Forty-nine published plays. Four Pulitzer Prizes. Three marriages. A suicide attempt. A celebrity for a father. A drug-addicted mother who blamed her habit on her son. A daughter estranged, a son who committed suicide. A Nobel Prize, the only ever awarded to an American playwright. Eugene O'Neill from inside out: a documentary film for American Experience. More inside.
America's First Superstar. He was the highest paid actor in the world, beloved by fans so passionate about his performances that a riot (23 people killed, more than a hundred wounded) ensued when a rival dared to perform the role that had made him famous. He enjoyed all the trappings of a superstar's life: portraits taken by America's most famous photographer, a large mansion (now a historic landmark), and of course a scandalous divorce trial (he lost). He was also one of the most prominent book collectors in the country. Edwin Forrest was born 200 years ago.
Harold Pinter at 75. In One for the Road, the protagonist is Nicolas, a whisky-sodden interrogator who has brought in a family for questioning (and, it is implied, raping and torturing). In the short, sharp shock of The New World Order, we eavesdrop on a conversation between two torturers, held over the top of their mute, blindfolded victim's head ("We haven't even finished with him. We haven't begun."). In Ashes to Ashes, the interrogation of Rebecca by Devlin takes a sinister turn as we learn that her ex-lover participated in state-sponsored violence. In Mountain Language, a sadistic guard plays power games with a group of mountain dwellers, who are forbidden from speaking in anything but the language of the state. In Party Time, Pinter lampoons the smug security of the middle classes, portraying an insufferably élite party which carries on regardless of the violence and terror on the streets outside. Now, for Pinter's 75th birthday, some of the tormentors and the tormented so potently etched in his later plays are assembled together in a new dramatic work with a musical setting by the composer James Clarke.
What About Judas? Dante condems Judas to eternal damnation in the darkest, deepest circle of hell. But what if someone came to the great traitor's defense in a trial to win his entrance into heaven? The playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis imagines just such a scenario in "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot," directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and running at the Public Theater in New York City. More inside.
"Hi. My name is Tony Kushner, I'm a playwright...Ladies and Gentlemen and Supporters of MoveOn: the first lady of the United States, Laura Welch Bush". About a year and a half ago Kushner, the Pulitzer-prize winning author of Angels in America, published the first act of a new play, Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy (full text). In it, Laura Bush reads Dostoyevsky to a classroom full of ghosts of dead Iraqi children. Now, (in Salon, I know, I know) the first lady metacriticizes Kushner's play. (more inside)