The information

Good people of the north, Creative Minnesota needs your help. Remember that massive study on the economic impact of arts organizations that they released last year? It's time for them to make it even better, and they need your help. This time around, they're going to focus on individuals instead of organizations, which means they need as many artists as possible to fill out the Artists Count survey. Wanna have another big study that helps you brag to all your friends about how much money artists pump into the system? Then do your part to make it happen!

Great job!

The Playwrights Center has announced the latest round of McKnight Theater Artist Fellows. Congratulations to Sonya Berlovitz, Thomasina Petrous and Kimberly Richardson! They're each walking away with a $25,000 award and another $7,000 to develop their next project.

If you're wishing you could get yourself some of that green, watch for next year's round of awards. Anyone can apply. 

Congratulations are also probably in order for Steppingstone Theatre. The company has been operating without a permanent director for some time now (a job posting went up last December), and now it seems that they have found one. I say "seems," because Steppingstone hasn't seen fit to release a press statement or update their website; but some sharp-eyed superusers of LinkedIn noticed that Mark Hauck recently updated the job title on his profile to "Artistic and Executive Director - Steppingstone Theatre."

If you don't know Mark Hauck, the odds are pretty good that you've heard of at least one of his many projects. Among other things, he is a founder of The Public Theater of Minnesota, Winona's Great River Shakespeare Festival and the award-winning Bluestem Construction.

Please sing in one clear category

A few weeks ago, in the midst of a long diatribe about how I didn't want to talk about the Tony Awards while still frequently mentioning the Tony Awards, I shared a New York Times article in which their critics discussed the Tony nominations to death. Critic Charles Isherwood made some off-hand comment questioning whether Hamilton should have been nominated for Best Book, since it is almost entirely sung through, which prompted some indignation from the Dramatists Guild. (Because blowing up petty complaints seems to be one of the Guild's major missions now.)

This led Jonathan Mandell at HowlRound to ponder whether a sung-through musical is really just a fancied-up concert. I'm not sure if he comes to any conclusions other than he saw three sung-through musicals that weren't great at telling their stories (and also, Hamilton is awesome at everything).

Here at home, the Star Tribune's Graydon Royce delved into the question of the difference between opera and musical theater. It's an interesting article full of quotes from interviewees like “It is a historical definition, not a technical distinction,” and “I think the lines are a little bit arbitrary and pointless,” so, again, no real conclusion was reached (other than, of course, Hamilton is awesome at everything).

Though, this particular question is one the Guardian settled for us several years ago by asking their readers to describe the difference between opera and musicals, which netted answers like "About £50 a ticket" and "When someone starts singing after being stabbed, it's an opera."

And, let's be honest with ourselves. We all know what a musical really is: homosexual propaganda.

Begun, the Equity War has

It has been a long-simmering conflict, mostly defined the various combatants posturing and threatening to take action, but now the first shots have finally been fired. If you haven't been keeping up on the fight over the 99-Seat Plan in Los Angeles, you probably should, since the last big LA waiver wars in the 1980s were highly entertaining in a train wreck sort of way. I've been telling you about this current conflict since 2014, and finally, FINALLY, someone in the fight is actually doing something that has some consequence.

Ann Colby Stocking, an LA-based Equity actor who supports the minimum wage requirements that AEA has been trying to push through, brought a claim against one of the 99-seat houses in LA for back wages for a show performed in 2013. This isn't a lawsuit; rather, it is a complaint to the California Department of Industrial Relations. That particular agency can only judge things on a case-by-case basis, but that won't stop people from making huge, sweeping conclusions based on whether or not Stocking gets her $6,000.

There are plenty of watchers calling this the first legal test of the old 99-Seat Plan (and also insinuating that Equity is somehow behind it). The idea is that if this request is honored by a state agency, then it calls into question the legality of the old waiver agreement, at which point Equity can swoop in and say "See? It's not that we don't care what you voted for. It's the law! (Though, in truth, we actually don't care what you voted for.)"

Hopefully, this all comes to a head soon. My schadenfreude reserves have been running low lately.

Goodbyes

I know we're all supposed to be mourning Peter Shaffer right now, since he wrote Equus and Amadeus, and this is a theater column. I mean, who doesn't love nude teenagers, horse eye stabbing, and horribly ahistorical and unfair depictions of Salieri?

But, let's not go for the obvious mourning in this theater column. Instead, let's go for Muhammad Ali; because the guy was endlessly fascinating and surprising, and here's the biggest surprise I've learned about him: Ali was once in a Broadway musical. He wasn't just a walk-on or stunt cameo. The heavyweight boxing champion was the lead in the musical. That is a sentence that never made sense before Ali, and probably never will again.