[ performed by Jean-Claude van Itallie]
Kafka's Ghost, a monologue by Emilie Conrad, in Rhinebeck, NY at Omega Institute's Continuum Movement Arts program July 5, 2016.
Confessions and Conversation, a one man show by van Itallie, directed by Rosemary Quinn, premiered in Ellen Stewart Theater at LaMaMa ETC in NYC, September, 2012. Kevin Hourigan at the ivories.
Written and performed by Jean-Claude van Itallie, Court Dorsey and Kermit Dunkelberg. Music by and performed by Tony Vacca. Directed by Kim Mancuso and Joel Gluck. Premiered Art Bank Theatre, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, October, 1996. Performed at Boston Center for the Arts and LaMama ETC, NYC. Read an excerpt from GUYS DREAMIN'
"Without a high level of skill and a deep commitment to working with one another, the fluid style of the script and the personal nature of the material would not have developed into a cohesive whole. Fortunately with the likes of Jean-Claude van Itallie, a playwright of international repute; Court Dorsey an actor, activist and musician, and Kermit Dunkelberg of Pilgrim Theater, the play was in little danger of veering off into oblivion.
...Van Itallie’s father’s feet twitching in the hospital, van Itallie’s chance meeting with his mother’s look-alike, Ingrid Bergman 15 years after his mother’s death, are just morsels of the richness of the play’s inner workings...Jennifer Sokolow, Greenfield Recorder, Greenfield, Massachusetts, October, 1996.
..."We have known and admired Jean-Claude van Itallie as a playwright for many years — ever since America Hurrah —and delighted to find him to be such a convincing performer. In fact, he may have surprised himself!..Arnold Black, West County News, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, October 25, 1996.
"Playwright van Itallie becomes actor van Itallie... "Jerry Tallmer, The Villager, November 5, 1997.
"I feel that the creative act, the healing act and spiritual practice are identical. Theater started as a participatory sacred act ... Then in the Greek amphiththeaters everyone in the community was a listener and potentially one of the creators." Jan Breslau, Los Angeles Times, Dec, 1998.
FROM REVIEWS OF GUYS DREAMIN’
"An ominous, rapturous rush of sacred gongs draws us into the precise, condensed poetry of the collective creation, Guys Dreamin.
This mesmerizing performance, as concise as a haiku, as intriguing as a Zen Koan, presents us with three men in black... The three men move exquisitely... Has a bird died? Are these men angels?
This piece presents riveting confessional images from the perfomers’ lives centering on the death of parents; homosexual and heterosexual epiphanies; and spiritual seeking. These performers give us a fresh paradigm of manhood in the nineties...
Jean-Claude van Itallie’s debut as an actor proved to be the most stunning performance of riveting movement, language and voice... Melinda Given Guttman, New York Theatre Wire.
"At certain rare times, theatre taps into the subconscious and returns to its beginnings in ancient rituals and religions. Guys Dreamin’ is a theatrical experience of this kind...
The events it relates have been familiar since the first person on earth... themes... welcoming the viewer to serve as participant in an archeological dig through buried psyches...
The performance is a narrative about three male lives, told in the first person and amplified by the participation of the others. In turn each man relives the seminal episodes, with an intermingling of characters and issues, such as the death of a parent or the struggle for independence...
The vignettes could stand on their own but... incidents merge to throw light on [each other]... While Guys Dreamin’ retains...spontaneity of its origins in improvisation, it becomes an important piece of play writing infused with the emotions of master actors intensely invested...
...combine song, dance and a physical approach to acting that makes the body a vibrant instrument. A sense of wonder is never far from the overall impression..." Iris Fanger, Boston Herald.
"...The evening’s stagecraft compels... All three are powerful actors, particularly van Itallie, who underplays effectively...Tony Vacca is a sonic wizard, caressing, banging, tapping and striking...Bill Marx, Boston Globe.
"Guys Dreamin’ gives evidence of the real variety of gay and staright men’s lives. The vignettes are mostly about loss, about the passage of life and about death. They are about parents and children, caretaking, sexual experimentation, spiritual searching and caregiving...
More than anything else what unifies the show is the strength of the performers’ commitment to each other...the three actors’ rapport and mutual trust show in how intimate and how physically comfortable they are with each other on stage...seasoned and polished performers... Eric Secoy, Bay Windows, Boston
"Ranging from eastern to western locations and traditions with evocative percussive accompaniment...the three actors...blur the borders between reality and reverie in aseries of vignettes that ply like myth or folk tale.
The situations -— both comic and dramatic —- are simple and universal: men seeking to understand themselves and their world... its characters fortunes are as untidy and mysterious as life itself... It may come as no surprise that the most vivid impressions emerge from acclaimed playwright van Itallie’s poetic vignettes... Jules Becker, The Jewish Advocate, Boston.
’WAR, SEX and DREAMS
Written and performed by Jean-Claude van Itallie. Music by Steve Sweeting. Directed by Joel Gluck. Premiered at the Art Bank, Shelburne Falls, MA, May, 1998. Performed at Highways, Santa Monica, California and La Mama Cabaret, NYC. Unpublished. Read an excerpt. "Roger" from War, Sex and Dreams, the performance piece
FROM REVIEWS OF WAR, SEX and DREAMS
"Most people don’t seek icon status. But there are definitely those who have it thrust upon them.
Consider, for example, the case of playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie. One of the seminal figures of the American avant- garde, he’s seldom mentioned without the phrase, "icon of the 60's," or some variant, attached.
Yet van Itallie has never been stuck in time, either aesthetically or personally. Rather, he’s continued to write important — and very different —new works each decade, and to explore new roles for himself within the world of theater.
As a small illustration of this mutability, several of van Itallie’s recent ventures will be arriving in Los Angeles... The Mark Taper’s New Work Festival presents "Older," a collaboration between van Itallie and the equally iconic Joseph Chaikin... van Itallie will teach The Healing Power of Theatre at the Continuum Studio where he has taught annually for the past several years, and ... opens his solo autobiographical show, War Sex and Dreams at Highways
...Yet for all the success he has had as a writer, van Itallie has long been inclined to push himself in new directions. "I had to break out of the mind-set that I was a writer and [see] that I could perform," he said recently... After I started teaching ‘play writing- on-your-feet,’ discovering that the principles of writing and performing are the same, then I thought I better put my body where my mouth was. I’m more and more allowing my feelings to come through my body, not staying in my head all the time. I’m always relieved when compartments break down between this and that in my head. I’m an anti-specialist. I think that’s what’s good about the end of this millennium, that compartments of thinking are breaking down....It’s always been of interest to me to bring together the theatrical and spiritual," said van Itallie who has been a Tibetan Buddhist for more than thirty years and founded the Shantigar Foundation on his family farm in Rowe, Massachusetts.
"van Itallie offers vivid accounts of the escape of his Belgian- Jewish family from the Nazis, the suicide of his Harvard roommate, his tentative youthful encounters with gay sex and a bizarre meeting with famed director Elia Kazan. He tells us about his Tibetan Buddhism, his encounter with fame and his life as a self- styled Frog-Prince, and he intersperses his stories with French chansons and American pop songs. His wit amd charm are considerable... his performance good-humored ancd sweetly personal..." LA Weekly.
"A lion of avant-garde theater in the 1960's, playwright Jean- Claude van Itallie has been a practicing Tibetan Buddhist for more than 30 years. He begins his one-man play, War, Sex and Dreams, at Highways by blessing the space, chanting melodically. We are lullled, prepared for a calming meditation on life and art. Then van Itallie’s chant slides into a belted rendition of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning."
Call it a mission statement for this freewheeling hodgepodge of reminiscenes, van Itallie may be a spiritual man, but he’s also a savvy storyteller who has accumulated a wealth of anectdotes in his eventful life and acreer, from his childhood flight from the Nazis in his native Belgium to his watershed ‘60's plays America Hurrah and The Serpent. In short, his solo show is equally informed by spirituality and sheer dishiness...F. Kathleen Foley, Los Angeles Times, January 28, 1999.
"The most striking messages in Jean-Claude van Itallie’s War, Sex and Dreams are that being gay isn’t easy and that in the experience of the playwright through almost 50 years, love and sex are frequently separated. With good humor and with evident exasperation, he says the energy he pours into adoration often leaves him intimidated by the thought of profaning the paragon he worships. This is not the only inhibition revealed in this often amusing often sad confession of a man in his 60's whose heart is lonely and who teases one into wondering what, despite his remarkable candor, he is leaving out,.
Mr. van Itallie, who took up acting recently, decades after he became celebrated as a playwright, does an impressive jobof letting the audience feel the distance between himself as actor and the character of himself he is creating. He has a fine intimate setting, the Cafe at La Mama, a company that has performed his plays for more than 30 years. For the viewer the impression is like dropping in on an old friend who is a gifted talker, who will break into Broadway songs and dances to make a point — ‘I’ve been brainwashed by Berlin and Gershwin’ — and whose house guest is a superb pianist (Steve Sweeting).
This mild-mannered writer and actor can be shockingly incisive. He gives the downside of his triumphant 1960's in a tale of his college room-mate who became a publishing whiz and who, after Mr. van Itallie introduced him to LSD, plunged into paranoia and killed himself. The telling takes three minutes and feels like a full-scale tragedy. He argues that to survive happy as you get older you have to steadily shed emotional baggage, but he knows as well as anyone in theater how to summon our load of emotions and use them to change our perceptions, and even our memories, as only friends can." D.J.R. Bruckner, New York Times, March 24, 1999.