piano if your show  needs it.
Assistance from theater management in all aspects to make sure your show reaches its highest potential.
Free tutorials on how to use the sound/light/projection system
A chance to have your play filmed by professional videographer.
And you and your cast are invited to a dazzling ceremony at the end of the festival with prizes announced in front of a live audience.

It doesn't get more exciting than this!

for more info please go to


South Street Players is seeking short (20 minutes or less), original, HALLOWEEN-themed one-act plays for its Tri-State Theatre Festival: Halloween Edition. The event will take place October 24-26, 2014 in Spring Lake, NJ.
This inaugural event is an offshoot of SSPs popular Tri-State Theater Festival, and will serve as an artistic fundraiser. All proceeds go to SSP to help maintain its commitment to producing high-quality, extremely engaging theatre experiences for the 2014-15 season… and beyond.


The Rockford Area Arts Council and West Side Show Room seek submissions for their inaugural play festival. Selected plays will be presented as staged readings the week of August 2014 by professional actors and the Rockford Area Arts Councils ArtsPlace apprentices. Guest playwright, Nathan Alan Davis, whose play, The Wind and the Breeze, received the Kennedy Centers Lorraine Hansberry award 2012/13, will coordinate the festival. All playwrights entering the competition will be invited to a free playwriting workshop by Davis.


Something Incredibly Marvelous Happens Call for Scripts for Staged Readings
Chicago area theatre companies will select scripts they connect with and host one-night-only staged readings or informal performances followed by discussions of the material and genre. Something Incredibly Marvelous Happens will produce a Night of New Works featuring four 10-15 minute plays or excerpts from new works.
All collaborators have the opportunity to contribute to our blog with pictures, thoughts, notes, etc. to get even more people talking about their work.




Q. “Hoist by my own petard" — everybody says it, and so do I. But neither I, nor anyone else I've ever heard employ this particular cliche, has the slightest idea what a "petard" is. The one plausible explanation I've come across holds that a petard was a sort of 19th-century animal trap, a rope and a bent branch arrangement that caught the desired beast by one leg and pulled it up into the air. Can you confirm or deny?

A. Yes.

Oh, I was supposed to pick one? Deny, of course. The line comes from Shakespeare, specifically Hamlet, act III, scene 4, lines 206 and 207: "For 'tis sport to have the engineer/ Hoist with his own petar …"

The Melancholy Dane is chuckling over the fate he has in store for his childhood comrades, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are plotting to have him killed. Deferring his existential crisis for a moment, Hamlet turns the plot on the plotters, substituting their names for his in the death warrant they carry from King Claudius.

He continues: "But I will delve one yard below their mines/ And blow them at the moon." The key word is "mines," as in "land mines," for that's what a petard is (or "petar," as Shakespeare puts it — people couldn't spell any better then than now). A small explosive device designed to blow open barricaded doors and gates, the petard was a favorite weapon in Elizabethan times.

Hamlet was saying, figuratively, that he would bury his bomb beneath Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's and "hoist" them, i.e., "blow them at the moon." Dirty Harry couldn't have put it any better.

The word "petard," we note with a grin, comes from the Middle French peter, which derives in turn from the Latin peditum — the sense of which is "to break wind." Which must mean either that the French had a serious gas problem in those days, or that the petard was of something less than nuclear impact.



Q. What is the "primrose path"? I've heard this saying used to convey the idea of following the road to self-destruction. Is this the correct usage? Where does this saying come from?

A. ”Primrose" is derived from the French primerole, itself derived from the Latin primula. It's been the accepted name for several flowers over the years, including the cowslip, daisy, and wild rose; the current Primula classification includes over 425 species. Since the 1400s, "primrose" has also been used metaphorically to refer to the first or best of something (primrose is popularly but erroneously thought to derive from prima rosa, "first rose"); so a "primrose path" is not necessarily simply one lined with primroses--given their metaphorical meaning, it can be seen as a description of the ultimate in loveliness.

The current connotation of "primrose path," however, come from the old wordsmith himself, Shakespeare. Never one to use an old cliché when he could coin a new one, in the 1600s he first used the term to refer to a pleasant path to self-destruction.

In Hamlet (published in 1600-1), Act I, Scene III, these words are spoken by Ophelia:

I shall the effect of this good lesson keep, 
As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother, 
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, 
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven; 
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine, 
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, 
And recks not his own rede.

She is warning her brother to follow his own advice, and not take the attractive "easy path" of sin to hell, rather than the uninviting and arduous path of righteousness to heaven. Apparently fond of the phrase, four or five years later Shakespeare uses it again in Macbeth, referring to "the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire." By the early 1800s other authors had taken up the metaphor in their own work. And so today, those wishing to refer to "taking the easy path to Hell" are using the Master's line 



Q. Is there any information you can give me on the supposed curse of Macbeth? It puzzles me that of all Shakespeare's plays, one of his best (in my opinion) should be cursed. Thanks for any enlightenment you can provide.

A. As success or failure in the theater can be influenced by so many intangible and unpredictable factors, it's not surprising that actors and other theater types maintain a variety of long-standing superstitions, which often are taken very seriously. (The most famous is the insistence on saying "break a leg" rather than "good luck.")

Two such superstitions float around Macbeth. The first is that it's bad luck to even say “Macbeth” except during rehearsal or performance. When referring to the work one instead uses circumlocutions, such as “the Scottish play” or “Mackers” or “the Scottish business” or “the Glamis comedy” or just “that play." Some say this rule applies only when inside a theater; it’s OK, therefore, to use the dread name in other settings – like classrooms, for instance.

The remedy, if someone does happen to utter the unutterable, is to leave the room, close the door, turn around three times, say a dirty word (or spit, some say), then knock on the door and ask to be let back in. If you can’t do all that, you simply quote from Hamlet, act 1, scene 4: “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!”

The second superstition is that the play itself brings ill luck to cast and crew, and many productions of Macbeth have, in fact, encountered unfortunate circumstances. The supposed origin story for this is that Shakespeare used “authentic” witches’ chants in the play; as punishment, real witches cast a curse on the play, condemning it for all time.

If legends are to be believed, bad fortune for productions of Macbeth seems to have started fairly early on: one story (which I have not been able to verify), is that King James I banned the play for about five years after he first saw it, in 1606. Some say he found the witches’ curses too realistic – having authored a work on demonology, he considered himself an expert.

Among the incidents cited as examples of the curse at work (and we don't guarantee the veracity of some of the earlier stories):

• In the first production of Macbeth, on August 7, 1606, Hal Berridge, the boy playing Lady Macbeth, became feverish and died backstage. This story is likely mythical, and further tradition says that Shakespeare had to take over the part. (One version holds that Shakespeare played the role badly, and later chewed out his fellow actors for mentioning “that play,” thus beginning the tradition of not referring to it by name.)

• In a 1672 production in Amsterdam, the actor playing Macbeth substituted a real dagger for the blunted stage dagger and killed the actor playing Duncan, in full view of the audience.

• On the opening day of a London run in 1703, England was hit with one of the most violent storms in its history.

• At a 1721 performance a nobleman in the audience got up in the middle of a scene and walked across the stage to talk with a friend. The actors chased him from the premises; he returned with militiamen, who burned the theater down.

• Female Lady Macbeths haven't been immune. In 1775, Sarah Siddons was nearly attacked by a disapproving audience. In 1926, Sybil Thorndike was almost strangled by a fellow actor. And in 1948, Diana Wynyard decided to play the sleepwalking scene with her eyes closed and sleepwalked right off the stage, falling 15 feet. In the best show-must-go-on tradition, she finished the performance.

• In the mid-1800s, two rival actors (William Charles Macready of England and Edwin Forrest of the U.S.) staged competing productions, so that on May 10, 1849, they were both playing Macbeth in New York. An audience of Forrest fans threw fruit and chairs at Macready during his performance at the Astor Place Opera House, disrupting the show and starting a riot. The militia was called in and fired on the crowd; more than 20 died and another 30-plus were wounded.

• On April 9, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was reading passages from Macbeth – those following Duncan's assassination – aloud to some friends. Within a week Lincoln was himself assassinated.

• During the first modern-dress production, at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1928, a large set collapsed, seriously injuring some cast members.

• In a 1937 production a heavy counterweight crashed to the stage, missing Laurence Olivier, playing Macbeth, by only inches.

• In a 1942 staging, with John Gielgud as Macbeth, three actors (two witches and Duncan) died and the set designer committed suicide.

• In a Thursday-night performance in 1947 actor Harold Norman was stabbed during the final sword fight in act 5 and died of his wounds. On Thursdays his ghost is now said to haunt the Coliseum Theatre in Oldham, where the fatal scene was played.

• In a 1953 outdoor production in Bermuda, during the realistically staged attack on Macbeth's castle, a gust of wind blew smoke and flames into the audience, who fled. Charlton Heston, playing Macbeth, suffered severe burns on his groin and leg because his tights had accidentally been soaked in kerosene.

• Rip Torn's 1970 production in New York City was halted by an actors’ strike.

• David Leary’s 1971 run was plagued with two fires and seven robberies.

• In 1971 Roman Polanski (who may himself have seemed cursed at the time, as his wife Sharon Tate had been murdered by followers of Charles Manson just two years earlier) made a film version; a camera operator was almost killed in an accident on the first day of shooting.

• J. Kenneth Campbell, playing Macduff, was mugged soon after the play's opening in 1981 at Lincoln Center.

• In a 2001 production by the Cambridge Shakespeare Company, Macduff injured his back, Lady Macbeth bumped her head, Ross broke a toe, and two cedar trees from Birnam Wood toppled over, destroying the set.

There are several explanations for why Macbeth seems so accident-prone. During much of the play lighting is low – the bulk of the scenes take place at night or in the dark or fog – thus increasing opportunities for accidents. There are several fight scenes, more than in most plays; in a long run, it's almost inevitable something will go amiss. Macbeth is also Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, and thus somewhat cheaper to put on; one theory suggests that when finances get tight, companies will slap together a production of Macbeth, and during the general cutting of corners safety gets compromised.

But more than anything, the whole curse business benefits from a self-fulfilling circularity. Every play production involves some things going wrong – considering all the people, costumes, scenery, and equipment involved, there are bound to be problems. And if a play is popular enough to get staged and restaged for 400 years or so, some of those problems are bound to be pretty serious on occasion. If we could compile a list of accidents and near accidents for performances of, say, Hamlet, would it be equally long and dramatic? Almost certainly. But no one remembers or records these accidents, because there’s no curse on Hamlet.

When accidents happen around Macbeth, though, the superstitious nod wisely and mutter about the curse. The play itself is soaked in blood, violence, and disorder – it's got gory ghosts, deceit, manipulation, assassination, malevolence, brutal murders of children, etc – and so provides fertile ground for dark musings. When cast and crew are expecting accidents, watching for them, any mishaps are uniquely bound to remembered. Every old actor has his or her own Macbeth story that gets reverently passed on to the younger ones. And so the curse persists, feeding upon its own reputation.



Q. I found an obscure reference to a place called the Grand Guignol in Paris. It said some pretty twisted stuff happened there for the amusement of others. Do you know anything about it? Was it theatrics or the real McCoy (or should I say McCabre)? How do you pronounce Grand Guignol?

A. Well, we can't have you prowling around Paris looking for the Grand Goog-nole, Mike: you say it Gron Geen-yole. Not that you're going to find it no matter how you say it; the place closed in 1962. Too bad. I bet it would have been a trip.

The Theatre du Grand Guignol, for years one of the leading tourist attractions of the French capital, was the classic shock theatre, specializing in productions designed to horrify and sicken. No show was considered a success unless at least a couple audience members fainted or upchucked on their shoes. In its latter years, what with competition from Hollywood horror films and real life nightmares like Auschwitz, the Grand Guignol became pretty campy. But in its day it produced some truly terrifying theatre that explored, admittedly for low commercial purposes, the dark limits of what could be accomplished on the stage.

In some ways the subject matter of the Grand Guignol wasn't all that different from what you can see today in any number of Friday the 13th-type slasher movies. But there were a couple key differences: this was live, in-your-face and sometimes all-over-your-clothes theatre conducted in a disconcertingly intimate space — the place seated only about 285 and the stage measured just 20 by 20 feet. Equally important, the plays, which were short and usually ran three or more to a bill, partook of the queasily amoral outlook that we are pleased to think of as peculiarly French. The characters typically were brutal louts, hapless victims, or both. The guilty often went unpunished. Lovers and friends routinely betrayed one another. For comic relief the producers might throw in a sex farce featuring the lineup of seedy characters and illicit affairs you'd pretty much expect in the land of the feelthy postcard — a harmless enough business in itself, but in context adding to the air of Parisian sleaze.

The Grand Guignol's main stock in trade was gory special effects (and they were only that; we're not talking snuff theatre here). In description today the effects seem pretty tame, but remember that they were carried off at close range, with no retakes, using stuff that was scrounged mainly from the drugstore and the butcher shop. Eyeball gougings were perennially popular, animal eyes being especially useful for this purpose because they could be relied upon to bounce when hitting the floor. Then you had your disembowelings, your self-mutilations, your throat slashings, your rapes, your acid thrown in the face, your flesh ripped from the bone … predictable stuff, I suppose. But in the most effective Grand Guignol plays it was coupled with a shrewd grasp of the psychology of horror plus an over-the-top gallic love of the nutso that can weird you out even today.

Historian Mel Gordon, in The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror (1988), recounts some of the plots:

The innocent Louise is unjustly locked in an asylum with several insane women. A nurse assigned to protect her blithely leaves for a staff party as soon as Louise falls asleep. The insane women decide that a cuckoo bird is imprisoned in Louise's head and and one gouges out her eye with a knitting needle. The other crazy women are freaked and burn the gouger's face off on a hot plate.
Two brothers have an orgy with two prostitutes at a lighthouse. The lighthouse beacon goes out and one of the brothers realizes a boat containing their mother is heading toward the rocks. But the drunken lighthouse keeper has locked the beacon door. The brother goes nuts, blames everything on an earlier blasphemy by one of the hookers, slits her throat, and throws her out the window. "The boat with the men's mother crashes against the rocks," Gordon says. "In a religious frenzy, the [brothers] decide to burn [the other prostitute] to death. After pouring gasoline on her, they incinerate her and pray." The end.
And you thought The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was sick.



Q. What's with the lyrics to the song "Mack the Knife"? I heard a radio report a couple of years ago describing it as a song about the real life Detroit organized-crime scene. Is it really about the Detroit mob?

A. There were no mobs in Detroit in 1728, when the character we know as Mack the Knife first made his appearance. In those days, there were only about 30 families living in Fort Ponchartrain near Detroit du Herie (strait of Erie), and none of them belonged to the Purple Gang. In fact, the reference is to London, not Detroit, and to politicians more than street gangs.

The character of Macheath, later to become Mack the Knife, first appeared in The Beggar's Opera by John Gay (1685-1732). Gay was a popular English playwright and poet, a friend and collaborator of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.

The Beggar's Opera is a comic ballad opera, the first of its kind, and took London theatre by storm. Gay uses lower-class criminals to satirize government and upper-class society, an idea that has been used often ever since. A century and a half later, the title characters in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance note that they are more honest than "many a king on a first-class throne." And in our time, wasn't it Bob Dylan who wrote, "Steal a little and they throw you in jail; steal a lot and they make you a king?"

The main character of The Beggar's Opera is a swashbuckling thief called Macheath. He's a dashing romantic, a gentleman pickpocket, a Robin Hood type. He is polite to the people he robs, avoids violence, and shows impeccable good manners while cheating on his wife. The character is usually understood as partly a satire of Sir Robert Walpole, a leading British politician of the time.

The Beggar's Opera was a success from its first production in 1728, and continued to be performed for many years. It was the first musical play produced in colonial New York; George Washington enjoyed it.

We now skip about 200 years to post-WWI Europe and Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), a distant cousin of this SDSTAFFer. World War I had a revolutionary impact on the arts. The avant-garde movement, in despair after the war, embraced the concept of the anti-hero. Gay's play was revived in England in 1920, and Brecht thought it could be adapted to suit the new era - who's more of an anti-hero than Macheath? So in 1927 he got a German translation and started writing Die Dreigroschenoper, "The Three Penny Opera."

Brecht worked with Kurt Weill (1900-1950) on the adaptation. He did far more than just translate Gay's play, he reworked it to reflect the decadence of the period and of the Weimar republic. Mostly, Brecht wrote or adapted the lyrics, and Weill wrote or adapted the music. Gay's eighteenth-century ballads were replaced with foxtrots and tangos. Only one of Gay's melodies remained in the new work. The play parodies operatic conventions, romantic lyricism and happy endings.

The main character is still Macheath, but Macheath transformed. He's now called Mackie Messer, AKA Mack the Knife. ("Messer" is German for knife.) Where Gay's Macheath was a gentleman thief, Brecht's Mackie is an out-and-out gangster. He's no longer the Robin Hood type, he's an underworld cutthroat, the head of a band of street robbers and muggers. He describes his activities as "business" and himself as a "businessman." Still, the character does manage to arouse some sympathy from the audience.

So, we finally get to your song, the "Ballad of Mack the Knife" (Die Moritat von Mackie Messer) from The Three Penny Opera. The song was a last-minute addition to appease the vanity of tenor Harald Paulson, who played Macheath. However, it was performed by the ballad singer, to introduce the character. The essence of the song is: "Oh, look who's coming onstage, it's Mack the Knife - a thief, murderer, arsonist, and rapist." (If these last two startle you, be patient for a couple paragraphs.)

The Brecht-Weill version premiered in Germany in 1928 and was an instant hit. Within a year, it was being performed throughout Europe, from France to Russia. Between 1928 and 1933 it was translated into 18 languages and had over 10,000 performances.

In 1933, The Three Penny Opera was first translated into English and brought to New York by Gifford Cochran and Jerrold Krimsky. There have been at least eight English translations over the years. In the 1950s, Marc Blitzstein wrote an adaptation, cleaning up "Mack the Knife" and dropping the last two stanzas about arson and rape. At the revival in New York using the Blitzstein translation, Lotte Lenya, Kurt Weill's widow, made her comeback - she had a role in the original 1928 Berlin production.

Blitzstein's sanitized adaptation is the best known version of the song in the English-speaking world, and undoubtedly the one you've heard. Louis Armstrong popularized it worldwide in 1955 with an amazing jazz beat. Bobby Darin's 1958 recording was #1 on the Billboard charts for many weeks and won a Grammy as best song. It's been sung as ballad, jazz, and rock by many of the greats, including Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney.

In the 1970s, Joseph Papp commissioned Ralph Manheim and John Willett to do an adaptation/translation that would be "more faithful" to Brecht. So, if you were surprised at the notion of arson and rape, here's Willett's translation of the last two stanzas, omitted from the Blitzstein version:

And the ghastly fire in Soho, 
Seven children at a go- 
In the crowd stands Mack the knife, but 
He's not asked and doesn't know. 
And the child bride in her nightie, 
Whose assailant's still at large 
Violated in her slumbers- 
Mackie how much did you charge?

Having hit the heights with Louis Armstrong, it's only fair that we also recount the depths reached in the 1980s with the McDonald's TV jingle, "Mac Tonight." Selling Big Macs - how have the mighty fallen.

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