Angela Thirlwell: “Rosalind is a grand paradox. Man and woman, authentically alive yet forever a fiction, ageless and modern … When she sprints into the forest of Arden as the boy Ganymede, she expands our ideas about gender, and epitomizes what love feels like for both sexes, through the whole gamut of human emotions, in every time and place.”
The new funds, ponied up by a group that includes Hollywood veteran Gail Berman and Gilt Groupe and Business Insider founder Kevin Ryan, will go in part toward expanding Show-Score’s activities beyond New York to markets that have expressed interest in the site, both in the U.S. and in London. The money also will help sustain exploratory efforts at what Show-Score founder Tom Melcher calls “harnessing the story of the audience’s reaction to theater,” including fan art, Instagram posts, videos and photography.
The Ambassador Theatre Group has asked ticketholders to the revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? “that no food be consumed during the performance.” (This may have been at the request of star Imelda Staunton, who has publicly complained about the practice.) This request is evidently unusual enough that ATG later felt the need to stress that food has not been banned outright.
Michael Billington: “I’ve only lately become aware of how popular this is. … Some theatres, I’ve discovered, even encourage the practice by supplying a meal-and-drink package, as if their patrons might die of hunger or thirst during the arduous business of watching a play. Does it matter? I think it does.”
Journalist Sasha Weiss watches as Sam Gold – who won a Tony for Fun Home and set Othello inside a big plywood box – radically strips down Tennessee Williams’s setting and uses casting to upend everything we think we know about the characters.
“My small town was in what I call a new play desert. If you were a playwright, the closest market for your new play was a few workshop opportunities forty-five minutes away in the next city. There was a regional theatre, a theatre department at the local university, and a community theatre, but none of them were very open to producing or even reading new plays. After taking two playwriting classes at my alma mater, I found myself surrounded by ten or so students that had caught the writing bug with no outlet left to develop their plays once the semester was over. So I took it upon myself to provide that outlet for them and myself. I stepped out of the theatre “dojo” to provide an oasis in the middle of this desert.”
And it’s offering a big external contract – 2.7 million pounds – for the company that can figure out this “Quality Metrics” system.
A great space isn’t enough; the plays have to match setting and theme, as in this Orpheus and Eurydice under a bridge: “We pass into a damp, dark space, press a coin into the palm of Charon and bend almost double to walk four steps and emerge into a chamber under the Clifton suspension bridge. The walls are mottled with mould. Fronds grow from the roof. Water drips. It’s as cold as hell, and that’s exactly where we are supposed to be.”
“Conducted with coresearcher (and Collaboraction intern) Mariah Schultz, the study is a look at female representation in various theater-industry job categories at theaters nominated for Jeff Awards for the 2015-2016 season. The data, which does not include musicals, covers 52 theaters and 250 plays. The results are sobering but not surprising.”
Dominic Cavendish on the current trend in London of prominent actresses playing the male leads in great classic plays: “Redress the balance? Fine. Let in some fresh air? Great. But the entrenchment of this tendency may also be stifling and oppressive.” It’s also, argues Cavendish, lazy: “Why bother finding new-minted female correlatives to Willy Loman or Jimmy Porter when you can just boot out the bloke, stick a woman in his place and defy anyone to raise an eyebrow?”
“A new project is aiming to rediscover some of the forgotten masterpieces and lost theatres that laid the groundwork for the Bard of Avon’s work.” Here’s a talk with theatre history scholar Andy Kesson, founder of Before Shakespeare. (audio)
“Numbering more than 200 companies, ranging from shoestring storefronts to celebrity-founded heavyweights like Steppenwolf, Chicago theater groups are developing a taste for night life apart from the stage. New on-site restaurants and bars keep their audiences fed and watered in-house and sometimes offer opportunities to mingle with the talent.”
It all started when a Georgia Tech arts exec (yes, they have one!) saw how uncomfortable undergrads at a career fair looked in business suits – and invited a Brooklyn drag king to help them walk the walk.
First, yes, there are still plenty of gay bars in Manhattan, hookup apps notwithstanding. And while there have always been a few piano bars where the crowd sings show tunes, they were always considered rather dowdy; now even the hippest bars have Broadway nights, and major stars show up to sing at them. Legendary nightlife reporter Michael Musto surveys the scene.
“Tired of the shouty voices from Westminster, [National Theatre director Rufus Norris] decided to turn away from London and start an in-depth listening project to try to understand the roots of the divide that had fractured the country. … He contacted 10 writers and directors from all over the country and asked them to start recording long interviews with people about their feelings about the vote.” Amelia Gentleman has the story of My Country: A Work in Progress, the resulting play.
“No one ever pretended that King Kong or Bruce the Shark in Jaws were real, but they were grounded in the physical world (often by the limitations of technology), whereas now Kong is a highly sophisticated piece of digital animation in the new Kong: Skull Island, and crappily rendered sharks fall from the sky every summer on SyFy. It’s especially important for theatre that this distinction be made, because if people come to accept and even believe that what they’re seeing on screen is reality, how can theatre compete without giving itself over to holograms?”
The playwright has four Tony nominations, including one win, as well as Drama Desk and Obie Awards. What led him to become a member of the tiny Gift Theater? Anne Spiselman called him and asked.
“The $2.5 million is the initial splash in what will plainly need to be a very deep bucket. The Power Plays, first announced in November, are new works focused on politics and power – one for each decade of America’s existence. The 10-year, 25-work series will be composed of five related cycles: Presidential Voices, African-American Voices, Insider Voices, Musical Theater Voices and Women’s Voices.”
“But first, it’s important to highlight the one thing we can’t learn: What really got him fired. … That said, there are plenty of important takeaways from the narrative about Isherwood’s firing.” Liane Davey offers four of them – and they may seem obvious, but people forget them all the time.
That Laura Collins-Hughes chose to think about Big River, and specifically the Black character of Jim, in the context of an America currently “plumbing its own soul over questions of privilege and belonging,” did not please Jack Viertel, the long-serving producer of Encores! In a hyperbolic, vitriolic response, Viertel characterised the review — which he acknowledged was positive — as “stunningly polarized, politicized, narrow-minded and unfailingly myopic.”
Producer Jack Viertel: “Mark Twain does not go in and out of style. Whatever one thinks of the specific success or failure of Big River’s efforts to translate The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the stage, it is faithful to Twain. I’m stunned to read, for instance, that Ms. Collins-Hughes is upset about the character of Jim being the only important black character in the piece.”
“The genre-busting, glitter-dusting performance artist … and his musical director, Matt Ray, have been named winners of the 2017 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, for their 24-hour work, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.”
New York magazine’s Boris Kachka investigates – and while there’s no definitive answer yet, the situation ain’t pretty.
It’s been a tough few years for the flagship of Philly’s nonprofit theaters: PTC nearly collapsed in 2014 and its new-ish home was foreclosed on the following year. Fortunately, the new producing artistic director, Paige Price, has already turned around Theatre Aspen, where she was performing as an actor in 2007 when suddenly found herself the boss. As David Patrick Stearns reports, “her Philadelphia appointment … means giving up spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery but having a near year-round, locally-based audience and a theater with running water.”
“No other piece of stage business has burned itself so deeply into the collective consciousness. All the greats have been there, from Richard Burbage to Thomas Betterton, Sarah Bernhardt to Laurence Olivier. Even Bart Simpson has got in on the act. Given all this, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that, for Hamlet‘s earliest audiences, seeing real human remains on stage would have been a shock.”
When Kahn announced that he’d be stepping down after two more seasons, he said that he would leave his successor a financially healthy company. Artistically? That may be a different matter, worries Peter Marks.
So that’s where “enemy of the people” comes from. The enemy was unpopular, and undoubtedly an “elitist”; but he trafficked in fact, and he was right. Trump obviously had no grasp of this
Steppenwolf artistic director Anna D. Shapiro: “The state of the world was really crushing me, and then Tracy got the script into my mailbox. I called him and said that we are lucky you write plays for us.” (And you know that a play by the writer of Killer Joe and August: Osage County is going to be furious.)
Diep Tran tells the story of #FairWageOnstage.
Milia Ayache writes about adapting, staging and performing Derek Walcott and Biljana Srbljanović in Arabic with her Masrah Ensemble.