Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fun Facts About Baseball

The first World Series was played between Pittsburgh and Boston in 1903 and was a nine-game series. Boston won the series 5-3.

The New York Yankees have dominated the amount of World Series Championships won. They have 27 under their belt, the next highest is the St. Louis Cardinals with 11.

The shortest major league player was Eddie Gaedel—he was 3 feet, 7 inches tall. The tallest player in MLB history is the Minnesota Twins’ pitcher Job Rauch who stands at 6 feet, 11 inches tall.

US Army during WWII developed a grenade that was about the same size and shape as a regular baseball making it easy to use for the American soldiers who had grown up playing baseball.

MLB National League (1876) predates the Football League of England (1888) and is the oldest professional sports league that is still in existence.

Carlos Beltran was the first switch hitter to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases.

The Star Spangled Banner was first played during the seventh-inning stretch at Game One of the 1918 World Series. The song became the official national anthem in 1931.

The tradition of spring training began in 1886. Continuing into the 1940’s, the Boston Red Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Highlanders (now the New York Yankees) got ready for the baseball season in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

A regulation baseball has 108 stitches

San Francisco Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry was not much of a hitter. In 1962 Giants manager joked that “They’ll put a man on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run.” During a game on July 20th, 1969, a mere 20 minutes after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Perry stepped to the plate and hit his first career home run.

Boston Red Sox slugger, Ted Williams (1918-2002) missed almost five full baseball seasons while serving as a fighter pilot in WWII and the Korean War and still managed to hit 521 home runs.

The Yankees, Cubs, Angels and Dodgers are the only four MLB teams that lack a mascot. The Yankees used to have one, but he quit after being beaten up by fans, who didn’t want a mascot.

The average life span of a major league baseball is 6-7 pitches.

Deion Sanders is the only person to hit an MLB home run and NFL touchdown in the same week. He's also the only person to play in the World Series and the Super Bowl. 

The record for lowest attendance at an MLB game is 347 fans! It was in Florida - the Marlins versus the Reds - and it happened during Hurricane Irene. 

Every MLB ball is covered in mud from a secret location in New Jersey that only one man knows. It’s called Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing mud, and is used to allow pitchers to have a better grip on the balls. When Lena Blackburne was a third base coach for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1938, he decided to set off on a search for something better than tobacco spit to use. He found the perfect mixture of mud within 10 years, said to be somewhere near Palmyra, New Jersey, and then founded the company to sell it. By the 1950’s, it was so popular that every major league team was using it. Today, only the company’s owner, Jim Bintliff, knows the location. The mud is cleaned and screened, and a secret ingredient is added before sale. Bintliff takes 1,000 pounds of mud once a year, every year, and sells it the next season. It’s today considered the perfect rubbing mud. 

Philadelphia A's (now the Oakland Athletics) manager Connie Mack has 3,755 career victories, more than any other manager in history.



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Who Is Richard Greenberg?

Richard Greenberg
Born in 1958, Richard Greenberg is currently one of America’s most prolific and acclaimed playwrights. From East Meadow, New York, Greenberg grew up with his father, an executive at the Century Theatres movie chain and his mother, a housewife. He attended Princeton University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1980. Incidentally, at Princeton, one of his English teachers was famed novelist Joyce Carol Oates. Greenberg went to grad school at Harvard for two years where he studied fiction writing. However, at this point he decided he was more interested in acting, so he left Harvard to try his hand at playwrighting. The first play he wrote earned him acceptance to the prestigious Yale School of Drama, where he earned an MFA in 1985.
Since then, he’s had more than 25 plays and musicals premiere on and off Broadway.

In 1998 his play Three Days of Rain was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. It was revived on Broadway in 2006 where it became famous as the stage debut of Julia Roberts. Greenberg wrote an updated book for the musical Pal Joey, which was eventually mounted as a major Broadway revival in 2008 was nominated for a number of Drama Desk and Tony Awards. Greenberg finally struck awards gold in 2003 with Take Me Out. The play was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in drama, won three Drama Desk Awards (Outstanding Play, Outstanding Actor for Daniel Sunjata and Outstanding Featured Actor for Denis O’Hare), the Drama League Award for Best Play, the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Play, The New York City Critic’s Drama Circle Award for Best Play, and three Tony awards (Best Play, Best Featured actor for Denis O’Hare, and Best Direction of a Play for Joe Mantello). Since then he hasn’t stopped - Greenberg’s had ten more plays debut since 2003, the most recent being Assembled Parties which opened on Broadway in 2013 and garnered a Best Featured Actress Tony for actress Judith Light.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Setting the 2nd Stage: An Interview With Dale Albright

We asked 2nd Stages producer Dale Albright to answer a few questions about his production of Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg. Here's what he had to say... 

Dale Albright
Dragon: How did you first encounter Take Me Out

Dale: I had the pleasure of the seeing the Broadway production of Take Me Out in 2003. From the moment I saw it, it was a show that I always hoped I would be involved in someday.

Dragon: You’re the first 2nd Stages producer who’s not also directing. You’re an excellent director yourself, so what made you want to take on the role of Mason and not want to direct? 

Dale: Since seeing that production over 10 years ago, this is a role that I have always wanted to play… in many ways I have felt like I was born to play the part. It has such a deep connection to me… like nothing I have ever experienced before or probably ever will again. When Meredith talked to me about the possibility of participating in the 2nd Stage Series, the chance to play this role brought me to tears. To say this is a passion project, is a vast understatement. There’s really no way I could be involved in this production and not play Mason.

Dragon: Why did you choose Ken Sonkin to spearhead this production? 

Dale: Things have a way of working out. Honestly, since this play is so full of testosterone, it had been my original intention to have a woman direct the show. I talked to a few colleagues (some women, some not) but for a variety of reasons, they didn’t pan out. At this point, I truly can’t imagine anyone but Ken shepherding the project. I have known him for years and have always known him to have the exact mix of spirit needed for this kind of show: empathetic, a person of strong convictions, a team player, fun and all around good guy. He has a passion and knowledge for baseball and the art. As I am answering this question, I find myself getting very emotional, actually (and, like Mason: “I never cry about anything!”). I’m just so thankful that he was the person to help bring this project to life.

Dragon: The play, while written more than ten years ago, has become incredibly relevant this year in light of the announcement and then draft of Michael Sam. Has this affected your take on the production at all? 

Dale: Who would have known 10 years ago that this play would become even more “real” as time has progressed? Recent developments such as Michael Sam (and the N
BA’s Jason Collins), not to mention the fact that the national tide is definitely turning in terms of gay marriage, were definitely parts of the decision to place the setting of the play in current day.

Dragon: What have you all been doing to get into a baseball state of mind? 

Dale: Baseball seems to be everyone I turn lately. I subscribe to a magazine called Mental Floss, which had a big baseball theme in its latest issue chock full of interesting trivia and stories about the history of baseball. Netflix even has a baseball on its movie jackets this month. For me, when channel surfing I would usually skip any baseball. Now I take them in. But the icing on the cake was that as a cast and crew we went to a local batting cage where we were trained by pros on pitching, catching and batting. And even I, who doesn’t have to touch a bat in the show, literally stepped up to the plate.

Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg plays in downtown Redwood City July 10 - 20th. For more information about the production, or to buy your tickets, please visit www.dragonproductions.net


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Who Is Harold Pinter?

An English playwright who achieved international success as one of the most complex post-World War II dramatists, Harold Pinter's plays are noted for their use of silence to increase tension, understatement, and cryptic small talk. Equally recognizable are the 'Pinteresque' themes – nameless menace, erotic fantasy, obsession and jealousy, family hatred and mental disturbance.

In 2005, Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

“There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.” - Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter was born in Hackney, a working-class neighborhood in London's East End, the son of a tailor. Both of his parents were Jewish, born in England. As a child Pinter got on well with his mother, but he didn’t get on well with his father, who was a strong disciplinarian. On the outbreak of World War II Pinter was evacuated from the city to Cornwall; to be wrenched from his parents was a traumatic event for Pinter. He lived with 26 other boys in a castle on the coast. At the age of 14, he returned to London. "The condition of being bombed has never left me," Pinter later said.

Pinter was educated at Hackney Downs Grammar School, where he acted in school productions. At school one of Pinter's main intellectual interests was English literature, particularly poetry. He also read works of Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway.

After two unhappy years Pinter left his studies at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1949 Pinter was fined by magistrates for having, as a conscientious objector, refused to do his national service. Pinter had two trials. "I could have gone to prison – I took my toothbrush to the trials – but it so happened that the magistrate was slightly sympathetic, so I was fined instead, thirty pounds in all. Perhaps I'll be called up again in the next war, but I won't go." (from Playwrights at Work) Pinter's father paid the fine in the end, a substantial sum of money.

After four years acting in provincial repertory theatre under the pseudonym David Baron, Pinter began to write for the stage. The Room (1957), originally written for Bristol University's drama department, was finished in four days. A Slight Ache, Pinter's first radio piece, was broadcast on the BBC in 1959. His first full-length play, The Birthday Party, was first performed by Bristol University's drama department in 1957 and produced in 1958 in the West End. The play, which closed with disastrous reviews after one week. Although most reviewers were hostile, Pinter produced in rapid succession the body of work which made him the master of 'the comedy of menace.' "I find critics on the whole a pretty unnecessary bunch of people", Pinter said decades later in an interview. "We don't need critics to tell the audiences what to think."

Pinter's major plays originate often from a single, powerful visual image. They are usually set in a single room, whose occupants are threatened by forces or people whose precise intentions neither the characters nor the audience can define. The struggle for survival or identity dominates the action of his characters. Language is not only used as a means of communication but as a weapon. Beneath the words, there is a silence of fear, rage and domination, fear of intimacy.

"Pinter's dialogue is as tightly – perhaps more tightly – controlled than verse," Martin Esslin writes in The People Wound (1970). "Every syllable, every inflection, the succession of long and short sounds, words and sentences, is calculated to nicety. And precisely the repetitiousness, the discontinuity, the circularity of ordinary vernacular speech are here used as formal elements with which the poet can compose his linguistic ballet." Pinter refuses to provide rational justifications for action, but offers existential glimpses of bizarre or terrible moments in people's lives.

In 1960 Pinter wrote The Dumb Waiter. With his second full-length play, The Caretaker (1960), Pinter made his breakthrough as a major modern talent, although in Düsseldorf the play was booed. The Caretaker was followed by The Collection (1962), The Dwarfs (1963),The Lover (1963). The Homecoming (1965) is perhaps the most enigmatic of all Pinter's early works. It won a Tony Award, the Whitbread Anglo-American Theater Award, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. After The Homecoming Pinter said that he "couldn't any longer stay in the room with this bunch of people who opened doors and came in and went out."

Several of Pinter's plays were originally written for British radio or TV. In the 1960s he also directed several of his dramas. After Betrayal (1978) Pinter wrote no new full-length plays until Moonlight (1994).

Pinter received numerous awards in his lifetime, including the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear in 1963, BAFTA awards in 1965 and in 1971, the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize in 1970, the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or in 1971, and the Commonwealth Award in 1981. He was awarded a CBE in 1966, but he later turned down John Major's offer of a knighthood. In 1996 he was given the Laurence Olivier Award for a lifetime's achievement in the theatre. In 2002 he was made a Companion of Honour for services to literature. In 2005 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in drama.

Pinter was married from 1956 to the actress Vivien Merchant. For a time, they lived in Notting Hill Gate in a slum. Eventually Pinter managed to borrow some money and move away. Although Pinter said in an interview in 1966, that he never has written any part for any actor, his wife Vivien frequently appeared in his plays. After his first marriage dissolved in 1980, Pinter married the biographer Lady Antonia Fraser, whose former husband was the ­Conservative MP Hugh Fraser. The divorce separated Pinter from his son Daniel, a writer and musician.

Since the overthrow of Chile's President Allende in 1973, Pinter was active in human rights issues. Salman Rushdie, who had been "sentenced to death" by Ayatollah Khomeini, was asked to deliver the annual Herbert Read Lecture in 1990. Because he was living with the threat of murder, the lecture, entitled 'Is Nothing Sacred,' was read by Rushdie's friend Pinter. Pinter's opinions were often controversial. During the Kosovo crisis in 1999, Pinter condemned NATO's intervention, and said it will "only aggravate the misery and the horror and devastate the country". In 2001 Pinter joined The International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, which also included former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Milosevic was arrested by the U.N. war crimes tribunal. In his speech to an anti-war meeting at the House of Commons in November 2002 Pinter joined the world-wide debate over the so-called "preventive war" against Iraq: "Bush has said: "We will not allow the world's worst weapons to remain in the hands of the world's worst leaders." Quite right. Look in the mirror chum. That's you." In February 2005 Pinter announced in an interview that he has decided to abandon his career as a playwright and put all his energy into politics. "I've written 29 plays. Isn't that enough?" Harold Pinter died from esophogeal cancer on December 24, 2008, in London.