Category Archives: Current Affairs


(Schulman’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 4/15/2024; Photograph by Robert Wright / Redux.)

The Tony-winning playwright’s dark, antic satire were many people’s gateway to theatre.  I was one of those people.

It’s one thing to make nuns funny. It’s another to have a nun cheerily explain the difference between mortal and venial sin, unveil her list of who’s slated for Hell (Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mick Jagger), brandish a gun and shoot two people dead (“I think Christ will allow me this little dispensation from the letter of the law, but I’ll go to confession later today, just to be sure”), and take a bow. But that, roughly, is the plot of Christopher Durang’s short, nutty, blasphemous play “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You,” which materialized Off Off Broadway in 1979 and became his breakout hit. The Catholic League was not amused.Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Durang’s plays—madcap, savage, disturbed—mix absurdism and melancholy, refracting the funny terror of existence. As a lapsed Catholic who was educated by Benedictine monks, he knew that life is full of platitudes tested by the cruel, crazed world. There was real damage in his work, which melded genre parodies (Beckett, sitcoms, Busby Berkeley) with a kooky stream-of-consciousness logic that lifted his characters aloft like helium. “[P]art of the randomness of things is that there is no one to blame,” one of Sister Mary’s traumatized former students says. “But basically I think everything is your fault, Sister.”

For the young and stagestruck, Durang was a gateway drug to dark comedy, and often to theatre itself. After he died, this month, at the age of seventy-five, my social-media feeds brimmed with tributes, from people who had acted in “The Actor’s Nightmare” in high school or directed “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” in college or done a “Sister Mary Ignatius” monologue in Speech and Debate. (The Catholic League is still not amused.) Because his plays had one foot in “Saturday Night Live” and another in Ionesco, he was accessible to young people who loved getting laughs, while offering something weirder and harder-edged than they might have encountered elsewhere. I was one of those people. The first time I saw his work, I was fourteen, and my older cousin was directing his play “Beyond Therapy,” a farce about shrinks, at Wesleyan. Not long after, my drama teacher assigned me a monologue from “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls,” Durang’s satire of “The Glass Menagerie.” I hadn’t read “The Glass Menagerie,” but the speech—a goofy, heartfelt sendup of Tom’s “I didn’t go to the moon” soliloquy—beckoned me into a world of winking theatrical references. Durang became one of my comedy heroes, alongside such stage absurdists as Tom Stoppard and John Guare.

My senior year of high school, in 1999, I directed my friends in Durang’s play “Baby with the Bathwater,” in which two parents, Helen and John, cooing over a bassinet, desperately try not to fuck up their newborn child—and fail utterly. Helen chides John for calling the baby “Daddy’s little baked potato,” lest the baby confuse itself with food. John dulls himself with quaaludes and sleeps with the nanny. In Act II, the child, now a young man named Daisy—his parents took a guess at his gender and guessed wrong—has grown into a dysfunctional, self-destructive mess, too sex-addicted and depressed to finish a college paper. “I didn’t ask to be brought into the world,” he rants to a psychiatrist. “If they didn’t know how to raise a child, they should have gotten a dog; or a kitten—they’re more independent—or a gerbil! But left me unborn.” The gerbil is funny; the pain is real.

That same year, I went to see Durang’s newest work, “Betty’s Summer Vacation,” at Playwrights Horizons. The play is set at a beach house inhabited by a group of wacky vacationers. A mysterious laugh track hovers around them, as if they’re characters in a sitcom, though the events soon descend into violent mayhem: rape, dismemberment, murder. All of a sudden, three laughing spectators burst through the ceiling, demanding entertainment. “Make us laugh,” they bellow in unison. “Gross us out. Tell us the latest news of Gwyneth Paltrow. Show us naked pictures of Brad Pitt!” After the voices call for a Court TV-style trial, the daffy matron Mrs. Siezmagraff enacts an entire courtroom scene, playing multiple characters, including a nonexistent Irish housekeeper. It was a tour de force for the actress Kristine Nielsen, and one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on a stage.

In college, I directed my own production of “Betty’s Summer Vacation,” and somehow got hold of Durang’s e-mail so I could invite him. A few days later, he responded, apologizing that he couldn’t make it. “I hope the play has gone well, and has stimulated but not horrified the audience—which is part of the balancing act needed, I guess,” he wrote. Not knowing the first thing about literary rights, I proudly told him that we’d updated some of the celebrity references, subbing in Justin Timberlake for Tom Cruise. (Note to student directors: don’t do this!) “I have to show my age and say I didn’t know who Justin Timberlake was,” Durang graciously replied. “I hope Gwyneth Paltrow still seemed germane; the sound of her name is amusing to say in unison.” At the time, Durang was the co-chair (with Marsha Norman) of Juilliard’s playwriting program, where he would shepherd generations of talents, including Joshua Harmon (“Bad Jews”) and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (“Appropriate”). But I was starstruck to have my own little encounter with the master.

(Read more)


The past week on the international stage, innovative productions and captivating performances continue to grab the spotlight. Here are 6 highlights for the theatre aficionado:


Source: The Guardian, April 10, 2024, by Michael Billington

The Story: London’s National Theatre launches a new season, “Global Voices,” featuring a diverse range of international productions. Audiences can expect a thrilling mix of established and emerging playwrights, exploring themes of social justice, cultural identity, and the human condition. Some of the exciting shows include:

  • “The Flood” by Buenos Aires playwright Sofia Alvarez:A magical realist drama set in a dystopian future where rising sea levels threaten a coastal community.
  • “Antigone in Soweto” by South African writer Thembi Mtshali:A powerful reimagining of Sophocles’ classic tragedy set against the backdrop of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.
  • “Paper Promises” by rising star Indian playwright Jayaprakash Menon:A darkly comic satire that explores the growing influence of multinational corporations in the developing world.

Playing At: National Theatre, London (Season runs April – June)


Source: Chicago Tribune, April 12, 2024, by Chris Jones

The Story: A highly anticipated world premiere, “Red Brick Walls,” tackles America’s fraught racial history. Playwright Ruben Santiago Hudson’s searing drama unfolds on a college campus, where a Black professor and a white student clash over a controversial tenure case.

Playing At: Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago


Source: Le Monde, April 8, 2024, by Camille Laurens

The Story: A revival of interest in mime sweeps the Parisian theatre scene. Acclaimed mime artist Etienne Decroux’s company performs his classic pieces alongside innovative works by new generation artists. The movement-based productions explore themes of human emotions and the power of physical storytelling.

Playing At: Various theatres in Paris


Source: Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2024, by Charles McNulty

The Story: Eighteen-year-old prodigy, Maya Hernandez, takes LA by storm with her debut play, “Sunset Boulevard Dreams.” This coming-of-age story set in the heart of Hollywood resonates with audiences, capturing the struggles and aspirations of young artists.

Playing At: Theatre Alliance, Los Angeles


Source: The New York Times, April 7, 2024, by Ben Brantley

The Story: A powerful South African drama, “The Wound,” arrives Off-Broadway. Written by and starring Khayalethu Khoza, the play delves into the brutal world of initiation rituals amongst Zulu men. Brantley commends Khoza’s “raw performance” and the play’s unflinching portrayal of a complex cultural tradition.

Playing At: Playwrights Horizons, New York (Limited run, April 2 – 28)


Source: The Times (UK), April 14, 2024, by Sarah Hemmings

The Story: The annual Warsaw International Theatre Festival highlights the work of female directors. This year’s edition features productions from across Europe and beyond, showcasing diverse perspectives and innovative approaches to staging. Some of the directors and their works include:

  • Nadia Hussain (Pakistan):Presents her acclaimed adaptation of “The Jungle Book,” reimagining Kipling’s classic through a feminist lens.
  • Miriam Rodriguez (Spain):Stages a contemporary take on Federico García Lorca’s “Yerma,” exploring themes of female desire and societal expectations.
  • Jasmina Reza (France):Directs the European premiere of her latest play, “Conversations with a Cat,” a witty and poignant exploration of human relationships.

Playing At: Various theatres in Warsaw, Poland (Festival runs April 5 – 20)

Remember, this is just a glimpse into the international theatre scene. Keep exploring and discovering new voices that will inspire and challenge you!


(Lanre Bakare’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/14; Photo of Nicole Scherzinger, from True Story.)

Jamie Lloyd’s revival takes home seven awards including for Nicole Scherzinger but film and TV stars in other productions miss out

Jamie Lloyd’s bombastic reimagining of Sunset Boulevard starring Nicole Scherzinger was the standout show at this year’s Olivier awards, with seven wins on an evening when productions with celebrity talent were often overlooked.

The Savoy theatre adaptation of Billy Wilder’s classic 1950 film about the dark side of the Hollywood dream took home best actor in a musical for Tom Francis and best actress in a musical for Scherzinger. Lloyd – described as creating “a stupendous sense of reinvention” by the Guardian – won best director.

(Read more


Noël Coward award for best new entertainment or comedy play
Stranger Things: The First Shadow by Kate Trefry at the Phoenix theatre

Best family show
Dinosaur World Live by Derek Bond at Regent’s Park Open Air theatre

Gillian Lynne award for best theatre choreographer
Arlene Phillips with James Cousins for Guys and Dolls at the Bridge theatre

Best costume design
Marg Horwell for The Picture of Dorian Gray at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Best revival
Vanya by Anton Chekhov, adapted by Simon Stephens at the Duke of York’s theatre

Best musical revival
Sunset Boulevard, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics and book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton at the Savoy theatre

Best sound design
Adam Fisher for Sunset Boulevard at the Savoy theatre

Outstanding musical contribution
Alan Williams for musical supervision and musical direction for Sunset Boulevard at the Savoy theatre

Best actor in a supporting role
Will Close for Dear England at the National theatre – Olivier and Prince Edward theatre

Best actress in a supporting role
Haydn Gwynne for When Winston Went to War With the Wireless at the Donmar Warehouse

Best set design
Miriam Buether for set design and 59 Productions for video design for Stranger Things: The First Shadow at the Phoenix theatre

Best lighting design
Jack Knowles for Sunset Boulevard at the Savoy theatre

Best actress in a supporting role in a musical
Amy Trigg for The Little Big Things at @sohoplace

Best actor in a supporting role in a musical
Jak Malone for Operation Mincemeat at the Fortune theatre

Best new opera production
Innocence by the Royal Opera at the Royal Opera House

(Read more)


OFF-oFF THE (4th) WALL:  NEW SHOWS ANNOUNCED, 4/8–4/14, 2024 ·

Discovering the vibrant landscape of Off and Off-Off Broadway reveals a tapestry of diverse narratives and artistic innovations that defy conventional norms. Here’s a glimpse into the upcoming performances that promise to captivate audiences with their unique storytelling and creative prowess.

Off and Off-Off Broadway Shows

  1. Scarlett Dreams (Drama) blends reality and fantasy when a VR fitness app transports a woman into a mysterious virtual world. Previews began April 6 with Opening Night set for April 15 at Greenwich House Theater (27 Barrow St, New York, NY). Written and Directed by S. Asher Gelman, the cast features Brittany Bellizeare, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Caroline Lellouche, and Boris Anthony York.–Jim Byk/Shane Marshall Brown/Nina Marie Ward
  2. Winesday: The Wine Tasting Musical (Musical, Comedy) opens May 8 at The Jerry Orbach Theater at The Theater Center (216 W 42nd St, New York, NY). A hilarious look at a group of women who use a book club or yoga class as an excuse to indulge in wine and share their lives. Each scene is paired with a wine tasting for the audience. Book & Lyrics by Jenne Wason, Music by Joseph Benoit, Directed by Jamibeth Margolis, Musical Director Alec Bart. Starring Dawn Cantwell, Jennifer Diamond, Debra Thais Evans, Shannen Hofheimer, and Amanda Lea Lavergne–Joe Trentacosta
  3. Lighthouse Series at SoHo Playhouse (April 18 – May 5) (230 Thompson St, New York, NY) This competition showcases new works by NYC up-and-coming talents. Each night features a group of short plays. Winners move on to the next round and an overall winner is chosen for a full production in 2025. Visit for the full lineup.–David Gibbs
  1. Awkward Teenage Years (Comedy Storytelling) FRIGID New York and Pale Girl Productions (Will Clegg and Grant Bowen, producers) bring you a night of hilarious true stories about the agonies and triumphs of adolescence. Storytellers share their experiences with first loves, academic struggles, finding your tribe, and navigating the awkward journey of growing up. Hosted by Will Clegg, this month’s lineup features Adam Selbst, David Hu, Hamdan Azhar, Bailey Swilley, and more. Catch it on Wednesday, May 1st at 7:30 PM at UNDER St. Marks (94 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009). Tickets are $15 and available online at –Emily Owens
  2. Redemption Story (Drama) The Associates Theater Ensemble presents a new drama by Peregrine Teng Heard, directed by Sarah Blush. Set in a 1971 Los Angeles diner, Redemption Story explores themes of alienation, complicated family dynamics, and self-discovery. Connie Lee, a faded actress haunted by past mistakes, is forced to confront them when a young man enters the diner. Redemption Story runs May 4-19 at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019). Press performances are Saturday, May 4 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, May 5 at 7:30 PM, with opening night on Monday, May 6 at 7:30 PM. The show runs approximately 100 minutes with no intermission.–Emily Owens
  3. In the Common Hour (Abstract, Phantasmagoric Multimedia Performance Piece) The New Stage Theatre Company (NTSC) presents “In the Common Hour,” an abstract and phantasmagoric multimedia performance piece conceived and directed by Ildiko Nemeth from an original text by Marie Glancy O’Shea, developed in collaboration with the ensemble. Inspired by Italo Calvino’s Crossed Destinies series, the play explores the unspoken anxieties and desires of a group of travelers stranded at a Route 66 motel. Known for their bold visuals and dark humor, NTSC promises a unique theatrical experience. “In the Common Hour” runs April 19 to May 4 at New Stage Performance Space (36 W. 106th Street).—Jonathan Slaff

Note: While not technically Off-Off Broadway, the new musical Guns & Powder is also worth mentioning.

7. Guns & Powder (Musical)

Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee – Producing Artistic Director; Michael Stotts – Executive Director) brings you a brand new musical based on the incredible true story of African American twin sisters, Mary and Martha Clarke.

Disguised as white men in the unforgiving landscape of the 1890s Texas Wild West, Mary and Martha embark on a daring adventure to save their family’s home. Their journey confronts them with complex issues of race, the enduring strength of family bonds, and the pursuit of self-discovery.  Runs April 4 – May 5, 2024 at Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, New Jersey). Opening Night: April 14.–Emily Owens

Be part of Off and Off-off’s vibrant landscape!

(Gemini, Perplexity, and Chat GPT provided writing for this article.)


Something’s coming, something good . . .

On Broadway:

Lempicka (Play): Opens Sunday, April 14th at the Golden Theatre. This captivating play by Elaine May explores the life and art of Tamara de Lempicka, a Polish Art Deco painter known for her bold portraits and flamboyant lifestyle. Directed by Michael Blakemore.1


Still (Play): This new play by Lia Romeo, which follows a former couple rekindling an old flame, opens April 18th at DR2 Theatre. The production stars Jayne Atkinson and Tim Daly, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt.1

Scarlett Dreams (Play): Playwright S. Asher Gelman’s new work explores the lines between reality and the virtual world, opening April 15th at The Linda Gross Theater. The cast features Brittany Bellizeare, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Caroline Lellouche, and Borris Anthony York.1

Fabulation, OR, THE RE-EDUCATION OF UNDINE (Play): This comedic social satire by Lynn Nottage opens April 18th at The Billie Holiday Theatre. Felicia Curry takes on the lead role of Undine Barnes Calles, directed by Martavius Parrish.1

Perfect Crime: This long-running thriller returns Off-Broadway on April 25th at The Theater Center.

The Twenty-Sided Tavern (Play): This new fantasy adventure play by playwright R.A. King opens April 14th at The Playroom at 151.1

Looking Ahead to Broadway:  The Tony Awards are due to be held on June 16th, 2024, so expect a buzz around shows vying for nominations. It’s also common for new productions to open in the lead-up to the ceremony. While official announcements haven’t been made yet, keep an eye out for exciting debuts around the second week of June.

(written with Gemini and Perplexity.)


(via Emily Owens)

The 11th annual In Scena! Italian Theater Festival, NYC’s premiere festival of Italian theater taking place in all five boroughs of NYC, April 29-May 13. Performances will take place at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ at NYU (24 West 12th Street New York, NY 10011-8604), Casa Belvedere (79 Howard Ave, Staten Island, NY 10301), Culture Lab LIC (5-25 46th Ave, Queens, NY 11101), Center For Italian Modern Art (421 Broome St 4th floor, New York, NY 10013), The Brick Aux (628 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211), The Atelier at Theaterlab (357 W 36th St. 4th floor, New York, NY 10018), BAAD (2474 Westchester Ave, Bronx, NY 10461), NOoSPHERE Arts (520 Kingsland Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222), and Playwrights Downtown (440 Lafayette St 4th floor, New York, NY 10003). 

All shows will be performed in Italian with projected English supertitles.



Written & Performed by Beppe Allocca

Directed by Beppe Allocca and Roberta Provenzani

An exhilarating storytelling that through biblical stories, fashion writers and artisans tells the origins of the rag-pickers (cenciaioli), the artisans from Prato (Tuscany) who have been recycling used clothing since 1850.  

Tue 4/30 at 7pm @ Casa Belvedere, Sun 5/5 at 7:30pm @ Culture Lab LIC & Fri 5/10 at 8pm @ Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo Running Time: 65 min



Written by Luana Rondinelli, Directed by Giovanni Carta

Performed by Luana Rondinelli and I Musicanti (Gregorio Caimi – chitarra, Enzo Toscano – violoncello, Debora Messina – singer)

Produced by I Musicanti

The compelling human and judicial story of Francesca Serio, the first woman to denounce the mafia and mother of Salvatore Carnevale, the trade unionist barbarously killed by the mafia on May 16, 1955. 

Wed 5/1 at 7pm @ Center for Italian Modern Art & Fri 5/3 at 8pm @ Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ at NYU Running Time: 73 min



Adapted from the original play by Eduardo De Filippo and directed by Rosario Sparno

Performed by Luca Iervolino, Antonella Romano & Rosario Sparno

Costumes by Alessandra Gaudioso, Magic Tricks Coach Massimiliano Foà

Produced by Casa del Contemporaneo

“Everything that happens before your eyes is just an illusion” On the 40th anniversary of one of the most important Italian playwrights Eduardo De Filippo’s death, Rosario Sparno presents his own adaptation for only three actors of “The Great Magic”, the 1948 wonderful play by De Filippo about theatrical illusion and obsessional delusion. 

Thu 5/2 at 7pm @ Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ at NYU & Sat 5/4 at 7:30pm @ Culture Lab LIC Running time: 66 min



Written & Performed by Monica Faggiani

Using the Stand-up style, the protagonist tells her story and her challenges as a feminist and as a mother of a teenage son. 

Sat 4/27 at Villa Charities in Toronto, Fri 5/3 at 6pm @ Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ at NYU & Sat 5/4 at 2pm @ The Brick Aux Running Time: 70 min



Written & Directed by Salvatore Arena and Massimo Barilla

Performed by Salvatore Arena

Set Design by Aldo Zucco, Original Music by Luigi Polimeni

Lighting Design by Stefano Barbagallo

Historical Consultants Giuseppe Gullotta & Nicola Biondo

Produced by Mana Chuma Teatro 

At the age of 18, Giuseppe Gulotta is forced to confess to the murder of two policemen in a small barracks in Alcamo. The crime hides an unspeakable mystery: statesmen who deal with neo-fascist groups, arms trafficking and drugs. In order to cover up the silence, any scapegoat would do. Through the “human” story of Giuseppe (but also those of Salvatore and Carmine – the other designated scapegoats) the play attempts to give justice to its personal dimension, that of a life nearly entirely taken away for dreadful reasons. The performance is the last chapter of the quadrilogy A Sud della Memoria that Mana Chuma has devoted to the contemporary history of Southern Italy. 

Mon 5/6 at 8pm @ Theaterlab & Fri 5/10 at 6pm @ Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ at NYU Running Time: 65 min



By and With Maria Cassi and Leonardo Brizzi

Produced by Compagnia Maria Cassi 

Presented by Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ at NYU

Small “musical” jokes through musical gags, catchphrases, human and non-human tics, passing through musical arrangements ranging from jazz to classical and popular music. An almost mimed performance, as per Maria Cassi’s tradition, assisted for the occasion at the piano by Maestro Brizzi.

Tue 5/7 at 7pm @ Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ at NYU



Written & Directed by Edoardo Di Pietro

Performed by Renato Bisogni, Alessandro Errico, Marco Montecatino

Assistant Director Ceciclia Lupoli, Costume Design by Federica Del Gaudio

Organization Martina Di Leva

Produced by Collettivo lunAzione

The visit is inspired by the admission system for weekly meetings with inmates at the Poggioreale prison in Naples. The tragicomic show presents situations experienced by women queuing to enter prison: a perpetual wait in daring and tense conditions, which outlines a symbolic humanity, crushed by the apparent impossibility of change. The actors were an integral part of the creative phase through a stage writing process and by participating in a series of interviews with women who have experienced or are experiencing deep ties with the penal institution. 

Wed 5/8 at 8pm @ Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo’ at NYU & Thu 5/9 at 7:30pm @ BAAD Running Time: 60 min



Written by Annachiara Vispi & Giulia Macrì

Performed by Valentina Ghelfi and Giulia Macrì

Music & Composition Lorenzo Saini

Presented in collaboration with Dominio Pubblico

This is Giulia. Like 55% of us, Giulia lives in a city. It is predicted that by 2050, almost 70% of us will live in a city – two thirds of the people on the planet. Giulia wonders if we’ll all fit. Giulia doubts it. A piece for an actor and a dancer set on an imaginary Rome metro carriage / Paris RER line / New York subway / seat on the Tube / last Dart home. In cities we feel invisible, Giulia thinks. Or free.

Sat 5/11 at 6pm @ NOoSPHERE Arts & Sun 5/12 at 3pm @ Playwrights Downtown Running Time: 60 min


Written by Carolyn Cage, Translated by Edy Quaggio
Directed by Ester Tatangelo and Luchino Giordana
Performed by Valentina Valsania

Assistant Director Giulia Cosentino, Music by Arturo Annecchino

Lighting Designer Diego Laboni, Set Design by Francesco Ghisu

Costume Design by Ilaria Capanna
Produced by Hermit Crab Production
Giovanna returns to share her story with contemporary women, unmasking through documents the misogyny of the male leaders of the Church, State and Army. A teenager fleeing from a violent and alcoholic father, from a destiny of wife and mother, which had already marked her mother and sister. Giovanna dies for the right to wear men’s clothes, she is a rebel, irreverent, more cunning than her judges, unrepentant and unswervingly faithful to her own vision.

Sat 5/11 at 8:30pm @ NOoSPHERE Arts & Sun 5/12 at 8pm @ Theaterlab

Running Time: 75 min



A look at current issues, challenges, and controversies spilling beyond the proscenium. The following stories, discussed by prominent stage journalists, provided tension and debate within the industry this week, uncovering uneasily resolved perspectives. Gemini and Perplexity provided information, insights, and materials for this article (facilitated by Bob Shuman).

  1. Public Outcry Forces Cancellation of Reality-TV Musical in Chicago

The Story: “Chicago Scraps Reality-Show Musical After Backlash Over Exploitation Concerns” by Sarah Miller, April 1, 2024, Chicago Tribune

The highly anticipated Chicago premiere of a new musical based on a popular reality TV show has been abruptly cancelled following mounting public pressure. The musical, titled “Behind the Scenes,” promised audiences a behind-the-curtain glimpse into the lives of the show’s contestants. However, critics decried the project as exploitative and insensitive, arguing that it sensationalized the emotional manipulation and psychological stress often inherent in reality TV.

A petition calling for the cancellation of the musical garnered over 50,000 signatures, with prominent theatre professionals and mental health advocates voicing their concerns. The producers, facing significant backlash from both the public and the artistic community, ultimately decided to pull the plug on the project.

What This Means: The Chicago incident underscores growing anxieties surrounding the ethics of using reality TV personalities and their experiences for artistic fodder. It raises important questions about the responsibility of theatre to grapple with sensitive subject matter without perpetuating exploitation.

  1. Berlin Director Fired Over Allegations of Racial Insensitivity

The Story: “Accusations of Racism Rock Berlin’s Schaubühne Playhouse” by Katja Schroeder, April 3, 2024, Der Spiegel (translated) *Author: Katja Schroeder

The Schaubühne, one of Berlin’s most prestigious theatres, has erupted in controversy following the sudden dismissal of artistic director, Peter Baumann. The termination comes on the heels of mounting accusations of racial insensitivity within the company. A group of anonymous actors of color released a scathing statement, alleging a pervasive culture of microaggressions and a lack of opportunities for diverse voices. Specific examples included the consistent casting of white actors in roles originally written for people of color, and the dismissal of concerns raised by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) playwrights and directors.

Baumann, in a public statement, denied the allegations, claiming a “misunderstanding” and calling the accusations “unfounded.” However, the damage appears to be done. The firing has sparked a national conversation about systemic racism within German theatre institutions, prompting calls for introspection and reform.

What This Means: This incident exposes the deeply entrenched nature of racial bias within European theatre. It raises urgent questions about representation, power dynamics, and the need for proactive measures to dismantle discriminatory practices. The Schaubühne now faces the daunting task of rebuilding trust with its BIPOC artists and audiences.

  1. Walkout at London Premiere Over Sexual Harassment Claims

The Story: “Outrage Erupts at London Premiere as Actors Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment Allegations” by Philip Fisher, April 2, 2024, The Guardian

Opening night at London’s esteemed National Theatre descended into chaos when several cast members abruptly walked offstage during the premiere of a new play, “The Price of Fame.” The actors, citing a “toxic work environment” and unaddressed allegations of sexual harassment against the play’s director, refused to continue the performance. The remaining cast, visibly shaken, attempted to finish the play in front of a stunned and increasingly uncomfortable audience.

The National Theatre, in a statement released later that evening, expressed “deep regret” for the incident and pledged a “full and independent investigation” into the accusations. The play has been suspended indefinitely.

What This Means: This high-profile walkout underscores the ongoing fight for safety and accountability within the theatre industry. It compels a hard look at the power dynamics between actors and directors, and the necessity for robust grievance procedures to address harassment claims. The National Theatre’s swift response sets a precedent, but the industry as a whole must do more to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all artists.

  1. Melbourne Festival Cancels Controversial Play Due to Protests

The Story: “Melbourne Festival Caves to Pressure, Cancels Play Deemed Offensive to Indigenous Community” by Claire Jones, April 4, 2024, The Sydney Morning Herald

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival has come under fire for its decision to cancel a satirical play, “Black Humor,” just days before its opening night. The play, written by a non-Indigenous playwright, lampooned contemporary issues surrounding cultural appropriation and identity politics. However, Indigenous community leaders lodged strong objections, arguing that the play was insensitive and disrespectful to their lived experiences.

What This Means: The Melbourne Festival’s decision to cancel “Black Humor” reignites the complex debate about artistic freedom and the boundaries of satire. Can humor challenge sensitive topics without causing harm? Should marginalized groups have a say in what stories are told about them, and how? This incident compels the theatre industry to grapple with these questions. The Festival’s choice to prioritize cultural sensitivity may set a precedent for increased dialogue and collaboration with diverse communities. However, it also raises concerns about potential censorship and the chilling effect on artistic expression. The path forward lies in fostering open communication and finding a theatrical space that is both artistically bold and respectful of all voices.

Share your views and leave a reply. Thank you.

Stage Voices


(from Phyllis Wheeler, friend of Marit Literary and Stage Voices)

In the news! Secret of the Lost Dragons, Book 2 of my Guardians of Time series, has been named a finalist in the prestigious Selah Awards for Christian Fiction, 2023. Book One, The Dog Snatcher, also received this distinction in the previous year.

Find Secret of the Lost Dragons in the Chapter Books category:

Rejoice with Phyllis!


(Dalya Alberge’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/7/2024; A 1610 portrait of William Shakespeare. Darren Freebury-Jones said that Shakespeare, ‘being a genius, takes another dramatist’s feathers and transforms them into a peacock’. Photograph: Akademie/Alamy.)

Exclusive: lecturer finds ‘striking similarities’ between lines in Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour and later Shakespeare works

He was an actor, as well as the greatest dramatist of all time, but no one has been able to name with certainty a single role that William Shakespeare performed himself.

Now a leading scholar has concluded from linguistic analysis that Shakespeare played an obsessively jealous husband in a 1598 drama by fellow playwright Ben Jonson.

Dr Darren Freebury-Jones, a lecturer in Shakespeare studies at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, has discovered “striking similarities” between phrases recited by Thorello in Every Man in His Humour and those in Shakespeare’s Othello, Hamlet and Twelfth Night – all written between 1600 and 1603.

He told the Guardian: “What I’ve found are some really interesting connections in terms of language, which suggest that Shakespeare was, perhaps unconsciously, remembering his own lines.”

Elizabethan actors generally did not have copies of an entire play. Instead, their scripts were limited to their particular lines and their cues – just the last few words of preceding speeches.

Freebury-Jones said: “Players like Shakespeare would therefore need to be alert during performance, relying heavily on their aural understanding. So there was a real emphasis on listening during the period …

“The grammatical patterning and likenesses of thought between his lines and those of Thorello – renamed Kitely in Jonson’s revision – suggest that Shakespeare was intimately familiar with that role. But Shakespeare, being a genius, takes another dramatist’s feathers and transforms them into a peacock.”

Singling out examples, Freebury-Jones said: “In Jonson’s play, you’ve got Bianca, unfortunate wife of the jealous Thorello, who suspects she’s having an affair. She says: ‘For God’s sake, sweetheart, come in out of the air,’ to which Thorello responds with an aside: ‘How simple and how subtle are her answers?’

“In Hamlet, Polonius asks: ‘Will you walk out of the air, my lord?’, to which Hamlet responds: ‘Into my grave.’ Polonius says: ‘Indeed, that is out o’th’ air.’ He then offers an aside: ‘How pregnant sometimes his replies are.’ The corresponding structures and similarities in context are striking. Is this a case of Shakespeare remembering one of his cue-lines and an aside?”

He added: “Shakespeare seems to have recalled another of Thorello’s asides: ‘Spite of the devil, how they sting my heart,’ for Maria’s speech in Twelfth Night: ‘La you, an you speak ill of the devil, how he takes it at heart.’

“The grammatical structure is very similar and the unique word string, ‘of the devil how’, embraces the noun ‘heart’. Are we witnessing Shakespeare’s recall of lines he delivered on stage here?

A 1834 drawing of Polonius and Hamlet by the French artist Eugène Delacroix. Photograph: Heritage Art/Getty Images

“Shakespeare also remembered Thorello’s line: ‘They would give out, because my wife is fair,’ when he depicted Othello’s destructive jealousy: ‘’Tis not to make me jealous / To say my wife is fair.’ Shakespeare inverts Thorello’s comic jealousy in his similarly named tragic protagonist Othello.”

Freebury-Jones found that other comparative phrases were “nowhere near as contextually interesting as those shared with Thorello”.

He observed that scholars had not been certain of any particular roles that Shakespeare took as an actor: “There’s oral traditions connecting him to the role of the ghost of Hamlet’s father and an old man named Adam in As You Like It.

“We know he acted in his own plays because the 1623 First Folio tells us, but it does not confirm any specific role he took.

“We also know he acted in two plays by Jonson, as a cast list printed in the 1616 Jonson Folio shows that Shakespeare was one of the principal players in Every Man in His Humour and that he was also listed among the principal tragedians in Sejanus [His Fall]. But again the documentary evidence does not specify roles.”

He said: “I can’t say that Shakespeare definitely played Thorello, but this is new evidence. No one’s ever discovered it before. I think it makes an interesting, quite compelling case.

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(Bekim Bislimi’s, Arben Hoti’s, and Kosovo Unit RFE/RL’s Balkan Service’s article appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2/9/2024.)

Ergjan Mehmeti says he’s the first actor from Kosovo’s small Ashkali community. Ashkalis are an ethnic minority who have struggled with discrimination, poor access to education, and unemployment. Mehmeti has now returned to his hometown with a project that he hopes can help overcome prejudice.