James Barry and Jonathan Epstein in Berkshire Theatre Festival's Unicorn Theatre production of The Caretaker. Photo Kevin Sprague.

Harold Pinter, The Caretaker, Berkshire Theater Company, Stockbridge

Harold Pinter is still very much alive, a potent and welcome presence in the world because of his political work, but when The Caretaker, or any other of the plays from the height of his fame in the theater, is produced, most of us take it as a classic from the past. After all Pinter’s announcement in 2005 of his retirement from the stage marked a significant break, and the world has changed significantly since the sixties. His powerful Nobel Prize lecture, Art, Truth, and Politics, meticulously prepared and taped by BBC 4, shows his current way of reaching his audience in a time when indifference, commercialism in the media, and unofficial censorship make it virtually impossible to get salutary and unpleasant messages across to anyone who is not already convinced. We deal with people who disagree with us by marginalizing them. When he wrote The Caretaker in 1959, his first commercial success, he established himself as the quintessential all-round man of the theater. He already had considerable experience as an actor and director, in addition to the plays he had already written, of which The Birthday Party and The Dumbwaiter are still performed often. From there he continued his threefold theatrical activity on mainstream stages and on the screen. His collaboration with the brilliant director Joseph Losey was perhaps the peak of his film work, as it was for Losey, but it was also characteristic of Pinter’s own theatrical style, which is also well documented in films of his plays, beginning with Clive Donner’s 1963 film of The Caretaker with two members of its original cast, Alan Bates and Donald Pleasance.

Don’t Smile for the Camera, at the Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield

The exhibition will be on view daily from 11 am to 5 pm through November 2, 2008. At the Old Deerfield Summer Craft Fair on June 21 and 22, tintype photographer John Bernaski will demonstrate his craft for the public. Admission to the nineteen exhibition rooms on art, history, and culture in Memorial Hall Museum, 8 Memorial Street, Deerfield, MA, is $6 for adults, and $3 for youth and students 6-21. For more information call 413-774-3768 x 10 or visit the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association’s website. Click here for a gallery of highlights from the exhibition.

I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright

As a teenager under the Third Reich and son of an enthusiastic and rising party member of brutal ways, Lothar Berfelde found himself maturing into an especially difficult situation. From a very early age, he had felt himself to be a girl in a boy’s body. Disgusted by Lothar’s precocious effeminacy, his father had forced him to join the Hitler Youth, but eventually a Lesbian aunt enlightened him about cross-dressing and gave him an authoritative book on the subject, Magnus Hirschfeld’s book, Die Transvestiten (1910), which became his Bible, as it reminded him that he was not alone in the world. He killed his father with a rolling pin, as Väterchenthreatened to kill his mother and the entire family. After psychiatric examination he was judged sane and sentenced to four years in juvenile prison. East German society was no more tolerant of homosexuals, but Lothar was able to pursue his inclinations, changing his name to “Lottchen,” formally Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, the Berlin suburb in which he had grown up, and where he continued to live, obsessively collecting furniture and other objects from the Gründerzeit, that is, the age of Bismarck, a period of growing national wealth and security, the “world of assurance” (viz. Am. “insurance”), as Stefan Zweig called it, which was to collapse with the First World War. Charlotte made a name for herself as a preservationist, rescuing old buildings from destruction. She was eventually granted one of them as a home and a site for her private Gründerzeitmuseum, which opened in 1960 and became as much a center of homosexual life as it was a place to enjoy the decorative art of a bygone age. In the basement she preserved the interior of theMulackritze, a notorious gay dive, which was closed by the authorities in 1963. Her way of life, which was far from inconspicuous, and the double-edged function of the museum made it necessary for her to tread a fine line with the powers that be, but she survived and enjoyed major public honors after the reunification of Germany.

Tannery Pond Opening Concert, 2008: Phan, Kim, Arron, Mužijević play Haydn, Fauré, Britten, Schumann

The summer season began for this concertgoer Sunday afternoon on a very high level in a very good place, Tannery Pond, on the Darrow School campus, which occupies part of the Shaker community at New Lebanon, New York. A bright, warm Sunday afternoon arrived on cue to inaugurate this season of a distinguished chamber music series which began in 1991. There is no more comely place to gather for music; the acoustics are intimate, clear, and warm in this converted tannery, originally built by the Shakers in 1834; and its founder-director, Christian Steiner, a distinguished pianist and photographer, provides a uniquely enthusiastic “one-man-show,” introducing the program, arranging chairs, recording and photographing the concert, turning pages, and picking up overturned flower pots, as was necessary this afternoon.

Berlioz, Les Troyens, a Concert Performance and a Symposium

Les Troyens is so widely accepted as Berlioz’s greatest work, that the progress of the Berlioz Renaissance is punctuated by performances of it in the opera house and in concert, beginning, arguably, with Sir Thomas Beecham’s moderately abridged 1947 BBC broadcast. Now Boston music-lovers may consider the Berlioz Renaissance to be something of a noble fiction, since his music has had its own secure place in the Boston Symphony repertoire for many years, maturing with Charles Munch’s arrival in 1949. During his tenure he and the BSO performed and recorded several of Berlioz’s most important works, and the recordings are still considered among the best. Later, both Jean Martinon and Seiji Ozawa continued the tradition most capably, and Berlioz has been one of James Levine’s great enthusiasms since early in his career.

I blinked…More Arts Critics Eliminated at Major Papers.

…and now I have several items of bad news to report. Absorbed in the intricacies of first-year Latin and stunned by the Karajan Renaissance, I missed a few weeks of music world news. It seems to happen in the spring, whether it is in Atlanta or Minneapolis. Cutting costs right and left, managers in the traditional print media have been busy firing critics once again. Last May the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cut back on arts reviews and eliminated its specifically assigned arts reviewers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune eliminated the position of full-time classical music critic, and New York Magazine fired its illustrious music critic Peter G. Davis. This year it’s the Seattle Times, the LA Weekly, and the New York Times, which ran an article last June about the casualties of the previous spring after the news had done the rounds of various professional journals and blogs, some of which printed letters of protest. This year the toll is even more serious, but so far there hasn’t been much response outside of Musical America and the Music Critics Association of North America Web site. (Click here for their compilation of reports and letters., and here for my own comments, reposted on the Artsblog.) And this year, I doubt we can look forward to an article in the New York Times.

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