In some ways, it might make more sense if I wrote this post about some of my least-read pieces of 2016, because I value almost everything I write equally and never quite know why some get widely read and others just seem to be of only marginal interest to others. I of course prefer to blame social media and its vagaries, but in some cases it might be the photos I chose, the headline I drafted or the relative idiosyncrasy of the subject.
Because this year was the first during which I was writing for not one but two sites – my personal site and ArtsIntegrity.org, there are really two lists here, a top ten for the former and a top five for the latter. While I list each set by date published, rather than “popularity,” I am pleased to say that between the two sites, my total number of views this year was a 50% increase over last year. My concerns over cannibalizing my own readership proved unfounded.
You can access any posts you haven’t read, or wish to re-read, by clicking on the titles below. Thanks to everyone who read, shared, commented, liked or retweeted anything I had to say this year.
This proved to be a two-part story, with a teacher claiming that the school had shut down his attempt to present the Green Day musical, which it had, only to ultimately find that the teacher had never secured the rights or any permission to make changes in the script that he had been trumpeting.
When a small performance in a Seattle bookstore, using only male dialogue from the ten most produced plays in the prior year, began to get cease and desist notices, I pondered the possibility that the collaged new script might fall under the fair use provisions of copyright law.
The popularity of this post surprised me, but it also made me very happy. Apparently there’s so little written about the great Tom Lehrer that even my cursory overview proved to be catnip to his fans, and perhaps reached a few new converts as well.
There’s no question about the appetite for all things Lin-Manuel and Hamilton, and traffic to this post came so fast that it shut down my site for a day and a half. He’s such a thoughtful guy, and what he had to say is so much more than simply fan service.
A challenge to those who push back against authenticity in casting when it comes to race and disability.
September 3 Wells Fargo To Arts Kids: Abandon Your Dreams
A foolish ad campaign caused no small amount of consternation in the arts community. But Well Fargo was in fact guilty of even more serious offenses in 2016.
September 8 When Deaf Voices Are Left Out Of “Tribes”
Another piece about authenticity in casting, about an Iowa production of Tribes that made no real effort to seek a deaf performer for the leading role.
In Canada, runner Terry Fox, a leg amputee, became a national hero before succumbing to cancer. So why on earth did a musical about him essential create a puppet leg, rather than find an actor who is an amputee?
When I began my commute the morning after the election, I had no intention to write anything, but over the course of one subway, this piece formed itself in my mind, and I wrote it in about an hour. I look at it now, and I don’t entirely recognize it as mine. It just poured out of me.
When I happened upon an activist using his looks to raise funds for progressive causes in Times Square, I caught lightning in a bottle, and over the course of the next two weeks, news of Mike Hot-Pence literally traveled around the world. This is the post, and the photo, that started it all.
The Character of Christmas Eve in the musical Avenue Q is specified as being from Japan. But while companies always manage to find a black actress for the role of Gary Coleman in the show, they seem to have no problem employing yellowface for Christmas Eve. This is but one example.
The Chicago Reader deserves enormous praise for their expose about a culture of harassment at the now defunct Profiles Theatre. Focus on the story was such that even my ancillary post, which primarily served to address the rights to their next planned production, proved of interest, and I kept updating as the situation played out to the end.
A Canadian high school shouldn’t didn’t have the rights to give a performance that included six fully staged numbers from Hamilton, let along charge for it. But when they went after major media attention, and got it, their videos got shut down.
In Baltimore, a school board imposed a $100 per student fee to participate in school plays, even though the district doesn’t provide funding for the self-sustaining productions. I took an early look at the still evolving situation, and expect to return to it in 2017.
In Chicago, a controversy over the casting of a non-Latinx actor as Usnavi in In The Heights. This post involves very little writing by me. It records for posterity a statement from bookwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes that was originally shared on Facebook by Victory Gardens Theatre artistic director Chay Yew, and because some questioned Lin-Manuel’s position, I confirmed that he was 100% with Quiara – not that I really had any doubts, but to silence those who did.
Although it was published in early December of 2015, my conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda about race in the casting of both In The Heights and Hamilton continued to be widely read in 2016, so much so that had it been new, it would have ranked in this year’s Top 10 from hesherman.com – just as it was last year. It may well be evergreen, though I hope to revisit the subject with Lin once again, most likely in early 2018, after the London opening of Hamilton.
Photo of Lin-Manuel Miranda © 2016 Howard Sherman