By Jim O'Quinn
What are you holding in your hands right now?
Most likely it's a paper magazine. But for the first time, you might instead be paging through American Theatre using a mouse or a touch-screen mobile device. This July/August issue marks the debut of the digital edition of American Theatre, made available through the global publishing site Zinio (which bills itself as "the world's largest newsstand"see www.zinio.com). Among our readers, we figure, are some who prefer their information in an electronic format, or who live in parts of the world where AT isn't a readily available commodity. If you're one of those, you'll welcome this new development. And even if you're not, you'll surely find occasion in coming weeks and months to appreciate the instant accessibility and flexibility of American Theatre content in its digital version, via a Zinio subscription.
We're delighted to go digital, but fear not: Much as the act of theatre depends by definition on the living presence of actors and audience, the magazine you're holding intends to maintain its identity as a tangible product, a thing you can hand to a colleague, tuck into your bag or collect in a stack on a bookshelf rather than storing its contents in a cloud. From here on out, American Theatre swings both ways.
Another first: With the appearance in these pages of Steven Drukman's heart-tugging comedy The Prince of Atlantisfresh from its premiere at California's Pacific Playwrights Festival (see Diep Tran's report in this issue)a former staff writer for the magazine becomes one of its featured playwrights. Drukman, a top-flight arts reporter whose name graced the AT masthead off and on through late 2002, has since reinvented himself (against all odds, and in defiance of at least one editor's vociferous objections to this swerve away from journalism) as a prolific and versatile writer for the stage. For us, his selection to the roster of AT playwrights is a salutary event.
Kudos from the editor's corner go as well to staff writer Rob Weinert-Kendt, whose April sojourn in Moscowa city freshly unsettled by political turmoilhas yielded a breathtakingly immediate report on the latest developments in Russian theatre. Surveying the varied entries in this year's prestigious Golden Mask Festival, Weinert-Kendt detects "the terrible sense that the nation's illiberal past has seeped back into the neoliberal present, snuffing out hopes for a truly liberal future." Only time will tell whether these hopes still smolder in a divided and sometimes defiant populace.
In this issue's feature well, critic Wendy Smith casts an analytic eye on the efforts of a raft of theatres reassessing the masterworks of Eugene O'Neill; reporter Hunter Styles quizzes director Michael Kahn about his deft condensation of perhaps the most outlandish O'Neill of all; and interviewer Stuart Miller provokes writers and designers to compare notes about what they see in their heads before plays ever hit the stage. It's a something-for-everyone edition, paper or no paper.