Says Vicky Featherstone, artistic director of London’s Royal Court Theatre, the first in Britain to completely revamp its policies for handling harassment allegations, “What we’ve uncovered is absolutely monumental and I feel we’re further away than we’ve ever been from getting to a place of truth or change. It’s really distressing.” On the other hand, four out of five theatres in the UK have overhauled their policies, and some actors say they feel a real change in the audition and rehearsal rooms.
“The industry is experimenting with so-called immersive technologies including: virtual reality, where participants put on a headset to enter a computer-generated world; motion capture, which enables an actor to control a digital avatar through their own movement in real time; and projection mapping, where scenery is projected on to a physical environment and can be changed in the blink of an eye.”
“We are simultaneously more connected than we ever have been and more disconnected. The way we communicate is through screens, which are essentially prosceniums” like the traditional stage that separates the actors from the audience, says Zach Morris. “When we seek culture, perhaps we want to be able to engage in it in a way that doesn’t have a membrane between us and it.”
What it’s like to go to the theatre and see a play about the Constitution right now: “The play’s concerns could hardly have felt more viscerally urgent. In the row behind me, a woman wept deep, grieving tears — a kind of crying so suffused with pain that we’re not used to hearing it in public, even in a darkened theater. But this is not an ordinary time.”
Cynthia Rider, who has been with the festival since 2013, says the board just offered to renew her contract, and she declined, “adding that the near-simultaneous departure with Rauch will give the festival ‘new eyes, with lots of momentum’ for upcoming challenges, especially around financial loss from wildfire smoke.”
The book is designed to avoid stereotypes – and give actors a better chance at roles outside of the terrorist, gang member, or other confining (or lazily cast) roles. “This project is special, as we are often encouraged to pick a character close to ourself for audition. But it is hard to find pieces, so we’re always having to play something that isn’t true to us.”
Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre cleaned up at the awards, which – though they’re held in London – celebrate achievement in regional theatre.
Has anything changed for Asians and other people of color in the theatre and movie world? Aasif Mandvi: “When you tell a story in Hollywood about brown people or black people or any people of color, it’s got to an extraordinary story. It’s got to be the worst thing or the best thing. It’s got to be like, [film trailer voice] “He was born a free man and then he was sold into slavery, and then he got onto a game show and won a million dollars. It’s 12 Years a Slumdog Millionaire!” It’s got to be Crazy Rich Asians, it can’t just be Asians, you know?”
Mary John was part of the nascent regional theatre movement, which was led in large part by women: Margo Jones opened Theatre ’47 in Dallas in 1947, Nina Vance opened Houston’s Alley Theatre that same year. And in Washington, D.C., Zelda Fichandler co-founded Arena Stage in 1950. Pat Brown, who would later become the Alley’s second artistic director and a founder of Theatre Communications Group, started the now defunct Magnolia Theatre in Long Beach, Calif., in 1954. For the next 15 years many women like them would work to bring to life a new vision of regional theatre in a country that still mostly looked to New York City,
The company announced Thursday that acclaimed Canadian director Weyni Mengesha will become its artistic director, starting in January. Paired with the hiring of UK-based arts administrator Emma Stenning as Soulpepper’s new executive director in August, Toronto’s largest not-for-profit theatre company will now be led by two women after a year rocked by legal and internal discord.
Some theatres have moved away from education and solely into community engagement. How are “education” and “community engagement” defined by each theatre? What are the similarities and differences between these two areas of focus? Is there collaboration across departments in this work? There has been growing attention to these issues in recent years, and we were interested in collecting some stories and exploring different models and approaches to this work.
“… And so I like to think of myself as an independent producer as opposed to a commercial producer,” says Sonia Friedman, who was spoiled by her time working “in the subsidised sector” (at the National Theatre).
For a New Yorker, the real surprise was to be found in the far-flung spaces — like the Den — that make up Chicago’s “storefront” theater movement. Especially in the northern part of the city, these theaters have colonized churches and renovated restaurants and turned showrooms into show rooms. Some house an audience of hundreds, some just a handful.
“It was just last season when theater lovers were wringing their collective hands as big brand musicals descended on Times Square … No more. In a turnabout no one on Broadway expected, this season is rich with drama — ambitious, challenging, risky work, most of it new and most of it American.” Says one producer, “It’s no accident that all these plays are happening now. It’s how artists react to what’s happening in the culture.”
“[The city government] will give grants to Off Broadway and other small theaters to install software that allows patrons to follow along with low-light smartphones and tablets. … The software, using voice recognition, can provide closed captioning of the spoken word, or audio description of stage action, on users’ mobile devices.”
“How often is it the case that a show made and performed in a theatre genuinely has an impact on the building and the way it operates?” Lyn Gardner remembers one very notable case, when the Battersea Arts Centre hosted Punchdrunk’s The Masque of the Red Death a decade ago. “If this happened more often, would the culture of the building change? … It’s a question that is particularly pertinent when considering work made by, and with, the community.”
For its first five seasons, the Ubuntu Theater Project in Oakland sold tickets at $15 to $45 a seat, with some pay-what-you-wish seats available for low-income audience members at the door. “But all that wasn’t inclusive — or radical — enough for Ubuntu. So last summer, the theatre adopted a pay-as-you-can subscription model, guaranteeing tickets to its seven shows for a single amount named by the ticketholder.” Says marketing director Simone Finney, “This is what we’re about as a company, and if we were gonna fail, we should fail on things that are ideologically exciting.”
“The whole idea that you have a medium that is based on rapid response, and yet has lack of nuance built into its form, is very difficult, and is leading to a very binary culture, which I think makes it difficult to be truthful in art. I think that for a writer, you have to be constantly aware of how unbinary and complex every issue is, so the loss of nuance generally I think is quite dangerous.”
If you think about it, the doctor- or surgeon-patient encounter is like improv, requiring two characters, in role, to build a scene together. Improvisers must think creatively and adapt in the moment. In the same way, health professionals must learn to respond creatively and with mental agility in rapidly changing circumstances, under time pressure, sometimes in life-and-death situations — while maintaining their professional composure.
At a time when internet bookings were beginning to become more popular, here was a way to get people to come to the theatre box office to buy tickets. Who doesn’t like a queue outside the theatre to make a show look popular? Also, having people arrive early in the day to buy tickets helps you shift a few extra when you’re not quite as busy as you would like. Many’s the time a box office will sell beyond the allocation of day seats to fill a draughty stalls.
Surveying the acres of white faces (and mostly greying or balding heads) in the West End, it is hardly surprising that theatres have traditionally deliberately catered to them. But what happens if you put on a show that doesn’t only speak to them? You might get a different sort of audience.
After years of money troubles and more than one near-collapse, the city’s flagship non-profit stage company recruited a new producing artistic director and then took 16 months off, presenting only a few imported events. Now that new boss, Paige Price, has gotten the outstanding $1 million in debt paid off and rearranged operations, and next week PTC returns to main-stage productions with Lynn Nottage’s Sweat. Will the audience return? And what comes afterward?
OSF declined to name any of the jobs or people that were let go, but issued a statement saying “This summer’s smoke and air quality issues (led) to significant financial losses … These events renewed and reinvigorated our continual efforts to analyze our systems and sustainability … We have committed ourselves to updating our processes and realigning our organization, ensuring we identify every way possible to place OSF on a stable path that will empower us to continue to serve the community.”
For his current production — a present-day take on the van Eycks’ Ghent Altarpiece — Milo Rau, artistic director of NTGent in Belgium, placed a classified ad looking for jihadists. He got no takers, but he did get hate mail and an international media furor. Once the piece got onstage, though, the praise was warm and widespread — the usual pattern with Rau’s work. “I’ve had scandals before a premiere,” he says, “but never afterward.”
The criticism was led by theater major Bridgett Martinez, who had auditioned for Maria but was cast as understudy for the role. “If they didn’t have this diverse cast in mind, and they didn’t think that we as the Latino students could fulfill these lead roles, then why would they continue on with the show in the first place?” So they didn’t. Once Fox News and similar outlets picked up the story, discussion of the situation spread well beyond the university.
Why? Because “Royal” might make them seem elitist. Said (R)NT artistic director Rufus Norris, “This country is still very class divided and anything that adds to that perception, that this place is not open to everybody, could be a downfall. I fear that for some people that [the ‘Royal’ prefix] adds to that perception.”
The “Mimi” Award “is presented biennially to an American playwright whose body of work has made significant contributions to the American theatre.” Parks, who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Topdog/Underdog, joins a list of laureates that includes Tony Kushner, Lynn Nottage, David Henry Hwang, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Sarah Ruhl.
The play has racked up productions in 30 languages and 45 countries in its 24-year history. “What’s so interesting is that, like certain plays by Pinter, perhaps, the play adapts itself to its actors, so it doesn’t seem to matter if you cast it with men in their 60s or their 30s,” says Christopher Hampton, who translated Reza’s French-language script into English.” (While the play’s three characters were originally written as male, “Art” has been performed by women as well.) Elisabeth Vincentelli talks with artists who’ve worked on or in the play about how the piece and the times adapt to each other.
In What the Constitution Means to Me, playwright and performer Heidi Schreck gives the speech she used to give as a high school debater, only to interrupt herself and speak as the adult Schreck about how the U.S. has failed to live up to the ideals in the Constitution and where the document itself falls short. She then ends the performance by debating a current high school debate champion about whether we should keep the Constitution or tear it up and start over. In a Q&A with Slate‘s Sam Adams, Schreck talks about how and why she does it.