Did That Seriously Happen? Nine Theater News Moments That Didn't Fit on Another List
From Pulitzer drama to Amy Adams' squirrel hair, the theater moments that made us go, "Wait, seriously?"
Every so often a picture, news blurb or anecdote so wild or touching comes into the office that we find ourselves saying "Did that seriously just happen?" In the nine cases below, yes--they seriously did happen, and made our list of the some of the most random standout happenings of 2012. We've compiled a short photo gallery to refresh your memories, followed by a proper list of the most "serious" moments of the year in theater. Scroll on.
1. Amy Adams' Hair in Shakespeare In the Park's Into the Woods
It looked like a squirrel. Right? Right.
2. Ari Graynor's The Performers Tragedy
Every now and then, a performer lands a role that defines a career. Patti LuPone had Eva Peron. Christine Ebersole had Little Edie. For Ari Graynor, that role could have been Peeps in the 2012 Broadway comedy The Performers. An adult movie actress who suffers a crisis of confidence after she discovers her husband has kissed another woman on the lips, Peeps was the perfect match for Graynor. No one else could deliver such obscene, unprintable lines with the drop-dead-hilarious timing Graynor did while balancing out the expletives with enough bewildered innocence to make Peeps a person, not a cartoon character. It could have been Graynor's Tony Award, but the show closed four days after it opened, robbing her of both the spinning tchotchke and the moniker "Tony Award winner." What's most unfortunate is that so few people got to see this example of Graynor's comic genius.
3. George Hearn Upstaged by Own Scandalous Beard
Seriously, did you see that thing? Of course you did. Maybe the question should be, "Did you see George Hearn?" More people recognized this two-time Tony Award winner in drag as ZaZa in La Cage aux Folles than they did during the entire first act of Scandalous. The wild hedge of stick-on facial hair actually robbed Hearn of his well-deserved entrance applause – because nobody knew it was him. It wasn't until he walked out as a different, clean-shaven character in Act Two that people remembered George Hearn was in the show! They applauded then, blissfully unaware that they had literally just seen him in another role a mere five hours prior. If this doesn't serve as a cautionary tale to the scruffy Young Men of Brooklyn, we don't know what will.
4. Tyne Daly's Putting on the Ritz (Cracker)
We see a lot of designer goods on the red carpet, but this year all starlets, gem-borrowing divas and even rappers with their platinum grills need to bow dow: Tyne Daly's had red carpet bling on lock. The stage and screen legend (Master Class) recently stepped out wearing a large brooch shaped like a Ritz Cracker. With bling. A bling-encrusted Ritz Cracker, worn to the opening of Broadway's Golden Boy. It's just...amazing. Seriously amazing. Could this pin be the start of a new fashion trend? Can we get pearl encrusted Saltines, or an ebony and ivory Oreo? We're hoping to high heavens there's a whole sleeve of these in Daly's possession so she can roll them out all season, giving us a reason to live. Tyne, if you're reading this: We love you. Seriously.
5. Relatively Unknown Play Wins Pultizer Prize for Drama
The debate wasn't over the virtues of Quiara Alegría Hudes' Water by the Spoonful, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, hailed by the Pulitzer committee as "an imaginative play about the search for meaning by a returning Iraq war veteran working in a sandwich shop in his hometown of Philadelphia." The debate was over one question: How did a play that only had a single three-week run at Hartford Stage and wasn't even reviewed by The New York Times win such a prestigious honor? As it turned out, the Pulitzer voting committee doesn't need to see a play--they need only read the script. Regardless of rules or the merits of Hudes' work, the results riled many, especially given the prestige of the other works that came in as finalists – Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities and Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet. Drama over on-and-offstage-and-on-the-page drama.
6. Hurricane Sandy
In addition to crippling residents in parts of New Jersey, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island, and Brooklyn, Hurricane Sandy took her wrath out on the theater community. Broadway was shut down for two days due to the super-storm, with many off and off-off-Broadway theaters closed for a week or longer. Cancelled previews, rehearsals, and performances are huge losses when a production can take months or years to recoup its investment, if it recoups at all, and Broadway shows such as The Performers and Kathie Lee Gifford's Scandalous both closed earlier than they might have hoped due, at least in part, to time lost to Sandy. The Performers called it quits barely a week after opening night, having eaten full nights of preview performance sales. When Scandalous later announced its early closing, Gifford placed the blame staunchly on Sandy. "Nobody's really recovered [from Sandy]. The new shows haven't," she said on NBC's Today. Broadway grossed $6.5 million less during the week of Sandy than the week prior, The Broadway League confirmed. And according to USA Today, even reliable hits like Wicked and Nice Work If You Can Get It saw their grosses decrease by many hundreds of thousands.
Fortunately, as soon as the power came back on above 34th Street, Broadway's show could go on. But theater closings in lower Manhattan and the boroughs weren't just caused by lack of power. Some, such as Stuyvesant Cove Park's Solar One, sustained huge structural damage from flooding. Coastal theaters, like Long Branch's New Jersey Repertory Company, have only recently let audiences back in after the storm did damage to their roof, awning, and offices. Yes, "seriously" Sandy did happen, and theaters up and down the east coast will be feeling the effects for months, if not years.
7. The Public Theater Lives Up to Its Name, And Then Some
The Public Theater deserves props for living up to its name in 2012. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the organization used their newly renovated downtown home as a hub for relief efforts -- collecting water, batteries, flash lights, garbage bags, diapers, and other items needed by those who were stranded in lower Manhattan. When power came back on at their theater, The Public opened its doors to the community, giving away free tickets to their weekend productions and allowing the temporarily homeless and powerless to use to their lobby space. Joe Papp would be proud.
8. Jeffrey Richards and Associates Play Pressonomics
Press and PR teams have always had a precarious task: Push for as much positive press for the show they represent as possible without driving the cast/creatives (who'll be lined up over and over to talk about their show) insane. The purpose? Move tickets, build buzz and establish brands. It's a PR formula that's worked since before Max Eisen was staging mini-Olympics in Shubert Alley. This year, Tony Award winning producing-press-and-marketing powerhouse Jeffrey Richards and Associates started streamlining their efforts on shows like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Glengarry Glen Ross and The Anarchist by cutting back on press. Virginia Woolf and Glengarry eschewed traditional press openings (red carpet, fancy party, people doing interviews) for private opening night parties (fancy party, people not doing interviews), and the latter traded the standard "meet the press" junket for a more economical press conference. The streamlining led to fewer interviews and profiles with stars like Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, Tracy Letts and Amy Morton. It also reduced man-hours, conserved resources and made coverage with the aforementioned stars a hot commodity.
The Anarchist, it should be noted, followed a traditional press formula.
Jeffery Richards' exercise in pressonomics had no adverse effects on its shows, and that may be the point. Glengarry has already recouped its investment and would have regardless of whether Pacino did a backstage tour with E! entertainment news. The cast was likely much happier not being asked what it's like to stand next to Pacino 1,000 times. The question is whether pressonomics are a sensible case-by-case measure or burgeoning industry trend, and, even more so, whether streamlining press will lead to important moments and footnotes in the history of theater going undocumented. File this under something we're watching in a serious fashion.
9. Rebecca Gets a Case of Broadway Malaria
The most outlandish drama on Broadway this year didn't happen on stage. Rather, the story behind Rebecca the Musical (based on the eponymous Gothic novel by Daphne du Maurier about the strange happenings at an English country manor) sounds more like the premise of a mystery novel itself. And we had to write a novella just to explain it, so stay with us, it's worth it:
The story opens with fledgling mega-producer Ben Sprecher, who, after a series of false-starts due to lack of funds for the Broadway run of Rebecca, brought in Long Island stock broker Mark C. Hotton as a middleman to rally some deep-pocketed individuals from outside the traditional circle of Broadway investors. But here's where the story takes a strange turn: in August Sprecher learned that Hotton's biggest investor, a South African businessman named Paul Abrams, had died suddenly of malaria before he was able to cut a check to the production for his $4.5 million commitment. It appeared to be the first time in Broadway history that a show had been derailed by a deadly tropical disease.
Since every good mystery requires a good newspaper detective, it was none other than the Grey Lady herself (Patrick Healy of The New York Times) who began questioning Abrams' existence after failing to uncover his obituary or death certificate. That's when the house of cards that was Broadway's Manderley began to collapse. As it turns out, Hotton invented a whole host of supporting character-investors with names worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ("Julien Spencer," "Walter Timmons") and fabricated hundreds of emails between himself and these fictional British millionaires. In the process, Hotton extracted over $60,000 in fees and "expenses" from the production including $18,210.88 for an alleged African safari. (Aha! So that's where Abrams must have contracted the malaria!)
In this backstage thriller's climax, Hotton was arrested at his Long Island mansion early in the morning of October 15th and charged with two counts of wire fraud. He could face decades in prison. Meanwhile, Sprecher faces an army of angry investors to whom he must return their money if he is unable to come up with the necessary $12 million by Monday, December 31st. Rebecca has been postponed indefinitely and appears to be as dead as its titular character. As a result, Rebecca's case of malaria is sure to go down as one of the most epic and bizarre Broadway fails in the history of this crazier-than-most industry. And so it has been written. Seriously.