Brian Dennehy, an actor known onscreen for movies like First Blood, Cocoon, and Tommy Boy, died yesterday in New Haven, Connecticut, of cardiac arrest at 81 years old. His family says his death was not related to COVID-19.

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FKA twigs Sword Fights and Pole Dances to Purge Heartbreak in Brooklyn

At Kings Theatre, FKA twigs served crowds the most emo pole dancing music of all time.

FKA twigs

At Brooklyn's Kings Theatre, FKA twigs performed magnificent physical and vocal feats and mesmerized a massive audience with her technical acumen and emotional intensity.

During the show, she tap-danced, pole-danced, hit operatic high notes, and even demonstrated an incredible sword-fighting sequence during a musical interlude in the middle of her song "sad day." The show consisted of innumerable costume changes and intricate choreography, mirrored by four talented backup dancers and soundtracked by three impressive instrumentalists. Though she began the show solo, the dancers and musicians slowly became more and more incorporated into the act until they all moved together as a single entity, eventually ending the performance in an embrace.

Twigs was promoting her new album, Magdalene, and she fully leaned into its theatrical and biblical imagery, sporting a variety of traditional, religious, and regal costumes as well as barely-there lingerie for her pole dancing routine. Throughout it all, there was not a single misstep or missed note, but there was one underlying dissonance: How could Robert Pattinson possibly have let someone like twigs slip away? The kind of desperation in twigs' Magdalene songs also seems to be asking this very question. If I can reach such heights, and inspire such devotion from audiences, she seemed to be screaming throughout the show, why don't I do it for you?

Though undeniably impressive, the show may have been better suited to a smaller theatre. During moments of silence, audience members kept screaming and shouting up to the stage, distracting from the show. Then again, it's hard to ask an audience of that size to keep quiet, especially when witnessing someone with twigs' star power.

Perhaps aware that she wouldn't be able to get a word in edgewise without someone shouting, twigs only spoke to the audience a few times, once to greet the crowd and once to ask a series of pointed questions. "How many people came here alone? How many people are single? How many people have had their hearts broken?" she asked, waiting for hands to raise between each question, laughing at the enthusiasm of New York City's affirmative responses. "Well, I have."

It was a moment of rare intimacy and rawness which reminded the crowd that, in spite of her superhuman physical and artistic abilities, twigs struggles as much as the rest of us with matters of the heart.

FKA twigs -


16 Unmissable Edinburgh Fringe Shows

The festival may be over, but the #FringeSpirit carries on, and we are here to share a few of our favorite picks from the Fringe festival.

For those of you out of the loop, Edinburgh just finished up being the world's centre of art and culture for most of the month of August.

This happens every year for about three weeks during the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Legendary among the performance community, the festival is a great opportunity to see everything you can possibly imagine in the world of live entertainment. Popdust was at the festival and had the time to see a decent dose of what the Fringe had to offer. Obviously, no one can see everything, and this list (presented in no particular order) is subjective, but here are a few highlights, from the relative unknowns to international hits.

1. Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast

Better known by its acronym RHLSTP (pronounced Ruh-huh-luh-stuh-puh), the podcast is hosted by comedian Richard Herring as he interviews comedians performing at the Fringe. He does so using a trademark blend of sincerity, childish schoolboy humor, genuine insight, and an almost Andy Kaufman-esque disregard for his own public image. Despite his pretense of incompetence, Herring is actually a rather good host, with a knack for getting answers you would never expect out of guests. He usually manages this by asking questions no one in their right mind would ever ask. His recordings at the Fringe are available online via all standard podcasting apps; it's a worthy listen year-round, especially if you are a fan of British stand-up.

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2. Maggie Lalley - Cold Blooded Witch: The Sex Musical

Maggie Lalley's show takes you through her teenage life as a "witch." In these escapades, drawn from twisted and bizarre real-life-experiences, she deals with emotional abuse, overwhelming infatuation, copious sex, and possibly being married to a certain teen actor. She's candid and raunchy, and the show would be ridiculous if it were not also true. As such, it is endearingly open and refreshingly funny.

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3. Just These Please - Suitable

Similar to many sketch shows at the Fringe, Just These Please trade in on their online reputation, having had a YouTube hit earlier this year with a musical sketch about ordering coffee whilst being Irish. Their full show does not disappoint, featuring sketches reminiscent of John Finnemore and other modern comedy greats. With an hour's worth of solid-gold material, you scarcely ever stop laughing in this plucky comedy adventure. Highlights include slow-burn reveals regarding The Grand Old Duke of York, a recurring wordless sketch involving clapping along to the Friends theme, and a very polite discussion of orgies: five-star comedy.

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4. Whose Line Is It Anyway?

The ubiquitous short-form improv troupe returned to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer in triumphant form. Featuring veteran members of the British and American cast and hosted by Clive Anderson, the show was exactly what you would expect it to be: short and sweet game-based improv performed to an impeccably high standard.

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5. 44 Inch Chest

Presented by Out of Bounds Theatre, this Guy Ritchie-esque play follows a gaggle of tough London criminals in a back room deciding what to do with an unwelcome interloper. Snappy dialogue and gritty action underscore what is, at its core, a surprisingly sensitive story dealing with fallout from toxic masculinity. With its fair share of laughs and a slew of striking (and sometimes slightly disturbing) visuals, this work shows a lot of promise for the up-and-coming company.

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6. Jamie Loftus - Boss Whom Is a Girl

When people tell you about the Fringe, you hear about shows like this and assume that they are the fantasies of an overactive imagination. Confrontationally weird in content, but held in place by infallibly good comic writing and performance, this is a show you cannot stop talking about after the curtain falls. Loftus plays a fictional female CEO giving a talk about feminism in business to an audience in various states of woke empowerment and bewilderment. In it, she espouses the benefits of her medically unsustainable daily routine, how she definitely did not cause a genocide of DJs, and argues with an increasingly sentient smart-home device.

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7. Erth's Dinosaur Zoo

This is something for all the children (and adults) who love dinosaurs. Erth's Dinosaur Zoo is just a lovely wholesome time. A miraculously patient and funny man with a wonderfully soothing Australian accent walks about the stage for an hour introducing young people to dinosaurs. These dinosaurs are staggeringly well-realized puppets operated by top-notch puppeteers. They feature several well-loved favorites and a couple you may not have heard of. Charming, fun, and informative, this is one of the few shows at the Fringe that ends with you getting a selfie with a triceratops.

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8. Connie Wookey - Denied

A one woman show of exceptional calibre, Wookey tells her true-life stories about a near death experience at the hands of a certain Canadian airline, facing down the American immigration system, and just generally processing life and its madness. It is adroitly funny, featuring off-the-wall song parodies, lethal comic insight and character work, and down-to-earth storytelling that feels unforced and unpretentious. Wookey is a genuine talent, and her show is an absolute gem.

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9. Jimmy McGhie - Ba (Hons)

McGhie comes off as something of a British Joel McHale. He's cutting and playful in his crowd work but never unwilling to poke fun at himself. His show is an hour of incredibly solid stand-up and audience banter, performed by a man who clearly knows how to work an audience. He covers exploits in dating, class perception, and family dysfunction. Perhaps not the most boundary breaking show at the Fringe, but it's an excellent example of a well-honed comic doing what he does best.

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10. Synesthesia - The Musical

A touching one-woman show created by Jillian Vitko, which explores her life through the lense of her synesthesia, a medical phenomena which causes senses to cross-pollinate with one another. Simply presented with one woman and a guitar, it is an hour of songs and confessional storytelling that leaves you feeling melancholic yet hopeful. Her processing of relationships through colors and how this has affected her interactions with romantic partners, family, and more is well-communicated and warmly relatable. It's a welcoming show that pulls back the veil on a condition not widely understood, as explained through the conduit of one person's life.

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11. Moon Walk

Moon Walk is a touching story about the ramifications of male loneliness and emotional disengagement. Two young men living together and in need of each other's friendship are unable to connect until a female roommate joins their home and helps break down the barriers between them. It's a deftly written play full of goofy charm and messaging that more people could stand to hear. Sprutt Theater makes an excellent Fringe debut with strong actors, intelligent plot twists, and an ending that will leave you wondering.

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12. Godley on The Fringe

Janey Godley is a legend of Scottish stand-up. Google her now and you will find video after video of her being astoundingly forthright, articulate, and empathic on subjects ranging from class inequality to political injustice, whilst also being bluntly funny in a way that produces nothing short of respiration-compromising laughter. Her show is classic stand-up, mixed in with a section of live "voiceovers" wherein she overdubs videos from the news and more. It is all desperately funny, and Godley commands your attention from the moment you walk in the room. Literally: Her free show was consistently sold out, so from the moment the audience entered they needed to be told where to sit. Godley naturally took this task upon herself, and it is as funny to witness as anything else in the show.

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13. Men With Coconuts

Men With Coconuts is a musical improv show in the finest long-form tradition. If you're familiar with UCB-style montages, you know how a show like this works. The performers get a suggestion, they build vignettes from it, it's underscored musically on piano, and occasionally flourishes into song. This is a solid crew of improvisers, and their work exemplifies that.

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14. Ej*culation

Part lecture, part performance art, this Finnish piece deep-dives into the world of female ej*culation by way of one woman's quest to achieve it. Eerily scientific at times, uncomfortably personal at others, but all cleanly presented in a format that is at once welcoming and confrontational. You'll learn, you'll laugh…you'll feel a little weird, but you leave with a renewed fascination in human sensuality and the female (and other applicably gendered) body's experience with sex.

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15. Ew Girl You Nasty

Katharyn Henson is something else. The term "shock comic" has such a bombastic, male connotation to it that to use it to describe Henson seems somehow wrong. Her stand-up is shocking but only for the fact that her life is shocking. Her presentation of her own experiences doing meth, eating dog food, and working in a sex dungeon are brilliantly underplayed and matter-of-fact. She then uses this false sense of security to side-swipe her audience and filter in brilliant comic observation after brilliant comic observation. You won't see many comics like Henson at the Fringe or anywhere else.

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16. Are You Alice: A New Wonderland Tale

Described by author Neil Gaiman as a "haunting oneiric journey" and by punk musician Amanda Palmer as an "explosion of whimsy and color," this new reworking of Alice in Wonderland has people talking. Mixing dance, live music, re-purposed Lewis Carroll text, and a cast of actors all rotating roles in this dreamlike production, it's a trip down the rabbit-hole like you haven't seen before. Removed from now cliched trappings of Disney, Burton, and even its original context, Permafrost Theatre Collective took the classic tale and created something truly curious.

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Of course, this list is far from complete. No single writer, or even publication, could come close to covering all of the impossibly diverse shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Many of them already have outlets for further viewing. Others do not and could use the support of interested patrons. Either way, every single one of the shows listed above had something to offer that set it apart and demanded crowds sit down and bear witness.


Broadway Will Never Be the Same After Hadestown

Anaïs Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin have created a revolutionary work of art.


Photo by Andy Willis on Unsplash

Near the end of the first act of Hadestown, the stage goes completely dark, save for an array of huge lamps swinging from hooks somewhere in the rafters.

They swirl around Orpheus (Reeve Carney), lighting his descent into hell. With each rotation, they narrowly avoid his body, instead spinning to the rhythm of the electrifying beautiful song that he's singing, called "Wait for Me"—a song which we later find out made a crack in the wall, a crack that opens up a passage into the blinding lights of Hades' industrial lair.

"Wait for Me" from the Broadway Production of

As the show's narrator, a version of the god Hermes, describes the treacherous journey to the underworld over an exhilarating backdrop of violins and drums, the set begins to change. Wooden walls open up and roll back to reveal the framework of Hadestown itself, consisting of pipes and blinding lights that throw the stage into stark relief.

It's one of the most spine-chilling and seamless transitions in modern musical theatre history, so magnetic and moving in fact, that the audience cheered for around a full minute after the set change was complete. It's also one of many meticulously orchestrated moments in Broadway's most innovative show. That's Hadestown for you, though. The show is equal parts technical precision and raw emotion, winding mythology and searing social commentary into a kaleidoscopic carnival.

Hadestown is the project of singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, who began writing it over a decade ago. She first performed the show on a bus in Vermont, touring around schools and using the songs to teach kids about the myths of Hades, Persephone, Orpheus, and Eurydice.

Sometimes, even in a theater in the heart of Times Square, you can almost feel the remnants of the songs' beginnings on that bus—a closeness to the land, the rhythm of wheels turning on uneven terrain, the emptiness that defines so much of the American landscape. That closeness to the earth, and the show's intimate connection to real struggles faced by everyday people, are unexpected on a stage that usually celebrates glitz and glamor and in a show about ancient Greek myths.

Hadestown winds together two old tragedies: the stories of Hades and Persephone, and Orpheus and Eurydice. In the first myth, Hades steals Persephone away while she's playing in a field. Due to the protestations of her mother, the earth goddess Demeter, Hades agrees to let Persephone return to earth for six months out of the year—and so summer was born.

In the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, Orpheus follows his lover down to Hades after her death. After enchanting Hades with his music, the god of death agrees to let them go—if Orpheus can make it home without looking back to see if Eurydice is following.

Mitchell's reinterpretation, enhanced by brilliant directing from Rachel Chavkin, transfers these myths to a modern-day setting, painting Hades' underworld as a walled factory-wasteland filled with dead-eyed workers forever constructing a wall, "punching in and punching in and punching in" for all of eternity.

Eurydice, played by the extraordinary Eva Noblezada, is a jaded runaway who falls for Orpheus after he makes a red flower bloom with his music. Their love is strong in the summer, when Persephone is back "living it up on top" and food is abundant, but by winter Eurydice grows frustrated by hunger and Orpheus's disconnect from reality, and finally agrees to go work in Hadestown in exchange for what is essentially eternal job security. Naturally, Orpheus—directed by the silver-clad god Hermes, who serves as his guardian as well as the show's narrator—follows her into the underworld.

Hermes and the three fates, who float gracefully around the stage and sing in heart-stopping harmony, are instrumental to the show's rhythms, pumping real magic into the music. When Orpheus sings his epics, his voice is stark at first against the sound of just his electric guitar, but soon harmonies seem to grow up from the shadows themselves, followed by a haze of warm piano, ghostly violins, and a virtuosic trombonist. "[Orpheus] could make you see how the world could be, instead of how it is," repeats Hermes throughout the show, and when you hear the music rise to its full heights, it's hard not to share in that vision.

Hadestown, on the whole, doesn't shy away from showing you how the world is—but it also shows you how it could be, painting that world with its soft lighting and bittersweet poetry. Ultimately, it's an example of the transcendent works of art that human beings are capable of creating, using ancient stories and melodies to tap into the universal stories that connect us all and hint at the existence of much larger, even divine forces.

Despite its grandiose foundations, Hadestown is so game-changing because of how relevant it is to modern life, and how intimately it explores the deepest human experiences we share. Essentially, it's a show about working, about greed and struggle, about love in the midst of hunger and poverty; and perhaps most of all, it's a critique of capitalism. It's a damnation of the American ethos of greed and unchecked consumption that lift up the super-wealthy while leaving the poor in the dust, an ethos that has generated the wastefulness that created the modern environmental crisis. This is what makes the show so radical, radical enough that it may be the start of a pronounced change on Broadway and in musical theatre on the whole.

That's not to say that Hadestown doesn't also offer an escape. On the contrary, the whole production is so captivating that you hardly know where to look and at times may forget how to breathe. But it also reaches beyond the cloistered walls of New York's bubble of liberalism, beyond Broadway and Hollywood's tendency to worship the glamorous and the gilded, instead of approaching the reality we're all actually living in—of course, through the lens of Mitchell's finely wrought poetry and virtuosic compositions.

That reality becomes apparent when, just after Orpheus enters Hades, the god of death leads his workers in a song called "Why We Build the Wall." It's impossible not to think of Donald Trump when the chorus rings out, "Why do we build the wall?" croons Hades, and the crowd of faceless workers chants, "The wall keeps out the enemy / and the enemy is poverty / and we build the wall to keep us free." Mitchell actually wrote the song way back in 2006, but it's a stunning protest anthem for right now, one that laments the evil hypocrisy of a capitalist society that hoards wealth, exploits its own workers, and rejects its weakest citizens who cannot keep up with its relentless pressures. With every day brings another revelation about the state of the US-Mexico border—from the removal of protections for asylees seeking protection from domestic violence to the family separations and children's deaths at the hands of ICE—the song feels like a searing indictment of this border wall and all of the American exceptionalism and greed that it symbolizes.

Hadestown: Why We Build The Wall

In spite of this, "Why We Build the Wall" and Hadestown, on the whole, are not located in any specific time period or place, and the show never expresses an us-against-them sentiment. Instead, it humanizes even Hades. "The heart of a king loves everything like the hammer loves the nail," Orpheus sings, as part of his plea to Hades. "But the heart of a man is a simple one, small and soft, flesh and blood...What has become of the heart of that man? Now that the man is king? Now that he has everything?"

So Hadestown is not an overt damnation of Trump. It is, however, a rousing call to protest even in the face of seemingly indomitable evil. "If it's true what they say, then I'll be on my way," sings Orpheus, considering the futility of his task. "But the ones who deal the cards / Are the ones who take the tricks / With their hands over their hearts / While we play the game they fix." His hope inspires other factory workers to look up from their machinery, and eventually wins him and Eurydice passage out of Hadestown. It is a doomed passage, of course, as Hermes tells us from the beginning, the inevitable ending of a very old story that has always ended in tragedy.

13 - If It's True (Anaïs Mitchell - Hadestown)

At its heart, Hadestown asks why human beings keep singing, creating, and falling in love despite knowing that it all might be useless in the end. It asks why we bother to speak out when individual protests and art seem so futile, and when forces like capitalism and climate change seem too vast and overwhelming to comprehend, let alone fight. "Cause here's the thing," Hermes says at the very end of the show, just before launching back into the opening number. "To know how it ends, and still to begin to sing it again, as if it might turn out different this time…"

Ultimately, Hadestown doesn't promise that if we just hope a little harder, everything will be fixed. But it does, in Mitchell's words, raise a glass to the ones who try.

Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.

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Vince Staples Honors Mac Miller in "Smile, You're On Camera" Tour

Vince Staples, JPEGMAFIA, and Katori Walker Rock an Historical Theatre in Ithaca, New York.

Vince Staples

Brandon Nagy/Shutterstock

A Night of Powerful Hip Hop Transforms Ithaca's State Theatre.

The State Theatre in Ithaca, New York is far from the sort of venue in which one might expect to see an act like Vince Staples perform. The stage, framed with intricate baroque sculptures, carvings, and medieval shields, gives the impression that this theatre has seen significantly more Shakespeare than bass-heavy, bone-rattling hip-hop. But, then again, Vince Staples is not your run-of-the-mill emcee. Staples is unique, which has always shone through in his music. That shine, as it turns out, is just as bright in his live show.

The March 1st concert marked the beginning of the second half of his 37-city "Smile, You're on Camera" tour, but the raw energy of all three acts could have fooled you into thinking that the tour was just getting started.

Katori Walker — a rapper from Pasadena, California — kicked the show off with heavy tracks about gang violence interweaved with calls for peace and unity. The crowd seemed relatively unfamiliar with Walker but gradually warmed up to his music over the course of his set. It's safe to say that he made more than a few new fans that night.

Once Walker finished, Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA took the stage and did nothing to prepare besides setting up his laptop. The rapper, who sometimes goes by Peggy, acted as his own DJ, playing his songs on Spotify and rapping over them. Well, to put it more accurately, what he did was closer to screaming rhymes over glitchy, experimental beats. The energy was crazy, and the whole thing was very punk rock.

But the contrast to Staples' characteristically buttery flow and lyrical precision was jarring, and the set came across as sloppy and abrasive. But the crowd appeared to disagree, rising to meet Peggy's chaotic energy. The audience seemed to know every lyric, and they screamed them along with Peggy as he flailed and moshed about the stage, providing almost as much energy as a young Black Flag.

At around 10:30, with the crowd now sufficiently amped up, Vince Staples finally took to the stage. In stark contrast to JPEGMAFIA's stripped down, hardcore set, Staples took a more theatrical approach, employing an elaborate light show, enough smoke machines to keep him almost perpetually cloaked in a dense and eerie fog, and projections of cracked TV screens alternately broadcasting flashes of porn and live views of the audience and the emcee himself.

Through the cinematic and interactive experience, Staples drove home the theme of the tour: Smile, You're on Camera.

He opened his set with "Feels Like Summer," the first track off his latest album, FM! During this number, Staples opted to keep the screen mostly black, minimizing distractions and allowing him to captivate the audience with his confident stage presence and bars.

Not only was the set design and overall concept of the show creative and engaging, but Staples' performance was masterful. His flow and delivery were spot-on and controlled, never missing a beat. He paced himself well, demonstrated expert breath control, and kept up with even the most complex, rapid-fire, and tongue-twisting schemes in his catalog.

Seldom have I seen an emcee spit his bars live with such precision and care that they sound as if they could have been the original studio recordings. This is just one more piece of evidence added to an already sprawling list as to why Vince Staples is one of the best in the game right now.

After performing the majority of FM! (a remarkably short album, even in full) and plenty of classics off both the critically acclaimed record, Big Fish Theory and a fan favorite, Summertime '06, Staples shifted the attention off himself and dedicated the last fifteen minutes of his set to late rapper, Mac Miller, who passed away last September of an accidental overdose. The two emcees were contemporaries and longtime collaborators and friends, so it was touching to see Staples pay his respects to Miller.

Staples ended his set with "Yeah Right," and then thanked the audience for coming. As he exited the stage, the lights did not come up. Instead, the entirety of Mac Miller's NPR Tiny Desk concert played on the screen from start to finish. Mac Miller was transported beyond the grave to be on tour with Staples so the two could rock the same stage one last time.

Seeing Miller perform stripped down versions of his songs was a powerful moment for many in the crowd. More than a few audience members were brought to tears.

It's rare that we are blessed with an emcee like Vince Staples — someone who is just as raw, real, and complex as his music. If you have the chance to go see him for the second leg of this tour, you definitely should. And if you aren't already familiar with Vince Staples' music, there's a good chance you will be in the years to come. At just 25 years old, he's only going up from here.

Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods.

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"You'd have to be broken to think this was okay"

"Violation after violation" is the watch phrase for Lured.

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