Separate Bloomsdays for Theater and Radio
By COLIN MOYNIHAN
Published: June 16, 2008
For nearly three decades theatergoers, literature lovers and admirers of Irish culture have traveled to Symphony Space or tuned in to WBAI on June 16 in order to watch or listen to actors honor the life of James Joyce and interpret his novel “Ulysses,” one of the most celebrated and recondite books of the 20th century.
June 16 — Bloomsday — is the day in 1904 on which the characters in “Ulysses,” among them Leopold and Molly Bloom, roam the streets of Dublin. The sprawling novel of more than 200,000 words includes inebriated hallucinations, a visit to a brothel and the famous lengthy monologue of erotic musings. The date also marks the actual day that Joyce and his future wife, Nora Barnacle, are thought to have had one of their first formal outings.
On Monday night, for the first time since 1981, the theater and radio productions, long the joint effort of the Symphony Space artistic director, Isaiah Sheffer, and Larry Josephson, a producer for WBAI (99.5 FM in New York), will go their separate ways as a result of apprehension about obscenity and government regulation.
In the Symphony Space production Stephen Colbert and Frank and Malachy McCourt will read from the novel’s Ithaca episode. Then after a musical interlude by the soprano Judith Kellock, the event will conclude with a reading by Fionnula Flanagan of the book’s ending episode, Molly Bloom’s drifting nighttime thoughts.
WBAI’s broadcast will also feature the Molly Bloom monologue, read by the Irish actress Caraid O’Brien. Other performers will include Alec Baldwin and Anne Meara. The radio production will present a range of works by Joyce but concentrate on what its producers called “the holy trinity of characters in ‘Ulysses’: Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom and his wife, Molly.”
Mr. Sheffer said recently that he decided to do a separate production to avoid concerns at the radio station about some of Joyce’s words and descriptions. The station is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission and must follow its rules about language. “We decided at Symphony Space that we didn’t want to get involved in the hassle and anxiety of censorship,” he said. “Each year in the past few years there have been worries about a word or two.” Mr. Sheffer said that nobody at the station had prevented any sections of the book from being read but added that some workers there seemed to be on edge about the possibility of broadcasting phrases that could draw the ire of federal regulators.
Mr. Josephson, a longtime producer of radio shows, including those of the comedians Bob and Ray, said the Bloomsday productions had never drawn any official complaints. The racier material, he added, had been broadcast after 10 p.m., during the “safe harbor” period during which the F.C.C. allows the broadcast of what it terms “indecent” or “profane” material. “We’ve never cut anything,” he said. “I wouldn’t consider bleeping James Joyce. I think that would be an insult and an obscenity on its own.”
It is not the first time, of course, that there has been a debate over the content of “Ulysses.” It was controversial when it was published in Paris in 1922, and government officials in Ireland, Britain and the United States called for it to be suppressed. (In 1933 a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the book was not obscene, a landmark decision often cited by the defenders of literary free speech.)
Both the theater and radio versions are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will run until about 2 a.m. Mr. Sheffer said the Symphony Space performance would be streamed on its Web site (symphonyspace.org). But he also expressed some desire to rejoin Mr. Josephson. “I’m a little regretful that we aren’t on WBAI,” he said. “Maybe next year we can get all back together again.”
16 giugno 2008
Bloomsday: l'Ulysses alla radio da Dublino e New York
Oggi è il 16 giugno, la lunga giornata di Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Blooms e Molly. Insomma, il Bloomsday, la celebrazione dell'Ulysses di James Joyce. Me ne sono ricordato in ritardo purtroppo e così è saltata già tutta la settimana che il James Joyce Centre di Dublino ha dedicato all'evento. Ma non disperate. Anche New York celebra il romanzo più famoso del '900 con celebrazioni teatrali e radiofoniche. Anzi, come scrive il NYT, quest'anno le celebrazioni saranno separate, perché la stazione radio culturale WBAI ha deciso di non riprendere interamente le rappresentazioni che si tengono dal 1981 al Symphony Space di Broadway a causa dei regolamenti FCC che vietano di pronunciare certe parole alla radio (faccio notare che sono passati più di 80 anni dalla pubblicazione di Ulysses). Ci saranno dunque due "track" separati, uno in teatro, l'altro in studio, con letture e drammatizzazioni. Se non vi trovate a NewYork, c'è sempre la possibilità di seguire le trasmissioni di WBAI su http://stream.wbai.org/ a partire dalle 7 di sera ora di New York, l'una di questa notte da noi. La kermesse proseguirà per tutta la notte (fino alle 10 del nostro mattino di martedì). Stessa cosa per la rappresentazione teatrale che potrà essere seguita in diretta Internet su Symphonyspace.org. Se poi volete ascoltarvi tutto l'Ulysses, l'irlandese RTE ha trasmesso il romanzo in 19 episodi in occasione del centesimo anniversario del Bloomsday. L'archivio delle trasmissioni è a disposizione di tutti. Buon ascolto.