“The lack of diversity in theatre criticism not only does a disservice to the field and the readers, but also to the playwrights and productions. Certainly such artists as Suzan-Lori Parks and Ayad Akhtar, and others artists of color whose work speaks particularly to questions of identity, deserve to have their work scrutinized by a more diverse group of critics. In the age of Hamilton fanatics in New York, Chicago, London, and beyond, audiences have proven that there is not just space but a hunger for stories by and about people of color that work to rewrite, expand, or totally replace the white canon. So where are their peers in criticism?”
With many tourists in the city, schools on break and star power lifting the tide, audiences turned out en masse. “Hamilton” grossed a whopping $3.4 million in a regular eight-performance week, breaking its own record set this January. With the show sold out nonstop, the average ticket price hit $321.13, reflecting a premium pricing model that producers have started to employ across the industry.
It has spawned two feature films, with a third on the way, and has generated more than $13 billion in retail merchandise sales. adapting family entertainment to Broadway has brought mixed results, especially when not from Disney. Recent examples include “Matilda” (a hit), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (a failure) and two outright bombs, “Seussical” and “Shrek the Musical” (though both have ended up with longer lives in high schools). If “SpongeBob” sinks on Broadway, it could damage a carefully cultivated two-decade-old brand.
How Betty Corwin, now 97, corralled and cajoled producers, unions, and librarians to create, and run for 31 years, the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
No other form of literature is taught this way; indeed, no other art form is taught this way. Kids are encouraged to read current, popular fiction in school. Perhaps by the time they reach high school their choices are narrowed, but at least by then they’ve been encouraged to read dozens of contemporary books that they love. Students are assigned novels and poetry by living authors, many of whom are—gasp—not white men. Art class is full of hands-on work where the students create while they study masters both new and old. Even music instructors teach jazz and hip hop alongside classical music.
Alexis Soloski: “A boy student assaults a girl student. It’s sad, yes. But to quote Shakespeare again, it’s ‘everyday’s news.’ Who wants to write about a victim? It’s depressing. Better to thrill an audience with some he said, she said, right? … We know that sexual assault on college campuses is both epidemic and underreported, in part because women and men who have experienced assault doubt that they will be believed. So is it too much to ask for a play that confirms the truth of an assault? Or suggests that a victim wasn’t somehow asking for it?”
Researchers working with elderly residents at an East Coast care home found in a four-month long study found that people who sang their favorite songs showed a marked improvement compared to those who just listened.
The silent protest, an action performed with the support of the National Theatre, was meant to be for solidarity with those who can’t yet speak up and for visibility of the problem. “Those attending were asked to wear black and white clothing and were provided with white ribbons to wear.”
London and Chicago theaters have already gathered and hammered out some guidelines for theaters in town, and the Public says it’s time to do so in New York. “Stephanie Ybarra, the director of special artistic projects and one of the event’s organizers, said the Public Theater was a civic institution as well as an artistic one, and therefore ‘a place where art, ideas and conversation flow freely.'”
“Our work is interactive so audiences are not passive observers but in the midst of the action, both as witnesses or participants. We had members of the press offering to write a tale for our heroine’s birthday and one passenger, who had forgotten to take his usual Valium dose, dealt with his in-flight nerves by becoming a character in the show. However, being thrust into a theatre show for 13 hours can be bit much, even for the most ardent theatre-goer.”
“Populism aims to represent the people. That can function on two levels: reflecting it on the one hand and creating it on the other. With the former, we assume that the people exist before a representation of them is made. With the latter, we want to make it exist. This second concept is performative; we understand that it is close to the performance. The link with theatre and the other performing arts depends perhaps on how we should understand what an audience is.”
Robert Carsen’s production of the old Gene Kelly classic for Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet (and which he hopes to bring to Broadway) isn’t entirely in black-and-white: “We use sepia toning sometimes. If it’s in a garden, it’s tinted green. If it’s indoors, it’s tinted pink. In the fantasy section, when it’s not in Los Angeles anymore or making a movie but dreaming of being on Broadway, in the Broadway melody, that all goes into gold and warm tungsten stage lights.”
The Phoenix Theatre: “Once you build a big machine and have to keep feeding it, then you’ve made a decision that’s going to impact every area of the organizations, not the least of which is the artistic. But we never want to be so beholden to chasing dollars that that becomes our major pursuit… At the end of the day, the business operation is there to enable the art.”
The playwright was one week into rehearsals for Describe the Night this past August when the storm flooded Houston and did $15 million worth of damage to the Alley Theater. He wondered if it was even appropriate for the show to continue – hell, he wondered if his vocation as a playwright was of any use to the world at all – yet, as he writes in this essay, both he himself and the Houston community had deeper resources than he had known.
Michael Ball uses bay rum for Sweeney Todd and a cheap old perfume of his mother’s for Edna Turnblad (Hairspray). Fenella Woolgar deployed Chanel No. 5 (with an extra spritz) for a 1950s snob. David Greig sniffed canned mackereal to put him in mind of the chilly mountains of Scotland. Before playing a homeless man, Arthur McBain sniffed a paper coffee cup after the coffee was finished. David Jays explores the use of aromas, and the emotions they trigger, with these and other actors as well as a ballet star and a perfumer.
“The piece particularly draws on the experience of Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova, who served 16 months of a two-year sentence for hooliganism … Recreating the humiliation, intimidation and forced labour of a Russian gulag might seem like the ultimate in misery porn – especially when it’s taking place in the Saatchi Gallery, just a stone’s throw from Sloane Square.”
“We fought to be on the stage. We should reclaim that word: I don’t know where it came from, this fucking notion that putting ‘ess’ on the end makes us weak. I would be no less afraid of a lioness than a lion.”
The show, which satirizes Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton, started a limited-engagement run in July of 2016 and has since moved near the show it skewers (in an affectionate, smart way that had even Miranda laughing and applauding). Along with the U.S. tour, a London production may also be in the works.
It’s true: “In years past, this relationship was an illicit tryst, a badge of shame. Today, it is an artistic triumph. Many writers head to theater school with dramatic polygamy in mind, and those already established in theater actively pursue meetings with TV executives.”
Stuart Emmerich: “My only experiences of gay theater had been plays like The Boys in the Band, Fortune and Men’s Eyes, Tea and Sympathy and Streamers — plays where the gay character was either closeted or bitter or suicidal, and usually all three. It was a shock to see Mr. Fierstein, as Arnold, strutting around his apartment in his floppy rabbit slippers, cracking jokes, sharing affection with both his lover and his foster son, and going ferociously head-to-head with his disapproving mother, played by Estelle Getty, then unknown.”
The organization acts as a producer and manager all in one, from mapping out a show’s tour route to managing it on the road. “We view ourselves as being in service to the artists and the work, and we also view ourselves as being in service to our colleagues who will be our client.”
Lyn Gardner: “If the anniversary of the Russian revolution offers one reason for the current glut of Chekhov revivals, the other may well be the way the plays speak so directly to a world in flux, where the characters cannot comprehend or adjust to the cultural, social and political earthquakes that engulf them.”
“An investigation opened by the theatre, following allegations that the actor had sexually assaulted young men while working [as artistic director] there, led to 20 people coming forward to report incidents of inappropriate behaviour up to 2013. … The Old Vic said a ‘cult of personality’ had existed around Spacey during his time as director and that his stardom and status had prevented people, particularly junior staff and young actors, from speaking out.”
“I believe the future is less about what ‘live theatre’ is or isn’t, and more about the further blurring of lines of categorization. People will be less clear about the difference between “theatre” and “live performance” and “immersive” and “public art” and “interactive”, especially once ‘reality’ based technologies like AR/MR/VR invade the live sphere with faster and smaller real-time processing.”
“We knew if we were going to get extremely reduced ticket prices for the kids, then it would require a lot of bridge-building to all of the producers. After all, you’re asking for them to make an investment in their future, and, when they’re not sure they’re going to be open next month, it is really hard to think about the future.”
“Over 20 years, hundreds of performers have joined the show in cities around the globe. These are some of their stories – laced with hope, tragedy, homesickness and triumph.”
Sally Greene, who hired Spacey as the theatre’s artistic director, “said it made her ‘sick to the stomach’ to think people may have suffered harassment or abuse [there]. The theatre is facing questions about how much was known among management and trustees about Spacey’s alleged behaviour during his 11 years in charge. Former employees have described it as an open secret.
“The organization announced the inaugural Bridge Award on Monday, granting $10,000 to a playwright who has served in the military for the production of a new play.” This year’s judge: Suzan-Lori Parks.
Yeah, not great. Whew. “We ought to carefully consider who is excluded from the experience when required to sit in perfect silence, in a designated squeaky seat, in darkness, next to strangers, with no food or drink, without a bathroom, in a narrow row, for several hours. In fact, now that I’ve written that, it sounds more like a hostage situation than a way in which I want to spend my entertainment dollars. Oh, and PS, there are one million stairs, because this play is produced in the non-accessible, historic building that’s within the budget constraints of this small non-profit.”
The problem isn’t just Shakespeare; it’s also Chekhov – and Arthur Miller, all three of whom dominate English-language theatre training and thus the classroom, and it’s partially why so many women majoring or doing grad work in performance get to act much less often than their male counterparts. “The coexistence of these phenomena — the paucity of plays by women in the classroom and the narrow selection of roles for women in production — begs the exploration of a connection. Are members of an artistic community less likely to put gender parity onstage if it is not presented to them offstage as artistically valuable?”