Archive for the Indie Theatre Category
Contemporary Variety, Indie Theatre, PLUGS, Valentine's Day with tags Ten Foot Rat Cabaret, Under St. Marks on February 3, 2016 by travsd
Broadway, Hollywood (History), Indie Theatre, Movies, OBITS with tags actor, Dan Von Bargen, Daniel Von Bargen, death, obituary on November 17, 2015 by travsd
Very saddened just now to Google somebody I admired only to learn that he died eight months ago. Character actor Dan Von Bargen passed away back in March. He was one of several top flight actors (like Richard Jenkins, George Martin, Peter Gerety and others) I had the privilege of watching and learning from during my days at Trinity Rep Conservatory (and in my earlier years as a high school student being bussed to productions at Trinity Rep). Von Bargen was someone whose acting EVERYBODY admired. I’ll never forget a moment in one play (I wish to hell I could remember which one) where he was a businessman — he developed this great business of rolling a scotch glass back and forth in the palms of his hands for the character that has always stuck with me. I can see it in my head right now. I’ve been knocking the theatre a lot lately but some moments, often seemingly unimportant ones, can stick with you like that, like visual poetry. And believe you me I thought I was cock of the walk when Von Bargen was effusive in his praise of my performance as “Shooter” in Sam Shepard’s Action, and then came to see it a second time. (Although that may well have been on behalf of the highly fetching 22-year old female director who had a way of making every man within half a mile walk into walls and off of balconies).
He was REALLY castable, with a somewhat piggy face and a pushed in nose, combined with a breathy, insuating voice and extremely intelligent, almost malevolent, eyes that made him perfect for pugnacious military men and cops, businessmen, etc. He knew this about himself, and he went with it. You can’t play your instrument without knowing all the stops and he knew ’em. (Trinity’s Artistic Director Adrian Hall seemed to favor such actors. As I recall the company was cast ENTIRELY with unpretty but highly excellent character actors). Anyway—
A big break for Von Bargen happened when he played a Hawkish general in the original production of Larry Gelbart’s Mastergate at nearby A.R.T. and then it moved to Broadway. While he’d had film and tv roles before, they began to get more prominent. Bit parts in things like Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Shadows and Fog (1991) then turned into bigger things like major roles in Basic Instinct (1992), Crimson Tide (1995), Broken Arrow (1996) and a nice cameo in O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000). He also had recurring television roles like Mr. Kruger on Seinfeld and Commandant Spangler in Malcolm in the Middle.
What I did not know is that in recent years he had had health problems. Diabetes had resulted in the amputation of a leg and the projected amputation of toes on the remaining foot. He attempted suicide in 2012 (a fact I had not heard). And in March he passed away, I’m assuming of his illness.
I’m sad he’s gone, but all I can say is, there’s lot of film of him. You should check out his work. Even though he played a lot of mean characters, he was really a very nice guy.
BROOKLYN, Coney Island, Indie Theatre, PLUGS with tags Coney Island USA, Dick Zigun, Funhouse Philosophers, Ride Inspector's Nightmare on October 24, 2015 by travsd
Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE with tags Bonfire of the Vanities, Michael Bergmann, opera, Stefania de Kennessey, Tom Wolfe on October 13, 2015 by travsd
We were excited to attend the premiere performance of friend Stefania de Kennesey’s new opera the other night, her long awaited adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. The first person we saw when we walked in the door was Mr. Wolfe himself (he’s easy to spot in that immaculate white suit). I’d love to have told him how much The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and the novel in question all meant to be…but he was sitting towards the front…and I was sitting in the very back — know what I mean?
Bonfire is the quintessential ’80s literary property and to put it mildly it didn’t get justice from Hollywood, so we had high hopes for the stage adaptation. I happen to love Stefania’s music as well as her philosophy of art, which makes her an excellent match for Wolfe. They both have an aesthetic of populism and accessibility, a notion of the artist as a kind of public servant (as opposed to an obscurantist or elitist of some sort). As predicted, I loved her music for the new opera, and found it surprisingly pop sounding, even more than I would have anticipated. I also enjoyed the brisk, lively staging of her collaborator Michael Bergmann as well as his funny, even earthy lyrics. The three hours playing time (short for an opera) flew by.
An attempt has been made to update the story to 2015. I’m not sure if the transplantation has been completely successful, or if such a thing is even possible. So much has changed in (almost) 30 years, and we’re at an especially sensitive juncture at present on the issue of race, which is so central to this satire. But much applause to de Kennessey and Bergmann for grappling with the myriad difficult ideas the book contains, and converting it into wonderful new art. I loved the CRAFT of the two principal artists and would love to see an entire season of operas like this; many, many seasons, in fact. Learn more about the Bonfire opera here: http://www.bonfiretheopera.com/
Broadway, Hollywood (History), Horror (Mostly Gothic), Indie Theatre, Melodrama and Master Thespians, Movies, Silent Film, The Hall of Hams, Women with tags actress, Broadway, Leah, Lizzie Borden, movie, Nance O'Neil, stage on October 8, 2015 by travsd
Today is the birthday of Nance O’Neil (Gertrude Lamson, 1874-1965).
O’Neil was a major stage and screen star of her day, called “the American Bernhardt“, managed by McKee Rankin, she toured Australia, the British Isles and the whole of continental America, in addition to Broadway, playing the leads in such plays as Camille, Hedda Gabler, Trily, Judith of Bethuliah, and her breakthrough role in Leah, The Foraken. She also appeared in about three dozen movies from 1913 through 1932, notable ones being Floradora Girl (1930) with Marion Davies, and Edna Ferber’s Cimarron (1931).
But, because we are terrible, we find her most interesting because she was a close, personal friend of Lizzie Borden. I first learned about this from David Foley’s play Nance O’Neill, which I caught at the Access Theatre in 2010. O’Neill and Borden met at a party in Boston in 1904. This was 12 years after the Fall River murders. Both women had a certain notoriety, so there was something in common there. They became besties, and some suspect, more.
To find out about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, released by Bear Manor Media.