“We tell stories. As directors, we stand beside speakers with narratives other than our own and ask them to tell us what they see so we can build a telling of that narrative with sufficient doors and windows for an audience of wild multiplicity to all walk inside a shared moment of human condition. Samuel Johnson said that the human mind, once expanded by a new idea, does not retract to its original size. Nor, I think, does the heart. And all I know to do right now is the work of expanding the heart.”
Cherry Jones went onstage with a banana peel stuck to her dress. A sick Jefferson Mays threw up onstage and the director asked him to keep it in. John Leguizamo had to improvise after a propmaster forgot a key prop, only to have Ben Brantley scolded him in print for not knowing his lines.
Mark Lockyer writes about the horrific experience of developing bipolar disorder (and self-medicating with alcohol) while playing Mercutio in a run of Romeo and Juliet at Stratford in 1995.
“Although the notion may sound like a no-brainer – presenting plays in Washington about the effect of decisions reached in the White House or on Capitol Hill – in actuality, there has long been a reluctance on the parts of many theaters here to concentrate too much on political topics.” Now the District’s leading resident theater is aiming to change that.
“They are bald, blue and earless. They do not talk. They play with their food (and their paint), perform wild music on instruments of their own devising and are the centerpiece of an international entertainment empire with 550 full- and part-time employees and annual revenues of $100 million. But perhaps the most striking thing about the men of Blue Man Group … is how comprehensively they have moved from the fringes to the mainstream, and beyond.
In May, Jacob Padrón launched The Sol Project to help develop Latino/a theater artists and get their work produced at major Off-Broadway and regional companies. Laura Collins-Hughes looks at how, now that it’s up and running (the first of Sol’s 12 plays is already in previews), the Project works.
The verdict is that the musical’s creators used, without permission, substantial portions of an unpublished autobiography by Tommy DeVito, a founding member of the group The Four Seasons. The jury held that 10% of the show’s success is attributed to the unauthorized material – which could lead to a big cash award to DeVito’s widow.
“It’s an imaginative, empathetic exercise, and we could probably all do with a little bit of that. Particularly in this time of social media and polarisation and fake news stories and who we choose to follow making us more extreme. We’re growing further apart. Here is one of the few places we actually have a communal, social experience. Now, more than ever, theatre has not just a possible role but an obligation to preserve these pockets of unmediated, unpoliticised, social, communal, empathetic works.”
The show grossed $3.3 million in the week. “It is not clear how many seats “Hamilton” sold for a $998 box office price, but the show’s high average paid admission last week — $303, which is also a Broadway record — suggests that a substantial number of seats were sold for a premium ( these are the official box office prices — many people pay more buying tickets from resellers).”
Basically: “Given our gendered views on who makes clothing and how much their time is worth, it is telling that in the female dominated, garment-based field of costume design, designers are expected to act not only as designer, but also (still) as laborer.”
The electrical outage was almost perfectly times to disrupt theatre performances Friday night. The power went out just after 7 PM and didn’t go back on until after 9.
Never do this, but: “More students wanted in. So we added a crew of dancer-mimes who did a lot of incongruous vogueing and wore comedy/tragedy masks to provide visual commentary, notably as opposing cheering sections during a marital karate battle between Sarah and Harry. An extended nightclub-set dance sequence to the DeBarge classic ‘Rhythm of the Night’ proved a lively lead-in for the brutal Sondheim showstopper, ‘Ladies Who Lunch.'”
The university asked them to reapply for their current positions at a pay cut of 25-45 percent. “The laid-off UCSD employees—some of whom have worked at UCSD and the Playhouse for up to 30 years—are concerned for their futures. They say the nine-month arrangement, as well as a demotion in pay grade, will reduce their annual incomes severely, as well as their pension and retirement benefits.”
Don’t let the Hamilton cast stand alone, this editorial says: “We can choose in this moment to speak, to use our words and take a stand. And it is not only in our lives as private citizens that this work can be done. Art can be activism. And theatres can take a stand and be leaders in their communities, both modeling equity, diversity, and inclusion and speaking out about it.”
Yukio Ninagawa “founded Saitama Gold Theater and held an open audition for people aged 55 and over, from whom he chose 48 for the troupe — there are now 38, with an average age of 77. Although he conceived it to stage one particular work, word of the troupe spread and they soon found themselves doing more shows and earning praise from critics, both domestically and abroad.”
Rylance plays ping-pong; Beale runs through his entire part; Dominic Cooper east lots of cheese; Duff is too superstitious (and embarrassed) to tell us what she does.
Susan Stroman: “For somebody like me who’s done The Scottsboro Boys, it’s a space to start a conversation.”
Matthew Broderick: “We’re now talking about yet another nonissue. … It’s like [Trump] flashes a little shiny paper in front of everybody and any bit of bad news gets forgotten.”
Andrea Martin: “‘A safe place.’ Not if Patti LuPone’s onstage!”
To judge from newspaper reports of the time, audience behavior was more like what you get at a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Jesse Green considers how theater has been a refuge from generations of high school bullies, the one public setting where he feels safe holding his husband’s hand, and, these days, a place where right-thinking liberals can stay secure in their bubble. However, Green reminds us, Peter Brook did not title his seminal book The Safe Space …
“‘People said, ‘Yeah, yeah, you want to give them crayons. You’ve got acting classes?’ recalls Robbins of the launch of the Actors Gang Prison Project. ‘We’re like, ‘No, we don’t want anyone to be an actor. There’s too much unemployment in that. It’s about changing behavior.'”
“The very presence of Mr. Pence — whose views on immigration, like those of Mr. Trump, are anything but celebratory — at this particular show (one previously embraced by the Obamas and Clintons) would seem to signal that an unspoken debate was going on that night. In that case, wasn’t Mr. Dixon belaboring the obvious in delivering the statement prepared by him and his associates (including Mr. Miranda)? Was what he said a condescending equivalent of supertitles for the inferentially challenged?”
Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times: “Artists would be better served to channel the anger and disgust they feel into their work. Let dissent inflame their imaginations. Theater practitioners and patrons — in other words, citizens — would be advised to expand the focus of their outrage.”
Let’s face it, most people don’t read any plays at all before high school. “To introduce teens to plays on the page with Shakespeare is akin to teaching calculus to students before they’ve learned algebra, or even multiplication.”
Howard Sherman: “There will be more plays – and poems and books and movies and perhaps even operas and symphonies – about the new America that looms. The America that was revealed by a rash of racist and misogynist attacks in the past week, has been present all along in some quarters. It has now been given leave to emerge based on a perception that law enforcement may be less concerned.”
Like the “Trump Starbucks” thing organized to buy punish Starbucks by buying coffee and asking for it to be under the name Trump, this appears to be going well. “Finally, there were, naturally, a handful of ‘Hamilton’-related Joe Biden memes that cropped up to join the Twitter fray.”
“Stage acting has long been a poorly paid profession, and it is not unusual for union members to agitate for higher wages. But Off Broadway performers said their campaign this time was different because their wages had become increasingly unacceptable – in most cases, Off Broadway actors are paid no more than $593 a week, in roles that generally last only a few weeks, and they have to pay 10 percent to an agent, 2.25 percent to their union, and about 30 percent in taxes, leaving them with take-home pay that does not, they say, cover the cost of living in New York.”
“In the past, graduate companies kept body and soul together on breadcrumbs for maybe eight to 10 years, always with the hope that if you were good enough you would eventually secure more regular funding. That expectation now seems to have gone.”
It’s the one Shakespearean lead that he resisted for years – “I don’t want to do anything that feels pedestrian or obvious,” he said. Now he’s finally playing the role – Off-Broadway, opposite Daniel Craig – and here he talks about why. (For one thing, the producer spent two years wooing him.)
Washington, DC’s Theater J has gone through more than a little turmoil over what it has presented in recent years; even so, it’s not where you’d expect to see Lucas Hnath’s play about a conflicted megachurch. Adam Immerwahr, the company’s (new-ish) artistic director, explains why he’s producing The Christians and how he’s made over DC’s Jewish Community Center into a megachurch.
“Everywhere you turn there’s a stage luminary. (Look, there’s Robert Morse!) All these familiar faces provide a welcome distraction from the reality that this three-act farce (performed with two intermissions) is a big snore.”