TT: So you want to get reviewed?

If you read my Wall Street Journal drama column, you know that I take regional theater very seriously indeed. In fact, I’m the only New York-based drama critic who routinely covers productions all over America. In addition to covering Broadway and off-Broadway openings, I reviewed plays in fourteen states and the District of Columbia in 2006. I expect to range no less widely in 2007.

As I wrote in my “Sightings” column last June:

The time has come for American playgoers–and, no less important, arts editors–to start treating regional theater not as a minor-league branch of Broadway but as an artistically significant entity in and of itself. Take it from a critic who now spends much of his time living out of a suitcase: If you don’t know what’s hot in “the stix,” you don’t know the first thing about theater in 21st-century America.

I’ve just started working on my travel schedule for the summer of 2007. How can you increase your chances of persuading me to come see your company? Here’s an updated version of the guidelines I use for deciding which out-of-town shows to see–along with some free suggestions for improving the way you reach out to the press:

Basic requirements. I only review professional companies. I’m also more likely to review Equity productions, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, especially if I’m already coming to your city to see another show. In addition, I don’t review dinner theater, and it’s unusual (but not unprecedented) for me to visit children’s theaters or companies that produce only musicals.

You must produce a minimum of four shows each season… That doesn’t apply to summer festivals, but it’s comparatively rare for me to cover a festival that doesn’t produce at least three shows a year.

…and most of them have to be serious. I won’t put you on my drop-dead list for milking the occasional cash cow, but if you specialize in such regional-theater staples as The Santaland Diaries, Tuesdays With Morrie, and anything with the word “magnolias” in the title, I won’t go out of my way to come calling on you, either.

Repeat performances. I almost never cover new or newish plays I’ve already reviewed in New York–especially if I panned them. The chances of my coming to town to see your production of The Clean House or Rabbit Hole, for instance, are well below zero. (Suggestion: if you’re not reading my Wall Street Journal drama column, you probably ought to be.)

Repertory is everything… I won’t visit an out-of-town company I’ve never seen to review a play by an author of whom I’ve never heard. What I look for is an imaginative, wide-ranging mix of revivals of major plays–including comedies–and newer works by living playwrights and songwriters whose work I admire. Some names on the latter list: Alan Ayckbourn, Nilo Cruz, Horton Foote, Amy Freed, Brian Friel, Adam Guettel, A.R. Gurney, David Ives, Michael John LaChiusa, Warren Leight, Kenneth Lonergan, Lisa Loomer, David Mamet, Martin McDonagh, Itamar Moses, Lynn Nottage, Austin Pendleton, Harold Pinter, Oren Safdie, John Patrick Shanley, Stephen Sondheim, and Tom Stoppard.

I also have a select list of older plays about which I’d like to write that haven’t been revived in New York lately (or ever). If you’re doing The Beauty Part, The Cocktail Party, The Entertainer, Hotel Paradiso, Man and Superman, Rhinoceros, Six Characters in Search of an Author, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Visit, What the Butler Saw, or anything by Jean Anouilh, No

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TT: The fine art of distinctions

The Wall Street Journal has posted a free link to my most recent “Sightings” column, which ran in the “Pursuits” section of Saturday’s paper:

What is intellectual property? Who owns it–and who deserves to get paid for it? Playgoers and music lovers don’t often have occasion to ask such rarefied questions, but they’ve lately become important to the producers of a Broadway musical and the members of a British rock group.

– In November the director, choreographer and designers of the Broadway production of “Urinetown” publicly accused the Carousel Dinner Theatre of Akron, Ohio, and the Mercury Theater of Chicago of copying their work without permission and demanded royalty payments in return. The Akron and Chicago companies denied the charges and sued the Broadway production team for defamation.

– Last month a London judge awarded 40% of the copyright of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” to Matthew Fisher, the group’s ex-organist. Mr. Fisher, who had asked for 50%, doesn’t claim to have written the song, but he did write the Bach-like organ countermelody heard on the group’s 1967 recording of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which sold 10 million copies. Judge William Blackburne called the countermelody “a distinctive and significant contribution to the overall composition and, quite obviously, the product of skill and labor on the part of the person who created it.”

At first glance these two cases may appear unrelated–but I wouldn’t be surprised if they both become landmarks in the evolution of copyright law….

Don’t stop now–there’s much more (including, believe it or not, a highly relevant plug for Erin McKeown’s new CD, Sing You Sinners).

To read the whole thing, go here.

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TT: Almanac

“Work is the best of narcotics, providing the patient be strong enough to take it.”

Beatrice Webb, diary entry, March 8, 1885

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