‘Unremarkable Death’ in Port Townsend

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British author Elton Townend-Jones’ play, The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe, has been touring the UK since 2013, and the script was recently published by Samuel French. It makes its US debut this weekend, as a one-woman show starring Rosaletta Curry at the Chameleon Theatre in Port Townsend, Washington, reports PT Leader.

Tickets are $15 or $10 for students, available at the door or through brownpapertickets.com. But hurry – the final performance is tonight!

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“Curry found the script quite by chance in a London bookshop. She sat down and read it all the way through, drawn to Monroe’s utter vulnerability and openness and humor and just blunt honesty in the play.

‘What’s really interesting is it’s a very surprising play. It surprised me when I first read it and I think it will surprise the audience,’ said Curry. ‘There are not that many solo plays written, and it’s hard to find one you can relate to.’

Luckily for Curry, 23, a recent graduate of Drama Centre London’s year-long program, the rights for the play were available for the U.S., and a visit home to Jefferson County provided the opportunity to produce the play.

The play takes place in Monroe’s bedroom, created in the intimate space of Chameleon Theater, which has just 32 seats.

‘It takes place the hour before her death,’ said Curry. ‘She basically revisits her whole life … The audience is very much a part of this show,’ explained Curry. ‘It’s very, very immersive. They don’t do anything, but they are very much a character. They’re present and she speaks to them directly throughout the play, and she’s aware of them throughout the play.’

‘Something I found incredibly useful was going directly to the source if I could, and there’s this incredible book called Fragments that just has her notes, her poems, her notes and photographs, and that’s all it has. So it’s her written journal and it doesn’t have anyone else’s ideas about what she was like. It’s just her talking about herself or her experiences on paper.

‘As an actor, that helped me connect with not only how she perceived herself but also just how she sees the world, her thought patterns. Just even the way she scrawled things upside down – and this connects with how a character sees the world.'”

Halsman’s Marilyn at the Smithsonian

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Philippe Halsman’s most iconic photo of Marilyn – chosen for her first Life magazine cover in 1952 – has won a Smithsonian Magazine readers’ poll, and will be displayed in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, from January-March 2016.

“A portrait of Marilyn Monroe will be installed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Recognize’ space, Jan. 22, 2016. The museum’s historians and curators selected three actresses’ portraits for voters to choose from—Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West—three fan favorites who, despite long acting careers, never received Oscar nominations.

Thousands of votes were cast on Smithsonianmag.com, and Monroe’s portrait received the most votes. Philippe Halsman’s photograph of her will be on view on the ‘Recognize’ wall, near the north entrance of the museum, through March 6, 2016.

Last year, the Portrait Gallery created ‘Recognize’ as an opportunity for people to select what they would like to see on display. Twice a year, the museum presents three portraits, and the public votes for their favorite. In the last round of ‘Recognize,’ voters elected to display a portrait of the baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente by Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris.”

‘Forever Marilyn’ Auction in Washington

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A lifesize version of Seward Johnson’s sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, formerly displayed at the St Gregory Hotel in Washington (as opposed to the larger-than-life statue that made headlines across the globe) will be on sale at Weschler’s Capital Collections Estate Auction on Friday, September 18, with an estimate of $50,000-$70,000, reports Artfix Daily.

UPDATE: The statue has been sold for $50,000.

Forgotten Fifties: The ‘Look’ Archives

Bob Sandberg, 1952
Bob Sandberg, 1952

So many photo books with a Marilyn connection are coming out lately. It takes a lot of willpower not to buy them all! The Forgotten Fifties: America’s Decade from the Archives of Look Magazine, by James Conaway and Alan Brinkley, will soon be published by Rizzoli (but is already available from The Book Depository.) The photos are sourced from the Library of Congress in Washington, where there will be a book signing event on September 23. You can preview it here.

Photo by Milton Greene, 1955
Photo by Milton Greene, 1955

Forgotten Fifties is also the subject of an article in NY Magazine today:

“From its founding in 1937 until the early ’70s, Life Magazine — the first American weekly picture magazine — was the most popular rag in the country. But it was not without its competitors: 1937 also marked the founding of Look Magazine, run by Des Moines Tribune editors and brothers Gardner and John Cowles.

Derided as ‘barber shop reading’ in the ’40s, Look — known for its large-scale photographs and very short articles — lacked the high aspirations and self-seriousness of Life. At the time of its launch, Time described the magazine as having ‘reader interest for yourself, for your private secretary, for your office boy — a magazine mostly for the middle class and for ordinary lives.’

Look had sold 3.7 million issues by the mid 1950s, but the biweekly went out of print in 1971 (a year before Life) and largely faded from historical consciousness.”

‘Marilyn: American Icon’ in Washington

Cecil Beaton, 1956
Cecil Beaton, 1956

‘Marilyn: Celebrating an International Icon’, a touring exhibition (previously in Georgia), comes to Reading Public Museum in Washington DC on August 22, reports Daily Local News.

“The Reading Public Museum is highlighting the woman who redefined sexuality in America with the ‘Marilyn: Celebrating An American Icon’ exhibition Aug. 22 to Oct. 5. in the museum’s Cohen Modern and Contemporary Gallery.

The multimedia exhibit composed of 115 works by more than 50 artists, including Andy Warhol, Milton H. Greene, Eve Arnold and Antonio de Felipe, highlights the many sides of the 1950s glamour goddess and immortal legend in styles ranging from fashion photography to pop art.

Photos of well-loved movie scenes, familiar publicity photos, biographical glimpses into Monroe’s private moments and various artistic interpretations of the starlet exemplify how her iconic image still electrifies the world a half century after her death. Videos include a compilation of photos by Bruno Bernard, A BBC interview with Sam Shaw about his friend Monroe, a 2009 video by Thorsten Tenberken called ‘Backlash Marilyn Monroe’ and a Tenberken video titled ‘No, no, no.’

The exhibition opens with Tom Kelley’s series, The Red Velvet Photos, which appeared in the first issue of Playboy, and continues with works by well-known photographers Frank Powolny, Lazlo Willinger and Alfred Eisenstaedt. The pictures capture the beauty and sensuality not only of the recognizable celebrity, but also of Monroe’s struggle to empower herself.

Among those images is a series of silver gelatin prints by world-renowned British photographer Cecil Beaton, including a photo said to be Monroe’s favorite picture of herself, lying across a bed in a white dress holding a carnation to her breast.

The exhibit continues into Monroe’s film career in which she appeared in 30 motion pictures. Among the photos in the exhibition are recognizable moments in that career, including the famous subway grate scene with Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch, by Sam Shaw, as well as pensive behind-the-scenes shots by photographers Ernst Haas and Henri-Cartier Bresson on the set of her last film, The Misfits.

The troubled star struggled to balance her career and love life, marrying and divorcing three times. Her second and third marriages, to baseball star Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller respectively, were highly publicized, and such photos as George Silk’s tearful Marilyn illustrate how the actress was unable to keep her The exhibit continues with an introspective look into that more private side with photos by Monroe friend George Barris. The images capture the starlet’s loneliness, which was often publicly disguised by her light and radiance.

Barris’ photos from 1962, showing Monroe laughing and striking poses, are some of the last taken of her before she was found dead in her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles Aug. 5 of that year.

Following Barris’ introspective, the exhibit ends with a presentation of paintings and other works of art created by American, Asian and European artists after Monroe’s death. Modern and avant-garde artists such as Ramos and de Felipe offer their interpretations of the actress.

Works in this section, some from as recently as 2009, take the form of diverse media, and reflect the artists’ ideas on sexuality, commercialism and the exploitation in the world, as well as perceptions of the icon through the power of her image. Most of all, said museum curator Scott Schweigert, ‘The works reveal the character of Marilyn Monroe as an enduring cultural phenomenon.'”

De Kooning’s Marilyn at the Smithsonian

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Eight years before Andy Warhol, the Dutch-born American painter, Willem de Kooning was perhaps the first great artist to immortalise Marilyn. His 1954 expressionist work is featured in a new exhibition, Face Value: Portraiture In the Age of Abstraction, opening at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC tomorrow (April 15) through to next January, reports the Times Colonist.

During the summer of 1957, De Kooning was a neighbour of Marilyn and Arthur Miller in Amagansett, New York. “Totally abstract, Marilyn looks like a cross between a grinning child and a screaming fury, not like the soft and gentle Marilyn,” Lois Banner wrote in Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox (2012.) “Yet he captured part of her essence – childlike, but angry when crossed. The portrait was hung in the Museum of Modern Art, and it produced a stir. Arthur detested it, but Marilyn didn’t mind: she thought artists had the right to their own vision of the subject they painted. It led to the many pop art portraits of her.”

Marilyn’s Movies at AFI Silver

The AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Springs, Washington, is hosting an MM retrospective through to September. Screenings include The Seven Year Itch, Some Like it Hot, Don’t Bother to Knock, Niagara, Monkey Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Prince and the Showgirl, How to Marry a Millionaire, Bus Stop, All About Eve, Clash by Night, The Asphalt Jungle, and The Misfits.

‘After the Fall’ in Washington

Arthur Miller’s 1964 play, After the Fall – widely controversial for its unflinching portrait of a self-destructive woman, seemingly based on Marilyn – is being staged at Washington’s Theatre J, through to November 26.

Chris Klimek reviewed the production for the Washington City Paper:

“It’s the character of Maggie, however, who turns the parallels to Miller’s own life up to brazen volume. A husky-voiced bombshell who blossoms into a singing star after Quentin shows her a molecule of kindness, she looks an awful lot like a straw-Marilyn even before she falls under the sway of various seedy agents, managers, shrinks, and soon enough, barbiturates and booze. Gabriela Fernández-Coffey banishes any trace of mimicry or caricature from her performance, making Maggie’s descent into addiction and despair deeply disquieting to witness.”