The next Second Stage reading by Moira Blumenthal Productions, a leading Jewish Theatre Company, is Rob Selzer’s play ‘The Making Of Sasha Fein’,. a stage adaptation of Anita Selzer’s novel ‘I am Sasha’.
For sixty years Sandy Fein has kept a secret, a secret he is determined will follow him to the grave. All that changes the day he buries his elderly mother and some of her old mementos threaten to expose the truth. At the same time, his grand-daughter, Aviva, persuades him to be part of her family-tree project and picks at the threads of his past as well as the strings of his heart. Continue reading THE MAKING OF SASHA FEIN BY ROB SELZER : A STAGED READING→
For many years I lived in a beautiful but haunted part of Sydney, Watsons Bay. My next door neighbour was a retired local police sargeant. We used to chat often. Les told me that the worst part of his job was when he was called to Watsons Bay after someone had jumped off the Gap.
He and a few of his station colleagues, as well as members of the Police Rescue Squad, were left with the gruesome task of salvaging the usually deceased’s body from the bottom of the Gap.
This play, written by actor Michael Cristoffer, had its premiere on Broadway in March 1977. It went on to win that year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as taking out the Tony Award for Best Play.
Cristoffer’s play cuts deep. Its subject is that old dreaded subject which us humans have so much trouble dealing with – the impermanence of life and its fragility. And of-course, what goes hand in hand with this – the terrible losses that we suffer along the way.
THE SHADOW BOX is well suited to be performed ar such an intimate venue.
The play takes place over twenty four hours, in three separate cottages on the grounds of a large hospital, in the United States. Within the three cabins are three patients – Joe, Brian and Felicity, who are each to live with their respective families at the final stage of their life, as their treatment has been discontinued. Continue reading THE SHADOW BOX @ THE OLD FITZ→
My son was entranced and my daughter was mesmerised. I was drawn in by the magical telling of a powerful story told so simply and so well.
Tim McGarry the director writes: ‘Li Cunxin’s life journey feels like a fairytale, a ‘rags to riches’ story about a boy who was propelled from a life of utter poverty onto the world stage to become one of the greatest ballet dancers of our time. It is all of this and so much more – a story of fate and agency, pain and loneliness, of an astonishingly determined spirit who overcame adversity; an emotional and physical struggle to simply survive.’
A powerful bookend – the grown Li Cinxin is waiting in the wings to dance, his parents out front. Front and centre. From then we revisit Li Cunxin as a child. So effectively, a boy and his kite and his father’s story of the little frog stuck down a well – and the writers have brilliantly, for their young audience captured a dream that lights a spark of a fire in a young boy – of hopes and dreams. If he fulfills these, he will bring so much happiness to his family. And yet he will lose his family as well.
Each scene transforms from the last in location, energy and pace by the mastery of David Bergman’s media design image backdrops. These too morph from time to time. From the allegory images of Mao and his young charges, that he will mould and own.
Clever devices of Designer Michael Hankin, that invite the actors into their world, spread and dissolving across the curtain – behind the proscenium box. A simple shadow play behind at times and interwoven effectively by a supportive score from Daryl Wallis. Within this box is a lifetime of story, a farm house, a school, a dancer’s torture and a dancer’s tears and fears.
Gliding effortlessly across the story box are the most dynamic and clever story-teller four. Jonathan Chan, Jenevieve Chang, John Gomez Goodway and Edric Hong. John as Li Cunxin, leaps from a frog boy through to the growing dynamic dancer, with his genuine awe of the inspired youth. Jenevieve is the aspirational mother who loves him more than her own life and then so masterfully reveals the school teacher revering Mao through the tough and dominating dance instructor and then the American philanthropist benefactor.
Jonathan Chan is a generous and mostly patient father, then almost unrecognisable as the bureaucrat. Edric is so light as the comic joke-about brother, the talent scout and then the American choreographer who sees in Li Cunxin more than the young Li see’s in himself.
I ask my 9 year old daughter how she connected with the story and she completely grasped the young boy and the fathers frog story and being stuck in a well. Also for her most memorably the scene of Li Cunxin being tested for the ballet – could he jump high enough – could he balance – could he ‘steal’ himself to be chosen. chosen for opportunity no matter what that was.
For my son, 11 year old, himself a young actor and dancer, he was delighted in the telling and the technique, but I asked him about the emotions he shared, in his words, “even though it seemed the impossible for him to do, the impossible, he did it.”
The pace was perfect, a story so full, told in an hour. We all held our breath as Li Cunxin’s story unfolded, and then finally again with the dancer before his parents and the boy leaps to become the curtain image of light and he becomes like the kite – so powerful in flight, so bright under the sun. Lifted right out of the well.