Theater bloggers this past month are taking in the changes in the art form in order to riff on what the future might be – or should be. At the same time, many are recalling what once was on stage, “when missing live theater is a way of life,” as one puts it. These recollections are not always wistful. If after watching “Staying Alive” (the “sequel” to “Saturday Night Fever” ) you concluded that director Sylvester Stallone knows nothing about theater….Surprise: He was once a New York stage actor, although he, and his theatergoers, might prefer to forget it.
On About Last Night, Terry Teachout discourses on Jump-starting an arts revival, and concludes: “The NEA is plugged into many major arts institution in America and already has in place the bureaucracy needed to funnel funding throughout the country, while the foundations have the cash. What they need to do is think more creatively. Why can’t they dedicate a significant part of their budgets to non-programmatic use and work with the NEA on directing those funds to artists and organizations struggling to stay afloat? Do that and it won’t just be New York whose arts and culture rebound from the effects of the pandemic—it will be those of the whole country.” He links to the full article on the Wall Street Journal (available only to subscribers.)
In another post, he presents a video of James Earl Jones (who’s just turned 90 years old) performing in the original Broadway production of Fences at the 1987 Tony Awards (in an enlightened era when the Tony broadcast actually presented whole scenes from straight plays)
In Bitter Gertrude, Melissa Hillman focuses on the disabled, a large minority in this country who “are almost always left out of discussions of diversity and equity in theatre & film,” although there are many artists with disabilities (such as the ones whose photographs she includes in her post), who are discriminated against, in what has come to be called ableism. The post lists Ten Ableist Tropes to Jettison in 2021, eg: “We are not…” symbols…saviors…inspiration…divine oracles…villainous… “Becoming disabled didn’t change anything about me. I walk with a cane and have to manage chronic pain but I was the same irreverent, nerdy, overeducated discount Dorothy Parker both before and after I acquired this disability. If “disabled” is your character’s only description, you need to start over.”
George Hunka talks about Little Murders, the dark Jules Feiffer comedy that lasted four days on Broadway in 1967 and 400 performances Off-Broadway in 1969 and was made into a hard-to-get film in 1971. He leads with this provocative line of dialogue from the play:
It’s very dangerous to challenge a system unless you’re completely at peace with the thought that you’re not going to miss it when it collapses.
“Walking into the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 2008 was one of those small gasp moments I hold so dear, especially these days when missing live theater is a way of life.”
Jeff has also started a weekly feature This Week in Broadway History (sample week) in which we learn what shows have opened that week over the years, some headlines and birthdays. I hope he keeps this up.
And the members of the newly-created No Exit Theatre Collective offer their take on Directing Theatre on Zoom: The Challenges and Opportunities
In the Producers Perspective, Ken Davenport offers three posts that are in effect meditating on the consequences and possibilities of our stage-to-screen pandemic moment.
What the Bridgerton Musical on TikTok means for the future of Musical Theater Writers “It means that TikTok is the new place for musical theater writers to be discovered. Period. Pasek and Paul had YouTube, and it was crucial to their success, as they talked about here. Jason Robert Brown had piano bars like eighty-eights, where I first saw Songs for a New World. And now, everyone who dreams about writing for the theater . . . you have TikTok.”
Rev Stan does every weekend what I’ve done once — — visit his favorite theaters. Since this blog is based in England, they are called Lockdown London theatre walks and the latest one is to Soho Theatre and a reminiscence about Ben Whishaw and Phoebe Waller-Bridge there.
In Theatre’s Leiter Side, Sam continues posting entries from his unpublished Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, 1970-1975, with “Score” from 1970. “Sylvester Stallone was still in the starving actor stage of his career (he was billed as Sylvester E. Stallone) when he appeared in the secondary role of Mike, a lusty phone repairman, in this comic embarrassment about sex-swapping.”