by Colin Thomas
Harold Pinter‘s widow, Lady Antonia Fraser, has stumbled on a new play by the deceased dramatist, and although it’s impossible—Pinter died on Christmas Eve, 2008—that play looks a lot like it’s about President Donald Trump.
In Pinter’s short script, a populist buffoon inhabits the White House. Having just ordered the nuclear annihilation of the capital city of an allied country—because he can’t keep European cities straight—he says, “Jesus. I think I’ll have a drink. I know God won’t mind. He’s very fond of me.”
You can read the full text of Pinter’s short play, plus Fraser’s article about it in The Guardian.
Actor and director Henry Woolf, who was close friends with Pinter when they were growing up in East London, has dropped another kind of bomb.
Woolf has written a memoir called Barcelona is in Trouble, in which he describes how he loaned his bedsit to Pinter and Pinter’s lover Joan Bakewell during the ‘60s, when Pinter was married to actor Vivien Merchant. Pinter’s affair with Bakewell inspired Betrayal, his most produced play.
Gay playwright Jon Robin Baitz was in Washington DC to participate in the Women’s March, when, he alleges, a drunken Trump supporter assaulted him. The attack prompted Baitz to write a dark epilogue for his newest play Vicuña.
Vicuña is about a real-estate tycoon who’s buying a wool suit for his third televised presidential debate. The epilogue takes place long after the tycoon has been elected, in Baitz’s words, “in a broken America that is fiscally, emotionally, spiritually, and morally bankrupt. It’s not a literal epilogue, but rather more of a Kaddish—a prayer for the dead.”
Reviewer Neal Weaver wrote that Vicuña is “probably the most lethal, ruthless, and comprehensive satire/indictment of a politician ever penned by an American playwright.”
Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks responded to Trump’s inauguration by writing a play every day for the first 100 days of his presidency. “I didn’t know what else to do,” she says.
The resulting compilation, 100 Plays for the First Hundred Days, hasn’t found a producer yet, but it has found a publisher and you can read an excerpt at the end of this article in American Theatre.
Of her own experience of reading the completed piece, Parks says, “it was like reading a tragedy, and the cathartic effect that that has, and the healing effect that offers. It’s really interesting: you read this tragedy and somehow feel better having experienced it through literature.”
In that piece, Parks says that she’s not satisfied with righteous fury: “We can point the finger at him, it’s not that interesting.” She is more intrigued by the harder work of creating progressive art and in creating less divisive conversations on the left. “I’m interested in talking with people who agree with me about how we’re gonna go forward,” she says. “The microaggressions, what is that?”
Zacarías was so furious when Trump made his case for deporting “dreamers,” individuals who entered the US illegally as minors, that she made her play Just Like Us available royalty-free to anyone who wants to produce it.
Just Like Us is about the experiences of four Latina teenagers: two are undocumented and two aren’t.
And filmmaker and, more recently, Broadway performer Michael Moore engaged Trump on his own turf, Twitter, over the weekend.
From August 10 to October 22, Moore performed his solo The Terms of My Surrender on Broadway. On Saturday, six days after the show closed as scheduled, Trump tweeted, “While not at all presidential, I must point out that the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close. Sad!”
Moore responded with 12 tweets, including, “On Broadway, Donald, they call it a ‘LIMITED ENGAGEMENT’ – just like we’re planning to make your presidency.” Moore also accused Trump of using Twitter once again to distract from real-life crises, including Robert Mueller’s Grand Jury investigation and the Trump administration’s slow, often begrudging response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
There’s never been so much talk about making theatre more inclusive. And, in some centres, companies are increasingly walking the walk.
The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, for instance, is learning how to stage autism-friendly performances. In London, the National Theatre is experimenting with special glasses that will allow d/Deaf audience members to read captions right in front of their faces, eliminating the need for screens.
And a number of companies—including the Theatre Offensive in Boston and the Rose Theatre in Omaha—are offering programs that encourage queer youth to participate by making their own shows.
There may be no better way to ensure long-lasting systemic change, however, than by building diversity into the company itself. Audrey Alford of England’s Ivy Theatre Company talks about how she creates inclusive teams—partly by building professional and friendship networks within underrepresented communities.
This week’s pick:
As the days grow darker, politically as well as literally, we all need more light in our lives. Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios – A Cabinet of Curiosities is a supernova of physical skill and innovative design. There are few holes in Act 1, but Act 2 is pretty much perfect. Kurios runs under the big top in Concord Pacific Place until December 31. Run away to the circus here .
Girls Like That explores slut-shaming in teen culture. Shameless Hussy is mounting its production of the script in Templeton Secondary School and Renée Iaci will direct a cast of teenagers. In England, Evan Placey’s script has received positive reviews—including this one in The Guardian. Girls Like That runs November 2 to 10. Here’s where to get your tickets.
With shows such as Detroit and Speed-the-Plow, Mitch and Murray Productions has been a consistent producer of first-rate theatre. Now, from November 3 to 18, they’re bringing us Smart People. In Lydia R. Diamond’s comedy, it’s the eve of Barack Obama’s election in 2008 and four very bright people are trying to discuss race—with disastrous results. David Mackay directs. Get your tickets for Smart People here.
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