Tony Award

#Tesori2015

On Why Theaterkind is Still Rocking a Kinda Feminist Tony-Motto on Facebook

(disclaimer: I know Playbill.com named last week #WomenInTheatre-week, but I’ll take it as someone pointed out early last week, when she said “Shouldn’t every week be #WomenInTheatre-week?!”. And I’m like hell, yeah!)

I think even way before the nominations for the 2015 Tony Awards had been announced a thing started on various social media platforms – in my eyes mainly on twitter and it might have been the girls from The Interval NY who started it in the first place.

The “thing” was a hashtag, the hastag #Tesori2015 to be exact. To me it meant “we” – what ever that very flowy and ever changing ‘we’ on the internet is – were rooting for Jeanine Tesori, the composer of Fun Home, to win the 2015 Tony Award for best score (together with Lisa Krohn). And although I’m German and (sadly) living MILES and MILES and MILES away from the place of action – that is: New York City – I was so rooting with them.

In the weeks from the announcement of the nominations leading up to the actual Awards there was a lot of talk and bringing up of statistics happening. Important and kind of shocking pieces of information were put up on the internet – like the one that Jeanine Tesori is, with her nominations for both Shrek (2008) and Fun Home, the female composer (for theatre) with the most Tony nominations in Tony-history! Or that – in case of her win – she’d be the first female composer from a musical theatre background to win. The first EVER female composer to win a Tony for best score was Cyndi Lauper in 2013 for Kinky Boots.

YES RIGHT!

2013 – the first EVER female composer. Back then it were the 67th Tony Awards.

And now 2015 #Tesori2015 really happened. And along with it also the history making fact that Fun Home won “Best Musical” as the first musical ever to be written entirely by women, focussing on a female character, having SO MANY amazing female parts in it.

I mean – really?! It’s been effing 2015!

As you might or might not know I’m all in for gender equality and gender parity and general awareness about these things not happening most of the time. And this is also why – as pathetic as it sounds – I was about to do something very, very stupid and impulse-buy plane tickets to the big ol’ city of musical theatre and be there, see the shows that created such a buzz. Long story short I didn’t do it. But I have plans….

Anyway….the reason why I am writing this is to say something about why I still hold the “#Tesori2015”-flag high, most prominently on the profile pic on the Theaterkind facebook page, even though it’s SO June 2015 and we all know two months is a CRAZY long time on the fast and ever changing internet. I think this might be a sign, some kind of slogan to keep reminding us about women making theatre history this year and also reminding us that we still aren’t somewhat near gender parity when it comes to who gets to be heard in artistic contexts – both in the US and in Germany as well.

I mean – we’re living in bloody 2015 and women have come so far and there are people saying we should be happy with what we have achieved and can do, but: NO. If I can choose to be happy about being able to open a bank account and being unhappy about women not getting the artsitic opportunities they mght deserve I most definitely will choose the latter.

I really want to raise awareness among all of us and keep us thinking about why some people get heard and recognized while some really don’t and why that might be having to do something with their gender!

And that’s it for my short-ish rant about women and Tonys and making histroy and non equality, in case you want to read some more about these wonderful topics I poped some links below….

read more about what the girls on The Interval do over here.

especially their project-ish article in which they quoted a lot of young women, including me, in theatre about the history-making Tony Awards 2015 over here.

and then I have some articles I wrote here on this blog about the lack of gender parity in German theatre. Namely here and here.

P.S: I just recently scrolled through a new jury for a new competition for young musical theatre writers and out of the 13 members there’s only one (in numbers: 1!) woman. And while I don’t want to imply with any word I’m writing here and these men aren’t great men in and for German musical theatre – they are and I am inspired by so many of them! – I’m also just like: REALLY?!?!

Music Monday … Kind of

My darlings out there, this one is a little bit of a stretch, but after watching the opening of yesterday’s Oscar opening it’s kind of a must.

So, let’s have a look back at 2013 when Neil Patrick Harris hosted to Tonys in the year BEFORE he got his own and opened them with – what I think was the most magical, Broadway-y opening number the Tony Awards could have wished for. And it hits a spot very close to the one yesterday’s Oscars opening hits.

Right?

Matilda on Broadway

IMG_0996We spend our last night “on Broadway” with Matilda. As someone who was (and is) deeply in love with books and was (and is) rather different from other people, Matilda’s story is quite close to my heart (again: I cried. Not only because it was sad and I could relate to that but also because the children were f*cking amazin!). As a child I never really loved the movie because I disliked Danny DeVito’s portray of Mr. Wormwood so much and here in Germany Roald Dahl’s novels are not really known – maybe they are nowadays but the weren’t in the 90ies, sorry. (read: my movie-musical-comparisons here will be based on pure guessing and thinking that I remember this and that from the movie back then….)

Once again I was quite excited (although it initially had been my mother’s idea to go and see it because I really wanted to see it in London one day) because once again a video made me cry. Not any video of course, it was the performance they did at this year’s Tony Awards. “Revolting Children” is one of my favourite songs from the show because it is so self empowering, in the end the children win over the adults. I love that thought and I always loved it back when I was working at GRIPS Theater in Berlin. In generally I think shows in which children take action and change something about their living conditions are great not only for children but also for adults to get their fix of “unorthodox problem-solving”.

From the videos I already had realized that one of the only differences between child- and adult-actors in that show is the difference in height (and weight). Even in a highly energetic dance number like “Revolting Children” you only see dancing people – adults, children that doesn’t even seem to matter. They seem to have the same ammount of body tension and balance and everything.
Seeing the show live was only prooving me right. Not only did they dance like crazy (I’d say the children in the ensemble are between 9 and maybe 12) but the also do some of the set-changes: They bring in an arm-chair, a TV….smaller, but yet heavy things. They move on stage so naturally.
Comparing that to the situation in Germany: Over here a child could never ever touch something heavy, on rolls or anything.
So I’m standing here in awe and I’m not even talking about Matilda herself yet.

Regarding Matilda now. I’m not sure who of the four girls sharing the part was on that night we saw it, on the board it said Sophia Gennusa would be on, the note in our Playbills said Bailey Ryon. From the appearance I’d guess it was Sophia Gennusa. And that young lady was amazing. She literally took the audience’s hand and guided them through that evening, she totally took the stage. And not only because “she’s a child and sooooooo cute”. She has a steady voice, her acting was crazy good.

Of course the adults were amazing as well. Gabriel Ebert was hilarious he totally deserved the Tony he got for that part (best line: A boy with no thingy?), Lesli Margherita as Mrs. Wormwood was so hilariously stupid and ugly while thinking she looked stunning (best line: “Push, Mrs. Wormwood, Push!” – “I’ll push you in a minute!”). Jill Paice as my favourite character from the movie, Ms. Honey. I would have killed to have one teacher like that in school. Really. And her solo “My House” is so touching! I loved it so much! Craig Bierko does a nice job being evil as Mrs. Trunchbull (another case of travesty-/cross-dressing-performance! Liked the concept of that, too!).

But I really want to write something about the score and the book. Mostly about the score by Tim Minchin. Let’s start with the “School Song”. That song is great because of the creativity it shows about the alphabet. It’s so on children’s eye-level and makes so much sense to adults at the same time I can’t get over it plus it tells us a lot about the school experience that’s going to happen to Matilda and her new class mates. Can you ask for more? The second time they sing through the chorus that actually spell the whole alphabet: “And so you think you’re/ Able to survive this mess by/ BEing a prince or a princess/ you will soon/SEE there’s no escaping trageDY” Let that just sink in for a moment. And “Naughty” and “Quiet” are amazing songs, too. So relatable. But also the Wormwood’s songs like the intro into act 2 with Mr. Woodworm’s “Telly” – which almost is too smart for him. And “When I grow up” (and the way that is staged, holy cow!)

On a more general view I can say: Staging-wise it wasn’t my favourite (because Once and Big Fish are basically living in my heart and brain and everywhere…) but I left Matilda completely stunned by the performance of everybody.

And so I left Broadway (for now).

Pippin on Broadway

ImageThere’s a funny story about me and Pippin.
When I first read about the revival of Stephen Schwartz’ Pippin on Broadway and I also read that Bob Fosse was being mentioned as some kind of inspriring person I new that I need to see that. (our trip to NYC already had been booked by then)

As time was passing and I really didn’t want to get into booking tickets for the shows I realized that Pippin actually had been nominated for 10 Tony Awards – so I booked our tickets to see it literally in the week before the Tony’s and Pippin ended up winning 4 out of their 10 nominations. You could say I was quite lucky – because basically the show sold so many tickets after the awards, that it might have been hard to find tickets.

When we sat down on our seats in the Music Box Theatre (we went on Oct 1st, a Tuesday, we thought it started at 7pm, it did start at 8pm….better than the other way round, right?) we already were Broadway-pros with three shows already under our belt. And we weren’t too easy to touch anymore.
You remember me writing about me not liking to many things to go on onstage at the same time like showing off things? And yes, again, Pippin does that but it’s not like some random person came and went like: “Hey, I found these Hobos outside our Stage Door, they can do funny things like hand stands and jumping through hoops, let’s just do something with them!” (therefore it was okay and I’m sure if I had been older my stage manager- and assistant director-self would have died of serveral heart attacks because of the circus tricks)

The show basically follows a “play in a play”-dramaturgy. There are circus artists lead by the Leading Player (originated as a male part, in the revival played by the perfect and stunning Patina Miller) in their tent, with trapeze and everything acting out the coming of age story of Pippin son of Charles The Great (for the German readers: Karl der Große).
They are – more or less – comparable to the mechanicals from A Midsummer Night’s Dream acting something they don’t really now and they need help with (here provided by the Leading Player who gives them instructions on how to…) or some of Brecht’s plays. The circus setting gives the story the craziness which – in my opinion – is needed to display the weirdness of the story and the mania of Leading Player as some kind of dictator over his/her actors.

This revival is – for the most part – some kind of circus show. People showing off their tricks and dancing very (very, very, very!) fancy and gorgeous chereographies in Bob Fosse’s style, top hats, colourful costumes, Clowns doing funny things. But at some point, midway through the second half it changes and suddenly becomes a ‘real’ coming of age-story and one about emanzipation, the characters leave the parts they play in the Pippin-storyline and become ‘real’ humans. Of course they are not real by any means but more real than the artificial characters they play in the saga.

Although – as already said – that plot and the setting is rather simple it’s a nice production even besides the Cirque du Soleil-artists. Even though they are acrobatical highlights they are exposed only very few times during the show. Mostly there is so much going on at the same time (some walking on hand here, someone climbing a pole there….) that only “virtuosity on the whole” is shown and not by all means the virtuosity of someone on his own.
As someone who spend a rather large ammount of her studies thinking and writing about performances of travesty – men portraying women, women portraying men the performance of Patina Miller is stuck in my head as a very special performance. Writing about that here, now would be boring for most people and to only give my final thought on that: I’m glad they let a women take her chance on playing the Leading Player. Very, very, very glad.

Once on Broadway

ImageAs I already stated in an earlier post Once was (and ever will be) the first show I ever saw on Broadway. Exciting, right? And it was a good choice for my ‘first time’.

I didn’t know the movie, I own the original Broadway recording, but I never really loved it because basically if you just listen to it it’s only a collection of folk songs. So I never had a TOTAL blast listening to it. Another but: BUT I literally cried back then when I saw the trailer for the first time. Well….everything was fun and games until the guy danced while playing his cello. 

So we got our tickets at the TKTS booth down at South Seaport (because we basically wanted to go downtown that day anyways plus there was that free open air concert “Broadway on Hudson”…) which was rather convenient.

So after a whole day of walking we hurried over to the theatre (basically only one block to the west) not knowing that poeple would actually line up in front of the theatre. So we went past the whole line and sneeked in without waiting (to our defense: we did not know – and yes, we felt bad) and when we entered the stage was already filled up with performers playing their instruments and singing to each other as well as with audience members just chilling over there watching them. It was a chaotic, a little bit like watching musicians rehearse or developing something new.

Later on the two stage managers asked the audience members to leave the stage, but the jam session continued until Arthus Darvill (playing GUY) suddenly stood there (alone) playing Leave with the lights in the audience still on. Only when his song was almost finished the lights slowly went off. That way it wasn’t like “Shut up, the performance starts!”, the performance slowly fought its way into the audience and that was kinda brilliant. And it made it so much about the music right from the beginning.

And as of today I can totally localize my urge to cry at that exact spot. I mean the story of course is sad and I totally cried about that, too, because after all I’m a girl but I’ve never seen anything more about pure music and the joy it can bring to the people than that! Wow! Every instrument to hear throughout the performance is played by the actors on stage: violins (the actresses playing the violins actually sing while playing the violin….just sayin’), the already mentioned cello, a number of guitars, bass, the piano, various percussion, accordion…it was pure joy to watch them performing and embracing the music in every possible way and it actually showed me again why I love musical theatre so much and why I chose (or better: want to choose) it as my business in the first place.

I could go on and on about that and about those small fabulous things that are going on during the show. I love the characters especially those of GUY and GIRL, they are great and lovable and kind of true to life although I had a feeling I couldn’t really ‘grab’ them as characters – which actually is a good sign of true to life characters, right? They just “felt right” (BOY, that is a poor discription for someone who just finished her BA studies in theatre studies!).
I really don’t want to go into all the other small details (like this scene when GUY comes home with GIRL or her great way to talk and her dry humour), because then I’d totally write a performance analysis and that’s not for a blogpost. That’s a whole paper for university (no, more like two thirds).

So, read you later!