Defining Excellence in Theater. Drama League and Chita Rivera Awards. Week in NY Theater

The winners of the Drama League Awards and the Chita Rivera Awards were announced this past week (see results below), and the Obies will be held tonight.  But they and all the other awards this season prompt a question: How does one define excellence in theater?

“I’ve become increasingly convinced that as a field we do not have a cohesive definition of excellence,” writes Chad Bauman,  the managing director of Milwaukee Repertory Theater, in an article in American Theatre.

So he asked his colleagues across the country, and got some 50 responses – but the question he asked was about excellence in a theater as a whole (regional theaters in particular), not about individual shows. So the answers about excellence in individual shows didn’t get much more specific than “artistic quality.” All did agree that courage counts – such as not being afraid to play with form.

Four years ago, in an article titled Divining Artistic Excellence ,  theater artist and historian Lynne Connor pointed out that, while the concept of excellence can refer to something semi-tangible such as “the sophistication of a play’s dramatic arc,” more often people conflate excellence with taste, “something far less tangible and thus far less quantifiable.” And what determines taste? “Personal taste in everything from beer to Shakespeare comes about through a combination of biology, past experience, cultural norms, and individual predilections.”

She concludes: “We need to find productive ways to invite audiences of all tastes (and all economic and ethnic backgrounds) to join in the conversation about (the struggle over) meaning and value.”

Below: Summer theater festivals 2018.  A Sondheim show closing, and another opening. A new play about Gloria Steinem, a new musical about a Marilyn Monroe film. The new seasons at BAM, Atlantic, and City Center. Also: tapped out on Broadway, tripped up at Harry Potter.

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Rise Canceled. Boy in the Band Injured. Marathon Running Times. Week in New York Theater

With the sudden countertrend of shows with long running times — “Light Shining at Buckinghamshire” at New York Theater Workshop (180 minutes),   “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”  at BAM starring Jeremy Irons (200 minutes),  “The Iceman Cometh” with Denzel Washington (230 minutes), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (315 minutes)  “Angels in America” (450 minutes) — is it surprising that there have been reports of theatrical snoozing? (See below for the answer to the question: Do people have a moral obligation to the performers to try to stay awake?) Now comes news that NYU Skirball’s 2018-2019 season will offer several marathon shows, including a revival of Elevator Repair Service’s “Gatz” (480 minutes) and “Mt. Olympus: to glorify the cult of tragedy” (1,440 minutes.)

Below: This week’s awards; “To Kill a Mockingbird” back on; “Rise,” “Unmasked” canceled, “Children of a Lesser God” closing, “The Boys in the Band” cancels a single performance due to “minor injury.”

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Broadway Honors Off-Off Broadway, and other Theater Award Surprises. Hamilton Expands. Week in NY Theater

Among the surprises during this intense theater award week is the awarding of  the 2018 Regional Theatre Tony Award to La MaMa, “for celebrating diversity and helping to introduce the Off-Off-Broadway movement!”

For the first time, Broadway honors Off-Off Broadway

Below: All about the 2018 Tonys:  Nominations, Quiz, YOUR Picks, Photo Essay, the Impact of a Tony. Plus: winners of New York Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics Circle, and Lucille Lortel Awards. Also: Spring Awakening gets a new song,  Angels in America gets a new full-time angel, Hamilton gets a new exhibition.

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Broadway Season Finale. Awards Up The Wazoo. The Week in New York Theater

The Broadway 2017-2018 season has ended, and the New York theater award season has begun. The Tony nominations will be announced tomorrow.

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Broadway Season Countdown. Week in New York Theater

Five shows are officially opening on Broadway over the next five days, ending the 2017-2018 Broadway season

April 22: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
April 23: Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
April 24: Travesties
April 25: Saint Joan
April 26: The Iceman Cometh

The end of the Broadway season overlaps with the beginning of the theater award season:

April 24: Outer Critics Circle Award nominations announced
April 26: Drama Desk Award nominations announced.
May 1: Tony Award nominations announced.

New York Theater Awards: A guide and calendar

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Cost of Living by Martyna Majok Wins Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Broadway’s April Avalanche. Week in NY Theater

“The Cost of Living” by Martyna Majok wins the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. “The Minutes by Tracy Letts and “Everybody” by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins were selected as finalists.

This only begins the Season of Theater Awards,  which will heat up within the next few weeks. This month is already hot with openings —   six on Broadway within the next nine days.  I’ve already reviewed eight plays and musicals just in the past week (See below.).
 Also below: More on Majok and the Pulitzers, Tony nominations, new shows starring Elaine May, Anika Noni Rose, and Karl Marx;  the spectacular new season at the Signature, Patti LuPone starts a new feud, and a parody of Les Miz on Saturday Night Live.
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Hamilton Sweeps Olivier Awards. Theater Concussions. Week in New York Theater

Hamilton takes home seven Olivier Awards – not a record (matched by Matilda and beaten by Harry Potter), but not a bad showing. More on the Oliviers below.

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April is the Foolest Month! Superstar Soars. The Week in New York Theater

The theater community always takes April Fools Day seriously:

“The Lion King Will Become First Musical to Play Seven Continents- Antarctic Production Will Open in 2019” BroadwayWorld

“TCG Announces New Playwright Trading Cards” (Clyde Fitch Report) (I’m still hoping this one is true)


“Lin-Manuel Miranda Working on Musical of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room” (Theatermania)

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Frozen Angels. Why I Pan. The Week in NY Theater.

This week, “Frozen” opened on Broadway the day after the latest blizzard, and  “Angels in America,” which includes scenes from Antarctica and co-stars Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn, opened while the president of the United States continues his search for a new attorney who will act like his first one, Roy Cohn.

Theater, the new reality series.

Below: The Fringe returns,  Sam Shepard is revived, the Boss extends, MCC gets its new building, a breakthrough in accessibility, new anti-harassment measures. Also: A Critic’s Corner


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Cynthia Nixon Runs for Governor. Lin-Manuel and Ben Platt Duet for Gun Control. Week in NY Theater

Cynthia Nixon, two-time Tony winning actress best-known for portraying lawyer Miranda Hobbes in the “Sex and the City” TV series and movies, has officially entered the race for governor of New York against incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

Nixon as Regina in The Little Foxes

New York Times: “If elected, Ms. Nixon would become the first female governor in New York history. She would also be the state’s first openly gay governor.”

“I have always been pretty willing to try things,” Nixon told me in November, 2015. She was talking about having become a theater director. I guess she wasn’t kidding.

Cynthia Nixon on stage — in The Little Foxes , , directing “Steve,” directing “Rasheeda Speaking”

At last year’s Tony Awards she gave one of the few political speeches,  while accepting the award as best featured actress for “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.”  She quoted a famous line from the play  ‘There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it, other people who just stand around and watch them do it,” She then added: “My love, my gratitude and my undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it.”

Below: Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda and BenPlatt in “Found Tonight” Read more of this post