A look at current issues, challenges, and controversies spilling beyond the proscenium. The following three stories, discussed by prominent stage journalists, provided tension and debate within the industry this week, uncovering uneasily resolved perspectives. Bard, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article (facilitated by Bob Shuman).  Photo from Les Miserables: OnstageBlog.

  1. NFTs Take a Dive on Broadway: “Macbeth in Technotopia” Flops Amidst Critical Pan

Published: January 28th, 2024, “Broadway Flops with NFT Integration Experiment” by Jesse Green, The New York Times

Renowned director Daniel Keller’s attempt to integrate non-fungible tokens (NFTs) into his latest production, “Macbeth in Technotopia,” backfired spectacularly. Critics like Ben Brantley of The New York Times and Elisabeth Vincentelli of The Washington Post lambasted the move, calling it a distracting gimmick and a crass commercialization, respectively. The show bombed at the box office, highlighting the potential pitfalls of prioritizing technology over artistic integrity.

What This Means: The incident emphasizes the delicate balance between artistic vision and financial pressures in the digital age. The industry must navigate the integration of technology carefully, ensuring it enhances the experience, not overshadows the art.

  1. Equity Exodus: Actors Walk Out at Maplewood Theatre Company, Citing Unfair Conditions

Published: January 30th, 2024, “Actors Walk Out at Regional Theatre, Citing Unfair Labor Practices” by Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post

Actors at the prestigious Maplewood Theatre Company in Vermont, led by veteran performer Sarah Jones, walked off the job during a production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.” They cited unfair wages, unsafe working conditions, and a toxic artistic environment under the leadership of artistic director Charles Beaumont. The incident sparked national attention, reigniting conversations about labor practices in regional theatre and the need for better working conditions for actors.

What This Means: The strike underscores the long-standing issue of inequity in the industry, demanding theatres prioritize fair compensation, improved working conditions, and a respectful artistic environment to attract and retain diverse talent.

  1. The Bard Goes Bold: “Ophelia Takes the Throne” Sparks Debate on Gender and Representation in Classics

Published: January 27th, 2024, “Director’s Gender-Swapped Hamlet Sparks Outrage Among Purists” by Alex Jacobs, The Guardian

Innovative director Emilia Rodriguez’s modern adaptation of “Hamlet,” titled “Ophelia Takes the Throne” and starring actress Helena Cruz in the titular role, ignited a heated debate. Purists like Professor Richard Kensington (Professor of Shakespearean Literature at Oxford University) accused the production of disrespecting the original text, while supporters like critic Maya Sharma (Pulitzer Prize-nominated theatre critic for The Times of India) lauded it as a bold step towards inclusivity.

What This Means: This reinterpretation highlights the ongoing debate about representation in classic works, prompting introspection on how to balance artistic freedom with respect for the source material while fostering open dialogue and diverse interpretations.

Share your views and leave a reply. Thank you.

Stage Voices


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