April 18: That was the week that was….

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Narcissists, of course, demand people pay attention to them, even (or especially) when they’re not speaking.

The week before last Scott Rudin was called out publicly by the Hollywood Reporter (above) for his intimidating and bullying behaviour towards others in the industry, most notably of the people he employed as his personal assistants (some 119 in the space of two years, which equates to roughly a new one every single week), with “rage tantrums” that vulture.com reported saw assorted items — including “a laptop, stapler, glass bowl and baked potato plucked hot from the microwave among the implements…. not to mention the computer monitor he allegedly created down on an employee’s hand in 2012, sending the man to the emergency room” — variously hurled at different people at different times.

After this was made public, Rudin himself went to ground, not commenting publicly until yesterday, when he finally told Peter Marks in the Washington Post that he is now going to “step back” from his Broadway ventures, and would be “taking steps that I should have taken years ago to address this behaviour.”

And Actors’ Equity Association immediately followed that statement with one of their own, calling for more future accountability. Equity President Kate Shindle and Executive Director Mary McColl said,

“Since news reports emerged about Scott Rudin, we have had many private conversations with our sibling unions and the Broadway League. We have heard from hundreds of members that these allegations are inexcusable, and everyone deserves a safe workplace whether they are a union member or not. We salute the courage of those who came forward. We hope that Scott Rudin will also release his staff from any nondisclosure agreements they may have signed as a condition of employment.”

So, at last, there’s a sign of a personal reckoning, though how sincere that is remains to be seen.

As the Hollywood Reporter wrote yesterday,

It remains unclear what Rudin means by “active participation.” A representative for the producer did not elaborate on the phrase. A number of former staffers dubbed the gesture as hollow. “This guy’s not stepping aside from anything. Clever try though,” says one alum. The statement also did not address Rudin’s presence in the film industry, where he has a number of films on the horizon including next month’s Amy Adams starrer The Woman in the Window for Netflix as well as Jennifer Lawrence’s Red, White and Water for A24.

Of course, given how public his shameful and shaming behaviour has been, it would be difficult indeed for him to return to his usual antics, as they’d now be called out (you would have hoped) in an instant.

On the other hand, many of us also hoped that others would step up the plate and call him out, particularly the many celebrity actors who’ve worked for him. Yet hardly anyone on the industry side — apart from a handful of actors, including (improbably) someone who was the Tony nominated star of a show he has NOTHING to do with at all, namely Karen Olivo who withdrew from returning to the cast of Moulin Rouge when it returns to Broadway — has spoken out to challenge the damage he’s caused, in plain sight. (As Olivo put it in an Instagram posting, “What I’m seeing in this space right now, with our industry, is that everybody is scared, and nobody is really doing a lot of the stuff that needs to be done. People aren’t speaking out….. Let’s put our money with people who value human life and respect human life. It’s easy.”)

Of course, most actors — especially significant ones — would have been unlikely to have borne the brunt of Rudin’s rages, or indeed witnessed them, though as with Kevin Spacey when the allegations against his sexually predatory behaviour emerged, it simply lacks credibility that anyone would have been unaware of them. They were an open secret, in wide circulation.

And yes, of course there’s a good reason for the silence; people are protecting their own jobs — and those of others, especially given the terrible year everyone has just had. But not if they are still reporting, somehow, to him, where they could be put in a potentially vulnerable position if he chose to come after any of them, as he’s famous for doing, though less often to the talent, who he – usually – respects. Unless of course they’re Bruce Norris, the actor and playwright with whom he had a very public falling out with in 2012; when Norris turned down an offer Rudin had made for him to act in a television series he was making, despite Rudin bending over backwards to accommodate him, Rudin also withdrew from the Broadway production of his play Clybourne Park that he was on the producing team of.

As the Chicago Reader reported at the time,

“Now I suppose it’s possible that Norris simply missed the quid pro quo implicit in Rudin’s various offers. Maybe he just didn’t understand that getting the Broadway run meant being in the TV show. But of course he’s too smart (and too awake to human motivation) for that. What’s more likely is that Norris was acting in the subversive, don’t-tread-on-me manner to which he’s always been accustomed—the manner colleagues and pals like Shapiro have always accepted, however much pain it caused, because they love and treasure him so much. Rudin just didn’t love and treasure him enough.”

But it then goes on to offer another possibility:

“That Norris was intentionally behaving poisonously so as to elicit exactly the reaction he got. Jules Feiffer has an old story called “Harold Swerg,” about a file clerk who “could hit a baseball farther than any man alive. . . . kick a football farther than any man alive. And . . . run the mile faster than any man alive. . . . Only he wouldn’t.” Everybody from the president on down tries to force Harold to “play the game,” but he holds out and holds out and holds out. Finally, he agrees to participate in the Olympics. He goes up against the Soviet Union’s greatest baseball hitter, football kicker, and mile runner, and ties them all to the centimeter. People accuse him of not giving his all, but he replies that it took everything he had to equal the Russians without beating them. “‘Let’s see you try to kick a football exactly 310 yards, four feet, one inch,’” he says. Harold invites anybody who wants a record equaled to “‘come around,'” Feiffer writes. “But nobody did, because nobody was interested in having records equalled. So they left Harold Swerg alone. Which was just the way he wanted it.”

Norris’s actions are almost definitely more complicated. He’s a complicated guy. But maybe, if only subconsciously, he’s pulling a Harold Swerg.”

I was assured yesterday that Rudin is also stepping aside from his West End interests, too, and that Sonia Friedman — originally subcontracted by him to look after To Kill a Mockingbird in the West End — will now take over as the lead producer.

Finally, an appropriate parting shot I saw on Twitter, given that Rudin was producing the much-delayed revival of The Musical Man:

SUNDAY APRIL 11
My column today was last week’s recall of the previous week’s columns, news, tweets and other features, either by myself or others, as I’m doing here today for this week’s round-up.

  • Fears for a 3rd COVID wave:
  • The Seth Concert Series with Ali Stroker, live tonight:
  • Daisy Egan on Scott Rudin:
  • This year’s NSDF (National Student Drama Festival), which was entirely online:

MONDAY APRIL 12
My column today is a the second in new weekly feature that keeps track of the shows that are coming back, or are newly being announced, that will be updated weekly until such time as it becomes a reality, and from then on will provide a weekly update to that week’s openings and future ones. From today, I’ve also added press contacts for each entry.

West End news:

  • The Last 5 Years to play season at Vaudeville Theatre from September 17-October 13:

TUESDAY APRIL 13
My column today is on bringing disabled artists into the mainstream, like Ali Stroker, who in 2019 became the first performer who uses a wheelchair to win a Tony Award when she starred in Oklahoma!

I quoted her acceptance speech, in which she said: “This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena — you are.”

And I wrote of that performance, “She shone a radiant new light on the character, through the unique prism of her own experiences that brought her here.” I also quoted her reply to the New York Times when they asked her she gets tired or resentful of answering questions around these issues. Her answer is warm and embracing: “I know in many ways that this is what I was born to do. When a little baby is injured, you always wonder why. And I think for my parents it’s so clear I was meant to be in this seat, to bring my joy, and my light, and my love, to something that a lot of our culture and a lot of our society looks at as just a shame, or a tragedy. I don’t think any part of my life is not meant to be.”

  • Edinburgh International Festival dates:
  • MTFestUK at the Turbine Theatre announces casting for season in May:

WEDNESDAY APRIL 14
My column today addresses the ongoing conspiracy of silence around Broadway producer Scott Rudin, about whom multiple accounts of serial bullying of his staff was reported by the Hollywood Reporter less than a week before.

As I wrote: “A conspiracy of silence — driven by fear — has effectively enabled his behaviour for years. And when, last week, I sat sobbing at my desk at 4.30am as I read the twitter account by the brother of of a former assistant of his who had committed suicide, I knew it was time to break the silence myself.”

And I explained my own new-found freedom to do so this, as well as its necessity for me: “My current position as a freelance critic running my own platform is giving me a lot of freedom to now call out behaviour as and when I see it. On a personal note, I have spent much of the last year investigating my own childhood trauma through a 12-step programme that deals with family-of-origin issues, and have, as a result, been inventorying my own role in those dynamics. As those who know how 12-step programmes work will already be aware, the ninth step involves making amends to those we’ve harmed. This includes ourselves.

“In other words, we take responsibility for our own part in the harms that have been caused, to help free ourselves from the shame and blame of the past. You don’t inventory other people’s behaviour, of course, only your own. But having learnt from this process just where I’ve gone wrong, I am now no longer hesitant to speak up when I know that others have done me or others wrong, either.”

  • Edinburgh Fringe Dates and plans announced:
  • Come from Away to resume performances in the West End:
  • Orange Tree to reopen:
  • Stiles and Drewe prize – 2012 shortlist for mentorship award:

THURSDAY APRIL 15
My column today is on how the downsizing of The Phantom of the Opera — with its orchestra reduced from 27 players to just 14 for its return to Her Majesty’s — betrays the promise of Andrew Lloyd Webber that the original production would be fully reinstated.

But as I wrote, co-producer Cameron Mackintosh is determined to downsize “his productions to upscale their profitability. He’s already done exactly that with the original Les Miserables, using the closure of the Queen’s Theatre for refurbishment to load out the original RSC production that had run for over three decades — and replace it with the leaner touring version that also at the same time neatly stripped out both the original investors of the show and the original creative team of their royalty payments.”

Now the same asset stripping is being applied to the massively profitable Phantom; indeed, part of the rationale seems to that the original investors have been amply rewarded enough already.

And as I went on to say, “But right now, in the new pandemic world we’re facing, it might be a better look to be cutting ticket prices, not jobs. Yep, a year of closure has hit the bottom line of the producing business hard; but using this crisis to make swingeing cuts to necessary personnel is a bit like the government using the opportunity to start privatising the NHS by stealth…. Putting profits before people has long been the corporate ethos of capitalism; now putting profits before art is the corporate ethos of Cameron Mackintosh, too.”

  • Laurence Fox campaign for Mayor:
  • New Publicity stills for Frozen as box office opens in London:
https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/status/1382584383736008705?s=20 

  • FRIDAY APRIL 16
    My column today is a countdown of my ShenTens Top 10 favourite London theatres beyond the West End, comprising the Almeida, Lyric Hammersmith, Young Vic, Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Playhouse, Kiln Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Jermyn Street Theatre, Park Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East.There are also further mentions for the Above the Stag, Arcola, BAC, Bush, Coronet and Orange Tree that I didn’t have room to include.

Farewells:

  • Helen McCrory, taken far too soon (aged 52):
  • Farewell to Peter Terson:
  • Film news: Embargo lifted on social media commentary on In the Heights:

London News: West End

  • Dates announced for RE-EMERGE season at Harold Pinter Theatre:
  • Bridge Theatre announces two plays:
  • Alyssa, Memoirs of a Queen! to play at Vaudeville Theatre:
  • Witness for the Prosecution resumes:

London News: Beyond the West End

  • Bush Theatre re-opens:
  • Soho Theatre re-opens:
  • Kennington’s White Bear re-opens:

SATURDAY APRIL 17
My column today is on my own plans to next month move out of London to a cottage in a village on the South Downs in West Sussex. But I’m not giving up on theatre: I’ll still be back in London one night a week; and Chichester Festival Theatre will be my new local!

As I wrote, “Moving to the countryside is an attempt to bring more balance into my life, as well as fresher air. I will be forced to concentrate my London theatregoing into more limited window, and four or five times a week is probably enough for anybody sensible.”

BIRTHDAYS OF THE WEEK

SUNDAY (APRIL 11): Joel Grey, 89 (pictured above left as the Emcee in Cabaret, which he played on both stage and screen); Mark Lawson, theatre critic and broadcaster, 59

MONDAY (APRIL 12): Alan Ayckbourn, playwright, 82 (pictured above middle); Bill Bryden, 79; Mark Thompson, theatre set and costume designer, 64

TUESDAY (APRIL 13): Peter Davison, 70; Edward Fox, 84 (pictured above right, with his actor son Freddie, in An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2018)

WEDNESDAY (APRIL 14): Peter Capaldi, 63; Julie Christie, 81; Julian Lloyd Webber, 70; Gina McKee, 57

THURSDAY (APRIL 15): Jeffrey Archer, 81 (Lord, playwright, novelist and convicted perjurer); Matt Cardle, 38 (pictured above left, in Memphis at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2015); Eliza Doolittle, 33 (daughter of Frances Ruffelle and John Caird); Emma Thompson, 62 (pictured above right, with Emma Thompson in Me and My Girl at the Adelphi Theatre in 1985)

FRIDAY (APRIL 16): Nick Berry, 58; Claire Foy, 37; Bob Goody, 70; Ruth Madoc, 78

SATURDAY (APRIL 17): Sean Bean, 62; Nick Hornby, 64; Claire Sweeney, 50

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