Grumpy and Light on Stage. #IdentityWeek Pioneering Artists. Week in New York Theater

Theater has been represented for thousands of years by the tragedy and comedy masks — and this week, by Grumpy the cat’s one-night gig in Cats and the opening of Judith Light’s solo turn in a new Neil LaBute play.



The analogy is inexact, since the Light play is largely dark.

To Larry Kramer, there isn’t enough darkness on stage.  “It’s a terrible place, the world. Where are our tragedy writers? I don’t see them,”  Kramer said in the Pioneering Artists Identity Week panel discussion this week, sharing the stage with Anne Bogart, Ntozake Shange and George C. Wolfe,  (Scroll to the bottom.)

Grumpy, on the other hand, seems content:








 Phillip James Brannon as Nat Turner
Phillip James Brannon as Nat Turner

Nat Turner in Jerusalem

Nat Turner in Jerusalem, a new play by Nathan Alan Davis at New York Theatre Workshop, is yet another retelling of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave insurrection, a story that has been told and retold for nearly two centuries – and will be told again in The Birth of a Nation, a film by Nate Parker opening October 7.…The experience of actually sitting through the 90 minutes of Nat Turner in Jerusalem is not as rewarding as one would hope.

Elliot Hadly, Adi Chugh, Cesare Scarpone
Elliot Hadly, Adi Chugh, Cesare Scarpone

5 Guys Chillin’

here are two ways to take “5 Guys Chillin’,” Peter Darney’s play in the Fringe Encore series that takes place among five half-naked gay characters at a drug-fueled sex party. One is as a seductive entertainment in which fit young performers are dancing and smiling and snuggling and generally seem to be having fun, at least initially…The other is as something of a public service announcement by writer and director Peter Darney, who, like the Larry Kramer of his generation, is warning members of the gay community about self-destructive excess.

Judith Light 3

All The Ways to Say I Love You

Those of us who have followed her splendid career since Judith Light returned to the New York stage in 2010 welcomed the news that she would be appearing in a new solo play written by Neil LaBute. As expected, Light is the best thing about it. What’s less expected is how slight the play is.

“All The Ways To Say I Love You” is a monologue less than an hour long by a high school English teacher named Mrs. Johnson, standing in her drab office telling the audience about her experiences with one of her former students. Having been manipulative and deceitful with both the boy and her husband, Mrs. Johnson is in large measure trying to justify her actions to us, and to herself, in the name of love


The Trial of an American President

President George W. Bush was convicted of war crimes at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, on the night I attended The Trial of an American President, an earnest, informative and flawed mock trial. The jury voted 5-4, which is not bad, considering the circumstances.

After all, the jurors were selected at random from an audience at Theatre Row on the liberal West Side of Manhattan. And if first-time playwright Dick Tarlow and co-author Bill Smith do attempt to provide the 43rd president with a defense, it’s not an especially vigorous one


Soho Rep abruptly shut down its theater at 46 Walker st, where it has operated since 1991, and is looking for a new home.

The 71st annual Tony Awards is set for June 11, 2017.


Kevin Kline returns to Broadway after a decade, in revival of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter. Opens April 5 at St. James Theater.

Garth Drabinsky,Broadway producer once jailed for fraud, plans comeback with “Sousatzka,” a musical about piano teacher and a prodigy, aiming for October 17. The musical is based on a novel that also was adapted as a movie starring Shirley MacLaine.


Kate Burton will star in “The Dead, 1904” described as “an immersive adaptation of Joyce’s The Dead.” Irish Rep November 19-January 7


Sarah Ruhl (Stage Kiss, Clean House) wins the 2016 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award (the Mimi), and $200,000.

Ruhl has a new play at Lincoln Center – “How to Transcend a Happy Marriage,” opening March 20


The $300,000 Gish Prize awarded to Elizabeth LeCompte, artistic director of The Wooster Group,  for her contribution to the world’s beauty


“Lin-Manuel Miranda is ready for his next coup”

Lin-Manuel Miranda will be the host of Saturday Night Live on October 8


$40 online lottery for Falsettos (up to a week before performance)  Show opens October 27


It’s official: Michael Grandage (Tony winner for Red) to direct Frozen on Broadway, which is aiming to open Spring 2018


“Jew vs. Malta” at LaMaMa ETC October 28 to November 6, is based on Christopher Marlowe’s “The Jew of Malta”, the political theater of Bertolt Brecht and Kanye West’s album “yeezus.”

Disney to make live-action ‘Lion King,’ Favreau directing 

Broadway comes out for Hillary Clinton in #StrongerTogether fundraiser Oct 17,St.James Theater




Who gets to write what? (If you’re Chinese-American, can you write about a black person who’s about to be lynched?


A Celebration of Pioneering Artists.

Playwright and director George C. Wolfe, playwright and poet Ntozake Shange, playwright and novelist Larry Kramer before the Identity Week panel.
Playwright and director George C. Wolfe, playwright and poet Ntozake Shange, playwright and novelist Larry Kramer before the Identity Week panel.

identityweekpanelWatch hour-long video of Identity Week panel with Larry Kramer, Ntozake Shange, George C. Wolfe and Ann Bogart

Tweetable excerpts:

Larry Kramer (“The Normal Heart”)
“I think anger is a very healthy emotion. But it’s good to nurture & learn how to express.”

“It’s a terrible place, the world. Where are our tragedy writers? I don’t see them.”

“If you believe enough in your work, keep going.”

Ntozake Shange (“for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf”)
“I realized I liked working with myself better than working with other people.” – Dr. Shange. Cue all the laughter. #identityweek
“I want to open a character up so much that the audience feels like it is walking in their shoes.”
“You find out what’s wrong with your work when you do it in front of people.”
“Theatre work has to have room for sweat, tears and laughter. It’s not meant to be perfect.”

Anne Bogart, artistic director of SITI, Saratoga International Theater Institute
“I went through the back door to make theatre. Quite often the front door isn’t available to all of us.”
“Take the elixir of anger, and use it to create and move forward.”
“I think theatre is the most important art form right now. Because it asks, How are we getting along?”
“You get embarrassed by how people react. And then you correct yourself from those embarrassments.”

“If theatre were a verb it would be ‘to remember.'”

George C. Wolfe (“Shuffle Along,” “Jelly’s Last Jam”)
All these “no’s” make you say “yes” to yourself. Then you start the journey.

“When a film has power, you lean back. When a play has power, you lean forward.”

“When you encounter failure, don’t walk away. Walk through the failure. Figure out what you did wrong.”

“One of the core responsibilities as an artist is empowering an audience to change the world.”

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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