Literary NewsSpring 2017

Roman Plays from RSC Live
From April 26 and May 24; worldwide: Beginning in April, Royal Shakespeare Company screens a live production of Julius Caesar, about Caesar’s assassination, at cinema houses worldwide. Beginning in May, the RSC screens Antony and Cleopatra, about the ancient lovers and their downfall. To locate the nearest venues, click here; then click “Book Tickets.”

India’s Mahabharata at A.C.T.

April 26-May 21; San Francisco, CA: Legendary director Peter Brook stages Battlefield, based on the ancient epic Mahabharata and its incarnation in a play by Jean-Claude Carrière. Collaborating on the American Conservatory Theater production with Marie Hélène Estienne, Brook stages a 70-minute adaptation that focuses on war, death, and the conduct of victors. Click here for more details.

The Odyssey at NDSU
April 27-May 6; Fargo, ND: A modern woman struggles to understand Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Odyssey in this adaptation (by Mary Zimmerman) of Homer’s classic at North Dakota State University. The show's modern woman soon morphs into the goddess Athena, a constant champion of Odysseus in his ten-year journey home after the Trojan War. For tickets, click here.

Bernarda Alba
May 3-12; Long Island, NY: La Guardia Community College stages Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, about a tyrannical mother who, after their father’s death, confines her daughters at home to tragic effect. Click here for more details.

Forgotten Walt Whitman Novel
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The chapter pays sweeping attention to the more and less famous, much as Leaves soon would. At one point, Jack wanders to the grave of Alexander Hamilton, referring vaguely to his death by duel and the burial that followed. “On the day of his funeral … while dire wishes of vengeance rankled in many a bosom, [a mass of citizens] moved in solemn procession … to Trinity Church.” Scholar Ed Folsom directs us to another passage, in which Jack imagines himself covered by the yard’s “long, rank grass.” He comes to the grave of a War of 1812 casualty: “‘JAMES M. BALDWIN, / Aged 22 years’ … my own age,” muses Jack. In the end, Jack Engle is a rare find partly because it testifies to Whitman’s struggle to settle on the best genre for his ideas. Whitman, says Folsom, is "at this moment ... discovering why conventional plots will no longer serve for the kind of writing he feels he has to accomplish ... this novel thus lets us experience the moment … when he realizes fiction simply will not serve the kind of creative work he will devote the rest of his life to.” To read Jack Engle in full, click here.

Intimate Apparel Adds a Stitch to American History
True, Esther Mills is an ace seamstress. But the 35-year-old New Yorker is not particularly pretty, or rich, or political, or even sociable. So why place her at the center of a quietly searing American drama? Because there are holes in the fabric of American history, holes that we writers fill, explains Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Lynn Nottage. Intimate Apparel (2003), her award-winning slice of early 1900s life, is doing just that. The play is currently resurfacing on stages nationwide, from Paducah, Kentucky (Market House Theatre); to Chapel Hill, North Carolina (PlayMakers Repertory Company); to Princeton, New Jersey (McCarter Theatre Center); to Lenox, Massachusetts (Shakespeare & Company). And indeed the drama adds to American history, gracefully, naturally, every bit as vitally as other titles have for neglected facets of the popular experience.

Intimate Apparel takes us into a Manhattan boarding house in 1905, to a boudoir, or small bedroom/receiving room, to be exact. Actually every scene is set in a boudoir, and in the PlayMakers Rep production, there’s a versatile backdrop too: A building facade doubles as a projection screen—for a bustling New York tenement street, a muddy Panama Canal building site, and more. Yes, the Panama Canal figures in the story. Incidentally woven into its narrative is the drastic loss of black laborers lives there then. So are other historical touches: the women’s suffrage movement, the great ethnic mix in New York at the time (black migrants from the South, Jewish apparel workers from Europe).

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