Thursday, September 30, 2010

Decision Made

Over the last 48 hours, Andrew’s parents and Andrew and I have decided what to do over Columbus Day Weekend: we shall go to New York.

After abandoning Houston, we examined Cincinnati, Detroit and Pittsburgh as possible destinations. We found little to do in each of those cities over the holiday weekend other than visit art museums (which would be perfectly fine, except museums in all three cities have very constricted open hours, even on Sundays).

We investigated New York’s listings, found enough events to our liking to warrant a visit, and scheduled a trip.

New York City Ballet may have been the determining factor in our decision. NYCB will be offering two programs of interest to us that weekend, one program to include “Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet” and the other to include “Chaconne”. I loved “Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet” when Andrew and I attended a performance of the work at NYCB in January of last year, and Andrew tells me that I will love “Chaconne”, too.

Andrew’s mother loves City Ballet, and Andrew’s father loves Balanchine (but only Balanchine), so a trip to New York will be welcome for everyone.

We were able to target three plays we want to see: a revival of George Bernard Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”; a revival of Arthur Kopit’s “Wings”; and a revival of Michael Frayn’s early and seldom-performed “Alphabetical Order”.

All that, and a museum visit or two, should be enough to keep us occupied over the long weekend.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Matt Gatens As Chita Rivera!

Eliciting great excitement on both coasts, Variety and Broadway World reported this afternoon that University Of Iowa men’s basketball player Matt Gatens has had a one-woman show in development for the last two years. The show, “Chita”, will be a tribute to Chita Rivera, the 77-year-old singer and dancer—and former Latin bombshell—who first graced the Broadway stage in 1952’s “Call Me Madam”. Rivera is also warmly remembered for her Great White Way appearances in “Can-Can”, “Sweet Charity” and “Kiss Me, Kate”, among many other hits.

Director and choreographer Susan Stroman, who got her first big break in the 1987 revival of “Flora, The Red Menace” and who is best-known for her work directing and choreographing “The Producers”, has quietly been working behind the scenes with Gatens on the project for more than two years, devoting time to “Chita” whenever she has had a few moments to spare from other projects. Stroman cited her previous experience in staging successful one-woman shows—Stroman was the guiding force behind 1992’s “Liza Stepping Out At Radio City Music Hall”—as the reason why she in particular was the ideal figure to guide the “Chita” project to fruition.

Broadway insiders have known, for months, that the show was in development. Outsiders, too, have suspected that something was afoot, owing to Gatens’s frequent practice of incorporating Broadway choreography into his work on the basketball court.

Gatens’s recent appearance as a floozy chorine/cowgirl in “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas”, televised live nationwide from Indianapolis on March 11, more or less let the cat out of the bag that Gatens was moving into musical theater. However, it was not until this morning’s announcement from the stage of the Lyceum Theatre, where Stroman was adding finishing touches to Kander and Ebb’s “The Scottsboro Boys”, scheduled to open on October 31, that theatergoers officially learned that “Chita” was in current production.

Theater and dates have not been announced, but it is widely expected that “Chita” will move into the Belasco early next year once “Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown” concludes its current run.

Stroman disclosed that a two-year gestation period had been necessary in order to allow Gatens to master the show’s choreography.

“Close observers have noticed, for the last two years, that Matt has been incorporating more and more Chita Rivera moves and routines into his on-court play”, Stroman told Variety.

“Little by little, he is getting better—and I can now see genuine glimpses of the REAL Chita Rivera in Matt’s work”, Stroman revealed. “He’s a real joy to work with, eager to nail every facet of Chita Rivera’s huge talent and larger-than-life personality. Matt was born to play Chita.”

“Matt still has not mastered all the moves”, Stroman continued, “but he has made enough progress that soon we will be ready to go into full-time rehearsal.”

Jujamycn and The Nederlander Organization will jointly serve as producers for “Chita”. DARR Publicity—known for its work on an earlier one-woman show, “Behind The Façade Of Jackie O”—will handle public relations duties for the production. All jewels worn by Gatens in "Chita" will be courtesy of Harry Winston.

Gatens’s understudy has not been announced (although Josh Oglesby was rumored to be under consideration until the producers learned about his 2009 theft of alcohol from a Cedar Rapids Walgreen's outlet).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ditherers All

Our prospective trip to Houston over Columbus Day Weekend is off.

While Andrew and I were in Minnesota over Labor Day Weekend, Andrew’s parents and Andrew and I had talked about traveling to Houston that particular weekend in order to see the two German Impressionism exhibitions at Houston’s Museum Of Fine Arts. We had planned to make a decision whether to travel to Houston in the two weeks following Labor Day.

We were delayed in making a decision—apparently, we are ditherers—and a decision was not reached until tonight.

Our decision is not to go to Houston.

Other than visiting the Houston Museum Of Fine Arts, we could find nothing in Houston that interested us that weekend—and we decided that it was not worth traveling to Houston from Boston and Minneapolis solely to visit an art museum, no matter how much we wanted to see the German Impressionism exhibitions.

From what we have been able to ascertain, the only review of the German Impressionism exhibitions in Houston has been the review that appeared in The Houston Chronicle. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have not covered the exhibitions, a startling oversight, and neither have any other American newspapers (even the newspapers in Austin and Dallas failed to send their art writers to Houston to write about this historic event).

When the German Impressionism exhibitions now on display in Houston were on view in Cologne earlier this year, virtually every newspaper in Europe covered the exhibitions in detail. The art press in the United States, however, is virtually ignoring the event—and Andrew insists that this is because American art writers are simply ignorant about German art.

It is possible that we may yet try to find a different weekend to make a quick trip down to Houston in order to attend the exhibitions, but that eventuality is, admittedly, very unlikely.

Unlike last year, there will be no classes on Columbus Day this year at law school, and Andrew and I would like to take advantage of the situation and go somewhere that weekend.

We are in the process—right this very minute—of looking at things to do and see that particular weekend in Cincinnati, Detroit and Pittsburgh. We chose those three cities because they are roughly midway between Boston and Minneapolis, and should have good flight connections for Andrew’s parents and for Andrew and me.

We no longer have the luxury of dithering, and must make a decision in the next 24 or 48 hours.

Andrew’s parents and Andrew and I are not the only ditherers on the planet.

There are some persons down in Oklahoma and Texas who need to decide—and decide without too much additional delay—whether this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations will be held in Oklahoma or Dallas.

Persons in Boston and Nashville need to book flights—and airlines, for some reason, are somewhat persnickety about allowing travelers to book flights when those very same travelers do not know their final destinations.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

All Quiet On The Western Front

Stuttgart-born Hans Hildenbrand was one of 19 photographers sent by Kaiser Wilhelm to photograph The Western Front, but Hildenbrand was the only such photographer granted color film, exorbitantly expensive at the time.

This 1915 color photograph from German front lines shows the degree of destruction in The Vosge Mountains of Eastern France, where continuous shelling wiped out entire forests.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Roaring Lion

"Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can. The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world. In that fleeting interval of opportunity, the photographer must act or lose his prize."

Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002)


Karsh’s famous portrait of Winston Churchill—said to be the most-reproduced photograph in history—was taken in 1941 on commission from LIFE magazine. It was soon to appear on the cover of LIFE, and instantly made the photographer’s name. The photograph was also to become Churchill’s personal favorite likeness of himself.

The photograph was taken on December 30, 1941, in The Speaker’s Chambers of The House Of Commons in Ottawa, where Churchill had just completed an address to The Canadian Parliament.

MacKenzie King, then Prime Minister of Canada, had arranged for the portrait session—without informing Churchill.

Upon being confronted with the photographer, Churchill growled, “Why was I not told of this?” and lighted a cigar.

King pleaded with Churchill to allow himself to be photographed by the young Canadian photographer, and Churchill relented, gruffly informing Karsh that he would grant him “two minutes”.

A grateful Karsh requested Churchill to remove the cigar, and Churchill refused—at which point Karsh approached Churchill, snatched the cigar from his lips, walked back to his camera and snapped the picture. The glowering image of Churchill was the result—and it soon came to represent the great wartime leader for the duration of the war, defiant and unconquerable. Karsh himself titled his photograph of the scowling, belligerent Churchill, “The Roaring Lion”.

Less well-known is the second photograph of Churchill that Karsh snapped that day. The second photograph, taken thirty seconds after the first, shows a smiling Churchill—and it was the second photograph, and not the first, that became Karsh’s personal favorite among the thousands of portraits he created during more than seven decades of work.