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2018 Obie Award Winners

Rajiv Joseph’s Describe the Night won the award for Best New American Play, and $1,000, at the 63rd Annual Obie Awards, celebrating Off and Off-Broadway Theater, which spread the love around. Obies went to three directors, four playwrights and a dozen actors.

Complete list:

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Defining Excellence in Theater. Drama League and Chita Rivera Awards. Week in NY Theater

The winners of the Drama League Awards and the Chita Rivera Awards were announced this past week (see results below), and the Obies will be held tonight.  But they and all the other awards this season prompt a question: How does one define excellence in theater?

“I’ve become increasingly convinced that as a field we do not have a cohesive definition of excellence,” writes Chad Bauman,  the managing director of Milwaukee Repertory Theater, in an article in American Theatre.

So he asked his colleagues across the country, and got some 50 responses – but the question he asked was about excellence in a theater as a whole (regional theaters in particular), not about individual shows. So the answers about excellence in individual shows didn’t get much more specific than “artistic quality.” All did agree that courage counts – such as not being afraid to play with form.

Four years ago, in an article titled Divining Artistic Excellence ,  theater artist and historian Lynne Connor pointed out that, while the concept of excellence can refer to something semi-tangible such as “the sophistication of a play’s dramatic arc,” more often people conflate excellence with taste, “something far less tangible and thus far less quantifiable.” And what determines taste? “Personal taste in everything from beer to Shakespeare comes about through a combination of biology, past experience, cultural norms, and individual predilections.”

She concludes: “We need to find productive ways to invite audiences of all tastes (and all economic and ethnic backgrounds) to join in the conversation about (the struggle over) meaning and value.”

Below: Summer theater festivals 2018.  A Sondheim show closing, and another opening. A new play about Gloria Steinem, a new musical about a Marilyn Monroe film. The new seasons at BAM, Atlantic, and City Center. Also: tapped out on Broadway, tripped up at Harry Potter.

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Our Lady of 121st Street Review: Phylicia Rashad directs Stephen Adly Guirgis’s early play.

“What kinda f—in’ world is this?”
It is the first line in the first scene of “Our Lady of 121st Street,” asked by a man in his underwear, ranting to a detective at the Ortiz Funeral Home in Harlem, where the funeral for Sister Rose is supposed to take place, except that somebody has stolen the dead nun’s body. The same thief has stolen the agitated man’s pants.

It’s also a good question for theatergoers to ask of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s 2002 play, revived as part of his Signature season. Read more of this post

Hats Off to Royal Couple

Harry and Meghan got married this morning. Prince Harry is now the Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel. Meghan Markle will be known as Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex. Many guests and spectators wore hats.

Maple and Vine review: Make America 1955 Again

In the original 2011 production of Jordan Harrison’s prescient play, a married couple overwhelmed with the stresses and complications of their lives in the city, leave their high-powered jobs behind, as well as their lattes and laptops, for a simpler world – the one that existed in 1955. A cult has re-created the world of 1955 in a gated community in the Midwest.
In the 2018 revival of “Maple and Vine” at the Flea, the actors and the audience enter another world as well – the world of the deaf.
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Bump Review: Pregnancy as Playful and Painful, Childbirth as Inventive

Bump, a play by Chiara Atik that is as entertaining as it is informative, intertwines three different threads about pregnancy and childbirth – the most surprising of which turns out to be based on a true story.

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12 Summer Theater Festivals in New York City 2018

Summer has begun in the city, theatrically speaking, with the first of the summer theater festivals. These festivals present  shows that are cheaper (often free), more cutting-edge and more abundant than what you can see during the regular theater season.  They also present a greater challenge in choosing which of their shows to see.

In this, the seventh year I’m offering a run-down on New York’s most reliable summer theater festivals, there are two big changes.  Lincoln Center has killed its Lincoln Center Festival, and the Fringe Festival has moved to October.

Below is a list arranged more or less chronologically by the month in which the festival begins. (Several continue through the summer.) Read more of this post

Rise Falls: “Opening Night” Episode is the NBC Series Finale

Now that the hard-working, good-looking students of Stanton High School in dreary Stanton, Pennsylvania have put on the musical “Spring Awakening”  in the season finale of “Rise,” it will be the last show they ever do. NBC has canceled the TV series. Lou Mazzuchelli, the drama teacher played by Josh Radnor, will disappear from your TV after only two months and ten episodes — unless another network picks up the show for a second season.

Watch all 10 episodes of Rise on NBC

But Lou Volpe lives on. Read more of this post

Rise Canceled. Boy in the Band Injured. Marathon Running Times. Week in New York Theater

With the sudden countertrend of shows with long running times — “Light Shining at Buckinghamshire” at New York Theater Workshop (180 minutes),   “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”  at BAM starring Jeremy Irons (200 minutes),  “The Iceman Cometh” with Denzel Washington (230 minutes), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (315 minutes)  “Angels in America” (450 minutes) — is it surprising that there have been reports of theatrical snoozing? (See below for the answer to the question: Do people have a moral obligation to the performers to try to stay awake?) Now comes news that NYU Skirball’s 2018-2019 season will offer several marathon shows, including a revival of Elevator Repair Service’s “Gatz” (480 minutes) and “Mt. Olympus: to glorify the cult of tragedy” (1,440 minutes.)

Below: This week’s awards; “To Kill a Mockingbird” back on; “Rise,” “Unmasked” canceled, “Children of a Lesser God” closing, “The Boys in the Band” cancels a single performance due to “minor injury.”

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Me and My Girl Review: Wonderful and Disappointing, Like Encores

Christian Borle clowns like an old-time vaudevillian, Laura Michelle Kelly sings like a classic chanteuse, and director Warren Carylyle choreographs the topnotch cast like a 1930s showman; they’re tap-dancing on tabletops!  “Me and My Girl,” closing out the 25th anniversary season of Encores!, shows off what’s most wonderful about this “concert series,” but also what’s disappointing about it.

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