Ten Blocks on the Camino Real Accra, Ghana 2016 / US Tour 2017

Kilroy maintains his innocence in a grasping world, even after death.

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Opened May 5, 2016 @ The market square of La, Accra.
Toured to other locations in Ghana.

September 2017 toured America with outdoor performances in
St. Louis, Ann Arbor, Washington DC, at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival and in Worcester, Mass.


Ten Blocks on the Camino Real
was written by Tennessee Williams in 1947 with songs, dialogue, and dance to tell its story of how a boxer loses his “heart as big as the head of a baby.”  Beginning May 5, 2016, Abibigroma,  the National Theater of Ghana, staged the text by Tennessee Williams outdoors in public spaces.

Performances in Ghana retain the words of Williams’ text in English, yet are specific to Ghanian culture. The “player of the blue guitar” Williams describes is a drummer of blue drums.

Abibigromma, the National Theatre Company of Ghana, was established in 1983 at the University of Ghana, Legon. In 1991, the company became the resident troupe of the National Theatre. The focus of Abibigromma is to develop a rich blend of music, dance, mime, movement and dialogue with a strong social, spiritual and folkloric base.

The 2016 production of Ten Blocks is based on Kaplan’s 2012 production performed outdoors in Paysandu, Uruguay.  In Ghana, the role of Mr. Gutman, the feral hotel owner, was played by the American actor Greg McGoon, who created the teaser video. For the 2017 tour, Mawuli Semevo played Gutman.
As in Ghana, performances in America were outdoors, free to passersby.

Bertha in Paradise St. Louis 2017

Tennessee Williams was often asked  “After the onstage action of
“Streetcar Named Desire,” what would happen to Blanche?”  He had a
stock answer: she would start an affair with the asylum doctor, seduce
him into granting her an early release, and then set up a successful
hat shop in the French Quarter.

If you asked. “What  happens to the title character of Tennessee
Williams’ play “Hello fro Bertha” after she’s lying near death on her
sickbed?  Maybe Bertha doesn’t die, maybe she gets up from her pity
party, Feeling much better after all that crying,  she goes downstairs
to sing. Maybe the magic of the other isn’t the Paradise of Heaven,
but the Paradise she’s singing about: the Paradise of earthly
pleasure.

“Bertha in Paradise” is a saucy stew of bawdy songs that Anita Jackson (playing Bertha) greeted audiences with at “The Rooming-House Plays” for the 2016 TW Fest in St. Louis.  For the 2017 TW Fest in St. Louis, Anita returned as Bertha, crooning the blue-sy  “I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl” slipping into the cult classic  “If It Don’t Fit Don’t Force It,” and sharing the sophisticated passion of ColePorter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” With Charles Creath on the keyboards Joel PE King as a handy stagehand, and Donna Weinsting reprising the role of Goldie singing “Would Anybody Here Want to Try My Cabbage?”

The St. Louis Rooming-House Plays (2016) St. Louis, Missouri 2016

Four short plays by Tennessee Williams performed with live music in a St. Louis mansion. Photos below by Ride Hamilton.

As refuge from the battle of life, in his plays Tennessee Williams offered men and women rented beds, often in the rooms of a  boarding-house.  Four short plays set by Williams in rented rooms in St. Louis,  performed in the rooms of the historic Stockton House in St. Louis, under the direction of David Kaplan with Brian Hohlfeld staging “The Pink Bedroom.”

Audiences move from room to room to witness an unlucky goodtime girl retain her pride in “Hello from Bertha,” enjoy a veteran shoe salesman restored to glory in “The Last of My Solid Gold Watches,” cheer as a fearless mistress asserts her power in “The Pink Bedroom,” laugh as a touring chorus girl, in the play titled “In Our Profession,” tries to settle down in Saint Louis – but with the wrong man.  Curling through the halls, the sound of the St. Louis blues.

 

Part of the first annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, May 11-15, 2016.

 

The Day on Which a Man Dies (2016) Provincetown, MA and Port Elizabeth, South Africa 2016

Tennessee Williams’ late 1950s text about an artist coming to the end of his images.

South Africa’s 2016 National Arts Festival presents Marcel Meyer as The OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMan, Jennifer Steyn as The Woman, directed by David Kaplan in the Abrahamse-Meyer Production of THE DAY ON WHICH A MAN DIES  from Cape Town, South Africa. Photos taken in performance by Ride Hamilton at the 10th Annual Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown.

Tennessee’s letter to columnist Max Lerner during, and about, the
creation of SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH (1959),  around the same time as DAY ON WHICH:

 

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his fingers, his thumbs, and even, finally, a spray gun of primary colours. Act Two is written with that heavy brush, scalpel and spray-gun. Delicacy, allusiveness are thrown to the winds in writing, staging and performance.”

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Three Tall Women Hong Kong 2014

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三個高女人 Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning meditation on aging and identity at the Hong Kong Repertory Theater. Performed in Cantonese.

FROM THE PRESS RELEASE:

What do you think, sitting in the audience? Does a brash 26 year old know what life is? Does a self-possessed 52 year-old? Does a failing 92 year-old?

What do you feel, watching in the audience? Is life something to laugh about? To cry about? To cry about while laughing?

Is a son who runs away from home and comes back to be forgiven?
There are as many answers to these questions as there are people in the audience: sitting, watching, listening, thinking, feeling.

This Pulitzer award-winning modern classic, by renowned American playwright Edward Albee, lifts up three tall women – and their audience – on a journey of life and death. Following his distinctive The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, veteran director David Kaplan (大衞•卡柏倫) from the U.S. is invited to return to direct the current production.

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The photo below was taken in performance. The room rose and rotated: the floor became the wall, so that the audience  might consider the comatose body floating in consciousness.

 

To see more photographs from the production

The Hotel Plays (2014 /2015) New Orleans 2014, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATennessee Williams set many of his plays in hotel rooms and boarding-houses: way stations between life and death, dream and reality.

As part of the 29th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival March 25th  through 29th the rooms of the historic Hermann-Grima House Museum at 820 St. Louis Street  echoed with performances of plays by Tennessee Williams written and set in the French Quarter.

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Live music accompanied the 2015 New Orleans edition.

Kathryn Talbot at the Gallier House © Ride HamiltonA related installation, “Tennessee Williams Neighborhood – A French Quarter Perspective” at the Gallier House, 1132 Royal Street, provides background to the playwright’s life in the Quarter.

Photos by Ride Hamilton:  Desiree Ledet as Mrs. Wire in The Lady of Larkspur Lotion. Joel Derby as Bob Harper, George Sanchez as Mr. Charlie in The Last of My Solid Gold Watches.  Kathryn Talbot on the floor of the Gallier House. 

For more photographs

June Recital New York City 1979 to Jackson, Mississippi 2015

The words of Eudora Welty, the music of Beethoven
PO at the Flea

June Recital, Mr. Kaplan’s tribute to Mississippi author Eudora Welty was written with and has been performed by Brenda Currin since 1979. Critically acclaimed performances throughout the United States include extended runs in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. A compact disc recording was released in 2002 with live concert performances in 2003 throughout the state of Mississippi and at the International Eudora Welty Colloquium in Rennes, France.  The work adapts Welty’s short story “Why I Live at the P.O.” along with the novel “Losing Battles” and five other stories and names from Welty’s collected works set to Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, played live.

May 14. 2015, a once in a lifetime performance with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra  was performed by Brenda Currin and pianist Phillip Fortenberry in the Art Garden of the Mississippi Museum of Art.

A Fire Was in My Head is another Kaplan adaptation of Welty’s fiction for Brenda Currin and piano virtuoso Phil Fortenberry.

Tennessee Williams: Words and Music New Orleans, Provincetown, Columbus MS 2012, 2013

A compact disc recording of Alison Fraser’s sizzling performance.

In a play written by Tennessee Williams, music is the sound of paradise drifting in from around the corner, across the alley, from the room next door, the promise of love and happiness just out of reach, leading us on to believe in the  possibility of love and harmony somewhere, if not where we are, listening in circumstances far removed from love or happiness.

Alison Fraser begins her extraordinary voyage to paradise through Tennessee Williams: Words and Music led on by  extraordinary New Orleans musicians, the Gentlemen Callers, under the baton — alongside the hot piano chords — of orchestrator Allison Leyton-Brown (photograph below by Ride Hamilton)

 

“If I Didn’t Care” and the dozen tunes that follow were chosen by Tennessee Williams to be sung in his plays — Streetcar among others — as counterpoint to his dialogue. 2012 & 2013 live performances in New Orleans, Provincetown, and Columbus MS where Tennessee Williams was born.

Something lovely and mysterious, haunting one’s spirit just as Williams’ characters clutch at the solace that, like his distant melodies, so often eludes them.
New Orleans Times Picayune

Characters wanting to believe in a pretty world and their own reinvented pasts or projected futures dovetails nicely with songs that paint idealized portraits of romantic devotion and smooth-paved roads of life. Sweet, simple songs feel ironic or sadly empty, in danger of imploding along with dreams. The blues seem a deeper blue, although they’re sung lightly (there’s that irony again—and good ol’ subtext). With context and the uniquely heartbreaking Fraser voice, and these special atmosphere-drenched arrangements by pianist Allison Leyton-Brown for a great little band, this is a fascinating ride.
Talkin Broadway.com

http://www.talkinbroadway.com/sound/april1014.html

For further information and press:

http://www.twwordsandmusic.com/

 

 

The Maids Ulan Baator, Mongolia 1995

1995

Audiences laughed at the maids’ attempts to murder their mistress.

In the photograph above the maids wait for their over-friendly mistress to drink a poisoned cup of tea. “It’s such a pleasure making people happy,” Madame croons.  The cruel humor of the play appealed to Mongolians. Proud infamy is something the descendants of Chinggis Khan understand. Women played all three roles.

Read more.
Mongolia was a cultural colony of Russia — an Asian Cuba. The Russians taught Western drama and the Mongolians continue to enjoy it now that the Russians are gone. In 1995 there were eleven theaters in the capital city, Ulaan Baator, when The Maids, translated into Mongolian from a Russian version of Jean Genet’s French, was performed at the Ulan Baator Youth Theater.

Sartre’s misleading essay in the Grove Press edition of the play insists men perform the play. Genet never said men should play the maids. Besides, men playing women in Mongolia is old hat. Genet’s stage direction describes the maids as older than Madame. Imitating Madame is their fantasy, an illusion that reveals what they are not. An Asian woman wearing a blonde wig had the same resonance in Ulaan Baator.

The opening night audience was the usual mixture of a Mongolian theater crowd: grannies in lurid combinations of turquoise silk robes and tangerine sashes, policemen in black leather jackets and jackboots like storm troopers, Buddhist monks in saffron robes, businessmen in stylish suits, stylish ladies in cashmere sweater dresses , children in Gap clothes, from the local Ulaan Baator Gap Store. They laughed a lot.

The connections between Genet’s ideas and Mongolian culture are many. As always, the play revealed more than itself. At technical rehearsals the boys operating the lights imitated the opening scene: Sartre would have been pleased.

Some Mongolian images below. On the right: True bliss is like eating the heart of your enemy. To the left, a portrait of Ekh Dagin Dondogulam, who ran Mongolia from about 1911 to her death in 1923. Her sumptuous clothes and those of her supposedly celibate husband are exhibits in a museum these days. Note the clock.