As theatre addresses more of things like mass shootings and sexual assaults, the warnings have arrived. “The phenomenon has led to searching discussions at theaters large and small, pitting a traditional impulse — to preserve art’s ability to surprise, shock and stir — against a modern desire to accommodate sensitivities and not alienate paying customers.”
Patricia Ione Lloyd is acutely aware both of image and of the limits of what image can do in a world that’s not as kind as it should be to queer women of color. “The stories that people tell themselves about black women or black queer women or poor women, those are myths, but people still hold onto them. I’m really trying to tell myself different stories about myself that can help me move through the world in a more powerful way.”
Howard Sherman surveys the current landscape, where experienced critics discarded by legacy publications are now turning up at high-quality websites, and, though an imbalance remains, a few of those legacy outlets have hired younger female and nonwhite writers. (Sherman seems to have forgotten about Hilton Als, though.)
With more than 200 Welsh actors having joined 40 of its playwrights in making public complaints about how little actual theatre the company is making and how few Welsh artists are being employed to make it, the chief executive of the Arts Council of Wales — which gives NTW £1.6 million each year — has issued a statement observing pointedly that “to be ‘national’ is a privilege, not a right.”
The £100,000 public fundraising campaign to double the number of ladies’ loos in the building is fronted by a video featuring actresses Joanna Lumley, Bertie Carvel, and a ferocious-looking Glenda Jackson reading tweets from audience members on the subject.
The man, who had been seated in the balcony, began shouting “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump.” Immediately after that, “People started running,” audience member Rich Scherr said. “I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot. I thought, ‘Here we go.’ ”The man was escorted out a few minutes later and the show continued.
Fortunately, Mike Birbiglia doesn’t do it quite the way Patti LuPone does. And he’s playing himself in his one-man Broadway show, The New One, so he can talk to offending audience members directly without breaking character. Here, with audio of recent examples, he explains how and why he does it.
If Shakespeare is the only named author on the national curriculum, how is it that 31% of those surveyed failed to recognise the playwright’s name? That only 53% had been on a school trip to a theatre is equally depressing, but the two stats might be related…After all, why should they know of him as a playwright if they have never experienced his plays as ‘play’?
Lyn Gardner: “Nobody thinks accountants should always put accountancy before everything else, so why is the ‘show must go on’ mentality, whatever the cost, so pervasive in theatre? In part, it is because jobs are hard to come by, and nobody wants to get a reputation for unreliability, but most of all I suspect it is because holding it together whatever the stress you are operating under is seen as a badge of honour, part of being a trouper. No wonder so many deal with the stress by self-medicating with alcohol.”
“The Arkansas Repertory Theatre on Tuesday announced it will offer a four-show season to spearhead its attempt to return from the brink of nonexistence. … The board had declared April 24 that it was suspending operations, canceling the final production of the 2017-18 season and the entire 2018-19 season because of critical cash-flow problems.”
“[Bob] Avian, credited as the musical’s co-choreographer [with the late Michael Bennett], and [Baayork] Lee, the original Connie Wong, travel the world to stage virtually every major production of A Chorus Line, passing on the steps to new casts and identifying dancers who might be able to do the same in the future.”
Under Lynne Meadow, who has been artistic director since 1972, MTC has won 23 Tonys and seven Pulitzer Prizes; produced off and on Broadway; and supported writers from Lanford Wilson to Stephen Adley Guirgis.
It’s seriously immersive: “Older professional actors will play care staff and activity organisers, and will mix with audience members who will also take on a variety of roles. Each resident will have a room to retire to at night, kitted out like care home quarters. But not every member of the audience will have to opt in for the whole 48 hours; a succession of larger groups will be welcomed in to observe semi-scripted events staged inside the home, including a bingo night.”
A theatre group was performing – with edits – a high school version of The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged,” when teachers and students started texting the principal. Then the superintendent shut the play down.
The list, called The Mix, “Steppenwolf compiled a list of over 150 potential nominators and ultimately received plays from nearly 100 theater professionals, including playwrights, directors and theater administrators. … The shows are inclusive of (but not limited to) race, ethnicity, gender, varied physical or cognitive ability, size, sexual orientation and generation. The company hopes that the peer-developed resource will fortify efforts of building equity in theater.”
Controversy broke out when Anthony Ekundayo Lennon was selected for an Arts Council England-funded program to train minority theatre artists as directors: While he says his skin coloring has caused him to be treated as black or mixed-race in the acting marketplace, he acknowledges that his parents were white. Now the director of Talawa, the black-led theatre company that took Lennon on as a trainee, has spoken up about the choice.
Jacob G. Padrón, a Yale Drama alum (as both student and administrator) who has produced more than 100 new plays and who founded the Sol Project to support and promote Latinx playwrights, succeeds Gordon Edelstein, who was fired early this year following accusations of bullying and sexual harassment.
“The problem is that, at the same time as having to boost income [because of subsidy cuts], theatres have faced increased demands to justify their funding. Organisations have had to diversify their audiences, artists and their personnel, to prove their social utility and inclusivity with access schemes and outreach programmes … Taken together, however, the two things add up to one hell of a paradox, which risks pulling theatres apart at the seams. Being dependent on both earned income and public subsidy, theatres are having to pull in two directions at once. Make more money. Do more good.”
What if you have never been to the theatre before? Could the entrance also be seen as a barrier that feels as if it is there to keep you out just as much to welcome you in? Once you get inside, how do you know what to do and where to go? It can make theatregoing feel as if it’s an exclusive club to which you don’t have the right membership, and one that is likely to fill you with rising panic, adding to the sense that you don’t belong there.
Joanie Schultz will have been on the job for only two years when she leaves the WaterTower Theatre in Dallas County. Her unexpected resignation comes just a few months after the departure of Nicholas Even, the second managing director to resign from WaterTower during Schultz’s term. Also, one major donor family had its name removed from WaterTower’s stage because they were offended by Schultz’s production of Robert Askins’s extremely irreverent play Hand to God.
“Let me just say that although I don’t mind watching other theatergoers getting into the act — as a longtime observer of how audiences behave, the psychology of these events intrigues me — I hate being compelled to be the show. I’m not shy or anti-social. I simply don’t want to be made to feel that I must cross the line, onto the actors’ playing field, or be a spoilsport if I don’t. “
“The question of how well — or poorly — the theater world accommodates child care has been talked about for years, and is closely bound up with the discussion of why women are so underrepresented as writers, directors, and designers at the industry’s highest, and highest-paying, levels. … The theater world is experimenting with a variety of small-scale solutions to make the juggling easier.”
Anthony Ekundayo Lennon has always acknowledged that his parents and grandparents are white, but says that his skin coloring (which his brothers share) has led to his being treated, and discriminated against, as black or mixed-race for his entire life, including his work in theatre. Lennon applied, as a “mixed-heritage individual,” for and won an Arts Council England grant to work a a black-led London theatre company. The company, Talawa, willingly sponsors Lennon, but other black actors and directors are publicly objecting.
Ming Peiffer says that the moment she realized she needed to stop writing for others and start writing her own truth changed her play Usual Girls extensively. “I recoiled from the original play that I was writing, and [a new version] almost just spewed out. … Even as I realized that I was going to some very deep, dark, and uncomfortable places, by that point I was already going — there was an energy attached to it that I didn’t want to stop.”
The two-part show’s movement director was in rehearsals with the cast, using some Imogen Heap music as inspiration. Then he decided that he wanted more. “‘The first I heard about it was pushing my baby at the time in a very muddy field with a pram,’ Heap recalled. She got a call from Hoggett who said he was working on a project for which they had been temping her music in workshops; he wanted to know if he could keep using it.”
“Founded in 2002, Les Récréâtrales takes place in a residential area of Ouagadougou. Plays are developed, rehearsed, and performed in family courtyards, bringing theatre to the people. Whereas non-festival performances at downtown cultural centers … attract audiences composed of Europeans, other artists, and the artists’ family members and friends, the festival’s audiences are locals of all ages who would not usually have access to or interest in theatre.” Writer and translator Heather Jeanne Denyer talks with the festival’s artistic director, playwright Aristide Tarnagda.
“The programme will see 10 members of [Artistic Directors of the Future] from a range of culturally diverse backgrounds given access to the boardrooms of five Yorkshire theatres, including Sheffield Theatres, Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre and York Theatre Royal, over the course of four months. It aims to develop relationships between aspiring trustees from culturally diverse backgrounds and existing board members, and to give the participants insight into the way theatre boards operate.”
Immersive street art theatre with a giant minotaur and a giant spider meeting around a city and playing out different acts? Why not, right?
In the Twin Cities, three theatre companies founded by women – including a new one focusing on opportunities for women of color and/or queer women – are changing the landscape. “‘These theaters are being founded as answers to a lack of opportunity,’ said Mary McColl, a former Twin Cities arts leader who now runs the 51,000-member Actors’ Equity union. Acknowledging that the politics of the moment have women fired up, she said she sees these companies as crucial ‘for the industry to become more inclusive and equitable.'”
Five states, 18 cities, free performances – and a plan that reaches far beyond the play itself; “Along with community organizations, public libraries, Rotary clubs, humanities councils, and whoever else is interested, it has encouraged lectures, discussion groups, story circles, and art pieces in the weeks before and after staging a free performance of Sweat. The tour is now over, but the project is not.”