amBroadway: ‘The Thanksgiving Play’ author named MacArthur fellow, ‘Purple Rain’ to screen at Queens drive-in and more

Aaron Marcellus.Purple Rain at Radial Park.Photo by Tricia Baron (1)
Aaron Marcellus performing for Purple Rain at Radial Park. (Photo by Tricia Baron)

Larissa FastHorse named MacArthur genius

Larissa FastHorse, a Native American playwright originally from South Dakota who is best known for the biting satire “The Thanksgiving Play,” was named a MacArthur fellow this week, earning a no-strings-attached $625,000 “Genius Grant”.  Other playwrights who have won MacArthur fellowships include Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dominique Morisseau (“Pipeline”) and Taylor Mac (“Gary”). Since its 2018 Off-Broadway premiere at Playwrights Horizons, “The Thanksgiving Play” has made American Theatre Magazine’s most recent annual list of the most-produced plays by U.S. professional theaters.  

AAPAC report reveals lack of onstage diversity

The Asian-American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC), in partnership with the American Theatre Wing, has released a report on racial diversity on New York City stages, including all of Broadway and the 18 largest non-profit theater companies. According to the report, during the 2017-18 season, 61.5 percent of available roles went to white actors, while 23.2 percent went to black actors, 6.9 percent went to Asian-American actors, and 6.1 percent to Latinx actors. Interestingly, the report found that casting at non-profits theaters was only barely more diverse than casting by commercial producers. Other findings reflecting a systematic bias included Broadway shows having 80 percent white writers and 93.8 percent white directors. Ars Nova was rated as the most-diverse non-profit company, while the Irish Repertory Theatre was rated as the least diverse. 

Actors’ Equity members angry over health plan change

Tensions have been flaring among professional New York stage actors since it was announced last week that in order to qualify for health insurance coverage in 2021 through the Equity-League Health Plan, Actors’ Equity members will need to work at least 16 weeks (as opposed to the prior standard of 11 weeks). According to a statement on the website of Equity-League Benefit Funds, “the sudden changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically affected the fund’s financial position…After looking at many different approaches, the trustees have developed a solution that balances meaningful coverage with the long-term sustainability of the fund.” In response, Actors’ Equity released a statement confirming that it does not support the new health plan and explaining that the health fund is a separate organization that is jointly managed by union and employer trustees. 

‘Purple Rain’ follows ‘Phantom’ at Astoria drive-in

Following the recent premiere of “The Phantom of the Opera”, Hallets Point Play (the new Broadway-centric drive-in movie theater in Astoria) will next present the 1984 movie musical “Purple Rain”, with the added bonus of an 8-piece band and interwoven live performances from Aaron Marcellus (“American Idol”), Nick Rashad Burroughs (“Tina”) and Lenesha “Sister” Randolph. Performances will take place from Oct. 10 to 25. 

‘Like Water for Chocolate’ musical in the works

“Like Water for Chocolate,” a sensual and supernatural 1989 Mexican novel by Laura Esquivel that was subsequently adapted for film, is now being developed as a stage musical. It will have music and lyrics by the Latin rock band La Santa Cecilia, additional lyrics by Quiara Alegría Hudes (“In the Heights”) and direction by Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening”). The recent virtual concert “Viva Broadway! Hear Our Voices!” included a sneak peek at the musical.

This week’s streaming recommendations:

“Die Walküre” (Wagner week at the Met continues), Thurs. Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m., metopera.org…”Jasper in Deadland” (Ryan Scott Oliver’s Off-Broadway rock musical), Fri. Oct. 9 at 8 p.m., Broadway On Demand…”American Moor” (Keith Hamilton Cobb’s passionate meditation on “Othello”), Mon. Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m., redbulltheater.com.

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