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THEATRE - September 2001

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Sunday September 30

BRIGHT FUTURE FOR BROADWAY? One of New York's senior theatre critics thinks that the doomsayers are overstating the crisis facing Broadway. "During World War II in London, I recall watching theater while Hitler's doodle-bug, pilotless missiles droned and spluttered overhead. Later, von Braun's rockets plopped down and caused indiscriminate devastation. There was nothing one could do about them. The thinking was: One may as well go to the theater." New York Post 09/30/01

LIVING LIFE BACKWARDS: Kenneth Tynan was the 20th Century's greatest theatre critic. But his biggest accomplishments were made by his 30s, and he was irrelevant by the time he dies. A new book examines his life. "It is, of course, gratifying for a theatre critic to discover that Tynan, undoubtedly the greatest dramatic critic of the 20th century, probably the greatest since Hazlitt, should, 21 years after his death, be one of the publishing sensations of the year." The Telegraph (UK) 09/29/01

Friday September 28

SELLING THE NATIONAL THEATRE: The president of Nigeria wants to raise money for his impoverished government. So he's planning to sell off government enterprises - including the country's National Arts Theatre - to the highest bidders. "But groups of Nigerian musicians, actors and actresses are staging a series of performances and road marches in protest at the sell-off plans. 'We have made it clear to the government that the National Arts Theatre is the soul of the nation and it should not be sold'." BBC 09/28/01

ACTING PROACTIVE: No sector of the arts world has suffered in the wake of the September 11 tragedy like the theatre. While many people look to music, literature, and visual art to help sooth their troubled souls, the prospect of an evening of song and dance or high drama still appears to be uninviting to most of the public. In Boston, one of America's great regional theatre centers, companies have banded together to try and draw the public back into their world. Boston Globe 09/28/01

Thursday September 27

FIT TO LEAD? Is the British Arts Council investigating the appointment of Nicholas Hytner as director of the National Theatre? "In a letter to the Arts Council, the executive director of the Nottingham Playhouse Venu Dhupa complained that the post was not advertised." BBC 09/27/01

Wednesday September 26

MISS SAIGON DIRECTOR TO HEAD NATIONAL: Nicholas Hytner has been named director of London's National Theatre, succeeding Trevor Nunn. "Hytner is a director of real distinction, with a host of successes to his name. He is extremely confident when it comes to filling big stages, and has been in charge of some of the National's most ambitious and popular successes over the years." The Telegraph (UK) 09/26/01

  • TAKES OVER IN 2003: Hytner is the fourth middle-aged, white, Cambridge graduate to head the National, but Hytner says "I am not against older folk coming here and having a good time, but the age of the audience will come down when we reflect something other than the homogeneous concerns of a white, middle-aged, middle-class audience." The Guardian (UK) 09/26/01
  • POPULAR CHOICE: "Is the affable Hytner his own man? What will he bring to the job that Trevor Nunn didn’t? Hytner has a five-year contract, but is continuity rather than change likely to be his watchword? Up to a point, yes." The Times (UK) 09/26/01
  • GOOD CHOICE: "He's hugely popular within the building and has real substance. And, although he pays due and proper tribute to his predecessor, there are already encouraging signs that, at the National, Hytner will be very much his own man." The Guardian (UK) 09/26/01

PROFESSOR HAROLD HILL LEAVES TOWN: "Broadway's most powerful union has told the The Music Man to take a hike. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees is the only union that has not offered to help The Music Man. The other theater unions - including Actors' Equity - have agreed to the cuts. IATSE, which represents stagehands and other members of the backstage crew, has also suspended discussions with two other shows, Proof and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife." New York Post 09/26/01

NOT SO FUNNY: Comedians want to go on with their shows, but "find themselves having to strike a delicate balance between sympathy and satire, unfamiliar territory for both mainstream comics and for alternative comedians. Now, in dealing with an event far darker than any comic can recall, both camps are facing a whole new array of challenges, including many audiences with little patience for anything anti-American." The New York Times 09/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday September 25

BROADWAY BACK UP: Audiences returned to Broadway theatres this past weekend. "A number of Broadway shows played to standing-room-only crowds on Saturday and Sunday, though tickets to all but the most popular productions were heavily discounted. Yesterday, many producers said 25 percent to 50 percent of their business this past weekend came from the half-price TKTS booth in Times Square." New York Post 09/25/01

  • NY THEATRE FAMILY CRISIS: Broadway's sudden downturn is the worst and most abrupt ever experienced in New York. "Will the tourists return? Will old shows close? Will new shows come in? The questions affect everyone from the makers of wigs, shoes and marquees to restaurateurs, fight directors, ticket sellers and those who write advertisements or publish programs: all of whom depend for their livelihoods on the Great White Way." The New York Times 09/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

FROM STREET TO GLOBAL ENTERPRISE: Cirque du Soleil has made the leap. But how to keep the creative edge without becoming corporate? Maybe by expanding beyond tents. "We're talking about a hotel where basic hotel services would be offered, but there might also be a butler character that pops up at different occasions during the daytime with surprises for the customer that would make them crack a smile. A butler with a crazy face would serve you breakfast in the morning, so maybe that would brighten your day. But we're also talking about restaurants, clubs, spas and bus stations." Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/25/01

Monday September 24

KEEPING KATE ALIVE: "Kiss Me Kate posted its closing notice last week on Broadway after business bombed. But on Sunday, the show's cast and crew decided not only to take a 25 percent pay cut to keep ths show open, but also to spend 25 percent of their salaries on buying tickets to the show, which they'll then donate. Sunday "the play began with an actor walking on stage, sweeping off the closing notice and singing the first few words of the first song in the Cole Porter musical, Another Op'nin', Another Show. The audience cheered." Nando Times (AP) 09/24/01

WEST END WORRIES: As Broadway ticket sales tank, London's West End worries it too will find business dissolving. "In an average year, Americans and Canadians buy between 7 and 10 per cent of all West End seats, and overseas visitors account for about a third of the total. The concern in and around Shatfesbury Avenue is that, unlike during the Gulf War, when there was only a significant drop in the number of North American tourists, the West End’s continental and Australasian customers will also dwindle, as thousands cancel international flights." The Times (UK) 09/24/01

Sunday September 23

THEATRE OF TERROR: "How a new generation of theater artists will respond to the shattering events of that day remains to be seen. Because of the long process involved in getting a work from the page to the stage, the playwrights' response will not be immediately evident. However, artistic directors are already looking at their own programming - at shows that they had already announced, as well as plays from the repertoire of world drama - for work that will give refuge, illumination and inspiration to their audiences." Hartford Courant 09/23/01

Friday September 21

WHEN THE TOURISTS STAY HOME: It's grim on Broadway. Shows are going bankrupt and five are closing. Six others, including several long-running productions, are on the verge of shutting down. "A show like Rent, for example, needs to bring in about $40,000 a day to meet its costs. Its sales since the attacks have ranged from $1,800 (on Sept. 11) to $14,000 (on Wednesday)." The New York Times 09/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • PAY CUTS INSTEAD OF LAYOFFS: To keep big Broadway shows from closing, theatre unions make deal with producers - "a 25 percent across-the-board pay cuts for cast and crew at five shows - Chicago, Rent, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and The Full Monty. The cuts will be in place for four weeks beginning next week. If business does not improve, they can be renegotiated." New York Post 09/21/01
  • PRODUCERS PIN HOPES ON THE ROAD: With business so bad on Broadway, producers are hoping that touring road shows will be their "lifeline." Meanwhile, some touring productions have abandoned air travel for the ground. Chicago Tribune 09/21/01
  • THEATRE DISASTER: Broadway's "total income fell more than 60 percent from the previous week." 09/20/01
  • THEATRE IN A TIME OF TERROR: "My feeling is that at no time in our lives have we needed the theater more, and my hope is that the suffering theater community itself will take heart knowing how close it is to our own hearts. Can any of us imagine a world without theater? Only one of darkness. When the theaters went dark for two days last week, there was no choice. But the traumatized city seemed darker still. Theater has always been our eternal refuge, embrace, hope, solace and home." New York Observer 09/20/01

Thursday September 20

A DIFFICULT ACT: "Broadway is one of the worlds of New York reeling hardest from the events of last week. People don't seem to feel right enjoying themselves, being entertained. So yesterday was not a typical matinee day. The restaurants around Times Square were not full. The sidewalks were not crowded. Tour buses were in short supply. And tickets were available (except for The Producers, which sold out). Producers, theater owners and unions are all talking about how to keep business on Broadway alive over the next few weeks, when tourists are expected to stay home." The New York Times 09/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A WOMAN TO TAKE OVER THE ROYAL NATIONAL? There's a high-level and highly-secretive search under way for someone to succeed Trevor Nunn as artistic director of the Royal National Theater, "arguably the most important arts organisation in Britain." Given the current demands of the position, "I can't help thinking it's less likely to go to a middle-class Oxbridge-educated male than to a dynamic, persuasive female." The Irish Times 09/20/01

Wednesday September 19

BROADWAY'S TOURIST PROBLEM: Broadway shows are suffering as tourists stay home. "Among those hardest hit are some of Broadway's best known titles, including long-running shows like Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables and Rent, productions that rely heavily on tourists, which are in short supply as a steady stream of frightening images spread across the country and the world. Also hurting were a handful of well-received revivals, including The Music Man, Chicago and Kiss Me, Kate." The New York Times 09/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • AID FOR THEATRES: New York mayor Rudy Giuliani offers an aid package to help Broadway theatres. "We may be going through a period in which even people who are not afraid and certainly willing to do different things may not feel like going to a Broadway play. We want to make sure they get through this period of time." BBC 09/19/01
  • Previously: BROADWAY HIT HARD: "Four Broadway shows have announced they will close prematurely at the weekend due to a fall in ticket sales since the suicide attacks on New York and Washington last Tuesday." BBC 09/18/01

DON'T MESS WITH THE SHAKESPEARE: Theatre unions hate the idea, Prince Charles has expressed his displeasure, and critics are lining up in opposition to Adrian Noble's plans to restructure the Royal Shakespeare Company. "At the heart of the protest lies a total dismay at the RSC's abandonment of ensemble repertoire: the belief that you go to Stratford to see a resident company in an accumulating programme in three theatres. Until recently it was the company's core philosophy." The Guardian (UK) 09/19/01

Tuesday September 18

BROADWAY HIT HARD: "Four Broadway shows have announced they will close prematurely at the weekend due to a fall in ticket sales since the suicide attacks on New York and Washington last Tuesday." BBC 09/18/01

Sunday September 16

REWRITING A CLASSIC: Playwright David Henry Hwang's Flower Drum Song rewrite "will likely send musical comedy purists into a C-major fit. In Hwang's story, San Francisco's Chinatown circa 1960 is glimpsed through the prism of a Chinese opera theater struggling with its off-night success as a Westernized nightclub, run by the tradition-bound owner's James Dean-styled son. The show's song list remains largely the same—A Hundred Million Miracles, I Enjoy Being a Girl, even Chop Suey. The new libretto removes the original's quaint arranged marriage complications, however, in favor of a brash backstage musical romance." Los Angeles Times 09/16/01

Friday September 14

KILLING NY THEATRE: Broadway producers are worrying that the World Trade Center attacks may help kill the good times Broadway has enjoyed for the past decade. New York theatre depends heavily on the tourist trade - that was already down this summer from last year's record levels, and is "likely to dry up now that New York City 'has a big bull's-eye painted on its face'." New York Post 09/14/01

ROYAL SHAKESPEARE STRIKE AVERTED: "A planned strike for Saturday by production workers at the Royal Shakespeare Company has been called off. Technical staff were planning to strike in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, over redundancies. But [the union] has not ruled out strikes on future Thursdays and Saturdays, if a revised redundancy package is not accepted." BBC 09/14/01

ANOTHER MAJOR AWARD FOR ARTHUR MILLER: American playwright Arthur Miller "is among five recipients of the Japan Art Association's 2001 Praemium Imperiale International Arts Award, which is intended to honor lifetime achievement in categories not covered by the Nobel Prizes." With all his prizes and honors, Miller, at 85, might seem like a man who has figured things out. He says not. "I don't have any big answers offhand," he insists. "I struggle with everything, just like everyone else does." USAToday 09/14/01

Wednesday September 12

NEED FOR THE NEW: Birmingham Repertory Theatre's director recently resigned saying he'd "run out of ideas" about how to revitalize the theatre. Perhaps "if Birmingham has a problem, it is that its audiences haven't been exposed to the new theatre written over the past 10 or even 20 years." The Guardian (UK) 09/12/01

CANCELLATIONS AFTER TERRORISM: Latin Grammys, Emmys, canceled in wake of terrorist attacks. Broadway closes up. Nando Times (AP) 09/11/01

Tuesdy September 11

ORIGINAL SHAKESPEARE: A rare almost-perfect first folio edition of Shakespeare plays is about to be auctioned. "It's an awesome thought that if this book had not been published, most of what we know of Shakespeare would have disappeared from the world. None of the cue copies and prompt copies survives." The Guardian (UK) 09/11/01

THE OTHER ACTORS' STRIKE: So the dreaded Hollywood actors' strike planned for earlier this summer was averted, and everything was fine in the world of performer/producer relations, right? Wrong. "The final countdown to a possible strike by UK actors over pay and conditions is to get under way on Tuesday... [and] threatens to bring the UK film industry to a standstill." BBC 09/10/01

COLLABORATIVE STAGING: London's legendary West End is one of the world's dramatic centers, and playwrights count themselves lucky to have one of their works put on at one of the district's many theaters. But a dot-com company has come up with a bizarre idea to have its users write, as a group, the latest play to premiere at the Soho Theatre. BBC 09/10/01

Friday September 7

WHAT'S NEW? The new Broadway season is set to go. Lots of new musicals, including the ABBA invasion ready to take on The Producers. Lots of plays too, but proactically no new plays...The New York Times 09/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE OVERTIME PENALTY: When a kid's show ran over its alloted time in LA's Ford Theatre last week, the sound suddenly went dead on stage. “We were running a little long. Apparently the [Ford’s] managing director told the show’s director to stop the show. She said, ‘No, we have eight minutes left.’ So he instructed his crew to stop running the sound." LA Weekly 09/07/01

Thursday Septermber 6

THE FANTASTICKS WILL CLOSE AFTER MORE THAN 17,000 PERFORMANCES: It's the longest running musical ever, playing for forty years. But finally, the seemingly indestructible The Fantasticks is closing, ending its off-Broadway run on January 6 next year. The problem, as usual, is finances. Don't feel too bad for the producers: in a 153-seat theater, The Fantasticks has grossed over $23 million. Nando Times (AP) 09/15/01

BEWARE THE IDES OF SEPTEMBER: The technical staff at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon goes will strike on September 15, the same day that RSC has scheduled a production of Julius Caesar. The union charges that "about two-thirds of technical staff at the company could lose their jobs if plans to abandon the fixed Shakespeare season at Stratford upon Avon go ahead." BBC 09/05/01

THEATRE WITH A POINT: "Political theatre has not fared well of late. It has, over the past few years, acquired all the style of chintz curtains, the charisma of a scout master and the intellectual independence of the Catholic Church." New Statesman 09/03/01

A BREAK FROM THEATRE: Village Voice theatre critic Michael Feingold is taking a break from the critical grind. Why? "If writing and thinking about theater becomes a grind that needs relief, the problem may be the extent to which it isn't at its best. That's no surprise. To cite Shaw, 'The theatre is, was, and always will be as bad as it possibly can'." Village Voice 09/04/01

Wednesday September 5

CAMERON'S LONDON: Theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh has slammed London and defended National Theatre director Trevor Nunn. “No other country in the world does everything in its power to stop the public from visiting its centre. More go to the theatre and cinema that football matches, yet the whole place is grinding to a halt…" 09/04/01

Monday September 3

HEY, IT WORKED FOR THE PRODUCERS: Sylvester Stallone says on his website that he's planning to bring a musical version of his movie Rocky to Broadway. He won't star, but he's planning to write the script. Chicago Tribune 09/03/01