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    ‘A New Old Play’ Review: Even the Clown Show Must Go On

    Qiu Jiongjiong’s absurdist epic of 20th century China is both a movie and a play, both tragedy and farce.Per the title, Qiu Jiongjiong’s magnificently layered historical epic, “A New Old Play,” draws as much from Brecht and Beckett as from cinematic traditions. At once tragedy and farce, it breathes new life into a story as old as civilization.The opening scene is disorienting at first, not least for the film’s protagonist, Qiu Fu (Yi Sicheng), a well-known actor from a Sichuan opera troupe. We meet him when he is old and stooping, in a crumbling mountain village enshrouded by fog. It is China in the 1980s, and the Japanese, the nationalists and the communists have wreaked their havoc in turn. Now two raggedy demons have arrived in a broken-down bicycle rickshaw to cart Qiu off to the underworld.Still, something feels uncanny, demons notwithstanding. The entire mise-en-scène of the film, we discover, is artificial, an assembly of stage props and hand-painted scenery. Qiu has always played the clown, shuffling from scene to scene, a hapless pauper harassed by need and political fashion. Even his wife (Guan Nan) may not miss him when he’s gone. Somehow he, like the film, maintains a sense of humor. Such is life for a poor player.Qiu isn’t keen to leave, but his time is up — as the demons remind him, it’s no use trying to outrun fate. Also, the King of Hell is a fan, and Qiu’s failure to appear would make them look bad.But first, let’s drink and play mahjong in purgatory, where Qiu awaits final passage to oblivion. Absurdities and indignities mount as he reminisces about a life spanning wars and famine, revolution and betrayal. The director’s cleverest trick is having also found joy there.A New Old PlayNot rated. In Mandarin, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 59 minutes. In theaters. More

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    Meat Loaf, Britney and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Musical

    At Theatertreffen, an annual celebration of the best in German-language performance, music plays a profound, and intelligent, role.HAMBURG, Germany — During the five and a half hours I spent immersed in “Die Ruhe” (“The Calm”), a performative installation that was one of the 10 productions selected for this year’s Theatertreffen, I put a live worm in my mouth, cut off a lock of my hair and held a giant African snail.I also participated in a group therapy session, during which a severe doctor pushed us to share our secrets and fears, and drank bitter mushroom tea (non-psychedelic, I hope), vodka and schnapps.Along with the other 34 ticket holders for that day’s performance in the Altona district of Hamburg, I had checked in as a prospective patient at a fictional facility for people exhausted by modern life.At once intimate and visionary, “Die Ruhe” was far and away the most unusual and daring title in the remarkable first live Theatertreffen since the start of the pandemic. After spending the past two years online, the festival, which celebrates the best in German, Austrian and Swiss theater, came roaring back to life with a wide-ranging and eclectic lineup that highlighted the creativity, resourcefulness and persistence of German-language theater in 2021.Originally staged by the Deutsches Schauspielhaus theater here, “Die Ruhe” was the brainchild of SIGNA, a Copenhagen-based performance collective led by the artist couple Signa and Arthur Köstler, which has specialized in large-scale, site-specific performance installations for the past two decades. SIGNA was previously invited to Theatertreffen, in 2008, with an eight-day performance held in a former rail yard in Berlin. This time around, the installation was too complicated to transfer to Berlin, where all the other Theatertreffen performances have taken place, so in a break with tradition, “Die Ruhe” has been mounted in the former post office in Hamburg where it was originally seen in November.With the other members of my small group, I was guided through a sinister sanitorium whose inhabitants — patients and doctors alike — seemed to have all suffered a psychological collapse. Upon entering the post office, we were welcomed to the institute by being asked to lie down on mattresses on the floor. Shortly afterward, we changed out of our clothing and into the institute’s baggy uniform of gray hoodies and sweatpants.Simon Steinhorst in “Die Ruhe,” which was staged in Hamburg.Erich GoldmannAs I was led with the group through dimly lit corridors and rooms — including a simulated forest filled with damp earth and dry leaves — by a fragile and haunted guide, Aurel, it became clear that the institute was the center of a threatening and shamanistic sect. Over the multiple floors of the post office, SIGNA and its large cast (there’s an almost even number of paying participants and institute members) formulated a holistic worldview for the cultlike institute, complete with an origin story and a rigid creed that its adherents, even the mild-mannered Aurel, were fanatically devoted to: a vision of Edenic return symbolized by becoming one with the forest.Aesthetically, this stylishly designed immersive experience seemed to take inspiration from movies: from recent films of dystopian horror, including Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Lobster” and Ari Aster’s “Midsommer,” as well as Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch, masters of atmospheric dread. As a marathon plunge into a complex and intricate world, “Die Ruhe” resembled another recent and more infamous project: the scientific institute DAU, devised by the Russian filmmaker Ilya Khrzhanovsky in Kharkiv, Ukraine, between 2009 and 2011, which was recreated in Paris in 2019. Like that controversial performance, “Die Ruhe” contained deeply unsettling elements: a strong, pervasive atmosphere of menace, as well as a demanding (and at times exhausting) format that forced the viewer-participant into disturbingly close confrontations with cruelty, manipulation and violence.Back in Berlin, none of the other Theatertreffen shows I saw came close to “Die Ruhe” in sustained intensity and startling originality, but the productions I caught were of a consistently high caliber, and formally innovative.A scene in Claudia Bauer’s “humanistää!,” an exploration of texts by the experimental Austrian writer Ernst Jandl.Nikolaus Ostermann/Volkstheater One of the lineup’s most striking features was how profoundly, and intelligently, musical many of the shows were. In several of the best plays, live music played a fundamental role in generating a distinctive aesthetic as well as meaning. In thinking so musically about theatrical practice, it seemed that many directors at the festival were pushing against the limits of language.From the hits by Britney Spears and Meat Loaf crooned by the cast of Christopher Rüping’s “Das neue Leben — where do we go from here,” to Barbara Morgenstern’s vast and haunting original score for Helgard Haug’s “All right. Good night,” a hypnotic and mostly wordless production about the 2014 Malaysia Airlines disaster, this Theatertreffen seemed to insist on the primacy of music both to conjure and to enrich intellectual and emotional states.The single most astonishing show on a traditional stage was Claudia Bauer’s “humanistää!,” a surreal and dazzlingly inventive exploration of poetic and dramatic texts by the experimental Austrian writer Ernst Jandl.Bauer is one of Germany’s leading directors, and she created this breathtaking theatrical immersion in Jandl’s playful linguistic cosmos at the Volkstheater in the poet’s native Vienna, which is where I caught the production several months ago. (It remains in the company’s repertoire and is also available to stream on Theatertreffen’s website until September.)In “humanistää!,” 10 works by Jandl attain new vitality through conventional monologues, onstage projections and elaborate vocal performances reminiscent of Jandl’s radio plays. Bauer complements the torrent of highly musical texts with startling visuals and energetic performances that beautifully match the rhythm of Jandl’s sound poems. Eight actors perform vigorous and highly choreographed pantomimes and dances amid Patricia Talacko’s shape-shifting set, which is spectacularly lit by Paul Grilj. Throughout, Peer Baierlein’s propulsive music, performed live, accompanies the performers as both their bodies and their voices twist through Jandl’s linguistic games.Lindy Larsson in Yael Ronen’s “Slippery Slope,” an English-language musical about cancel culture.Ute LangkafelText and music combine in a much more straightforward, yet no less riotous, way in the Israeli director Yael Ronen’s “Slippery Slope,” an English-language musical about cancel culture with infectious songs and foul-mouthed lyrics by the singer-songwriter Shlomi Shaban. When it premiered at the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin in November, it was an immediate cult sensation. It’s not hard to see why.The plot, about a disgraced Swedish pop star (Lindy Larsson) trying to stage a comeback, and his protégé (Riah Knight), whose meteoric rise is inversely proportional to her mentor’s fall, is both sordid and deliriously enjoyable.What’s more, the five actors in the show can actually sing — a true rarity at German theaters — and they belt out Shaban’s rousing and cheeky numbers with gusto. For perhaps the first time I can remember, Broadway-caliber musical entertainment has come to a German dramatic stage. (It’s the only production from a Berlin repertory theater at the festival.)Cultural appropriation, political correctness, #MeToo debates and social media trolling are gently skewered in a production that is eye-popping and outrageously glam. At the same time, everything is so loopy and chock-full of schlock that there’s little danger of anyone’s taking offense at this vulgar and punchy musical burlesque. Although its themes are urgently contemporary, “Slippery Slope” handles them with a lightness and wit that are rare in theaters here. I’m glad that the Theatertreffen jury, a high-minded bunch of tastemakers if there ever was one, selected it alongside the festival’s more straight-faced entries. It’s a sign of their belief in theater’s ability to startle, to provoke and, yes, to entertain.TheatertreffenThrough May 22 at various theaters in Berlin, and at the Paketpostamt in Hamburg; berlinerfestspiele.de. More

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    Seth Meyers: Madison Cawthorn Is Gone, but Soon Forgotten

    “Hopefully, he’ll learn his lesson: Next time you get invited to a cocaine orgy, just go,” Meyers joked.Welcome to Best of Late Night, a rundown of the previous night’s highlights that lets you sleep — and lets us get paid to watch comedy. Here are the 50 best movies on Netflix right now.UninvitedMadison Cawthorn, a representative from North Carolina, lost his re-election bid in the state’s primary on Tuesday.“Hopefully, he’ll learn his lesson: Next time you get invited to a cocaine orgy, just go,” Seth Meyers joked.“You know, guys, politics is a rough-and-tumble business, and D.C. can be a cruel town. Just when you feel like you’re making headway in Congress, you’re unceremoniously forced out by a cruel and unforgiving system of cutthroats and back stabbers. And that’s exactly what happened last night when one of our nation’s most committed public servants, a camera-shy policy wonk who is laser-focused on serving the greater good, lost his bid for re-election. Oh, wait, I think I read that whole thing wrong. Oh, I read every word wrong. It was just Madison Cawthorn!” — SETH MEYERS“Oh, Madison, you may be gone, but soon you’ll be forgotten. At least now he’ll have more time for his other job, starring as the, I don’t know, bad-boy villain in a CW drama? He looks like he should be next to a locker threatening to tell Pacey about Dawson’s relationship with Joey.” — SETH MEYERSThe Punchiest Punchlines (Pennsylvania Primary Edition)“The results are in, and America has upheld its proud tradition of not knowing who won.” — STEPHEN COLBERT“Yeah, as of right now, Dr. Oz is in first place, David McCormick is in second, and the ‘Cash me outside’ girl is in third.” — JIMMY FALLON“Last night, McCormick’s chief strategist tweeted, ‘Based on how many uncounted absentee ballots there are and the margin by which Dave has won them so far, that’s why we are confident of victory,’ while an adviser for Dr. Oz pointed to uncounted ballots in Philadelphia and declared, ‘It’s a jump ball,’ which, I will remind you, is how they eventually decided Bush v. Gore.”— STEPHEN COLBERT“And while Dr. Oz is in the lead for the Republican nomination, more votes have to be counted because the race is still too close to call. This is kind of great. I mean, for once it’s nice to have a doctor waiting for us.” — JIMMY FALLONThe Bits Worth WatchingThe “Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers” co-stars John Mulaney and Andy Samberg guest-hosted Wednesday’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” as the host recovered from a second bout of Covid-19.What We’re Excited About on Thursday NightJoJo Siwa of “So You Think You Can Dance” will appear on Thursday’s “Tonight Show.”Also, Check This OutBilly Eichner filming a scene for “Bros.” “I’m so excited to finally be able to play a three-dimensional human being,” he said.Nicole Rivelli/Universal Pictures“Bros” is a studio-made rom-com written by and starring gay people that doesn’t recycle straight tropes. More

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    Review: In ‘Exception to the Rule,’ Detention Is Sinister

    Teenagers bond after school in a sort of classroom purgatory. And, where is the teacher?Detention is a drag. For the students in “Exception to the Rule,” it’s also emblematic. Whatever landed them in the after-school slammer, these teenagers were already trapped by forces far beyond their control.They barrel in one after another, their voices ricocheting around the Black Box Theater, where the Roundabout Underground production opened on Wednesday night. In a space no bigger than a classroom, the audience, sitting on three sides, is spitball distance from the bickering, the posturing and revelations of what lies beneath.There’s Mikayla (Amandla Jahava), who balks at her reputation as a bad girl while relishing the attention; the goofball Tommy (Malik Childs), who claims he’s “not tryna holla” at Mikayla while very obviously taking his shot; Abdul (Mister Fitzgerald), who appears guarded and pensive, preferring to keep his head down; Dayrin (Toney Goins), who is quick-tempered but eager for a laugh; and the sweet but tart Dasani (Claudia Logan), whom Dayrin mockingly calls Aquafina (as in the other bottled water brand).Then there’s Erika (MaYaa Boateng), otherwise known as “college-bound Erika,” whose late entrance comes as a shock to the bunch. Upwardly mobile and buttoned-up, she’s what Dayrin calls “the whitest person in a room full of Black people.” What could she have done wrong? And where is the teacher, anyway? They can’t go home until he signs them out.As for the show’s conceit, the playwright, Dave Harris, borrows from both “Waiting for Godot” and John Hughes’s classic portrait of detained and misunderstood youth, “The Breakfast Club.” It’s doubtful that the students’ savior will ever come, and discovering what they’re in for, and what that says about their stations in life, propels the story forward. Throw in a few romantic sparks between opposites, and it’s all a bit too familiar.But what appears at first like a mundane exercise in remedial discipline sours into something more sinister. The P.A. system starts to glitch, no one can tell the time, and bars slide over the window as the school goes into after-hours lockdown (sound is by Lee Kinney). Take away the desks, and the scuffed floors and cinder-block walls could just as easily be the setting of a prison (the set is by Reid Thompson and Kamil James). And the flicker of fluorescents and red glow of the hall suggest a kind of purgatory (lighting is by Cha See).As the kids clash and open up to one another, surreal elements creep up, appearing to represent the systems and obstacles — poverty, redlining, over policing — that can entrap many Black people in rooms like this, and worse. And the students’ back stories illustrate how they try to maneuver against such repression: Dasani has stolen food because she’s hungry; Mikayla made her own too-short skirt out of necessity. (“You think I got money for all that extra fabric? I look sexy on a budget.”)Under the direction of Miranda Haymon, the performances have an exaggerated quality that keeps the characters at a distance, despite the action being in your face. Each one has subtler, more grounded moments, but there’s a heightened sense to their personas that hints they’re stand-ins for broader ideas. Even as the even-keeled Erika, Boateng has an almost mechanical, doll-like carriage that evokes the concept of what it takes to escape social constraints rather than someone with one foot out the door.As in his previous work “Tambo & Bones,” Harris toys with stereotypes about Blackness in order to turn them inside out, pointing to the history, circumstances and motivations behind ways of thinking and behavior. It’s an exercise performed for the benefit of audiences presumed to be in need of instruction, and for some it will no doubt be an eye-opening lesson.But there’s a restlessness inherent to every schoolroom timeout, and to theatergoers being positioned as pupils. What happens once we can see people for who they are and then dig deeper into their contradictions? Understanding how lives are shaped by their limitations, as Harris details here with an ultimately pat sort of logic, is foundational to social justice. But in order to see that there’s more to people than what keeps them in margins, first we may have to set them free.Exception to the RuleThrough June 26 at the Black Box Theater at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theater, Manhattan; roundabouttheatre.org. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. More

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    Broadway Deal Over Rudin Shows Will Limit Nondisclosure Agreements

    Performers and stage managers were released from agreements they signed to work on four shows that were produced by Scott Rudin after their union, Actors’ Equity, filed complaints.Performers and stage managers will be released from the nondisclosure agreements they signed to work on four Broadway shows connected to the producer Scott Rudin under a settlement between the Broadway League and Actors’ Equity Association.The union said that the two parties had agreed that, going forward, producers would no longer require actors or stage managers to sign such agreements unless approved by the union, which might sign off on them in limited circumstances to protect things such as intellectual property or financial information. The League declined to comment.The settlement arises from a labor dispute that began last year, when Rudin, long one of the most powerful producers on Broadway, was facing accusations that he had behaved tyrannically toward a variety of people who worked with him, prompting an Equity stage manager to alert the union to the nondisclosure agreements required by some Rudin shows.Last spring, the union asked Rudin to release employees from the nondisclosure agreements, and in January, the union filed a pair of unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board regarding “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “West Side Story,” both of which were at the time produced by Rudin.The union argued that nondisclosure agreements illegally restricted worker rights. Its complaints were initially filed against Rudin and his general manager; in recognition of the fact that Rudin is not currently actively producing on Broadway or in Hollywood, and last year resigned as a member of the Broadway League, the complaints were expanded to include the Broadway League, which is a trade association representing producers.The union said it has since learned that nondisclosure agreements were being used by four recent Broadway productions, including not only “Mockingbird” and “West Side Story,” but also “The Iceman Cometh,” on which Rudin was a lead producer, and “The Lehman Trilogy,” on which Rudin was among the lead producers.The union withdrew the National Labor Relations Board complaints earlier this month, after reaching a settlement agreement with the League. According to a copy of the settlement agreement, the League has agreed to release from confidentiality, nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements any actor or stage manager who signed such an agreement with the four recent productions. (The agreement does not affect workers in Rudin’s office, many of whom were required to sign detailed nondisclosure agreements as part of their employment contracts.)The settlement comes at a time when nondisclosure agreements in many workplaces have come under increasing scrutiny.“Exploitation feeds off of isolation,” said Andrea Hoeschen, the union’s general counsel. “There is no stronger tool for an abuser or a harasser, no matter the setting, than silence.”It is not clear how frequently nondisclosure agreements are used on Broadway.“We intend to tell our members broadly about this settlement, and if they are asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement, we are going to push back on those as violative of our members’ rights,” Hoeschen said. More

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    Stephen Colbert Celebrates Sweden and Finland Applying to Join NATO

    Colbert called the move “good news” based on it being “bad news for Russia.”Welcome to Best of Late Night, a rundown of the previous night’s highlights that lets you sleep — and lets us get paid to watch comedy. Here are the 50 best movies on Netflix right now.The Swedish Are ComingLeaders from Sweden joined Finland in announcing plans to submit an application for NATO on Tuesday.Stephen Colbert called the announcement “good news” because it’s “bad news for Russia.”“Wow, first Finland, now Sweden. It seems like every day we’re learning about another country we could have sworn was already in NATO.” — SETH MEYERS“Finland and Sweden are very serious about making this official. They each left a toothbrush in NATO’s bathroom already.” — STEPHEN COLBERT“One of Russia’s main goals in invading Ukraine was to weaken NATO. Now, instead, the alliance is ‘on the brink of starting its largest potential expansion in nearly two decades.’ How ironic. It’s — it’s like that O. Henry story where the guy buys his wife combs for her hair, and she joins NATO.” — STEPHEN COLBERTThe Punchiest Punchlines (Primary Day Edition)“You can feel the electricity in the air because it is Primary Day all across America. Five states are choosing their party nominees for state and federal office: Pennsylvania, Oregon, Idaho, North Carolina and Kentucky. Or as election experts collectively know them, ‘POINCK.’” — STEPHEN COLBERT“Ah, yes, the excitement of midterm state primaries. Put the coffee on, honey, it’s gonna be an all-nighter.” — JAMES CORDEN“Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania all held primaries today, which, of course, is news to the vast majority of people in Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania.” — JAMES CORDEN“One of the most-watched races is in Pennsylvania, where Dr. Oz is trying to win the Republican nomination for senate. My apologies to Dr. Oz, but I can’t cross party lines — I’m a Dr. Phil guy through and through.” — JAMES CORDEN“Because there’s nothing more impressive than being called smart by a man who stared directly at an eclipse.” — STEPHEN COLBERT, referring to Dr. Oz’s touting his endorsement from Donald Trump.The Bits Worth WatchingJimmy Fallon and the “Tonight Show” guest Nick Jonas performed auto-tuned tracks based on topics such as “a Craigslist ad for a roommate.”What We’re Excited About on Wednesday NightSarah Silverman will appear on Wednesday’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”Also, Check This OutA commuter walking past Nick Cave’s video work, “Every One,” which plays every quarter hour and brings the suits to life in motion.Amr Alfiky for The New York TimesThe musician-artist Nick Cave’s “Each One” installation shows Soundsuits “that seem to be in motion, creating visual vortexes, variously spinning and rising or falling,” in the subway under One Times Square. More

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    A Central Park Birder Has a New TV Show

    Christian Cooper’s encounter in Central Park with a white woman who called 911 to falsely accuse him of threatening her spurred a national outcry. Now he is hosting a birding series for National Geographic.For years, Christian Cooper has studied the habits of Kirtland’s warblers, Swainson’s thrushes, Acadian flycatchers and the other birds he has spent countless hours searching for or observing.While Mr. Cooper, a resident of Manhattan, has watched birds all over the world, one of his most frequent haunts is his beloved Central Park, where more than 200 species, including, loons, egrets, falcons and owls, live or stop by during migratory flights.He is perhaps best known for his encounter there two years ago with a woman who called the police and falsely claimed that he was threatening her after Mr. Cooper asked that she keep her dog on a leash.Now, he is about to once again be in the public eye — this time on his own television show.On Monday, National Geographic announced a new series featuring Mr. Cooper, called “Extraordinary Birder,” that is expected to run on one of National Geographic’s channels or on Disney+. A premiere date has not been released.“Whether braving stormy seas in Alaska for puffins, trekking into rainforests in Puerto Rico for parrots, or scaling a bridge in Manhattan for a peregrine falcon,” National Geographic said in its announcement, “he does whatever it takes to learn about these extraordinary feathered creatures and show us the remarkable world in the sky above.”Mr. Cooper said that he first heard from National Geographic about the possibility of a show about a year and a half ago — “I was all in,” he said — and that he had completed six episodes of the show, traveling to deserts, cities, rainforests and the rural South.“I love spreading the gospel of birding,” he said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that he was looking forward to encouraging more people “to stop and watch and listen and really start appreciating the absolutely spectacular creatures that we have among us.”Mr. Cooper has loved birds since growing up on Long Island.Brittainy Newman/The New York TimesMr. Cooper, 59, has been a semipublic figure in various ways for decades. He served on the board of directors of GLAAD, formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. While an editor for Marvel Comics, he was credited with creating one of the first gay characters in the Star Trek comic universe.The confrontation in Central Park in 2020 thrust him into the public eye in a new way. Mr. Cooper took out his phone and began recording during a disagreement with the woman he encountered there, Amy Cooper. The video showed Ms. Cooper, who is not related to Mr. Cooper, making a 911 call and saying to him: “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”After Mr. Cooper’s sister posted the video to Twitter, it was viewed tens of millions of times. In the resulting furor, Ms. Cooper lost her job with the investment firm Franklin Templeton and was charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office with filing a false police report. Ms. Cooper sued Franklin Templeton in Federal District Court in Manhattan, saying the company defamed and discriminated against her. Franklin Templeton has asked that the suit be dismissed.Mr. Cooper emerged as a thoughtful, measured voice. He spoke publicly about what he called the “deep vein of racial bias” that runs through society, and he said there was no excuse for the racism inherent in Ms. Cooper making a false allegation against him.But he also distanced himself from the public pillorying of Ms. Cooper and declined to cooperate with prosecutors, who ended up asking a judge to dismiss the case against her after she completed a therapeutic program that included instruction about racial biases.Mr. Cooper has loved birds since growing up on Long Island and being struck at the age of 10 by the sight of red-winged blackbirds. He still listens for birdsong, wherever he is.“It adds another dimension to just being on the street,” he said. “It adds another dimension to how you exist in the world.”While making “Extraordinary Birder,” Mr. Cooper said, he added to his life’s list, glimpsing burrowing owls for the first time. “They are actually quite adorable,” he said.Mr. Cooper still goes regularly to Central Park, especially this time of year — he’s usually there around daybreak. On Tuesday morning he had been excited to see a Tennessee warbler, a difficult-to-spot bird with “a really distinctive, urgent cry” that he said sounds in part like “a machine gun.”“The second you hear that,” he said, “it’s like, oh boy, there’s a Tennessee around.” More

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    Maggie Peterson, a Memorable ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Guest, Dies at 81

    As Charlene Darling, a member of the musical Darling family, she appeared in five episodes, beginning with one in which her character became smitten with Mr. Griffith’s.Maggie Peterson, an actress who in a recurring role on the hit sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show” memorably developed an infatuation with Mr. Griffith’s character, Sheriff Andy Taylor, died on Sunday. She was 81.Her death was announced in a post on her Facebook page. The post did not say where she died, but her family said last month that she had been moved from her home in Las Vegas to a nursing facility in Colorado. The family also said that her health took a turn for the worse when her husband, the jazz musician Gus Mancuso, died of Alzheimer’s disease in December at 88.Ms. Peterson was seen on “The Odd Couple,” “Green Acres” and other television shows from 1964 to 1987. But she was probably best known for playing Charlene Darling, a member of the musical Darling family, in several episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.” (Her brothers were played by the members of the Dillards, a prominent bluegrass band; their father was played by the veteran character actor Denver Pyle.)Charlene and the other Darlings first appeared in the 1963 episode “The Darlings Are Coming,” in which the family visited Mayberry, the fictional North Carolina town where the show was set, and waited for her fiancé to arrive. Sheriff Taylor lets the family spend a night in the courthouse, and Charlene becomes smitten with the sheriff — an infatuation that ends abruptly when her fiancé arrives.Ms. Peterson was a successful singer before she became an actress.via IMDbThe Darlings returned to Mayberry four more times. In one episode, Charlene and her husband are looking for a young boy for their new baby girl to become engaged to. They pick Sheriff Taylor’s son, Opie, played by Ron Howard, but are eventually tricked into changing their minds.Ms. Peterson played a different character in a later episode of the show and two other characters in episodes of the “Andy Griffith Show” spinoffs “Mayberry R.F.D.” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” She also appeared in movies with Mr. Griffith and another “Andy Griffith Show” cast member, Don Knotts.She returned to the role of Charlene one last time in the 1986 TV movie “Return to Mayberry.”Margaret Ann Peterson was born on Jan. 10, 1941, in Greeley, Colo., to Arthur and Tressa Peterson. She was a successful singer before she became an actress, with a family vocal group called the Ja-Da Quartet (later known as Margaret Ann & the Ja-Da Quartet), which recorded an album for Warner Bros. Records in 1959, and the Ernie Mariani Trio.After her acting career ended, she worked for the Nevada Film Commission and, usually billed as Maggie Mancuso, was a location manager on “Casino” (1995) and other movies.Information on survivors was not immediately available.The Associated Press contributed reporting. More