Monthly Archives: September 2019
Sep 25 – 28, 2019
Having done a fair bit of hillwalking in Scotland and further afield, I was intrigued by the premise of this work – in 25-plus years of trudging through rain, hail, sleet, snow and the occasional sunny day, I’ve never exchanged passing greetings with a black fellow-hillwalker. I’m not sure how that fact plays out statistically-speaking, but I guess it is true that black people are under-represented amongst the Berghaus brigades.
Three titular black men meet once a month to walk and talk and relieve their urban stresses. But this weekend, as they stumble through heavy weather they find themselves confronting much deeper than their workaday problems. There’s Matthew the GP (played by Patrick Regis) who’s having marital problems, and Richard (Tonderai Munyevu), a Ghanaian man living in the mental exile of an absent father, and Thomas (Ben Onwukwe), a busted flush with a history degree from Huddersfield, who has been a little unsettled recently. Losing themselves in the deepening fog, they encounter Ayeesha (Dorcas Sebuyange), a streetsmart young woman who provokes the men to consider how ‘British’ culture swallows up their blackness like the fog, erases the mark of black peoples’ footprints on the landscape, from prehistory to the present day.
There’s a lot for an audience to consider in this work by Testament, the writer and musical director Andy Brooks. “Black people were walking here before Anglo-Saxons” remarks Thomas, who gives the group a peripatetic history lesson in the hidden, ‘whitewashed’ history of these islands. There’s some philosophising to – from black identity and the theories of W.E.B. Du Bois, the American sociologist and founder of the NAACP, to the political activism of rap music. The reality of modern racism is never far, it rises continually like a Brockenspecter, or the crunch of a boot on gravel, just out of sight. The most powerful testament to this is delivered in the pistol-quick spoken word pieces given to Ayeesha. Powerfully delivered with sass and charm by Dorcas Sebuyange, these interstices that punctuate the walking are the most powerful parts of the work. It’s a sobering reminder that, aside from the prejudice de jour of islamophobia, British black people have suffered and continue to suffer under the homogenous whiteout of casual racism.
Walking is a great democratic invention. Rich or poor, black or white, it’s only requirement is the ability to put one foot in front of the other. If you can do that, then do. The next time I go walking, I’ll be giving a thought to the history, the hidden history, that I might be walking through. Eclipse Theatre Company presents Black Men Walking as part of Revolution Mix (www.eclipsetheatre.org.uk/revolution-mix), a series of plays, radio dramas and a forthcoming film, by Black artists, with the aim of “placing Black narrative at the heart of British Theatre”. It’s a powerful, promising start for a worthwhile and timely project.
Ever imagined what would have happen’d
If the Stone Roses had teamed up with Shakepseare?
The Mumble caught up with the man behind it all…
Hello Damo. So you are here to talk about your new project, the Conchordia Folio – what’s it all about?
Hello Mumble. Well, in essence the folio is a collection of dramatic scripts, per se, rather like the Shakespearean folio. The only difference is I’m assembling it myself, whereas the Bard’s was collated by his pals a few years after his death. It should be ready in book & audio form by the Spring. There’ also an element of competition here – why not, you only get one life. As a poet I’ve written a better epic than Milton, but Shakespeare seems untouchable. But so were Liverpool FC before Fergie got the Man U job, & after declaring he wanted to ‘knock them off their fuc£king perch’ he went on to do so. I know I’m definitely a better bass-payer than Shakespeare, so I knew had to incorporate music into my scripts, play to my strengths kinda thing. Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock Shakespeare off his feffin perch!
So how exactly do you intend to ‘Knock Shakespeare off his feffin perch?’
I mean look, if a guy can run a marathon in less than two hours, another guy can outdo Shakespeare. Its the whole point of being human right, to better ourselves. Methodwise, its simple really. I’ve tried to outdo his sonnets already, creating a sequence of 154 which if you put against Shakespeare’s 154, I think I’ve got the edge. So it’ll be the same idea with the plays. I need to create a canonical 37 which when placed next to Shakepseare’s own 37, lets leave it to posterity to decide. My edge, I think, is going to be more penetrable language, shorter pieces & some proper banging tunes.
Thirty Seven plays – thats an awful lot to create in a single sitting – how long do you think will it take to achieve?
Well, I’ve written/been writing an epic poem, Axis & Allies, since 2001, so I can handle large projects no problemo. But I have set myself a time limit. With Shakespeare writing his last play, The Tempest, over the winter of 1610-1611, then he was 46 years old, approaching 47. For an even playing field, then, I need to be finishing my 37th play about the same time. I turn 47 in June 2024, so I’ve got just under four years to finish them all. Its totally doable, by the way, & watching that guy run a sub-two-hour marathon thro sheer hard work & dedication inspired me. I guess its a bit like if you got an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters, or whatever it was, one of them would randomly recreate the works of William Shakespeare OR you get one very determined bard from Burnley on an emulation mission creating something rather like the complete works of William Shaksepeare.
So what exactly is Conchordia?
Well. Its essentially the artform I’m inventing. Stripped down to its most basic level the term can be interpreted as ‘with chords’ – the idea is that one can witness a piece of drama accompanied by a single acoustic guitar. That’s the core. Then, I realised that guitar could be played by a performer, which reminded me of the very funny Flight of the Conchords duo. They are like proper multi-taskers – acting, singing, dancing, playing guitars – that’s what I want ‘Conchordian’ to be able to do. Act, sing, dance & playing instruments when they’re not on stage – even if its just percussive. Also, since Concord the airplane is now defunct, the name is up for grabs these days & I like idea of people going for a ride in one of my conchords.
What traits & attributes sets Conchordia apart from the other arts?
Each of the Conchordia has different DNA – there’s some that are just rock opera with barely any dialogue, & some that are simply musicals with an acoustic guitar. My later creations, however, are definitely realising a vision of theatre I have been developing. As a poet I have a gift for blank verse – its the most artistic way of expressing human speech. Shakespeare used it, so it can’t be that bad right? It certainly feels like at this point in time I’m the leading exponent of dramatic blank verse on the planet. I mean I just love it – there is a dynamic flow in those unrhymed five-stress ten styllable lines that seems like the dream of ordinary speach in a greater version of humainity – the idealised tongue. The English also have a genius for songwriting, while the Americans have mastered the musical. So if we blend all these together – Shakespearean blank verse, English songwriting, plus a wee splash of Broadway, you get Conchordia.
What other musical instruments are used in Conchordia, apart from the percussion?
Well, to be honest, there’s no limit. I’m going off the old edict that for a song to be a good song it needs to sound good sung on its own with only an acoustic guitar. But any producer of a conchord may use that basis to add an orchestra, or a rock & roll band, anything they like really. Each text also has a few ‘set’ pointers, which may also be interpreted as the company sees fit.
Have you performed any of your conchords yet?
I have actually – last year I put on a piece called Alibi at the Haddington Corn Exchange & also at the Eden Festival. It was fun – everyone enjoyed performing it & watching it. Doing Alibi made me realise I was onto something & began to look at my past pieces.
Your past pieces, what do you mean?
Alibi was the first slice of musical theatre I ever did – in 2007 & 2008. I was wintering in Sicily & got an acoustic guitar for Christmas, 2006. I then started looking at my old songs, connecting the common threads & adding a story. Bingo, my first conchord! I performed a it a few times in Edinburgh, Sheffield & Leeds. Next was a piece called Charlie, about the Jacobite rebellion, which I made into a film. About that period, & ever since, I’ve created a few others, but all in sketch form, in various states of completion. The Conchordio Folio is the moment I get them all nailed – a line in the sand, so to speak.
What Conchords are to be included in the Folio?
Like I said before, 37. The first five come together in a quintology called Leithology. There’s Alibi, Gangstaland, one I haven’t given a title to, a time-travelling one called Timewarpin’ & Tinky Disco. The idea is that they all interlink through characters, who each get a main musical to strut their stuff in. Like the X-Men franchise. Tinky Disco is based loosely upon The Tinky Disco Show, & will see the return of DJ Brooklyn – like a 21st century Falstaff. There are quite a number of histories – Charlie, Finnesburgh – based on a story in Beowulf – Malmaison, which tells the story of Napoleon on his return to Paris after Waterloo, one about Princess Diana, & Gods of The Ring, about the Foreman, Ali, Frazier fights in the 70s. There’s also a trilogy called The Rock & Roll Wars, its essentially a battle of the bands on a cosmic level. There’s Exes & Axes, a 19th century tale of romantic betrayal set in 19th century France – it doesn’t quite fit with any of the others, but its really funny. Here’s the full list of 37 conchords – those with links are completed & online;
The Budapest Cup
Fredrick & Wilhemina
Gods of the Ring
In A Child’s Garden
In A Man’s Garden
The Siege of Etain
The Indian Mutiny
The Medicines of Doctor Morrell
The People’s Princess
The Flight of the White Eagles
Genghiz & Jamukha
Euxene & Aristoxenus
Helois & Aberlard
To Fool a Knave
Exes & Axes
The Sleepers of Ephesus
Danny Brown, the Boy Detective
Rock & Roll Apocalypse
Little Black Book
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 23 – 28, 2019
The fabulous 500 play celebration year for Oran Mor’s Play, Pie and Pint continued with Peter Arnott’s masterful play, ‘The Signalman’, a monologue starring Tom McGovern. McGovern played one Thomas Barclay, the eponymous signalman, and concerned his memories of 40 years before when he worked as a signalman at the tender age of 24. The action started on a simple set on which was just a few chairs and a coat stand on which the actor hung his railway jacket as he quietly entered. It all somehow endowed the stage with a feeling of depth and sincerity.
As he looked back into the past, Barclay’s memories transported him back to the terrible night so many years before when it had been his signal that had sent the Edinburgh train on to the Tay Railway Bridge which collapsed taking many lives. We saw Barclay in turmoil as he turned over the events in his mind and in his long spotlit scene’s, reliving the subsequent inquisition he’d undergone from his powerful supervisors, an inquisition which mirrored his own doubts and feelings of responsibility. It was not hard to sympathise with him when he began to question his own sanity – no wonder…
The music in the piece took on quite a grave, ghostly character as the man went through torrents of suffering and plunged into the depths of despair, haunted as he was by visions where he was left all but a ghost. He had been so proud of his life and career, so when faced with this devastation it came all the harder. We followed each line to tremendous heights and then equally tremendous lows, and were affected by each spontaneous outcry as in the end he wept openly. We were left in no doubt about the impact of having your world turned upside down in this way.
This story was a tremendously moving tour de force, holding nothing back as we were taken on a rollercoaster of emotion, focussing on how one terrible event can deeply affect one individual, posing questions about how responsible we are for the things that happen to us and seeking all the time to find meaning for our lives. Take hankies!
A quality performer is bringing her poignant tale to the United Solo Festival, New York
Hello Allison, so where are you from and where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born and raised in Southeastern Wisconsin in the town of Elkhorn. It is near Lake Geneva, which is a popular and beautiful place to visit. I currently live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and have been living here since 2006 when I took a job at the University of Alabama in the Department of Theatre and Dance.
When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
I was in the fourth grade and was cast in a short play as a singing flower–the experience was memorable as I loved to sing and I got to wear fluorescent face paint that would glow in the black light. We also had a performance at local nursing home for the elderly–that was a moving experience for me at a young age.
What is it about performing that you love the most?
The connections made by revealing the human condition.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
I think that theatre should reflect life and in that reflection, I want to feel something and learn something. If it makes me laugh or cry along the way then it held my attention and I was able to escape from my own realties for a while. That can be so refreshing.
In your time you have performed at ancient theatres in Greece located at Argos and Spetses. Did you feel like you were communing with the spirits of your art?
Yes, it was such a powerful experience and working in those ancient theatres was breathtaking. I felt a complete sense of being grounded, and the connections we made as a cast in The Trojan Women are something that I will never forget, and that was over twenty years ago.
You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Hmmm, these are always the hardest questions for me. I would start with a light summer salad (spinach, corn, feta, watermelon), followed by seared salmon with a maple-mustard glaze and finish with a Key Lime Pie. My guest list would be: Georgia O’Keeffe, Lillian Hellman, and Joan of Arc.
So, you’re bringing your show, STEP MAMA DRAMA!, to this year’s United Solo Festival . Can you tell us about it?
This show is inspired by my personal experience as stepmom and also includes monologues and moments shared by others who I interviewed for the project. My goal is to show various sides of this complex and often difficult relationship. I also spent time talking with stepchildren as well. When I told people about this show, many began to share their own perspectives on blended families. I listened closely and let them know that what they communicated to me could become part of my show.
You performed STEP MAMA DRAMA! at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, how did you find your time in Scotland?
My time in Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was amazing and exhausting, I love being surrounded by the arts in a great city.
What emotive responses do you hope to invoke in your audience?
I hope that others can connect to some of these stories, people, and think about the wide variety of stepparent and stepchild relationships often found in the blended family.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of New York…
Hi, if you are stepmom, have a stepmom or have a blended family experience this is a show for you! When and where: Sunday, November 3, at 6:00PM part of the United Solo Festival at Theatre Row, Off-Broadway in the studio theatre.
United Solo Theatre Festival
410 West 42nd Street, NYC
The Brunton, Musselburgh
September 20th, 2019
Since inception, Rapture Theatre have tunnelled a catacomb of fine memories into the minds of the Scottish theatre-goers. Their latest cave of delights is called Clybourne Park, a spin-off from Lorraine Hansberry’s ever-enduring 1959 Broadway play, A Raisin in the Sun. The latter play tells of a black family’s real estate experiences in “Clybourne Park”, a fictionalized Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. The New York Drama Critics’ Circle named it the best play of 1959. A half-century later, a spin-off was penned by New Yorker, Bruce Norris, & just like its mother-ship won hierarchical awards such as the Pulitzer for Drama & the Olivier for Best Play. Side-by-side, the two plays have morphed into a soap opera, & there is no reason why the Raisin mythomeme could be a standard locale for future dramatical socio-dissections of 1950s America.
Clybourne Park is divided into two halves; the first telling the story of the house purchase from that of its owners & the busybodying locals trying to keep the neighbourhood white. So this is racism, of course, but its comedy racism, looked at with a kinda sympathetic pity thro’ mileusean eyeglasses. After a sophisticaed screwdrill-whirring session in the interval, we find ourselves transported to an assimilationistic Noughties, when its all a little bit more grating, with a dash of false-flattery. Are we moderns really like these people on the stage reduced to fencing dodgy jokes like weapons of prejudice. Luckily, the play was saved by the cast-inflating reintroduction of the house-buying back-story, & in essence Clybourne Park flows thro’ 4 quarters – plus an astonishingly well done ending – the first half is all good, the second half starts slow & becomes excellent. The whole, I must add, is held togther by leibmotifs which bounce from half to half & also into Raisin with subtle but enlightening alacrity.
The play exposes the hypocrisy, particularly of educated, middle-class people who will happily uphold the principles of fairness & equality – unless & until those principles impinge on their own ideas & interests.
Michael Emans (Director)
Watching Clybourne Park’s “progressive community” in 2019 is a curious, indemnified affair. The racism which Norris remoulds in the second half is that of an American people trying to redefine its attitudes as they dwell among social landscapes very much shaped by centuries of racial subjegation & oppression – all while living under the tacitly legislated safety of father Obama. Clybourne also shows how people shun the pursuits of deeper understanding by the donning of fake armour – ‘how can I be racist when I’m gay.‘ A soreiety of the minorities. Although attitudes are similar in 2019, ten years is a long time in world progress & things are changing / have changed – Clybourne Park is already on its way to becoming the time capsule that is A Raisin in the Sun.
I can only heap as much praise as I’ve got to heap upon the acting – extremely realistic, their accents were impeccable & they teleported me without (visible) effort into 1950’s suburban Chicago. Having such a deliciously drab set helped inestimably. In the second half the troupe takes on new roles; instigating & ensuring a dipping of my suspension of disbelief. The joy I felt toward the end when the 1950s actors returned to the stage, beyielding my spirit unto a child-like joy, made me realise that as entertainment Norris would have been better off staying in the 50s, but to win awards he needed to make it contemporary as well. The awards were won, yes, but the piece then becomes imperfect as timeless drama. Still, if you have a good company involved, then Clybourne Park gives its actors a chance for something meaty, something pleasantly performable, & Rapture were simply superb at it.
Damian Beeson Bullen
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 16 – 21, 2019
Oran Mor’s year of celebration continued with a revival of Morag Fullarton’s take on the Mack the Knife story about the period leading up to the production of what eventually became The Threepenny Opera. There was great upheaval at this time in between-the-wars in Berlin just before the rise of the Nazis, mirrored in the action onstage which was carefully choreographed to contain all the vivid, comedic activity. The entourage on stage included 4 actors, with some having double roles; Keith Fleming, playing Lotte Lenya’s, husband, doubling up as the delectable MacHeath and also playing guitar. The dialogue kept up a fast and furious pace, interspersed with frequent songs that grew in passion and significant the further we were hurled into the plot. Bertholt Brecht (George Drennan) came on – a larger than life character sliding the four of them together in theatrical style. All of which lead to Lotte auditioning for a show in Berlin. She was almost faced with the three men conspiring about her, all in the name of the show. The story stuck very well to the original style of the 30’s song by Kurt Weill who wrote it with Bertholt Brecht writing the lyrics. The comedy flew faster than a speeding light as did everything else, in a whirlwind and exuberant spectacle of dance, song and enticing comedy.
The said Kurt Weill (Kevin Lennon) was also big personality, stealing the show in every conversation and standing out in his showy, not to be ignored outfits. With Lotte on the verge of stardom the show crept ever closer and behind the scenes things were far from peaceful, with problems coming on all sides at Brecht who did well not to fall apart. In the end, the show finally became the Threepenny opera and when the song Mack the Knife was performed it was immediately loved by audience after audience, performance after performance, and word spread about how brilliant it was. But other forces were in play, as we saw when our four characters onstage were called to be part of the darkness in Berlin at this time. An officer dressed as a Nazi had the three in line questioning them about their lives as artists, leaving having decimated the show. Lotte was placed in a useful Jewish section of the world but their lives had already been thrown apart. Except that in the end, as we listen the strains of Mack the Knife at the end of the show, we were reminded that this great song was too well liked to just disappear. It seems appropriate to revive this musical now, at this time of turmoil in our own politics.
The Mumble love the PPP at the Oran Mor – cutting edge theatre & a decent scran – its a winning combo. BBC Scotland are about to broadcast several plays – so folk can get their pies & their beers from the local store & watch from the comfort of their own home
The team at Oran Mor is justifiably proud of A Play, A Pie and A Pint, the distinctive lunchtime productions which year by year have grown in fame and popularity ever since their launch by founder, the late David McLelland, in 2004. And 2019 is a celebration year for PPP, marking as it does the 500th play, not to mention recognition of their achievements in the shape of the award for “Contribution to Scottish Culture”. All of which has generated the interest of BBC Scotland who will record and screen some of the plays for a new series.
Oran Mor’s proprietor, Colin Beattie, himself a huge supporter of PPP, is “ ..more than pleased that A Play, A Pie and a Pint is at last being featured on national television… A lot of dedicated people have contributed to Oran Mor’s success… I have no doubt our founder, David McLennan is also pleased his legacy is being aired on the BBC.”
The excitement is shared by Artistic Directors April Chamberlain and Morag Fullerton who are keen to point out that having the TV cameras present won’t change anything – they’ll stick to their tried and tested formula for the live events and hope that the series will give a wider audience the chance to experience this unique “little lunchtime phenomenon” for themselves. Chamberlain points out that it will also afford an opportunity for “the fantastic writers, directors and performers that we work with the chance to engage with audiences on a wider scale.” “It would be fantastic,” she adds “if writers who haven’t worked on television before went on to be picked up for something else, and hopefully this will encourage everyone involved to take risks.”
Amen to that!
PPP is famous for showcasing both new and existing talent and I look forward to catching up with some of the best of the shows in the comfort of my own home – though I’ll have to supply my own pie and pint! Go to the i-Player to find “Ring Road” and “Chic Murray: Funny Place to Put a Window” as well as other productions which are scheduled to appear throughout the autumn. I can only agree with April Chamberlain when she states “It’s obviously different from the live experience but if it helps to grow an interest and an appetite for audiences, it could be the start of a great thing”. Cheers!
Ring Road by Anita Vettesse.
BBC Scotland: Sunday 8 September 2019, 10pm.
A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity by Douglas Maxwell
BBC Scotland: Sunday 15 September 2019, 10pm.
Toy Plastic Chicken by Uma Nada-Rajah
BBC Scotland: Sunday 22 September 2019, 10pm.
Meat Market by Chris Grady
BBC Scotland: Sunday 29 September 2019, 10pm
Crocodile Rock by Andy McGregor
BBC Scotland: Sunday 29 September 2019, 10pm
Oran Mor, Glasgow
September 9-14, 2019
Today’s play, pie and pint offering was a three-hander intriguingly entitled No 1 fan, by Kim Millar and appeared at the Oran Mor as part of a tour of Scottish cities. Joyce Falconer took to stage as Jan in a striking red dressing gown, soon to be joined by David McGowan as Andy her husband. From the first it was clear that Andy had found himself a younger lover less than half the age of his long suffering wife. So poor Jan was in turmoil from get go, not only trying to deal with her husband cheating on her, but with someone so very much younger. The script was sharp and pointed as Jan energetically tore strips off her errant husband about the age of her rival, not to mention the moral issue of older men coupling with far younger women.
But Jan had a plan to get her own back. She would pick up a gentleman of her own. A darker side emerged when she revealed that in fact she was going to target a specific gentleman, a journalist named Jack (Callum Cuthbertson) whose newspaper column habitually degraded older women. Jan lured her victim to the house, where he appeared in a cravat and adopted a rather arrogant stance as a darling of the business. Until she slipped something in his drink causing him to regain consciousness slumped against a radiator with Jan standing over him holding handcuffs on a chain in an almost cabaret-like spectacle. At first he thought he was going to be in for some sexual shenanigans, but as Jan chains him to the radiator she made it clear that what she wanted was for him to write a column retracting his previous attitudes.
This play featured very strong performances from all three actors. Joyce Falconer totally over the top and dangerous as Jan, railing against the way older women are treated. David McGowan as Andy, trying to justify his infidelity, but coming in the end to remember what older women have to offer and asking for forgiveness. Callum Cuthbertson as Jack the charming journalist whose swaggering persona was perhaps hiding a feeling that he could be knocked off his pedestal at any moment.
In the end I found this quite a touching piece about the power struggle between the sexes, making its points with humour and absurdity, but coming in the end to some kind of resolution. When Andy asked for a second chance, Jan magnanimously replied with a toast to second chances as the lights went down.
From the tectonic pressures of rehabilitation and recovery
A theatrical diamond has been born
Hello Farley, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Although I’ve lived in a few other places briefly, I was born in Hollywood and raised in the Los Angeles area of California, and I still live here. For better or for worse, I say… but It’s a great place to be an artist.
When did you first develop a passion for the stage?
I fell in love with theater at nine years old, when I was first cast in an original musical version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was a local children’s theater production, and I had only one line, but I was hooked and never recovered, you might say.
What is the theatre scene like in Los Angeles?
Well, it has changed significantly over my lifetime, as there are only a handful of large professional theater companies these days. I think what Los Angeles has become known for, over the last few decades, is the 99-seat theater scene. There is a lot of innovative and original work being done here. On any given evening, dozens of shows are pushing the boundaries of the art form all over town. However, my true love is musical theater, and I perform more commonly in the large professional houses that have the budget for the sets, costumes, and glitz of the broadway style shows.
Your performance skills are a bit of a (tasty) soup – what are the ingredients?
I am a seasoned musical theater performer which is definitely the soup base. My wacky sense of humor is the unexpected spicy cayenne pepper, perhaps. Plus, a squeeze of lemon is my big bright versatile voice. The new ingredient these days is my vulnerability, a secret spice one might say, that makes my new show different from my past work.
You’ve got three famous actors, dead or alive, coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. It makes me laugh just imagining those three together. And Kate Hepburn would be in charge of the menu. She would run that dinner party, I have no doubt, and I would let her!
You’re bringing a play to the United Solo festival, can you tell us about it?
In December of 2017, just before Christmas, I had a stroke which affected my speech, reading, hearing, and comprehension. I felt deeply lost, hopeless, frightened, and helpless during my illness. With STROKE OF LUCK, I have crafted a way to tell the story, going back and forth in time, in monologues and song.
When did you realise you wanted to turn your experiences into a play & why?
After my stroke I wanted so badly to simply return to being my ‘old self’, but my brain just seemed broken. Well, it was. Nonetheless, I dug deep into my rehabilitation and recovery. With the encouragement of my friends, I gave myself the big crazy task of telling the tale of what happened to me and transformed my life… out loud… with music… to an audience! When the idea of STROKE OF LUCK was born it was a ridiculous idea – as I could barely read or write, and speaking was quite difficult! But I’m a performer – what else could I do? Believe it or not, the show premiered in Los Angeles last year, just 10 months after my stroke. The miracle of that is not lost on me.
You describe the play as containing universal truths…
Well, of course, not everyone has had a stroke, but most people have been touched by this illness because of a close family member, co-worker, or friend having had one. Many people die every year from strokes or never fully recover. But even bigger than that is the question of how you deal with any significant illness. The fact is – being severely ill strips your identity away. It is profound and painful. Who you are, or thought you were in this world, is gone. The loss of identity is a big theme in the show. Also, the loss of one’s “voice” is a very vulnerable thing that I think really resonates with people.
How is directer Kirsten Chandler handling your creative baby?
Kirsten is not only a well respected Los Angeles director, but also a dear friend. She is one of many special friends who came to visit me right after the stroke happened. She knew me before, during, and after the stroke, so she had a true understanding of what I had been through. She helped me craft the humor of the show, and most importantly the “stroke moments” I recreate, in the most powerful way possible. I also could not have done this without the wisdom, friendship, and steady hand of my producer, Dion Mial. His input is incalculable.
What is the last thing you do before you step out on stage?
I need some silence really. I need a quiet moment or a little serenity before the madness of putting it all out there on stage for 90 minutes. It takes all of me, every last bit of me, to do this show.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell your play in the streets of New York…
I’ll make you laugh, I’ll make you cry, and you might just learn something about life, too. I know for sure that you will never forget it.
Friday, October 11th, 2019
United Solo Theatre Festival
410 West 42nd Street, NYC
A mercurial talent is bringing his personal twist on Goethe’s darkest tale to the United Solo Festival, New York
Hello Glen, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I live in New York City and travel and perform all over North America and Europe, especially Britain and Ireland.
When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
My mother says I started acting when I was two. Then I tried to organize neighborhood children to put on plays. I did a lot of children’s theater and community theater as well as school plays.
Can you tell us about your training?
I trained at The Juilliard School, at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and in Michael Chekhov’s approach to acting. I’ve also done a movement training called Spacial Dynamics.
Can you tell us about Anthropos & your role?
Anthropos is my touring-production company. It received its name in 2010 to acknowledge the spirit of what my colleagues and I present and the impulse to create and perform stories and plays of unusual scope and humanity. Anthropos is the Greek word for human being. We seek to uphold and celebrate what is truly human, through the arts of theater and storytelling.
You’re bringing a play to the United Solo festival, can you tell us about it?
Friday, September 20 at 9pm. Beat the Devil!
(the WHOLE story)
by JW von Goethe and Glen Williamson
(his drama, my words)
It’s the story of a guy who makes a bargain with the devil, but Goethe gives it a twist, so the devil gets more than he bargained for. It’s purely theatrical storytelling that fills the stage. And it’s relevant, timely and timeless.
You have also toured North America in The Refugees’ Tale, based on Goethe’s Green Snake parable, so what is it about the greatest German poet that makes you tick?
As a consequence of the horrible tragedy of the 20th century, much of the depth and spirit of middle European culture has been lost or debased. It’s part of my mission in life to bring that spirit to life. Goethe, the greatest of many great German poets and philosophers, was also a scientist who laid the groundwork for reuniting western thought with spiritual reality.
Where & when did the idea for Beat the Devil! originate, & is the reality fulfilling your vision?
When I was 21 I was sent through an exchange program to work as a stage hand for the full production of Goethe’s Faust in Dornach, Switzerland, and I fell in love with the story, the characters, the ideas, the imagery and the poetry. Then in 1999, I was asked to perform a solo story version in honor of the 250th anniversary of Goethe’s birth, for the Anthroposophical Society in New York. I’ve been performing it fairly often ever since. It has gone farther and affected far more people than I had ever expected.
What emotive responses do you expect from the audience?
This story touches something deep in us about what it means to be human in the face of evil.
What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
Make sure my fly is zipped. Then as I begin, I have a moment to think of the people who guided me to this story, including J. W. von Goethe himself.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell your play in the streets of New York, what would you say?
This is one of the greatest works of world literature. I’ve condensed it into 90 minutes. I’ve been performing it for 20 years all over North America and Europe. It’s won two awards off Broadway. And I would love to share it with you, whoever you are.
September 20th, 2019
United Solo Theatre Festival
410 West 42nd Street, NYC