Remembering Danny Michaelson

 Danny Michaelson 

Danny Michaelson taught costume design and conflict resolution at Bennington College for thirty years. After he retired he also taught courses there for five years more. He was Dean of Studies from 1992 to 1994. He also was Co-director  with Susan Sgorbati of Quantum Leap, a program for truants and at-risk students in Bennington County. He had also mediated for the Vermont Department of Education, and the Bennington Small Claims Court.  He died on December 6, 2018 of an apparent heart attack.  There is a memorial service for him at the college on Sunday, April 28 at 2pm.

Since I taught at Bennington College, I have many wonderful memories of Danny. However, the ones that are most personal are when Danny, Steven Kramer from Literature, and I taught a three week course on King Lear as part of a unique freshman course all the faculty were engaged in teaching. We not only read voluminous works about Lear, but watched all available films in preparation. I still remember Danny saying as we watched Orson Welles’ Lear, “He said that line wrong.” which indeed he had.

We had such a good time, the three of us taught a seven week course on The Family Drama. As a part of the course, Danny and I took the students to the Stratford Festival in Ontario since they were performing some of the plays we taught.

Of course, when Bob and I had our radio program Theatre Talk, we had to interview Danny which we did three times. The last time we talked about theatre audiences with Danny, Jeanne Davis and Bruce Wheat. We are happy to share these programs with you.

Danny Michaelson May 30, 2011

Danny Michaelson, December 15, 2014 part 1

Danny Michaelson, December 15, 2014, Part 2

Theatre Audiences-January 2, 2017 Part 1

Theatre Audiences, January 2, 2017 Part 2

Theatre Audiences, January 2, 2017 Part 3

Theatre Audiences, January 2, 2017 Part 4

The Seagull – Bennington College

Bob and I saw an outstanding production of The Seagull by Anton Chekov at Bennington College. Like many college productions, it had a brief run and we did not get to interview anyone before it opened. However, Jean Randich, the play’s director, suggested a post production interview. We have rarely done one, but much can be learned by listening to the reflections of those who have created the drama we enjoyed.  We found it enlightening to talk with Jean, Michael Rancourt the technical director,  the costume designer Atalaya Botner who is a student, and Teddy O’Mara, the sound designer, also a student. We gained a great deal of insight talking with them and are happy to share it with you.

Click below to listen to these four talented people share their experiences.

The Seagull Interview

We are always eager to find new ways for people to experience theatre that is affordable. Colleges with theatre programs provide an opportunity to do this. Bennington College does not charge admission and Williams College charges between three and five dollars.  People in the Bennington area are fortunate to have such resources available. Whereever you are, check for the nearest college and follow the events calendar so that you don’t miss out on some of the fine work that is done at colleges.

Bennington College: A Festival of Original Work- 2017

       New Play Festival

Drama at Bennington College is a community resource which more people should attend. Bob and I have enjoyed diverse, exciting  and engaging productions over the years. Whether it is a faculty or a student production, the work is of high quality. We had the pleasure of talking with a  student playwright, Julia Lorello, two student directors, Emma Plotkin  and Jamie Catana, and faculty member, Kirk Jackson.  They discussed the purpose and the process of these productions. Click on the links below to hear their ideas and experiences.

Bennington College Festival of Original Plays Part 1

Bennington College Festival of Original Plays Part 2

Bennington College Festival of Original Plays Part 3

Bennington College Festival of Original Plays Part 4

Tickets are free. One only has to  call (802) 442-5401 Ext 4572 or e-mail  tickets@bennington.edu to reserve up to two seats per person per show.  They ask that you include the specific title of the show and the date you wish to see it on in your email

Here is the schedule of the plays

Eyes They Close – May 5th, 6th, and 7th at 7pm
When the Sun Falls – May 5th, 6th, and 7th at 9pm
La Vie En Rose – May 12th, 13th, and14th at 7pm
The Nicosia Sisters – May 12th, 13th, and 14th at 9pm

They are performed at the Margot Tenney Theatre. Since this is a flexible theatre space, one is always surprised about  how the stage is set up. One picks up the tickets at the Visual Arts Performing Arts (VAPA) building.

 

                 Margot Tenney Theatre
                        VAPA

Maya Cantu and Musical Theatre

6182247The United States is credited with having developed musical theatre as a unique art form. Revivals and DVDs keep many of the older musicals fresh in our memories. New and innovative musicals are continuously being produced, many of them in our area for the first time. Bob and I have delighted in sharing our enthusiasm about the productions of professional, community, college and high school productions we have enjoyed. We also like reading about musical theatre. Recently, there have been several good books on the subject. Imagine how pleased we were to discover that one of those books was written by a faculty member at Bennington College, Maya Cantu. Her book  American Cinderellas on the Broadway Musical Stage also touched on another favorite theme of ours,  women in theatre. Naturally, we contacted her for an interview.Click below to hear what she had to say

Maya Cantu Interview

 

You might also want to check out her website.

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Maya Cantu’s website

Director of Design and Lighting -Dorset Theatre Festival

DTF_LadyDay_TaylorCrichton2016_041There are many elements that create the magic of live theatre. One of the most effective of these elements is the lighting. The mood of a scene is enhanced by  lighting which focuses  our attention and our emotions on what is happening. All through the production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, which is performing at the Dorset Theatre Festival through September 3, the atmosphere of the bar and Lady Day’s feelings were  reflected in the lighting. In the  last minutes of the play the drama was intensified by a change in the lighting.

Bob and I were fortunate to talk with Michael Giannitti ,GiannittiMichael_320x230pxthe Director of Design and Lighting at Dorset Theatre Festival. We met him at Bennington College where he teaches. To listen to the interview click on the link below.

Interview with Michael Giannitti

 

 

You might also want to take a look at Michael’s website to see some of the productions that he has lit. Michael Giannitti website

Or

images (1)Aphra Behn was the first female writer to earn a living through her literary work. She was a poet, novelist, playwright and  spy in England during the period of  the Restoration. Although her writings survive, the details of her life are hazy. However, contemporary playwright Liz Duffy Adams has taken characters known to have been associated with Behn and created a delightful play which is running from July 23 to September 4 at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Bob and I interviewed the cast while they were in rehearsal and we talked a great deal about the process of creating the world of a play in the specific space of the Tina Packer Theatre. This was most enlightening. However,  as much as we anticipated seeing the play, we were not prepared for how exhilarating the performances were. This is a production not to be missed.

Interview with the cast of Or

or_sco2016_agl_28497303835_o
                                         Tod Randolph as Aphra Behn

 

 

Allyn Burrows as William Scott
Allyn Burrows as William Scott
Allyn Burrows as Charles II
         Allyn Burrows as Charles II
or_sco2016_agl_27881639823_o
Nehassaiu deGannes as Nell Gynne
Nehassaiu de Gannes as Lady Davenant
Nehassaiu de Gannes as Lady Davenant

 

 

 

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Bennington College

Simmons-Hermia_and_Lysander._A_Midsummer_Night's_Dream
Lysander and Hermia

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays and is performed widely. There are many different ways of approaching the play as is true with all Shakespeare’s plays. Besides theatre productions, Midsummer has been reimagined in ballet, opera, film and television.  The characters have appeared in paintings, children’s books, manga and graphic novels, as well as in literary and dramatic parodies such as Lords and Ladies and Shakespeare in Hollywood. 

The Bennington College Drama Department is offering a production of Midsummer at the Lester Martin Theatre on May 6,  7, and 8 at 8 pm. Bob and I had the pleasure of interviewing the play’s director, Jean Randich, Music Director Christopher Giannitti and Technical Director Michael Rancourt. After talking with them, we are excited to see this production.

We met on the set of the play which was quite impressive.  Here is a model of it.Midsummer

 

Bennington College Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Danube

the Danube posterBennington College’s Drama department presents theatre education in a liberal arts setting. Exemplifying this is Patrick Harnett-marshall, a senior whom we interviewed about his production of the play The Danube by Maria Irene Fornes. This is Patrick’s senior project in drama. We saw Patrick act in Dancing at Lughnusa, but hadn’t had the pleasure of talking with him before. The play, under Patrick’s direction, will be performing at the college on Friday, April 8, Saturday, April 9 and Sunday, April 10 at 8 pm. Tickets are free and can be reserved at tickets@bennington.edu

Interview with Patrick Harnett-Marshall Part 1

Interview with Patrick Harnett-Marshall Part 2

Patrick Harnett-marshall
Patrick Harnett-marshall

 

Maria Irene Fornes
              Maria Irene Fornes

Don Juan

20150506__p_EAG-L-DonJuan-0507-1_400Colleges with drama programs often offer their students unique opportunities to be engaged in exciting productions that might not be possible in professional venues. For those people who live in communities where there are such theatres, there is a chance to see quality performances either free or at a minimal cost.

Bennington College provides such opportunities for students and for audiences. An example of this is the co-production between members of the drama and music  faculty on their Don Juan project. Jean Randich and Tom Bogdan, members of the drama and music faculty at the college, have put together with students from both their disciplines and with the help of other faculty a production that combines Moliere’s Don Juan and Mozart’s Don Giovanni. We saw an energetic and exciting preview of the production and were eager to see the performance. Fortunately, we were able to interview Jean and Tom while they were in the process of putting the piece together.

Incarceration in America

For three semesters, Annabel Davis-Goff has taught a course at Bennington College on Incarceration in America that has included a variety of speakers on this subject. This course is part of the program of The Center for the Advancement of Political Action (CAPA) at Bennington. We invited Annabel to be on our radio program to talk about a play The Castle, that was going to be presented at the college.

The Castle is a building on Riverside Drive in New York City that provides housing and services for people who have been incarcerated to help them become reintegrated into society. The Castle is part of the work of The Fortune Society. Based on Shakespeare’s sonnet 29 “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, …” The Fortune Society provides a variety of services for those men and women newly released from prison.

The play originated with its director, David Rothenberg, and was presented at the off-Broadway Theatre New World Stages in 2008. Since then it has toured to many colleges and organizations.

Bob and I went to see the play at the college on Tuesday, March 17. There were four people, three men and one woman with sixty years of prison time between them. They introduced themselves and told their stories. At the conclusion of the play, each person stood up and reintroduced him or herself, saying where they were in their lives now and ending with “And I am a taxpayer.”

As far as I am concerned this is what theatre is all about, sharing experiences with those on the stage that change how you see the world. Bob and I thought that we have never seen more centered people who had achieved a sense of self through their suffering and the support The Fortune Society offered. Victor Rojas said this was the account of a journey that was not finished, but where they were on that journey provided that hope for the audience that Shakespeare yearned to find. Casimiro Torres, who had been in institutions and foster homes since he was six, noted   “To heal, you must be vulnerable and the last place you want to be vulnerable is prison. You don’t have friends in prison, alliances, but no friends”. The Castle offered that friendship and assistance. The Castle has one rule, No violence, which as Vilma Ortiz-Donavan pointed out, is hard for those who have been in prison where violence is everywhere.

In the talk back, David Rothenberg noted that Rory Anderson  had said to him,  “Crime doesn’t pay,” but Rothenberg pointed out that it did for those who built the prisons and filled them and staffed them them and had service contracts. Prison is a big business There are alternatives to prison that our society rarely considers. One wonders if so many of the services that are constantly being cut would be if people in government could hear these stories.

Here is the program with Annabel Davis-Goth and some videos of David Rothenberg and Joanne Page, the head of The Fortune Society.

If you don’t see the link to the broadcast, just click the url.

Annabel Davis-Goth      Theatre Talk-030915-Part 1

Theatre Talk-030915-Part 2

David Rothenberg 

Joanne Page and The Fortune Society