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Top (and Weirdest) Theater Stories of 2013

SirPatElmoSirIan2013 was the year of Shakespeare, and cross-dressing, and people getting naked in tubs on stage. It was a year full of solo performances and celebrity Broadway debuts and shows that sound on paper so inert as to be self-parodies:

Ten people try to keep one of their hands on a truck for four days.

Three people work in an old movie theater over the summer, mostly sweeping the aisles

A group of archaeologists dig up artifacts in Illinois

Below are some of the top New York theater stories of 2013 – many of which turn out to be the weirdest theater stories of 2013. They are offered chronologically, and paired with my favorite articles I wrote this year.

January: Disabling Discrimination

Settlement in Attorney General suit against Theatre Row for discriminating against disabled in ticket purchasing

Mark Lindberg in Nerve Tank's The Attendants at the World Financial Center in New York City, one of the theatrical experiments that put social media on stage.

Mark Lindberg in Nerve Tank’s The Attendants at the World Financial Center in New York City, one of the theatrical experiments that put social media on stage.

My story:  Social Media On Stage: Theater Meets Twitter,Facebook,Youtube, Tumbler, Soundcloud…

February: LaBeouf Orphaned

Shia LaBoeuf has left "Orphans" which was to being previews in four weeks. They'll have to take down or modify this marquee

Shia LaBoeuf has left “Orphans” which was to being previews in four weeks. They’ll have to take down or modify this marquee

Shia LaBeouf, who was to make his Broadway debut, departs “Orphans,” the production announces, ”due to creative differences.”On Twitter, Shia LaBeouf (‪@thecampaignbook) publishes e-mails that imply that his “creative differences” were with Alec Baldwin
In fact he was fired.
Ben Foster replaces LaBeouf.
(When Orphans opens in April, critics are largely unimpressed with the results.)

My story: Adele, Rufus Wainwright and Lady Gaga: Wanted on Broadway

March: Flick You

ouisa Krause and Aaron Clifton Moten in an awkward touching and funny moment in Annie Baker's "The Flick" at Playwrights Horizons

Louisa Krause and Aaron Clifton Moten in an awkward touching and funny moment in Annie Baker’s “The Flick”

Playwrights Horizons Artistic Director Tim Sanford writes a letter to subscribers after many walkouts and complaints about the three-hour plus length of Annie Baker’s “The Flick”
*He said he didn’t know the play was going to be so long, and didn’t expect it to be so polarizing.
*He applauded those who disliked the play, saying he preferred a work to evince passionate dislike than a dispassionate shrug.
*He said the theater would not cut a single second out of the play.

My story: Alan Cumming says he’ll say “Macbeth” in the theater, despite the curse of “The Scottish Play.”

April: Disgraced…Not a Disgrace

Disgraced wins the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama in April. It was Ayad Akhtar’s first play

Theaterandthedisabled1

My story:  Theater Access for the Deaf, Blind, and Autistic: New Technology, Changing Attitudes

May: Smash, Bash

Smash cast says goodbye

Smash cast says goodbye

Smash is canceled

Actors Equity turns 100

National Review contributor and theater critic Kevin D. Williamson is kicked out of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.”Williamson snatched a cell phone from another theatergoer and threw it on the floor.

Producer Scott Rudin Attacks Patrick Healy of the New York Times IN the pages of The New York Times

Sunset-just-outside-the-prison-walls

My story: Our Town in Sing Sing Prison

June: TONY, Weirdness

NeilPatrickHarrisTonyhostThe Tony Awards are presented. The Tonys may finally include Off-Broadway, because starting in 2014, for the first time the regional theater Tony award can now be given to a theater in New York City.

June was a month for weird theater news:

In a comment at the bottom of an online review, playwright Neil LaBute called drama critic David Cote a portly eunuch for not liking his play “Reasons To Be Happy.”

The NYC Department of Transportation told Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, now in its 17th season, that from now on it would have to pay a parking fee to use the municipal parking lot for its performances, and also get auto insurance.

In Times Square one night, the guy with the “I Need Money for Weed” sign stabbed his rival with the “I Need Money for Beer” sign in the head with a pen.

In a lawsuit being tried in federal court, a woman was demanding millions of dollars because she suffered loss of income and a diminished sex life after 25 pounds of light blue M&Ms fell on her in the Times Square Toys R Us.

RayLeeVideos

My story: Girls Just Want to Have Fun — and So Does Raymond J. Lee, Broadway Actor, Music Video Director

July: Sucks To Be Me + 10

AvenueQ3

Avenue Q celebrates its 10th anniversary

My stories:

She Loves Me productions

She Loves Me, The Musical That Changed Our Lives

Newsies1

Broadway’s Best Dance Numbers

August: Julie Harris, 1925-2013

JulieHarris6

Julie Harris, sometimes called the first lady of the theater, dies at the age of 87

My stories: First-ever recording of August Wilson’s entire American Century Cycle 

onedirectionfragance

Broadway’s Answer to Justin Bieber and One Direction: Smells That Sell

September: State of New York Theater

New York theater is struggling, or vibrant, or both.  (depending on which study you believe)

My stories:

Too Much Theater? The New Epic Theater Experiments

The Verdict, a movie starring Paul Newman, written by David Mamet. Would this make a good Broadway play?

The Verdict, a movie starring Paul Newman, written by David Mamet. Would this make a good Broadway play?

Courtroom Dramas on Broadway: This season…and in the future

October: Opera Over;  TV Takes Over; Sirs Pose

New York City Opera, the people’s opera created 70 years ago by Fiorello LaGuardia, announces it will shut down. It goes out with a bang, presenting an opera about Anna Nicole Smith.

 

On the curb in front of NYC's famous black plastic garbage bagsSir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen conduct among the savviest marketing campaigns ever for two difficult modernist plays, posing for a series of photographs in front of New York City landmarks.

For its tenth anniversary, Wicked is an entire category on Jeopardy! — the first Broadway show to be so featured…but not the last: Cinderella was next.

Mr. Burns, a post-electric play Playwrights Horizons/Mainstage Theater

My stories:  8 Ways Television is Influencing Theater

TVdronestheatergeniuses

Theater Geniuses, TV Drones: Eric Bogosian, Cherry Jones, Anna Deavere Smith

November: Too Dreamy? Too Kinky?

MidsummerNightsDream3KathrynHunter-DavidHarewood-PhotoByEsDevlin

Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center opens in the happening downtown Brooklyn Cultural District with Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

kinkybootsatThanksgivingparadePeople on social media objected to the broadcast of a number by the 2013 Tony Award winning best musical Kinky Boots at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, because it included a few male performers dressed as females, saying it was inappropriate for children.

My stories: The National New Play Exchange — putting every play in a national database

Tony Winner Chuck Cooper on What It Takes

December: Sound of Television

SoundofMusicMariaandkids

The Sound of Music, a live broadcast of the stage musical starring Carrie Underwood, attracts 18.5 million viewers, more than any non-sports event at NBC in a decade. The theater critic at the Associated Press puts it on the his list of the top ten theater in 2013.

My story: Sigourney Weaver Breaks Ground Off-Off Broadway With The Flea Theater

Of course, this is nowhere near an exhaustive list, though some of the ongoing stories are too exhausting to mention: The Rebecca saga continues; more and more theater critics are taking it on the chin; and there was news nearly every month about Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, including that it will be closing at the beginning of 2014.

More important to most of us who care about the theater is not the news – what happens behind the scenes, or before or after the show – but the magic that happens on the stage. (Here are my 2013 reviews )

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15 Hunks ON Broadway NOW

Yesterday, Buzzfeed posted The 33 Hottest Hunks of Broadway, but whether or not they are “of” Broadway, more than half of them aren’t  on Broadway anymore. They’ve moved on to movies or TV or the concert hall or a stage show that isn’t on Broadway, or they’re waiting for the next gig. Below are those who are on Broadway currently (or, in one case, will be there in a few weeks). Only one of these photographs is of the actor on stage in his current show on  Broadway .

Click on any photograph to see it amplified in a slide show

What Shia LaBeouf and Alec Baldwin were fighting over

This is a clip of the 1987 movie of “Orphans,” based on the 1983 play by Lyle Kessler that is being revived on Broadway this season.

Shia LaBeouf Replaced by Ben Foster in Broadway’s Orphans after ‘creative differences’ with Alec Baldwin

Shia LaBeouf replaced by Ben Foster in Orphans

Shia LaBeouf replaced by Ben Foster in Orphans

Shia LaBeouf, the movie star (“Transformers”) who was to make his Broadway debut, has left Orphans, the three-character play co- starring Alec Baldwin and Tom Sturridge which was to start previews on March 19 and open April 7 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

Update February 21: Ben Foster will replace Shia LaBeouf in the role of Treat. Foster, 32, best-known (at least by me) as Claire’s sexually-ambiguous classmate and boyfriend Russell in “Six Feet Under,” will be making his Broadway debut. He reportedly has never done a professional stage play.

Shia LaBoeuf has left "Orphans" which was to being previews in four weeks. They'll have to take down or modify this marquee

Shia LaBoeuf has left “Orphans” which was to being previews in four weeks. They’ll have to take down or modify this marquee

The show’s official announcement: “Due to creative differences, the producers of Orphans and Shia LaBeouf will be parting ways, and he will not be continuing with the production. An announcement on the replacement for the role of ‘Treat’ will be made shortly.”

LaBeouf, 26, was to star as the older of two brothers who kidnaps an older man (Alec Baldwin). “Orphans,” by Lyle Kessler, debuted in 1983 and was made into a movie in 1987 starring Albert Finney, Matthew Modine and Kevin Anderson.

There are more questions here than answers yet. Did he quit? Was he fired? Was it  mutual? Was it “amicable”? (not possible) What are “creative differences” and are they limited only to performers?

Update:

Shia LaBeouf on his official Twitter account, @thecampaignbook, more or less explains what the problem was. He did not get along with Alec Baldwin.

This is most obvious from the e-mail he reproduces from “Dan” –obviously Orphans director Daniel Sullivan addressed to LaBeouf:

“I’m too old for disagreeable situations. You’re one hell of a great actor. Alec is who he is. You are who you are. You two are incompatible. I should have known it.

This one will haunt me. You tried to warn me. You said you were a different breed. I didn’t get it.”

The other is LaBeouf’s e-mail to Alec Baldwin, which is less direct but eventually gets to the point (I’ve left out a lot in the middle):

“My Dad was a drug dealer. He was a shit human. But he was a man.He taught me how to be a man. What I know of a men Alec is—

A man is good at his job. Not his work, not his avocation, not his hobby. Not his career. Hs job.

A man can look you up and down and figure some things out. Before you say a word, he makes you. From your suitcase, from your watch, your posture.

A man owns up. That’s why Mark McGwire is not a man. A man grasps his mistakes. He lays claim to who he is, and what he was, whether he likes them or not.

…He can apologize, even if it’s sometimes just to put an end to the bickering.

Alec, I’m sorry for my part of a dis-agreeable situation.”

ShiaLaBeoufsemail

Broadway Marquees: Macbeth, Orphans, The Nance, The Trip to Bountiful

Alan Cumming accompanied the installation of the marquee for “Macbeth”

AlanCummingMacbethmarquee

The stars were not present when Orphans went up

Orphans marquee picturing cast Alec Baldwin, Shia LaBeouf and Tom Sturridge

 

NanceBountifulMarquees

 

 

All four shows are opening in April:

 

“Orphans” is opening at the Gerald Schoefeld on April 7th.

“The Nance” is opening at the Lyceum Theaater on April 15th.

“Macbeth” is opening at the Ethel Barrymore on April 21st.

 

“The Trip to Bountiful” is opening at the Stephen Sondheim on April 23rd.