Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sondheim Defines the Quality of Art in Huntington Theatre’s Production of “Sunday in the Park with George”

In Huntington Theatre’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” Adam Chanler-Berat as George Seurat exhibits laser-like focus inserting flecks of color in his painting. Photo Credit Paul Marotta

Sondheim Defines the Quality of Art in Huntington Theatres Production of Sunday in the Park with George
By Rosie Rosenzweig
Resident Scholar, Brandeis University Womens Studies Research Center
The Huntington theatre, recently saved from its demise, opens the 2016-2017 season with a smashing Broadway-quality production of Sondheims musical statement about the nature of art. The Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Sunday in the Park with George literally has the characters in GeorgeSeurat’s classic painting come to life and speak to the artist.  Artists interviewed by this reviewer confirm this process to be life-giving as they watch their own creations take on a life of their own.  The characters in this presentation constantly startle us by stepping out of the tableau, while the others remain frozen like statues, to comment on the theme, the actions, and their true feelings. 
 Lead actor Adam Chanler-Berat as George Seurat demonstrates this as he actually becomes the dog in this famous painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” set in 1884; in his laugh-out-loud performance, he barks, pants, and mimes the mannerisms of a dog presenting his stomach for a tummy rub.  In the second act set 100 years later, we see Georges great-grandson lost in the cloying courtship of sponsors for his trite light shows, and seeking inspiration for his next endeavor. Both scenes are full of humor, sight gags, and a serious search for true experience of Flow.
While the protagonist is ostensibly George Seurat, Sondheims themes are beyond just one artist: Essentially the grand character of art itself is the protagonist asking the age-old question: What exactly is true art?   Seurat states that visual art is design, composition, the balance of light and harmony.  Essentially, art brings order to chaos with harmony.
And this production demonstrates just that when the cacophony of simultaneous conversations and movement are directed by Seurat who moves characters and landscape into a lovely silent tableau with the just the right amount of light and color.  Every element joins into a silent ballet to a meditative serenity that is beautiful to behold. Act 2 enacts a different kind of ballad with the affected movements of the pretentious contemporary art scene and hilarious use of life-size cutouts.
 Chanler-Berat’s voice and mannerism demonstrate the artist’s intense autotelic process with brush strokes of Seurat’s Pointillism in counterpoint with his lover’s needs to Sondheim’s score which is actually Pointillism in music. Director Peter DuBois describes in more detail:
The music also tells the story; it is not just the lyrics. The melody, the rhythm, the tone are each a representation of the story he is unfolding before the audience. Sometimes the music creates a sense of irony between what is being sung and what is being felt. . .. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he is one of the great geniuses of the 20th century. We are exploring the Bach or Mozart of our time — fearless as a composer and a perfectionist.
The musical explores the experience of Seurat’s revolutionary contribution combining scientific visual principles with his focused use of thousands of dots, allowing the viewer to combine them and make art with his or her own eyes.  That Seurat’s mistress was named Dot, is another tongue-in-cheek element of that art.
Lead actress Jenni Barber exhibits attention-grabbing presence, aplomb and perfect pitch in her role as George’s lover that she sometimes steals the show with her caricatured stances, body language and facial expressions.  Her eye-balling, pouts, and expressions are reminiscent of Lucille Ball, the queen of daytime TV laughter.
This production is the second of an ambitious plan to stage all 15 Stephen Sondheim musicals.  Huntington artistic director Peter DuBois explains his dizzying and profound experience working on a musical about artistic creation: “it’s about the act of creation and about artistic obsession—the highs and lows!”  He embodied the best of his art from the ballet of movement within the tableaus to Seurat’s concentrated flecking of light to the affected postures of the contemporary art scene in Act Two, where the entire cast showcased its versatility in its range of accents and body language.
Local actress Bobbie Steinbach, who plays George’s mother with gusto and attitude says that: “You see her one way early on, and very differently later.” She interprets the piece as really being about, “Sondheim himself and his own unresolved relationship with his mother.” After his father abandoned him when he was 10, he was subject to psychological abuse from his mother. Subsequently, he refused to attend her 1992 funeral.  
“Sunday in the Park with George”will play through until -October. 16at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston. For more information, call 617-266-0800; or go to huntingtontheatre.org

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Poems That Make Grown Women Cry-100 Women On The Words That Move them.

Poems That Make Grown Women Cry-100 Women On The Words That Move them.
Edited by authors Anthony and Ben Holden, and published by Simon and Shuster in concert with Amnesty International.

Review by: Bridget Seley Galway

Father and son team Anthony and Ben Holder, working along side Amnesty International, not more than a year ago, edited their first anthology, Poems That Make Grown Men Cry. Following it’s success they decided to ask the same question of 100 remarkable award winning women writer/poets, actors, musicians, public figures, academics, and activists.
Such noted women as, Judy Dench, Joan Baez, Nikki Giovanni, Joyce Carol Oats, Kate Allen, Lydia Davis, to name a few. The introductions to each poem chosen by these 100 women are poignant, and often profoundly personal.

Every form of loss experienced within our human condition has been defined, by the 100 poems, which bless the pages of this anthology; loss of life, dignity, love, home, country, and self.

It has been difficult to leave myself as much as possible out of the composition of this review. I can only say that I have experienced some of the losses defined through many of these brilliant beautiful poems. They have thrown me back into the moments of those experiences that gripped my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
At the same time, I was moved forward with extreme empathy into the immense grief and sadness of experiences beyond my own. Although those experiences can be inexplicable, the chosen words of the poems in which they are described, form a tangible island of poetic power, they pulled me into those foreign lands, and I now hold indelible in my heart.

There are many poems that I would like to highlight within this review, because their meaning has haunted my being in silent memorial.
The highest compliment I can give to the poems I have chosen, is they have captured the parts of me that have been whirl pooling in the well of my heart, and I have yet to reel them up to lay to rest, as these 100 poems have, in a peaceful resolve.

I will begin with a stanza from a poem chosen by women activist Helen Pankhurst, from John Clare’s “I Am”- “Despite the undertones of madness, it is one of the most lucid poems about sadness and loneliness I have ever come across.”

“I long for scenes where men have never trod
A place where women never smiled or shed a tear
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling, untroubled where I lie
The grass below-above the vaulted sky.”

John Clare wrote this poem while in the Northampton Asylum. “I Am” continues to be my favorite poem which defines the loss and want of self. His words are both a constant harsh effusion of emotion, and as tender as a silent tear.
Although I believe in God energy, and not God as an entity, it is of no consequence, as this poem defines my souls yearning when I have felt the loss of self.

Taiye Selasi, writer, filmmaker, activist, chose Warsan Shire’s poem, “for women who are hard to love”- “I’d been trying to make a home out of a human being for my heart too wild, too fragile, too trustful, too untrustful, to be housed. Then I read these lines by Shire, I knew that my longest search was utterly, utterly doomed.”

“and if he wants to leave
let him leave
you are terrifying
strange and beautiful
something not everyone
knows how to love”

Taiye Selasi has described with perfection how this poem touched me.

Anne Enright, author of “The Gathering as well as five other novels, and won the Man Booker Prize in 2007, chose Mark Doty’s poem “Michaels Dream (from Atlantis)” -“ The loss is always there, ready to ambush and undo, and Doty’s work is always there too, when I need the courage I saw in those terrible days, and how we rose to meet our sorrow.”

“in this raddled and unraveling ‘here’.
What is the body? Rain on a window,
a clear movement over whose gaze?
Husk, leaf, little boat of paper

and wood to mark the speed of the stream?”

Mark Doty’s poetry documents the devastation of AIDS. I lost so many dear friends to AIDS during my young adulthood, a time when we were celebrating our individuality. In memorial to the ones I lost, as I know they would have all wanted, I acknowledge one thing of beauty daily.

Scottish novelist, Jackie Kay, chose Anne Sexton’s “ Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward” - “I am still undone by “Unknown Girl”, heart broken for the mother, for her tender love for her baby, her “funny kin”, all mothers in whatever circumstance, who lose their babies

“I touch your cheeks like flowers. You bruise
against me. We unlearn. I am a shore
rocking you off. You break from me. I choose
your only way, my small inheritor
and hand you off, trembling selves we lose.
Go child, who is my only sin, and nothing more.

This poem defines the extreme depth of a mother’s unconditional love, and the strength of what a woman can bear.

I chose to sum up this review with actor of stage and screen Claire Bloom’s choice, Elizabeth Bishop’s, “One Art”. -“ The ironic tone of this poem hides a deep and enduring sorrow, only hinted at in the last devastating line.”

One Art
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things filled with intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel, None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! My last, or
next-to-last, of three houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

-Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

I decided to end with this poem in its entirety, because it enshrines the sense of all loss.
Whichever of these 100 poems bring tears to your eyes; they will remain within the rhythm of your heart.


The Sunday Poet: Simrin Tamhane

Simrin Tamhane

Simrin Tamhane is an international student from the Himalayan state of Sikkim in India.  Currently a junior at Endicott College, she is majoring in International Studies and is interested in human rights and many of her writings focuses on this topic. She also writes about her childhood back in India and she enjoys old music, tragedies and iced lemonade in the winter.


Her eyes are cold marbles,
That don't remember warmth.
Her mind is a forgotten novel,
That lays lifeless on dusty shelves.

Her heart is a hollow violin
Strings broken and
Broken dreams.

She walks on shards of glass.
She is a catastrophe
Waiting to explode.


Nights like this I wish,
You were here next to me,
Laughing at my failed attempt to bake
Or making fun of my fingernails.

I wish I could feel,
The warmth of your fingers
Intertwined to mine.

I wish I could taste,
The sweet melody of your laughter
And hear the low rumbles of
Your heart echoing into mine.

I just wish to be home again.
With you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Marc Livanos

"My poems have appeared in Straylight Magazine, Poet’s Espresso Review, Stray Branch Magazine, Old Red Kimono, Ship of Fools, Song of the San Joaquin Quarterly, Emerald Coast Review, WestWard Quarterly, PKA's Advocate, The Ultimate Writer Quarterly, The Pink Chameleon, JerryJazzMusician.com, and others. My chapbooks “Panhandle Poet - Solitude” and “Panhandle Poet - Second Helpings” are available online at barnesandnoble.com."

The Reasons

saw my Buddha
and came over.

Smiling, he recounted
the basic beliefs
of Buddhism.

The mind exists to the extent 
necessary for thought
and to cling to naught.

The body exists to experience
feelings like lust or non-lust
and to learn how to abandon them.

Life’s journey shows how
material fetters the mind
and the way to see clearly.

The truth is revealed,   
when opinions are dropped
and other ways tolerated.

Such wisdom comes
from the Buddhist text
“Discourse on Mindfulness.”

I asked why Buddha,            
being non-materialistic,
is portrayed beautifully robed?

He explained how Alexander’s troops 
came upon the Ganges and
saw a priest without clothes.

“Why are you without clothes?”
The priest responded,
“Why are you with clothes?”

Alexander stayed and listened,
enthralled that so many cared
about a man who died centuries earlier.

Commissioning a statue,
his sculptor robed the Buddha
in a fine Greek tunic.

All told, Rajith’s eyes lit up,
hearing I was Greek and
my son’s name is Alexander.