It’s difficult to compare any individual in theatrical history to Charles Busch, a seriously unique icon both on and off the stage. This year, the theatrical world is celebrating 30 years of Mr. Busch’s work, including The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife running Nov. 21-Dec. 20 at The Lyric Stage. Get Tickets Here
One of Mr. Busch’s most defining features is that he prefers playing women in his plays. During an interview, he even stated that “the actress” was his alter ego. In all, Charles Busch (and much of this audiences) enjoys it when his unique style manifests in his work. He typically employs a rather campy tone to his stories and is able to draw attention to himself with thematic elements of his own life sprinkled throughout the components of the piece.
His motivation to write plays came from his inability to land any roles while in college at Northwestern University. It was not long, however, before people began noticing him for his new ideas and provocative subject matter within his works.
On the topic of drag, Charles Busch elaborated on it by stating that when he is dressed in drag, he isn’t “this shy young man but a powerful woman.” He sees the female roles that he writes for himself as liberating, giving him the means necessary to spice up the show.
In this interview, Charles Busch outlines some of the reasons that pushed him toward writing for the stage. He also describes roughly what he still expects to create before his career is over.
Busch describes his feminine approach to theatre very differently than “naturalistic” femininity. He supposedly takes on more of a “moviestar” persona, with characteristics of old-time movie actresses. You can see examples of this style he takes on here:
As we bolt right through the month of November, musicals and plays are popping up everywhere. A lot of runs are starting in order to finish up before the holiday season gets too busy. If you are still in Boston this coming week and aren’t leaving the city early for Thanksgiving, be sure to take advantage of the many shows that are going up. It can sometimes get a little thin in theatre attendance around the holidays. The shows are fantastic, all the same however. Many runs start and end this same week so do not wait!
11/20 – 11/23 The World Goes ‘Round @ Emerson Stage
Join Emerson Stage for their Fall musical, taking place in the Greene theatre at Emerson College. Don’t miss this fabulous revue of Kander and Ebb’s groundbreaking musical theatre material, from Chicago to Kiss of the Spiderwoman as well as many more. Attending this show is a fantastic way to show support for the local collegiate theatre scene. The World Goes ‘Round opens on Thursday. Click here for more info
11/20 – 12/7 The Trip to Bountiful @ ArtsEmerson An American classic comes to ArtsEmerson on Thursday. Don’t miss Cicely Tyson in her reprising performance as Carrie Watts. Click here for a short video trailer Click here for more general info
11/19 – 11/22 Godspell @ Regis College Theatre Company Don’t miss out on this unique musical, based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Click here for more info
11/20 – 11/23 The Italian Girl in Algiers @ The Boston Conservatory A beautiful Italian Opera following a young girl’s journey to find her love in Algiers. Click here for more info
11/14 – 11/22 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead @ The Longwood Players This production of the famous story of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is only up for one week, right over in Cambridge. Click here for more info
Where do we even begin? Seeing this play come together from script to open to close has been simply…enchanting. And fun. And exciting. Amazing. A long list of adjectives, really. An incredible amount of hard work and dedication went into making this spectacular production the success that it has been, but we also had a lot of fun along the way! We’ve just got to tell you about some of our favorite memories
You might not know this but the railroad used in the set actually belonged to director A. Nora Long’s father and uncle (Ed and Jim Long) when they were children! We got to hear what they had to say about the train set, describing the different trains and how they used to play with them, and even how one part of the set was “lost” in their “experiments with centrifugal force”…we can only imagine what a disaster that might’ve been! The video is awesome, but don’t just take our word for it, see for yourself on our YouTube channel and don’t forget to subscribe!
It was pretty cool meeting and talking to Ed and Jim Long, but they weren’t the only ones who did a behind the scenes interview. Laura Latreille and Ed Hoopman (who played Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell) sat down and interviewed each other about some of their experiences with the show. The way they interact with each other is so effortless, and we loved seeing their off-stage banter translate into spellbinding on-stage chemistry. We’re not sure what moment is better in this interview: when Ed tells Laura he’s most excited about working with her during the play (and she laughs!) or when Ed asks Laura how she feels she most relates to Bishop, and then goes on to tell Laura the two must be “soul sisters.” Since we can’t decide which we like better, you’ll have to!
Right around when all these interviews were going on, the play was opening up here at The Lyric Stage, on October 17, to be exact. And it was a hit! The audiences and critics alike fell in love. The Boston Globe called it, “…imaginative, and imaginatively detailed,” and Berkshire Fine Arts applauded the lovely director, stating, “A. Nora Long’s elegant direction allows the narrative prose to fluidly become poetry and the characters to each dance to their personal and at times combined rhythms.” On the actors, The White Rhino Report said it best: “Mr. Hoopman and Ms. Latreille are each letter perfect…” We wholeheartedly agree!
If the critics didn’t have the cast and crew blushing with humble pride, the guests of the show sure did. We love Twitter, and we love that we can connect with our audiences through Twitter. A lot of awesome feedback comes our way here.
One user told us the play was “Unique, innovative, and beautiful! (@anniejhawk)”
Another said “My heart is tied up in knots after watching the beautiful work in #DearElizabeth… (@_AmiliAmili)”
It’s great having tweets like “Dear Elizabeth @LyricStageCo is fantastic! The use of sound and projections… *swoon* (@skbrownell)” come our way, but we do get more than just tweets!
We actually got to film and compile several guest reactions post-performance one night, and now they’re up on YouTube for everyone to see! “Full of romantic tension…” “The staging is just magical!” “It was pure delight.”
A. Nora Long, the Director, shared what she felt was the highlight of the process for her. Sarah Ruhl’s script calls for subtitles, so the production team came up with the brilliant idea to use a projector to illuminate the stage with the necessary information as well as beautiful visual effects. Nora says that working on the Lyric’s stage with the projector and seeing the projections come together with the actor’s movements for the first time was one of the moments that really sticks out to her, and that she loves. The projections were some of our favorite moments too―seeing the water pool onto the stage, or Elizabeth and Robert sitting in the warm sand, or watching the two stand among the flurry of letters at the end…the whole thing was mesmerizing and masterfully done.
We’re sad it’s over, but it has been a great few months. This production has been filled with hard work, laughter, and friendship, and we’re sad to see it go. However, we know that there’s so much more awesome things to come, likeThe Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, and Red Hot Patriot after that. Here at the Lyric we are so proud of everyone involved with what we do, from cast to crew to the people in the offices to our audiences…seriously everyone. Thank you for being a part of our family here, and thank you for gracing us with all you had to offer. We look forward to hearing from you again.
“Elizabeth told me about Robert Lowell. She said, ‘He’s my best friend.’ When I met him a few years later, I mentioned that I knew her and he said, ‘Oh, she’s my best friend.’ It was nice to think that she and Lowell both thought of each other in the same way” (Thom Gunn, Remembering Elizabeth Bishop, 244.)
We are making our way through November with attractions everywhere in Boston as usual. Many productions have have begun their runs. Be sure not to miss out on these performances before the shows come down. With Thanksgiving upon us, there’s only so much time left to see shows before you go out of town or have relatives over. Don’t forget to support school performances in the area as well, as many colleges have Fall cabarets, open mics, and many other concerts and productions before the vacation hits.
11/12 – 11/23 Krapp’s Last Tape / The Dumb Waiter @ Boston Center for American Performance
A performance of one-acts; this performing arts center is the professional extension of Boston University’s Theatre School. The Press opening is this coming Thursday, while the general opening is the following Friday. Easily reachable, Boston University dishes out several performances a year but be sure not to miss the professional aspect of their theatre offerings. Click here for more information
11/7 – 11/22 6 Hotels @ Hub Theatre Company of Boston Bringing six stories of humanity to life is this play by Israel Horovitz, closing in two weeks. Don’t miss the fabulous productions being offered by this two-year theatre company. Click here for more information
11/10 Agnes Obel presented by World Music/CRASHarts After double-platinum debut hit “Philharmonics” which was very popular in Europe, Agnes Obel now brings her beautiful, aesthetic tunes of melancholia. One day only. Click here for more information
11/8 – 11/22 Bye Bye Birdie @ Footlight Club If you are itching for some musical theatre this week or in the weeks ahead, don’t miss the Footlight Club’s production of the American musical classic, Bye Bye Birdie. Click here for more information
You’ve probably heard of the Boston Literary District, but here at the Lyric Stage, we’ve devised a whole new way for you to experience it ― through the eyes of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell! In honor of our production of Dear Elizabeth, we put together a walking tour of Literary District landmarks directly affiliated with Bishop and Lowell. It is truly an adventure, filled with historical and bookish delight, and we sincerely hope you take the time to check it out. We promise it’ll be worth it!.
91 Revere St
91 Revere Street, up in the lovely Beacon Hill neighborhood, was Robert Lowell’s childhood home. Here he experienced familial tensions that eventually lead to him leaving home when he was a Harvard student in 1937. This address became the name for his prose piece that, in combination with other poems in his volume Life Studies, offers a glimpse at the childhood he once knew. Today, 91 Revere Street is a private home, but you’re welcome (and we encourage you!) to walk by and take a look at the birthplace of the brilliant and influential Robert Lowell.
88 Mt Vernon Street
Mount Vernon Street, also in Beacon Hill, has been home to several literary figures as they spent time in Boston, including Henry James (No. 131), Julia Ward Howe (No. 32), and Robert Frost (No. 88, built 1880). What does this have to do with Elizabeth Bishop or Robert Lowell, you ask? Well it turns out that Lowell knew Frost, bringing to him at this very residence one of his early poems from his Harvard days. Lowell would later write a sonnet in tribute to Frost, titled “Robert Frost,” in which he “recounts a devastating encounter between the two poets.”Furthermore, upon Frost’s passing, Lowell wrote a tribute to him in The New York Review of Books.Like Lowell’s childhood home, Frost’s former residence is now a private dwelling, but who knows? Maybe you could move in there someday! Take a walk past it as you make your way through our tour, and take in the history that surrounds it. It’ll be like Frost and Lowell never even left!
9 Willow Street
9 Willow Street, 6th floor, (another one of those awesome Beacon Hill dwellings) was one of the many homes that Sylvia Plath inhabited. She and her husband Ted Hughes lived here in 1958, both focusing on their writing, while Plath also worked part-time at Massachusetts General Hospital during their stay at Willow Street. Again, you might be wondering why we’re talking about someone who isn’t Bishop or Lowell, but, as some may know, Sylvia Plath was one of Lowell’s “circle,” among other literary figures such as Anne Sexton and Kathleen Spivack (who wrote a memoir about it called With Robert Lowell and His Circle). Plath was deeply influenced by Lowell’s work, and the “pivotal moment” in her career is said to have come from her deep questioning of Lowell’s use of the word “somewhere” in his 1963 interview with A. Alvarez. Today, Plath’s old apartment is on and off for sale, but still viewable from street level ― another delightful stop on our tour!
Beacon Street, Opposite State House ―
Robert Gould Shaw Memorial
Ever seen the movie Glory? That 1989, heart-shattering Civil War film starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and Morgan Freeman? Well, if you have, then you’re familiar with Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who led the first volunteer regiment of African-American soldiers, the Massachusetts 54th Regiment. The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, a bronze sculpture honoring the young colonel and his regiment, can be found on Beacon Street, across from the State House. Interestingly, in Robert Lowell’s poem “For the Union Dead,” Lowell contrasts “Boston’s historic era of heroism with the modern era of cars and parking garages.” This poem was inspired by and references this very memorial. Stop by here and contemplate the great sacrifice and honor of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, and how its story compelled Lowell to make a commentary on wartime heroism.
There are several other stops on our Dear Elizabeth tour, but we just wanted to highlight a few of our favorites for you! We hope you can find the time to investigate some or all of these awesome historical sites, and see Boston from Lowell and Bishop’s eyes. Don’t forget to come see the Lyric Stage Company’s presentation of Dear Elizabeth, running until November 9, 2014. www.lyricstage.com/tickets.