Isaiah's · Blog
Hello again, friends. Well it's autumn and our Symphony Space 30th Anniversary season has gotten underway. We had the Members' Open House and some of you were there. If you missed it you missed some tasty previews of what's to come--not to mention some great eats up on stage afterwards, but it's okay. If you missed the previews, you can still come to the shows themselves!
One of the celebratory events that are part of the Thirtieth Anniversary, is the planned Birthday Party show to take place on Thursday evening, January 10th (as close as we can come to exactly thirty years since the first WALL TO WALL BACH marathon on January 7, 1978). I promised my colleagues a star-studded extravaganza before and after the champagne toast at intermission. So I've been getting invitations out to over 130 stars, great and small, who have been part of thirty years of our ventures in literature, music, dance, and film. The way I figure it, if half are able to say yes they can make it, I'll have sixty five stars and will have to figure out what they will each do! The letters went out only a few days ago and already the first eighteen replies all say YES! Now I'm beginning to worry about what I'll do if this keeps up and I get 130 stars to star-stud a two-hour show, and that includes leaving some time for the champagne!
This past Thursday, I spent a day in Minneapolis at the annual Public Radio Program Directors Conference being held in that city this year. As you may have already heard, SELECTED SHORTS has made the leap from NPR, distributor of the series for many years, to their rival, PRI, Public Radio International. (This won't make any difference to stations or listeners--we'll still be on at the same time, same station.) But it means that PRI will try to get MORE stations, in cities where SELECTED SHORTS is not presently heard, to carry the show.
And that's why our PRI friends thought I should come to Minneapolis for at least one day of the convention, as they launched the new season of SHORTS, so that I could be introduced to Program Directors of our "target" stations and urge, beg, plead, cajole, and convince them that their listeners will enjoy our programs.
Now working the room in the atrium of the Minneapolis Marriott is an art I am just learning. You carry your drink, and in your handy pockets are giveaway SHORTS CDs and you look for names of people you are supposed to collar and persuade. Only you don't look at their collars, you look at their chests, trying to see the names on their nametags attached to the red public radio lanyard around their necks.
Then when you see someone you really must talk to, say the head of Boston's WGBH, and he is in earnest conversation with someone pitching him HIS show, you have to stand nearby, but not TOO nearby, and sort of half smile and not be rude and interrupt, but also not let the target fish escape when the person dominating him finally shuts up after saying, "I'll send you the CD".
I did the best I could, talking to Program Directors from stations in Boston, Baltimore, Tampa, San Francisco, Cleveland, Atlanta, and many others, though I couldn't get to everyone I wanted to see.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that PRI had made a life-size cardboard cut-out of all their hosts, including me, and I have pictures of me talking to that Cardboard Sheffer, a fine fellow who is taller and slimmer than I am. We were going to try bringing the cardboard Sheffer home with me in the plane, folded up so as not to require a separate airline ticket, but the PRI people said they would use it at future promotional events. Too bad, if we had it here, we could place it in the lobby of Symphony Space and relieve me of my practice of hanging out in the back to greet people.
More blogging soon on our beautiful renovated Symphony Space web site!
As I write this, August is now half over. It is still summer, but there are unmistakable signs that the new fall season is not that far off. School supplies are featured in the Duane-Reade windows. Back-to-School clothes are in the ads. The Yankees are slowly creeping up from their summer's malaise and breathing down the necks of the Red Sox. Soon it will be fall.
Which was always, since childhood, my favorite time of year. Crisp days, new shoes, new teacher if not a new school, new theatre season, new hopes and dreams.
I have returned from Cape Cod vacationing, with a stopover in western Massachusetts for our annual set of SELECTED SHORTS programs in Lenox, at The Mount, the beautiful home of Edith Wharton. Alec Baldwin was our reader at the performance at which the air conditioning in the lovely little carriage house of the Wharton estate broke down as he was in the midst of a rather long Edith Wharton mystery story. The narrative tension kept growing, and so did the readings on the thermometer. The crowd was intent on the mystery, but I was intent on the bead of perspiration I saw materializing just below Alec's left sideburn and slowly beginning to trickle down his cheek. "If that little droplet keeps coming," I thought to myself, "I will definitely have to get up from my seat on the left of the podium, and walk over and mop Alec's chin rather than leave that droplet dangling!" But he managed it himself with a deft sweep of his chin with his sleeve.
That was the Friday show. The other big star scheduled for the Sunday matinée closing performance was the wonderful Joanne Woodward. On Saturday morning we heard from Joanne that she had fallen terribly ill with stomach miseries and would have to cancel Sunday. Now, we are very resourceful usually in whipping up a star to replace a star--that's show business. But it's one thing to accomplish this with a few phone calls in New York City, but much more difficult a trick to pull off in the country in the middle of a drowsy summer weekend. So that's what made our producer Kathy Minton point out the clause in my contract which says that I am the general understudy and stand-by for SELECTED SHORTS readers who don't show up, and after a Saturday night and Sunday morning of studying and working on the rather lengthy Edith Wharton comic tale, "The Velvet Ear Pads", there I was up on stage doing it! The next day's headline in The Berkshire Eagle: "Substitute Comes Through With Wonderful Reading". You could look it up.
Among the first orders of business upon returning to Symphony Space was everyone's final corrections and proofreading of the gorgeous 64-page booklet you will soon be getting in your mailbox if you're a Symphony Space member: Our annual Season Overview brochure for the 2007-2008 30th Anniversary Season. I'm very proud of this handsome publication; not only because it's been so beautifully designed and produced by our Marketing Department, but for its content: the amazing line up of events in every artistic discipline that we are preparing for you from Labor Day until next summer. To tell you the blog's honest truth, the publication, now at the printer and soon on its way to you, both thrills me and scares me. The scary part is just this, as I tell my colleagues here at the theatre: "Now we have to actually DO all the things described in such promising prose and with such provocative photos." If we were in the magazine business, we'd be done. It's beautiful and it's gone to press. But this is live performing arts and the booklet must now be brought to life. Good luck to us.
"Summertime, and the theatre is busy..."
As I mentioned in my last blog entry a few weeks ago, this summer will see the next big step in the campaign we began last year at Symphony Space to establish summer stock on Broadway and 95th Street as a regular part of the city's summer cultural landscape, along with Shakespeare in the Park, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Summerstage, and all the rest.
And now it's all happening, David Epstein's powerful and meaningful anti-war drama, SURFACE TO AIR, is deep in rehearsal, the set is being built in a scehe shop and will be loaded in tomorrow night, July 2nd. James Naughton is directing a powerful cast headed by Larry Bryggman, Lois Smith, James Colby, and Cady Huffman, and the rehearsals are very moving as the drama of an American family 30 years after Vietnam takes shape. Perhaps you've seen our beautiful and expensive newspaper ads.
Friends, the future of live drama at Symphony Space depends on whether you buy tickets to SURFACE TO AIR, which begins performances on Wednesday, July 11, and has a limited engagement until Sunday, August 5th. This is the riskiest financial undertaking Symphony Space has ever attempted, and we need you on this one. You won't be sorry, it's a superb and entertaining, and important play, and you'll be able to say you were in on its birth.
FREE INVITATION!! MY OWN NEW PLAY!! As part of this summer theatre program, we're also presenting downstairs in the Leonard Nimoy Thalia a series of three Monday evening play readings of new works. This will begin on MONDAY, July 16, with a reading by a fine cast directed by Eduardo Machado of a new play that I've written (in my spare time!). It's an original comedy about a guy with a project which he tries to make happen. He knows he can't do it alone, he needs help. The play is entitled HELPERS and has a cast of six. The hero tells us about his project, and then we see him meet with a marketing consultant. In the next scene the marketing consultant meets with her therapist. Following that, the therapist is seen meeting with someone facilitating a rival project. Then we see that facilitator seeking help from her personal trainer, who in turn seeks help from . . . And so it continues, since everyone needs a little help from their friends. The one reading will happen on Monday, July 16, at 7:30pm, and tickets are free. Call the Symphony Space box office at 212-864-5400 to reserve a place for yourself that evening. See you there!
Time to catch up with my Blog!
What a busy spring at Symphony Space since returning in April from the Selected Shorts Cruise to the Middle East. Last Wednesday night, with a program of stories on food and travel, we completed the 23rd season of that short story series. Twenty three years!
In mid-May, after a year of hard work, negotiations with opera companies large and small and with divas' egos, large and small, we triumphantly presented WALL TO WALL OPERA--hundreds of performers and musicians, fifteen different collaborating companies, and a 13-hour feast of vocal music that began at 11 in the morning with the 1607 ORFEO of Claudio Monteverdi, and ended after midnight with generous servings of new 2007 operatic works in many genres and styles. It was gratifying to read the New York Times review a couple of days later that said that ambitious Symphony Space "outdid itself!"
Right now we're counting down the days to yet another 12-hour marathon event, this time literary in nature, our 26th annual James Joyce extravaganza, BLOOMSDAY ON BROADWAY XXVI. This will take place on Saturday, June 16th, from noon to midnight. You can hear it all on our website www.symphonyspace.org in real time, from the opening five hours which give you a guided tour of 15 of the 16 episodes of ULYSSES, a perfect introduction to doubters or new fans of the book, with just a little guidance as to the form, style, and narrative of he differing parts of the book, to a selection of letters to and from James Joyce, read by a lineup of Broadway stars, to a sensational one-hour performance by Adam Harvey of selections from FINNEGANS WAKE, fully staged, to the premiere of Paul Muldoon and Daron Hagen's new opera THE ANTIENT CONCERT, based on the legendary night when Joyce competed in a tenor competition with the legendary John McCormack, to the final three hour reading by the incomparable Fionnula Flanagan of Molly Bloom's complete, uncut, uncensored reading of Molly Bloom's night-time thoughts, with which the novel ends. It's great to listen on the web (which, by the way, frees us from our usual radio worries about the FCC and censorship), but it's even better to be at Symphony Space in person to enjoy the readings by almost a hundred fine actors. See you there, I hope!
Now it used to be that after I complete my own final Bloomsday reading, the part where Mr Bloom. after a long day, finally falls asleep next to Molly in their bed, I would breathe a great sigh of relief as I went to take my seat and listen to Fionnula's Molly. Why relief? Because it meant that another Symphony Space literary season was over, and I could now relax.
But not his year. And that's because the very next day we begin rehearsals for our next big step up for the SMMER STOCK ON BROADWAY AND 95TH STREET project which we launcehd last summer with MANHATTAN MADCAPS OF 1924.
This year, we're converting Symphony Space into an Equity-approved 499-seat theatre, and presenting the premiere of a very important new American play, David Epstein's powerful drama SURFACE TO AIR, about an American family gathering to receive the remains of their son shot down in combat in Vietnam thirty years ago, and facing up to their demons and how it is possible to live now.
SURFACE TO AIR is being directed by Tony-winner and SELECTED SHORTS regular James Naughton, and its cast is headed by Lois Smith and Larry Bryggman. I hope you'll all come out buy tickets and support our effort to make Symphony Space a place where important new drama is born. Previews begin July 11 and the show will run through the first weekend in August.
My last blog entry, on March 26, was from eight time zones east of here, aboard the cruise ship Crystal Serenity on the Arabian Sea. The SELECTED SHORTS performances were successful with the cruise passengers and, I hope, will open up new opportunities for selling Symphony Space attractions to the rest of the world in order to help the budget on 95th Street and Broadway.
Some highlights of the truly unreal two weeks on the luxury cruise, presenting literary readings:
Getting off the ship in Safaga, Egypt, and travelling in a convoy of buses, with police escort, to see Luxor and the Valley of the Kings with its Pharoah's sarcophagi;
Sailing into Aquaba, Jordan (cf Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia--"On to Aquaba!"--
and looking across at the lights of the Israeli port/resort of Eilat. Another long bus ride, this time with a Jordanian guide, through rocky desert landscape to the ancient ruins of Petra, something like a grand canyon carved in rock formations with Roman edifices and amphitheatres at the bottom. A long strenuous walk back up to the top, one portin of which I did on horseback, not camel.
Traversing the Suez Canal, in fact doing our second of three SHORTS programs in mid-canal, with windows showing both Asia and Africa.
Docking in Ashdod, Israel, a port on the Mediterranean, and taking a one hour drive through the West Bank, past the wall and the checkpoints, to spend a day seeing Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gesthemane, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Religious fervor on every street corner on that Palm Sunday, Jews, Christians, and Muslims in a big intense soup of religious energy. Back to the ship and departure for...
Cairo, Alexandria, and the Pyramids! Sailing INTO Egypt the ship held a haute cuisine Seder for those who wanted to commemorate the Exodus FROM Egypt! A little bizarre, but great chopped liver. Six hours on the bus to and from Gizeh, but those huge pyramids and the Sphinx were worth it.
Across the Mediterranean and up to Piraeus and Athens. The SELECTED SHORTS cast and I stole past the barriers onto the proskenium of the Theatre of Dionysus, where Aeschylus and Sophocles and Euripdes had their great hits, and orated some Shakespeare, since none of us had any Greek.
Then the long but wonderful climb up the Acropolis to the Parthenon. Spectacular.
Later in the day, walking around Athenian neighborhoods, I had the chance to test my long-held theory that you can't get a container of coffee to go without the cardboard cup having drawings of Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty!
Back to the ship for the final leg, through the Greek islands, the Dardanelles, and the Sea of Marmora, for a ghostly approach into the Bosphorus and Istanbul, with breath-taking vistas of huge illuminated mosques on the hills, sliding by the ship's windows.
Finally, three days on our own in the huge, crowded, sprawling metropolis of Istanbul, with daily crowds on the main streets like Times Square New Years Eve masses.
Then a long flight back home in time for last Wednesday's historic SHORTS event at Symphony Space, and rehearsals for tonight's Thalia Follies on Springtime, Baseball, and Sex.
It's good to be home.
Monday, March 26,
On Board the Crystal Serenity
In the Red Sea
I'm blogging now from my cabin on the port side of the luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity, as it makes its way from Salalah in Oman, where we boarded it, and heads towards its next port of call, Safaga, Egypt, not arriving there 'till Wednesday morning.
The Captain announced late last night as we made the right turn at the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula and started up the Red Sea towards Suez that we were right on schedule, and that Yemen was to the east of us and Africa and Eritrea was just beyond the horizon to the west.
Our journey to join this segment of Serenity's world cruise in Salalah and perform SELECTED SHORTS programs over the next two weeks of voyaging required a true ordeal of air travel. Why couldn't we have spread SELECTED SHORTS to the world by taking a cruise departing from the west side of Manhattan, or even nearby Ft. Lauderdale? Because this was the only time period in the entire season when I could get away for this length of time and be back in time for the April 11th SHORTS program and the April 16th Thalia Follies on "Springtime, Baseball, and Sex."
So Ethel and I joined Mia Dillon, one of our cast members, at JFK on Thursday evening for a British Airways overnight flight to Heathrow Airport, almost seven hours and that was just the beginning. The next stage was a nine-hour flight to Muscat, Oman, that included a stopover in Abu Dabi in the United Arab Emirates. I had never looked closely enough on the map to realized that Muscat is SO FAR EAST. It's almost INDIA! It's the upper eastern tip of Arabia, further east than Moscow or the Black Sea.
It was late evening of that unreal day of flying when we stood on a long line in the stunningly clean and orderly Muscat Airport to purchase entry visas to the Sultanate of Oman. Then we made our way to the Al Falaj hotel to sleep a few hours NOT in an economy class airplane seat, before resuming our journey. Travelling EIGHT time zones from NYC was causing truly disorienting jet lag.
Back out to the airport in the morning to take an Omani Air flight in a smaller plane for two hours down to the Port of Salalah. After a lot of arrangements including a long wait to acquire an EXIT visa from the Sultanate (the Sultan's picture hangs on the wall behind the Immigration Policeman) we made it down to the Port of Salalah, saw the gleaming white Serenity at the dockside, and practically fell aboard and into our cabins to sleep and recover.
Maybe more seasoned travelers to places like India, Australia, or the Far East would find our trip a breeze, but for me it was a first, and not easy. But if being the Artistic Director of Symphony Space means that it is my duty to plant the flag of our theatre in Asia and Africa, then I have to say what Christopher Columbus said to Queen Isabella-"Look, Your Majesty, someone's gotta do this."
The ship is truly beautiful and very luxurious indeed, great food, all the amenities, and a constant round of activities for the wealthy passengers who are paying astounding amounts to take one or more segments of the world cruise that lasts over three months.
After recuperating on Saturday and Sunday, we've just begun to feel normal and awake!
The first SELECTED SHORTS program ever to be presented on water between Asia and Africa will take place in the Stardust Club, Deck 5 Aft, tomorrow, Tuesday, at 7:45 pm, so that passengers from the early and late dinner seatings can all attend. Appropriately enough, the program is called "FOOD FICTIONS" and has some excerpts from our CD of that title.
It will be performed by Mia and me, since our remaining cast members, Mia's husband Keir Dullea, and Stephen Lang (accompanied by wife and daughter) don't join us until the next morning when we dock at Safaga. As I write this on Monday evening, they will be setting out soon from JFK to fly to Paris, thence to Cairo, thence to a place called Hurgada in Egypt, and thence overland to Safaga, which has no airport! "A hell of a long way from La Jolla, California," where Steve closed yesterday in Aaron Sorkin's new play, "just to read a short story or two."
I hope we're a hit tomorrow and that the cruise industry can become a regular part of the Symph's effort to balance the budget.
More breaking news as it happens here in the Middle East, where it is very strange to think that not that many miles from where we are steaming, our country is still trapped in a horrible war.
Well, you all know the classical composition, "Marche Slav", this is my "March Blog", at least the first entry for this month.
My last entry was posted from LaLaLand in Los Angeles where we enjoyed a triumphant totally sold-out set of story programs at The Getty Museum. Before long you'll be hearing them on the radio and I think you'll be pleased.
Back home in NYC, we're busy preparing for our big fund-raiser, the annual Spring Gala, this year being held at the very fancy Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center. Jane Curtin and I are sharing the hosting duties and the honorees include the real estate executive David Levinson, as well as Symphony Space Board member and major Selected Shorts funder Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, the jazz impresario George Wein, Jacques' d'Amboise and Fionnula Flanagan. It's a black tie affair, so I get to put on my tux and go from table to table introducing myself, "Good evening, my name is Isaiah and I'll be your server. May I tell you our specials tonight?"
A few days later I begin some serious traveling. First, a weekend in West Palm Beach, Florida, to see the final rehearsals of the revival of my 1986 musical, for which I wrote the book and lyrics, THE RISE OF DAVID LEVINSKY. This is a musicalization of the classic Abraham Cahan novel about the Talmud student who arrives at Castle Garden at the foot of Manhattan in 1883 without a penny and with dreams of education and college, but who eventually turns into a tough businessman and the king of the newly invented Seventh Avenue garment trade. The music is by my old friend Bobby Paul, who, in his more formal identity, is Dean Robert A. Paul of Emory University in Atlanta. Bobby is joining me, and our families to see this new staging of the show we had considerable success with in the 80's, first at the 92nd Street Y, then at the George Street Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and then in the commercial run that opened the John Houseman Theatre on West 42nd Street, starring the late Larry Kert as the older Levinsky and a young actor named Avi Hoffman as the younger David.
Well now, twenty years later, Avi Hoffman is a producer and director of a theatre in Florida and he's fulfilling his dream of playing the other side of the character, having found what he tells me is "a great, talented kid" to play the role he himself incarnated two decades ago. With any luck, this Florida production will extend its run to other places and maybe even, who knows, a guy can dream, no? re-open in New York!
One good thing is that my long time colleague Lanny Meyers, who was the show's musical director back then and is now, among his many other enterprises musical director and songwriter for The Thalia Follies, has agreed to spend a few weeks in Florida where he is right now, re-orchestrating THE RISE OF DAVID LEVINSKY, and once again doing the musical direction. He says he's doing it because he loves the score, he doesn't have to miss a Follies, and he can spend a few week with his mother who lives nearby! I can't wait to hear the new cast sing our score, but I know the music is in good hands.
The only reason I'm not attending the official opening night in Florida on March 23 is that that's the day we're taking off for the Selected Shorts cruise on the cruise ship Crystal Serenity, joining the world cruise at Salaleh, Oman, and sailing for two weeks to places like Karnak and Luxor in Egypt, Aquaba in Jordan, Eilat and Ashdod in Israel (with a shore excursion to Jerusalem or Masada, we have to decide!), as well as the Suez Canal, Cairo and Alexandria, the Pyramids, then up to Athens and finally to Istanbul where we disembark and spend a couple of extra days (I ask you, how often does one get to Istanbul, or Constantinople, for that matter?) before flying home for the first rehearsal of the April Thalia Follies and the very special April 11 Rea Award night at SELECTED SHORTS with a sparkling roster of great American writers in attendance! (Check the website.)
They say the cruise ship has wireless satellite capability. This means I can take my lap top and keep in touch with the office, but also that I can blog from the sun deck in the Red Sea!
Los Angeles, February 8
This year our two annual SELECTED SHORTS touring trips, to Texas and to California, were combined into one, with the thought that this might be a little less stressful. We'll see whether this turns out to be the case.
So last Friday, two actors, Ted Marcoux and Patricia Kalember, joined me and Kathy Minton's lieutenant, Phoebe Lithgow, in taking off for San Antonio to begin the Texas tour. Our usual Texas routine has been to begin in San Antone, go on to Austin, and end up in Dallas. But this year our Austin friends said they'd rather have us come next fall to join the Texas Book Fair. And besdes, they said, there's some football game on tv last Sunday night and they didn't want to put short fiction readings against this sports broadcast.
Saturday night's performance in San Antonio was a smash hit, played to an audience of SHORTS radio fans. Last year, our hosts and presenters, Texas Public Radio, had rented a performance venue in a Reform Jewish Temple, where we performed up on the altar. No one was too excited about that space because of its not-so-great lighting and sound. Why not find a better site for 2007? Well,the place they rented for last Saturday was fine, but what was best about it was its name: the auditorium of the University of the Incarnate Word! I was astounded to hear that name because what is SELECTED SHORTS if not the Word made Flesh? I had to be forcibly restrained from beginning my greetings with "In principio erat verbum", in the beginning was the Word, the opening of the Gospel of John. When I get home on Monday, I'm proposing that we change the name of SELECTED SHORTS to something new, fresh, and with an edge: THE INCARNATE WORD, A Celebration of the Short Story."
On Super Bowl Sunday morning Team Symphony Space piled into the rented Chevy Malibu and drove through the Hill Country, crossing the Pedernales near Johnson City, and stopped for lunch at the legendary down-home country cooking restaurant in Austin, Threadgills, where we enjoyed the five-vegetable platters that included okra, beans, and as a note in the menu explained, "macaroni and cheese, considered a vegetable in Oklahoma".
Back into the car and with super-driver Phoebe at the wheel again, and me handling the map, we shot straight up the Interstate to Big D, where all four of us did the most American thing of our lives, watching the Super Bowl while drinking beer in a Dallas, Texas, bar! A cigar would have completed the image, but Dallas, too, has outlawed indoor smoking in bars.
Monday night's shows in Dallas went fine, and then we all went out to a late dinner with our Dallas hosts, and with Kay Cattarulla, inventor of SELECTED SHORTS, and Symph Board Member.
Next morning we returned the Malibu to the Dallas/Ft Worth airport and my three Texan tour buddies headed east to freezing NYC, while I flew west to sunny 70's Los Angeles.
I'm ensconced here at the Luxe-Summit Belair hotel, which is all that the name implies. I spend some time each day attending to Symphony Space matters by this computer and cell phone, when I'm not doing newspaper and radio interviews plugging this weekend's performances at The Getty Museum, and driving around various canyons and freeways to rehearse with our Hollywood-based actors. This year's Getty readers, whom you'll eventually be able to hear on the radio series, include Stockard Channing, Lindsay Crouse, and Stephen Lang on the Friday night program, Robert Sean Leonard and John Lithgow on Saturday night, and Rachel Griffiths, Neil Patrick Harris, and yours truly on the Sunday matinee, before Kathy Minton and I swoop down to Long Beach to return our California rental car and hop on the Jet Blue Red Eye (does that equal a purple eye?) for a restful trip arriving back in NYC on Monday morning, crisp, refreshed, and ready to get back to work.
Love From LaLa Land.
Director and Host, THE INCARNATE WORD
Fond greetings to all from Ireland!
When my New York Irish friends heard that I was going over to Dublin on January 8th for a week, they asked,"Are you insane? It's the wettest, coldest, time of year there! Nobody goes to Ireland in January." But it was a rare week in which I could get away without missing too much of my responsibility at the theatre, and perhaps do a little good for the cause of BLOOMSDAY ON BROADWAY, and do a little sight-seeing, as well,-- weather permitting.
As it turned out the weather wasn't all that terrible at all. Through four days in Dublin the umbrella hardly had to open, though it was windy and cloudy. Then, renting a car and driving to the west, there was one big rain that caught me attempting to have lunch in Athalone, the halfway point on the drive from Dublin to Galway, and then considerable windy sunshine for driving through beautiful Connemara and the sea shore for a couple of days, with the only other rain casting a bit of a damper on my attempt to view the spectacular Cliffs of Moher rising over the raging Atlantic Ocean. But all in all, not bad for winter.
On the first day in Dublin, still jet-lagged, a walk up O'Connell Street past the General Post Office where the declaration of Independence was read in the 1916 uprising and where you can still see the bullet holes in the facade, led to a visit to The James Joyce Centre on Great George's Street, to begin conversations with its lovely Director Laura Barnes about cooperative collaborations between the Center and Symphony Space's literary ventures, especially BLOOMSDAY ON BROADWAY. What's in the works is the possibility of a live simulcast of this year's BLOOMSDAY on RTE Irish Radio Network, who seem pretty enthusiastic about this possibility, if all the copyright problems and permissions can be worked out. Joycean copyrights in the United States and in the European Union, of which Ireland is of course a member, are rather different, so agreements have to be reached if this is to happen.
Another possibility discussed in my Dublin meetings is having the one-act opera about James Joyce, THE ANTIENT CONCERT, with libretto by the great poet Paul Muldoon and music by Darren Hagen, which I have been planning as one of the centerpieces of this year's June 16th BLOOMSDAY, have its premiere one week earlier on June 9th in Dublin, under the sponsorship of the Joyce Centre and then come to Symphony Space for its American premiere. We're writing joint funding proposals to see if we can make that grand plan into a reality.
My return flight from Shannon airport in the southwest of Ireland was an early morning one designed to get me back to Newark Airport (or as they pointedly call it "Newark Liberty International Airport" in time to get through customs, then through the Lincoln Tunnel, in time to begin rehearsals for the January 22 Thalia Follies on the subject of Real Estate! But the weather had one more threat--dense pea-soup fog blanketed Shannon that morning and no one was landing or taking off. For a while it looked like another night in an airport hotel rather than a rehearsal at the Thalia, was in the cards. But afer about a five hour delay the fog lifted enough for a take off and an arrival in New York just as the Follies singers were clearing their throats to start work. Ah, the jet-set life can be exciting!