Michael Moore has brought his zeal, his humor and his outrage to film, television and books. And now he’s bringing them to Broadway.
This left-wing provocateur is not shy about his agenda, made explicit on a preliminary poster for the production, which poses the question, in all capital letters, “Can a Broadway show bring down a sitting president?”
His plan, he said, is to perform a scripted (but also responsive to the news) one-man (more-or-less) show, called “The Terms of My Surrender,” eight times a week for 12 weeks, starting in July. He said that the show would simultaneously be entertaining and infuriating — not stand-up comedy, not a TED Talk, not a rally — but “a very developed piece of entertainment for people who like to think.”
“It’s a humorous play about a country that’s just elected a madman — I mean, there’s really no other way to put it,” he said in an interview at Sardi’s, the theater district mainstay.
He was characteristically shlumpy, in an oversized black pullover hoodie and a red 49ers baseball cap; gracious to the passers-by who thanked him for his activism and asked for a handshake or a selfie; and thoughtful about theater, as he explained what a firebrand was doing amid the “Cats” crowd.Continue reading the main story
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“We’re 10 blocks from Trump Tower, we’re in the corporate capital of America, we’re in the financial capital of America, we’re in the media capital of America,” Mr. Moore said. “If one was going to stand on a stage and do the things that I’m going to do, there’s only one place to do it, and it’s here in this city and it’s right here at the epicenter of creative expression and free speech.”
He said that he had been thinking about trying his hand at theater for some time, but the election last year of Donald J. Trump as president — which Mr. Moore correctly predicted — provided an impetus to do it now. “Can something like this unravel an unhinged man?” he asked. “I think that discombobulation might be our most effective path to undoing his presidency.”
However, he said it was not solely about the current president. “To say it’s just about Trump would simplify it,” he said. “I think people will find themselves laughing one minute and wanting to go look for some pitchforks and torches the next.”
Although Mr. Moore is a Broadway novice, “The Terms of My Surrender” has immediately attracted industry attention. The Shubert Organization has agreed to present it in the 1,018-seat Belasco Theater. Michael Mayer, a Tony winner for “Spring Awakening,” is the director, and David Rockwell, a Tony winner for “She Loves Me,” will design the set. The show’s lead producers are IMG Original Content, making its first stage venture, and Carole Shorenstein Hays, a frequent Broadway producer.
“I don’t know if I would call it a play; but it is a theater piece,’’ Mr. Mayer said. “There is going to be a certain amount of rabble-rousing. There’s a good chance we’ll have some surprise guests throughout the run, and some surprise postshow excursions that will vary night to night.”
Mr. Moore, 63, became famous as a documentary filmmaker, bursting into public consciousness with the groundbreaking “Roger and Me,” in 1989, about his hometown, Flint, Mich., and winning an Oscar in 2003 for “Bowling for Columbine.” His theatrical experience is limited — he starred in two plays in high school, and tested out some of his new material in London.
But he has an unexpected fondness for theater. As a child, he spent summers with relatives on Staten Island, and saw an occasional Broadway show, starting with “Fiddler on the Roof.” He has seen a lot of one-man and one-woman shows. He was even once mugged in Times Square. And he clearly believes in the power of theater to effect change.
“It was either this or the Ice Capades,” he said. “I’ve made my movies. I’ve had two prime-time TV series. I’ve had eight books on your best-seller lists. I’ve done a lot of things with the internet. But I haven’t done this.”