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Broadway Culture Shock

Ayad Akhtar's smart, provocative scripts ask tough questions of American theatergoers, and they love him for it.

Broadway is not the ideal place to talk politics. Every night, hundreds of theatergoers clog the dazzling sidewalks of Times Square in anticipation of the type of flamboyant, highly regimented performance that has come to define mainstream American theater.

And yet, on a recent Saturday, four people stood on the stage of the Lyceum Theatre on West 45th Street discussing the sobering topic of Islamic fundamentalism. Ayad Akhtar’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Disgraced, began its run on Broadway last October after sold-out houses in Chicago, London, and New York’s Lincoln Center. The play is set inside the Upper East Side apartment of Amir, a successful lawyer, and Emily, his artist wife. Emily is American, “white, lithe, and lovely,” and her work is inspired by Islamic motifs. Amir is an apostate Muslim who views Islam as a backward way of thinking. The couple invite two friends over for dinner: Isaac, a Jewish curator at the Whitney Museum who wants Emily’s work in his next show, and Jory, Isaac's wife and Amir’s law firm colleague. Amid talk of Knicks games and fennel salads, Amir is eventually called upon to defend his problem with Islam, setting off a conversation whose trajectory draws out the hidden prejudices of everyone involved.

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George Takei’s Musical Memoir is Coming to Broadway

Oh my! George Takei is coming to Broadway.

In the 2014 documentary To Be Takei, there’s a scene in which Brad Takei, George’s husband, laughs as he thinks back on simpler times when he envisioned the happy couple enjoying a relaxing retired life by now. Instead, he finds himself energetically globe trotting from engagement to engagement alongside Takei, a septuagenarian who finds the very idea of retirement offensive. “What? Do you retire from life?” the former Star Trek star once said. Now, at the age of 78, the social justice activist and newfound social media icon will be putting on his very own Broadway musical. Allegiance, based on the Takei family’s time in Japanese-American internment camps during WWII, is what he likes to call his “legacy project.”

Image by Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons License

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Two years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed down Manhattan's Times Square to cars. The idea was to give the street back to pedestrians, increase mobility along that notoriously clustered stretch of Broadway, improve the experience for visitors and local workers, and hopefully, improve air quality. Today, it's pretty hard to find any critics of the change.

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