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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Tony Awards 2008, or Enough with the Goddamned Shakespeare Already

posted by on May 13 at 13:32 PM

The list of nominees for the eight-inch, silver-plated statue is here.


Bart Sher has been nominated for Best Director of a Musical for South Pacific. (Which we expected because everybody—perhaps literally everybody—loved it. See excerpts from drooling critics, even the hard cases at WSJ, the NYT, and the New Yorker here.)

Young Frankenstein got three nominations (actor, actress, scenic design), which is three too many. brooks_mel_newsweek071102_th01mel_v.jpg (You could only argue that Andrea Martin deserves the actress award if you’re grading on a curve. Yes, she was the best thing about the show—but being prettier than a dung heap isn’t an achievement.)

All the best actor nominees are British, except for Laurence Fishburne (for Thurgood).

Nominees for best play/playwright: August: Osage County (Tracy Letts), Rock ‘n’ Roll (Tom Stoppard), The Seafarer (Conor McPherson), The 39 Steps (Patrick Barlow).

Lifetime achievement: Stephen Sondheim.

And award for regional theater: Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Really? A regional Shakespeare theater? How very, very lame.

Shakespeare gets enough attention and reward in America, what with the NEA shoving piles of its theater money to Shakespeare-in-the-heartland projects because they’re too afraid of Congress to fund much else—like, say, even American classics like Tennessee fucking Williams.

Which is bogus.

It’s not like the NEA has to stuff cash directly into Karen Finley’s crotch to earn its name as America’s arts foundation, but can it dial the time machine forward at least 400 years, to maybe the early 20th century?

I’m glad Chicago has a strong showing this year, with Steppenwolf’s August winning the Pulitzer and now, almost certainly, the Tony. And Barbara Gaines, artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, sounds like a champ. (See the profile of her here.)

But giving a Tony to a regional Shakespeare house, especially now, seems like a capitulation to pernicious forces.

(But thank god for small favors—congratulations to Bart, raspberries to Mel.)

An UPDATE/REFUTATION, just emailed from a Chicago resident:

Chicago Shakespeare began doing Henry V on the roof of a tavern on Lincoln Avenue (a classic beginning for a Chicago storefront theatre). They’re now filthy rich, thanks to the fundraising prowess of Gaines and Co. What I think distinguishes them from “regional Shakespeare” is the way they push their audience (and I’m a subscriber). Since they’ve moved to Navy Pier (the equivalent, in some ways, of having a theatre at Pike Market in terms of tourist trade) they almost always bring in some famed European or British outfit to put on an innovative (or crazy) version of something well-known.

Their Rose Rage, an adaptation of the Henry IV plays, set in a butcher’s shop, using real meat for props, was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in any theatre. When the murder of characters is represented by actual meat being cleaved, real blood all over the stage, it almost made me go vegetarian.

Long story short: they don’t just put on a Tragedy, a Comedy and a History/Problem Play each year for the blue-hairs. They are much much better than that.

RSS icon Comments


Wait, aren't you one of the straight ones? I thought you weren't supposed to give a rat's ass about the Tony's...

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | May 13, 2008 1:49 PM

I'm just excited about Passing Strange getting nominated. I hope it comes here to Seattle.

Posted by Rachael F. | May 13, 2008 1:54 PM

The regional award isn't based on any kind of merit. They look around to see who hasn't won it yet and hand it over to them. Besides, Chicago Shakes has a huge ferris wheel outside its door. That's reason enough.

Posted by city limits | May 13, 2008 1:58 PM

It's nice that you've done some background by reading the profile, but branding the theater as "just Shakespeare" is pretty lame. Chicago Shakes has a lot more to offer than the bard. I saw an amazing production of Pacific Overtures there in high school. It's one of the more reliable houses in the country's most vibrant theater community.

Posted by Ryno | May 13, 2008 2:13 PM

Shakespeare isn't threatening to NEA types because they can't understand a word of it. Tennessee Williams was a pervert who hated America, as are literally all American playwrights -- Communist bums to a man. They're not going to vote for an American play unless they revive Gone With The Wind. Oh, crap, they just did. Look for it at next year's Tonys.

Posted by Fnarf | May 13, 2008 2:19 PM

Should any literary type out there wish to understand the definition of "glittering generality", you need go no further than this:

Tennessee Williams was a pervert who hated America...

Unless I wouldn't recognize sarcasm coming at me like a streetcar named Desire.

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | May 13, 2008 2:33 PM

"they don’t just put on a Tragedy, a Comedy and a History/Problem Play each year for the blue-hairs"?

Go fuck yourself. This is William Shakespeare you're talking about. Any production, even when people just stand on a stage and read his words, has merit, and you have no business referring to any audience who wants to see his work as blue-hairs. If people can make it fresh, so much the better, but don't be arrogant.

Posted by worms | May 13, 2008 2:58 PM

RHETT, that streetcar stopped right in front of your house, but you weren't at the stop. Of course it was sarcasm.

Posted by Fnarf | May 13, 2008 3:02 PM

8 inches!

No wonder there's so many queens in the theatre...

Posted by michael strangeways | May 13, 2008 3:06 PM

Chi Res is correct: ChiShakes is definitely *not* yo momma's Shakespeare company...

ps: Yo momma!

Posted by natopotato | May 13, 2008 3:07 PM

But seriously...that meat inspired Henry IV production sounds pretty fucking cool. Chicago theatre rocks!

Seattle theatre is a bit...flaccid right now.

Posted by michael strangeways | May 13, 2008 3:09 PM

@ 7: No, fuck you. The beginning of this was Kiley's assertion/assumption that regional Shakespeare is somehow unworthy of a Tony award--because of the purported wishy-washyness of such an award, since Shakespeare is supposedly middle of the road and safe. My comment about not just putting on safe Shakespeare for blue hairs is a knock on that assumption, not on Shakespeare or blue hairs (in fact, I subscribe to the Saturday matinee series, where I bring down the average age of the audience by about six years) so I know from blue hairs. And plenty of regional Shakespeare is shite.

Posted by Bill | May 13, 2008 3:47 PM

Thanks, Fnarf - I missed the chasm you opened in front me where the Metro called Summit stops. Which precludes me from ranting about Edward Albee (communist, gay, old) and his great play "Sylvia" wherein a husband finally confides to his wife and son that he is schtupping a goat! But why are people gleeful about "Young Frankenstein's" poor showing? What was not to like?

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | May 13, 2008 3:58 PM

OK, Brendan, seriously, you are a major cunt. I usually like you and your writing and opinions, but you never gave "Young Frankenstein" a chance and you are now totally shitting all over it. Fuck you douche-bag. That was one of if not THE greatest performances I have ever seen live.

Posted by adam_on_alki | May 13, 2008 4:11 PM

@14, Wow, seriously? Young Frankenstein here in Seattle was one of the greatest performances you have ever seen?

Well, call me a cunt too then, because I thought it was one of the worst musicals I've ever seen and I totally agree with Brendan. And it definitely did not need a zillion Tony nominations, I think the 3 it got was generous.

Posted by PopTart | May 13, 2008 4:51 PM

Eh, "Young Frankenstein" was okay - unlike some truly execreble pieces of shite *cough!* Wedding Singer *cough!* Princesses *cough!* Lone Star Love *cough!* we've seen around her lately. It certainly wasn't a "Hunchback", that's for sure

Posted by COMTE | May 13, 2008 5:38 PM

I'm really surprised that you wrote this about Chicago Shakes without apparently doing any research whatsoever on them, other than reading Barbara Gaines profile. No need for me to go on about this, since others have already said it, but, you may want to actually have some clue what you're talking about before disparaging what is a pretty excellent company.

I'm a 20-something in Chicago and I can't tell you how often I hear "Did you see X at Chicago Shakes? It was phenomenal." Now, Steppenwolf... there's a company that does too much pandering to the blue hairs (for my liking anyways).

Posted by Julie | May 13, 2008 6:39 PM

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