Theater in the Time of COVID-19

By Larry Laneer
March 18, 2020

Although COVID-19 is barely in our area, it has already dislodged theater here. The fine arts may not be the most important things in a health emergency, but they are important. The theater and other artists who make them for us are among those workers who may lose income during the hiatus.

“We have made the difficult decision to simply end our current 18th season,” Donald Jordan, founding artistic director of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, said. The company planned a brief revival of The Oklahoma City Project as part of the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing next month. In June, Oklahoma City Rep was presenting A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which was expected to be one of the major productions of the season.

Three shows scheduled to open this month or in April have been moved to other dates. Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma rescheduled the world première of Distant Thunder to September-October. They bumped the new musical planned for that slot, Head Over Heels, to 2021. Lyric’s summer season at the Thelma Gaylord is still on with rehearsals beginning June 9, Michael Baron, the company’s producing artistic director, said. Matilda is planned to open June 23.

Oklahoma Shakespeare plans to move As You Like It, which had been cast and was to begin rehearsals this week, to September. The company canceled its statewide tour to rural schools in about 20 communities. A fundraiser in April has been postponed. “This will be a financial blow,”  Kathryn McGill, artistic and producing director, said. OS still plans to stage their new program, “Pay What You Will,” on the Myriad Gardens Great Lawn on June 18-28.

Pollard Theatre Company already had the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in rehearsals for an April opening. According to Pollard artistic director W. Jerome Stevenson, the company hopes to produce that show and the drolly titled Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years At a Certain School of Magic and Magic, but no dates have been set.

Elizabeth Gray, general manager of OKC Broadway, has no update on the touring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, scheduled for May12-17. The decision to postpone or cancel will be made by the producers in New York.

See the Show and Theater Guide (button at upper right) for the latest schedule updates.

With theaters, movie houses, and bars closed, theatergoers will have to be creative in finding things to do.  As for me, I still have 102 episodes of The Twilight Zone to go.

 

Widely Staged Shows, Playwrights Presented Here

By Larry Laneer
November 15, 2019

Who says we’re behind the times?  Not true!  At least, not completely true theatrically speaking.

American Theatre magazine has released its top ten list of most-produced plays and playwrights in the 2019-2020 season (which are really 14 shows because of ties). (Theatre season runs the same as the academic year, fall to spring with an additional summer session.) The magazine is the organ of the Theatre Communications Group, an organization of professional, non-profit theater companies in this country. The list is not comprehensive; it includes productions by TCG members only. And they don’t count Shakespeare and productions of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

According to the magazine, A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens, based on the book by Mark Haddon, will be the two most-produced plays in the 2019-2020 season with 12 productions each. A TCG member, Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre staged a brief run of Curious Incident in April and is presenting A Doll’s House, Part 2 at CitySpace now. Next on the list of most-produced plays is Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan (10 productions), which Oklahoma City Rep opened with this season. Also on the list are the musical Bright Star by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell (9 productions), presented earlier this year by Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, and The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe (8 productions), done this year by both Oklahoma City University’s School of Theatre and OU’s Helmerich School of Drama.

The magazine also identified the top twenty most-produced playwrights (which are really 22 because of ties). Lauren Gunderson leads the list with 33 productions. Oklahoma Shakespeare staged her The Book of Will in August. Lucas Hnath, author of A Doll’s House, Part 2, will be the third most-produced playwright, tied with Tennessee Williams at 17 productions each. (By the way, Hnath’s last name rhymes with wraith; the H is silent; the N is sounded.) The OCU School of Theatre will present Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl (10 productions) in early 2020. Simon Stephens (13 productions), Duncan Macmillan (11 productions), and Steve Martin (9 productions) also made the top twenty. So did Neil Simon, who died in 2018 (13 productions). Twelve of the most-produced playwrights are women; 10 are men.

Shows don’t necessarily get on this list because they’re always great works of art. Sometimes they just gain popularity or are relatively easy or inexpensive to stage, needing one actor, one costume, and one set, for example. But it’s good to know our theater companies are presenting works that are prominent in the current conversation.