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Showing posts from November, 2019

World Music Institute: Discover the Pipa

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photo: WMI
The pipa (pee-pah) is an ancient Chinese instrument similar to a lute, with four strings, played almost vertically. Pear-shaped, it has four tuning pegs and about 30 frets, and modern ones have a small sound hole under the bridge. Its sound is haunting, like the sound of nature.
Its origins are debated, but it evolved as a combination of many instruments, the earliest a hand mallet drum to which animal gut strings were added. We first hear of it in documents of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 to 220 AD). Its master, Ruan Xian, lived in the fifth century. It was most important in the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907) and repopularized in the Middle Ages, during the Ming Dynasty. 
And it’s still played today - most notably in the hands of Zhou Yi, who’s been winning awards since childhood for her virtuosity. On November 20 she gave a marvelous concert at The China Institute in New York, Discover the Pipa, produced by The World Music Institute.
Her first piece was similar to a round - the las…

Druid Shakespeare: Richard III

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photo by Richard Termine
Richard III has never been my favorite Shakespeare, but the current production in Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, produced by Druid, a theater from Ireland, has shown me how great this unwieldy play can be. Druid Shakespeare: Richard III is brilliant, bordering on expressionism, directed meticulously by Druid’s Artistic Director, Garry Hynes. 
Queen Margaret skulks across stage before Richard enters, looking like a ghost in diaphanous gauze, in the play’s most surreal moment. Only then Richard enters from the floor with the famous soliloquy. This isn’t the text-based delivery of the 19th-century nor the rushed gone-before-you-know-it delivery that’s currently the rage in some circles. It’s metered, controlled verse supported by character and emotion. This Richard is bragging, not threatening, daring or confiding, and we become complicit in his crimes.
And that complicity remains throughout the play. Richard is a wise guy, his lines, with some exceptions, m…

The Catastrophe Club

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photo by Jeremy Varne
The future of the theater lies largely in immersive theater. Sea Dog Theater (along with Janelle Garcia Domig and Christopher Domig) has just produced a very interesting immersive production called The Catastrophe Club. It’s written by David Burnam and directed by Shaun Fauntleroy - in both cases quite well - and produced at a location undisclosed until the day before the individual audience member sees it. You get an email telling you where to report. Very intriguing…
The small audience nearly surrounds the small main playing area. The lighting is suitably harsh. The time is 2520. We’re welcomed by our hostess, Ruth: “Hello, criminal,” she says. Peaceful assembly, it seems, is outlawed in 2520: “The last time there was an infraction for public congregation was 25 years ago. It was a wedding.”
That’s the outer frame of the play: we’ve assembled here to watch in the inner frame: four simulated people from the year 2019. Simulated, but based on “real” people - climate…