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THEATRE - January 2001

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Wednesday January 31

  • THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES: It was years in the making, revised numerous times, and given every advantage. But "Napoleon" the musical, is closing after a short run in London. "On the plus side, there was no loss of life. On the negative side, even the positive reviews were depressing. 'An average musical,' raved one London critic. 'A nice score,' added another, 'with lyrics that are mediocre but satisfying'." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/31/01

Tuesday January 30

  • A MODERN MEDEA: Have 2,400 years of performance history been unfairly cruel to Medea, one of Greek drama’s most vengeful women? Fiona Shaw discusses the role she currently plays on the London stage with director Deborah Warner. "Previous performances make us have dangerous misconceptions about so many of these heroines. You have a 2,400-year-old stone to crack to get at the fossil within." The Guardian (London) 1/30/01

Monday January 29

  • STARTUP: Can't get a job in the theatre? Then start your own company. Several hot London companies were born this way. Actors hope "the work will be seen by the agents and casting directors who might propel the members to higher-profile productions. But there’s always a chance that ventures such as this will die quietly as soon as that goal has been achieved — or missed." The Times (London) 01/29/01
  • FREE SPEECH CASE? Canada's literary establishment has rallied in support of an 11th-grade student who read a violent monologue that contained death threats at his school and was later arrested. "The teen admitted his hands were shaking as he showed off a gift from Margaret Atwood, one of a dozen authors speaking in his support." Toronto Star 01/29/01

Sunday January 28

  • CRAZY FOR BLUE: The off-Broadway performance art troupe "Blue Man Group" is an unlikely success story. In the so-often unimaginitive, copycat world of New York's famous theater district, this group of mute, aqua-painted men has gone from a minor curiosity to a mainstay of American theater. Not only that, but they're providing a showcase for avant-garde music and visual display that might not get a chance anywhere else. New York Post, 01/28/01
  • THE BARD COMES TO MISSOURI: This summer, St. Louis unveils its new Shakespeare Festival, at an outdoor amphitheatre in Forest Park. The atmosphere will be informal, with most members of the audience sitting on blankets on the lawn, and nightly pre-shows featuring period entertainment such as jugglers, jesters, and wandering musicians. The director is going for an overall effect: "You'll smell the food, you'll hear the music, you'll see the beauty of the park all at once. And then we'll have Shakespeare." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 01/01/28

Friday January 26

  • SYNTHESIZING BROADWAY: The American Federation of Musicians is fighting mad at two national touring productions of popular Broadway musicals over the producers' decision to cut more than half of the standard pit orchestra musicians in favor of computerized, synthesized accompaniment. The producers say they've done nothing wrong. Detroit Free Press (AP), 01/25/01

Thursday January 25

  • TAKING SHOTS (OR BEING FRANK?): Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of the Oxford Stage Company has written a now-infamous book for the jibes it takes at British theatre luminaries: "John Mortimer (he 'has the look of a Faust who has said yes to the devil so many times that he has got nothing to trade with') and Tom Stoppard ('it's rather like dealing with a lunatic who keeps telling you he's got a map showing where he buried his underpants but he's eaten it'). The Independent (London) 01/24/01
  • DEATH OF AN ART? Cabaret as an artform is 100 years old. But will it survive much longer? "Admittedly, we've been hearing about the death of cabaret for years. And many young comedians who once considered themselves the heirs to this form of entertainment are now over the hill. Nevertheless, the developments of recent years are hard to ignore. Almost all the major ensembles have either disbanded or lost their relevance." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/24/01

Tuesday January 23

  • MAKING THEATRE BETTER: "Should we ban all new Australian works from our stages for five years with the note, 'Write better'? Clearly, most plays being written at any time, anywhere, are third-rate literature. Even a good play rarely bears comparison with the wit and complexity of a fine book of essays, the complexity and mystery of a great novel, the mystery and beauty of a great poem. But a play script isn't literature; it's one limb of that deeply complex, mysterious and volatile organism called theatre. Promising playwrights won't become good playwrights by being kept at arm's length from the activity of theatre-making." Sydney Morning Herald 01/23/01
  • IN THE WRONG CAMP: Richard Move's parody of Martha Graham has had a lot of attention. But "parody is one thing but inept parody is another. Graham was the great image maker of 20th century dance, a fact that Mr. Move did not keep in mind in his satires of Graham's 'Phaedra,' 'Episodes' and 'Lamentation'." The New York Times 01/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • BROADWAY BLUES: A dismal week on Broadway at the box office, though closing notices caused a spike in sales for "Copenhagen," and "Seussical" had a good week after Rosie O'Donnell stepped into the cast. Variety 01/23/01

Monday January 22

  • THE DYING FRINGE? Is greed killing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? "We are in danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. People operating within the fringe – such as venues and property owners – should take a long hard look at themselves. There is a raft of people who are cashing in. People seem to think that the fringe is a cultural Klondyke but is far from it." The Scotsman 01/22/01

Sunday January 21

  • DREAMING OF HOME: The challenge for a small-budget theatre - finding a home to call its own. "The dream of a [theater] director is to have a space. If you're an artist, you have your studio - or at least your easel. Without your own [theater] space, you have to put up shows in different theaters and reinvent the wheel every time. That challenge can zap your creativity." Chicago Tribune 01/21/01
  • MARLOWE, EVERYWHERE MARLOWE: There's a significant revival of the late 16th Century playwright Chrstopher Marlowe, in part sparked by the movie "Shakespeare in Love." The New York Times 01/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • ALBEE ON WOOLF: Edward Albee visits Howard University to talk about updating his "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" "The conversation between Albee and aspiring actors came about because the students had questions about adapting the play to the new century and about dealing with the descriptive checkpoints that don't quite fit the African American cast." Washington Post 01/21/01
  • A THREAT OR JUST ACTING? An 11th grade student in Ontario is jailed after a monologue he delivered in school that contained violent threats. Some in Canada's arts community have taken up the boy's cause as a matter of free expression. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/21/01

Friday January 19

  • ACTING OUT: Canada has a new theatre award, believed to be the country's richest. "The $100,000 Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize will be given to an artist in mid career who has made a significant contribution to Canadian theatre." Toronto Star 01/19/01

Thursday January 18

  • LEADING THE NATIONAL: With Trevor Nunn leaving London's National Theatre, a search begins for his successor. But "there is growing evidence that the theatre's board is split over the future of the 25-year-old institution. Should our National Theatre continue to be run by one supremo with a policy of mainstream productions underpinned by musicals - or is it time to recognise the need for more radical solutions?" The Telegraph (London) 01/18/01

Wednesday January 17

  • ON THE ATTACK: The storm of controversy surrounding the Australian production of Terence McNally’s play "Corpus Christi" continues to gather force. "Leaders of the Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, Anglican and Islamic religions are united in condemning the play and want the State Government to withdraw funding." The Age (Melbourne) 1/17/01

Tuesday January 16

  • SAME PLAY, SAME THREATS: Terrence McNally’s play "Corpus Christi" is opening in Australia to the same controversy it faced in the U.S. in 1998. Islamic activists have condemned the play, which features a homosexual Christ-like character. The Melbourne producer has defended the production as "a parable and did not say that the historical figure of Christ was gay." Times of India (AP) 1/16/01
  • BROKEN PROMISES? Britain’s regional theatres were thrilled when the government announced an extra £25 million to rescue the country’s ailing playhouses. But now suspicions are running high over exactly how the money (due to be allocated in 2003) will be spent. "The main cause of disagreement is simple. The 50 building-based English theatres that produce their own work feel betrayed. They believe that the entire £25 million increase should have been passed directly on to them, and are alarmed that the Arts Council is apparently keeping back nearly a third of the money for other projects." The Times (London) 1/16/01
  • THE CULT OF THE CLOWN: The Russian clown troupe Derevo has won acclaim worldwide for its intense and unusual performances. But they’ve also " been likened to a cult because its performers explore the limits of their art with almost monastic intensity." The Telegraph (London) 1/16/01

Sunday January 14

  • THE WELL-MADE PLAY? "Nowadays, unfortunately, plays often abandon all pretense at being well-made or even being "made" at all, preferring to sound like a series of edited (hopefully) tape-recorded conversations. The irony is some dramas rely so heavily on well-constructed formulas, that they stumble nevertheless." New York Post 01/14/01

Friday January 12

  • TAKING BACK THE WEST END: Spurred on in part by the recent run of American actors trodding the boards in London, a group of popular British actors - including Jude Law and Ewan MacGregor - have founded a London-based theatre company that will produce work using only British writing, directing, and acting talent. London Evening Standard 1/12/01
  • NEW KING: August Wilson's "King Hedley" almost took a nosedive on Broadway this week after its star decided movies were more his metier. "But after a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations that concluded yesterday afternoon, the producers had a new star: Brian Stokes Mitchell, who won a Tony last year for his performance in 'Kiss Me, Kate'." New York Post 01/12/01

Wednesday January 10

  • PLAYWRITING’S GOLDEN AGE: Dominic Dromgoole, the author of a new anthology of contemporary playwriting cites the 1990s as a decade of unrivalled talent hitting the British stage. Why then? "My guess is that its source was the world, rather than the theatre, and it could not be unconnected to the upheavals that shook the world at the end of the 1980s. A door swung open to a whole new world, to be addressed in new terms - those of the spirit, of identity, of individual morality, of imagination and sensuality. And of course a whole new politics. These are the terms that theatre is ideally placed to use." The Guardian (London) 1/10/01
  • SAVING THE ARENA: Molly D. Smith, a little-known artistic director from Alaska, was brought in to try to save Washington’s ailing Arena Stage three years ago. "Now, as Arena commemorates its 50th year, it looks as if the gamble has paid off. Subscription renewals are at a high of nearly 90 percent." The New York Times 01/10/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • FINANCIAL INDUCEMENT: Ever wonder who gets paid what in a Broadway show? 'The Producers' is the the most-anticipated new show of the spring, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Here's how the hoped-for box office gets split among the principals. New York Post 01/10/01

Monday January 8

  • MOVING UP: Several London theatre productions are moving to larger theatres. Switching a popular show to a bigger theatre can multiply box-office revenues by 500 per cent or more. But it can also be a big risk too. The Times (London) 01/08/01

Thursday January 4

  • RX FOR RUSSIAN THEATRE: "Who is going to create the future in Moscow theater? Here is what I see in my murky crystal ball: 1) The repertory system — essentially theater as a family group — will continue to erode, although it will not disintegrate completely; 2) we will see a drastic change in the list of the city’s most influential figures within a decade; and 3) contemporary playwrights will continue their resurgence that began in earnest two seasons ago." Moscow Times 01/04/01

Wednesday January 3

  • THE PLAY'S THE THING (BUT MAYBE NOT ON CABLE) One year ago this month, the Broadway Television Network (BTN) kicked off an ambitious plan to broadcast Broadway musicals on a pay-per-view basis. The channel has had mixed success. Although executives maintain that BTN's development is modelled on a five-year plan, first-year viewership figures and scheduling have been lacklustre. "...On Broadway, questions are being raised about BTN's future." New York Post, 01/03/2001
  • THE INNOCENT: A staged reading of a new script based on the statements of 87 prisoners wrongly convicted and sentenced to the death penalty and later proven innocent attracts a star cast: Debra Winger, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Buscemi, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. The Guardian (London) 01/03/01