57 Theatre Critics Sitting Around Talking

June 13th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

If you’re looking for critical consensus, you won’t find much of it in the new book The Critics Say…: 57 Theater Reviewers in New York and Beyond Discuss Their Craft and Its Future (McFarland & Company, $35). That’s because the critics interviewed for the book by Matt Windman, himself a critic, have a wide variety of opinions about what it is they do, how they do it, why they do it and whether it will continue to be done. Rather than devote a chapter to each critic, Windman organizes Continue reading...

See Muhammad Ali in His Broadway Musical, “Buck White”

June 4th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

While much will be written about the passing of Muhammad Ali, he does leave us with a theatrical footnote. I’m speaking of his single Broadway role, as the lead in the musical Buck White. Oscar Brown Jr. directed (with Jean Pace) in addition to adapting Joseph Dolan Tuotti’s play Big Time Buck White, and writing the lyrics and music. It lasted only five days in 1969, during the period when Ali had been suspended from boxing due to his refusal to join the Army and fight in Vietnam. It’s interesting Continue reading...

Oh, And The Guy In The Wheelchair Commits Suicide

June 2nd, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

Before you start shouting about spoiler alerts, let me point out that the headline of this piece does not indicate in what context this suicide occurs. Could be real life. Could be a play, a movie, a TV, or a book. In fact, it’s several movies and at least one book; I’m sure there are many more. Because when it comes to representations of disability, the cliché of the person in the wheelchair who can’t accept life after becoming disabled is a fairly standard device, sad to say. I am Continue reading...

Alan Ayckbourn: “Take the work seriously, but never yourself”

May 31st, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Since 2005, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, the British playwright and director, has been bringing plays – often two or even three at a time – to 59E59 Theaters in New York from his home base at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, England, where he was artistic director for more than 30 years. On each of his six visits to the U.S. – save for one where he fell ill at the last moment – I’ve moderated a public conversation with him, prompted by our friendship dating back to 1996 and the U.S. Continue reading...

Music Ed Head Casts Doubts on Diverse Student Talent

May 10th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

The statements, on their face, are utterly startling. “Blacks and Latinos lack the keyboard skills needed for this field.” “I don’t have to take this. Yes, my board is all white, and they are one of the most diverse boards of any organization – more than any arts organization at this table.” It was implied that musical theory is too difficult for black and Latinos as an area of study. These remarks were attributed to Michael Butera, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Continue reading...

Daveed Diggs Of ‘Hamilton’ Is Your Favorite Toy Tiger

April 26th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Years from now, newer converts to Hamilton fandom will marvel at how Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail assembled such a notable cast. It will be viewed like Rent, like American Graffiti, a remarkable gathering of young talent that’s a tribute to those who managed to bring them together, including the casting team at Telsey + Company. It’s not that the Hamilton cast was entirely unknown, to be sure, but the acclaim for the project raised the public’s awareness of each and every one of them, Continue reading...

Simon Callow Wants To Take Casting Practices Backwards

April 25th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

This morning, I was both annoyed and bemused to learn that Mark Rylance and Derek Jacobi, two esteemed British actors, had just been given airtime by National Public Radio, to advance the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare’s true identity. This minority opinion about the authorship of the canon of works credited to Shakespeare holds that a commoner like Shakespeare couldn’t have possibly written the plays, and typically credits a British nobleman with having written them secretly. There’s Continue reading...

Even Cate Blanchett Had To Start Somewhere

April 10th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

In what will most assuredly give comfort to aspiring performers everywhere, you’ll be highly amused to know that Cate Blanchett began her career singing silly songs in the Melbourne University Law Revue show in her native Australia. “Weird Love Song” certainly lives up to its name in the “Red Faces” segment of the long-running Australian variety show Hey Hey It’s Saturday (1971-1999). The segment itself seems to owe a great deal to The Gong Show or, for all we know about Australian Continue reading...

Theatre Headlines I Never Want To See

April 9th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Online or in print, headlines are meant to be grabbers. Just this week, I was taken aback by, and simply had to read,  The Independent’s "Radioactive wild boars rampaging around Fukushima nuclear site.” Honestly – how could I resist? A great headline need not always have a pun, such as the New York Daily News’s declaration against gun violence, “God Isn’t Fixing This.” Of course the classic of the genre is the New York Post’s “Headless Body in Topless Bar." Though I see journalism Continue reading...

88 Years on 88 Keys: Tom Lehrer, The Salinger of the Satirical Song

April 9th, 2016 § 11 comments § permalink

My memory of the moment is quite vivid, if inevitably inexact. It happened 41 years ago, in the early afternoon, in Mrs. Winkler’s seventh grade science class at Amity Junior High School, as we were doing a “unit” on Ecology. In order to brighten our study of the physical environment, Mrs. Winkler announced one day at the start of class that she wanted to play us a song, and proceeded to put a black vinyl disc on the industrial weight turntable, the cover of which doubled as a speaker. The Continue reading...