Margaret Hall

Writer, Teacher, Historian

Category: Backstage Book Club

OnStage Blogs’s Backstage Book Club, a column coordinated by Margaret for both theatre lovers and theatre makers alike.

  • Backstage Book Club: Edition #6 – “Smile” by Sarah Ruhl

    Sarah Ruhl has written an incredible memoir, titled Smile, that deeply explores her decade-long journey with Bell’s Palsy (a form of facial muscular paralysis) following the birth of her twins. As a woman working in the theater, where emotion and expression are paramount, she was forced to grapple with a reality where all she had were her words.

    I had the honor of speaking with Ms. Ruhl about her internal evolution over the last decade, changes she hopes will come to the American theatre industry, and how writing Smile helped her grapple with her own experiences.

  • Backstage Book Club: Edition #5 – “From Camelot to Spamalot”

    For as long as there have been human beings, there have been stories. Stories of kings and queens, knights and knaves, peasants and mages, and everything in between have haunted the majority of Western culture since the twelfth century, capturing the imagination of listeners across time and space. One of these legends looms above them all – that of King Arthur, and his round table.

    Although his historical veracity is questionable, Arthur’s impact as a folklore hero cannot be denied, appearing as the lynchpin in legends that date back nearly a millennium. No King, living or dead, has had such a long-lasting legacy in the public eye. For the month of September, I had the honor of speaking with Megan Woller, a professor at Gannon University, about her new book, From Camelot to Spamalot, which examines numerous retellings of Arthurian Legend on stage and screen.

  • Backstage Book Club: Edition #4 – “Putting It Together”

    James Lapine, Sunday’s book writer and director, is a legend in his own right — with Sondheim, he wrote Into the Woods and Passion, and his work on landmark pieces such as Falsettos and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has proved deeply influential for generations of creatives. In 2017, after viewing a revival of Sunday in the Park with George, he was inspired to revisit the piece, creating an oral history through interviews with forty members of the original productions cast, creative team, and crew.

    That oral history, Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created “Sunday in the Park with George”, will be released on August 3rd, from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. The following is an edited version of Mr. Lapine and I’s conversation and an exclusive excerpt from Putting It Together.

  • Backstage Book Club: Edition #3 – “Up In The Cheap Seats”

    Up In The Cheap Seats, Ron Fassler’s 2017 memoir, explores the idiosyncratic history he experienced, and the larger than life figures who influenced him from the stage. Featuring nearly 100 interviews with theatrical luminaries such as Stephen Sondheim, James Earl Jones, and Bette Midler, it is a window into the sunset years of Broadway’s first Golden Age, and a marvelous read, fit for any long term theatre aficionado or young theatre fan.

  • Backstage Book Club: Edition #2 – “Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way”

    Every so often I come across a book that I struggle to finish for all of the right reasons. I will sit with it at my bedside, savoring the final chapters, doubling back and rereading sections multiple times, as I take as much time as possible to avoid turning to the last page. Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way by Caseen Gaines is one of these treasured books.

  • Backstage Book Club: Edition #1 – The “Godspell Experience

    For our inaugural issue of the ‘Backstage Book Club’, we are celebrating Godspell’s 50th Anniversary with The Godspell Experience. First published in 2014, Carol De Giere’s excavation of the musical Godspell holds the answers to any question you have ever had about the megahit musical that launched Stephen Schwartz into the constellation of great musical theatre composers.