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THEATRE - July 2002

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Wednesday July 31

NEW DAY, NEW PLAY? London's Globe Theatre is a recreation of a 400-year-old theatre from Shakespeare's time. But the theatre is now producing new plays, shocking some critics. "The question remains open as to whether new plays - or even, one day, plays with contemporary settings - will be accepted, by audiences or critics, as integral to the Globe's activities. 'We can't win in one sense. Some people will always criticise it for being a heritage theatre, and others - sometimes the same people - will say, 'What are they doing staging new plays'?" The Guardian (UK) 07/31/02

Tuesday July 30

CREEPY, YES, BUT FLATTERING: Every year, playwrights send out dozens of scripts, tapes, and video recordings of their work to theatre companies around the world which are considering what works to place on their upcoming seasons. But one Canadian author recently became suspicious of one particular request for samples of his work, and a quick investigation revealed that the individual behind the request was not a producer at all, but a more-than-slightly unbalanced theatre buff living on the Virginia-Tennessee state line with a massive collection of ill-gotten theatrical gains. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/30/02

Monday July 29

CALLING 911: September 11 is all over the program of this year's Edinburgh Festival. "At least seven events listed in the fringe programme express some kind of post-terror reaction; through dance, words, mime and, inevitably, through jokes." The Observer (UK) 07/28/02

THE GRAFT IS ALWAYS GREENER IN EDINBURGH: "During the month of July arts journalists get used to receiving strange missives in the mail. Halfway between a bribe and a tease, the idea is that, presented with the appropriate gift, we’ll abandon our sternly held critical reserve and fly into a giddy fit of excitement about a show we’d never normally touch. Does it work? What do you think, feminist Brecht collective from Bolton? At least the letters are better than the calls. The only reason I haven’t phoned the police is because the Edinburgh Festival is about to start." The Times (UK) 07/29/02

Sunday July 28

GOING TO THE ANGELS: The Eureka Theatre is almost dead. In the 80s, the theatre was one of the most exciting regional theatres in America. "A core group of exciting young directors - Richard E.T. White, Tony Taccone, Richard Seyd, Oskar Eustis - made the Eureka one of the most influential midsize companies on the West Coast in the '80s, helping to introduce writers like Dario Fo and Caryl Churchill to the region. Eustis and Taccone's discovery of Tony Kushner, and commissioning of Angels in America, alone counts as a milestone in American theater." San Francisco Chronicle 07/28/02

TO THE RESCUE: Is Michael Boyd the one to lead the Royal Shakespeare Company out of its troubles? "It's better to have a tested theatrical practitioner in command than a clever arts bureaucrat or some dark horse from the regions. Besides, Boyd, a 47-year-old Belfast-born boy, who has been an associate director at the RSC for six years, is a questing, radical theatrical visionary, though some people insist on writing him off as a safe pair of hands. He's fired up by great international European directors and is one of the best of his generation." London Evening Standard 07/26/02

NOT LAUGHING IN LONDON: "Long regarded as the laughter capital of the world, London suddenly appears to be in the grip of a recession for the first time since the alternative comedy boom took off at the beginning of the 1980s. The evidence is mainly anecdotal, but a pattern has emerged: audience numbers are dropping, gigs are being cancelled, convulsions of panic rather than mirth are shaking the promoters." The Telegraph (UK) 07/28/02

AMERICA'S LARGEST FRINGE ON THE EDGE: The Minnesota Fringe Festival is successful. So successful, in fact, it almost went out business this year. The event has grown by 400 percent in the past three years, and has become the biggest fringe festival in America. But a $40,000 deficit nearly forced the fringe out of the margin. St. Paul Pioneer-Press 07/28/02

Friday July 26

COME BACK NOW, Y'HEAR: Reviews for the Chicago tryout of the new Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp musical Movin' Out have been mixed at best. No matter. Tharp says she intends to radically rework the show and wants to invite the critics back at the end of August before the show leaves Chicago for Broadway. Playbill 07/25/02

A NEW DAY AT THE O'NEILL: Musicians learn their craft at conservatories, actors have their pick of theater schools, and painters go to art school. But for budding playwrights, the opportunities for professional instruction are few and far between, and most writers have to learn the ropes by trial and error. For a half-century, the O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticuit has aimed to provide playwrights of all levels with a chance for some serious study of the craft, away from the bright light of public and critical scrutiny. Now, with the center's founders retired, a new management team is tasked with advancing the center's mission in an era when theater in general has been suffering. Los Angeles Times 07/26/02

FINAL CURTAIN FALLS EARLY IN NASHUA: The American Stage Festival, a summer theater tradition in New Hampshire, has announced that it will cut short its season this weekend in Nashua, largely because of slumping ticket sales and a lack of corporate sponsors. The ASF had moved its base of operations from rural Milford to semi-urban Nashua recently for financial reasons, but the move may also have contributed to the early shutdown. There is no word on the long-term future of the festival. Boston Globe 07/26/02

Thursday July 25

BOYD GETS SHAKESPEARE COMPANY: Michael Boyd has been chosen as the new director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. "Boyd, an associate director of the RSC since 1996, won an Olivier Award for his production of Henry VI and has most recently been directing at London's Roundhouse Theatre." BBC 07/25/02

CENTER OF THE FRINGE: The Edinburgh Festival is about to begin, one of the largest arts gatherings in the world. And this year's event looks likely to break last year's record ticket sales. Advance box-office takings have already passed the £500,000 mark. The Scotsman 07/23/02

  • EDINBURGH - HOME OF THE BIG BREAK: I still believe the Edinburgh Fringe is special; the only place in Britain where you can put on a show on a shoestring and make it. It is this belief that keeps the Fringe going and most of the 619 companies performing there this year would subscribe to it. But a surprising number of people, including many in the London press, think that it is fantasy. They argue that an obsession with getting discovered has turned the once-carnivalesque Fringe into a grabby, grubby place, PR-driven and producer-led. They say it’s unwieldy, overblown and no fun anymore." The Scotsman 07/25/02
  • WAGGING THE DOG: Edinburgh's Fringe Festival has grown so big it has overtaken the International Festival, "and the fringe has turned from a seductive alternative into a cultural behemoth. For many (the broadcast media especially), the very words 'Edinburgh festival'are now synonymous with the fringe, to which the international festival is an easily ignorable addendum. Is this simply a fact of life and a reflection of the populist culture in which we live? In fact, it seems to me the result of several brutal commercial choices." The Guardian (UK) 07/25/02
  • EDINBURGH THE GREAT: "For the artist and the critic, Edinburgh isn't just about the performances; it is about the opportunity to talk and exchange views away from the hothouse of London theatre." The Guardian (UK) 07/25/02

Wednesday July 24

WANTED - MIRACLE WORKER: The Royal Shakespeare Company has dug itself a deep hole. The company is said to be on the verge of naming a successor to Adrian Noble to run the theatre. But really - is there someone out there who is capable of fixing things? The Times (UK) 07/24/02

Tuesday July 23

BREAKING THE STRIKERS: The Screen Actors Guild is punishing actors who worked on productions during last year's strike by denying SAG memberships. "Of the 281 applicants reviewed, 94 were granted SAG membership, 133 applicants were deemed ineligible for membership for periods ranging from six months to four years and 54 applicants received five-year bans from acceptance to the guild." Backstage 07/22/02

Friday July 19

SHAKESPEARE AMONG THE STRIP MALLS: Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is almost never performed anymore, not because it lacks the Bard's high standards of prose, but because it is so viciously, unapologetically anti-Semitic as to make modern audiences squirm in their seats from beginning to end. But the increasingly prestigious Illinois Shakespeare Festival is having a go at it, bringing in a prominent Israeli director to bring out all the ugliness for what it is, but also to provide some perspective on Shakespeare's prejudices. It's daring innovations like this that have Midwesterners flocking to the small, strip-mall-intensive town of Bloomington, to experience one of North America's most unlikely Shakespeare success stories. Chicago Tribune 07/19/02

HIP-HOP GOES LEGIT, YO, WITH PLENTY OF CRED: Traditionalists may not like it, but the hip-hop movement has officially invaded nearly every aspect of American culture. From its humble beginnings as a two-turntables-and-a-microphone experiment to today's multi-billion-grossing empire of superstars, hip-hop is influencing music, art, poetry, and theatre just as rock did back in the Beatles' heyday. The latest infiltration is on the so-called "legitimate" stage, where DJ's are replacing orchestras and the theatrical nature of rap performances is being incorporated into the relatively tame world of drama. The hope is that such crossovers will help to stem the tide of gray among theatre audiences. Washington Post 07/19/02

Thursday July 18

BRITISH THEATRE DISCRIMINATION: A new survey reports that British theatre institutions discriminate against Asian and black administrators. "Carried out in 2000 and 2001, the survey of more than 75 arts organizations and 65 black and Asian performing arts administrators and managers found that 86 percent of those questioned had personally experienced racism in their careers and within arts organizations." Yahoo! 07/17/02

SEE WHAT THEY SAY: "The relationship of deaf people to the arts is attracting growing interest." A number of performances on Broadway are equiped with "open-captioning." so the hearing-impaired can see what's being said. "With open-captioning, the majority of people with hearing loss can attend the theater. It's been encouraging to get letters from people who now are able to come to open-captioned performances who say they hadn't been to the theater in 20 years because they just couldn't hear well enough." The New York Times 07/18/02

Wednesday July 17

DREAM A HIT: The reviews may have been mixed. But while other long-running musicals in London have been posting closing notices, Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Bollywood Dreams has scored a success. Ticket demand has been so strong the show's been extended. "We were nervous about how the show would be received because we knew we had something very different. But it seems to have absolutely captured the imaginations of people who don't normally go to musicals. The audience is different from any I have seen for a long time." BBC 07/17/02

Tuesday July 16

THE MAKING OF A HIT? Is Hairspray the next The Producers? Some are beginning to think so. The Seattle tryout earned rave reviews. "By the end of the Seattle run, the tickets are sold out in town; the audiences keep getting better-and-better-dressed as it becomes more of an event. On the strength of the reviews, the New York advance sales numbers are creeping up to $5 million - not the $14 million advance of The Producers, but a strong showing nonetheless." The show opens on Broadway this week. New York Magazine 07/15/02

NOT PRODUCING: Henry Goodman was the victim of one of the most public firings in Broadway history when he was removed as Nathan Lane's replacement in The Producers last spring. So what happened? “Personally, I think they blew it. Of course they’d say, ‘No, no Henry, you blew it’. I just wanted the freedom to deepen my character, make him darker, more like Zero Mostel (who played the part in the original 1968 film). Just look at these letters” — he chucks down a sheaf of fan mail — “the bookings were fine. The fact is, 60,000 people saw me and no one asked for their money back. But they wanted a clone of Nathan and I wasn’t prepared to give them that.” The Times (UK) 07/16/02

Monday July 15

BLOCKING THE YOUNG VIC: London's Young Vic Theatre is a beloved institution, albeit a ramshackle one. The theatre is falling apart and it takes £80,000 a year in repairs just to keep it open. The theatre is trying to raise money for a £6 million renovation, but a building presevation society is trying to block the project. The Guardian (UK) 07/15/02

HAVING IT ALL: Is there a difference between musical theatre and opera? If so, where's the line? "To explore that point, the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York presented a rather daring experiment earlier this year: the first act of an opera performed twice — by a musical theater cast before the intermission, and then by an opera cast. If lobby chat and questionnaires filled out by the audience reveal anything, most people preferred the beauty of the opera-trained voices and the passion and movement of the theater cast. They wanted it all, and why not?" The New York Times 07/14/02

Sunday July 14

THEATRE AT A CROSSROADS: With the announcement that Gordon Jacobson will be stepping down at L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum, America's regional theatres, once a grand experiment designed to prove that serious theatre could thrive away from the bright lights of Broadway, have been forced to begin reassessing their place in the nation's theatrical consciousness. "Now the regional theater is a bit of a victim of its own success. We've built huge institutions -- stabilization for these companies always was the goal -- and consequently a lot of these theaters have big buildings and big overhead, which changes the stakes." Chicago Tribune 07/14/02

Thursday July 11

BROADWAY BOOM: How much does Broadway contribute to New York's economy? A study of the 2000-01 season, "indicates that Broadway contributed some $4.42 billion to the city's fiscal well-being during that time, a figure which equates to at least 40,000 jobs, both in the industry directly and through the commerce that the industry generates." Backstage 07/10/02

WRONG MAN FOR THE JOB: Norman Lebrecht has had a look at the Royal Shakespeare Company's shortlist of candidates to head the company. He isn't impressed. "What the RSC needed was a strong personality to rethink its aims, restore morale and drop a curtain on all the turbulence. But the chances of revival have been virtually ruled out by the narrowness of the search." London Evening Standard 07/11/02

Wednesday July 10

WHO'S WHO IN LONDON THEATRE: Can't tell the players without a program. Here's the Guardian's roadmap to the new generation of London theatre denizens taking theatre forward. The Guardian (UK) 07/06/02

CRITICAL DIALOGUE: David Williamson is Australia's most successful playwright. "During his long time as the country's most successful playwright, Williamson has developed a singular relationship with the country's critics. Unlike other writers, he regularly engages them in dialogue about their opinions of his work." Do they respond? The Age (Melbourne) 07/10/02

Tuesday July 9

ROYAL SHAKESPEARE SWEEPSTAKES: Being named head of the Royal Shakespeare Company is considered by many to be the most prestigious theatrical appointment in Britain. With a shortlist being drawn up, who's in the running? "The favourite to replace Adrian Noble, who resigned unexpectedly in April after sustained attacks on his plans for the company, is an internal candidate. With three weeks to go, the director Michael Boyd, acclaimed for his productions of Henry VI, parts I, II and III , and widely respected inside the RSC, has emerged as the frontrunner." The Guardian (UK) 07/08/02

  • RSC IN DISARRAY: The Royal Shakespeare Company, "which only recently was riding a wave of acclaim with its cycle of Shakespeare history plays, now appears in disarray. Adrian Noble, its artistic director, embarked on an ambitious plan to quit the Barbican for the flexibility – and uncertainty – of offering plays in whatever venues they might best fit. He added, for good measure, that he would also demolish its riverside theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. But when the criticisms began, he announced that he would resign. And with a decision on his successor not expected for another month, everything is on hold." The Independent (UK) 07/06/02

TRYING TO BUILD ENGLAND'S FIRST BLACK THEATRE: "Recent figures showed 96% of English theatre staff and managers were white, while black and Asian workers were denied training and encouraged to work in kitchens." Now there's a plan to "raise £1.8m to demolish London's Westminster theatre and rebuild it as the first permanent black theatre in the UK." The Guardian (UK) 07/06/02

Monday July 8

WHY CANCEL PARKS? The Atlanta theatre Jomandi canceled a play by Pulitzer winner Suzan-Lori Parks for the National Black Arts Festival because a board member read the play and decided it would be difficult finding funding support for it. "Given that Parks' work has received relatively little attention in Atlanta, and that the NBAF was champing at the bit to remount In the Blood, the decision was an embarrassment to Jomandi and a puzzlement to the city's theater community. How did this happen?" Atlanta Journal-Constitution 07/07/02

LIFE BEYOND ALMEIDA: Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid are leaving the leadership of London's Almeida Theatre after 12 years. They've built the theatre into one of the country's most admired companies. "Its Islington headquarters have become a magnet for every kind of theatregoer, from the earnest to the chic. If you found V.S. Naipaul and Madonna watching Al Pacino and Fiona Shaw in Taming of the Shrew, you wouldn’t be surprised." What's next? There are rumors the pair might head over to the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Times (UK) 07/08/02

RENTING THE FUTURE: The Denver Civic Theatre has longstanding money problems. Now the theatre believes it has found a way out. It proposes to mount a permanent production of Rent, which it can do if it comes up with a $600,000 investment. It would be the city's only production with an open-ended run. The company believes Rent would be the cash cow to solve all its financial woes. Denver Post 07/07/02

Sunday July 7

THE FUTURE OF BRITISH THEATRE: British theatre has been widely perceived to be looking into the abyss recently. The West End has struggled to maintain its position as one of the world's two most important theatre districts, the scene has been invaded by Hollywood types of dubious stage acting ability, and the Royal Shakespeare Company appears to be running around like a headless chicken. But things are not as bad as they seem, and in fact, UK theatre may be on the verge of a rennaissance. A look back at the last century of UK drama, both on and off stage, offers a view of what is to come. The Guardian (UK) 07/06/02

  • ALL THIS, AND MADONNA, TOO: "At the start of the 21st century, British theatre has never had quite so much variety and multiformity. The old divisions between West End and fringe, regional and metropolitan, text-based and visual or physical theatre, new writing houses and other theatres, indoor and outdoor, are thankfully crumbling away." The Guardian (UK) 07/06/02

Friday July 5

THEATRE FOR ALL: Europe's first "fully inclusive" theatre company utilizes actors of whatever background and whatever physical handicap. "Most of the barriers as to what society thinks a disabled person is aren't physical. Theatre carries with it certain metaphors that relate to exclusion to underline a character, like Richard III being a hunchback the dogs bark at. That's historical, but I want to get to the point where it's unremarkable to see a disabled person on stage, and if he's a crap actor, then it's because he's a crap actor and not being judged because he's impaired in some way." Glasgow Herald 07/05/02

Wednesday July 3

ACTING JOBS DECREASED IN 2001: The number of movie and television roles for Screen Actors Guild members dropped 9.3 percent last year, with supporting actors among the hardest hit. There were 48,000 roles cast last year compared to 53,000 in 2000. Nando Times (AP) 07/02/02

REINVENTING THEATRE IN BOSTON: "It was one not-so-small step for Boston and a giant stride for local theater companies yesterday, as officials broke ground in the South End for a project that will provide the city's first new theater spaces in more than 70 years. The finished complex will include a 350-seat proscenium theater, a 200-seat black box theater and administrative support spaces for the performing arts, in addition to residential condominiums, retail and restaurant spaces." Boston Herald 07/03/02

Tuesday July 2

MORE ABOUT THE MUSIC: Musical theatre in London and New York is changing. "But how? And why? Miss Saigon, Cats, Starlight Express - behemoths, fixtures in the West End since the 1980s - have gone. Mamma Mia, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, We Will Rock You, The Full Monty, and now Bombay Dreams have arrived. Can this new wave of musicals match or surpass the generation it replaces?" Financial Times 07/02/02

BOMBAY TO NEW YORK? It looks like Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams might survive its mixed reviews in London and stay around for awhile. Producers are even talking about bringing it to New York. Would it succeed? Some are skeptical. The show may work in London where there's an Indian population of about 2 million and where this summer Bollywood is being celebrated. But New York has neither to help boost ticket sales. New York Daily News 07/02/02

Monday July 1

TIME FOR THE NEW GENERATION: Superstar producer Cameron Mackintosh is in China, opening his latest tour. Might he be getting ready to quit, given that most of his hit shows are finally winding down? "Right now we're between generations. It's happened before. Between Show Boat and Oklahoma, between Fiddler and Cats, there have been gaps. Oh sure, there were hit shows, but there wasn't a whole body of writers. And that's what we need now. It's time for the next generation to invent what the next lot of theatre will be." Toronto Star 07/01/02