In this Orwellian year—made to seem more than nominally so by a surging tide of newspeak election rhetoric—the theatre has offered its share of new visions of the apocalypse, or its prelude, or its aftermath. On Broadway, it was briefly the End of the World according to Arthur Kopit; on the West Coast, Dead End Kids, Mabou Mines’ mordantly comic history of nuclear power, concluded a national tour; the Brooklyn Academy of Music opens its attention-getting Next Wave Festival this month with The Games, a futuristic performance piece that is the occasion of Rob Baker’s lead story on eclectic theatre-maker Meredith Monk.
Mr. Orwell himself has gotten his share of attention. A new film of 1984 with Richard Burton opens shortly; Peter Hall has successfully adapted and musicalized the famous fable Animal Farm at Britain’s National Theatre; Canada’s Citadel Theatre is at work on the premiere production of Czech dramatist Pavel Kohout’s stage version of 1984. From Laurie Anderson to Second City, performers are reinventing the Orwell myth, and on television’s Arts and Entertainment Network, October is Orwell Month.
It’s also the month in which American Theatre compiles season schedules for theatres nationwide. Perusing the 12-page, pullout section in this issue will confirm that our uncertain future is of considerable interest to playwrights and theatres—and it will confirm a dozen other patterns and directions with equal certitude. Given the variety and geographical spread of the more than 150 theatres listed, of course, generalities are hard to come by. The imaginative reader will discover his or her own revelations in the season blueprint.
Other more practical readers may use it to make travel plans, to identify employment possibilities, for reference. Whatever its various uses, the season schedules section provides a clear and comprehensive reflection of America’s current theatrical repertoire.
If the distant future looms uncertain, the near future holds excitement for an unprecedented number of theatres which are expanding or moving into new quarters this year (as a story elsewhere in the issue reports). And, coincidentally, 1984 seems to be a record year for anniversaries. Among them are the venerable Oregon Shakespearean Festival’s 50th, and the irrepressible San Francisco Mime Troupe’s 25th. A forthcoming American Theatre interview with the late Lorraine Hansberry, which has remained unpublished since it was conducted by Studs Terkel in 1959, will celebrate the growth and development of black theatre in the 25 years since Hansberry’s drama A Raisin in the Sun made its historic Broadway debut.
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