Alexis Soloski talks with the artistic director of the British theatre company Forced Entertainment, whose show Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare charges through the plays with a cast of household items.
“The big changes to the Macbeth at the Folger Theatre include famous monologues that have been substantially trimmed; a newly heroic Macduff and Lady Macduff, who have bigger roles than Shakespeare dreamed of; and witches in extended sequences of song and dance. … This Macbeth is a painstakingly assembled revival of a version that’s about 350 years old, adapted by William Davenant as London’s theaters reopened after being shut down for 18 years during England’s Civil War.”
A controversial play about the relationship between whites and Indigenous peoples will finally be presented after previously being cancelled following criticism of content judged culturally insensitive. The Paris-based Theatre du Soleil says in a statement it will put on Quebec playwright Robert Lepage’s Kanata this December.
A shift in the Regional Arts Commission’s funding philosophy, as reflected in its most recent round of grants, has raised concerns in the St. Louis arts community, with some applicants receiving zero funding, including theater companies like New Line that have consistently been supported.
“Lovers of drama, comedy and green onion cakes flocked to the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in record numbers this year. … Patrons purchased a record 133,276 tickets to more than 1,600 shows, generating $1.46 million in box office revenue, an increase of 10 per cent from last year.”
“[The STC] has reached across the Atlantic and tapped British director Simon Godwin as its new artistic director effective next August, signaling a commitment to large-scale classics on its two downtown Washington stages.”
Mark Shenton: “As welcome as all this activity is, it is also slightly worrying that the deluge of productions arriving simultaneously could dissipate the audience. Yes, musical aficionados will want to see them all; but a wider public may not have the funds or inclination to do so. It will also be an added challenge for producers to establish their shows in such a crowded marketplace.”
We can’t help making presumptions about their bank accounts, as if acting is less a career than a ticket to dreamland. Perhaps it’s time to stop differentiating what kind of work we think is “real”—whether it’s acting, bagging groceries, writing (hi!), governing a state, or tilling the fields—and start valuing hard work in whatever form it comes.
It’s been a difficult beginning for the new hip-hop musical Sylvia at the London theatre. Sept. 3 was to have been the first preview performance of the show about suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, but the previous day, director Matthew Warchus, worried about the readiness of the production, rebranded the evening as an open dress rehearsal. Then, just after the second act began, the lead actress, Genesis Lynea, became ill and the performance was stopped.
Rufus Norris stepped in for ailing lead actor Richard Harrington in last Friday’s sold-out performance of Laura Wade’s Home, I’m Darling. “It’s a last-resort situation,” he said, “But it was only a few days before the show finishes and we couldn’t add an extra date. We had a full house who wouldn’t be able to see it again.”
Lyn Gardner, in a post-Edinburgh column, considers plays that “have a fractured messiness that upends some of the traditional ways we tell stories on stage. … We need to recognise that what might once have been considered failings are in fact their strength. It is theatre that is as much about disrupting the traditional form as telling stories about women that are different from those traditionally told, if they have been told at all.”
Matt Trueman’s list includes an Austrian who has actors lip-sync amid candy-colored stage designs, a Frenchman who stages marathon adaptations of great novels, an Austrian who creates devised theatre with ethnic minority and refugee casts, a Vietnamese-Frenchwoman who draws from both literature and post-colonial experience, and a Croatian whose ferociously confrontational work regularly attracts death threats.
It behooves arts journalists to integrate into the arts as conscientious equals and not “objective” observers. This means journalists must establish permanent vested interest in the social aspects of the arts. Arts journalists must stand with our fellow artists against violence. Remaining outside of the struggle toward safer spaces for victims and justice for the entire arts community sends the message that journalists stand with the abusers. We must take a stand against abuse publically, and also personally.
The question seems even more unlikely when one finds out that the play in question is titled The Nap. But the playwright is Richard Bean, who gave us One Man, Two Guvnors. As he tells Roslyn Sulcas, “[Snooker] is sociologically quite interesting, because it’s a working-class game. You read the autobiographies of the top players, the tropes are exactly the same: alcohol, gambling, fast cars, women trouble, dystopian families. That’s your raw material really. At the same time it’s unbelievably difficult, and it’s like playing first violin in the Philharmonic.”
John Earl Jelks: “If you live in L.A. or New York or Chicago or one of these major cities, you don’t really think about these people, but 100 miles outside of any of these places, life is so different … How did we end up forgetting about these people? Because that’s what happened.”
She is taking over an organization that recently experienced significant turmoil following allegations of sexual misconduct against founding artistic director Albert Schultz, and his departure from the organization in January along with executive director Leslie Lester. (Schultz recently settled with his four accusers out of court).
“Ben Brantley and Jesse Green, the Times‘s chief theater critics, joined the critic Elisabeth Vincentelli to answer the big questions: Why are the bad ones so bad? Why are the good ones better? And are there good ones? Scott Heller, the theater editor, played referee. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation, set to the music of Abba, the Go-Go’s, Donna Summer, Bob Dylan and more.”
As Churchill turns 80, writer David Benedict – with contributions from such luminaries as Vicky Featherstone, Rufus Norris, Lucy Kirkwood, and Dominic Cooke – takes an extended look at the powerful effect her work has had and the way younger playwrights have been influenced by her.
Says Black Theatre Club founder Steven Kavuma, “It’s a safe space environment where black people can freely talk about a play that is either about the black experience or is a classical play that has black bodies in it. We don’t have safe spaces where black people can freely talk about a play. Black people don’t feel comfortable being at theatres, because theatres are white spaces.”
“The danger, or the sad thing for me, is that the wonderful audiences that come [to children’s theatre] on the whole are quite middle-class – they are the type of parents who want their children to go to the theatre. What we all desperately want is children who are not automatically going to come to the theatre because their parents wouldn’t take them, and the schools are the ones that are going to bring them.”
We are beyond having reviews that are summaries and opinions on aesthetics. We need context and attention to detail in criticism. And we must not turn a blind eye to a playwright’s activism.
“[Artistic director Tim Carroll] points to the nearly endless number of meet-up opportunities: the post-show talkbacks, the cocktail hours, the classes and clubs, the pop-up patios, the escape rooms, the speakeasy jazz nights, and garden tours, some of which are for friends and members only, many of which are open to all. ‘I think all of that is as much part of the Shaw experience as coming to the shows,’ Carroll said. ‘People sign up for the whole ticket.'”
Be More Chill, a show about a high-school nerd who takes a mysterious drug (an actual “chill pill”) that makes him popular, got one professional production at a Jersey Shore theater in 2015, dropped a cast album on the streaming platforms, and disappeared. Two years later, young fans started discovering the show online; before the year was out, it had been listened to 150 million times on Spotify. So the creators got an off-Broadway production together – and its initial run sold out in a day.
“Once James [Corden] steps in, you want to laugh at everything, but what makes what we’re doing funny is that we take it very seriously. So I always have to tell the dancers: ‘You approach the crosswalk like this is Broadway. Like this is the best thing you’ve ever done in your life.’ And that’s what makes it so funny, because people that are driving by are like, Why is there a full-blown production in the street?“
It all goes back to the ugliness of the Thirty Years War and the rule of Emperor Ferdinand II, who, in addition to killing or throwing out all the Protestants, imposed the German language on the Czech Estates.
“Organisers of the event, which recorded its best-ever box office returns for the sixth year in a row, with 2,838,839 issued, said almost half its tickets were sold in Scotland. The Fringe’s final day tally was five per cent increase on its record-breaking 70th anniversary season in 2017 and a 52 per cent increase, of 979,604, on the 2009 event.
“A respected playwright for years, she is now a name playwright, a rising star. She ranked No. 5 on American Theatre‘s list of the 20 most-produced playwrights of 2017-18 — one spot above Arthur Miller … [and] Broadway is likely next.”
“‘It’s hard to make comedy out of situational paralysis,’ said Nish Kumar, a comedian whose show at the Fringe is called ‘It’s In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves.’ … But many comedians on both sides are trying to understand and explain, rather than merely mock. Mr. Kumar said that 2016 was the year for angry Brexit-themed shows … In 2018, the festival seems to reflect a nation that is finally coming to terms with the fact that Brexit is happening.”
“Rajiv Joseph recalls the advice delivered in a class taught by none other than Edward Albee: ‘Be as explicit with instructions for delivering lines as possible.’ But at that point in his career, Mr. Joseph didn’t completely buy in to the opinion of a playwright known for exerting extreme authorial control. … His experience with Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo led him to think twice about Albee’s warning.” Journalist Stuart Miller talks with Joseph, Lynn Nottage, David Henry Hwang, Sarah Ruhl, David Lindsay-Abaire, and Lucy Thurber about how they deal with stagings they weren’t involved with that go places they didn’t intend.
“Bill Rauch, the festival’s artistic director, said in an interview that the financial losses are a result of over 20 performances of the three outdoor main-stage shows having been either canceled or moved to a smaller indoor theater, which has diminished ticket revenue. Reduced attendance has also contributed. In recent years, the festival has reported around $20 million in ticket sales.”