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Happy new year! And hello to any new subscribers. Hope your January is off to a great start.
This week there’s no new writing by me, as I’m just coming back from vacation. Instead, I’ve been reading and collecting a lot of links on theatre and culture, the most significant of which are below. Enjoy and I’ll see you next week.
For anyone that cares about the state and future of theatre (especially in New York), this piece by Helen Shaw is a must-read.
Shaw’s immense knowledge of the history of New York’s downtown scene shines through. I’m excited for her post at Vulture to include more of this sort of birds-eye-view essay.
One New York era faded (of experimental collectives) and another began (the Influencer Playwright); we lost and then regained our belief in documentary theater; we dealt with major habitat degradation and resource-diversion; and we’ve suffered a crisis of confidence in theater’s purpose, which, based on our near-hysterical insistence on the “importance of stories,” you can tell is still at low ebb
The movement from experimental collectives to influencer playwrights is the most significant trend I have observed as well. But I love the barb about theatre constantly reminding us of the importance of stories.
Purposelessness is itself a kind of sacred purpose. A theater is a place for chaos, thievery, destruction, misrule, recklessness, imagination, adventure, courage, provocation, and possibility. Throw your MFAs into a bonfire! Forget the rules! The wilderness has always been the place for wild beasts—but also hermits on their pillars. Don’t despair if you don’t find an obvious mission there. Go back into the wild. It’s where saints go to study.
# The Best Plays of the Decade
Here’s Jeremy O. Harris from Twitter:
Is god is
I’ll never love again
we are proud to present a presentation
Is this a room?
This American wife
This great country
This is a fantastic list, with more great suggestions in the replies on Twitter.
My pick is also for An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.
# The only good line from the golden globes
Bong Joon Ho: "Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films" http://bit.ly/2QrQBms
# Soraya McDonald
I loved Soraya McDonald’s recent essay Wandering in Search of Wakanda, where she considers different visions of utopias as seen in the play Ain’t No Mo, Beyoncé’s Homecoming, and David Byrne’s American Utopia. I’ve really enjoyed McDonald’s 2019 writing covering theatre and culture; she is an inspiration. So it’s fitting that it was also just announced that she won the Nathan Award for 2019, an exciting award for theatre criticism.
# “I will not make any more boring art”
New York Musical Festival closes because of major financial troubles - this is ugly. The festival’s predatory model, however, is the type of thing that should be phased out in 2020.
“The extended off-Broadway run of Our Dear Dead Drug Lord broke both the weekly and single performance house records at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre”. Via Broadway Briefing. I wrote about the show briefly here
Uncut Gems is on pace to be A24’s biggest hit ever, while also being one of its most divisive: “Critics raved, but ticket buyers gave Sandler’s film a C-plus grade in CinemaScore exit polls (the same grade as the much-maligned “Cats”).”
92% of top theatre bosses in England are white (The Stage)
‘Days before the US invaded Iraq in 2003, then-Vice President Dick Cheney told NBC News why the Bush administration believed the military mission would be successful. “I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators,” he said.’ - from a Vox piece on the neoconservative fantasy of killing Suleimani
Weird internet corner: Aesthetics Wiki
# End note
That’s all for this week—thanks so much for reading!
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See you next week!