Yes it’s true that Frances McDormand howled like a wolf during one of her acceptance speeches for “Nomadland,” which won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress (her), and Glenn Close danced Da Butt. But these were the rare over-the-top moments in a low-key, socially distanced 93rd annual Academy Award show (complete list of winners.) The tone of this year’s Oscars reflected our current pandemic era. But it may also presage what happens post-Covid, when people may be reluctant to give up what Joe Pinsker in The Atlantic calls the “newfound taste for a lower-key life.”
See howling at 2:13
The howling explained:
It’s possible that many people, released from lockdown, will want to go out as often as possible, which has led some to predict (or hope) there will be a new Roaring Twenties (just as, some have claimed, the Roaring Twenties of the 20th century was in part a reaction to the end of the 1918 flu pandemic.)
That these two contradictory impulses might exist simultaneously – and even within the same individuals – is an argument for the continuing growth of digital theater, even after physical stages have reopened at full capacity (and new venues, such as Little Island at Pier 55, above, and the Ronald O Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center, launch to great fanfare.)
Two pieces of evidence:
Exhibit A: The newly announced National Theatre Network in collaboration with Broadway on Demand, a project of New York’s Irish Rep, San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre and Woolly Mammoth of D.C., that will allow audiences across the country to watch the shows produced for regional theaters from, yes, the comfort of their homes. It launches on May 15 with a filmed adaptation of The Bushwick Starr’s “Animal Wisdom,” written by Heather Christian.
Exhibit B: How multimedia designer and director Jared Mezzocchi’s “workload and influence has exploded over the last 13 months” writes Elizabeth Vincentelli in an interview with him in the New York Times. (I was a big fan of “Russian Troll Farm,” above, which he co-directed last year, and, way back in 2016, of his eye-catching projections in “Vietgone.”) “A lot of theaters are not going to stop the digital marketplace because they’ve seen great value in the accessibility to it. I’m excited for where that takes us when digital performance is a choice rather than survival.”
Week in Theater Reviews
Two Sisters and a Piano: Jimmy Smits as Infatuated Enemy
In New Normal Rep’s second-ever production, a revival of Nilo Cruz’s play, Jimmy Smits plays a lieutenant in the Cuban army in 1991 who is supposed to keep tabs on the two women (Daphne Rubin-Vega and Florencia Lozano) who are under house arrest for political activity, but instead he becomes infatuated with one of them. The premise is steamy, the acting is engaging, the Zoom design is largely inventive.
Is this the right time for a work of theater that explores the aftereffect of gun violence and bigotry and a flawed criminal justice system? Sure. How about one that compares Jewish history with LGBTQ history? Why not? But if I were looking to revive a show that touches on all these issues, it wouldn’t be “A Letter to Harvey Milk,” the well-meaning but self-sabotaging 2018 Off-Broadway musical whose original cast reunited for a Zoom production on Stellar through April 25.
This first of three 30-minute episodes about the National Woman’s Party, which was pushing for an Equal Rights Amendment many decades before the Senate finally passed one in the 1970s, is not just fascinating history but terrific entertainment
Into The Woods: a sample of changes to come at Encores!
In this new 10-minute video, Encores! new artistic director Lear deBessonet offers a preview of a forthcoming stage revival of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical — and a preview of the changes in the Encores! stage series overall.
Week in Theater News
March on BroadwayHundreds of theater workers marched down Broadway on Thursday, rallying to demand more inclusion in the industry, protesting producer Scott Rudin and to call for greater transparency from the Actors’ Equity Association union. (AP) (Variety)
More on Scott Rudin:
Scott Rudin As Told By His Assistants (New York Magazine)
Apology of a Rudin Apologist by Michael Chabon
Rudin tells the Times he has resigned from the Broadway League
Amid the horror stories, silence + talk of his talent, it’s easy to overlook this key paragraph: “On Broadway, his absence could create opportunities for other producers, who have often been stymied by his propensity to lock up stories, stars, and even theater space.”
“Like other performance arts, circus companies have faced a near-total loss of revenue when live performance shut down,” circus performer Ariel Ebacher says. But “other major performing industries have significant local and national institutions to represent their interests to the government and the public.”
Rest in Peace
Jim Steinman, 73, ‘Bat Out of Hell’ Songwriter for Meat Loaf, a best-selling album that was turned into a musical.He also served as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lyricist on the 1996 “Whistle Down the Wind” He saddled the world with such earworms as:
I want you, I need you
But-there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad
Anthony Powell, 85, Tony and Oscar winning costume designer, “whose costume designs helped bring Indiana Jones to rugged life and Broadway’s Norma Desmond to extravagant excess.”
Arthur T. Birsh, 88, who started work for Playbill in 1961 as manager of the magazine’s printing plant and became its sole owner in 1973 (89 years after it was founded.) His son Philip S. Birsh is Playbill President and CEO, his grandson Alex Birsh is Vice President and COO.
Week in Theater Videos
Three trailers, two of them introduced at the Oscars:
At the Oscars, Lin-Manuel Miranda was introducing the latest In The Heights trailer: