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THEATRE - August 2000

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 Thursday August 31

  • GET WITH THE PROGRAM: You may take for granted that thin, glossy free program the smiling ushers hand out to you as you enter the theatre, but you should keep in mind not all arts-goers in the world are as fortunate as you: Says one deprived Australian, "Why can't our theatres offer free, or at least cheap, information? Why do we pay six, 12, even 15 dollars for what should be a basic audience service?" Sydney Morning Herald 08/31/00

  • "SEUSSICAL" FLUNKS KID-FRIENDLY TEST: Maybe the "Cat-in-the-Hat's" biggest fans are the tykes. But producers of "Seussical," the much-anticipated musical currently previewing in Boston have made a rule: No kids under five-year-old allowed. And that's got some parents (and their kids) upset. Boston Herald 08/31/00 

Monday August 28

  • NEW BLOOD ON BROADWAY: Broadway’s 2000-01 musical season showcases the work of a surprising number of young composers, including seven premieres of new work by songwriters in their forties or younger. "I think people are just wising up to the fact that they're going to run out of revivals. Producers are finally realizing that musicals don't just get born somewhere where you can go shop for them, and there is a groundswell of young people writing in a more pop vernacular.” New York Times 08/27/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Sunday August 27

  • THE NEXT GENERATION OF MUSICALS? A new program aims to help composers of musical theatre. "Twelve of the country's most talented musical theater writers have been chosen this first season. Should marketable musicals result, the organization will also help produce them. Each recipient will receive $20,000, as well as health insurance for up to three years, while their new musicals are being developed at Musical Theater Works' space on Lafayette Street opposite the Joseph Papp Public Theater." New York Times 08/27/00

Friday August 25

  • AND ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: "On Dec. 31, American troops will evacuate Saigon this way for the last time on the stage of the Broadway Theater, bringing to a close the musical 'Miss Saigon,' the sixth-longest-running show in Broadway history. After nearly 10 years, the production, loosely based on Puccini's 'Madama Butterfly,' will have played 4,063 performances and gone through 1,218,900 pounds of dry ice, 89,386 scene changes and 812,600 light cues." New York Times 08/25/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • NUDE, NAKED, STARKERS: "Nudity isn't new to Broadway, but it's hard to recall a time when five musicals and plays, four based on films, have featured nudity or toyed with presenting various states of undress. And some of these five play nudity for laughs - intentionally (The Full Monty) and otherwise (The Graduate)." 08/25/00

  • LIVE THEATRE ON TV: New series will broadcast theatre productions on TV. Broadway's Roundabout Theatre production of "The Man Who Came to Dinner" will air live on PBS  on October 7. Variety 08/25/00

Thursday August 24

  • BLOWING UP SHAW: The genteel, well-mannered Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake is a picture postcard. So how did Neil Munro get to be its resident director? "Plays help to get a dialogue going so we have a sense of who we are as opposed to being so fucking middle-class that when tragedy comes stomping into your living room like Godzilla, you have absolutely nothing to refer back to. You're surprised because you thought the middle-class concept of how the world works is how the world works." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 08/24/00

Wednesday August 23

  • ACTING HONORS: Who was the greatest actor in the English-speaking world? Gielgud? Olivier? Richardson? Guinness? Frederick Valk? New York Times 08/23/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • CYBER-ACTING: The technology is here to allow producers to use digital actors instead of live ones. Does that mean real actors will be out of work? "Producers and directors who think virtual actors will be easier to work with than their human counterparts are also deluding themselves. The truth is that instead of one creative temperament or sensibility to deal with, you have 50. It's simply better and cheaper to use a real actor." Backstage 08/23/00

Tuesday August 22

  • ACTIVE CRITIC: Portland theatre critic not only wrote critical reviews of a theatre company's shows but went to funders to ask why they gave money to the theatre. "It appears to me through it all he's trying to close us down. If he gets away with it, guess who's next? I don't mind being blasted, that's part of it. But this goes over the line." Portland Business Journal 8/22/00

Monday August 21

  • REMEMBERING ALEC GUINNESS: One must resist the temptation of calling anyone the last this or last that; history - whether of theater, of film, or of the world -- is far too cyclical for lasts. Still, with the passing of Ralph Richardson, Michael Redgrave, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, and Alec Guinness, some sort of era seems to have ended. If actors were onions, the core of Richardson would have been shrewd common sense; of Redgrave, quirkiness and neurosis; of Olivier, romantic dash; of Gielgud, exquisite lyricism; of Guinness, all-encompassing humanity." New York Magazine 08/21/00

Sunday August 20

  • REINVENTING THE MUSICAL: What does it mean to call something "musical theatre" these days? The genre has fragmented in so many directions it's difficult to tell. "Depending on one's own tastes and vantage point, the rampant diversification of what used to be a fairly predicable entertainment category either signals the pending doom of musical theater, or its financial and aesthetic salvation." Seattle Times 08/20/00

Friday August 18

  • DIGITAL DISPOSITION: New sleek movie versions of Shakespeare leave out something important: words.  "This begins to give some idea of what is lost when Shakespeare's words take a back seat to the ambitions of directors and critics who are more concerned with their own agendas than with Shakespeare's poetic art." The Atlantic 08/18/00

Thursday August 17

  • THE NEW THEATRE: "The Edinburgh Festival is doing all it can to accelerate the death of world culture. Director's Theatre is In; and most things worth caring for in spoken theatre are Out. The festival's new production of Valle-Inclan's 'Barbaric Comedies' is already something of a local scandal, but there is a danger that the scandal is about the wrong thing." Financial Times 08/17/00

  • HOW'RE WE DOING? "The current state of play in the theatre is actually decidedly encouraging on many fronts. I would hazard a guess that the recent drive towards cheap TV programming and its dumbing down have driven ranks of citizens out of their living rooms in search of better arts and entertainment in public venues. I'm also not convinced the net is going to produce future generations of stay-at-home IT and virtual-reality addicts." The Independent (London) 08/17/00

  • A DEFENSE: "Who says the theater has reached a dead end? The current London season is filled with confirmations of how protean the discipline remains, as variable and potentially surprising as human beings themselves. Local observers may lament the Americanization of the London stage, with its adaptations of Hollywood movies and reliance on brand-name celebrities. But if you look past pandering hits like "The Graduate," you'll discover an abiding, very British penchant for playing with plays, a delight in demonstrating what theater can do that other forms cannot." New York Times 08/17/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • BRUSTEIN TO STAY: ''There is absolutely nothing new about my leaving. I will certainly be here a year beyond this; I'm already planning the season beyond this one. ... It could be another two, three, or four years'' before there is a successor, he says.  Boston Globe 08/17/00

  • STRAY CATS STRUT: A former clown in the Bolshoi Circus and founder of the only "cat theater in the world" has taken his group of feisty felines on a world tour - their repertoire includes the "Nutcracker", "Swan Lake" and "Cats From Outer Space". While his cats are capable of executing "pawstands" and walking tightropes, the director attests that his performers do have wills of their own. "It is impossible to train cats in the true sense. I play with cats, and they play with me." Daily Yomiuri 08/17/00

Wednesday August 16

  • BRUSTEIN TO LEAVE: Founding director Robert Brustein will step down as head of American Repertory Theatre after 22 years. "Brustein has functioned as a director, adapter, fund-raiser and playwright (the ART will stage his adaptation of Chekhov's 'The Proposal, the Bear, and the Wedding Reception' and his new original play `The Face-Lift' this season, which opens next month with a limited run of `The King Stag'). He also has remained unapologetic about some of the company's more misguided productions." Boston Herald 08/16/00

  • I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME… Women are stealing the show in London musicals this summer. “You should never underestimate the power of being female, 40-ish and sexually ripe. That would seem to be the lesson of London theater in general this summer, with midlife resurrections translating into big box office.” New York Times 08/16/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • THE NEW R&D DEPARTMENT: New York’s fourth annual International Fringe Festival kicks off this week, and phenomenal growth and diversity in its programming (175 productions from 17 states and 12 countries) reflect a boom in alternative theatre’s popularity. The role of a fringe festival? “To rebuild the infrastructure of off-off Broadway theatre, which has replaced off-Broadway as the center for theatrical research and development. After all, off-Broadway now plays host to star-playwrights because Broadway is so expensive." Backstage 08/15/00

  • DEFENDING THE CAVEMAN: Actor Nathan Lane stomped off a New York theatre TV show after being asked why his movie career hadn't gone so well as his stage career.  "On his way out the door, the actor was overheard barking into his cell phone: 'I did not come on this show to defend my movie career!' " New York Post 08/16/00

Tuesday August 15

  • IS THE NET GOOD FOR THEATER? While many theater lovers bemoan that Internet culture is eroding the audience for live performance, one critic at least sees it differently. “The current state of play is actually decidedly encouraging on many fronts. I would hazard a guess that the recent drive towards cheap TV programming and its dumbing down have driven ranks of citizens out of their living rooms in search of better arts and entertainment in public venues.” The Independent (London) 08/14/00

  • “WEST SIDE STORY” PREMIERED 43 years ago this week, becoming an instant sensation and setting a new standard for American musical theater. Playwright Arthur Laurents (who wrote the book) and Chita Rivera (who originated the role of Anita) reminisce about the fateful collaboration. “We had a vision of what we called lyric theater, and it was something intuitively we all shared and all felt.” NPR 08/14/00 [Real audio file]

  • MAN IN THE MIDDLE: When the Globe Theatre in London was rebuilt and reopened, it was clear a very special director would be needed to guide the theatre. Hiring Mark Rylance, a young actor with a reputation for otherworldliness but without much experience running a company was a big risk. But it has paid off. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 08/15/00

Monday August 14

  • LOOK ELSEWHERE FOR HOMEGROWN: The Olympic Arts Festival next month in Australia would have been the perfect opportunity to showcase aboriginal plays and playwrights to the world. Instead, “the festival program sends out a loud message to people from overseas who may want to spice their sports with a bit of theatre or opera from the country they're visiting: it has none.” Sydney Morning Herald 08/14/00

Sunday August 13

  • WHERE MUSICAL THEATRE COMES FROM: There was a time when Broadway seemed to get most of its musical hits from London. No longer. New York Post 08/13/00

  • AMERICAN DREAMING: "While American theatergoers lament that nonmusical drama on Broadway belongs to the British (and in the '80s so did a large share of the musicals), the English busily stage works that writers such as Arthur Miller or Tony Kushner can't get premiered in the United States. This probably says something about the relatively greater sophistication of British audiences. Still, the fascination with secondary plays by our first-rank playwrights can be mystifying to an American - rather like that French thing for Jerry Lewis films. What's the attraction?" Washington Post 08/13/00

  • ROBERT WILSON has a new theatre project. "Mr. Wilson is probably the most prolific theater artist in the world. An astonishingly tireless man who presents premieres of 8 to 12 new projects each year in an array of far-flung countries, he directs, designs the sets, co-designs the lighting and usually choreographs them all. He also organizes an army of loyal acolytes in the presentation of twice as many touring productions of older shows throughout the world. He estimates that he spends 10 days a year at his apartment in New York." New York Times 08/13/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 

Thursday August 10

  • NO JOKE: Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club is on the ropes. "In fact, the Pudding has been going broke since at least 1986, when the club sold the land under the theater to Harvard for back taxes and agreed to pay rent to the World's Greatest University. The Pudding, as the old joke goes, has been getting a little behind in the rent - $480,000 behind. The university plans to take over the building Aug. 31, and what happens next is anyone's guess." San Jose Mercury News 08/10/00

Wednesday August 9

  • NEW LOUISVILLE DIRECTOR: Marc Masterson, leader of Pittsburgh's City Theatre for 20 years, has been named the new artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville. ATL is home of the Humana Festival of New Plays, the country's premiere showcase for new plays. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/09/00

  • CELEBRITY TURNS: "Jerry Hall made her official debut on the London stage. "On Tuesday night the critics' knives were out - and sharpened - as 44-year-old Hall still failed to make anything more than just an adequate impression." BBC 08/09/00

  • ON JERRY HALL'S NUDE SCENE: "Without my stopwatch on the night, I had to resort to the trusted old method of counting seconds, muttering "One elephant . . . two elephants . . . three elephants," and so on. By the time I reached the fifth elephant, my neighbours in the stalls were pushing me under my seat and sitting on my head to shut me up, because they thought my comments would upset Mick Jagger, who was in the audience." Sydney Morning Herald 08/09/00

Tuesday August 8

  • A NEED TO ACT: Scotland hasn't had great luck in recent years with its major performing arts companies - the national ballet and opera companies are deeply in debt. Nonetheless, the Scots want a national theatre of their own. "Arts institutions are like Pokémon cards: every country wants the complete set." The Guardian 08/08/00

Monday August 7

  • SIR ALEC GUINNESS dies at age 86. The Age (Melbourne) 08/07/00

    • TRIBUTES: "He was one of the last surviving members of a great generation of UK actors, which included Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Mills." BBC 08/07/00

  • IN YOUR FACE THEATRE: "Now approaching its 25th anniversary, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre is mentioned by critics in the same breath as U.S. legends such as the Group Theatre from the 1930s and New York's Circle Repertory. Variety magazine calls it the country's foremost actors' theatre. 'A name synonymous with a visceral acting style full of raw passion,' said Playbill magazine, 'the uncompromising, in-your-face school of acting dubbed 'rock'n'roll theatre.' " Toronto Globe and Mail (Guardian) 08/07/00

  • WILDING: An unfinished Oscar Wilde play is discovered in a California library. BBC 08/07/00

  • FRIEND TO NAZIS? A new play, "based on files released by MI5 last year which revealed that PG Wodehouse was almost prosecuted for treason by the British Government at the end of the Second World War, has caused some protests in the UK. The Telegraph 08/06/00

Sunday August 6

  • FAUST - A WORLD PREMIERE: "When one of Germany's most celebrated theatrical directors, Peter Stein, determined to mount a production of the complete uncut 'Faust,' Parts 1 and 2, it became an event of national magnitude. Asserting that no one has ever presented an unedited staging of the work, Mr. Stein calls his "Faust" a world premiere, and it has certainly gained the equivalent attention. Tickets for the production, which opened on July 22 at Expo 2000 in this northwestern German city, sold out within hours when sales began in January. The premiere was front-page news in every paper in the country." New York Times 08/06/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • WHY I HATE EDINBURGH: "Brian McMaster is the man who runs the Edinburgh International Festival, and sometimes it is hard to tell whether he just has a perverse love of emptying theatres or whether it's all more sinister than that and that he is, au fond, an out-and-out sadist, who gets his kicks out of boring people into a state of mental derangement." The Telegraph (London) 08/06/00

Friday August 4

  • HAWKING BLASTS PLAY: Stephen Hawking has attacked a new play called "God And Stephen Hawking. "When I was sent the original version of the play I thought it was ridiculous and rather embarrassing. I found that deeply offensive and an invasion of my privacy. I could probably have got a court order but it might have attracted more attention to a stupid and worthless play." The Telegraph (London) 08/04/00

Thursday August 3

  • MOUSELAND: Disney, already a huge presence on New York's revitalized 42nd Street, says it wants to buy another theatre there. "Part of Disney's yen for more theaters comes from its disdain for paying high rents to stage productions of Beauty and the Beast and Aida, as well as its need for space to stage a half dozen musicals in development, such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame." 08/03/00

Wednesday August 2

  • FROM BAD TO (SLIGHTLY) LESS BAD: Canadian actors get an 8.5 percent pay raise. Under the union deal, "Canadian Stage Company artists have had salary increases from their weekly wage of more than $700, as have artists in smaller, lower-performing productions who were paid less than $400 per week before the deal." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 08/02/00

  • LONDON’S SHAKESPEARE EXHIBITION: in the refurbished Globe Theatre (an exact replica of the theatre where the Bard’s works were all premiered) is becoming one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. More than 1,000 visitors go each day to see “Elizabethan special effects brought to life on touch screens: See how Ariel flew. Check out what Shakespeare used for onstage blood and how Macbeth's thunder was created.” Yahoo! News (Reuters) 08/01/00

Tuesday August 1

  • THREE DECADES OF THEATRE:  Theatre critic Benedict Nightingale reflects on 35 years of attending the Edinburgh Festival. “Unpredictability is the essence of Edinburgh. If I have seen plenty of chic schlock there - Stein, Sellars and Robert Wilson at their most overrated - I have also seen plenty that stays with me still. And here let's agree that the distinction between Festival and Fringe is often slim.” London Times 08/01/00

  • DOES THEATER NEED BORDERS? The issue of whether to launch a National Theatre of Scotland has been bandied about for decades, but now that Scottish Parliament is taking the notion seriously and discussing possible funding, the debate has reached a new pitch. “The issue of whether ‘National’ equates with ‘quality’ is a potent question.” The Herald (Glasgow) 08/01/00