Playwright Yussef El Guindi: “Americans are so averse to politics in their entertainment that the simple act of including Arab or Muslim characters in a play exposes it to the charge of being overly political or didactic. And if the play is written by an Arab or a Muslim? The writer must surely then be peddling some political agenda. Even if, for example, the play revolves around an Arab or Muslim family preparing a Thanksgiving dinner … The very act of rendering a group of people usually depicted negatively in a three-dimensional way is deemed a political act.”
As it does every year, American Theatre magazine omits the Bard’s plays and A Christmas Carol adaptations (because they’d lead year in, year out). Yet the most-produced play of the coming season is … Shakespeare in Love. (Most of the rest of the list is higher-brow.)
Editor Diep Tran: “This year, when I finished calculating the … list for 2017-18, and saw who was at the top, I let out a laugh. ‘Of course!’ I exclaimed. I was not surprised by the name at the top; she had been on it last year, at No. 2, just under August Wilson. It was almost poetic.”
When Ben Brantley reviewed a revival of Suzan-Lori Parks’s Fucking A (a take on The Scarlet Letter), he wrote, “since I am not a character in this work but an employee of The New York Times, I shall be referring to this play only as ‘A.’ (The full title places an Anglo-Saxon adjective before the ‘A,’ one commonly used on cable television but not considered fit for print here.)” Commenters were not impressed: “Given the rather grisly subject matter, I’m wondering if the people who might attend the play would get the vapors if they were to see the name in print.” So the standards editor for the Times explains why the paper won’t print “Fucking A.” (The commenters remain unimpressed.)
“The public won’t get in to Chicago Shakespeare’s $35 million, 33,000-square-foot one-of-a-kind new space until Sept. 19, when James Thierree’s The Toad Knew opens. But you don’t have to wait to see the Yard – a theater where the seats can literally float in midair and the stage can morph into just about any shape imaginable. Crain’s has obtained exclusive images of the Yard’s interior, designed by Chicago’s Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and the UK’s Charcoalblue.”
“While some theatres could not be contacted because phone and power service still were absent Tuesday, managers at some of the most seriously affected theatres considered themselves blessed that they avoided the severity of damage suffered by Houston’s Alley Theatre. Forecasters predicted much, much worse, especially in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area, which was hammered but escaped with minimal damage.”
The dispute began in 2016, when Mr. Lombardo, a playwright, was preparing to stage “Who’s Holiday!” — a 75-minute, one-woman play that features Cindy Lou Who, the adorable girl from the book who teaches the greedy Grinch the true meaning of Christmas. In Mr. Lombardo’s version, Cindy Lou Who is all grown up. She is now a hard-drinking, prescription-drug-abusing middle-aged woman who lives in a trailer park and served time in prison for killing her husband, the Grinch.
Lyn Gardner: “Too often, an artist – if they are a woman or are from diverse backgrounds – gets only one shot in a high-profile situation and if they don’t triumph, they are out. But it’s only when the opportunities are sustained, and not just one-off tokenism, that a significant and genuine advancement occurs in the diversity of the arts. This is why it’s important that organisations, particularly flagship ones in receipt of large amounts of public funding such as the RSC, lead the way and put policies in place that don’t just encourage diversity but embed it in their way of working.”
“Her play In a Word, in which a child’s disappearance haunts a mother, ran Off Broadway this summer to critical acclaim. … Ms. Yee’s first professionally produced play was Ching Chong Chinaman, in 2010, about a Chinese-American immigrant family, and she has since written several works for Off Broadway, including The Hatmaker’s Wife.”
“‘We’re not a bunch of bloody hippies,’ Mike Shepherd growls by way of introduction. Turns out the last time a journalist paid Kneehigh a visit at its Cornish home, that was the verdict. The time before, the company wound up being compared to a cult, the rehearsal rooms a commune. Its artistic director has had enough.”
“Staff who are understood to have worked at the Hull New Theatre for more than 20 years were told they no longer had jobs at the venue just days before it reopened. Casual workers at the theatre were told they would need to apply for ‘newly created’ casual roles after its £16 million refurbishment.”
According to advertising agency ODW, which is introducing the scheme, advertisers will be able to reach an audience “with high purchasing power”, building on the success of lucrative cinema advertising, while theatres can bring in additional advertising revenue and promote upcoming productions with trailers.
“Gurney’s work was never groundbreaking, but it resonated strongly with audiences of many ages, even though it was steeped in the lore of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who had dominated America for many years. From the very start, Gurney was quietly, subtly rebelling against his genteel upbringing, simultaneously taking pleasure in the traditions that had surrounded him growing up while poking fun at them theatrically.”
Director Karin Coonrod writes about the process, from getting set materials to the site by boat and hand-truck to the dilemma of casting Shylock (and her unconventional solution) to reworking the unsatisfying-to-us-in-2017 ending, all in the places where the story would have happened.
“On the heels of its most lucrative season yet, with a record-setting $1.37b in ticket sales, Broadway has experienced something of a rebirth. From the success of La La Land on the big screen to Hamilton onstage, there’s a collective renewed interest in theater that’s been reflected in a wave of movie-musicals and televised live-concert experiences. All of this seems, to entertainment industry insiders, like the chorus following a crescendo.” How has this happened? Disney and Glee.
“The urgent need for a new, purpose-built theater space became clear when MIT Theater’s home in the 19th-century Rinaldi tile factory had to be demolished as the Kendall Square redevelopment began in 2016. … Other functions of the theater program were scattered around campus – in Kresge Auditorium, the Walker Memorial, and Buildings 4 and 10. W97 [as the new building is called] both replaces the Rinaldi facilities and consolidates all the other theater activities under one roof.”
The founder/artistic director of the Pop-Up Globe was inspired when he read to his daughter about the original Globe and she asked if they could go there. It’s not an exact replica of the second Globe (1614) – it uses modern materials and electricity – but the shape and dimensions are similar and it can be erected and taken down in a matter of a few weeks; it’s already done two seasons in New Zealand and is just starting one in Melbourne.
Lyn Gardner: “Access is always going to be a problem with small-capacity or small-scale shows. But does that mean we should ban artists from making shows that involve an intimacy of experience or one-on-one work because very few can get to see it? It would be odd if in the quest for access we started asking artists to censor the kind of work they might dream of and make.”
“The decision to appoint [Chris] Dercon, the former director of Tate Modern in London, to run the institution has spurred an angry debate, one that has
often conflated the issues surrounding his appointment with the larger challenges confronting Berlin, like gentrification, globalization and immigration. It has not always been a dignified debate. Along with the usual petition-signing, there have been ugly protests – some might call them a hazing – that even an avant-garde theater may find over the top.”
The theatre has recruited actors from unlikely sources for “a roughly 100-performer production of Homer’s “Odyssey” with free tickets and only four union actors. Everyone else onstage has arrived via a yearslong conversation between Seattle Rep and nonprofits; homeless shelters; and social groups, from the Purple Lemonade dance collective to scruffy members of the Dead Baby bike-race club.”
“I have grave concerns, because over the last 20 years I’ve watched as artistic staffs have become siloed in theatres, operating as if they are the only keepers of the artistic flame and increasingly relegating all contact with artists to members of the artistic staff. Functions that were handled in the past by general managers, company managers, managing directors, and production managers are now often handled by artistic administrators, line producers, and a wealth of other people with creative titles.”
“Many of us who arrived in New York in the last decades of the last century, looking to the theater for news about what it meant to be gay, found ourselves serially disheartened. … Yet, over the past 20 years, gay rights did expand, well beyond anyone’s imagining. This recently led me to wonder what a young gay man arriving in New York would find if he looked in the mirror of the mainstream theater today. Pretty much the same thing I did.”
“Although Monticchiello’s productions were originally lavish costume dramas, the town’s Teatro Pobre (‘poor theater’) – also known as the spettacolo (‘spectacle’) – has become another example of personal struggles fueling art.”
“The bottom line is that, in theatre, as in movies and restaurants, aggregation is just a new way of looking at opinions. Yes, it’s all reductive – even the opinions can be as well, in relation to work they assess – but instead of getting aggravated with these sites, theatre producers should just focus on creating great work, as I believe most do, instead of trying to kill the messenger, as their Hollywood brethren wish they could.”
“All acts of translation are re-interpretations — adaptations even more so — and this can provide the excuse that anything therefore goes. But while questions of taste can be submitted to no ultimate arbitration, there are transgressions which are not matters of taste at all. In particular, the introduction or exaggeration of erotic content is an opportunity which many cannot resist.”
Clockwork Orange? Peter Pan? Benny And Joon? Here’s a list of theatre opening this fall and what to look for…
Grime-streaked floodwater nearly slapped the 10-foot ceilings of the lower of the building’s two chambers, lurching up a winding stairway and foreclosing access to the lobby below. But when the New York-based playwright Rajiv Joseph, who recounted his experience by telephone on Wednesday, peered down into the morass on Aug. 27, the grief was instant and deflating.
Here’s the story of Giacomo Torelli, whose “pole-and-chariot” devices made the spectacular stage effects of Baroque theater and opera possible.
“A Boston critic informed me that my touring theatre company’s productions need to stay in one place for longer in a venue that is “convenient” and “familiar,” otherwise they will not come see or review the show. This ideology not only directly contradicts our mission as a touring theatre company, but it supports the misconception that theatre is only for those who can afford to go to those expensive venues (where it is more costly to produce and thus demands that the company sell tickets) and/or who have the time and money to spend to travel to those venues as well as pay the higher ticket prices. This approach to viewership directly encourages the label of ‘elitist’ to our medium.”
Rachel Shukert: “It’s easy for such a list to seem like a list of the ten best Broadway musicals, period. Prince’s contribution to the American theater is so vast, so elemental, that it feels a little bit like ranking the ten best colors. A case can be made that green is a better color than yellow, but without both of them, the rainbow as we know it would cease to exist. Still, I’m always up for a challenge, particularly one that will engage and perhaps, enrage, the show-biz multiverse known as my Twitter feed.”