Annie Baker, Taylor Mac win MacArthur Genius Awards. Is Acting Dangerous? Week in New York Theater

Playwright Annie Baker and multidimensional theater artist Taylor Mac are among the 24 winners of the 2017 Macarthur Foundation “Genius” Grants.

Baker, 36, whose “The Flick” won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, was recognized for “mining the minutiae of how we speak, act, and relate to one another and the absurdity and tragedy that result from the limitations of language.”

Mac, 44, whose 24 Decade History of Popular Music  took place over a continuous 24 hours and was a Pulitzer finalist, was recognized for “engaging audiences as active participants in works that dramatize the power of theater as a space for building community.”

Week in New York Theater News

Commercial Broadway Isn’t Dead — It’s Turning Into Broadway (Variety)

“Sweeney Todd” at Barrow Street Theater sells because the title, one of the best-known works by a musical theater legend, has a Broadway imprimatur. And it’s succeeded in part due to ticket prices ($135 top, plus $22.50 for pie and mash) that aren’t far from Broadway’s.

As producer Kevin McCollum is fond of saying, “It’s easy to have a shot at commercial Off Broadway. First you have to win a Tony Award for best musical.” He’s one of the producers of “Avenue Q,” which has run Off Broadway (weekly running costs: about $80,000) for eight years following its Tony-winning Broadway stint.


Caregivers on Stage 

In any given year, more than 65 million Americans—nearly one-third of the entire US population—are reported to be “informal caregivers,” the imprecise term for people who are taking care of a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend without being paid.
Several caregivers have been depicted on New York stages lately, in distinctly different plays that nevertheless share more than subject matter. Each is extraordinarily well-acted, surprisingly funny, deliberately inconclusive, resolutely unsentimental, but inescapably moving.

How Do You Theatricalize Government Oppression?
(TDF Stages)

Belarus Free Theatre teams up with a member of Pussy Riot for a visceral new show
In Burning Doors, the latest politically charged play from Belarus Free Theatre about state-sponsored brutality, the cast reenacts violence with such acrobatic intensity that spectators might fret about the performers’ well-being. Natalia Kaliada certainly hopes so. “If you worry about what happens to them on stage, then you can imagine what happened to them in reality, which is much worse,” says Kaliada, co-director of Burning Doors, which runs at La MaMa October 12-23. “That’s what we want to share with the audience.”

Release and Recovery from Intense Roles

A panel discussion I moderated for the SAG/AFTRA Foundation

Here is the article to which I refer in the introduction –
Cooldowns – How Actors Unwind After Intense Performances 

Talia Goldstein, professor of psychology: There is not a psychology of acting from a systematic scientific perspective. We have anecdotes. There are a few studies that show the effects of acting, but usually the research looks at the positive effects and understanding others like empathy and recognizing emotions. So acting as dangerous or helpful from a scientific perspective is still a question.

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Rinne Groff

Measure for Measure

There are moments in the “Measure for Measure” by experimental theater company Elevator Repair Service at the Public that offer the purest Shakespeare on any New York stage; this occurs when they project the Bard’s words on the backdrop as the performers are reciting them. But even here, it’s only when an entire verse is projected, and scrolls up slowly, that there’s clarity. Most of the time, the projected words are scattered, fragmented, overly large, scrolling up at great speed, all of which renders the text unreadable.

The scrolling word play feels like a metaphor for this avant-garde production of Shakespeare’s last comedy as a whole: It’s hard to read….

To me, this “Measure for Measure” counts as a missed opportunity, given the play’s startling relevance in the age of Mike Pence and Harvey Weinstein.

The Week in Theater History

“Christopher Columbus: The New World Order,” by Peter Schumann, the head of Bread and Puppet Theater

Christopher Columbus on stage through the ages

The first play about Columbus goes back to the 1500’s (“El Nuevo de Mundo” by Lope de Vega); the first to be staged in America itself was in 1794 (“Columbus, or The Discovery of America. A Historical Play” by Thomas Morton) – yet even as far back as 1858, the theatrical treatment was far less than worshipful of the Italian explorer of the New World.

That’s the year that John Brougham is said to have toured a show (starting at the Boston Theatre) whose satirical intent is evident in its lengthy title: “Columbus el Filibustero!! A New and Audaciously Original Historica-Plagiaristic, Ante-National, Pre-Patriotic, and Omni-Local Confusion of Circumstances, Running Through Two Acts and Four Centuries”


Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Almost Like Praying

Theaterlovers will recognize the sample from the song “Maria,” from West Side Story,” — “Say it soft and it’s almost like praying.” Puerto Ricans will recognize the names of all 78 municipalities on the island of Puerto Rico.

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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