Archive for the Indie Theatre Category

I’ll Say She Is — Getting Great Notices!

Posted in Comedy, Comedy Teams, Indie Theatre, Marx Brothers, ME, My Shows, PLUGS with tags , , , , , , on June 20, 2016 by travsd



A little more than midway through our announced run of  I’ll Say She Is, our revival of the lost 1924 Marx Brothers Broadway musical, notices have begun to pile up and it’s a most exciting general vote of approval!

Fresh off the presses is Neil Genzlinger’s rave in the New York Times just out today! Read it here. 

Then there is the Adam Gopnick essay in The New Yorker which hit a few weeks back. I’d long known Gopnick to be an aficionado of classic comedy — we spent a good deal of time together when he wrote this piece about new burlesque in which I was featured back in 2002. The I’ll Say She Is piece is here.

Then there were the two major preview features, one in the Wall Street Journal and one in Jewish Week.

And there’s a bunch more! See the full round-up here. 

Also, New Yorkers, be sure to watch On Stage on NY-1 this Wednesday. A little birdie told me David Cote’s review will air then (and I believe online afterwards as they normally do). Can’t wait!

Tickets are nearly sold out for the remainder of the run, but some remain: to get them go here. 

O’Neill (Unexpected) at the Metropolitan

Posted in Broadway, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Indie Theatre, Irish, Melodrama and Master Thespians, Playwrights, PLUGS with tags , , , , , , on June 9, 2016 by travsd


As I blogged here, I am an enormous fan of the playwright Eugene O’Neill.  If I had to draw up a short list of a half dozen favorite playwrights, he would be on it, and near the top. He’s got his faults, but he’s got many more virtues. Unlike most people, I am more excited by his early work than his later stuff. The usual rusty old canard is that The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey Into Night are his great works, and everything else is so much embarrassment. Well, I have read everything — and by that I mean everything published — by O’Neill (and I’m here to tell you it’s a lot), and I am frankly much more excited by his Expressionistic work of the 1920s, and his very early experiments in naturalism…things like the Sea Plays, Anna Christie and the very obscure stuff that came before.

To my great joy Alex Roe is presenting a couple of those early plays at Metropolitan Playhouse even as we speak. I had the privilege of sitting in on a rehearsal the other day and I learned tons just by being in the room. I think Roe is one of the smartest theatre directors in Indie Theatre and he does work I place great stock in. The Metropolitan “matters” to me more than almost any other company I can name. Read more about the the O’Neill gems they have on the boards now in my feature in Chelsea Now here. 

On the First Italian American

Posted in BROOKLYN, Clown, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Indie Theatre, Italian, ME, My Family History with tags , , , , , , , on June 2, 2016 by travsd


Today in NYC it’s Pietro Cesare Alberti Day!

On this day in 1635, the gentleman in question arrived in what was then New Netherland and became the first Italian American. You will find the name spelled a zillion different ways, with the Christian names often Anglicized to “Peter Ceasar” and the last name variously rendered as “Albertus”, “Alberto”, and “Alberti. He made his home in Brooklyn (I took the picture of the plaque above near Cadman Plaza). Alberti (1608-1655) was from the Protestant son of a famous Venetian banking family. An Italian Protestant??? That was as unusual then as it is now, and far more dangerous, which was probably why he boogied over to the relatively liberal Dutch American colony. Unfortunately he and his wife were killed y Indians in 1655. Fuhgettaboutit! (Sorry). At any rate, Alberti’s grand-daughter Elizabeth married Dr. John Stewart, progenitor of thousands of contemporary Stewarts, including me.

Anyway, you can’t imagine how ecstatic I was to discover him among my (10th) great grandfathers. To be from contemporary Rhode Island, even one drop of Italian blood bestows a magical amount of self-validation. (See my post on my immigration mania from yesterday). But that’s true of everybody isn’t it? Italy produced the most beautiful woman (Sophia Loren), the most brilliant all-around human (Leonard Da Vinci), the greatest artist (Michaelangelo). All roads lead to Rome! Shakespeare was enthralled with the Italian culture of his times, they influences his plays immensely. (We would particularly like to point out in this context, The Merchant of Venice, written three years before Alberti was born).

And furthermore, to have roots in Venice, above all! Anyone who’s read my writing in any depth knows why this is so important to me. Carnevale! Commedia dell’arte! Masques (and masks)! Banks and Mountebanks!

Va bene! Va bene! Va bene! Viva Italia!

Am I losin’ it? Okay, I’m losin’ it.


Three Black Panther Histories

Posted in African American Interest, CULTURE & POLITICS, Indie Theatre, Movies, Movies (Contemporary), Television, Women with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2016 by travsd


While it existed (1966-1982), there was no more controversial political organization than the Black Panther Party. The word “controversial” is often misused, but in this case it applies. There is much positive and negative to say about the highly publicized black power organization, and prominent Americans have argued both sides at the top of their lungs.

We’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of its inception (October 15) and I guess that’s why they’re so much in the air all of the sudden. That, and the fact that they are sadly relevant, with a series of tragic deaths of black citizens at the hands of police over the past few years, widely reported and disseminated through social media. The Panthers were initially organized to address just this problem. It billed itself as a “self-defense” organization.

They were criticized in their time for their violence and other criminal behavior, but their image has been rehabilitated over the decades by scholars and the hip hop community. Beyonce’s performance at this year’s Superbowl Halftime Show (for which she was roundly criticized) was a bellwether of the times. Those who are accustomed to dismissing the radicalism of the Panthers out of hand might wish to consider seeking a more three dimensional portrait than the one they likely carry around in their heads. In the past few months, the Mad Marchioness and I have seen three documentary projects about the Panthers (two films, one play) and I recommend them all.


The Black Power Mix Tape: 1967-1975 (2011)

There are ways in which you never really learn about your country until you hear what the foreign press has to say. I suppose this will make some people go berzerk, but so be it. To my mind, the only true American patriotism is always conditional. The fealty here ought to be to the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, human rights for all, otherwise the United States is just a gang of hooligans like most other nations. By foreign press, I of course mean a trusted FREE foreign press. I don’t give a crap what the Russian and North Korean puppets are saying about us. But the European press (for example), we really ought to listen to that. Did I say unconditionally give it automatic credibility? No, I said LISTEN to it. The Right often seems to have the attitude that by merely listening to someone else’s point of view, you’re automatically a vassal in their thrall. A free press means you can get at the truth by hearing from many sources and then weighing them all to arrive at a portrait of reality in your own mind, if you have one. THUS (long preamble) this terrific documentary, made by Swedish television journalists was a true eye opener. American press coverage of the Black Panthers in the ’60s and ’70s was heavily bowdlerized, skewed away from the Panthers’ message and towards those of law enforcement authorities. The Swedish news teams captured interviews and other footage and an objective point of view you simply have not seen anywhere else. I don’t think its too much to say that watching this film will make you a different person.


The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016)

This is the PBS documentary that came out back in February, also unexpectedly terrific. Unlike the Swedish doc, which only covers up to 1975, this one catches the entire rise and fall of the group. Also this one is more narrowly focused on the Panthers, whereas Black Power Mixtape is more broadbased, covering other groups and individuals in the Civil Rights Movement, which provides handy context. Do I approve of bringing guns into the California state house? No! Am I a fan of Marxism? No! But I am definitely a fan of creating a world in which the police are not allowed to harass citizens with impunity, or at least one in which they think twice before they do so (since thinking twice may mean the difference between a live citizen and a dead one). Not just well worth a watch: it’s important that you do so. More here. 


Black Panther Women

Written and directed by Jacquelyn Wade, this interesting theatre piece is now playing at the 13th Street Rep (we gave it a shout out in our article on the company, in this week’s Villager). Some of the most positive things the Black Panthers did were done by their female members, the school breakfast program being the most famous. At the same time, one of the more negative aspects was a culture of misogyny and violence to, and disrespect of, women. Wade’s well rounded and moving piece captures the irony of that, a progressive organization that was pro-black, but not terribly pro-feminist in any practical sense of the word. If you’re in New York, you should check it out. Info and tix are at


“I’ll Say She Is” in WSJ & Jewish Week: Opens Tomorrow!

Posted in Comedy Teams, Indie Theatre, Marx Brothers, ME, My Shows, PLUGS with tags , , on May 27, 2016 by travsd


Preview performances for I’ll Say She Is, our revival of the lost 1924 Marx Brothers Broadway musical begin tomorrow! If you didn’t get your ticket yet, the more fool you! But there’s still a chance, just go here. 

The hoopla has already begun with two major preview features, one in the Wall Street Journal and one in Jewish Week.  I’m very excited that the production got this coverage; much less thrilled with my own representation in the pieces. Despite my daily protestations to the contrary, people will persist in identifying me as a “vaudeville historian.” Look at the masthead of this blog, created three years AFTER No Applause was written. Is “historian” among that long list of job titles? It lists everything BUT that. For me, personally, it’s getting dire, and know that I will be taking major steps over the next several months to disabuse people once and for all that I want anything to do with such a role. I have a handful of “Stars of Vaudeville” posts to get out (I do them to publicize my book; for no other reason), and then, my dears, I am stepping the fuck away from that role I never wanted, never asked for, and detest.

Above this, the Jewish Week guy used only my most irrelevant remarks, misrepresented what I said, and then shoe-horned them into some pre-existing point he wanted to make. But I guess the press have always been monsters, and I’m sure there are plenty of you that would include me under that umbrella. At any rate, feel free skip over the parts that have to with me in both pieces. They are rubbish. But I’ll Say She Is is great! Tickets and way more info are here. 

30 % Off Our Books!

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, Broadway, Comedians, Comedy, Comedy Teams, Hollywood (History), Indie Theatre, Marx Brothers, ME, Memorial Day, PLUGS, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , on May 27, 2016 by travsd


This just in — and don’t be caught snoozin’! Bear Manor Media has announced a Memorial Day Sale, staring tomorrow May 28, 2016 and running through the end of the month. 30% of all paperback titles! This can’t be beat! Just go to their website ( starting tomorrow and use the discount code MDthirty. It’s just that simple!

Now, whenever I go through their catalog, I find I want to own every single book they carry. (e.g.., a new one about Ed Wynn by Garry Berman caught my eye this morning. ). But here’s three in particular I’d like to flog for obvious reasons:

chain of fools cvr front only-500x500

Yes, I know I hustle my book about silent comedy Chain of Fools every day, but here’s your chance to get it at a whopping discount! Order it here. 


Gimme a Thrill, Noah Diamond’s excellent new book about the Odyssey of realizing his dream of getting I’ll Say She Is on the boards. I’m in it, too! Buy it here. 

This is the book that convinced me Bear Manor was A-OK. Steve Stoliar’s amazing testimony about Groucho Marx‘s final days, written by a guy who had front row seats at the car wreck. It’s currently being made into a movie directed by Rob Zombie! To get your copy of Raised Eyebrows, go here.

For these three and much more go to Bear Manor Media, but wait until tomorrow (if you can, that is) because that is when the sale starts, you see.

Magic Brian’s Deserted Island Adventure!

Posted in Comedy, Contemporary Variety, Indie Theatre, Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, PLUGS with tags , , , on May 20, 2016 by travsd



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