Theater Blog Roundup: 49 Plays about U.S. Politics, especially It Can’t Happen Here

On a day when non-theater people are revving up talk about “political theater,” theater bloggers Janice Simpson and Samuel Leiter offer a different take on the term — theater about politics. Another theater blog this month offers politics straight up without the theater. Others present a suggestion for a new theater award and complaints about an old one, speculate on post-COVID theatergoing, relate the sweetest thing about “Mean Girls” that doesn’t sound very sweet, explain why a play should never be complete, salvage hit songs from Broadway misfires, give advice about playwriting for Zoom, and yearn to walk down Times Square again in their skivvies.

On Broadway & Me,Janice Simpson posted before the first 2020 Presidential debate  about Power Plays: Shows about U.S. politics – 49 plays and musicals listed, in a wide variety of styles and definitions of politics: Abe Lincoln in Illinois, The Crucible, What The Constitution Means to Me. (I can think of two more to add — Mr. President, Irving Berlin’s last musical, and The Gershwins’ Let Em Eat Cake.)
On the day of the final 2020 Presidential debate, several of the shows listed, and others not yet listed, are available in the countdown to Election Day

On About Last Night, Terry Teachout quotes H.L. Mencken

“The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots. The demaslave is one who listens to what these idiots have to say and pretends to believe it himself.”

and cites three quotations about light.

“There are two kinds of light—the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.” – James Thurber, in Lanterns and Lances

“An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it.” – James Michener, in Space

“Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

He also excerpts his essay on the effect of the building of Lincoln Center on the Metropolitan Opera and the arts throughout America—and how its influence has left performing-arts groups in other cities less well-equipped to battle COVID.

Adam Szymkowicz  talks about the pandemic-era productions of his play The Parking Lot, in Cedar Rapids and Las Vegas. “It’s about a couple deciding the fate of their relationship and we cast couples who are quarantined together. People watch from their cars and listen on FM station through their radios.“ He also interviews his 1095th playwright, Cavan Hallman
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Read something written by Ike Holter, Gina Femia or Calamity West. These are contemporary writers who deserve to be on people’s reading lists, and their work inspires me.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I love a play that is satisfactorily complete, but also feels like the characters and the stories live on beyond the fall of the curtain. Since I mentioned Ike Holter’s writing before, I’d say that Sender is a great example of this ideal. I directed a production for Mirrorbox Theatre, where I’m the artistic director

In Bitter Gertrude, Melissa Hillman focuses on politics this month, leaving out the theater, in three posts:

When Someone Like Trump Gets Sick

Why It Matters That Trump Called Kamala Harris “This Monster”

GOP Politicians: Your Five-Point Plan for Surviving Trump (e.g. “…secretly I was at the White House every day begging him to be less awful.”) featuring a Tweet from Dan Rather

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

 Nerds Producers Ace Angry Angels In Court: A New York State judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a dozen investors in Nerds,  a musical about the tech titans Bill Gates and Steve Jobs that collapsed weeks before its first scheduled preview on Broadway. The pre-trial victory for producers Carl Levin and Vicki Halmos illustrates the uphill battle theatrical angels [investors] face when trying to recover losses in court, even from a production that doesn’t make it to opening night

Broadway League’s $4,000 Dues Demand Rankles Members

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On Call Me Adam, Adam Rothenberg interviews
Kate Rockwell, who originated the role of Karen Smith in “Mean Girls: The Musical” on Broadway, but she is also a wine aficionado and offered a virtual wine tasting class earlier this month.
My favorite kind of wine is a Moscato. Since Moscato is a sweet wine, what is the sweetest memory you have from your time in Mean Girls? I love a good Moscato!!! My sweetest memory from Mean Girls is the night we lost all the Tonys, lol. We really got the chance to come together as a group of people who’d worked their butts off for the past year to make something we were super proud of, and rising above the disappointment together was really wonderful. I miss that family every day…
Quarantine has taught me that I really miss people. I talk to my dogs a lot more now. I talk to my plants. I love every one of these zoom meetings/events, but let’s all wash our hands and wear our masks so we can get back together again in person soon please!


JK’s Theatre Scene, , for his new series Hit Songs from Broadway Misfires, picks three tunes by Frank Wildhorn: Believe from The Scarlet Pimpernel, How Bout a Dance from Bonnie and Clyde, and Someone Like You from Jekyll and Hyde.

Onstage Blog’s  Chris Peterson asks what will happen to the long-delayed film of Wicked now that Stephen Daldry had quit as its director. Kevin Ray Johnson interviews Nick Cearley, a theater artist who for 17 years has partnered with Lauren Molina in the pop duo The Skivvies.

What advice would you give any young aspiring artists in these challenging times?

Live performances will be back! This industry is all about persistence, resistance, proactivity, and patience. We are experiencing this at a heightened level right now and it is okay in this moment to breathe, refocus, and re-center. I would also make sure to embrace what makes you YOU and make sure when we all come back to do what we do, to carry that authenticity back with you. We are very resilient as performers and artists, and I know a lot of us are being tested. It is important to not lose hope. If you lose hope, what else are you going to hang onto?

Oh and also, be nice to everyone. Lead with kindness. You have no idea how many people will circle back in your life to surprise you in new roles…

In Pataphysical Science, Linda Buchwald returns after a year’s hiatus to comment on the 2020 Tony nominations, under the headline The Tonys Are Happening?

it’s hard to care about the Tonys this year when we don’t even know when Broadway will be back. I think if the Tonys announced nominations in April or May when we knew that the shutdown would last much longer than a month, as other theater awards did, I would have cared more. What were they waiting for? Why now? Especially when it’s so close to the election….

The main thing that jumps out is that there was only new musical with an original score that opened before the shutdown and that was The Lightning Thief….It was not nominated in any category….Everybody is out of work. This was supposed to be a way to celebrate the industry. Why exclude one show in this way? Especially one with an original score.

In The Producer’s Perspective, Ken Davenport asks: don’t you think it’s time for The Streaming Theater Awards? They don’t exist yet, but, he believes, they should. “Streaming Theater is a thing.  It’s not a fad.  It’s not a phase.  And it’s not a lesser art form.”



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Rev Stan’s Theatre Blog on Trying to find my theatre-going mojo again 

and Will your theatre-watching habits change post-COVID?

For Theatre’s Leiter Side, Samuel Leiter recalls the original 1936 productions of It Can’t Happen Here, “adapted from Sinclair Lewis’s novel about the rise of American fascism” and, in addition to New York, “given a production simultaneous with 22 others in 18 cities across the nation. Each production was totally independent in approach….At a time when fascist forces were appearing in a number of guises in the United States, none could deny the play’s topicality and its white-hot response to a potential threat affecting all Americans.” He brings this up because of the many productions currently on the boards throughout the country.
He links to this nine-minute video of the history of the play and the WPA:

Here is Episode 1 of the audio drama by more than 100 theaters nationwide:

In The World Through Night-Tinted Glasses, Zahir Blue offers some basic advice for Playwriting for Zoom  — a platform he believes will continue even post-COVID19: “a professional Zoom account costs (as of this writing) fifteen dollars a month. Compare that number to renting just one performance space for a single night.”
Most of his advice is really about the staging rather than the writing (use a green screen, use title cards), but one is for writers: “As writers, look back to Shakespeare and how he had the characters refer to the location–how it looked, how it felt, the hour, their own reactions to the place.”

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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