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THEATRE - October 2000

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Tuesday October 31

  • THE SHOOTING OF ANTHONY LEE: The actor that LA police shot and killed at a Halloween party Sunday (he was carrying a toy gun) was a longtime much-loved Seattle actor. "For the many in Seattle who knew and admired this charismatic man who left his mark on our theater scene, Lee must be remembered not mainly as the victim of a freak shooting, but as a riveting actor and an extraordinary human being. He deserves that." Seattle Times 10/31/00
  • REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: The Royal Shakespeare Company was mired in controversy and sagging popularity as recently as two years ago. "But what a difference a couple of years can make. In 1996, [Adrian] Noble took the brave decision to cut London ties in half in favour of retrenchment and more regional touring, and new blood is continuing to revitalise the company." The Herald (Glasgow) 10/31/00
  • AIN'T THAT RICH: "By 1993, when he ended his thirteen years as the chief drama critic for the New York Times, Frank Rich had come to be known as 'the Butcher of Broadway,' but the Frank Rich that emerges in the pages of his new memoir is far more Dalmatian than Cruela De Vil." New York Magazine 10/30/00
  • BRIBING 'EM WORKS: Canadian theatre is suddenly hot in Washington DC. This fall, four plays and a handful of readings are storming the U.S. capital. "The unprecedented amount of activity is largely due to the Canada Project, a two-year-old Canadian embassy initiative that offers Washington artistic directors free theatre junkets to Canada. The thinking is that if American producers are exposed to Canadian plays, maybe they will catch the bug and pass it along to their fellow Americans." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/31/00
  • THE BODY VENTURA: A musical about wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura is headed for Broadway, its producers say. "It's like Rocky meets Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, as a musical." 10/31/00

Monday October 30

  • MISSING JEWS: "Despite the work of Pinter, Arnold Wesker and Deborah Levy, Jewish writing is a neglected presence in British theatre. If you want to see an overtly Jewish character on the British stage, you usually have to wait for the ambivalent hero-villains in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice or Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, both written at a time when Jews were officially banished from the country." New Statesman 10/30/00

Sunday October 29

  • PLAY IS TOO HOT FOR SINGAPORE: Singapore's Public Entertainment Licensing Unit has turned down a permit to stage a play. "Written by Indian playwright Elangovan, the play is about an Indian-Muslim woman's experiences of marital violence and rape. Staged three times in Tamil in 1998 and last year, it had triggered strong protests from some members of the Indian-Muslim community who thought it blasphemous and some religious groups wanted it banned." Singapore Straits-Times 10/29/00
  • NEW BLOW TO THE NATIONAL THEATRE: London's National Theatre has been hit by a fresh crisis after the director of a new production of Peer Gynt, due to open next month, returned home to Ireland on medical advice. But his departure was marked by reports of mounting friction between him and the cast at the Olivier Theatre. He was alleged to have been asked to leave the theatre last weekend after shouting abusively at the cast during a preview performance. The Independent (London) 10/28/00

Friday October 27

  • A SURE HIT: " 'The Full Monty', the hearty singing adaptation of the popular English film about a motley male troupe of amateur strippers, opened last night in a blaze of pure mass appeal. The show calculatedly pushes as many buttons as an elevator operator, but it mercifully doesn't hammer at them." New York Times 10/27/00 (onetime registration required for entry)
  • NEW DIRECTIONS FOR TONYS? Broadway's Tony Awards are in disarray - low ratings, infighting and intrigue. Now a veteran producer is negotiating to come in to try and restore order. New York Post 10/27/00
  • THE TROUBLE WITH THEATRE IN PORTLAND: "Why have so many small and midsize Portland theaters gone belly-up in recent years? Why don't the city's hip trendsetters have the kind of yen for drama that keeps the Seattle theater scene hopping, from our spiffy professional houses to our fringe cubbyholes?" Seattle Times 10/27/00

Wednesday October 25

  • THE RIGHT TO REPLACE MUSICIANS? A major Toronto theatre producer is attempting to do away with minimum requirement for the number of musicians it must pay for its productions. Musicians are protesting. "The technology is around the corner for all of it to be automated and to bury us. Right now [the minimum] is all we have, and we don't want to let it go." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/25/00
  • STEPPENWOLF TURNS 25: Twenty-five years after its first Chicago performances in a church basement, Steppenwolf Theatre Company is one of the most revered actorsí troupes in the world. "No important American theater ensemble has survived for even close to 25 years with the same core of performers. The troupe has expanded from its original 9 members to 33, but every one of the original members is still active. There is no such thing as a former member." New York Times 10/25/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Monday October 23

  • ACTORS STRIKE OVER: The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists reached a tentative agreement with the advertising industry to end their nearly half-year-long strike. 10/23/00
  • A CANARY-IN-A-COAL-MINE THING? London's National Theatre is about to report its first budget deficit since the mid-1980s. The National, which receives government subsidies of more than £1 million a month, has suffered in the past year from bad reviews and some delayed productions. "It is only a slight loss, at £160,000, but that is being seen as a worrying overspend. If the National Theatre is doing well, then everyone perceives that London theatre is doing well - so many would prefer that it was successful." BBC 10/23/00
  • THEATRE FOR THE RICH: "In an era in which national funding and patronage for the arts have been all but gutted by Bible-thumping senators, Kersnar has come up with a way to continue doing what he and his partners are good at, and still keep his family out of the poorhouse: Shaking the Tree - a company formed specifically to produce plays for the viewing pleasure, and instruction, of wealthy family audiences." Salon 10/23/00
  • SCARY STORY: Stephen King and John Mellencamp are collaborating on writing a musical together. Yes, it's a ghost story. "Our goal is some day to end up on Broadway. We're not going to take it straight to Broadway." Chicago Sun-Times (Billboard) 10/23/00

Sunday October 22

  • MUSEUM FOR DEAD PLAYS? Debate about the direction of London's National Theatre rages on in the press. Does no one like the National these days? "In order to establish the right mission for a national theatre, we need to strip the idea of theatre back to the bone. There is no place for retrospective seasons based on the architecture of the building, no room for knee-jerk reliance on the classics." The Guardian (London) 10/21/00

Friday October 20

  • "KING" MOVES TO HOLLYWOOD: The theatrical version of "The Lion King" finally moves to Hollywood in the newly-restored Pantages Theatre - and it looks every bit as good as it does on Broadway. Los Angeles Times 10/20/00

Thursday October 19

  • WHEN COMMERCIAL/NON-PROFIT VENTURES GO BAD: The commercial failure of "The Wild Party" on Broadway last season "raised broad questions both about the Public Theatre and about Broadway's capacity to handle unorthodox fare. An examination of the musical's short, troubled life highlights those issues and the problems that can arise in the increasingly frequent partnerships between nonprofit theaters and commercial producers." New York Times 10/19/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • NOT TONIGHT JOSEPHINE: The musical "Napoleon" opened in London this week to generally dreary reviews. But though the show is being billed as new, it looks awfully familiar to the effort that bombed in Toronto six years ago. Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/19/00

Wednesday October 18

  • I SHAKESPEARE, MBA: A new program at Ontario's Stratford Theatre Festival brings corporate executives together to learn management lessons from Shakespeare. Sessions include: "How might the leaders in Hamlet have been more effective leaders?" and "How would you rate a Shakespearean leader?" Days are jammed with seminars, the evenings devoted to social dinners and two Stratford performances, 'Hamlet' and 'As You Like It'. Perhaps because of the cost and because a few of the participants are on government payrolls, the vast majority wanted to remain anonymous." The Globe and Mail 10/18/00
  • THEATREíS COLOR LINE: When asked if there is a crisis in black theatre in Britain, Nicolas Kent, director of north Londonís Tricycle Theatre, has more than a little to say. "I could go on and on listing the problems. The fact that there is no theatre building run by a black or Asian director, that there is no black children's company and that theatre staffs and boards are overwhelmingly white." And what about so-called "color-blind casting?" "We don't just need to be told that the RSC is to have a black Henry VI. What we need is enough money to support black companies to do black-generated work." The Guardian (London) 10/18/00
  • PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS: George C. Wolfe heads into his eighth season at the helm of New Yorkís Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival with two costly Broadway flops in his wake - and $14 million in losses his theater has had to absorb. "Theater veterans have been asking why the Public's board backed Mr. Wolfe on yet another risky Broadway venture so soon after the last one, and how it could stand by him when artistic directors around the country have been let go simply for losing subscribers." New York Times 10/18/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Tuesday October 17

  • THEATRE OF LIFE: "Big themes hover around this yearís Dublin Theatre Festival. The first has to do with the transition from a monocultural society to a multicultural one, which Ireland is beginning to experience with some ferocity as the success of its 'Celtic tiger' economy sucks in more migrants and refugees. Suddenly, this year in Dublin, the youngsters working in the cafes and burger bars are no longer Irish, but North African, Filipino, Russian. Itís a change that has come as a profound culture shock to a country so long used to the experience of mass emigration, depopulation and loss." The Scotsman 10/17/00

Sunday October 15

  • CLAP TRAP: Audiences are clapping more and more in the London Theatre. "It is common in the West End for audiences to applaud the first entrance of major stars, as if grateful that they bothered to show up at all. Elderly actors always get a particularly big hand. This has nothing to do with their acting ability and everything to do with their longevity. This applause does not mean 'You're marvellous' but 'Isn't it amazing that you aren't gaga and in a bathchair'?" The Guardian (London) 10/14/00
  • NUNN-SENSE: Critics are lining up against London's National Theatre director Trevor Nunn.  But "Nunn's fiercest critics might want to think twice before hysterically demanding that he be ousted." After all, who would replace him? It's not an idle question. The Observer (London) 10/15/00

Friday October 13

  • LONELY AT THE TOP: The knives are out for London's National Theatre boss Trevor Nunn. He's being accused of not delegating, of not developing new talent, and producing work that ought to be better. But hold on, writes one critic. "Not only has he toiled at least as hard in office and rehearsal room as his workaholic predecessors, Eyre and Peter Hall, paradoxically getting himself attacked for not sharing or delegating power, but he has brought us some of the finest productions and performances Iíve seen." The Times (London) 10/13/00

Thursday October 12

  • THE ART OF LISTENING: "Having problems hearing the play these days? You are not alone. Directors of Canada's larger theatres say their audiences increasingly complain they just can't hear the actors speaking. Is it a case of collective deafness? Are modern theatres poorly designed for acoustics? Have actors lost the art of projecting a whisper back to the rear balcony? Or have theatregoers lost the art of listening?" The Globe and Mail 10/12/00
  • TICKET INCOME BY ANY OTHER NAME... Three years ago Jujamcyn, the third-largest theatre producer on Broadway, began a $1 surcharge on all the tickets it sold. The company called the fee a "restoration" charge to fund restoration of its theatres. But it refused to include the fee's income when calculating royalty payments to its directors and choreographers. This week an arbitrator ruled Jujamcyn must include the charge and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in back payments. New York Post 10/12/00

Wednesday October 11

  • QUEEN OF THE GREAT WHITE WAY: Elton John's "Aida" was disliked by the critics, dissed by the Tony awards, and generally made fun of in the theatre world. Yet the show has become a surprising hit on Broadway, pulling in $800,000 a week. New York Post 10/11/00
  • BACK-SEAT DIRECTOR? Critic Michael Billington blasted Londonís Royal National Theatre (and its artistic director Trevor Nunn) several months ago for a "lack of imagination" and "saturation diet of musicals." Now heís outlined a plan to save the RNT, with developing new work at its core. "My complaint at the moment is that the National programme resembles that of the more conservative opera houses which assume that there are simply 50 golden masterpieces to be endlessly revived from here to eternity." The Guardian (London) 10/11/00
  • TAKING A STRONG STAND: In a bold stand against the Australian governmentís recent restructuring of performing arts funding (in which state theater companies will have to turn to private investors for substantial backing), Sydney Theatre Company Artistic Director Robyn Nevin has pledged to quit her position rather than comply with a more commercial business model. Sydney Morning Herald 10/11/00
  • "BECKETT TIME" , an international festival of the Irish writer's work, kicks off in Scotland this week. But unlike other tributes, this one wonít rely on "Godot" and other Beckett staples. "I wouldn't want the festival to be predictable. With a Brazilian puppet group redefining three of his short plays, Beckett texts projected on to well-known Glasgow buildings, a season of his films at the GFT, and a Beckett flotation tank inspired by his work for radio, it could hardly be called that." The Herald (Glasgow) 10/11/00

Tuesday October 10

  • HOW THE WEB IS CHANGING THEATRE: Theatre productions heading to Broadway used to be able to open quietly out of town and work the kinks out. No longer. The web has changed it all. "This torrent of gossip, news, amusing tidbits, and reviews - most of them unfiltered, unverifiable, and true - in chat rooms and on bulletin boards at sites such as,, and, is throwing producers and the reporters covering them for a loop. Why? For the same reason the Web has turned every other industry inside out: It's democratized something that used to be the exclusive purview of an entrenched elite, and the entrenched elite ain't happy." New York Magazine 10/09/00

  • AMERICA'S MOST PROLIFIC PLAYWRIGHT? Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher is working on his eighth produced script this year. "Unless and until someone can ante up eight produced new scripts this year - and show a couple of musicals and two screenplays in the hopper - it's probably safe to dub Hatcher America's Most Prolific Playwright." St. Paul Pioneer Press 10/10/00

Monday October 9

  • CREATING A NEW MUSICAL THEATRE: "While many on the West Coast see Broadway as a monolithic entity 3,000 miles away, "Broadway" is really about the people who create the shows - and it's those creators who came to Los Angeles at their own expense because they wanted to be part of this conference. Their presence wasn't simply to share anecdotes and professional expertise, but to stimulate West Coast musical theater writers and encourage us to keep creating new shows." Los Angeles Times 10/09/00

Sunday October 8

  • SHAKESPEARE'S JOB: A new biography claims that Shakespeare was a highly regarded actor and that he thought of himself as "doing a little writing on the side." The Independent (London) 10/08/00

  • WHAT'S AN ARTISTIC DIRECTOR TO DO? Recent productions at London's National Theatre bring up questions about the role of the artistic director. Trevor Nunn recently spent a lot of time "fine tuning" another director's production of "Romeo and Juliet." But critics are beginning to ask - shouldn't the artistic director be out developing new talent and bringing it into the theatre rather than fixing broken plays? The Independent 10/08/00 

  • DISNEY'S THEATRE PLAY: Critics commonly trash Disney for its commercialism and bland focus. So many were surprised when "Lion King" showed up on Broadway a few seasons ago and turned out to be an artistic success. Now Disney's into theatre in a big way, and there are reasons beyond just money. "Disney's interest in theater may also be due in large part to the fact that people who know and love theater are running the show." Los Angeles Times 10/08/00

  • TRAINING ACTORS AND AUDIENCES: Director Joe Mantello and actress Mary Louise Parker talk about "acting, directing and audience members who snack during performances." New York Times 10/08/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Friday October 6

  • CROSSING OVER: Playwright Harold Pinter will make his acting debut in one of his own plays as part of a ten-play Pinter-fest coming to Broadway. 10/05/00
  • THE WORLD'S LONGEST-RUNNING PRODUCTION: Every 10 years since the 1600's the residents of Oberammergau have performed a passion play. "This year, more than 2,000 locals, almost half the village, will give 100-plus performances to half a million visitors. Qualifications for participants are severe. If you weren't born here, you must have lived here for 20 years, or ten if you marry a lifelong resident. Until 1990, rules for women were even more rigid. Actresses had to be unmarried and under 35." New Statesman 10/06/00

Wednesday October 4

  • WHAT THEATER IS NOT: "Entertaining," "instructional," "celebratory," or "cathartic," at least in the opinion of one riled performing arts professor. The solution? "We should refuse to sit and watch the same old masquerade, the same old plays, the same old actors. We need to kill the theatre off so that new performance can have room to grow." The Guardian (London) 10/04/00
  • LEADING BLACK THEATRE CLOSES: New Jersey's Crossroads Theatre Company has closed down. The Tony Award-winning company, one of the nation's most prominent black theaters, announced its decision Monday. "The bottom line is that we are in great debt - $1.7 million to $2 million in debt." Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 10/04/00
  • ANTI-UNION PRESS COVERAGE OF ACTORS STRIKE? About 120 actors picketed the New York Times to protest what they see as an anti-actors' union slant to the newspaper's coverage of the actors strike against the TV commercial industry. 10/03/00

Monday October 2

  • HOW CANADA GOT ITS OWN THEATRE: Back in the 1960s Canada's regional theatres didn't produce Canadian plays because they said there weren't good Canadian plays. And maybe it was true. But a Trudeau government program helped feed a lot of actors and soon enough there were Canadian plays worth watching. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/02/00

Sunday October 1

  • A SEASON FOR OEDIPUS: It's been decades since a major production of "Oedipus Rex" was staged ion New York. Yet, "it is one of the greatest plays ever written, certainly on the short list and close to first prize." This season will see two very different productions. New York Times 09/30/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • MY LIFE'S A STAGE: Jeffrey Archer's new play opened in London last week. But its convoluted plot was "no stranger than real-life on the day that the former Conservative deputy chairman was charged with perverting the course of justice, perjury and 'using a false instrument', he was also making his (official) world debut as an actor." Sunday Times (London) 10/01/00