Hidden Gems of the American Theater

Question: What’s a hidden gem of the American theater?

\r\n

Terry Teachout: Well, the American theater is lousy with hidden gems.  But I think in particular, there are a lot of plays that used to be, well they're still well made plays of the '30's and '40's that fell out of fashion when the fashion in American theater turned towards more personal expressionistic playwriting.  Tennessee Williams really marks the big change in direction here.  There is still a lot to be said for the well-made, witty, clever, three-act comedy.  There's a playwright named S.M. Berryman, Sam Berryman, who wrote these kinds of social comedies.  They are actually extremely sharp and still quite provocative.  He has a play called "Biography" which is about to produced off Broadway that I am going to see.  I've actually seen that produced and am excited by it. 

\r\n

John Van Druten, another purveyor of well-made boulevard theater that's actually much more challenging and interesting than you might expect. There's a wonderful play called "The Voice of the Turtle," a three-character play that has never had a modern production on the East Coast so far as I know.  There are British playwrights, Terence Rattigan in particular, were all are also totally unfashionable because of their being rooted in traditional wood ways and construction.  I'm not saying that this is the best or the only way to write and play, I like Tennessee Williams as much as the next guy, and Sam Shepard, and all sorts of different ways of writing plays.  But I don't think that what worked in the ‘30s and ‘40s should be disregarded simply because it is no longer fashionable.  And that's something that I've sort of crusaded for in my writing.  I look for productions of playwrights like that.

\r\n

Question: Who excites you as an up-and-coming talent in theater?

\r\n

Terry Teachout: David Cromer, from Chicago, I think is the most gifted young director in America.  He had a real setback, he just made his Broadway debut last month with what was supposed to be a repertory production of two Neil Simon plays, and they closed it after the first one opened and before the second one got opened.  That's not gonna stop him.  This is a guy whose imagination just oozes out of his pores.  He did an off-Broadway production of "Our Town" last season that is still running, in which she plays the stage manager.  Nowadays, everybody’s seen "Our Town."  Your high school did it; you probably didn't when you were in high school.  It is an utterly familiar play.  And Cromer, without distorting it, without transforming it with beyond recognition, made it absolutely new and fresh and every moment of it was alive.

\r\n

He did the same thing with the production of "The Glass Menagerie" that I saw in Kansas City last year.  The same thing with the production of William Inges’, "Picnic," that I saw in Chicago two years ago.  I got on to him because I travel and most other critics don't so I was aware of him earlier than he was generally known in New York.  Now he is atop the list of directors whose work I will travel to see.  He excites me.

Recorded on November 17, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen

Everyone knows the staples of the Broadway repertoire; they get recycled every decade or so. Which masterpieces are we overlooking?

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Why 'upgrading' humanity is a transhumanist myth

Upload your mind? Here's a reality check on the Singularity.

Videos
  • Though computer engineers claim to know what human consciousness is, many neuroscientists say that we're nowhere close to understanding what it is, or its source.
  • Scientists are currently trying to upload human minds to silicon chips, or re-create consciousness with algorithms, but this may be hubristic because we still know so little about what it means to be human.
  • Is transhumanism a journey forward or an escape from reality?
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less