Shia LaBeouf! Leaked E-mails! (Not That Much) Controversy! Oh My!

Oh Broadway and your gifts that keep on giving...

It's funny actually. I was making a remark for a future blog entry that until it becomes Broadway show opening EXTRAVAGANZA - kicking off with Cinderella in early-March and ending with Pippen in late-April - theater news has been hitting a dry spell. January and early-February solidified the Spring line-up, so...what else could happen?

As it turns out in the last two-three days...everything apparantly. Les Miserables is getting another revival. Kind of yay!? Too soon, no? But no worries...Jane Lynch is coming to Broadway!!! As Ms. Hannigan in Annie...more kind of yay!? Love her, but Annie, in general, kind of sucks. As if that wasn't enough, we have the ongoing news coverage of lawsuit central a.k.a damn-near everyone attached to Rebecca getting sued or arrested and the Julie Taymor counter assault of TERROR on Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. A bonus in the form of Joshua Kobak's cameo lawsuit for the injuries he sustained from Spiderman: TOTD and that cake is complete for further consumption.

But who emerged as the clear winner of the week...Shia LaBeouf and Shia-gate. For those of you living under a rock, the producers of Orphans, one of the revivals slated for the spring starring LaBeouf and Alec Baldwin, announced two days ago that LaBeouf is leaving the production after a week of rehearsals. The reason? "Creative differences." How many times have you heard that load of crap?

Oh, but Shia, whom pretty much became my favorite person overnight, CLEARLY plays by his own rules. He is seizing this opportunity to share his unfiltered perspective on the situation, establish himself as an artist and went so far as to take to Twitter with his audition video and screenshots of e-mail interactions between his fellow cast and members of the creative. Come forth video evidence!

Like I've mentioned before here...bitch is crazy. It's like the United States of Shia here.

First things first...Tom Sturridge? I became an instant fan of his and I believe he should send out e-mails like this to people all over the world. Those would be like hugs in human form and cure all the sadness everywhere. Talk about an "Awwww" moment...

Secondly, I think we can all agree that my initial excitement for Orphans was justified. I said that LaBeouf and Baldwin are co-inhabitants of crazyville and if even a smidgen of that popped up on stage, shit was hitting the fan. I'll take my validations where I can get it, especially because I didn't know a single soul interested in seeing the show and this was one of the more showier, "this actor is HERE" money hungry productions. 

Is anyone a little relieved that all of this unfolded at a relatively fast pace? After Rebecca announced its closing, we had some downtime before the lawsuits and fraud explanations hit the news wire. Granted, this can change; but it says something about the candor of the actor, against the production's will or not, to disclose what happened. No waiting for Oprah for the exclusive or a People magazine piece...heck, they could have drawn out the search for Shia's replacement and that was announced no more the 24 hours later. All of this is out and in the open, so we can put it to rest once it becomes tired (which will probably be around the show's opening night or even the Tony nominations, where the Orphans PR team, rightly so, will milk this controversy and any other press angle for all of its worth).

I think what I love the most about this whole thing - and I know I may stand alone and I know I am about to criticize my own Public Relations brethren for shaping their production's media initiative - is seeing this sort of tension and honesty in the behind-the-scenes reaching the theater audience. Show of hands: how many of you are a little sick of reading the same news and interviews with all of the, "oh, we all love each other and this show is like a family" and "this director is an actor's director and is wonderful to work with" and "I am so blessed to be here; I'm just doing what I love and working hard and also, rainbows and unicorns for everyone"? I know I am. Actors fight, there is disagreements and drama from the creative, alliances are made, people are pitted against one another...I mean, how could they not? It's all a price one pays when working in a creative (and competitive) environment. I've heard about other productions experiencing similar conflicts to Shia-gate before and, if anything, additional effort is made to sweep them under the rug. Will it really deter a ticket buying audience if the path to opening night isn't a magic carpet ride of camaraderie? Yeah, if you are unlike me and only see a Broadway show or two a year, you want the end product to be polished, but still...Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark had every issue imaginable, yet that didn't stop people from buying tickets. Shia's box office draw aside, will this little issue deter people from seeing Orphans any more or less than before? I doubt it.

If anything, I'm grateful for Shia-gate for revealing more into the creative process of making a Broadway show. Literally...these e-mails are straight from the source. No excerpts or four-word quotes out of context (remotely speaking; I mean, not EVERY detail has been shared) or even a journalist paraphrasing. This is an honest-to-God, "we are having difficulties in rehearsal, what do we do?" issue that has, pretty much, ran its course given yesterday's announcement of Ben Foster stepping into Shia's role.

And the ironic thing is, despite news coverage going on a national level, this all played out pretty demurely. Don't get me wrong - I love the ongoing soap opera that is Julie Taymor's jihad against Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, especially when she portrays herself as the tragic hero of the narrative with her millions of Lion King dollars and her $10,000 a week salary for a show she is still taking to the cleaners. But it really seems like no one is up in arms about this immediate departure and instead, everyone, show personnel and those interested in theater, were just intrigued as to what went down. 

Remember when Morgan James, an actress undeniably less-known then LaBeouf, posted her tweet trashing the Public Theater production of Into the Woods? And she had to delete it and was berated for days on end and virtually forced to apologize? Well, days later, all of Shia's content is still on Twitter, no formal apology has been given (if any apology was even warranted on his or the production's part) and now, he is tweeting artistic Shia-isms that vary between unintentionally hilarious and pretentiously hilarious. I know comparing the two is an apples and oranges case, but still...Shia, under any other circumstance, would have been reamed out for his departure and his subsequent behavior. But apparently, it hasn't antagonized anyone or have drawn many red flags as far as my Twitter feed and news sources go (Michael Reidel withstanding, of course). Lesson to be learned...don't post scathing reviews of a show in previews if you are a performer. But feel free to depart a show after a week of rehearsal and post e-mails that, I'm sure, were sent in confidence and then follow all of that up with ambiguously artistic rants that can be summed up as, "yes, I am THAT guy. That ARTIST guy."

Remember...theater. You gift that keeps on giving, you.

So, see ya Shia LaBeouf. You're audition video makes me think I would have liked your performance in the show (or at the least, I wouldn't have been bored) and while I will still see Orphans regardless, thanks for giving us one of the most controversial, but not really, moments of 2013.

Video Credit: Grassy Slope on Vimeo
Photo Credit: BWWStatic.com

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