So, the Tony Awards run Sunday, June 10th this year with Neil Patrick Harris hosting (huzzah!). As such, every theater snob, geek, pleb, sporto, motorhead, slut, blood, wasteoid, dweeb and dickhead will be tuning in hoping for some of that live theater magic (We miss you, Bret Michaels!).
But how many people waiting with baited breath for the broadcast are there to find out who won in the “Play” categories? It saddened me when scenes from the Best Play categories were replaced by pre-taped descriptive packages of each play rather than a short scene with the actors themselves. I’d love a peek at Stockard Channing’s work in “Other Desert Cities”. Alas, it is not to be. The musical must be king.
But, if you’re a theater fan (musical theater or not) who is even a little bit into plays, I highly recommend keeping up with your reading of the latest and greatest play titles making a National Splash on June 10th. There’s a lot of rich material there – material influencing everyday storytelling media such as, you know, film and television. And someday, you may actually need to choose a monologue from a play for an audition. Or, gasp, speak knowledgeably about theater in general. So consider picking these up from the library, Amazon, or even your high school English textbook.
Nominated for Best New Play:
Clybourne Park is a sequel by Bruce Norris to Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama 2011.
Read it because: It is a sequel to Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama 2011 (duh). It is also witty, funny, critical and wonderfully structured. A terrific companion to “A Raisin in the Sun”.
Other Desert Cities: In this play by John Robin Baitz, Brooke Wyeth returns home to Palm Springs to visit her parents after a six-year absence. A once-promising novelist, Brooke announces to her family the imminent publication of a memoir dredging up a pivotal and tragic event in the family’s history — a wound that her affluent parents don’t want reopened. Finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Read it because: it is witty, smart and full of potentially virtuoso performances – particularly for women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.
*Stockard Channing nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Play
*Judith Light nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Play
Peter and the Starcatcher: A company of 12 actors plays some 50 characters in this new play, all on a journey to answer the century-old question: How did Peter Pan become The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up? This epic origin story of one of popular culture’s most enduring and beloved characters sets out to prove that an audience’s imagination can be the most captivating place in the world. Adapted by Rick Elice from the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
Read it because: it is the best kind of bedtime story – at turns funny, scary and whimsical. It is also a grand exercise in imagination, as the play’s staging can go a number of different directions.
*Also a rarity, a “play” (meaning non-musical) nominated for Best Original Score.
*Christian Borle nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Play
*Celia Keenan-Bolger nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Play
*Roger Rees and Alex Timbers nominated for Best Direction of a Play
+4 Design Nominations
Venus in Fur: Vanda is a preternaturally talented young actress determined to land the lead in a new play based on the classic erotic novel Venus in Furs. Her emotionally charged audition for Thomas, the play’s adapter/director, becomes an electrifying game of cat-and-mouse, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power, love and sex. A new comedy by David Ives.
Read it because: it is funny in a dark, strange and delicious way; where the play takes you is to a conclusion as threatening as it is sexy and says a lot about the politics of power- sexual or otherwise. It is also an amazing two-hander with some great speeches.
*Nina Arianda nominated for Best Leading Performance by an Actress in a Play
Nominated for Best Revival of a Play:
Death of a Salesman first opened on Broadway on February 10, 1949, going on to win that year’s Tony Award for Best Play. Subsequent Broadway productions came in 1975, 1984, and 1999, with the latter two productions winning Tonys as Best Revival of a Play. There have also been numerous film and television adaptations.
Reread it because: Miller’s portrait of failed American dreams draws sharp parallels to our own disenchanted times. Try reading it as if you’ve never read it before and see if the tragedy in it comes through for you.
*Philip Seymour Hoffman nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Play
*Andrew Garfield nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Play
*Linda Emond nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Play
*Mike Nichols nominated for Best Direction of a Play
+2 Design Nominations
The Best Man: A 1960 play about power, ambition, political secrets, ruthlessness and the race for the presidency, set at the national convention where two candidates are vying for their party’s nomination during the primary season. It’s an inside look at the dirt-digging, double-dealing, triple-crossing chicanery of presidential electioneering.
Read it because: It’s an election year. And election years would be so much more entertaining if Gore Vidal wrote the dialogue. The language is brilliant in the play and the story and characters are enjoyable and engaging—and still so ridiculously relevant over 50 years later.
*James Earl Jones nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Play
Master Class: Terrence McNally’s 1996 Tony Award-winning Best Play about Maria Callas takes us to one of Callas’s famous master classes, where, late in her career, she dares the next generation to make the same sacrifices and rise to the same heights that made her the most celebrated, the most reviled and the most controversial singer of her time.
Read it because: it is a master class on what is required for the highest levels of artistry. Several of Callas’ speeches in it should be written into journals and memorized by anyone who aspires to performance – at any level.
Wit: Margaret Edson’s play (which debuted in 1998) follows a brilliant and exacting poetry professor as she undergoes experimental treatment for cancer. A scholar who devoted her life to academia, she must now face the irony and injustice of becoming the subject of research.
Reread it because: it is an aching reminder of the everyday struggle to maintain life—both the life of the mind and the life of the body.
*Cynthia Nixon nominated for Best Actress in Leading Role in a Play for this production