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THEATRE - February 2001

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Wednesday February 28

  • URBAN & UPTEMPO: Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company is producing a new work by Kurt Elling that purports to examine, through high-energy jazz and cutting-edge poetry, life in America's three biggest cities. This topic is nothing new, of course, but what makes "LA/CHI/NY - A Journey Through the Streets of America" unusual is that it actually succeeds in communicating the distinct urban feel of each metropolis. Chicago Tribune 02/28/01

Tuesday February 27

  • GUIDING THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE: Adrian Noble has been heading up London's Royal Shakespeare Company for a decade now. Noble wiped out a £3.5 million deficit he inherited when he took over the company; for the past 15 years the RSC has earned money on "Les Misťrables," a show whose success has "effectively cushioned the RSC from financial disaster." Now the company is producing another West End musical with hopes of a hit. The Guardian (London) 02/27/01

Sunday February 25

  • SECOND-CITY SUCCESS STORY: It's not as if Chicago theatre ever went anywhere, but with high-powered theatre districts popping up all over the country in recent years, the Windy City was, for a time, in danger of becoming somewhat complacent. No more: a slew of new buildings and revitalized companies are once again making Chicago a drama-lover's dream come true. Washington Post 02/25/01
  • TWAIN BOUND FOR BROADWAY: Let's be honest: Mark Twain probably would have hated the Broadway musical. He certainly wouldn't have been able to picture his rural, rough-spoken characters kicking up their heels in full chorus numbers. But, for the second time in the last twenty years, a Twain classic is being redone for the musical stage. Hartford Courant 02/25/01
  • NEW DIGS: One of the byproducts of the economic boom of the 1990s was the appropriation of countless millions of public and private dollars for arts groups seeking to upgrade or replace their performance space. Next month, the historic Berkeley Repertory Theatre moves into their new home, and the change will reportedly be breathtaking. San Francisco Chronicle 02/25/01

Thursday February 23

  • LAGS AND WALLAHS: The London theatre's most prestigious awards - the Oliviers - are to be given out tonight, but the judges and host for the event are under attack. Critics have called judges for one category "old showbiz lags and free ticket wallahs." The Independent (London) 02/23/01

Wednesday February 21

  • FEAR OF THE NEW? "Next Friday in London, this year's Olivier Award for best director will go to a play first produced in either 1981, 1957, 1947, 1904 or 1879. Given the chance to strut their stuff, to examine their times, to challenge the establishment, these directors have dutifully ploughed their energy into what? Revivals; classics. What's wrong with them? Are they so scared of new plays?" The Independent (London) 02/21/01
  • PASSAGE TO INDIA: All things Indian are suddenly very hot in London right now. Even Andrew Lloyd Webber is putting together a "Bollywood epic called Bombay Dreams. Over in Covent Garden, the Royal Opera is a developing a Bollywood version of Turandot. But why here, and why now?" The Guardian (London) 02/21/01

Monday February 19

  • END OF ACTING? Is the actor an endangered species? "I think the first big leading indicator was baby boomers' abandonment of live theater. This is an overstatement, a gross generalization, but it's also true: for cosmopolitan people of my parents' generation, experiencing live actors on stage was an obligationóa kind of secular humanist sacrament in a way that it simply isn't for people who came of age in the 1960s and 70s. Younger people tend to find live theater too intimate, too unmediated, too real, too creepy." PublicArts 02/18/01

Sunday February 18

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF POLITICAL THEATRE: There's been a recent surge of political theatre in Britain. This after a long period when it seemed to disappear. "Does the decline of political theatre matter? Desperately, I would say. I am not claiming it is the sole function of theatre to analyse government and society. But if drama withdraws from engagement with the public world, it is inevitably diluted." The Guardian (London) 02/17/01
  • IN-YER-FACE ON THE OUTS? In the past five years shock theatre has been a constant presence on the London stage. " 'In-yer-face theatre' is the best way of describing this type of drama, which uses explicit scenes of sex and violence to explore the depths of human emotion. Characterised by a rawness of tone, it is aggressive, confrontational and provocative." But maybe its time is passing. The Telegraph (London) 02/17/01
  • THE SUCCESSFUL MUSICAL: What makes successful musical theatre? Is it the score or is it the book? New York Post 02/18/01

Friday February 16

  • FAIR-WEATHER FANS: Andrew Lloyd-Webber, whose musicals have generally been dismissed by theatre critics as unchallenging and pandering to the masses, picked up his first London Theatre Critics Circle Award Thursday for "The Beautiful Game." "There was, however, a sting in the tail. For while the press were won over by the story of love across the Ulster , the public turned on him. Only 3% in a poll of 6,500 West End theatregoers thought the musical worthy of the award." The Guardian (London) 2/16/01
  • THINK YOUNGER: The Sydney Festivalís new director Brett Sheey announced his strategy for putting his own stamp on the annual arts event by attracting younger audiences with bold programming - a philosophy that differs dramatically from his predecessor. "It was no secret that Leo's great loves were opera and Western classical music; my great loves are theatre, dance and contemporary culture - multimedia, hybrid arts and those fusions which are reflective of the 21st century." Sydney Morning Herald 2/16/01

Thursday February 15

  • SLAMMIN': Poetry slams have been around for at least a decade, and are even considered passe in many cutting-edge poetry circles. But even as the slam breathes its last in smoky basement clubs around the country, it is becoming a hit in the venue perhaps most well-equipped to supply the medium's insatiable need for fast-paced, high-energy poetic performance: high schools. San Francisco Chronicle 02/15/01
  • UP OR DOWN?: Dublinís Abbey Theatre is on the brink of announcing a major redevelopment scheme, but not until it reaches a consensus on one of two very different proposals: redesign the current structure by adding on three storeys, or relocate to a site across the River Liffey? "Not since Lady Gregory opened Ireland's first National Theatre in 1904 has the Abbey faced such a critical choice." Irish Times 2/15/01
  • LOCALS WEIGH IN: "Anything that helps them do better. The Abbey is in a shocking state for a national theatre. They actually have two theatres which are badly designed. There are people on the Abbey roof in Portakabins." Irish Times 2/15/01
  • CHICAGO THEATER BOOM: Chicagoís theater world has been growing steadily since the mid 1970s, when Steppenwolf and several other small companies established themselves. Now, with five solid nonprofit productions currently running, all of which are locally produced and cast, "Chicago's theater exudes independence and a deserving hometown pride." New York Times 2/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday February 13

  • WHY YOU SHOULD BEFRIEND A SENATOR: It took the intervention of Senator Christopher Dodd to get it, but the National Theater for the Deaf has been granted $2.7 million out of the federal budget, to be paid over the next four years. The theater had lost a large chunk of federal money last year due to a miscommunication. Hartford Courant 02/13/01
  • REVIVING FARCE: In the UK farce has had a bit of a bad name - it is considered lowbrow and not important theatre. But of late there has been a rehabilitation of the form. "This is farce for the 21st century. We've gone beyond PC." The Independent (London) 02/11/01

Monday February 12

  • VAGINA POWER: Saturday night "18,000 people were expected to attend a celebrity-packed performance of "The Vagina Monologues" at Madison Square Garden, just one of 50 observances nationwide of V-Day, the anti-violence movement Eve Ensler developed to put her feminist words into action. This week 250 colleges - including American, George Washington, Georgetown and Howard universities - will also observe V-Day (V also stands for Valentine)." Washington Post 02/11/01
  • ENCOURAGING THE YOUNG: Are "elderly, reactionary critics" putting young people off going to the theatre? Director Deborah Warner thinks so, and she's slashing prices for some of the best seats at her West End hit 'Medea' to encourage young people to come to the theatre." The Independent (London) 02/12/01
  • TROUBLED ACTORS' UNION: "The Screen Actors Guild is undergoing revolutionary changes; some call it turmoil. Age-old relationships with the franchised agents, with AFTRA, and with regional branch offices, seem on uncertain ground. Some of the guild's top leaders are making exits. The financial situation is a bit rocky. Partisan rivalries continue to fester. And all this is taking place on the eve of another serious contract negotiation. Furthermore, as many guild leaders admit, communication with members and with the media has been lacking." Backstage 02/12/01

Sunday February 11

  • TRYING TO NEUTRALIZE THE CRITICS: "The Bells Are Ringing" is currently playing in Connecticut before heading to Broadway. But producers, perhaps fearing the kind of critical storm that harmed "Seussical" earlier this season, have announced thta critics are not welcome at performances. "The reason given is that the producers don't see the Stamford run as an out-of-town tryout. It's part of its review-free Broadway previews, they say, as though that fabled strip extended through Harlem, the Bronx and into Connecticut." Hartford Courant 02/11/01
  • THE MAKING OF A LEGEND: Edward Albee was proclaimed a genius early in his career, then knocked down until his success in 1991 with "Three Tall Women." Now he can do no wrong. "Why this change of critical heart came about, I'm not quite sure. Perhaps it's because there's a new team of reviewers in place, guys who do not have a vested interest in demanding that Albee repeat the much-admired 'Virginia Woolf' ad nauseam." New York Post 02/11/01

Friday February 9

  • THEATRE IN SOUTH AFRICA: "The South African government has drastically reduced arts spending. Government subsidy for European cultural expressions no longer exists. Whatever the reasons for this, whether to help promote an indigenous African culture or to punish those who voted against the ANC, in Cape Town the policy has already resulted in the loss of the city's opera company, ballet company, and symphony orchestra. The theater still survives after a fashion, partly because it can still draw on private funding." The New Republic 02/12/01

Thursday February 8

  • HARE ON TOP: David Hare is one of Britainís most prolific and political playwrights, and his plays are being produced in record numbers by regional theaters on both sides of Atlantic. Somehow he manages to tackle big subjects, yet retain a devoted audience of audience and critics alike. "Hare proves that you don't have to be banal to be box office." The Telegraph (London) 2/08/01
  • THE ALBEE CYCLE: Edward ALbee has been writing plays so long he's had time to go out of fashion and then come back in. On the crest of his back-in-fashionness, what to make of his latest play? Don't be fooled - it's not in the same league as the earlier masterpieces. New York Observer 02/07/01

Wednesday February 7

  • SOMETHING IN THE WATER? What is it that makes Irish plays so different from English ones? And how is it that such a small country has produced so very many world-class playwrights? "It's extraordinary. There are fewer than 4m people in the Republic of Ireland. But in the past century we've produced Synge, O'Casey, Shaw, Wilde, Joyce, Beckett, Friel, Tom Murphy, Billy Roche, Sebastian Barry, to name a few. Their plays have shaped the way people think and are performed all over the world. Why the disproportion?" The Guardian (London) 2/07/01
  • HEIR APPARENT: Director Michael Grandage (currently associate director at the Donmar Warehouse) is seen as a likely successor to Trevor Nunn, if and when Nunn vacates his seat at Londonís Royal National Theatre. "I believe in doing what you want. If I'm not passionate about a play, why should anyone else be?" The Guardian (London) 2/07/01

Sunday February 4

  • RETHINKING THE SECOND STAGE: It used to be that every theatre wanted a second stage, a black box. "Today, in a changing artistic and economic climate, companies of all sizes are rethinking the old equations. Many larger companies are moving away from the mainstage/second stage dichotomy. It's an important issue for audiences, since the kind of theater they see - or don't see - depends to a large extent on the size and nature of the available architecture." San Francisco Chronicle 02/04/01
  • LIFE AND DEATH THEATRE: "Theatre has shot itself in the foot by giving in to this cult of success, status and glamour. Theatre has been taken down this glitzy route that has destroyed its validity and truth. Will there be any theatre in 10 or 20 years' time? Every other art and entertainment medium is engaged in a life-and-death struggle with new technology and the multiplying distractions of contemporary life. Theatre, meanwhile, is examining its collective navel." Sunday Times (London) 02/04/01
  • GIVING IN? London's Globe Theatre is going to cut and trim its Shakespeare for children next summer. The director "feels teachers fail to prepare school parties and schools make Shakespeare boring. Disruptive children had forced him to limit the number of schools attending performances. Instead, the Globe will mount abridged productions of Macbeth, devised solely for schools, with a narrator to help children to follow the plot." The Independent (London) 02/03/01
  • THEATRE IN THE FUTURE TENSE: In South Africa it's hard not to make theatre that reacts to the country's recent political past. But "a new generation of writers and performers each in their own way are approaching being South African in a way that is enriched by new-found freedoms. They are exploring new ways of being and discarding a theatrical approach that relies exclusively on reacting to the past or on seeing the present purely in terms of being a victim of the past." The Independent (South Africa) 02/03/01
  • MODEL ENTREPRENEUR: 88-year-old Donald Seawell worked as a counter-intelligence agent, wrote speaches fpr Roosevelt and Truman, produced Broadway plays and published the Denver Post. Last season he took considerable risks to produce a 12-hour production of "Tantalus" that drew theatre lovers from all over the world. Now he's helped bring the production to London... The Guardian (London) 02/03/01
  • LA'S A TOUGH SELL: "Los Angeles' relationship to classical theater--the Western canon generally thought to include everything from Greek tragedy to vintage Americana, with emphasis on such giants as Shakespeare, Ibsen, Shaw and Chekhov - has always been different from that of other major cities." In short, it's a tough sell. Los Angeles Times 02/04/01

Friday February 2

  • THE REMARKABLE SHUBERTS: With $188 million in assets and its fingers all over Broadway, New York's Shubert Foundation is a force to be reckoned with. One of the foundation's crowning achievements was the deal it worked out with the Internal Revenue Service to be able to run its commercial theatre empire and still remain a non-profit. The Idler 02/02/0