Here at American Theatre, we strive to publish pieces our readers will find useful, informative, and illuminating. And if we were to judge our reader’s preferences based on the most-read stories in 2018, this seems to have been a year that the American theatre wanted to take a closer look at itself. Nearly all of our most popular stories dealt with issues of representation, politics, and institutional inequality. You all don’t come to our site for light reading—and we love it!
Below, the 10 most popular stories on our site this year.
Our 10 Most-Read Stories in 2018
Surprised That ‘Never Again’ Leaders Are Theatre Kids? I’m Not
We’re not, either. Stephen Sachs’s piece about the Parkland students—published just one week after the devastating Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting—was so popular it crashed our website.
Kiss Me, My Fair Carousel Woman: Now Is the Season of Our Discontent
In this post from April, senior editor Diep Tran looked ahead at the Broadway slate and questioned why a raft of musicals with less-than-progressive gender politics was on its way in 2018, all directed and/or conceived by men (Carousel, My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman, and Kiss Me, Kate!). The traffic this story got told us our readers had similar questions.
The Top 10* Most-Produced Plays of the 2018-19 Season
This year’s list was led by a record number of productions (27!) of Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2. And it had the most women and people of color (or at least since we started counting). If you need more proof that the demographics of the theatre are changing, look no further.
High Tide of Heartbreak
You know the theatre industry has issues when it drives Pulitzer winner Quiara Alegría Hudes to feel the need for a break from it. Luckily she’s not gone forever, but her searing op-ed on the whys shows that the inequities and strains of the theatre can take an emotional and mental toll on even the most accomplished theatre artists.
Why I Almost Slapped a Fellow Theatre Patron, and What That Says About Our Theatres
This op-ed by playwright Dominique Morisseau was published in 2015, but it’s reread frequently for a reason. In it Morisseau recounts her experience of being shushed for laughing too loudly at a theatre performance, and the way it shows that too many theatres, despite their good intentions, are still spaces dominated by white theatre etiquette and mores. Since this piece was published, Morisseau has regularly made sure “Rules of Engagement” inserts are placed into every program at her shows, giving audiences permission to can react however they want to her work. Baller move.
All Sizes Fit All: The Case for Normalizing Fatness Onstage
Maggie Rogers’s stirring defense of diverse body types onstage was so popular online that it also made it into our March print issue. It also garnered 17 comments, including a thoughtful complication by K.D. McTeigue that also made it into print.
The Top 20 Most Produced Playwrights of the 2018-19 Season
Like this year’s Top 10 list, this is led by a white man, Lucas Hnath, but for the first time in our records this list has better than gender parity (with 11 female playwrights) and 6 writers of color. There’s still work to be done but the trend lines are going in the right direction (see below).
I Am Miss Saigon, and I Hate It
Another perennial hit with our readers, this 2017 cri de coeur from Diep Tran about the musical juggernaut she feels trivializes and exploits her and her family’s experience had visible ripple effects in reviews of the touring production, from San Francisco to Chicago. The show may always have its partisans, but Tran’s powerful essay laid down a marker for future productions.
The Top 10 Most-Produced Plays of the 2017-18 Season
It seems like only yesterday we were announcing last year’s list live at the Drama Book Shop, with Shakespeare in Love surprisingly topping the list and Lauren Gunderson topping the playwrights’ list that year.
Not Only in New York: 13 Musical Programs Outside Manhattan
Another holdover from 2017, this list was part of our popular issue on musical theatre training.
While we appreciate the love our readers give to our content, some of our favorite stories didn’t get as much attention as we think they merit. So as you’re relaxing over the holidays and looking for something to read, might we give you a list?
Stories That Need More Love
How to Stage a Must-Go Gala
Chances are if you’re reading American Theatre, you’ve attended a gala (or four). So has writer Lindsey Wilson, whose report on how to stage a memorable gala is required reading for any fundraising department who wants to party outside of the box.
A Florida ‘Awakening’ in the Wake of Tragedy
Staff writer Allison Considine traveled down to Florida to see survivors of the Parkland school shooting perform in Spring Awakening. We recommend reading this moving piece, about the healing power of theatre, with tissues handy.
Queer Eye for Theatre Critics: 4 Writing Tips
This past summer Ben Brantley angered some when his review of Head Over Heels on Broadway, which featured trans performer Peppermint, included a snarky joke about her pronoun. In response four queer writers wrote a guide for anyone who wants to write about LGBTQ artists with sensitivity and competency.
Every Time It’s Personal
It’s common knowledge how difficult it is to tell someone your #MeToo story. But what about the journalists who report on such stories? How do they handle such delicate material and how does it affect them? This essay by Katy Lemieux, who broke a #MeToo story in Dallas, is a searing firsthand account, and among the highlights of our September #TheatreToo issue.
The Children of ‘Angels’
One highlight of our March issue commemorating the 25th anniversary of Tony Kushner’s epochal Angels in America was this must-read excerpt from Isaac Butler and Dan Kois’s priceless oral history, The World Only Spins Forward, in which they surveyed playwrights, from Lin-Manuel Miranda to Young Jean Lee, from Taylor Mac to Anne Washburn, inspired and/or daunted in the wake of Kushner’s ambition and artistry.
Harvey Schmidt, My Accidental Partner in Magic
We lost some giants this year, from Neil Simon to Ntozake Shange to Maria Irene Fornes, and we ran heartfelt tributes to all of them. Perhaps the sweetest was this loving remembrance by Tom Jones, the songwriting partner of the man with whom he created the musicals The Fantasticks and 110 in the Shade. We try to remember, and follow.
The Diversity of ‘Anne Frank’
When People’s Light in Malvern, Pa., staged this beloved chestnut with a multicultural cast that included non-Jewish actors and people of color playing Dutch Jews, a controversy over representation and casting erupted, with strong points of view on both sides. Managing editor Russ Dembin, who saw and was moved by the production, gave voice to all aspects of this thorny contretemps but came away more convinced than ever by the power of theatre to embody stories of the marginalized.
A Casting Controversy Tangled Up in ‘Blood Knot’
Another firestorm arose over a production of Athol Fugard’s play about two brothers, one Black, the other white-passing, at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisc., which cast a Black and a white actor in those roles, respectively. Reporter Jerald Raymond Pierce spoke to critics and advocates who felt this casting erased the mixed-race experience, as well as to those involved in the production who defended the choice on artistic grounds.
The Prime of Miss Joy Carlin
We loved this vivid portrait of Carlin, a Bay Area fixture as an actor and director who is still going strong on both fronts at 86 who, while she doesn’t talk about retirement, seems more than ready to pursue other interests if her stage chops start to waver. We should all be so contentedly busy at any age.