More stories

  • in

    ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Closes on Broadway as Creators Spar With Rudin

    The hit play, closed since January, was expected to reopen on Broadway this fall.“To Kill a Mockingbird,” a stage adaptation of the classic novel that in January announced a temporary shutdown after Jeff Daniels left the cast and the Omicron variant slammed into New York, will not reopen on Broadway.The play’s writer, Aaron Sorkin, and director, Bartlett Sher, emailed the play’s cast and crew late Thursday to inform them of the decision, and they blamed the original lead producer, Scott Rudin, who had stepped away from an active role in the show after being accused of mistreating collaborators. According to Sorkin and Sher, “At the last moment, Scott reinserted himself as producer and for reasons which are, frankly, incomprehensible to us both, he stopped the play from reopening.”Rudin, who continued to control the rights to the stage adaptation of the Harper Lee novel, sent his own email to Sorkin and Sher on Friday, attributing the decision to the economic situation on Broadway, where overall ticket sales have lagged behind prepandemic levels. Both emails were obtained by The Times.“The reason I opted not to bring back TKAM has to do with my lack of confidence in the climate for plays next winter,” Rudin wrote, using an acronym for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He added, “I do not believe that a remount of Mockingbird would have been competitive in the marketplace.”The show continues to have a healthy life outside New York. A production in London’s West End opened in March, and a national tour in the United States opened in Boston in April. Those productions are unaffected by the Broadway closing.The play opened on Broadway in late 2018, and was a hit before the pandemic, regularly selling around $2 million worth of tickets a week, which is quite high for a play, and recouping its $7.5 million investment costs 19 weeks after opening.Broadway closed in March 2020 because of the pandemic, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” resumed performances last October, with Daniels returning to star as Atticus Finch, as he had done during the play’s first year. The play sold well until early January, with the exception of a week when breakthrough Covid cases forced performance cancellations; Daniels left the cast on Jan. 2, at a time when Broadway grosses were already plunging because of the resurgent pandemic, and the show’s grosses cratered.The play stopped performances at the Shubert Theater on Jan. 16, and Barry Diller, then functioning as lead producer, said it would resume performances on June 1 at the Belasco Theater. That did not happen, and according to the email from Sher and Sorkin the most recent plan had been for the play to restart performances on Nov. 2 at the Music Box Theater.Sher and Sorkin described themselves in the email as “heartbroken” and said they “mourn the loss of all the jobs — onstage, backstage, and front of house — that just disappeared.” Rudin, in his email to them, said, “It’s too risky and the downside is too great. I’m sorry you’re disappointed. It’s the right decision for the long life of the show.”Sher, Sorkin and Rudin all declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the play. The decision to not reopen the play was previously reported by the website Showbiz411. More

  • in

    A Rebound for a Summer Pairing of ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Oresteia’ at the Armory

    Two Robert Icke productions have endured illnesses and last-minute casting changes. Now they have finally settled into a repertory groove.Perhaps more than any other production of this post-shutdown season, the Park Avenue Armory’s summer stagings of “Hamlet” and “Oresteia” — with their last-minute replacements and cast illnesses — have faced the most hurdles on their way to opening night.The productions, already delayed from their intended 2020 U.S. premieres, were dealt another blow this spring when, two days into tech rehearsals, Lia Williams (“The Crown”) tore her Achilles’ tendon. She was double booked to play Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, and the husband-killing matriarch Klytemnestra in “Oresteia,” but recovery, though guaranteed, would not be quick. She was forced to drop out. Jennifer Ehle and Anastasia Hille quickly stepped in, with Ehle having only 10 days to settle into the role of Gertrude before the first “Hamlet” preview.“I had no idea what I was getting into, and I really didn’t care,” Ehle said during a recent video call. “It was one of those moments where you get a call on a Sunday morning, somebody asks if you want to take a challenge, and you have no choice but to take the leap and start planning in midair.”The plays, helmed by the English writer-director Robert Icke, are now being performed in repertory at the Armory, where they will run through mid-August. “Hamlet” opened in late June to mostly positive reviews. (Maya Phillips, in her review for The Times, wrote that Icke “brings a cinematic eye to the proceedings, using foreground and background to create dimension.”) “Oresteia” began previews July 10, and is set to open Tuesday. Once it does, this ambitious pairing of classics of the Western canon will conclude a nearly seven-year journey of starts and stops.“Everybody knew where they were going to stand and I had to upload that as quickly as possible,” Ehle (with Lawther) said of joining the cast of “Hamlet” during tech rehearsals.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesHow It All StartedThe plays had momentous premieres (“Oresteia” in 2015 and “Hamlet” in 2017) at London’s Almeida Theater, where Icke had been associate director, and successful West End runs followed. Writing from London in 2015, Ben Brantley said Icke’s “theatrical chutzpah pays dividends” in his drastically reimagined “Oresteia,” Aeschylus’ revenge-filled trilogy.That ancient Greek work and the surveillance-heavy “Hamlet,” with the actor Andrew Scott in the title role, cemented Icke’s status as an incisive editor and renovator of classics. Not that editing here means trimming down — each production clocks in at just under four hours — but Icke’s revisions bring the centuries-old plays’ essences to stark, ultramodern light.As planning began for the Shakespeare adaptation, he and Hildegard Bechtler, the set and costume designer, decided to reuse a frosted glass they had used in “Oresteia,” allowing them to achieve something like a cinematic jump cut. It’s what first led him to think of the two pieces as similar.“There was an acknowledgment that these two plays, though separated by many centuries, are in conversation with each other,” Icke explained during a recent video call, quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus. “Those central questions about family and vengeance, and the obligations children have to their parents, and what it means if a family and a country are intertwined with each other, always felt like they were reflecting and refracting each other in really interesting ways.”Pierre Audi, the Armory’s artistic director and founder of the Almeida, suggested bringing a repertory pairing of the two works to Manhattan back in 2018. Having met the Armory team while in town in 2017 for the Broadway premiere of his and Duncan Macmillan’s “1984” adaptation, Icke said it felt like it could be “a fruitful collaboration,” and the productions were announced for 2020.Williams, who had played Klytemnestra to great acclaim in “Oresteia,” would reprise that role, and play opposite Alex Lawther in “Hamlet,” who was cast after Scott was unable to commit to the transfer. But then the pandemic shut down live theater in 2020 and many planned productions were canceled, though everyone wanted to keep these two afloat. (In the meantime, Icke collaborated with the actress Ann Dowd on a socially distanced adaptation of “Enemy of the People” at the Armory last summer.)Angus Wright, seated at the table and projected onto the screen, in “Oresteia” at the Armory. In the foreground, from left, are Wesley Holloway, Anastasia Hille and Elyana Faith Randolph.Jeenah Moon for The New York TimesA Pairing With ‘Poetic Logic’In April 2022, the company finally reunited and began rehearsals. Because of the plays’ length and density, the focus on each alternated on a weekly basis. Lawther said he enjoyed the repertory setting and “the luxury of watching this amazing company switch and suddenly do this Greek tragedy.”“They speak to one another in incredibly moving and mysterious ways,” Lawther said on a video call. “Although ‘Oresteia’ is much older, Rob’s adaptation is full of modern language, and feels like a contemporary family drama, whereas this ‘Hamlet’ uses the original text, and feels of a different time. There’s a poetic logic that exists in putting these two together.”While the productions share a set and much of the same acting troupe, Icke said he did not go out of his way to heighten the two works’ similarities.“The attempt is not to direct them to point back to each other,” he said, “but almost to hang the two paintings next to each other in a gallery, so that if audiences choose to, they can move back and forth and think about the ways in which the two might relate.”Written nearly 2,000 years apart, the works deal with chaos unfolding in the private homes of high-powered political families. Almost entirely stripped of period or royal specificity, the modern-dress productions allow Icke to focus on contemporary parallels. With “Hamlet,” it’s the British royal family.“This time, we talked about Prince Philip’s death and what it’s like for an old guard to die,” he said. “But I’ve always felt like Hamlet and Princess Diana have got something in common. You’re told again and again that he is adored by the people, and that one of the reasons [the king] does not have him packed off to prison immediately is because of how much the people love him. That sense of somebody struggling to make sense of themselves, and what’s happening to them, while under constant observation always took my mind to Diana.”For “Oresteia,” he said the story’s setup, with Agamemnon coming back from war with a new woman, would have meant for ancient Greek audiences what the Kennedy and Clinton families might signify to contemporary viewers.“Audiences then would’ve known their Homer back-to-front, so it was probably similar to telling audiences back then that the Monica Lewinsky scandal has just broken,” Icke continued. “Here’s Hillary, and Bill is about to walk through the front door. A modern American audience feels that. In another thousand years, to tell the Clinton story, you probably will have to go back and fill in the Lewinsky part of the story to get it across.”Luke Treadaway as Orestes, Klytemnestra and Agamemnon’s traumatized son, in “Oresteia.”Jeenah Moon for The New York TimesA Necessary PivotAfter Williams’s injury, “Hamlet” performances were pushed back, giving Ehle a little over a week to learn the part of Queen Gertrude for the first time. But Hille, who is British, needed to secure a work visa, and that forced “Oresteia” to be delayed nearly a month.When she got the call, Ehle said, “I thought, if the Armory has brought this man here, with these people, to tell this story, it couldn’t be anything but interesting.”Ehle, a two-time Tony winner for her work in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” and “The Coast of Utopia,” described the process of situating herself within the production as “less rehearsing and more orienteering.”“Everybody knew where they were going to stand and I had to upload that as quickly as possible, and jump on a moving train,” she recalled. “My seat was there waiting, but I had to figure out where to put my luggage.”Many hours of last-minute rehearsals were required — Lawther called it a “baptism by fire” — with Hille, who was preparing with Icke via Zoom while awaiting her visa, only arriving in New York on July 3, just days before the first previews of “Oresteia.” Around that time, Ehle tested positive for coronavirus, and had to briefly retreat from “Hamlet.”“It’s pretty much impossible to do anything without everyone in the room,” Icke said, referring to absences resulting from Covid. “But this has been much easier because the big-picture decisions and structures had already been in place. We were able to focus on the details of the performances, rather than our sound design or choice of music.”Luke Treadaway, the British actor who plays Laertes in “Hamlet” and Orestes, Klytemnestra’s son, in “Oresteia,” had been preparing for the roles since 2020 and noted the effects of the changes on the ensemble. “The cast changes had a huge emotional impact on us all, because rehearsals become a world that you create with the people you create it with,” he explained. “We’ve had many understudies come on, because of Covid. It made us realize that it’s not just 10 actors in a cast, or however many, but a squad of people getting these two massive stories onstage every night, in any form we can.”Icke also acknowledged the resiliency of actors. “Anyone who has done much theater is very aware that everything can change in a second, particularly in Covid times,” he said. “It’s remarkable how adaptable everybody is, saying, ‘Well, this isn’t what we thought it was going to be, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. We’re really glad to be here and delighted to be presented with two productions.’ It all sort of just recalibrates itself.” More

  • in

    ‘Oresteia’ Review: A Mother’s Grief, Underestimated

    Anastasia Hille is riveting as Klytemnestra in Robert Icke’s production of “Oresteia” at the Park Avenue Armory.Before the first domino of their tragedies falls, before murder begets murder begets murder, they are an enchanting family: the mother, Klytemnestra, warm and easy with her two little ones gathered close around her; the father, Agamemnon, suave in public but playful the instant he walks through the door at the end of the day.In their cozy contemporary sanctuary of a home, they seem so absolutely normal. These people love one another. The boy, Orestes, has never been a good sleeper, but when his bad dreams come, his parents are there to comfort him. And Iphigenia, his sister, is a darling in a citrus-orange dress. Though she is young enough that she totes her long-eared plush bunny everywhere, she is old enough, and smart enough, that she’s already a moral thinker. When the family has venison for dinner, she cannot bear the thought of eating a deer.“It’s a little dead body,” she says.Is this the deer whose killing so angered the goddess Artemis that she stilled the winds on which Agamemnon’s warships depend? Robert Icke’s fraught and gripping “Oresteia,” an emotionally harrowing retelling of Aeschylus’ trilogy at the Park Avenue Armory, doesn’t get bogged down in such background details of ancient mythology.What matters is the excruciating ransom that Agamemnon, a military commander and a great believer in prophecies, thinks he has to pay to get the winds blowing again so he can be victorious in war. He must murder Iphigenia, his curious, trusting, doted-on daughter who wants nothing to do with killing deer and has nothing to do with waging war.“By his hand alone,” the prophecy reads. “The child is the price. Fair winds.”Her innocent life, ended irrevocably, in exchange for maybe — if her father’s faith in the gods and the counsel of serious men is not misplaced — achieving his political objectives. Not, of course, that her mother has been consulted in this, let alone Iphigenia herself.“If she doesn’t feel pain,” Agamemnon’s brother, Menelaus, says, arguing in favor of snuffing out his niece, “and it is a civilized procedure, and it is the clear and greater good, then who are the victims?”What is the value of the life of a girl? What is the value of her mother’s clawing grief and bottomless rage at her child’s murder? And how, exactly, has Klytemnestra come off so badly through the ages for her revenge killing of Agamemnon — as if she were singularly evil and crazed while he was simply a decent guy in a difficult position, who’d made the tough call that his own daughter was expendable?Hille and Angus Wright in Robert Icke’s production, which originated at the Almeida Theater in London in 2015.Jeenah Moon for The New York TimesTold in four acts over three and a half hours, this “Oresteia” is about grief so deep it settles into the soul and metastasizes into a need for bloody vengeance, whose result in turn becomes a cause of more fresh grief. If you’d wondered what unites “Oresteia” thematically with “Hamlet,” Icke’s other thrilling production running in repertory at the Armory this summer, there it is — two plays in which murders leave survivors bereft and homicidal, and in which one generation of a family suffers the treachery of another. But whereas “Hamlet” centers the title character, this re-centered “Oresteia” is concerned principally not with Orestes, the son, but rather with Klytemnestra, his haunted mother.“This whole thing,” she tells Iphigenia’s ghost as it flits through the house, “this whole thing is about you.”When this production by the Armory and the Almeida Theater was first announced, it was meant to star Lia Williams as Klytemnestra, reprising the role she had played in London, but an injury forced her to leave the show before previews began.Anastasia Hille is the Armory’s Klytemnestra, and she is magnificent in an incandescent, utterly sympathetic interpretation so riveting that you would do well to spend the entire first intermission watching Klytemnestra simply sit onstage, in a stupor of grief that ages her by the next act. Hille will win plenty of partisans over to Team Klytemnestra — even as the play would also like to draw its audience’s attention to the needless, cyclical horror of murder and revenge, and the self-righteous delusion that just one more death will even the score for good.In the terrifyingly real depiction of a loving marriage that’s destroyed before our eyes, Hille is matched every inch by Angus Wright as Agamemnon. After Klytemnestra realizes that he plans to murder Iphigenia (beautifully played at the performance I saw by Alexis Rae Forlenza, one of two young actors who share the role), the fight they have is so brutal and raw that you may recall its dynamics from the most damaging domestic argument you’ve ever had.“This is about a person who came from us, who would never have lived if we hadn’t loved each other,” Klytemnestra says, pleading her daughter’s case in the hope that her husband will hear reason. “What you are destroying is us, doing something that will overwhelm our history, a single action which if you bring it down on us will obliterate the whole story which precedes it.”Tia Bannon, foreground left, and Luke Treadaway, with, background from left: Elyana Faith Randolph, Angus Wright and Hille.Jeenah Moon for The New York TimesBy the end of their fight, the current of intimacy that ran between them for years is shut off. They are for all intents and purposes exes, effective immediately, with any further emotional access denied. Which, in the bruised and intricate psychic honesty of this play, does not mean the love has entirely vanished.On a set by Hildegard Bechtler so chic it looks like what you’d get if Norman Foster and Richard Serra retrofitted an ancient castle, “Oresteia” seeks to implicate us in its patterns of needless destruction: Whenever the lights come up on the auditorium, we’re reflected in the set’s long glass wall.The show is peppered with tiny oddities and puzzlements that become clear, mostly, at the end. Slight spoiler: The reason that the grown-up Orestes (Luke Treadaway) watches much of the action from outside the periphery of the house is that he is immersed in a court proceeding, to determine his guilt in the murder of his mother. His memory is often uncertain. The woman questioning him (Kirsty Rider) doesn’t really buy that his other sister Electra (Tia Bannon), who conspired with him to kill Klytemnestra, even existed. The text hints that maybe she didn’t. There is a whiff of mystery about it all.But the tragedy of it is paramount — one set in motion by superstitious men who took it on faith that the life of a little girl didn’t matter, and who never stopped to think that her mother would counterattack.OresteiaThrough Aug. 13 at the Park Avenue Armory, Manhattan; Running time: 3 hours 30 minutes. More

  • in

    Interview: Tackling the Sex Trade via Camden Fringe

    Dominique Izabella Little on Sold By Mama

    What’s so great about fringe theatre festivals is the absolutely incredible range of shows on offer and the multitude of themes explored. And Camden Fringe is no exception, offering shows from the whimsical through to the macabre.

    Dominique Izabella Little’s Sold By Mama certainly falls in the more serious end of themes, as it seeks to explore the complexities of sex trafficking and the effects on those involved. It promises a delicate mix of addiction, mental illness and trauma, morphing childhood dreams into brothels and onto the streets of Los Angeles.

    The show will be playing at Hen and Chickens Theatre 21, 22 (both 7:30pm) and 27 August (3:00pm). You can book tickets here.

    Always eager to ensure such vital conversations are had, we sat down with Dominique to find out more about her show and whether it is one that might require a very open mind?

    [embedded content]

    You’ve a background in documentary filmmaking, was this how you approached writing Sold By Mama?

    My love of reality bleeds into everything I do in that I love unfiltered storytelling. The research and preparation for Sold By Mama are definitely in alignment with documentary. The play burst into my mind after a year of experiences that deeply impacted me, alongside watching hours and hours of doci interviews. The writing process was then about giving all that I had absorbed the space to combust into four new, raw and eccentric fictional characters. They share true encounters through the kind of conversation you would only ever have with a filmmaker, or a stranger that you never see again.

    How much is the content of the play based on real lives and real events?

    Sold By Mama is a bite sized snapshot into the very real global subculture of trafficking known as ‘the life’, along with its hierarchy, rules and jargon.  The women are based on multiple real lives and events.  I love the docu-fiction hybrid – where everything is exactly what happened, re-edited into fictional narrative (like much of the content labelled as ‘documentary’ or ‘reality’ today).  Because on the streets, it’s all hybrid and truth mixed with distortion lending itself to a pretty wild reality. The women finesse on the stage the same way they do on the streets, but even in the most flippant and lyrical rhyme, sits the harshest of truths.  This is a microscopic but intense insight into millions of women’s day-to-day reality. 

    The play’s set on the streets of Los Angeles, why that location?

    I moved to Los Angeles for acting, mid-pandemic, with a budget that could not afford a car, or an uber, so it meant walking the streets, and hours on buses and trains. Sounds like London, right?  If you’ve been to LA, you’ll know this is not a situation you want to find yourself in. It’s odd, growing up in Africa we are indoctrinated to believe things about the ‘first world’ which are incredibly disillusioning when you actually arrive. The homelessness rocked me.  I walk out of my hostel on Hollywood Blvd where the police just arrived for domestic violence, a mother and daughter are living in one room whose smell I can’t escape, and the richest, poorest people are living in tents everywhere as I walk the streets that look so immaculate on TV, yet so heartbreakingly desperate in person. I was grateful for every horrible second in that city which opened my eyes to the true heartbeat of LA. At the same time, I began my deep dive into all things cults, mind control, narcissism, psychopathy – I was in LA after all and its wonderful sunny skies are a breeding ground for twisting minds.  The rabbit hole led me to addiction, homelessness, pimping, sex work and trafficking. Most of the stories I was immersed in had links to LA, so I stayed true to that location in Sold By Mama.

    And even though its thousands of miles away, is it still possible to relate to the people and places from our seats in Camden?

    Camden sits snugly in a city where sex-trafficking happens daily. Whether it’s online or on the streets, any time somebody engages in a commercial sexual act through force or coercion, they have been trafficked. People often think trafficking only refers to being kidnapped, drugged and held captive for sex in another country where nobody can speak the language. It doesn’t. The experiences of the women in Sold By Mama are not unique to LA. Hustlers, dealers, pimps, clients, early influences of childhood and trauma, mental illness, addiction whether it be to sex, substances, fast money or freedom, all of this is universal. The pimping jargon might be LA specific, but the tactics aren’t: Find out what they need, satisfy that need, cause dependence through fear masked as enlightenment, where freedom equals bondage and the user is a slave to desire.  Even this isn’t specific to sex work, we go to university to learn how to do this in business, in political campaigns, on billboards. 

    Sold By Mama certainly looks to be one of the heavier pieces playing at Camden Fringe, should we bring the tissues along with us?

    The most striking thing about watching people talk about their experiences, is that sometimes the thing that hits you, is the thing they are most casual about and vice versa. What is shocking or unthinkable to you, is just a day in the life to someone else and part of life is using humour to get you through it. You might connect with one of the stories on a personal level, or you might simply enjoy an encounter with a world that seems far removed. There is however a trigger warning for both simple and complex PTSD triggers. Bring an open and questioning mind, Sold By Mama is non-linear and non-typical storytelling. The women are quick witted and sharp. You need a bit of that yourself to keep up amidst their hustle. They are playing the game as much as it is playing them, so don’t let them play you. 

    What has brought you to London, and more specifically Camden for August then?

    After training in New York / Los Angeles, I moved to London to deepen my acting practice in techniques I hadn’t yet explored. London is now home and Camden a beautiful opportunity to share exciting new work alongside artists who are doing the same.

    You are writer, director and actor, how do you ensure there is release from what appears to be a very intense experience, do you have someone else just watching over proceedings as you put it all together to keep you sane?

    With a project like Sold By Mama – I remind myself that this is an art, let go of perfect, forgive myself for anything that may or may not happen and pursue excellence with all I’ve got.  I am solo on this project, but I do have a core of very close relationships who not only provide me with release through their love and encouragement, but help me with things like poster design, cutting my ideas down to size, and a roof over my head. The work is just as much about relishing preparation and enjoying this one precious life in the process, even when the going gets tough. Freelancing as a creative has instilled fantastic work ethic, resourcefulness and resilience in me, but there is only so much one person can do.  I would love to work with a team, but it needs to be the right team, which is something I am seeking in an agent.  

    Is this play’s themes something you hope to explore further in the future?

    The wonderful thing about immersing yourself in things that interest you are that they tend to resurface with new faces in different seasons of life. Sold By Mama touches on so many themes common to so many which I am bound to explore in future roles. There is a very powerful exchange that can happen between performer and audience, my hope is that the work I do reaches the people who need it most. 

    And besides your own play, are you hoping to get out and see some other work whilst the festival is on during August?  Any recommendations?

    Yes!  Amongst so many talented artists, I would love to see Dog/Actor, Tree Confessions, By The Light of The Moon, We’ve Seen Enough, Roll The Dice, Bird Mouth Collective. 

    Many thanks to Dominique for her time to talk about what we reckon will be a powerful piece of theatre.

    You can book tickets via Camden Fringe’s website here.

    You can also find out more about Dominique on her own website here. More

  • in

    A Quirky Parisian Festival Refinds Its Footing

    The annual Paris l’Été hosts some especially strong multidisciplinary shows this summer, one of which includes a seven-hour hike.PARIS — The birds hovering around the ruins of Port-Royal des Champs, a former abbey southwest of Paris, may have been taken aback by the flock of visitors who arrived on a recent Saturday. Around 11 a.m., bleary-eyed Parisians poured out of buses for a seven-hour hike through the site and woodland that surrounds it — all in the name of theater.And “Joy of Man’s Desiring,” Clara Hédouin’s back-to-nature adaptation of a 1935 Jean Giono novel, took full advantage of its unusual setting. A hunt was staged in the forest. Farming, a central theme, was debated in front of actual barns. Bird names were listed, at length, to the human audience in a meadow, while the local fauna circled above.The trek wasn’t what you’d expect from a city-centric arts festival like Paris l’Été (literally “Paris in the summer”), which played host to “Joy of Man’s Desiring” and organized travel from the capital. Yet this multidisciplinary festival, which started in 1990 as a way to keep the performing arts scene alive in Paris during the quiet summer months, has always had a quirky side.Its first director, Patrice Martinet, delighted in bringing unconventional works to venues ranging from gardens to suburban residential buildings. In 2016, a new team was appointed under Laurence de Magalhaes and Stéphane Ricordel, who were already at the helm of the Monfort playhouse in Paris. They promptly changed the name of the festival, from Paris Quartier d’Été to the more anodyne Paris l’Été.The early years of de Magalhaes and Ricordel’s tenure saw a dip in the quality and originality of the festival’s programming, but the 2022 edition suggests they have now found their footing. While Paris l’Été remains much smaller than the major French summer festivals, like Avignon, this year intriguing productions abounded. The week before “Joy of Man’s Desiring,” locals and tourists could take their pick from a Ukrainian punk concert, an immersive performance starring professional strippers and a bravura theater show built entirely out of cardboard props, among other offerings.Dakh Daughters at the Monfort theater.Maxim DondyukOn July 14, Bastille Day, a packed audience watched as the Ukrainian band Dakh Daughters, which has often performed at the Monfort theater since 2013, returned to that stage under very different political circumstances. This radical feminist group, which bridges the gap between punk and folk influences with stunning ease and a dark theatricality, has long sung about the 2014 Maidan revolution in Ukraine, as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Donbas region. Yet currently, the band’s entire country is under attack.“Close the sky over Ukraine,” the screens behind the group read early in the show, and images of the conflict, Russian nationalist propaganda and protests around the world were subsequently shown. Between songs, the stories of ordinary Ukrainians were read in voice-over. Midway through the concert, the women of Dakh Daughters, who also performed at the Avignon Festival this week, asked the audience to observe a minute of silence.While the band performed a number of songs that were composed before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and its members dressed, as usual, in tutus and combat boots, with faces painted white, the band’s typically no-holds-barred performance style was stripped back. An edge of cold despair shaded even the loudest, most percussive moments. “I would like to return to my home,” the band’s drummer said at one point, in softly accented French. “Do you want peace in your home?” she then asked the audience. When the answer was a resounding “yes,” she whispered: “Good idea.”Marion Coutarel and Julie Benegmos in “Strip: At the Risk of Liking It.”Quentin ChevrierDakh Daughters aside, this year Paris l’Été focused primarily on new and recent French productions. “Strip: At the Risk of Liking It,” directed and performed by Julie Benegmos and Marion Coutarel at a high school, gave audiences a window into the world of professional striptease — and kept them on the edge of their seats, too, with the promise of one-on-one time with a stripper in a private booth for a lucky few.The production relied a little too heavily on this literal teasing. Early on, Benegmos and Coutarel explained that, at regular intervals, a flower would be given to an onlooker, who would then be invited to follow them outside the small auditorium. Two men and a woman were selected when I attended, and the audience was left to wonder what happens next. (The answer comes at the very end, and while I won’t give it away, it involves a virtual role reversal.)There is much of interest in the rest of “Strip: At the Risk of Liking It,” including filmed interviews with other professional strippers, a pole dance number and questions about the degree of freedom women are afforded when selling eroticized performances. But the show’s structure never quite flows, with abrupt transitions that fail to dig deeper into this material.“Fat People Skate Well. A Cardboard Cabaret,” on the other hand, takes an impossibly complex idea and makes it work through sheer virtuosity. The show is built around the contrast between Olivier Martin-Salvan, dressed in a dapper suit, who sits throughout the show and mumbles in an expressive yet incomprehensible mix of English and gibberish, and Pierre Guillois, who flits around him in boxer shorts, carrying dozens of cardboard cutouts as a means of telling the story.Pierre Guillois and Olivier Martin-Salvan in “Fat People Skate Well. A Cardboard Caberet.”GestuelleThey come in all shapes and sizes, with words written on them to explain what they represent: “fjord,” “tree,” “hail,” and even “fly swat.” With the help of two assistants on the sides, Guillois, a maverick of a performer, spins lo-fi yet meticulous choreography out of these props. (Despite the title, the closest we get to skating is some shoe boxes on Martin-Salvan’s feet.)“Fat People Skate Well. A Cardboard Cabaret” has won a number of awards this season, including a Molière, and it was obvious why in this outdoor revival at the Centre Culturel Irlandais. Puns and visual jokes are interspersed throughout as Martin-Salvan’s character goes on an absurd quest around European countries to reconnect with a siren he met (in the form of Guillois, wearing a cardboard tail). There is nothing currently like it on the French stage, and the instant standing ovation rewarded the duo’s ingeniousness.The ingeniousness of “Joy of Man’s Desiring,” Hédouin’s open-air saga around Port-Royal-des-Champs, was of a different nature, and it had outstayed its welcome by the seventh hour. Giono, whose novel the show is based on, was an early environmentalist, and his characters, all inhabitants of a small village who set about reclaiming their joy with the help of a mysterious stranger, did fit beautifully into the surroundings. But the cast’s take on Giono’s lyrical style was often plodding, and gave the sense that the production had yet to find its inner rhythm.Still, there was joy to be found in traipsing through forests and the remains of the abbey, armed with the camping stools provided by Paris l’Été. At the end of the day, it was the sign of a festival hitting its stride, and thinking outside the box again.Paris l’Été. Various venues in Paris, through July 31. More

  • in

    Who Can Play the King? Representation Questions Fuel Casting Debates.

    Should Shakespeare’s Richard III be reserved for disabled actors? Does the character have to be played by a white man? By a man at all? Three recent productions took different tacks.When three of the most prestigious Shakespeare companies in the world staged “Richard III” this summer, each took a different approach to casting its scheming title character in ways that illuminate the fraught debate over which actors should play which roles.At the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, Richard was played by the actor Arthur Hughes, who has radial dysplasia, which means he has a shorter right arm and a missing thumb. The company said it was the first time it had cast a disabled actor to play the character, who describes himself in the opening scene as “deformed.” The production’s director, Gregory Doran, who was until recently the Royal Shakespeare’s artistic director, told The Times of London earlier this year that having actors pretend to be disabled to play “Richard III” would “probably not be acceptable” these days.The Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, took a different tack: It cast Colm Feore, who is not disabled, to play a Richard who has a deformed spine but who is not a hunchback. And in New York City, the Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park went in yet another direction, casting Danai Gurira, a Black woman who does not have a disability, as the duke who schemes and kills his way to the throne of England.Their varying approaches came at a moment when an intense rethinking of the cultural norms around identity, representation, diversity, opportunity, imagination and artistic license have led to impassioned debates, and battles, over casting.It has been decades since major theaters have had white actors play Othello in blackface, and, after years of criticism, performances by white actors playing caricatured Asian roles are growing rarer in theater and film, and are being rethought in opera and ballet.Now there are questions about who should play gay characters (Tom Hanks recently told The New York Times Magazine that today he would, rightly, not be cast as a gay attorney dying of AIDS, as he was in his Academy Award-winning role in the 1993 film “Philadelphia”) or transgender characters (Eddie Redmayne said last year that it had been a “mistake” to play a trans character in 2015’s “The Danish Girl”) or characters of different ethnicities and religions. (Bradley Cooper faced criticism this year for using a prosthetic nose to play the Jewish conductor Leonard Bernstein in a forthcoming biopic.)Tom Hanks recently said that today he would, correctly, not be cast as a gay attorney dying of AIDS, as he was in the film “Philadelphia,” which he starred in with Denzel Washington.TriStar PicturesWhile many celebrate the move away from old, sometimes stereotyped portrayals and the new opportunities belatedly being given to actors from a diverse array of backgrounds, others worry that the current insistence on literalism and authenticity can be too constraining. Acting, after all, is the art of pretending to be someone you are not.“The essential nature of art is freedom,” said the Oscar-winning actor F. Murray Abraham, whose many credits include Shylock, the Jewish moneylender of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” though Mr. Abraham is not Jewish. “Once we impose any kind of control over it, it’s no longer free.”And while the recent insistence on more authentic casting promises greater diversity in some respects, it threatens less in others — coming as many women and actors of color are getting more opportunities to play some of the greatest, meatiest roles in the repertory, regardless of whatever race or gender or background the playwrights may have initially envisioned.More About on Deaf CultureUpending Perceptions: The poetic art of Christine Sun Kim, who was born deaf, challenges viewers to reconsider how they hear and perceive the world.‘Coda’: The Oscar-winning film showcases deaf actors and lives. But some deaf viewers found its hearing perspective frustrating. Seeking Representation: Though deafness is gaining visibility onscreen, deaf people who rely on hearing devices say their experiences remain mostly untold. Name Signs: Name signs are the equivalent of a first name in some sign languages. We asked a few people to share the story behind theirs.Sometimes such casting is considered “colorblind,” in which case audiences are asked to look beyond an actor’s race or ethnicity, or other features. But in recent years the trend has been toward “color-conscious” casting, in which an actor’s race, ethnicity or identity becomes part of the production, and a feature of the character being portrayed.The casting of Mr. Hughes in a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Britain was hailed as the first time the company had cast a disabled actor in the title role.Ellie Kurttz, via Royal Shakespeare CompanySome of the varied approaches were underscored by this summer’s productions of “Richard III,” and the different directions each theater took when choosing an actor to play Richard.Richard tells the audience in the opening scene that he is:Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my timeInto this breathing world, scarce half made up,And that so lamely and unfashionableThat dogs bark at me as I halt by themThe remark by Mr. Doran, the director of the Royal Shakespeare Company production, that it would “probably not be acceptable” these days to have actors pretend to be disabled to play Richard caused a stir in theater circles.Not only is Mr. Doran a renowned Shakespearean, but his husband, Antony Sher, who died last year, was one of the most memorable Richards of recent decades, using crutches in an acclaimed 1984 production and writing a book about his portrayal.Mr. Doran, whose production in Stratford-upon-Avon was critically lauded, later clarified his thinking about its casting, explaining that while any actor might be a successful Richard, he believed the role should be reserved for disabled actors until they “have the opportunities across the board now more widely afforded to other actors.”The new staging in Stratford, Ontario, featuring Mr. Feore, listed a “disability consultant” in its credits. His depiction was inspired by the discovery of Richard’s bones nearly a decade ago — the skeleton suggested a form of scoliosis — and rested on the idea that his physique “was less of a medical disability than a social and cultural one,” the company’s spokeswoman, Ann Swerdfager, said in an email. The critic Karen Fricker wrote in The Toronto Star: “As much as I admired Feore’s performance, it did lead me to wonder if this will be the last able-bodied actor making a star turn as a disabled character on the Stratford stage, given crucial conversations currently happening around deaf and disability performance.”And in New York, Ms. Gurira, who has appeared in “Black Panther” and the television series “The Walking Dead,” tried to explore the underlying reasons for Richard’s behavior. “There is a psychological reason for what he becomes,” she said in an interview. “He’s looking at the rules in front of him, and he feels he’s most capable, but the rules disallow him from manifesting his full capability.”The production’s director, Robert O’Hara, said that they made Richard’s difference key to the interpretation. “Richard’s otherness becomes an entire reason for his behavior,” he said in an interview. “He feels like now he has to play a part people projected onto him.”Ms. Gurira, left, said her approach to Richard aimed to get at the “psychological reason for what he becomes.” She appeared with Daniel J. Watts, right.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesThe rest of the cast for the production, which ended its run earlier this month, was notably diverse, and included several actors with disabilities in roles that are not usually cast that way. Ali Stroker, a Tony-winning actress who uses a wheelchair, played Lady Anne; Monique Holt, who is Deaf, played Richard’s mother, the two typically communicating onstage via American Sign Language.“I wanted to open up the conversation from ‘Why isn’t Richard being played by a disabled actor?’ to ‘Why isn’t every role considered able to be played by a disabled actor?’” Mr. O’Hara said.Ayanna Thompson, a professor of English at Arizona State University and a Shakespeare scholar in residence at the Public Theater who consulted on its “Richard III,” argued that the growing embrace of color-conscious casting reflected contemporary understandings of how different attributes inflect both actors’ identities and audiences’ perceptions.“All of our bodies carry meaning on stage, whether or not we want to acknowledge that. And that’s going to affect storytelling,” Ms. Thompson said.She pointed to an example from another play: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, friends of Hamlet’s, whom other characters often confuse for each other. “If Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are played by Black actors and the Hamlet family is all-white,” she said, “the inability to distinguish carries a whole set of different meanings.”Many productions upend traditional casting to interrogate classics. Women played every role in a trilogy of acclaimed Shakespeare productions directed by Phyllida Lloyd at Donmar Warehouse in London, seen in New York at St. Ann’s Warehouse. A “Julius Caesar” directed by Mr. Doran reset the scene from ancient Rome to modern Africa. Even Hollywood has reimagined some blockbusters, as with the gender-swapped 2016 “Ghostbusters.”Harriet Walter, with hands outstretched, in a 2013 production of “Julius Caesar,” in which all of the roles were played by women. Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesBut as there is a push for greater casting freedoms in some areas, there is an argument for more literalism in others, especially from actors with certain backgrounds who lack opportunities.Some disabled actors are upset when they see Richard III, one of the juiciest disabled characters in the canon, go to someone else. “We all want a level playing field where everybody can play everybody,” said Mat Fraser, an English actor who is disabled and has played Richard, “but my entire career I’ve not been allowed to play hardly anybody.”In 2016, while accepting an Emmy for his turn as a transgender character in “Transparent,” Jeffrey Tambor said that he hoped to be “the last cisgender male to play a transgender female.” Now, with a “Transparent” stage musical being created in Los Angeles, its creator, Joey Soloway, vowed in an interview: “No trans person should be played by a cis person. Zero tolerance.”The conversation on casting has been evolving in recent years.“It used to be that part of the measurement of greatness was your ability to transform yourself,” said Isaac Butler, the author of “The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act,” a new history of Method acting. “Is versatility still the hallmark of good acting? And how do you approach it if there are certain identity lines you cannot cross? And which are those identity lines?”Gregg Mozgala, left, an actor with cerebral palsy, says he has to bring his “full humanity to every character I play.” He appeared with Jolly Abraham in 2017 in a production of the play “Cost of Living.” Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesGregg Mozgala, an actor with cerebral palsy, has played roles that are not traditionally portrayed as disabled, as he did playing two monarchs in “Richard III” in New York, and sometimes plays characters written as having cerebral palsy, as he will this fall in a Broadway production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Cost of Living.”“I spent years trying to pretend my disability didn’t exist in life and onstage, which is ridiculous, because it does,” Mr. Mozgala said.“Every character I ever play is going to have cerebral palsy — there’s nothing I can do about that,” he added. “I have to bring my full humanity to every character I play.”Some still hold out hope for a day when identity will recede in the conversation.“A hundred years from now, do I hope white actors could play Othello?” said Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater’s artistic director. “Sure, because it would mean racism wasn’t the explosive issue it is now.” More

  • in

    Ford and Mellon Foundations Announce 2022 Disability Futures Fellows

    A Broadway actress, documentary filmmaker and DC comic artist are among this year’s recipients. They were selected by fellow disabled artists from a pool of about 60 nominees.Nasreen Alkhateeb, a filmmaker who has documented Kamala Harris on the campaign trail; Antoine Hunter, also known as Purple Fire Crow, a Deaf, Indigenous choreographer whose work has been performed around the world; and Tee Franklin, who is writing new Harley Quinn comics for DC, are among the second class of disability futures fellows, the Ford and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations announced on Wednesday.The fellowship provides 20 disabled U.S. artists, filmmakers and journalists with unrestricted $50,000 grants administered by the arts funding group United States Artists. They are chosen by peer advisers who are themselves disabled artists. The fellowship supports people at all stages of their careers, and the class includes emerging and established artists.One grant recipient, Corbett Joan O’Toole, 70, an activist and historian who was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Crip Camp,” said, “I’m really shocked.”“I do a lot of good work, but it’s not necessarily the prominent stuff,” she said. “It’s networking, providing resources for people, filling in the gaps.”This is the second class of fellows in the program, which was established in 2020 as part of an effort to increase the visibility and elevate the voices of disabled artists. Originally conceived as an 18-month initiative, the foundations announced last year that they would commit an additional $5 million to support the program through 2025.About one in four adults in the United States has a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Dickie Hearts, a Deaf, gay and BIPOC actor and filmmaker known for his recurring role in Netflix’s San Francisco-set series “Tales of the City,” said he hoped to use the funding to produce a live version of an original concept musical in American Sign Language that he had directed remotely on Zoom during the pandemic.“I would love to see more deaf people behind the scenes, as well as onscreen,” he said in a video interview this week, which was conducted with the assistance of an ASL interpreter. “I want to see more creative executives, deaf directors,” executive producers and writers.The grants offer flexible compensation options. The money can be distributed in a lump sum, in payments or even be deferred, depending on what works best for the artist.Also among the recipients are Alexandria Wailes, a deaf actor who recently portrayed the Lady in Purple in the Broadway revival of Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf”; JJJJJerome Ellis, a composer and poet who has a stutter (the reason for the repeated J’s in his name) and produces work about stuttering and Blackness; and Wendy Lu, a journalist and disability rights advocate who was recently hired as an editor by The New York Times.“I’m working on a book that’s coming out next year, playing concerts again, dancing more — it’s so exciting to be back working live,” said Ellis, 33, who about a year and a half ago moved back to Virginia, where he grew up, from New York.The inaugural class of fellows included the choreographer Alice Sheppard, the filmmaker Jim LeBrecht and the journalist Alice Wong.The Ford and Mellon Foundations are planning to invite people in the philanthropy and cultural sectors to learn from fellows and disability arts leaders at a symposium in New York in 2025, and fellows will be invited to a networking retreat in 2024. More

  • in

    ‘Into the Woods’ and a Missing Giant’s Boot

    When the Stephen Sondheim musical opened in 1987, a huge boot hung over the theater’s facade. The producers of the current revival would love to get it back.Good morning. It’s Wednesday. Scroll down for a look at when a plane smashed into the Empire State Building — 77 years ago today. But first, a Broadway mystery.From 1987 to 1989, a giant boot dangled over the theater where “Into the Woods” was playing.Ann SlavitThe producers of the revival of “Into the Woods,” the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical, have a wish. It is to locate a something you might call a prop from the original production. It is missing.It is a giant inflatable boot with a long vinyl leg attached.The boot was a fixture when “Into the Woods” opened in 1987. It was anchored to what was then the Martin Beck Theater (now the Al Hirschfeld). “The boot was like a beacon,” said Jordan Roth, the lead producer of the current revival at the St. James, which is extending its run to Oct. 16. “It was literally the beacon that called us all to the theater. I think why it captured our imagination was the way it really physicalized this impossible balance of the show between whimsy and weight.”Michael David, the executive producer for the original run, said there was a more practical concern. The theater, an “outlier” west of Eighth Avenue, had not had a long-running show in some time when “Into the Woods” arrived, he said. The boot gave the theater an identity “to help people find us, not where they’d think ‘what is the address’ but ‘the one with the boot above it.’”A 1987 sketch of the boot for “Into the Woods.” Ann SlavitWhen “Into the Woods” closed in 1989, the boot went into storage. It came out for a revival in 2002, this time at the Broadhurst Theater.The mystery is what happened to the boot when that production closed after 18 previews and 279 performances.“It’s in storage — I just don’t know where in storage,” David said, adding that there were two facilities in New Jersey still to be checked.The boot, which conjured up the giant who creates mayhem in the story, was the work of Ann Slavit, who had done a 30-foot-tall pair of red shoes that hung on the Brooklyn Academy of Music as a tribute to the celebrated ballet movie “The Red Shoes.”“I don’t think Michael David said to me, ‘Oh, can you do a boot?’” she said. “Maybe we were talking about the giant and I thought, ‘You never see him in the show so we could have this ominous presence.’” There was a second shoe that looked as if it was coming over the parapet of the theater.She said she suspected it had been discarded after it was taken off the Broadhurst on a day with particularly bad winter weather.But Chic Silber, a special effects designer who was involved in installing and removing it at the Broadhurst in 2002, said it was “neither destroyed nor thrown out” when it came down. But it had been cut into at least a couple of pieces. “What happened to either half after that, I don’t know,” he said.Roth, the lead producer of the revival, put out an all-points bulletin for the boot almost as soon as the arrangements to move “Into the Woods” into the St. James were completed in late spring. He recalled seeing the boot the first time he saw “Into the Woods,” as a 12-year-old in 1988, with Phylicia Rashad in the cast. If it were found and mounted on the St. James, he said, “the knee would bend right above my office window.”But Silber had advice for Roth: Call off the search.“Even if it could be found,” he said, “there is no way it would inflate again and work on the roof of any building.” And making a new boot would cost far less, he said.WeatherPrepare for a chance of showers on a mostly sunny day near the mid-80s. At night, expect a chance of showers and thunderstorms, with temperatures dropping to the mid-70s.ALTERNATE-SIDE PARKINGIn effect until Aug. 15 (Feast of the Assumption).The latest New York newsCathy Linh Che scrambled to find another apartment in the Two Bridges neighborhood in Manhattan after the rent on her pandemic-deal apartment increased by 65 percent.Clark Hodgin for The New York TimesThe pandemicThe ‘Covid discount’: More than 40 percent of the available units in Manhattan currently come from tenants priced out of apartments they leased in 2020 and 2021, according to a new StreetEasy report.Your economic situation: The pandemic has drastically changed the global economy. We’re checking in with readers about their financial circumstances, and how they feel about the future.More local newsSchool budget cuts: More than $200 million in cuts to New York City public schools have been put on hold by a Manhattan judge, the latest move in an escalating fight over how to fund schools.Monkeypox vaccines: There were only 1,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine available. Within two hours, the only clinic offering the shots began turning people away. At that same moment, some 300,000 doses of a ready-to-use vaccine owned by the United States sat in a facility in Denmark.Do you know the ice cream man? Owning an ice cream truck in New York City used to be a lucrative proposition, but for some, the expenses have become untenable.Honoring a baseball legend: Jackie Robinson accomplished a great deal on the field, but a museum celebrating his life — which will have a ribbon-cutting this week — puts as much focus on his civil rights work.LOOK BACKThe day a plane hit the Empire State BuildingErnie Sisto/ The New York TimesFor the city that had been defined by skyscrapers — and even for a skyscraper that had been defined by a monster movie — what happened on a densely foggy morning 77 years ago today was unthinkable. An airplane crashed into the Empire State Building.Fourteen people were killed: The pilot, Lt. Col. William Smith Jr., and the two others aboard his Army B-25, and 11 in what was then the world’s tallest building. Burning fuel rained down an elevator shaft after the fuel tanks exploded. An engine and part of the landing gear tumbled into a subbasement.Smith had been scheduled to fly to La Guardia Airport, but as he approached, he said he wanted to land at Newark. The change sent Smith’s unarmed training plane over Manhattan and into the 78th and 79th floors of the Empire State Building. A government investigation later concluded that he had “erred in judgment” and should not have been cleared to proceed.Up in the Empire State Building, where clouds sometimes drifted into the not-yet air-conditioned offices, the roar of the two propeller-driven engines became louder as the B-25 cruised along. And then it hit.Soon office workers were rushing down the stairways to safety, and firefighters were rushing in. So were photographers lugging bulky 4-by-5 Speed Graphic cameras.One of them was Ernie Sisto of The New York Times, who talked his way past the police officers on the street and rode to the 67th floor in an elevator that was still in operation. He then took the stairs, finding a vantage point above the 79th floor.There, he dangled over the parapet after asking two competing photographers to hold his legs. He repaid the favor by snapping shots for them, along with the photograph above.Therese Fortier Willig, a secretary in the Catholic War Relief office on the 79th floor, huddled with co-workers. She recalled in 1995 that she was so upset that she yanked off the rings she was wearing and hurled them out the window. One was her high-school graduation ring, the other a friendship ring from her boyfriend, whom she never expected to see again.She eventually escaped, and firefighters not only discovered the rings in the debris on the street, they tracked her down and gave them back. She married the man who had given her the friendship ring and had a son — George Willig, who climbed the World Trade Center in the 1970s.“She hardly ever talked about it, kind of like I hardly ever talk about climbing the World Trade Center,” he said this week. “After a while your life goes on, it’s part of your history.”But sometimes he thinks about his mother’s association with one tall New York building and his association with another. “I have a hard time putting that all together and making sense of it,” he said.METROPOLITAN diaryPhones offDear Diary:As an original subscriber to City Center’s Encores! series, I was thrilled to attend the eagerly anticipated reopening after a two-year hiatus.Subscribers generally know all the audience members who sit near them, so there’s a bit of a buzz when someone new appears. And at a February performance of “The Tap Dance Kid,” everyone in my row noticed a new face in the row in front of us.As the standard announcement was made about the rules against taking photographs and videos and using phones, this woman took out her phone and appeared to start texting.The orchestra began to play, and the audience applauded. The light from the phone was still visible. I was about to tap her on her shoulder and ask her to turn off the phone, when the person beside her turned to her.“Please turn that phone off,” he said.“And by the way,” he added. “You’re way off track. The Wordle is ‘pleat.’”— Dennis BuonaguraIllustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.Melissa Guerrero More