When theater returns, said Hamilton’s Christopher Jackson, there will be a party, there will be a collective exhale.
“Out of all this madness, and out of all this pain, will grow some opportunity for new voices, new creators,” said Thomas Schmacher, president of Disney Theatricals and chair of The Broadway League
They were among the many speakers at two theater conferences over the weekend offering hope and inspiration as we’ve reached eight months of a theater building shutdown, with a promise of at least six more months to go.
Theater buildings are shut down, but art isn’t. New York Times critic Maya Phillips concluded her address at the American Theatre Critics Association annual conference:
“I’d say not to let this year and all of its baggage quash your love for this art form. Despite the cutbacks and closures, art is still being made, as it always is, and always will. And if the artists are still showing up eager and ready and desperate for change, then we, the critics, should too.”
It might be helpful to look at the pandemic that we’re just gearing up, saving up, .⁰storing up.⁰
for the next go round.⁰..Even a hit show closes eventually. We go through a renewal process after every show.⁰ So this is like that…protracted – Bway vet #KenPage#ATCA2020 pic.twitter.com/BP42Hkhiq7
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) November 15, 2020
But the speakers didn’t shy away from the reality of the present moment, as last week New York imposed renewed restrictions because of a surge in COVID-19 cases: Private indoor gatherings will be capped at ten people; bars and restaurants that serve alcohol must close at 10 pm, as must gyms.
Hamilton producer Jeffrey Sellers:
If we are lucky enough to return next summer (and I’m
planning on it) then…everybody in the audience, backstage, front of the house will be wearing a mask, The cast will be tested probably every day; they will take their mask off onstage. Normal? No.@jseller#ATCA2020 pic.twitter.com/NR98JIn4dA
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) November 14, 2020
Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater, told ATCA:
“I hope we can get a big government employment program for the theater. I hope we can get the government to buy into the idea that the theater is really important. But the second theater returns, we have to prove that we matter — that we’re improving the lives of people. We have to demonstrate to people that the theater is a necessity, not a luxury. And if we don’t do that, we don’t deserve the support of the nation.” (edited transcript of Eustis’ wide-ranging remarks)
And Schumacher told the Theatermakers Summit:
“Many people are thinking that their shows are going to open in the Fall; and there are people who are very hopeful that some shows will be able to open over the course of the summer. But we’re going to get guidance both from state and city guidance as to how we do that, and have to follow that guidance….We’re going to rely on science, technology and medicine.” (edited transcript of Schumacher’s remarks)
Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League:
“We don’t yet know what it’s going to take to get open…We’ve said from day one we have to have a safe and secure environment, for our theatergoers, cast and crew. It does us no good to be open, if we close two weeks later because somebody got sick, because that truly could devastate Broadway for a long period of time.” (edited transcript of St. Martin’s remarks)
The Week in Theater Reviews
Armie Hammer turns his fingers into an imaginary gun, puts it in his mouth, and pulls the trigger (his thumb.) He is portraying US Army Sergeant Joe Garnier, who is on leave with his wife and two warrior buddies in his trailer at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Pennsylvania
His private gesture comes near the beginning of “Sundogs,” a play that is introduced by the co-founder of Stop Soldier Suicide, a non-profit which is receiving a portion of the Play-PerView ticket revenue….No one will be surprised, in other words, that “Sundogs” is about the challenges facing Americans in the military.
The play by Charlie Oh, which launches Manhattan Theatre Club’s new virtual reading series, is not pornography…There are some important themes, such as the stereotyping of Asian-Americans, and the nature of masculinity and power. But “Long” uses pornography as a metaphor to explore those themes…
The most timely play you can watch right now is the replay of “Conscience,” the story of how Margaret Chase Smith became the lone Republican to speak out against Senator Joseph McCarthy. In her maiden speech on the floor of the Senate, the Senator from Maine (!) read into the record her Declaration of Conscience on June 1, 1950, at a time when every other Republican was afraid to speak out, because of the popularity of the anti-Communist crusader, and his willingness to campaign for the opponent of anybody he disfavored.
Lines from the play hit us like headlines:
“Cowardly politicians acquiesced to save their measly careers.”…
Imagine a world in which people stay indoors and do everything by machine, where touching was obsolete, and people had a “horror of direct experience.”
This is what E.M. Forster imagined in his science fiction story published in 1909, and what Bedlam Theater Company has dramatized in an era when his imagined world has became close to our reality.
“Until The Flood” is the third play I’ve seen inspired by the killing by police officer Darren Wilson of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014, …an hour-long solo play written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, based on interviews with people who live in the area around Ferguson. A production was staged in 2018 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, a recording of which is on public television and available for streaming on the All Arts website.
The Week in Theater News
On Thanksgiving Day, November 26, the reunited cast of four Broadway shows will perform musical numbers as part of a pandemic-adjusted Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — Ain’t Too Proud, Hamilton, Jagged Edge, Mean Girls. That day, there will alsobe an all-star benefit for nurses, and even the perennial feel-good “It’s A Wonderful Life” as a live radio drama.
Here’s a sneak peek of a pre-taped performance the Broadway cast of @HamiltonMusical is doing for the MACY’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE this year.
I’m tearing up seeing these actors perform again. I can’t wait until Broadway’s back.
— Dave Quinn (@NineDaves) November 15, 2020
The Broadway casts of The Lion King and Aladdin as well as the North American touring company of Frozen will reunite at the New Amsterdam Theater for The Disney Holiday Singalong on ABC November 30.
Manhattan Theater Club says it is aiming to stage “Lackawanna Blues,” by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, on Broadway in the fall of 2021, and is moving “How I Learned To Drive,” by Paula Vogel to the Spring of 2022. The theater also plans to present an Off Broadway production of Simon Stephens’ Morning Sun starring Edie Falco and the American premiere of Anchuli Felicia King’s Golden Shield.
The Minutes by Tracy Letts will open on Broadway on March 14, 20222, exactly two years after its initially planned opening date, “pending cast and theatre availability,” the producers have announced.
Celebrating TOFT at 50. Watch Angela Lansbury, Baayork Lee, Chita Rivera https://t.co/MrQfZoc8o4
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) November 13, 2020
Sarah Rasmussen is the new artistic director of the McCarter
What do you miss most about live theatre?
So many things. We’ve started a conversation series; we got a fire pit, and we light it up on the front lawn and have conversations with members of the community of all ages, socially distant, outdoors, and we’re filming those to share. I was speaking yesterday to a brilliant faith leader in the community, Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames, who’s the associate dean of the chapel here. And it just felt magical to be with a person, live. It comes down to these very basic things: the ritual of it, the alchemy of being with other bodies, hearing other bodies laugh, feeling other bodies breathe, seeing people sing together and move together. That’s what I miss the most, what happens on that molecular level where we become something more than the sum of our parts. I miss that as a director too; I miss ensemble. I miss that feeling of being, being a part of something bigger than me.
And yet I really am drawn to what can happen online. Just a couple of weeks ago watched Eisa Davis’s Bulrusher, which she directed, and it was beautiful. There was something that felt sensual and tangible in the way she crafted that, with the music, the visuals, the way it was paced, the lyricism of it—I felt the real human soul in it. I think all of us are trying to figure out, how will you recreate that feeling of community and ritual? And just the way theatres smell, or that feeling of anticipation of the show about to start—it’s not quite the same when your email’s also open behind the screen.
A stagehand fell to his death at The Winter Garden
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) November 13, 2020
Broadway’s Best Plays Spring 2021 season will feature:
Angry,Raucous And Shamelessly Gorgeous By Pearl Cleage
The Thanksgiving Play By Larissa Fasthorse
Watch On The Rhine By Lillian Hellman
The Ohio State Murders By Adrienne Kennedy
Dear Elizabeth By Sarah Ruhl
The Baltimore Waltz By Paula Vogel
The Sisters Rosensweig By Wendy Wasserstein.
There is a new Nightclub New York channel, subscriptions at $50 a month
Oslo, the Tony Award winning play by J.T. Rogers about the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, is now being filmed in Prague w/ Andrew Scott and Ruth Wilson, aiming for HBO next year. (My review of the 2016 Lincoln Center production)
Rest in Peace
Israel Horovitz, 81, prolific playwright best known for the long-running “Line” and “The Indian Wants the Bronx,” (not as well known as the father of Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz)
Lynn Kellogg, 77, who starred as Sheila in the original Broadway production of ‘Hair,
Lawrence Clayton, 64, seven-time Broadway veteran performer who made his Broadway debut in Dreamgirls and most recently starred in the 2015 revival of The Color Purple
The Week in Theater Videos
“THIS IS ME” starring Keala Settle | Divas for Democracy
and featuring Milania Kapoor.
Toshi Reagon’s Post-Election Concert
Ragtime, repurposed for 2020