grand central 1941 (john vachon)

I squeezed adventures in Norway, Sweden, the wilds of central Wisconsin, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island into 2019, a year of paring, sifting and sorting of involvement on professional boards and continuing projects.

I served on the executive committee of the American Theatre Critics Association, as a judge for the Henry Hewes Design Awards and the new ATCA Glenn M. Loney Production Award for Regional Theater, and chair of the Drama Desk nominating committee for the 2018-2019 season.

And I spent hundreds of nights and afternoons in theaters of all kinds. I have now posted eight annual “what Martha has seen” marathon lists of theater and film adventuring (201120122013201420152016, 2017, 2018). The 2018 calendar year rough tallies: 300 theatrical productions, 10 staged readings, and a few handfuls of cabaret performances, television show tapings, and film screenings. The glut of input has effects, salutary and detrimental, on production of my own original work. In 2019, I shall continue on this tightrope.

Publication Themes and Outlets.

I wrote theater-focused essays and reviews for a range of outlets including The Clyde Fitch Report, TDF Stages, HowlRound, and Dramatics. I focused again this year on exciting personalities, women in theater, plays in development, aspects of design, and reviews of current productions in New York and in several cities around the country.

The third and fourth editions in the Women Count report series were released during 2018, published in February and November by the League of Professional Theatre Women. I have authored the report series since 2014, supported by the data collection assistance of collaborator Judith Binus. in which I report and analyze Off-Broadway theater hiring patterns for women playwrights, directors, designers, and stage managers.

I published two pieces in May that built explicitly on my dramaturgical interests. For Howlround I wrote about director Erin Ortman’s approach to developing a new musical —  “Positation in Action: Director Erin Ortman’s Multi-Year Journey with the Arabian Nights.” And I published a piece in Theatre Times about Chicago’s Goodman Theatre’s resident dramaturg Neena Arndt and her work on a new adaptation of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People.

I was able to share an event highlight from 2017 in written form in 2018. In November 2017, I moderated a panel entitled “From Page to Stage: The Journey of A New Musical – The Band’s Visit” at an ATCA meeting, featuring music and lyric writer David Yazbek, book writer Itamar Moses, director David Cromer, and producer Orin Wolf. On an early morning a few days before this splendid musical’s Broadway opening, the creators shared their excitement, fear, and love for one another. I published an article capturing this conversation in the August/September 2018 issue of Dramatics.

Playwright and teacher María Irene Fornés passed away in October 2018 and was the inspiration for a number of events and articles all year long. I attended screenings of Michelle Memran’s beautiful film about Irene and their friendship, The Rest I make Up, at MOMA in February and August, interviewed Memran about the film for HowlRound, attended the August Fornés Marathon at the Public and wrote about the marathon for The Clyde Fitch Report, and cheered her election to the election of Fornés to the Theatre Hall of Fame. at the induction ceremony in November. Linda Chapman and I crafted a Fornés commemorative page for the LPTW web site.

Dramaturgy, Play Reading, and Play Development.

I dramaturged, assisted, and encouraged (for pay and pleasure) a number of playwrights and writers working on a range of projects during the year — plays and musicals and books in development. I also read scores of play scripts submitted to competitions (e.g. Harvardwood and the ATCA Steinberg and Osborn prizes) and play development programs (e.g. PlayPenn and O’Neill National Playwrights Conference). I moderated a conversation in March between two friends Erica Fae and Elizabeth Hess, who are authors, teachers, and writers, on the subject of “embodied performance” and Elizabeth’s show Love Trade then playing at La MaMa.

Panels and Public Conversations.

I moderated and participated in professional panels and public conversations throughout the year. I visited BroadwayCon for the first time this year in January as part of the panel “Theatre Critiquing: A Woman’s Touch” moderated by Linda Armstrong, also featuring Elysa Gardner, Nicole Serratore.

I hosted occasional post-show conversations for my friend Cesi Davidson’s monthly new play series at the George Bruce Branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem: “Truth & Justice” (about Sojourner Truth) in February, “Tidy Black” in March, and “Hole” in October.

The Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association invited me to speak in June at their annual conference on a panel moderated by Toy DeIorio addressing “Women+ in Theatre Sound” — on which I discussed findings from the Women Count data reports.

I was a last minute stand-in on a panel for an absent member during the ATCA annual meeting in July at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Suddenly, I found things to say in a plenary session with performers and directors on “Comedy of Problems: How to Produce, Perform and Review Period Comedy.”  You never know when you’ll be call into action in this field.

I offered opinions theatrical in a moderated conversation with Jeffrey Sweet in June about 2017-2018 Tony Awards at the Coffee House Club, and in “Drama Evening: Season Opening Critics Panel” in September about the 2018-2019 season then just underway, moderated by David Finkle (with Steven Suskin and Elysa Gardner)  at The Century Association.

And I traveled to MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts and to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island with the Lake Lucille Chekhov Project creators for screenings and concerts in late October showcasing the film “I Am A Seagull” that captures a theatrical community that forms around a Chekhov production each summer at Lake Lucille. I wrote a piece for Chance Magazine (issue 4 December 2014) about the 2014 experience that was captured in this new film, will attend the next concert and screening presentation as part of Under the Radar in January 2019. A piece in development for HowlRound about the Lake Lucille Chekhov Project philosophy and these new presentations will be among the first I hope to publish in 2019.

And here’s hoping for loads of viewing, planning, scheming, talking, and writing about it all in 2019.

© Martha Wade Steketee (December 30, 2018)

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