Stars Align with Stage Work

by Rob Weinert-Kendt

in Critics & Reviews,In the Trenches

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There’s been a lot of talk since the Tony Awards broadcast, with its Glee production numbers, its Green Day performance, and its high celebrity quotient, that Broadway stages have been invaded by interlopers. Actor Hunter Foster has even started a Facebook group, “Give the Tonys Back to Broadway,” which has garnered nearly 9,000 members fired up by the mission statement that they “want to see the Tony awards celebrate the excellence of Broadway by allowing those artists who have made theatre their livelihood to take a more active part in its yearly presentation.” On the other hand, many welcome the attention, and the box-office, that such star power and genuine excitement brings to the theatre.

The fact is, there is not such a hard-and-fast division between the various media, nor should there be. It’s still true that the theatre is where most great actors are made, and that it’s still the medium a great many prefer to do satisfying work. If work in TV and film can subsidize their stage work, and even better (from their point of view) give them some say in what projects they want to work on, so much the better.

All of which is to say that the fact that the leads in the new Star Trek movie franchise, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, a.k.a. Kirk and Spock, are headlining plays not on Broadway is a fascinating celebrity convergence—an alignment of the stars, if you will—though to us it just proves, yet again, that the theatre is where actors work. Indeed, Pine has been busy with high-profile theatre work in the industry town of L.A.: He starred in Farragut North at the Geffen Playhouse last year, and he’s now starring as Padraic in the Mark Taper Forum’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Quinto, meanwhile, is in rehearsals for the Signature Theatre’s hotly anticipated revival of a little thing called Angels in America. Quinto will play Louis Ironson, the self-conscious Jewish intellectual abandons his AIDS-afflicted lover for a closeted Mormon lawyer (are these spoiler alerts anymore?), a role created at the Taper and on Broadway by none other than Joe Mantello, who’s gone on to do a few other Broadway-type things since. This Off-Broadway revival of Angels kicks off the Signature’s already sold-out season of plays by Tony Kushner, which also include The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures (cutely branded with the shorter title iHo, and co-produced with the Public Theater) and Kushner’s adaptation of Corneille’s The Illusion.

Sure, Spock and Kirk are on separate coasts, doing plays months apart—but isn’t that what the Transporter is for?

-Rob Weinert-Kendt

Rob Weinert-Kendt is associate editor of American Theatre magazine. He also co-runs the site StageGrade.com and is father to a strapping infant named Oliver.