Theater The Tony Awards 2008, or Enough with the Goddamned Shakespeare Already
posted by May 13 at 13:32 PMon
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. (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.