Dec 23, 2014

Tops of 2014

It's been a spotty year of blogging here, got to admit, and only partly due to the October debut of this. And it's hard not to find it sobering that my two most-read post were essentially obituaries. But here, in order, were my most popular 2014 posts (last year's are here):
1. What Happened to StageGrade. The theatre-review-aggregating site I made with Isaac Butler and the chaps from PlayScripts died this year. Read it and weep.

2. The Word Word. I loved the strange, beautiful writing of Dennis Miles, an L.A.-based poet and playwright whose work I first caught at the tiny Theatre of NOTE, and with whom I had a cordial correspondence in the years since (and a few fleeting stabs at collaboration). It's heartening to see that this "In Memoriam" post for Dennis, who died in August, has been so popular.

3. Too Much Freedom to Fail. As L.A.'s "99-seat wars" began to heat up this year, I remembered a speech I gave at a theater conference in 2003, which seemed to sum up my thoughts on the artistic economy of small L.A. theater; I felt it held up pretty well and so I reposted it in this space. It was taken up and linked by the indispensable gadfly Colin Mitchell, and the rest is history.

4. FoS, Bonus Track 1: The Subtle Distinctions. There was too much to say about The Fortress of Solitude, the long-awaited (by some) musical adaptation of Jonathan Lethem's sprawling but intimate coming-of-age-and-beyond novel at the Public Theater. One nugget I mentioned in my NY Times preview piece: that Lethem had made a two-CD compilation of supplementary listening for his pop-music-steeped book. Lethem did not discourage me from seeking out the playlist online, and the rest was linkin'. I'm glad I did it; there are some great, great songs on this list.

5. Once More Into the Breach. In response to a breezy, ill-informed piece in Vanity Fair online, which posited that some kind of celebrity reading series in L.A. could be the savior of the town's moribund theater scene (huh?), I wrote this well-received response, also for VF, based on my erstwhile rovings through what I still consider my theatergoing hometown.

6. Hall Monitor. Speaking of celebrity, I have to chalk up the popularity of this post--essentially just a cue-up to a link of my Times profile of Michael C. Hall, then starring in The Realistic Joneses--to sheer name value. It probably didn't hurt that I dug up of a photo of him as the white-powdered, shirtless Emcee from Cabaret (a role in which I can claim the pleasure of seeing him, alongside Susan Egan, still my favorite Sally Bowles next to Julie Harris).

7. I Could Laugh Out Loud. Happy to see that this non-review of the still-running Broadway revival of a perfect piece of WWII-era fluff has been so popular. I've since revisited it with my wife, and confirmed that 1) I married the right woman (she loved it possibly even more than I), and 2) This exuberant production, flaws and all, is one of my favorite things ever.

8. Newman's Own. On the occasion of Randy Newman bringing back Faust--his sole, quixotic stab at a stage musical, which I saw and admired in its original La Jolla run two decades ago--I sold a piece to Slate musing on the might-have-beens represented by the show's never catching fire (a fate sealed, alas, by its one-night resurrection).

9. Stuck on Hitch. As with No. 6 above, this post's popularity is possibly another case of name recognition trumping all--in this case, the title subject of David Rudkin's play The Love Song of Alfred J. Hitchcock, about which I wrote a Times preview and which gave me the great pleasure of talking/writing about a favorite and formative artist.

10. Fortress Goes Public. My Times preview piece, cited above, generated a lot of positive buzz for a show that divided critics--though I ended up loving it, I could understand some of the misgivings about its odd, lopsided narrative. To bring things full circle, I would love to have seen what StageGrade would have made of it, since alongside Ben Brantley's disappointed review at the Times there were some passionate advocates.

So that's a snapshot of my year online. Not included: the time a review of mine was linked on the Daily Dish (and on my birthday, no less), or my 11th most popular post: a plug for my new Shakespeare-for-kids CD, which is still available and makes a great last-minute gift, if I may say so.

May the NewYear prove as interesting.

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