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John Breglio Talks Producing with Backstage

Next Tuesday, John Breglio shares the dos and don’ts and the hows and wherefores of being a Broadway producer in his news release from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, I Wanna Be a Producer. Breglio’s production credits include the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line and the 2008 prodcution of Dreamgirls at the Apollo Theater and in this interview with Backstage magazine, he shares some of his lessons learned.


IWannaBeCOVERJohn Breglio went from entertainment lawyer to successful Broadway producer. Now he’s sharing advice gleaned from a decades-long career in theater in his new book, “I Wanna Be a Producer: How to Make a Killing on Broadway… or Get Killed.”

Why did you want to write this book?
I decided it might be helpful to put instructions on how to produce a play from the idea to opening night in one place. I also give real, live stories of what I went through with my clients, everything from getting the rights to marketing and advertising to getting the show up and running.

Why make the switch to producer from entertainment lawyer?
I was a shadow producer. I woke up one day and thought, I could do this myself. I’m closely associated with “A Chorus Line.” Michael Bennett was a very good friend of mine. When I was producing the revival, I noticed there was a line where Cassie says, “I’m tired of teaching others what I should be doing myself.” I heard that line and said, “You know what? That’s how I feel.”


Read the rest of the interview at backstage.com!

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New edition of The Best American Short Plays (2013-2014)

Applause Books is proud to continue another series in this enormous diversity of contemporary American theater. This new edition of William W. Demastes Best American Short Plays contains fresh-voiced, cutting-edge works by twenty-six playwrights. Demastaes has published widely on modern theater and drama, including Comedy Matters, Spalding Gray’s America, Staging Consciousness, and Theatre of Chaos. As William Demastes brings together his selection of short plays there seems to be a common theme within each play, uncertainty. Below is an introduction as to what will await you upon reading Demastes’ best picks of American Short Plays.


Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 12.23.01 PM“Uncertain seems to be the watchword of today’s world, filled as it is with surprises, shocks, and even a few delights. Uncertainty brings with it fear and insecurity, and a nostalgic longing for the good old days. But for some, uncertainty means opportunity, and along with that opportunity comes the prospect of change for the better. Fifty years ago, Bob Dylan inserted a catchy phrase into our cultural consciousness: The times they are a-changing. The 1960s did in fact mark changes of all sorts for our world, many good and even revolutionary. It was an amazing time marked by triumph and tragedy both great and small. But think about how much more times have changed in the half-century since Dylan’s declaration. Things not even envisioned by science-fiction visionaries are now part of our daily fabric. Technology has transformed our lives by placing information of all sorts literally at our fingertips. It has made us far more efficient in the workplace. And it has provided us the opportunity to share our lives with anyone at any time from any distance. Of course, this is not all good. Rapid pace and shrinking distance have reduced opportunities to reflect and contemplate. They have cut out times for creative play, for daydreaming, and so many other not-for-profit enterprises that make life worth living.

Then there are all those other changes, the ones that somehow have made us more alienated from one another than ever before. It is fortunate today that political adversaries remain unarmed, as oppositional political enmity has torn our country into enclaves of fear and mistrust. Race relations have reached both new highs and new lows. Sex and gender issues have received unprecedented public exposure, again for good and ill. And religion (traditional as well as New Age) continues its struggle against erosions of faith, leading to visions of godlessness and attendant despair. The triumph of tearing down the cold-war wall has brought on innumerable unintended negative consequences, opening the way for countless brush-fire tyrannies, and making the world in many ways more dangerous than ever before since we can’t even be sure who our enemies are, or what they want, or why they hate us.”


Make sure to read and learn more by purchasing The Best American Short Plays (2013-2014). We would love to hear from you and your thoughts on a short play of your choice within the book.

Sheana Ochoa on her journey to “Stella!”

Applause Cinema and Theatre author Sheana Ochoa recently posted an article she wrote on her experience writing Stella! Mother of Modern Acting, which is currently available online! Visit Sheana’s site here.

 

Find Your Cause: My Journey through Writing Stella Adler’s Biography

00121937As a girl I would watch the Oscars and diligently record all the categories, nominees and winners in my journal. I didn’t realize there were professional archivists already handling this job just fine without me. Somehow I intuited the import of the work, and it was the only way I knew how to be a part of it. The allure was no doubt a girl’s impressionistic view of all the glitz and glamour, but I don’t think it’s a surprise that my way of identifying was through pen and paper.

Later, as an adolescent, I became confident enough to begin planning my acceptance speeches for the Oscar. I saw myself up on the stage winning an award for acting, yet it was not performance, but writing that would propel me artistically. Besides, other than public school productions, I had no idea how to “break into acting,” but I could create my own characters with pen and paper. So all my life I have identified myself as a writer. Writers are just actors who don’t want to be told how to perform anyway.

So instead of drama, I got my bachelors in screenwriting. When it came time to go to graduate school, I was headed toward academia, and although I love teaching (5 years of teaching high school English was the hardest job I’ve ever had), I wasn’t convinced it was my route in life. I began my graduate studies at USC in Spanish literature when I answered an ad to work at a “vocational school.” I needed a day job while I pursued my degree. The school turned out to be the Stella Adler Academy of Acting, throwing me right back into the world of performance and lights and celebrity that had seduced me as a girl. Spanish literature? I don’t know what I was thinking, but I still didn’t have the confidence to drop out of academia. At a crossroads, it came to me. Why not study writing? I imagine I never took my writing seriously enough, but now it was clear and it was as easy as changing my major.

While I was workshopping my poetry and honing screenplays at school, I began learning about acting craft at work. I have an uncle who had produced a couple of well-received films who put me in touch with a producer in Hollywood. I remember meeting this man and knowing that if I wanted to get him interested in my script, I’d need to get him interested in me. I’d need to stand out and be clever, make him laugh, build a relationship so maybe one day, when he was on the crapper, he might have my screenplay nearby and possibly flip it open to read. There were other half-hearted attempts to schmooze, but I immediately knew I didn’t have the know-how to “network.” Now I know why: it was all about me and not about the work.

My last year of graduate school, I produced a one-act play festival at the Stella Adler Academy—with one of my own plays in the production. This was the route for me: producing and writing. I remember receiving a horrible review in Backstage, but it didn’t deter me. By then, I began researching Stella Adler’s life, and when I realized the contributions she had made to refining acting craft, I was actually insulted that she didn’t have a biography. Like me, Stella didn’t have a knack at self-publicizing and now her legacy was withering away in the annals of theatrical history. I didn’t decide to write her biography; I had to write her biography to rectify what I saw as an injustice.

My first “big” interview was with Arthur Miller. The fact that he was one of the last century’s greatest playwrights or married to Marilyn Monroe never entered my mind when I contacted him. I had, as Stella would call it, an action, which was to get him to tell me about Stella for her biography. And so it went with everyone I needed to interview or approach from Peter Bogdanovich and Robert De Niro to Stella’s family. Serving Stella’s legacy and not my own ambitions motivated me for the thirteen years it took to research, write and publish her biography. In the mean time, the connections I made happened organically, not by orchestration.

Once you have a cause, a path is cleared to do whatever it takes to pursue your dreams. This bears emphasizing: your cause empowers you to succeed. My best advice to artists trying to negotiate the competitive creative market is to discover what you care about passionately. Why do you want to act, direct, produce? If you’re an actor, go for the roles that impassion you the way writing Stella’s story did me. Same for directing, producing, or whatever art form you choose. It can’t be for fame or money because that’s amateurish and self-serving.

The success I have achieved in my chosen field has come from a dedication to the work. It takes tenacity, discipline, and the willingness to pick yourself up and dust yourself off when you fall. When I think about it, I’m still that girl recording history, but now I am a part of that history, as is everyone. Find the cause behind your work and serve that cause. You’ve got one shot, this one life to do it, so what have you got to lose?

 

In Performance

Because it’s Friday, here is the preface to In Performance: Contemporary Monologues for Men and Women Late Teens to Twenties, written by J.V. Mercanti. Enjoy!

One of the best auditions I’ve ever seen was for Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2001 revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical Follies. Jim Carnahan, the casting director, and I had called in Judith Ivey for the role of Sally Durant Plummer. If you don’t know who Judith Ivey is, please Google her immediately. You have most likely seen her in something on stage, in film, or on television. You might also have seen a play that she’s directed. She is a prolific artist. The role of Sally Durant Plummer is fragile and complex. Sally has been married to Buddy for years and years, but all that time she has been pining for the love of Ben Stone, who is (unhappily) married to Sally’s former best friend, Phyllis. Sally is going crazy with love and desire that has been burning for over twenty years.

Ms. Ivey was asked to prepare a cut from Sally’s famous first-act song “In Buddy’s Eyes,” an aria through which she tries to convince Ben that she’s deliriously happy in her life with Buddy. She was also asked to prepare a short scene. Present in the room for the audition were Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist; Matthew Warchus, the director; Todd Haimes, artistic director; Jim Carnahan, casting director; Paul Ford, the accompanist; a reader; and myself.

Walking into the room as herself, Ms. Ivey conversed with Mr. Warchus and Mr. Sondheim about her career and, very briefly, about the character. She then took a moment with Paul Ford to discuss the music. Following that, she came to the center of the playing space, closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and prepared herself to begin. In that moment of preparation, which truly lasted no longer than a breath, her body changed, her physicality changed, the very air around her seemed to change. She took the character into her body. Ms. Ivey then opened her eyes, nodded at Mr. Ford, and began to sing.

Ms. Ivey executed the song with specificity, a rich but contained emotional connection to the material, a strong objective, carefully thought-out actions, and a deep understanding of this woman and her love. She went directly from the song to the scene, completely off-book (lines memorized), and when she finished – the room was silent. Mr. Sondheim had tears in his eyes. Mr. Warchus didn’t have a word of direction to give her. It was not that Ms. Ivey had provided us with a complete performance. No, not at all. She had shown us the potential of her Sally Durant Plummer. Her point of view was clear, consistent, and deeply, deeply affecting.

“Thank you, Judith. That was wonderful,” Matthew Warchus finally said.

“I really love Sally,” she responded, “But I was wondering if you might also consider me for the role of Phyllis. I’ve prepared that material as well.”

“Of course I would. Would you like a few moments to go outside and prepare?” he asked.

“No. No, that’s all right. I can do it right now,” she responded.

And after saying this, Ms. Ivey closed her eyes. She very slowly turned away from us, put her hair up in a tight bun, and turned around to face the room. It took no longer than thirty seconds, but once again her body, her posture, the way she related to the air around her, had changed. The aura of the room shifted with her. Once again, she nodded at Paul Ford at the piano, and she fearlessly launched into the Phyllis Stone material.

It was astonishing. Not a false note was sung or uttered. Ivey had such a deep understanding of the cold façade Phyllis wears in order to cover up her breaking heart. Phyllis is the polar opposite of Sally: cool, controlled, calculating, and hard.

Ms. Ivey thanked us for the opportunity. We thanked her for her work. The room remained still and silent for a while after she left.

Without a doubt, Mr. Warchus knew he must cast her in the show. She landed the role of Sally Durant Plummer.

It was clear that Ms. Ivey did a very thorough study of the text in preparation for this audition. She understood who these characters were; how they thought; why they spoke the way they did, using language in their own specific ways. She understood how they moved, where they held their weight, how they related to the space around them. Most importantly, she understood the characters’ objectives (what they wanted) and how to use the other person in the scene to get what she wanted.

You can achieve the same level of performance as Ms. Ivey if you put the requisite amount of work into your monologue, ask yourself the right questions (or the questions I ask you to examine following each of the pieces in this book), and activate your imagination.

In Performance

In Performance is intended for young people who are auditioning for both undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as professional productions and industry meetings. Featured are dynamic monologues from contemporary stage plays of the past 15 years, chosen from the point of view of a professional acting teacher, director, and casting director.

Along with covering the basics of how to match the best monologue to the actor and how to approach the rehearsal and performance of the piece, the book provides a synopsis of each play, a character description, and a list of questions specific to each monologue that will direct the actor toward shaping a complex, honest, and thoughtful performance that has a strong emotional connection, a clear arc, and playable actions.

Seeming is Believing

Guest Blogger: William Demastes is the editor of The Best American Short Plays 2011-2012, as well as the 2010-2011 volume. Below are some of his musings on the importance of theatre.

Seeming is Believing: The Best American Short Plays, 2011-2012

Sometimes an idea just has to be made into a play. It won’t work as a short story or novel. Poetry won’t do it justice. And making a film or video doesn’t do it, either.

Theatre does something no other medium does: it puts live (not virtual), three-dimensional (no need for glasses) human beings in front of a group of live, three-dimensional fellow humans beings. By itself, this action is pretty unique. But then the really unique thing happens: this gathering of humans play a game of make-believe. One group watches as the other group pretends to be people they aren’t, in locations where they aren’t, doing things that they really aren’t doing. Unlike poetry or fiction, we get to deal with real bodies and real voices. Unlike film, we can’t really be duped into thinking somehow we’re seeing “reality.” After all, we’re in a theatre, and that alone announces we’re in a make-believe world.

I point out the above as a sort of invitation to look into Applause’s Best American Short Plays series, of which I collected and edited the last two volumes. They offer a change of pace to the fiction and non-fiction we typically read in our free time on a number of levels. At the most basic, they’re “short”! Each can be read in those creases of free time that occur between the blocks of time that occupy the larger portions of our day. But they certainly do more than merely fill those ends and odds of free time with “something to do”: they exercise a part of our brain that other readings (or viewings) don’t exercise because they ask us to be active in what we’re doing. We are invited and encouraged to become directors in that theatre of our mind’s eye. There’s no narrator telling us what to think, no poet’s vision that we’re running after, and no camera’s-eye view telling us where to look. No, it becomes the reader’s task—our task–to envision set and characters; we need to imagine vocal intonations as we read the words on the page; we need to decide upon motivation, irony, tone. We need to create a make-believe world and populate it with characters of our own imaginings. We the readers become we the directors—we become imaginative collaborators with the playwrights who have so generously begun the process by putting words down on paper. When a playwright publishes her work, she is invited us to partner up and bring her words to life. Being a playwright is, of course, no small task, but neither is reading a playwright’s work. WE get to do so much more than other readerships get to do. We get to collaborate.

And in that act of collaboration, we work hand-in-hand with the playwright in creating a reality that is alive and breathing and teaches us just a little bit about living an active life of engagement rather than a passive one of observation. So, go ahead and give a short play a try. See if it really is any different than reading a short story or going to a movie. See what it does to the director, actor, set designer, costumer, techie in you. And see if playing with these plays changes your outlook on life, even just a little bit. I hear that it does.

The Best American Short Plays 2011-2012

Applause is proud to continue the series that for over 70 years has been the standard of excellence for one-act plays in America. From its inception, The Best American Short Plays has identified new, cutting-edge playwrights who have gone on to establish award-winning careers, including Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, David Mamet, and Horton Foote.

William W. Demastes made his debut as series editor with the well-received 2010-2011 volume, a diverse collection revolving around the multidimensional theme of love. Blogcritics said of the anthology: “This collection is a bountiful of pleasing oddities. Each work offers something worthwhile…. The collection runs the gamut of the most serious drama to the most irreverent topical mental trinkets….”

Demastes returns and once again draws from works produced by some of America’s finest theater companies in an effort to capture the wide range of styles, topics, and regional tastes that typifies American theater. The compilation is slated to include works by John Guare, Neil LaBute, and A. R. Gurney, as well as contributions from a plethora of gifted, emerging playwrights.

Nothing Comes of Nothing

BruceMillerGuest Blogger: Bruce Miller is the author of The Actor as Storyteller and the Roadmap to Success acting series from Limelight Editions. Visit his blog on EdTA for more acting insight.

I am currently working on a play at the University of Miami. That’s not unusual. I am often involved in a production at this time of year. But the play is King Lear, and I’ve only done one other production of Shakespeare since I began teaching some twenty-six years ago.

In my last year as a secondary school drama teacher, I directed a production of the Scottish play. It was to be the first production in a new state of the art theatre, but the construction fell behind. Since the old theatre had already been demolished, we had to perform the play on a makeshift space that wasn’t quite ideal. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned the title of the play so fearlessly and so often. It was pretty stressful, but in the end the production turned out nicely.

Now, some eighteen years later, I’m doing Shakespeare again. But this time is very different. I’m not directing, you see. I’m acting. I have the role of Gloucester, the parallel plot role to Lear. I get to have my eyes poked out and be led around the stage in a bloody blindfold by my students. I have not acted in eight years, and I have no desire to do so. I was drafted, plain and simple. A professional actor was jobbed in to play Lear and he wanted a professional actor to do this parallel role, so the age differential between the patriarchs and college aged students would be consistent. When my chair asked me to step up, I felt I had to say yes because I had already turned down his offer to direct. I have never before acted with students, particularly my own.

Keep reading this article on Bruce’s blog on EdTA’s website!

The Actor as Storyteller is intended for serious beginning actors. It opens with an overview, explaining the differences between theater and its hybrid mediums, the part an actor plays in each of those mediums. It moves on to the acting craft itself, with a special emphasis on analysis and choice-making, introducing the concept of the actor as storyteller, then presents the specific tools an actor works with. Next, it details the process an actor can use to prepare for scene work and rehearsals, complete with a working plan for using the tools discussed. The book concludes with a discussion of mental preparation, suggestions for auditioning, a process for rehearsing a play, and an overview of the realities of show business.

Stephen Schwartz: A Creative Force at Age Sixty-Five

Guest Blogger: Carol de Giere is the author of Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked. Today, we are celebrating Stephen Schwartz’s 65th birthday!

Stephen Schwartz 2008 - photograph by Erin Dorso

Stephen Schwartz 2008 – photograph by Erin Dorso

A small upright piano arrived at the home of Stan and Sheila Schwartz on Long Island when their son Stephen was seven years old. It wasn’t long before the boy started goofing off from his piano lessons so he could improvise new tunes. No one imaged his creative “noodling,” as he calls it, would become one of his strategies for writing songs for Broadway and Hollywood, including the megahit musical Wicked.

Now, at age sixty-five, Stephen Schwartz still centers much of his work around his pianos, including his two grand pianos at home in Connecticut and one in his New York City office/condo. While writing scores for musicals, he almost never writes notes on paper as a first step. And even though his lyrics have won awards, when he feels his way into a character’s psychology, he likes to keep his hands on the ivories. “It’s my belief that music has a certain internal emotional logic, and therefore it should rule the song,” he says.

Schwartz’s credits to date include numerous stage musicals, such as the Broadway hits Wicked, Pippin, The Magic Show and Godspell. His movie credit list is not too shabby either, including lyrics for Disney’s Enchanted, Pocahontas, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and songs for DreamWorks’ The Prince of Egypt.

As he marks his sixty-fifth birthday on March 6, 2013, even with his many achievements he still has no desire to retire. After all, one of his collaborators, Joseph Stein, with whom he worked on The Baker’s Wife and Rags, continued working up until his final days at age ninety-eight. Schwartz is currently penning lyrics for a DreamWorks animated feature as well as songs for a Broadway show about Houdini. (To keep up with his activities, subscribe to The Schwartz Scene newsletter.)

While the songwriter keeps busy writing new musicals, he also takes time to help up and coming composers, lyricists, and librettists through his role as Artistic Director for the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop and as President of the Dramatists Guild.

When I was writing his biography, Defying Gravity (Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, 2008), I noticed that Stephen was especially good at talking about his creative process. I decided to include many of his perspectives and tips in a series of “Creativity Notes” so that other writers and fans could enjoy the insights.

For example, one of the challenges that every writer faces is deciding how to work with feedback while maintaining his or her vision for the piece. This is especially critical for success in collaborative arts like musical theatre. As Wicked developed, Schwartz and his collaborator, Winnie Holzman, found it challenging to sort through feedback when everybody around them had opinions. In my Creativity Note about this I included one of Stephen’s reflections about this process: “Ultimately, I think you have to take everything in and understand what in your show is communicating and what’s not—and then write what you think you would like to see, informed, of course, by what you have learned. My experience has taught me that when I write what truly moves, amuses, or interests me, it usually communicates with others.”

As many millions of owners of his cast albums will testify, what Stephen Schwartz writes seems to touch on their own life experience. That’s the magic of creativity at its best.

For more creativity ideas and stories about Schwartz’s creative career, read Defying Gravity and visit the book’s website.

Defying Gravity takes readers into the creative world of Broadway and film composer Stephen Schwartz, from writing Godspell‘s score at age 23 through the making of the megahit Wicked. For this first authorized biography, de Giere draws from 80 hours of interviews with Schwartz and over 100 interviews with his colleagues, friends, and family. Her sympathetic yet frank narrative reveals never-before-told stories and explores both Schwartz’s phenomenal hits and expensive flops. The book also includes a series of “Creativity Notes” with insights about artistic life, and more than 200 photographs and illustrations.

Bruce Miller: Broadway and Theater

BruceMillerBruce Miller is the author of The Actor as Storyteller, The Scene Study Book, Acting Solo, and Actor’s Alchemy. StageNotes.net asks Bruce, “What made you first get interested in Broadway and theater?”

I’m a certified secondary English teacher and I taught for three years and during that time I did a community theater production. I was always a lead or director in the camp show as a kid. That was a safe venue to do theater and I always loved it. In my first teaching job, which was middle school, I got called on to direct the middle school production of Arsenic and Old Lace and I had no clue what I was doing. Apparently, I did it better than most. That was my first toe in the water.

I taught high school English for four years and I went back to graduate school for Journalism. I wanted to be a television journalist and in order for me to take the graduate class I needed, which was Journalistic camerawork, I needed a prerequisite. The undergraduate journalistic prerequisite was full so they told me to take an acting class. Because I was a little older, the guy who taught the most advanced BA undergraduate scene study class said “Come on in, you’re smart. Work with these guys.”  Without any previous training or classes, I went into the highest level scene study class and I was no worse than anybody else. Then I applied to grad school at the same school which was Temple University, they had a very good graduate program. I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t get in.

I was so interested at this point that I went to find out what I would need to do in order to be good enough. I bumped into a woman who I had a graduate course with and she turned out to be the wife of the director of the acting conservatory and she spoke to her husband. Another long picaresque series of events-it seems like destiny in hindsight-I got into this program I didn’t deserve to be in. Within the three years of graduate school, I caught up, I guess, and I learned how to do some stuff.

When I left, the one big issue that everyone was talking about was my “technique” and my “toolkit.” Most of us didn’t really have a technique. Ironically, it was a really good acting program by reputation but none of us left with a solid background. It wasn’t until I was acting in NY and found some other teachers that I really learned to put together that thing called technique. Except for one really good teacher who had a tremendous influence on me, on all of us.

I dedicated my teaching career to making it [acting techniques] simple and clear. And so nothing I teach is original, other than maybe my definition of good acting, but everything else is just basic late Stanislavsky but articulated to the lowest common denominator and through repetition, it seems to work.

Keep reading this interview with Bruce Miller on StageNotes.net.

Acting can – and should – be more than guesswork and instinct. Actor’s Alchemy: Finding the Gold in the Script examines the relationship between the script and what an actor ultimately does on the stage or on screen. Here is a straightforward guide filled with useful information to help actors learn to use their scripts in a specific and analytical way to solve the problems of the scene and bring their elusive characters to life. In learning how to decipher the script, actors will be equipped to make the choices that lead to delivering a gold performance.

Q & A with Robert Simonson

Robert Simonson is the author of Performance of the Century. Below is a Q & A he did with Backstage Magazine.

You talk about that magical moment when an actor receives his or her Equity card. Can you describe how Equity membership transforms at actor’s life?

I’m not an actor, and I’ve never been an actor. [But] I’ve asked that question of other actors as a journalist, and it’s always a special moment. Every actor remembers when they get their Equity card because it just means a lot. It means a lot professionally—I mean, a lot of doors are now open to you. But it also indicates a certain kind of arrival, like you’ve made it. Your acting career may not be thriving yet, but you are a professional actor.

You write about Equity promoting racial diversity even before the Civil Rights Era. Can you talk about that?

On a lot of cultural issues [and] a lot of social issues, Equity was ahead of the curve. They were always fighting for the rights of the underserved and the underprivileged. And so in the 30s, long before the Civil Rights Movement, long before various other efforts to better the lot of African Americans and other ethnic groups, they were fighting for the rights of those members of their union—trying to get directors and producers to cast integrated casts, and just generally making sure that the members of the union who were black or other ethnicities were treated just the same as the white members of the union…Equity always stood up for what was right. They stood up for their members. So they have a long history of doing that.

And they’ve done things for actors with disabilities.

I believe it was in the 1990s or the late 80s [that] they started fighting for the rights of actors with disabilities, to make sure that they were seen for parts—particularly when the part in the play was for a person with a disability, that actual actors with disabilities could be considered for these roles.

Keep reading this interview on Backstage.

 

Performance of the Century

Actors’ Equity Association, the union representing stage actors and stage managers, turns 100 years old in 2013. Shaped by the inequities visited on performers in the 19th century, the union has shaped the landscape of the professional American theater. Founded in 1913, it became a force to be reckoned with in an historic 1919 strike – the most entertaining and dramatic one (naturally) the nation had ever seen. Since then, Equity has gone beyond securing the safety, health, and rights of stage actors, to become arguably the most progressive force in theater. It stared down not only obdurate producers, but segregation – on and off the stage, the political hysteria of the blacklist years, and the challenge of the AIDS epidemic, its members forming what would become Equity Fights AIDS. It entertained the troops of several successive American wars and fostered the spread of stage culture across the land, from the government-fostered productions of the Depression-era Federal Theatre Project to the Equity Library Theatre, which offered the classics to the public at bargain prices. It oversaw the little theater movement’s growth into the regional theater movement, and was there when Broadway begat Off-Broadway, and then Off-Off-Broadway. To read this resplendent new book, lavishly illustrated with historical images and stunning photographs, is to learn not only the union’s glorious past, but that of American theater itself.

An Audience Experience

Guest Blogger: Peter Filichia is the author of Broadway Musicals and Broadway Musical MVP’s: 1960-2010. Below is an excerpt from a blog post he did on Stagenotes.net.

I had a good time talking to a group of teachers on how musical theater is a worthwhile addition to their curriculum. I told story after story that proved how the arts enriched lives — but how could I forget this one that happened to me in 1991?
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I was driving back from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown when I spotted a poster in Albany advertising a free outdoor production of The Wiz. Well, I thought, it is close to showtime, and the price is right.
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I arrived just a minute or two before eight p.m., and rushed to the one seat in the first row that wasn’t occupied. To my left was a quite old albino woman, who had a number of elderly people seated to her left. I assumed they were all transported from a senior citizen facility.
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To my right was a twenty something black man who looked terribly surly, and to his right was a twenty something black woman who looked surlier still. I guessed that she’d brought him here under duress. I imagined their conversation at home: “Come on!” she said, “It doesn’t cost anything! We are going and that’s that!” But she’d already found there was indeed a price to be paid — because he was going to display his anger all night long to pay her back for dragging him out of the house.
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Keep reading Peter’s story on StagesNotes.net!
Yes, Broadway is the oldest established permanent non-floating crap game in New York, and Peter Filichia takes a look at 100 shows that met either the most glorious or the most ignominious fates in Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit and the Biggest Flop of the Season, 1959-2009 (Applause Books).
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In Broadway Musical MVPs: 1960-2010, The Most Valuable Players of the Past 50 Seasons, Peter Filichia names his choices for the MVPs of each of the past 50 Broadway seasons – they might be performers, producers, directors, or choreographers. Not surprisingly, many of the featured MVPs are multitaskers, such as directors who also choreographed, or wrote the book, or even designed the costumes! Also included are awards in categories such as Comeback Player of the Year, Reliever of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Led League in Errors. From Tammy Grimes, MVP of the 1960-61 season for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, to Joe DiPietro, MVP of the 2009-10 season for Memphis, Filichia recognizes the best and the brightest that have appeared on Broadway.