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THEATRE - January 2002

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Friday February 1

IT'S THE SERVICE CHARGE THAT GETS YOU: Another show on Broadway is joining The Producers in offering tickets for $240 a seat. But it's not a musical - "the lead producer of The Crucible, said yesterday that 30 prime orchestra seats a night would be available at $240 apiece, a price that includes the tickets' new $200 face value plus a $40 commission charge. The New York Times 02/01/02

MY FAIR HEADLOCK: A Broadway show based on the life of a real person? Sure, lots of them. But, a politician? Well, yes, it's been done. But, I mean, this one's about Jesse Ventura. Jesse Ventura, the former wrestler who's governor of Minnesota? Yeah, him; and it's a musical. Um... I think that will be a first. Baltimore Sun (AP) 01/31/02

Thursday January 31

NEW L.A. THEATRE: Actor Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne have donated $2.5 million to help build a new theatre. "The interior of the Culver Theater, a former cinema that opened in 1947, would be overhauled to create a flexible space with about 400 seats and a smaller upstairs facility that would seat 100. The exterior of the building, which has been designated a historic landmark, would be preserved as provided under city ordinance. The building will be named the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The point of the theater is to give young talent a chance to develop. Los Angeles Times 01/30/02

Wednesday January 30

DIRECTION FOR DIRECTORS: Britain's first university graduate degree in theatre directing has finally come into being. "Besides access to mentors from an 'attachment' or 'anchor' theatre or touring company, each student will have links to one of six leading drama schools and the benefits of the highly-regarded arts and drama teaching at Birkbeck." The Guardian (UK) 01/29/02

RESCUING LONG WHARF: Gordon Edelstein's appointment as new director of New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre "is seen among theater insiders as a much-needed lift for Long Wharf, which has been experiencing decreased revenue, declining subscriptions and mixed notices. It is difficult to interpret whether the slide is because of the recession, the shock of Sept. 11, a reaction of the loss of [previous director] Doug Hughes' leadership, or programming." Hartford Courant 01/30/02

NOISES ON: The hit musical in London right now is Umoja, a survey of South African culture and history. A big part of the show is the drumming. Fast. Furious. Loud. Mostly loud, so loud that neighbors are complaining and officials are threatening fines. The producers, who may have to pay for insulating the theater, argue that "In all fairness, you don't buy a flat in the West End and not expect some level of music and noise - this is the entertainment capital of the world." BBC 01/30/02

Tuesday January 29

DITCHING ROYALTY: London's Royal National Theatre is quietly dropping the "royal" designation from its official name. "'We can't recall the last time a member of the royal family came here for an official visit. The sort of people who need to be attracted to the National Theatre don't, quite frankly, give a stuff about whether it is royal or not." The Observer (UK) 01/27/02

SHARING THE RISK AND REWARDS: "Some of the biggest names in UK theatre including Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Fry are appealing to wealthy stage fans to back a new company that will share the risk of putting on costly stage productions. Theatreshare, headed by Fry and allied with Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, hopes to become a major player in the West End." BBC 01/29/02

LONG WHARF'S NEW DIRECTOR: New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre has hired Gordon Edelstein to be its new artistic director. Edelstein is currently director of Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre, where he's credited with reviving the company's artistic and financial fortunes. Seattle Times 01/28/02

Monday January 28

THE BROADWAY AUDIENCE: Who goes to Broadway shows? White (81 percent) college-educated (75 percent) women (63 percent) over 40 from out of town (47 percent) with an average annual income of $93,000. New York Daily News 01/28/02

ALMEIDA'S SURPRISE CHOICE: It was widely assumed that, for its next artistic director, London's fashionable Almeida Theatre would "go for one of the young Turks of British theatre or perhaps continue the tradition of getting actors to run the place." Instead, the theatre chose Michael Attenborough. He hadn't even applied for the job. The Telegraph (UK) 01/28/02

Sunday January 27

THE GREYING OF BROADWAY: This season Broadway stages are populated with senior citizens. "The aging of Broadway is a serious matter, and many theater people say that its impact on their industry, and the new stage generation, is crucial. Some say the presence of so many theater veterans is an exciting chance for Broadway giants to display their wares to those who know them and those who don't. But other people in the theater see it as a symptom of what they consider major problems: the age of the theater audience, the inability to attract and keep young, innovative playwrights, and the unwillingness of Broadway to take a chance on anything but the familiar." The New York Times 01/27/02

IN SEARCH OF RISK: For the past 12 years, the Almeida Theatre in north London has been a hotbed of critical acclaim. Now Jonathan Kent, its artistic director, is leaving. Why? He believes that "to do good work you must be 'frightened'. What does he mean? 'I was watching a TV programme that maintained that some people have a 'risk chromosome'. Perhaps I have one. The Almeida has been based upon taking impossible and absurd challenges.' (Example of risk chromosome at work: against the advice of the board, Kent and Ian McDiarmid undertook to raise a £1 million in one week to stage Richard II and Coriolanus.They did it)." The Observer (UK) 01/27/02

THEATRE WOES IN ANOTHER STRATFORD: The town of Stratford, Connecticut had expensive million-dollar dreams for its Shakespeare theatre But "renovations for the theater were halted in midsummer 2000 when it was clear there was no more money and workers walked off the job, leaving rolls of carpet in the lobby and boxes of new seats in the balcony." Now "the state doesn't want the white elephant. (You get the impression talking to state officials privately that the state just wishes the theater would just go away.) And the town, which has financial problems of its own, isn't exactly eager either. It certainly doesn't want to be in the theater-management business." Hartford Courant 01/27/02

TAKEOUT BARD: If you can order pizzas and Chinese food to be delivered, why not Shakespeare? A small company of actors in New York has started a business delivering The dozen or so actors "offer Bard specials that can be ordered a la carte and performed in your home. Prices start at $50." New York Post 01/27/02

Friday January 25

SUPER-SIZE IT? When planning a new show for New York, one of the first things a producer must ask is - how big a show should it be? "In some ways this is always the question a producer asks in trying to balance the art and commerce of putting on a show. But over the last few seasons, with more musicals crowding into the pipeline, musical-friendly theaters in short supply and Broadway economics more daunting than ever, the conventional wisdom regarding what size show belongs in what size theater has been challenged as never before." The New York Times 01/25/02

Thursday January 24

ANOTHER NON-UNION SHOW: Former Supreme Mary Wilson is the latest big name to sign on to a touring non-union Broadway show. "Wilson is about to hit the road in a revival of Sophisticated Ladies, the Duke Ellington revue that won several Tonys in 1981." The show is eschewing union performers in favor of cheaper cast members. Actors Equity is trying to fight the proliferation of such touring companies. New York Post 01/23/02

THE UNLIKELY HIT: "Three childhood friends from Cleveland — Hank Unger and two brothers, Matthew and Michael Rego — have pulled off the unlikely feat of mounting a new Broadway musical while in their early 30's. Moreover, the company has done so with a show that few would have ever dreamed of being a critical and popular hit: a low-budget musical with a surreal subject — an evil conglomerate that controls a city's bathrooms — written by an unknown writer and composer, and with a title that makes a lot of prospective audience members wince." The New York Times 01/24/02

Tuesday January 22

SO MUCH FOR THE 21st CENTURY: Theatre Basel has just opened a new theatre - one its artistic director proudly proclaimed on opening night is a "theatre for the 21st Century. "The audience, not sure it had heard correctly, was sitting on wobbly seats in a gray, cold and uncharismatic concrete house with two galleries and cheap chipboard walls. To get in, people had crossed a foyer as charming as a baggage-claim office and clambered up small wooden stairways to narrow gallery passages squeezed between red concrete walls and the glass facade of the building, all the while feeling like uninvited guests in the proverbial can of sardines. If this was the theater of the 21st century, you would not want to see any theater again in this century. Or else the artistic director was telling tall tales." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/22/02

Monday January 21

DENVER THEATRE IN DANGER OF CLOSING: The Denver Civic Theatre will be out of business by the end of this season if it doesn't get a slug of new cash. Business has died since September 11. "Before Sept. 11, our revenues were growing 20-30 percent per production. We were budgeted for a 25 percent gain over last year, but right now we are running 50-60 percent behind. We've done about four times as much marketing, our reviews have been excellent, and we still finished about about $100,000 behind in ticket sales." Denver Post 01/21/02

SHAKESPEARE SENSIBILITIES: Are "ethnic sensibilities" hindering American theatres from producing some Shakespeare plays? That's what one theatre company manager told the annual conference of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America last week. The group includes more than 70 companies of the 130 to 150 that use the name of Shakespeare in their title. Chicago Sun-Times 01/21/02

Friday January 18

CLASSIC MUSICALS DOMINATE OLIVIERS: The Olivier Awards, British theatre's most prestigious awards, have named this years nominees. The list is dominated by revivals of classic musical theatre. "The revival of Kiss Me, Kate got nine nominations, while My Fair Lady was given eight, including one best actress nod for former TV soap star Martine McCutcheon." BBC 01/18/02

PRICE OF SUCCESS: Four of Boston's best small theatres have been served notice by the actors union Actors Equity - no more union actors without proper union contracts. The theatres have been hiring union actors on "guest" contracts which pay less than regular contracts. But the union says now that the theatres are more established and routinely hiring union players, they have to pay the full rate. ''We didn't object to them using this contract while they were getting off the ground. But as the companies grew in quality, size, and stature, Equity started grousing, as did some local performers and producers." Boston Globe 01/18/02

Thursday January 17

END OF THE ROAD: The announcement that Cats would close in London signals the curtain on Andrew Lloyd Webber. "Like a gambler who has enjoyed a fabulous winning streak in a casino, then seen his luck turn, he is now down to his last chip: The Phantom of the Opera. What a comedown for the man who, during the heyday of his career, had as many as five musicals running simultaneously in London's West End and almost as many on Broadway." The Age (Telegraph) 01/17/02

DISNEY IN AUSTRALIA: Disney has announced it is getting in to big musical theatre production in Australia, producing The Lion King and Aida. "The news is a much-needed boost for the musical theatre genre, battered by a string of early closures and cancellations, including the 1970s musical Hair last year, and Sunset Boulevard and the $10 million Pan in recent times." The Age (Melbourne) 01/17/02

Wednesday January 16

ARTS COUNCIL TO RSC - STAY ON BUDGET: The Royal Shakespeare Company is to get £50 million from the Arts Council of England to develop a new "theatre village." The RSC has to raise another £50 million to fund the project, and the Arts Council says it won't contribute anything more if the costs rise about the £100 million budget. BBC 01/16/02

ASSISTING TO THE TOP: Want to succeed in the theatre as a director? Then first it helps to be an assistant director. But what, exactly does an assistant director do? Despite the feeling of some that "they just sit there nursing a sort of parallel production in their mind, it can involve everything from researching historical background to rehearsing the understudies – or sitting quietly in the corner getting bored." The Independent (UK) 01/13/02

Tuesday January 15

NINE LIVES AND THEN SOME: The second-highest grossing musical of all time will end its record run in London this spring after 21 years and nearly 9000 performances. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats has never been popular with critics, but audiences have gravitated to it consistently wherever it has opened. The Broadway production of the show closed in 2000 after an 18-year run. BBC 01/15/02

Monday January 14

STARLIGHT DIMS: After 7,406 performances in 18 years, Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Starlight Express closed in London. Lloyd-Webber's whose long-running shows have been closing one by one in the pasty year in London and New York, says he'd like to take Express on the road. BBC 01/13/02

  • A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR THE TOURISTS: "Like the characters and plot, the over-amplified songs are forgettable, with Richard Stilgoe’s often inane lyrics adding to their synthetic feel. Yet Lloyd Webber’s something-for-everyone score, which ranges from pop and blues to country and gospel, the triumph-over-adversity story, and bravura pyrotechnics proved to be an unbeatable tourist-friendly combination." The Times (UK) 01/14/02

GOODBYE FANTASTICKS: After 17,162 performances, The Fantasticks closes in New York, the longest-running play in the city. The show was a career starter for many actors in its 42-year life. The New York Times 01/14/02

THE PROBLEM WITH REALISM: When theater people claim something is "realistic," what do they mean? Maybe the conclusion is simply that realism has become a hopelessly slippery term since it was invented in 19th-century France to define works more concerned with showing the world as it is than as it should be." The New York Times 01/13/02

Sunday January 13

THINKING SMALL: A rash of new one-person and small-cast shows is taking over America's theatres. "The attraction for one-person shows is obvious. Financially, they're cheap. Less payroll, less housing, less wine and cheese at the cast party. And when fiscal times are tight, the push for these shows can be seductive, especially if they can be marketed in some new way. But with the number of one-person or tiny-cast shows proliferating, one wonders if anyone is thinking big anymore. Is anyone thinking even moderately? Or have we just created a new type of boutique theater that might amuse or distract - but hardly excite - us?" Hartford Courant 01/13/02

THE BEST THEATRE JOB IN BRITAIN: "Three things have made the Almeida the most exciting theatre in Britain. First, an eclectically international programme: everything from Molière and Marivaux to Brecht and Neil LaBute. Second, top-level casting that has given us Ralph Fiennes in Hamlet and Ivanov, Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh and Juliette Binoche in Naked. Third, a territorial expansion that has seen the Almeida colonise the Hackney Empire, the old Gainsborough film studios and even a converted bus depot in King's Cross." Now it's all Michael Attenborough's to run. The Guardian (UK) 01/12/02

Friday January 11

ATTENBOROUGH TO ALMEIDA: Michael Attenborough, one of the Royal Shakespeare Company's guiding lights over the past decade, has been appointed artistic director of the Almeida theatre in north London. "The choice shocked the theatrical world, being another blow to the Royal Shakespeare Company as it goes through one of the biggest upheavals in its history." The Guardian (UK) 01/11/02

WHY THEATRE IS NOT AN ESSENTIAL ART FORM: In the distant past it was, and theatre appealed to all classes of people. "It was only in the eighteenth century that the preferences of the middle class, which is to say middlebrow taste, began to dominate the theater. These preferences not only obliterated the distinctions between high tragedy and low comedy, between the sacred and the profane, but proscribed any effort to combine the two, as Shakespeare and his contemporaries did so successfully in a previous age." The New Republic 12/31/01

NEW BROADWAY DIGS? A group of Broadway producers is looking into converting an old multiplex movie theatre into "at least one commercial 499-seat off-Broadway theater, some smaller performance spaces, a rehearsal studio and administrative offices." New York Post 01/11/02

Thursday January 10

TEAR IT DOWN: The Royal Shakespeare Company has been harshly criticized for saying it will tear down its theatre in Stratford-upon Avon. But some British MP's are loudly encouraging the demolition, deriding it as a "monstrous carbuncle. Pull it down - it's a hideous building. I've only ever been in the gods there and I've ended up seeing about a third of the play." The Guardian (UK) 01/09/02

(SAD) PORTRAIT OF THE CRITIC: English film critic Kenneth Tynan was the country's "most gifted theater critic since Hazlitt." Now his diaries have been published, and "alas–and damn it!–the Tynan diaries leave us with the overwhelming sense of a life helplessly adrift and all purpose spent in a no-man’s land where absolutely nothing is at stake. This forlorn, furiously name-dropping, occasionally sadomasochistic record of the years 1971 to 1980–held back from publication by his widow, Kathleen, and now released by his eldest daughter, Tracy–shock and sadden us in the miserable picture he presents of himself 'snarling, retching and wanking' into the abyss." New York Observer 01/09/02

THE THEATRE SURVIVAL GAME: Berlin is facing budget cuts, and support for some of the city's cultural institutions is going to decline. "Which theaters will the incoming culture minister from the Party of Democratic Socialism, the successor party to East Germany's ruling communists, close down? The list of candidates is long, cuts in cultural funding make the need evident, and people are placing bets all over town. For now, only one thing is certain: The Friedrichstadtpalast revue theater will survive." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/10/02

Wednesday January 9

FANTASTICK FINISH: After a stunning 42-year run, New York's longest-running musical is closing. The Fantasticks is arguably the most successful musical of the 20th century, and the closing took the theatre community somewhat unaware. "During it has been made into a television special and a feature film, employed actors who went on to win Tonys, Emmys and Oscars, and had its melodies recorded by the likes of Harry Belafonte and Barbra Streisand." The New York Times 01/09/02 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday January 8

BUT MOM! EVERYBODY'S GETTING ONE! The Royal Shakespeare Company is making waves with its plans to demolish its historic 1930s-style home and replace it with a much larger and more elaborate performance complex. This week, the scheme will face government scrutiny. "The company's plans to redevelop in Stratford while pulling out altogether from its London home at the Barbican complex have sparked controversy." BBC 01/08/02

Monday January 7

OF POLITICS AND THEATRE: "For most of the 20th century, especially after the Un-American Activities Committee hearings, American theater - apart from Miller - has not been very politically engaged. Which is why it's remarkable that today we have two very politically oriented playwrights in August Wilson, with his panoramic cycle of the 20th century black experience, and the emerging Tony Kushner." New York Post 01/06/02

TOUGHER TIMES DOWNTOWN: While plenty of attention (and help) has been offered to Broadway theatre, downtown theatre (closer to the World Trade Center) has been having a tougher time. "One response has been the formation of Downtown NYC, a coalition of theater owners, dance and theater companies, producers, art galleries, restaurants and other small businesses." The New York Times 01/06/02

END OF A LONG RUN: The Fantasticks didn't figure to make it through the season when it opened back in 1960. "When The Fantasticks closes Sunday after 17,162 performances in New York, it will have outlived any other show in American theater history. The show has had more than 12,000 different productions in the U.S. and more than 700 productions in 67 other countries." New York Post 01/07/02

Sunday January 6

BROADWAY DOWN: Broadway ended 2001 with ticket sales down by $22 million and selling 500,000 fewer tickets. "Broadway theaters recorded $373,128,667 in sales for the season starting in June. That represents 6,473,223 tickets sold. The equivalent figures for 2000 were $395,311,555 and 6,981,071 tickets." New York Daily News 01/03/02

Friday January 4

LONDON THEATRE'S BIG CHEESE: Who's the biggest cheese in London theatre? Andrew Lloyd-Webber tops The Stage magazine's annual poll. "The musical maestro and West End venue owner heads the list for the second year running. Despite a slow year for Lloyd Webber productions, his company Really Useful Group is seen as a hugely powerful influence and his reputation extends worldwide." Director Peter Hall just makes the Top 20 list at No. 20. The Guardian (UK) 01/03/02

MAKING THE PITCH FOR $480: How well are those $480 tickets to the Broadway production of The Producers doing? Well enough that Inner Circle, the company selling the tickets, is trying to interest other Broadway hits in bumping up their prices too. "While box-office reports indicate that the Inner Circle has done well with the $480 tickets, none of the other shows have yet decided to offer similar tickets through the company." The New York Times 01/04/02

HIGHEST-PAID BRITISH ACTRESS IN HISTORY: Who's the highest-paid British actress of all time? Now it's Jane Leeves, who has signed a £20 million contract for a new season of the US sitcom Frasier as the "semi-psychic physiotherapist Daphne Moon - earning more than triple the fees of Britain's highest-paid Hollywood actress, Catherine Zeta Jones." The Guardian (UK) 01/01/02

GUTHRIE FLOODS: Minneapolis's famous Guthrie Theater has been forced to close for repairs after a water main break flooded the theater's offices and backstage area. The damage is expected to be repaired by the end of the month, but a number of design drawings, archive material, and other bits of Guthrie history were destroyed. The Guthrie is planning to move to a controversial new riverfront complex in 2005. Minneapolis Star Tribune 01/04/02

WARNED OFF: Those warning notices theatres post in their lobbies often seem so arbitrary or unnecessary. The New Yorker offers a list of lobby notices it would like to see: "WARNING: During this afternoon's performance, there will be a chatty women's group from Great Neck seated directly behind you." The New Yorker 12/31/02

Thursday January 3

OUR BEST PLAYWRIGHT? Okay, he's a little late, but John Heilpern writes that Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul is the "best play of the past ten years." "His new play is a magnificent achievement on every challenging,deeply compassionate level. It confirms Mr. Kushner’s place—if confirmation has been needed - as our leading playwright, to whom attention will always gladly be paid." New York Observer 01/02/02

TEARING DOWN THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE? The problems with the Royal Shakespeare Company's theatre in Stratford-on-Avon are well known. It's not a pleasant place to perform in or to see a play. "As part of a £100 million ($145.4 million) capital project, the company wants to demolish the theater and replace it with one designed by the Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat." And that's brought howls of protest. The New York Times 01/03/02

Wednesday January 2

ILIAD MEETS HIGH-TECH: "UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television launches a retelling of Homer's The Iliad that incorporates online community, video feeds, digitally projected images, an interactive floor show, and, oh yes, actors. The idea is to make one of The Iliad's primary themes - hero Achilles' constantly shifting allegiances to the Greeks and the Trojans - a metaphor for how 21st century people find their lives shaped by technology and media." Wired 10/02/02

TOP BILLING: "Sorting out the billing for a play is an archaic and labyrinthine business, the rules of which are understood only by a very few: but basically, the more famous you are, the more you can hog the advertising and the light bulbs. What all actors hope for is to get their name above the title of the play on the poster. " The Guardian (UK) 01/02/02