Good Night, Sweet (Hal) Prince

A THEATRICAL GIANT PASSES AND WHY IT MATTERS

On July 31st, 2019 the legendary producer/director Harold Smith Prince passed away at the age of 91. The lights went out all over Broadway and well they should. For more than five decades Prince toiled on the Great White Way, leaving behind a legacy which may never be equaled.

Photo – Denys Nevozhai

His star burned bright and it burned early. He produced his first Broadway show (The Pajama Game) at the age of 26, receiving the first of an unprecedented 21 Tony Awards when it won Best Musical. The show ran for 1,063 performances and was soon followed by four more Best Musicals – Damn Yankees – 1955, Fiorello! – 1959, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – 1962 and Fiddler on the Roof in 1964.

Photo – Alev Takil

His first foray into directing came in 1962 with the short-lived A Family Affair. The show was not a success, running only 65 performances, but it would be hard to blame Prince for taking it on. The book writers were James Goldman (The Lion in Winter), legendary screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and The Sundance KidA Princess BrideAll The President’s Men) and music by John Kander (Cabaret, Chicago, Curtains). It was, in fact, the only musical Kander ever did without his future collaborator, Fred Ebb.

Photo – Tatiana Rodriguez

The short life of A Family Affair proved to be the exception rather than the rule, however, and many of the shows Prince directed turned out to be among Broadway’s all time classics, including CabaretCompanyFolliesA Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Evita, Kiss of the Spider Woman, etc.

Photo – Jason Briscoe

In 1984 Andrew Lloyd Webber went to Cameron Mackintosh with the idea of writing a romantic love story, something different from his previous hits Evita and Cats. His first choice of lyricist was an interesting one, to say the least. He contacted songwriter Jim Steinman, the man who wrote the wildly successful Meat Loaf album ‘Bat out of Hell’. Steinman declined (it would have been fascinating to see what they would have produced had he said yes) and Richard Stilgoe was hired, although Charles Hart re-wrote some of the later lyrics. Hal Prince was hired as director. The rest, as they say, is history. Lloyd Webber’s ‘romantic love story’ The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway in 1988 and, thirty years later, it is still running. Not only has it outrun Lloyd Webber’s other shows Cats, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Aspects of Love and School of Rock, it’s outrun them COMBINED. I’m beginning to think the damn thing will never close.

Photo – Alev Takil

But for all the success, all the acclaim, all the awards (his 21 Tonys are more than any other individual) what we’ll perhaps miss most by the departure of Hal Prince is something not as tangible. Prince was a showman. He was a man of the theater. He was a director with an extraordinary vision and a producer who could make it happen. He took unprecedented chances. Whether it was a show about Russian pogroms against the Jews (Fiddler), the rise of Nazi Germany (Cabaret), a forbidden love affair (West Side Story), a homosexual prisoner in Argentina (The Kiss of the Spider Woman) or Antisemitism in Georgia (Parade) Prince never shied away from a project because he was worried about the theme or giving offense or whether the audience would accept it. He knew that if it was good enough, the audience would come. And he didn’t do revivals. Hell, his shows are the ones which get revived.

Photo – Rob Laughter

Hal Prince lived to be 91. It may take another 91 years or more to replace him. Good night, sweet prince.

More information about Harold Smith Prince and the Broadway Blog

HEDY! Is Back at the Player’s club

BACK in NYC for ONE NIGHT ONLY

HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr
Written & Performed by Heather Massie

At the historic PLAYERS CLUB – 16 Gramercy Park S
Friday Nov 16 @ 8PM
Doors Open at 7PM, cash bar, & 3 fantastic female singers after the show!

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Hedy Lamar, glamorous siren of the silver screen, was more than the most beautiful woman in the world. She invented frequency hopping and spread spectrum technology that make the world of wireless communication tick. From Austria to Hollywood, WWII, torpedoes, ecstasy, and intrigue to the very cell phone in your pocket, she was there!

Tickets here: www.tinyurl.com/HEDYPlayers
www.HeatherMassie.com/Hedy
www.whitehorsetheater.com

Christine Ebersole Honored at the Workshop Theater’s Fifth Annual unGala

A grand time was had by all! Our guest of honor, Christine Ebersole, received the Jewel Box Award and blew us away with a breathtaking rendition of her WAR PAINT solo, “Pink.” Meanwhile, money was raised to help keep the Workshop Theater creative.

Overlooking the city, we ate and drank and danced the night away. What a gala… especially for an unGala!

Rich Orloff Opens IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND

One of the Workshop’s most prolific and widely produced playwrights, Rich Orloff knows how to take an audience on an incredible emotional ride. Be it a “rip-roaringly funny” and “wildly imaginative” comedy (New York Times), or more dramatic “theater with a brain and theater with a heart” (Los Angeles Times), Rich’s writing will always engage. His impressive body of work includes more than fifteen full-length plays and over 80 one-act and short plays.  These plays have enjoyed more than 1,800 productions, entertaining audiences at every level – from professional theaters to high schools, colleges and community-theater – both here in the U.S., and abroad.

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Playwright Rich Orloff

The Workshop Theater is excited to debut Rich Orloff’s newest piece, IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND. The 3-Day concert read, directed by Richard Kent Green, will be September 27, 28 and 29 at 7 PM in the Jewel Box Theater. And … this solo piece will be performed by the playwright, himself! We got a chance to talk to Rich, to find out more.

WS: So what’s the inspiration behind IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND?

RO: The inspiration is the experience itself.  For the last few years, I’ve been involved in underground therapy using MDMA (a.k.a. Ecstasy) and psilocybin mushrooms, inspired by cutting-edge experiments designed to help people heal from deep emotional wounds.   It’s been an extraordinary adventure, and although there have been articles and books about the subject, they’re usually from the point of view of researchers and academics.  I wanted to convey what it was like to go through the experience.

WS: What would you like audiences to take away after seeing IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND? 

RO: My goal for IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND is that it captures what psychedelic-assisted therapy is like (or at least one person’s experience of it) in a way that’s honest, vivid and compelling.  I tested the piece in several readings in my apartment last spring, attended by a variety of people, including many who had also engaged in psychedelic-assisted therapy.  Of the many compliments I got, the one I appreciate the most is that the piece felt authentic.

I was also pleased that people with no personal experience with MDMA or psychedelics were moved by the piece, as I hope it will connect with anyone who carries around trauma (which is almost everyone!).  I want the piece to be entertaining, of course, but for many it also seems to be healing.

WS: Did you know from the start you would be cast as the actor? Is this the first time you performed one of your pieces? 

RO: Given the nature of the piece, yes I knew I wanted to be the one presenting the piece.  Ironically, when I began as a writer, I wrote an autobiographical monologue called MY NICARAGUAN HOLIDAY, about an adventure I had in Nicaragua (with, among others, the monologist Spalding Gray!).   But at the time I felt I needed to choose between developing as a playwright and developing as a monologist.  I chose the former.  So IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND actually returns me to that fork in the road, with me choosing the path not taken.

WS: You are working with company artist Richard Kent Green, who is directing you. How does the collaboration affect the piece?

RO: Fourteen years ago, Richard acted in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, my first produced play on the Workshop’s Mainstage, and two years ago, ago, he acted in CHATTING WITH THE TEA PARTY, my most recently produced play in New York.  Over the years I’ve directed him in countless readings of my work at the Workshop, and we’ve developed quite a trust in each other.  He attended one of the early test readings of IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND last spring, and it was clear he really got what I wanted the piece to be.  It’s been a joy to get his perspective and input; I’ve had a lot of questions as a writer and even more as a performer, and I feel supported by Richard without being indulged.

WS: What’s your favorite thing about writing? 

RO: That I’m constantly surprised.  On my best days as a writer, I go deeper than my rational thinking and tap into thoughts and ideas that I didn’t know I had.  Characters say things that I would never say and make jokes that I would never think of.  That’s kinda cool.

WS: How does writing compare to acting? 

RO: As a writer, I get to sit in the back row of the theater, listen to one of my plays (and to the audience’s response to it), reflect in anonymity, and blame the actor if I don’t like how a role is performed.  Now that I’m the actor, I don’t have that luxury!

Of course, I assure that there are still many times as I’ve developed IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND when a moment hasn’t worked as well as I hoped and I blame the actor – me!  But since I’m busy acting, I don’t get to dwell on it.  Acting isn’t just about getting a moment right; it’s also about constantly letting go so you can be present in the next moment.  I love the challenge of performing IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND, and it’s only deepened my appreciation of what actors do.

a) Rich at New Century

Rich Orloff, on break in rehearsal

Kathy Gail MacGowan Directs – Broadway Bound Theater Fest

Next Up is the play “Bergen” by Steven Fechter as part of the Broadway Bound Theater Festival.   Set in the not so distant future, an angry and angsty Norwegian Rock band grapples with the state of America and their own brand’s identity, while trying to move their music to the next level.
There are original songs both created and performed by talented actors, along with fantastical moments of desire and danger.
Friday, August 10th @ 8:30 pm
Sunday, August 12th @ 1:30 and 5:00 pm, 
Monday,  August 13th @ 8:30 pm.
Here is the link for tickets: TICKETS
BERGEN_Flyer-01.jpgif you P.S.  There is currently an INDIE GO GO fundraising campaign to raise money for the production, any amount is much appreciated.  Blush  CLICK TO DONATE: DONATE