Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Secret of Sherlock Holmes in Lenox

The stage is set at Shakespeare & Company. This is the clever set at their Founder's Theater for the new production which runs thorugh October 28th. (Kevin Sprague photo)

Michael Hammond contributes a new and memorable interpretation of the great detective in the Shakespeare and Company production. (Kevin Sprague photo)

The classic fight to the death between Sherlock Holmes and the evil Moriarity as portrayed in film.

Basil Rathbone is the image of Sherlock Holmes for earlier generations of moviegoers.

Jeremy Brett established a more contemporary Sherlock Holmes in the PBS-Granada series which was written by Jeremy Paul. At the urging of Brett, Paul also wrote the script for "Secret of Sherlock Holmes," creating dialogue directly from the Arthur Conon Doyle canon of books. The London production of this play starring Brett never made it to the USA.

Dave Demke and Michael Hammond as Watson and Holmes have a fireside duel of wits. (Kevin Sprague photo)

The New Production at Shakespeare & Company is great fun and thought provoking. Is the secret really the truth? Or is there more to it than is being said. See the play and decide for yourself. You'll find no spoilers here.

Directed by the very capable Robert Walsh, the Lenox, MA production of this play is the long overdue American premiere, and Sherlockians by the score are making haste to see it. After all, it was originally produced in London's West End in 1988, and after a nearly two decade wait to see this thriller, the chance may never come again in this lifetime.

Read my full review of this show in Berkshire Fine Arts magazine.

Larry Murray's Review

Shakespeare & Company is making a major event out of this premiere, part of the 120 year Celebration of Sherlock Holmes. Information on performances, special events and tickets can be found here:

Secrets of Sherlock

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mass MoCA turns to Jenny Holzer's "Projections"

Some of Holzer's earlier work.

By the time it opens on November 17 Jenny Holzer's Gallery 5 Installation Projections will have replaced bad boy Buchel as Topic #1 among Mass MoCA watchers.

For thirty years, Jenny Holzer has used public places and great institutions as the venues for her work, including the Venice Biennale, the Reichstag, and the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao. Her medium is virtually anything. Her words have been previously cast in bronze, carved in stone, projected on a building and drawn on a T-shirt. It seems that wherever there is a surface, Jenny has words to provoke, prod and fill it. And though the casual observer may see the words as a graphic that fills a void, those who who think about it will enjoy the clever insights they reveal about the human condition.

Projections will use MASS MOCA’s massive Building 5 as a stage for her first interior light projections in the United States. She will also exhibit a new series of paintings shown, in part, at the 2007 Venice Biennale. She has an impressive collection of artistis credentials, but it is her work, and its pollitical, sociological and conceptual content that matters.

In a serendipitous coincidence, this artist who was born in Ohio and trained at RISD, MFA and the Whitney, operated out of New York and travelled the world, finally settling into Hoosick Falls where she continues her pioneering work.

More background is at Wiki Profile

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Broadway could go dark next week

The Great White Way could go dark Monday, October 1, if the League of American Theaters and Producers carries out its threats to the stagehands union. One producer I know thinks there is a 50-50 chance that rather than a settlement being reached, the owners will shut down their shows and try to force the union's hand.

Each side has a kitty to help them through this battle. The producers have $20 million, and the union has much less, just $4 million stashed away. But the disparity in funds is not as lopsided as it appears. The unions have only 2,100 members, of which only 350 to 500 are working on Broadway at any given time. The League's members need huge amounts to keep borderline shows from closing. Its funds will disappear at a much faster rate.

The battle is the usual business vs. workers contratemps. The Producers want work rules changed, like being able to hire stagehands for a day or two during the "load-in" of a show. The union wants a level to be maintained for the whole load in period whcih can take a week or more, regardless of whether the stagehands are needed for the whole period. There are other issues, too.

Stagehands earn between $1,200 to more than $1,600 a week on average, but with overtime and premium rates, it is not unusual for a stagehand to take home more than $100,000 a year.

There hasn't been a strike on Broadway for four years, since the musicians struck, and it is surprising there are not more considering that there are more unions in a theater than on a typical construction site.

The union isn't saying anything to the reporters, but back in July, James J. Claffey, the president of Local One, said the union would not change work rules without getting something in return. On the other side, the League sent out e-mails warning the theater owners and producers not to speak to the media about the negotiations.

It is important to note that we are talking about a "lockout" here, not a "strike" since it would be the producers, not the stagehands, who would dim the lights. October is a slower month than the holidays when business booms. Even so, seven shows are scheduled to begin previews next month. One, “Young Frankenstein,” is playing in a nonleague theater, and would probably open no matter what. Likewise, Disney’s New Amsterdam theater and the four nonprofit Broadway theaters would not be included in a lockout.

But oldtimers like me are willing to bet there is lots of activity behind the scenes. How likely is it that Mayor Bloomberg is going to let an industry that generates almost $1 billion a year for the city to close down. Without shows, there is no audience and that means no business for restaurants, hotels, ticket brokers and parking lots.

Word of this pending strike has been limited as the industry has tried to keep a lid on the pending disaster, Nobody wants ticket sales to stop, hotel reservations to be cancelled, and tourism to drop during a peak time of year.

Negotiations are still going on, but it is late in the third act. Here's hoping there is a happy ending!


The parties have agreed to extend the deadline in order to continue negotiations today, and on Thursday of this week. It is generally agreed that if a strike were called, it wouldn't be until November, but that if talks broke down, the producers might call for an immediate lockout to force the issue before the lucrative high season.

Buchel offers Mass MoCA a parting gift

Photoshopped image by Larry Murray

Lost in all the commotion over the decision to disassemble the never completed Training Ground for Democracy exhibit was a telegram that Christoph Buchel sent the Boston Globe. In it..."he offered to donate a permanent installation that would not cost anything to mount. He concluded the e-email with an image of the plan, a tweak of the museum's rooftop signs to spell out "Mass CoMA."

The Globe article by Goeff Edgers also carried details the local newspapers in the Berkshires avoided mentioning, or were too lazy to dig for. For example, it will cost the museum another $40,000 to remove and dispose of the remains, though not all of it will end up in the dump. A mile of cinder blocks, a house trailer, and numerous other items have some value which they may recoup, or donate to worthy causes. The MoCA Director, Joe Thompson is quoted as saying he will try "to find good places for those. Clothes, stretchers, beds, file cabinets. In some ways, what we have is a vast recycling effort."

Globe story

The Weekly Berkshire Advocate, a shadow of its former sometimes feisty self, relegated a short mention to the back third of the paper, finding recipes and church suppers to be of more importance. Sometimes they just don't understand what is news and what is filler. Boring is as boring does. Their idea of controversy is publishing Jack Murphy's homophobic rants in their letters to the editor column. Not once, but over and over. Once was mroe than enough.

Anyway, Joe, I still think that "what we have" is the makings of a vast and newsworthy Tag Sale. Who says you couldn't lay it all out in the parking lot in roughly the same order it was inside and let people look it over?

Wink, wink.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Au Revoir, Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau has left us, and some of us had the pleasure of knowing him as a person as well as a performer. My visits to Av. Montaigne, 15 have come to an end. He was the world's greatest mime, but my how he could chatter on! I'll never forget the day he paid a surprise visit to Boston's little Pocket Mime Theatre which once performed in a candy box theatre in the Church of the Covenant, where Gallery Naga is now located. He delighted J Tormey, Kate Bentley, Michael Atwell and director Annegret Reimer, and made their years of work for little compensaton worthwhile. Over the course of a year, more people saw Pocket Mime than Marcel Marceau, but who is counting anymore! I miss those days, too. The Boston Repertory Theater was just down the street, and the wonderful actor David Morse (who played Wiley Fox in "The Little Prince") is the only one I see still working.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mass MoCA vs. Christoph Buchel

It's been nine months of uncertainty but finally the spendthrift Christoph Buchel is about to have his garbage dump of an installation hauled off to be disposed of forever. About time. This uber genius is just a hoarder in artist's clothing and gives contemporary artists - already hard pressed for respect - a bad name.

In case you haven't heard, Buchel's "Training Ground for Democracy" was a pretty monumental undertaking, scheduled to have filled the football field sized Gallery 5 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contermporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams, MA where I live. It was to be Buchel's first major American museum work, and by December when he walked off the site, it had already included a two story house, an oil tanker, mobile home, and sixteen truckloads of donations from resideents of North Adams to fill the space.

But Buchel appears to have been stymied by the size of the place, and asked for a full sized and burned out hulk of a 727 plane to fill some of the space. Apparently even adding the defunct North Adams Cinema from Route 8 was not nearly enough to fill the gaping yaw of the gallery. After making many more outrageous demands, the museum said enough and Buchel walked off the job, and conducted negotiations through his lawyers, tying up the site well into its scheduled run. The public never got to see anything.

The exhibition was scheduled to cost $160,000, the artist spent twice that, some $300,000 and Mass MoCA even offered another $100,000 in hopes it might be finished but the artist was adament that there could be no ceiling, no limit to his demands, no discussion, no deal. No shit.

Eventually this all ended up in court, as Rinker Buck from the Hartford Courant so ably reported at:

Rinker's story

Now the museum has announced that the entire mess is to be dismantled over the next five weeks and eventually there will be a forum, seminar, or some such event to discuss everything that happened. I hope Buchel attends.

The Museum has a blog that explains it all (from their perspective, of course.)

MoCA Blog

My own reaction to the unraveling is that the museum should move everything out to the parking lot and have a giant tag sale. They would at least recoup some of the expenses, and maybe the North Adams folks could purchase back their donations.