THE "SMASH" REPORT: Season Two, Episode 8, Or, Tomfoolery

By Kenneth Jones
28 Mar 2013

Jesse L. Martin
Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC

Meanwhile Julia wants to set things right with MTW's Scott Nichols, an old friend that she had betrayed years ago. Fresh out of grad school, she promised Scott that he could direct her first play, at Off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre. (Now in its 30th year, Vineyard is one of the great Off-Broadway incubators of new American plays and musicals, including plays by Nicky Silver and Paula Vogel, plus Avenue Q and The Scottsboro Boys). But back then, Lincoln Center Theater also wanted Julia's play, offering her powerful Mike Nichols as director! Julia had two Nichols to rub together, and she chose the Oscar and Tony winner, which launched her career and potentially robbed Scott of a career-changing opportunity; he didn't work for a year, he says, and look where he ended up before his current job at MTW — regional theatre! She apologizes. He says he was sorry to hear about her broken marriage.

This business of having some power and some choices in your career — and being perceived as being able to employ your friends — is the most authentic aspect of this week's episode. Theatre is a world of hungry freelancers. Directors, playwrights and music-directors often struggle with the tension of friends circling their projects, and sometimes that tension prompts those leaders to pull away from their old community. Those not in power do indeed often have irrational expectations from those in power, just as there is sometimes irrational paranoia from directors who constantly think that everybody wants them. It tears some friendships apart. Or worse, it remains an itchy scab that is picked throughout the course of a professional/personal lifetime. (At a series of dinner parties, you look at your pal across a crowded room and think: "Why didn't he let me sing in that reading?" or "Why didn't he cast me as Dinky in Ankles Aweigh?" or "How come I wasn't asked to sing on that demo?")

Some grown-ups end up processing it with grace and viewing their friend's (perceived) power as a fact of life that might one day swing in favor of a happy solution — maybe that friend will cast you when the time is right. Or maybe you should just concentrate on being excellent and finding work in the great, wide theatre community. There is apparently a gap in the national-touring cast of The Book of Mormon.