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Sunday April 29

A NEW ERA FOR BROADWAY? Does the success of The Producers signal the beginning of a new era on Broadway? "The Producers isn't just a hit; it's a fully-fledged event in a city that thrives on such things, and its cultural repercussions look sure to be felt in English-speaking theatre the world over, although given its subject matter, the show seems an unlikely export to Germany." The Observer (UK) 04/29/01

REINVENTING THE NATIONAL: As Trevor Nunn leaves as director of Britain's National Theatre, a reevaluation is in order. "The National should do what it uniquely can do, what it was brought into existence to do - create a living, evolving organisation offering the whole range of world theatre, subject to perpetual reinvention and rediscovery." The Observer (UK) 04/29/01

Friday April 27

RETURN TO DRAMA: Musicals are still the hot fare on Broadway, but serious drama is back. "Six dramas and one comedy-drama - nearly double the number in recent seasons - are currently on Broadway stages. And make that eight dramas, if you count Neil Simon's The Dinner Party, which is advertised as a comedy but is more serious than a typical Simon play." Christian Science Monitor 04/27/01

Wednesday April 25

PRODUCING AN INVESTMENT: Theatre is a risky investment. But Mel Brooks' The Producers had such potential it easily attracted financial backing. Now those backers stand to make a big return on their investments. The New York Times (AP) 04/25/01 (one-time registration required)

A VIEW OF THE NEW: It's generally considered a good era for new British theatre. English theatres are hot for new material. "According to Arts Council statistics, new writing made up 20 per cent of staged work in subsidised theatres from 1994-96, more than the classics." The Times (UK) 04/25/01

Monday April 23

FOR BETTER AND WORSE, AN ORIGINAL: No matter who's in The Producers right now, for many people there could be only one Max Bialystock. Only one Tevye. Only one Pseudolus. In fact, only one rhinoceros. That's Zero Mostel. Mostel, who died in 1977, "was among those originals - like Grock, Chaplin and perhaps Marceau - who are not just more than the sum of their parts, but are also more than the sum of their roles." New York Post 04/22/01

Sunday April 22

A GOOD REVIEW CAN HELP: The Producers, which opened this week on Broadway to rave reviews, broke Broadway box office records Friday, selling $3 million worth of tickets on a single day. (Lion King previously held the record for $2.7 million in single-day sales). The New York Times 04/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ME AGAINST THE WORLD: How can one play change so much? A playwright marvels at how interpretations of his play change when it is transferred from one country to another. "Cultural assumptions were batted back and forth, cultural specificity went clean out the window, and time and again I was forced to ask not what could my writing do for the rest of the world, but what could the rest of the world do for it?" The Guardian (UK) 04/21/01

Friday April 20

PRODUCING A RAVE: "Everybody who sees The Producers and that should be as close to everybody as the St. James Theater allows is going to be hard-pressed to choose one favorite bit from the sublimely ridiculous spectacle that opened last night." The New York Times 04/20/01 (one-time registration required)

  • PRODUCERS CASHES IN: The Producers, which opened Thursday night on Broadway, has a $15 million advance sale. So the show's producers have bumped the price of a ticket to $100 a seat to cash in. The New York Times 04/20/01 (one-time registration required)

STOP TALKIN' TO YERSELF, PADDY, AN' DO SOMETHIN': It's hard to imagine modern Irish drama without monologues. Those revelatory asides to the audience, however, may be exactly what's wrong with the genre. "The monologue always traps the characters in the field of memory; they never do anything in the present... there is the impression that these characters have lived, that they live no more and are trapped in torment." Irish Times 04/19/01

SHAKESPEARE'S BORING AND GORDIMER'S A RACIST: Teachers in South Africa's major province want to ban Hamlet, Lear, and Othello, among others, because "they have unhappy endings, lack cultural diversity and fail to promote the South African constitution's rejection of racism and sexism." In the same province, an education bureaucrat has nixed Nadine Gordimer's 1981 book, July's People, because "...the story comes across as being deeply racist, superior and patronising." Gordimer, a Nobel Laureate who battled apartheid for 40 years, intends to fight what she calls "the judgment of a nobody." The Guardian (London) 04/19/01

Thursday April 19

MUSICAL MISERY: You knew it had to happen eventually - some disgruntled Red Sox fan would acquire the ability to put "The Curse of the Bambino" on stage, and do so, with all the hand-wringing and hopeless pessimism that define baseball's most loyal fan base. Well, it's happened, but the author is (gasp) from New York. Boston Herald 04/19/01

GETTING TO KNOW A LEGEND: One of the most successful playwrights, songwriters, and directors in American theatre history, Abe Burrows, is getting a fresh look from theatre aficionados. Burrows's personal papers, notes, and correspondence have been donated to the New York Public Library by his son, TV producer James Burrows. The New York Times 04/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Wednesday April 18

CHANGE OF COURSE? London's National Theatre has begun its search for a new director to succeed the controversial Trevor Nunn. The theatre board is clearly open to a new direction for the theatre. The Independent (London) 04/18/01

Tuesday April 17

THE RSC IN MICHIGAN: London's Royal Shakespeare Company made a deal to do a residency in Ann Arbor Michigan and the University of Michigan. Michigan got RSC performances and workshops for two weeks while the RSC got $2 million - money it used to produce projects near to its heart. The Times (London) 04/17/01

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater was America's first major professional theatre company not based in New York, and it has thrived ever since. But the Guthrie's mission includes public service, and a series of recent grants have allowed the company to take their top-quality product to the people of the Upper Midwest's small towns. Minneapolis Star Tribune 04/17/0

SCALING DOWN THE MUSICAL: Anyone with three friends and a good-sized loft can put on a play, and small theatre companies around the country take regular advantage of this fact, but musicals are another story. Musicals are often simply too elaborate to stage on a small scale, and they require decent singing voices as well as acting skills, so many companies don't bother. But one Chicago troupe is making the case for the small-scale musical. Chicago Tribune 04/17/01

Sunday April 15

DON'T FORGET TO ASK FIRST: Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse made some additions to its production of Side by Side by Sondheim but didn't ask permission from owners of the show's rights. So the show has been shut down in mid-run. "This was cheeky, arrogant chutzpah and a violation of copyright law. This is about morality and ethics.'' Miami Herald 04/15/01

FIGHTING HISTORY: "All actors who tackle classic roles, and some not so classic, have for generations been aware of predecessors who have shone in those roles. But once upon a time, such comparisons were relevant only as long as the public's memory lasted. Now, video has changed all that." New York Post 04/15/01

Friday April 13

WHAT MAKES A DIRECTOR: It's all about the casting. "Directing is 90 per cent casting," says Woody Allen. "Its impact on the audience can't be overestimated. A cast can be the only reason to see something. The people who write the cheques think so." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 04/13/01

Thursday April 12

SHAKESPEARE SWALLOWED WHOLE : The Royal Shakespeare Company began "This England - The Histories" on Monday, an omnibus one-week/22-hour staging of Shakespeare's two tetralogies: eight long plays spanning one turbulent century, from the 1380s to the 1480s. "This whole-enchilada approach to Shakespeare's history plays is not new. But the artistic logic behind the "This England" venture is dubious." The Guardian (London) 4/12/01

IT'S BRILLIANT! WHAT'D THEY SAY? Tom Stoppard's latest play, "The Invention of Love," has been playing to rave reviews in New York, and audiences seem to love it as well. So what's the play about? No one has the faintest idea. "The play comes with homework: seven stories and a two-page time line in the Playbill, which are required reading if you don't have time to pick up a Ph.D. in classical literature." New York Post 04/12/01

WHAT'S NEW AT HUMANA: America's best showcase for new plays has concluded in Louisville. This year the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary "with a marathon of six world premieres of full-length works, along with shorter stuff that included seven Phone Plays you listened to by picking up what looked like pay phones in the lobby." Boston Phoenix 04/12/01

Wednesday April 11

SO MUCH FOR THE MONEY: British theatre fans were delighted a few weeks ago when the government announced it would spend an additional 25 million to support theatre. But now the celebrations have died down, and not everyone is celebrating... The Guardian (London) 04/11/01

TRANS-ATLANTIC ENGLISH: British actors often play American characters convincingly. But American actors playing Brits? Not so often. One reason is that "native speakers of the Queen's English use a greater range of sounds and do more work with their speaking muscles than North Americans. The British actor simply has to 'drop things' to sound American, while the North American actor has to add them on, forcing their mouths into unfamiliar shapes." The Globe and Mail (Canada) 04/11/01

Tuesday April 10

HUMANIZING THE THEATRE: Louisville's six-week Humana Festival of New American Plays is 25 years old this year, and the city could not be more proud of its success. The secret appears to be the way the festival makes the playwright the star, and avoids the kind of infighting and sink-or-swim pressure of the New York theatre scene. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04/10/01

Monday April 9

'PRODUCERS' PRODUCING: The word of mouth has been good, and Mel Brooks' "The Producers" looks like it will be a hit on Broadway, with $13 million in advance tickets already sold. "I am back doing what I was born to do. And I love it." BBC 04/09/01

Sunday April 8

FIRE TRAPS: After fire inspections, one in every three of London's West End theaters has been told to improve safety equipment or face closure. "About 15 theatres have been told they must install fire alarms and improve their safety measures within the next six months, because they may be a danger to people working backstage." The Independent (London) 04/07/01

SELL OUT? Given its recent commercial dealings Is London's National Theatre, "conceived as a world library of drama and a radical alternative to the commercial theatre, gradually becoming a classier version of the West End? Has it lost sight of its original visionary idealism?" The Guardian (London) 04/07/01

HUMANA REPORT: This year's Humana Festival is concluding. "As usual, the festival consisted of six full-length plays and a stew of well- meaning gimmickry: five telephone plays, an hourlong sequence of minutes-long playlets by 16 writers; and an amusing serial play by Arthur Kopit, an apocalyptic cartoon delivered in three 10-minute segments." The New York Times 04/07/01 (one-time registration required)

Wednesday April 4

MARKET RESEARCH: Chicago's ETA Creative Arts Foundation has been quietly staging rough readings of plays and theatre pieces since 1975. "Trying out new material with controlled audiences is a test-marketing gambit familiar to filmmakers and stand-up comics, and though many theaters do it as well, few have been doing it as long, as regularly or as elaborately as ETA." Chicago Tribune 04/04/01

Tuesday April 3

GUTHRIE SELECTS ARCHITECT: French architect Jean Nouvel has been chosen to design Minneapolis' new $100-million Guthrie Theatre complex. Nouvel is "internationally renowned for his glassy, modern buildings. His works include the Arab World Institute in Paris, the Lyon Opera House in Lyon, France, and a concert hall and cultural center in Lucerne, Switzerland." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 04/03/01

  • THEATRE CENTRAL: Minneapolis is a hotbed of theatre, with two nationally prominent theatres and a rich climate of theatre productions. Now the Guthrie Theatre is planning a 3-theatre $100-million expansion. The New York Times 04/03/01 (one-time registration required)

Monday April 2

GREG BRADY, SCAB? Actos Equity union and producers of a non-union roadshow of "The Sound of Music" are locking in a dispute over pay and working conditions. Barry Williams, of Brady Bunch fame, is starring in the show, caught, it would seem, in the middle. Washington Post 04/02/01

Sunday April 1

GARTH RETURNS: Producer Garth Drabinsky is up and working again with an array of new projects. The Toronto showman, who had built the "largest live theatre production company in North America", saw his empire crash around him in 1998. Now he's well on the comeback trail. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 03/31/01

RSC, INC: The Royal Shakespeare Company is going global, casting American stars, licensing productions, making publishing deals, securing corporate deals and hiring Salman Rushdie's literary agent )known as the Jackal. RSC director Adrian Noble has "taken time out of the rehearsal room, travelling the world to turn the company into a global money-earner." The Independent (London) 03/31/01