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The Theater Is Not Dead, Long Live Twitter. Meryl Streep and Freedom. Adam Driver Trooper to Trouper. Week in New York Theater

“The theater is the only institution in the world which has been dying for 4,000 years and has never succumbed,” John Steinbeck said, and I quoted on Twitter several times in the five years since I wrote my first Tweet.

Steinbeck’s comment hasn’t stopped anybody, least of all theater people, from writing theater’s eulogy.

“I’m a throwback. Isn’t that awful? To live long enough to
be a throwback? A leading lady without a stage,” says Blythe Danner in The Country House, one of the several shows about theater that have opened on Broadway this season – which inspired two articles (linked below).

How would you assess these shows? Would you call them absorbing, transfixing, mesmerizing, riveting — or uninspiring, pedestrian, plodding and lackluster? Roger Ebert supplied 60 synonyms for “interesting” and “boring”…on Twitter.  Twitter has been my stage for five years now — which has provided much of the content for these weekly summaries of theater news and reviews.

The Week in New York Theater Nov 10-16

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Matthew Morrison wants to create real-life Glee

Matthew Morrison

The rumors are true: Matthew Morrison is returning to Broadway to star in Finding Neverland as J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. It opens April 15th at the Lunt-Fontanne
“I can’t wait for people to see me in a different light.”

music-sting

To keep The Last Ship afloat, Sting is waiving his royalties, and reportedly may perform in the show starting in January.

Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade in "Quills"

Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade in “Quills”

Creating Characters Out of Real People

Doug Wright talks about the very different approaches he took in three works of art about actual people — Marquis de Sade in Wright’s play and movie “Quills,” Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis’s eccentric family members Edith and Edie Beale in the musical “Grey Gardens,” and the cross-dressing East German Charlotte von Mahlsdorf in Wright’s Tony and Pulitzer winning play “I Am My Own Wife” He spoke at a luncheon for theater critics at Sardi’s.

50th Annual Village Voice Obie Awards

Jerry Tallmer, a theater critic who died Sunday at 93, dreamed up Off Broadway’s Obie Awards, and helped shape more personal theater criticism. He quoted Shaw on the requirements of his trade: “Be yourself, and care.”

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim

MerylStreep

Stephen Sondheim, Meryl Streep, Alvin Ailey (posthumously) among winners of Presidential Medal of Freedom, highest civilian honor

Complete list of 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients (e.g. also Stevie Wonder, Marlo Thomas, Isabel Allende)

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Line-up of plays at the 2015 Human Festival at the Actors Theater of Louisville.

Judi Dench

Judi Dench

Dame Judi Dench “has a lifelong hatred of the Merchant of Venice after being taught it badly at school. There’s a right way and a wrong way to teach Shakespeare. “If you’re reading Shakespeare you can get baffled by the language, but if you see actors deliver it with passion and engagement, even if you don’t pick up every word, you can follow a story and be transported to a different world…”

AdamDriver-SPLIT

Theater helped military veteran Adam Driver adjust to civilian life. He is now in the cast of HBO’s Girls. He created Arts in the Armed Forces.

Driver told the Wall Street Journal

Here you are with a small group of people where everything has meaning. The uniform you wear, you have a certain rank and when you walk into a room people know your status immediately….All that kind of structure and meaning is gone when you get out and suddenly you’re at Starbucks and you’re being ordered around by some college student who doesn’t know anything about who you are, and you start thinking that civilians are nasty and disgusting and there’s no meaning in things. You’re aware of what you can accomplish in a day, you’re aware of how precious life can be at an early age. I think it’s a tricky transition to figure out: How do I apply the things I learned to this life? For me, I didn’t find a way to really express that until I was reading plays about these characters who weren’t in the military but experiencing the same themes of loss and identity and mourning. I just understood.”

Theater About Theater

At a time when an increasing number of people are questioning the vitality and relevance of live theater—if not explicitly, then by how they are spending their money and time elsewhere—these Broadway revivals of theater about theater felt almost like a declaration of surrender. If the theater appeals to a shrinking audience, they seem to be saying, let’s just cater to the in-crowd.

What Theater About Theater Says About Theater

Lines from The Country House, It’s Only A Play, The Real Thing, and Search Characters in Search of an Author.

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32,495 people, including Sondheim, Hugh Jackman, Diane Paulus, Lin-Manuel Miranda,  have signed a petition urging The Tony Awards to restore sound design awards. Tonys “stand by” its “carefully studied decision” to drop the sound design award, and there will be none this season. But a Tony committee will give it “further review.”

Producers of Its Only A Play offered The Audience $400,000 to move next door to the Jacobs. They refused.

dave movie

Dave,1993 political satire, is being made into a Broadway-aiming musical by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), Thomas Meehan (Annie,Hairspray)

GRAND CONCOURSE OCTOBER 17, 2014 – NOVEMBER 30, 2014 PETER JAY SHARP THEATER Written by   Heidi Schreck Directed by  Kip Fagan WORLD PREMIERE Called to a life of religious service, Shelley is the devoted manager of a Bronx soup kitchen, but lately her

My review of Grand Concourse

Heidi Schreck, the playwright of “Grand Concourse,” is also an actress who performed in Annie Baker’s“Circle Mirror Transformation” and has served as actress and writer for the Showtime series “Nurse Jackie,” and the influence of both shows is evident in her play about four people in a church soup kitchen in the Bronx – a nun, a maintenance man, a homeless client, and a mysterious teenager who shows up one day to volunteer.

Like Annie Baker’s play, “Grand Concourse” unfolds slowly, obliquely, an apparent attempt to reproduce the rhythms of real life rather than hew to dramatic convention. Like “Nurse Jackie,” its characters struggle, grapple, behave at times ignobly or inexplicably — and, still, are easy to fall in love with.

That these flawed characters are so appealing in this production helmed by Kip Fagan, which has now opened at Playwrights Horizons, has much to do with the wonderful cast.

Full review of Grand Concourse

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There will be a new Lincoln Center Hall of Fame, celebrating all aspects of performing arts and film, when Avery Fisher Hall is renovated (and renamed)

Kelsey Grammer will return to Broadway as J.M. Barrie’s theatrical producer, in Neverland.

American Dance Machine for the 21st Century works to preserve classic Broadway choreography.

Hair

Hair

Broadway Revealed exhibition

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My fifth anniversary on Twitter

The Shuberts, which owns 17 of Broadyway’s 40 theaters, reportedly will take over New World Stages with its five Off-Broadway stages on Monday.

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Should minimum wage apply to the arts, Chris Jones asks.

OUR LADY OF KIBEHO

My review of Our Lady of Kibeho

It took me nearly to the end of “Our Lady of Kibeho,” a play by Katori Hall based on a true story about three Catholic schoolgirls in 1981 Rwanda who reported having a vision of the Virgin Mary, before I gave up on it. It was the moment when Alphonsine, one of the visionary schoolgirls, calls out to the villagers

“Join us, join us in prayer. Lift your hands to the sky”

and several members of the audience did so.

Shouldn’t there be a separation between church and stage?

Full review of Our Lady of Kibeho

Hugh Jackman and Laura Donnelly

Hugh Jackman and Laura Donnelly

My review of The River

They’ve asked us not to reveal the ending of “The River,” a play by Jez Butterworth (author of “Jerusalem”) starring Hugh Jackman as a man who likes to fish. But I’m not sure what difference knowing the ending would make, since it’s only slightly less enigmatic than the beginning or the middle of this play.

Full review of The River

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About 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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