“The central question of [Thomas] Bradshaw’s play – whether Sally Hemings, who as Jefferson’s slave was his legal property, could have loved her master, who fathered six of her children – has made Thomas and Sally the locus of a veritable firestorm of public protest and criticism. With that backlash have arisen questions of how sexual assault and slavery history can and should be portrayed onstage.”
Antonia Fraser: “I did something I’ve never done before. I scribbled some notes on a page from one of Harold’s yellow legal pads because I was waiting for a taxi to go to Mass, and too lazy to go upstairs. … When I had written the note, I stripped off the yellow page. Then I nearly fainted. Beneath lay Harold’s unforgettable handwriting – although rather frail – and a title: ‘The Pres and the Officer’. Six pages followed, his handwriting getting noticeably stronger.” (includes complete script)
“Five other charges related to the pyramid scheme have been dismissed. The development comes just days after [Joseph] Meli’s attorneys at Kasowitz Benson Torres – notable for its extensive connections with President Donald Trump – brought a motion to suppress evidence based on alleged government misconduct.”
“For one thing, it goes to small places other than Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver in the country, where people are underserved in terms of having access to the work of Canadian artists. It is also a gathering place where everyone from students to audiences to artists can come together to meet and talk; and it is also a showcase for Canadian artists who don’t have a lot of platforms for their work. There are more now – but an opportunity for presenters to see a lot of Canadian work in one place in a short period of time is very important.”
“Seeing a play live does not evoke a significantly stronger emotional response than watching it in the cinema, according to a project that monitored theatregoers’ heart rates. Reactions to live theatre, a cinema screening and a filmed, 360-degree virtual reality experience were found to be roughly comparable in a new study of Shakespeare performance.”
Chris Jones looks at the “exceptional” – in more than one sense – case of the current touring production of Les Miserables, now in Chicago.
Jennifer Zeyl: “Theatre at its best—I’m beginning to see a pattern as an independent producer, a devised theatre-maker and a director—I think that autobiographical narrative is incredibly powerful. Talking about intersectionality and all the nuanced combination of identifiers that make one person. And how complex that is, and how unique it is, and how beautiful it is. And at a time, a political climate like we’re experiencing right now, to be able to stand in that and celebrate it and be heard and seen, I think is an act of revolution. That’s what we need right now. We really need to show up. People need to stand in their identities. That’s what actually makes America great.”
Ironically, the first show of The Bridge Theatre, a venture from former National Theatre head Nicholas Hytner and his former executive director, Nick Starr, is about Marx.
Moore’s show had a 12-week run and was always scheduled to close, but the president tweeted, “While not at all presidential I must point out that the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close. Sad!”
“I didn’t know what else to do. So I do what I always do, I wrote something. … I didn’t know what it was gonna be like until I had to type them up and corrected them and read them through. And it was very – I can’t explain it, but it was like reading a tragedy, and the cathartic effect that that has, and the healing effect that offers.” A Q&A with American Theatre‘s Diep Tran.
“The majority of Equity acting jobs across Chicago theaters are going to men, white performers are often paid higher salaries than performers of color, and women are paid less than men on comparable contracts, according to a study from the Actors’ Equity Association.”
The gift by board chair Dan Bernstein and his wife, Claire Foerster, will go toward the construction of a new $60 million performance space to replace the Ontario festival’s Tom Patterson Theatre Center, built in 1971.
“Let’s not skip around this, there’s a dismayingly adolescent quality to the criticism of some mainstream media outlets that intensifies whenever the work under discussion involves sex or nudity. It might be 2017 but a flash of thigh still sets some critics sniggering, while two actors of different ethnic backgrounds playing siblings apparently still has the capacity to unsettle and baffle.”
Dominique Morisseau (Pipeline, Skeleton Crew) is seeing her work produced by the Detroit Public Theater, which is filling a gap in a city whose professional theater consists largely of touring Broadway shows. Company co-founder Courtney Burkett says that DPT “could not have existed 10 years ago. Now that the city’s stabilizing and even thriving in so many ways, our artists are also thriving and getting the attention they always deserved.”
She’s been working with composer Jeff Richmond (her husband), lyricist Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde: The Musical), and director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw (Spamalot, The Book of Mormon), and the result begins its D.C. tryout next week, with the Broadway opening planned for next spring. Peter Marks looks in on a rehearsal.
“Roland Scahill, 42, confessed to a scheme that took place between October 2014 and August 2015, in which Mr. Scahill told associates that he had secured the rights to the life story of Kathleen Battle, the opera singer, and was going to produce a one-woman play called The Kathleen Battle Project with Lupita Nyong’o as its star.”
“Purpose-built by scenic painter Joseph Harker in 1904 to accommodate 40ft backdrops for West End theatres, Harkers [Studio] originally provided art for Henry Irving’s West End theatres – including the Lyceum and Drury Lane. It is … facing closure amid plans to convert the space into luxury flats.”
“There’s no artist I’ve learned more from than Tony, and what I’ve learned is a kind of fearless grandiosity. Angels was an immense act of arrogance — to write a seven-hour play about gay people when you were a completely unknown writer whose one show was at best a succès d’estime. So there came a moment where it became clear to me that the Eureka Theatre did not have the resources to do Angels in America.And at that point, I’d have to say, ‘Thank you very much for writing this, but you’re two years late, it’s still a huge mess, and I have a theater to run.’ But I did the opposite. I said, ‘That show is so good that I believe in it more than I believe in my theater company.’ And I left the Eureka and went to Los Angeles to produce Angels in America. I spent six years total with Angels.”
“Renowned director Max Stafford-Clark – the former artistic director of London’s Royal Court theatre – was forced out of the Out of Joint theatre company after a formal complaint that he made lewd comments to a member of staff. … A spokesperson for Stafford-Clark said the director had suffered from pseudobulbar palsy and ‘occasional disinhibition’ since a stroke and brain injury in 2006.”
The statement comes after allegations of sexual misconduct by the US film producer Harvey Weinstein prompted a blizzard of related claims on both sides of the Atlantic. On Friday the Guardian revealed one of the most influential directors in British theatre, Max Stafford-Clark, was forced to stand down from the company he founded after being accused of inappropriate, sexualised behaviour.
Is it working? Yes, but in a different way than they’d hoped – one artistic director says, “It’s really instructive and inspiring to have regular contact with my colleagues, and that’s sharpening our artistic processes and our work” – and without nearly as much money as they’d wanted.
The Catalan independence movement garnered plenty of media attention when Spanish federal forces cracked down on a vote. But none of this was entirely new: “Since 2012, the Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya (ANC) and other independence activists have been staging large-scale, theatrical protests to garner internal and external support. Through these organizations, repertoires of theatricalized protests have developed on Barcelona’s streets seeking to shine the spotlight on the merits of Catalan independence.”
In a new Canadian play by 10 different playwrights, “the result is something altogether its own: A 2 1/2-hour history play that pleases, puzzles and provokes, in a form that keeps shifting wildly from one moment to the next like a bucking bronco. One moment it’s a poetic drama, the next a comedy – then cabaret, RCMP musical ride or game show.”
Is that possible? Especially when the playwright has a PR person? Er, no: “Playwrights should consider these issues before deciding to put their work onstage. There are ways around it: hold private readings; don’t produce the piece; write a different piece; check with those around you first to be sure they don’t mind being included, or make your peace with the idea that they may be unhappy with you; use a pen name; decide whether or not this is the right career for you.”
Lyn Gardner: “The best teachers teach, do and more importantly they enable the future and support and inspire the young. Many have just as much artistic talent as those who appear on our stages and in movies, although they spend more time covered in paint in the school hall than on the red carpet. Their role and dedication is more important than ever at a time when opportunities for the rising generations are drying up, social mobility is stagnant and arts education is under siege in schools because of the EBacc.”
“Thayne Jasperson, who plays the British loyalist Samuel Seabury, is the only cast member still in his original role. Emmy Raver-Lampman, by contrast, started as part of the ensemble on Broadway, left the show in April 2016 for SpongeBob SquarePants, returned as an ensemble member in the Chicago production of Hamilton, and is now playing Angelica Schuyler in the first national tour. She and Jasperson talked to TheaterMania about their experiences with the musical and how it’s changed since the summer of 2015.”
The company, founded by Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh and Matt Besser and the training ground for many comedians, sketch actors and Saturday Night Live cast members, is moving from its longtime base in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood to the group of Off-Broadway theaters on the far west end of 42nd Street.
“If, in any given year, somewhere up and down the UK, you can see a starry production of Hamlet being staged with Big-Name Acclaimed Actors showing off their Big-Name Acclaimed Acting Chops, then the cachet of that role is reduced. No question. It’s the basic economics of scarcity: when every Tom (Hiddleston), Dick (Burton) and Jude Law has had a crack at moodily wafting on stage, like a Smiths fan in search of legitimate melancholy, then theatre’s great and good might consider that it is time to call a moratorium on more Hamlets.
“Her plays are staged almost twice as often as anyone else’s on the list, far ahead of venerated figures like Eugene O’Neill and August Wilson, who edged her for the top spot last year. (The survey excludes Shakespeare, America’s perennial favorite.) Although men still write three-quarters of the plays that get produced, Gunderson has built a national reputation with works that center on women’s stories. And, though most playwrights also teach or work in television, she has managed to make a living, in San Francisco, by writing for the stage.”
They mistakenly believe it improves their performance, he says. Saying actors must refocus their attention on preparing properly, Nighy argues the trend has been propagated by those who simply “don’t want to do their homework”.