New Show Announcements! Spring Show Excitement (Hamilton! Fun Home!) Theater Wisdom. Week in New York Theater

Is it better to be dramatic than theatrical? That’s what the thesaurus seems to be saying:

Synonyms for “theatrical” in online thesaurus: affected, artificial, campy, exaggerated, hammy, mannered, pompous, showy
Synonyms for “dramatic”: affecting,breathtaking,effective, electrifying,expressive, impressive, powerful, striking…and theatrical

Some dramatic/theatrical developments in the week in New York theater:

Theater wisdom from Tommy Tune and Mark Twain and Henry Winkler, as well as Spring 2015 show excitement (Hamilton! Fun Home!), and new show announcements (Falsettos! Allegiance! Patti LuPone at Lincoln Center!), Awards and Achievements (Beautiful! Bobby Lopez! Hal Holbrook! the FBI goes Broadway!), Deals and Delights and Theater-Related Developments (new affordable housing for artists!), culled from the theater news between February 4 and February 15, 2015

Excitement for Spring 2015 Shows


Hamilton extended through May 3, (its third extension.) It opens February 17th.

MirandainNewYorkerFrom Lin-Manuel Miranda profile in the New Yorker:

At age 7, Lin-Manuel cried when Fantine died, then fell asleep until Javert’s suicide – “a great way to experience” Les Miserables.

Now 35, Lin-Manuel is awed by what “Hamilton accomplished by that age. Or Paul McCartney. Or Sondheim. Or Gershwin. Or OutKast.”

In Hollywood,”I get to be the best friend of the Caucasian lead. If I want to play the main guy…I have to write it.”

An Aaron Burr who’s not the enemy: Leslie Odom Jr.:

LeslieOdomJrbyMandell“They’re asking me to do things I never thought I could do. What’s being asked of me is so high it’s exciting.” Plus: the three rules he lives by for career success.

1.) Never wait for permission to practice your art. You cannot wait to get a job to be an artist.

2.) Study your art. Never stop studying.

3.) Find a spiritual practice that works for you.


 Fun Home


Alison Bechdel on her journey with Fun Home (the cartoon above, animated — and much easier to follow.)

A ‘Bad’ Play, Anti-Lynching Revivals, American in Paris

Sheila Heti wrote a novel about her failed play “All Our Happy Days Are Stupid” – which revived interested in the play. It will opens at The Kitchen February 19 for a six night run.

Part of the season-long #ForwardFerguson series at Jack Arts Center in Brooklyn: anti-lynching plays revived.

New Show Announcements:

Patti Lupone to star as crazed community theater star in Douglas Carter Beane’s new play Shows for Days, at Lincoln Center starting June 6, 2015

The musical Allegiance, about Japanese-American internment camps starring George Takei, is finally scheduled to begin on Broadway October 6, 2015

What are Tom Kitt/Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal, If/Then) working on next? Reportedly a musical version of Freaky Friday

Falsettos, the 1992 musical by William Finn and  James Lapine that helped redefine family, is aiming for a Broadway revival Spring 2016

Next Playwrights Horizons 2015-2015 season: plays by Taylor Mac, Anne Washburn (Mr. Burns), Danai Gurira (who is also an actress currently starring in Walking Dead), Lucas Hnath

2015-2016 MCC Theater includes a new work by Matthew Lopez (“The Whipping Man”)


Gotta Dance, musical based on 2008 documentary about elderly hip-hop dancers, directed by Jerry Mitchell with music by the late Marvin Hamlisch music, aims for Broadway 2016.

FREE readings of three plays from The Kilroys list by women playwrights via The Lilly Awards Mar 9,16,23. Duke Theater.

brandy-clarkYes, Hee Haw has been made into a musical, by Nashville (the city, not the TV show) songwriters Brandy Clark (pictured) and Shane Mcanally. Moonshine:The Hee Haw Musical” set for Fall 2015 at Dallas Theater Center, which is also premiering a new Samuel Hunter play.  But there are no explicit plans to bring it to Broadway (yet?)

Disney Theatrical’s Thomas Schumacher responds to Frozen rumors: Yes,  married songwriting team Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are working on the Broadway adaptation, composing several new songs. (see below)  But no dates have been set

Awards and Achievements

Winner of The Grammys for Best Musical Theater Album: Beautiful


Bobby Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez have won a Grammy for Frozen soundtrack – and a second for their song Let It Go

Congrats (I think) to Bobby Lopez and Jeff Marx: FBI director James B. Comey quoted Avenue Q in speech on race 

“Much research points to the widespread existence of unconscious bias. Many people in our white-majority culture have unconscious racial biases and react differently to a white face than a black face. In fact, we all, white and black, carry various biases around with us. I am reminded of the song from the Broadway hit, Avenue Q: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” Part of it goes like this:

Look around and you will find
No one’s really color blind.
Maybe it’s a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race.

You should be grateful I did not try to sing that.”


Hal Holbrook will be performing “Mark Twain Tonight” at The Bushnell Feb 17th – the actor’s 90th birthday!
Holbrook has been performing as Mark Twain for 61 years! He’s brought it to Broadway,TV,50 states, 20 countries.

“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence” ~ Mark Twain


AnikaLarsen1Anika Larsen — A “Beautiful Life…and a Changed One.

Although she had already performed in four Broadway shows before she joined the cast of “Beautiful,” Anika Larsen says that, without the Carole King musical, she would not now be 1. Pregnant, 2. Still an actress, 3. A new recording artist, and 4. About to make her New York cabaret debut.

Deals and Delights

Offer from The Heidi Chronicles with Elisabeth Moss as art historian: Buy 2 full-priced tickets, get free one-year membership to the Museum of Modern Art.

50 years of fighting for justice Teatro Campesino, forum w/ Luis Valdez Lemon Andersen and Maria Hinojosa at the Public Theater April 13

New Theater-Related Developments

In his State of the City address, Mayor Bill deBlasio promised 1,500 units of affordable housing for artists and musicians.
NYC no longer has the highest rents in U.S. (That’s just because San Francisco is even higher.) Median rent for one-bedroom in NYC: $3,000


Inspired by success of Comiccon, Anthony Rapp has co-created BroadwayCon, a convention for fans. 1/22-24/2016

Howard Sherman has found a home for his anti-censorship work in New School for Drama’s new Arts Integrity Initiative

Theater Wisdom

Todd London’s love essay on wife Karen Hartman, and impassioned plea for other post “emerging” playwrights

Henry Winkler on longevity in the entertainment world:

“Tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets you where you want to go and gratitude doesn’t allow you to be angry along the way. “

One should compromise in life, George Hunka writes, but not in art:

“Art itself is larger than the artist”


Tommy Tune:

“My feeling is that if we had a healthy balance of new shows and revivals, that would be good. But everybody gives their money to revivals—they’re like a sure bet. It makes it very hard for those of us that want to have new musicals to compete with producers who are doing revivals”.

On the other hand:

“I’m a fool for Gershwin. I did 1,500 performances of My One and Only, which was a Gershwin musical, and it just sits with my voice and my body for dancing. I can’t resist it. As rock and roll come on when I was in high school—Elvis Presley and all of that—I just didn’t get it, because I was so infused with that earlier time. I always wished that I had been born in the ’20s…”



Best-Read Stories in 2014 on NewYorkTheater.Me

Continuing a tradition I started when I began this blog – here are the most-read stories of 2013 and of 2012 – here are the most-read reviews and essays that I wrote in 2014.

(This is a bit of a sly dodge on my part, since some of my best-read posts in 2014 were written in previous years – such as Social Media On Stage: Theater Meets Twitter,Facebook,Youtube, Tumbler, Soundcloud…, The 50 Best Plays of The Past 100 Years, and Broadway’s Best Dance Numbers– or aren’t even close to reviews or essays.)


Broadway Responds to Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ban

Les Miz Kyle Scatliffe as Enjolras waving the flag

Les Miz Kyle Scatliffe as Enjolras waving the flag

Les Miserables Review: Darkened Stages, Brilliant Broadway Cast


Aladdin Review: A Genie Works His Magic on Broadway

Austin Cauldwell and Dea Julien in Thomas Bradshaw's Intimacy

Austin Cauldwell and Dea Julien in Thomas Bradshaw’s Intimacy

Intimacy Review: Pornography On Theatre Row


Top 10 New York Theater To Be Grateful for in 2014

santino fontana profile

Santino Fontana’s Act One, The Unluckiest Lucky Actor in New York


The Mysteries: The Flea Takes On The Bible, Epically, Irreverently

Randy Harrison in ATOMIC

Randy Harrison in ATOMIC

Atomic Review: A Musical About The Bomb


Piece of My Heart, The Bert Berns Story Review. Will You Twist and Shout?


Theater Review: Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter

Beautiful 1a

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical Review. Broadway by the Numbers


Pool Play Q and A: Erin Mee on Immersive Theater, Art vs. Academia, Her Famous Father


I’d like to point to my essays in Howlround, which are much closer to think pieces (the last of 2014 was Does God Exist on Stage?, the first of the year was 9 Questions That August: Osage County and The Sound of Music Provoke about Theater).  Even better, take a look at the top ten posts by my colleagues in theater blogging who also put together an end-of-year list for 2014:

George Hunka

Melissa Hillman

Rob Weinert-Kendt

Howard E Sherman.

Cafe Onda,the online journal of the Latina/o Theatre Commons on Howlround, compiled by Georgina Escobar.

Howlround round-up of two dozen journal and essay pieces

Other bloggers I follow who haven’t summed up their year can be found along the right side of my blog. Just scroll up a bit.

stAgeism: Anti-Elderly Attitudes In The Theater

Anti-elderly billboard in Slings & Arrows, satirizing ageism in the theater (stAgeism)

Anti-elderly billboard in Slings & Arrows, satirizing ageism in the theater (stAgeism)

“The sometimes ugly rhetoric that people use about older audience members is in part fueled by resentment over their dominance and power. It is also, let us be frank, because there is a high correlation between audience member age (on either end of the spectrum) and likelihood of inappropriate behavior.”

So writes Isaac Butler in a blog post meant as a direct response to an article I wrote in Howlround entitled “Is Diversity A Codeword for Exclusion?”

So the elderly are both dominant and childlike, powerful and unable to control their behavior? It is one of the several shocking responses that confirmed for me what I had detected: The theater community has a problem in its attitude towards older people.

As George Hunka points out in his post, The Graying of The Theatre,  “The hostility to older audiences that Mr. Mandell discusses runs parallel to a hostility to older artists, critics, and administrators as well.”

My article for Howlround is in three parts. The first part offers examples of the dismissive attitude towards the elderly – so widespread that it was satirized in the backstage comedy Slings and Arrows: The fictional New Burbage Theatre Festival launches a marketing campaign that deliberately insults its elderly subscribers in order to get them to stop attending. (One billboard shows an old, ill woman in a hospital bed holding two tickets, and the tagline “Don’t Bother.”)

David Henry Hwang: “Ageism is a valid concern. I believe diversity includes older people."

David Henry Hwang: “Ageism is a valid concern. I believe diversity includes older people.”

Because so many of the people who exhibit this attitude are ironically self-declared advocates of “diversity,” the second part is a series of questions that such hypocrisy prompted me to ask, grouped into ten sections. For example:

Is “diversity” a codeword for a different kind of exclusion? Is it a zero-sum game, where the current losers replace the current winners? Are some groups more worthy of inclusion than others?


When is it appropriate for a character to be played by an actor who does not fit the playwright’s description? Does this depend entirely on a director’s conception? Are there some characteristics (race, height, ethnicity) that are more acceptable to change than others? Such as age: Denzel Washington and Orlando Bloom were both heavily criticized for being older than the characters they played, in “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Romeo and Juliet” respectively, but I don’t recall anybody criticizing Washington played Brutus  (usually played by a white actor) in the 2005 Broadway production of Julius Caesar.

The third part is an interview with playwright David Henry Hwang, a long-time advocate of diversity, who answers some of the questions and offers his perspective.

Those who have criticized my piece have done so because of the middle section, which some see as “bashing the legitimacy of cultural and racial diversity,” in the words of playwright Keith Josef Adkins.  That was not my intent. I believe in the importance of having many voices on stages, and many different kinds of butts in the seats.

But I believe these voices (and butts) should include the elderly.

The problematic attitudes, of course, are not limited to the theater. I was struck by an article a few days ago about Norman Lear, the ground-breaking television producer (All in the Family, Maude, and The Jeffersons), who said he cannot interest any network in his latest show, a comedy set in a retirement village. “They don’t want to touch the demographic.” (Norman Lear Goes Archie Bunker on Ageism)


But is she the only one?


Norman Lear (All in the Family) can't interest networks in TV series set in retirement village

Norman Lear (All in the Family) can’t interest networks in TV series set in retirement village

But ageism manifests itself in particular ways on stage — and some of its causes in the theater may be unique. Call it stAgeism.

Although unhappy with my article, Keith Josef Adkins, the artistic director of New Black Fest, acknowledges the dismissive attitudes in the theater towards older people. As he wrote in the comments section:

“As many have pointed out, the 60 and over demographic play a significant part in ticket sales and subscriber base for most theaters. Many theaters plan their seasons around the needs, interests, anxieties and curiosities of their 60 and over demographic. Tradition? Perhaps. Safety? Definitely. Rethinking the formula? Many are. Like Mr. Mandell, I have heard dismissive and insensitive blanket remarks about the 60 and over crowd. In my observation, there is a fear and a frustration that a large portion of that demographic is not interested in younger, African-American, LGBT, Latino, women and/or Asian theater practitioners. Substantiated or not, (I’m sure Mandell has his opinion) it is how many feel and what they believe about the power of the elderly in American theater. So, yes, perhaps a genuine conversation about the future of theater and the upside and downside of the 60-and-over demographic is paramount.”

Denzel Washington is playing Walter Lee Younger in "Raisin in the Sun" at age 58; Sidney Poitier was 34. Orlando Bloom is playing Romeo at age 36. Leonard Whiting was 18.

Denzel Washington is playing Walter Lee Younger in “Raisin in the Sun” at age 58; Sidney Poitier was 34.
Orlando Bloom played Romeo at age 36. Leonard Whiting was 18. Both Washington and Bloom were criticized for, well, not acting their age.


Excerpts from two other worthwhile comments:

Kerry Reid: “The seemingly widespread idea that older audiences can’t engage with “edgy” material is one that bugs me. It may well be that “older” audiences (many of whom were young people during the Woodstock era — not that all of them were there!) have seen what passes for “edgy” so many times that it simply bores them at this point. ..

“I would add that there is an element of sexism to the ageism as well — when one talks about “bluehairs,” one is usually sneering about women. And of course, as Hollywood reminds us over and over again, old women are basically invisible. Strange that a demographic that is so important in the ticket-buying public is so resented at the same time.”

Karla: “I agree that ageism is rampant in theater — it’s especially blatant in acting, particularly for females…

“Another reason older people are less accepted in theater and find it harder to get any breaks is profoundly shallow; young people are prettier. You want a younger cast on stage because everybody prefers looking at attractive faces, and you want younger playwrights because not only are they prettier but they’re assumed to be more relevant, more interesting, more innovative than older playwrights (I don’t know what impact ageism has on directors). I call this “The Hollywood Effect.” We may distain Hollywood movies as youth-obsessed, shallow, formulaic, and lacking true artistry, but man, do they know how to get an audience, including us!
“It’s also easier to write and market plays about the problems of youth — love, lust, job opportunities, first-time ethical dilemmas — than it is to write and market about the issues arising with age — infirmity, loss, death, grief, one’s personal culpability in accommodating with a less-than-ideal world, regret over missed opportunities or poor choices. These issues are thematically more difficult to present dramatically. They are also less attractive to theaters because they’re less likely to offer the sex and violence that help attract that elusive younger audience….

“I don’t understand why many theaters assume older audience members are less tolerant and less risk-taking than are younger audience members. One would think that, as experienced theatergoers, older audience would be more avid to see something fresh. I know I am.”