by Colin Thomas
When it opened in 2015, Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed was the first play ever to open on Broadway with an all-black, all-female cast and creative team. In The New York Times, Charles Isherwood called it “soul-searing.”
Gurira based Eclipsed on what she learned when she interviewed girls and women who had survived Liberia’s second civil war. She learned about atrocities. As she explains in her excellent essay in the newsletter, Lenny, she also learned something else: “I would always ask them—each and every woman I interviewed—what they wanted. Some told me no one had ever asked them that. Ever. But they all, literally all, wanted the same thing: access to schooling.”
While Eclipsed was on Broadway, Gurira started working with Emmanuel Ogebe, who founded an organization called Education Must Continue. He was particularly concerned with Northern Nigeria, which is where, in 2014, 272 girls were kidnapped from their school by Boko Haram. Boko Haram translates literally as “Western education is sin.”
Yesterday (October 11) was the International Day of the Girl and Gurira encourages us to “Remember the girl in Ethiopia working in a field instead of going to school, the girl in Mali who watches her brother going to class every day while she has to stay at home, the girl in Northern Nigeria who started her day in April 2014 thinking about her math quiz and ended it as the forced “wife” of a rebel-army officer.”
She also encourages us to join the ONE campaign, which advocates globally for people living in poverty. The organization’s slogan is “Poverty is sexist.”
According to this erudite piece, in The Stranger, Seattle performing artists are also getting their activism on.
When Arthur Miller’s The Crucible first hit the boards in 1953, many read his play about the Salem witch trials as a critique of the creeping fascism in U.S culture. That fascist tendency was perhaps most clearly embodied by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was the chairman of the Government Operations Committee and its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate.
So what better time and place to revisit Miller’s classic than Trump’s America in 2017?
Director John Langs’s production of The Crucible opens at Seattle’s ACT Theatre tomorrow (October 13) and runs until November 12. Langs says that he wants audiences to leave their expectations of the tragedy at the door and promises a cast that will “reflect the world that we live in today.”
Kaitlin McCarthy’s abstract dance take Eight Abigails might be even more daring. In an email to The Stranger, McCarthy wrote that the play’s villain, Abigail Williams “seems like a manipulative femme fatale, but on closer inspection she’s an orphan who is seduced by her employer, a man twice her age who then dumps, fires, and threatens her with beatings. Then she is slut shamed so she’s no longer employable. It’s fucked up.”
Seattle’s not that far away.
The Boss is about to become Boss of the Great White Way. (Is this some kind of cultural imperialism?) Rocker Bruce Springsteen’s bluntly titled show, Springsteen on Broadway, opens in the 975-seat Walter Kerr Theatre tonight (Thursday, October 12).
The evening isn’t just a concert; there’s also substantial storytelling. And reports from patrons who have attended previews are ecstatic.
Tickets for Springsteen on Broadway, which is set to run until February, 2018, can cost a dizzying $850, but, at every performance, a couple of rows of seats in the gods will be reserved for a 75-bucks-a-pop lottery, which you can enter here.
In Broadway’s early days, musical theatre and pop music were the same thing. Since then, the gap between musicals and Top 40 radio has widened. But that gap has been narrowing again lately; the overlap of popular music and Broadway box office has probably never been more rewarding than in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.
Accordingly, other pop stars are lining up to take their turns. The Cher Show will debut in Chicago in June of 2018 before heading to New York. And Summer, which charts the rise and fall of pop diva Donna Summer, debuts at California’s La Jolla Playhouse this fall.
Will the outspoken Springsteen be making overly political points in his show? Apparently not so much. The Guardian quotes the rock icon as saying, “I’ve done it when I felt it was really necessary and that maybe my two cents might make some small bit of difference. But the more you do it, your two cents becomes one cent and then no cents whatsoever, so I think your credibility and your impact lessens the more you do it.” But The Guardian also points out that, during at least one performance of Springsteen on Broadway, the balladeer of the New Jersey boardwalk couldn’t resist making a pro-immigration statement.
My top recommendations this week are Hyperlink, TJ Dawe and Itai Erdal’s brand new show about social media—it’s playing at the Firehall until this Saturday, October 14—and Falling Awake, RAGMOP Theatre’s surrealist physical comedy, which is at Studio 1398 this Friday to Sunday (October 13 to 15).
I hate it when critics quote themselves but in this case that means I’m going to hate myself because I hope this quote will be persuasive. After enjoying Falling Awake at the Vancouver Fringe in 2016, I wrote that it was “so beautiful that I groaned with pleasure.”
For fresh reviews of shows that are opening this week, visit my blog. That’s where I’ll be responding to Thanks for Giving, GG Award winner Kevin Loring’s new piece about a tempestuous Thanksgiving meal, and VIVA, Scott Button’s new play about strangers who meet in Las Vegas.
Full disclosure: both Falling Awake and VIVA are being presented by Theatre Wire. I’m writing on the Theatre Wire newsletter, but I’m not sucking up to that bunch of folks. The recommendation and the interest are genuine.
If you’re interested in theatre—and if you’re not, why are you reading this?—sign up for my newsletter. It’s free and it’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys—although that image always provokes concerns about animal welfare.
In this week’s edition, I’ll guide you to the best coverage of Canada’s new cultural policy. That policy could change our cultural landscape and it’s possible that Heritage Minister Melanie Joly is getting everything wrong.
I’ll also introduce you to director Peter Brook’s new book, Tip of the Tongue. In 1968, Brook revolutionized theatre practice with another book, The Empty Space. Now, at 92, Brook is as iconoclastic as ever.
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