31 October, 2019

'October' By Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

27 October, 2019

"Cabaret" live from 54 Below

October 27, 2019 - Live at Feinstein's/54 Below 
Music Directed by Ben Caplan 
Conceived by Alexandra Silber 
Produced by Jen Sandler 
Filmed & Edited FAMOUS IN NY - http://famousinny.com

22 October, 2019

Broadway.com #LiveatFive with Alexandra Silber

Alexandra Silber chats about her upcoming Feinstein's/54 Below show I WISH and more!

20 October, 2019

I Wish: The Roles that Could've Been

Dear Friends.

I have started a concert series, and it is a miracle of hope and celebratory energy.
"I Wish: The Roles that Could've Been" is a chance for performers to live out their dreams-- the roles that passed them by, the roles that never will be, but TONIGHT: here we are.
Playing the role in living color at Broadway's supper club, 54 Below.

The first concert was an impromptu endeavor on June 2, the week before the Tony Awards. It was such a huge success that 54 Below agreed to make it a serial.

Behold the opening number (with lyrics co-written by genius, Brian Nash):

Once Upon a Time … 
I wish
In a far off kingdom
 more than HANNIGAN
More than THE LIFE
of Metro Detroit… 
More than TupTim
Lived a young maiden 
More than THE LIFE
With totally delusional casting dreams 
MORE THAN EPONINE! More than TiMoune!
I wish to play Mama Rose and Scar
I wish to play Mama Rose and Scar
George Serat!

The guests are gifted.
The evening is pure positivity and light.
It feels like a great big celebration of actualized possibilities.
A party.
A catharsis.

The wonderful October cast
my incredible producer Jen Sandler!
To view the ever-expanding playlist (all captured by Famous in NY) click here

In action!

As I say at the conclusion of the concert:

Octavia Spencer was told she was weird-looking and “not for Hollywood.” Suck it haters: she now has an Oscar.

Samuel L. Jackson recovered from a crippling addiction to cocaine and heroin before landing Pulp Fiction at 46.

And even though Angela Lansbury was nominated for an Oscar at 18, a Goldwyn girl, a movie and gigantic Broadway star, she wasn’t a household name until she starred on Murder, She Wrote which she began at the age of 60.

Not to mention Ariana Huffington starting The Huffington post at age 54.

Or Charles Darwin, who was 50 years old before he published On the Origin of the Species in 1859.

Or Julia Child who published her first cookbook at 39; and made her television debut at age 51.

PROOF that dreams DO happen, and it is never too late for ANYTHING

Tonight you have watched people live their dreams, and I hope YOU remember why you are pursuing YOURS.

02 October, 2019

"Never Again is Now" -- A talk with "Dr. Drama"

Enjoy one of the best and most difficult conversations I've had in years with "Dr. Drama" (a practicing psychologist and theatre-lover who uses theatre to explore and disucss psychological themes in the mainstream. She runs a brilliant blog featuring "Interviews & insight from Broadway's psychologist.")

[TW: This article contains a discussion of the Holocaust and pictures of white nationalists and Nazi Germany.]
As I prepared to interview sage actor and writer Alexandra Silber (Fiddler on the Roof, author of After Anatevka and White Hot Grief Parade) about her role in the Olney Theatre production of Cabaret, I kept thinking about the parallels between the nationalist, xenophobic song, “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” and the war cry of white nationalists saying, “The Jews will not replace us” during their march in Charlottesville in 21017. Cabaret is a show that both helps us elucidate the past and reflects upon contemporaneous issues. With anti-Semitism and other hate crimes on the rise in recent years, this show, its questions, and its provocation are the kind of theater that we need. I spoke with Al about what this musical tells us about how hatred takes hold, how this show is impacting audiences, and the ways in which doing this show is an act of resistance.

What do you think the show is saying about how fascism comes to power and how xenophobia gains ground?
It’s really crucial to draw contemporary social parallels that are at the moment all too prescient, such as the systematic hunting down of “illegals”, the trauma being caused, and dehumanization. 
One thing I think is really, really important to say before we get into anything else, just as a huge disclaimer, is that a crucial distinction is they [immigrants] are not being systematically terminated and murdered. In the Holocaust, we should never forget that 9 million people were systematically exterminated. (And for Russia scholars, they probably add 20 more million people to that.) I don’t want to say that in terms of exclusivity, what I want to say is those people’s memories are lost and need to be honored for what it is and not diminished by being compared to something that it is not. 

Torch-bearing white nationalists rally around a statue of Thomas Jefferson on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Aug. 11, 2017. (Edu Bayer/The New York Times)

It’s important to make that distinction like you said, to honor their lives, to distinguish how what’s happening now in our country is different from what happened and also to move the discussion forward. There are important lessons to be gleaned from what did happen that we can apply to what’s happening right now.
Correct and also it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. I think that we’re starting to become even more aware of that as things become scarier in our waking world. The further away we get from the Holocaust and the rise of the Nazi party in time, the more it really does feel foreign to younger people, something that happened in the past, as far away as Medieval times and the dinosaurs walking the Earth. The way that we got there is exactly the way we’re walking there right now and that’s the beginning of this conversation.

‘Cabaret’ at Olney Theatre Center. (Photo: Stan Barouh)
Hitler and authoritarians like him didn’t invent or create racism. They didn’t create anti-Semitism or anti-immigrantion points-of-view or nationalism. They didn’t invent those, they have fertilized on those feelings that were already there and are lying dormant in our humanity. When people feel their survival is being challenged, they operate completely for the fear-based place and the worst of them comes out. 

Fascism and racists aren’t born, they’re made. As it is said in South Pacific, “you have to be carefully taught”. 
The rise of fascism and the rise of specific targeted hate associated with fascism, it happens in stages. It starts with dehumanization, it moves on to expulsion, the removal of rights and it ends ultimately with extermination. We are already at three out of four. When we start to be unmoved watching video after video of children being separated from their families, begging people to treat them like human beings, that’s how we know dehumanization is working.

And once upon a time in the rise of Nazi Germany, Jews were being compared with rats. First they said that they do not belong here, they are not German. Even Jews who were born in Germany were called, “generational interlopers”, which is exactly what is being said now about people from Mexico, central South America and the Middle East. They are generational interlopers and they are stealing our business. They are taking our jobs, they are ruining our economy for the people that “belong” here. And the more you compare them to vermin, the more palatable the concept of exterminating them because they’re not human beings.

Then second, we start to get into expulsion, now Jews can only live in this part of town. They have to identify themselves with a Star of David on their clothing. We have to round them up and put them somewhere and then suddenly we have the removal of rights, meaning you don’t get to vote, you have to pay higher taxes, you don’t get to have state benefits. That’s already happening in America with access to public services, even if you’re documented. 
Jewish families being forced out of their homes by Nazis in Poland (Photo: Getty Images)
The next thing we got here on the list is extermination. Once you have Hitler, it’s too late. That means that you have been operating inside your bubble for so long that you didn’t see evil right there. I think for a lot of people, they just felt so secure. New York City, Los Angeles, these cities were so incubated in their liberalism that they didn’t even connect with, speak to, pay attention to any other opinions that were happening in different parts of the country. It’s a lot like Berlin in the 1930’s. 
Cabaret is a play about the price and the cost of complicity. What does it cost to identity with evil? To actively do nothing? And the play is an answer to the question, “How did this happen?” Then the show ends with the question, “What are you going to do about it?”

Can we talk about what a song like, “Money” says about how economic fear and xenophobia? 
One of the things I don’t think I ever fully grasped is that the song is commenting upon how Cliff has decided to blindly smuggle money for the Nazis. Cliff is a protagonist, a “good American boy”. He has decided to ask no questions and go back and forth with these briefcases full of cash and do what he has to do to pay his rent. So many people were in precisely that position. I think what’s really profound about Cliff is that he has the ability to ask deeper questionnaires, he has the ability to comprehend their answers, he just completely declines to. He’s different from Sally who is operating in ignorance. She is like so many of us, her weakness is that she cannot bear the ugly. Of course we must laugh and celebrate and heal and continue on with as much joy as we can muster but there’s a huge distinction from that and blocking out reality. 

We have a responsibility to humanity. I’ll openly admit that five or six years ago, I was a person that thought, I don’t have a revolutionary spirit and I don’t find politics particularly interesting. A couple of causes mean a lot to me but on the whole, it’s not my thing. And then 2016 happened. I am Jewish and I am white passing. I’m an artist, but I live in a socioeconomic bracket that isn’t poverty. So I am privileged, it wouldn’t change my way of life whatsoever if I didn’t want to look. But my human conscience won’t allow me to have people and the news speak of my friends and colleagues as if their lives are worthless or don’t exist. Perhaps that comes from the echoes of 1930’s Germany that I feel in my DNA. 

In the Jewish community, we have this phrase “Never Again”. My question to the world who is listening to and reading this is, what does that mean? If it’s just something we say, then it becomes a trope without action. It requires resistance. If you ever wondered who you’d be and what you would do during the Holocaust, you’re doing it right now. 

There is this almost hysterical denial represented in the show. In 1930’s Berlin, it was music and booze and drugs. Currently, it may still be alcohol and drugs but it’s also our phones that we use to get those dopamine rushes that keep us satiated.   
We live in a society of decadence, the decadence is simply personal, external validation. Whereas once upon a time it was partying all night long, we’ve completely replaced that with our phones, which doesn’t make it any less decadent. We are distracted. 
Alexandra Silber as Sally Bowles (Photo: Stan Barouh)
Cabaret is a show that confronts. Given the world we currently live in, how have your audiences been responding?
In the original production, they very famously staged a mirror that was in the very back of the club that was revealed and audience saw itself in the final moments. What it says is you are now watching yourself watch as families burn. By confronting yourself in the mirror, the innate subtextual question there is, are you a different person than that person watching? 

What we all wanted with this production was for people in the audience to be so disturbed and so shaken that they donated money, that they called their Congress-person, that they did something. We have a Brechtian ending where we turn on the lights and we look directly in their eyes. We are all standing on stage, every single person in the company. I look in a patron’s eyes for 30 silent seconds. There’s some people that look all around, still trying to have audience-actor relationship.There are people that are extremely confrontational, that feel tricked that you made me laugh and you asked me to applaud and now you’re punishing me. And then there are people that are weeping that say I don’t know what to do but this 30 seconds of being held by your eyes is helping me find the strength to do something. 

The whole purpose of theater, going back to its origin, was to have a group catharsis and for political action because everyone in the community, including the Greek senators, were there. Actors were speaking directly to their representatives and in our society we have been told, and hopefully those truths will remain so, that we are in charge of our own political destiny with the power of our vote and the power of our voice. If that holds true, then hopefully when you attend any piece of theater you have your cathartic experience, whether it be joy or sorry, but please also leave the theater and do something with those emotions. Take action for it to make the world a better place.

We really need a show like Cabaret right now. We need to lean into the awareness and the political. 
One of my favorite things I’ve learned is the Hebrew phrase, chevak v’ematz, which means “travel bravely”. There’s this beautiful little micro scene at the very end of Cabaret where Herr Shultz stops to say goodbye to Cliff and Sally. Cliff says to him, “I wish you much Mazel [good luck]” and Herr Shultz responds, “Mazel. That is what we all need.” I always feel hit that he would say that, the ancient wisdom there is so crucial. It’s not travel safely, it’s travel bravely

Dr. Drama


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