- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2004

Me and Mr. Clapton

When guitarist Doyle Bramhall II got the nod from Eric Clapton to play on the rock legend’s Robert Johnson tribute album, “Me and Mr. Johnson,” Mr. Bramhall had a confession to make: He had never heard Mr. Johnson’s music.

“When I was growing up, I had this sort of blues-purist thing about me,” says Mr. Bramhall, 35, the son and namesake of Texan singer-songwriter Doyle Bramhall. “I wanted to get into the most obscure artists I could, and librarians know about Robert Johnson, you know?

“When people asked if I’d heard of Robert Johnson, I would always say, ‘Have you heard of Lightnin’ Slim?’”

Mr. Clapton’s reaction? “He just laughed…. ‘Never tell secrets.’”

Times have changed, and Mr. Bramhall has become a Johnson devotee. “I was blown away by how amazing his music was,” he says.

Mr. Bramhall kept the job and is playing in Mr. Clapton’s band; the tour stops at the MCI Center tonight.

By Scott Galupo

Acts of fate

In all but one respect, Michael Kahn was flying by the seat, almost literally, when it came time to organize “Cyrano de Bergerac,” the popular late-19th-century romance verse drama by French playwright Edmond Rostand, now the featured production at the Shakespeare Theatre.

“It was the first play I ever read,” Mr. Kahn told guests and patrons at dinner last Monday before the opening, recalling younger years when he haunted a public library in Brooklyn.

After poring over various translations for the company he now directs, he remained unsatisfied until he received the manuscript from Barry Kornhauser, playwright in residence at the Fulton Opera House in Lancaster, Pa. It arrived inside a pink cover — an alluring enough trick, although a coincidental one, Mr. Kornhauser said.

Mr. Kahn read it and started laughing on the first page at the wit and contemporaneity. “All great plays should be retranslated every 10 years because our sense of language changes,” he said. He worked with Mr. Kornhauser to put in some changes for the version that first had been done in Lancaster. Stacey Keach was signed to do the lead but had to drop out because of surgery.

A week before rehearsals began, Mr. Kahn didn’t have anyone to play Cyrano.

Then chance and good fortune — elements needed by every theater director — intervened in the person of Welsh-born actor Geraint Wyn Davies, who most recently played Edmund in the Lincoln Center Theater’s production of “King Lear” in New York with Christopher Plummer as Lear.

“Kevin Kline, Christopher Plummer and Len Cariou ganged up on Geraint Wyn Davies in his dressing room and said, ‘You have to do it,’ ” Mr. Kahn recalled of the persuasive tactics that got the actor to renege on his earlier plan to beat it home to Santa Barbara to be with his family.

Hence, Mr. Davies is making his Shakespeare Theatre debut as the robust romantic swordsman-poet onstage at the Lansburgh through Aug. 1.

By Ann Geracimos

Santana’s rant

New York Post

Carlos Santana is furious that the death of jazz drum icon Elvin Jones didn’t receive much media coverage. “I’m really embarrassed for this nation, and for MTV and VH1 and Rolling Stone, because it was a very racist thing not to acknowledge this most important musician when he passed,” Mr. Santana told New York’s Steppin’ Out magazine.

“For them to play up Ozzy Osbourne and other corny… white people, but not Elvin, is demeaning, and I’m really embarrassed to live in this country.”

Mr. Jones, 76, died May 18.

Semistar search

Associated Press

The chance to appear for a fleeting moment in a Cameron Crowe film generated enough buzz to attract hundreds to a recent casting call in Lexington, Ky.

As many as 1,300 people showed up at a Lexington hotel Saturday in hopes of landing roles as extras in Mr. Crowe’s new movie, “Elizabethtown,” starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst.

Filming begins next month, but unlike “Seabiscuit” — which was filmed in central Kentucky in 2002 — it will not require thousands of extras for any of its scenes.

Mr. Crowe’s box-office hits include “Almost Famous,” “Jerry Maguire,” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports.

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