David Bruce: Be a Work of Art — Sports, Theater

Sports

• Figure skaters often have the reputation of being gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that) — sometimes the reputation is deserved, but sometimes it is not. Young pairs figure skater Robert Davenport was teased at a skating camp by hockey players who told him, “All figure skaters are fags.” Young Rob replied, “Look. You guys are in the locker room all by yourselves. You play hockey together while I’m surrounded by girls. Now who’s the fag?”

• The USSR was known for its men’s singles skaters and its pairs skating teams, but it never produced a really fine women’s singles skater until after its breakup. While the USSR was still together, pairs champion and coach Stanislav Zhuk was asked why. He joked, “Because I don’t coach them.”

Theater

• On 27 December 1904, James M. Barrie’s play, Peter Pan, opened. When Tinker Bell drank the poison, Peter Pan, played by Nina Boucicault, asked the audience to clap if they believed in fairies. This was an important moment in the play. If the audience clapped, the play would be a success; if they didn’t, the play would fail. The audience clapped thunderously, and Ms. Boucicault burst into tears on stage. By the way, Mr. Barrie created the role of Tinker Bell in Peter Pan after he saw a small child wave his foot at a firefly. Also by the way, one actress whose name has remained on the programs for Peter Pan since the play debuted, is Jane Wren (sometimes Jenny Wren). She is listed as Tinker Bell, even though Tinker Bell is actually a spotlight reflected in a mirror — her voice is created by bells. Also by the way, Peter Pan, was (and is) amazingly successful and provided some actors decades of work. The original Smee, George Shelton, played the part for 24 years. Bettering that record was William Luff, who played first Cecco and then Captain Hook for 45 years

• Director Max Reinhardt (1873-1943) was serious about his Shakespeare productions. In 1933, he created a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Oxford University Dramatic Society. He looked over the countryside — it was an outdoor production — then said, “Very nice, but [here he pointed at the village of Headington in the distance] that village over there must be removed.” The effects he devised for the play were remarkable. At the beginning of the play, the actors simply stepped out from behind the trees where they had been hiding, and at one point Puck runs across the field, then vanishes — by jumping into a pit that was hidden from the audience.

• To publicize a performance of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues at the University of California at Santa Cruz, the cast and crew put up such signs as “Have you made a clitoris happy today?” and “‘What are we saying about our bodies if we can’t say vagina?’ — Eve Ensler.” By the way, Tovah Feldmanstern wished to direct Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues at her high school. Denied permission, she directed it outside of school. Also by the way, Ms. Ensler, writer and star of The Vagina Monologues, has had some interesting experiences. She was once served a salad made to look like a woman’s exterior sexual organs — bean sprouts represented pubic hair.

• William Schwenck Gilbert, a writer of genius as H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance show, was occasionally very sharp as a director. An actor once told him, “Look here, sir, I will not be bullied. I know my lines.” Mr. Gilbert replied, “That may be, but you don’t know mine.” By the way, Mr. Gilbert died a hero. On 29 May 1911, a woman swimming in his lake called out for help, and he helped her to reach land, but being 74 years old, he died as a result of his exertion.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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