What is a play – and what is its purpose? These questions come to mind after reading the 15 plays commissioned by T the New York Times Style Magazine in America 2024, a multimedia anthology of scripts an videotaped performances in answer to the question: What will the U.S. be like in five years? The plays come from some of the leading playwrights of the nation, including Jackie Sibblies Drury, who yesterday won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play, “Fairview.”
Her play for T is entitled “Various Pre-Apocalyptic Post-Coital Scenes” The script is accompanied by a video of a staged reading of the play by Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Roslyn Ruff and Hannah Cabell.
Her T play, and those by Adam Rapp and Celine Song will be read at the Brooklyn Academy of Music next Monday, April 22nd, followed by a discussion with the three playwrights. This thus avoids one of the questions that T inspired: Is something a play that’s intended only to be read?
Terrence McNally contributed “Muses of Fire,” his conversation in the clouds during the 2024 Presidential inauguration with six dead great American playwrights (“Life is wasted on the living,” the imagined Thornton Wilder says.) They are portrayed in a video accompanying the script by six well-regarded actors — Eugene O’Neill (Nathan Lane), Thornton Wilder (David Hyde Pierce), Lorraine Hansberry (Kerry Washington), Tennessee Williams (Richard Thomas), Arthur Miller (John Lithgow) and Edward Albee (Frederick Weller.) (McNally portrayed himself.)
“Theater stopped telling the truth when it started charging for admission. After the Greeks, it was selling something. Everybody was a salesman,” Edward Albee says in McNally’s play. “You got that part right, Artie.”
Ironically, the photographs of the playwrights and actors are captioned with descriptions of the clothes they’re wearing and how much they cost — one of the two aspects of this otherwise extraordinary project that go beyond odd (to annoying?) The other is the introduction by Hanya Yanagihara offering a definition of literature that leaves out a lot of really good theater. “…there is a crucial difference between journalism and literature: If the former concerns itself with What is, the latter is interested in What if. That instinct — the artistic compulsion to stretch the possibilities of the moment to their most outlandish, terrifying extremes — can often illuminate the current era. Literature, be it in the form of a play or poem or novel, is often at its most captivating when it is at its most exaggerated, when it articulates our collective fears or concerns.”
The Week in New York Theater Reviews
I might go a great distance to watch Ben Whishaw strip off his suit and turn into Helen of Troy and Marilyn Monroe before our eyes. But I only had to travel to 30thStreet and 10thAvenue, in between the High Line and Hudson Yards, to the Griffin Theater on the sixth floor of The Shed, a new $500 million performing arts center .
As it turns out, though, it was the creative team that went far — too far. “Norma Jeane Baker of Troy,” which is half sung and half spoken by both Whishaw and Renee Fleming, combines the myth of Helen of Troy with the story of Marilyn Monroe (birth name: Norma Jeane.) This inaugural piece at the Griffin reflects the mission of The Shed, as articulated by its artistic director Alex Poots, to commission original works that “take creative risks and push artistic boundaries.” The show, with a starry cast and impeccable avant-garde credentials, is an intriguing and erudite experiment on multiple levels. On too many of those levels, however, it just didn’t work for me.
I’m grateful for having first seen Daniel Fish’s dark, hip and homey production of “Oklahoma!” at St. Ann’s Warehouse last year, because I can see how much improved it is now that it has transferred to Broadway. They kept what I liked about it, and got rid of much of what I found most annoying.
The Week in Theater Awards
Congratulations to @jackiesdrury for winning the #PulitzerPrize for her stunning play Fairview! And thank you to the @PulitzerPrizes for naming me a finalist along with the brilliant Clare Barron, who also grew up in my hometown of Wenatchee, WA (pop. 34,000)!
— Heidi Schreck (@heidibschreck) April 15, 2019
Ann Reinking & Ben Vereen will serve as hosts to the Chita Rivera Awards on May 19 at the NYU Skirball Center
The Week in New York Theater News
Pride Plays at Rattlestick Theater, co-produced by actor Michael Urie, will feature staged readings to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, June 20 – June 24. Plays included (so far): Blueprints to Freedom by Michael Benjamin Washington; Last Summer at Bluefish Cove
by Jane Chambers; Some Men by Terrence McNally; On this Morning by Caroline Prugh; As Is by William Hoffman; Eat and You Belong to Us by MJ Kaufman; Room Enough by Daaimah Mubashshir; Nora Highland by Ryan Spahn;Le Switch by Philip Dawkins; Mariquitas by Eduardo Machado; Bike Race by Eri Nox; The Last Sunday in June by Jonathan Tolins; The Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel; A Language of Their Own by Chay Yew
.@TinaBroadway, starring @AdrienneWarren, will open at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 7, 2019, shortly before the 80th birthday of the dynamo entertainer Tina Turner born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennesseehttps://t.co/sdL09HUqOO
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) April 11, 2019
Laurie Metcalf and Eddie Izzard will star in the fifth Broadway production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, opening April 9, 2020. Russell Tovey and Patsy Ferran will co-star.
Signature Theater 2019-2020 Season:
Fires in the Mirror
By Anna Deavere Smith
Directed by SaheemAli
October 22 – November 24, 2019
A revival of Smith’s extraordinary documentary mosaic of the people involved in the Crown Heights riots in the summer of 1991 in the aftermath of the deaths of an African-American boy and a young Orthodox Jewish scholar.
The Young Man from Atlanta
By Horton Foote
Directed by Michael Wilson
November 5 – December 8, 2019
A revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of an aging couple still reeling from the death of their only child, whose friend visits them with the truth they don’t want to acknowledge.
Cambodian Rock Band**A New York Premiere**
By Lauren Yee
Directed by ChayYew
February 4 – March 8, 2020
The story of a Khmer Rouge survivor returning back to Cambodia for the first time in thirty years as his daughter prepares to help prosecute one of Cambodia’s most infamous war criminals. It is infused with a live band playing contemporary Dengue Fever hits and classic Cambodian oldies
The Hot Wing King
By Katori Hall
Directed by Steve H. Broadnax III
February 11 – March 15, 2020
Ready, set, fry! It’s time for the annual Hot Wang Festival in Memphis, Tennessee, and Cordell Crutchfield knows he has the wings that’ll make him king.When Dwayne takes in his troubled nephew however, it becomes a recipe for disaster
Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992
By Anna Deavere Smith
Directed by TaibiMagar
April 28 – May 31, 2020
The Smith treatment of the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King police brutality verdict.
Directed by Kamilah Forbes
May 12 – June 14, 2020
Sarah, a savvy slave turned Union spy, and Sandra, a brilliant professor in a modern-day private university, are facing similar struggles, even though they live over a century apart.
92Y’s Reel Pieces series will present a conversation with Tony and Oscar winner Glenda Jackson April 29 at 7:30 PM.”
The 21st annual Broadway Barks, the pet adoption event co-founded by Tony winner Bernadette Peters and the late Emmy winner Mary Tyler Moore, will be held July 13.
Billy Crystal is working with composer Jason Brown and lyricist Amanda Green on a musical version of his film Mr. Saturday Night, according to Variety. The 1992 film focused on Buddy Young Jr., the self-destructive, washed-up (or never-was) comedian estranged from his family, which began as a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Crystal age from his 20s to his 70s in the film. “It’s a great character and now I don’t need the makeup!” said Crystal, who turned 70 in March.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) April 11, 2019
The bigger challenge is pulling off realism, creating the illusion that the adults onstage are plausible as the much-younger characters — a feat accomplished by two of Broadway’s biggest hits, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Mockingbird” features Celia Keenan-Bolger, 41, as Scout; Will Pullen, 28, as Jem; and Gideon Glick, 30, as Dill.
Potter has a new cast that took over March 20, with Nicholas Podany, 22, as Albus Potter; Bubba Weiler, 25, as Scorpius Malfoy; and Nadia Brown, 24, as Rose Granger-Weasley — all ages 11 to about 15 during the course of the two-part play. (The original Rose was played by Susan Heyward, 36.)
The distance between an audience and actors in a theater helps.
Podany also doesn’t want to “play a kid,” saying instead he tries to “stop being an adult.”
“It’s a small shift in semantics but a big shift in my mind-set,” he said. Kids experience everything so vividly while adults “make a choice not to feel things so intensely.”
Rest in Peace
I’m shocked and saddened by the death of Broadway veteran Eric LaJuan Summers, at age 36, from cancer.
In 2013, when he had six roles in @MotownMusical , I called him the best male dancer on Broadway.https://t.co/bT6Pn7GRub
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) April 10, 2019
RIP Georgia Engel, 70, best known for portraying sweet Georgette on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She began her career on the stage (she was in the original Broadway production of Hello Dolly), and returned Off-Broadway (in @AnnieNBaker‘s John) pic.twitter.com/Khd85nSIce
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) April 16, 2019
Alan Wasser, a veteran Broadway general manager, dies at age 70
A memorial for late actor and director Alvin Epstein, who made his mark as a premiere interpreter of Samuel Beckett’s plays, will be held at the Irish Repertory Theatre on April 29 at 3 PM