Of Censorship, Schools, Musicals & Authors’ Rights: My Top Posts of 2014

December 29th, 2014 § 1 comment

Hands on a Hardbody at Houston’s Theatre Under The Stars

Hands on a Hardbody at Houston’s Theatre Under The Stars

Are these my “best” blog posts of 2014? I couldn’t say. All I know is that they’re my most read, from a year in which page views on my site more than doubled over 2013.

Certainly 2014 was a year in which my writing found more focus, and whether the most-read posts bear out readers’ interest in that focus, or are simply a byproduct of a somewhat narrower range of subjects, I also don’t know. But if you’ve only discovered me part way through the year, or only read me sporadically, maybe there are a few posts here that escaped your attention, and if you’re interested, this will save you some scrolling and clicking.

Curtain Call for Little Shop of Horrors at Jonathan Law High School

Curtain call for Little Shop of Horrors at Jonathan Law High School

Before I start the official list, I want to bring your attention to a post which finished just out of the Top 10, the sad and yet remarkable story which bears out the sentiment “the show must go,” even when the show is a high school musical and when one of the cast members is murdered. To me, this story encapsulates so much about what theatre can offer, even at the worst times.

May 5: On Stage In Milford, With Sweet Understanding

Here’s the full rundown of the Top 10, in publication order, with some related posts included in my comments so as not to be too repetitive. Clicking on the titles will take you to the individual pieces.

January 22: Who Thinks It’s OK to ‘Improve’ Playwrights’ Work?

Was I surprised by this instance of unauthorized text alterations to a Brian Friel play at the Asolo Rep? Yes. But this turned out to merely be the precursor to a more widely-known incident yet to come, in Texas in June. Still, it was evidence that the issue of copyright and author’s rights isn’t just about high schools tinkering with “inappropriate” content – it can happen anywhere.

March 3: When A Theatre Review Condescends

It’s not usually fair to criticize a critic for a review of a production, since it’s their opinion, so when I wrote this piece taking a Philadelphia critic to task, I tried to do so on the basis of text and fact, not opinion. I received a lot of response about this piece, a great deal of it privately.

March 26: How You Can Save Arts Journalism Starting Right Now

Some found my stated “solution” overly simplistic, so either I failed to make, or they failed to recognize, my point about arts journalism lasting only as long as the metrics bear out an interest on the part of readers.

May 28: A Whispered Broadway Milestone No One’s Cheering

If you find me rather grouchy every Monday at 3 pm, it’s because that’s when the Broadway grosses are released, with one or more shows variously pronouncing the achievement of a new “sales record.” A number of outlets report these figures week in and week out, even though there’s usually a limited amount of actual news that matters to anyone outside the business. The “season” and “annual” compilation figures tend to provoke me even more, due to the perpetually positive spin even when the real story can be found by looking just a bit more carefully at the numbers.

June 3: When The Audience Bellows Louder Than Big Daddy

I was a bit surprised that this piece got the attention it did, as I wrote it after several West Coast outlets had already reported on this incident. Why my account drew lots of eyes I’ll never know, but I do hope it’s used in many arts management classrooms to speak to the essential nature of a well-trained front of house staff, no matter what size your theatre may be.

June 13: Into The Woods With Misplaced Outrage

The movie’s out. Now people can like the changes or not, but at least they’re judging the complete work, not stray accounts (which even Sondheim ended up disavowing). I’m seeing it on New Year’s Eve, FYI.

June 20: Rebuilding “Hardbody” At A Houston Chop Shop

I remain the only writer to interview Theater Under the Stars artistic director Bruce Lumpkin about his reworking of the text and score of the musical Hands On A Hardbody. The theatre pretty much circled the wagons as soon as my piece came out, even declining to speak with American Theatre magazine when Isaac Butler looked at the incident and the issue a few months later.

June 26: Under-The-Radar Transition at Women’s Project Theater

Let’s hear it for anonymous tips! I was the first to report this story, an unpleasant account of the ousting of an artistic leader by a board that sought to portray it as a voluntary separation (foreshadowing the scenario between Ari Roth and Theater J just this month). I do find myself wondering why the outcry over Theater J has been so much greater, when the Women’s Project situation had some notable similarities.

Monty Python’s SpamalotSeptember 19: In Pennsylvania, Director Is Fired Over School “Spamalot”

This was certainly the biggest school theatre censorship story of the year that I covered, as it played out over the course of nearly four months, from when it was first reported in the local Pennsylvania media. It was the final, unfortunate post that received the most attention, but for those who don’t want to start at the end, two other highly read posts on the situation in South Williamsport PA were “Trying To Find Out A Lot About A Canceled Spamalot” (July 15) and “Facts Emerge About School ‘Spamalot’ Struck Out Over Gay Content” (August 21). I wish I had written a blunter headline for the latter story, because it revealed that school officials had indeed lied about the reasons behind the cancelation of the show, and I regret not calling them out as strongly as possible. To my knowledge, they have not been held to account for spreading disinformation.

October 21: How To Fail At Canceling The Most Popular Play In High School Theatre

While the school was let off the hook for buckling under to outside pressure because the students took matters into their own hands, it’s encouraging to know that their production of Almost, Maine is only weeks away, as detailed in “Falling For ‘Almost, Maine’ in North Carolina in January.”

Though I don’t place it in the official Top 10, because it’s a compilation rather than something I actually “wrote,” my piece chronicling the censorship and restoration of work by my friends at the Reduced Shakespeare Company as they embarked on a tour starting in Northern Ireland is also one of my most read for 2014.

January 26: “The Reduced Shakespeare Controversy (abridged).”

Finally, my thanks to you for reading, clicking, liking, favoriting and sharing, and for your comments on the posts themselves, on Twitter and on Facebook. It’s truly appreciated.


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