SHAKESPEARE BACKS OFF CONTROVERSIAL NOBLE PLAN: A week after
director Adrian Noble announced he was leaving the Royal Shakespeare
Company, the RSC says it may not demolish its theatre in Stratford
after all. The controversial £100 million plan was pushed
for by Noble and came in for heavy criticism. BBC
THEATRE CHURNING: Is the London theatre world in turmoil?
"Noble's announcement comes at a time when Britain's noncommercial
theater sector is in a volatile state, with artistic directors
coming and going with dizzying speed. At the National Theatre,
Trevor Nunn will be succeeded by Nicolas Hytner next March.
At the Donmar, Sam Mendes will give way to Michael Grandage
in November. And Michael Attenborough is succeeding Nicholas
Kent and Ian McDiarmid at the Almeida."
Los Angeles Times 04/30/02
ABOUT NOBLE SUCCESSOR: How about Micahel Boyd? "As
an associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company since
1996, he has been responsible for a remarkable series of hard-edged,
hard-hitting and sparkily energetic productions." But mention
of his name to RSC insiders elicits a raised eyebrow.
The Telegraph (UK) 04/30/02
CRUSADE: London's National Theatre has been on a mission to
attract younger audiences. Under director Trevor Nunn's constant
drumbeat on the issue, "the proportion of NT patrons aged
25 or under has risen from a woeful 6 per cent in 1998 to about
13 per cent today." Now the launch of an ambitious (and expensive)
initiative to further address the issue. A "five-month season
opening this week will see 13 world premieres staged in the all-new
Loft theatre and a modified Lyttelton, twinned spaces created
at a cost of £1.2 million." The
Times (UK) 04/30/02
SPEAKING: "The rise and fall of political theater - and
politics in all the arts - can be seen as a cycle that peaks during
times of social unrest." Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul is
a political play made hot by the headlines of the day. "Will
we now see a rebirth of plays that speak to the state of the world
and not just the problems of the individual? Or are plays such
as Homebody/Kabul' anomalies for audiences that still would
rather be entertained than informed?"
San Jose Mercury News 04/28/02
THE FALL: Adrian Noble's departure from the Royal Shakespeare
Company was probably the inevitable result of the controversy
of his bold plans for the company, revealed over the past year.
But "whoever takes over from him at the RSC - and if Noble
is convinced that his plans are visionary, how can he not want
to see them through? - will have to deal with the acrimony, mess
and uncertainty left by someone else's plans. It'll be arduous.
It'll also be a terrific opportunity. The RSC must retrench and
reconsider itself. It should think about what's gone wrong: why,
so often over the past few years, its productions have been verbally
indistinct and visually profuse - the opposite of what the RSC
should be offering. And it should think about what went right."
The Observer (UK) 04/28/02
STEPHEN: Stephen Sondheim is "widely acknowledged to
be the greatest living theater lyricist-composer. But that understanding
continues to evolve with revivals of his dense, richly textured
and challenging productions, the majority of which neither succeeded
commercially on Broadway nor, for that matter, received unqualified
critical praise." On the eve of a massive retrospective of
his work in Washington DC, some of the theatre artists most strongly
identified with his work talk about his influence."
Los Angeles Times 04/28/02
FOR OLD TIMES? "There are currently 11 revivals and 24
new shows on Broadway; off-Broadway, there are six revivals and
28 new shows." Is this too many revivals? "Why is there
this hunger for new plays or new musicals, so that revival virtually
becomes a dirty word? Unlike, say, classical music, the theater
is not a fuddy-duddy art devoted fundamentally to fresh interpretation
of a glorious past. And yet our own glorious past is ingloriously
neglected. If you have never seen Hamlet before, then Hamlet
is not a revival but a new experience - in effect, a new play."
New York Post 04/28/02
AS STAR: The recent casting flap over replacing Nathan Lane
in The Producers was a clue to the show's need to keep the show
going without bankable stars. "The goal at The Producers
is to make the show the star. It must have been problematic when
Lane and Broderick were perceived as essential to the big-ticket
experience. After all, The Phantom of the Opera, Les
Miserables and Cats have packed the seats for decades
without audiences caring who was playing what." Newsday
TRENDS: Louisville's Humana
Festival is America's foremost showcase for new plays. It's generally
a bad idea to look for themes among the assembled offerings. On
the other hand... Boston
MISCASTING: The Producers is a Broadway money machine.
So when the show needed to replace Nathan Lane in one of the lead
roles it could have had any actor it chose. Instead - disaster
- a bad choice and a PR blowup. There are plenty of explanations
for why it happened. But the incident shows how much of an impact
the right (or wrong) actor can have on a show.
Chicago Tribune 04/26/02
IN THE YOUNG: "New audiences are the Holy Grail of theatreland
and a lot of people both in London and in the regions expend a
great deal of effort in the quest to find them." That's why
theatre people are looking at London's Garrick Theatre, where
young people are turning out for a new play. "It's only when
you sit in an audience full of people under the age of 26 that
you realise how rare it is." The
Telegraph (UK) 04/24/02
FOR THE UNION LABEL: The controversial national tour of last
year's Broadway revival of The Music Man is rolling into
Southern California, where it will continue to attract protests
over its use of non-union actors and musicians.For the unions,
this is an important battle, since the show is the first national
tour of a Broadway production, a designation that traditionally
comes with a union label. Los Angeles
FRANCA: This year's Montreal and Quebec City international
theatre festivals offer something not often seen on Quebec stages
in recent years - English. "Partly that's just coincidence
and partly it's due to the growing use of English as a lingua
franca in Europe, but there are also signs here of blossoming
relationships between Quebeckers and artists in the rest of Canada."
The Globe & Mail (Canada)
OFF ROUTINE: It takes "about 50 performances" in
a role before an actor can begin to relax in it. "But eventually
the routine of performing every night will start to transfer the
experience of acting from that of an adventure to that of a job.
It may take time but it'll happen. And it's then that a decent
actor starts to repay the money invested in him."
The Guardian (UK) 04/24/02
LEAVING, BUT WHY? Some are suggesting that Adrian Noble is
leaving the Royal Shakespeare Company because he is having success
with a new musical in London's West End. Noble says that's not
true. Others are betting that he simply got sick of all the criticism
that comes with the RSC's top job. Noble says that's not it either.
So why did he resign? Noble's not saying, apparently. BBC
QUITTING RSC: Adrian Noble, who drew the wrath of theatre
fans across the UK with his plan to demolish the Royal Shakespeare
Company's home in Stratford-upon-Avon and replace it with a modern
theatre complex, is resigning from his position as the RSC's artistic
director. Noble was a controversial figure from the moment he
assumed the top position at the world's most famous Shakespeare
company in 1991, but few would deny that he is a skilled director
and shrewd businessman. BBC 04/24/02
LITTLE THEATRE THAT COULD: London's Bush Theatre is turning
30, and it has a track record as one of the best small theatres
in town. "What exactly is the Bush's secret? One simple answer
is its loyalty to writers. The Bush also has a happy knack of
catching writers at a formative stage of their careers. I suspect
that the Bush's sustained creativity over 30 years also has a
lot to do with the cramped, confined space itself: it both induces
audience complicity and releases the imagination of artists."
The Guardian (UK) 04/23/02
SHAKESPEARE'S HOUSE: "Remains of a timber framed house
which Shakespeare may have built, and lived in with other actors
from his company, have been found within a stone's throw of the
site of his Globe theatre, and just round the corner from the
modern replica where the 438th anniversary of his birth will be
commemorated today." The Guardian
NATIONAL THEATRE MAKES A PLAY FOR YOUTH: "You can say
a lot of things about the National Theatre, but you cannot say
it's sexy. In the battle of the theatrical brands, it has lost
out in recent years to younger, hipper, more compact theatres
to which the film stars and younger audiences have thirstily gravitated.
In the twilight of his reign, Trevor Nunn is being seen to do
something about this. For a five-month season which calls itself
Transformations, the National is funking itself up."
The Telegraph (UK) 04/23/02
SENSATION: Suzan-Lori Parks has had a big month, winning a
Pulitzer and having her play open on Broadway. But it wasn't overnight
success. "At 38, Ms. Parks has been at the drama thing for
a long time, ever since, as a Mount Holyoke student, her creative-writing
teacher encouraged her to write plays. She wanted to write novels.
Still, when your teacher is James Baldwin and he tells you you
should be writing plays, well, you find yourself writing plays."
Dallas Morning News 04/23/02
WRITE THE PLAYS: Saddam Hussein, whose novel Zabibah and
the King, was published a year ago to "rave reviews from
the local press," is having the book produced as a play in
Iraq's National Theatre. It is billed as "a tragic tale of
a ruler who falls in love with an unhappily married woman."
Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/23/02
OUT LONG WHARF: New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre is a major
American regional theatre. Doug Hughes, the theatre's director
until he unexpectedly resigned last June in controversy, helped
raise the profile of the theatre and upped its subscriptions and
attendance. But new director Gordon Edelstein, arriving from Seattle's
ACT Theatre, has his job cut out for him...
The New York Times 04/22/02
SO GOOD THEY'RE BAD: There's a thriving market in recordings
of Broadway flop productions. "The train-wreck appeal of
seeing the mighty fall is enormous. Gloating aside, you can also
better appreciate artistic triumphs if you know failures. And
then there are the backstage stories. Flops have particularly
rich ones, and hearing their music in that context can give them
a dramatic new dimension." Philadelphia
ROAD SHOW: It's generally accepted that touring companies
of Broadway shows are a notch or two (or more) below the quality
of what you can see in New York. But producers of The Lion
King are hyping their touring company as better than the New
York version. Could it be so? Denver
- IT SELLS TICKETS: "Nudity in theater can wear many
different masks. It can be revolutionary or regressive, powerful
or pointless. It can be comic, erotic, heroic, subversive, insightful
or just plain god-awful. It may be as old as the art of theater
itself, a vestigial remnant of ancient tribal rituals designed
to sublimate or stoke primitive passions." Or it may be a
shameless attempt to draw a crowd desperate to see Kathleen Turner
in the buff. Los Angeles Times 04/21/02
COLUMNS JUST BEG FOR ANGRY LETTERS: "It has been noted
that the performing arts are the ones most suffering from the
age divide. The audience for conventional theatre is dying and
not being replaced. This does not trouble me much, as most theatre
is simply dumb. It does not mean that art is dying... I do not
know who would be better equipped to appreciate plays: old people,
with their far longer attention span and patience for the static,
or young people, who can actually hear. The ideal audience may
not exist." The Globe & Mail
THE PUPPETMASTER: "The oldest puppet theatre in Britain,
which trained generations of puppeteers who went on to shows like
the Muppets and Spitting Image, will close its doors in two weeks,
and may shut forever at the end of the year." The
Guardian (UK) 04/18/02
PLAYWRIGHT: Alan Ayckbourn is one of England's most popular
playwrights. He's "an odd mix. He plays the relaxed, easy-going
egalitarian but, at the same time, he is clearly keen on his K
(Though people singularly fail to cope with it. The milkman said:
'Congratulations on your knighthood, Mr Ayckbourn') and I reckon
his six honorary degrees and two honorary fellowships are important
to his sense of self-esteem." The
Telegraph (UK) 04/18/02
OF TALENT: London's Bush Theatre is turning 30, and its list
of alumni talent is formidable. "For three decades and more
than 350 productions, this tiny powerhouse of British theatre
(100 seats, all of them uncomfortable) on unsalubrious Shepherd's
Bush Green in west London, has developed so much nascent talent
that, by rights, it should be called the National Theatre."
The Telegraph (UK) 04/18/02
THAT'S DEVOTION: When one thinks of the world's great theatre
centers, one might be forgiven for overlooking Albania. But the
tiny European country's National Theater sells out nearly every
show, despite the poverty of its public and a building so dilapidated
that hardy audience members carry umbrellas to deflect the rainwater
that leaks through the ceiling. The government would love to fix
up the National, but no one knows where the money would come from.
Minneapolis Star Tribune (AP) 04/18/02
BRITISH THEATRES RACIST? A new report suggests it. "Of
2,009 staff jobs in English theatre only 80 were held by black
or Asian workers at the most recent count. Only 16 out of 463
board members were black or Asian. A survey of 19 organisations
in a range of art forms in 1998 found that 6% of staff were black
and Asian, but that more than half of those worked in catering
or front-of-house areas. Ethnic minorities are variously estimated
to form 10 to 15% of the population as a whole."
The Guardian (UK) 04/17/02
THE PRODUCERS FIRED HENRY GOODMAN: Goodman is a good
actor. So why did he get canned from a great role in Broadway's
The Producers? Perhaps because Nathan Lane made the part
so well. "Lane is fat, lovable, vastly camp and totally harmless
- an American cross between Elton John and Frankie Howerd. Goodman
could hardly be more different. As London audiences who saw his
recent Olivier-winning Shylock will recall, he oozes danger, cruelty
and anger. Lane's humour is comfortingly white and cuddly; Goodman's
is disconcertingly black and biting." Casting is, as they
say, an inexact science. The
Telegraph (UK) 04/17/02
SPEAKS: "I think you're dealing with the pressure of
Broadway, dealing with an industry where just giving a good
performance isn't enough. I respect that they're dealing with
an industry of millions of dollars on the line, and when you
are, you start dealing with people as commodities, not as people.
This is as much about the boardrooms as it is about the boards."
The New York Times 04/16/02
STAR IS BORN: "Brad Oscar, who spent a year filling in
for Nathan Lane in the Broadway musical The Producers,
was abruptly handed the starring role of Max Bialystock Sunday
night. The powers behind the show had concluded that Lane's replacement,
British actor Henry Goodman, wasn't working out and dismissed
him only four weeks into his contract. Oscar will appear opposite
Steven Weber, who took over for Matthew Broderick."
Washington Post 04/16/02
TROUBLE PRODUCING: Producers
of The Producers have fired Henry Goodman, the London stage
star whom they had chosen to replace Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock
in the show. "Creator Mel Brooks and director Susan Stroman,
along with the producers of the show, were 'unhappy with
the lack of progress Henry was making in the role'." New
York Post 04/14/02
WE SUGGEST 'THE PANIC ROOM'? "Great composers are in
short supply. Top-flight lyricists are an endangered species.
Male singing stars are as elusive as four-leaf clovers. But even
in a challenging age for new talent, the Broadway musical can
still count on one endlessly renewable resource: the movies."
The New York Times 04/14/02
NEGATIVE: It's not just positive reviews that sell tickets.
Sometimes it helps to go negative. Reviews for the Broadway
production of The Smell of the Kill were generally brutal
last week. Particularly scathing was Bruce Weber's New York
Times piece. So producers took the review and republished it in
an ad in the Times, mocking Weber and hoping to generate a little
buzz. Backstage 04/11/02
REVIVAL: By most accounts, it's been a pretty lackluster season
on Broadway. But heading into the home stretch, a new group of
plays has just opened and things are suddenly looking up. Newsday
TO HELP PLAYWRIGHTS: A law is being proposed in the US Congress
that would give playwrights greater bargaining rights with producers.
Currently, "playwrights must negotiate for themselves with
unions or other groups to get plays produced. They commonly are
offered take-it-or-leave-it contracts. Because playwrights own
copyrights to their work, they have been considered since the
1940s independent contractors to producers instead of employees
with collective bargaining rights. The new legislation would allow
them to negotiate and enforce contracts with producers collectively."
Times (AP) 01/10/02
ASKED LARRY: Robert Brustein asked his friend Larry Gelbart
to write a new adaptation of Lysistrata. Gelbart agreed, but in the script he delivered "the sexual references
were so voluminous and repetitious that they put off several of
the participants" so Brustein pulled the script . "Gelbart
declared himself a victim of political correctness, and now, amid
bruised feelings on all sides, there are two competing musical
adaptations of Lysistrata moving ahead, one by Mr. Brustein
in Cambridge and one by Mr. Gelbart in New York."
The New York Times 04/11/02
UNION URGES BOYCOTT: Actors Equity union has asked its members
to boycott the annual National Broadway Touring Awards this year.
"The union has indicated it is unhappy with the league's
policy of not differentiating between Equity and non-Equity productions
on the road," and non-union touring productions are particularly
rankling the union this year. Backstage 04/10/02
RALPH: Ralph Richardson's archive of personal letters includes
evidence of a nasty fight with novelist Graham Greene. "The
row was over Richardson's performance as a sculptor during rehearsals
of Greene's 1964 play Carving a Statue. The play flopped,
ending the novelist's 10 year run of successes in the West End.
Even in rehearsals, the archive discloses, Greene blamed Richardson
for not speaking the lines properly or understanding the part."
The Guardian (UK) 04/09/02
ELTON, THEATRE EXEC: Theatre-lover Elton John has been appointed
chairman of the trust that runs London's historic Old Vic Theatre.
"Opened in 1818, the Southwark theatre is regarded as being
one of the most important in London. 'It is hoped that Sir Elton's
involvement will 'energise and enthuse the theatre-going public.'
The Theatre Trust predicted that Sir Elton would lead the Old
Vic into a new phase of development and growth, paying tribute
to his 'profound love and respect' of theatre."
ANOTHER SCOTTISH THEATRE DOWN: Glasgow has seen its third theatre
company close this year because of lack of money. Whose fault
is it? Maybe the Scottish Arts Council. "All three companies
were losers in the most recent round of three-year funding applications,
making their positions unsustainable in a market-place allegedly
controlled not by the work produced, but by boxes ticked."
GOING YOUNG: London's National Theatre has been
slammed for not appealing to youngr audiences. To address the
charge, the theatre is "staging 13 world premieres, building
a studio theatre, converting conventional auditoriums, and giving
permission to take a beer into the show."
APPRECIATING THE ELIZABETHANS: Shakespeare’s London had 200,000
inhabitants, and their craving for drama was extraordinary. One
company, the Admiral’s Men, staged 55 new plays among the 728
performances they gave in the capital between 1594 and 1597. More
than 300 men wrote for the theatre during the so-called English
Renaissance; we know the titles of more than 1,500 of the plays
composed between 1590 and the closing of the theatres by the Puritans
in 1640. That so far surpasses the output per theatregoing head
today that the only comparison is with television."
The Times (UK)
CHANGING THE WORLD WITH THEATRE: Drama teacher Rick Garcia believes
theatre has the power to change people. So he's gone to work in
the most-forgotten part of Austin Texas to work with kids. He's "chosen
this industrial hinterland where theatre is hardly in the community's
vernacular to stage his grand experiment in education and the
arts. 'There is art,' says Garcia of the neighborhood, 'but it's
not the biased impression of what a European Anglo educated mind
perceives as art'." Austin Chronicle
EXCELLENT YEAR: As Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog
wins this year's Pulitzer for drama, the play opens on Broadway.
It's been a good year for Parks. She won the 2001 MacArthur
Fellowship, known by many as a “genius grant,” and the 2000 Guggenheim
GOOD FORTUNE: "The two lonely, rowdy brothers who make
up the entire cast of characters of Suzan-Lori Parks's thrilling
comic drama give off more energy than the ensembles of "42nd
Street," "The Lion King" and "The Graduate"
combined." The New York Times 04/08/02
- JUST A GOOD TIME:
"This is by far Parks' most readily communicable work so
far. It is not a play you learn from, but an evening you experience
- and enjoy." New York Post 04/08/02
THE SECOND TIME AROUND: "Something essential has been
lost in the transition from the intimate thrust stage of the
Public to the gaping proscenium of the Ambassador Theatre."
ON BROADWAY: It isn't as if Americans don't perform their
own work, but Broadway would be a much poorer place if the Brits
didn't take such a "profound" interest in things American
"Two classics of the American theater are now big hits on
Broadway: Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Rodgers and
Hammerstein's Oklahoma! They are staged by the current
and former artistic directors of London's Royal National Theatre."
Boston Globe 04/07/02
LITTLE DIRECTION: Directing a play is the result of a synthesis
of experience. "I find the difficulty in going to plays is
that the very good ones don't teach me anything because they catch
you up - you're completely swept up into the experience. You learn
more from the second-rate plays, because your critical faculties
switch on and you think about what the actors are doing and not
Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/06/02
PROMISE: This current Broadway season began on a note of giddy
celebration. With last year's The Producers proving that
there's gold and greatness to be had, a giant wave of shows was
announced for the 2001-02 season. As May 1, the Tony deadline,
approaches, the season limps to its conclusion, with anemic offerings
in the categories of new musical, new play and musical revival."
Hartford Courant 04/07/02
IF IT'S CHEAPER: A non-union production of The Music Man
has been running into protests in the cities it plays. The actors
union complains that "the Broadway show is charging Broadway
ticket prices, while not paying performers Broadway salaries,
but rather lower nonunion rates." Theatres that book the
show say "they respect Equity and the other unions. But their
primary responsibility is bringing quality product to their faithful
patrons. For that reason, they'll book both Equity and non-Equity
productions." Backstage 04/05/02
WITHOUT ALL THOSE WORDS: A Georgian director is presenting
a version of Hamlet that takes removes the words. "Our
ambition is to go straight to the core of Shakespeare's language
and capture the images within the words." Reminded that some in
the audience might not get the message, director Paato Tsikurishvili
had an answer ready: "I recommend that you read the play before
the performance." Backstage
ROOM CRUELTY: Ah, what actors do to make a living and further
their careers. This one landed a lucrative TV commercial - big
exposure, lots of repeats, and terrific money. But just as he
was checking out those £4,000 Antarctic cruises, the director
The Guardian (UK) 04/03/02
BLACK THEATRE: "Gone is the heyday of institutional black
theater, the rich years after Ward's famous 1966 New York Times
piece - American Theatre: For Whites Only? - inspired the
Ford Foundation to award a $1.2 million startup grant for the
NEC. Nationally, the number of black theater companies has dwindled
from more than 250 in the the early 1980s to about 50; in South
Florida, founder-led black theaters in Fort Lauderdale (the Vinnette
Carroll Theatre) and West Palm Beach (the Quest Theatre) have
vanished, leaving only the 31-year-old M Ensemble to tackle serious
black theater on a consistent basis."
THEATRE, LITTLETIME TOWN: "Nowhere else in the United
States is the concept of repertory theater honored as it is at
the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 'The original dream and hope
of the regional theater movement was to maintain standard repertory
companies doing classical work. Oregon is now the exemplar of
that model. A lot of other theaters look at them with great envy."
Angeles Times 03/31/02
SHAKESPEARE: The Royal Shakespeare Company is in turmoil.
"There's mounting disapproval about seismic changes unrolling
under the aegis of Adrian Noble, the RSC's artistic director and
chief executive. One of the most worrying indicators about the
dangerous state of play at the Royal Shakespeare Company, one
third of whose income comes from nearly £13 million of taxpayers'
money, is that after a summer, winter and now a spring of discontent,
none of its many critics on the inside will go on the record.
It's not hard to see why." The Observer