When she’s not making big data discoveries that slay the conspiracy theories about who else might have written the plays, the scholar Heather Wolfe is creating things like Project Dustbunny, “one of her initiatives at the Folger Shakespeare Library, [that] has made some extraordinary discoveries based on microscopic fragments of hair and skin accumulated in the crevices and gutters of 17th-century books.”
Should playwrights be making theatre that caters to twentysomethings? Or should theatres simply spend more time putting any play they do in context? Or is this all pandering? “We don’t want to create a nation of inactive blobs who passively sit by; we want to create a community of activists who, when they see someone being victimized, jump up and speak out.”
“Tang [Xianzu] is well known in China, though even in his home country he does not enjoy anything like the literary status of his English counterpart – he wrote far fewer works (four plays, [including The Peony Pavilion,] compared with Shakespeare’s 37), and is not as quotable. But no matter. The timing was perfect. Tang died in 1616, the same year as Shashibiya, as Shakespeare is called in Chinese.”
Says the director of the Public Theater, “I feel like I’ve spent the last couple of years outlining very big problems that American theater has to tackle and now we’ve moved into an environment where it will be more difficult to solve those problems.”
“The producer said he had given the Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil musical ‘three shots’ and acknowledged that the writing team had ‘unfinished business’ with it. But he added: ‘I firmly believe there is something wonderful in there but I am not the person that will ever get it out of them.'”
Want to better see and understand the relationships and interactions of the characters and plot lines of the musical “Hamilton?” This engaging interactive scrollable exploration of the show will drop you down a rabbit hole if you’re not careful…
For a new staging of The Tempest starring Simon Russell Beale at Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company is using the same techniques and equipment, including a costume filled with digital sensors, for the character of Ariel that Hollywood has used for Gollum and King Kong.
The producer of the West End’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Dreamgirls, Funny Girl and Nice Fish (starring Mark Rylance) is only the third woman ever to top the roster. (See the full list here.)
Twan Baker – “an 18-inch-long, 10-pound (just a guess) blue-eyed doll with an alert expression” who has appeared in at least five Broadway shows and two “Encores!” productions as well as plays and musicals as far afield as Kansas City and Vermont – was born in the prop shop of Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, where the prop master figured out the secret that makes actors want to work with Twan.
“Boosted by premium ticket prices, a crowd of tourists, a favorable calendar, some extra scheduled performances, and relatively good weather, … the 33 Broadway shows took in $49,677,279 … for the week ending January 1.”
Gary Taylor, editor of The New Oxford Shakespeare and professor at Florida State, thinks that the figure of Fortinbras, the Norwegian king and deus ex machina who takes over Denmark after Hamlet has killed what’s left of the Danish royal family, is meant to be a flattering allusion to James I coming from Scotland to take the English throne.
“I envy Gary Taylor his confidence. I am increasingly coming to think that the most useful new discoveries about Shakespeare are the negative ones.” Jonathan Bate, who edited the complete First Folio for the RSC, has his doubts about Gary Taylor’s theory. (James I’s Danish queen, for one, might not have found Hamlet very flattering. And there’s documentary evidence Taylor’s overlooking.)
“The couple bought the historic movie house at 110 N. Main St. in 1995 with the idea of transforming it into a live-performance space. The next year, the couple encouraged their friends Rusty Wilson and Denise Simone to move their theater company from Richmond, Virginia, to Idaho to perform on the Liberty’s thrust stage. It was a successful arrangement for both parties based on an informal agreement about the building’s use.”
“Portraits of gay life in mainstream culture are no longer rare; they have been proliferating for decades. As a result, no one play (or movie) bears the burden of either seeming to affirm, or attempting to negate, stereotype. You might argue that it’s a sign of progress that these writers felt no compunction in writing about troubled, lonely gay characters. Nobody seeing any of these plays today would come away assuming it represented the sum total of gay men’s experience.”
“Judging by the way several theatres have answered the question in recent and upcoming promotional copy, this is far from a settled matter.” Hailey Bachrach looks at that marketing copy and the approaches it takes.
“What happens during REM sleep if your daily routine involves assuming a new identity in front of hundreds of strangers for several hours? Even in small doses, does that repeated performance generate emotional muscle memory?” The answer is yes – Sandra Oh, Judith Light, Simon McBurney, and other actors share their examples.
It wasn’t only all-Hamilton-all-the-time, though that certainly leads the list. Among the other big news was the debut of BroadwayCon, the hit show stopped in its tracks by what should have been surprising good news, and the rise of Broadway’s next dynamic duo.
The Adams family (specifically, Abigail and John Quincy), like many of their day, saw the play as a tale of the dangers of race-mixing; white 19th-century Americans de-blacked the title role; Paul Robeson saw it as an indictment of white racism (and claimed the role for black actors ever afterward). “For more than 200 years, Americans have fought over Othello’s race as a way of fighting over the meanings of race itself.”
“Portraits of gay life in mainstream culture are no longer rare; they have been proliferating for decades. As a result, no one play (or movie) bears the burden of either seeming to affirm, or attempting to negate, stereotype.” Charles Isherwood looks at five shows presented in New York this year.
The autobiographical “Wishful Drinking,” which later went to Berkeley Rep, Broadway and HBO, got its start at the Geffen. That theatre’s artistic direector: ‘We found with ‘Wishful Drinking’ her appeal absolutely crossed all boundaries … men just love her, women absolutely love her, from young to old. She was just universally admired and loved and had such a unique brand of humor.’
“A stage is a dangerous and threatening environment, one in which chaos and calamity are never more than a protruding nail or a malfunctioning revolver away.” Actor Michael Simkins shares some of his favorite (if that’s the word) calamities.
Wear comfortable shoes to Broadway, people. Along with “Dear Evan Hansen,” other shows “that are regularly offering standing room these days are such favorites as ‘Hamilton,’ ‘The Book of Mormon,’ ‘Beautiful,’ ‘Waitress,’ ‘Kinky Boots’ and ‘School of Rock.'”
Until now, the piece had only been referred to as “Play Without a Title, and the poet/playwright had completed the first of its planned three acts when he was murdered in the Spanish Civil War. Writer Alberto Conejero has now completed those two acts – and given the work a rather loaded title.
There’s a new minimum wage for actors at L.A.’s 99-seat theatres (a special Equity category), but theatre owners, as well as some actors, say the minimum wage threatens their work, and they want it to go away.
The powerhouse Chicago company commissioned a stage adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath in 1985, but the show didn’t open until the fall of 1988 – and didn’t make it to Broadway (via La Jolla and London) until 1990. The man who wrote the script and ended up directing it, the woman who cast it, the man who designed the production, and the woman who played Ma Joad (Lois Smith) remember how it all came together.
You want a good ticket to a play in London? Head to the box offices on September 20, when about a quarter of tickets haven’t sold just before the curtain rises.
“Wages for actors and stage managers working in subsidised repertory theatre are expected to increase by £50 per week, under what Equity is calling a ‘massively good settlement’. The union estimates that the new agreement could result in ‘at least’ an additional £1 million going into members’ pockets by 2019.”
“The musical, about an anxious adolescent whose social status improves after the suicide of a high school classmate, has benefited from strong reviews and positive word of mouth. And, in another sign that it is breaking through in a crowded theater season, it has begun attracting a stream of celebrities.”
“London fringe venue the Print Room has moved to defend itself over casting Caucasian actors in a production set in ancient China, describing the play as a ‘very English’ one. The theatre was widely criticised for its use of four Caucasian actors in a play by Howard Barker called In the Depths of Dead Love.”
Howard Sherman: “The Print Room would do well to consult with Asian artists … if they wish to remedy this situation, rather than forging forward with abstract, disingenuous excuses that fool no one who actually understands what diversity and inclusion genuinely mean.”