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THEATRE - August 2002

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Thursday August 29

MILLER TAKES ON THE CRITICS: Arthur Miller isn't fazed by the bad reviews his angry new play Resurrection Blues has received. "Most of my plays have been rejected to start with. The Crucible was destroyed first time out. It was the same with All My Sons. Every other critic condemned it. Why? I rather imagine that it is because they are attuned to entertainment. That's part of the culture we are dealing with: entertainment for profit. When society and its ills are brought onto the stage, they don't know what to do about it. Until they see the aesthetic in the play, that it is not just a political tract, they are at a loss. And that takes time." The Telegraph (UK) 08/29/02

Wednesday August 28

RAPPIN' TO THE BARD: "Most people would run a mile from a production that, in the US, was billed as 'an 'ad-rap-tation' of Willy Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors'. In the wrong hands, an attempt to mould Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identities to the rhythms of hip-hop would be disastrous - as embarrassing as a teacher wearing a baseball cap backwards and bigging up Shake to the Speare." Instead it ended up the hit of the just-concluded Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Guardian (UK) 08/28/02

A 2000-YEAR DEBUT: An ancient play by Euripides is finally getting its modern debut - some 2000 years after it was written. "This summer, spectators were finally be able to see a reconstruction of a play whose reputation filtered through the centuries. It has been showing in this ancient theatre, 175 km southwest of Athens, and in three other cities around Greece." The Age (Melbourne) (AP) 08/27/02

Tuesday August 27

RECORD FRINGE: The Edinburgh Fringe Festival closed last night have sold a record 900,000 tickets. The Fringe took in more than £7 million, the most ever in its 56-year history. The Herald (Glasgow) 08/27/02.

  • MORE OF EVERYTHING: "Even given the rise in the number of shows to 1,500 - in comedy, theatre, music and performance art - organisers are adamant the figures confirm the Fringe is attracting more and more visitors." BBC 08/27/02

BACK AND NO LESS PASSIONATE: Playwright Harold Pinter is 71 and has just come through a fight with esophageal cancer. "I found myself in a very dark world which was impossible to interpret. I could not work it out. I was somewhere else, another place altogether, not very pleasant. It is like being plunged into an ocean in which you can't swim. You have no idea how to get out of it. You simply float about, bob about, hit terrible waves. It is all very dark, really. The thing is: here I am." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/02

Monday August 26

NOBODY'S GETTING RICH: There's a lot of money swirling around the Edinburgh Festival. But no one seems to have any money or make any money. So where does it go? "It is clear that the army of theatrical agents, promoters and managers in Edinburgh tend, at least, to cover their own backs. But do they actually make money? The answer seems to be: a little." The Guardian (UK) 08/26/02

IMPORTED ACTING: The British theatre union is protesting the number of American actors hired by London theatres. The protests may lead to debate about reciprocal agreements about US and UK theatres employing each other's actors. "The answer is not to make it harder for foreign actors to work here, but to make it easier for British actors to work in America. The British theater community has been open to Americans. There's been interchange between the two, but it's a long way from being reciprocated abroad." Los Angeles Times 08/26/02

  • Previously: ENOUGH WITH THE AMERICANS ALREADY: Hollywood stars are hot in London's West End. They draw big crowds to the theatre. But a British actors union is attacking London's National Theatre for hiring too many Americans. "What brought this to a head is that we have production at the National where three of the four leads are foreign artists. It is a showcase for British talent and this is the straw that has broken the camel's back." BBC 08/23/02

Sunday August 25

ONE IS BETTER THAN TWO? Cleveland's two major professional theatres are both in financial trouble. "With corporations leaving town, foundations losing money in the stock market and box-office receipts trending ever downward, prospects look bleak. With the encouragement of people and organizations who give money to the arts, the two nonprofit companies are talking about merging." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 08/25/02

FREE AT LAST: Jon Jory was one of the most influential figures in American theatre as head of the Actor's Theatre of Louisville and director of the Humana Festival of new plays. Two years after leaving Louisville, does he miss it? "I miss walking out onto an empty stage and thinking 'I can do anything I want here' — of course, you can't, really, but you can at least walk into the theater and think that. But I don't miss the raising of the money and the kind of insoluble problems of every artistic director's day. And I don't miss the inhuman aspects of bossing people around." St. Paul Pioneer Press 08/23/02

  • JANE DOE: Jane Martin has been one of the most talked-about contemporary American playwrites. But who is she? "Martin has been coyly identified only as a 'Kentucky writer.' She has never granted an interview or made a public appearance, never been photographed and has never disclosed any biographical information. Almost all of her works have premiered at the Louisville theater, and — like the Guthrie's premiere of Good Boys — almost all of those productions have been directed by Jory." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 08/23/02

BROADWAY'S BIG CHANGE: "It's surreal to consider, but the inspirations for Broadway's biggest current blockbusters are Disney, the Swedish pop group ABBA, Mel Brooks and now, most incongruous of all, John Waters. Imagine 10 years ago anyone suggesting that wacky foursome as saviors of the Broadway musical. But here's what's really wicked: As a pop-culture icon, Hairspray will surely outlast them all. Because long after its inevitable, multiyear Broadway run and national tour, this is the kind of feel-good show that actors will want to perform and audiences will clamor to see in their neighborhoods for decades to come." Denver Post 08/25/02

NICE TO KNOW YA: Building a show based on something familiar - a book, a movie - is a long-established practice on Broadway. "If that's a built-in audience of people familiar with the story, that may make it a little easier." But it doesn't always work. And with quirky hits like The Producers and Hairspary, who would have predicted this kind of familiar would succeed? Boston Herald 08/25/02

WHAT'S PLAYING: Publishing the theatre world's most-widely-used program book is not such an easy matter. With daily, weekly and monthly publications, Playbill is a complicated business. The magazine's circulation has increased some 350 percent, to 3.7 million copies a month, and the demise of Stagebill, its main competitor, means Playbill dominates its market like no other. The New York Times 08/25/02

Friday August 23

ENOUGH WITH THE AMERICANS ALREADY: Hollywood stars are hot in London's West End. They draw big crowds to the theatre. But a British actors union is attacking London's National Theatre for hiring too many Americans. "What brought this to a head is that we have production at the National where three of the four leads are foreign artists. It is a showcase for British talent and this is the straw that has broken the camel's back." BBC 08/23/02

Wednesday August 21

HIGH PRICE OF SAFETY: Ticket prices for the Edinburgh Fringe have gone up. David Stenhouse argues that higher rices inhibit risk-taking on the part of audiences. "In the economics of the fringe, most acts are penny shares. The majority are likely to fall without trace, but a few will turn out to be theatrical Microsofts. The current market favours the gilts and bond issues which have a steady return. It may be fiscally prudent, but it’s not what the fringe was set up to do, and in the next few years it will have to change." The Times (UK) 08/21/02

Tuesday August 20

SO YOU WANT TO BE A STAR... Gyles Brandreth, now in his mid-50s, decided he wanted to star in a West End musical before he died. So he's not an actor. Or even a man of the theatre. "I have found a producer, but if we are to reach the West End, we have first to test-run the show on tour and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. There is no money in it (it will certainly cost me) and I will be away from home for 10 weeks." [Wife] Michele thinks I am being selfish and self-indulgent. She is right." The Telegraph (UK) 08/20/02

RECORD FRINGE: Attendance at this year's Minnesota 10-day Fringe Festival climbed to a record 32,000 and earned a surplus - enabling organizers to pay down their deficit. The Minnesota Fringe is the largest fringe festival in the US. The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 08/20/02

NY THEATRE BOOM: New York theatres have been preparing for the worst as the summer ends, tourists depart, and the anniversary of 9/11 approaches. But instead of a downturn, business in the last week has been booming, thanks to the blockbuster opening of Hairspray, a successful Fringe Festival, and continued legs of longrunning hits. The New York Times 08/20/02

Monday August 19

A PLACE OF HIS OWN: The Kennedy Center's Stephen Sondheim festival renewed appreciation for this rich body of work. Sondheim insists that his shows are shows, but they've never sustained commercial Broadway runs. So they've been taken up "by regional theaters and schools, and by Europe, where the opera houses are small and the unlikelihood of competition from commercial productions encourages the American producers to relinquish the rights. Maybe what we and Mr. Sondheim need is a summer festival in a plausible theater devoted to the best in operas and musical theater, irrespective of genre. We need to hear the best in musical theater, old and new, no matter the derivation of the particular work or the amount of dialogue or the singing style." The New York Times 08/18/02

WHERE THEATRE HAPPENS: "The most vivid emblem of Chicago these days is art. Most visibly, that means public art, whether cows or Picassos. Music rules, too, led by the great Chicago Symphony. But ranking very high in the new Chicago's self-image is theater. Two of the leading professional companies have just built expensive new homes, although the greatest strength is in small companies and their constant regeneration - professional theaters of all sizes number nearly 200." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/18/02

OUT OF THE TRAILERS: The La Jolla Playhouse, one of America's best regional theatres is getting "an $11.5-million, 45,000-square-foot addition that will provide the nonprofit regional company with its third stage, a black-box theater that can seat as many as 450 and be reconfigured for each production. Other amenities include rehearsal rooms, tech workshops, classrooms, a restaurant-cabaret, and for the first time, indoor offices. Since its opening in 1983, the playhouse staff has worked in trailers parked on the grounds. More than 40 people occupy four trailers." Los Angeles Times 08/19/02

Sunday August 18

BOX OFFICE SMASH: Hairspray, which opened on Broadway Thursday night, is already a huge success at the box office. "The musical, based on John Waters' 1988 cult movie, is blowing away the success of previous Broadway smashes by taking a whopping $15 million in advance ticket sales - more than the Mel Brooks smash The Producers. By 5 p.m. yesterday [Friday], the box office had sold $1.5 million worth of tickets for the show." New York Post 08/17/02

WHAT DO THE CRITICS KNOW? The critics all loved the London revival of Kiss Me Kate. But the show is closing long before it earns back its investment. Yet Bollywood Dreams, which opened to mixed reviews (at best) prospers across the alley. What gives? The critics are confused: "If we all hate a show it usually doesn't prosper. But it is slightly galling that here is a show which we all really loved, and that doesn't seem to have helped at all. I can't think of any way we could have done it better, so you have to ask: can a show like this make it any longer?" The Guardian (UK) 08/17/02

  • DO CRITICS STILL MATTER? "The rise of celebrity culture in the West End has had a twofold effect: a serious play starring unfamiliar actors will be ignored, while a production starring Gwyneth Paltrow will sell out before previews start, regardless of the play. People now attend the theatre to see stars. They don't seem to care, for instance, if Madonna's performance in Up for Grabs is "wooden" or "mechanical" - to quote the critics." The Guardian (UK) 08/17/02

BALANCING IDEAS: To write a good play you first need an idea, writes playwright Alan Ayckbourne, who's written 64 of them. But too many ideas can spoil the script. The Telegraph (UK) 08/17/02

Friday August 16

MERCHANDISING THE RSC: The troubled Royal Shakespeare Company is looking for ways to leverage its name to generate income. The RSC, "which is £1.3 million in debt, may now endorse texts of Shakespeare classics for the first time. It may also back a range of school books, online materials and other merchandise. It could establish a presence in film, television, e-learning and publishing through this project." BBC 08/15/02

BROADWAY'S NEXT PRODUCERS? "The buzz on Hairspray, which is centered on a television disc-jockey show in which white kids dance to black music, has been of the overblown variety that can wind up stinging its creators. It's been touted, for example, as the next Producers, the multi-Tony-winning Mel Brooks musical. In truth, Hairspray doesn't have the same breathtaking confidence in its powers of invention. There are moments (rare ones) when it seems to lose its comic moorings to drift into repetition, and it definitely overdoes the self-help-style anthems of uplift." The New York Times 08/16/02

  • DIVINE COMEDY: "From the moment an imperiously frumpy Harvey Fierstein appears, divine in the hausfrau role that was originally Divine's, you can sit back comfortably, knowing that something bizarrely dazzling is about to unfold." New York Post 08/16/02
  • GOOD FUN: "A cheerful, good-natured cartoon with a first-rate cast and a big-budget 1962 tacky look. The show is not always as interesting or funny as it pretends. But it is a high-energy spoof within a spoof within a big-hearted message about the triumph of black people, fat people and, by extension, outsiders of all worthy persuasions. Any comparison to The Producers is wishful thinking." Newsday 08/16/02
  • RARE SHOW: "Hairspray, based on the 1988 John Waters movie of the same title, is something of a blessed event, the arrival of that rarest of Broadway babies, a thoroughly solid piece of musical theater." Washington Post 08/16/02
  • VISION OF BALTIMORE: "A knockout young cast, an exceptionally tuneful score, a set and costumes designed by two American masters. And of course, wigs." Baltimore Sun 08/16/02
  • ANNOYING ENTERTAINMENT: ''Hairspray,' for all its cleverness, can be as annoying as it is entertaining, although that won't stop it from becoming a huge success." Boston Globe 08/16/02
  • CAN'T STOP THIS BEAT: John Waters' first family-friendly film, has gotten a glorious musical makeover with the help of a creative team so focused on the details that every moment of this musical snaps, crackles and pops." Boston Herald 08/16/02
  • ALL THIS AND HARVEY TOO: "Even if Hairspray weren't much, it'd still be an occasion for [Harvey] Fierstein's delightful yet shrewdly calibrated turn. He's doing precisely the right amount of too much. The whole show is." Chicago Tribune 08/16/02
  • GOOD OLD-FASHIONED HEART: "In one important respect, Hairspray outshines The Producers. [Composer Marc] Shaiman has provided some of the most infectious melodies to grace an original Broadway show in years, taking his cues from the incisive craftsmanship that bridged musical comedy's golden era and the age of hippie bombast." USAToday 08/16/02
  • GREAT RETRO: "A hoot - a hilarious and affectionate salute to those days when hair styles were high, skirts were tight and teens danced to a rhythm and blues sound that was beginning to shake up mainstream pop music." Nando Times (AP) 08/16/02

Thursday August 15

CAMP BROADWAY: Wanna be a star? Wanna be on Broadway? If you're a kid, there's "Camp Broadway," a summer camp on Broadaway that puts kids in a theatre for a week and tries to give you an idea of what it's all about. "We're not a camp that discovers talent. We're not Star Search. We offer theatre-loving kids access to real Broadway theatre. Everybody is treated the same. We do five songs from each show. Everybody gets to be in at least two numbers. Everybody gets to sing at least two lines. Everybody is in the finale." The New Yorker 08/12/02

Wednesday August 14

TRAPPED BY THE LONG RUN: You'd think any actor would be happy for the security of being locked into a longterm role. But it's not for everyone. "I felt like I was locked up in prison. It was very trying to be at the whim of every audience. If the laughs were smaller at one performance than another, then I'd worry why they were smaller. I'd worry during the performance. I'd keep thinking, 'I can't seem to please these people enough.' It was very, very exhausting." Backstage 08/13/02

SETTING A STANDARD FOR SHAW: In 23 seasons Christopher Newton made Ontario's Shaw Festival "one of the world's great repertory theatres." Now he's retiring. Toronto Star 08/14/02

Tuesday August 13

SHAKESPEARE TOWN: Organizers of a proposed "Shakespeare's World" theme park spent 13 years trying unsuccessfully to make the project happen in Stratford-upon Avon. So they took the £200 million project to the US. "The first 'Shakespeare's World' will be housed inside a reconstruction of parts of Tudor Stratford-upon-Avon and London in the town of Midland, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It will include Elizabethan fairs, jesters, acrobats, falconry and wrestling displays, banquets and mead-tasting events, as well as waxworks and costume exhibitions." The Observer (UK) 08/11/02

UP YEAR FOR FRINGE FESTS: The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is breaking attendance records. But so are other fringes - "this year's New York International Fringe Festival has racked up more than $150,000 in advance sales - nearly five times more than last year." New York Post 08/13/02

SPOILED BY ITS SUCCESS? The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has become so big some critics believe it has come to dominate the International Festival. Others believe that the Fringe's success has made it too mainstream. Certainly the Fringe gets most of the attention these days. But the future of the two festivals lies in cooperation, says Fringe director Paul Gudgin. The Observer (UK) 08/11/02

Monday August 12

INTERNET TICKET SALES SELL OUT EDINBURGH: Sold-out signs are up all over this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. "Ticket sales were up 23 per cent and five times more tickets were sold than for the same period in 2000." Why the increase? "The pressure for seats can be put down to the increased use of the website. Festival director Paul Gudgin told The Stage, the theatre industry newspaper, that 30-40 per cent of bookings were now made this way." The Observer (UK) 08/11/02

SOME NEW MUST-SEES? For several seasons the national touring theatre circuit has been in a slump. But things are looking up for the season about to open. "Not since the mid-'90s, when The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon hit the road, has a new season for theater nationwide looked so promising." Hartford Courant 08/11/02

SONDHEIM SCORES: This summer's Kennedy Center Sondheim celebration has been a big success. "If Sondheim had been getting his due all along, this opportunity wouldn't have been available to the Kennedy Center. But it was, and one measure of its significance is that people have flocked here from every state in the Union - and from 28 countries - to take advantage of this rare chance." Los Angleles Times 08/12/02

POLITICALLY SPEAKING: Political theatre has returned to the Edinburgh Fringe. "It may be the looming recession, it may be the threat of military conflict, but there are more political plays on here than at any time since the Falklands conflict or the miners’ strike." The Times 08/12/02

AUDITIONS - SPELL IT S-T-R-E-S-S: "Auditioning for a show is the most uncivilized practice for humans since the barbarous exhibition of the Roman gladiators. A more sanguine view would be to think of it as training for the Last Judgment." But everyone has their role to play in this exercise. Those sitting out in the theatre rendering judgment have their anxieties too. The New York Times 08/11/02

Sunday August 11

ART OR MONEY (CAN IT BE BOTH?): Playwrights have a pet saying that in theatre you can make a killing but you can't make a living. When the gravy train is a-chuffing, incomes can be awesomely good. David Hare, Tom Stoppard, Alan Ayckbourn - they're all loaded. But the reality for most writers is very different. Say you had two plays on in one year at two of the big subsidised theatres like the Royal Court and the Royal Exchange, you might get £20,000 in total. That's hard enough to do in one year, let alone every year." The Telegraph (UK) 08/10/02

IGNORING POST-SHAKESPEARE? Productions of Shakespeare are everywhere, and movies of the Bard's plays abound. "So why then the modern cinema's emphasis on Shakespeare, and its exclusion of the equally poetic, equally exciting, often more interesting Jacobean theatre that followed him? It's not as if there is no audience for it. Revenger's and other Jacobean tragedies are constantly on our exam syllabi, which means that there is a solid student audience for such films, both in the cinema and on VHS and DVD." The Guardian (UK) 08/10/02

Friday August 9

BEHEADING THE CRITIC? St. Paul Pioneer-Press theatre critic Dominic Papatola, on reviewing a play called Bring Me the Head of Dominic Papatola at the Minnesota Fringe Festival: "Reviewing this show was an unusual experience for me, and having me review it was probably an unusual experience for those in the cast. I'm accustomed to sitting quietly in my aisle seat, spewing my poison in relative anonymity. They're used to hurling invectives at critics in muttered, half-drunken tones in the corner booth at Leaning Tower of Pizza. While I guess I wouldn't have expected the talkback to take the form of a play that advocates my grisly murder, the mere fact that theater people would even try to pull a stunt like this proves that either (a) they're a lot braver than one would expect or that (b) I've somehow created the impression that I can take it as well as I can dish it out." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 08/09/02

DEATH OF TRYOUTS: New York theatre producers have been fretting since local press broke an informal agreement not to publish reviews of Broadway-bound shows opening out of town. Out-of-town runs were meant as tryouts out of the media glare so they could be tinkered with before coming to the big time. Now the "agreement" has been broken, "no more will a show be able to work out its problems away from the scrutiny of the New York press. But press coverage isn't really the problem. Tryouts don't work anymore because the shows don't really get fixed. They get edited, polished and streamlined - but not fixed." New York Post 08/09/02

RENEWABLE FRANCHISE: Cirque de Soleil and the Blue Man Group are two successful franchises that have expanded over the past decade into big corporate operations with multiple shows and locations. "About 2,400 people work for Cirque du Soleil, and revenues are expected to reach a reported $325 million this year." As for Blue Man, "what started with three men Off-Broadway has expanded into a 350-person organization, including 30 Blue Men and 50 musicians who rotate in the nightly shows in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas." Christian Science Monitor 08/09/02

Thursday August 8

GREAT SCOTT: Some of the best theatre writing coming out of the UK these days is from Scotland. "If Scottish playwrights working today are a particularly eclectic, elusive bunch, resistant to categorisation, can one talk about anything distinctly Scottish in their work that marks them out from their counterparts in England?" The Telegraph (UK) 08/07/02

COMING BACK: Harvey Fierstein's career was launched with a bang back in 1982 when he won Tony awards for Best Play and Best Actor for Torch Song Trilogy. He points out that his career has chugged along just fine since. But it's a sign of the buzz around Hairspray - in which he's about to open on Broadway next week -  that some are calling the show his big comeback. New York Observer 08/06/02

DARK ON 9/11: More than a dozen Broadway shows, including The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Les Miserables, Cabaret and Mamma Mia! have decided not to perform on September 11 this year. "I don't think we could face performing that day when you remember back to what occurred last year. It's just too difficult and too emotional." Nando Times (AP) 08/07/02

Wednesday August 7

GETTING IT WRONG ABOUT STOPPARD: "All dramatists get shunted into pigeonholes, and ever since his startling 1966 debut with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard has been branded a formidable brainbox with a capacity for jokes. Comparisons are frequently made to Shaw, another dramatist who supposedly elevated ideas above emotion and sugared argument with beguiling comedy. But just as we are hopelessly wrong about Shaw - one of the most impassioned dramatists of the 20th century - so we have for too long misunderstood the nature of Stoppard's talent." The Guardian (UK) 08/07/02

UNRATED AT YOUR OWN RISK: With some of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival's shows deliberately setting out to embarrass, offend or gross out their audiences, there's a renewed call for some sort of film-style ratings system. But organizers rule it out, saying that it would be "impossible for a group of censors to see every one of the 1,500 shows or provide a consistent film-style classification." The Telegraph (UK) 08/07/02

CHICAGO TO BROADWAY - CRY US A RIVER: The uproar over New York critics' decision to report on the bad reviews being garnered in Chicago by a Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp collaboration destined for Broadway is just so much pompous bluster, says the Chicago Tribune. "This Broadway petulance is offensive to theatergoers everywhere. Plays are launched here not because of the kindness of producers but because--in the opinion of no less an authority than The New York Times--Chicago is by far the best theater venue outside of Broadway." Chicago Tribune 08/06/02

Tuesday August 6

THEATRE CREEDE: In 1967 a bunch of college students from the University of Kansas were lured to the small Colorado town of Creede (pop. 600) to start a theatre company in an old movie theatre. "What happened the next 37 years is a story sociologists and economists could study for years: How a ragtag group of young artists came into a harsh, dying town and not only found a way to mesh with its isolated community but has been twice credited - by some only begrudgingly - with saving it." Denver Post 08/06/02

Monday Auguat 5

DEVINING DIVADOM: Who is today's Great Diva of the theatre? Clive Barnes is ready to make a nomination. "I'm thinking of the sort of woman Ethel Barrymore was, someone to follow in the footsteps of the wooden-legged Sarah Bernhardt, Dame Edith Evans and the shocking Tallulah Bankhead (who, apparently, like Ethel's brother, John, used to drink out of a wooden leg)." New York Post 08/04/02

GOING FOR GROSSOUT: It's pretty much a rite of passage - the Edinburgh Fringe doesn't really get underway until people start walking out of some particularly rank and offensive production. And only a day into this year's edition, we've got plenty to choose from. We don't want to gross you out here descriptions found in this Guardian report, but "despite accusations that the unregulated Edinburgh Fringe features unprecedented levels of obscenity this year, ticket sales reached record levels over the weekend. One show, Sexual Fetishes with Fish, will ask the audience to pass round a condom filled with frozen human excrement and then lick one another's armpits." The Guardian (UK) 08/05/02

FAMILY AFFAIR: Sutton and Hunter Foster are the biggest family story on Broadway since the Lupones. "She's the Tony Award-winning singer-actor-dancer who's gone from virtually unknown Millie to Thoroughly Modern Millie. He's the naive but stouthearted hero Bobby Strong in Urinetown: The Musical." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 08/04/02

Sunday August 4

MORE TICKET WOES TO COME: "According to new statistics from the League of American Theaters and Producers, Broadway's main trade group, only about one in three theatergoers is buying tickets more than four weeks in advance. That figure is a sharp departure from the typical 50 percent that producers had grown to expect over the last decade, a period of remarkable prosperity for Broadway as a whole... Factor in a weak economy and weak advance sales, and some Broadway insiders say they expect producers may just close long-running shows rather than risk a series of weekly losses." The New York Times 08/04/02

FRINGE BENEFITS: The largest Fringe Festival in the world opens this weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the largest in America opens in Minneapolis. Fringe festivals have become increasingly popular in the last decade, with the main attraction being the chance for the public to get a look at the type of non-mainstream artists whose work often goes unnoticed, underfunded, and unreported on. In fact, some longtime fringe fans have expressed concerns that the whole idea has become too big and popular, and fear that fringe festivals may soon go the way of independent film festivals, which are often accused of having been coopted by the 'establishment' they are supposedly disdaining. BBC 08/04/02 & Saint Paul Pioneer Press 08/02/02

  • TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? The Edinburgh Festival may have started its life as an attempt to reunite post-war Europe, but it has become the ultimate marketing tool for performers hoping to garner some attention in an increasingly homogenous world of entertainment. But has Edinburgh's expansion over the decades cost it some credibility? "While a growing number of less-established companies financially cripple themselves in the quest to be talent-spotted by more than 500 scouts and 2,000 journalists, critics have suggested that the event, comprising international, fringe, books and film festivals, has become 'too bloated, unwieldy and long'." The Guardian (UK) 08/03/02

MILLER THE IRONIC: One doesn't tend to think of Arthur Miller as an author of hilarious satire. Miller is generally perceived as being darker than a festival of film noir drenched in motor oil. So its no great surprise that he would choose a relatively remote location to try his hand at comedy. Miller's latest play combines crucifixion and commercialism in what Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater hopes will be an attention-getting progression in the career of America's arguably most famous playwright. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 08/04/02

Friday August 2

EASY AUDIENCE: "It may be more difficult to please the critics - but to make the Los Angeles theater crowd happy, it seems that all you have to do is finish the show. Can't act, can't sing, can't dance - but, hey, nobody's perfect. Posing the question 'Are there too many standing ovations in Los Angeles?' touches a nerve with some members of the local theater community, who insist this is a misconception fueled by jaded journalists who attend way too many opening nights, where the house is papered with friends, agents, celebrities and the performers' moms and dads." Los Angeles Times 08/02/02

IF ONLY THERE WASN'T THAT DAMN AUDIENCE: "Theatre-going, unlike the solitary darkness of movie-watching, is undeniably a communal experience. We're all in it together, and when theatre becomes magical, it is because we react together, because our emotions surge collectively. The only problem is all those other people – whether it's the one person sitting next to you (for whose enjoyment you feel illogically responsible) or everyone else in the theatre, who all seem to be misunderstanding the entire performance. Whatever and whomever, your response to a play is dangerously vulnerable to the behaviour of others." The Independent (UK) 07/31/02

FUN & RESPONSIBILITY: Producers of children's theatre have a choice to make. "In a time when public school arts instruction has been diminished, should such producers be picking up the pedagogical slack for kids who want to become theatre artists? Should they aim to train a new generation to be loyal and avid theatregoers? Or should they just concern themselves with creating good, serious fun?" Backstage 08/02/02

Thursday August 1

NOT SO OUT-OF-TOWN ANYMORE: The tradition of out-of-town tryouts for shows heading to Broadway was established so shows could work out their kinks before coming under the glare of New York media. But the internet has changed that. And last week New York papers ran reviews of the new Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp musical now playing an out-of-town run in Chicago. "Since that broke the standard practice of New York-area papers not reviewing out-of-town tryouts, there have been howls of protest from New York producers." Chicago Tribune 07/31/02

EMBATTLED DRAMA: Israel's Jewish-Arab theatre companies are having a difficult time during the current conflict. "Founded in less volatile times as living examples of how a Jewish majority and Arab minority could coexist in Israel, they now operate in a climate of fear, hatred, suspicion and terrorism. The intifada, much more than its predecessor in the late 1980's, has traumatized Arab-Jewish relations not just across the border separating sovereign Israel from the occupied territories but also within Israel itself. To the theaters' participants, this makes their work all the more imperative." The New York Times 08/01/02

ACTING OUT IN ARGENTINA: The arts may be generally on the skids in Argentina, where the economy has collapsed. The theatre, however, is reportedly thriving. "But the focus is not on productions in traditional theatres. Instead, it is happening wherever cheap spaces can be found - disused warehouses, schools and homes." The Age (Melbourne) 08/01/02

IMAGINE THE CHOREOGRAPHY: When Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura decided not to seek reelection this summer, the promise of a Broadway musical based on his life as a pro wrestler, Navy SEAL, and politician died a quick death. But two years of work had already gone into the project, and at least one of the collaborators doesn't want all the effort to have been for nothing. And besides, a musical with songs like "I Don't Know the Meaning of Can't," "Football Practice (Drop and Gimme Twenty)," and "Retaliate in '98" just cries out to be heard, doesn't it? City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 07/31/02