Friday, March 19, 2010

Old Dingos

There was a story on Yahoo! News yesterday (via the AFP, link above) about dingoes possibly being the oldest dog breed in the world. The article also mentioned dogs related to dingoes (though not officially designated a separate breed, the New Guinea Singing Dog. My friend and fellow dog lover MT Cozzola sent me to the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation website. Here's a link to what a pack of singing dogs sounds like:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ray and Rey

Yesterday I had two hours to use on the Upper East Side, between work and my annual pilgrimage to the accountant (she is not merely "the accountant"- she is my Jewish mother and I've known her for 25 years; but it's her busy time now, and she wouldn't have time to go out to lunch).
So I noticed in Time Out that The Jewish Museum (link above) that they had two potentially great shows running: Man Ray, and the work of H.A. and Margaret Rey, the couple that created Curious George. Unfortunately, once I got there the Man Ray show was closed (it had closed Sunday). So I started on the fourth floor of the permanent collection and worked my way down. I hadn't been there since the Modigliani exhibit (he was quite a piece of work) show a few years ago, and I hadn't seen the permanent collection for ages before that. The section on archeology was great (a glass bowl from Jerusalem under the Romans, without a crack in it), and I learned that Ashkenazy bridegrooms had a tradition of giving their brides Sabbath candle holders. There is a chilling George Segal depiction of a concentration camp that I found so disturbing I didn't want to be in the same room alone with it.
Then I got down to the second floor, where the Rey exhibit was. There were several mothers with children, the mothers much more interested in the exhibit than the kids were, and two little old ladies whispering to each other. The ladies didn't look at the illustrations or the descriptions on the walls, they only whispered.
Hans Auguste Reyersbach and Margarethe Waldstein were originally from Hamburg. In the 1920s, Rey went to Brazil to work. He encountered many monkeys there. Waldstein came to Rio to look for work as well, and they later married. "Reyersbach" was not a common name in Portuguese, so they changed it to Rey. In 1935, the Reys went to Paris on their honeymoon, and stayed for four years.
In June 1940, the Reys fled the approaching German Army (it was not prudent for two German-born Jews to remain in France) by bicycle to the south of France, and then by train and ship to Lisbon and finally New York. They settled in Washington Square, and found an American publisher for Curious George.
I purchased a wonderful book about the Reys, The Journey that Saved Curious George, by Louise Borden and Allan Drummond, in the bookstore. The illustration is from the final page of "Curious George," courtesy of The Jewish Museum.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Neue Galerie

One of my favorite museums in the world is the Neue Galerie, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 86th Street. It's just the right size, has a great cafe (though there's usually a line), an equally good bookstore and a wonderful permanent collection. A few weeks ago, I saw From Klimt to Klee: Masterworks from the Serge Sabarsky Collection. This has since closed. Other than the fact that Sabarsky co-founded the Galerie with Ronald Lauder, I knew nothing about him before. A native Viennese, Sabarsky worked as a designer for Simplicissimus. He came to New York in 1938, and eventually established a gallery for Austrian and German Expressionist art (this is much cribbed from the exhibit brochure). There were some wonderful Georg Grosz drawings which I hadn't seen before.
The next exhibit is the work of painter Otto Dix. This painting is Portrait of the Dancer Anita Berber, 1925. Dix's portraits seem to share Oskar Kokoschka's fascination with his subjects' hands.

William Inge Theatre Festival

This year's Inge Festival is honoring one of my favorite playwrights, Paula Vogel, with its Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award. I wish I'd written "The Baltimore Waltz." Kantori Hall (whose work I'm not familiar with, but I know by name) is receiving the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award. The Festival runs Wednesday, April 21 through Saturday, April 24, 2010. The artistic director is my friend Peter Ellenstein, who is ably assisted by Bruce Peterson and Hannah Joyce Hoven. I'll be there in spirit!

A Behanding in Spokane

Last week I was fortunate enough to see the opening night of "A Behanding in Spokane." I have never seen a play by Martin McDonagh before (though I saw "In Bruges," and I've read some of his plays). And it has been many years since I saw Christopher Walken in "Hamlet" at Stratford, Connecticut.
If the point of the play is to be a tour de force for Walken, it is certainly that. He completely embodies Carmichael- you don't doubt him for a second. And Sam Rockwell as the desk clerk of the fleabag hotel his wonderful (the Times review considers his monologue the best writing in the play- they may be right). What works much less well is the young couple trying to pull something over on Carmichael, Marilyn (Zoe Kazan) and Toby (Anthony Mackie). The casting may be the problem, as well as the writing and the direction. Zoe Kazan starts out screechy and general; her vocal quality changes, but little else. Anthony Mackie seems like a talented actor, but this role didn't play to his strengths.


There was an extraordinary piece on Irish Central about Denny's Restaurants' latest controversy. Somehow, I'd missed this. In honor of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Irish Famine, Denny's was offering unlimited pancakes, which they advertised in a TV commercial. When this ad upset some people, Denny's pulled it, and offered this response: "Denny's has a history of using humor in its television advertising. It is certainly not the intention of the company to offend anyone or any group and we apologize if this spot has in any way."
This strikes me as lame. Wouldn't it be more to the point to say: "we were stupid"?

Friday, March 5, 2010


My friend Jacob Ouillette (whose Painted Space I wrote Brooklyn Lighthouse for) is having his first solo show (Jacob Ouillette, Recent Works) at the Dean Project (45-43 21st Street, Long Island City). It opens tonight, and Tom and I are going to the opening reception. Judging from the photo, there is definitely work I haven't seen before.

St. John's University

For many years, my fellow playwright Dr. Laurence Myers has taught at St. John's University. He gave me my first job in New York, stage managing his play Title: Nietzsche at Theatre for the New City (my friend James Robinson was in the cast, and suggested me when they lost their stage manager). And for not a few years, Larry has asked me to come speak to his students. This past Monday I was finally able to rearrange my schedule to make this possible. I had never been to St. John's, nor any Vincentian institution of higher learning, before then. Larry is going to have his students in his Creating Theatre course write contemporary mystery plays, to be performed around the campus, so I spoke about medieval theatre. I'm not an expert on that subject, but I read a lot about it when I was writing my own adaptation of mystery plays, "The New York Play." After I had lectured and answered some questions, some students read my Adam and Eve scene to the rest of the class; they seemed quite engaged by it, and equally importantly, got the jokes. I was particularly impressed with the international students (from the Caribbean, South America and Africa)- a really smart, thoughtful and engaged group of kids.