THEATRE: U.S. and Canada. Political events on both sides of the 49th parallel--the threatened evisceration of the National Endowment for the Arts by the conservative-controlled U.S. Congress and the unsuccessful but culturally charged push by Quebec for independence from Canada--cast shadows of discord and apprehension on the arts in North America during 1995. Theatre in the U.S. and Canada, labouring to rise above economic and artistic uncertainties, offered audiences a mix of the tried-and-true and the cautiously innovative. In the U.S. it was a year with something for everyone. Impoverished by the closure of Tony Kushner's acclaimed sociopolitical epic Angels in America (which continued to draw record audiences in a flurry of regional productions and on national tour), Broadway turned its attention to what it does best: the dispensation of glamour. Propelled by a small tornado of publicity, a bevy of female stars of a certain age returned to the New York stage, some in creaky vehicles that depended for survival entirely on the legendary leading ladies' marquee power. Julie Andrews, who last had appeared on Broadway as Guenevere in Camelot in 1961, returned in the sex-reversed title role of Victor/Victoria, a noisy, charmless musical directed by her husband, Blake Edwards, and based on his 1982 film. Comedienne Carol Burnett chose a new play, Ken Ludwig's less-than-riotous farce Moon over Buffalo, for her comeback. Carol Channing, who at age 74 claimed to have played the role of Dolly Levi some 4,500 times, was at it again in a revival of Hello, Dolly! In the unusual case of a sellout hit drama on Broadway, Zoe Caldwell earned critical adulation (and a $1 million advance before previews began) in the role of diva Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's Master Class. Off-Broadway, acting doyenne Uta Hagen offered a rare appearance as a scarifying psychoanalyst in Nicholas Wright's psychodrama Mrs. Klein. Star power also was the driving force behind a number of New York productions, including the Public Theater's expensive shift from Central Park to Broadway of George C. Wolfe's Afro-Caribbean-flavoured The Tempest, with the classically trained British actor (and TV icon) Patrick Stewart as a howlingly anguished Prospero, and the arrival in New York City of film actor and writer Steve Martin's ingenious 1993 comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile, under the direction of Randall Arney, who had helmed the piece's premiere at his own Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. Brian Dennehy starred with Rufus Sewell in a flawed revival of Translations by the Irish playwright Brian Friel. (See BIOGRAPHIES.) Veteran theatre, film, and television writer Horton Foote (in a surprise upset over McNally, whose gay-themed Love! Valour! Compassion! garnered wide attention) won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his oblique, resolutely uneventful drama The Young Man from Atlanta, which debuted at New York City's Signature Theatre Company. The Signature, which devoted each season to the work of a different playwright, moved on in the fall to the plays of Adrienne Kennedy, beginning with the justly celebrated-but-seldom-produced writer's haunting 1964 phantasmagoria Funnyhouse of a Negro. Love! Valour! Compassion! did go on to win the 1995 Tony award for best play, however. Tonys also went to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard (best musical, best book, and best score) and to its star, Glenn Close (see BIOGRAPHIES), for her portrayal of the aging movie star Norma Desmond. Other acting awards went to Ralph Fiennes (leading actor in a play) for Hamlet, Cherry Jones (leading actress in a play) for her triumph as the loveless spinster in the revival of The Heiress, and Matthew Broderick (leading actor in a musical) in the rousing revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Channing received a lifetime achievement award. The Tony for best regional theatre went to the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn. In the year in which the O.J. Simpson trial became a media obsession, theatres across the U.S. offered a number of resonant treatments of racial issues. In January Chicago's Goodman Theatre presented the world premiere of August Wilson's Seven Guitars. The play, a tragicomic study of a blues musician and his friends in 1948 Pittsburgh, Pa., went on to Boston and San Francisco in preparation for its Broadway opening in 1996. At California's Sacramento Theatre Company, Uncle Bends: a home-cooked negro narrative by Bob Devin Jones fleshed out cultural symbols like Aunt Jemima; at Connecticut's Hartford Stage Company, Robert Alexander's I Ain't Yo' Uncle (originally scripted for the San Francisco Mime Troupe) imagined a spirited confrontation between Hartford's own Harriet Beecher Stowe and the characters she indelibly imprinted on black history; Alexander's Servant of the People, a biographical drama about Huey P. Newton staged in Atlanta, Ga., St. Louis, Mo., and Oakland, Calif., was one of several plays about the controversial Black Panther leader. Many theatres reached into the historic repertoire of African-American plays for pertinent material: the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minn., reassessed Theodore Ward's Federal Theatre Project drama Big White Fog, about Marcus Garvey's ill-fated back-to-Africa movement, seldom seen since its landmark debut in 1938; Douglas Turner Ward's 1965 fable Day of Absence, in which life in a small Southern town grinds to a halt when blacks go on strike, was mounted in Baltimore, Md., by Center Stage. Institutional theatres across the country continued to serve as a testing ground for emerging playwrights and as the locus of vigorous new work by established writers. Among the promising young American playwrights who came into their own with major new works were Octavio Solis, whose Santos & Santos, a powder-keg drama about the downfall of an immigrant family, attracted youthful and ethnically diverse audiences at the Dallas (Texas) Theater Center; and Chay Yew, whose A Language of Their Own at New York's Public Theater adventurously examined the relationship of identity and language. Sondheim took a break from the musical form to indulge his other obsession--esoteric puzzles--by coauthoring (with familiar collaborator George Furth) an intricate comedy thriller, The Doctor Is Out, which premiered at San Diego, Calif.'s Old Globe Theatre. Garland Wright capped his farewell season as artistic director of the Guthrie Theater with an adaptation of a Franz Kafka novel titled K: Impressions of "The Trial," which proved a tour de force of precision, timing, and clarity. With the British megamusical firmly ensconced as a staple of Broadway and the commercial touring circuit, it was refreshing to witness a steady flow of important new plays from British writers as well. On the heels of a Stoppard doubleheader--the philosophical spy thriller Hapgood and the expansive historical romance Arcadia--Lincoln Center Theater offered Hare's rigorously intelligent Racing Demon, in which the internecine squabbles of a group of Anglican clerics reflect the unsettled state of English religious life. Moonlight, Pinter's first full-length play since 1978, was given a luminous production by director Karel Reisz at New York's Roundabout Theater. New Haven, Conn.'s Yale Repertory Theatre offered the U.S. debut of David Edgar's Pentecost, a baroque attack on Eurosupremacy that won the London ES award. In January legendary producer-director George Abbott died at the age of 107. Other theatrical luminaries lost during the year included actress Vivian Blaine, playwright John Patrick, and actor David Wayne. (See OBITUARIES.) In Canada diminishing government and corporate support sent theatres scurrying in several directions. Winnipeg's venerable Manitoba Theatre Centre ensured the sellout of its season subscriptions by programming a production of Hamlet starring the solidly wooden but wildly popular film actor Keanu Reeves. Toronto's Harbourfront Centre turned to the East, serving as host to a grand-scale nine-week exposition called "Today's Japan," in which more than 200 Japanese artists brought theatre, dance, music, visual arts, and film to the city. Distressed by the constraints of reduced rehearsal periods--often as little as two and a half weeks--creative Toronto companies such as Da Da Kamera and Sound Image Theatre announced that they would take up the model of Robert Lepage's Quebec-based Ex Machina, which developed works over long periods, perhaps several years, and invited audiences in periodically during the works' development. Lepage, the French-Canadian experimentalist known for his audacious culture-bridging vision and arresting visual style, marked the theatrical year with an authentic masterwork. The director's project on the theme of Hiroshima, titled The Seven Streams of the River Ota, made its Canadian debut at the "Today's Japan" festival after some three years of development and in-progress performances at nine international sites, including Tokyo. It was expected in the U.S. at the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Academy of Music in late 1996. With its intermingling of 30-odd characters (portrayed by a cast of 10) and its sweep across continents, generations, and cultures, The River Ota was a monumental, impressionistic comment on the bombing of Japan, which the play connects to two other of the century's formidable calamities: the Jewish Holocaust and the AIDS epidemic. Clocking in at more than five hours (with more material to come, according to Lepage), the play made dazzling use of film and sound and leavened its pageantlike seriousness with episodes of sly, hip humour. It was Lepage's most ambitious work in a decade, surpassing even his epic about Canadian expansion, The Dragon's Trilogy, in its emotional impact and theatricality. (JIM O'QUINN) This updates the article theatre, history of. Physical. Evidence was offered in 1995 for a possible evolutionary radiation of primates, near the beginning of the Pliocene (i.e., roughly four million to five million years ago), that were bipedal but more apelike than human in other anatomic features. Tim White (see BIOGRAPHIES) of the University of California, Berkeley, who in 1994 had announced Australopithecus ramidus as a newly discovered species of hominid, renamed that fossil Ardipithecus ramidus. The change in genus was based on additional fossil discoveries indicating that the primate, although it walked on two feet, had dentition more like that of chimpanzees than australopithecines. The concept of a new genus that is bipedal but not a hominid generated debate among the experts. Meave Leakey of the National Museums of Kenya and colleagues announced a new find from that country, named Australopithecus anamensis, that was bipedal but, again, had apelike teeth. It was perhaps significant that both it and A. ramidus evidently once lived in a forest or woodland environment in East Africa more than four million years ago. Other clues came from South African fossil bones that were excavated in 1980 but only recently analyzed. Phillip Tobias and Ronald Clarke of the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, described the fossils as the first connected foot bones ever found of a presumed australopithecine (nicknamed "Little Foot"). The biped, which may have lived as early as 3.5 million years ago, had a humanlike ankle and heel but apelike toes, as observed in the articulation of the big toe. The new finds and interpretations may indicate that the capacity for upright walking had selective value for more than the direct human ancestral line. Because there will never be enough fossil material from any epoch to settle all questions concerning relationships, scientists have pursued complementary approaches. One major technique, molecular dating, is based on the assumption that the degree of difference in the sequences of noncoding DNA (DNA that does not specify functional proteins) of modern species can be directly translated into years since the species diverged from a common ancestor. The validity of the assumption depends on the regularity of the mutation rate of the noncoding DNA, the so-called molecular clock. During the year population geneticist Wen-Hsiung Li of General Hospital of PLA, Beijing (Peking), showed from an analysis of many different sequences of DNA that mutation rate varies by species. For example, New World monkeys have a slightly faster rate than Old World monkeys and twice the rate of humans. Such variance of the molecular clock between species had interesting implications in the calculation of taxonomic relationships. Ongoing analysis of DNA sequences for different human populations, enhanced by the application of sophisticated statistical techniques, yielded evidence for population contractions and expansions over the last 200,000 years. One result is support for the "weak Garden of Eden" model promoted in the early 1990s by Alan Rogers of the University of Utah and Henry Harpending of Pennsylvania State University. It suggests that the original modern human population--not large to begin with--split into separate populations as it spread slowly over the Old World starting about 100,000 years ago. Those populations remained small (and perhaps dangerously close to extinction) for tens of thousands of years until finally, between 80,000 and 30,000 years ago, they rapidly expanded. The model best explained the small amount of genetic diversity seen in modern human populations. Looking at nuclear DNA, Maryellen Ruvolo of Harvard University showed that two lowland gorillas from the same forest are more genetically diverse than two humans from separate continents. All this supported the theory that whereas all humans ultimately descend from Homo erectus, they have a much more recent common ancestry. An intriguing report of early human behaviour came from John Yellen of the U.S. National Science Foundation and co-workers, who discovered carved bone points resembling harpoons at a site in Zaire at least 75,000 years old. The sophistication of the tools, implying truly modern human activity, would not be seen in Europe for about another 50,000 years. Evidence presented in 1994 from a redating of fossils from Java that human ancestors left Africa far earlier than a million years ago was strengthened by the dating of an H. erectus mandible from Dmanisi, Georgia, at 1.8 million years and the discovery of 1.9 million-year-old hominid bones and stone tools, apparently from a species more primitive than H. erectus, in a cave in central China. In addition, the date for the earliest known occurrence of hominids in Europe was pushed back about 300,000 years to at least 780,000 years ago by the discovery of fossil bones and tools in a cave in northern Spain. Initial descriptions of the fossil hominids at the site indicate similarities to some H. erectus forms from Africa but also enough differences to require a new species designation. The discovery, added to other findings, had some experts suggesting that H. erectus be split into at least two species. (HERMANN K. BLEIBTREU)

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