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    News, Notes, Talk

    A hot new club lets you embrace your inner theatre kid.

    Brittany Allen

    March 29, 2024, 9:47am

    Did you see the movie Theater Camp (2023) and find yourself involved in high-octane debates about its “realism,” especially as compared to Camp (2003) or Fame (1980)?

    Have you ever spent a sleepover binge-watching Slings and Arrows, the Canadian televisual masterpiece about a struggling Shakespeare festival? Better yet: was the sleepover recent?

    Do you have a tattoo of Thalia and Melpomene on your upper thigh? Or a line from Macbeth? What about a symbolic illustration of the joined bodies in Hedwig and the Angry Inch?

    Do you too remember with fondness a dorkier time spent reading plays aloud in a friend’s living room “just for fun”? (And yes, Zoom counts.) 

    Do you celebrate World Theatre Day… all week long?

    If your answer to any of these questions is a belted yes: rejoice, board-treader. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is starting a Play Club just for you. It’s free, it’s online (for now), and it’s here to scratch all your iambic itches. According to library staff,

    Play Club is like a book club, but for plays! Whether you are familiar with the art of reading plays, or looking to expand your appreciation for dramatic literature, this book club is an opportunity to read plays you have been meaning to explore or have never considered reading before. Learn about new works, discover new playwrights, and make friends!

    At the inaugural meeting, nine members discussed Caryl Churchill’s feminist masterpiece, Top Girls. In an email Gabriella Steinberg, a librarian at NYPL’s Billy Rose Theatre Division and the club’s facilitator, told me that the club is structured like a salon: some guided discussion precedes a cold read of scenes. After the performance, members debate how hearing the text aloud changes their understanding of the work. 

    Steinberg, who is currently in charge of the play selection process, is prioritizing plays by BIPOC/women/queer playwrights and plays that feature diverse characters/settings. When choosing, she also considers how many copies of a play the library has in stock, and gravitates towards scripts that are legible as literature rather than for their production value.” 

    The upcoming chat on April 15th will center around Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat. Unfortunately, admittance is currently capped for this date, but players should not be daunted. Follow your spirit, and upon this charge…

    Mark your calendars for the May 20th meeting, when the club will discuss David Henry Hwang’s Yellow Face. (Which should pair well with the upcoming revival of that play bound for the Roundabout Theater this fall.) And if you’re busy that day, you might look to June, when the club will will read Tony Kushner’s Angels in America

    Let the great reads begin.

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