Thoughts on 'Dim for Joan,' Playing House and Alli Mauzey

A big thing employers want to see on resumes is additional languages spoken. The only language I speak other than English is broken Yiddish. That's obviously not on my resume, because who would care about that?! Except one person did, one night.

I met Joan Rivers once in my career. It was the mid-aughts. There was a rumor that she had written a new play that she wanted to bring to Broadway. I needed the scoop! I went to see her stand-up act and had press agent Ron Lasko introduce us. She was fine to me, nice even, but not focused. There were other people there and she was trying to talk to everyone at once, making my news investigation difficult. Then I said some Yiddish phrase -- I don't think to her directly, but she heard it. Upon that, she immediately perked up and zeroed in. She became the person we've all read about in the last week. I will forever remember it.

I never spoke to her after that and the play never came in. But I saw her frequently outside theaters. Countless actors told me how nice she was to them. While she was best known for stand-up and her comedic television gigs, she wanted to be an actress. She co-wrote a Broadway play in 1972 that she made her Broadway debut in. She later returned to the Great White Way in Broadway Bound, replacing Linda Lavin. Then, in 1994, she wrote and starred in Sally Marr... and her escorts. She received a Tony nomination for her performance. She was part of the community I live and work in.

So I understand the anger people have at the Broadway League for deciding not to dim the lights in her honor. I also understand the Broadway League not wanting to dim for every person who has ever received a Tony nomination. (I'm not sure when saving on electric bills became an honor worthy of a fight, but, got it, they want to make it special when it does happen.) However they just dimmed the lights for Robin Williams, who only appeared on Broadway twice, once with a stand-up act. Just like Rivers, he was not best known for his work in the theater. Unlike Rivers, he never received a Tony nomination and he was not known as a huge supporter of the community. So what makes him more worthy? That his last Broadway stage appearance was more recent? It doesn't make sense. If the League wants to set standards that a person must meet before receiving the honor of the dimming of the lights, okay. Those standards can be set, but they haven't been. Right now it's just a group of people saying Rivers isn't Broadway enough. Well, I'm part of the theater community, and I think she is. League member Jordan Roth is part of the community, and he thinks she is. The theaters he owns, Jujamcyn's five Broadway houses, will dim their lights. BroadwayWorld is dimming the banner on its site. And countless other members of the community, members of the Broadway League, think this decision is ridiculous. So why? Why make this stance against the public outcry? Why shun someone who so supported the theater? As Michael Riedel wrote in his touching tribute, she was even a theater critic. We all love our critics. Rivers should be recognized as the Broadway champion, and Tony-nominated fixture, she was.

As long as I'm talking about funny ladies and things I don't understand, I'm going to again write about Playing House. Still no word from USA Network on renewal. I'm sure the network heads have seen all the Twitter comments and articles urging renewal, but they are apparently still debating. I can see some network executive studying the numbers, commenting mentally about how they are worse than Sirens' numbers. I want to say again -- Playing House is a show that USA did not promote well. You want a show that USA promoted really well? Satisfaction. Every time I have on USA, I see something about Satisfaction being sexy and addictive. It's a very good campaign, especially for housewives. I wish USA had spent that much time promoting Playing House, even if they tried to promote that too as Fifty Shades of Grey. At least then people would have turned it on. This isn't a show that had a huge debut and fell off because it was, um, Black Box. This is a show that needs time to grow by word-of-mouth. It hasn't had all the time it needed. It needs a second season.

One other funny woman I want to talk about is Alli Mauzey. Years ago I left the Cry-Baby workshop saying the following: "The leads aren't great. Hanke is good. Alli Mauzey is amazing. She is going to get a Tony nomination." Well, I wasn't wrong about Mauzey being wonderful onstage at the Marquis Theater, but, alas, the show was slammed and she was forgotten. She has gone on to be Glinda in Wicked (a pretty good gig) and I was also thrilled to see her in the Encores! staging of It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman, singing "You've Got Possibilities." Now she is in the off-Broadway musical Red Eye of Love. I'm not going to comment on the show itself, but I will say, in it, Mauzey again proves herself to be a genius musical theater comedy actress. I wish her all the success in the world. Hopefully she'll be originating another role on Broadway at some point. If she does, please go catch her.

Broadway League, as a final note, I ask you to listen to the majority of people who support the theater. They are telling you to dim for Joan. Don't make this a ganze megillah. Admit you were wrong and have the other theater owners join Jujamcyn in dimming their lights tomorrow night.

UPDATE, 9/9 10:00AM: The New Amsterdam, currently home to Aladdin, will dim its marquee tonight. Thank you, Disney Theatricals.

UPDATE, 9/9 11:30AM: The independently-owned Helen Hayes Theater, home to Sally Marr, will also dim its lights. Thank you, Marty Markinson and Jeffrey Tick.

UPDATE, 9/9 1:00PM: The Broadway League has reversed its decision! The lights will now be dimmed all over Broadway in honor of Joan Rivers at 6:45pm. Thank you for listening, Broadway League.

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