This has all happened before and will happen again
This week, News and Notes has fallen into a time vortex. It seems that everything I found worth talking about this time around connects directly back to something we've already talked about in the past. I don't mean simple things, like how last week we talked a bit about the demise of the Sound Design category in a certain award show, and this week Playbill interviews the guy that helped get a Sound Design category into that award show in the first place. No, I'm talking some serious history-repeating-itself stuff, with every spur of every thread winding its way back into another News and Notes article from the past, time folding in on itself steadily, the great Ouroboros devouring its own tail.
Example number one: I took a spin through the major newspapers across the country this week, as I often do when I'm sick of receiving stories that link me back to New York Times articles about Broadway shows. It's nice to see what idiosyncratic things the theater scenes in other cities have fallen into. (For example, Los Angeles is awash in immersive theater shows. There's even one that sends vaguely threatening letters to your house!) Over at the Chicago Tribune, Chris Jones traces the explosion of parody shows in the Chicago market. He goes deep into the judicial precedents that have made it very easy to legally do fluffy pointless parodies of established works, but not so easy to claim Fair Use for pointed satire or commentary, and, holy crap, we were just talking about this back in February in the controversy around That'swhatshesaid.
(Speaking of That'swhatshesaid, I was trying to keep up on that story, but it seems to have fallen into a news void. The only new things I've been able to find is that Seattle's The Stranger nominated the show for their genius awards via cupcakes.)
So that's the kind of thing you're in for this week. Every single entry winds its way back to a previous News and Notes article. Recursion? You're soaking in it.
The space quest continues
We've been talking a lot about the sudden bloom of new small theater spaces in the Twin Cities. We've also talked about what a pain in the ass trying to get and hold onto a space is. So, here's that again:
Patrick's Cabaret recently lost their performance space, right on the eve of their 30th anniversary, an anniversary gift only slightly worse than some of the anniversary gifts suggested by Hallmark. (You're supposed to give your loved one a clock for your first anniversary? What does that symbolize? The inexorable, monotonous drudge of time that will be your relationship?) Fortunately, Patrick's has a new home! Well, they have a new office. You're still going to be waiting a while before they get a new performance space of their own.
Remember when I said getting and keeping a space is a pain in the ass? Ask the folks at Open Window Theatre. They have been renting part of a former industrial building near downtown Minneapolis since 2011 as their performance space. According to a statement on their website and a letter to their landlords, said landlords never completed the proper inspections, property updates and licensing to allow them to legally rent the space out for its current use. For their last production, Open Window was forced to shell out $6,000 to the city to obtain its own temporary use permits for the space, and have decided to postpone the last show of their current season.
Speculation as news
On the normal internet, I have learned to avoid those websites and articles that grab on to tiny shreds of information about upcoming movies, books and TV shows and spin entire question-marked-filled speculative articles out of the aether. (Look, I'm excited about the Dark Tower movie, too, guys, but one tweet from Stephen King doesn't need an exhaustive analysis). Unfortunately, I still have to read endless speculation in theater, just in case any news drips out.
I've written before about the neat journalistic trick of putting a question mark at the end of your article's title to absolve yourself of journalistic integrity. In a recent News and Notes we also talked about rumors that CTC's Diary of a Wimpy Kid might be headed for Broadway. Let's put those two things together, with a Pioneer Press article titled, Where will Children’s Theatre’s popular ‘Wimpy Kid’ go next?".
That article is mostly made up of quotes from one of the show's producers, Kevin McCollum, and, reading between the lines, you can tell he's already sick of being asked this question:
“I’ve been producing shows for way too long. Close to 30 years now. And everyone always wants to know: Is it going to Broadway? Broadway is 42 theaters in a 10-block radius in New York. It’s a great place to watch musical storytelling. But we’ve had shows Off-Broadway, like ‘Avenue Q’ (which was on Broadway before and after its Off-Broadway run), and regionally. There are production houses throughout the nation, throughout the world…"
But, this isn't just the local paper hyping up the hometown boys. The New York Times got into the Wimpy Kid speculation game as well by picking up an article from our local critic Dominic Papatola (or "D-Pap", as nobody currently calls him, but they really should). The NYT is too high minded to go in for the question mark dodge, but, once again, after paragraphs of speculation, the article admits, "Still, no plans for a New York transfer have been announced, and the commercial producers, who put money into the Children’s Theater production, have not yet reached out to Broadway theater owners."
Still Shakespeare after all these years
Yep. Shakespeare. Still happening.
If you don't know my stance on the endless coverage of Bill in this 400th year since he died, then get ready to be reminded.
Erica Whyman, the Deputy Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Globe Theatre, and Emma Rice, the newly-minted Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre probably have more say on how "Shakespeare should be done" than any other two women on the planet. They can lead the conversation on Bill's work just about any place they want to, so what conversation are they currently leading?
It's the deathless debate on whether it's OK to cut, change or update Billy's words. Whyman is firmly in the "Never cut!" camp and it just makes her "furious" when people do it (except, you know, when she makes cuts). Rice, on the other hand, thinks it's totally fine to cut, condense and update the language, seeing as how 400 years has passed, and English has significantly changed since then.
Rice has been upfront with her opinions about Shakespeare's inaccessibility. Her argument is that the language barrier often gets in the way of people actually enjoying it:
"I actually want a bit of bawdiness and audience participation. That’s the reason why theatre still exists. It has got to stay live. I call it the temporary community – it only happens that night for that one group of people. So my mission is to ensure it never gets stuffy. I never want to see a school party of kids messing about because they don’t know what’s happening."
I guess you know who's side I'm on. That's right: neither. There's a lot of cool new stuff going on right now, so I'm less than concerned as to what people want to do with centuries-old plays. I just want to see this fight escalate into a full-blown confrontation between the two major seats of Shakespeare's power. This could be a heavy-hitting schism with historical fallout, like a new Orthodox-Catholic split. Wouldn't that be fun to sit back and watch?
Trumping your way through life
Yes, this year it all comes back to Trump. Again and again and again and again. It's starting to feel like an ironic wish fulfillment from a cursed monkey paw, as wished by a stoned political science major ("Dude! I wish Donald Trump would run for President. That would be hilarious!" *creak of leathery finger bending* "Now I wish I had, like, six pounds of chicken wings!" *creeeeaaak* "Dominos delivery!")
We've spoken of the Donald's connection to the theater before, but nobody has done it more brilliantly than LA Times critic Charles McNulty, whose recent column finds antecedents to Trump's fake populism in Shakespeare's Roman plays. It's a really interesting analysis, so I think you should just read it instead of having me summarize for you. Here's a teaser, comparing Antony from Julius Caesar to Trump:
"Antony claims he’s 'no orator, as Brutus is,' just 'a plain blunt man.' No doubt the kind of guy ordinary Romans would enjoy having a glass of vino with. But Shakespeare allows us to see through this aristocrat's pose of solidarity with the common people. When Trump said in his victory speech in Nevada, 'I love the poorly educated,' he was expressing the same sentiment Antony was no doubt muttering to himself as the mob drove Brutus and Cassius out of the city gates. What Trump loves, of course, is the effectiveness with which his populist message does his dirty work for him."
Or, I suppose you could to MacBeth Trump 2016 if you just want to find out how to make Scotland great again.