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I thought we should post in the Irondale lobby as sort of universal trigger warnings. The first is Brecht’s “Art is not nice,” and the second is  “Almost all great plays are about the struggle between the Apollo and Dionysus urges. In Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysus are both sons of Zeus. Apollo is the god of the sun, of rational thinking and order, and appeals to logic, prudence and purity. Dionysus is the god of wine and dance, of irrationality and chaos, and appeals to emotions and instincts. And a great deal of the time in these plays Apollo ends up center stage, and dead.” 

But then last night this happened, and it crowded out what was on my mind and replaced  it with this. This is what is on my mind this morning.

Marvin Carlson is the author of two of the best books about the theatre that I know. The first: Theatre Is More Beautiful Than War – German Stage Directing in the Late Twentieth Century details the working careers of nine directors including such major figures as Peter Stein, Frank Castorf and Thomas Ostermeier. It was my guidebook and orientation manual in my first years of exploring Berlin theatre. Always on my nightstand, where it provided reference points and understanding for some marvelous and often unimaginable theatre experience I had witnessed that particular evening. The second book: 10,000 Nights Highlights from 50 Years of Theatre Going is a more personal memoir, a love letter that begins in Marvin’s home town of Wichita, Kansas, where he saw Charles Laughton and Judith Anderson in John Brown’s Body at the age of eight and led to regular theatre attendance first in New York and then on to London and then Berlin. As the title of this book indicates, this man goes to a lot of theatres. He’s also the person who was responsible for me being part of the US delegation to the Shanghai-New York Twin Cities Cultural Forum this past summer. 

Last night we had a reunion dinner hosted by Jackie Davis, the Executive Director of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. In attendance besides Marvin, Barbara (her first night out on the town since achieving full and clean remission last week), Kate Loewald, Founding Producer of Play Company, Alex Roe, Producing Artistic Director of Metropolitan Playhouse, and Peter Eckersall, GC/CUNY and Deputy Director of the Marvin Carlson Theatre Center at the Shanghai Theatre Academy. Lots of introductions there, but all important people and great dinner companions and I didn’t want to leave anyone out.

And now excuse me while I do a bit of bragging. 

Barbara and I were the last to arrive at Jackie’s apartment, and when we got there champagne was already being served. Then Marvin said, “Everyone fill your glasses up. I want to propose a toast. In the last year I have seen two productions in New York and spoke most profoundly to the state of the world today, and the directors of both of these two plays are here tonight. Let’s lift a glass to Alex and Metropolitan for their Thunder Rock and Jim and Irondale for their Good Soul.”

And then we went in and ate a wonderful dinner, drank excellent red wine, and polished off the evening with Jackie’s chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Wow.

Terry said I had to pass this story on to all of you in the extended Irondale family. It made him feel really good about the work we’re doing. Hope it does the same for you.


Jim Niesen


Author Irondale

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