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THEATRE - May 2001

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Thursday May 31

ROOTING FOR THE UNDERDOG: It's no secret that The Producers is going to win Tonys for everything in sight. And yet, one critic votes another for best in show. Why? I know colleagues will think I'm crazy - The Producers is a Rolls-Royce, and A Class Act is, I don't know, a Vespa. Yet there are sentimental reasons for voting Class. New York Magazine 05/28/01

STAGE PRESENCE: A sure winner at Sunday's Tony awards will be Betty Corwin. More than 30 years ago she thought it would be a good idea to make videotapes of stage performances, which otherwise would be lost when the show ended. Now, 4500 tapes later, she's getting a special Tony for excellence. Boston Globe 05/31/01

Wednesday May 30

DENUDING THE RSC? There are at least a couple of things wrong with the Royal Shakespeare's plans to restructure. "One is that the RSC may become so little a company, let alone an ensemble, that it will end up with no distinct identity at all. By renouncing its regular six months a year at the Barbican, the RSC will now have no firm London home. RSC could become a mere trademark, one that will sporadically appear on the front of the Young Vic, the Round House, a West End theatre, or even the Barbican, giving spurious credibility to what may be little more than an ad-hoc cast or summer-stock touring troupe." The Times (UK) 05/30/01

PROTESTING PENISES: Protesters in Wales have "demanded the banning of a sold-out Australian stage show in which two men manipulate their genitalia into various shapes from a hamburger to sea anemone." The show is in the middle of a two-month tour, and ran for five months last year in London's West End. The Age (Melbourne) 05/30/01

Sunday May 27

UNION BLUES : "Theatre union Bectu has reacted "with horror" to the announcement that the Royal Shakespeare Company is scaling down operations at the Barbican Centre in London." BBC 05/25/01

  • SALVAGE JOB: The Barbican's top man defends the decision. The Observer (London) 05/27/01

FALLING STARS: The theatre world continues to wonder if anyone can save the musical. The Producers may have reinvigorated the form somewhat, but, by and large, there's not a lot going on that we haven't seen a hundred times before. The new breed of musicals aren't being written for already-popular stars the way the classics were, and the dearth of quality productions has started to affect not only the Broadway stage, but the nation's regional theatres as well. Hartford Courant 05/27/01

HARDEST JOB IN SHOW BIZ: You're standing in the wings as the theatre darkens, and the voice of the stage manager comes over the PA, informing the audience that you will be taking the stage shortly. The audience erupts in boos. Welcome to the world of the Broadway understudy. New York Post 05/27/01

Friday May 25

TAKING STOCK OF BROADWAY: One way of taking stock of the state of Broadway is to look at the quality of plays and the health of the box office - both of which seem to be doing fine right now. Another way is to make note of the theatres - those that came into service this season, and those which disappeared forever. 05/24/01

REINVENTING SHAKESPEARE: The Royal Shakespeare Company has the prestige, but "the current structure of the RSC, where actors must commit to a lengthy contract in order to perform with the company, is a deterrent to many actors and directors." So the RSC is restructuring, allowing "shorter contracts, bold programming of plays and better pay and conditions for actors." BBC 05/25/01

Thursday May 24

NEW TENNESSEE WILLIAMS PLAY: The White Barn Theatre in Westport, Connecticut is presenting the world premiere of a Tennessee Williams play this summer. "The Day on Which a Man Dies, subtitled an occidental Noh - a Westernized Japanese drama unearthed from the playwright's papers - is "the latest piece of Williams marginalia to be unearthed from the papers of the Pulitzer-winning author." 05/23/01

PICTURING SHAKESPEARE: "A retired Canadian engineer, telling a tale of ancient family ties, mistaken judgments and surprise revelations, has roiled the world of Shakespeare scholarship by saying he possesses a striking portrait painted in 1603 showing Shakespeare as a coy man of 39, with a full head of hair and a Mona Lisa smile." The New York Times 05/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NEW A.R.T. DIRECTOR: Robert Brustein is stepping down as director of American Repertory Theatre next summer. And after looking at 70 candidates, the company has chosen Robert Woodruff, a director known for his avant-garde work to replace Brustein, who is 70. The New York Times 05/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TAKING MUSICAL OUT OF MUSICAL THEATRE: There is only one university in Canada offering a degree in musical theatre. Make that was. The program is being discontinued and its classes rolled into the university's acting program. It's about the money. CBC 05/24/01

Wednesday May 23

BEST OF (OFF) BROADWAY: Thirty-four New York theatre folk pick their favorites of the off-Broadway theatre season. Village Voice 05/22/01

CHICAGO VICTORY: Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre has won this year's Regional Theatre Tony award. "For theaters outside New York, this award, which is given in advance of most of the Tonys in other categories, is singularly important." The New York Times 05/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday May 22

ODE TO THE MATINEE: "A long caravan of jokes, anecdotes and put-downs have encircled matinees, and left them identified solely as the last refuge of little old people trying to get out of the rain." Yet there's a certain magic to theatre in the middle of the day... New Statesman 05/21/01

A THEATRE THAT'S MAKING IT: While other arts organizations plead for money to survive, the Sydney Theatre Company posts its second annual surplus - modest ($120,161) to be sure, but still a surplus. In 1999 the company posted a record surplus of $802,666. Sydney Morning Herald 05/22/01

Monday May 21

PRODUCERS WINS: The Producers wins a record 11 Drama Desk awards in New York. The New York Times 05/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

UNDER THE BIG TOP: When the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua's tent burned down last year, a replacement tent was quickly located. But it wasn't the same. The problem? It was a (horrows!) vinyl tent. Not the same as canvas, is it? Evidently such things matter to the Chatauquans. "They try and talk you into their newfangled materials. But it's the air in there. And the sound. Nothing else is the same." St. Paul Pioneer Press 05/21/01

NEW SCOTTISH NATIONAL THEATRE: A new Scottish government study recommends £10 million be spent on developing a new Scottish National Theatre. The Scotsman 05/21/01

SIR PETER PLAYWRIGHT: Playwright Peter Shaffer is knighted by the Queen. "A unique figure among modern dramatists, for three decades he produced a series of successful plays which tackled huge themes, making him the playwright who makes mainstream audiences think about the big ideas of their times." The Times (UK) 05/21/01

Sunday May 20

THE TONY AUDIENCE: Broadway's Tony awards make for an odd broadcast. Does anyone watch them? "The show's ratings have been so consistently disappointing that they have become a standard joke on the show itself." The New York Times 05/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A FEW GOOD SCORES: For some years now, the Tony category for best musical score has been something of an embarrasment "ever since Broadway was occupied by British invaders and Disney investors." But this year there are finally some scores that have meat on their bones. The New York Times 05/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday May 18

IT'S GETTING UGLY OUT THERE: Unless you're Mel Brooks, it's a bad time to be opening a new musical on Broadway. In addition to the much-expected early closing of Seussical!, several other high-profile shows are shutting down quickly, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which lasted less than a month. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/18/01

Thursday May 17

WHAT DREAMS MAY DIE: Seussical was the most anticipated show of the current Broadway season. But the reviews were bad, business never got going full steam, and now the show is closing May 20. 05/16/01

  • LOSING BIG: The show lost $11 million, making it one of Broadway's all-time biggest losers. The New York Times 05/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

EWWWW: Quick, name the hottest ticket in New York. Right, The Producers. Easy one. But the second most popular show in town is just starting to generate the buzz that Mel Brooks gets when he blows his nose. And speaking of bodily excretions, the name of the show is "Urinetown," and it's about corporate greed, vanishing natural resources, and, well, you know... Chicago Tribune 05/17/01

Tuesday May 15

RETURN OF THE GLADIATORS: A French company has spent four years constructing a gladiators' coliseum in which it will stage battles beginning this summer. The project includes an arena with seating for more than 6000, chariots and other antique-looking gear, and "a cast of horses, lions and tigers, as well as scores of gladiators, legionnaires and slaves. Perhaps only the French would have the Gaul to do something like this." New Zealand Herald 05/15/01

JASON MILLER, 62: Actor and playwright Jason Miller has died of a heart attack. In 1973, Miller was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist. The same year he won both a Pulitzer and a Tony for his play That Championship Season. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/15/01

Monday May 14

YA GOTTA HAVE HART: As a playwright, director, producer, and play doctor, Moss Hart was indispensable to the theatre, "a tireless collaborator who reliably helped to mint the only currency Broadway trusts: hits." But "directorial brilliance in the theatre is evanescent, and Hart's plays, despite frequent and occasionally effective revivals, have been undermined by the very influence they exerted on subsequent writers for the stage, film, radio, and television." A new biography puts Hart out front again. The New Yorker 05/14/01

Friday May 11

ALL DC's A STAGE: Time was (and not all that long ago) that Washington DC was a cultural backwater. Then came the fabulous museums and the Kennedy Center. But somewhere along the way, a thriving theatre scene got going. The city now boasts 80 theaters staging 300-plus productions a year. Christian Science Monitor 05/11/01

A DRAMATIC CAREER: After 32 years, one of America's finest theatre instructors is retiring. Vera Katz had her work cut out for her as a Jewish woman at predominantly black Howard University, but she won respect from students and colleagues alike with her fervent desire to learn about African-American culture, and her devotion to her craft. Washington Post 05/11/01

Thursday May 10

LETTING IT ALL HANG OUT: Nudity is so often used on stage these days, one wonders if it makes any impact. "Nudity, like any other element of theater, can be used well or badly, or even perniciously. If it’s used boldly, creatively and sensitively, it can make us think and feel, as well as look. Otherwise it will prove merely meretricious, sleazy or boring." LA Weekly 05/11/01

Wednesday May 9

A PREVIEW OF TONYS TO COME? The New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical goes to The Producers. Is anyone surprised? The only real contest in the awards was for Best American Play, where the critics needed four ballots to agree on Proof as the winner. New York Post 05/09/01

THE LIVING THEATRE: Audiences and tastes keep changing, why not theatres? Seriously - why must a theatre built for one purpose stay the same even when time has passed? Shouldn't the interiors of theatres be made to change with the times? The Guardian (UK) 05/09/01

Tuesday May 8

RUNAWAY HIT: The Producers wins 15 Tony nominations, tying the record for most nominations for a single show. Here's the list of nominees. 05/08/01

  • RESISTANCE IS FUTILE: "[T]his year The Producers is going to sweep just about every Tony Award in sight. No clever ad campaign is going to change that... Instead, smart theater people say, the producers of the also-rans should use their ad dollars to target mainstream theatergoers, not Tony voters." New York Post 05/08/01

THE NEW MUSICALS: Is it a new era for American musicals? There are lots of new projects and the new genre has become a hit. "But does quantity also indicate quality? Or are we simply witnessing a rat race toward the lowest common commercial denominator? Does the new work stack up against the great American classics of the 20th century?" Backstage 05/07/01

THEATRE THAT PAYS: Why shouldn't London's National Theatre produce popular musicals? And if they have a commercial afterlife, so much the better, says producer Cameron Mackintosh. As for the some £600,000 a year National director Trevor Nunn stands to make for directing My Fair Lady - "Why Not? He's done an incredibly talented piece of work." The Telegraph (UK) 05/08/01

Monday May 7

GETTING WITH THE PROGRAM: Admittedly, program books are a small part of a theatre production, but that hasn't stopped Playbill from making a mint providing glossy, slickly produced books to local troupes around the country. Now, a Boston entrepreneur is giving Playbill some competition, and the Hub's theatre companies are starting to take notice. Boston Herald 05/07/01

Friday May 4

WE ALREADY GAVE YOU A BUCK... The Florida State legislature cuts Miami's Coconut Grove Theatre allocation by $500,000 (the theatre's total budget is $5.4 million). "I have to repeat and repeat again, the theater is already receiving a substantial subsidy with its $1-per-year lease. . . . I'm sorry, but in good conscience I couldn't allow my colleagues to give additional money to the Playhouse. They have accountability issues that still need to be attended to." Miami Herald 05/04/01

TIMING IS EVERTHING: A flood of new shows is opening on Broadway. “The producers of Broadway shows are convinced that they have to open close to Tony time. They want that boost of publicity after the nominations, and the boost from the show itself.” MSNBC (Reuters) 05/04/01

Wednesday May 2

IT'S NOT A MUSICAL, BUT... It's turned into a hot season for Broadway. First The Producers becomes the biggest thing to hit the street since The Lion King. Now it's time for drama. August Wilson's King Hedley II finally made it to Broadway and the reviews are ecstatic. "You will hear some of the finest monologues ever written for an American stage, speeches that build gritty, often brutal details into fiery patterns of insight." The New York Times 05/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)

PRODUCERS SCORES: The Producers isn't just popular - now it's scooping up nominations for awards, winning 14 Drama Desk nominations yesterday, including Outstanding Musical. New York Post 05/02/01

  • BUT IT'S FOR MY DYING MOTHER... Ticket demand for The Producers is intense. The show is sold out for months, but people are calling the box office with all sorts of stories, including several "dying request" tales. New York Post 05/02/01

Tuesday May 1

GRANDPA'S LEGACY: Long before he became famous as Grandpa Walton, Will Geer was putting on Shakespeare plays in a tiny theatre high up in the Santa Monica Mountains. "The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum survives as a showcase for Shakespeare and a training ground for young actors who come to practice their craft outside and under the stars." Dallas Morning News 05/01/01

KIDS, INCORPORATED: Children's theatre is a tricky business, and companies that put on truly great productions without resorting to cliched slapstick or pretentious preaching are few and far between. One of the nation's best children's theatre companies is in Silicon Valley, and this month, it will face one of its greatest challenges: replacing the man who has made the troupe what it is today. San Jose Mercury News 05/01/01