Actors Theatre of Phoenix has seen plenty of both in recent months after announcing that a huge infusion of cash would be needed to complete their current season, then deciding to move forward with a 2012-2013 season announcement though still working to raise full funding.
So it’s fitting I suppose that the first show planned for their 2012-13 season is Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstacy of Steve Jobs.” Daisey and his play became the focus of significant controversy after NPR’s Ira Glass retracted a January episode of “This American Life” featuring Daisey and the play due to “significant fabrications” — and Daisey’s been bombarded with more bad news since.
Folks eager to explore Daisey’s own take on his work can read an article Daisey wrote that’s titled “The Sin of Activism” — published in the April 2012 issue of American Theatre magazine, which has featured works of late that celebrate its four key values — artistry, diversity, global citizenship and activism.
Turns out Daisey was trained to think of activism as a dirty word, but drifted in that direction as his work “circled more and more around the fundamental conflict between the human and the inhuman in our culture.” His article for American Theatre details the evolution of his thought, process and product.
Today he’s a converstion story. “Action is the root of theatre,” writes Daisey. “Activism is the public face of that action. We need an American theatre that recognizes this. Now more than ever.” And I suppose Actors Theatre wouldn’t mind folks heeding the call by advocating on their behalf.
Following Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstacy of Steve Jobs,” Actors Theatre will stage “Opus” by violinist-turned-playwright Michael Hollinger — which imagines a string quartet preparing to perform a hefty bit of Beethoven at the White House when the erratic behavior of their resident genius necessitates that someone else (who’s younger, less experienced and female) take his place. Think rehearsal room as pressure cooker.
New is next to godliness at Actors Theatre, and thank heavens for it. Next up is “The Fox on the Fairway” by playwright Ken Ludwig — described by Actors Theatre as “one of America’s greatest living writers of farce.” Ludwig is well-known to theater folk for writing “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Crazy for You.” But now, it seems, he’s turned his attention to “one man’s eternal love affair with golf.”
Also “A Steady Rain.” This baby was written by Keith Huff, lauded by Actors Theatre for helping to write and produce a little something on AMC called “Mad Men” — which Huff says he’s left behind to pursue other projects. “A Steady Rain” follows a pair of Chicago police officers whose mutual loyalty is tested when an unfortunate decision begets guilt, fear and corruption.
Actors Theatre plans to close its 2012-13 season with “Good People” by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, whose “The Rabbit Hole” won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for best drama. It’s the tale of a single mother with a special needs daughter who moves to the suburbs in search of new opportunities after losing her dollar store gig. “Good People” was nominated in 2011 for a Tony Award, the year “War Horse” went home with best play honors.
Turns out there’s a lovely piece about “Good People” and Lindsay-Abaire in the current issue of American Theatre magazine as well. It’s penned by Christopher Wallenberg, who details the playwright’s own working class roots and growing realization that new American plays weren’t reflecting the real struggles of folks to make it in a land that sometimes fails to deliver on its promises.
New is nifty, but relevance rules — and it’s something that Actors Theatre of Phoenix is nearing nicely with its 2012-13 season, which reads more “everyday” than “high art” during a period in American life in which few can afford time with theater experiences that feel more luxury than real-life. Let’s hope that Actors Theatre has accurately gauged the pulse of its audience, something absolutely essential to keeping their own heart beating.
Note: Click here to learn about the May 10 movie theater broadcast of a live on-stage performance of “This American Life” (complete with dance and other fun things you can’t see through a radio) — and here to learn about Annie Baker’s “Body Awareness,” being performed by Actors Theatre through April 15.
Coming up: Photography on the fly