“Americans are tired of being played for suckers,” President Joe Biden said at the State of the Union Address last week, asking Congress to “pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act so companies stop ripping us off.”
The annual address is called political theater, and it’s hard to argue with that, when for the past four decades it has featured a cast of characters (A look at this year’s cast.) But a moment in this year’s address was about theater politics, although the word theater was never mentioned. Biden’s proposal for a Junk Free Prevention Act would “stop service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events” (and presumably plays and musicals) — as well as fees from airlines, phone companies, hotels, banks and the like — and “make companies disclose all the fees upfront.” (Watch the two minutes in which he explains the bill.) “Junk fees may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter to most other folks in homes like the one I grew up in, like many of you did. They add up to hundreds of dollars a month.”
The proposal is arguably a baby step in the same direction as the more ambitious goal that Mia Yoo, the artistic director of Off Off Broadway’s La MaMa Experimental Theater Club expressed with passion at the reopening of the East Village’s first permanent home after a five-year renovation: A “dream” of “radical access.”
In the meantime, a discount: Today through March 5, Off-Broadway Week offers two-for-one tickets to 26 Off-Broadway shows,
Below: Videos from “Pictures from Home,” “Kimberly Akimbo,” Andre De Shields at “La MaMa,” the complete “Frederick Douglass Project,” John Travolta’s Super Bowl Ad, Rihanna’s Half Time Show (this last a link)
The Week in New York Theater Reviews and Revues
In 1992, photographer Larry Sultan published an unusual book about his parents Irv and Jean entitled “Pictures From Home,” a combination of staged photographs of them, stills from the family’s home movies, and a sort of memoir based on his extensive interviews with them.
“This project will become one of my hallmark achievements,” Danny Burstein as Larry says near the start of “Pictures from Home,” an unusual three-character play by Sharr White adapting Sultan’s unusual book, [which] mixes dialogue, direct audience address, and copious projections of Sultan’s actual photographs. The result is sometimes entertaining, thanks largely to Nathan Lane. But….however much a hallmark achievement the book was as a work of photography, the stage adaptation feels less hallmark than at best harmless. Its attempts to replicate the book’s subtexts about aging and mortality, intimacy and facade, art and truth, feel underdeveloped — and they overburden the story.
From the moment Mary hires Ashling to be the nanny for her children, “things start to feel just a little….off,” according to the promotion for “Lucy.” The play has its pleasures, primarily the persuasive performances of Brooke Bloom as Mary and Lynn Collins as Ashling…But what feels “a little… off” is the script, which tries to evoke tension and mystery, but more often comes off as dubious and contrived.
The Week in New York Theater News
Cast of Life of Pi opening March 30, 2023 at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theater: Hiran Abeysekera will recreated the role of “Pi,” from his award-winning performance in London. Other holdovers from London include Fred Davis and Scarlet Wilderink from the puppeteering team. Also: Brian Thomas Abraham as Cook/Voice of “Richard Parker,” Rajesh Bose as Father, Avery Glymph as Father Martin/Russian Sailor/Rear Admiral Jackson, Mahira Kakkar as Nurse/Amma/Orange Juice, Kirstin Louie as Lulu Chen, Salma Qarnain as Mrs. Biology Kumar/Zaida Khan, Sathya Sridharan as Mamaji/Pandit-Ji, Daisuke Tsuji as Mr. Okamoto/Captain, Sonya Venugopal as Rani, with Nikki Calonge, Fred Davis, Rowan Ian Seamus Magee, Jonathan David Martin, Betsy Rosen, Celia Mei Rubin, Scarlet Wilderink and Andrew Wilson as Royal Bengal tiger “Richard Parker.” Mahnaz Damania, Jon Hoche, Usman Ali Mughal, Uma Paranjpe and David Shih round out the 24-member cast with Adi Dixit as the “Pi” alternate.
‘Cast of Encores! Concert version of “Dear World” the Jerry Herman musical at New York City Center, March 15-19: Donna Murphy as Countess Aurelia, Brooks Ashmanskas (President), Andréa Burns (Constance), Christopher Fitzgerald (Sewerman), Ann Harada (Gabrielle), Kody Jauron (Artiste), Phillip Johnson Richardson (Julian), and Samantha Williams (Nina)
Actors’ Equity Is Expanding Its Membership (Deadline)
The 51,000-member union is making its “Open Access” policy permanent, allowing any non-union theater worker to join who can demonstrate that they have worked professionally as an actor or stage manager within Equity’s geographical jurisdiction.
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize announced the 10 finalists for this oldest and largest international prize awarded to women+ playwrights., chosen from a group of over 190 plays nominated from around the world:
Anupama Chandrasekhar (India) The Father and the Assassin
Maryam Hamidi (UK) Moonset
Karen Hartman (US) New Golden Age
Katie Holly (Ireland) Her Hand on the Trellis
Kimber Lee (US) saturday
Sarah Mantell (US) In the Amazon Warehouse Parking Lot
a.k. payne (US) Amani
Francisca Da Silveira (US) Pay No Worship
Zadie Smith (UK) The Wife of Willesden
Ruby Thomas (UK) Linck & Mülhahn
The winner will be presented at Playwrights Horizons on March 27.
Theater has not recovered from COVID, so they’re trying new things. (NPR) “Thanks to a combination of lackluster ticket sales and an end to government relief, they have no choice but to try out new things in order to secure a future.” NPR looks at three of the innovators, including one in New York, the West Village Rehearsal Co-Op, a rehearsal studio located in the Meatpacking District with a 99-year lease on the basement of the building, exclusively for the use of small, local performing arts organizations.
Sandra Seacot, 86, acting coach to Laura Dern, Marlo Thomas, Mickey Rourke “and numerous other stars…By the early 1980s she was applying the psychiatrist Carl Jung’s theories about dreams and the unconscious to her coaching, helping students use their dreams to illuminate their own feelings and the characters they were developing, a technique called “dream work.”
Burt Bacharach, 94, one of the last of the great popular songwriters of the 20th Century. (The Look of Love, Alfie, Do you Know the Way to San Jose, etc etc) most notably in collaboration with lyricist Hal David and singer Dionne Warwick. He was also a composer, arranger and conductor on Broadway, with ten Broadway credits, most famously the Tony nominated musical “Promises, Promises” – which features such earworms as “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Turkey Lurkey Time,” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”
What do you get when you fall in love?
You only get lies and pain and sorrow
So for at least until tomorrow
I’ll never fall in love again
Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth sang that love duet to one another in the 2010 Broadway revival, which prompted one ungenerous observer to write that Hayes was unconvincing as a straight leading man. The two responded cheekily at the Tony Awards that year:
This Week’s Theater Videos
80 seconds of Picture From Home
Music video of “This Time” from Kimberly Akimbo
Andre De Shields reopens La MaMa and reminiscences about his time there
The Frederick Douglass Project
Theater of War Productions presents Keith David performing the speech Frederick Douglass delivered at the National Convention of Colored Men in Louisville, Kentucky on September 24, 1883, followed by a response by audience members.
For a Super Bowl ad, John Travolta sings the duet he sang with Olivia Newton-John in Grease, “Summer Nights,” but with Zach Braff and Donald Faison, and lyrics to promote T Mobile.