You can take Lin-Manuel Miranda out of “Hamilton” but you can’t get either one of them out of the headlines. As the theater season revs up in earnest, here is a grab-bag of theatrical side-trips about “Hamilton”— and other news, too.
DOES HE NEVER SLEEP?
Miranda will host all eight of PBS Arts’ especially newsworthy shows on its annual Fall Festival, which means the Pulitzer-winning creator-composer-author of “Hamilton” will get to say something undoubtedly quotable about such highlights as “Bill Murray’s The Mark Twain Prize,” “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs” and London’s revival of “Gypsy” starring the wildly acclaimed Imelda Staunton.
But it will probably be hard to top the festival’s Oct. 21 kickoff, “Hamilton’s America,” the documentary about the creation of the stupendously popular musical. Miranda and members of the original cast, mostly now dispersed to separate celebrity careers, will star in the tale of the musical’s lengthy development and in what promises to be amusing road trips to such significant historical locations as Mount Vernon and Valley Forge.
Miranda and Jeffrey Seller, the hit’s Broadway producer, are among the executive producers, which means fans and people unable to score tickets until the next millennium are assured that this will be primary source insight.
PRODUCER VS. UNDERSTUDY?
Cameron Mackintosh, the British producing giant behind such little shows as “Les Miserables,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats,” “Mary Poppins” and “Miss Saigon,” is in an unexpected — and seemingly unequal — tussle with understudies about social media.
Last month, he issued guidelines that forbid understudies from tweeting the dates they will be performing. This applies not just to actors understudying star performers, but people filling in for all supporting roles. And the clampdown applies to such postings about all Mackintosh shows in the West End and on tour.
We in the audience tend to cringe at news that casting will be different from the one we expect. What I guess we don’t think about is the significance of that performance to the careers of actors who, until now, could notify fans, potential fans and casting directors about chances to see the talent waiting in the wings.
Mo Brady, a former Broadway understudy, wrote an open letter printed in Playbill.com., accusing Mackintosh of disrespecting understudies. “Yes, understudies are employees,” he wrote, “But they are also artists who bring their unique talents and skills to the roles they cover . . . Allowing understudies to share their performance dates is also an issue of company morale.”
Acknowledging that producers are responsible for the financial viability of a show, he asked, “And what isn’t expensive for a producer? Showing appreciation . . . Conveying to actors that they are good at their jobs and that their appearances are worthy of announcement.”
Nicholas Allott, Mackintosh’s managing director, told London’s The Stage that the restrictions to social media are simply enforcing a long-standing clause in their contracts, which states that show-related information cannot be distributed without management’s consent.
Although non-star understudies in long-running shows are hardly ever announced in advance, Allott insisted that “once we have announced it,” understudies “are completely at liberty to use that as much as they like.” He added that the expansion of social media had “caught everybody by surprise.”
‘TO PROTECT, SERVE AND UNDERSTAND’
It is hard to imagine a more timely project than the theatrical forum Irondale Theater is putting together right now. Beginning later this month, seven members of the New York City Police force and seven what the company calls “civilians” will meet weekly for 10 weeks of workshops meant to “bridge the gap between the police and public.”
The 14 volunteers will be asked to tell their stories and “step into each other’s shoes.” The conversations will culminate in free public performances by the participants Dec. 16 and 17 at the Brooklyn Music School, 126 Felix St.
This is the second round for the program, which began as a pilot last winter. Susan Herman, Deputy Commissioner of Collaborative Policing for the NYPD, said in a statement, “The first round of workshops and performance was a deeply meaningful experience, not only for the officers and community members who participated, but for the hundreds of people who watched the performance.”
You missed the chance to be recruited for this year, but Irondale hopes to make this an ongoing exchange. Interested parties may be relieved to hear that no prior acting experience is required.
CAST ALBUM KARAOKE
On Sept. 15, audiences at “Waitress” were invited to sing one minute of any song from the show on the Broadway stage. That was reportedly such a smash that “Cast Album Karaoke II” will take place after the Wednesday, Oct. 5, evening performance. Seven people were chosen at random at last month’s bash. As the news release says, “Now’s the chance to live your Broadway Dream!” Participation — and, I gather, prior acting experience — not required.