February 8, 2023

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Audra McDonald knows ‘Ohio State Murders’ is a Broadway challenge

2 min read

Audra MacDonald knows her new Broadway show is surprising theatergoers. “Some people come to see ‘Ohio State Murders’ and they’re surprised by how I’m talking or the words I’m using,” he said on a new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

The Tony-winning actor (“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” “The Good Fight”) went on to explain, “There’s prejudice and stereotyping of black people and how people want to see and hear them in the theater. They get a certain from them. Wants to see and hear in ways: ‘Well, I want you to dance’ and sing.’ Or, ‘If you’re going to do a play, it’s got to be “Roisin’ in the Sun.”‘”

MacDonald admits that “Ohio State Murders,” which marks playwright Adrienne Kennedy’s Broadway debut, is a challenging task. “Adrienne is very accepting – I don’t want to say difficult, but – necessary, raw material,” he said.

What is it about? Depends on who is asking. “If I said it’s a play about murder and systemic racism as it affects a young black woman in her late 40s and how it affects her to this day, a lot of people would run away from that,” MacDonald admits. “So sometimes I would say it’s a murder mystery about something that happened in the past that someone is talking about now. Sometimes I would say it centers on a black woman’s experience of racism in higher education, three years after the dorms at Ohio State were desegregated. But I pick and choose who I say what to, with the intention that as many people see it.”

The difficulty of attracting crowds for the play was made clear shortly after the interview was recorded, when the producers announced that the limited-run production would close on January 15, a full month ahead of schedule. On Stagecraft , Macdonald described how difficult the show was for him as a performer, calling it “the hardest thing I’ve ever done” and revealing the things he does every night to help himself get through it.

Also on the new episode of Stagecraft, MacDonald talks about the latest news from his co-founded organization, Black Theater United; Her husband, Will Swenson, got a break from having to star in his own Broadway show (“A Beautiful Noise”) right across the street; And marvel at how fancy the dressing rooms are at the newly remodeled James Earl Jones Theater.

“It’s so clear!” she said. “No more old couches from the 1950s floating from dressing room to dressing room!”

To hear the full conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every week.

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