Theater Blog Roundup: Anticipation, and Celebration

Theater bloggers have “reasons to celebrate,” as Jan Simpson put it in her most recent post in Broadway & Me, which she wrote before the dozens of announcements over the past month scheduling official openings and reopenings — on Broadway starting in the fall, but on other stages (outdoors and indoors) right away, some quite unexpected: Rick Perdian in Seen and Heard International reports on “Hymn to the City,” a program of music, dance, poetry, and storytelling celebrating New York’s resilience and renewal that took place last week at Greenwood Cemetery.

Jan was marking Shakespeare’s 457th birthday way back in April, pointing out that the Bard “wrote King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra when the plague forced London theaters to close in 1606 (click here for more on that). So who knows what imaginative gifts await us?” And that’s the tone of many of the other theater bloggers in the weeks since: anticipation, on its way to celebration.
This is not just in New York. Pocketsize Theatre blog of the UK has created a new series of posts entitled Coming Home — a baker’s dozen of profiles since mid-May (e.g.”Kelly Agbowu, soon to go back to Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre“) — “to celebrate our industry coming back.”

In About Last Night, Terry Teachout offers insights on the longevity of Norman Lloyd, who died at age 106
How Norman Lloyd sustained an eight-decade career
In his introductory remarks to two reviews, he also weighs in on “the webcasting of plays” (which he thinks sometimes come off better than the original production) and “Shakespeare resistance” which “like vaccine hesitancy, is a condition incomprehensible to those who don’t suffer from it…Yet if I had to guess, I’d say that most Americans—because they know his works from the page, not the stage—dislike him. The problem is that his plays were written to be watched and enjoyed in the theater, not slogged through in school. The superficial difficulties of understanding posed by their elaborate, at times archaic language evaporate in performance. You’d think the pandemic would have given locked-down Americans a chance to brush up their Shakespeare —on screen. But while many of his plays have been successfully turned into commercial movies and made-for-TV films, comparatively few productions were newly webcast by theater troupes in the U.S. in 2020, mainly because the casting demands were too onerous..”


In Bitter Gertrude, Melissa Hillman writes a post answering the question ” How Can My Organization Attract and Retain Diverse Staff?”

“..until you know why you’re having trouble attracting diverse applicants and retaining the diverse staff you hire, it’s all guesswork. 
The real answer is: ASK THEM. Believe them when they tell you what’s wrong. Then ACT on it. You must then assess your progress over time, which includes, of course, restarting the cycle with ASK THEM. This is an oversimplified overview, of course. The complexity of these issues is why there’s an entire profession around JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) work. But understanding the basic steps will help you to lead your organization to JEDI mastery….

In Broadway Journal, Phillip Boroff points out that several of the Broadway shows returning in the fall are reducing the number of weekly performances to six, from the pre-pandemic eight.

Also: Spotco drops “Lehman Trilogy” from lawsuit against Scott Rudin, clearing path for reopening.

On Call Me Adam, Adam Rothenberg interviews Ali Stroker ahead of her performance in May at Philadelphia Theatre Company’s virtual gala.
As a fully accessible theatre company, what do you hope other theatres learn from The Philadelphia Theatre Company? That accessibility is THE WAY. When we create accessible spaces we send the message to every artist that they belong. We deserve that!
What is something that was originally a challenge for you during the pandemic, but actually became a great experience? It was a challenge to not perform and express myself onstage. I have found other ways to do that, like in my speaking and teaching virtually.
What is something you still want to achieve that you haven’t? I would like to have a family.

George Hunka offers “A toast to slow comebacks.”

 ‘I hope that we can open up at full capacity soon, masks not required. Fortunately my usual Friday watering hole is now permitting bar seating. I’ve come to believe that the first mark of a civilized society is the ability to walk into a bar, pull up a stool, and sip quietly at an adult beverage…’

In JK’s Theatre Scene, Jeff Kyler pays homage to theater photographer Martha Swope, who died in 2017 at the age age of 88. “Hired by Jerome Robbins back in 1957 to take rehearsal photos of West Side Story, Ms. Swope was then became photographer for several New York dance companies. It is her work on Broadway shows, however, that most of us are familiar with.”

In OnStage Blog, Irene Martinko interviews theater workers for “COVID Career Changes: Thoughts on Returning to Jobs in Theatre”

“After such a difficult time, it’s been more than a relief to see friends posting positive social media updates about their return to the theatre now that we’re beginning to reopen. But for some, the forced COVID career change, though unwelcome, has been a time to reflect on their work in the theatre and to reevaluate what the future holds.”

In The Producer’s Perspective, Ken Davenport writes about “Yet ANOTHER thing we need to do before Broadway comes back” — which is: clean up Times Square again. (written in May after news of a shooting that wounded three bystanders.)

In Theatermaking 2.021, he argues that the three major challenges facing theater makers are the same as they were pre-pandemic, which he summarizes as:

  1. Materials: What types of plays and/or musicals are going to be in demand post-pandemic?

2. Marketing: How do I get audiences, producers, and investors to see my shows post-pandemic?

3. Money: How do I raise money for my show post-pandemic?

but that COVID has changed the answers. (And then he promises to answer if you sign up for his three-part series.

Rev Stan writes about his “stage debut” –– how he was enlisted against his will (because he was sitting in the front row) to play a character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Southwark Playhouse, the “‘love-in-idleness’ blossom which Oberon uses for a love potion.” What’s most noteworthy about this post, although it (oddly) is part of his series “Lockdown London theatre walks,” is that of course this was live, in-person theater.

,Samuel Leiter In Theatre’s Leiter Side writes about Unlikely Heroes, an evening of three one-act plays based on Philip Roth short stories, which ran for 23 performances in 1971. In light of recent events, his description of one of the plays holds the most interest: “Epstein,” practically a monologue, concerns an aging Jewish man, a paper bag manufacturer (Lou Jacobi), bothered by domestic problems. Essentially virtuous, he lets himself have an extramarital fling, develops a crotch rash, is thought by his shocked family to have venereal disease, and ultimately succumbs to a heart attack from all the excitement.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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