Thoughts of Thanksgiving loom large among theater bloggers this month at a time when both Thanksgiving and theater have… changed. On Stage lists the scientific benefits of gratitude; a playwright tells Adam Szymkowicz how a Thanksgiving with his family inspired his latest play; Broadway Direct offers a playlist of Broadway songs to be thankful for. And Terry Teachout simply offers a video of Snoopy and Woodstock eating turkey, for which we’re grateful.
Plus: Jason Tam, the first Wallace Shawn play, the birth of MUSE, Melissa Hillman on how theater has never been more important and what theater artists should do with their power, Ken Davenport on a new musical created entirely on TikTok; his blog post offers a surprise kicker. James Corden knows a trend: He creates Broadway: The Tik Tok Musical, with Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Gad, Patti LuPone, Josh Groban and Audra McDonald
On About Last Night, Terry Teachout — who considers himself “a firm believer in what Arnold Bennett called ‘the great cause of cheering us all up.'” offers a two-minute scene from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and a quote from Ambrose Bierce on gratitude:
“When prosperous the fool trembles for the evil that is to come; in adversity the philosopher smiles for the good that he has had.”
Theatre should be raucous, populist, dangerous and difficult but not in the sense somebody should need a graduate degree to understand (or have a career in) it.
I really believe our humanity is inextricably tied to the act of theatre-making…Some of the greatest theatre I’ve seen has happened in back yards, parks, and online
Among his advice to playwrights just starting out:
Don’t obsess too much about theatre. Do other things, work jobs, have hobbies, and get outside and be a person. Don’t make theatre your entire identity and wear it as a badge. You’ll end up writing plays for “theatre people,” and we don’t need more of those. We need new stories that don’t place theatre “over there,” because it’s not. It’s right here, whenever anybody decides they have a story to tell and acts on it.
To revisit Cavan Hallman, playwright 1095, since it’s apropos. Here is how he came to write “Night Launch”
It’s inspired by my family. It struck me deeply at a holiday dinner a few years ago how diametrically opposed some of my family members’ memories were, the different ways that people choose to re-write their shared histories.”
In Bitter Gertrude, Melissa Hillman writes about the future of theater in the United States: “Everything is in flux, our future is uncertain, and we’ve never been more important” Her essay is in two parts — the first a rant against Republican’s dismissal of facts and truth, the second four practical steps that artists can do about it. “We’re arts leaders. It’s time to lead.”
4. Remember who you are. Remember your magic. Remember your power. Make “Guardian of Truth” part of your work….
On Broadway Journal, Philip Boroff attended the inaugural event (on Zoom) of Musicians United for Social Equity.(MUSE) The group aims to make live theater’s pits, podiums and rehearsals rooms more inclusive and more diverse, particularly in the fields of arranging, orchestrating and conducting musical scores.“If we can help other people get past the barrier of, ‘oh I’m a girl, they’re never going to hire me,’ or ‘I’m a Black or brown artist, they’re never going to hire me,’” Ilana Atkins said, the change will benefit “both those individual musicians and the industry as a whole.”
The Broadway League’s Charlotte St. Martin Q and A. We don’t yet know what it’s going to take to get open
How have you changed during this extended Broadway shutdown? I grew my hair out and became the hippie farmer that I’ve always dreamed of being! But the party’s over, and I’ve had to go back to a more mainstream hair cut now that auditions are starting to pick back up.
As an actor, what safety precautions would you want put in place to make you feel safe to return to a theatrical stage? I’ll feel safe when there’s a vaccine.
The interview was hooked to an audio drama that’s now past; Adam asked him what excited him about such audio theater.
If you close your eyes when you eat, you taste things more acutely. In the same way, while audio plays deprive us of visual cues, it allows us to hear language and stories more clearly. It’s like having the sun suddenly rise in the north and set in the south, and we get to see the world in a completely new light. As a performer I’m also looking forward to not needing to set up shop in my tiny bathroom in order to get good lighting!
JK’s Theatre Scene has been running a contest to pick the best Broadway musical logos of the 1990s., based on the design, not on how much you like the show itself. (I think these are largely posters or window cards)
Onstage Blog’s Amy Clites writes on Being grateful when everything sucks (which begins with the lyrics to “It Sucks To Be Me” from Avenue Q.) She cites scientific studies that demonstrate that gratitude can help you sleep better, and improves physical and psychological help, and then offers eight tips on how to start: Reach out to those who inspire you; make a commitment to avoid complaining (“The next time you feel the impulse to complain, make an effort to find something to appreciate instead.”); (Note: It’s clear this was written pre-pandemic given such tips as “Bring your stage manager their favorite snack” But instead of complaining, I”ll appreciate those tips we can still practice.)
“The important thing to remember is that gratitude, like any other skill, is something that is practiced and that you can and will get better at it over time. Why not start now?”
Stefanie Townsend offers a “theater thank you list” — to technicians, the orchestra, national Broadway tours, and supporters.
On The Producer’s Perspective, Ken Davenport writes about the phenomenon of an entire musical — Ratatouille the Musical — being created by fans on TikTok! He offers three takeaways about it, and then the kicker, which carries a cick: “I want to produce it.”
A poster on reddit’s r/Btoadway asks: What song or lyric from a musical changed the way you think? Answers include several Sondheim, Chess, Big River, Beetlejuice, and this from Legally Blonde: “I thank you one and all, the ones who thought I’d fall, who taught me how to fail, who helped me to prevail.”
For Theatre’s Leiter Side, Samuel Leiter continues posting entries from his unpublished Encyclopedia of the New York Stage 1970-1975, with “Our Late Night,” the first play by Wallace Shawn! It was directed by Andre Gregory (whose new memoir, This Is Not My Memoir, I just reviewed.) Clive Barnes called the play “the sickest of sick jokes,” but Shawn won an Obie for it.
Shawn and Gregory have been collaborating ever since, most famously in the film “My Dinner with Andre”