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Seen and Heard in New York: Liv Ullmann, Joan Osborne, Charlotte Rampling, Alec Baldwin and Robert Frank

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Although Liv Ullmann's highly acclaimed production of A Streetcar Named Desire with Cate Blanchett ended its run yesterday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, it might live on in film, if not on the Broadway stage.

According to a report in the New York Times last week, "several commercial theater producers and others" have contacted Blanchett and BAM about transferring the production, which was directed by Ullmann and originated at the Sydney Theater Company in Australia, to Broadway; the newspaper said a transfer would not occur before summer.
Speaking after the recent premiere at the Paley Center for Media of a documentary on her work with high school students, Ullmann said she and Blanchett wish to do a film of Streetcar, "maybe a TV documentary, about what happens at rehearsal. It would be an incredible documentary."

Ullmann said there had been "some inquiries" about making such a film, and that she was waiting to see what, if anything, develops.

The documentary shown at the Paley Center, The Sealed Orders of Liv Ullmann, was filmed before she began working on the Sydney Streetcar; in it, she rehearses several scenes from Streetcar with five participants in the youngARTS program of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts http://www.youngarts.org/home.html.

"I love teaching young people, I do it by question and answer," Ullmann said. "It was such an experience. They were so sweet and lovely, it made me remember why I initially wanted to be an actor."

The documentary will be broadcast on HBO this spring as part of a nine-part series called Masterclass: A youngARTS Adventure.

Ullmann said she will return to acting in fall 2010 in a new Norwegian production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night that will travel to Sweden. Asked if the production might eventually transfer to BAM, which frequently stages plays in foreign languages, Ullmann said Joseph V. Mellilo, BAM's executive producer, "knows about it. We will see."

* * * * *

Bold-faced names from the art and business worlds turned out for a gala held recently at BAM to celebrate its Streetcar production. These included Australia-born media titan Rupert Murdoch, whose newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, was a sponsor of the production; composer Philip Glass; director Sam Mendes; singer Joan Osborne; and actors John Turturro, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, Alan Cumming and Charlotte Rampling.

Charlotte Rampling on the play and possible projects: "I was in New York, and I love Cate Blanchett, I love Liv Ullmann, I love Tennesee Williams, I like this play, and so it happens that all these people were together in this magnificent production, so I was completely satisfied.

"I'm working on a sort of private (film) idea, a conversation piece, so I'm here talking to people. If not, I'm making a film in France in about two weeks' time. Theater, I'm looking for things. I'll probably do some theater next year, probably London."

Joan Osborne on the play and her new music: "I'm a Cate Blanchett fan, I really wanted to see the show. I'm kind of wrung out by it, it's so intense. We all know little snippets from it so well that we sort of forget that when you see it all through in a night it's really tragic.

"I'm working on a new album, it's about 85% done. It's actually a bit of a departure for me, because structurally it's more like a classical record. I'm kind of trying to get away from blues and roots, pop song structures. I've tried to open up the song structures. We also are using a lot of classical instrumentation, strings, that I've not really played with in the past. We don't have a release date yet -- right now we're calling it Love and Hate, very elemental."

* * * * *

Alec Baldwin, speaking at a recent gala for the New York Philharmonic--whose concerts he hosts on national radio broadcasts of The New York Philharmonic This Week http://nyphil.org/attend/broadcasts/index.cfm?page=broadcastsByMonth, and whose New Year's Eve concert, with baritone Thomas Hampson, he will host on a Live from Lincoln Center program on PBS on Dec. 31 http://www.pbs.org/livefromlincolncenter/--on his long-time love of classical music:

"I was doing a soap opera here in New York, and the day that they killed off my character--my character was in a hotel room and turned on the radio, and I guess as a plot device, the music on the radio was the 'March to the Scaffold' of the Symphony Fantastique--I turned to the casting director, who was laughing about that, and I said, 'What's so funny?' I didn't know anything about classical music. I knew Beethoven's Fifth (Symphony), Claire de Lune, that was about it.

"So I became a big fan of classical music in the early '80's. I was living in L.A., driving in my car a lot. I just couldn't bear popular music any longer, so I converted in around 1983 to classical music, and I never went back.

"My favorites are Mahler, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Falla, Tchaikovsky, Ligeti. I crave things that are really kind of more meditative. I respect Mozart, but I'm not into very, very busy, peppy classical music. I like it more sonorous, I like it morbid. As Poe would say, the art sublime is what I'm after.

"I don't play (any musical instrument). That's why I'm doing this (hosting Philharmonic concert broadcasts). That's what you do when you have no musical ability.'"

* * * * *

Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank -- the 50th anniversary of whose book, The Americans, is celebrated in an exhibit, on display through January 3, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art http://www.metmuseum.org/special/se_event.asp?OccurrenceId={1FD57D4D-FE17-41FA-9025-E2667E36AD27}
-- discussing the book's creation in a recent, rare public appearance at the museum:

Novelist Jack Kerouac, who wrote the book's introduction, "had a very good sense of humor. It was a lucky break for me to get to know (poet Allen) Ginsberg, and through Ginsberg to know other beat writers. They opened a whole new window on the world to me. It was probably the most important part of my career to watch them and learn from them."

"It was important for (Barney) Rosset, (original U.S. publisher of The Americans) to have Kerouac's name on the cover." Although Walker Evans, the photographer, had been asked to write the book's introduction, "at the same time, there was a big article on (Kerouac's novel) On the Road in the New York Times. (I got) in touch with Kerouac about writing about the pictures. It made Walker unhappy, but undoubtedly it was the right decision."

Frank's famous "Trolley-New Orleans" photo -- which appeared on the cover of the first U.S. edition of the book, depicting a cross-section of streetcar passengers -- "seemed to be the right picture. It expressed a lot of what I'd seen on the trip (across the U.S., when Frank shot photographs for The Americans), the treatment of black people. I felt it really reflected some of the strongest moments of the trip. I experienced for the first time segregation, it was important for me that it be expressed like this. It was important to have that feeling on the cover."

"It was a very strong experience to get into the River Rouge factory (the Ford plant where Frank also shot photos for The Americans). It was the summer, it was so hot in the factory, so noisy. It was like a little hell."

"I only remember two comments: 'You must be a Communist.'

"I felt the camera aroused suspicion, especially at that time. The idea of Communism was the easiest word to throw at you, that you were a spy.

"In the South, I was photographing a group of white boys playing football. A boy looked at me and said, 'Why don't you go to the other side of town where the niggers play?' That was new for me."