Lauren Gunderson: “I have come along at a very open time. In my career, if there has been massive sexism against me, I haven’t felt it much or perhaps I’ve been too busy to notice or something! So I have great hope for the future and we’re already seeing it.”
Stephen Spinella originated the role of the young AIDS patient at the center of Tony Kushner’s drama in its 1991 world premiere, and he won back-to-back Tony Awards for it in 1993 and ’94. This spring, in a revival at Berkeley Repertory Theater in California, Spinella will play the part farthest from Prior’s type (and, arguably, Spinella’s own): the furious, ailing, closeted and desperate lawyer who made his name as an anti-Communist hatchet man for Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
In a statement issued Thursday evening, Albert Schultz said, “While I will continue to vigorously defend myself against the allegations that are being made, I have made this decision in the interest of the future of the company into which I poured the last 20 years of my life, and in the interest of the aspirations of the artists and administrators of the company.” The board immediately accepted the resignation.
“Saying she wants to dismantle theatre hierarchies, Michelle Terry announced [that] … none of the actors turning up for rehearsals [for Hamlet and As You Like It] will know which role they are taking, with the whole ensemble choosing who plays whom. In a similar vein, when the plays The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night go on tour, some audiences will be able to choose which one they want to see that night.”
“The Wilma now has a three-year-old resident acting company” – in itself a rarity nowadays – “and welcomes shows whose daring aesthetics depart from the factory-setting naturalism of most American stages, especially regional ones.” And the theater’s model, thoroughly changed from less than a decade ago, was instituted not by a new boss but by longtime artistic director Blanka Zizka.
Vicky Featherstone, artistic director of London’s Royal Court Theatre, “has leapt from last year’s placing of 39th in the annual list, reflecting her ‘brave’ and ‘enlightened’ leadership in the face of allegations around harassment and abuses of power in the theatre industry. … In taking the number one position, Featherstone knocks commercial producer Sonia Friedman off the top of the list to third place.”
The plaintiffs’ suits against the company and its artistic director, Albert Schultz, seek a total of well over $6 million. At the board’s direction, Schultz has taken what’s being called a leave of absence, pending investigation; executive director Leslie Lester, Schultz’s wife, has voluntarily done the same.
Cuts to drama in schools coupled with a shortage of new teachers is fuelling the problem, warning that a decline in the number of drama teachers at secondary level will result in the sector becoming less diverse in the long term. Statistics from the Labour Party’s Acting Up inquiry into working-class actors in 2017 confirmed the decline, revealing there were now 1,700 fewer drama teachers in UK schools than in 2010.”
“If Macbeth continues to obsess us, it is because it seems both modern and timeless. We see all around us today the corrosive folly of overweening ambition and the insecurity that breeds tyranny. But Macbeth can never be reduced to a set of moralistic, crime-does-not-pay platitudes. It … has a language that eats into the soul.”
Playwright Ayad Akhtar: “I am not hopeful about where we are as a nation — as a species (if I can be so presumptuous). I’m not hopeful, because I am increasingly of the mind that even my hope is being monetized. That which is most enduring, most noble, most human about me — my urge for something brighter, more vivid, more loving, more alive — all of this is being used against me.”
Frankly, it’s a bit more boring – and less dangerous in an overt sense, though it’s certainly dangerous for some of the theatre-makers. “Independent-minded leaders of scores of theatres and other cultural organizations across the nation have been replaced by apparatchiks—including at the emblematic National Theatre, where popular actor-director Robert Alfoldi was sacked in 2013 after being outed as gay and decried for ‘treason’ and ‘inciting and discrediting Hungarians.'”
“George C. Wolfe and Joe Mantello go back to the 1990s, when Mantello, as a young actor, starred as Louis in Wolfe’s Broadway production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. In the years that followed, Mantello found himself acting less and directing more. Now, they’re formidable colleagues in their prime, as well as great friends, to boot. In the latest edition of TheaterMania‘s Artist to Artist series, Wolfe and Mantello discuss what their successes and failures mean to them, how they approach actors in the rehearsal room, and what it takes to maintain a level of joy that carries them through adversity.”
The American Playwriting Foundation’s $45,000 Relentless Award, funded by a libel settlement from The National Enquirer for a false story about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death and given for an unproduced script judged blind, was won by Gracie Gardner for a play whose title — well, we’re too squeamish to print it, too. (Cool fact: all eight semifinalists were written by women.)
“Theater artists who really want to make a difference might be advised to break free from the constant stream of infuriating updates belching from their phones. It’s not that the stage should turn a blind eye to the latest outrages. Indeed, for too long American drama seemed blithely detached from the economic conditions radically transforming our national life. Yet playwrights have more pressing business than keeping up with the news crawl.”
Lucy Kirkwood, playwright of The Children (now playing on Broadway), says she was trying for a long time to figure out how to write plays about climate change. “Then the events of Fukushima happened, the terrible disaster there. There was a retired work force that volunteered to go back to clear up the plant there. And apparently the entire country sort of voluntarily monitored their own energy usage. They managed to bring down their national energy usage just because everyone was diligent and considerate and thought about themselves as part of something bigger.”
It’s just an idea right now … an idea with a building, and a lot of support, attached. “Four black theater organizations have pledged support, and have expressed interest in moving their institutions to the new Memphis museum. These include the Baltimore-based Black Theatre Commons, Washington, D.C.–based August Wilson Society, St. Paul, Minnesota–based Black Theatre Association, as well as the Lorton, Virginia–based Black Theatre Network.”
Of course, they were two men, and of course, they made a YouTube video. “In the video, the two males are seen gaining entry into the building through an unlocked door that gives them access to the set of the National’s production of Follies. They are then seen leaving the London complex the following morning after spending the night sleeping backstage.”
“Across America, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, the races were kept separate at the theater. Black people sat apart in the upper galleries or were excluded entirely, by custom and, in some southern cities, by law. As hybrid places—private associations open to the public—theaters were subject to municipal authority, but property owners possessed the liberty to exclude or restrict at will. The common law recognized no right of amusement seeking. After emancipation, statehouses controlled by Radical Republicans banned distinctions of race and color in public conveyances and resorts. But the legislation was evaded simply by tickets stating that proprietors had discretion to exclude anyone. Nor did it carry a positive grant of rights; it regulated places rather than entitling persons.”
“What may seem disarmingly simple is actually incredibly complex. The dame is definitely a man in a dress, and one who needs to combine a character with strong maternal instinct, a mouth that’s full of broad innuendo and ensure that the joke is always on them. The great dames also form the bridge between the audience and the action on stage. … A great frock and wig can only take you so far.”
The research, which looked at 33 venues, was carried out in response to recent conversations about gender equality, and in light of concerns from some SDUK members that seasons were heavily weighted towards male directors. The research looked only at in-house shows produced by the venues themselves, rather than visiting shows, and included productions staged by artistic directors.