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Why Theater Bloggers Should Stop Feministing All Over The Public’s New Season

Ever the event, The Public Theater announced their six-play subscription series for 2009-2010. Having made waves on Broadway by transferring the Tony-winning revival of Hair form Central Park to the Great White Way, eyes were definitely peeled on what they had to offer this year, at the very least, to see what kind of Broadway-bait they were locking and loading to fire at New York. And they absolutely delivered.

The three hot tickets:

- Season opener Othello with Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz. Surely a candidate for a Broadway transfer, especially after Patrick Stewart showed Shakespeare could still be done successfully (and remain above the water) on Broadway last year. Ortiz and Hoffman have a working relationship from their time cultivating the Labyrinth Theater Company together and this is going to be a scorching hot ticket, much like their Anne Hathaway-led Twelfth Night in Central Park is now — though maybe a little less so, since, you know, it’s not free.

- Idiot Savant, by Richard Foreman. Foreman’s the genius mind behind critical smash The Threepenny Opera. No telling what the new show’s about (“From precise existential and metaphysical acrobatics, to a ridiculous game of inter-species golf with a Giant Duck,” goes the description), but it will star Willem Dafoe, which certainly counts for something.

- The new Suzan Lori-Parks show, called Snake. It’s about a “young man (who) returns home to South Texas to confront his father.” It’s Suzan Lori-Parks. Her last full-length at The Public was Topdog/Underdog, which transferred to Broadway with Mos Def and Geoffrey Wright. Be excited.

There’s also a new Mike Daisey piece — The Last Cargo Cult. The monologue writer gained a little notoriety when a church group walked out on a performance of his show in Cambridge two years back, with one member even going so far as to pour water on his work and ruin it in the middle of the show. His most recent work, If You See Something Say Something, had a good run at The Public last fall (and an equally solid review from Charles Isherwood), so this new one (which reportedly came out of his research of the John Frum cargo cult,) is sure to generate some buzz.

There’s been a little bit of Blogger Ennui about The Public’s new season already, though. Writes Laura Collins-Hughes of ArtsJournal:

The five plays announced so far in the Public Theater‘s six-play subscription season include only one written by a woman: Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Snake.” Another, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “In the Red and Brown Water,” is directed by a woman, Tina Landau. Keeping in mind that there’s a production still to be announced, so far the lineup has exactly as many female playwrights and directors as last year’s. That’s just plain paltry. Why isn’t Oskar Eustis, of all theater artists, casting his net wider? It’s baffling. For those of us who admire him and hoped (so far in vain) that his programming at the Public would be as varied as his theater’s audiences, it’s disappointing, too.

I call bullshit, or at least bullshit on the indictment’s implication (that The Public chooses to value men over women). Suzan Lori-Parks is the Master Writer Chair at The Public. Their associate artistic director (Mandy Hackett), General Manager, and Associate Producer are all women. So are their Literary Associate, Casting Associate, as is the 29 year-old director of Joe’s Pub, Shanta Thake.

Oh, yeah: and let’s not forget Anne Hathaway, currently kicking ass and taking names at their Central Park production of Twelfth Night right now as the lead.

If The Public only has one woman on their lineup this year (which, let’s not forget: is incomplete. They still have one more show to announce) that’s because they picked the shows they thought best suited their season. Although I’m sure Sarah Schulman has something to say about this, as long as they deliver quality goods, nobody’s going to give a shit who writes what, man, woman, or otherwise. Sure, diversity’s important, but I’d be far more concerned if The Public were run by a locker room of Theatre Dudes, which clearly isn’t the case. All The Public’s ladies: ignore the haters, deliver the goods.

Finally, of note: Andy Hamingson — formerly the managing director of Atlantic Theatre Company, working with Neil Pepe — moved to The Public last year. This is the first Public season that’s been announced under him. Last year, Atlantic had Pepe directing Speed-The-Plow on Broadway, which plowed through controversy when they had to replace the sushi-“poisoned” Jeremy Piven with Norbert Leo Butz and William H. Macy in the middle of the run. Under Hamingson, they also got Spring Awakening on Broadway to win the Best Musical Tony in 2007, and in that same season, transferred Martin McDonaugh’s brilliantly violent Lieutenant of Inishmore to Broadway as well. Look for Hamingson to increase The Public’s public visibility like he did with Atlantic, and keep them as fiscally solvent as he did his former house as well.

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