Hershey Felder and Beethoven: To Witness Genius At Play

By Ernest Kearney —  There is nothing as intoxicating as watching a Performance – capital “P.”  It matters little if that performance involves any of the muses or is that of a bricklayer, aircraft pilot or bartender.

What matters is that in the center of the Performance – capital “P,” there is someone thoroughly dedicated to striving for the highest standard in his chosen craft who has a total command of the combined skills and disciplines required for scaling those heights towards achieving his ambitious goal; whether that goal is to lay in the perfect wall-end with “frog” side down on the final “course,” recover from a spiral dive after a wing-loss despite insufficient yaw, or concocting a Commonwealth with the precise additions of Devil’s Claw, Belizean dragon fruit and okra before serving it with the imperturbability of one setting a Coors before a long haul trucker. In short, a Performer – capital “P.”

And such a one is Hershey Felder.

Felder, a scholar-in-residence at Harvard, has a repertoire of one-man shows focusing on the great composers – Our Great Tchaikovsky (which was seen at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts last year), a work on Claude Debussy (which is expected to be seen at the Wallis next year), and Beethoven (which one can see and should see now at Wallis until August 12th).

Beethoven opens with a set reminiscent of a Charles Addams’ cartoon (also designed by Felder), but from there the artist introduces us to Gerhard von Breuning, the eleven-year-old son of Beethoven’s lifelong friend Stephen von Breuning.

The notion of approaching genius through a child’s viewpoint is not a new concept, but here it works sublimely because Felder himself seems possessed of that fresh, spontaneous and childlike wonder of his subject.

He takes us through the composer’s final years during which Beethoven was completely deaf.  We are shown a man in the isolation of his impairment, living an almost hoarder’s existence, communicating by means of his conversation books, embroiled in family disputes, and yet still producing some of the finest music in the world.

With the deft hand of Director Joel Zwick guiding him, Felder leaps between the personas of Gerhard and Beethoven with ease and clarity, but it is in his punctuating of the composer’s life, with his compositions, that the performer truly captures his subject and enthralls his audience.

Felder’s phrasing at the piano’s keys is nothing short of masterful, allowing him to pull such language out of the music that—for some in the audience—it must seem like hearing the pieces for the first time.

Felder is a superb showman in, both, his performance of the composer and of his works.

And it is this showmanship, so rare a quality today, that makes seeing Hershey Felder: Beethoven not only an immense joy but also a distinct privilege.

(NOTE:  Featured Image — Hershey Felder at piano. Photo Credit: Christopher Ash. Courtesy of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts)

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Hershey Felder: Beethoven

Written and Performed by Hershey Felder
(Source Material:  Aus Dem Schwarzspanierhaus by Dr. Gerhard von Breuning)

Directed by Joel Zwick

On Stage

Now Thru August 19

in the


at the

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

For Complete Information, Schedule, Ticketing and Reservations

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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