No, Fauci Didn’t Say Live Theater Won’t Come Back For Another Year

(photo: Ludovic Bertron/Flickr)

This has blown up across many outlets online and I feel the need to underscore Dr. Anthony Fauci’s true words.

Per the New York Times, he did not say it would be more than a year after a coronavirus vaccine becomes available that theaters can open.

He said it would be a year before “people feel comfortable returning to theaters without masks.”

As theaters look to see how they might reopen with safety accommodations including mask use, Dr. Anthony Fauci says it will likely be more than a year before people feel comfortable returning to theaters without masks.

“If we get a really good vaccine and just about everybody gets vaccinated,” he said in an Instagram Live interview with Jennifer Garner on Wednesday, “you’ll have a degree of immunity in the general community that I think you can walk into a theater without a mask and feel like it’s comfortable that you’re not going to be at risk.”

He said that would likely not be until mid- to late 2021.

But that doesn’t mean he is saying when it would be safe to go to the theater without a mask. Dr. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, clarified in a phone interview on Friday that he was referring to when people could return to theatergoing at their pre-coronavirus comfort levels. “Words like ‘safe’ are charged,” he said. “I’m talking about the general trend of when we’ll start to feel comfortable going back to normal if we get a safe and effective vaccine.”

It’s an important difference to note because Broadway and regional theaters may open by January or February. The pandemic situation changes weekly.

So, folks, please don’t misconstrue Dr. Fauci’s comments to mean we need to write Broadway and live theater off for another whole year.

It’s not what he said.

Podcast: ‘An Older Gay Guy Show’ Chats Me Up About A Life In The Theater

My actual headshot from back in the day…

Ok, a post about … me 🙂

A couple of months ago, Joey Hernandez, of the uber-popular podcast An Older Gay Guy Show, interviewed me about the work I do here on The Randy Report.

Joey and I have been a virtual mutual admiration society on Twitter for years. I love his podcast, I never miss it, and he’s been a big supporter of mine.

Over the years, An Older Gay Guy Show has received many award nominations and twice been a finalist (wow) for The People’s Choice Podcast Awards.

During our chat, though, he realized that I’d had this whole other life as a dancer/singer/actor on Broadway and he asked if I’d come back and share some of that journey.

We ended up chatting so much about my beginnings in the theater, moving to NYC, and my differents jobs that he’s sharing it as a two-part show (those that know me are aware I can share a story or two…).

Hit the play button to hear me chat on how my career in theater began, including the not so great, early salad days before I finally got a break.

And this is just Part One, folks…LOL

And if you enjoy, you can click over to The Podcast Awards to nominate An Older Gay Guy Show in the Best LGBTQ category as well as the People’s Choice Award.

New Musical ‘Nathan C. Jones: A Love Story?’ Goes Virtual For World Premiere

Amir Levi in ‘Nathan C. Jones: A Love Story?’

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, artists in the theater are finding new, unconventional ways to bring the vibrancy of live theater to audiences.

Over the past few months, theater fans have enjoyed online streaming concert events by Broadway stars as well as previously recorded original Broadway productions, plus Obie Award-winning off-Broadway plays like David Drakes’ The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.

And of course, there’s Seth Rudetsky’s daily serving of theater fare with his Stars in the House web series.

The acclaimed Blank Theatre in Los Angeles recently served up the virtual world premiere of the new musical, Nathan C. Jones: A Love Story?

The one-man show was written by Vanessa Stewart and Brendan Milburn, based on an idea by Amir Levi, who also stars in the musical. Daniel Henning, of the Blank Theatre, skillfully handles direction for the premiere which was all filmed in quarantine.

I had a chance to chat with Levi about the new musical, the experience of adapting the show for virtual audiences and more.


The Randy Report: What was the inspiration for the play?

Amir Levi: A few things! Thematically, the idea of obsession has always been fascinating to me. I think partly because we all have a little bit of obsessive tendencies in us. Some of us Facebook stalk our exes, some of us constantly re-read texts to make sure we said the right thing, or we look for deeper meaning within the texts that have been communicated or not communicated with a lover/ex-lover/potential lover, etc.

Most of us have the ability to stop ourselves, however. We have that little voice inside our heads telling us to stop because we’re being ‘crazy.’ This show is about someone who doesn’t have that ability.

Structurally, I’ve always loved telling stories through song. I had done a few solo concerts, and the order of the songs that I picked was always important, and there would always be something to talk about between numbers.

I love “Tell me on a Sunday” because we get to see several romances from one person’s perspective, and it’s all singing. This is similar to that because we see one person’s perspective on a romance, and it’s mostly done through song, but this is perhaps a more targeted approach.

Amir Levi in ‘Nathan C. Jones: A Love Story?’

TRR: What moved you to release this during the pandemic?

AL: Our writer, Vanessa Stewart, e-mailed me, the director (Daniel Henning) and the composer (Brendan Milburn) about a week or two into the quarantine and said that since we don’t know how long this will last, and most of the show takes places in Nathan’s apartment, why not have this be our world premiere?

We don’t know when live theater will come back, and each of us is an artist that can’t sit still unless we’re working on a project (or several) at a time.

Just because the physical theatrical spaces are gone for now doesn’t mean theater needs to stop. Stories need to be told and people need to express themselves. Also, many people who are in quarantine (and even before quarantine) can probably relate to Nathan’s loneliness and desperation for companionship and love.

TRR: Do you feel you were able to capture the mood/point of the play via virtual release?

AL: Yes! Daniel is a brilliant director and came up with the different places to set the webcam to give it a more dynamic feel, and to really take advantage of this medium. We were originally planning on doing a live-stream of the whole show, but then we discovered that unless a musician was physically in the room with me, it would be impossible to really do the music justice.

Also, as a performer, it would be hard to stay ‘in it’ while constantly adjusting the camera and doing everything on my own. Through rehearsals, Daniel took note of what times of day the different lighting options were affecting my apt (Daniel directed me via Zoom screen share so he could see what my webcam was seeing).

Brendan and Vanessa wrote a new song (“Friend You”) for this medium that really helps show not only the emotional journey of Nathan but in this medium, is able to get a sort of intimacy that can only be conveyed through film.

Amir Levi in ‘Nathan C. Jones: A Love Story?’

TRR: What’s next for ’Nathan C. Jones: A Love Story?’

AL: Eventually, when live theater comes back, it would be amazing to get a full run of it, and to perhaps tour it! I’m sure 1 or 2 new songs would probably be inspired for a fully staged version. However, since live performance probably won’t return till at least Spring 2021, we want to reach as many audience members as possible and hope this story moves them.


In addition to just overcoming the immense hurdles of creating a piece of theater via Zoom and the internet, the creative team and Levi deserve big props for telling the sometimes obsessive/sometimes touching story of one man’s desire to find love.

Favorite lyric: “Oh Chad, if you break it then you buy it / If you break my heart, you know you have to pay…”

Does Nathan end up with the virtual love of his life? I’m not giving anything away 🙂

You can watch the full one-act musical, Nathan C. Jones: A Love Story? below.

Two Theaters Approved By Actors Equity To Resume Performances

Woman on stage in a play

Woman on stage in a play

Theatermania reports that Actors Equity Association (AEA), the national labor union representing stage actors and stage managers, has approved two Massachusetts theaters to produce new productions in the very near future.

Barrington Stage Company and Berkshire Theatre Group have both worked with AEA to move forward with their plans.

Barrington Stage Company is producing Harry Clarke, a one-man show that will employ two Equity members, a performer, and a stage manager. It begins performances in August.

Berkshire Theatre Group is mounting the musical Godspell, an outdoor production with a cast of about 10 and two stage managers.

Both theaters have agreed to safety features that include testing for Equity members and those who come in contact with them.

Other new measures to ensure the safety of workers and audiences: Berkshire Theatre Group, for example, will stage Godspell outdoors for 96 audience members.

Barrington Stage Company is using its indoor facilities but has removed seating, reducing its house capacity to 163 down from over 500. Patrons will be required to wear masks.

It also has committed to an isolated backstage area and regular electrostatic spraying to clean the facilities. Additional entrances and exits are also being built, and all performances will be intermissionless.

Pride Plays Presents Free Livestream Of ‘The Men From The Boys’

 

A star-studded cast of Pride Plays’ livestream of Mart Crowley’s The Men from the Boys is set to include Mario Cantone, Charlie Carver, Rick Elice, Telly Leung, Lou Liberatore, Carson McCally, Kevyn Morrow, Denis O’Hare and James Joseph O’Neil.

The Men from the Boys revisits the beloved characters from the iconic gay-themed play, The Boys in the Band,  years after the events of the original play.

The free stream at 7 pm Eastern this Friday, June 26, will be directed by Zachary Quinto, who starred in the recent Tony Award-winning revival of Crowley’s The Boys in the Band.

Sponsorship and VIP opportunities, which include a post-show Zoom party with Quinto and Pride Plays producer and celebrated actor Michael Urie, are also available.

The Pride Plays season, which is presented by Playbill, benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. With every dollar donated, you’ll support those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and other critical illnesses, as well as champion organizations working toward social justice and anti-racism.

All-Star Streaming Event Announced For Stephen Sondheim’s 90th Birthday Celebration

(image via Broadway.com)

Deadline reports a cavalcade of stars will take part in Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration, a virtual 90th birthday celebration for legendary Broadway composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim

Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, and many more are scheduled to appear on Sunday, April 26, which just happens to be the 50th anniversary of the opening night of Sondheim’s iconic musical, Company.

The streaming event will be hosted by Raúl Esparza beginning at 8 pm ET and will be available for free at Broadway.com and the Broadway.com YouTube channel.

Esparza has a long history with Sondheim’s work having starred as Bobby in the Tony Award-winning revival of Company in 2006, as George in the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration productions of Sunday in the Park and as Charlie in Merrily We Roll Along in 2002. Additionally, he starred in City Center’s Encores! productions of Anyone Can Whistle and last year’s Road Show.

“The world is in a hard place, and we are all searching for something great,” says Esparza in a statement. “Well, Stephen Sondheim is greatness personified. So, we’ve assembled a group of people who love Steve and have worked with Steve and have been inspired by Steve to sing his music and share some joy and some heartache together. We may be far from Broadway right now, but Broadway is never far from us. Besides, Stephen Sondheim turned 90. How many times do you get to be 90? 11? So come on, say it, get it over with, come on, quick…happy birthday.”

Mary-Mitchell Campbell will be the music director, with Paul Wontorek serving as director.

This online event will act as a fundraiser for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), the organization conceived by Campbell and Juilliard students to transform the lives of youth through art.

School Chaperones March Students Out Of ‘Gay’ Nutcracker

(photos: Michael Brosilow/The House Theatre)

Ohio’s Notre Dame Academy found itself in an unexpected controversy after school faculty and chaperones decided students couldn’t be exposed to a two-men playing the parents in a production of the holiday classic, The Nutcracker.

Each year the Catholic school takes its 8th graders on a field trip. This year, the school chose The House Theatre of Chicago’s production of The Nutcracker.

According to school alum Carly McGoldrick, the students were marched out of the theater before the curtain even went up once the adults in charge realized the same-sex casting.


The production has received rave reviews.

Notre Dame Academy posted this apology on its Facebook page:

We apologize for our decision for 8th graders leave to a performance of The Nutcracker before it began due to casting choices. The mistake is contrary to our inclusive spirit and reminds us our actions should affirm that we are all God’s children.

To clarify what happened, the decision was made for the NDA eighth-graders to leave a performance of The Nutcracker before it began because upon arrival they discovered that the producer had chosen to cast two men as the main character’s parents. However, the Spirit of Inclusion statement adopted by the NDA Board of Trustees in 2014 affirms that we in the Notre Dame Academy community welcome all into our Gospel community including but not limited to people of all colors, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender expression, abilities, economic classes, and nationalities.

We consider the decision to not attend the performance a mistake and sincerely apologize to anyone we offended. The action does does not reflect NDA’s true values. Rest assured we will redouble our efforts to live up to our inclusion statement.

Sometimes we teach our children as much from our mistakes as from our successes. We view this as a chance to teach our students the value of taking ownership of one’s mistakes and to reaffirm that our community is committed to inclusion.

Theatre Review: ‘The Inheritance’ The Gay Epic Housing Many Stories

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

On a white platform resting like a blank sheet of paper just above the bare stage, a diverse group of gay men gathers with pencils and paper, laptops, and tablets.  They write their stories — or try to begin. The story germinating inside the youngest to be nurtured by his mentor will grow round them blossoming into an epic reflective of a community continually grappling with its own story.  This is The Inheritance, Matthew Lopez’s two-part play which has opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

Structured on, Howard’s End, Lopez reimagines E.M Forster’s masterpiece as New York City’s 21st century, “gay society.”  In the process, he trades the original’s examination of social mores, ridged conduct, and reputation for issues of intergenerational relationships, interpersonal responsibility, and community. Bridging the two is Forster himself aka “Morgan” offering a masterclass to his writing protégé and creating the story within a story framework, not unlike the stage around the central “writing platform.”  Following Forster’s roadmap, The Inheritance is a journey of revelation to find lost connections, that while occasionally veering off path, arrives with an emotional impact like few other plays in recent years.

The cast of The Inheritance (all production photos: Matthew Murphy)

Though the trend on Broadway is sadly towards the “100 minute, no intermission, in’n’out” format or spectaculars, one-ton puppets, and wizarding magic shows, The Inheritance triumphs doing the exact opposite. For six-and-half hours, over two performances, it grips an audience so tightly one can hear petals drop and does it on a virtually bare stage.  The story of lives as they lose connection to each other, their community, and themselves doesn’t need gimmicks to entertain.  It has a common humanity transcending sexuality, age, gender, or race, to profoundly engage.

The Inheritance erupts with unvarnished honesty, overwhelming insight, and a kind of brilliance that’s shaking audiences. In particular, the description of living through the AIDS crisis by one character to another who wasn’t there is so visceral, he “gets it” in no uncertain terms because those of us who were, are there again. Additionally, Lopez has a great gift for the extended monologue.  At a time, when people barely listen to each other, holding anyone’s attention with thoughtful, introspective speeches longer than 240 characters is a talent to be treasured.

Jordan Barbour, Darryl Gene Daughtry Jr., Kyle Soller, Arturo Luís Soria and Kyle Harris in The Inheritance

So, it seems odd The Inheritance’s flaws are in conversational “everyday scenes.” It’s been reported, the play is “drawn largely from Lopez’s personal experiences.” Ironically, the familiar scenes involving the close-knit, circle of friends often feel superficial and didactic, if not unnecessary.  Even so, the action never drags due to Stephen Daldry’s flawless direction and superlative staging.

With essentially a platform, a few costume changes, and various props from a cast that almost never leaves the stage, Daldry creates the absorbing world of The Inheritance. He instinctively focuses on what theatre is fundamentally about, great storytelling, fearlessly trusting the material and a stellar cast.

Leading The Inheritance’s impeccable ensemble are Andrew Burnap as Toby Darling, John Benjamin Hickey as Henry Wilcox, Paul Hilton as Morgan/Walter Poole, Samuel H. Levine as Adam/Leo and Kyle Soller as Eric Glass all of whom are reprising the West End roles they originated. Expect to see those names again come award season as they each give outstanding and magnetic performances.  Hilton’s superbly nuanced sage and mentor; Levine’s coming of age search for belonging; Hickey’s effortless inhumanity; Burnap’s addiction to his persona; and at the center, Glass fighting for his own humanity make The Inheritance an embarrassment of performance riches.  Paul Hilton alone is not to be missed.

Samuel H. Levine, Kyle Soller and Andrew Burnap in The Inheritance

Most often, an inheritance has a significant monetary value and/or sometimes sentimental.  The historic house in The Inheritance may have both, but its intrinsic value is beyond either of those measures. It’s the stories passed down by and about those who came before which for generations made the house, a home. Such is the inherent value of stories to a community. They bind it together in shared solidarity and guide it by passing down wisdom and experience.  The Inheritance demonstrates the immeasurable gift our predecessors gave us; the invaluable legacy our stories are for future generations; and the power of great storytelling in the theatre.

“If we can’t have a conversation with our past, what will our future be? Who are we? And more importantly: Who will we become?” – Matthew Lopez

The Inheritance
By Matthew Lopez
PART 1: 3 hours 15 minutes, with two intermissions
PART 2: 3 hours 20 mins, with one intermission and 5 min pause
The Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York City, Open End Run
More information, performance schedule, and tickets click here.

Lawrence Pfeil, Jr., is a freelance writer/playwright who has reviewed film and theatre, both on and off-Broadway, for media outlets including The Randy Report, the New York Blade, and Edge Publications.

 

 

Theatre Review: Three Cheers For Harvey Fierstein’s New Play ‘Bella Bella’

Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein in his new play, Bella Bella

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

Before AOC, before Nancy Pelosi, there was Bella, Bella Abzug.

Known as “Battling Bella,” she was a graduate of Columbia Law School who became a civil rights attorney, social activist, leader of the women’s movement, member of the House of Representatives, and famously wore hats because “as a young lawyer it helped me to establish my professional identity. Before that, whenever I was at a meeting, someone would ask me to get coffee.”

Bella Abzug

Bella Abzug’s brilliant, often biting words and crusading work are the genesis of Harvey Fierstein’s enthralling, tour de force, new play Bella Bella which opened last night at Manhattan Theatre Club’s City Center Stage I.  Awaiting the fateful results of the 1976 New York Democratic Senatorial primary, Bella holds up in the bathroom of her campaign suite reflecting on her life’s work; and for 90 minutes Mr. Fierstein holds an audience captive with her hilarious, heroic, and often heartbreaking story as few other performers could.

Billed as “written and performed by Harvey Fierstein from the words and works of Bella Abzug” it’s difficult to know where Abzug stops and Fierstein begins without being her scholar.  But Bella Abzug knew how to make her point in no uncertain terms and Harvey Fierstein knows how to weave a story for maximum impact.   Together, Bella Bella is a stunningly relevant and eye-opening call to action for a country that doesn’t seem to have progressed much beyond the America outside the window of her john in 1976.

Harvey Fierstein in Bella Bella (photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Bella’s opening diatribe on equality, sexist elections, and how women, who are a 2% differential in the electorate yet 1% of the House, (still only 30%) vote against themselves, is immediately passionate and gripping. Ringing so familiar, one wonders whether she’s been transported to the present or if we’ve been taken back to her, and so it is throughout Bella Bella.

Her fight for civil rights and equality fifty years ago mirrors the very challenges still facing America today.

Most widely known for her leadership of the women’s movement and the ERA, Abzug was also a pioneer of Federal Gay Rights.  Representing the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Greenwich Village, she embraced her LGBT constituency, even campaigning at the Continental Baths.  In 1974 she introduced in Congress the first Gay civil rights bill, the “Equality Act” which would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.  It failed to pass but succeeded in getting Gay rights into the national conversation.

In 1970 when Bella Abzug was elected to Congress, Harvey Fierstein was in Brooklyn already writing and performing in drag.  Fifty years and four Tony Awards later he has brought them together on one stage in what can only be described as the perfect pairing of subject and performer.  With her words, he has written a smart, insightful, and impassioned portrait of a woman, a Jewish woman, who recognized the discrimination in her path; but walked it anyway because she believed in equality and had the hutzpah to fight for it.  With his command of the stage, he creates a Bella that is anything but a drag.

Harvey Fierstein in Bella Bella (photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Fierstein gives a vibrant, passionate, and powerful performance with no want of makeup or an Abzug ensemble, apart from her iconic hat.  In plain black rehearsal clothes, Fierstein is at the top of his prowess as the fierce firebrand wisecracking one minute, outraged the next, inspiring throughout.

Some works are a labor of love, done for the joy, not the reward. Still, there are a few others, like Mr. Fierstein’s triumphant Bella Bella which are even more. To those lucky enough to hear what she “thinks about in the bathroom,” this is clearly his labor of passion, created and performed because it had to be done and done now, much like work of Bella Abzug herself.

Bella Bella

Written and Performed by Harvey Fierstein
From the words and works of Bella Abzug
90 minutes No intermission
Now through December 1st
Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center Stage I
More Information and Tickets HERE https://bellabellaplay.com/

Lawrence Pfeil, Jr., is a freelance writer/playwright who has reviewed film and theatre, both on and off-Broadway, for media outlets including The Randy Report, the New York Blade, and Edge Publications

World Premiere: ‘Novenas For A Lost Hospital’

Guest post by Lawrence Pfeil, Jr. of TheOUTFront.com

It’s hard to imagine a place filled with more of life’s drama than a hospital, and when it comes to hospitals it’s nearly impossible to imagine one more filled with history’s drama than New York City’s shuttered, St Vincent’s Hospital.

Such is the point of departure for Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s Novenas for A Lost Hospital, an intimate theatrical experience taking audiences on a literal journey through the West Village, September 5 – October 13, 2019.

Opening Rattlestick’s 25th anniversary season, the world premiere of Cusi Cram’s Novenas for A Lost Hospital stars Tony Award nominee (Angels in America) and four-time Obie winner, Kathleen Chalfant as Saint Elizabeth Seton.

The production and cast of thirteen are under the direction of Rattlestick Artistic Director, Daniella Topol.  This unique walking theatrical production is presented in partnership with Village Preservation, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center, NYC AIDS Memorial Board, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, St. John’s in the Village, and Visual AIDS.

For the LGBT+ community, especially gay men, the connection to St Vincent’s Hospital runs deep and very personal.

Located on the border of the Village and Chelsea, it was the community’s “go-to” hospital for decades.

Injured protesters from the Stonewall Uprising fifty years ago were brought to St. Vincent’s Emergency Room for first aid.

When AIDS grew into an epidemic twenty-five years later, far too many men were brought there one last time and their chosen families gathering there to bear witness endless times.  The one saving grace was the staff of doctors and nurses of the hospital-borne out of one plague having compassion on a community facing another.

This is but one story in the 161-year legacy that was St Vincent’s Hospital.  Its ties to some of history’s most iconic moments are so much more.  As Dramaturg Guy Lancaster writes,

“St. Vincent’s Hospital was started inside a rented house on East 13th Street in 1849 during a cholera epidemic by four nuns from the Sisters of Charity. It was the first Catholic hospital in Manhattan. Survivors of disasters such as the sinking of the Titanic, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and September 11th were treated at St. Vincent’s after it moved to its eventual site on 7th Avenue in 1856.

A devastating new plague, HIV/AIDS, would profoundly affect the institution and the surrounding neighborhood from the 1980s onwards as the hospital became a center for AIDS research and treatment. By the time St. Vincent’s closed its doors on April 30, 2010, 3,500 employees had lost their jobs. The last Catholic hospital in Manhattan was replaced by a luxury condo development.”

Times Square is called as the “Crossroads of the World,” but just a mile south of it, on the same avenue, St Vincent’s Hospital could be called the “crossroads of humanity.”  For five weeks, Novenas for a Lost Hospital will allow audiences to traverse time and tale, walking with compassion through the history of this storied house of healing.

More information about Novenas for a Lost Hospital HERE 

Previews begin September 5. Official opening night September 19, with performances through October 13.

* Guests arriving at the 6:30 time will experience an extended prologue, and audiences at both check-in times will unite for the majority of the event. Due to its traveling nature, audiences are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes and to leave heavy bags at home. Coat check is not available.

Purchase tickets HERE 

More information about Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, their 25th anniversary season, and subscriptions HERE

(photos: Mark Abrahams)