Scene Change: This Week In Theatre Briefs

It’s been a grief-ridden week for Broadway: Tony-winning actress Natasha Richardson passed away this week after a skiing accident; she was 45. Typically charming Michael Riedel treated the incident with a slight leaning of insensitivity, running a story headline that screamed: “NATASHA RICHARDSON IS BRAIN DEAD.” Riedel since changed his tone, and is now feeding his investigative impulses, tirelessly covering the incident. The Post is now quoting a Canadian newspaper that ambulances at the resort where Richardson’s accident happened were initially turned away. She’s not the only loss Broadway experienced this week, sadly: Ron Silver — who won a Tony for his performance in the original production of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, also passed away from complications relating to esophageal cancer; he was 62.

Douglas Carter Beane — whose Little Dog Laughed won Julie White a Tony — is having the premiere of his new play pushed back by Second Stage Theatre because of a scheduling conflict with the play’s director, Scott Ellis, who got a gig on Showtime’s Mary Louise-Parker-led Weeds. Mrs. and Ms. Fitch is supposedly about a pair of gossip columnists, and Beane does bitchy better than any breathing playwright out there right now. Expect this to — when it comes out — be something to keep an eye on. (N.B. The Weeds staff is rife with theatre people; for the first four seasons, they also employed The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow playwright Rolin Jones).

In Republican-laden Orange County, California, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing a high school for infringing on civil liberties, and citing a brief cancellation of a production of seminal ’90s musical Rent in doing so. According to ArtsBeat, the lawsuit “alleges that sexist and homophobic comments are common at the school, and that school officials have done little in response.” Since closing on Broadway last year, Rent has been licensed out to schools under the guise that the school-licensing version has had changes and adjustments made to it to make it student-appropriate (thus the adjusted title: Rent: School Edition).

Sarah Ruhl’s new play, In The Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), is going to Broadway in a Shubert house (as opposed to presenting the play on-campus at Lincoln Center). The play opened at Berkeley Repertory Theatre earlier this year (their last Broadway import was a musical you may have heard of: Passing Strange). The move is a supreme vote of confidence (or hubris) for the piece — at least Passing Strange received adjustments at The Public Theatre in downtown New York before moving to The Great White Way. Buried in the release is a note about a play in Lincoln Center’s second space called Brokeology, by a guy named Nathan Jackson. Never heard of him? He’s in this year’s Juilliard playwrights class. He’s had his work performed at the Kennedy Center. And Brokeology was dropped on theatre-for-theatre-people festival Williamstown last summer — directed by In The Heights director Thomas Kail — to stellar reviews. I’ve read the play, and can safely say: this is going to be a hot, hot ticket. Pony up now, less you miss out on what’ll inevitably be called by someone who isn’t me the next Topdog/Underdog.

Finally, more screen actors are taking bread-and-butter stage actors’ jobs away from them. Parker Posey’s going to be in the new Playwrights season. Justin Long — yes, the “Mac” guy — and Evan Rachel Wood are in a North Carolina production of Romeo and Juliet. And in a twist that probably (appropriately) makes every out-of-work New York stage actor want to tear their faces off, New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood made a cameo on Gossip Girl this week, but politely declined his invitation to join SAG. Meanwhile, the ones who do have work? It apparently never ends, as in the case of off-Broadway actor-cum-subway-hero Chad Lindsey, who’s starring in Kasper Hauser at The Flea, with resident company The Bats. He saved a guy from getting run over by the A-train, and right now, his agent’s having a field day (and if he didn’t have one before, he probably does now). N.B. Remember when we told you The Flea was worth watching? Point made (heh).