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I Was Most Alive For You — Accessible For The Deaf…And Complicated

As the family gathers for a Thanksgiving right before everything starts to fall apart, Knox (Russell Harvard) gives thanks for “three things I used to think weren’t gifts at all: Deafness… Being gay…. Addiction. They are gifts… Each brought me to great clarity.”
Clarity is the great aim of Playwrights Horizons’ production of “I Was Most Alive With You,” Craig Lucas’s play about a family that suddenly must cope with a series of calamities. But it’s an unusual kind of clarity for the theater – clarity for deaf people.
As I point out in my article for TDF Stages, 14 actors are performing the play divided into two casts playing the same seven roles: Russell Harvard, Lois Smith and five other actors portray the characters on stage, while simultaneously seven other actors use ASL to portray the same characters from a balcony above. “We’re not just interpreting, we’re part of the story,” signs Anthony Natale, one of the seven “shadow cast” members in the balcony.
If that’s not complicated enough, two of the five characters are deaf. One of them is portrayed by Harvard, who is himself deaf. best known for his performances in Tribes and in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening on Broadway.
He delivers that Thanksgiving speech in ASL (with supertitles projected onto a screen on the stage.)  But sometimes Knox speaks in English; then Harold Foxx, who is the “Shadow Knox,” performs the same dialogue in ASL on the balcony.
“It’s been enormously challenging and complicated,” says director Tyne Rafaeli. “It is also very deep and important. The play is about how we tell the story of our lives — what language we use, how we struggle to communicate. Having people on different levels in different languages is a lot for the human brain to take in. The audience has to work hard — and I don’t think that is a bad thing.”
More on TDF Stages

 

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THE AЯTS: The beautiful, bold and Constitutional case for public funding

The Culture Wars in America began on May 18, 1989, according to a new show entitled “THE AЯTS” that launches the new season at La MaMa, when Senator Al D’Amato of New York ripped up an art gallery catalogue on the floor of the Senate, and Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina called artists jerks.

They were attacking individuals such as performance artists Karen Finley and David Wojnarowicz, and photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, because the National Endowment for the Arts had funded their provocative work.

“Something happened to us after that,” says Kevin Doyle.  “We’ve forgotten the bold, beautiful arguments that created the NEA and the NEH [National Endowment for the Humanities] in the first place.”

Doyle is the playwright and director of “THE AЯTS,”  a theatrical documentary collage that makes the case for public funding for the arts by looking at its history and the lasting effects of the attacks.  The “R” in the title is backwards, Doyle says, “because we’re talking about the precarious position artists are in, and how we got here.”
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Plays for Labor Day. In praise of theater about unions, workers and workplaces.

It was while attending the current revival of Lillian Hellman’s 1936 play “Days to Come,” which is set during a strike at a brush factory in Ohio,  that I suddenly wondered: Where are the American plays about unions, or workers, or even just workplaces?

It seems an apt question for Labor Day, which, contrary to what may be public perception, was not created to promote barbecues. Congress passed a law making Labor Day a legal holiday in 1884 to celebrate the labor union movement, a holiday first proposed by a labor union official

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How Broadway Responded to #MeToo, #NeverAgain, The Past, in 2017-2018 Season

Some theatergoers objected to the changes in “My Fair Lady,” which made it more in line with the #MeToo era — Eliza more independent, and neither she nor Henry Higgins romantically inclined toward one another. Others objected that “Carousel” didn’t change enough — there’s still that abusive relationship between Billy and Julie

In my article in HowlRound, Broadway in a Year of Reckoning,
I look at these and six other shows that opened on Broadway during the 2017-2018 season, and how they adjusted (if at all) to our current age of reckoning, which goes beyond #MeToo, to gun violence (#NeverAgain) and racism (#BlackLivesMatter.) Indeed, we as a society are engaged in a reckoning with a range of stubbornly antiquated values that don’t (yet?) even have a #hashtag.

Full article:  Broadway in a Year of Reckoning

 

Children of a Lesser God Review: Deaf Rights and Romance, Four Decades Later

The first Broadway revival of “Children of a Lesser God,” the award-winning, boundary-breaking 1980 play by Mark Medoff about the romance and eventual marriage between a hearing teacher at a school for the deaf and a deaf graduate, is the only show on Broadway whose creative team includes a “director of artistic sign language.” It is the only show on Broadway to project supertitles of the entire script at EVERY performance, and to schedule sign language interpreters regularly. And, above all, it is of course the only show that marks the stunning Broadway debut of Lauren Ridloff, who portrays Sarah Norman, whose language (like the actress’s) is American Sign Language.
These are reasons enough to welcome this production, and to consider it pioneering, even as the play it’s remounting feels dated.
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This Flat Earth Review: Another School Shooting, and Two Teens Reel

In “This Flat Earth,” 13-year-old Julie (Ella Kennedy Davis) doesn’t understand why the newspaper article about the school shooting that killed nine of her classmates has the word “Another” in the headline.

“Has this happened before?”

Her father Dan (Lucas Papaelias) reluctantly informs her that it has.

“If this has happened before, why would everybody be acting so shocked?…Why don’t the grown-ups just fix it?”
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Amy and the Orphans Review: The truth about Down Syndrome, packaged in a familiar comedy

Amy, a movie lover with Down syndrome, is able to quote the most well-worn lines from the most familiar movies – “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody” – and own them as her own, turning them fresh.

“Amy and The Orphans,” Lindsey Ferrentino’s play about Amy, itself quotes some of the well-worn formulas of several comedy genres, but it doesn’t make them fresh.

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Mass Shootings on Stage: Healing or Titillating?

The mass shooting on Valentine’s Day at a Florida high school is the latest in a long line of school shootings, some of which are instantly identifiable: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook.

Each of these has been the subject of plays, as have some of the other most notorious mass shootings in the United States.

Other dramas about shooters or shootings don’t dramatize specific events, but take their inspiration from what one can call, horribly, the trend.

Below are some examples — the good, the bad and the ugly — and they pose a question. As I put it in the title of a piece I wrote for HowlRound in 2015:  Violence on Stage: Healing or Titillating?   Enlightening…or exploitative?

 

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NEA Gives Grants to Dozens of NYC Theaters. Then Trump Proposes Eliminating It

President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposes ELIMINATING the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

(To send a letter of protest to your Congressman, and other suggested actions, click here)

A few days earlier, the NEA announced grants of $24 million (full list here), including some three million dollars for 149 theaters, dozens of which are located in New York City, for shows such as the ones above.

To give a sense of what the NEA does, below is a list of those New York theaters and what the money is for. The grants range from Bedlam’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion ($10,000) to Lincoln Center’s production of My Fair Lady ($35,000) which is based on Shaw’s Pygmalion.

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Watch #BroadwaySoWhite? People of Color Panels at BroadwayCon 2018

Speakers at three of the panels at BroadwayCon — Beyond the Heights: Latinx Representation in Theatre; Fan Tan Fantastic: Asian American Representation; and Being A Critic of Color — summarize their discussions.