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Wendy Whelan and Damian Woetzel, photographed by Christopher Duggan.

On the evening of September 29, 2014, Wendy Whelan was three weeks away from her last New York City Ballet performance. Still, the woman that The New York Times has called “America’s greatest contemporary ballerina” was a relaxed, gregarious presence at City Center. In a sold-out Studio 5 event, Whelan sinuously danced two Christopher Wheeldon duets and chatted with longtime friend Damian Woetzel about aging, Jerome Robbins, and their favorite NYCB war stories.

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October 17, 2014 by New York City Center
Stage Production

Helen Hayes in The Glass Menagerie at City Center. Alix Jeffry Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.

To celebrate John Lahr’s new biography of Tennessee Williams, we’re exploring the playwright’s long association with City Center—from Maureen Stapleton’s Rose Tattoo to Uta Hagen’s Streetcar. Today’s featured production is our 1956 revival of The Glass Menagerie, which starred Helen Hayes, the First Lady of the American Theater.

In the fall of 1956, the New York City Opera was hemorrhaging cash, City Center was endangered, and Helen Hayes was asleep. “I’m not sure it was my happiest moment, but it sure was my most memorable,” Hayes said of the midnight phone call that coaxed her to play Amanda Wingfield at City Center. When a groggy Hayes picked up the line, she heard Jean Dalrymple, the head of City Center’s drama division. “Helen, you’ve got to be our collateral,” Dalrymple said. “The banks won’t lend us any money to meet the opera’s payroll unless you promise to do The Glass Menagerie for three weeks. Please save the opera.” Hayes asked her husband what he thought. “The critics won’t knock you,” he said. “They’ll be kind to you—you’re saving the opera.” So she agreed.

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October 17, 2014 by New York City Center
Tony Sheldon at City Center

We’re pleased to announce that Tony Sheldon, who made his splashy, mascara-caked Broadway debut in 2011’s Priscilla Queen of the Desert, will join the cast of The Band Wagon, an Encores! Special Event based on the classic MGM musical. Sheldon will play Jeffrey Cordova, an egotistical British director. (Roger Rees, previously announced in the role, is no longer available.)

Although Sheldon is classically trained, he knows from musicals, having starred in Australian productions of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Producers, and Into the Woods. For the Broadway run of Priscilla—a show that he says “changed my life”—Sheldon won a Theatre World Award and received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations.

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October 16, 2014 by New York City Center

The playfully incendiary works of the Judson Dance Theater were performed everywhere from church sanctuaries to New Jersey forests, with soundtracks that ranged from silence to cactus-plant-plucking to NFL broadcasts. But in conversation at New York City Center on October 11, 2014, two iconic original members of Judson—Lucinda Childs and Yvonne Rainer—kept it simple. Rainer stayed in her seat throughout, and Childs wore black rather than the colander, hair curlers, and sponges she’d doffed in the seminal 1964 Judson work Carnation.

“Lucinda was the most glamorous person in the whole bunch,” Rainer explained. “[In Carnation,] she transformed herself into this monstrous effigy, and it was extraordinary….But you never went in that direction again.”

“I began to move away from what I felt was gimmicky,” said Childs. “I wanted to go back to just pure movement.”

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October 15, 2014 by New York City Center

Joining the Mark Morris Dance Group imbues you with certain superpowers: you shed your dancerly self-indulgence, you stop needing count-offs, and you gain such an encyclopedic grasp of classical music that—as dancer Sam Black put it—“We can sing a vocal quartet [of Bartok’s fourth string quartet].” “While drunk,” added dancer Maile Okamura. “That helps,” said Black. On October 9, 2014, Okamura and Black joined dance critic Marina Harss in New York City Center’s grand tier lobby to discuss Mark Morris’s witty Fall for Dance world premiere. Listen here:

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October 10, 2014 by New York City Center
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