Oh, de Vere

Last week on News and Notes, we were walking through all the ways that the silly Oxfordian Theory of Shakespeare is very silly. (Verdict: extremely silly.) Reader Corrie Zoll had this to say:

"Compare that Shakespeare portrait at the top of the page with Derek's profile picture at the bottom of the page. Change the hairstyle, and the resemblance is uncanny. Coincidence? Please. I think this whole discussion takes a new turn that we could study for years."

After all, how could the son of a factory worker from Pittsfield, Illinois have possibly developed an interest in the arts? How could he have received enough classical education to even know who Edward de Vere was if he didn't attend Oxford or Cambridge? How could this commoner possibly know words like "temerity", "entrolology" and "confabulation", one of which he just made up? I have compared their writings, and they both use the words "the", "and", "in" and "craptacular" in exactly the same frequencies. Look at the numerous gaps in history between de Vere's "death" in 1604 and the arrival of this Miller in Minneapolis in 2003. What happened in between then? That's almost four hundred years! Please explain these lapses in your records, you so-called "historians" and prove to me that Edward de Vere is not, in fact, the real source of Derek Lee Miller's writings. After all, we know that de Vere kept on writing Shakespeare's plays for another 12 years after de Vere died. I mean, I'm just asking questions.

Turning to local news

This week's article is mostly about the Tonys and Broadway, and, yeah, I'm just as surprised as you that I'm willingly writing about them again. (Or that Edward de Vere is willingly writing about them again. Prove me wrong. You can't!) So, to counteract that, here's a concentrated dose of local news Twin Citizens can use:

(1) Hey, speaking of Corrie Zoll… You know what company he's executive director of? Yes, In the Heart of the Beast. That company, which has lived in the old Avalon theater on Lake Street for decades, is contemplating its future with (or possibly without) the building, and they would like the community's input. If you feel you have a stake in HOTB's future you are invited to a community meeting to discuss it.

(2) Minnesota is still going crazy over Prince following his death, and the lack of leadership at Paisley Park is starting to have some weird side effects. Mixed Blood Theater was scheduled to have their annual gala fundraiser at Prince's estate, with over 1,000 guests expected to attend. Unfortunately, Bremer Trust, which was recently appointed to oversee Prince's estate, cancelled the event eight days before it was supposed to happen.

(3) The Doris Duke Awards have been doled out, and some Minneapolis-based dancers are taking home some sweet grant money. Congratulations to Aparna Ramaswamy and Morgan Thorson, who will each get $275,000.

(4) It's been a few weeks since the Guthrie announced that they are changing the way things are done in their attic theater space. This week, they announced the lineup for the first revamped season. Soon you'll be seeing local companies like zAmya Theater Project, 7th House Theater, Transatlantic Love Affair, and Mu Performing Arts, as well as a performance from the veteran's organization The Telling Project and a series highlighting emerging black playwrights, The New Griots Festival.

Hello, Tony

Last week's edition of News and Notes was released into the wild just before the 2016 Tony nominations were announced, so I was utterly ignorant of who would actually be nominated, except for the fact that Hamilton would be nominated for everything. Let's face it, though: my dogs could have predicted that, and they believe that I die every time I leave the house and am magically resurrected when I walk back in the door. But the hip hop musical about our nation's first Secretary of the Treasury did more than just get tons of Tony nominations; it got more than any other show in history.

Of course, some other shows got nominations, too. Shuffle Along, the revival that's not a revival that we discussed last week, will be competing with (and, barring some surprise event on the scale of the K-T extinction, losing to) Hamilton. But, it's an honor just to be nominated, right?

It's also an honor to win a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, which Shuffle Along just did; but theater people just want to gossip about the Tony Awards and who got snubbed by them. Some superfans were trying to raise a ruckus over Audra McDonald not being nominated for her role in Shuffle Along, but it turns out she's actually pretty cool with it. This is probably because she has won six Tony awards already and is running out of display space at home. In the meantime, all we can do is speculate about who will actually win the things that Hamilton won't. Oh god, will there be speculation. Endless amounts of speculation.

But not here, friends. Longtime followers of my reign of terror at News and Notes may have noticed some subtle clues that I don't much care for theater's allegedly most important award show. That's still mostly true, and because of that, I will take pains not to address anything Tony-related again until after the actual awards have been handed out.

However, I have softened on the Tonys (and Broadway in general) a little bit in the past year, because a sea change is occurring there. Two Tonys ago, the show that took Broadway by storm was a pastiche of old musical theater tropes that leaned so hard into nostalgia that you might have expected it to have arrived in New York by means of a Delorean. Then, last year, we had a hard turn where a very un-Broadway musical about sexuality and suicide written entirely by women came out on top (though, you didn't actually get to see those women win their awards). That could have been a fluke, and we very well could have returned to the status quo of theater looking inward, backward and whitemaleward; but this year, Broadway and the Tonys have gone whole hog for diversity (while Hollywood has gone for much less than a whole hog).

Remember Shuffle Along? (I should hope so; we just talked about it two paragraphs ago.) It may be outshone by Hamilton, but it pulled down 10 Tony nominations, beating everyone else. The two most-nominated musicals on Broadway right now exclusively feature minority performers in leading roles. (Actually, almost every role.) It doesn't stop there. Last year's whole season in New York featured an increasing number of minority performers. And this current season is more culturally diverse than any I've ever seen. (If you believe that you have seen one more diverse, please let me know.) Critic Charles McNulty calls it "A new era for theater."

But, lest you think my heart has softened too much, let me throw in the caveats at the end. That report about the increase in minority performers in New York included the non-profit and Off-Broadway houses, and literally half of the Asian-American performers employed on Broadway that year were from one production of The King and I. This is not to say that this year's increase in diversity is all for naught. Rather, it is to say that it is a good sign and a great start, and that there is still more road to travel. If you want to know what the rest of that road looks like, I would invite you to check out the hashtag #MyYellowFaceStory.

So, let's keep this going. You'll know that we've made it when you see me just absolutely gushing over the Tony nominations. Or you might think hell is freezing over. Try not to confuse the two.

Hard truths

I know you've all had that experience where you've gone to see a play that a friend is in, only to discover that it was really not very good at all. Maybe it was just a horrible production or maybe your friend completely bombed. Either way, it inevitably ends with an experience as uncomfortable as horse-hair underwear: the moment when your friend says, "What did you think?"

My advice would be to turn and run screaming into the night, cursing the wicked fates that put you in this place; but other people have other ideas. For example, The Chicago Tribune interviewed a bunch of theater people about it to get more practical and less frantic advice.

However, there is one thing that the Tribune overlooked: what if the show's entire point was to make you hate it?