Category Archives: The Rub

THE RUB: THEATRE CONFRONTED, FEBRUARY 16th – FEBRUARY 23rd, 2024 ·

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. Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, and Perplexity, provided information, insights, and materials for this article (facilitated by Bob Shuman).  Photo from Les Miserables: OnstageBlog.

Power Play: Artistic Director Ousted in Theatre Coup

Story: “Artistic Director Abruptly Removed at Renowned Theatre in Controversial Move,” February 22nd, 2024, The Guardian Author: Elizabeth Freeman

Theatrical shockwaves rippled through the industry this week with the sudden removal of artistic director, Catherine Moore, from the prestigious Stratford Theatre Company. The board’s decision, shrouded in secrecy and fueled by rumors of internal conflict, has sparked outrage and concern within the artistic community. Questions swirl about transparency, artistic freedom, and the power dynamics within major theatre institutions.

What This Means: This incident raises critical questions about governance and accountability in British theatre. It highlights the need for transparent decision-making and open communication between artistic leadership, boards, and the artistic community. The power struggle at Stratford serves as a cautionary tale, urging introspection and reform within similar institutions everywhere.

Identity Politics on Stage: Play Divides Audiences on Representation

Story: “New Play Tackles Intersectionality, Sparking Heated Debate on Identity Politics,” February 19th, 2024, The New York Times Author: Ben Brantley

A new play, “Breaking Barriers” by Marsha Norman, at the Center Theatre Group (February 19 through March 6), explores themes of intersectionality, inequality, and identity politics and has ignited heated debates within the theatre community. While some praise its nuanced portrayal of complex social issues, others criticize its oversimplification and divisive nature. The controversy surrounding the play underscores the ongoing tension around identity politics in theatre, highlighting the challenges of navigating representation and avoiding reductive narratives.

What This Means: This debate reflects the complexities of addressing social justice issues in art. While theatre can be a powerful platform for exploring identity and representation, navigating these sensitive topics requires thoughtful execution and nuanced storytelling. The play’s reception serves as a reminder of the need for open dialogue and constructive criticism to foster meaningful engagement with complex social issues.

Financial Woes: Beloved Theatre Faces Closure Threat

Story: “Historic Theatre on Brink of Closure as Funding Dries Up,” February 18th, 2024, The American Theatre Author: Sarah Jones

The future of the beloved The Starlight Theatre, located in Kansas City, Missouri, hangs in the balance as financial difficulties threaten its closure. This isn’t an isolated case, with several smaller theatres facing similar challenges due to rising costs and shrinking funding sources. The potential loss of these cultural hubs underscores the precarious financial state of many theatres and the need for sustainable funding models.

What This Means: The threatened closure highlights the ongoing struggle of smaller theatres for survival. It emphasizes the need for diverse funding sources, audience development initiatives, and innovative strategies to ensure the financial sustainability of these vital cultural institutions. The theatre community must unite to advocate for support and explore solutions to secure the future of these artistic havens.

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Stage Voices

THE RUB: THEATRE CONFRONTED, FEBRUARY 2nd – FEBRUARY 9th, 2024 ·

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. Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, and Perplexity, provided information, insights, and materials for this article (facilitated by Bob Shuman).  Photo from Les Miserables: OnstageBlog.

  1. Ghostlight Gaslighting: A Haunting Accusation Rocks Off-Broadway

Published: February 7th, 2024, “Phantom Pain: Former Actor Alleges Emotional Abuse in Off-Broadway Production” by Sarah Jones, The American Theatre

Accusations of “ghostlight gaslighting” rocked the Off-Broadway scene this week. A young actor, Sarah Thompson (pseudonym), came forward in a searing exposé, detailing alleged emotional manipulation and psychological abuse by a renowned director during a recent production. The incident ignited a firestorm, prompting discussions about power dynamics, artistic license, and the responsibility towards mental well-being within the industry.

What This Means: This controversy underscores the need for clear communication, consent, and respect in rehearsal spaces. While artistic exploration can demand intensity, exploiting actors’ vulnerability under the guise of “method acting” crosses a dangerous line. Theatres must prioritize robust reporting systems and transparent leadership to foster a safe and supportive environment for all artists.

  1. AI Playwright Takes Center Stage: Is the Bard the Future of Broadway?

Published: February 5th, 2024, “A.I. Writes a Hit: Machine-Generated Play Receives Rave Reviews in London” by Ben Brantley, The New York Times

A wave of both fascination and fear rippled through the theatre world with the news of an AI-written play, “Mechanical Memories,” garnering rave reviews in London. Developed by a team of computer scientists and theatre professionals, the play explores themes of artificial intelligence and human connection. While some hail it as a revolutionary step forward, others express concerns about artistic authenticity and the potential displacement of human playwrights.

What This Means: This development forces us to confront the evolving relationship between technology and art. While AI may offer exciting possibilities for expanding narratives and exploring new theatrical forms, it shouldn’t replace the irreplaceable spark of human creativity. The true challenge lies in finding a harmonious collaboration between human and machine, pushing the boundaries of storytelling without sacrificing the essence of human connection.

  1. Revival Fatigue: Are Classic Revivals Losing Their Appeal?

Published: February 2nd, 2024, “Box Office Blues: Beloved Classic Flops Despite Star Power” by Peter Marks, The Washington Post

The enduring allure of classic revivals faced scrutiny this week in considering the underwhelming box office performance of “A Doll’s House: The revival began previews on February 13, 2023, and officially opened on March 9, 2023, running until June 10, 2023. The play, directed by Tony nominee Jamie Lloyd and adapted by acclaimed playwright Amy Herzog, offered a contemporary reinterpretation of Ibsen’s classic, aiming to make the story freshly relevant to modern audiences . However, the show’s failure, along with other recent revivals of classic plays, has sparked discussions about audience fatigue with overexposed classics and the need for fresh interpretation and innovative staging choices.

What This Means: This trend prompts careful consideration of the value proposition of revivals, emphasizing the importance of selecting impactful classics, reimagining them with a contemporary lens, and ensuring top-notch production quality to attract audiences and keep classics relevant in today’s theatrical landscape.

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Stage Voices

 

THE RUB: THEATRE CONFRONTED, JANUARY 27TH – FEBRUARY 2ND, 2024 ·

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