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THEATRE - November 2000

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Thursday November 30

  • MATTHEW SHEPARD PLAY OPENS: A play about the murder of Matthew Shepard opens in Laramie Wyoming, less than five miles from where Shepard was killed. "Certain wounds attack so deep they can never fully heal but this certainly helps the healing a lot." 11/29/00

Wednesday November 29

  • THEATRE IN AUSTRALIA: "In the 1970s and early 1980s Australian theatre was seen as part of an integral social debate about national identity and self confidence. The advent of serious arts funding came out of clearly articulated statements on the importance of the arts, and our politicians were well versed in the reasons why a funded arts environment was important to a social system. The arts were seen as a necessary expense, like roads or water." Now we should enjoy the rewards. Sydney Morning Herald 11/29/00

Tuesday November 28

  • MACKINTOSH TO QUIT PRODUCING: Superstar musical theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh has announced he won't be producing any more new musicals. "Mackintosh, one of the greatest creative and financial mainstays of musical theatre for three decades, says he is winding down and will in future produce only revivals." Sydney Morning Herald 11/28/00
  • SPACEY HELPS THEATRES: Actor Kevin Spacey has been using his financial success and fame to help out theatre companies. "I think it's unfortunate that people use theater as a stepping stone to film and then they don't come back. I never viewed it that way." The New York Times 11/28/00 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday November 26

  • THE SHOW THAT NEVER DIED: When Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" opened in London's West End, Churchill was still Prime Minister. "Meat, sugar, butter and margarine were still being rationed. Stalin was lording it in Russia. Nobody had climbed Everest, or run a four-minute mile. It was another world." Now the show is ambling on to its 20,000th performance. The Sunday Times (London) 11/26/00
  • THE REPLACEMENTS: What happens when a hit show has to replace its star? The New York Post follows around an actor preparing to step in to "Cabaret." New York Post 11/26/00
  • STILL STANDING: Arthur Miller is about to open another play on Broadway. And he's about to turn 85. "Over the years, the critics have been all over the lot when it comes to judging Miller's work. But in 1984, the critics and the public began re-examining Miller. And most of them liked what they found. So when he accepted the Tony for 'Death of a Salesman' last year, it wasn't without a sense of well-earned, well-honed, irony - a sense that he's been one of the victims in 'The Crucible' who finally got the chance to put his torturers on trial." Boston Globe 11/26/00
  • THE REVIEWER-PROOF SCROOGE: It's "Christmas Carol" time of year again. "Oh, please, Father Christmas, put a stake in its heart! Put it on a boat to Hong Kong! Give those annoyingly noble Cratchits a winning lottery ticket and let them have all the oranges they want! Cook their geese, flame their puddings, and please, burn their chestnuts into ashes." Washington Post 11/26/00

Friday November 24

  • THE COST OF "RESTORATION": The Shubert company, Broadway's biggest and richest landlord, has announced it will add a $1.25 "facilities charge" to the cost of every ticket for shows opening after January 1. The company says it needs the money for preservation and maintenance of its theatres. The company stands to make as much as $1,900 for each performance or $60,000 per month per theatre. New York Post 11/24/00
  • LEARNING FROM THE MASTERS: "Compared to other art forms, theatre has been slow to tap into the vast reserves of experience and expertise within its senior ranks. There's a long-standing tradition of musical virtuosi having regular teaching assignments in between performances; whereas, as Peter Hall has observed, theatre 'tends to be divided into two distinct camps: busy professionals and those who teach'." A program in London's West End tries to change that. The Independent (London) 11/24/00

Thursday November 23

  • LANGE’S TRIUMPH: In contrast to the string of American film stars who have taken on London stage roles in recent months and met with tepid (if not downright surly) reviews, Jessica Lange has bowled over critics as Mary in "Long Day’s Journey into Night" - in a performance being lauded as a masterpiece. The Times (London) 11/23/00

Wednesday November 22

  • MANHATTAN ON BROADWAY: One of New York's most venerable non-profit theatres makes a play to take over the deteriorating Biltmore Theatre on Broadway. "The Biltmore would make Manhattan Theater Club productions Tony-eligible, which brings national exposure and a potential boost to ticket sales. The Biltmore will allow the theater club to have an orchestra pit for the first time, and fly space for scenery. New York Times 11/22/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • THE WHIFF OF FLOP IN THE AIR: A few short months ago, "Seussical" the musical looked like the season's sure-fire hit on Broadway. But when it opens next week "it arrives a wounded animal, bloodied by brutal out-of-town notices and months of backstage gossip, with the moniker 'troubled' clinging to its hide like a tick. It has a new director, set designer and costume designer, and an entirely new physical production. Its book has been substantially revised, and its budget has soared from $8.5 million to $10.5 million." New York Post 11/22/00

Tuesday November 21

  • LAMENTING A BRILLIANT PARTNERSHIP: Arthur Sullivan was made famous and very rich by his collaboration with William Gilbert. And the musical plays they wrote are still performed 100 years after Sullivan's death (the anniversary of which is this week). So why did he die believing he had wasted his life and cursing his partner? The Times (London) 11/21/00

Monday November 20

  • NUNN TO QUIT NATIONAL: Trevor Nunn says he won't seek a new term as head of London's National Theatre when his contract expires in 2002. Criticism of Nunn has flourished in recent months in the press. "Sources at the National said Nunn had been "intensely irritated" by the criticisms, given the number of awards and sell-outs during his regime." The Independent (London) 11/20/00
  • PACINO TO THE OLD VIC? Kevin Spacey's campaign to help restore the status of the Old Vic Theatre in London continues with a pledge to try and lure Hollywood stars. Al Pacino might be the first. The Independent (London) 11/20/00
  • THE SOUND OF DISHARMONY: A national small-city tour of a revival of "The Sound of Music" couldn't make an agreement with Equity, the actors' union. So it went non-union and began the tour. The only star - Barry Williams (formerly of TV's "The Brady Bunch") resigned his union membership to take the part. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/20/00

Sunday November 19

  • RIGHTING WRONGS SELDOM WORKS: "Within my memory, there has not been a successful major revival with a revamped book of a problematic show. Yet the lure of going back in time to make things rights persists. Composers sometimes yearn to solve the problems that weren't addressed when the show was in try-outs in Boston, Philadelphia or New Haven. If only they had just a little more time, a little more money, a little more luck." Hartford Courant 11/19/00

Friday November 17

  • ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE: David Shiner, the star of the troubled musical "Seussical," apparaently can't sing, dance or act. In trying to fix the show before it opens for real on Broadway November 30, the producers decide to replace him with Andrea Martin. But the show's creative team fights the move. New York Post 11/17/00

Thursday November 16

  • LEGEND LIVES: Indian film star Rajkumar has been released after being held hostage for 109 days in a forest by one of India’s most notorious bandits. The kidnapping saga had gripped India for months, inciting riots and an outpouring of emotion for the former matinee idol. BBC 11/15/00
  • THE UNION LABEL: The Screen Actors Guild may have recently settled the strike with Hollywood's commercial producers, but an internal report says the union is fractured and lacking focus. "SAG lacks a clear, shared mission and strategy, which is the foundation of an effective organization," the report says. "There is no consensus regarding SAG's mission, which is essential for establishing a shared consensus about SAG's goals." Backstage 11/16/00

Wednesday November 15

  • THE WRITING'S ON THE WALL: Supertitles have become common in opera houses. But what about the theatre? No, not for translation purposes - the Royal Shakespeare Company experiments with using supertitles to aid audience members who are hard of hearing. The Guardian 11/15/00

Tuesday November 14

  • WORLD REFERENCE: It was a project that was supposed to take a year or so. But the six-volume World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, just released, ended up as a 15 year project that always seemed to be about a year behind in its funding. National Post (Canada) 11/14/00
  • BOW WOW: "London's West End, after a recent extraordinary period of revitalisation, has gone to the dogs. That's the worry voiced by many London critics in the last couple of months." And it's not just star casting that's to blame. The Independent (London) 11/12/00
  • NUNN UNDER FIRE: The chorus of boos for London's National Theatre director Trevor Nunn is growing. "Like circling vultures, half of what used to be called Fleet Street have pounced on the events and suddenly accused Nunn of every sin in the book: artistic incompetence, overspending, pandering to white middle-aged audiences, sticking to the boring programming of safe, well-tried classics or musicals at the expense of cutting-edge contemporary drama and, last but not least, of arrogance for trying to run the ship himself and not appointing associate directors to help him pick plays for the National's three stages." Is the criticism justified? The Telegraph (London) 11/14/00
  • BRINGING IN THE YOUTH VOTE: Last year "in a survey of 10 to 14-year-olds in Birmingham and Norwich, fewer than one in a hundred listed theatre as one of his or her preferred weekend activities, whereas 100 per cent of the sample were cinemagoers. Many dismissed theatres as “overpriced, stuffy and unfriendly”, offering plays that were either 'babyish or too serious'." Now an attempt to get kids into the theatre. The Times (London) 11/14/00
  • THE PROBLEM WITH "SEUSSICAL": As the fall Broadway season began, "Seussical" the musical was considered the hot property. But after unhappy road tryouts, the show has floundered. "How the charmed musical that could do no wrong turned into the 'troubled Suessical' that could do no right has become a parable about how much Broadway has changed. What in the past might have gone unremarked as a new show's routinely bumpy road to Broadway instead became a matter for public scrutiny." New York Times 11/14/00 (one-time registrationrequired for entry)
  • HELP FOR THE PUBLIC: The Public Theatre, under fire recently for some of the artistic and business decisions that have been mwade, gets some expert help. New York Times 11/14/00 (one-time registrationrequired for entry)

Monday November 13

  • FUNDING ENVY: Sydney Theatre Company Artistic Director Robyn Nevin said in a recent lecture that the Australian government's long-awaited arts blueprint - which was intended to increase funding for performing arts organizations - has in fact fallen far short of delivering enough funding to enable the theater to thrive. By comparison, "Britain's National Theatre received 20 times the subsidy granted to the STC though its audience base was half that of Sydney's and its average ticket prices were about 40 per cent higher." Sydney Morning Herald 11/13/00
  • PINTER BY HIS PEERS: Harold Pinter’s theater-world friends discuss the man many consider to be England’s greatest living playwright. The 40th anniversary production of his play "The Caretaker" is about to open in the West End, and Pinter has four new plays under his belt in the last decade. The Telegraph (London) 11/13/00
  • DYNAMICS OF A DEANSHIP: The storied Yale theatre school is looking for a new dean. The days when the president of the university can call up his candidate and just offer him the job, but the speculation is still fun. Hartford Courant 11/13/00

Friday November 10

  • JEKYLL AND HYDE TO CLOSE: It ran for three years and 1,500 performances. But when it closes in January the musical "Jekyll and Hyde" will still be $1.5 million in the red. The show was despised by critics but gained something of a cult following. New York Times 11/10/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • A TOUGH WEEK ON BROADWAY: Shows closing, new shows jockeying for theatres... New York Post 11/10/00

Thursday November 9

  • PLAYWRIGHT OF THE DAY: "Patrick Marber's lean, darkly funny writing has led some to dub him the heir to Pinter. Marber scorns the comparison - "Most younger writers are influenced by Pinter; I'm as much influenced by Stoppard and Oscar Wilde." The Guardian (London) 11/09/00
  • SAVING MUSICAL THEATRE: "In an era when people who care bemoan the state of musical theater and wonder where future shows will come from, Hal Prince and his grown chidren are committing their prominence, connections and expertise to support and call attention to a new generation of composers." New York Times 11/09/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Wednesday November 8

  • HONORING THE MAN AND THE METHOD: The family of the late acting teacher Lee Strasberg, founder of "the method" and cofounder of the legendary Group Theatre, plans to commemorate the centennial of his birth this year by producing a season of new plays by emerging playwrights in Los Angeles. Times of India (Reuters) 11/08/00
  • STARSTRUCK BEYOND REASON: Isabelle Adjani’s return to the stage in "Lady of the Camellias," after a 17-year absence, has transfixed Paris’s theater audiences this fall. More than 50,000 tickets have been sold for just 100 performances and the press has gushed over her return. But little has been said of her actual performance. "Is she any good on stage? To some extent, that's beside the point. Basking in her stage aura is all that a good many people in France seem to want to do. This is not to single out French theatre-goers. The same is true in the West End and on Broadway. When a big star hits the boards, no one cares what the critics think." The Guardian (London) 11/08/00

Tuesday November 7

  • COLOR BIND: The number of minority actors in theater productions on Broadway is dwindling - and most of those working are either in choruses or race-specific parts, rarely getting a chance at major roles. "A report by Actors' Equity shows a sharp dip in the number of minorities on stage. In musical productions, nonwhite casting was 19.3 percent during the 1999 season, down from 31.2 percent the year before. In nonmusical productions, the numbers for 1999 - the last time such a study was conducted - were even more bleak, with only 7.2 percent of casts drawn from ethnic minorities, down from 8.5 percent in 1998." Seattle Times (New York Daily News) 11/07/00
  • A HISTORY OF THE THEATRE: Theatre is a vanishing art - that is, once produced on a stage it recedes into memory, and even a film of a performance can't truly capture its essence. So how do you produce a TV history of the theatre? "Sir Richard Eyre, doyen of British theatre, has produced a history of 20th-century stagecraft. He says it won't please everyone. The Independent (London) 11/07/00

Sunday November 5

  • REGIONALS TAKE ON THE GLITZ: The $8 million production of "Tantalus" at the Denver Center is the most ambitious production ever mounted by an American regional theatre. Tantalus, a co-production with London's Royal Shakespeare Company, got mixed reviews nationally, and is only the latest in a line of glitzy high-profile cooperative projects by American regional theatres. Why are non-profit theatres taking on these productions? Dallas Morning News 11/05/00
  • WAS SHAKESPEARE A POT-HEAD? "Two South African scientists are about to embark on a series of forensic tests to prove a case that will blow smoke in the eyes of traditional Shakespearean scholarship. They believe that the man who bestrides the classical canon was not just a genius, but a very early pot head." The Independent (London) 11/05/00

Friday November 3

  • STRAIGHTEN UP: A year ago critics were wringing their hands about the absence of new straight plays on Broadway and the fear that musicals might have taken over completely. The fears were unfounded. This fall tells a very different story. Variety 11/03/00
  • PICASSO & MARTIN TO THE BIG SCREEN: Hollywood to make a movie out of Steve Martin's play "Picasso at the Lapin Agile." "The play, which preemed at the Steppenwolf Studio Theater in Chicago in 1993 before moving to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, is a comedy about a night in 1904 when Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein meet by chance in a bar." Variety 11/03/00

Wednesday November 1

  • THINK YOU'VE GOT PROBLEMS: The new musical now in development about the life of Minnesota governor/wrestler Jesse Ventura is full of special needs. As in - "We'll need to find someone who can sing, act, dance - and wrestle.'' St. Paul Pioneer Press 11/01/00