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This Is About Life and Theater and Waitress

Writing about theater is hard.

I mean. Writing is hard, just in general. Some days it’s there, and some days it’s not and honestly more days it’s not and nothing hurts like missing the words but nothing ever feels better than getting them right and really, writing is just a constant battle for that one glorious moment when it doesn’t suck.

But writing about theater is like… beyond that battle, even. Because you need to see theater, too. And feel things about it. And have time to think about those feelings, and the show, before it’s possible to figure out how to make those feelings into words that make sense to other people. And PS. that’s all dependent on, you know, whether or not the words are there that day to begin with or whether they’ve all just fucked off to go help Lin Manuel Miranda make another theater miracle.

It doesn’t get easier, either, when life is busy, or when you’re addled with guilt about not writing about theater enough and not working hard enough and not seeing friends enough and calling your parents too infrequently and missing spin class again and you can hardly remember the last time you went on a date, let alone when a show made you feel the kinds of things you could put into words. And you keep trying, honestly, but the trying sometimes just makes it worse and you just miss it. You miss theater and the words and everything in between in equal measure.

Sometimes it just fucking sucks. Sometimes it feels like you’ll never catch back up. Like Broadway just keeps going, and you just keep getting smaller in her rearview mirror. Like getting left behind.

But then, sometimes, everything falls into place, and you remember.


We need to talk about how important Waitress is.

Because in the year of our lord two thousand and sixteen, when we have the first female front-runner for a presidential nomination, we also have the first musical on Broadway whose creative team is entirely composed of women (excepting that time a single woman named Elizabeth Swados did every single thing on a show called Runaways, which is not the same as having many different women on a team, but is still impressive as hell). And that’s a big deal. Still. Sadly.

But honestly. It’s not the first-ness of this show that matters for me, really. It’s its existence at all. In a time when women are like, half this motherfucking country, and approximately 70% of the Broadway audience, seeing our stories on stage doesn’t actually happen that often. And worse, it doesn’t seem like it’s actually that much of a priority most of the time. Not to the mostly-men who are producing and reviewing and composing and and and whatever on Broadway these days.

But here we have it. A musical about and by women. Chock-full of the female gaze.

It’s no small surprise to me, then, that Waitress is the most relatable musical I’ve maybe ever seen. Like someone took not only my thoughts, but my words, too, and put them on stage. Because I’ve been Dawn, and I’ve been Jenna and I’ve been Becky. I’ve made terrible choices, and risked hurting people. I’ve hurt myself. I’ve been scared to hurt myself. I’ve wanted something I couldn’t have. I’ve tried to hold things I shouldn’t (couldn’t) have as my own, not in any real way, and it’s backfired spectacularly. Or it’s been… fine. Not good, but fine. And I’ve loved and lost and pined and compromised. I’ve lived it and survived it in just the same ways, from just the same point of view, and in just the same language.

Because this musical doesn’t look at women from the outside. It doesn’t imagine who they are, or fetishize them either. It doesn’t judge them for their choices.

It just says look, here, this is a life. And it’s okay. The good and the bad and the in between. All of it’s okay and we all just do the very best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt and sometimes that means we’re stupid or selfish or unkind. But sometimes we’re beautiful and brave and generous.

And it could have taken the easy route so many times — the musical and it’s source material the same — it could have tied things up more neatly, or been more romantic. It could have been self-righteously harder on the people whose story it tells.

But it didn’t. It doesn’t.

It’s a musical where the big passionate moment is just a hug, with no ulterior motives, that makes the heroine feel safe and loved. Where the romantic duet’s refrain is “you matter to me.” Where the 11 o’clock number is a love song (or a love-lost song, to be more precise). But instead of some dude singing for the woman he left behind, it’s a woman, singing to the self she lost and outgrew and misses some days in a way that hurts. A woman. Singing a love song to herself.

That shouldn’t be groundbreaking. But it is. It so, so is.

And THAT is why Waitress is important.

Not just because the score is great, or the lyrics are smart and narrative and move the story forward, or the pacing is lovely. Not because the performances are spot-motherfucking-on, or there’s a comedy number that’s genuinely the funniest thing I’ve seen on stage in a long time.

Because it’s about women. And it’s by women. So it sees its characters through a lens that Broadway doesn’t have nearly enough of. And when 70% of your audience is women, well, that’s a pretty damn nice change of pace. We’re seeing our story on stage in Waitress, and that’s still a real privilege.

ps. This is part of why Fun Home matters, too. Why it matters that two years in a row we’ve had stories about women that treat women as nuanced beings storming the boards here on Broadway. Why I hope there are so, so many more to come.

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A drop of… something, some kind of splooge, has just fallen from the dressing room ceiling backstage in Webster Hall.

Lucky and I started a fanfic like that once– with a splotch of uncertain origin on a rock star’s shirt in a Webster Hall dressing room. But tonight this isn’t fanfic. Not at all. Because it’s real life. And the splotch — presumably water — is spreading right where it hit composer-singer-songwriter Drew Gasparini square in the shoulder.

The truth is, though, at this moment our lives feel a bit like the stuff of fanfic. Here in this sweaty, cramped, frankly-much-nicer-than-we-imagined dressing room, with this composer/rock star who, holy shit, is a dude we actually know pretty well these days. It’s kind of hard to believe. And hey, maybe Drew’s life feels a bit like fanfic, too, though we don’t ask. Because we have other questions for him. Ones related to his career, and stuff.

It’s just that Webster Hall is a place of legend. New York legend, and our own, too.

Before the show I joked with Drew’s pal, and actor/writer, F Michael Haynie, that back in our college heyday (we both went to NYU in the early 00s) Webster Hall was a place you avoided if you didn’t want to get murdered/molested by a creepy old man. Let’s just say it used to be a lot more rough-and-tumble back then.

In fact, even after years of living within a three-block radius of the place, it wasn’t until after I graduated college that I set foot inside. That first time was for a Hanson concert — with Lucky by my side, natch — more than eight years ago now, and I honestly thought the place was going to fall apart with us still inside it. Just collapse into a heap of rubble and screaming fangirls.

Obviously, Webster Hall survived. Maybe it’s like the cockroaches, and come the end of the world, that’s all of New York that will be left. What a story it would tell.

Speaking of stories. Given that we’ve known Drew primarily as a composer these past few years, we wanted to get the scoop on why he was at Webster Hall on a Monday night when Joe’s Pub — a more traditional MT venue — is just down the block. So that’s exactly what we asked about. Well, that and some of Drew’s favorite Webster Hall stories, obviously. Every New Yorker’s got ’em.

What is this show about and why is it different?
DG: This show is more of a re-coming out. This is the first solo show I’ve done in nine years. And the reason I want to step back out into that role as a solo artist is because… Okay, I’m going to go along with the themes of Hamilton here: I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘satisfied.’ I want to keep these plates all spinning at once.

Alright… Why did you choose Webster Hall?
DG: [It was] an accident! We were supposed to be at the Highline Ballroom, and Questlove actually kicked us out. Questlove bought the venue out. But I think we upgraded because in my eyes, I think Webster Hall is much more of a legendary New York City venue and that made it a better venue for a re-coming out of this type of music of mine.

What do you like about Webster Hall?
DG: I like how even though they’ve kind of re-done it and it’s a bit nicer – there’s a bunch of new venues within – it’s got that same New York East Village shitty attitude. It’s got like that grit that comes with it. It’s rock star. Webster Hall is rock star.

Have you ever been in The Marlin Room?
DG: I saw the live version of the YouTube channel “Epic Rap Battles of History” here. I did.

Have you been in any other rooms?
DG: I’ve been in all of them! My sister Chloe, last week, just played in The Studio. And I’ve seen Ingrid Michaelson and a couple other bigger acts in the Grand Ballroom.

Do you have a favorite show you’ve seen here besides Ingrid Michaelson?
DG: Delta Rae. I grew up with them, and I used to play drums in their first band, they were called Golden Boy. We were in an acapella group together with [my sister] Kasie, too. They’re all from San Francisco. They’re the best! They gave me my first like, cross-country gig. They all went to Duke, so they flew me out and I played with them there. We’ve been friends for a long time, it’s great.

Click for more pics from backstage, onstage, and all around the legendary venue…


Every year I go to Broadway Flea, I think think the same two things: That it’s for an amazing cause, and that I should be selling my epic piles of apartment-cluttering, Broadway-related shit instead of buying someone else’s piles of Broadway-related shit. And yet, I never sell my shit and I always buy someone else’s. But that’s the fun, right? In addition to raising armfuls of cash for the always-amazing Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, that’s definitely the fun. You know what else is fun? The eye-popping variety and simply weird-to-the-very bones things you find at Flea. Here’s a sampling from yesterday…

1. Flying Monkey Wicked Head
WickedFlyingMonkeyFor all of your most demented Halloween fantasies/needs.

2. Books on Pirates and Also Pyrates PyratesFor background research the next time you’re starring in Penzance

3. Playbills That Are Kinda Old, but Not Like… That Old…
ContinentalContinental Airlines stopped existing in 2012.

4. The “Songs of West Side Story” T-Shirt in XXL WestSideStoryLoving that lockup logo for Kenny Loggins & Wynona like they were powerful Mom Music co-brand, circa 1992.

5. Sandra Bernhardt Without You I’m Nothing Denim Jacket
WithoutYouI'mNothingAnyone who walks behind you will be immediately struck by the evil eye, no Sicilian grandmother required.

6. Chita’s Creepy Porcelain Hand from The Visit CreepyVisitHandMaybe she used it on stage? Maybe this is actually just a ring holder from Anthropologie?

7. Michael Crawford International Fan Association Silver and Purple Glitter Placard

8. T-Shirt from a Show That’s Probably About Jesus and Crucifixion JesusPlayStill waiting on the Broadway transfer…

9. The Errant Question Mark in Adam Schlesinger’s Cry Baby Bio
SchlessingerIs this a typo? An ironic in-joke about how “critically acclaimed” is just a euphemism for “somewhat commercially unsuccessful but still awesome”? Could Adam momentarily not remember the names of his two bands? Is Adam simply expressing in print what most Crybaby audience members thought to themselves when they saw this show? Was he just like, “Oh, hold on. Let me express your confusion for you. By the way, you’ve never heard of my bands…”

10. This Awesome-Ass T-Shirt from an Off-Broadway Show You Never Saw ByBernsteinYou know why you can’t buy this, even though you want it so bad? BOOM, BECAUSE I DID. Broadway Flea is awesome. See you next year…

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Heads up, if you’re concerned about SPOILERS you might not want to read this…

Listen, it would have been really easy for Lin-Manuel Miranda to fuck this up. Broadway proves that to us all the time. Mostly men are writing and mostly men are directing and mostly men are producing. So it doesn’t feel like a coincidence that strong female characters are still just few and far between. For every Bea in Something Rotten!, there’s Betsy Nolan in Honeymoon in Vegas.

And sure, Miranda did well by women in In the Heights— Nina was the one getting up, out, and educated, after all. But In the Heights wasn’t… well, it wasn’t set during the Revolutionary War, for starters. The narrative constraints there were different. So there really was no guarantee of how we could expect Miranda to handle female characters in Hamilton. And high hopes tend to hurt me more than anything. So the first time I saw Hamilton I went into the theater feeling, well… cautious.

Good news, everyone. The Schuyler sisters passed the Bechdel test in their very first song! (Really good news, because actually, afterward, most convos do revolve around men, probably because… well, the story is about men.)

But really. The Bechdel test, for all that it offers, is a pretty limited look at the involvement of women in a piece of art, and there are tons of other factors that I consider important as a theatergoer. And it’s in those places where Hamilton shines. Where Hamilton is… dare I say it… revolutionary.

From the get-go, Miranda’s Schuyler sisters are fully formed characters, fully empowered within the constraints of the time-period in which the story is set. These are women “looking for a mind at work,” not just a handsome husband. They’re women who can acknowledge the reality of their circumstances — with no brothers, Angelica knows her job is to marry well, and wealthy — but still seek happiness, attraction and intellectual engagement. They’re as turned on by Hamilton’s brain, by the flick of his pen and his place in the revolution, as they are by his looks. And over the course of the show, they stand up for themselves and each other. Hell, when Hamilton cheats, Eliza takes control of the narrative.

In fact. That’s almost entirely literal. Because at the end of the show, Miranda performs what is perhaps his most powerful trick. As if the whole evening has been a glorious act of sleight-of-hand, Miranda takes the show from the men and places it securely in the mouths and minds of the women. He tells you that Eliza Hamilton dedicated herself to the preservation and propagation of Hamilton’s history. That, in fact, maybe this has been Eliza’s story all along. Not Hamilton’s, or Burr’s, but hers. She held the reins.

And that is no small truth to tell. But it’s also no small act of feminism to allow Eliza that moment on stage. Because it’s just as easy to tell Hamilton’s story without that moment. Nothing about the show would suffer. No one would even notice. Except, of course, Miranda himself. He’d notice.

It’s not bad to have a guy like him writing for Broadway right now. And sure, there are a million, zillion, hojillion reasons why that’s true. But the revolutionary women in Hamilton might well be my favorite among them.


Photo: Joan Marcus


Theater Tripping: To Bucks County and Back

As we launch our newest project, The Dressr, Lucky and I thought you might like a preview of what to expect over in the wilds of Tumblr. As a part of The Craptacular, The Dressr will be a home for our expanded style, lifestyle, and even travel coverage. Below is a preview of what you can expect. We hope to see you there!

I am basically in love with Wawa. Like. In my head I just started attempting to rewrite the lyrics to “I Fell in Love with a Stripper,” as sung by Jeremy Jordan in Joyful Noise, to “I Fell in Love with the Wawa.” It’s that serious.

But the thing is, as a New Yorker, I don’t actually have a lot of access to Wawa. Which I’m willing to concede might contribute to the intensity of my passion. But also, let’s be real, Wawa is a magical place and so really my feelings are fully justified. I mean, where else can I get delicious Dark Roast coffee with Irish Creme creamer, a hero so superior to Subway’s that I’m willing to use the atrocious local lingo and call it a “Hoagie,” a delicious soft-pretzel at all hours of the day, AND A SODA FROM THE MAGICAL SODA COMPUTER OF INFINITE FLAVORS, aka the Coke Freestyle machine? NOWHERE IN NYC, I tell you. Nowhere!

Anyway. I just feel really deeply about Wawa. So this weekend, when I took a theater trip to Bucks County, PA, and Red Bank, NJ, I felt it essential to visit as many Wawas as reasonably possible for a person who would mostly be spending time in places she can’t pee (like a car, or a theater).

The good news is that I visited Wawa five times in a day and a half. In fact, on Saturday, we visited three different Wawas in a span of less than seven hours. The great news is that I indoctrinated my traveling companion and friend, Nicole, into the cult of Wawa, too, dragging her down a long dark rabbit hole that ended at a 44oz Grape Fanta Zero from the Magical Soda Computer of Infinite Flavors. (NOWHERE ELSE CAN I GET A DIET GRAPE SODA, PEOPLE, NOWHERE!)

The better news? We actually had a great trip. Sure, Company is kind of a weird show full of insufferable humans who I’d like to punch in the face, but I also really love it, so it was a treat to see it live, in person for the first time. Plus, the Bucks County Playhouse is pretty, Jen Cody was hilarious, Kate Wetherhead was fucking perfect, and “Sorry/Grateful” made me cry, etc. Then on Saturday, after an ass-early breakfast at a literal secret Breakfast Club where you have to have a key to enter, we had an insanely delicious meal before we hit Wawa, and then the road to Red Bank. There, we saw Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz’ new musical Be More Chill. It’s based on a 2004 YA novel of the same name by Ned Vizinni, and it’s charming. The kind of thing I’d be really happy for more 14-year-old boys to be exposed to and probably my favorite Joe Iconis musical yet. So, totally worth the trip. Plus, for anyone who cares, there’s a Wawa just down the block from the theater. So. You know. Get your diet vanilla root beer for the trip back home!

And hey. If you’re looking for more snaps from our trip, or curious about what kind of shoes The Mick is wearing the shit out of right now, hit The Dressr to find more coverage.

Photos: @aileenmeghan & @mildlybitter


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Leanne Cope wore Rent the Runway to the Drama Desk Awards. I know this for two reasons:

1) As a Rent the Runway user myself, I recognized the dress.
2) She talked about it a few times that night, both on the carpet, and at the after party. (In fact, sources tell me that by taking advantage of their free-second-dress option, Ms. Cope actually shared an order with a friend.)

This might not seem that strange to you. Or even particularly noteworthy. But as a pop-culture fan, theater lover, and fashion devotee, I’m telling you that it is both of those things.

I mean honestly. Do you think that Cate Blanchett is going on some website to choose a pre-worn dress that she has to pay for the privilege of borrowing at the biggest moment of her professional career? Or Rosamund Pike or Felicity Jones?

I don’t mean this as a knock to either Cope, who looked stunning, or Rent the Runway. RtR is fucking excellent. Women have needed an option like this for a very long time — men have been renting tuxes for ages, while we’ve been stuck spending all the money buying gowns (and shoes and bags and foundation garments and special bras and jewelry). I love RtR so much, I almost used it for the Drama Desks myself, and tomorrow the dress I rented for the Tonys will arrive at my house. I’m buzzing with anticipation.

But if you don’t see the problem with me — a literal nobody — prepping for major awards ceremonies in the exact same way the fucking nominees are, given how very little I have at stake by comparison, you’ve lost your mind.

Michael Riedel wrote an entire column about how Anna Wintour — supposedly horrified by the frumpiness of the Tony Awards last year — was going to take several actors under her wing and style them this season. Now. I don’t know how much help La Wintour has, or has not, offered the nominees at the end of the day. But I do know that at least two major figures in theater circles have publicly decried this turn of events — Elisabeth Vincentelli and Peter Marks — worried that Wintour will extract all personality from Tonys style and/or turn the carpet into a vapid fashion show.

I could not disagree with these people more. And not even over high-falutin’ ideas like loss of personal style, or substance on the red carpet (if you’ve ever covered the Tonys red carpet, you know there ain’t nothin’ high-brow about it, the international and larger pop-culture press know nothing about theater and have no fucks to give, either). My concern here is far more basic, and it is as follows: awards season is obscenely exhausting and high pressure, and these actors can use any and all help they can get. It’s a travesty that more of them haven’t been receiving more help in years past, and it’ll be a travesty if the theater world doesn’t learn something from this moving forward.

I estimate that in recent years formal attire was necessary for twelve or more events on the campaign trail to the Tony Awards. Maybe the actors need more this year, maybe they need less. But you’re likely looking at a minimum of ten gowns/dresses/suits/tuxes in combination over a four week period.

Even if Broadway actors were paid like their Hollywood counterparts— HAHAHAHA — and thus, could afford to buy ten or more formal, designer outfits, they’re still doing eight shows a week during those four weeks of campaigning. So when, exactly, are they supposed to go shopping, purchase, and tailor these outfits?

You’re fooling yourself if you think Cate Blanchett doesn’t have a staff out there — employed by her, or her management, or the studio — calling designers, pulling selections, bringing her racks to choose from, and dealing with the details like tailoring and accessories. And not just for the Oscars, but for the entire season. And homegirl isn’t doing eight shows a week when this is happening.

Why would anyone object to someone stepping in to help theater stars in the very same way?

Leanne Cope needs to be focused on her show, on staying fit and healthy and ready to go on stage every night. On making sure she’s totally engaged in the campaign trail to help her show win Tonys, because we all know how much those mean in terms of keeping a show open. She doesn’t need to be panicking about/losing sleep over compiling enough formal attire to survive the campaign trail. And she sure as hell shouldn’t be browsing the same pages and pages and pages of pre-worn dresses that I am for the biggest journey to the brightest moments of her career.

So I say bring it on, Wintour. Jesus. Get Nina Garcia or Rachel Zoe or Petra Flannery in here too, if that’ll help. Give us more Micaela Erlanger.

Because Broadway should look as beautiful on the red carpet as it does on stage. Because looking cool and feeling cool and being cool are often one-in-the-same. And because frankly, these actors deserve to shine, not lose sleep over sorting out what to wear when Broadway’s biggest spotlight shines on them this June.

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Cool people being cool.

It is astonishingly impossible to be cool when you are anywhere in the vicinity of Helen Mirren. I don’t know if it’s because she’s played royalty so frequently that she’s actually just become royalty, or if it’s because she’s so fucking cool that she actually absorbs all the coolness around her and makes it her own in some sort of weird cool-combustion engine situation wherein she always gets better and you always get less articulate. Which would explain a lot about how fucking cool Dame Mirren is.

But I digress.

The real point here is that somehow, I was seated within literal touching distance of Helen Mirren last night at the Drama Desk Awards, and I have never felt less simultaneously awesome and uncool in my life. And when I wasn’t counting down the seconds until someone came and told me they usher had messed up and I actually belonged in a seat much closer to like… the roof, I was still not watching the awards ceremony. No. I was watching Helen Mirren watch the awards ceremony. Which is almost the same, but not quite.

For what it’s worth. It appears Dame Mirren had a nice time. She was smart enough to bring a cocktail to her seat — which she topped up with the Vodka nips passed out part-way though the show. (Christian Borle gave her two, because he’s no fool.) She was highly charmed by the show at some moments, and just as annoyed by the drunk bro shouting “KUDISCH!!” at the stage as we were. Because stars, they’re just like us. Only they wear Oscar de la Renta, while we’re in like… Eloquii and Macy’s and Aerosoles’ finest.

But the thing is. It’s kind of hard not to enjoy the Drama Desks. There are performances! Laura Benanti is funny and charming and just generally pretty great at hosting things. They run that ship real fucking tightly and power through those awards like they know your time is pretty precious to you. And it feels… fancy. With The Town Hall’s old-school velvet seats and the celebs all around — Broadway famous and Hollywood famous alike — the Drama Desks kind of feel like a less-intoxicated Golden Globes. Which makes sense, because like the Globes, the Drama Desks are given by writers and journalists, and they have more (and cooler) categories, and they’re given right in the lead-up to the big event of the season.

The other cool thing about the Drama Desks is that you can buy tickets. Like. You, Jo Shmo, reading this website right now, can be in the room next year. (Of note, you can also buy tix for the Lortel Awards.) Which may be worth thinking about.

I dunno if you can buy a ticket that includes access to the After Party. But Dame Helen Mirren doesn’t make it to things like that anyway, either, so even if you miss out, you’re in very excellent company.

I mean, the view of Times Square last night was cool. And you can dick around and take selfies of people taking selfies with Times Square like some other foolish writer types I know. So that’s cool.

But really. No one will ever be as cool as Helen Mirren, so in the end, does any of that matter?


Photo: David Gordon


The Mick chats with host Jesse Tyler Ferguson, while Claybourne Elder photobombs.

I mean, I guess there’s no real way to NOT mention Hamilton, because there was no real way that Hamilton was not going to win every damn thing at the 30th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards last weekend. So like. Yeah. Hamilton happened. They took home hella awards. Lin-Manuel Miranda rapped his acceptance speech for Outstanding Musical, making it all about how he’s glad that Hamilton is a part of the Public Theater’s ongoing history off-Broadway. It was great.

My favorite speech from anyone in the Hamilton crew, though, came from actress Renée Elise Goldsberry, who found herself overcome at the podium, and apologized saying “I’m sorry, it’s just… I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve never won an award for my acting.” I may or may not have gotten a bit choked up myself, watching.

So even though Hamilton winning everything is already non-news, it seems fitting, I think, that Goldsberry won her first acting award there, at the Lortels. And not just because we’ve all seen her in a ton of off-Broadway shows these past few years. It’s more just… The Lortels themselves, really, and how I’ve come to know them these past few years — as a communal celebration of good things — felt like the right place to honor Goldsberry this first time.

Because honestly, it’s that very vibe– that sense of community gathering, and honor, and celebration, which has made the Lortels my very favorite of the awards shows each year.

It starts on the carpet, I think. It’s just… the best. Maybe because the actors aren’t exhausted by awards season yet (even the ones visiting from uptown on their Tony campaigns), so they’re bright and excited to chat and thrilled to be exactly where they are. Maybe because the carpet is just… crazy organized, and full of theater-focused journalists (as opposed to the Tonys, which are overwhelmed by international and pure pop-culture press), so it’s less of a shit-show and more of a bonding experience. (Seriously. It’s to the extent that this year, while waiting for the first few actors to make their way past the photographers and video journalists, we writers (and some tweeters, too!) took a quick dance break to perform a bit of High School Musical’s “We’re All in This Together.”)

And maybe that’s all crazy inside-baseball information, but I really do think it contributes to the whole vibe of the show. The journalists are happy to be there and the actors are happy to be there and happy to chat with us and everyone is just happy times happy times happy, which is like… happy cubed? Which, I don’t even know what that is, but I’m just telling you the result is so awesome.

Plus, like I said, that awesome feeling doesn’t stop on the red carpet. The show itself feels like such a lovely, warm celebration of a community, and the excellence of the body of work they’ve created together over the course of a season, that it’s just lovely to watch. There’s a warmth to everyone’s interactions. There’s a generosity of spirit as people listen to winners take their moment. There’s an honesty to everyone’s speeches — whether they’re accepting an award, or introducing an icon — that seems to get leeched out, or sanded down, or just become somehow less at some of the bigger awards shows. Maybe it’s the lack of cameras, or the smaller audience, I don’t know. But everything feels really… well, real, at the Lortel Awards. And even as a writer, there in the audience, you feel like you’re a part of it.

And then afterward, everyone files out of the theater, laughing and chatting and smiling, congregating in the entries and lobbies for ages, and it’s super lovely, but really, the party hasn’t even begun yet. Because you’re about to decamp into an elevator with like… Terrence McNally and head out for the after-party, which is just one big, chill hangout. There’s tons of booze, and cheese cubes, and some delicious pasta. But mostly, there’s just… conversation. No showboating or grandstanding. No cliques hiding in the corner. Just theater people of all stripes — actors, marketers, producers, lighting designers — hanging out, having a drink and a chat. And a drink and a chat. And a drink and a chat. And another after that.


PS. Just to talk about Hamilton one more time in this post that is not about Hamilton… Because the Lortels took place on Mother’s Day, I asked all the actors about their favorite ‘theatrical mother’ on the red carpet. This could be a real person, a character, anything. Hamilton star Daveed Diggs, who would go on to win Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical, told me that co-star (and follow winner) Renée Elise Goldsberry is his favorite theatrical mother. Not only because she’s a great mom to her children, but also because she took care of the entire cast. Sweetest thing ever, right?! #swoon


Photo: David Levy


Much though I often wish otherwise, going to the theater is never a completely pure experience. Even when you don’t know anything about the show when you walk through those doors. Even when you’ve tried so, so hard not to have any preconceived notions about the material you know you’re about to face.

Because you bring yourself to the theater, always. Your good day, or your bad day. Your desire to escape. Your desire to see yourself reflected back at you on stage. Your desire to have a good time, or a thought-provoking one. Those things… they all walk in the doors with you. And they all become a part of your experience of the show you’re seeing.

The experience of theater is inherently subjective. You are uniquely yourself, and you experience material in a unique way. Which really, is pretty damn cool.

I mean all of this musing as a preface for the fact that the day I went to see The Heidi Chronicles on Broadway, I walked in the doors knowing next to nothing about the play, but so very looking forward to seeing a show, written and directed by women, starring a woman, that I knew had spoken so very deeply to many of the women in my life. I also walked in the doors after a series of several long days in which I spent a lot of time thinking about the ways we speak and write about women in the media today, particularly in conversations about domestic abuse. Earlier that evening I’d sent Lucky a final draft of this post for review, and at intermission, from my balcony seat at the Music Box Theatre, I pressed publish and put my thoughts out into the world. And I braced myself for backlash, as I’d wager any woman writing on the internet about women’s issues must.

To say I was in the mood for a play that would speak to me about my experience, and light a fire under my ass, or illuminate the path forward, is an understatement. I was SO looking forward to this feminist masterpiece. I was looking forward to having my life or my mind or my heart or my day or my something changed by Wendy Wasserstein’s work.

To say it pains me to admit that I completely disliked the show would also be an understatement. I can’t remember the last time I left the theater feeling less inspired and more solidly defeated than I did that night. It was wildly disheartening, and in the aftermath I struggled to understand what my friends had seen in the play that I’d so completely missed.

Because I walked out onto 45th Street feeling like… OMG. It’s been 27 years and nothing has changed. We’re no better off. A child of the 80s, I am quite literally Judy, and my life is full of the exact same struggles that Heidi and Susan (and Lisa and Fran and Jill) all face. I am still paid less for the work I do. I still have relatives telling me to stop worrying so much about my career, because if I don’t I might die childless and alone. I still struggle to form lasting relationships with men who are not intimidated by my professional drive (or loud mouth or forceful opinions) who are looking for an equal partner and willing to put in the work that it takes to BE an equal partner in return.

But what’s worse, was that I also walked out onto 45th Street feeling like… What even was the point of that? What was Wasserstein even trying to say? The show felt like a series of vignettes which, by the end, made no coherent statement at all.

Maybe The Heidi Chronicles was revolutionary in 1988 simply because it put the inner lives of women on stage, no matter what it did or didn’t say. Maybe in 1988 that was enough, and it didn’t need to have a cohesive idea around which it was organized. Maybe it didn’t need to make a comment, or create new context, because it’s existence alone was enough.

But it’s not 1988 anymore. And you don’t get points just for putting women on the stage. We’re half the bloody population and we’re 68% of the theater-going audience and just standing an articulate version of one of us on the stage is not enough anymore. That’s just… It’s basic. You gotta give me something else, here.

Maybe it’s that The Heidi Chronicles is so much of it’s time that it just hasn’t aged well. And maybe it’s just not a good play. (I kind of suspect that, actually, because, again… What are you saying, Wendy Wasserstein? And why on earth can’t I tell just by watching your play?)

But some part of me believes the production itself deserves at least some of the fault, here, too. Not so much the actors as the director, Pam MacKinnon. Because this production just felt like such a limp, literal interpretation and presentation of the work. It brought nothing new to light, gave me no new contextual lens through which to view the play nearly 30 years later, and frankly just left me feeling frustrated and cold and… ugh.

I know. I’m asking for a lot. But so is everyone who walked in that door. We all came in with baggage. For the women maybe it was uncles who say stupid shit at the dinner table over holidays, or men in our past who used the word ‘opinionated’ interchangeably with ‘bitch,’ or bosses who gave us side-eye when we reached a certain age, wondering when we’d abandon them to pop out babies, as if that was the only possible path. Maybe the men had stifled mothers, or sisters they’d watched struggle with the double-standards women are constantly being measured against. Maybe they’d spent pre-show drinks listening to a friend rail against the language Pat Healy chose to use in his latest article in the New York Times.

A great play, a great production, cuts through all of that. It grabs you by the throat and takes you along with it. Makes you see things in a new, powerful way. I want greatness from work like this. And sadly, I don’t think it was there at The Music Box that night.

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You guys, I’m still really struggling with this New York Times article by Patrick Healy about Marin Ireland, and the proposals in front of Actor’s Equity for improving “protocols for registering and handling grievances about harassment in the theater.” I’m struggling with it, because it’s a good thing, and I want (need) to support good things, but it’s also… It doesn’t really feel right. It’s a little hard to celebrate.

Because here a The Craptacular we’ve known, for nearly three years now, about the incident between Ireland and Scott Shepherd. And the story we’ve heard (time and again, from sources that we cannot name) is much fuller and more disturbing than what the New York Times reported. The incident involves Shepherd striking Ireland, yes. But it also involves more than just a black eye, and it involves him forcibly refusing to allow her to leave his presence after he gave her that black eye, intimidating her while she was isolated an ocean away from home.

And I know. I know. That some of this is just… issues of journalism and ethics and the rules at the New York Times. That in a story like this, the Times can likely only report things that their fact-checkers can confirm with both parties. And that, on top of that, the story is really supposed to be about the proposal in front of Equity, more than the incident that inspired Ireland to take action. The article isn’t actually about Ireland. It’s about the proposals. And I also know that publishing any detail about the incident that is even remotely questionable would create doubt for some readers and ultimately distract from the larger point of the article.

(Lucky and I have certainly learned the hard way that the technical details of someone’s behavior and/or conviction and subsequent legal status can very easily distract from the real argument at hand. A fact that seems especially prominent in discussions of gender, sexism and misogyny, but I digress.)

But I keep coming back to this one fact: As a reader, and a woman, I hate how the Times article portrays the incident. Because it makes it sound like it’s sort of… not a big deal. And worse, like it’s something Ireland kind of asked for.

Stripped of additional context, and boiled down to a series of only three events that Shepherd and Ireland both agreed upon, the situation is presented as thus:

1. They had been ‘arguing about their relationship.’
2. Ireland slapped Shepherd.
3. Several days later, Shepherd struck Ireland, knocking her over and giving her a black eye.

And because the events are presented in isolation, and in that specific order, the first two facts color the readers’ perception of the third fact. They allow you to view this behavior as the natural progression of a set of arguments that had gotten a bit out of control. So as a reader, you’re allowed to think, “Well, they were fighting. And she hit him first! So I mean, obviously he hit her back. And that’s bad because he hit her worse, and she had a black eye, so yeah, bad. But really, she hit him first, so…”

It allows you to think “she was asking for it.”

Which is maybe my least favorite phrase in basically all of the world. We see it in the discussion of rape and sexual assault all the damn time. (What was she wearing? Was she drinking? Did she flirt? Has she slept with other people before?) And here we’re seeing it in the discussion of physical abuse. Ugh. Just… ugh. We have to stop talking about abuse this way.

As if there isn’t a right and a wrong. As if a man — who is much larger than his opponent, and who has training in how to fight — didn’t know he shouldn’t be violently laying his hands on someone smaller and weaker. As if the other details of this story are not publishable because the perpetrator won’t agree to that particular description of how he made his victim feel.

I don’t care that Scott Shepherd says he’s sorry. Abusers always say they’re sorry. It’s part of how they keep their victims around, so they can continue to abuse them. Abuse is a cycle.

And maybe Shepherd is sorry. Maybe that was an isolated incident and he’d never done it before and he’ll never do it again. But it is also possible to make decisions, as adults, that we can never fully recover from. And there is a right and a wrong. There’s wrong and there’s more wrong. And the world is a pretty fucked up place if we can’t report on an incident of abuse without getting full agreement from both parties.

Because we always report on all crimes that way, right? We always make sure we only include the details both the perpetrator and the victim agree upon. We report on muggings and beatings and murders that way, right? Because usually murder victims have asked for it. Same goes for people who’ve been mugged, right? …OH WAIT.

So yeah. I feel shitty about the reporting in this Times story. I’m glad — so glad — that it’s being reported on at all. Glad that the Times used their audience to shine a spotlight on this bit of news that could easily be taken as like… inside-baseball industry stuff and thus, be completely ignored.

And I’m fucking floored by Ireland. Awed by the bravery it takes to share a deeply private piece of her deeply private personal struggle and use that to fuel the fight for real, valuable social change. There is a courage in that which I am very seriously unable to articulate.

But that article was a bit difficult for me to swallow. And it felt important to talk about that here. Because it’s important to see the ways in which the world makes these kinds of battles so difficult to fight. The ways in which this world makes it difficult for women to stand up for themselves, to protect themselves, and to help the women around them, too. And jesus, don’t even get me started on intersectionality, and how this would have been different or worse or a thousand other things if Ireland (or Shepherd, for that matter) hadn’t been white.

Or maybe do, I don’t know. The point is, I want us to talk about these things. But I want us to talk about them in real ways. Ways that don’t massively fail victims and protect perpetrators. And the only way I know how to start anymore is just to… do it. So here we are.

[Article originally published on 3/18/2015, updated on 4/27/2015 to clarify descriptions of the domestic abuse incident between Ireland and Shepherd and the surrounding circumstances.]