Ari Arrives in London

*keep checking back to hear more about the Theater J London Theater Tour direct from Artistic Director Ari Roth*

March 12, 2007

On board British Airways, soon to touch down at Heathrow. Slept most of the overnight after leaving from Dulles at 11 pm. Sunday was opening night of FAMILY SECRETS and a warm crowd was there, enraptured by Sherry Glaser and her sure-fire play. I said goodbye to my kids in the curtain speech; they were up in Row I next to their grandparents; Katie’s [Kate Schecter – Ari’s wife] been over in Azerbaijan and then Georgia and will meet me in London later today.

So it’s a little honeymoon for us together with the Theater J delegation of eleven for this first-ever Theater J Tour of London Theater, and a week of no parents for Isabel and Sophie. It’s lousy leaving them because they’re the best company in the world, but they have school and this is work, for me, at least – Kate’s been doing her work for a week (keeping the medical exchange program solvent for the American International Health Alliance, helping in the setting up of health care clinics in Eastern Europe). Kate’s joining the Theater J tour thanks to the generosity of one of our traveling patrons, an expensive and incredibly thoughtful gesture. We can’t help but appreciate it, and take advantage. Kate and I were in London thirteen and a half months ago for a reading of PETER AND THE WOLF at the New End Theatre while Kate gave a talk at the University of London. It was our first time away from the kids for more than one night in 16 years. We loved London and now we’re back for more, with eleven patrons and the organizers from Cultural Insider Tours in tow. Very much looking forward, as I wait for the bag to tumble down the chute.

This London trip is one for which I’m woefully under-prepared. I’ve brought reading material with me; I need to be “on” during several key junctures here including tomorrow night’s meeting with Sir Arnold Wesker who will read to us from a new one-act play he’s written and whom I’ll then interview. We’re doing Sir Arnold’s play SHYLOCKwith Theodore Bikel in the title role in May for 3 staged reading performances; our contribution to the Behemoth that ate Washington and digested most of its theater-goers in the process; also known as the Shakespeare in Washington Festival. I was a somewhat reluctant programmer for this Shakespeare Festival; it wasn’t on my artistic radar but I’d always liked SHYLOCK and I loved Sir Arnold’s book; his diary about the making of it called The Birth of Shylock and the Death of Zero Mostel.  A great read, and yet I remember almost none of it now. Same with the play. I’ve been all over MERCHANT OF VENICE, not loving it, but getting it, and getting upset by it; admiring its humanity, the manipulations of its conflict; not at all admiring its structure and its idiotic plot involving the boxes and the romantic comedy aspects of it. But the problems at the core are ones that we wrestle with to this day and are compelling as hell. As SHYLOCK once was to me, Wesker’s Jewish response and revision to the THE MERCHANT. I can’t wait to read it again. I better read it again and not fly blindly into that interview tomorrow night. I gotta prepare for this trip, and clear out my cluttered mind. Or rather, impose just a little more order. Ah, I see my bags.

Will anybody be interested in my digressive circumlocutions? Ah, blogging… and the voice one adopts. And how much does one actually say and how much must an author/artistic director actually conceal? More missives will come, we presume, from Vienna, where I will be attending the International Jewish Theatre Conference after the London trip concludes in a week and where PETER AND THE WOLF (AND ME) will be shared both in German and English and the subject of a panel discussion. We’ll see how it all goes.

A good first entry. See you next at the City Inn, Westminster!