Harvey Fierstein: “I’ve heard that more tickets are sold on Broadway in a year than are sold to all the city’s major sports team events combined. Wouldn’t it be great if the last seven minutes of the news every night was dedicated to theater?”
Broadway audiences are used to perfectly abled bodies, as are reviewers, which might be why some reviewers are having a hard time with Madison Ferris’ Laura. But, despite a few Off-Broadway and other companies having better representation, on Broadway, actors with visible disabilities “remain a rare occurrence, and as a result Broadway remains unrepresentative of the full range of humanity.”
The Austrian playwright and novelist wrote a new play (“an attack on the Trump aesthetic: the gold, the plush furniture”) for the times. It’s coming to NY, and here’s the description, from the play’s translator: “This seer with bleeding eyes sends Trump through a shattered looking glass where Jelinek examines him through the distorted mirrors of the heroes of Western culture: from Oedipus to Abraham, Isaac and Jesus, to Martin Heidegger, who attempted to lead the Führer.”
One director says that “The industry needs to begin addressing it very seriously, so that we all have decent guidelines, and so that performers who do have a history of mental health issues and may enter a crisis during the time they’re spending with you have some recourse.”
“Since the election, I have been urgently seeking direction from dramatists in the way a cardiac patient might turn to nutrition and meditation after a heart attack. I have been thinking not just of Chekhov but of Harold Pinter, who is an even better guide to Trump’s brutal relativism and canny opportunism. Pinter’s plays throw into relief the territorial nature of human beings — the way reality, both present and past, is a turf war in which the will to dominate supersedes all other considerations.”
Perloff, who will leave after the end of next season, plans to write and direct on a freelance basis. One of the few women leaders in the still male-dominated American theater, the indefatigable Perloff first came to the 50-year-old ACT back in 1992 when the theater was in disarray both physically, in terms of the massive earthquake damage at the Geary, and in terms of its artistic reputation, which had stumbled in the wake of the volatile Bill Ball era.
The Director of Engagement at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester writes about how she and her colleagues developed their two-years-and-running project, You,The Audience.
“With the addition of Jesse to the already formidable theater team led by theater editor Scott Heller, The Times continues its commitment to cultural criticism. In the last two years alone, the voices of Amanda Hess, Margaret Lyons, Wesley Morris, James Poniewozik and Jennifer Senior have joined The Times’s already unbeatable roster of full-time critics, which now counts 21 in total. Meanwhile, we continue to seek out new voices to bring into the fold, and hope to make further additions to our critical ranks this year.”
Eric Grode considers the many famous actresses and comediennes – and even male performers (Benny never actually played Dolly, but he did seriously consider it) to put their own stamps on the title role in Hello, Dolly! since Channing created it in 1964.
“They are two of the nation’s pre-eminent playwrights. Each has won nearly every award their field has to offer, including the Pulitzer Prize. Each has written works that are staged around the world and have become required reading in college classes. And each has earned an admired position in the academy, teaching aspiring dramatists at Ivy League institutions. One milestone, however, has long eluded Paula Vogel and Lynn Nottage: Broadway.” Why is this?
Deepa Fernandes visits with performers who are loosening up and becoming more visible, in clubs and in spontaneous street shows.
“For nearly 42 years the show chugged along at the 153-seat Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, finally closing in 2002 after 17,162 performances – a victim both of a destroyed downtown after 9/11 and a new edgy mood. It opened four years later at The Theater Center, an off-Broadway complex in the heart of Times Square, where it will end after a run of 4,390 shows.”
“Part of me wonders whether musical theater featuring a call-to-action eliminates nuance — generally scarce in musicals as it is. Indeed, don’t theater makers fear our work being reduced to a message? Perhaps so, but I also don’t think that attempting to convince audiences that we should raise the age of criminal responsibility simplifies the audience’s journey. It’s the opposite — the audience experiences something like what our composers experienced: listening to a story, confronting and bypassing their own judgments about it, walking around with it, letting it spur them to make something from it. For our composers, that ‘something’ is a song. For the audience, collectively, it could be change.”
“Right now, students at hundreds of MFA and BFA acting programs across the country are rushing from scene class, to voice, movement, and an array of “specialties”: Lecoq, Laban, Suzuki, Grotowski, commedia, kinetics, Fitzmaurice, Alexander, clown, mask, musical comedy, the list goes on. Later tonight they may be performing on stage, putting all that learning into practice in front of an audience. One performance experience most acting students are doing very little of is acting in front of a camera. Professional training programs aren’t training actors; they are training actors for a career in the theatre. This is a problem.”
Four Broadway people got together and decided it was time: “A group leaving a rehearsal room together is a team and the connection they share has nothing to do with being employed or compensated. It stems from trust, from a shared experience, and from watching each other work. That ‘cast’ feeling is what we want to create at Broadway Weekends.”
As part of an endowment for the IAMA Theatre Company in Los Angeles, Rhimes is starting a competition for playwrights. She said, “I think it’s hard for any playwright to find opportunities. … If people aren’t being included, then I’m going to find a way to make sure they’re included. I’m going to find a way to make sure they have opportunities.”
Perhaps. Check out Belfast’s Young at Art theatre festival to see what it could be like instead of what theatre often is like. “Parenthood can leave even the most ardent theatregoers feeling unwelcome as theatres seldom court families, often seeing prams and young children as a burden not a blessing. Too often theatres present themselves as grownup spaces, cut off from everyday life.”
That doesn’t mean all is forgotten and forgiven, but some of the changes reflect how the industry has, at least sometimes, changed. Tony-winning actor BD Wong says that at the time, when “Miss Saigon” was in London’s West End, “We said, surely the show will come to the United States, but the yellowface will never happen here, because that’s the kind of thing that only happens in England now.”
“More than 40 UK theatres, including the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sheffield Theatres and the Royal Exchange, have signed a letter to The Guardian calling on it to reinstate Lyn Gardner’s theatre blogs. Gardner is currently contracted to write 150 blogs a year for The Guardian, however these will cease next month to cut costs.”
“The Stage Debut Awards will recognise actors, writers, directors, designers and composers making their professional theatre debuts in the UK. Nominees will be considered in nine categories, including best director, designer and composer as well as best actress and actor in a play and in a musical. A panel of industry experts will decide the winners in each category. There will also be the opportunity for the public to vote on the award for best West End debut.”
“Musical Theatre International selected [Cherry Hill High School East] ‘for its perseverance and dedication to the arts in the face of adversity,'” for facing down objections to the use of the n-word in Ragtime‘s script. “It was only the third time that the New York-based licensing agency has given the award since it was established in 2007.” There was plenty of praise for the production, too, with several professionals saying it was the best high school production they’d ever seen.
“The animals won’t need a ticket, but there will be human spectators who do. The cast will definitely be performing for the animals, and the audience are there to watch that encounter.” Lyn Gardner reports.
The Hypocrites, one of the city’s many respected storefront companies, ran out of cash in December and cancelled the remainder of this season. “Beginning this month, Hypocrites will pitch two plays to potential ticket buyers and ask them to commit. If interest hits critical financial mass, the shows will go on. If not, they won’t.” Lisa Bertagnoli explains.
Mark Shenton, even as he laments the disappearance of arts critics from news outlets all over, writes that “it’s not just that Gardner is one of the best, most vital theatrical commentators there is, constantly drawing attention to things away from the mainstream; she also has a keen appreciation of a wide theatrical landscape. She gets to more theatres around the UK than any other critic I know.”
“In our vision, there would be a version of a formal deep relationship with every significant nonprofit cultural institution in the Valley. If we really believed in this teaching-hospital model, every major institution would have appointments at the institute.”
He has ambitions for Theatre Calgary to be a destination theatre – for companies countrywide and worldwide, and for playwrights. “For it to be a place that authors will want to come to and try out their new works or develop their plays or their musicals and put it on a map on a global level. Because there is an energy and a pulse that is undeniable.”
“Something theatres have always done well is bring people together. Traditionally people gather to see a show and maybe stick around after for a talkback, but increasingly, and especially since the 2016 presidential election and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, theatres and theatre people have been looking for ways to bring those people together to make a statement, start a discussion, or support a cause independent of a particular theatrical production, with some initiatives being more openly political than others.”
Teatro Polski in Wrocław has always been considered one of the country’s most daring. But company members argue that the new artistic director, Cezary Morawski – installed by the nationalist Law and Justice Party’s government – is doing work that’s commercial, old-fashioned, and unambitious, tarnishing the theatre’s reputation at home and abroad. Staff has been fired, petitions have flown, and the national culture minister has been pulled into the dispute.
For instance: “Senator Joe – A rock opera that tells the story of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Joe is perhaps as infamous as the man that inspired it. Apparently, financing was so shaky that the theatre’s marquee still read Kenny Loggins on Broadway—a hold-over from the theatre’s last tenant—for all three of the show’s previews.”