“I’m not a girl, not yet a woman…I’m in between,” Britney Spears sang some two decades ago, and it could almost be the new anthem (gender-adjusted) for Broadway. The opening of Be More Chill this week adds yet another to the New York stage shows that focus on teenage characters (mostly portrayed by non-teenage performers), many of which attract a large teenage audience. These include Dear Evan Hansen, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Mean Girls, and, yes, ok, Wicked. (The Prom has a dual focus; and the audience for, if not the characters in, Frozen skew younger.) Teen angst has made its way Off-Broadway as well, with Superhero.
Shows about teens and tweens are hardly new: 13, Bye Bye Birdie, Carrie, Hairspray, Matilda, Newsies, School of Rock, Spring Awakening come to mind. But we’re seeing a particular trend now, and not an especially welcome one. It’s of course a good thing to broaden the demographics of the Broadway audience, and at least one of these shows is widely viewed as of high quality. Yet their focus is largely on angst and on stereotypes. How accurate or fair are the depictions of teenagers in these shows? Yes, high school may be a time when some people are trying out identities, and too many of them might like to assign reductive labels to their classmates or even to themselves. But surely this is not the full picture, nor a constructive one. As I say in my review of Be More Chill, the actual high school students we see regularly in the news are taking the lead in attacking such crucial problems as climate change and gun control — problems that have stalemated adults.
Incidentally, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” along with “Baby One More Time,” Spear’s first pop single when she was 17 years old, are likely to be two of the 23 songs from her repertorie that will be in the new musical “Once Upon a One More Time” aiming for Broadway, announced today. The book, thankfully, is not about teen angst. (For more details, see Week in NY Theater News, below.)
The Week in New York Theater Reviews
In “The B-Side,” three men sing along with an album on a record-player — or, as people prefer to say these days, a vinyl on the turntable. But there’s a reason why the Wooster Group’s encore presentation of its simple and odd hour-long piece, first performed at the Performing Garage in 2017, is filling St. Ann’s Warehouse every night. The album is “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons”…
I recently saw Hamilton again on Broadway, during a rare open captioned performance, and it was a revelation in several ways.
I would love to see this show but there are not enough OC performances for those of us who want to attend. It’s nice to pat yourself on the back about access, but the reality is that an occasional Wednesday OC performance with limited tickets is not access. #captionallshows
— Dr. Petrified Tree Sap (@a_joy_martin) March 9, 2019
In “The Cake,” Debra Jo Rupp (the mother on “That 70s Show”) portrays Della, a Christian baker in North Carolina who refuses to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding. If the story is inspired by the Supreme Court case decided last year, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, playwright Bekah Brunstetter, who is a writer for “This Is Us,” makes it personal in several ways…One of the future brides, Jen (Genevieve Angelson), is the daughter of Della’s best friend, who died five years ago. Della, who is childless, views Jen like a daughter…Bekah Brunstetter has told interviewers that she wrote “The Cake” as a way to explain her support for gay rights and same-sex marriage to her parents. Her father, Peter Brunstetter, is a Republican politician from North Carolina who supported an anti-gay state bill that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
Somebody wrote “NYC Loves BMC” in chalk on the sidewalk outside Broadway’s Lyceum Theater, the new home of “Be More Chill,” the high energy, high decibel pop-rock musical that stars Will Roland as a self-proclaimed high school “loser” who swallows a pill containing a supercomputer and becomes cool. I tweeted a picture of the scrawled public love note; the tweet was retweeted nearly a hundred times. “Be More Chill” has some seriously devoted fans, most of whom seem to be 15 years old. It’s a thrill to see such teenaged enthusiasm for live theater. I wish I could share more fully in their ardor for this show
The Week in New York Theater News
The first annual Rave Theater Festival is asking for submissions. Artistic director @kendavenportplans roughly 20 plays, musicals, multimedia, and cross-disciplinary projects, as well as family shows, which will each receive up to five performances, August 9-25, 2019 at Clemente Sito Velez Cultural and Education Center on the Lower East Side.
Simpsons theme song composer Danny Elfman will make his Broadway debut by composing music for “Gary: The Sequel to Titus Andronicus.”
Twenty-three of Britney Spears’ songs will form the score for a new Broadway-aiming musical, “Once Upon a One More Time” with will have a try-out in Chicago from October to December of this year. “Once Upon A Time… Cinderella, Snow White, and the other fairytale princesses gather for their book club, when – oh, baby baby! – a rogue fairy godmother drops The Feminine Mystique into their corseted laps, spurring a royal revelation.”
The Times reports that the run at the Chicago theater “had been set aside for “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” a Michael Jackson jukebox musical that canceled its Chicago plans on the eve of an HBO documentary detailing abuse allegations against the pop star. That show’s producers say they are still hoping to come to Broadway.”
The Arts Are Good For You
Three articles that show that the arts are a good thing.
Article 1, by Isaac Kaplan in Artsy: Arts Sector Contributed $763.6 Billion to U.S. Economy—More Than Agriculture or Transportation, New Data Shows
Article 2, by Tom Jacobs in Pacific Standard: How arts can help struggling science students do better
A large study released last month found that Florida middle-school students who study music, theater, or visual art subsequently get higher overall grades than their peers.
Article 3 by Robert Ruffin in HowlRound (from 2018) We Need Theatre to Exist, and Maybe Research Can Prove Its Necessity
A new Broadway By The Year, musicals of 1943 and 1951, will be presented at Town Hall of March 25th, “created, written, hosted and directed” by Scott Siegel — for whom 2018 was not a great year, having gotten into a bad bicycle accident. Here is an article about his accident and his show in the Times, written right before the last Broadway By Year, last month.
Robert Barry Fleming has been appointed artistic director of Actors Theater of Louisville, the theater that brings us the annual Humana Festival. He’s been an actor, director, choreographer, arts administrator (at Arena Stage and Cleveland PlayHouse), and championed or commissioned such shows as Dear Evan Hansen and Sweat.
Daryl_Roth – Producing with a Purpose. Theater producer for 31 yrs “Marvel action hero” – Paula Vogel. One of the few female producers on Broadway…she chooses work by women, LGBT folks, and people of color not usually seen as commercially viable
Daveed DIggs is back in New York, for the play White Noise at the Public Theater, and he’s happier to be here than last time.
The last few years I have had not a great relationship with New York, but this time feels really good. The Hamilton experience here was so intense, and it became a pretty stressful place for me to be. That was a show that, at the bottom of it, it’s a bunch of friends getting together and making rap songs. I was involved with that show for a long time because my friend wrote it and asked me to come along for the ride. Everything on the inside of it felt very small, and everything on the outside of it felt very big.
…I love performing in smaller houses. I think you get a different kind of connection there. I’m excited to be doing any play, period, after spending a couple years being in front of a camera. This is a very welcome return. You get a different kind of intimacy in a small space, and I think everybody gets to know each other a little better.
As much as I loved performing on Broadway, I don’t care if I ever do that again. I like telling stories in places where everyone is part of the storytelling.
Oskar Eustis and Suzan-Lori Parks chat with one another about their new collaboration as director and playwright, White Noise,
It begins: Oskar Eustis doesn’t believe in giving audiences a heads-up. “When you have a trigger warning, you’re implying that people need to be protected from pain,” says Eustis, the artistic director of New York’s Public Theater. “I think real art says, ‘No, you don’t. What you need is the chance to face it.’”
If you’re working on a play– especially a new one– and you’re not checking in with your ushers on a regular basis during previews, you don’t actually know how it’s going.
— Evan Cabnet (@evancabnet) March 11, 2019
Thanks Broadway Twitter for having my back. Being a working parent in any profession is really challenging. I never want to disappoint audiences as I am beyond grateful to them, but the health of my family will always come before my job. Thanks to those who understand that 💛
— Laura Benanti (@LauraBenanti) March 11, 2019
.@FosseVerdonFX cast includes:
Sam Rockwell as Bob Fosse & Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon@kelli_barrett as Liza Minnelli@biancamarroquin as @Chita_Rivera
+@BranUran as Dustin Hoffman @TheTylerHanes as Jerry Orbach@ethansaslater as @joelgrey
Premieres on FX April 9th. pic.twitter.com/lvokxwZUFl
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) March 11, 2019
Speaking of Liza Minnelli; the real one turns 73 today!
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) March 8, 2019
My favorite line: “Get that EXT/INT shit outta there! Dead giveaway your “play” is a pilot.”
Play Formatting PSA: In undergrad one of the 1st things Donald Margulies did was teach us proper play formatting. Which felt like a huge bummer. Shouldn’t it be story first? Who cares about formatting?! Don’t you see that l WILL CHANGE THE FORM, WITH THE POWER OF ART? 1
But now that I’ve done a ton of reading committees, I can see he was right. In the same way you wouldn’t show up to a job interview dressed wrong for the job, when I’m reading a ton of plays my first cut rejections boil down to, “Does this manuscript LOOK like a play or not?” 2/
And the most screwed up thing is that published plays don’t look like manuscript-form plays, so you can’t just learn by picking up an acting edition at the bookstore or your submission’ll look weird. To wit, a thread about formatting. ARE YOU EXCITED?? 3/
A full-length play is approx 100 pgs in length (50 pgs per act). Sure your length may vary. You may have a lean 75 pg straight-through-no-intermission piece or a 120 pg 2-act that “should read really really fast”
Now the formatting nitty gritty! *character names in all caps & centered *dialogue left-justified *in-dialogue stage directions like “(she exits)” should be in parentheses and italics *longer stage directions should be tabbed in and (optionally) italicized 10/
New scenes get their own line (i.e. “Scene 1”) – bolded and numbered *Get that EXT/INT shit outta there! Dead giveaway your “play” is a pilot. *Start a new pg for each scene *End the act on an all-caps “END OF ACT 1” “END OF PLAY” etc – and bold it too cuz that feels GREAT 11/