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Norman Mailer (#110 of 5)

Tales from Red Vienna Interview with David Grimm

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Tales from Red Vienna Interview with David Grimm
Tales from Red Vienna Interview with David Grimm

In Tales from Red Vienna, a Manhattan Theatre Club presentation at New York City Center, a financially strapped Viennese society lady whose husband was killed in World War I is forced to take up prostitution in the former capital of the collapsed Austro-Hungarian empire. The production, directed by Kate Whoriskey, features a cast headed by a formidable troika of New York actresses: Nina Arianda (Tony Award winner for Venus in Fur), Tina Benko (Jackie), and Kathleen Chalfant (an Obie Award winner for Wit). The playwright, David Grimm, has a flair for bringing a witty and theatrical perspective to noteworthy moments in world history, and his work shows eclectic range: Kit Marlowe, a spirited bio of the rakish Elizabethan playwright, spy, and sexual outlaw; Measure for Pleasure, a the bawdy, gender-bending Restoration farce; Steve and Idi, in which the ghost of the notorious African dictator commissions a play from a struggling gay writer; and The Learned Ladies of Park Avenue, a Moliere comedy reset in Jazz Age New York. Most recently, he provided additional dialogue for River of Fundament, Matthew Barney’s visionary take on Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings and the Egyptian Book of the Dead. “I can’t see a rock that I can’t pick up, look underneath, and say, ’Take a look at this—let’s put that on stage,’” says Grimm about his interest in poking underneath the surfaces of history. When I met with the playwright, I asked him about the origins of Tales from Vienna and his interest in carnal activities in the context of world history.

Andrzej Zulawski @ BAM: On the Silver Globe

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Andrzej Zulawski @ BAM: On the Silver Globe
Andrzej Zulawski @ BAM: On the Silver Globe

A work of makeshift grandiosity as well as of genuine folly, Andrzej Zulawski’s On the Silver Globe was born in a turmoil mirrored by its chopped narrative. Started in 1976 as an epic adaptation of a turn-of-a-century philosophical sci-fi trilogy by the director’s great uncle, the production was then abruptly stopped by the communist ministry of culture in 1977. Officially too expensive to continue, the movie was in fact too politically incorrect to handle.

It wasn’t till 1987 that Andrzej Zulawski was allowed to tinker with the incomplete footage and assemble it into what it currently is: “a stump of a movie,” per his off-screen opening remark. In the meantime, pieces of costumes and set designs were clandestinely preserved in private apartments by the film’s heroic crew, with the original negative miraculously ignored—and thus rescued—in a pile of cans standing next to a film archive’s hallway radiator.