Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Theatre Week in Review: April 5, 2013

A sampling of theatre news, reviews and humor for the week: on Broadway & beyond


Olivier Award nominations
were announced last week (my bad). Up for MasterCard Best New Play — yep, MasterCard Best New Play (classy, Olivier) — are:

Constellations by Nick Payne
The Audience by Peter Morgan
This House by James Graham
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time adapted by Simon Stephens

And as with any awards, there are multiple problems with the Oliviers.

Producer Ken Davenport wants to wage war on the Broadway discount sites. “How can I help?!” asked no working artist/middle class tourist ever.

New study finds that Shakespeare was a tax-evading food hoarder. File this, along with Did He Or Didn’t He Write All Those Plays, under I Don’t Give a F*ck.

Once again, a theatre in the regions is denied licensing because of (Off)Broadway run: Playwright Aaron Posner, producers and the rights organization, Dramatists Play Service, decline to explain why Jewish Repertory Theatre of Western New York (Buffalo) was denied rights, last minute, to produce My Name is Asher Lev. JRT pluckily switches plays, coming out the easy winner in this scenario.

Rob Weinert-Kendt, cultivating a criticism series for HowlRound, on what it means to feel the pull of the “critical calling”:

I refer to the grittier, less exalted ways in which theater critics are as much like theater artists as to be indistinguishable as a class: the meager pay, the struggle for recognition, the dwindling audiences and disproportionate power of a few make-or-break gatekeepers, the sense in which one is stuck with a habit as hard to shake as it is difficult to explain to outsiders, who tend to imagine what you do as either glamorous fun or corrupt, frivolous nonsense, but never honest work.

Stephen Sondheim will receive the 54th annual Edward MacDowell Medal for lifetime achievement in the arts. Though I could’ve sworn he had this, and every other, award already, Sondheim will be the first artist from musical theatre to receive the award.

Two gentlemen at Humana Festival debate whether or not you should read a play before seeing it. This isn’t Finnegan’s Wake, guys. The answer should be clear.

“There is a layer of women administrators, producers and directors who are bolder and braver than any of those male chief executives,” says Judith Dimant of Complicite, in response to Vanessa Thorpe’s complaint, in the Guardian, that it’s a man’s world in the arts.


Gummer and Walker

And now for the gossip: Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep, and Benjamin Walker, wearer of one lucky towel in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, have split. Who else thinks this was Scar-Jo’s doing?

The Guardian asks: Do play titles matter?

5 Ways to improve open submissions for all of us: But does only accepting a certain number of submissions each year really improve the quality of theatre?

Condola Rashad to play Juliet; Paul Giamatti to play Hamlet. The former makes me go ‘hmm.’ The latter makes me go ‘eww.’ (Mature, I know.)


8 comments on “Theatre Week in Review: April 5, 2013

  1. Why ask whether limiting submissions improves quality? Seems very misleading.


    • Julie
      April 5, 2013

      You’re absolutely right: that was poorly articulated. What I wished to imply in a very concise manner was that narrowing the window of time to submit, or the number of submissions, may help the playwrights to focus their energies better, but it doesn’t necessarily help smaller companies discover the quality/type of plays they’re looking for. Speaking as an ex-literary manager of a fledgling company who struggled to get submissions of a certain quality/aesthetic, narrowing the field would, I fear, have hindered rather than helped, my company. (And I was a lit mgr who read and responded to each and every submission, encouraging those who I felt had promise to resubmit in the future). You touched on this in your post, but if “Playwright X might have written the Next Great Play,” that’s not something that a new, small company that needs to connect with such playwrights in order to grow, can risk.


      • Gwydion Suilebhan
        April 5, 2013

        Thanks for the clarification.

        I think the fact that you were able to respond to every submission means that the suggestions in Donna’s piece (Donna Hoke was the author, BTW, not me) weren’t for you. 🙂


        • Julie
          April 5, 2013

          Thanks for your clarification and comments, Gwydion!


      • Donna Hoke
        April 5, 2013

        If you read and responded to every play then you are a rarity and I thank you. And if you did, then narrowing submissions either by window or count wouldn’t be necessary for you. Narrowing would, however, be helpful to the myriad companies who openly admit they get far more plays than they can possibly read. It might not be the perfect solution, but it seems the only perfect solution is a literary staff large enough or motivated enough to read and respond to every submission. Or #5: closing open submissions completely.


        • Julie
          April 5, 2013

          Hi Donna, thanks for your comment. It’s true because we were smaller company, the staff was not only smaller, but so was the number of submission (though it often didn’t feel like it!), so yes, it was much more reasonable for me to get through everything throughout the course of the year. Thanks for the clarification on that.

          Out of curiosity, how do you feel about theatres employing — I use this term loosely because payment is often not involved — non-staff ‘readers’ to go through the first round (and often, the first few rounds) of submissions?


  2. Donna Hoke
    April 5, 2013

    I think there is potential in that, particularly if the readers are screened and then trained to a certain degree. We can probably agree that a regular/knowledgeable theatergoer of intelligence can probably spot a bad play pretty easily, or at the very least be trained to spot one. At the highly respected Inkwell, they do this but also offer the check/balance of having three to seven readers read each play so that no one person’s bias or particularly-bad-day or lack of resonance affects the future of any given play.


    • Julie
      April 5, 2013

      Agreed. I’ve been a reader for several orgs, some of which have been very explicit about what they wanted me to look for whilst reading, and others which just let me have at it. The latter’s process was — to me — obviously unsuccessful based on shows that were ultimately chosen. It just goes to show that you have to have a solid mission and process that you can clearly explain to anyone who may want to submit, or who will be reading those submissions.

      Thanks for your thoughts!


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