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THEATRE - March 2001

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Friday March 30

BROADWAY'S RECORD YEAR: Broadway is having a record season, and could take in $700 million by the time the season closes. "That's an impressive milestone when you consider that the take for the 1998-99 season was a measly $588 million, then a record. As of Sunday, the League of American Theaters and Producers was reporting the current season's total to be $533.6 million, up 14.4 percent from the running total a year ago. Attendance is also up, with an additional 640,000 theatergoers compared with the same period in 1999-2000." New York Times (AP) 3/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE SHAPE OF THEATERS TO COME: Is the redesign of Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre a model for the future of theatre in Britain? The proscenium has been raised and extended into the auditorium, to abolish the distance between the audience and the performers - and thereby make theater more accessible and immediate. "It is the most dramatic symptom so far of a growing recognition that Britain's traditional theatres may no longer meet the demands of today's drama or attract new, young audiences." The Telegraph (London) 3/30/01

Wednesday March 28

CLASSIC SELL-OUT: The fastest-selling show in the history of London's West End? Not Les Miz or Phantom - it's Cameron Mackintosh's new production of "My Fair Lady" which has sold £4.7m for its forthcoming run at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Why? "Instead of being dated and being a show about language, it has become a show about making it on your own terms, which is why it has struck such a nerve." The Independent (London) 03/28/01

  • PROFITING FROM THE LADY: The show was first staged at the National Theatre and is being transferred to the West End. Some have been critical that the National's Trevor Nunn will profit from the commercial run. The Guardian (London) 03/18/01

THE SHAKESPEARE'S NEW HOME?The Royal Shakespeare Company plans a new theatre in Stratford-On-Avon. "With its productions enjoying critical acclaim, and the Arts Council promising £50 million of lottery money for redevelopment in Stratford, it is in bullish mood, and desperate to replace the main theatre, which it considers to be outdated and unsuited to modern audiences." The Independent (London) 03/28/01

Monday March 26

PUT IT WHERE IT'LL DO SOME GOOD: When England's Arts Council announced the coming year's annual subsidies for the arts last week, the numbers were eye-popping, particularly in the theatre department. But there is concern that Britain's best theatres have developed a habit of putting far too large a percentage of their funding into "concepts" and "paradigms," and not nearly enough into what actually goes on on stage. New Statesman (UK) 03/26/01

Sunday March 25

SAVING THE SHUBERT FROM ITSELF: "Backstage dramas in New Haven are more interesting these days than the action on stage. And much of the real-life drama is happening at city hall, where the worlds of the arts, economics and politics are colliding. The future of the Shubert Performing Arts Center is being shaped, not in the administrative corners of the theater but in the office of Henry Fernandez, the city's economic development administrator." Hartford Courant 03/25/01

WHERE'S THE RISK? London's National Theatre director Trevor Nunn is being criticized for staging such a safe commercial hit as "My Fair Lady." The National is subsidized by the government because it is thought not to be commercially viable, but when the play transfers to the commercial West End it promises to earn Nunn and the theatre substantial profits. The Observer (London) 03/25/01

Friday March 23

POP GOES THE MUSICAL: The West End is losing its audience for traditional musicals - so pop stars are stepping in to reinvigorate the format. In the works are new shows by or about Boy George, Freddy Mercury, and the Pet Shop Boys - not exactly a list of current hitmakers. "Stars who no longer trouble the chart compilers may hope that their beloved rock opera will become an excellent pension scheme as a West End hit. But audiences should beware. Rock opera is for the prawn sandwich and chablis brigade who want to ‘keep in touch’ with their music without getting sweaty at a concert. The same people went to see the Three Tenors thinking that was opera." The Times (London) 3/23/01

Wednesday March 21

THE TV MUSICALS: Broadway (and the movies) aren't making old time musical theatre these days. So TV is stepping in with revivals set to play in prime time. "The fact that studios have abandoned this genre — and Broadway is offering extravaganzas, for the most part, rather than traditional musicals — means there's an opening for us." The New York Times 03/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday March 20

THE PLAYWRIGHT AS PUBLIC MAN: Harold Pinter is almost as well known for political activity as for writing plays. "You can't make those determinations - about truth and lies - in what we loosely call a work of art.... Whereas, in the actual, practical, concrete world in which we live, it's very easy, from my point of view, to see a distinction between what is true and what is false. Most of what we're told is false." The Progressive 03/01

Monday March 19

WHY WE DON'T LIKE THEATRE: A new survey of patrons of London theatre reveals widespread unhappiness. Among the complaints: paying for programmes, which are about £3. Also, paying premium prices for a show with a big star, only to find that the star is replaced by an understudy for that performance. The Independent (London) 03/19/01

THE BLAME FOR THEATRE: There has been a lot of criticism of Australian theatre. But is it the theatre to blame? "The saddest judgment I can make is that our audiences don't care a lot about theatre. The reasons are complex, but boil down to the fact that theatre, as culturally constructed in this country, is only an entertainment." Sydney Morning Herald 03/19/01

Sunday March 18

TV TURNS TO THE STAGE: The next few weeks will see an astonishing number of stage plays make their debut on the small screen. And while the struggling world of theatre is certainly in need of the boost TV can provide, there is always the risk that the dumbed-down, sound-bitten world of the tube can suck the life out of a great stage piece. San Jose Mercury News 03/18/01

Monday March 13

BERKLEY'S SECOND STAGE: A new $20 million 600-seat second-stage theatre for Berkley Repertory Theatre is anchoring the renewal of a whole neighborhood. The New York Times 03/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

IT'S A BLUE WORLD: Blue Man Group has risen over the years from an off-Broadway curiosity to a full-blown industry, complete with multiple franchises around the country. In fact, they have become the official inspiration for offbeat and unusual performance artists who dream of making it in the too-often homogenous world of American theatre. Their success is one possible answer to the eternal "alternative art" question: "How do you achieve global commercial domination and not lose your soul?" Chicago Tribune 03/13/01

Sunday March 11

DEFENDING THEATRE: After a week when English theatre has been bashed, battered and bemoaned, a critic, two theatre directors and an agent take up the defense. "In an age of increasing mechanical reproduction, theatre is holding its own, and that's terrific." The Telegraph(London) 03/10/01

HUMANA'S NEW TURN: Louisville's Humana Festival has been America's foremost showcase for new plays. But in the past year the festival's longtime leadership has left, and now questions about what direction Humana will take. New York Times 03/11/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday March 9

OUT FROM THE SHADOWS: The film "Shakespeare in Love" was most people’s first exposure to Christopher Marlowe, whose plays ("Doctor Faustus," "Edward II,""Tamburlaine") have always been overshadowed by his more famous contemporary, Shakespeare. But now the world’s waking up to his talents and recent months have seen more productions of Marlowe’s plays than ever before. "Written 400 years ago by a master playwright, ["Edward II"]’s as subversive and contemporary as anything being written now." The Times (London) 3/09/01

Thursday March 8

"SAVING" ENGLISH THEATRE: The British Arts Council announces massive new funding for theatre. "There will be increases in funding for 270 theatres and companies. More than 170 of these will receive whopping rises of more than 25%. There is an extra £12 million going into regional theatre in England in 2002 and some £25 million more the following year. The intention is to "save" theatre. If it is a shot in the arm, the arts council also intends it as a kick up the backside. Results are expected and in some moribund organisations heads will roll." The Herald (Glasgow) 03/08/01

WILL PLAY FOR MONEY: London's Royal Shakespeare Company was looking for funding to mount the Henry VI cycle. No money was forthcoming at home, so when the University of Michigan made an offer it was accepted. In return for money, the RSC has pledged to go to Michigan three times in the next five years for residencies. "The deal follows partnerships with producers in Japan who bankrolled the acclaimed version of Macbeth starring Sir Antony Sher in return for the show going to Tokyo last year." The Independent (London) 03/08/01

Wednesday March 7

MARLOWE WAS SHAKESPEARE? Christopher Marlowe is hot right now in England and his work is playing again. Not much is known about him, other than he was a writer and a spy. "The problem with any campaign to raise Marlowe's profile is the so-called Marlovians. Not only do they believe the playwright was as great as Shakespeare; they insist he was Shakespeare, writing under a pseudonym after faking his death in 1593." The Guardian (London) 03/07/01

Monday March 5

  • SECOND HAND (RATE) THEATRE: There is a rash of new plays in Canada being adapted from novels. "It's the essential pointlessness of most of these endeavours that confounds - particularly when there is so much good and original Canadian drama out there, drama that is crying out to be produced." National Post (Canada) 03/05/01
  • RIGHT DIRECTOR, RIGHT PLACE: She had the good fortune to direct the hit ABBA musical. Now Phyllida Lloyd is rich and can afford to direct all those plays she always wanted to do (like the new Mamet) without worrying where the next Peugeot is coming from. The Times (London) 03/05/01

Sunday March 4

  • THEATRE NEEDS TO CHANGE: A London conference on the state of theatre heard a lot of bad news last week. The consensus: theatre is an artform in trouble. "Theatre thinks 'we're very worthy, we earn about no money, so sit on bad seats because we're poverty-stricken and we will tip you out into the cold night without a drink at the end.' The cinema learnt its lessons. Theatre hasn't adjusted itself to the lifestyles of the people it wants to come in." The Independent (London) 03/03/01
  • STATE OF THE ART(OF WRITING ABOUT IT): America's theatre critics gather in New York to talk about the state of their art: Too many critics write snap judgments, critics shouldn't be writing plays or acting in communities in which they write, and the jury's still out on theatre coverage on the internet. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/04/01

Friday March 2

  • ONE WAY TO CUT LOSSES: Sending immediate shockwaves through Britain’s theatre world, acclaimed director Richard Eyre told a conference investigating why UK theatre audiences were falling that the nation’ subsidized theatres (including the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre) should be disbanded, rather than continue churning out stale work. "We have to acknowledge that theatre companies have a finite life span and that few manage to sustain artistic ardour beyond seven years." The Telegraph (London) 3/02/01

Thursday March 1

  • PUTTING PEOPLE OFF: Theater-ticket sales are declining in London’s West End, amid cries of an impending "crisis point" due to traffic congestion, poor public transportation, and escalating street crime. BBC 2/28/01
  • GIVING IT YOUR ALL: Why are so many actors rushing to take their clothes off onstage? And what, if anything, does nudity contribute to an otherwise traditional production? "Playwrights will talk about the need for ‘realism’, actors will talk about performing naked so long as it's ‘not gratuitous’, directors will argue that nudity is valid. But so contrived, so commonplace, has nudity become that it no longer surprises, confronts, informs, challenges. It distracts. It embarrasses." Sydney Morning Herald 3/01/01
  • BOSTON THEATER BOOM: Boston was long seen as a one-theater town, with American Repertory Theater’s shows the only ones worth seeing. But now the reinvigorated Huntington Theater is making a splash of its own. A new artistic director, city funds to build two new South End theaters, and the audiences are pouring in… New York Times 3/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • HOW DID LORENZ HART DIE?: The show-biz legend is that the famous lyricist arrived drunk at a Broadway opening, was thrown out of the theater, collapsed in a snowbank, was taken to a hospital, and died of pneumonia. But his nephew Larry Hart says it just ain't so. There was no snow in the city that night; Hart went home to relatives; he was taken to the hospital from his own apartment. New York Post 02/28/01
  • A MID-SUMMER NIGHT'S PIPE DREAM?: Traces of cannabis have been found in pipes which Shakespeare may have used. The pipes were dug up from the garden of his home in Stratford-upon-Avon; South African scientists speculate that the Bard used the drug as a source of inspiration. "But the conclusions of the scientists have been dismissed by Shakespeare experts who feel suggestions he used drugs as an aid to writing undermine the bard's accepted genius." BBC 03/01/01