Basically, it was the night of Dear Evan Hansen, at least on the musical side.
The companies pulled out “after days of criticism online and in right-leaning media outlets that was amplified by Donald Trump Jr., a son of the president, who appeared to call into question the theater’s funding sources on Twitter on Sunday morning.”
Stage managers juggle calling thousands of light, sound, action and other cues with everything from pre-show fight rehearsals and cast members’ birthdays. One SM: “I don’t expect or look for praise or acknowledgement. … I am here to support the shows I work on and the actors who do them and that’s what gives me the joy.”
It’s like the Oscars, with producers campaigning for support, and with a short timeline: “The 40 days between the nominations and the awards are intense. Tony voters — 839 people who are connected to Broadway financially, as producers and investors, and artistically, as performers, directors and designers — scramble to see all the shows before the June 9 voting deadline.”
It’s quite an intense, complex topic: “Whenever the topic of diversity (or rather the absence of diversity on stage) comes up here, as it often does, the discussion doesn’t immediately go to representation, or how we view one another in Quebec and Canada. Instead the conversation is taken over by people who often see this complex issue as part of a greater, nobler debate on independence, while others use the issue to sway votes their way.”
Peter Marks of Washington, DC: “It comes down to the two shows with Washington pedigrees, both of which I feel great affection for. They’re both exciting, superbly staged and have powerful emotional cores. ‘Come From Away’ is a heartbreaking production about an extraordinary incident; ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is an extraordinary production about a heartbreaking incident. In the end, the more award-worthy achievement is the show that wrecked me more.”
“Among the 600 professionals annually employed by OSF are the 100 actors who make up its repertory acting company — the largest repertory troupe in the country, ranging from new faces to actors who are 20-year veterans. (Among its alumni: Denis Arndt, nominated for a Tony this year for “Heisenberg.”) With diversity a major concern for Broadway and the theater industry at large, 61% of this year’s OSF ensemble are actors of color.”
“It’s probably not a realistic or even practical list, but let’s indulge in a little blue-sky thinking.” Tim Wilmott’s list includes the obvious (physical and vocal training), the practical (balance film and stage training), the controversial (drop improv and Meisner), the dubious (political radicalisation), and, possibly, the hopeless (we’ll let you guess which one that is).
“Here’s what we learned: There is an apparent consensus about the season’s four best performances … as well as the season’s best revivals … But Tony voters are deeply divided about the season’s new work, with the race for best new play, as well as the one for best new musical, far too close to call.”
“What follows are some highlights, beginning with the first private airing of the efforts of Pasek, Paul, Levenson and all their collaborators. It’s a shorthand mapping of Dear Evan Hansen‘s march to critical and popular acclaim and its position as one of the more remarkable shows in recent musical-theater history.”
“In another seismic change for Washington theater, Howard Shalwitz, who in nearly 40 years at the helm has made Woolly Mammoth Theatre a national champion of the new – and frequently provocative – American play, will leave his post as artistic director in June 2018.”
The Off Broadway troupe’s demise reflected both financial pressures faced by many small performing arts organizations these days, and a series of missteps that the Pearl had made.
In a Q&A, Tony nominee for Best Book of a Musical Steven Levenson talks with Marissa Martinelli “about the musical’s unlikely success, what goes into creating a nuanced portrayal of mental illness, and why he found writing about teenagers especially nerve-wracking.”
Jason Zinoman: “It’s particularly amazing that this gifted dissembler has received such goodwill at a time when there is such anxiety about fake news and Internet disinformation. … That Evan Hansen is not just a kind of hero but one whose story will stay with a generation of young theatergoers forever is testament to the power of skillfully crafted art to reframe, manipulate, and even obscure moral concerns.”
Now that Los Angeles-area theaters with 99 seats or fewer must pay Equity actors minimum wage – which the tiny-budget theaters insist would bankrupt them – they want to see SoCal’s enormous pool of non-Equity talent. Jessica Gelt sat in on open call auditions held by a group of ten small theater companies.
“The Goodman Theatre has canceled the entire run of Pamplona, the highly anticipated world premiere of the one-man show about Ernest Hemingway starring Stacy Keach that was to run through June 25 … Performances were canceled on a day-to-day basis since this past Tuesday when the 76-year-old actor fell ill midway through the opening night performance of the show.”
“Schenkkan’s purpose seems to have been understood and appreciated as Building the Wall was produced around the country over the past few months, first as a National New Play Network rolling world premiere by Fountain Theatre in California; Curious Theatre Company in Colorado’ Forum Theatre in DC; Borderlands Theater in Arizona; and City Theatre in Florida. But some prominent voices reacted differently when the play opened recently at New York’s New World Stages, in a production directed by Ari Edelson and starring Tamara Tunie and James Badge Dale. And the mixed reviews surely helped end the run of the New York production prematurely. It is closing Sunday, June 4, about a month earlier than the play’s intended run.”
First there was the experimental 87-seat Hell’s Kitchen theatre, then the specially constructed tent in the Meatpacking District, then a 540-seat theatre in Boston, and finally Broadway’s Imperial Theatre – and the designers had to figure out how to replicate, or imitate, or alter, the original design for each venue. Director Rachel Chavkin: “I can say with confidence that we never would have made this if it had started in a Broadway house, or even with that as our intention.”
Steven Moffat, showrunner for Doctor Who: “That really spoils the evening when they stop the show and give you the worst red wine you have ever drunk in a crowd of people who just want the show to keep going.”
Playwright Charles Smith happened upon the story while watching his own plays. The new “is based on the true story of a young actor named Shedrick Yarkpai. Smith met Yarkpai when a theater company in Adelaide, Australia, produced two of Smith’s plays with Yarkpai in the lead.” Then, at lunch, the entire double-identity, maybe double-jeopardy plot revealed itself when Yarkpai talked about how he got to Australia. (2017 ironic twist: The actor couldn’t get a visa to come to Chicago to see the play about him.)
You disguise yourself after the matinee, try to avoid Hugh Jackman, and hop on the subway, trying to get back to midtown for the evening performance.
The Albee Estate wouldn’t speak directly to NPR about the decision. Instead, it sent a statement, saying Albee had remarked on several occasions that a mixed-race marriage in the early 1960s would not have gone unnoticed in the script — though Albee did approve the casting of a black actress as the older professor’s wife when the playwright was still alive. This is the first time the estate has had to deal with this issue since Albee’s death in September 2016.
Diep Tran profiles actress/playwright Mfoniso Udofia and her “Ufot Cycle,” a planned series of nine plays. (About two of them, the New York Times‘s Jesse Green wrote, “[they] offer a moving and powerful corrective to the notion that what immigrants leave behind is always awful, and that what they find is always worth the trip.”
Susannah Clapp of Britain’s The Observer: “Strangely, given the fawning on female actors and the sneering at ‘luvvies’, the theatre is the most male world in which I have worked. Far less women-driven than publishing or literary journalism or broadcasting. In all areas: writers, directors, designers, heads of theatres. That is changing. It is hard to overemphasise the difference that one thing made to this.”
“Filmed versions of Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Harriet Walter, will be released throughout [this] year.”
“It’s not easy to make political theater when American politics itself has been twisted into the format of a daily reality show. Trump won the presidency by blurring the line between TV spectacle and politics, and he has governed the same way, with policy choices of tremendous impact unfurled in multiday cable TV dramas.”
A lot of criticism has greeted the Albee estate’s decision to withhold the rights to perform Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? from a tiny theater in Portland that had cast a black actor as Nick. Thing is, though realism (the play is set in 1960s New England) was Albee’s stated rationale, he did not consider Virginia Woolf entirely naturalistic at first, and he did once permit a black Martha. What changed? Mark Harris has a theory – and a suggestion.
“As audio fiction seems to be having a moment, in the realm of podcasts, Audible plans to draw from the vast pool of young writers to create one- or two-person plays. They will be available beginning late this year, the company said.”
As Rebecca Mead reports, the manuscript of The Shadow of a Doubt wasn’t hidden in a trove of papers in some remote attic; it was right there in a collection of theater manuscripts at a well-known research library.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, now nearing the end of its national tour, always works in local references. Erik Piepenburg finds out how those references get chosen and offers a few choice examples.