Every other week, the editors of American Theatre curate a free-ranging discussion about the lively arts in our Offscript podcast.
For the top of the show this week, we tackle the latest theatre controversy (is it just us or are there more of those than there used to be?). The show of the moment is Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 and the question of the hour is whether the producers’ short-lived plan to replace Okieriete Onaodowan with Mandy Patinkin—since scrapped—was racially motivated. Associate editor Diep Tran has already weighed in on the side of nuance, so editor Rob Weinert-Kendt and staff writer Allison Considine invite Off-Broadway press agent Karen Greco on to discuss a related topic that has been less explored: marketing and theatre’s dependence on star power. (Note: Since we recorded this podcast, it was announced that the show would close on Sept. 3.)
Our guest interview this week is with playwright James Still, whose credits include The Velocity of Gary (Not His Real Name), Looking Over the President’s Shoulder, and Appoggiatura, among many others. This year marks his 20th as the playwright-in-residence of Indiana Repertory Theatre., yet James lives in Los Angeles. How does that work exactly? We get the skinny. (Previous articles about Still are here and here.)
Allison just saw Kelli O’Hara in a reading of the new Tom Kitt and John Logan musical Superhero at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, about a mother and son coping with a loss by befriending their neighbor. She’s duty-bound not to say much about it—it wasn’t open for public review—but she does feel that she can say that you should keep your eye out for it.
Karen recommends a new podcast series by playwright Mac Rogers, called Steal the Stars, billed as “a new audio sci-fi thriller.” If you love Mac’s The Message or his popular Honeycomb Trilogy, you’ll love this too.
Rob recommends the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (through Aug. 13), noting that in his experience a light, sunny take on the play like Lear deBessonet‘s is a surprisingly atypical treatment.