March 2009

Speaking of museum exhibitions drawn from performing arts archives, in a post that appeared yesterday on the Guardian’s Theatre Blog, Chris Wilkinson asks the question: “Is there any point in exhibitions about theatre?”  His response raises another question — is he assuming the pose of a professional provocateur or is he really that vapid?  Readers can decide for themselves.

Along the way, however, he does usefully draw attention to a recent post by David Jay for artsjournal, in which Jay reviews the new performance galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum.  Wilkinson also reacts to two quite positive blog posts about the recently closed exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York, Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919-1949 (which someone had promised to blog about here) as if they were further proof of the pointlessness of such displays.

Perhaps if he had seen this exhibition or even glanced at the excellent web version, Wilkinson might have felt differently.   I was fortunate to see the show while on a recent visit to New York.  I popped in just expecting to see some lovely Chagall works, but spent several hours in the very crowded galleries, ultimately coming away with a greater appreciation for aspects of political and social history of which I had been sadly unaware.  Particularly moving among those items on display were the charred remains of surviving documents from the GOSET company’s archives.  The repository that housed these records, the Bakhrushin State Central Theater Museum, had been the victim of a suspicious fire in 1953; a few years previously, its leading actor, Solomon Mikhoels, had been murdered under the orders of the Stalin regime.

Perhaps we will have a more complete review of this engrossing exhibition  in the future.  It opens in San Francisco on April 23, 2009 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.  Do go by all means if you have the chance!

Noel Coward with Constance Collier and Neysa McMein

Noel Coward with Constance Collier and Neysa McMein

Forget your 21st century blues and mark your calendars for an upcoming exhibition on Noel Coward at San Francisco’s Museum of Performance & Design.  Star Quality: The World of Noël Coward opens to the public on April 17, 2009 and will remain on view through August 29, 2009.  The San Francisco show is the third version of an exhibition that began at Ten Chimneys and was on display at the National Theatre last year.  Somewhat amazingly, I did manage to see it fleetingly in London (during an interval) and can recommend it highly.  This latest incarnation should be even more spectacular in the MSD’s much larger gallery space.

Unfortunately, now I can’t get that song from Evita out of my head.  Julie Covington, where are you when we need you?

Image credit: NYPL Digital Gallery Image ID: 1653217


In an event that sounds like mondo fun for you lucky New Yorkers,  Dancers Over 40 is presenting an evening devoted to exploring the life and work of the late dancer and choreographer, Michael Kidd.  Featuring a star-laden lineup of participants, the program is scheduled for April 6, 2009 at 8:00 at St. Luke’s Theater on 308 West 46th Street.

Can’t make it?  Fear not, DO40 videotapes these performances and gives a copy to the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.  Cool.  Oops.  Wrong choreographer.

Image credit: Gjon Mili publicity photograph of Michael Kidd rehearsing dancers on the set of the film, “Guys and Dolls” (1955) for LIFE Magazine, LIFE Images on Google

George Babier, 'Scheherazade', depicting Ida Rubinstein as Zobiede and Vaslav Nijinsky as the Golden Slave, 1913. Museum no. S.15-2001.

George Babier, 'Scheherazade', depicting Ida Rubinstein as Zobiede and Vaslav Nijinsky as the Golden Slave, 1913. Museum no. S.15-2001.

This fell off my radar, but a timely story in today’s Guardian serves as a welcome reminder that the new Theatre & Performance galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum open to the public tomorrow.  The Independent also ran a preview of the new space last week.  Click here for more pictures.

These galleries, of course, display the collections of the former Theatre Museum, which closed amid much controversy in late 2007.  It sounds as if there is a decided emphasis on popular music memorabilia in this opening display (or maybe that is what these reporters chose to emphasize).  We will endeavor to bring you a firsthand report as soon as possible.

Image credit: Victoria & Albert Museum

We all probably could use one right now (especially over here where the wind is whipping up a frenzy).  In the news recently have been a number of reports of various revivals and other acts of reclamation taking place as spring advances, including a well-received concert version of the Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin musical, The Firebrand of Florence, under the auspices of the Collegiate Chorale at the revamped Alice Tully Hall in New York.  Isadora Duncan also was in the news, with the appearance of the rechristened Isadora Duncan Dance Company this past week at the Judson Memorial Church to generally positive reviews and a somewhat controversial revival by the Royal Ballet of Kenneth MacMillan’s originally controversial Isadora (1981) opened to a less than warm response at Covent Garden.

Good or bad, could it have happened without performing arts archives?

Program cover from first American tour

Program cover from first American tour

Checking the mailbox this afternoon we found a timely reminder of this much anticipated event (sorry we didn’t mention it sooner) and related exhibition.

Full information about it all here.

Image credit: NYPL Digital Gallery ID#16122501

Margot Fonteyn scrapbook opened to page documenting her sensational debut in "The Sleeping Beauty"

Margot Fonteyn scrapbook opened to pages documenting her sensational debut in "The Sleeping Beauty"

Playing catch-up here as usual, amidst the by-now ceaseless barrage of dire economic reports, comes some happier news of a performing arts organization actually opening a new museum — one which spotlights its archival holdings and artifacts.  In a recent article in the Guardian, Maev Kennedy visits the just-opened museum at White Lodge, the home of the Royal Ballet School.

Among those documents and objects currently on display in its galleries are costumes, journals, letters (including those of — we could use him now — economist John Maynard Keynes, better known in these circles as the  husband of Lydia Lopokova), Darcey Bussell’s school reports, and scrapbooks compiled by Margot Fonteyn.  To view the full slideshow, go here.

Congratulations to curator, Anna Meadmore, and all involved in this exciting endeavor.  Let’s all book a restorative visit as soon as possible!

Image credit: Photograph by Sarah Lee/Guardian