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THEATRE - February 2002

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Wednesday February 27

DOES SCOTTISH TRAVEL? "Scottish theatre just doesn't get the audiences or the accolades in London that it deserves. A few years back Stephen Daldry predicted that Scottish theatre was going to be next year's Irish, like brown is supposed to be the new black. But it has never happened. The English have a resistance to Scottish writing that they don't have to Irish writing. They feel the latter is superior and value its lyricism and poetry. But Scottish theatre has grown out of a much more working-class tradition." The Guardian (UK) 02/27/02

Tuesday February 26

CLOSED FOR SICKNESS: Producers of the new Edward Albee play Occupant, about sculptor Louise Nevelson, have closed the show for a few weeks until Anne Bancroft, the show's star, recovers from pneumonia. "Bancroft is expected to return to the production March 19 and appear in the show for the last three weeks of the run." Backstage 02/25/02

Monday February 25

TRY-OUT BLACKOUT: Time was when theatre productions regularly came to Connecticut for try-outs before moving to Broadway. The Connecticut stop happens much less frequently these days, but when they do come, some producers try to discourage critics from reviewing their efforts. Do they have something to hide? Hartford Courant 02/24/02 

NEW THEATRE IN TOWN: Four years ago two men came to Greensboro, North Carolina  with dreams of starting a new theatre. They quickly raised $5 million, bought the old Montgomery Ward department store building and transformed it into a handsome new home. "In a large metropolitan area, it would not be unusual for an arts group to raise $5 million (or a lot more) in a few years." But in medium-size Greensboro, the feat has tuned heads. Winston-Salem Journal 02/24/03 

Sunday February 24

WELL, THERE'S ONLY SO MANY WAYS BOY CAN GET GIRL: "A funny thing happened to the modern musical on its way to the theater: it became serious — boy usually doesn't get girl anymore — and the endings are not always neat and tidy. Has musical theater changed in any lasting way? Must an audience always leave a show humming?" The New York Times 02/24/02

SIX DECADES OF MIDWESTERN MELODRAMA: What is it about Oklahoma!, anyway? How did a Broadway production which made heroes out of the type of Midwestern stock characters Easterners usually only want to see as hicks and comic foils become the Great American Musical? Some say it's the unusually dark (for 1943) storyline, some credit the songs which stick in your mind and your soul. Whatever it is, Oklahoma! is nearly six decades old, and still as relevant and popular as ever. The New York Times 02/24/02

Thursday February 21

GLOBAL CONTRACTS FOR PERFORMERS? As the entertainment industry becomes more globally centralized and mega-corporations control film TV and stage, performers are looking for ways to protect themselves. Performers' unions are trying to put together a global contract. "Our experience has been that a diversity of voices and viewpoints in the marketplace is something that cannot exist in a massively consolidated industry; that ultimately the voices that emanate from those different consolidated TV and radio stations are coming from a single source which dictates that those voices are going to be singing the same tune." Backstage 02/20/02

Wednesday February 20

ONE ORDER OF ABSOLUTISM, HOLD THE SELF-DOUBT: North American audiences have a hard time with gray areas in our theatre. By our peculiar set of dramatic values, good guys should be good, bad guys bad, and never the twain shall meet. All of which pretty well shuts us out of the fascinating world of Expressionism, so popular in Europe 100 years ago. "For this kind of theatre to work the audience has to know that everybody, including themselves, is potentially evil. They understand when the hero, in a weak moment, jumps a whore or takes a bribe. To use the word so detested by North America's right wing, such an audience is 'relativist.'" The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/20/02

Tuesday February 19

THE V PLAY STRIKES CONTROVERSY AGAIN: "Advertisements for internationally renowned play The Vagina Monologues, which opened in Auckland New Zealand this week, feature a pair of female lips positioned vertically in a suggestive link to the play's title." Publications are refusing to carry the ads. The Age (Melbourne) 02/19/02 

Sunday February 17

DOES MINNESOTA NEED MORE COLD? "Call it cold, contextual or daring. Everyone seems to have an opinion about French architect Jean Nouvel's industrial-strength design for Minneapolis's new Guthrie Theater on the Mississippi River." The current Guthrie, which claims to be America's original regional theatre, is a warm, intimate building situated in one of the city's most beautiful neighborhoods, whereas the new design shows a mass of steel and glass rising from the middle of a slowly reemerging "mill ruins" district. Minneapolis Star Tribune 02/17/02

WHO'S AFRAID OF GETTING OLD? It's been 40 years since Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Edward Albee is officially a septuagenarian, a period of life when many playwrights are content to fade into the background. Not Albee - two new plays will have their New York openings in the next month, and the general consensus is that the writer is having his most prolific and successful period at a time of life when so many others have little left to say. The New York Times 02/17/02

Friday February 15

TONY THINKING: There don't look to be any new shows with the blockbuster potential of The Producers waiting to open on Broadway this spring. But "this year's Tony races may well be the most competitive in years, with intense jockeying for nominations and some close races for prizes." The New York Times 02/15/02

Thursday February 14

ROUNDABOUT TO BUY PARTY PALACE: New York's Roundabout Theatre - one of the city's most successful repertory theatres, has decided to buy the old Studio 54. "The Roundabout plans to buy the legendary 1970s disco for $25 million to stage musicals. It will use $9 million expected from the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and up to $32 million raised from triple tax-exempt bonds. With more than 46,000 subscribers and more than 700,000 audience members last year, the Roundabout has been on a roll since emerging from eight years of bankruptcy in 1985." Newsday 02/13/02

Tuesday February 12

A TOUGH ROOM: The first-ever Korean theatre production to travel to London's West End met with mostly dismal reviews last week. The Korea Times isn't thrilled by the reviews: "Despite the producers’ translating the lyrics to aid English-speaking audiences, most of reviews said that the production was 'incomprehensible' (The Times 02/06, Guardian 02/05) or 'unintelligible' (Daily Telegraph 02/06) with London’s Evening Standard saying the lyrics 'sink beneath criticism's reach'.’’ Particularly cutting, notes the Korea Times was the Telegraph reviewer's making "a derogatory reference to dog-eating Koreans." Korea Times 02/12/02

KENNEDY CENTER RECORD: The Kennedy Center's upcoming festival devoted to the work of Stephen Sondheim set a record for one-day ticket sales at the center yesterday. "The day's take for the center's upcoming Sondheim Celebration topped out at $639,000. That snapped the center's previous one-day, single-ticket record of $526,000, set by Beauty and the Beast in 1996. The total take for the series, including group sales and subscriptions, reached $2 million." Washington Post 02/12/02

Monday February 11

SAG ELECTION INVESTIGATION: The U.S. Department of Labor has launched an official investigation into the Screen Actors Guild's botched elections. "At the center of the drama is Valerie Harper, who narrowly lost her bid for the office of president to Melissa Gilbert during the fall elections. At the last minute, voting rules were changed arbitrarily, and a decision to rerun the election was challenged by Gilbert's camp. 02/08/02

ALL ABOUT EVE: "For 25 years, Eve Ensler was a fairly obscure downtown playwright, ambitious but thwarted, anguished by bad reviews and tortured by injustices personal and global. Most of that changed three years ago, with the breakaway success of The Vagina Monologues, a series of bawdy, straight-talking narratives about women's sexual triumphs and traumas. Since then, the play has been produced on every continent and in countless communities; it is as pervasive as Our Town, as political as 'Take Back the Night.'' New York Times Magazine 02/10/02

Sunday February 10

THE MAKING OF SECOND CITY: Chicago is a great theatre town. But it didn't get that way all at once. The Chicago Tribune's longtime theatre critic Richard Christiansen traces what made Chicago theatre great. Chicago Tribune 02/10/02

SCIENCE ON STAGE: "Science is sexy, and not just in the media-friendly, zeitgeist-riding sense of the word. Now Broadway and Hollywood are getting in on the act." But can a drama do a good job at conveying complex scientific ideas? The Telegraph (UK) 02/10/02

Friday February 8

GUTHRIE'S NEW LOOK: Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater unveiled plans for its new home on the Mississippi River this week. The complex, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, will feature three separate theaters, the largest of which will incorporate the old Guthrie's famous "thrust stage" design, and will be located along a newly revitilized riverfront district in downtown Minneapolis. Minneapolis Star Tribune 02/08/02

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: "A new sketch by Harold Pinter is due to get its world première at the Royal National Theatre in London on Friday. The playwright, who is receiving treatment for cancer, will be acting in the sketch, called The Press Conference. The piece is one of five the National is staging in the first of two evenings devoted to Pinter's sketches." BBC 02/08/02

RETURN OF THEATRE ROW: "[New York's] 42nd Street Development Corporation has announced the re-opening of Theatre Row, a grouping of five performance venues that began as 19th-century tenements, survived the blight of burlesque, and ultimately found itself transformed into an early marker for a gussied-up Times Square. With a planned opening date of April 1, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway denizens who formerly knew Theatre Row as 'heavy on the atmosphere, light on the amenities' will hardly recognize the gleaming, five-story facility currently wrapping up construction." Backstage 02/07/02

Thursday February 7

LONDON STAGE, LOOKING BACK: London may be the one place in the English-speaking world "where one can still binge on plays without indigestion." One reason may be that, in the words of director/playwright Harold Pinter, "In England, looking back is a conditioned reflex that no one overcomes." So it is that British theater right now is bristling with first-rate productions of works from all over the twentieth century. The New York Times 02/07/02

QUESTIONING COPENHAGEN: Playwright Michael Frayn's popular Tony-award-winning play Copenhagen, about a meeting between physiicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg may have to be revised. A Danish institute has released a series of correspondence between the two that calls into question elements of the play. "The release of this material - mostly drafts of unsent letters that the Danish physicist Neils Bohr wrote to German physicist Werner Heisenberg - was not scheduled to occur until 2012, 50 years after Bohr's death. But the controversy and debate triggered by Frayn's play, which was first produced in 1998, convinced the archive's overseers that now was the moment to present more information." Chicago Sun-Times 02/07/02

Wednesday February 6

KATE'S WEST END WIN: The flashy revival of Kiss Me Kate has won London's West End Critics Circle Theatre Award for best musical. Humble Boy, written by Charlotte Jones, won the best new play award. BBC 02/05/02

NEW BIALYSTOCK AND BLOOM: March 17 will be the last performance of The Producers for Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Both men turned down substantial increases to continue, Lane citing his health and Broderick, film commitments. British actor Henry Goodman will replace Lane; no final decision has been made yet on a replacement for Broderick. The New York Times 02/06/02

Tuesday February 5

BROADWAY IS BACK: Following one of the roughest periods in memory, when tourists stayed away from New York in droves fearing terrorist attack and some shows closed, Broadway is bouncing back. And now 2002 is promising to be a busy year. True, there are not as many splashy new musicals as in some recent years, and plays and one-person shows seem to be the most popular additions to the Great White Way, but the most important component - the audience - seems to be returning. Dallas Morning News 02/05/02

REGIONAL THEATRE REVIVAL: While London's West End may still be suffering for ticketbuyers, an unexpected theatre revival is happening elsewhere in England. "In a resurrection of which even Lazarus would have been proud, audiences have begun to return in their thousands to theatres which only two years ago were being written off as embarrassing anachronisms." And those audiences are younger too... The Guardian (UK) 02/04/02

  • UP UP UP: "Regional theatre attendances across the UK have increased by as much as 92% in a revival of the art form across the country." BBC 02/04/02

Monday February 4

BEHIND THE AVANT GARDE (THERE ARE PROBLEMS): The term "avant garde" was big in the 1960s. We still persist in calling anything new or even a bit unusual avant garde. But "through sloppy and overzealous use, the term has become problematic: Its attempts to describe work that challenges theatrical conventions too often end up reinforcing them." The New Republic 01/28/02

PINTER ILL: Playwright Harold Pinter has been diagnosed with cancer. "The 71-year-old was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus last month and is undergoing chemotherapy." The Guardian (UK) 02/01/02

WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN WHAT HAPPENS ON STAGE: "People have always come to the theatre to flirt, to politic, to talk, to traduce, to gossip, to fight, to face out social disgrace or to enjoy it. Whether it's Athens or Jacobean London, or 17th-century Paris, or late 19th-century Moscow, showtime is not just about what the actors do to the audience; it's more about what the audience do to each other. You sometimes get the impression, from the past, that the shows were a rather unnecessary distraction from the main event." New Statesman 02/04/02

Sunday February 3

AWARD THIS: The Olivier Awards are British theatre's top prizes. But there are so many inconsistencies and anomalies in the way the awards are set up and run that one critic wonders if they deserve their prestige. The Telegraph (UK) 02/02/02

THRILLED BY HIS SUCCESS...SORT OF: Playwright Mark Ravenhill's play was such a success at London's National Theatre that it's moving to the West End. He's thrilled - sort of. "Only in Britain can a play - and a playwright - slip easily from the subsidised theatre into the commercial sector. Only in Britain can a writer move freely from Artist to Entertainer and back again - or indeed dispense with any concerns about what is Art and what is Entertainment and just write. But is this a good thing?" The Guardian (UK) 02/02/02

SONDHEIM SUIT SETTLED: The backer who financed Stephen Sondheim's Gold and then sued for rights to the production has dropped his lawsuit. "In exchange, if the show is produced commercially, he will be reimbursed the approximately $160,000 he had invested in its development." The New York Times 02/02/02