The folks at Improv Everywhere up to their old tricks again.
More at Improv Everywhere
Angela Lansbury in one of her signature roles at the 1975 Tony Awards.
About two-thirds of the way through the clip, Lansbury gets surprised by a guest dancer. Don’t miss it. The look on her face is wonderful. (If you don’t recognize who it is, I’ll post his identity in the comments.)
Thanks to YouTuber kotlicek
FISM has been called the World Olympics of Magic. It’s not quite that, but it is an international competition where performers attempt to wow their fellow magicians. This year’s winner was the amazing Eric Chien who turns some common tropes of card and coin magic upside down and inside out. For me, he’s the most refreshing card man since Shin Lim.
Click on the video to see some powerfully entertaining magic that will leave you shaking your head, “How?”
More at Eric Chien
If you haven’t seen or don’t remember the classic scene from the the movie Spartacus about the leader of a Roman slave rebellion, click on the very short video below, so that the rest of this makes sense:
More videos at Improv Everywhere
Dick Van Dyke and the eloquent Sharon Lerit from the Broadway stage production of Bye Bye Birdie dance up a storm.
Van Dyke learned years later that the producers had wanted to fire him out of town, but Gower Champion had fought hard to keep him. Van Dyke and the show made it to New York and hit it big.
Thanks to YouTuber lee a
Department of Self-Referential Videos Department.
The original Broadway cast of Bye Bye Birdie–including the fabulous Paul Lynde– singing the Ed Sullivan song–on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Thanks to YouTuber lee a
Jean Simmons’ wonderful turn as the Salvation Army worker who just had her first drink in Frank Loesser’s Guys And Dolls. And, of course, Marlon Brando, in one of the oddest casting decisions for a movie musical, as the leading man, gambler Sky Masterson.
Thanks to YouTuber ZSy264
The world lost a wonderful magician this week. The above video is by no means Ricky Jay’s most baffling trick, but in some sense it is one of his most quintessential. Who else but Ricky Jay would think of pulling this off this way.
Thanks to YouTuber PrestyGomez
Jonathan Swift’s brilliant satirical proposal regarding the dual problems of poverty and famine still feels fresh and apropos. Here’s a version I performed and produced that was broadcast yesterday on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC.
Thanks to Mary Murphy for directing the piece.
Click on the grey triangle to listen.
Richard Burton playing Hamlet, “To Be or not to be,” and “Get thee to a nunnery.”
There are aspects here of Burton’s performance that could be criticized but there’s no doubt he had the voice, emotional sensibility, intelligence and nobility of character to be a great Hamlet.
“For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have proved most royally.”
Linda Marsh as Ophelia
Thanks to YouTuber tvclassics
Impressionist Jim Meskimen impresses in this excerpt from Shakespeare’s Richard III with a plethora of spot-on celebrity impersonations. I think his Richard Burton, Woody Allen, and Garrison Keillor are particularly good, but I don’t think there’s a miss in the lot. Let me know which ones you most enjoy.
More at Jim Meskimen
John Barrymore chewing up the scenery in this no-holds-barred performance as the crook-back’d Richard, Duke of Gloucester, on the eve of gaining the Crown as Richard III.
This is from Henry VI, the prequel to Richard III, which details Gloucester’s rise.
Thanks to YouTuber erfv102012
And don’t forget to enter the Fourth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest. It’s fun and easy with great prizes. Read the details here:
Deadline coming up, now’s a good time to enter.
I’m not a big fan of clothes shopping, so when I needed some lightweight chinos last week, I ducked into the first store I saw, rifled through the pants on the first table as one walks in the door, and found two pairs in my waist and inseam size. As I carried the two identical slacks to the cashier, the clerk chased after me, asking if I was going to try them on.
I was in a hurry for another appointment, and I know my fit pretty well, so I told him no thanks. He shrugged his shoulders, and I continued walking over to the cashier. The cashier rings them up, and for the two of them it comes to $200 plus tax. I was non-plussed. I have never paid that much for chinos in my life. I would have expected that for such a price they would have diamonds and rubies embedded in the slacks. But I swallowed hard, paid for them, and headed back home with them.
A week later, I still haven’t tried them on or cut out the labels, but I figure, let me see why these chinos are worth $100 apiece. As soon as I start to try to get into them, the awful truth becomes apparent: they are way too small. I can barely squeeze into them. My memory of my correct waist size was, shall we say…faulty.
My wife’s reaction makes it clear that, “No, Jack, that’s not the style, and onlookers should not be intimately aware of whether you dress left or right.” So it’s clear I look even more foolish than usual in those pants. So with a sigh. I’m resigned to exchanging the pants for a better size that would not force me to use a crowbar to get into them.
I’m more than annoyed, since the shop was an hour subway ride away, and this is going to kill a whole weekend afternoon, but I took a book along with me to pass the time on the trip. Turns out it was a pretty interesting book, Tyrant: Shakespeare & Politics by Stephen Greenblatt.
I go into the store, and fortunately I’m able to find some sizes of the same chinos I had bought that look like they might be candidates for fitting me properly. I take them into the fitting room and actually try them on—what a concept!—and one of them fits perfectly this time. So I grab another pair of the same size, and go up to the cashier for the exchange.
As the young woman at the cash register starts to swap my pants for the exchange, she glances at the Shakespeare book in my hand and asks me if it was an interesting book.
“Yes, sure. It’s a very interesting book. It’s got a lot in common with your store. It’s about Banana Republics.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s about the kings and emperors in Shakespeare. The author asks, “What did Shakespeare have to say about tyrants?”
“In what sense?”
“What’s the psychological make-up of a tyrant? Where does that personality come from? How are tyrants allowed to come to power? How do they rule, how are they resisted, and most importantly, how are they finally stopped?”
“Well, Trump’s name is never mentioned, but it’s clear that that’s who the author is directly pointing to. Julius Caesar, Richard III, Coriolanus. The lust for power, the appeal to a false populism even as he despises the common people, and the demand for narcissistic approval from all around him.”
“Like King Lear, who had to have the approval of all three of his daughters, or else he would retaliate with vindictive power.”
“Exactly. Are you an actor?”
“No, I read a lot of Shakespeare. I was an English major in college. That’s why now I’m a cashier. Speaking of which, instead of doing an exchange of your pants, I got a better idea. I just noticed that these pants just went on sale yesterday. They’re actually on a two for one sale. So rather than exchange them, I’ll put this transaction in the system as a return of the ones you bought last week, which will give you a credit on your card for $200. Then I’ll ring up these two new pants as a separate transaction so you’ll be eligible for the two for one sale for $100.”
I was beyond happy.
And so, thanks to Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt, and a very kind young woman, I got the right size pants, $100 off my original bill, and met another Shakespeare lover.
A good day after all.
Here’s our radio version of the little sketch, Gun Shy, as broadcast yesterday on WBAI, during the Arts Express radio program. Many thanks to The Mighty Arts Express Players, composed of Pearl Shifer and Mary Murphy, and thanks again to Prairie Miller for all the encouragement.
Click on the triangle to listen.
In 1972, Groucho did a one man show of reminiscences at Carnegie Hall called An Evening With Groucho. In this short clip, he shares what happened when he encountered the magician Harry Houdini.
Click on the grey triangle to play.
Thanks to https://archive.org
My friend Alan who is a prolific playwright asked me if I’d like to write a very short three-minute curtain raiser for his new play reading. I said yes, having no idea at all what I would write. As it happened, the Parkland school shootings and the government response were still on my mind, so out came this merry little sketch.
Mother in the breakfast room; two children ages seven and eight (should be played by adults) offstage.
Mother: Justin, c’mon you’re going to be late to school.
Justin: (off) I’m coming.
Mother: You, too, Mercy, the school bus is going to be here any moment.
Mercy: (off) I’m coming. Give me a chance. (Justin enters with backpack on hand)
Mother: Look at you. Your hair’s a mess. And what about your sweater?
Justin: Yes, Mom. I have it.
Mother: And did you remember about your homework?
Justin: Really, Mom, you don’t have to remind us about every little thing. (Mercy comes down with her backpack in hand)
Mother: Can’t you get yourself together a little earlier so you don’t have to rush each morning?
Mercy: I’m sorry I was just packing up my backpack. We have a lot of equipment for our new class. And it’s so lame, they make us drag everything back and forth.
Mother: What class is that?
Mercy: Oh, the target class.
Mother: Target class?
Justin: It’s a new required class we have to take in school. We have to be able to kill 65% of potential intruders in order to pass the class, graduate, and go on to middle school.
Mother: How do they know if you’ve done that?
Justin: Well, a wound in one limb counts as a score of 30%, an eye counts for a score of 25%, for a kill you obviously get a 100.
Mercy: Well, unless someone else hits the guy first, in which case you only get 50% for an assist. It’s so unfair. So the thing to do is, if you can’t get a clean kill, try to mix and match so that it adds up to over 65%.
Justin: So two eyes and you pass.
Mercy: No you idiot, that doesn’t add up. That’s only 50—25 and 25.
Justin: I’m not good in math. It’s not my fault. My math teacher only has one eye. She was mistaken for an intruder.
Mother: Well all right, put on your backpacks. Wait a second. What’s that you got in there?
Mercy: Just a gun.
Mother: Oh. Okay. And what’s that?
Mercy: That’s another gun. Hi-powered, semi-automatic.
Mother: All right. (to Justin) You’re looking very guilty young man. And what’s that ?
Justin (ashamed looking down at the floor) Gum.
Mother: Gum? Gun or Gum?
Justin: Uh, Gum.
Mother: Oh my gosh. What is wrong with you? Hand that over young man. You should know by now you’re not allowed to chew gum in school. It’s not allowed. It’s really disrespectful to the teachers and staff. Didn’t I bring you up right?
Justin: I’m sorry. I just couldn’t…
Mercy: Ooh I’m telling.
Justin: Be quiet, you.
Mother: I am really, really so disappointed in you, Justin. Wrigley’s Spearmint. The most deadly flavor. In my day, you know what we did with students who brought gum to school? (pause) We shot them. Of course we were only allowed to graze them in my days. Old-fashioned I suppose, but the world has moved on. I guess you can’t stop progress. I don’t know what we’re going to do with you, Justin.
Mercy: (reluctantly) Ohhh…I guess you can have one of mine. But not the AR-15. Just one of the handguns.
Mother: That’s really kind and unselfish of you, Mercy. Maybe I did bring you kids up right after all. (Sound of bus horn honking) Okay here’s the bus. (kids run off) Don’t forget your lunches. Love ya. And children—No chewing in class! Knock ‘em dead!
Yesterday, WBAI broadcast my interview with actor/playwright/essayist Wallace Shawn on the Arts Express radio program. You can listen to his provocative discussion of privilege and denial by clicking on the grey triangle above.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students sing “Seasons of Love” from the play Rent.
It gave me the chills watching it.
Thanks to YouTuber CBS
As the ancients said:
“Art, and the Shakespeare-in-the-Park line, is long, but Life is short.”
One of New York City’s delights in the summer is the free theater offered by the Public Theater in Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre. Usually it consists of two different Shakespeare plays, one that opens in June and the other in July.
To get the free tickets, you have to show up at the Delacorte in the morning and wait on line until noon, when the tickets for that evening, a maximum of two per person, are given out.
The problem is figuring out what time to get on the line; although there are many tickets given out, for a popular production it is possible to be on the line and have enough people in front of you so that the tickets run out before they get to you. There’s nothing worse than getting to the park and seeing a long long line in front of you, and wait for hours, only to be told that there are no more tickets for that evening.
If you call up the Public and ask them what would be a recommended time to get there, they are cagily unhelpful. They will refuse to suggest a time, rightly feeling, I suppose, that if they gave out a time, it would just mean that people would all show up a bit earlier than that and cause a bottleneck even earlier.
If you are 65 or over, or disabled—and they will ask for proof—you may wait instead on a “Senior” line. Each person may still get two tickets, one of which must be for Senior or a disabled person, but the other ticketholder does not have to be a Senior or disabled. But if you call up the box office about the Senior line, they still will be quite Sphinx-like concerning what time to arrive to guarantee a ticket.
So, since I waited on line today, I decided I would keep track of how many people showed up hour by hour. This way you can judge for yourself what time you might want to come.
So, a couple of caveats; the best day, hands down, to guarantee admission, is to come on a weekday while the show is in previews , before its official opening. Once the play gets its initial media reviews, even if they are not positive, potential audience members become more aware of the show and the lines get longer, earlier. With that in mind here’s what happened today, waiting to get tickets for tonight’s performance of Othello:
7:00 AM: I arrived at the park, and there were 35 people ahead of me on the regular line. There was no one on the senior line.
8:00 AM: There were now 80 people on the regular line and 10 people on the Senior line.
9:00 AM: The regular line now had 115 people waiting, and 15 were on the Senior line.
10:00 AM: The regular line grew to 140 people, and the Senior line to 30.
At this point, I stopped keeping track. But when tickets were distributed at 12 noon sharp, everyone got tickets.
I have to say this is the first time of many occasions waiting where the line seemed so short. But as I said before that is probably because it was a weekday, and the show was still in previews. Be aware that these guidelines would be very different on a weekend and once a show has been reviewed.
Hope you get to see some of the shows this summer, the productions are always fun, and a worthwhile theater experience.
Last week I had the pleasure of being one half of the performers of the classic Abbott and Costello sketch, “Who’s On First?”
I think it is the most perfect piece of comedy ever written—if your native language is English.
My colleague Adam Pisco and I performed it before an auditorium of our public international high school English Language Learner students, none who have English as their native language, and many who have come here with no English at all. They represent dozens of countries and languages.
So we were afraid we were taking a big risk, and we were afraid that the students might not be able to understand the sketch, and not be quite able to get the wordplay involved.
But I’m very happy to report, as you can see and hear by clicking on the video, that we were absolutely wrong.