Friday, April 3, 2020

5. AESOP'S FABLES: from my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STATE, 1970-1975

The following precedes each entry,

"In Lieu of Reviews"

Around 40 years ago, I began a major project that eventuated in the publication of my multivolume series, The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, each volume covering a decade. For some reason now lost to the sands of time, I chose to start with the 1970s. After writing all the entries through 1975 and producing a typed manuscript of 1,038 pages my publisher (Greenwood) and I decided it would be best to commence with the 1920s. So the 1970-1975 material was put aside as I produced volumes for 1920-1930, 1930-1940, and 1940-1950. With those concluded, Greenwood decided it was all too expensive and not sufficiently profitable, so the remaining volumes were cancelled, leaving my 1970s entries in limbo.

To compensate, I used the research I’d done on the 1970s to write a book for Greenwood called Ten Seasons: New York Theatre in the Seventies, which described all aspects of that era’s theatre, onstage and off. Many years later, in 2012, I began a postretirement “career” as a theatre reviewer, which led to my creating this blog as an outlet for my reviews. Over the past eight years or so I’ve posted nearly 1,600 reviews, a substantial number having first appeared on other websites: Theater Pizzazz, The Broadway Blog, and Theater Life.
Now, however, with the New York theatre in suspension, and my reviewing completely halted, is probably the perfect time to post as many as possible of the entries I prepared for the never-published 1970-1975 book. The entries that follow are in alphabetical order. Each entry has a heading listing the subject categories of the work described: the author (A), the director (D), additional staging (ADD ST), when credited; the producer (P), the set designer (S), the costume designer (C), the lighting designer (L), the source (SC), the theatre (T), the dates of the run, and, in parentheses, the length of the run. The original entries also contained the names of all the actors but I’ve omitted those here.

I will try to post at least one entry daily. When time allows, I’ll provide more. The manuscript exists on fading, fragile paper and, because no digital files exist, must be retyped. Hopefully, the tragic health situation we’re all enduring will abate before I get too far into posting these entries but, for the time being, devoted theatre lovers may find reading these materials informative.

Bill Williams and company.
AESOP’S FABLES [Musical/Youth/Fantasy/Animals] B/LY: Jon Swan: M: William Russo; SC: Aesop’s Fables; D: William Russo (“staged by Don Sanders); DS: Vanessa James; P: William Russo; T: Mercer Arts Center (OB); 8/17/72-9/19/72 (58)
mals] B: Jon Swan; M: William Russo; SC:

The Performing Ensemble of the Free Theatre was the group responsible for bringing this rock musical to New York, where Howard Thompson enjoyed it—although he could barely hear the words over the band’s heavy pounding—and John Simon hated it.

The show was based on 11 animal fables of Aesop, and included “The Lion and the Mouse,” “The Mice in Council,” “The Donkey and the Grasshopper,” and “The Crow and the Fox” among its scenes. The players wore animal costumes, and many lighting effects accompanied the action.

Thompson thought the music “imaginative . . . , thoughtful, melodic, often striking.” Simon thought it “highly pretentious” and leading to “crashing boredom.” The directorial credits confusingly listed one person for directing and another (Don Sanders, sometimes credited as Donald L. Sanders) for staging. “How a show that has been both staged and directed can still seem sloppily improvised,” wrote Simon, “I leave to others to puzzle out.”

Previous entries:

Abelard and Heloise
"Acrobats" and "Line"
The Advertisement