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BWW Interview: Hershey Felder of GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE LIVESTREAM from Florence, Italy

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BWW Interview: Hershey Felder of GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE LIVESTREAM from Florence, Italy

BWW Interview: Hershey Felder of GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE LIVESTREAM from Florence, ItalyHershey Felder: George Gershwin ALONE. LIVE FROM FLORENCE

Hershey Felder continues his wildly successful series of livestreams next week live from Florence, Italy. As he prepares for the show, he took time out to chat with BWW.

Congrats on your past two livestreams they were wonderful! I think seeing theater "as it happens" is beginning to resonate with audiences that are hungry for the live experience. What have you heard from your fans?

After the BERLIN presentation for Mother's day in May, we received 612 emails from online watchers as I opened the "floor" to questions at the end of the show. Many of the emails referred to "having a front row seat at the theatre." I think one of the things that the lens can do that the proscenium doesn't allow for is an intimacy with detail. One of the great challenges in a theater with a massive proscenium is creating an intimacy despite the "wide shot" from beginning to end. I've spent my life trying to figure out how to make such an event intimate with an audience. The lens however allows for an immediacy that audiences seem to enjoy, and also, one can guide the frame and quietly indicate detail that reveals character bit by bit. The interesting thing has been scaling a performance that was created to resonate in a theater, feel natural and not outsized on a screen, and yet maintaining the excitement of immediacy. The "live" part, I think, makes me unbelievably nervous, and so the focus has to be razor-sharp, but I think it also plays on the collective consciousnesses of the audience... a high-wire act where something might just go very wrong... and how will it be managed? It plays into, I believe, the way we all live our lives.BWW Interview: Hershey Felder of GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE LIVESTREAM from Florence, Italy

Gershwin was your first show 20 years ago, how has George evolved? How much have you retained of the original?

Twenty-three years now. (How is that possible? I'm still only 19, right?) Well - much has changed despite the fact that the text and musical choices have been largely set since several months in. Sure, facets of the writing, and shaping have changed, but the piece is largely the same. But when things around change, suddenly the piece is in a different context. Take fore instance, Al Jolson and his minstrelsy. 23 years ago, while "distasteful" for many, it was just something that was done at the turn of the century, and "thank god we don't do that anymore..." but I don't believe the depth of the entire matter was felt, or even somewhat acknowledged as it is today. George Gershwin got his start in the world of the "famous" because of Al Jolson who interpolated "Swanee" in black-face in his revue "Sinbad" at the Winter Garden Theatre in NY. George Gershwin went on to use Jazz as the main element of his composing. Jazz did not originate on the Upper West Side of New York, on 110th Street where George composed the Rhapsody in Blue in a room the size of a closet in 1924. George himself acknowledged that WC Handy, a serious turn of the century black musician who called himself the "Father of the Blues," having been the first to use "Blues" as known from the South, in published music, was responsible for George's awareness of the style. George in fact signed a copy of the Rhapsody to Handy with the inscription "To the Father of the Blues." But today the question arises: What is musical appropriation? What is cultural appropriation? Is the fact that "Jazz" made it's way onto the concert stage a fact because a Jewish White boy was able to make it so? The show has always dealt with these issues, but in a different context, it could risk being a historical artifact. Not today.


Your past two live streams were done from your home - this one will be from a theater (the spectacular Teatro della Pergola) how has that changed your approach?

The idea for bringing this story to life in a theatre, emanated from the story itself. Dying before his time at the age of 38, from a previously undiagnosed brain tumor, George is "stuck" in an empty theatre, unsure how his "story" will end, especially given the fact that he poured his heart Into his grand opera Porgy and Bess, and it was largely not well received. The last years were plagued with difficulties because of the effects of the unknown brain tumor. This left him lost at the end... having not done so many of the things he still wanted to do. His "limbo" is that empty theatre, so I thought it would be a good idea to set the show in one. Luckily, we are at one of the most beautiful and historic theatres in the world, 365 years old, where artists have tread the boards continuously for all that time. The Teatro Della Pergola in Florence. In these times, being in any theatre is magical. Being in this one, is otherworldly.

BWW Interview: Hershey Felder of GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE LIVESTREAM from Florence, Italy

After your first livestream you answered viewers' emails for hours, after your last you had an art contest, any special extras this time?

I think this time we're going to go back to the questions and answers and "sing-along." It's fun and people have a fun time being able to contact me and wondering if they will get on the air!

When we eventually (wishful) reopen, how do you see live and live stream co-existing?

They've co-existed since the beginning of television, or shall I say, broadcasting. If this does anything, even if it does bring a certain level of intimacy that a live presentation might but in a different way, it reminds us of how precious it is to be able to gather in a community and share an experience as a group of human beings.

What's your next program going to be?

A PARIS LOVE STORY - Debussy in Paris, under the Live from Florence brand but, LIVE from Paris, that is, all things being ok, and we are still able to move freely. That part is hard to know now... but if not Live from Paris - then Live from Florence, it shall be!

BWW.com would like to thank Hershey Felder for taking time out to chat with us. His livestream of "George Gershwin: Alone" will take place live:

Sunday, September 13 from Teatro della Pergola at 5 p.m. PDT, 7 p.m. CDT and 8 p.m. EDT.

As with his previous livestreams, Mr. Felder remains committed to supporting theaters and arts organizations who are struggling to stay alive during the pandemic. And once again, a full 50% of the proceeds from the livestream will go directly to support over thirty theaters and arts organizations across the U.S. (and three in Italy) who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Tickets are available now at: https://www.hersheyfelder.net/

-Peter Danish


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From This Author Peter Danish