The theatre district was eerily quiet yesterday. There were still tourists wandering up and down Broadway, looking up and into the distance, as if they’d never seen a building higher than four stories. But most of the theatres had IATSE strikers doing the picket walk. Theatre at any level is so difficult in the first place, it pains me that Local One and the League won’t even talk to one another.
That said, boy, you missed a great party! I was in the cheap seats with playwrights, a composer and the Playbill photographer at my table. Once the Sardi’s waiters started plonking down the plates of tiramisu, the show started. Each piece was from a play that the honoree, Cheryl Wiesenfeld, had produced. Unfortunately my favorite (“Shockheaded Peter”- only time I’ve bought the CD in the lobby after a show ever) was not included. Laura Marie Duncan started it off with “Here I Am” from “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” Then TRU president Bob Obst gave out two awards. There was a song from “Saint Heaven,” the producers of which were mentored by Ms. Wiesenfeld. That was followed by Keir Dullea and Mia Dillon reading from “The Exonerated,” and Dania Gurira and Nikkole Salter performing their “In the Continuum” - what talented, gracious young ladies they are! Sara Chase performed “So Much More” from “Legally Blonde.”
The highlights for me were two. Tonya Pinkins performed “I Got Four Kids” (the opening of “Caroline or Change”), which almost took the roof off the Sardi building. She was phenomenal- even better than when I saw her perform it on Broadway. And finally, Miss Elaine Stritch did come and speak, holding her audience rapt for fifteen minutes (it seemed like a moment, of course). She told a funny story about going to see “The Glass Menagerie” with Marlon Brando, when they were both students at The Actors Studio, because they “liked the title.” And how she can still remember Laurette Taylor’s magnificent performance. She was very funny, and her humor is my idea of great humor: if you tell the truth about something that most people wouldn’t, they’ll laugh. Ms. Stritch said a lot of things, but the one that really struck me (and I’m paraphrasing- I did not bring my reporter’s notebook with me, though I should have) was that theatre is a very demanding business, and there are and will be plenty of difficult times, of not mostly difficult times. But the reason that we all continue to pursue it is for those rare moments of great joy. I think that’s as true for her with her incredibly successful career as it is for those of us in the trenches.
Who knows what TRU will cook up for next year? How can they follow that?