Dec 30, 2013

Tops of 2013

As my modest theater blog enters its 10th year, it now feels chiefly like a venue for links to my feature writing as it comes along (though I was too busy recently to trumpet my latest piece for the paper of record, on that endearing little Bacharach show, in this space, so here goes), and/or a trough for spillover from said feature writing. The remaining posts here tend to be quasi-reviews, or meta-reviews, or newsy/opinion-y tidbits, written for a variety of reasons: because I either imagine or know with some certainty that no one else has or will make the point I feel needs making, or I just have something to get off my chest that no venue would, or has bothered to, ask me to write about. I wish there were more posts like the latter--and I'm honestly surprised at how many there still are, actually--but in any case, here were the top dozen or so posts of the past year, measured in the cold hard metrics that already rule us all, and in the darkness bind us, in the word trade.

Making Good
Really, all I did with this post did was prove that I have a scanner at home, and that I can save theater playbills. But I was pretty confident that no one else would post the budget figures for the original spring LaMaMa staging of the Foundry's Good Person of Szechwan alongside similar figures for the Public transfer in the fall. Anyone who saw both and kept the programs could have done this, as the Foundry has printed its budgets in its programs for the "last seven or eight years," according to Melanie Joseph, to whom I spoke because of the popularity of this post. (She also told me that comparing the two budgets was an apples-and-oranges deal, given not only the fixed-cost differences in venue but also the disparity between a generative production and a remount.) But no one else did. I wish I'd posted about how and why it was the best show I saw all year, maybe in many years, and how it's one of the two best Brechts I've seen, in part because of its nimble, embracing queer spirituality/politics...but instead I posted about how much it cost. Maybe this tendency is what that program quote, "The truth is concrete," is talking about.

Should Plays Be Artist-Proof?
This post sprang from an offhand comment by playwright Rajiv Joseph about his play Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo, from an interview I did with him at my day job. He confessed that he feels he underwrote a character because the actor who did the original role filled in so much of its depth, and he's seen productions since that made him cringe. That reminded me of similar misgivings from Bobby Lopez and Annie Baker, and I was off the races.

Who Needs Critics?
When Backstage announced early this year that it would cut theater reviews altogether, it hit me close to home; I was the founding editor-in-chief of its West Coast branch, and of the West Coast Garland Awards; theater coverage was simply a given all those years ago and in the years since, there and at any number of now-shrinking or vanishing publications. This post had me wondering out loud: Who really reads all those damn reviews and features about theater? And if nobody does, what the fuck have I been doing with my life?

Suffering Made Flesh
My reaction as a (non-Catholic) believer to The Testmant of Mary, an impassioned hodpgepodge of Colm Toibin's alt-gospel from Fiona Shaw and Deborah Warner, surely garnered extra hits because it was linked by my sometime employer, the Jesuit magazine America (which had a very exciting year in its own right, I should note).

Putting the "God" in Godot
Herewith, a quick spin on an arguably trivial hobbyhorse of mine--the correct pronunciation of Beckett's masterpiece.

Got Scot?
My only ticket giveaway of the year, for the Lincoln Center Macbeth. The winner, for the record, was Meaghan Monahan. (And sorry it wasn't such a hot show.)

The Book of Bobby
This post merely cued up my Denver Center Theater program piece on The Book of Mormon, returning for an encore in LDS-adjacent territory--a piece that gave me an excuse to talk to the show's nearly secret weapon, the undersung Bobby Lopez.

Filtered Water
Another cue-up post for a program piece, this one for BAM and an intriguing piece about climate change and personal atomization, Water, by the British company Filter.

Cromer's Town
Yet another cue-up: I sat down with the NY-based genius director for his hometown magazine Chicago as he prepared to play Ned Weeks in the (still-running) TimeLine revival of The Normal Heart.

"I Can Talk in a Fine Circle": Eliza Bent's Hotel Colors
In this disarming chat with my coworker at American Theatre, the multitalented Eliza Bent, she told me about how she translated her new play into English (her first language), and I confessed some squirrely moments in hostel living.

Drinking With Stew (and Heidi)
This was the first in a series of "overflow" interviews with the Negro Problem/Passing Strange folks about the state of the rock musical, and all things theatrical and musical, conducted for this American Theatre trend piece.

Mourner Has Broken
A post I felt I had to write, essentially in mourning for the person I used to be--a person who used to love Wallace Shawn's The Designated Mourner, but found its newest incarnation at the Public a stiff.

No Time Like the Present
Rounding out this baker's dozen on a positive note, this post had me waxing generous about the current generation of playwrights, against what I feel is the default hand-wringing--or worse, scolding--posture among my peers about the current state of theater and playwriting. There is indeed much cause for concern, even a case for despair, but surely I wouldn't still be at this if I felt it were entirely a lost cause--and you, whoever few you are, wouldn't still be reading it.

Here's to a brighter 2014.

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