Glass Menagerie. Drunken Romeo. Supreme Court Strippers. The State of Theater. The Week in New York Theater

WeekinNYTheaterendingSept29In a week that saw the opening of a much-praised Glass Menagerie on Broadway, a boozy and engaging if weirdly renamed Romeo and Juliet just three blocks down from the more turgid Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom, and a play using the transcript of an actual  Supreme Court case about strippers (see reviews below), there were three separate studies that gave a mixed view of the health and vitality of theater – or, more precisely, about the size of the audience for it.
The National Endowment for the Arts released “highlights” from its 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, finding that “theater attendance (musical and non-musical play-going) declined significantly since 2008”

NEA Survey graph 1

Americans for the Arts released both its annual National Arts Index and Local Arts Indexes that look at individual counties (Here’s the Local Arts Index for Manhattan.)

In its highlights page, it reports “overall, attendance at symphony and theatre increased in 2011 over 2010, while audiences for live opera and movies are getting smaller.” A closer look at the study shows that attendance in a variety of different kinds of theater (for example, non-profit professional theater nationwide, Broadway theaters in New York) has been fluctuating.

Broadway attendance chart from Arts Index

Finally, a study by Ticketmaster entitled State of Play surveys audiences primarily in the United Kingdom, finding that theater “is central to the cultural life of our nation” (with 63 percent of all surveyed saying they’ve seen at least one play in the past year) and the “likelihood to attend the theatre was highest amongst 16-19 year olds. Audiences have been growing proportionally younger for some time” — since 2009,  there has been a 71 percent increase among theatergoers  16 to 25 years old. (!) The study offers an ‘overwhelmingly positive picture” of theatergoing.

State of Play chart 1
Anybody willing to take the time (and who’s still reading after those three boring charts) can surely reconcile the studies’ various conclusions (different years measured, different cohort surveyed, different definition of theater, whatever.) In any case, the details are more interesting and surely more reliable. For example, according to the Arts Index, 59 percent of Manhattan residents attend live performing arts. Other cities:
Washington D.C.: 38 percent
Boston: 32 percent
Chicago: 31 percent
LA: 18 percent

We don’t need studies to see that New York theater is both vibrant and struggling. This is clear just from the news from the past week in New York theater alone. (See September 27 below, for problems facing the city’s arts groups.)

Also see below for answers to the following questions:

Does the Constitution protect stripping, and what court cases would make great plays or musicals?

Is actors’ job insecurity “stifling” or “a genuine spur to creativity”?

Should critics judge a show based on ticket price?

Who is the last to see Romeo alive, and where can you see a more original and engaging Romeo and Juliet than on Broadway?

Why do so many people compare Breaking Bad to Shakespeare?

The Week in New York Theater

Monday, September 23, 2013

Five New York theaters – the Cherry Lane, Clubbed Thumb Here Arts, New York Theater Workshop, Playwrights Horizons – are among the 29 to win the 50/50 Applause Award from the International Centre for Women Playwrights for a season of shows at least half of which were written by women playwrights.

NorbertLeoButzNorbert Leo Butz, now in Big Fish on Broadway, turned around his life after his sister was brutally murdered

DuleHillbefore Obama

He dressed a (fake) President in West Wing. Now Dule Hill, star of Pysch and of the forthcomign Broadway show After Midnight, sang to a few real presidents at the UN


Mary Bridget Davies ‏@marybdavies OK…. so WHEN CAN I SEE THIS SHOW?!?!?!?!

Most produced  plays in the United States in the coming season, according to American Theatre Magazine: Venus in Fur, followed by Clybourne Park, Good People, Other Desert Cities

Julie Haverkate ‏@CriticalConfab I was so upset with this list, I just missed my train stop trying to tweet about it. #sigh

UK debate: Is actors’ job insecurity “stifling” or “a genuine spur to creativity”?

Is job insecurity stifling, or a spur to creativity? Or is it Monday, so don’t ask?


Tonight  Chicago celebrates its 7,000th performance on Broadway — one of only three shows ever to do so. Quiz: What are the other 2?

Peg Caruso ‏@pegc4  Cats and Phantom…

Jonathan Mandell: I do think tonight’s 7,000th performance of Chicago is an achievement. How many things have you done 7,000 times?

Adam Gale ‏@ArgoTheatricals Asks the guy with 32,854 tweets.

Marin Orlosky ‏@marinorlosky Things I’ve done 7,000 times? Probably tendu, plie, brush my teeth, and trip over my own feet.

Jonathan Mandell: Most of which you probably shouldn’t celebrate

Marin Orlosky: True!

ArguendoPublic Theater/LuEsther Hall


Do strippers have a Constitutional right to dance nude? That was the question before the United State Supreme Court in  Barnes v Glen Theatre Inc et al — and it is the subject of the latest adventurous theater piece by the Elevator Repair Service,

Full review of Arguendo


TarellAlvinMcCraneyPlaywright Tarell Alvin McCraney, best-known for The Brother/Sister Plays, has won a MacArthur ‘Genius” Award ($625,000!) Complete list of 2013 MacArthur Fellowship winners, including New York choreographer Kyle Abraham and writer Donald Antrim


Diner, musical based on 1982 Barry Levinson movie, has new producers, says its composer Sheryl Crow, and is aiming to open on Broadway next year. “When I was 8 years old I wrote a letter to Gene Kelly because I was sure we were supposed to be together,” says Crow, who grew up in a family who “knew every show tune ever written.”


Seattle actors used to get cell phones with a New York City area code so Seattle theaters would call them back. No longer

Billy Flood @Bflood28 Sadly this is still so common in regional theater all over.


Life is a lot like jazz. It’s best when you improvise ~ George Gershwin, born on this date in 1898


Gwyneth Paltrow to co-produce Broadway musical based on the music of the 80′s rock band The GoGo’s. Book by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q.)


Courtroom Dramas on Broadway: This season…and in the future

Old Friends has been extended again, to October 20

Nathan Lane, last on TV in The Good Wife and Modern Family, last on Broadway in The Nance, to star in TV pilot The Money, playing reporter

Bernadette Peters will stars in Sondheim/Wynton Marsalis collaboration A Bed and a Chair: A NY Love Affair, November 13-17, New York City Center.


My review of The Glass Menagerie

zacharyquinto2When we first see the Wingfield family together in the splendid production of “The Glass Menagerie” that has now opened on Broadway, Zachary Quinto is sitting at the dinner table holding his hands behind his back, as if in a straitjacket; all that’s missing is the gag — a precise physical representation of how his character Tom feels in the stifling, impoverished household of his family in St. Louis in the 1930′s.  Celia Keenan-Bolger sits with her back terribly straight, her hands primly in her lap, as if under the watchful eye of an ever-reprimanding schoolmaster, which is surely how her character Laura feels. And Cherry Jones gestures as if she is conducting an orchestra, the broad sweep of her arms showing a strong woman in command of her family. Only later does the thought occur: Her Amanda is using her hands this way to maintain her balance, to keep from falling down.

Even without Tennessee Williams’ words, this seventh production on Broadway of his first masterpiece brings home “the saddest play I’ve ever written,” as he called it

Full review of The Glass Menagerie

Thirty years after his death.Tennessee Williams is hot — including his experimental plays.


New York City Opera may declare bankruptcy. Some fear this is a harbinger for other NYC arts groups, which are endangered because audiences have more options, donors have shifted priorities, and real estate costs have rise. “The nonprofit funding model is broken,” says Catherine Peila of Dance New Amsterdam, which is shuttering its downtown Manhattan headquarters.

Michael epps ‏@michael_epps Scary to think of New York, without the Ballet and Opera.

Gina Ferranti ‏@GinaNYactress  This, sadly, has been a long time coming. I don’t know how NYC art comes back from all this


Broadway on the Hudson lunchtime concert: Videos of performances from Annie, Chicago, Cinderella, Newsies, Phantom of the Opera, Pippin, Rock of Ages, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark

Reopening tonight (this time in the theater district): Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

When I grow up

I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight

beneath the bed each night

to be a grown-up

(Listening to the just-released Matilda Broadway cast album)

Annabelle Kline ‏@annabellekline Oh, that’s what they are saying!

Should Critics Judge A Show Based On Ticket Price?

Peter Marks, theater critic for the Washington Post (@Petermarksdrama): I never put in monetary terms the value of enjoyment in reviews. Maybe I should try…as in, “at $40, this is great. At $65, okay. At $92.50 skip it.” Bet readers would like.

Drew Lichtenberg ‏@DrewLichtenberg  But how do you judge? What’s “worth” 100 bucks to one person is worth nothing to another. Audiences not monolithic.

Peter Marks: Ah the essential critical conundrum. Who am I to judge re art or money? Why not throw cost into mix? Asking question here.

Robert O. Simonson ‏@RobertOSimonson: I would say an adamant yes! This is elephant in room of every review. Is play, however good, worth the $$?
Linda Essig ‏@LindaInPhoenix “it’s worth your time and money” is way different than “it’s worth $37.50” My $30 tickets mean something different to a struggling student or a millionaire.
Jonathan Mandell: Exactly. I’m not sure we can judge a proper price. Also, different theatergoers can get their tickets at different prices. (young, union etc) It’s worth focusing on price if extreme — way too high,or really cheap. Making ticket price a factor in our reviews MIGHT eventually force theaters to price more reasonably.
Terry Teachout , theater critic for the Wall Street Journal (@terryteachout): I always list ticket prices and (sometimes) say I wouldn’t have paid that much to see the show.
Jason Zinoman, theater critic for the New York Times (@zinoman): I confess I’ve never done that. Never even thought about it. Maybe it’s a mistake.


“Theater’s my jam. If I could make a living just doing theater, I feel like I really might”~Zachary Quinto, now in Glass Menagerie.

Survey of out LGBT performers by SAG-AFTRA: Half say producers still find them less “marketable”; 16 percent experienced discrimination.


My review of R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match

RJ2Nick Mills & Suzy Jane Hunt Photo by Lloyd MulveyOrlando Bloom, park your motorcycle, and walk three blocks to a bar that used to be called Harley’s, where there is a weird, well-acted, fun, immersive, boozy bro party production of Shakespeare’s tragedy that is, in several ways, more engaging and far more original than your Romeo and Juliet on Broadway – with a ticket price of ten dollars.

That the Off-Off Broadway Romeo and Juliet is so good may come as a shock to those put off by its absurdly reworked title,R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match, or by the name of the theater company, Three Day Hangover, or by the first 15 minutes of the show, which consists of drinking games, accompanied by pounding house music

Full review of R+J

Elizabeth ‏@studio_gal Awake = O comfortable Friar. Alive = Romeo
Marcia Clark ‏@ShamelessPromo Romeo
Cindy Marie Jenkins ‏@cindymariej Friar Lawrence
Laura ‏@LauraBethD Based on what I know, Romeo. When he kills himself, she is still alive…
Howard Sherman ‏@HESherman I say it’s a trick question, and the answer is: the audience!
Answer: Romeo or The Friar (they accept either answer)


“The greatest risk to man is not that he aims too high and misses, but that he aims too low and hits.”-Michelangelo


“It is harder to get a play done anywhere than it was when I started in the early 60s.”~Terrence McNally, who has two coming up in New York.  “I don’t want to write a play unless it scares me.”

Celebrity May Be Hazardous


Breaking Bad and Shakespeare

Why do so many writers compare Breaking Bad to Shakespeare?

Lonnie Firestone @LonnieFirestone Every great drama series at some point gets compared to Shakespeare, Greek tragedy, or Dickens. Literature lives through TV?

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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