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THEATRE - May 2000

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 Wednesday May 31

  • CAN'T BUY ME LOVE? Everyone likes to beat up on Broadway's Tony Awards. But they can still make a show's future, so they mean a lot. Some producers are “spending as much as $250,000 to advertise a show with a good chance of winning best musical, trying to book television appearances and in some cases picking up the telephone to cajole Tony voters they know." New York Times 05/31/00 (one-time registration required for entry

  • THE FUTURE OF BROADWAY: A while back, Stephen Sondheim complained to the New York Times' Frank rich that too much of Broadway's recent fare is "recycled culture," and lumped shows like "Lion King" in with spectacles like "Cats." What's he want to go dissing "Lion King's" Julie Taymor for? "He should be championing her. Sondheim and Taymor are kindred spirits, erudite and verbal to a degree that makes them outsiders in the context of Broadway." New York Press 05/31/00

  • TOUGH TIME TO TOUR: Who’s to blame for the sad state of Britain’s touring theatre companies? “This is not a story of villainous theatre managers unable to recognize a good thing when it is stuck under their noses. It is the story of an often ignored, certainly underfunded and distinctly unglamorous sector of theatre that is in crisis.”  The Guardian 05/31/00

  • SAG STALEMATE: As the commercial actors’ strike in the US enters its fifth week, there’s little hope of a speedy resolution on either side. Actors want cable jobs to adopt residual-payment structures; advertisers insist on flat-rate buyouts. As production days dwindle, the strike’s economic impact on L.A. is estimated to reach up to $25 million. Times of India (Reuters) 05/31/00

Tuesday May 30

  • AN ACTOR'S ROOTS: It's so whorish, isn't it, all these Hollywood actors skittering over to London to get a little legitimate stage credit under their belts? Not that that's what Donald Sutherland's doing, mind you. Sutherland "learned his craft in Britain. He arrived in 1952, aged 18, to study at the London Academy of Dramatic Art before going on to do a seven-year apprenticeship on almost every stage in the country. Afterwards, to hone his vocal technique, he added another year in Scotland at the Perth Repertory Theatre." Now he's back, starring at the Savoy. The Guardian 05/30/00

Monday May 29

  • TO BE YOUNG AND GERMAN (AND A PLAYWRIGHT): German theatre has a fascination with youth right now. Young German playwrights have more commissions than they can deal with.  "Only five years ago, new playwrights were relegated to weeklong runs in basements and small black-box auditoriums. Today, German theater companies feel pressure to include at least one new play in every main-stage season. Indeed, one director grumbled that theaters are 'just desperate for pretty young flowers to put in their hats.' " New York Times 05/28/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Sunday May 28

  • THE BIG APPLE'S HOLLOW CORE: There was a time when all American theatre seemed to flow from New York. Now, because of the economics, new work - particularly new plays - almost never start in New York. "What does manage to find its way there can be as odd and eccentrically selected as an ill-sorted group of birds who get blown hundreds of miles from their native habitats by a hurricane." Dallas Morning News 05/28/00

  • DRIVEN TO ACT: John Gielgud's career stretched out over three-quarters of a century. Why so many movies in his last decades? "It seems that he was also driven towards film by the increasing difficulty of remembering lines. It further transpires that much weight must be given to the financial pressure of Gielgud's extravagant domestic establishment in Buckinghamshire, which made him chary of refusing any part - even to the extent of making two films with Michael Winner and the ghastly Caligula (1980). The Telegraph (London) 05/28/00

  • THEATRE MAN: Boston's new theatre impresario dynamo has big plans for the city. In just a few short months he's already made a mark. "We're seeing the emergence of a diverse not-for-profit theater community - though I wish to God we could figure out what to call it. In Chicago, it's the off-Loop community. In New York, it's off-Broadway. We don't have a name for it, but it's very positive.'' Boston Globe 05/28/00

Friday May 26

  • MUSCLE BEHIND SAG: The AFL-CIO’s national leaders have publicly backed the month-long actors strike being waged in New York and Los Angeles against the commercial production industry. Backstage 05/25/00

Thursday May 25

  • TOO YOUNG TO KNOW BETTER: Many child actors who make it big in film at a young age - think Mark Hamill (the original Luke Skywalker) or “ET's" Henry Thomas - soon face dwindling career choices and dead-ends. “It's always miserable to be a child, but to become a child star in a big, big film must be like having the biggest party of your life and then never getting to leave your room again.” The Age (Melbourne) 05/25/00

  • "CARDBOARD CUTOUTS BAWLING AT EACH OTHER": London critics blasted the opening of "Notre Dame de Paris," based on the 19th-century novel by Victor Hugo. "The story of the hunchback Quasimodo who falls for Esmeralda is set in 1482 but also has been updated with soldiers in riot gear, New Age travellers and refugees." Ottawa Citizen (CP) 05/25/00

Wednesday May 24

  • PLAYING WITHIN THE PLAY: Novelist/playwright Michael Frayn’s new book “Celia’s Secret” is a literary practical joke: a story of how, during the run of his play “Copenhagen,” he received letters that seemed to shed new light on the nuclear physicists Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr (whose mysterious meeting in 1941 is the subject of the play). The letters, of course, soon turn out to be fakes, forged by one of his actors. The Independent 05/24/00


Tuesday May 23

  • SIR JOHN GIELGUD, who has died aged 96, "was challenged only by Laurence Oliver for the title of greatest English actor of the 20th century." The Telegraph (London) 05/23/00

  • GAY "FIDDLER" CAUSES FUSS: A Hartford high school reinterprets "Fiddle on the Roof" and draws controversy.  "In their interpretation Tevya became an African American female; Yente the Matchmaker became a drag queen, and Tevya's daughter, Chava, became a young man who falls in love with another young man. 'There was no objection to making one of the characters gay, only that two sets of male lips came together.' Hartford Courant 05/22/00

Monday May 22

  • VIRTUAL THEATRE ONLINE: A new British internet venture aims to promote British theatre, enabling visitors to "go backstage" with interactive video access to the cast and companies. Visitors will able to chat with actors, watch rehearsals and see some of the backstage trauma involved in putting on a theatrical production. Also online will be 3-D virtual reality models of set designs, costumes and the theatres, as well as digital excerpts of plays. The Independent 05/22/00

  • WHAT IF THEY HAD A THEATRE BOOM AND NOBODY CAME? More theatre is produced in Los Angeles than in any city in the US, including New York. But more often than not, the cast outnumbers the audience in dozens of small 99-seat theaters spread out throughout the metropolitan area. "Audience apathy can partially be attributed to there being no theater center in Los Angeles." Los Angeles Times 05/22/00

  • ACTING DRAIN: Auckland's theatre community is in dire need of more space. Without it, say local directors, more and more of New Zealand's talent is likely to leave for Australia. New Zealand Herald 05/22/00

  • JOHN GIELGUD dies at the age of 96. Dallas Morning News (AP) 05/22/00

Sunday May 21

  • STAGE REVIVAL: In the digital age, theatre seems so old-fashioned, so not of the future. But maybe we need it now more than ever. How did the art of theatre fall into such neglect? The Observer 05/21/00 

  • SEVENTY AND SAD: Stephen Sondheim is 70 this year and sounding a bit glum. His most recent project failed to get out of workshop and onto Broadway. But "his works constitute a show business force of nature, unmatched and unapproached in their ardor, stylistic variety, intelligence, complexity, thematic depth, wit and stirring expansiveness." San Francisco Chronicle 05/21/00

Friday May 19

  • AN EVEN LONGER DAY’S JOURNEY: Arthur and Barbara Gelb published the definitive biography of Eugene O’Neill in 1962 and helped establish his reputation as one of America’s finest playwrights. Nearly 40 years later, previously unavailable O’Neill papers have surfaced at Yale. The Gelbs decided to completely rewrite their 758-page book, which has been re-released this week. New York Times 05/19/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 

  • SAGGING JUDGMENT: An ad depicted an elderly African woman's wrinkled breasts was placed in an advertising trade magazine mocking the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), whose members are currently striking against advertisers. The ad has drawn protests of racism and sexism by actors. Washington Post 05/19/00

Thursday May 18

  • WILD ABOUT WILDE: There's something of a revival of the plays of Oscar Wilde around the 100th anniversary of his death. They're even making films of his lesser-known plays. What is it about his work that seems to interest us so much right now? Toronto Globe and Mail 05/18/00

  • ACTORS 1, ADVERTISERS, 0: Three weeks into their strike, morale among members of the Screen Actors Guild is high - and commercial producers seem to be getting their message. More than 500 interim agreements have already been signed, guaranteeing union members pay-per-play compensation during productions shot during the strike. “We’ve done picket lines all week long...Everybody’s pumped up.” Backstage 05/17/00  

Wednesday May 17

  • BODY SLAM FOR THE ARTS: Minnesota arts lover Governor Jesse Ventura vetoed a $3 million allocation passed by the state legislature for the Guthrie Theater's new $75 million home in Minneapolis. An override of the veto seems unlikely. Minneapolis Star Tribune 05/17/00

  • THE STATE OF THE STAGE: Four New York theater directors - Graciela Daniele, Brian Kulick, Marianne Weems, and Evan Yionoulis - discuss theater today. They agree theater is thriving, but “quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality. It feels there's not that much difference now from the mentality of Broadway.” Village Voice 05/23/00  

  • BEYOND BROADWAY: Off-Broadway’s OBIE Awards were presented Monday night in New York. Director/choreographer/video artist Ping Chong won a special sustained achievement award. Backstage 05/16/00

  • AWARD REWARD: The shows that grabbed the most Tony nominations last week got a nice bump in their Broadway box office. Nearly everything else declined last week. But the current season continues to be well ahead of 1999. Variety 05/17/00

Tuesday May 16

  • AND THE AWARDS FOR VANITY GO TO... The Israeli Theatre Prizes are being held for the fifth time. But the occasion has been marred by the directors of two leading Israeli theaters who are leading their theaters to boycott the awards, making any of the actors who work in those theaters ineligible for honors.  "Perhaps they mistakenly thought that the prize is meant for directors, rather than for artists." Ha'aretz 05/16/00

  • COME TO KATE: There were a lot of no-shows for the Drama Desk Awards ceremonies Sunday, but "Kiss Me Kate" was the big winner. Variety 05/16/00

Monday May 15

  • WAITING FOR BECKETT: A project to film all 19 of Samuel Beckett's plays for TV and the cinema faces the predictable backlash from Beckett purists. Nonetheless, the project - which has enlisted directors such as Anthony Minghella, David Mamet, Neil Jordan, Atom Egoyan, Patricia Rozema, Richard Eyre and Karel Reisz - has some big promise. Irish Times 05/15/00

Sunday May 14

  • COMFORTABLE ON THE STAGE: Who said the measure of success is whether your play gets made into a movie? August Wilson discusses why his work hasn't been movified yet. "I told Eddie I wanted a black director, and they all looked at me and told me that there weren't any." Boston Globe 05/14/00 

  • REFORMING AN ANCIENT STORY: Every ten years since 1634 the villagers of Oberammergau, in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, have been staging their six-hour passion play about the death and ressurrection of Jesus. "It is a Roman Catholic play about Jews, performed in German before a largely Protestant audience, most of whom will be American or British. The newly refurbished Passion playhouse holds 4,700 people, and 112 performances have been scheduled." This year the winds of reform have altered how the play will be presented. New York Times 05/14/00 (One-time registration required for entry)

  • THEATRE AS TEST: Michael Frayn's play "Copenhagan imagines a philosophical conversation about the implications of quantum physics. The play's been getting raves, but does anyone understand it. The New York Times tested audience members on the way out of a performance. New York Times 05/14/00 (One-time registration required for entry)

Friday May 12

  • THE CATS THAT REFUSED TO DIE: What are we on here - Life No. 687? "Cats," the show that wouldn't go away, has extended its run on Broadway to September. Producers had announced earlier this year that the show would close in June. But: "After the Feb. 20 closing announcement, ticket sales for the Andrew Lloyd Webber tuner topped $1.5 million during the first week, rising to a total of $4.7 million over four weeks. The show has performed at an average of 94% capacity since mid-February, selling out twice in the last 10 weeks. Prior to the closing announcement, capacity had occasionally dipped below the 50% benchmark." Variety 05/12/00

Thursday May 11

  • SINGING A NEW TUNE: Broadway is booming - 36 of 37 theaters are currently open for business. Though the years of the Big British Musical seem done for, a new breed of American musical play has taken over, one that appeals to one Brit reviewer. The Telegraph (London) 05/11/00 

  • THEATER RECLAMATION: Contracts are signed to develop new theaters for the seediest end of 42nd Street in New York - including a new 499-seat Schubert and five others - pushing the rebuilding of that end of the Times Square theater district into high gear. New York Times 05/11/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 

Tuesday May 9

  • TONY NOMINATIONS are announced - and the musicals dominate. The “Kiss Me, Kate” revival led the pack with 12 nominations (more than any other play or musical); “The Music Man,” received 5; and George C. Wolfe’s struggling “Wild Party,” which opened to mixed reviews and was believed to be on the verge of closing, got a new lease on life with 7 nods. All the winners will be announced at the televised ceremony from Radio City Music Hall on June 4. New York Times 05/08/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
    • THE COMPLETE LIST OF NOMINEES: Backstage 05/08/00

    • RIDE TO NOWHERE: Patrick Stewart was overlooked for a Tony nomination a week after he publicly chastised the producers of "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan" for insufficiently promoting the play. CNN 05/08/00  
  • WHEN SLUMMING BECOMES "CROSSOVER": Why are film actors accused of “slumming” when they take to the Broadway stage? Why are they so often called "crossover successes" when they manage to work in both stage and screen? Isn’t acting just acting? CBC 05/08/00  
  • KIDMAN & CRUISE: Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise are reportedly planning to star on stage together in a London revival of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” The West End production would be directed by Donmar Warehouse director Sam Mendes (of “American Beauty”) who directed Kidman in her dramatic breakthrough, “The Blue Room,” last year. The Age (Melbourne) 05/09/00 

Sunday May 7

  • IN SEARCH OF A GOOD TUNE: The Tony Awards are announced on Monday, and as usual there is difficulty finding enough good material for some of the categories. This year it's musicals. "You know the season is in trouble when the executive committee of the Tony Awards announced that 'Riverdance' is eligible to be considered a new Broadway musical. Combined with 'Contact' and 'Swing!' it's possible to have three shows nominated for best new musical that have no script, no original songs and, in the case of the favorite, 'Contact,' no orchestra. (The show, once billed as a 'dance play,' uses a prerecorded score of old pop hits and classical music.)" Hartford Courant 05/07/00

    • HANDICAPPING THE NOMINEES: "The 1999-2000 season has so often looked like fool’s gold that it’s hard to believe the crowning event to honor excellence on Broadway - the Tony Awards - is already upon us." MSNBC 05/07/00
  • WHEN PRODUCERS RULED THE WORLD:  With two producer giants of former days - David Merrick and Alexander Cohen - passing away recently, some reflections on the power producers used to wield in the golden age of theater. New York Times 05/07/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Friday May 5

  • THE THEATRE BIZ WAS PRETTY GOOD: Theatre producer David Merrick left his entire estate - about $9.3 million - to his sixth wife, according to his will, which was filed Thursday. The estate's assets include cash, an Upper East Side townhouse and several apartments. Ottawa Citizen (AP) 05/05/00

  • BROADWAY HAS RECORD WEEK: Broadway set an attendance record during  the week of April 17-23, when some 308,000 people saw the 36 plays and musicals currently playing Broadway houses. The League of American Theaters and Producers says the number “challenges both Shea and Yankee stadiums’ weekly in-season draws.” Gross receipts for the week were reported at $17 million, an increase of more than 25 percent over last year’s figure of $13.4 million. Backstage 05/05/00

Thursday May 4

  • FORMULA FOR SUCCESS: Critics accuse Trevor Nunn, head of London's National Theatre, of turning the company into the home of bland, crowd-pleasing fare. So much so, that there's a debate going on about whether Nunn's contract ought to be renewed. But if the productions are so blah, how come the National's team keeps winning so many awards? The Guardian 05/04/00

Wednesday May 3

  • DANGEROUS RIDE: The Shubert Organization, producers of the Broadway play "The Ride Down Mount Morgan," have filed charges of unprofessional conduct with Actors Equity Association against the show’s star, Patrick Stewart. Stewart gave an impromptu speech after Saturday’s performance accusing the Shuberts of under-promoting the play. “Stewart could be reprimanded or fined if the union agrees with the producers.” New York Times 05/03/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Tuesday May 2

  • MUSICAL COMEBACK: A flood of new musicals is hitting London’s West End, including a new “King and I” which currently boasts “the all-time record for advance box office takings.” Why the resurgence of tried-and-true, innocuous old favorites? Some observers point to the consolidation of London’s theaters into fewer hands, the need to fill huge-capacity houses with shows that have mass appeal, and the simple fact that money talks and thus “producers are playing safe, being unwilling to experiment or take chances.” The Age (Melbourne) 05/02/00

  • BITTER RIDE: Patrick Stewart stunned everyone Saturday after his performance in Arthur Miller's "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan" on Broadway when he made a curtain speech saying he had lost confidence in the producers of the play to properly promote and advertise it. [first item] Los Angeles Times 05/02/00

Monday May 1

  • CONTROL YOUR BRATS! New York Magazine theater critic John Simon loses it at a performance of "Music Man" and screams at the parent of noisy kids to shut them up. "Simon said he 'smelled trouble' as soon as he saw several young children - between the ages of 4 and 8 - sitting in front of him." New York Post 05/01/00

  • ANTONIO BUERO VALLEJO DIES AT 83: Spanish playwright, widely revered in Spain, was known for his opposition to the country's former fascist dictatorship. CBC 05/01/00