Canceled Culture. Broadway’s “New Deal.” Fringe Online. Puppets as NYC Immigrants. #Stageworthy News of the Week.

Lightning cut short the We Love NYC Homecoming concert in Central Park over the weekend,  which one hopes is not a harbinger of the desperately anticipated Fall season. Some culture has already been canceled: Signature Theater is postponing its first play of the season, Annie Baker’s “Infinite Life,” which was scheduled to begin performances October 5, “due to ongoing health and safety concerns.”  This followed the cancellation, due to the Delta variant, of two big colorful Brooklyn events that traditionally define the start of Fall in NYC: the West Indian Day Parade along Eastern Parkway, and the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island.

Will Broadway follow suit? It doesn’t look that way. The first Broadway play in almost 18 months opened this past weekend, and a dozen more openings and reopenings are scheduled for Broadway in September, with several already announcing their return to rehearsals. Curtain Up, a free three-day outdoor festival featuring concerts, panels and “interactive experiences” scheduled for September 17-19 will, according to its sponsors “take over Times Square and celebrate the triumphant return of Broadway. Broadway is back!” Even Broadway in Bryant Park is back (see below.) Here is a question nobody seems to be asking: What will the new governor do?

The Week in Theater Reviews

Alma Baya

Alma and Baya are living in the only home they’ve ever known, a two-person pod far from Earth, with malfunctioning machines and a dwindling food supply, when an unexpected stranger comes knocking on their door, casting an ominous shadow. Playwright and director Edward Einhorn’s “Alma Baya” presents a familiar science fiction set up, right down to the unisex silver lame uniforms and the sudden flashing of multicolored lights accompanying a really loud alarm.  But the  production by Einhorn’s Untitled Theatre Company #61 also feels smartly tailor-made for the specific moment in which we are living.

Edinburgh Fringe:

Triple Bypass

Amy Winehouse meets Karen Carpenter on a bench outside a cosmic nightclub, both reluctant to “face the music,” in “Close to Black,”  the second play in  “Triple Bypass,”which is  subtitled “Three Ten-Minute Plays About Living for Death and Dying for Life.”  These plays, which are not half bad, are written and performed by the members of the Aberdeen Community Theater…of South Dakota

We’ll Dance on the Ash of the Apocalypse

What would be the most effective play about climate change?  That’s the question that Australian playwright Melissa-Kelly Franklin seems to have asked herself while writing this short play with the long title. 

Marrying Jake Gyllenhaal

“Actor. Humanitarian. Snack.” – Those are the first words we see on the screen, and they’re obviously meant to describe Jake Gyllenhaal. But filmmaker, writer and actress Melissa Center’s hour-long solo show  is not the lascivious, stalker comedy that its title may suggest — or at least not exclusively.

Call Me Elizabeth

“I’m so sick of playing the part of Elizabeth Taylor,”  Kayla Boye says in “Call Me Elizabeth.” Of course, Elizabeth Taylor is supposed to be saying this, not Boye, who is portraying the actress and surely not tired of doing so.  Neither, I’ll confess, am I tired of hearing about her. There may always be an audience  for such solo shows that resurrect colorful celebrities to tell their stories, and show off the performer’s skills at impersonation. Boye nails Taylor’s appealing  mix of seductiveness, irreverence, elegance and innocence. If the script may not be among the best of the genre, it’s far from the worst.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano

“The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano”  revolves around a true incident that occurred around Christmas time 1969: The Young Lords, a group of young activist Puerto Ricans in New York, took over a church in East Harlem. Playwright and director Tlaloc Rivas has adapted the play from a young adult novel with the same title by Sonia Manzano, which focuses on the political awakening of a bright, lively 14-year-old Puerto Rican girl.  The production is the theatrical equivalent of an anthem – aiming to be inspiring rather than nuanced. .. You needn’t be committed to la causa though to find the show entertaining, thanks to the energetic young cast…half a dozen rhapsodic salsa songs, and some delightfully etched teenage characters..


The Week in Theater News

The owners and operators of all 41 Broadway theaters, as well as the Broadway League, have signed onto “A New Deal for Broadway,” developed with the activist group Black Theatre United, committing to principles of “equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging,” which they sum up throughout the document as EDIAB. What does that mean? In part, “pledging to forgo all-white creative teams, hire “racial sensitivity coaches” for some shows, rename theaters for Black artists and establish diversity rules for the Tony Awards.” (NY Times) Also among the specifics: “To ensure that people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds have an opportunity to succeed on Broadway, we will abolish unpaid internships and pay interns at no less than the minimum wage, understanding that in no event shall an intern supplant union workers.”

Broadway in Bryant Park, normally a weekly lunchtime concert during the summer, will present a one-day-only concert on September 23, scheduling cast members from Aladdin, Caroline, Or Change, Chicago, Diana, Girl From the North Country, Mrs. Doubtfire, SIX, Stomp, The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, and Waitress.

Puppets Are Immigrants Too
How New York City Turned Ancient Traditions into Cutting-Edge Art

In HowlRound, I look back at New York City’s first-ever Puppet Week.

Camille A. Brown will direct the Broadway production of Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” aiming for 2022. It will mark the Broadway directorial debut for this choreographer of Choir Boy, Once On This Island, Toni Stone…and “for colored girls…” Off-Broadway at the Public Theater.

Jeremy O. Harris’ fake play, “The Bloody and Lamentable Tale of Aaron” a scene from which was presented (along with Harris himself) in an episode of  HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl” reboot, will now be a real play. “Upon seeing the play’s opening scene during the taping, Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater — who makes a cameo as an audience member in the episode — turned to Harris and asked, ‘Can we commission this?'” (NY Times)

The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Merry Wives,” currently running at the Delacorte Theater through Saturday, September 18 will be filmed for PBS’ Great Performances!…

Karen Ann Daniels, 45, who has been director of the Public Theatre’s Mobile Unit since 2019, has been appointed the new artistic director of the Folger Theater in D.C. 

“Chicago,” scheduled to reopen on Broadway September 12, 2021, will star Ana Villafañe (On Your Feet!) as Roxie Hart, Bianca Marroquín (a longtime Roxie in the revival) as Velma Kelly, and Tony winner Lillias White (The Life, How to Succeed…) as Matron Mama Morton.

What will happen to digital theater?

Subtweet, Broadway edition:

What ARE they talking about?

This story: Pass Over Might Need A Miracle To Survive (Forbes)

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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