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THEATRE - July 2001

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Monday July 30

BACK IN THE BLACK: In the 1980s there were more than 200 African American theatres in the US. Now there are fewer than 50. Thus the importance of the National Black Theatre Festival opening in Winston-Salem this week. "The event, which is held every other summer, has become a dependable place for actors, directors, playwrights and producers to network and recharge their batteries." Winston-Salem Journal 07/30/01

Sunday July 29

CONSUMPTIVE DISORDER: "New York and London have a lot in common: the same long-running musicals, even a shared pool of actors, directors and designers." But as for how they consume theatre - they're different worlds. The Guardian (UK) 07/28/01

DC DETOUR: Washington is a pretty good theatre town, isn't it? And yet, any given season's hottest new plays don't seem to play the capital. Why? Is it audience taste? Politics? Washington Post 07/29/01

Friday July 27

HIGH C FOR HIT TIX: The Producers top prices hit one hundred dollars, so now several other big hits have hiked the ante. Incoming musical Mamma Mia! is the only other at a hundred right now, but several more are getting close. At $95: Cabaret and The Lion King. At $90: Chicago, Contact, 42nd Street, Kiss Me, Kate, The Music Man, and Oklahoma. None yet match the all-time Broadway top price, however. That was $125 for Ragtime. Broadway Online 07/25/01

Wednesday July 25

PROTESTING A LESBIAN ROMEO: Protests have greeted a production of Romeo and Juliet in Birmingham that features the couple as lesbians. "People are becoming heartily sick of this sort of thing being offered up as entertainment. What a pity we have to see this sort of sensationalism in an attempt to fill seats." The Age (Melbourne) 07/25/01

SHOW MUST GO ON: The much anticipated West End opening of My Fair Lady was marred by an extended power failure. Without power for set changes, backstage workers carried props on by hand. BBC 07/25/01

SCOTTISH NATIONAL THEATRE: The Scottish Arts Council is supporting the establishment of a National Theatre. "Its 'main objective' would be to commission companies, directors and performers to put on productions at home and abroad, as well as encouraging a strong network of regional theatres." BBC 07/25/01

Monday July 23

PRODUCING THE SCALPERS: Tickets for Broadway's The Producers are so hot, they've created a buzz among scalpers. "Internet brokers who operate elsewhere are getting between $300 and $425 for mezzanine and balcony seats in August and September. Better locations are more pricey, passing the $500 mark." Ottawa Citizen (CP) 07/23/01

Sunday July 22

WHERE IS THEATRE THAT MATTERS? "Theater is the only form of art or entertainment that people who consider themselves culturally sophisticated aren't embarrassed to boast about ignoring. So the question is: How might theater, which was at the center of the culture for at least half of the last century, start to find its way back there?" The New York Times 07/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

POST-QUITUM DEPRESSION: Last month the well-regarded Doug Hughes quit as artistic director of the Long Wharf Theatre over a longstanding personal dispute with the theatre's board president. Now the theatre searches for a replacement. But who would want the job "when potential candidates are wondering if they would be seen as a visionary or a hired hand. And they would surely want to know what kind of a board leader they would have to deal with - one who is an obsessive fixture in the theater's executive offices, or one who focuses on raising funds and the theater's profile." Hartford Courant 07/22/01

END OF AN ERA? Half a century ago, the Royal Shakespeare Company ushered in what would be a Golden Age of Shakespeare on the British stage. But the company is in the midst of some fundamental changes that threaten to bring the era to an end. Sunday Times (UK) 07/22/01

Friday July 20

MAJOR HOAX: A major musical said to be based on the life of former British Prime Minister John Major has been revealed as a hoax. "The show was said to chart the politician's rise from a school drop-out to the corridors of power and was hoped to arrive in London's West End early next year." BBC 07/20/01

Thursday July 19

FROM BUZZ TO BOMB: Seussical was last year's most anticipated musical on Broadway. Yet it closed after losing $10 million "Why did Seussical fail to live up to its powerful promise? How did a show with arguably the best buzz in years end up bombing on Broadway?" The New York Times 07/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

HIP-HOP TO THE RESCUE: "There's plenty of reason to think that hip-hop could do for theater what it has already done for music, fashion, language, and the rest of the culture — that is, shape it through the infusion of new sounds, styles, and energy." Before that can happen, though, hip-hop plays will have to be about something more than hip-hop. The New Republic 07/18/01

WITCHING HOUR: It has to be said that The Witches of Eastwick was not a great show when it launched in London last year. But Cameron Mackintosh is loathe to give up on an idea, and he's remade it for a second try. The verdict? Better, says one critic. The Times (UK) 07/19/01

  • Previously: MACKINTOSH HEADS FOR THE SHOWERS: With some of his long-running shows closing, and new shows failing to settle in to extended runs, mega-producer Cameron MackIntosh says he will no longer produce new shows. Backstage 07/12/01

GAMBLING ON ENTERTAINMENT: Toronto's casinos are paying enormous fees for entertainers and presenting easily digestible programs. The city's legit theatres and concert venues are crying foul as they find their patrons going elsewhere. "The casino people are not making sense of the economic realities of the promotions business. They're running loss leaders to finance their gambling, food and beverage operations, and they don't have to pay attention to the bottom line of their promotions business." Toronto Star 07/16/01

Wednesday July 18

HELP FOR AUSSIE MUSICALS: "The development of musicals in Australia has, at best, been a tough and protracted affair. Few see the light of day beyond the workshop or outside the subsidised festival sphere. In order to encourage local composers and librettists, an annual $50,000 prize for an original musical has been established." Sydney Morning Herald 07/18/01

Tuesday July 17

DIRECTIONLESS: In England, "new theatre directors are rapidly becoming an endangered species. “There’s now a generation of directors in their late twenties and early thirties who have never had the chance to work on a main stage, and there’s no question that they are being lost to TV, radio and film instead.” The Times (UK) 07/17/01

A TICKET BY ANY OTHER NAME: New York's discount theatre ticket booth TKTS has filed suit in London to prevent a discount service their from using the TKTS name. The New York Times 07/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday July 15

BY INVITATION ONLY: London's National Theatre is not advertising for a new artistic director. Instead, the theatre's board is interviewing candidates by invitation only. Critics are unhappy: "A leading regional theatre director said that because there was no advertisment the board would simply invite well-known, high-profile theatre directors – which she called 'a clique of predictable favourites'." The Independent (UK) 07/13/01

Friday July 13

MACKINTOSH HEADS FOR THE SHOWERS: With some of his long-running shows closing, and new shows failing to settle in to extended runs, mega-producer Cameron MackIntosh says he will no longer produce new shows. Backstage 07/12/01

TRYING TO GET BACK ON TOP: Andrew Lloyd Webber has booked a theatre on Broadway this fall for a revival of his 1975 show By Jeeves. Sir Andrew is "said to be smarting from the fact that, since the closing of Cats last year, he has only one show - The Phantom of the Opera - running in New York. Once the undisputed king of the Great White Way and the West End, he has not had a hit show in years." New York Post 07/13/01

KID CULTURE: Australian theatre companies and funders have discovered that there's a big market for children's shows... Sydney Morning Herald 07/13/01

NEW SHAW DIRECTOR: Canada's Shaw Festival names Jackie Maxwell as its new artistic director. "She was artistic director at Toronto's Factory Theatre from 1987-95 and head of new-play development at the Charlottetown Festival from 1996-2000." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/12/01

Thursday July 12

TICKET SLUMP: Ticket sales in London's West End are down. "Box office takings have dropped by about 10 percent in theatreland as overseas visitors, notably those from the United States, stay away amid fears about the foot-and-mouth crisis." First casualty - Andrew Lloyd Webber's acclaimed The Beautiful Game. The Age (Melbourne) 07/12/01

IT GOES TWO WAYS: "All drama demands interaction between performers and audience. Is it really at its best when we sit in silent ranks, applauding when we're told to, filing in and filing out in careful awe? A glass wall seems to have descended between audience and players. But whose idea was it to put theatre on this pedestal of respectful silence?" The Independent (UK) 07/11/01

DIRECTOR AS CEO: We usually think of directors as being the one responsible for success of a productionj. But "the director of any big show - whether a musical, a full-scale Shakespearean or classic drama - is in fact profoundly reliant on an army of collaborators whose names and contributions the public never registers unless they scour the small print of the programme. The director is often less magician and dictator than he is manager and facilitator." The Telegraph (UK) 07/12/01

RUSSIAN ROCK OPERA REACHES 20: Yunona and Avos may not be as big as, say, Jesus Christ, Superstar, but, everything considered, it's doing well. When the collaborative work of poet Andrei Voznesensky and composer Alexei Rybnikov opened, "rock opera was considered an undesirable genre and the musical was staged in what was considered the theatrical underground." Now it's out in the open. Sunday's was the 779th performance. The Moscow Times 07/11/01

Wednesday July 11

SHUBERT GETS NEW LEADERSHIP: Hartford's historic Shubert Performing Arts Center has finalized a deal with an Ohio firm to take over the management of the theater. Job cuts are expected, as well as an eventual expansion of the Shubert's season. Hartford Courant 07/10/01

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS: Street theatre is the fastest growing art form inBritain. "Public open spaces are being transformed as the South Bank, Somerset House, the RNT and the Barbican all play host to street arts, and every city in Britain wants to have its own street arts festival." So isn't it time to take it seriously? The Guardian (UK) 07/11/01

Tuesday July 10

TOUGH TIMES FOR BLACK THEATRES: "In the 1970s and '80s, there were as many as 200 African-American theaters in the United States. Today, there are fewer than 50, and only a handful of those have budgets of more than $1 million. 'The challenges of black theaters are the exact same challenges that white theaters face, however the results are more devastating for us, because we started out with so few companies'." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 07/08/01

PLAY IT AGAIN: Didn't like Witches of Eastwick the first time around? Never mind - it's coming back. The state of finances and risks in commercial theatre are such that "shows in the West End and on Broadway aren’t so much made as forever being remade." The Times (UK) 07/10/01

RE-OPENING IN NEW HAVEN: A new management company has taken over New Haven's historic Shubert Performing Arts Center. Under a five-year contract, "the Shubert will have more varied programming and eventually operate year round. A Broadway season is expected to be announced later this week." Hartford Courant 07/10/01

Monday July 9

SAG LOSES ANOTHER: Just ten days after accepting the job as head of the troubled Screen Actors Guild, John Cooke abruptly resigned it. "The decision by Cooke, a former Disney executive, to back out of the top SAG staff job has escalated already fierce infighting within the union." 07/09/01

Sunday July 8

STAYING VIABLE: What does the theatre world have to do to compete with the vast array of entertainment options available in the 21st century? Stop trying to be television, for one thing. "The theater must appeal to our inner sense of wonderment - and, even more simply, the awareness of human skills and human ingenuity." New York Post 07/08/01

THAT GUY JUST NEVER WRITES ANYTHING NEW: "Imagine a whole theatrical industry built on only 12 plays.Shakespeare festivals are a central pillar of the American theater. Increasingly, they and the many other companies that produce the Bard seem to be limiting themselves to the same dozen of his 36 works." Dallas Morning News 07/08/01

Friday July 6

STATE OF INDIANA V. GAY CHRIST: "A group hoping to block performances of a college play featuring a gay Christ-like character filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday. The play features a character named Joshua who is growing up gay in modern-day Texas. The story parallels parts of the Gospels, and some of the 12 other male characters bear the names of Christ's disciples." Nando Times (AP) 07/05/01

Thursday July 5

ALL FRINGE IS LOCAL: Toronto's Fringe Festival is one of North America's most successful theater extravaganzas, with over 100 companies set to perform in this year's edition. But despite the festival's tendency to hail itself as a "global" event, 90% of the troupes involved are from Ontario, and the majority of those are from Toronto itself. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/05/01

Tuesday July 3

WHEN WE WERE FUNNY: What has happened to English political humor? "Pessimists long for the days when British comics were eager to draw blood. That was the era, they tell us, when the Comedy Store rang to denunciations of Thatcherism and hymns of praise for the miners, when Spitting Image could pull in an audience of ten million or more on a Sunday night. The talk was of protest, not production companies." The Times (UK) 07/03/01

Monday July 2

MY FAIR SICKNESS: One of the stars of London's My Fair Lady has actually performed her role less often than her understudy in the past few months. Even the understudy's understudy has had a few turns on the boards. Now some critics are suggesting big-ticket shows ought to give partial refunds when a star is missing. The Independent (UK) 06/30/01

Sunday July 1

A CALL FOR ELITISM: The internationally acclaimed Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada has launched a new marketing campaign designed to make itself more accessible and alluring to the general public. But the flashy posters and cleverly site-specific taglines have some longtime Stratford fans worried that such measures amount to the dumbing-down of the theatre experience. National Post (Canada) 06/30/01

COPYCATS WANTED: With the success of The Producers acting as a sort of artistic sparkplug, Broadway types are swinging into high gear in an attempt to continue the reinvigoration of the musical theatre form. Of course, the success of such endeavors is somewhat dependant on there being enough good musicals to throw at the public, and some observers are already worried about the potential for a glut of mediocre song-and-dance shows. Hartford Courant 07/01/01

BROADWAY HAT TRICK: Remember the name, because director John Rando is about to do something that few others have even attempted - have three of his productions running on Broadway at one time. "He may not have the credentials of proven English hitmakers like Nicholas Hytner ("Miss Saigon") or Trevor Nunn ("Les Misérables"), but Mr. Rando is on his way." The New York Times 07/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)