Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
You comforted me in the dressing room one night. I was distraught, telling you I felt totally at sea. "Nicky-Nick," you said, your eyes brimming with compassion, "what would Toozenbach really like to say to Irena at that point?" "Please," I said, "touch my cheek." Whereupon I burst into tears -- knowing that with you it was safe to do so.
Then one night early in the run, I had been killed in a duel, and I was sitting in the dressing-room, doing the crossword with a kid I was convinced had no future in show-business (Colin Mochrie). Suddenly, just before she went out on stage to do her plaintive speech about the 'happy birds', Goldie came up behind me, put her arms around me, and said: "This is like hugging an old blanket when you know you have to go and do something scary."
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
It was a wonderful evening and I am so glad that I was in the audience. Your talk is fantastic – warm and intimate and educational and inspirational. I hope our paths will cross again soon some time. Thank you for joining us and for bringing such a special evening to the Studio.
Many thanks, and a Merry Christmas to you too, Nina.
I tried to respond to one of your blogs; but after 20 minutes of changing my password and copying out 10 different codes I gave up. So I'm copying it here. ( It was the blog where you complained - yes, yes, I know. It's hard to believe, but you actually complained about something!) and I'm responding to the complaint:I love these weeks before Christmas. I love hearing 'Little Drummer Boy", and "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" as I walk along the streets of Montpellier in 18°C weather under a bright blue sky with a mistral blowing. I love the smile on the girl at the cash desk at the 2 euro store because she's already getting into all the joy of the people buying 2 euro junk to decorate their places for Christmas.I love all the hope there. It is indeed the most wonderful time of the year. No earplugs for me. But then again, I live above a bar. But you know that. lynn
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
These days, when I start a formal talk about my book, I quote my French friend Daniel, who told me that the book “is part of the battle against amnesia.” The book fights to uncover and respect the past and understand its legacy. Last night, an audience got that exploration of legacy as never before.
What a thrilling event. I had no idea what to expect – perhaps a handful of people, as has happened in some of the other places that sponsored a talk – about 20 at the Stratford Festival, which got around to publicising it late; about a dozen at the Jewish library in Toronto. About 30 came, including five relatives, to the 92nd Street Y the last time I spoke in New York; I was hoping for at least that but prepared for far fewer.
I got to the Stella Adler Studio early, to work, as Tom Oppenheim the director of the Studio had asked, with the actors. It’s exciting just walking into the acting school, its cramped, busy space on West 27th crawling with intense young acting students – there, a huge bust of Stanislavsky, and there, portraits of Tom’s grandparents, the great actress and teacher Stella and her husband Harold Clurman, the influential director. “The theatre is a sacred space,” said a sign on the door of the small theatre where I was to speak and an assembly of actors to read excerpts from the plays. Marvellous actors – Betsy Parrish, who teaches at the school, read from Mirele Efros, Adam Gerber and Danielle Rabani, graduates from the school, read from the Kreutzer Sonata, and Michael Howard was the Jewish King Lear. We ran through their pieces, set up the space, and retired to the Green Room to chat.
From there, we heard a noise, growing – the sound of a lively audience. Michael said to Adam and Danielle, “May you hear that sound every night for the rest of your lives. Except for your day off.” Tom began, speaking with his usual eloquence about building a meaningful theatre, a theatre of social relevance, and then he introduced me. A joyful moment, to step onto a stage with fine actors behind me waiting to work and in front, a full house. The space was packed – standing room only. Maybe 70 or more, some of them young students from the school sitting on the floor at the front. “This is a friendship,” I said, hugging Tom, “that started 120 years ago.”
I told stories about Gordin and my search for him for almost an hour, then the actors did their magnificent readings – I had goosebumps, they were so good - and I finished off. The audience liked it. Some of the young actors, paupers though they undoubtedly are, bought the book and had me sign it.
Then adults, a whole group of Adlers, including Tom’s mother, Stella’s only daughter Ellen, and Josie, daughter of Tom’s aunt Lulla Rosenfeld who wrote her own book about the Yiddish theatre and helped me with mine. Josie reported a conversation. Ellen, at the end of my talk, asked Josie, "Are you going to say hello?" And Josie replied, "Say hello? I’m going to move in with her!"
They were so warm and generous, this bunch of descendants of Jacob Adler’s, to this descendant of his colleague Jacob Gordin. We must have lunch, Josie said. I’ll make dinner, said Ellen, who has incredible stories to tell. The Studio should help you sell your book, said Tom. And so I must come back to New York sooner rather than later, to greet my new family. Because that’s how it felt.
On the subway home, a group of women opposite were talking about the reading at the Cooper Union with Tony Kushner et al. Apparently Kushner was fabulous. I’m sorry I missed him. But my own small event was pretty fabulous too.
This morning I've received a very nice note from the Artistic Director of the Folksbiene, saying it was all a misunderstanding, he is very interested in the book and my work. That's great news. Perhaps we can work out an event of some kind.
I have been fighting a bug with massive doses of Cold-FX, but now that my talk's over, miraculously I feel healthy again. Half a day, now, to explore NYC - late afternoon I move from my cousin Ted's to Cousin Lola's and take her to the theatre tonight. She's 87 and it's supposed to pour with rain, so there are logistical problems, but she is the feistiest 87-year old in the world, so we'll make it. She has a plan. You don't go anywhere with a New Yorker without a plan.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Each time I come in, there’s a frisson – like all my great-grandparents on my father’s side, I am an immigrant to this island. And yet I’m not, because I was born here. This metropolis is my birthplace. We moved from New York to Halifax when I was two months old. I carry the passport both of this country and of the country that is mine, that is my true home.
I am proud to say that I’d packed so little, I was able to skip immediately from the plane to the shuttle to the train and thence into Manhattan. 6.30 a.m., wake up in Toronto; noon, eat soup at Cousin Ted’s at 77th and 3rd. Cousin Ted has a place in the “country” – Northport – to which he goes every weekend, leaving his two-bedroom apartment for a steam of visiting friends and family. Without Ted, I would not have been able to write my book; I would not feel as at home as I do in this city.
Here is how to do Manhattan on the cheap: First, have a Cousin Ted in a perfect location. Second, a week-long subway pass costs a mere $27 and is good for both subways and busses. Even though I’m only going to be here for 4 days, by Day 2 the pass will have paid for itself; I haven’t taken a cab for years. I browse at the Housing Works Thrift Shop right across the street – this is not Goodwill, this is a New York thrift store with high end goods and extraordinary prices. My meals are takeout from the nearby Chinese restaurants or Citarella’s, the fish store and gourmet supermarket, and eaten at home. And, unless there’s something I absolutely must see, I get my theatre tickets half-price from the TKTS booth on Times Square.
Since during this amazing year I have visited both Paris and London, I must of course compare. This city is on a grid! You always know where you are! It’s not a rabbit warren, an ant’s nest of meandering streets, ancient medieval pathways, alleys and dead ends worn for a thousand years – well, it’s a bit like that downtown, in Chelsea and Soho, but the rest of the city is snappily efficient and organised. People are bigger here in every way – not just fatter, which of course they are, amazingly so, but taller and far, far louder. They take up a lot of space; there’s a confidence and swagger, a sense of entitlement. And yet they’re friendly, chatting openly with strangers in a way unheard of in European capitals.
At Ted’s I unpacked, called Ted and Henry in Northport and tried with Henry’s help and to no avail to get my computer hooked up to their internet, and called second cousin Lola who’s 87 and knows everything that’s worth seeing in the city. "Don't miss the Tim Burton exhibit at MOMA," she said. "Go early. It'll be crazy." It's still Thankgiving here. I changed into my walking shoes and set off for the Met, where Vermeer’s “Milkmaid” was spending its last day. Thanks again to family, I know where the side entrance is to the Met, avoiding the crowds, and headed straight for my favourite painter. Though crowded, it was a fabulous exhibit – the “Milkmaid” had been sent from Amsterdam in memory of the discovery of Manhattan by Henry Hudson, an Englishman working for the Dutch, and was shown with the other Met Vermeers and other paintings of the genre and era. Sublime. This has been a banner year for me - eight Vermeers! "The Lacemaker" was not in the Louvre but in Japan or it would have been nine. If I go to Frick Museum while here, I can see their three. But maybe I should stop; how many Vermeers can a person absorb in one year? There was a wall showing all 34; I decided that my favourite is "The Astronomer" which is at the Louvre. Which is yours?
Rather than more Met, it was such a heavenly day I took the bus straight down 5th Avenue to get tickets for the night's viewing. Time's Square is completely changed - they've turned some of it into a pedestrian mall and parkette, with little tables and chairs and a big staircase to nowhere to sit on - amazing, in the middle of the craziest intersection on earth, to have this little oasis. I lined up at TKTS and was happy that the show I wanted to see, Fela!, about a Nigerian activist, was on offer. I asked for the best single seat and the guy said, "Center orchestra." Great. It turned out to be center, all right - dead center of the very first row. I was so close that when the star bent over to bow, his sweat droplets landed on me. I'd like to see the show again from a bit further back, but no matter, it was fabulous - Fela was the founder of Afrobeat, there was an incredible band onstage and tons of beautiful black men and women dancing, singing, and acting. Full of energy. I could not have felt further from Paris or London.
But I carry those cities with me - walking around in my silk Paris scarf, my TopShop shirt. It is fun to be in New York wearing Paris and London. Though of course I could not compete with the stylistas here, nor ever want to, in their Prada and whatever. I meandered through Sak's on my way to the theatre. More expensive than is decent. But lovely to look at."
This morning, in the rain, I went to MOMA at Lola's command and did see Tim Burton. It's an exhaustive exhibit of his life's work - sketches, notebooks, sculpture, amateur films, stories, an amazingly creative guy exploring the grotesque and horrific since childhood. Much is made of his suburban childhood in Burbank, California - he was obviously an outcast, outsider, a geeky kid with vicious fantasies who has found a way to make a fortune playing those out for the world. If he'd had a best friend, or grown up in Manhattan, the world might not have those nightmare images - Edward Scissorhands, the Nightmare before Christmas, Beetlejuice. He needs some good buddies, I thought. This is what he wrote as a character study for Edward Scissorhands: "His hobbies are making ice sculptures and playing the steeldrums. Someday he hopes to vacation on the Caribbean Islands." He wrote about Little Dead Riding Hood and is fixated by dead dogs, eyeballs, skeletons, Martians, death, blood, gore. Here's an early poem:
My girlfriend is a statue/I don't know when I noticed it/but I think it was last year/I think it's when I noticed/That crack above her ear.
I had an ambitious plan for the afternoon but the rain and my own fatigue defeated me. I came back to Ted's and to this cafe. Tonight I have more plans, and tomorrow I do my talk at the Stella Adler Studio. At the moment, I am just grateful that I do not live here in this madhouse. A marvellous, thrilling madhouse, but mad nonetheless.