The season rolls on
Last week on News and Notes I officially heralded the beginning of Season Announcing Season, that magical time of year in which theater companies start telling you what they'll be doing next year. It's time to go to your altar and light another candle to Dionysus, because the Season keeps rolling on. Say hello to Artistry's 2016-2017 season. I know that the announcements seem pretty light this week, but keep your candles at the ready. We have so many more left to go.
Receiving criticism is hard. It's difficult to hear a bad review of your work after you've poured your heart and soul into a creative endeavor, which is exactly why you should just never try and never care. Live a lonely, sheltered life severed from all human contact. That should ease the pain.
If you don't want to go full Into the Wild, then you'll just have to learn how to deal with critics. Thankfully, professional critics have mostly learned how to respond to work like thoughtful human beings with a basic level of respect for the fellow humans whose work they are evaluating (unlike a certain presidential candidate I know). In turn, performers have mostly learned how to accept measured criticism from professionals with a certain level of grace and humility (also unlike a certain presidential candidate I know).
However, all these manners and niceties go straight out the window when the unwashed masses are given the chance to just spew out any random, malicious, uninformed crap that enters their head (yes, like a certain presidential candidate).
Recently, a Broadway run of the musical Nerds, about the rivalry between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, felt the sharp sting of cancellation before it even got to previews. That's probably for the best, since there have already been many, many media depictions of these two, and the definitive portrayal of Jobs has already been committed to film by a mesmerizing actor at the top of his game. (I am speaking, of course, of Noah Wyle's powerhouse performance in Pirates of Silicon Valley.)
It's unfortunate for the people involved, but these things happen, and life will go on. That is, unless the trolls over at Broadway World's chat boards have anything to say about it. Did you know that Broadway World has a message board? I sure didn't. Did you know that it's full of slimy, hateful comments and unprovoked personal attacks? Of course you did; it's a public message board on the internet. Within hours of the cancellation of Nerds, Broadway World's board lit up with an impressive amount of bile for the show, considering that it had not actually performed for the public yet.
One of the leads of the show, Patti Murin, penned a lengthy rebuttal to the vicious opinionating, which actually prompted Broadway World to modify the policies of its message boards to discourage further antisocial behavior.
Professional actors have been cheering Murin and deriding the uninformed opinions of BWW trolls. However, Cara Joy David, writing at the Huffington Post, would like to remind you that some of the nastiest, most back-stabby things on BWW's message boards aren't from the uninformed audience, but from the industry insiders who know exactly what they're doing.
In the meantime, across the pond, a UK actor has proved that you don't need fancy computer technology to receive stupid, rambling diatribes from your audience, and you definitely don't need it to shove that criticism right back in their stupid jerk faces. Actor Laurence Fox (who is the scion of a famous theatrical family in the UK, and, unfortunately, if you Americans know him at all, it's because he's married to a Doctor's companion) was performing in The Patriotic Traitor when an audience member in the front row started heckling him and the show like it was a comedy club with an open mic night and happy hour specials.
Fox put up with it until his final speech in the show, where, still dressed as a Charles de Gaulle, he went off script and called the heckler a word that I'm sure my editor will mercilessly edit out of existence if I repeat it. Fox has since apologized for his behavior (wait, sorry, this is in Britain; that should read "Fox has since apologised for his behaviour"). Who can blame the guy, though? He's probably already on edge, considering that the UK's theaters are apparently dangerous tinderboxes.
However, everyone seems to be on his side in this one. The Guardian cheered him for taking on "disruptive cultural vandals", forgetting that swearing drunkenly at the stage is actually a proud tradition that the English were practicing in the days of Shakespeare.
Well, that was all just nasty stupidity, wasn't it? Dear readers, I know that these are tumultuous, treacherous, troubling times for you. Every other news story is telling you that the end of civilization is nie. We're worried about elections, the economy, racial injustice, guns, war and whatever virus we're freaking out about this month. Even worse, there will no longer be an internet cat video festival. There are just so many problems.
Maybe it's the nice change in the weather. Maybe it's because I haven't been drinking. But, let me break from my normal mode of flippant cynicism to tell you something you all need to hear: everything is going to be OK. I could list off all the reasons why we're all incredibly lucky, historically speaking, to be living at this particular time in human history: mankind's amazing advancements in medicine, our continuing worldwide climb out of poverty, the incredibly empowering force of the internet's connectivity, our advances in human rights, the precipitous decline in violent deaths in the last century, the unfathomable leaps in technology that we've achieved even just in my lifetime… but this is a theater column, so I'll have to approach the good news from a theater angle. It's not quite as big in scope as I would like to convey to you, but sometimes you just have to pander to your audience.
To that end, here's a list of actual good things from the performance world to brighten your day:
(1) Do you want more women to have power and representation in theater? Here's a list of female creators you should be watching for in the future, selected by a list of female creators you should be watching right now.
(2) Do you view big behemoth institutions like the Kennedy Center as being elitist playgrounds for the rich that are out of touch with current culture, minorities and youth? The old KC has appointed former A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip as its first Artistic Director of Hip Hop Culture.
(3) Speaking of diversity, did you know that Broadway is entering a new golden age? And it's thanks in big part to diversity and inclusivity and the creation and innovation that comes when you bring new people to the board.
(4) Yes, it also has something to do with Hamilton, and, holy crap, it's helping young people to start liking musicals again. Teachers are using the musical and its methods to teach actual history.
(5) After years of decline in professional criticism, a major American newspaper is actually hiring a new critic. Have you ever wanted to move to San Francisco and review theater? Now's your chance.
(6) Remember what I said earlier about incredible advancements in medicine and technology? Right at this very moment, there is a paralyzed actor now able to perform as Richard III thanks to a robotic exoskeleton. Let me repeat: Robot. Exoskeleton. Richard III. We are officially in the future.
See? It really is a pretty cool world we live in. Tune in next week to see how I mercilessly tear apart all of the goodwill and joy I have instilled in you, for I am truly a monster.
Hey, you! You wanna get involved in something bigger than yourself that's not a cult? I have some options for you this week. This Wednesday, the Film Society of Minneapolis is hosting a film maker's meet up in preparation for the next Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. This Thursday is Arts Advocacy Day at the state capitol, in which you can help us impress upon our state legislature how little they should be trying to pry away state arts funding.
See? You have plenty of other options of what to do with your life other than getting audited for engrams.