Since debuting on February 1, “Russian Doll” — the Netflix comedy series about a woman who keeps dying in a time glitch — has snagged praise from critics, and plenty of viewers.
Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 100% approval rating. The Gothamist said it’s “the first must-see new TV show of the year.” New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik called it “lean and snappily paced; it even managed the rare feat, in the era of streaming-TV bloat, of making me wish for a bit more.”
Leslye Headland, with a montage from “Russian Dolls.” (Image courtesy of The Ringer)
The show’s co-creator, director and writer — Leslye Headland — is a 1999 Staples High School graduate. She’s earned kudos as a playwright, screenwriter and director, with hits like the play and film “Bachelorette” and the movie “Sleeping With Other People.”
Leslye’s been on a media tour following “Russian Doll”‘s debut. She was interviewed today on WNYC (click here to listen), and has appeared in plenty of print and online media too. Click here for one of the most in-depth pieces.
Leslye Headland — the Staples High School Class of 1999 playwright, screenwriter and director best known for the play and film “Bachelorette” — has just written and directed a new film.
“Sleeping With Other People” opened Friday in Los Angeles. I was looking for a way to describe it — Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis play platonic and relationship-averse New Yorkers — but I can’t beat The Daily Beast: “a thoroughly millennial romantic-comedy billed as ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ for assholes.”
The Daily Beast continues:
(Headland) followed up her acclaimed 2013 raunchy, warts-and-all ladybro comedy ‘Bachelorette’ with a raunchy, warts-and-all spin on a once-bountiful genre the studios have long forgotten how to make: The rom-com….
Consider it a real-talk rom-com for the self-obsessed, self-destructive Tinder generation — even though nary a dating app is to be found in the film. These characters have enough dating drama to deal with without having to swipe left and right and sext strangers.
Leslye Headland wears her commitment to filmmaking on her sleeve — or at least on her forearms. One is tattooed with the problem-solving aphorism “What would Lubitsch do?” while the other has a quote from the endearing ’80s artifact “War Games.”
That mix of classical style with a contemporary twist, knowing when to take things seriously, when to laugh and a boldness to make it all one’s own, makes for a good summation of the mind-set of the writer-director …. Headland’s work bubbles with the energy of right now.
(Hat tip: Roy Fuchs)
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The Westport calendar is filled with little events that should be big ones.
They’re the ones you vaguely hear about before they happen. Afterward, someone tells you how great it was to be there. You vow you’ll go next year — but don’t.
The Westport Arts Awards is one of those you-really-shouldn’t-miss events. This year’s 19th annual ceremony is Sunday, October 21 (2 p.m., Town Hall). If you want to see all that’s right with this town — its long-time residents, its young people, its support of creativity and achievement — save the date right now.
The event honors artists in 6 disciplines — art, music, film/new media, visual arts/photography, theater and literature — as well as 3 young people, 2 Westporters who work quietly in the background, and 10 artists with local ties who died this year.
The biggest name is Tyler Hicks. The 1988 Staples grad — a staff photographer for the New York Times — has covered conflict in Kosovo, Chechnya, Congo, Ethiopia, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and been captured by the Libyan government. When Times correspondent Anthony Shahid died in Syria, Tyler carried his body across the border to Turkey.
In 2009 Tyler, fellow Times photographer (and Staples ’99 grad) Lynsey Addario, and the Times staff shared the Pulitzer Prize for “masterful, groundbreaking coverage” of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He’s the youngest recipient ever of a Westport Arts Award Lifetime Achievement Honor. He lives in Istanbul, so his mother will accept it for him.
Other Lifetime Achievements go to author, screenwriter and essayist Mary-Lou Weisman; Anne Keefe, artistic advisor at the Westport Country Playhouse; filmmakers Frank Jacoby and Doris Storm; English horn player Doris Goltzer, and artist, painter and printmaker Jak Kovatch.
Horizon Awards — presented to artists under the age of 32 who have already demonstrated excellence — are some of the most intriguing honors at the ceremony. This Sunday, there are 3.
Peter Duchan co-wrote the screenplay, and was associate producer for the South by Southwest film “Breaking Upwards.” He also wrote the book for the recent Off-Broadway musical “Dogfight” (scored by previous Westport Arts Award honoree Justin Paul).
Playwright, screenwriter and director Leslye Headland‘s credits include “Bachelorette,” “Assistance” and the rest of the “Seven Deadly Plays” series. She recently wrote a remake of “About Last Night” for Screen Gems. Like Peter, she is a Staples grad.
Nicholas Britell is a composer, pianist and producer. He scored the film “Gimme the Loot, ” which won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW last March. His music was featured in “New York, I Love You” and elsewhere. Nick is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard.
Longtime Westporter John Franklin will be honored as a Champion of the Arts. Former head of the Westport Arts Center, and a consistent and generous supporter of music, dance and the arts, he’s one of those real good guys who does so much for so many, so quietly.
So does Joan Miller For her decades of work on the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection — a pet project of Mollie Donovan — as well as many other volunteer efforts, Joan is an apt recipient of the Mollie Award, for tireless service.
Ten names will be added to the Heritage Honor Roll. J.D. Salinger, Hilton Kramer, David Levine, Natalie Maynard, Arlene Skutch, Albert Goltzer, Paul Rand, Marianne Liberatore, Burry Fredrik and Jerome Kilty were all connected to Westport. All died in within the past year, or were not honored while alive.
If you think the Westport Arts Awards are a dull, stand-up-and-give-a-speech affair: think again.
These are creative people. There are short videos, along with brief presentations.
And, of course, a reception afterward.
The Westport Arts Awards are Westport at its best.
Its artistic, photographic, musical, theatrical, literary — and very, very talented — best.
Sarah Koskoff wasn’t the only Staples graduate making a splash at Sundance.
Leslye Headland — a Class of 1999 alum — caught the eye of Deadline Hollywood. The entertainment blog gave a shout-out to the “Sundance Lucky 13“: a baker’s dozen of actors and directors earning “new or renewed buzz” at the famed film festival.
Writer Brian Brooks said of the writer/director of “Bachelorette“:
Her plays have caused a stir Off-Broadway, all based on the Seven Deadly Sins. She kicked them off with “Cinephilia” (lust), followed by “Bachelorette” (gluttony) now morphed into the film starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan which debuted at Sundance Monday. Her next play, “Assistance” (greed) is set to open in New York soon. Her seven deadly may all make it to the screen.
Congratulations, Leslye, on your theatrical successes. Though it seems you’re also describing the current crop of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.
Westporters reading thefront page of Tuesday’s New York Times arts section saw a rave review of 1999 Staples graduate — and former Staples Player — Leslye Headland’s “Bachelorette.”
Charles Isherwood called the “scarifying tale of mean-girl malice and generational malaise” — fueled by drugs, alcohol and sex — a “vivid and entertaining play, as witheringly funny as it is bitterly sad.”
The main characters — 3 young women and the 2 young men they pick up — are “observed with equal parts savagery and sympathy,” Isherwood says. “Written with stiletto-sharp wit by Ms. Headland, they are almost embarrassingly compelling.”
Not everyone agrees. One Times reader savaged the reviewer’s review:
So the characters are wounded, selfish bitches. So what? Who cares?
I was just plain offended by this misogynistic piece of claptrap. That any woman could hate women so much is just plain scary.
The plays of Ms. Headland and contemporaries like Annie Baker and Elizabeth Meriwether offer an up-to-the-nanosecond portrayal of a generation yet to hit 30 and leery of growing up. But Ms. Headland also has a soft spot for another influence: “I think of my plays a bit in the vein of Charles Schulz and Peanuts,” she said, “which, if you read them closely, were super-existential.”
Yet there is nothing cartoonish about Ms. Headland’s creations, said Wes Whitehead, artistic director of the three-year-old IAMA Theater Company in Los Angeles, where Ms. Headland is the artist in residence. “She likes to explore difficult topics very honestly,” he said. “The circumstances may be heightened, but every time you’re being left with an emotional connection to what’s happening onstage, and it’s devastating.”
“Bachelorette” director Trip Cullman added:
She has this very dark, painful sense of humor, which like all good humor comes from a place of truth. It’s shockingly naked in showing how recklessness in people’s 20s can turn into desperation in their 30s, and seeming friendship is really co-dependence.
After Staples, Headland studied directing and acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She graduated in 2003, then spent 4 years in what — according to the Times — “she considers her own addictive relationship, staying too long in an assistant’s job at a New York entertainment company rather than pursuing playwriting.”
Her boss was Harvey Weinstein — the Miramax Films founder, and (coincidentally) a Westporter.
Headland is now in LA, writing for the upcoming FX series “Terriers.” She’ll soon turn 30 — joining a new age group, ripe for her stiletto-sharp dissection.
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