Theater Blog Roundup: 4 Essential Aspects of Playwriting, 15 Favorite Musicals, 50 Two-Handers, 74th annual Tony Awards

COVID, loneliness and lack of inclusion are certainly present in some of the theater blogging this month, summarized below, but there seems space these days for a look back. 

On About Last Night, Terry Teachout offers a regular feature called Almanac, in which he offers a quote, usually about art, usually from a great thinker.  This past month, he’s been quoting a lot from Virgil Thomson, the composer and critic who died in 1989 at the age of 92, and writer C.S. Lewis. A selection

Thomson:

“Taste is knowing what you don’t like.”

“I have never known an artist of any kind who didn’t do better work when he got properly paid for it.”

Lewis:

“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

“I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last. A waltz which you can like only when you are waltzing is a bad waltz.”

(from “Is Criticism Possible)

“Only the skilled can judge the skilfulness, but that is not the same as judging the value of the result.”

Teachout also offers an excerpt of his thoughts about William Friedkin’s 1970 screen version of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band, which he praises, and points out is one of the Hollywood films based on important stage plays in which all the members of the cast of the original production reprised their roles on the big screen. (It’s interesting that he didn’t like the Broadway production of the play, and doesn’t mention — in the excerpt nor in the full piece in the Wall Street Journal — that it has been filmed for Netflix.)

Adam Szymkowicz interviews playwright number 1094: E.E. Adams who’s turning her play “Snow Globe”, into a TV pilot.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  It seems like everything about theatre is changing right now and that is both terrifying and exciting. I hope that after this theatres keep finding inventive ways to invite more people into the room. Both physically and creatively. This change is an incredible opportunity and I really hope it isn’t wasted.

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In Bitter Gertrude, Melissa Hillman continues her series on disability rights: Disability and COVID-19 (“It’s mostly just old people and people with other conditions,” is tossed out by people looking to shut down concerns. Some prominent conservatives have even gone as far as to say that the elderly and/or people with disabilities should be sacrificed to “save” the US economy.) and Disability Cosplayers,, by which she means people pretending to have a disability in order to park in a disabled spot, for example, or, lately, to pretend to be exempted from wearing a mask. She also discusses how common it is for people with disabilities to be told they’re “’faking it,’ or that our mobility devices are just ‘a crutch'”

On Broadway & Me, Janice Simpson lists 50 plays and musicals that are “two-handers” — they feature just two characters — alphabetically from Athol Fugard’s “Boesman and Lena” to Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story” (She doesn’t mention that Albee expanded The Zoo Story to a two-act, three-character play and renamed it “At Home At The Zoo” — and I don’t blame her.)

On Broadway Journal,  Philip Boroff has (as usual) been breaking news:

The Tonys will be presented sometime in the fall. “Only shows that opened by Feb. 19, 2020, will be eligible for competition, she said. The cutoff date precludes the new Bob Dylan musical Girl from the North Country  and Ivo van Hove’s video-heavy revival of West Side Story.  Both will be considered as part of the 2020-21 season, as will Six,  which was shut down hours before its opening night.”

Producer Scott Rudin owes ad agency Spotco $6.1 million, it claims in a lawsuit

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On Call Me Adam, Adam Rothenberg interviews Amir Levi about his new play “Nathan C. Jones” at The Blank Theater of Los Angeles (which is available on YouTube)

How do you feel this show relates to the world we live in today in 2020? Besides the solitude that Nathan lives in, there’s references to the post-truth world we’re living in. [That’s] how the songs “Propaganda” and “That’s My Truth” came about. Right now facts are ‘debatable’ and everything is ‘fake news.’ Nathan is a product of these times. Whatever we want to believe matters more than the actual facts….Nathan’s loneliness feels even more palpable at the moment. Not having had physical contact with another human being, whether it’s a hug, a lover’s tryst, etc., since March has definitely made me feel a bit more tense and desperate at times.

On JK’s Theatre Scene,  there are two lists: 10 favorite new plays of the last decade, and 15 favorite Original Broadway musicals of the last decade.

Onstage Blog’s  Chris Peterson: 24 castmembers and crew of ‘Mamma Mia’ test positive for COVID-19 What happened? Who’s to blame? This was at the North Platte Community Playhouse(NPCP) in Nebraska

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Rev Stan’s Theatre Blog reviews Blindness at Donmar Warehouse, Is it ironic that in going to the theatre with strict social distancing in place, I felt closer to an actor than at any time before?

The Donmar has opened its doors, the first major theatre in London to do so, but with live performance still not allowed it has created what is an extraordinary experience using sound.

Blindness is adapted by Simon Stephens from a novel by José Saramago and tells the story of an epidemic in which people suddenly go blind.

For Theatre’s Leiter Side, Samuel Leiter continues to post entries from his unpublished Encyclopedia of The New York Stage, 1970-1976, each entry a different show, organized alphabetically. One of his latest is the 1972 production of “Lady Day” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, about Billie Holiday, starring Cecelia Norfleet. One of several plays about the singer “that would arrive on local stages over the coming years,” this one was set in a 1930s amateur night at a Harlem theater, featuring an M.C. named Flim Flam and an all-black cast (with white characters played in whiteface.)

In The World Through Night-Tinted Glasses, Zahir Blue writes about a way to look at  playwriting – PACT, an acronym for plot, atmosphere, character and theme, with a paragraph on each citing examples playwrights who emphasize one of these aspects over the others.. (For example, on atmosphere, Blue writes: “Chekhov’s great plays as well as most of August Wilson seem to me about their worlds more than anything else.”)

Author: New York Theaterh

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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