Within days of the Tony Awards (List of winners. Best moments) and the triumph of Dear Evan Hansen, three plays announced they were closing in June. Two of them – Indecent and Sweat (both closing June 25) – marked the Broadway debuts of two acclaimed, Pulitzer-prize winning women playwrights. (Sweat did not win any of the Tony for which it was nominated, but Indecent won two!)
Indecent playwright Paula Vogel blamed the co-chief critics of the New York Times
Brantley&Green 2-0. Nottage&Vogel 0-2. Lynn, they help close us down,&gifted str8 white guys run: ourplayswill last.B&G#footnotesinhistory.
— Paula Vogel (@VogelPaula) June 14, 2017
Sweat playwright Lynn Nottage seconded
The patriarchy flexing their muscles to prove their power. https://t.co/Zq5uzCxiUx
— Lynn Nottage (@Lynnbrooklyn) June 14, 2017
I put some blame on the Tony Awards broadcast: If they would give straight plays the attention they deserve, Sweat, Indecent etc could find their audience.
Whatever the reasons, something is amiss.
New Broadway Season
If the Broadway season had a bittersweet epilogue, we are already in the prologue to the new season, which officially launches Thursday with the opening of 1984:
After hammering criticism on social media by advocates on the political right, both Delta and Bank of America rescinded their funding for the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park, for depicting a Trump-like Caesar. Protesters subsequently interrupted the play.
The Public’s Julius Caesar ends its run today, but this is unlikely to stop the attacks. According to news reports, Shakespeare companies across the country are being targeted on social media for the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar. Are the attackers confused, or doesn’t the distinction matter to them?
Week in New York Theater News
Preliminary rating for the Tony broadcast shows steep 31% decline from 2016 – a 4.7 rating, way down from 6.8 in 2016. The number of viewers will wind up being about six million.
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) June 16, 2017
The Pearl Theatre Co. filed for bankruptcy, and is closing after 33 years.
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) June 17, 2017
2017 summer schedule for free Broadway in Bryant Park lunchtime concerts (including Come From Away, Great Comet, Groundhog Day, and Anastasia.)
Cast completed for Frozen, headed to the St. James Broadway in Spring 2018
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) June 14, 2017
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) June 13, 2017
Week in San Francisco Theater
I spent the week in San Francisco, attending the annual American Theatre Critics Association conference.
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) June 18, 2017
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) June 18, 2017
I reviewed two shows aiming for Broadway:
“Roman Holiday,” a musical running briefly at San Francisco’s Golden Theater in a traditional pre-Broadway tryout, grafts more than a dozen songs by Cole Porter onto the 1953 movie that turned Audrey Hepburn into a star….It’s tempting to call “Roman Holiday” an inefficient delivery system for Cole Porter’s hits. There’s [little] rationale for its existence.
Mira Nair…is directing a musical adaptation of her 2001 film Monsoon Wedding that is currently on stage at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, with plans to move to Broadway.
Let’s hope it does. The story of the many family members who converge on Delhi for an arranged marriage is lively, colorful, and tuneful. It also has something to say
From this week’s American Theatre Critics Association panel discussions:
Bay Area designers
Choreographer Kimberly Richards: Choreography is not just the dancing; it’s all the movement. That’s often overlooked.
Scenic designer Nina Ball’s advice to critics: “Get to know what we work with — scale, harmony, line, space.”
Costume designer Abra Berman: My aim in modern dress shows is for costumes to so subtly enhance the characters that they’re not noticed –
Shakespeare: The Second 400 Years with five artistic directors of Shakespeare theater companies in the Bay Area.
William J. Brown, Arabian Shakespeare Festival; Leslie Schisgall Currier, Marin Shakespeare Company, , moderator Philippa Kelly, L. Peter Callender, African-American Shakespeare Company, Eric Ting, California Shakespeare Theater, Rebecca Ennals, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
John Simon said black people couldn’t do Shakespeare. I wanted my life to prove him wrong — L. Peter Callender, founding artistic director of the African-American Shakespeare Company.
There’s a distinction between theater and museums. We can’t separate what’s on stage from the issues affecting a present-day audience – Eric Ting, California Shakespeare Theater
We start teaching Shakespeare too late. We should be teaching it when kids are five and learning new words all the time. -Rebecca Ennals of San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
Perspectives on Criticism
Bay Area critics: Robert Hurwitt (retired from the San Francisco Chronicle), Karen D’Souza (San Jose Mercury News), Lily Janice (new critic at San Francisco Chronicle.)
Birth of a critic:”I was poor, I was in grad school, I couldn’t afford to go to theater” (free tix!) – Karen D’Souza
A lot of my career was pushing for more arts coverage – Robert Hurwitt retired recently after ~40 years as a critic
I didn’t consider myself a journalist, but reporting is an important part of every review I write – Lily Janiak
— Sam Hurwitt (@shurwitt) June 17, 2017
A play is not complete until somebody weighs in who’s not part of the production. That’s part of theater – Lily Janiak
The Play’s The Thing: Critics and New Work.
Panel with five Bay Area playwrights: Aaron Loeb, Stuart Bousel, Christopher Chen, moderator Amy Mueller (director and producer), Michael Gene Sullivan, Lauren Gunderson.
Aaron Loeb sees critics as useful for “blowing on your ember” — which becomes a catchphrase for the hour. Loeb advice to critics: “Engage with what the thing is, not what you wish it was.” One critic said of one of his plays: “This should have been a musical.”
Critics are supportive of new plays because I think they have stake in establishing theater identity – Chris Chen
“Theater is the anti-technology. You have to show up at the same time, and listen to live human beings. It’s the opposite of our devices and computers.” – Lauren Gunderson.
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) June 15, 2017