2013: excavation review themes

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Crop of front cover title line for issue 2 of Chance Magazine that absorbed so much of my time this year. Issues 1 and 2 of the publication were printed in 2013.
Crop of front cover title line for issue 2 of Chance Magazine that absorbed so much of my time this year. Issues 1 and 2 of the publication were completed and printed in 2013.

I have now indulged in three annual iterations (2011, 2012, and 2013) of complete lists of events that took me into a theatre or other kind of performance space during a calendar year. Panel discussions and film presentations and television show screenings and increasingly (and now almost exclusively) theatrical performances fill these listings. Over the past three years, as my theatre consumption as gone up (yes, now approximately 300 productions of some kind each year), my writing in this blog about the individual performances that found their way onto these year-end summaries has decreased. Unlike my writing routines for 2011, I no longer write about every show I see. And my current role as a Drama Desk Award nominator (our committee crafts the end-of-year ballot the rest of the membership votes on — we determine the nominees) somewhat stymies me, I discover, in writing as often and as freely about individual productions. This self-perceived thwarting could be due to time or due to the awards-consideration manner of assessing individual elements of individual productions, or something else altogether.  While I continued in 2013 to write infrequently about individual productions that especially moved me, my creative energies were focused in large part in 2013 on the new Chance Magazine, especially on crafting monographs on Ben Edwards (for issue one) and Boris Aronson (for issue two).

I wrote a wrap-up piece about my delightful, absorbing, privileged role of Drama Desk nominator for 2012-2013 in May 2013 upon the occasion of the nominations announcement event at 54 Below. As my role as nominator continues for 2013-2014, I continue to write with ease and with no role conflict on public panel discussions and non-performance theatrical events of multiple types. In 2013 these types of events fell into several categories.

Panel Discussions and Public Interviews.

I thrilled in February 2013 to a Harvardwood-sponsored interview of Marge Champion by Foster Hirsch, with a few surprise guests. Playwright Kia Korthron in March 2013 and actress Kathleen Chalfant in April 2013 each inspired a sense of public purpose in their individual forms of artistic expression. In late June 2013 in another Harvardwood event, Jujamcyn Theaters Vice President Jack Viertel discussed the state of American theatre with Miriam Weisfeld of DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. And a marvelous, moving, inspiring event at the CUNY Grad Center in October 2013 coincided with the splendid production of Fun Home at the Public Theatre involving theatre makers Lisa Kron (Fun Home lyricist and book writer) and Moe Angelos.

Chance Magazine Photo Shoots.

As a dramaturg by professional inclination, and with a vested interest as an editor of Chance magazine, I have lurked around several photo shoots in and around New York City over the past year or so capturing costumes and set designs and creative envisioning of theatrical worlds. These essays, read in sequence, provide an informal history of my involvement in the magazine and its development from idea (in 2011 and 2012) to realized publication (two issues completed and printed in 2013).

My Chance photo shoot observations began in 2012. My first photo shoot set “lurk” in June 2012 was at an abandoned (and by us rented) mansion in Yonkers, that served as a set for a photo shoot imagining the world of the draft Sharr White play The Snow Geese, that made its way to Broadway the following season. This photo essay appears in Chance issue 1. In August 2012 I met up after hours at The Box burlesque venue in Chinatown with photographers and others to observe a particular kind of live performance. The photo essays that resulted from this session appear in Chance issue 2. May 2013 I spent a frigid several hours with photographer Plamen Petkov and designer/publisher Fitz Patton on the empty set of Here Lies Love at the Public Theater capturing fabulous costumes that are featured in Chance issue 2. In June 2013 I observed an extensive shoot by photographer Plamen Petkov in a back room at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts of set models by Ming Cho Lee (to be a focus of issue 3) and Boris Aronson‘s marvelous set model for Follies (which appears as the lead image in the Aronson monograph in issue 2). And a final 2013 observed shoot took place in September 2013 and featured Aronson designs I had been combing through for months in the Library archives for my written monograph. Fitz Patton (designer, publisher, and accomplished photographer) led the image taking and I managed the image selection. Some of the resulting designs are presented in the Aronson monograph in issue 2.

Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Visit.

I provided some transcription assistance to playwright and author Jeffrey Sweet on a history of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center during early 2013. The O’Neill: The Transformation of Modern American Theater will be published in May 2014 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Center. As a kind of reward for my efforts and a genuine treat, I was invited to spend some time at the O’Neill during the 2013 summer sessions. I was able to schedule a few days in late July and made the most of it, exploring the grounds and attending a reading, and drinking in the history of the Monte Cristo Cottage where O’Neill spent time as a child and which the O’Neill Center now maintains as a house museum.

Film Musings and Serendipity.

I mused in a limited way about film — another favorite art form sadly ignored (on the big screen anyway) during this busy theatre-going year. I did manage to muse (or re-muse) about Anatomy of a Murder, a favorite Michigan-based noir-y murder mystery, and the beautiful dame Eve Arden. And finally, deliciously, I spent a bit of time on a near-year-end post that summed up the kinds of surprise connections that can link lives: serendipity in new friends, old passions, theatrical design, and Stephen Sondheim.

And that’s the story. I hope to write more about individual productions that move me this calendar year. And I expect I shall continue to muse on other types of public events, publications, and experiences. These events, along with the chronological listing of shows/events attended in 2013 illustrate what kept me out of trouble in 2013 — and how lucky I am to have my particular long-suffering, patient, and self-entertaining spouse.

© Martha Wade Steketee (January 14, 2014)

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