Auntie Mame Penza, Russia 1995

Life’s banquet, in its Russian premiere.

Mame Nora Young PatrickIn the Russian/English dictionary the English word “sophisticated” is defined in Russian as “perverted.” Let that stand for the difficulties of translating Auntie Mame into Russian, done admirably by Lyuba Filimonovna of Samara.

What did the audience make of it?

Oh, they admired Mame, audibly cooed over her clothes and enjoyed her indestructibility. They laughed at the stuck-up debutante and at the overly formal banker.

It was the dowdy stenographer, Gooch, who they loved, Gooch who was the audience’s bridge, their representative to this loud fast very American world. She too, like them, climbing doubtfully up the Art Deco stairs.






It’s small, but Penza appears twice in Russian theatre history. It’s the birth place of the great director Meyerhold. There’s a Meyerhold Museum in town. The town boasts the second oldest theater company in Russia, more than 200 years old. The first actors were serfs.

Man = Man East Harlem 1989


Mr. Bertolt Brecht, 
He says that you can

Take apart a man
And make another man.
How could you do that?
How could that be?
To take another man
And turn him into me?
Can a man be planned
like a brand new car?
Stand him on his head,
Take away his heart?
A re-arranger from
Friend to stranger:
To take a peaceful man
And make him
Full of danger?

Brecht’s story in rap lyrics and improvised scenes performed on the roof of The Boy’s Club of America
at East 111th St and 1st Avenue, NYC

Suddenly Last Summer Samara, Russia 1993

The Russian language premiere of Tennessee Williams’ play about the suppression of truth.

Samara, 550 miles southeast of Moscow, with a population of three million, was chosen by translator Vitaly Vulf because of its great leading lady, Vera Alexandrovna Yeshova. She is famous for portraits of evil queens. Vulf‘s advice: “Yeshova will play the domineering mother very sexually. You must begin every rehearsal telling her how beautiful she is that day.”

It was easy to do. Yeshova was beautiful every day. The photograph right captures her bemusement when asked “But if I disagreed with you?”

Read more.
The first question at the first press conference:

“Do you think a Russian public will understand the controversial, nature of the text?”

“Do you mean the controversial nature of homosexuality?”

“Yes,” said the reporter all too eagerly. “Do you think our audience will understand that?”

The reply: “Well, in this play Tennessee Williams uses homosexuality as a metaphor for a truth everybody knows, but no one will admit to knowing. I think a Soviet audience will understand that.”

The set was designed as an exotic garden with shifting shadows of rotting leaves and blasted flowers. Crushed stones on the floor crackled when the actors walked across. The production was well-received. Critics came from Moscow. TASS shot a documentary. 

An understanding of the themes and how to stage Tennessee Williams we have never seen on our stage before … like the eruption of Vesuvius
Samara Kultura

The Cherry Orchard Los Angeles 1987

Anita Dangler was delicious playing Renevskaya as a tottering confection, a hot house orchid from Paris wilting in the Russian countryside. In the photograph Renevskaya listens as her step-daughter, Varya, claims if she had a hundred rubles she’d enter a convent.

Doctor Faustus Light the Lights Los Angeles 1986

In Gertrude Stein’s version of the Faust legend, Faust invents the light bulb.

This production began with the story of Faust as written and performed by two seven year-olds. A full-voiced sampling of arias from Boito’s opera Mephistopheles followed, then Stein’s uncut text performed to an a cappella score created by the cast in rehearsals. All of this was presided over winningly by Glenn Shadix as Miss Stein. The singing lightbulbs were a particular crowd- pleaser. Here they are warming up backstage.
That’s the wonderful singer and Broadway actor Michael Winther with his tongue sticking out.

“Genuine insights. Hilarious homage. Charming? Yes. Inspired? Indeed.” Los Angeles Herald Examiner

The Circus of Doctor Lao Los Angeles 1985

Based on the cult novel by Charles Finney, scenes in Chinese and English.

A Chinese circus on tour in Abalone, Arizona, whose ringmaster, Dr. Lao, claims to have a mermaid, the Sphinx, a sea serpent and the Medusa. He does. More importantly, each of his circus acts features an unsuspecting town person as a freak. In photos below the Satyr meets the town librarian. Despite religious differences, they marry.

Staged in a 10,000 square foot warehouse. Lights were handheld by the actors as the circus and its audience roamed the vast space. Mr. Finney, the author of the novel, had one request : avoid watching the movie version.


Guilty pleasures. Below: Dick Zigun’s Burlesque Manifesto at Webster Hall, March 2013.
coney island benefit 1

Below: America’s Favorite Burlesque Gameshow, This Or That!
The Great Fredini, World Famous Bob center, Julie Atlas Muz with contestants

this or that world famous bob



The Italian Lesson and the World of Ruth Draper

A repertory of extraordinary monologues performed in English, Italian, Spanish, German, French, and gibberish.

Patricia Norcia has performed the works of Ruth Draper since 1980.
Directed by David Kaplan she has built a repertory of over nine hours.

The program includes:

The Italian Lesson
In a Church in Italy
Three Women and Mr. Clifford
The Actress
A Scottish Immigrant at Ellis Island
A Southern Girl at a Dance
A Class in Greek Poise
At the Court of Philip IV
Four Imaginary Folks
A Children’s Party
Doctors and Diets

Ruth Draper (1884- 1956), the author, was the greatest of America’s solo performers. She began her character sketches in early childhood, mimicking her family’s tailor and seamstress. Draper’s fame as gifted amateur from New York society took her to state dinners at the White House and many royal occassions in Europe. Her first professional stage performance, in London 1920, was an instant success. She began extensive tours soon after. From Broadway to Bangkok she performed only in plays she wrote for herself, more than fifty pieces in which she appeared onstage alone. She died in her sleep after a matinee and evening performance on Broadway.

The World of Ruth Draper has appeared in theatres internationaly and throughout America for more than 20 years. A partial list of venues:

Carnegie Recital Hall, The Promenade Theatre, The Cherry Lane Theatre, Munich’s Gasteig Theatre, London’s Duke of York’s Theatre, The Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum in Boston, The University of the South, The Berkshire Theatre Festival and Miss Draper’s beloved Dark Harbour, Maine.

A recording of Miss Norcia performing Draper’s A Class in Greek Poise and other pieces was released by Original Cast Recordings in 1999.

The cartoon by Al Hirchsfeld is of The Italian Tourist from In a Church in Italy.