Jun 6, 2013

God, Tonys, and the Jungle

Apologies for light posting lately, but I hope I can compensate with a few tidbits. I recently had the pleasure of looking back over the theater season with Kerry Weber, culture editor at America magazine, for their weekly podcast. I think I rambled on a bit, but I do feel like things get interesting in re: The Testament of Mary (roughly at the 12-minute mark). America is a Jesuit-run magazine, and one thing I recall fondly about going to a Jesuit high school was that it really was animated by a spirit of inquiry; I felt that anything was open for discussion, even God and spirituality should the subjects come up, and not for mere obeisance in an anodyne or dutifully orthodox way; these were up for debate in a robust, thoroughgoing way. When we read Cat's Cradle or Grendel, to give just two examples that come to mind, I felt like we were able to give those books' challenges to religion and heroism full due because we could talk about religion at all, and a full spectrum of views, including that of the unapologetically faithful, were represented. A number of my classmates there were atheists, and not a few were Jews; and I'm sure I'm overrating or idealizing what felt to me at the time like a bracing free flow of ideas, but that's exactly how it felt. As I wrote in my piece about Mary, it raised in me a confident faith that essentially said: God's got this, so how is a little doubt and argument going to hurt? I feel that same spirit of inquiry, of being open to the world in all its challenges and complexity, at America, and it's gratifying to continue that thread of my life, and to write about theater there with spirituality as a given, a lens--and as a theme that can be broached and fully engaged, but must never be merely genuflected to.

Another strong thread, at least in more recent years, has been StageGrade, the review-reviewing site I founded with Isaac Butler years ago. Isaac is no longer involved and in fact Davenport Theatrical now owns it, but that hasn't slowed its momentum. Each year we survey critics for their Tony predictions, and this year's survey has the highest number of critics participating, with some surprising and unsurprisingly readable results here. An excerpt:
The categories to watch, based on previous experience, are Lead Actor in a Play, with Lucky Guy's Tom Hanks all but assured the former (but critics said the same thing last year about Philip Seymour Hoffman's sad-sack Salesman, and One Man, Two Guvnors' James Corden waltzed away with the statue); the Lead Actress in a Play category, in which Cicely Tyson's beatific The Trip to Bountiful is similarly overwhelmingly favored (but critics last year were similarly sure that The Lyons's Linda Lavin or End of the Rainbow's Tracie Bennett would win, and Venus in Fur's Nina Arianda pulled an upset). Likewise, the Play Direction category, with a lot of strong contenders, looks like it's up for grabs; Lucky Guy's George C. Wolfe is only very narrowly favored to pick up the award over Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'s Pam MacKinnon, but there are plenty of votes for Vanya and Sonia's Nicholas Martin, as well.
Finally, blogging will be light in the coming week because I'm headed to cover Mary Zimmerman and Goodman Theater's take on a touchstone work of my childhood, seen at the top.

Trust in me; there will be more to report.

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