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THEATRE - June 2000

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 Friday June 30

  • NEW LIFE FOR PUPPETS: Puppets are hot these days. "For proof, they point to puppeteers who find themselves in demand from Hollywood to Moscow, colleges granting MFAs in puppetry to people who have contracts before they collect their diplomas, and a steady membership growth in national groups." Christian Science Monitor 06/30/00

  • HIS OWN MOST DRAMATIC CREATION: Theatre promoter Garth Drabinsky is back, determined to start producing again in Canada, even though he's charged with a variety of malfeasance in the US. "All of this has been an incredibly emotionally draining experience - a real roller coaster ride - and certainly not something I planned or relish," he said in a phone interview Thursday. "And I am determined to be completely cleared of every allegation." Chicago Sun-Times 06/30/00

Thursday June 29

  • A CRISIS IN BRITISH THEATRE: The chairman of the Arts Council of England  says there's a crisis in British theatre. "British theatre is living in the past and is failing to attract young people," he says, and called on the government to pour an extra £100 million into the arts to help solve some of the problems.  The Independent 06/28/00

  • ALL HANDS ON DECK: The Boston Academy of Music is producing Gilbert & Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore" in collaboration with the Boston National Historic Park and the U.S. Navy in front of the USS Constitution. "The ship is being incorporated wherever possible into the action. There will be some entrances and exits involving the ship, and we'll be incorporating the evening colors ceremony, which involves the firing of the ship's cannon.'' Boston Herald 06/29/00

Wednesday June 28

  • READY FOR TAKE-OFF: New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company raised the curtain this week on the $25-million restoration of its Broadway home - the controversially renamed American Airlines Theatre. “As for the protests that accompanied the theatre's renaming after a corporate donor, [RTC Artistic Director Todd] Haimes said he was comfortable with his decision, and was amply prepared for the outcry. ‘Within five years all the theatres will be renamed for corporations, and no one will notice.’" 06/27/00 

  • THE CRITIC IN THE HOT SEAT: As actors increasingly lash our at critics after receiving negative reviews (Donald Sutherland and Kelsey Grammer, most recently), the role of the critic - and arts journalism in general - is being widely debated. Should a critic be a neutral mediator of experience? Or a subjective arbiter of taste? “The critic is not a straw-poll merchant, a tipster or a second-guesser of audience taste, simply an individual paid to record his or her reaction. Throughout history this has been a source of creative tension between artists and critics.” The Guardian 06/28/00

Tuesday June 27

  • WOODY AND MARVIN: Woody Allen and Marvin Hamlisch have teamed up together to make a musical theatre adaptation of Allen's movie "Bullets Over Broadway." 06/26/00

Sunday June 25

  • MORE SHAKESPEAREAN THAN SHAKESPEARE: The story behind Kelsey Grammer's failed turn with the Bard is worthy of the most Shakespearean plot. "There were villains about to be sure, people who seemed to be wide-eyed in anticipation of yet another TV celeb trying to gain acting credibility by doing a bit of the Bard - and failing so publicly. There was palace intrigue, with Grammer himself allegedly investing in the show to keep it afloat, making it seem more of a vanity production than it already was. Then there were the ghosts - of other productions, near and far. Throw in a little envy and a lot of hubris, and you have a story for the ages, or at least the age of celebrity." Hartford Courant 06/25/00

  • MORE OF BLAKEMORE: After a long time in the trenches, director Michael Blakemore scored big with a double Tony win a few weeks ago. Now come the opportunities. "I've turned down other offers in order to make the most of this while I can," he says. "At my age, it would be stupid not to." The Telegraph (London) 06/24/00

  • NY-ON-THAMES: Okay, so the Brits picked up a good share of the recent Tony statues up for the winning. But "if the New York theater sometimes looks a bit like Shaftesbury Avenue-by-the-Hudson, there are parts of London this summer that might be Broadway-on-the-Thames or even Hollywood-Near-the-Atlantic." New York Times 06/25/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • LOOKING BACK: "From the vantage point of a composer who has just spent 10 blissful months alone at his desk writing and orchestrating a choral symphony, Broadway looks like (and I say this with affection) Armageddon." New York Times 06/25/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Friday June 23

  • PRODUCING A NEW REALITY: Long gone are the days when a Broadway producer could come up with a good idea and $50,000 and head into production. The theatre world has changed - "from the large sums of money needed to get a production off the ground to the corporate presence in the theatre world to the role that advertising and marketing play in promoting a show. The day of the independent producer - nurturing a project from start to finish - is largely a thing of the past." Backstage 06/22/00

  • HISTORIC THEATER REVIVAL: "You have to make choices about what historic theaters you save, because you can't save them all. People turned to theater restoration in the 1960's and 70's. It was a time when cities were trying to save their downtowns. Theater restoration revives an interest in the downtown, and anecdotal studies show that their economic impact on cities is quite substantial." New York Times 06/23/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 

Thursday June 22

  • WHO WON WHAT: Want to see who won what this year in the theatre? Here's an aggregation of lists of all this year's theatre awards and who won what. Curtainup 06/20/00

  • A "NEW ERA" FOR CHICAGO THEATRE: Chicago's major commercial theaters are consolidated into one operation and promise a new flowering of theatre activity for the city. "The new arrangement brings control of the Shubert, Cadillac Palace and Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental theaters under an equal partnership of the Nederlander Organization and SFX Theatrical Group, New York firms that are the two largest commercial theater producers and owners/operators in the United States." Chicago Tribune 06/22/00

Wednesday June 21

  • HE'S BACK: Theatre impresario Garth Drabinski might be under indictment in the US and generally disgraced everywhere after bankrupting the Livent empire. But yesterday he rose from the dead to announce he'll bring an Athol Fugard play to Toronto. Toronto Globe and Mail 06/21/00

    • Despite the 16 felony counts of fraud and conspiracy waiting for him in the US, Drabinsky said he planned to produce more plays, including the big-budget musicals he specialized in at Livent. New York Times 06/21/00 (one-time registration required for entry)  

  • TIRED OF STARGAZING? Critics had a field day with director Sam Mendes’s comment last week that British theater’s “reliance on Hollywood stars meant it was in peril of being held hostage by the lure of glamour,” since it was Mendes himself who had Nicole Kidman strip bare in “The Blue Room” last year and set off the current craze for celebrity casting (and stripping). But, if lagging ticket sales are any indication, British audiences finally are tiring of Hollywood stars taking center stage. The Guardian 06/21/00

  • NEW MASTERS, OLD METHOD: New York’s legendary Actor’s Studio - the workshop founded in 1947 by Lee Strasberg to champion his Method acting style - will now be led by Al Pacino, Ellen Burstyn, and Harvey Keitel. All three will donate their time and teaching. CNN 06/20/00

Tuesday June 20

  • GARTH DRABINSKY TO STAGE COMEBACK: The discredited flamboyant theatre producer says he'll produce a play in Toronto. CBC 06/20/00

  • THE GOOD OLD DAYS: When Garth Drabinsky's Livent North American theatre empire crashed and burned two years ago a lot of theatre people lost their jobs. A lot of theatres went dark too, and many of them still have not recovered. The arts economy in Toronto still has not recovered. "Livent made Toronto so much more attractive for anyone on an arts level. Livent did a lot, but talked about it even louder. They made Toronto shine." Toronto Globe and Mail 06/20/00

  • DIFFERENT OARS OF THE SAME BOAT: "Commercial theater relies on nonprofits to develop material, and commercial success can give those projects a much more lucrative shelf life - not only on Broadway but later in productions that rely on the cachet of Broadway success." So why shouldn't the two work together to help each other out? A theatre summit explore how. Los Angeles Times 06/20/00

  • LEARNING THE HARD WAY: How can Broadway shows possibly satisfy the tastes of the crowds lining up to see “Footloose” and “Saturday Night Fever” as well as those looking for avant-garde productions and the many critics sore that the Great White Way has “become just another aisle in the great Disney store”? The Public Theater is learning the hard way - its “Wild Party” just closed at a loss of more than $5 million (just two years after its “On the Town” lost them $7 mil). “The Public's multimillion losses might be admirable for an online pet-food start-up, but not for a nonprofit organization with just over 30 million dollars left in the bank. And all because a director of extraordinary but erratic ability - George C. Wolfe, the man responsible for Tony Kushner's “Angels in America” and “Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk” - wanted to single-handedly reinvigorate Broadway. What a dumb idea.” Feed 06/19/00

  • ACTRESS NANCY MARCHAND DIES in Stratford, Connecticut at age 71. Broadway veteran and four-time Emmy Award winner for her role on “Lou Grant,” Marchand was famous most recently as Livia Soprano on “The Sopranos.” New York Times 06/19/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Sunday June 18

  • THE CHANGING FACE OF THEATRE: "In 1974, the first gathering of commercial producers and leaders from the nonprofit regional theater was, by many accounts, a prickly session that featured name-calling, walk-outs and the feeling that there was nothing remotely in common between those two disparate sides of the American theater." Now, telling the difference between the two is often problematic. Hartford Courant 06/18/00

  • EMBARRASSMENT IN PRIME TIME: This year's Tony Awards broadcast was a shambles. "The yearly bash celebrating Broadway's best has surpassed fiasco. Fiasco is merely incompetence, but this year's telecast was flat-out embarrassing. It's time for those who think theater still has some dignity to stand up and be counted." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/18/00

  • THE LITTLE SHOW THAT COULD: "The Fantasticks" celebrates its 40th year in continuous production off Broadway. It's given 16,500 performances in its 151-seat theater. The show has also played in more than 12,000 U.S. productions, and internationally in 900 productions in 69 nations, including Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. The show's original 44 investors have received a 19,465 percent return on their modest $16,500 total investment." Chicago Sun-Times 06/18/00

Thursday June 15

  • TOO OLD TO ACT? A new study says that actors -particularly women - over the age of 40 don't get many roles on stage. “Do we have to wait until we’re a hundred years old and Willard Scott shows our picture on the “Today Show” to [be recognized]?" Backstage 06/14/00

  • A PROFIT A-NON: Producers of non-profit and for-profit theatre get together to talk about the business of theatre.  "Although the two worlds used to regard each other with suspicion and even disdain - some of which still lingers - commercial and nonprofit producers have increasingly become partners." New York Times 06/15/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 

  • INTERPRETING GOGOL: Nikolai Gogol's play "The Inspector" was first performed in Russia in 1836, but like enduring works of art it still relevant to today. The inspector is a "man truly lost, a man totally lacking in principles" - a new Japanese production demonstrates how Eastern acting styles (in contrast with Western methods) allow the actors to arrive at the point of truly understanding a role. The Japan Times 06/00 

Wednesday June 14

  • REINVENTING THEATRE: "If theatre began the 20th century as the dominant art form and the major source of entertainment for most people, it begins the 21st in a much less happy position. Some claim that the new digital technologies will sound the death knell for theatre. This seems as absurd as the idea that the replacement of candlelight with gaslight would destroy all the magic of the stage. After all, old technologies were once new technologies. There was a time when the stage revolve was considered a thing of wonder." The Guardian 06/14/00

  • THE STRIKE DRAGS ON: "Despite the ad industry's claim of 'business as usual,' it's not. Agencies are struggling to find the talent they need, and it's getting more difficult to produce commercials. Some are scouting multiple locations to throw picket organizers off and, fearing demonstrations in New York and Los Angeles, taking their jobs to smaller U.S. cities. Others are simply taking their work out of the country." Adweek 06/13/00

    • MAYBE MOVEMENT? Nine hours of negotiations Tuesday hold some hope in strike. Variety 06/14/00

  • A PLACE OF THEIR OWN: Like anywhere, New York has a shortage of rehearsal space. So the raves are pouring in for a new $29.6 million rehearsal center on 42nd Street that hasn't even opened yet. "It's the first building built specifically for a range of art forms, and for both nonprofit and commercial uses." New York Times 06/14/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Tuesday June 13

  • THE ART OF REVIVAL: Veteran playwright Peter Nichols, whose 1981 “Passion Play” is currently enjoying a revival at London’s Donmar Warehouse, reflects on what kept him going during the decades when his writing fell out of favor with producers. “Unlike films, plays only survive by revival, like cryogenic subjects stunned into life by electrodes: "stand clear, thump, well done, chaps", or "good try, sorry, cheers".” London Telegraph 06/13/00

Sunday June 11

  • HOW TO SING: There's a gap growing wider between the kinds of music being played on Broadway. Last week's Tonys illustrate the gulf. Dallas Morning News 06/11/00

Thursday June 8

  • BEYOND BROADWAY: It’s been widely reported that this year’s Broadway season was boffo box office, with record-breaking ticket sales and the second highest attendance on record. Now the numbers are in from regional theaters around the country, and they’re equally encouraging: a combined box-office take of $1.2 billion and total attendance of more than 23 million. Backstage 06/07/00

Wednesday June 7

  • WAR STORIES: What can theater do during a time of war? What use is drama when your country has been all but destroyed? Thirty-seven theatre critics, playwrights, and directors from 11 countries (18 from Yugoslavia) gathered in Serbia to address such questions during the International Symposium on Theater and War. The Guardian 06/07/00

  • BOARD RESIGNATIONS IMPERIL THEATRE: Southern California's 13-year-old Alternative Repertory Theatre is near demise after most of its board of directors resigns. Orange County Register 06/07/00

Tuesday June 6

  • BRITS TAKE BROADWAY: Despite the advance buzz that this year - for once - Americans were set to sweep the awards on their own, the Brits prevailed yet again at Sunday’s Tony Awards, winning a total of nine awards. London Times 06/6/00

  • TICKETS UP, RATINGS DOWN: Tony winners get a surge in ticket sales the day after the awards, but TV ratings for the awards broadcast dragged on the floor. New York Post 06/06/00

Monday June 5

Sunday June 4

  • THE SEASON THAT WAS: Broadway's "dizzyingly uneven" season had lots to offer this year, reminding us of the immediacy of the form. "Books are consumed in the head, in a private dialogue between writer and reader; movies, while often experienced communally, are inevitably distanced by being confined to two dimensions. Theater, taking place in the flesh in real time, is the most public and the least lonely of the narrative arts." New York Times 06/04/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • CONSOLIDATION OF CHICAGO THEATRE: Chicago's three big commercial theaters are about to come under the joint control of the giant Nederlander Organization and SFX Entertainment companies. The consolidation of these theater operations is sure to affect what Chicago audiences will see, and how much they pay for it. Chicago Tribune 06/04/00 

  • AND THE LATEST STAR ON BROADWAY? Dance. All the best shows gotta have it these days. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 06/04/00

  • THIS YEAR'S CANDIDATE FOR WORST MUSICAL: At least once a year, a London musical fails so badly it is all but booed off stage. This year's candidate for the honor appears to be "Notre Dame de Paris. "It's a lot of rubbish. The actors can't act, their voices are not very good and the lyrics are so banal they make Abba songs sound like Gerard Manley Hopkins." Sunday Times (London) 06/04/00

Friday June 2

  • THE TONY TANGO: Trying to handicap this year's theatre work up for honors at this Sunday's Tony Awards is difficult as usual. In the running is "an odd mishmash of daring new work and lukewarm fare that has left theater professionals searching for a cohesive theme." New York Times 06/02/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • FISSIONABLE MATERIAL: Broadway's "Copenhagen" is a play about science - physics no less. "Presenting difficult concepts is always risky for a playwright, but it is particularly so in an era when audiences have been conditioned by lowbrow entertainment to have their senses tickled but not to have their brains massaged." That hasn't discouraged a growing number of productions about science that seem to be popping up.  New York Times 06/02/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Thursday June 1

  • BROADWAY BOOM: The numbers are in for the 1999-2000 Broadway season, which officially closed Sunday: Box-office sales hit an all-time New York high of $603 million, with 11.4 million theatergoers - the second-highest attendance on record. Backstage 05/31/00

  • HAVE TONY WILL TRAVEL: The contest for best play in this Sunday’s Tony Awards is likely to come down to a two-way contest between Britain’s “Copenhagen” (about the atomic bomb) and the US’s “Dirty Blonde” (about Mae West). “The result may have less to do with nationalism than the increased influence of Tony voters who are road presenters. (Their percentage on the judges’ panel rose last year when 100 New York producers lost their voting eligibility.) On the road, the late blonde bombshell Mae West is probably more powerful than the atomic bomb, audience-wise.” Times of India (Reuters) 06/01/00

  • BORN IN THE U.S.A.: The Tony Awards have usually been dominated by the British, but this year more American plays and artists are in the spotlight. “There's no more apt symbol of the shift in British fortunes on Broadway than the revival of  “Jesus Christ Superstar,” whose lone Tony nomination - best revival of a musical - has been dismissed as a sop to Andrew Lloyd Webber.” The Guardian 06/01/00

  • ROCK ON BROADWAY: "In small but growing numbers, celebrated songwriters and performers cite varied reasons for leaving the safe confines of successful rock careers to roll the dice with musical theater projects. And in deed, if not by design, they're starting to mend a decades-old rift between popular music and the stage ripped open by the birth of rock 'n' roll." Los Angeles Times 06/01/00