Jeff Lunden | WYPR

Jeff Lunden

When playwright Sarah DeLappe was growing up, she loved war movies. So she decided to write a play that was like a war movie – but about girls soccer.

The Wolves opens at New York's Lincoln Center on Monday. As the lights come up, nine teenage girls are in a circle atop a green expanse of artificial turf, stretching before a match. And they're all talking at once.

When songwriter David Yazbek, whose mother is Jewish and father Lebanese, decided to write a musical that fused his two cultural backgrounds, he knew he didn't want it to be about tribal conflict.

His new Broadway show, The Band's Visit, attempts to do something that seems almost unfashionable: look at two historically antagonistic cultures and tell a story about their commonality.

Over the years, many authors have dealt with alcoholism, addiction and recovery — think of plays like Long Day's Journey into Night, or films like Days of Wine and Roses. Now a new play from England joins them: People, Places & Things takes an unsentimental and, at times, harrowing look at addiction and recovery.

Cheryl Strayed — author of the bestselling memoir Wild — was still an unknown writer when she started an anonymous advice column called "Dear Sugar." She remembers reading and writing things "that we don't normally say to people in the public space," she recalls — and those intimate exchanges made her explore her own life more deeply. "I always think of the 'Dear Sugar' column as, like, therapy in the town square."

The New York City Ballet's costume shop is located on the eighth floor of a building in Lincoln Center. There are spectacular views of the Hudson River, but no one's looking out the windows. They're all working with a quiet intensity.

"It's a shop full of 18 people," says Marc Happel, the City Ballet's director of costumes. "Amazing craftspeople, machine operators, hand stitching, we have three drapers. I mean the level of costume-making here is probably the highest you could get."

Many plays have been called "kitchen sink" dramas because of their attempts at realism, but Oh My Sweet Land takes that to the extreme. It uses not just the sink but also the stove, the refrigerator, a chopping board and a very big knife — and it's being performed in kitchens across New York.

Legendary theater director Sir Peter Hall might have ended up the grand old man of British theater, but he came from modest beginnings — Hall was born in 1930 in Suffolk, England to a father who was a railway clerk, and his family lived in a house without electricity.

Hall went on to run two of the most important theater companies in England — the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre — and directed Waiting for Godot and Amadeus, among dozens of plays, old and new.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One of the ingredients a successful Broadway show needs is a talented cast. That starts with talented casting directors, the people who can see a Tony-winning star in the making, say, when a performer walks into an audition as a college student named Audra McDonald.

Tony Award-winning composer John Kander has a favorite story about Broadway producer and director Harold Prince: In 1965, he and lyricist Fred Ebb were working on a show that Prince produced called Flora, The Red Menace and it was not going well.

Tony Award-winning actress and singer Barbara Cook, an ingénue in Broadway's Golden Age — during the 1950s and '60s — who later transformed herself into a concert and cabaret star, has died. She was 89.

Cook died early Tuesday of respiratory failure, surrounded by friends and family at her home in Manhattan, according to her publicist.

Russian, American and French ballet dancers are gathering Thursday night for a bit of cultural diplomacy at New York City's Lincoln Center. They're celebrating the 50th anniversary of George Balanchine's masterpiece Jewels, considered the first full-length, nonnarrative ballet.

For generations of children, the Eloise book series is a favorite. It tells the story of a 6-year old troublemaker who lives at New York's Plaza Hotel. Now "Eloise at the Museum," an exhibition at the New York Historical Society, looks at the creators of the series: author Kay Thompson, who died in 1998, and illustrator Hilary Knight, who's now 90.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee has been in the news a lot lately. Albee died in 2016, and since then his estate has turned down a multi-racial production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and put his contemporary art collection up for auction for an estimated $9 million.

Seventy-four high school singers and dancers, selected from a pool of 50,000 kids across America, recently came to New York City to strut their stuff. They were participants in the Jimmy Awards, which honor the best high school musical theater performers from around the country.

Ignorance is Strength, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Big Brother is Watching: 1984 has come to Broadway. George Orwell's dystopian novel tells the story of a man who works at the Ministry of Truth creating fake news for a totalitarian regime. The stage adaptation opens in New York on Friday.

After a recent performance of 1984, Dorit Friedman, a doctor from Great Neck, N.Y., says she was stuck by how contemporary the story feels. "Big Brother is watching us, that's for sure ..." she says. "Little did we know that that was going to be reality."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

On Sunday night the spotlight will be on Broadway stars at the 71st annual Tony Awards. The evening also includes honors for some people behind the scenes — writers, directors and designers, for example — but there are many more, working backstage, who aren't eligible for Broadway's highest honor.

If you peek into the wings at a Broadway show, you're likely to find a stage manager, sitting at a desk with video monitors and lots of buttons and switches. He or she will be wearing a headset — sometimes called "the God mic" — to communicate with the cast and crew.

It all started when a director and producer from a tiny theater in Portland, Ore., posted a message on Facebook; he was outraged that the Edward Albee estate wouldn't grant him rights to produce Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? because he'd cast a black actor in one of the roles. His post went viral, and a firestorm ensued.

Creating a hit musical which appeals to family audiences is kind of Broadway's holy grail — think current long-running shows, like The Lion King and Wicked, which have run for decades, or earlier shows like Cats and Annie. Critics don't always give these shows good reviews, but that doesn't seem to matter much. Now, two new musicals are aiming to get the kid stamp of approval.

Lillian Hellman's 1939 melodrama The Little Foxes has two great roles for actresses over the age of 40. Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon fill those roles in a new revival on Broadway ... but with one big twist: Linney and Nixon play both roles and switch off at different performances.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A recent lawsuit brought by a blind theatergoer against the producers of the hit musical Hamilton has highlighted Broadway's spotty track record in serving audiences with disabilities.

For lovers of traditional circus shows, the announcement that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was closing may have come as a shock. But the nonprofit Circus Now wants you to know that the circus is more than ringmasters, elephants and lion tamers.

The movie Fences is in theaters across the U.S. right now and is a leading contender in the Academy Awards. It's based on a play by August Wilson — a play that got its start at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Conn. This season, Yale Rep, as its known, marks its 50th anniversary as an incubator for not only Wilson, but also Athol Fugard, Christopher Durang, Sarah Ruhl and many of the leading playwrights working today.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A theater company in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently decided to do a social experiment: Put seven cops and seven civilians in a rehearsal room once a week to really get to know one another. Then, after 10 weeks, ask them to put on a show.

In the world of ballet, The Nutcracker is sort of a gateway drug. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon danced his first Nutcracker when he was 11, with London's Royal Ballet. After he moved to the U.S., he danced the Balanchine production with the New York City Ballet.

Decades before he became a best-selling children's book author, Dr. Seuss, a.k.a. Theodor Geisel, created a series of sculptures he called his "Unorthodox Taxidermy." Using real horns, beaks and antlers, he fashioned whimsical creatures which look like they jumped right out of his books.

A traveling show of replicas, called "If I Ran the Zoo", has landed at a gallery in Long Island. Today we bring you that story (how else?) in verse:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

There are few living theater directors who can convince audiences to stay up all night watching the staging of a Sanskrit poem. But 30 years ago, director Peter Brook did just that. He put on what came to be known as one of the great theater events of the 20th century: The Mahabharata. It was nine hours long, and it was epic.

Pages