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THEATRE - October 2001

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Thursday November 1

BROADWAY AND THE $480 TICKET: Wasn’t it yesterday that Broadway was on its knees begging us all to 'support' it in its darkest hour? Who feels like supporting it now? The dishonest idea that the $480 ticket is 'doing good' is the last straw. This latest example of greed cleaves the already huge rift between those who can still afford to go to Broadway and those who cannot. New York Observer 10/31/01

MODERNIZING SCOTTISH ACTING SCHOOLS: "The popular perception of drama schools as being noisily peopled with big-mouths who have seen the video of Fame once too often and posh kids too thick for real university courses is, of course, only partially deserved." Now two new directors have been brought in to "modernise a course fraying at the edges" at Scottish drama schools. Glasgow Herald 10/31/01

Tuesday October 30

BRECHT BAN: Newly released documents reveal that ministers in the British cabinet tried to keep Bertolt Brecht and his German theatre company out of the UK during the Cold War. "It is extraordinary to see the tricks the Foreign Office got up to to keep Brecht out and the pressure they were under from the German Embassy in London who were running a Brecht boycott from 1953." The Observer (UK) 10/29/01

THE WORLD'S MOST UNPRONOUNCABLE PRIZE: "The first recipient of Canada's single largest arts prize is Toronto theatre director Daniel Brooks, it was announced last night at a ceremony at the University of Toronto. Brooks, 43, was named the inaugural recipient of the Elinore and Lou Siminovitch Prize in Canadian Theatre, worth $100,000. The award, to be handed out annually, was created in January of this year to recognize an artist in mid-career 'who has contributed significantly to the fabric of theatrical life through a total body of work.'" The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 10/30/01

Monday October 29

THE THEATRE OF PLAYS: London's West End is suddenly full of plays about the theatre: "Take these portraits as a fair reflection of today’s Equity membership and you will go home convinced that the average cast includes incompetents (Star Quality, Noises Off), adulterers and serial seducers (Over the Moon, The Royal Family) and dipsomaniacs (Noises Off, Over the Moon), most of them capable of breathtaking vanity and bitchiness (all five shows)." The Times (UK) 10/29/01

Sunday October 28

CONTROL OR GREED? Is Broadway only for the rich? Many are asking, after producers of The Producers jacked up prices for some seats to $480 a ticket. "The scalpers have snatched up and warehoused thousands of our seats. You cannot get good seats for at least six months because they are in the hands of scalpers. We are simply trying to regain control of some of our inventory." New York Post 10/27/01

NOT YOUR AVERAGE TEAR-DOWN: So the Royal Shakespeare Company wants to demolish its Stratford building; it is, after all, not a very good place in which to perform, as currently structured. But the UK's building preservation authority isn't likely to grant tear-down approval. "This is a building redolent with the ghosts of the country's greatest actors. And what must really be preying on English Heritage's mind is the precedent that demolition would create." The Telegraph (UK) 10/27/01

Friday October 26

GOUGING AS PUBLIC SERVICE: "Annoyed" (can you say "greedy"?) at the thriving scalper trade for The Producers, the show's producers plan to hike the price for 50 prime seats per show - to $480 a ticket. "The sum is nearly five times the current cost of $100 for the most expensive seats, itself a Broadway high." The New York Times 10/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NOT ON OUR LIFE: Lincoln Center Theater has removed a new musical from its schedule next year. Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years is loosely based on his failed marriage. But Brown's wife, said to be unhappy with the script, had her lawyers contact Lincoln Center to tell them that the couple's divorce settlement bars Brown from writing about certain aspects of the marriage...and when the lawyers get involved... New York Post 10/26/01

THE MISTAKEN ROYAL: London's National Theatre is marking its 25th anniversary... er, make that the Royal National Theatre, its full name (which is almost never used). Turns out the "Royal" designation was an accident, a mistake, reveal the theatre's leaders at the 25th anniversary party. The Independent (UK) 10/26/01

Tuesday October 23

PUBLIC'S DONORS QUIT: New York's Public Theatre is in trouble, losing lots of money. Now, two of the theatre's largest donors have resigned from the board, citing the "theater's poor financial management. The resignations present the often turbulent Public with one of its most pointed crises in years." The New York Times 10/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

WHAT'S A THEATRE "VILLAGE"? The Royal Shakespeare Company defends its plans to tear down its Stratford theatre and build a new "theatre village." "The rebuilt RST will be the most significant new theatre building of the new century, with the ambition to be one of the world's best playhouses for Shakespeare." The Guardian (UK) 10/23/01

Monday October 22

THE NEW BROADWAY: A new generation of young producers is making a mark on Broadway. "Experimental theatre has been around forever. What's new [as vividly embodied in 'Blue Man Group'] is the blending of an experimental aesthetic with a sound fiscal property." Backstage 10/19/01

REBUILDING A CLASSIC: So the Royal Shakespeare Company wants to tear down its Stratford theatre and rebuild. What should go up in its stead? "Has theatre design really got anywhere since Epidaurus? In Britain, in the 25 years since the completion of the National, results have been patchy. No one seems to know quite what theatre ought to be - the stuff of bands of roaming players and minstrels, or a fixed repertoire point in the fast-turning world of towns and cities, housed in more or less grandiloquent buildings?" The Guardian (UK) 10/22/01

Friday October 19

THE SURPRISE TEAR-DOWN: The Royal Shakespeare Company was thought to be considering a major renovation of its building; plans for demolishing the art deco theatre came as a surprise. “There is considerable scope for remodelling, but the important historic parts of this theatre are well worth fighting for.” The Times (UK) 10/19/01

  • Previously: TEARING DOWN SHAKESPEARE THEATRE: The Royal Shakespeare Company plans to demolish its theatre at Straford-upon-Avon. "The 1932 Art Deco listed building will be bulldozed as part of a grand plan by the RSC's director, Adrian Noble, for a £100 million 'theatre village' on the banks of the Avon." The Independent (UK) 10/18/01

THE NOSE KNOWS: Julie Taymor did the improbable by making Disney (The Lion King) cool with even the most jaded Broadway denizens. Now she's taking on a new project - Pinocchio. She sees the story as "a fable about adolescence, that awkward age when hormones start kicking in, you smoke dope, and need to break away from your family and discover your own identity." The Telegraph (UK) 10/19/01

Thursday October 18

EMPOWERING BROADWAY: To help New York theatre, legislation is being proposed in the US Congress to "make Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres empowerment zones, much as economically disadvantaged neighborhoods such as Harlem are designated, so that producers get tax credits for paying salaries." Backstage 10/17/01

NORTH AMERICA'S LARGEST THEATRE FEST: Ontario's Stratford Theatre Festival is 50 years old. It's the largest repertory theatre in North America and Canada's largest performing arts company. "Attendance has sailed past the half-million mark and year-end surpluses have gone over $4-million for the past two years. This year, Stratford is spending $40.8-million and will have sold more than 600,000 tickets by the time the season ends in November." But is the festival showing its age? How about an upgrade in progrmming... The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/18/01

TEARING DOWN SHAKESPEARE THEATRE: The Royal Shakespeare Company plans to demolish its theatre at Straford-upon-Avon. "The 1932 Art Deco listed building will be bulldozed as part of a grand plan by the RSC's director, Adrian Noble, for a £100 million 'theatre village' on the banks of the Avon." The Independent (UK) 10/18/01

BUT NO CELEBRITIES IN THE CAST: Typically of an expensive musical, North West has lavish effects (a bomber lands on stage right after intermission) and a huge cast (36 actors play 180 different roles). But it's not on Broadway, or the West End. It's gearing up for a two-year run in Moscow. The Moscow Times 10/18/01

SATIRE IS OKAY AFTER ALL. MORE OR LESS: In response to comedian Rowan Atkinson, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said "planned security legislation will not harm freedom of speech for comedians. I think we are able to tell the difference between comic sketches and comedy and people who are trying to whip up and incite religious hatred." BBC 10/18/01

  • Previously: SAFETY TRUMPS RIGHT TO LAMPOON: A prominent U.K. comedian has publicly condemned the nation's proposed antiterrorism legislation pending in the House of Commons. Rowan Atkinson (best known in the U.S. for his turn in Four Weddings and a Funeral) claims that a measure in the bill designed to prevent religious hate speech would have the effect of making the satirizing of religion a crime. He is backed by several of Britain's top satirists. BBC 10/17/01

Tuesday October 16

REVIVING THE MAGIC: London's "West End has recently been littered with new musicals that haven’t caught on, leaving producers sometimes sizeably in the red." So what is generating London theatre box office? Revivals, the good old days... The Times (UK) 10/16/01

Monday October 15

WHAT IRISH THEATRE IS: The Dublin Theatre Festival neatly showcases the poles of contemporary Irish theatre. At one end is "the notion that theatre is not a separate art form but a crossroads where all the forms - musical, visual and verbal - meet. The other offered a chance to share the vision of the man who led the revolt against this idea by seeking to return to the roots of theatre." Irish Times 10/12/01

Sunday October 14

LO, HOW A ROSE E'ER BLOOMING: "The discovery that the remains of Shakespeare's Rose Theatre are in a reasonable condition has led to calls for more to be spent on excavating the site... It is the only Elizabethan theatre left in the world of which there are substantial remains." BBC 10/14/01

Friday October 12

SOME OFF-BROADWAY LOOKING BETTER: Three long-running off-Broadway successes were, like most other shows, hit hard by the September 11 attacks. Still, three of them are bouncing back: Blue Man Group, Stomp, and De La Guarda. It may be no coincidence that all three and "high-energy, textless performances that require no English — or any other language for that matter — to enjoy." The New York Times 10/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Thursday October 11

TRACING THREE DECADES OF BRITISH THEATER: Michael Billington has been the theater critic at London's Guardian newspaper for thirty years now, and he has watched the business evolve in countless ways. Where plays were once dominant, musicals are now the backbone of the industry. Superstar composers and directors have come to wield remarkable power. But "the first, and most striking, fact is that the basic structure of British theatre has more or less survived." The Guardian (UK) 10/10/01

Tuesday October 9

GUTHRIE LIKELY TO BE RAZED: Minneapolis's historic Guthrie Theater, America's first 'regional' theater company, is preparing to build a gleaming new base of operations on the banks of the Mississippi River. But a great battle has broken out over what to do with the old building, which adjoins the famous Walker Art Center. Preservationists and theatre fans want it to stay; the Walker wants to tear it down in order to expand its sculpture garden. So far, the Walker is winning. Minneapolis Star Tribune 10/09/01

LOOK FOR THE NON-UNION LABEL: A current national tour of "The Music Man" is being seen as a test case for a radical idea: non-union musicals. The entire cast of the show is non-union, and while labor leaders scream and the show's producers claim (dubiously) that the tour could not be going better, the rest of the theater world waits and watches. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/09/01

Friday October 5

WELL - IT WORKS FOR LONDON: The Melbourne Theatre Company has found a way to get people through the doors - hire movie stars. By casting big names, the theatre "experienced an 'unprecedented leap' in subscribers - a 20 per cent increase." The Age (Melbourne) 10/05/01

PAYBACK: Business is improving on Broadway. So much so, that some producers say they'll start paying back union workers who voluntarily took pay cuts of 25 percent to keep shows playing last week. 10/04/01

Thursday October 4

WORKED TO DEATH: Has workshopping plays before they get to Broadway ruined the creative process? Stephen Sondheim thinks so. "Over the years these things got bigger and more formalized, and now they're just glorified backers' auditions. No thanks. Send me back to New Haven, where you had audiences full of real people, not show buffs and vultures who were hoping for the show to fall on its face." Toronto Star 10/04/01

THE OFF-BROADWAY ADVANTAGE: In some ways, a lot of off-Broadway shows are now doing better than their glamorous Great White Way brethren. "Off Broadway audiences are mostly made up of New Yorkers — not tourists whose visits to the city have dropped off precipitously — and are typically stalwart and devoted theatergoers. And its theaters are smaller than those on Broadway, making them easier to fill. And they do not have Broadway's sometimes daunting ticket prices." The New York Times 10/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Wednesday October 3

DEFENDING THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE: Protests about Adrian Noble's plans to makeover the Royal Shakespeare Company have been raining down on the company. Now Noble responds to the critics and says the moves are essential. "My excitement about the future is that we can take the ensemble one step further, working with a company of actors, exploring an idea in the kind of detail that pays artistic dividends." The Guardian (UK) 10/03/01

THE COMPLEAT SHAKESPEARE: The only surviving folio of Shakespeare's complete plays is about to be sold. "The First Folio of Shakespeare, published in November 1623, is the cornerstone of English literature, effectively the first edition of the complete plays. Eighteen of them have survived only because they are in this posthumous volume, including Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Measure for Measure, As You Like It and Antony and Cleopatra." How they were printed says a lot about them. The Times (UK) 10/03/01

THE INVISIBLE ACTOR: An out-of-work actor wonders about taking a movie extra role to pay the rent. But should he? "The job of an extra is to meld with the background, be forgettable, make no mark whatsoever. For an actor to stray across the invisible line from performer to supporting artiste is too high a price to pay, even for a day. Even for a free lunch." The Guardian (UK) 10/03/01

BACK ON BROADWAY: After a down week on Broadway, theatre attendance has soared. "Unprecedented agreements on pay cuts and other economic concessions have allowed several endangered shows to stay open. Long lines have returned to the discount ticket booth in Times Square. And, perhaps most important, cast members say that audiences have begun to laugh easily and naturally again." Boston Globe 10/03/01

BUNDY GOES TO YALE: After a long high-profile search, Yale University has named James Bundy, who runs the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, to be the new dean of the School of Drama and artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theatre. "Bundy, 42, who officially takes over in July, succeeds Stan Wojewodski, who has headed the graduate school and its professional theater for 11 years." Hartford Courant 10/03/01

  • NOT SO HOT JOB? Bundy is "credited with helping to save the Great Lakes Theater Festival from financial disaster while polishing its artistic merits." But is the Yale job such a great one these days? Applications to the school are down, attendance at the theatre has "nose-dived." "The job's multiple personality - part academic, part artistic, part managerial - is considered so difficult that the search for a new dean took more than a year. Several high-profile artistic directors at regional theaters across the country turned down the job." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/03/01

Tuesday October 2

THEY ALREADY BAILED OUT THE AIRLINES... A bill has been proposed in the US Congress to help promote New York. The new law "would allow individuals to deduct $500, and joint filers $1000, from their federal income taxes for the cost of meals, lodging or entertainment in New York City through Dec. 31, 2002. Taxpayers would be eligible for the deduction whether or not they itemized their taxes." 10/01/01

CLASSIC COLLABORATION: "For most of the 20th century, British productions of Molière, Ibsen, Chekhov and others generally used translations by scholars with a great knowledge of French, Norwegian or Russian, but no experience of writing for the stage." More recently, "name" writers (who often have no knowledge of the plays' original languages) have been hired to adapt classic translations. But do such rewrites serve plays' integrity? The Times (UK) 10/02/01

FUNNY AGAIN... What leaders and commentators are saying to comedians is, "The country needs you to go back to being funny." But can they really go back? "This may be the event which historians look back to as the beginning of a new era of sensitivity, introspection and growth. It could produce new styles, new textures and new subjects." Nando Times 10/01/01

Monday October 1

BROADWAY REBOUND: It was easy, when Broadway attendance plummeted in the days after September 11, to fear for the future of theatre in New York. But a week later the theaters were packed with people, and it was clear that people came out to the shows for a sense of community. And isn't that one of the things theatre does best? Hartford Courant 09/30/01

PEGGY SUE ANULLED: There were lots of hopes for the musical Peggy Sue Got Married when it opened in London this summer. A co-production was planned for Toronto, and "during the first three weeks of its London run, the show demonstrated signs of building an audience, with steadily increasing advance sales and tour groups signing on for months ahead. But the terrorist attack on the United States on Sept. 11 had a negative effect on London theatre, as many tourists cancelled trips abroad and group bookings were cancelled." Toronto Star 10/01/01