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Friday, April 29, 2016

Critic Sarah Kaufman at the American Women Writers National Museum


Sarah Kaufman at the American Women Writers National Museum at the National Press Club/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Last month the Pulitzer Prize winning dance critic Sarah Kaufman was the featured speaker at a luncheon meeting of the American Women Writers National Museum at the National Press Club, and she talked mostly about her new book The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life which is about saving grace or getting it, or something.

The cover is rather non-descript, not an eye-catcher that makes you stop at the book table to take a second look amidst the competitors vying for attention, and the title is rather lame, too, to match the cover, and I am sorry, Sarah, but the contents ("grace," huh?) are not something to whet a reading appetite, unless a reader needs sleeping aids (which likely means I need lots of it. Grace, that is, not sleeping pills.)


When we see "Grace" on the cover of a book jacket, Sarah, we expect something titillating about Grace Kelly. It doesn't even have to be something new. How high has anything about "grace" ever climbed on the charts?  (But, like all the other celebrity writers, Sarah, I am sure you didn't write this for the money.)

Sarah, do you honestly think the current crop of millennials is interested in holding open doors? (Just ask Metro.)

Ms. Kaufman has been the dance critic at the Washington Post since 1996, and won the Pulitzer in 2010, only the second dance critic to win the major prize, and "neither of us is from New York," she said, almost proudly. And New York is a city where she has never lived and seldom visits. (Take that, New York and Big Apple-loving Hirshhorn director.  Why don't you go back where you came from? And take Peter Marks (hasn't won the Pulitzer) with you and maybe Philip Kennicott (won the Pulitzer) since all they seem to write about are the arts in New York.  We got plenty of arts in D.C.)

Married and the mother of three, Ms. Kaufman still looks like a ballerina, but with years of training, she said she has never danced professionally.

Answering a question from a guest about her reading choices, she said that growing up with brothers put her in touch with the Hardy Boys, whose every title she has read. (Nancy Drews, no, never; you hear that Justice Sotomayor?) Ms. Kaufman admires the style of Katherine Anne Porter (won the Pulitzer) "so perceptive" who "really had a sense of the artificiality and hypocrisy of what was going on in that era."

Ms. Kaufman said she had just read (hasn't won the Pulitzer) Jonathan Franzen's Purity and liked it, but devoured (won the Pulitzer) Donna Tartt's Goldfinch: "That thing just flew" (760 pages).

"Belt-tightening" began at the Post about five years ago, and the paper is "tapering down on reviews" since they don't produce the online traffic the newspaper desires, she said.

Ms. Kaufman said she will be writing more "thinking pieces" and advance notices, and invited all there to send her ideas.

"Artists here [in Washington] are getting richer," Ms. Kaufman said, but still, whether it's ballet, modern or jazz, "live form of dance is really having a struggle. The key is young people. The Golden Goose of every dance company" is figuring "how to get young people" in the doors, and the hell with the old for after we are gone, the halls (and printed newspapers) will be no more (editor's note).

The American Women Writers National Museum was founded by attorney Janice Law and is celebrating its fourth anniversary. It is "a Museum in Washington, D.C. for American Women Authors, Playwrights, Poets, Screenwriters, Journalists."
 

patricialesli@gmail.com

Sunday, April 17, 2016

'Dial 'T' for Thriller' at the Olney

Nisi Sturgis is Margot Wendice in Dial 'M' for Murder at Olney Theatre Center. "Hark!  Who goes there?"  "Honey, may I borrow your phone?"/Photo by Stan Barouh

Once you step inside the theater at the Olney and spy the set, darling, you know it will be a magnificent show, quite enough to suit your fancy and leave you spellbound throughout. 

From left, Nisi Sturgis as Margot Wendice, Cameron McNary as Max Halliday, and Alan Wade as Inspector Hubbard in Dial 'M' for Murder at Olney Theatre Center/Photo by Stan Barouh

Alfred Hitchcock fans will not want to miss the theatre's newest production, Dial 'M' for Murder, every bit the mystery on stage as it was in the master's 1954 movie starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Robert Cummings. (Can you imagine?)

From the get-go and the haunting shadow from the cascading single light shining from above (design by Sonya Dowhaluk) and the pling, pling, pling of the single strings (marvelously composed and played by Roc Lee on a synthesizer), who needs a plot when you can just sit back and admire the living room, a piece of art unto itself with fab 50s Mad Men decor, the sofa, the chairs, the harsh corners, the lamps, the trophy shelves, and the doors (design by Charlie Calvert). 

In true Hitchcock fashion, you must keep up with the key, dearie, or get lost like the rest of us, but it doesn't matter.  Where there's Hitchcock and murder, you know you are in for a treat, even if the wrong man is snuffed out. Director Jason King Jones makes sure shadows of doubt lurk in the minds of attendees.

The mystery begins with Margot Wendice (Nisi Sturgis) and her lover, Max Halliday (Cameron McNary), a foreign correspondent, who quickly reveal their dangerous lies.

Ashley Smith is the handsome (with a touch of George Clooney) and beloved (or is he?) Tony Wendice, the rich and strange husband, thrown overboard for the likes of another man.  Tony enlists an old pal, James Konicek as Captain Lesgate in a blackmail sweep, as Tony's suspicion of the illicit couple grows, and downhill they go.


In the single female role Ms. Sturgis does resemble Grace Kelly, a believable, adoring spouse (no farmer's wife) especially as a white shadow underneath the spotlight in a flowing gown. (I suppose the leading female had to be a blonde, perhaps a Hitchcock requirement.)

Then there is the ubiquitous (almost notorious) Alan Wade as Inspector Hubbard who said at the after-party he has starred in so many Olney shows, he's lost count (about 25), but quite a natural, the man who knows too much.  Look out when he shows up at the torn curtain, at the entrance to a pleasure garden, right outside the rear window through which various characters come and go in their passionate adventures (?).  (You see what I mean about intrigue?)

Who might the victim be?  Leave it to Hitchcock to upset the planned order of things.  

The costuming (by Seth Gilbert) is divine, especially the peach colors wore by Captain Lesgate, and the Fab 50s apparel of Margo who sweeps the stage a la Loretta Young, if anyone young and innocent can recall her television show. 

The pace is fast, also propelled by lighting and music which are skilfully woven with the characters to leave us guessing.

The dialect coach, Zachary Campion, did a splendid job, guiding the actors in natural, unpretentious delivery, and is to be commended for outstanding achievement (is there an award for that?), and is an important crew member, like fight choreographer, Casey Kaleba, able to land strong punches. 

Let's finish with a toast of champagne, shall we?, before we say "bon voyage" (May 1, but look for an extension) to another really good show at the Olney.

 Hear!  HearHelen Hayes nominations

Outstanding Lighting Design: Sonya Dowhaluk

Outstanding Musical Direction: Roc Lee

Outstanding Set Design: Charlie Calvert

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play: Ashley Smith

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play: James Konicek

Additional members of the creative team are Elisabeth A. Ribar, production stage manager, and Alexandra Ley, dramaturg. Frederick Knott (1916-2002) wrote the play, which was originally part of a BBC television series with its premiere in London in 1952.

Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832

When:  Wednesday through Saturday through May 1, 2016 at 8 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. and an April 27, Wednesday matinee at 2 p.m.  

How much: Tickets start at $38, with discounts for military, groups, seniors, and students.

Duration: 130 minutes with one intermission.

Refreshments:
Available for purchase and may be taken to seats.

Parking: Abundant, free, and on-site


Special performances and events:

April 20, 8 p.m.  Audio described performance for the visually impaired, presented by Metropolitan Washington Ear.

April 23, 2 p.m. and April 30, 2 p.m., Afterwords, post-show discussions

For more information:
301-924-3400
 

patricialesli@gmail.com



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fifth Avenue's 2016 Easter Parade

You think it's easy to wear this thing?  You should try making it.  On Fifth Avenue, Easter morning, March 27, 2016.  

The New York Easter Parade is the greatest fun.  Everyone is happy, smiling, glad to be there in the hum of the crowd where rare glimpses of politicians are allowed. (No wonder everyone is happy!) 

I checked, and the parade is not listed in the New York section of 1000 Places to See Before You Die. It should be.  It lasts about six hours (you don't have to stay for the whole thing), and the participants slowly move south to north on the route, clogged with non-participants/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
  On the steps of St. Patrick's on Fifth Avenue/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Okay, all right, one politico (in addition to "Bunnies Against Corporate Greed" which I could not photograph before the wearer disappeared in the crowd).  This woman's "hat" carried the only candidate we saw portrayed all day, New York's favorite son, The Donald.  Said some of the wording: "This is My Wall.  It's Huge.  No One Can Get Through."  "Peak A Boo, Mr. Trump.  It's Me, El Chapo" (Huh? I think the potato head.) "Presenting Donald Trump and His Band Playing Their Hit Song 'Hair.'" In the 2016 Fifth Avenue Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 You think this is a balloon salesman, right?  You are wrong,  That's a hat of many balloons in New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
How about a beard of daffodils?  Yes!  At least, I think that's what they were in New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 All ready for the 1940s in New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade.  His camera case was vintage, too/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Black Easter? In New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
This is "Coco" getting ready for New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade.  There were almost as many dressed dogs in the parade as humans.  Really./Photo by Patricia Leslie
And this is Coco's owner in New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 "I got an itch." Honey, I think you got more than that for New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade. Maybe the weight of her hat caused her to lose balance /Photo by Patricia Leslie
Her dress was so tight it was declared off limits on the steps of St. Patrick's for New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 He carried a little dog dressed like he was, in pink, in New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade.  There was a contest over who/what was better dressed:  the people or their dogs.  Yes, everything is going to the .../Photo by Patricia Leslie
  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Egads, Donald built hats for New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 A gator hatched a few eggs on top of her haid for New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade.  The connection?  Maybe she's a Florida fan.  Or, an environmentalist. The gator stayed atop her head and except for  swishing its tail, didn't move much so no one worried about getting bitten.  It was pinned down/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Yee-haw!  Hopalong Cassidy waited for her hoss at New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Thank you, Rockefeller Center, for your purty Easter flowers and decorations for New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A smiling and dancing rabbit at Rockefeller Center for New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 The end.  New York's Fifth Avenue 2016 Easter Parade/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Last day to see 2000-year-old bronze sculpture at National Gallery of Art

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The entrance to Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World closing today at the National Gallery of Art and featuring 50 statues and other works dating from the fourth century BC to the first century AD/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The exhibition showcases "the most significant examples of Hellenistic bronze sculpture," only a few examples which remain, many lost and others melted for different uses.  The Hellenistic period is generally recognized as beginning with the death of Alexander the Great (356 BC - 323 BC) and lasting until the advent of the Roman Empire or about 300 years.  

Over his short reign 336 to 323 BC, Alexander created a vast empire which encompassed the area stretching from Greece to Egypt to India to what is now Pakistan. Wikipedia says Alexander, undefeated in battle, is still considered "one of history's most successful military commanders."  

Up until he was 16, he was tutored by Aristotle. Alexander became king of Macedonia when he was 20, after his father, Philip II, was assassinated.,
Victorious Athlete ("The Getty Bronze") 300 - 100 BC  on loan from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, welcomes visitors to the exhibition.  Italian fishermen found Athlete in the Adriatic Sea in the 1960s.  He stands ready to remove the laurel from his head and offer it to the gods in gratitude for his win.  Behind him is a photograph of empty bases where statues once stood at a stadium in Olympia, Greece./Photo by Patricia Leslie

Thirty-three museums from around the world, including the Prado, the Uffizzi, the Louvre, the Vatican, two museums in Athens, the British Museum, and archaeological museums in Pompeii and Thessaloniki loaned pieces for the exhibition with half of them on view in the U.S. for the first time, according to National Gallery director, Earl A. Powell.
This is Artisan, 50 BC loaned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose belt holds a notebook indicating he may have been a writer, possibly Aesop, according to the label/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The National Archaeological Museum in Athens loaned Portrait of a Man, 100 BC, which originally was a full-length statue. This portion of the man was found in 1912 on the Greek island of Delos/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At last a woman and Athena, 300 - 270 BC, at that.  She was the goddess of war and wisdom who, in this piece, is protected by  "Gorgon," a mythical female monster whose gaze was fatal to any onlooker. Athena may have held a spear in her right hand.  Loaned by the National Archaeological Museum in Florence, she was found in fragments of a house in Arezzo in 1541/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Head of Apollo, 50 BC - AD 50, formerly a full-length statue found in 1930 by fisherman in the Gulf of Salerno.  Loaned by the Province of Salerno/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A really big horse, the photograph which does not adequately convey the size, created by Cavallo Riccardi, and named the Medici Riccardi Horse, c. 350 BC.  It was once part of an equestrian statue and carried a rider, indicated by the bit in its mouth.  An example of the "Hellenistic emphasis on expressive realism," according to the label. Loaned by the National Archaeological Museum of Florence/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Medici Riccardi Horse/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Artemis with Deer, 100 BC - 100 AD, which probably stood in a garden of a villa, was found in Rome in the 1920s by construction workers.  Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, likely held a bow. Loaned by a private collector/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Artemis with Deer/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Portrait of a Man, 300 - 200 BC, was found in 1997 in the Aegean Sea off the Greek island of Kalymnos near the locations of other discovered sculptures. The wide-brimmed hat indicates he was probably a king or general from Macedonia.  Loaned by the Archaeological Museum of Kalymnos.  Visitors to the gallery and other objects are reflected in the protective covering /Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Portrait of a Ruler (Demetrios Poliorketes?), 310 - 290 BC, was originally more than 11 feet tall. The Athenians proclaimed Piliorketes  king in 307 BC when he was 30 years old. His father served as a general in Alexander's military and was also a king.  Loaned by the Prado/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Portrait of a Ruler (Demetrios Poliorketes?), 310 - 290 BC/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Boy Runner, 100 BC - AD 79, was one of a pair found in the 1750s near a 218-foot swimming pool in a colonnaded garden in the Villa dei Paperi at the Bay of Naples, buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Loaned by the National Archaeological Museum in Naples/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Herakles Epitrapezios, 100 BC - AD 79 was found in 1902 in a garden near Pompeii. The name Epitrapezios means "on or at the table," and this version may have been small enough to be "on or at the table." Loaned by the National Archaeological Museum in Naples/Photo by Patricia Leslie
In the galleries/Photo by Patricia Leslie


A 350+ paged catalogue filled with full color illustrations, maps, and images is available in the shops, and for the first time, the National Gallery has a free mobile audio tour for cell phone users.

The Bank of America is a major sponsor of the national exhibition which began in the U.S. at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, after opening at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence.

What: Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World

When: Closing March 20, 2016.

Where: West Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Seventh streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission is always free at the National Gallery of Art.

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-842-6941

patricialesli@gmail.com