Actors' Equity Shakes Up Los Angeles Theater Scene

Despite opposition from the local Actors’ Equity Association and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, the national leaders of AE have voted to impose a $9 hourly minimum wage for members who perform in L.A. County theaters with fewer than 99 seats.

The Contentious and Fascinating John Patrick Shanley

Born October 3, 1950 and now middle aged and honored with a table-running Oscar, Tony and Pulitzer, John Patrick Shanley exudes the rough-edged persona of a Mick from the Bronx who can give and take a good punch. He grew up being pummeled with tough love by the Mom who shaped his aesthetic, as well as nuns and priests who knocked sense and atheism into him.

Cannibalizing Tennessee Williams

This year’s conference of the American Theater Critics Association overlapped and interacted with the 29th annual Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival. David Kaplan, curator of the ten-year-old Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, was on hand to direct a co production of the Hotel Plays.

New Orleans Theater After Katrina

Organized by local member, Alan Smason, the annual general membership conference of the American Theater Critics Association met recently in New Orleans. The conference overlapped and interacted with the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival, so there were many highlights and insights. This is our first of several planned reports of a lively encounter with The Big Easy.

The (Drag) Queen's Speech: Talking with Terence Boyle

Terence Boyle traces his ancestry to Protestant Northern Ireland, but he is, himself, Catholic and teaches at the Jesuit-affiliated Loyola University. The openly gay Boyle's play, allegedly based on the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel, is titled ”The Queen's Speech”—and that's "queen" as in "drag."

Spring Theater Preview in Chicago

Playgoers impatient for destination summer festivals in Spring Green, Bloomington or Ontario's Stratford can get in practice at currently running double- or even triple-feature "marathon" events. These would include the nine-hour “Hammer Trinity”—House Theater of Chicago's compilation of its 2012 The Iron Stag King, 2013 The Crownless King and now-concluding The Excelsior King—or Steppenwolf's Garage Repertory Series, featuring a revolving roster of plays presented by a trio of companies reflecting Chicago's prolific storefront circuit.

Exploring O'Neill with John Douglas Thompson

It was a Monday morning following a grueling weekend of five performances of Satchmo at the Waldorf at Shakespeare & Company. Compared to a norm of six weeks, there had been only three weeks of rehearsal before opening night. John commented that he had been averaging three hours of sleep. Asked why, he described restless nights running new lines and constant changes in the first play by the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout. It is also his first experience of performing a one-man show.

John Douglas Thompson: Articulating the Journey

Chicago's Goodman Theater production of Eugene O'Neill's daunting The Iceman Cometh,directed by Robert Falls, has just opened to rave reviews at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Charles Isherwood in the New York Times states that "Mr. Falls’s magisterial staging of O’Neill’s harrowing drama, one of his very greatest, floored me when I first saw it at the Goodman Theater almost three years ago. Once again, at the conclusion of this blistering production, currently at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I had to scrape myself up from my seat, with my innards churning."

Risk and Resurrection: A Winter Theater Special from Chicago

Plays drawn from the repertoire of Western drama are usually dismissed as "safe options" for theaters—what could be more reliable, after all, than a script arriving with a decades-long track record of pleasing audiences? This popular impression renders all the more astonishing the degree of daring reflected in this winter's selection of (at least) twice-told tales.

BIG RISKS

New Urbanite Theater Sets Sights on Downtown Sarasota

Two FSU/Asolo Conservatory grads are co-founding and co-artistic directing a new Urbanite Theater, bringing “contemporary playgoing opportunities” to downtown Sarasota . What makes Summer Wallace and Brendan Ragan's venture so different? A real estate developer is constructing a theater for them to show actor-driven exciting, fresh work.

By April 2015, the building should be up. The black box theater has been rented for $1 a year for 5 years. Fund-raising will equip it in time, it is hoped, for a fall 2015 opening.

Smart Moments in Chicago Theater: 2014

Even if the line of dialogue you couldn't wait to quote after Chris Hainsworth's adaptation of Monstrous Regiment for Lifeline Theater was "Things couldn't get any worse if it were raining arseholes," a more accurate summary of Chicago theater in 2014 might be ”ars victrix"—in English, "art endures."

The Top Five Productions of 2014 in Milwaukee

With a nod to New York theater critic Charles Isherwood, the older you get, the sooner it seems you are faced with the prospect of listing the best productions of the year. This is an overwhelming task in New York, with literally hundreds of shows opening on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off. But doing the same is a challenge even in a city the size of Milwaukee. There is more theater happening in this culturally rich city than most people know. And when you are asked to rate the Top 5 productions instead of the Top 10 — well, one can imagine the anxiety this produces.

Elizabeth Ashley: She Wouldn't Change a Thing

Elizabeth Ashley is one of the most acclaimed actresses of her generation. Born in Florida but raised in the deep South of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, once she made the decision to come to New York, her dazzling (and some have said seductive) beauty, gorgeous legs, an aura of mystique, and unique, rapid-fire voice dripping with Southern Comfort and mint juleps infused with magnolias, got her quickly noticed and cast in major roles.

Remembering Theater's Grande Dame Marian Seldes

Marian Seldes, who passed away after a three-year slide into darkness, told me once: "One of the most enthralling moments for me in every play I do is crossing from Stage Left to Stage Right, or vice versa, depending on where the stage door is, and ravishing a moment there – just me and the ghost light."

Jenny Gersten's Highlights Before Her Low Point at the High Line

This summer at Williamstown Theater Festival, we saw emeritus artistic director, Jenny Gersten, only during opening night of the first production, June Moon. There was a hug signifying a relationship that evolved from tempestuous to respectful. There had been growing pains on both ends.  Gersten would go on to become executive director of Friends of the High Line, an elevated park being built in Chelsea.

The Future of Theater

Some in the professional theater community view critics as their natural enemy out to destroy or trivialize the efforts of all theatrical companies. Over time, a tradition of sorts began – something akin to the bridegroom not seeing his bride before the ceremony; in other words, bad luck or a doomed marriage. Bull. I’ve never met a fellow critic who walked into a theater hoping the production would be bad, boring or worse in order to write a clever, witty review that denigrates the production as a way of elevating their own importance.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival Marred by Anti-Israel Protests

Hundreds of anti-Israeli – and, in some cases, anti-Semitic -- protestors have disrupted shows at both the International and Fringe festivals this year. Two shows at the Fringe have been shut down by the protestors: The City, a hip-hop opera from The Incubator, a Jerusalem-based theater company; La Karina, a dance recital by the Pola Dance company from Ben Gurion University; and a third show, The Jewish Chronicles, a solo songfest performed by Daniel Cainer, was singled out for public condemnation.

Breakfast with Playwright Mark St. Germain

During an early phase of rehearsals for Dancing Lessons,a new play for Barrington Stage Company, we met with playwright Mark St. Germain at Dottie’s for breakfast. It has become an annual ritual to discuss the development of his plays. Mark has become a mentor and friend. He is a rich and knowledgeable primary resource both for understanding theater as well as many unique insights of the challenges of a life in the arts.

Sir Laurence Olivier Intimately Revealed in New, Telling Biography

Brilliant, vicious, magnetic, dedicated, massively insecure, and bitterly competitive, Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) was endowed with a talent and a jealousy unchallenged by his contemporaries. In the new biography, “Olivier” (Quercus Publishing, 460 pages), prize-winning author Phillip Ziegler virtually leaves no stone unturned as he examines not only what made one of our most famous – and occasionally infamous – actor/directors of the 20th Century tick but also the work that influenced generations of actors.

Christopher Innvar and Marg Helgenberger Find an Other Place at MA's Barrington Stage

In a January 10, 2013 review in the New York Times Charles Isherwood wrote, “As you watch The Other Place,a slick, potently acted drama by Sharr White that opened on Broadway on Thursday night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, it may strike you now and then that your mind is playing tricks on you. Facts that seem firmly established in one scene melt into vapor a few scenes later, leaving you with a vague itch to press pause to sort things out, or maybe rewind. Or both.”

Creative Conversations about American Theater Take Place on Greenfield Prize Weekend in Sarasota, FL

Playwrights, a producing artistic director and an award-winning actress had “Creative Conversations” about theater and their work in it on April 12, 2014 during the annual Greenfield Prize Weekend in Sarasota, FL. This partnership between the Greenfield Foundation of Philadelphia and the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood, FL, offers six week residencies to artists to work on creative projects. The Greenfield Prize, an annual $30,000 commission to create a new work of art, went to playwright Nilo Cruz.

A Theater Conference in Louisville

Since joining the America Theater Critics Association, we have attended conferences in Chicago, Indianapolis, Shepherdstown, West Virginia and, most recently, the 38th Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky. Through ATCA we are getting an overview of regional American theater. The well-organized conferences comprise intense experiences with meetings, panel discussions and major keynote speakers. (This time: Steinberg Award winning playwright Lauren Gunderson, who was also the keynote speaker for the conference. Also, longtime New York critic Ira J.

James Dean: From Method Actor to Screen Idol

"Dream what you want to dream, go where you want to go, be what you want to be," James Dean has been quoted as saying, "because you have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do." Another time, he stated, "The only success, the only greatness is immortality." By that standard, Dean has achieved immortality. Long after his untimely death in 1955, the fascination with Dean lives on. On February 8, 2014, the forever young Dean would have turned 83.

Former Chicago Arts Commissioner Says Collaboration is Key to Success for Sarasota Alliance

Janet Carl Smith, newly retired Deputy Commissioner of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, advised leaders and members of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County to collaborate among themselves and others in an address on February 20, 2014. She shared experiences and ideas to the Alliance and is currently pushing for a renewal of a tax to benefit education in Sarasota, especially in the arts.

La Comedie Italienne Founding Director Arrested for Christmas Crash to Protest Poor Subsidies

Beginning October 10, 2013, La Comedie Italienne, the sole Italian theater in France, began its 40th season of continuing the centuries-old tradition of Italian players and scripts appearing there on stage, especially in Paris. On Christmas Day, the troupe's founder and artistic director, Attillio Maggiulli, was arrested for protesting a devastating cut in national subvention of the theater by attempting to drive his car into an Elysee Palace gate. The most recent news I've learned is that Maggiulli was sent to Police Headquarters and then for psychiatric evaluation.

A Warm and Fuzzy Holiday Gift from Tracy Letts: August: Osage County on Film

Tracy Letts has been known to get excited when honing and honing and honing his work “to make what I’m working on the very piece.” When things didn’t necessarily please him, there are rumors that he screamed, called people names, and wrote exhaustively long e-mails. In writing the screenplay for his Pulitzer Prize, Joseph Jefferson-, Tony-, and Drama Desk Award winning August: Osage County,which played Broadway in December 2007 for 18 months after premiering in his Chicago hometown’s Steppenwolf, he was probably just as vocal, but to himself.

Harlem Nights and Leg Lights: Warren Carlyle's Broadway Season

“There couldn’t be a better holiday season,” says very busy director/choreographer Warren Carlyle. “I truly am blessed to be here and doing what I love. It’s the culmination of all my dreams.”

Margo Martindale Comes to Osage County, On Film

It’s been said that Margo Martindale has gone from being an actress whose face moviegoers and TV viewers know to one who now has a brand name. “It’s nice when people come up to me and actually know my name! Usually it’s ‘Aren’t you -- ?’ or ‘Weren’t you in -- ?’ or ‘Hi, you’re the lady at my bank!’” Now, thanks to capturing the coveted role of Mattie Fae in the film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County[The Weinstein Company] and her boisterous and blistering performance, everyone’ll know her name.

Broadway Stars Lend Their Voices to Disney's Frozen

“Frozen,” the Walt Disney feature which just opened as the season’s big, animated holiday film, is a movie that almost didn't happen – in spite of years of trying to get an animated film done on Hans Christian Andersen's “The Snow Queen.” Four years in the making, the film arrives and is worth the wait. Critics are calling it the best Disney animated film and musical in years.

PBS’ Great Performances to Highlight Streisand, Hamlisch & Plummer

PBS Great Performances and THIRTEEN have classic treats in store to ring in the holidays. First, on Friday, November 29, 2013: “Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn,” a telecast of the diva's historic Brooklyn homecoming to christen the 19,000-seat, $1-billion Barclays Center, which marked her "home" concert since her childhood (and her first concert in six years). She performs 27 tunes from her five-decade career, joined by guests Il Volo, Chris Botti, a 60-piece orchestra led by William Ross, and, in quite a touching segment, her son Jason Gould.

Beth Henley Returns to New York - and her Southern Roots - for The Jacksonian

There's not a lot of Southern comfort to ease the characters of Beth Henley’s gothic, black-comedy/drama, The Jacksonian, having its New York premiere courtesy of the New Group at Theater Row.

Cherry Jones Takes on The Glass Menagerie's Amanda Wingfield

The 17-week limited engagement of John Tiffany's critically acclaimed revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie officially opens at the Booth Theater on September 26, 2013. The production marks the return to the stage of Tony, Drama Desk, and Emmy winner Cherry Jones, who costars as one of Williams' most memorable creations, Amanda Wingfield, the mother of crippled and shy Laura, played by Celia Keenan-Bolger (Peter and the Starcatcher) and Tom, portrayed by Zachary Quinto (Angels in America). Brian J.

Play on Film or Film of Play: Is The Audience Typical?

A showing of Britain’s National Theatre production of “The Audience” on June 13, 2013, broadcast live may not have been as controversial as a few years of filmed ballets and operas, but it played up how the electronic medium adversely affected the play. A major criticism of filmed musical performances, such as operas from Met Live, is that they are edited and therefore not true to what audiences see in a theater. The criticism is like that heaped on television for editing films to fit the TV screen.

Season Three is the Charm: Williamstown Fest's Jenny Gersten Riding High

The third season for Jenny Gersten, artistic director of the Williamstown Theater Festival, ends August 18, 2013 with the final performance of the Broadway-bound musical, The Bridges of Madison County on the Main Stage and the controversial Blood Playon the Nikos stage.

Mark St. Germain - A Working Playwright

From the beginnings of Barrington Stage Company, the playwright Mark Saint Germain has enjoyed a close relationship with artistic director Julianne Boyd. The smaller second stage is even named for the dramatist. From August 15-September 29, 2013 Barrington will present St. Germain’s Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah.The play premiered this summer at the Contemporary American Theater Festival, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, which commissioned it. Through a special agreement with CATF the play is having its “Rolling World Premiere” in Pittsfield.

Too Soon or Too Far? Contemporary American Theater Festival Founder Ed Herendeen's Thoughts on This Season's CATF Plays

Some 23 years ago, Ed Herendeen, then with the Williamstown Theater Festival in an administrative position, was invited by the president of Shepherd University, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to organize an annual, summer Contemporary American Theatre Festival. Since then, CATF, with Herendeen as producing director, has presented 100 new plays either as premieres or second productions of works in development.

Kate Burton on Hapgood, Stoppard and Family

Kate Burton stars in Tom Stoppard’s Hapgoodin a just-about sold-out, two-week run (July 10-21, 2013) in a return to familiar home turf at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Her husband, Michael Ritchie, was WTF’s former artistic director for nine years. The current AD, Jenny Gersten, was his assistant producer.

Celebrating Broadway's Big Event: the 67th Tony Awards

Remember the old M-G-M axiom: "More stars than there are in the heavens!" The 2013 Tony Awards, the 67th annual, telecast by CBS live from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday from 8-11 PM, has that beat. There'll be more stars than there are in the galaxy! Minus one, and more about that later.

The stars are aligning! Tony fav, six-time Emmy nominee and two-time winner and four-time Golden Globe nominee Neil Patrick Harris returns as the host with the mostest. Expect humorous barbs and songs.

Lauper's Kinky Boots Arrives on CD

The original Broadway cast CD of Grammy-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper and four-time Tony Harvey Fierstein’s richly diverse Kinky Boots,nominated for 13 Tonys, including Best Musical, Score, and Book, is now available (Masterworks Broadway).

Not All Must-Sees are On Broadway

Do you know the way to off-Broadway, where this has been one of the best seasons ever? Theaters are easy to find, and off-Broadway has everything Broadway has, including (as a rule, but not always) uncomfortable seats and stages that are (often but not always) smaller. However, OB also offers tickets that are definitely cheaper. Two of the best and most nominated shows are big hits, and two potential hits have just arrived.

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