Tag Archives: Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega keeps Carson McCullers alive

Suzanne Vega onstate as novelist Carson McCullers.

Suzanne Vega onstage as novelist Carson McCullers.

New York singer-songwriter Vega has ‘rewritten’ her intimate one-woman portrait of the novelist and is recording the songs

Good news: New York singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega’s one-woman musical play about Southern writer Carson McCullers is getting a second life.

I’ve rewritten the entire play. Recording the songs today,” she told me Wednesday in response to a Facebook inquire about the show. The album is expected to come out in the Spring. 

That’s just the latest fantastic news about Vegas efforts to push her talent into the world of theater — efforts that I feared she might have abandoned.

Vega showed the world a new face in 2011 with her one-woman play “Carson McCullers Talks About Love.” She wrote and starred in the play, which featured music co-written with pop artist and “Spring Awakening” composer Duncan Sheik.

Someone who knows Vega well told me she was urged to do an out-of-town tryout before staging it in New York. But she apparently ignored the advice and launched it at the small, well-worn Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in downtown Manhattan.

As predicted, didn’t get the results or critical response she had hoped for.

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times described the show as a “funky ramble through the life of that Southern writer,” but assessed it as a “messy” project.

Joe Dziemianowicz, the longtime New York Daily News theater critic who was unceremoniously dumped by the tabloid earlier this year, was a bit kinder, but didin’t offer glowing praise:

Vega traces McCullers’ life with great warmth, but at times the play’s matter-of-factness chafes. Vega isn’t fully comfortable acting a role, which is also an issue.

I saw the spare production and was delighted by Vega’s transformation into McCullers — who was only 50 years old (a couple of years younger than Vega was during the Rattlestick run) when she died in 1967 in Nyack, where had lived off and on for 30 years.

The story was fascinating and the music was full of life and told the story of the writer quite well.

Vega’s not the only artist inspired at least in part by McCullers at the  time. Gabriel Kahane’s well-received musical “February House,”  staged in 2012 at The Public Theater, was based an the book of the same name that featured McCullers and a cast of early 20th century arts icons — from Gypsy Rose Lee to W.H.Auden — who lived in a house in Brooklyn Heights for a short, intense time in the 1940s.

But Vega’s show seemed to vanish when the run ended.

While it dropped off the radar, I certainly didn’t forget about it.

I rarely respond to calls for audience requests at concerts, but even have to admit I called out for “anything from the Carson McCullers show” when Vega asked for requests at The Bell House a few years later.

She laughed and politely declined. I figured she just wanted to forget about it.

But it seems I was wrong.

Vega is performing some of the songs from the show  in concert Jan. 15 at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 15.

She rewrote the title, too, while reworking the play. It’s now called “Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers” — a title that appears to be influenced by the final moments of the writer’s 1946 novel, “The Member of the Wedding,” which describes 13-year-old motherless character Frankie Addams feeling like “an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid.”

For a little more from Vega about the show, check out this interview with Richmond Magazine.

“Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers” is on track to return to the stage in 2016. I, for one, can hardly wait to see what Vega’s done with it.

 

 

 

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Ron Fierstein, longtime music manager, returns to his roots with new book about Polaroid-Kodak lawsuit

Ron Fierstein’s new book takes is about Edwin Land, one of the founders of Polaroid Corp. Land and Polaroid launched an epic battle against eventual rival Kodak. “It’s a fantastic story almost of operatic dimension,” Fierstein says. “They went from being mentor-protégé to arch-enemies over 60 years.” (Photo: Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News)

I knew Ron Fierstein’s name from his successful career managing singer-songwriters such as Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. And it occurred to me that he might be related to a Broadway macher.

What I didn’t know was that Fierstein, who moved to Chappaqua from Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood two decades ago, had a successful career as a patent lawyer before he helped Vega navigate to her early success.

He’s quit the music business and spent the last several years writing a book about the historic case he worked on while an associate at Fish & Neave in New York City: Polaroid vs. Kodak.

Fierstein took some time the other day to meet me in his Bedfore Hills office and talk about his life, his multiple careers, and the new book: “A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War.”

The book is a remarkably detailed account of a Land, a fascinating and brilliant man, and the souring of the relationship between his company, Polariod, and Eastman Kodak, its longtime “mentor” and friendly competitor.

Tap or click here now to read the full interview at lohud.com.

Suzanne Vega channels Carson McCullers: Just three chances left to see it

Suzanne Vega channels the Southern Gothic novelist in the off-Broadway musical Carson McCullers Talks About Love. (Photo by Sandra Coudert)

From the moment I heard that Suzanne Vega was writing a musical, I was determined to see it. The subject didn’t matter much, actually.

Suzanne Vega

Suzanne and her music were a big part of my musically formative years. She fell off my radar over the last decade or so, but she and her classic songs like “Luka” and “Small Blue Thing” are always lurking in the back of my mind.

It turns out she chose a fascinating subject for the show: Southern Gothic novelist Carson McCullers. Despite her Southern roots, McCullers spent much of her life in New York City and the suburbs, living from 1945 until her death in 1967 in a house on South Broadway in South Nyack, N.Y. She’s buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, just a mile or so northwest of her home.

McCullers wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and many other works that you might have been required to read in school. But just because you had to read them doesn’t mean they’re not great, entertaining works.

Vega has talked widely about how connected she feels to the novelist she brings to life onstage.Check out what she had to say about McCullers in The New York Times.

Duncan Sheik (Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN)

Then when I found it was playing off-Broadway this spring and that Duncan Sheik, who was responsible for the stunning Spring Awakening, was partnering with her on the music, I was hooked. (It’s funny, back when Spring Awakening was on Broadway, I went to see Sheik in concert and was left rather disappointed. I guess he’s more to my taste as a show composer. His pop performance of his personal songs, like his overexposed “Barely Breathing” left me cold. But I’ll have a chance to reconsider next Wednesday, June 8, when he plays the Highline Ballroom.)

And then my schedule started filling up. I kept meaning to get tickets. And I kept getting distracted — and now time’s almost up.

Read through to the jump for ticket information, including a special discount offer.

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