“I think this new crowd have found ways of producing, ways of finding spaces and turning them into theatres that is unprecedented. They’ve got lots of things to say, they say it in all sorts of different ways, and they find all sorts of ways of saying it.”
“The important thing is: what do we do about that? Because otherwise we lose all these interesting characters like Richard Burton and Richard Harris, and playwrights like John Osborne who were writing working-class stories. What happens to that? Does that just go? Or do we go back to the 30s when you had incredibly posh people trying to do cockney accents?”
“The split generally falls along professional lines. If most of a show’s performers are Equity (union) actors, that’s a Hayes show. If they aren’t, it’s a Helen, regardless of theater. Got it? … Illustrating how the ‘Helen’ and ‘Hayes’ distinctions really go show by show, not theater by theater, is the case of Arena Stage.”
“The town is so crowded … that even voices from the small independent sector have begun to wonder aloud whether the city is oversaturated. Washington also teems with competition for audiences increasingly lured by a burgeoning restaurant scene and the cyber circus of online diversions. All this adds to the special pressure faced by big troupes: They have the most seats to sell, night after night.”
“In Hedwig’s story, I found a message of resilience and self-expression. Keep going, the film screamed at me. Let your freak flag fly, no matter how much shit people throw at you. This experience was shared by millions of queer and trans kids around the world, for whom the movie and stage show became a kind of modern Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“Bucking Broadway’s trend,” the musical’s creators – all children of Jewish immigrants, and so no strangers to discrimination themselves – “cast African-Americans to play ‘full-fledged citizens who were portrayed equitably with their white colleagues’.” And they cast a Japanese-American as the ingenue – in 1944.
“It empowers both the writer and theater to take risks to create the stories not being written. In addition, writing for a particular community––if you truly honor that audience’s needs––produces plays that are more specific, which in fact makes them more universal and ready for other productions elsewhere in the country.”
A longtime resident who’d never seen the century-old New Year’s Day spectacle goes behind the scenes with one of the old-line South Philly clubs, meets the new brigades that draw from the city’s growing population of art-minded Millennials, and remarks on some of the parade’s worryingly retrograde elements. (Then she hits the after-party on Two Street.)
“The 78-year-old had just begun his lines at the start of the Shakespearean tragedy when he fainted, falling off a raised platform with his crown rolling to a halt at the front of stage.” After being examined by a doctor in the audience and 20 minutes of rest, Blessed returned to the stage, apologized, and started over again.
“How do you tell somebody who’s going to spend anywhere from $175 to $500 or more, per ticket, for a show, how do you tell them ‘It’s so-so, but you can’t miss this performance’? … Unless you come out of the theater saying ‘I have to tell everybody I know they must see this show,’ the show is going to die.”
Prewar theaters “had a greater capacity at the lower price levels than at the higher, a contrast to today, where there are very few cheap seats and they are all at the very back or the very front. … Seat prices have been levelled up rather than down on the grounds that all enjoy an uninterrupted view of the actor.”
“I’ve started to suspect that occasional theatregoers want to engage with a new play sooner than I previously thought and stay engaged for a longer time. They’d like more information before they see a show. They want more things to read and watch afterward. They want to hear from the director and the playwright and the designers, possibly over drinks.”
“Stephen Sondheim is the antibody of the blockbuster, the antithesis of mass taste. He writes for questing minds, disdaining sunshine, inhabiting the deep, dark woods of moral ambiguity. At his most challenging, in Sweeney Todd, he elicits our sympathies for cannibalism. At his gloomiest, in Company, he seems to conclude that man’s fate is always to be alone. Sondheim is not an easy date, never a sell-out.”
“There has been a shift of opinion against playwriting, in favour of collective methods of theatre. The very activity of playwriting has been attacked as individualistic, undemocratic and even immoral,” playwright David Edgar recently declared. Lyn Gardner begs to differ: “But even if what Edgar is saying is just a provocation, I’m really not sure that talking about an ‘anti-writer trend’ is either true or helpful.”