Publisher’s Weekly Review of Its My Party by Jeannette Watson

 

It’s My Party: A Memoir

Jeannette Watson. Turtle Point, $17 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-933527-99-4

In this charming memoir, Watson, the former proprietor of Manhattan’s bookstore Books & Co., reflects upon her remarkable, troubled life as the granddaughter of IBM’s founder and daughter of Thomas Watson, who ushered the corporation to wide success. Born in 1945, one of six children, Watson used books to escape, not just reading them but “inhabiting” them. In spite of her idyllic surroundings (a seven-acre family estate in Greenwich, Conn., with a pony and 30 dolls; an impressive summer home in Maine), Watson was wary of her father’s tempestuous nature; without warning, he could fly into a rage. The shy and sensitive Watson was often depressed, though she enjoyed observing her parents’ social life and well-known guests; her mother, a former model, had dated Jack Kennedy, and Ted’s and Bobby’s families visited. After coming out as a debutante (to a 13-piece band), attending a private high school, and studying at Sarah Lawrence, the author married and had a child; her postpartum depression landed her in a sanatorium where she received electroshock treatments. The memoir balances the bleak periods with tales of exciting travels with her parents, her interest in fashion and fashionable people, and her love of literature. Watson’s colorful descriptions recreate a singular era and gently probe the darker currents that run deeply beneath the surface of wealth and privilege. Photos. (Oct.)

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Kate Soper’s Here Be Sirens

It has been said that the hardest thing for new opera or symphonic works is to get a second performance. Kate Soper’s musical theater/opera work, Here Be Sirens, premiered in 2014 at Dixon Place in New York City and had two series of performances. In March, it had its second run, this time by the Fresh Squeezed Opera Company at the LGBT Center on 13th Street, though only excerpts were performed, representing slightly less than half the opera.

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Gender Progress in Ballet

Dana Genshaft’s, Chromatic Fantasy set to the music of Dave Brubeck’s Chaconne from Chromatic Fantasy premiered Friday night at the NYU Skirball Center. Ms. Genshaft was looking – actually squinting – at the sun one day and saw all the colors of the rainbow wavering before her. The ensuing ballet and her search for the right music sprung from this moment. Six dancers – three men, three women – from the ABT Studio Company dressed in different chromatic colors weaved in and out of the music, at times with it and at others at a contrapuntal rhythm. Pairs swapped with ease and trios emerged only to dissolve quickly. The dance propelled, though there were quieter sections, and the colors flowed. A work of beauty and energy resulted.

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Breaking the Waves – The Opera

Breaking the Waves, the breathtaking new opera by composer, Missy Mazzoli, and librettist, Royce Vavrek, had its New York premier on January 6, 2017 at NYU’s Skirball Center. It had premiered in Philadelphia in September 2016 at Opera Philadelphia, which had co-commissioned the work with Beth Morrison Projects. Based on the Lars von Trier movie of the same name, the story is set in an insular (literally) community on the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. A young woman, Bess, a member of the tight-knit religious community, marries an outsider, Jan, to the great consternation of her congregation. He works on an offshore oil rig (for us literalists, there are no oil rigs off of Skye – they are all in the North Sea on the other side of Scotland). Bess prays for his early return. He is injured and paralyzed and, from his hospital bed, asks Bess to have sex with other men and to recount her liaisons to him. The reasons for this request are murky (to keep their marriage and his hopes alive?) but her assent seemingly isn’t: she feels guilty for praying for his early return, feels she may have caused his accident, wants to do the right thing by her husband and believes she will thereby cure him. That said, Bess does like sex, as we saw when she asked Jan to consummate their marriage in a loo at their wedding reception – envisioning it to be a romantic setting when it was anything but. As she sets forth, hesitantly, on her sexual adventures/redemption, is she fooling herself, or her husband, or is she delusional, or full of faith? She certainly does not enjoy the sex. She is degraded, humiliated and victimized and meets a tragic end. Her husband recovers, presumably redeemed by her sacrifice.

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Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest

Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest

 11/30/2016 02:57 pm ET
Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist is a crowd pleaser. On our first visit several weeks ago to the New Museum where her show, Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest, is up until January 15, 2017, the attendance was modest. Last week on our second visit, the line outside went around the block. Word had spread. The mostly Millennial hordes crowded the three floors of the museum devoted to the show, iPhones at the ready, posing, snapping, reviewing, re-posing, snapping again.

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Pregnancy and “Illness”

Audra McDonald, the star of Shuffle Along on Broadway, found herself pregnant last May, and, a month later, the show’s producers cancelled the remainder of the run, instead of bringing in another performer to take over her role. The producers had purchased an insurance policy from Lloyds, which reportedly covered them in case Ms. McDonald was unable to perform because of “accident or illness”. Putting aside whether the pregnancy was an “accident” (this will be litigated), is it an “illness”?

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