Mass Shootings on Stage: Healing or Titillating?

The mass shooting on Valentine’s Day at a Florida high school is the latest in a long line of school shootings, some of which are instantly identifiable: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook.

Each of these has been the subject of plays, as have some of the other most notorious mass shootings in the United States.

Other dramas about shooters or shootings don’t dramatize specific events, but take their inspiration from what one can call, horribly, the trend.

Below are some examples — the good, the bad and the ugly — and they pose a question. As I put it in the title of a piece I wrote for HowlRound in 2015:  Violence on Stage: Healing or Titillating?   Enlightening…or exploitative?


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Stage Kisses: When a Kiss Is Not A Kiss

“Nice to meet you, Kevin. Do you want me to actually kiss Kevin, or Kevin, do you mind if we kiss? You look young, I don’t want to traumatize you.”
That’s what the actress says to her director and her co-star in the opening lines in Sarah Ruhl’s 2014 play, “Stage Kiss.” Much theater centers around a kiss, certainly in the title: Kiss Me Kate; Kiss of the Spider Woman
For Valentine’s Day ,here are stage kisses dating back to 1887. They are different enough from off-stage kisses as to require guidance, judging by How To Stage Kiss (Set ground rules, pay attention to hygiene, make sure you know your lines) and Tell and Kiss: A Manual for Actors (Boundaries—to tongue or not to tongueFor me, this is an easy one: open mouth, no tongue…. Make sure your makeup won’t rub off on your partner. ..Use good sense. Be respectful. Speak up for yourself.”)

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged and learn who is kissing whom and in what


NEA Gives Grants to Dozens of NYC Theaters. Then Trump Proposes Eliminating It

President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposes ELIMINATING the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

(To send a letter of protest to your Congressman, and other suggested actions, click here)

A few days earlier, the NEA announced grants of $24 million (full list here), including some three million dollars for 149 theaters, dozens of which are located in New York City, for shows such as the ones above.

To give a sense of what the NEA does, below is a list of those New York theaters and what the money is for. The grants range from Bedlam’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion ($10,000) to Lincoln Center’s production of My Fair Lady ($35,000) which is based on Shaw’s Pygmalion.

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Broadway for Everyone: Coming Soon? Week in New York Theater

Remarkable changes are underway to make Broadway more accessible – hastened by technology, hindered by public attitudes as I explain in an article in HowlRound based on the Broadway Accessibility Summit and a similar panel at BroadwayCon:

For example: By June 1, 2018, every show on Broadway will have on-demand closed captioning in real time for every performance, in one of two ways—through a dedicated device called iCaption, or with an application called GalaPro that you can install in your own smart phone.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” a hard-of-hearing person in the audience told me. But…there’s still some ways to go.

This week: Oral history of Angels in America, ugly drama in New York high school, a new Evan Hansen, a new Jez Butterworth on Broadway, a new artistic director for BAM.

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Hey Look Me Over Review: Encores! 25th anniversary concert

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Encores! concert series at City Center is doing something in “Hey Look Me Over” that it’s never done before – and, judging from the results, probably shouldn’t do again.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.

Now, it’s impossible to dismiss a show with such a starry talented cast, including Bebe Neuwirth singing and dancing to Noel Coward’s Sail Away and Vanessa Williams singing and dancing from Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s “Jamaica.” Its delights were enough to make me glad I was there.
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The Jester and the Dragon Review: Weird Finger Puppet Show That Turns Surprising

I went to The Tank for a show that wasn’t playing until the next night; I’d gotten the dates mixed up. So, since I’d made the trip, I asked if there was anything else playing in the theater. That’s how I wound up watching what looked like a children’s show told with finger puppets, worn by an oddly distracted performer who seemed to have carpal tunnel syndrome. Her hands would shake uncontrollably, she’d take off the puppets, and retreat to a basin of water in which she placed her arms to relax them.  What, I thought, have I gotten myself into?

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In the Body of The World Review: Eve Ensler, Fighting Cancer and Injustice, Ranting, Riffing, Raging, Revealing

Perhaps you’d think it chutzpah that in “In The Body of the World,” the latest solo show by Eve Ensler, best known for “The Vagina Monologues,” she merges her story of her fight against uterine cancer with world crises such as mass rape in the Congo and the deadly oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe you’d be squeamish at her graphic storytelling of her illness, treatment and recovery, during which she literally bares her physical scars, and exposes her emotional ones, which are more disturbing. You could well disapprove of her self-defeating and dubious speculation about what might have caused her cancer – from tofu to Tab to bad reviews.

You could grapple with all these reactions to Eve Ensler and her show – I certainly did at one time or another during its 90 minutes – and still find “In The Body of the World” (as I did) eye-opening, entertaining, and one of the most satisfying works of theater so far this year.
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