Book Nation’s Jen Blankfein and Theatre Advisor, Luisa Tanno
Appreciating the Art Form of Books and Theatre…Let’s Talk!
Hi Jen! As I get ready to write my spring recommendations for Broadway and Off Broadway (a truly rich season!!) I have been thinking about how my reactions align – or don’t – with the critics who review shows in major publications. You and I both love to serve as champions of our beloved arts forms and I always appreciate how your reviews highlight your personal reactions to each book. They never feel critical, but rather insightful. I also aim to respond to theatre personally and to share my emotional and intellectual reaction to the experience, rather than “review” the show. I also like to consider that no work of art is going to be perfect for everyone, we all look for different things in a show, or a book, and that can vary based on our mood, our taste, or where we are in our lives. I’d love to hear how you approach your reviews! How do you want them to serve your followers?
Yes, it is true, Luisa, I try to focus on elements of a book I enjoy and share what I love rather than point out criticisms. All art is personal – books and theatre included. When I read I am conscious of the fact that the author spent many days, weeks months and in some cases years working on their masterpiece and there is a lot to appreciate. For me, some books have beautiful writing, some have well developed characters, others are set in a place I love, and some books make me feel so much emotion I am driven to tears.
I want my followers to appreciate all different kinds of books and the authors who write them. One of the reasons I chose to invite the public to attend Book Nation Book Club author events is to get to know books through authors‘ perspectives, learn their processes and hear about their lives. Having that opportunity to discuss books with authors allows for greater understanding.
After you go to the theatre, do you have an interest in learning more and how do you go about it?
Yes, for sure! I prefer not to read reviews before seeing a show so I am free to have my own reactions, and so I don’t know too much about the plot! But afterwards I seek to read all about it – especially if it is one I loved, or one that had me searching for deeper meaning. I find that reading some critical analysis can help to affirm my own perceptions, ignite some “A-ha” moments, or remind me that art is subjective and that is a beautiful thing! I share in your enthusiasm for talking with the author! It truly adds to the experience after reading their book, and I adore hearing about the creative process. With theatre you can get creator insights from multiple sources: the actors, the director, the set designer, the playwright. It is a feast and one of my favorite ways to broaden my understanding of any play or musical, but also of the many aspects of the art form! Every person involved in a show contributes to the overall experience, and I really appreciate that.
So, I am a theatre-lover who also loves reading, and you are a book-lover who also loves theatre! We have, in fact, seen quite a few shows together! Before we get to my spring receommendations, I am sure your readers would love to know: What shows have you enjoyed recently?
I have seen a considerable amount of theatre this season (all of which has been with you!) and love so many shows – all for different reasons.
Music Man is a big, old fashion Broadway production with irresistible stars, the lovable Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, along with a full ensemble and an orchestra. What is better than hearing the overture playing as the giant red curtain opens! And the tap dancing…the familiar tunes, the sets and the incredible choreography all worked together to make it a 5 star experience for me! Getting rush tickets and sitting in the 6th row orchestra didn’t hurt either.
Plaza Suite, an older Neil Simon show that takes place in New York City was another winner for me. After waiting for more than two years due to pandemic cancelations, it was a thrill to see Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick nail it with three different characters each; and of course they have great chemistry in every scene, displaying their acting chops and transforming with costumes, hair and physical comedy. The audience actually cheered when the curtain went up and the hotel room set was revealed – the heartbeat of Broadway was palpable!
But I think my favorite so far this year was the revival of Richard Greenberg’s play, Take Me Out, starring Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Grey’s Anatomy’s Jesse Williams. The story about a baseball player coming out was incredibly emotional and powerful, infused with humor and overall superb acting. I loved how the final bows were taken from the cast as a team – it was a true collaborative effort. Sitting in the 3rd row orchestra, we didn’t miss a thing. If anyone happens to hear about how all audience member’s cell phones get locked up during this show and the baseball players in the cast appear nude on stage, they would totally understand the true meaning of not missing a thing!
Those are great picks and I love the details you choose to highlight! I look forward to more theatre-going and reading with you soon. Counting down to our next Book Nation Book Club Wednesday May 4th! I hope your readers will enjoy my Spring Theatre Blog and I hope they will share some of their favorites with us too!