CULTURE & ARTS
Lives of Three Exiles: [original title: Exiles: Do Your Homework] Emma Goldman - James Joyce - Barbara Bonney
AUFBAU 64:4 Feb. 13, 1998 p13
Feb. 6, 1998 1217 words
by Leonard Lehrman
Emma Goldman is back in New York this week, not only in the immigrant character Judy Kaye portrays in Ragtime, but, thru February 15, in Claudia Traub's 75-minute 1-act one-woman show subtitled "A Noise in the Silence," depicting the anarchist's last anxious moment, in exile. It's at the tiny Mint Space at 311 West 43rd Street.
This is the fifth one-woman show to date on Goldman--she also figures in four musicals, four films, four two-person shows, four independent songs, four documentaries, numerous poems, an instrumental homage, and at least one opera. Traub's piece was inspired by an earlier one of the same genre, written and performed by Jessica Litwak.
After Traub performed Litwak's work in a production which (unbeknownst to her) had not obtained the requisite permission, she was forbidden to do so again, and decided (she told Aufbau) to collaborate with writer Tamara Ellis Smith and director Deborah Heimann on creating her own Goldman vehicle. The current run is their work's fourth incarnation, having already appeared once at each of three separate women's play festivals in New York between August '96 and March '97.
A lot of worthy research has gone into the dramaturgy, though playwright Smith admitted to having only "just scratched the surface." For example, recent studies by Candace Falk and Alice Wexler have still not superseded Richard Drinnon's 1963 classic Rebel in Paradise, on p. 57 of which one can learn that Goldman and her lover Alexander Berkman were not just crazed, lone attempted assassins of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick: due to his anti-labor practices employing Pinkertons to shoot strikers in Homestead, Pennsylvania in July 1992, a Socialist Labor Party mass meeting had adopted a resolution that "H.C. Frick and Robert and William Pinkerton be executed as murderers." Goldman and Berkman, recent Russian Jewish immigrants whose manifestos were written in German before being translated into English, were mainly trying to act out what they perceived as the will of the masses.
The Traub-Smith-Heimann one-woman show derives its opening from the fact that in her last days Emma suffered a stroke while playing cards with anarchist friends in Toronto, and enjoys verbal plays on the Red Queen and the Black King. But it is hard to imagine Emma Goldman playing solitaire as she does here: alone, she'd more likely be pounding out on the typewriter the over 200,000 letters she is estimated to have written in her 70 years on earth--c. 40,000 of which (originals or copies) are archived at Berkeley.
And though the program mentions her marriage and divorce, it neglects to mention her remarriage to the same husband before leaving him, and marriage, though not men, for good. She did not die alone. As Arthur Bartel (n Bortolotti), the anti-fascist Italian immigrant to Canada whose life she saved by forming a committee to protest--and prevent-- his immediate deportation, told us five years ago before he passed on: she died in his arms. [Len Cariou as Himself!] James Joyce
Claudia Traub's is a worthy effort, though no star turn, which is what Len Cariou gives the audience at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, also until February 15. This is not a one-person show, for Cariou as James Joyce is considerably aided and abetted by Jacqueline Knapp as most of the women in his life, along with John Felix and Brian Mallon as a few of the men. Both pieces have a "sound design" entirely on tape, but Himself also contains a few songs by Jonathan Brielle which enliven the action and keep the interest going for two acts.
Mr. Cariou's mellow baritone from his days in A Little Night Music has not been the same since the beating it took creating the title role in Sweeney Todd, and his Irish accent comes and goes. But he is clearly enjoying himself here, as he has in other previous historical portrayals of emigre writers, such as that of Ernest Hemingway.(Cf. Marc Blitzstein's about-to-be-published song "Expatriate": I wanna be an emigre, the Heming-way, And walk and talk and look the way a hero looks In all the fancy ultra-modern books!
And Joyce has been called the father of modern literature....)
A little heavy of body for Joyce, Cariou nonetheless displays real wit and emotion in a story of immense dramatic potential. A spectator feels cheated, though, when realizing that the greatest anguish he is allowed to show is that of having to leave his daughter behind while fleeing German-occupied France for Switzerland in 1940. In fact, she survived him by several decades. More interesting, perhaps, though untapped by playwright and co-lyricist Sheila Walsh, might have been the fact that Swiss authorities initially rejected Joyce's application for an entry visa on the grounds that--they thought he was a Jew!
Joyce, who created Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, did in fact in many ways identify with Jews, as an exile in Italy from his native Ireland. Yet it was that great anti-Semite and fascist sympathizer Ezra Pound who first discovered him. Now that would be an interesting theme worth exploring. Not to mention Finnegans Wake (in which title there is no apostrophe!)...
Home at Last
Appearing on the cover of Opera News and in her first, sold-out, Carnegie Hall recital, soprano Barbara Bonney is an exile who has done her homework and has at last come home. In her University of New Hampshire junior year abroad in Salzburg, she decided to audition at the "Mozarteum" with "Du, Ring an meinem Finger" from Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben, and never looked back. That cycle, which performers in as light a fach as hers (she is today's quintessential Sophie in Rosenkavalier ) rarely essay, opened her recital here. One was charmed to notice not only the unusually swift chatterbox quality of the faster numbers, but also that the last syllable of the last word of the title of that first song she sang in Salzburg still rings with the local accent of that region ("Fingah").
Seven years living in Scandinavia as the wife of baritone Hakan Hagegard (until 1993) were also time for absorbing and mastering the local languages: her five well-chosen (and heavenly performances of) Grieg songs, from 1871 to 1880, in Norwegian, whetted the appetite: one could imagine never tiring of hearing her voice in all 140 of them.
The Britten-Auden cycle "On This Island" also went over very well, especially the spunky, jazzy finale, "As it is plenty," while Samuel Barber's "Hermit Songs" quickly and somewhat understatedly brought the official program to a close. One Schumann and two Strauss encores had the audience eating out of her hand and clamoring for more. But with the last of these, "Morgen," the young diva acknowledged her fleet accompanist Warren Jones and gestured "Sleep"--after which she still had well-wishers lining up to greet her for a solid hour.
Having met her in a Basel practice room in 1980 and watched her grow in skill and acclaim over the years, I asked the chameleon-like ingenue where she was from originally. "Montclair, New Jersey. Can't you tell by the way I tawk?" she smiled. Welcome home, Barbara.
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