Words matter. Trump’s words clearly incited the storming of the Capitol last week, which reportedly may result in his second impeachment this week. (Some of the hate spouted by the insurrectionists spread to New York)
The political events over the past week were certainly dramatic — that taped bullying phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State, which has already been turned into a musical (see below); the unexpected sweep of the Georgia run-offs for the Democrats, creating a Democratic majority in the Senate, and, above all (or, really, beneath all), the insurrection by Trump supporters and complicit Republican members of Congress. But it is annoying how pundits bandy about the phrase “political theater.” Theater is not about lying; it’s about using the power of imagination in a search for the truth. In truth. the connection between theater and democracy goes back thousands of years; born together they are both under attack, though in different ways.
Theater and the Insurrection
Either invoke the 25th amendment or Congress must impeach – the only two options left after yesterday’s heinous attempt to subvert the democratic process. https://t.co/EL06ErfOow
— Actors’ Equity (@ActorsEquity) January 7, 2021
To the tune of “Tradition!”
I read the transcript of Trump’s phone call to Georgia’s Sec of State, and I thought: some playwright should dramatize it!
Sure enough, @GregoryBrothers have already set part of it to music. Next up surely: A @sarahcpr video! https://t.co/Nl1XgPQyAD
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) January 4, 2021
Theater and Survival
Physical theaters are likely to return “sometime in the Fall,” Dr.Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, reiterated over the weekend at the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, always held in New York City in January (which explains all the January festival, but this year presented virtually. “We’ll be back in the theaters — performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it,” Fauci said, as quoted in the New York Times. “It will happen.”
Saving New York Theater: A Political Status Report
What are the New York City, state and federal governments doing to address the challenges facing theaters in the city? Some has already happened. Much is planned (hoped for) in the new year.
Arts workers are building a labor movement to save a creative economy in peril
A whole new labor movement has been spawned to drive home.
the concept of the “arts worker” — an immense labor category representing 8.8 million Americans doing everything from designing clothing to sweeping museum floors — and that the arts are as foundational as farming or manufacturing.
The present conversation around pay equity is primarily focused on how it benefits individual artists…Since pay equity leads to higher quality work, any company interested in having the best product to share with their community will center pay equity within their company because the benefits to the business are undeniable.
Week in Reviews: January Theater Festivals
This sonic tour of Times Square begins with what sounds like a wave of sonic booms – the clacking machinery of an ancient factory maybe, or an old diesel locomotive…until you realize: Oh, that must be Pamela Z singing. She’s the composer of “Times³ (Times x Times x Times),” which is an opera; or at least, it is one of the six works presented this month as part of the ninth annual Prototype Festival, which showcases what it calls “visionary opera-theatre.” To the uninitiated, Times3 might not sound like an opera. It doesn’t much sound like Times Square either….it’s aural impressionism, and it grew on me.
Isolation, dread, disconnection and video: That’s what the first night of the Public Theater’s 17th annual Under the Radar festival offers – and that (surely not coincidentally) is what most of us have been living through over the past ten months. This is the first year that the experimental festival is entirely free and also entirely on video – the former an outright gift, the latter a mixed blessing.
Be open-minded, be open-minded: That was my mantra while watching the “split bill” of three experimental videos from this year’s Exponential theater festival. Also: Don’t use dismissive adjectives like “self-indulgent” or “pointless.” This worked for me; you can watch the videos yourself below to see if they work for you.
Week in Theater News
“Mean Girls” is not returning to Broadway. Their closing date, retroactively, was March 11th, after 29 previews and 804 performances. It is the fourth Broadway show to call it quits that was running or about to open before the pandemic struck. The others are “Frozen,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” and “Hangmen.
The Grammys, originally scheduled for January 31, will be postponed until March 14, “after thoughtful conversations with health experts, our host and artists scheduled to appear.”
Best theater album nominations
A water main break has caused extensive damage to the York Theater Company. “We are devastated but we will recover,” says artistic director Jim Morgan. “There’s damage everywhere from mud and water. We’re working to recover archival files, scripts, lighting equipment, costumes, scenery—and 50 years of York Theater history. Computers, carpeting, and some lighting equipment will need replacing; irreplaceable are certain papers and artwork.”
A Confederate flag was discovered on Friday tied to the front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, which houses The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. The theater issued an announcement of condemnation ” in the strongest possible terms the defacement of our home.”
Too often in our history have people stood by while symbols of hate preceded violence against us. To that, we say that we will not sit idly by while hatred simmers around us.
Shteyt nit brider to azoy zikh mit farleygte hent!
Shteyt nit brider, lesht dos fayer
Under shtetl brent!
Don’t stand there brothers with empty hands
Don’t stand there brothers, put out the fire
Our town is burning!
Sondheim Unplugged has been extended to January 23
Even as the pandemic takes its toll on tourism, immersive museums and experiential art centers are expanding to new cities and wooing investors willing to gamble on the future of the emerging industry.Fotografiska wanted to introduce New Yorkers to a different type of museum when it opened in December 2019 in Manhattan, welcoming visitors to view photography exhibitions in a boozy clubhouse atmosphere complete with midnight D.J. sets and a restaurant run by a Michelin-rated chef. The coronavirus pandemic has brought an end to the party, but not to the Swedish company’s dreams of dotting the world with its for-profit museums.
#RussianTrollFarm designer Jared Mezzocchi about Zoom:
“No one’s thinking of technique because we’re thinking this is a band-aid until we get back into the theatre space. And I call foul on that. This is a really great opportunity to hone our craft…”https://t.co/8d88SCre3y
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) January 5, 2021
Stage to Screen: Spamalot (acquired by Paramount), Sell/Buy/Date which is based on her 2016 Off Broadway stage production of the same name.
Entering public domain (so expect new adaptaions): F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, and Alain Locke’s The New Negro, as well as musical compositions by composers Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, W.C. Handy, Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller
Looking forward, 2021 is not going to be easy. It may prove tougher than 2020 in some ways. The roll-out of vaccinations will not be a magic wand that allows theatres to reopen at full capacity any time soon…The particular circumstances of 2020 mean theatre has been forced to ask more of itself, dig deeper and think harder about its purpose and expand the notion of what a theatre company or building does. The pandemic provided that opportunity and the challenge for 2021 will be to build on what has been learned and implement the necessary changes around access and equality – issues the industry talks a lot about but is slow to act on.
The next few months will undoubtedly be difficult. But the curtain will rise again.
Rest in Peace
Lee Breuer, 83, a striking, influential figure in avant-garde theater — co-founder of seminal 50-year-old powerhouse Mabou Mines, playwright of The Gospel at Colonus, inventive director, author just last year of “Getting Off: Lee Breuer on Performance”
“How much of the game do you have to play, and how much can you play against the game?” he said in a 2011 interview. “That’s an enormous question, and it’s a question that’s been part of my life, always.”
Marion Ramsey, 73
Best known for her portrayal of the sweet, squeaky-voiced Officer Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy franchise, Ramsey began her show business career on the stage, appearing in both the original Broadway and subsequent touring productions of Hello, Dolly! In 1974, she starred opposite Bette Davis in the legendary flop musical Miss Moffat … Ramsey’s stage career rebounded four years later with Eubie!