ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Uncategorized

From the Artistic Director/CEO Todd Haimes: Merrily We Roll Along

Posted on: January 3rd, 2019 by Roundy Bout

 

When the Broadway debut of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Merrily We Roll Along closed in 1981 after only 16 performances, few would have thought that the story of Merrily was only just beginning. In the coming decades, Merrily would continue to captivate audiences revival after revival, growing and evolving every step of the way. It is quite the testament to the enduring power of Sondheim that this musical, so many years after an initial failure, not only still captures imaginations, but continues to be shaped by them as well.

Now, Fiasco Theater, Roundabout’s Company-in-Residence, has re-conceptualized Sondheim’s classic in a wholly original way. By incorporating additional material from the 1934 George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart play on which Merrily is based and choosing to bring the musical’s two dozen characters to life with a cast of only six, Fiasco has trained a special focus on the intimate journey that lies at Merrily’s core.

The journey in question is that of Frank, Charley, and Mary – three friends whose lives we watch unfold in reverse, from the deepest crises of middle age to the first breaths of adulthood. By their forties, commercial success has drowned artistic integrity, and relationships have been dashed against the rocks of career. In their teens, the trio is newly bonded, with a lifetime of aspirations to pursue and more than enough ambition to make them all possible. In between lie all the traps of the American Dream – the siren song of wealth, the empty honor of fame, the instant gratification of desire – each un-sprung as the years wind mesmerizingly backwards.

The story of Merrily We Roll Along is the story of every generation of dreamers who find that the path to success diverges from those things they hold most dear. It is this universality that has solidified Merrily as an immovable, if unlikely, pillar of the musical theatre canon in the time since its premiere. Now, in shedding a bold new light on Merrily’s three central friends, Fiasco has paired the gut-wrenchingly universal with the heartbreakingly personal. And they have harnessed all the most spectacular tools of the theatre to do so, creating a Merrily that is just as precise in its character study as it is spellbinding in its musicality.

Merrily We Roll Along is Roundabout’s second collaboration with Fiasco, with whom we mounted Into the Woods in the Laura Pels Theatre four years ago. Fiasco has been developing their concept for Merrily ever since then, and it has been such a pleasure working alongside them every step of the way to bring their vision to the stage. As our Company-in-Residence, Fiasco plays a special part in Roundabout’s Artist-in-Residence program, which aims to cultivate the next generations of leaders in the theatre and bring fresh voices into the folds of our institution.

Finally, it goes without saying just how much of an honor it is to count Merrily as our eighth Sondheim production, continuing Roundabout’s long and cherished partnership with one of the foremost masters of the American theatre.

As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts on our season, so please continue to email me at ArtisticOffice@roundabouttheatre.org with your reactions. I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.

I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

Sincerely,

Todd Haimes

Artistic Director/CEO

Merrily We Roll Along is playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre January 12 - April 7, 2019. For tickets and information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
Uncategorized


No Comments

From the Artistic Director/CEO Todd Haimes: True West

Posted on: December 17th, 2018 by Roundy Bout

 

True West has fascinated me for decades. It begins in a Southern California home on the rather ordinary night that brothers Austin and Lee reconnect after a long estrangement. It ends days later in astonishing, demented, uproarious chaos. In between the tranquility and the turmoil stand all the societal and familial principles meant to keep such chaos at bay, torched one after another in the duo’s delirious struggle for brotherly dominance.

At the crux of their struggle sits, again, something rather ordinary: a screenplay. Austin has been working for years to build himself a screenwriting career, and his first meeting with an influential Hollywood producer just so happens to take place the day after Lee arrives. Lee is a vagabond and small-time criminal who has never written anything in his life, but when he crashes Austin’s meeting, it is his impromptu idea for a machismo-fueled Western that captures the producer’s attention, not the finely-crafted pitch that Austin has devised for the period piece he is writing.

From this single thread, True West playwright Sam Shepard unravels the entire fabric of the American Dream – and Austin’s and Lee’s lives along with it. If a “lowlife” such as Lee can beat an honest, hard-working man such as Austin at his own game, then what of artistic integrity? What of decency, or talent, or character? If the best man cannot win, then why play by the rules at all? Perhaps, as Shepard so methodically reveals to us, there are no “best men,” and the rules are wholly different from what we have been led to believe in the first place.

This is what has captivated me so powerfully about True West ever since it first premiered in 1980. Within the four walls of True West’s quotidian kitchen, the social contract gets turned on its head – and Shepard sacrifices no thrill as he unleashes an absurd, euphoric mayhem upon this unlikely arena. The result is just as viscerally exhilarating as it is existentially alarming, just as intellectually gripping as it is theatrically mesmerizing.

And what a joy and honor it is to bring Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated masterpiece to life with this sensational cast and creative team. Director James Macdonald has brought a bold vision to this production, and Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano – two of the most extraordinary actors of their time – could not make for a more electrifying leading pair. I have long dreamed of the opportunity to revive True West, and with such a remarkable group of artists at the helm, I have no doubt that you will find this show just as enthralling as I do.

As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts on our season, so please continue to email me at ArtisticOffice@roundabouttheatre.org with your reactions. I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.

I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

Sincerely,

 

Todd Haimes

Artistic Director/CEO

True West is playing at the American Airlines Theatre December 27, 2018 - March 17, 2019. For tickets and information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
Uncategorized


No Comments

Tristan Tzara and Dada

Posted on: May 31st, 2018 by Lucy Powis

 

Tristan Tzara (1896-1963)

Born in Romania under the name Samuel Rosenstock, Tristan Tzara was introduced to the Symbolist art movement by poet Adrian Maniu. Symbolism stood in opposition to realistic art, emphasizing emotions, feelings, and ideas, and often featuring mystic or religious imagery. Together with poet Ion Vinea and painter Marcel Janco, Tzara founded the magazine Simbolul shortly prior to the First World War, when he was just 16 years old. It was during the War that he moved to Zurich, co-founding the Cabaret Voltaire, which became known as the “cradle of Dada.”  Featuring experimental forms of performance, poetry, art, and more, the Cabaret Voltaire was where early Dadaist manifestos were read, many of which were written by Tzara, who could often be spotted sporting a monocle and suit, or even with “DADA” written on his forehead.

In 1919, after the War and the closing of Cabaret Voltaire, Tzara moved to Paris, where he joined the staff of Littérature magazine. Tzara and one of the magazine’s editors, André Breton, often clashed over their shared desire to lead, with Breton eventually breaking away from Dada and speaking out against Tzara in public. In 1923, a production of Tzara’s play Gas Heart provoked fights among those in support and those against Dadaism. Meanwhile, Breton had begun to write manifestos about a new artistic movement: Surrealism. An evolution of Dada that focused on the power of the subconscious mind and dreams, Surrealism grew in popularity, overtaking Dada and eventually winning over Tzara. By the beginning of the Second World War, however, Tzara had decided that being an artist was not an effective way to fight the Nazis. He joined the Communist Party, lived in hiding in France for much of the War, and remained a passionate anti-war advocate until his death in 1963.

 

Dada

With its first manifestos written towards the end of the First World War, Dada is an artistic movement that is often called “anti-art.” Tristan Tzara, one of its founders, famously declared that “art is a private affair, the artist produces it for himself; an intelligible work is the product of a journalist.” Dada sought to defy and destroy artistic conventions by freeing itself from logic, and by using techniques such as simultaneous action and an antagonistic relationship with the audience.

A perfect example of what Dada stood for artistically and politically was the inaugural performance at the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916. For the occasion, Tzara and fellow poets Richard Huelsenbeck and Marcel Janco each read poems they had written…at the same time. The cacophony created was meant to “annihilate the language by which the war was justified,” which was key to the movement’s philosophy. If language is what structures our lives and allows us to perpetuate violence against each other, then art needs to undermine language.

Dadaists aimed to derail audience expectations and undermine the meaning of words so that the world could be looked at with fresh eyes. Chance operations, such as cutting up newspapers to create a poem (as seen in the opening of Travesties) were often used to create work towards this end, forcing creators to free themselves from their intentions and ego.

Despite their often-aggressive performances, Dada’s founders were pacifists and believed that the best way to avoid future wars was to destroy pre-existing structures and start anew. While the movement eventually lost momentum to Surrealism, it remains an important example of the intersection of art and politics in a tumultuous era.


Travesties is playing at the American Airlines Theatre through June 17, 2018. For tickets and information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, Travesties, Uncategorized


No Comments