Casting Disabled Actors Leads To Better Shows

This summer, The New York Times published Alexis Soloski’s article “Actors With Disabilities Are Ready, Willing and Able to Take More Roles[NG1] ,” which is about another facet of the diversity in theater issue. The surge in colorblind casting is perhaps the most important theater trend of the year but Soloski points out that true diversity on stage means more than skin color. Increasingly, disabled actors are being showcased, whether portraying a character written with a similar condition in mind (like having Gregg Mozgala, an actor who has cerebral palsy, play a CP patient in the Williamstown Theater Festival’s production of “Cost of Living”) or casting a disabled actor in a role that wasn’t written specifically for one (like casting paraplegic Ali Stroker as Anna in “Spring Awakening,” making her the first wheelchair-user to perform on Broadway and at the Tonys). We’re seeing this on a smaller scale outside the theater too. Deaf model Nyle DiMarco recently won “Dancing With The Stars” and Hollywood is starting to wise up the issue, albeit slower. [NG2] Much, much slower. [NG3] 

Being & Surviving: Performing with High-Functioning Anxiety

There is a huge misconception that exists around the identities of performers - be it of a singer, dancer or actor of any kind. The generalization that is most commonly held is that we are all, of course, inherently confident and self-assured individuals who function exceptionally well under pressure. Right? Wrong. Well, at least, in my experience, this assumption does not, contrary to popular belief, hold true for a significant, and largely unspoken, group of individuals that exists within the performance industry. This isn't to say that there aren't individuals who inherently thrive in the spotlight, without much of a thought about nerves or the like, there are. And, honestly, I envy them. But I'm here to talk about a career in performance from a lesser known angle. 

How Can Musical Theater Help Change Our World?

As a teacher and musical theater director, I have found myself struggling. I am turning on my television, going on Facebook, or browsing the internet and seeing so many discouraging things out there. We have polar opposites vying for the presidency, violence against law enforcement and minorities, sexism, racism, whitewashing casts, and even clown threats to our society. How do we explain this to children? How do we teach them to be better human beings with compassion, humility, and understanding? What can we do as musical theater educators and community theater programs?

What is a Theatre Critic’s Job?

The animosity that theatre practitioners feel towards theatre critics runs deep and is in no way a new phenomenon.  Nor is the practice of an artist attempting to respond to this “adversary” in his art.  As far back as 1663 Moliere wrote the creatively disguised titled short play called La Critique de l'école des femmes (which translated means Critique of the School for Wives), where Moliere basically tells his critics “you can hate on my play if you’d like but audiences love it… so shut up.”

How Educational Elitism is Hurting Theatre

We’re getting closer to the end of August, meaning that many students across the nation have just started – or are about to start – the Fall 2015 semester at the college or university that they currently attend. Personally, as I near the start of my last year of college, I am reminded of something that I’m sure many other college theatre students in America have faced at one point or another, and if they haven’t, probably will eventually. It is a problem that I believe is very unfortunate not just for us, but for the entire theatre community. Whenever I tell someone that I went to a local state university in Willimantic – as opposed to one of the larger and more well-known universities in the country – I get very similar reactions from various people. Sometimes it appears in the form of a “Well, why do you go there? Why not [insert school here]?” as if they believe that I am not as smart or talented as someone else might be, while in other cases it appears in the form of either a “Huh” or “Oh, okay” as they nod their heads, heavily indicating that they don’t think much of the college education I have received. In a few other cases, the reaction is merely complete silence.

Avoid the "The-Original Broadway Cast-Did-It-That-Way-Syndrome"

While there has been some positive change in the theater world, there is a growing issue of things staying the same. 

For the sake of ease, I’ll refer to it as The-OBC-Did-It-That-Way-Syndrome; that is to say directors forgoing their own artistic input and simply recreating the original Broadway production. It’s an issue I’ve noticed a lot recently, especially at community theater productions or amateur shows. Everything down to the costuming, set, mannerisms and blocking are taken almost 100 percent from the libretto. There is nothing inherently wrong with this – those choices were made with the original creative team and are in the script for a reason – but far too often it impedes directorial creativity and makes the amateur version feel like a pale imitation of the original. The thrill of seeing your child/brother/friend/parent on stage aside, these copycat productions do little but offer the same nostalgia as watching The Wizard of Oz on late-night television for the hundredth time.

If You Want to Major in Theatre, Avoid These Colleges : 2017-18 Edition

I'll be honest, I've never written an article like this before. While we release annual rankings of who we feel offers the best theatre programs in the country, doing a list of the opposite just seems like an opening for all kinds of trouble. 

However, when reading an article in the news the other day, I realized the perfect way to determine what schools to avoid if you want to major in theatre: The ones that won't value you. 

Being Santa's Wife

The second time my husband, Stephen, wears the Santa costume and acts as the main man, it's better. The costume is a little more legit; he's doing it for a new group; he has a better Santa chair, a better introduction (more suspense, more lead up, more fanfare....and he gets to ride in on a trackless train); and it's a monumentally hot year so Stephen rocks the sunglasses as he makes a big entrance- this goes over really well. 

Allegory of the Class: The Forfeit of Dogma in its Own Conceit

“The method we have been studying is often called the ‘Stanislavski System.’ But this is not correct. The very power of this method lies in the fact that it was not concocted or invented by anyone. Both in spirit and in body it is a part of our organic natures. It is based on the laws of nature. The birth of a child, the growth of a tree, the creation of an artistic image are all manifestations of a kindred order. How can we come closer to this nature of creation? That has been the principal concern of my whole life. It is not possible to invent a system. We are born with it inside us, with an innate capacity for creativeness. This last is our natural necessity, therefore it would seem that we could not know how to express it except in accordance with a natural system.”