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Overview for Donna Black
Donna Black

Donna Black


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Trained for the stage at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Australian-born Michael Blakemore acted without distinction through the 1950s, appearing with various British repertory companies, before finding his true calling as a director during the 60s. Near the end of his run as Artistic Director at Glasgow's Citizens' Theatre, he enjoyed a triumph at the helm of Peter Nichols' "A Day in the Life of Joe Egg" (1967) and accompanied the play on its moves to London that year and Broadway in 1968, earning his first Tony nomination for directing. After helming, scripting and appearing as himself in the 16mm documentary "A Personal History of the Australian Surf" (1971), he served as Associate Director under Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre, directing Olivier in a revival of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" (1971), among the shows he helmed there. He also co-adapted (with Peter Wood) the 1973 ABC-TV version of "Long Day's Journey Into Night," starring Olivier.

Blakemore helmed a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Nichols' "Privates on Parade" (1977) and later made his feature directing debut with the 1982 adaptation starring John Cleese. His long association with playwright Michael Frayn began on the National's "The Cherry Orchard" (1973), for which Frayn served as translator, and continued with the first of many Frayn plays, "Make and Break" in 1980. Taking Broadway by storm with Frayn's farcical "Noises Off" (1984), he earned a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination for directing, and when he assumed the helm of "Copenhagen" in 1999, it was the eighth Frayn play he had directed. He returned to the ranks of Tony-nominated directors with the Larry Gelbart-Cy Coleman-David Zippel film noir musical "City of Angels" (1989), though the show itself fell short of becoming a standard of the American musical theater repertoire. He garnered another Tony nod for "Lettuce and Loveage" (1990), which he had originally directed in London's West End in 1987.

Blakemore wrote and helmed the feature "Country Life" (1994), a classy Australian spin on Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," and also had great fun playing the long-absent, pompous bore Alexander, who has left the London literary scene in disgrace to return Down Under. "Country Life" represented a major advance as a film director over his previous entry, thanks in large part to the down-to-earth humor of his script. Reteaming with Cy Coleman on "The Life" (1997) brought him another Tony nomination, but its chronicle of gold-hearted hookers and their mean old pimps strained audience credulity. He became the first director to earn two Tony awards in the same year for his work on a pair of vastly different projects. First came a nimble revival of "Kiss Me, Kate" (1999), faithful to the original. Making no apologies for loose ends, thin characters and pat ending, he allowed John Guare to tinker only slightly with the book. Then Frayn's dramatically taut "Copenhagen" (2000) arrived from London full of intelligence, demanding audiences to listen carefully. The richly metaphorical play imagined an actual meeting between physicist Niels Bohr and his beloved, Nazi-sympathizing protege Werner Heisenberg in the titular city and featured vibrant performances from Blair Brown, Philip Bosco and Michael Cumpsty.

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