Let’s agree on one thing: Deaf West’s excellent Broadway revival of “Spring Awakening” is a fine production currently showing at the Brooks Atkinson theatre in a limited run. The sets and lights are magnificent. The staging is right. The actors are completely superb. The effort is noble, but perhaps, imperfect in the execution of its essence, and it is in that vacuum of those slight flaws in amber that this review reflects — to make you think and wonder in preservation and ponder beyond the simple joy of watching a few Deaf actors on a live Broadway stage.
There’s an old, weary, chestnut in the theatre — that deserves to be burned alive, eaten whole, pooped out and buried in the deep blue sea and then never spoken of again — that goes a little something like this, when directors say to Playwrights: “Never Speak to the Actors!”
Brander Matthews was one of the purist theatrical geniuses we’ve had in, and around, the intellectual American Stage. Brander rightly believed a play only existed in performance and that the performance and the text must be evaluated separately. He was also one of the first professors at an American University — Columbia University in the City of New York starting in 1892 — to promote, and foster, the idea that Dramatic Literature was just as important a field of study as any historic cave wall painting or artistic sculpture or aesthetic structure. He believed in the power of the Playwright to form the world.
The great international stage and screen director and designer, Liviu Ciulei, and the divine stage and screen actor Marlon Brando both share something disturbing as it is true: They both believed in bringing coiled drama into an explosion on the live stage. If the purpose of the Dramatic Arts is irrevocable change, they reasoned, then coiled detritus is the user agent that propels forward the story to the tragic, if not always cathartic, end.
I was fortunate to purchase authentic photographs of both Liviu and Marlon and I appreciate this moment of sharing them with you. Here’s the caption for Liviu’s photo:
International director Liviu Ciulei has been named Artistic Director of The Guthrie Theatre beginning Sept 1. 1980. The 57-year-old former head of Rumania’s leading repertory theatre, the Lucia Sturdza Bulandra Theatre, has earned an international reputation as a stage and screen director, actor, designer, and architect. His directing and design credits include productions throughout Europe, Great Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States.
There once was a rather famous, if old timey, theatrical agent in New York City who had one hard and steadfast rule in his office: No drawers allowed! This no-drawer mandate mainly had to do with desks, but he also included boxes, trash cans and file cabinets in his rage. The rule was incredibly raw, because in those days, The City, and theatrical agencies, ran on paper. There was no digitization. No cloud or computer storage. You Xeroxed and your Faxed and you managed the wood pulp blizzard as best you could.
Great teacher, friend, mentor and theatre historian, Dr. Howard Stein, shared a story with his Columbia University in the City of New York MFA Playwriting students at the Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theatre studies. The topic was eminent actor Paul Newman who was visiting the Yale School of Drama at Howard’s request and he was speaking to the theatre students in a question and answer format. I will share that story with you now.