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THEATRE - December 2000

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  Sunday December 31

  • ANOTHER HIT: "Having made her fame and fortune with 'Art,' by all accounts French playwright Yasmina Reza has another hit on her hands. And this time things are moving quickly." The New York Times 12/31/00 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday December 29

  • NEW ISN'T BETTER: Lottery money has led to massive building of theatres in Britain. But "theatre isn't about bricks and mortar - or, these, days, concrete and glass. It's about what happens on that stage inside. It's about imagination, about content and about ideas. The heresy that a new building was more important than a new idea began about a generation ago. The glamorous, if sometimes tacky, Edwardian music halls were pulled down. Lottery money made this obsession with rebuilding even worse." London Evening Standard 12/29/00
  • BODY PARTS IS BODY PARTS: Promoters of a production of "The Vagina Monologues" in West Haven Connecticut put up a billboard overlooking theNew England Thruway. But "it seems that the word 'vagina' writ large shocked a number of people who drove past." The marketer "started receiving rambling, incognito messages of outrage on his answering machine, and the local media picked up the story. He has been accused of deliberately enlarging the inflammatory word on the billboard, though as he points out he's simply using the play's logo." Variety 12/29/00

Wednesday December 27

  • THE ART OF CHANGE: "Theatre is rapidly changing, and audiences shun routine and crave something special. It may take the form of a day-long event - the shared experience of watching together from morning to night forges a sense of community. But the profusion of short plays also implies that audiences are happy to have a short, sharp theatrical shock, an intense experience as a prelude to dinner. To reverse Brecht's dictum, first come the morals, then the bread." The Guardian (London) 12/27/00

Tuesday December 26

  • WHAT'S IT TAKE? The reviews were terrific, but three well-thought-of plays have failed to find audiences on Broadway. "Among the theories floated by people involved in these productions are the absence of stars in the casts, a strong season of straight plays on Broadway, subject matter that invites resistance (apartheid, the African-American experience, workplace tension) and the general difficulty of making straight plays economically viable these days." The New York Times 12/26/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • IS OUR THEATRE OKAY? Should a critic express grave concern over the state of Canadian theatre when the poorly funded non-profits embrace facile populism and the commercial sector shrinks to a shadow of its former self? Or do all those dynamic little shows popping up here and there indicate irrepressible creativity and renewed health?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/25/00
  • RECREATING SHAKESPEARE: A Massachusetts theatre company Shakespeare & Co. is trying to re-create the intimate atmosphere of the theatres in which Shakespeare first played Lenox, Mass. "The group plans to build the world's only replica of the Rose Theatre, the London home of the Bard's early plays." Washington Post (AP) 12/25/00
  • LANCASTER'S MIRACLE: "It's a musical theater extravaganza of truly biblical proportions that will play to more than 200,000 people before the run ends in two weeks here in Lancaster County. And those people will gaze upon the power and the glory of the highest production values, and they will rejoice." Washington Post 12/25/00

Sunday December 24

  • WHERE IS YOUR MOSES NOW? Cameron Mackintosh once said a musical takes seven years from inception to a fully staged production. Australian Peter Johnston is now into his fifth year working on "Moses" "He's got an orchestrated score, concert versions in London and New York and another semi-staged production with orchestra in London behind him. There is also a recording planned in London next year with an international cast." The Age (Melbourne) 12/25/00
  • BAH HUMBUG: There's no escaping Scrooge and "A Christmas Carol" this time of year. "Some 20 feature films and at least 17 television movies notwithstanding, 'A Christmas Carol' has really been a theater phenomenon from the beginning, despite difficulties like transforming a door knocker into Jacob Marley's face onstage." The New York Times 12/24/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Friday December 22

  • THE YEAR IN LONDON THEATRE: Highlights and reviews from the London stage in 2000. 12/21/00
  • UNREST BACKSTAGE: The backstage staff of London's Royal Shakespeare Company is taking a strike vote. "The union is angry over the RSC's interpretation of a 1998 agreement over the time-off owed to staff who break European rules on taking at least 11 hours rest between shifts." BBC 12/22/00
  • THE AGE OF THE DIRECTOR: The last 40 years have seen a rise in the stature of the stage director. "Today's director is most often a catalyst, visibly channeling theatrical elements and placing a recognizable stamp on the practice." And he's sometimes placed alongside or above the contributions of the playwright and actors. Backstage 12/22/00

Thursday December 21

  • NEW YALE DIRECTOR: The Yale Repertory Theatre is expected to announce that Oskar Eustis, artistic director of Trinity Rep Theatre and its conservatory school in Providence, is the likely new artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theatre and dean of its Yale School of Drama. The job is considered one of the plums in regional theater and theater education. Hartford Courant 12/21/00
  • ARCHER HEADS FOR AN EARLY SHOWER: Jeffrey Archer's play in London has been a big bomb - so much so that it's closing early. But Lord Archer, whose legal woes didn't slow down his work on the production has been the subject of some creatively vicious reviews: "This leaden and incompetent play leaves you little option but to find its hero innocent and to find everything else (dialogue, legal acumen, structure, and so on) as culpable as all hell ... The author's self-belief is breathtaking and farcical." The Independent (London) 12/20/00
  • NOTORIETY DIDN'T SAVE THE DAY: "The cliché-ridden play's most dramatic moment came off-stage on its very first night in the regions, when it opened in Windsor. By a remarkable coincidence, the first performance was also the day that Archer was charged with committing perjury." The Independent (London) 12/20/00

Wednesday December 20

  • WHO'S MAKING MONEY ON BROADWAY THIS YEAR? Strangely enough, the straight plays (though they have to have celebs in them). Last year it was thought the straights were doomed. Now several are making money, while the expensive musicals are having a hard time making the rent. New York Post 12/20/00
  • WHAT WILL MUSICAL THEATRE LOOK LIKE? "We've come to the end of the road for one style of musical, the giant pseudo-Romantic pop-rock sludge pile. I never liked these things; now nobody likes them. As far as I'm concerned, Cats (closed) and Miss Saigon (expiring next month) have been flops all along—the public simply didn't take my reviews to heart until now." But what comes next? Village Voice 12/20/00

Tuesday December 19

  • A GOOD TIME TO BE AN UNKNOWN: In anticipation of next spring’s actors' and screenwriters' strike, and desperate to stockpile films before it hits, Hollywood studios are signing virtually unknown actors to lucrative deals. "Prices for these barely-knowns have skyrocketed, creating a bizarre new millionaire boys' club." New York Magazine 12/18/00

Monday December 18

  • THEATRE TREATY: Delegates from 90 countries expect to agree on an international treaty to protect actors' rights. "The treaty, which aims to protect performers against the unauthorized use of their work, is being negotiated under the auspices of WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United Nations body that oversees copyright and trademark protection." Montreal Gazette 12/18/00
  • CULTIVATING THE NEXT GENERATION, NO DOUBT: A mother calls up a radio program in Sydney to complain about having to pay $27 for a ticket for her in-arms baby when she went to "Annie." The producer responds: "We are not a charity. The company could have $45 or $50 for the baby." And the radio station's switchboard lights up and patrons call the theatre to cancel their tickets. Sydney Morning Herald 12/18/00

Sunday December 17

  • SPACE CRUNCH: Theatre's doing well in Boston. But there's only one problem - no space to perform. Everything's booked solid, and even the city's two major theatre companies don't have their own space. Boston Globe 12/17/00

Friday December 15

  • WHY IS BROADWAY SO STAR STRUCK? Broadway grossed a record $603 million in the 1999-2000 season. "We're talking about the average cost of a musical being $8 (million) to $10 million, and the average cost of a play being $1,250,000 or a million and a half. So it's no surprise that many producers are now saying that unless they can identify some component that will give them a broad popular audience, they're not going to take a chance." USA Today 12/15/00
  • REVEALING PARTS: Much has been made of the number of actresses disrobing on stage this season (Nicole Kidman, Kathleen Turner, Jerry Hall to name a few), but even more men have been taking it all off - and "with the market for beefcake constantly expanding, Actors’ Equity has nudity explicitly covered in its collective bargaining agreements." Backstage 12/15/00

Thursday December 14

  • O'DONNELL TO PLAY THE CAT: "Seussical" has taken a slam from the critics, but the show just got a major boost. Talk show host Rosie O'Donnell is stepping in to the role of the Cat in the Hat. Ticket sales soared after the announcement. The New York Times 12/14/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • TAKING THE 'NON' OUT OF NON-PROFIT: Glasgow's King's Theatre hasn't been making it as a non-profit. And Glasweegians are tired of all the big musicals bypassing their city for Edinburgh. So there's a plan to turn the theatre over to commercial hands to see if the theatre can be turned around. The Scotsman 12/14/00
  • THINKING BIG: So Cirque du Soleil is planning a massive entertainment complex for London. What will it look like? "Great projects are achieved with great complicity, but also in the recognition that it cannot just be a creative pole or just a business pole. It will arrive and it will be achieved with a great balance between the recognition of each of those poles and each respecting the reality of the other one. And... " The Independent (London) 12/14/00
  • NO MORE BLACK FACE: An English town council passes an ordinance prohibiting actors from dressing up in black face. "It is fundamentally racist to have white actors 'blacking up' for black parts. That belongs to the 19th century." BBC 12/14/00

Wednesday December 13

  • ACTORS IN POVERTY: The Equity actors' union takes a poll of 408 of its members and finds that the majority of actors (72 percent) earn less than £10,000 a year from their profession. "Performers felt they were seen either as glamorous, arrogant, overpaid slackers or laughable luvvies and that acting is not a proper job". BBC 12/13/00
  • BETTER BLACK? The Guardian's theatre critic wrote that Stephen Jeffreys new play would have been better if he was black. The playwright disagrees: "One of the basic requirements for being a playwright is to be able to inhabit other people's skins. But why, when no one has ever questioned my right to create roles for women, old people and gays, am I supposed to baulk at the barrier of race?" The Guardian (London) 12/13/00

Tuesday December 12

  • THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT: Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian troupe that reinvented circuses a decade-and-a-half ago, says it plans to reinvent the entertainment center idea. Announcing an ambitious new project for the bank of the Thames, Cirque says it will also develop "multifaceted entertainment centres in New York, Hong Kong, Las Vegas and London over the next decade." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/12/00
  • GOOD FOR THE GOODMAN: Chicago's new $46 million Goodman Theatre promises to play an enlightened role in the ongoing drama of downtown Chicago. "And that is good news for those seeking to breathe life into the city's moribund theater district.Yet this is Chicago, where no good design deed goes unpunished by meddling from City Hall or its allies, so there's a catch." Chicago Tribune 12/12/00

Monday December 11

  • THEATRE OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS: Some are bemoaning the rise of what one newspaper has called "popcorn theatre" in London's West End. "That scenario frets about serious fare being shunted aside as London becomes a playground for famous names wanting to refuel their careers. Or, as The Guardian's Michael Billington called it in a cautionary turn of phrase, "box-office bait for unwary tourists." Sydney Morning Herald (AP) 12/11/00
  • THE CIRQUE IN LONDON: Cirque du Soleil is expected to announce an ambitious plan today for a 2,000-seat circus theatre and a "revolutionary entertainment hotel" as part of a £500-million redevelopment of London's historic Battersea Power Station. The plan is to create "an international entertainment village" along the Thames River. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/11/00
  • CLEANING UP TIMES SQUARE: When the cleanup of Times Square was begun ten years ago, the street's dilapidated theatres were seen as a liability. But in fact they became the key to the project. "Restoration of the theaters would be tied to construction of new buildings; every time a new tower went up, another theater would be saved. New York Times 12/10/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • THEATRE THREAT: Melbourne's commercial theatre owners are complaining - about the cost of producing, about "subsidised operations at the Arts Centre, gaming-supported shows at Crown casino and the looming distractions of the $400 million Federation Square." The Age (Melbourne) 12/11/00

Sunday December 10

  • THE ALLURE OF LIVE: Regular theatergoers take it for granted that there's nothing like a live performance - which, I think, is why the theater is perennially in trouble. The uniqueness should not be taken for granted. Boston Globe 12/10/00
  • MORE THAN LIVE: "We all know that what makes theater irreplaceable (and, on dream nights, irresistible) is that it combines live performance and fakery in ways no other form of art or entertainment can match. Call it the unities of the primal, the artificial and the mythic." New York Times 12/10/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • ALL ABOUT THE BUILDINGS: "Truth being stranger than cliché, the very notion of re-inventing theatre spaces - or, to borrow estate agent terminology, location, location, location - is spreading through theatre like wildfire for the simple reason that the biggest problem facing the allegedly dying art form is the buildings themselves." The Observer (London) 12/10/00
  • CHRISTMAS IN LANCASTER COUNTY: There are Christmas pageants and then there are Christmas pageants. "Three camels cross a 300-foot panoramic stage, five white horses prance down the aisles, and three actor-angels swing four stories above 2,069 gape-mouthed audience members simultaneously. Lasers, clouds, fog, more angels, and the release of 16 white pigeons. Mary's mother, stunned by her daughter's predicament, launching into the song 'I'd Be God's Grandma'..." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/10/00

Friday December 8

  • KEEPS ON TICKING: Next week in London "The Mousetrap" is to give its 20,000th performance. "Next year, assuming it continues its run, will be the play's 50th year of continuous production. A long time ago, it ceased being an adaptation of one of Agatha Christie's slighter works and became something else: a record-breaker, a curiosity, a fixture for tourists, an ambiguous example of infinite success. To a certain sort of theatre-goer or stage professional, the Mousetrap is heaven - a fragment from a lost dramatic age of polite dialogue and sets with floral sofas. To lots of other people - fans of new drama, most critics - the play is a glimpse of hell." The Guardian (London) 12/08/00
  • ART IMITATES LIFE? "Jeffrey Archer, the best-selling author and member of the House of Lords who is one of Britain's most colorful political figures, was last year alleged to have perjured himself in a past court case. He was forced to give up his candidacy to become London's mayor and was thrown out of the Conservative party in disgrace. Did this most self-confident of public figures give in to despair and seclusion? Not Archer. In a move that seems defiant even by his famously bullheaded standards, Archer fell back upon the power of the pen. He has written 'The Accused', a courtroom drama in which a man played by Archer himself is accused of murdering his wife." Time Europe 12/08/00
  • BOMBS ARE NEVER PRETTY: The $12 million invested in the show "Pan" in Australia, which recently closed after a lacklustre 10-week run, will probably never be recouped. "It's wrong that people can come from overseas, invest in a show and then avoid payment of their debts merely by getting on an aeroplane and leaving the country." Sydney Morning Herald 12/08/00

Thursday December 7

  • ROLLING AGAIN: Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along" opened on Broadway in 1981 and lasted only 16 performances before the hostile reviews won out. So why is it being revived in London, when even the show's creators acknowledged it wasn't one of their best efforts? The Telegraph (London) 12/07/00
  • TRANSLATE THIS: Transalations of plays into English can often sound fussy or academic. Now there is a "growing movement to take the job of translating foreign-language classics away from scholars and linguists and hand it over to dramatists - whether or not they speak the original language." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/07/00
  • LESS REJECTION: Performance artists are moving out of the museums and performing arts centers and into nightclubs. These nightspots are far from the galleries, museums and other art spaces that historically hosted performance art, and they attract a different crowd. The clubs, in need of performers, are embracing the artists. Los Angeles Times 12/07/00

Wednesday December 6

  • THE CAT SWINGS BACK: The "Seussical" cast has written a "Cat in the Hat"-like review of critics in verse: "I do not like reviews that pan, I do not like them, actor I am. Could I, would I like to see Clive Barnes swinging from a tree? Could I, should I, hope in vain To see them writhing in such pain? I could, I would, oh what the heck, Make them go through four months of tech." New York Post 12/06/00
  • NUNN SPEAKS OUT: The press continues to dog Trevor Nunn and speculate over his departure, despite the National Theatre’s continued success - including earning five of nine "Evening Standard" Awards last week. Nunn’s response: "Some of the suggestions about what should happen are the equivalent of somebody offering help to a brain surgeon by giving them a hammer and chisel." The Independent (London) 12/06/00
  • MAYHEM GOES MAINSTREAM: David Blaine’s recent death-defying ice stunt looks an awful lot like the performance art of the ‘70s. The difference? Now it’s televised and nobody’s shocked. "What used to be some of the more extreme or esoteric forms of performance are suddenly crossing over into the mainstream. It brings up a familiar question: Is it possible to be adversarial anymore?" The Village Voice 12/12/00
  • BOOM TIMES AT STRATFORD: Canada's Stratford Festival, leaning on popular theatre fare, is in a boom time. "The festival made a record profit of $4.3 million this summer, with a biggest-ever attendance of 639,000. Festival attendance has been rising steadily over the past seven years. In 1994, it was 440,000, last year it topped 590,000." Toronto Star 12/06/00

Tuesday December 5

  • PROFIT? NONPROFIT?: Manhattan Theatre Club is the latest nonprofit producer to venture into Broadway’s commercial turf, with plans to transfer three shows and a takeover of a commercial house in the works. "The debate over what is the proper province of the nonprofit theater vs. the commercial theater long ago was drowned out by the irresistible din of the Broadway box office. It may have been a shotgun wedding between dysfunctional families, but the marriage is a keeper." New York Magazine 12/11/00
  • REGIONAL THEATER BOOM: Taking advantage of the strong economy and unprecedented production support from commercial producers, regional theaters are booming across the country, presenting ever more adventurous work and strengthening ties with local audiences. "The point is that the American theater gospel is no longer being spread papally from New York. It has its own independent denominations." New York Times 12/05/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • ART OF THE INGRATE: Irish actor Richard Harris surprised even those familiar with his cantankerous ways at last week’s European Film Awards. Upon receiving a lifetime achievement award, he launched into a tirade against the British film industry for overlooking his talents. "The curious thing about the actor's weekend outburst is why he should care whether the British honour him. This, after all, is a man who constantly asserts his Irishness." The Telegraph (London) 12/05/00
  • NAME CHANGE: Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House has changed its name to Goodspeed Musicals. "In its 37-year history, the Goodspeed Opera House has garnered international acclaim as a producer of musical theater, sending more than 15 shows to Broadway and beyond, including 'Annie'' and 'Man of La Mancha'.'' Hartford Courant 12/05/00

Monday December 4

  • HONED-DOWN HAMLET: Director Peter Brook has felt "haunted" by the ghost of Hamlet since he first directed the play in 1955. His newest adaptation - a controversial 50-minute version - has taken Paris by storm. "Brook has had no qualms about putting his own spin on the Elizabethan original. He has eliminated the Fortinbras narrative, cut ‘between a third and half’ of the text, and reduced his cast to eight." The Telegraph (London) 12/04/00
  • GOOD FOR THE GOODMAN: In the 14 years since Robert Falls became artistic director of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, he has turned an already esteemed theater into one of the country’s finest. Thursday night an audience filled its new $46 million home for the first time. "We've got resources now that very few theaters anywhere in America have, and we're going to make full use of them." New York Times 12/03/00 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday December 3

  • THE NATIONAL'S IDENTITY PROBLEM: All the fuss about the running of London's National Theatre doesn't matter much. The real concern is whether a successor to current director Trevor Nunn be found who can realize the place's potential. "The ongoing off-stage drama of the National Theatre is an instructive parable. It's the story of a great arts institution that has, from its inception, had a built-in identity problem. It's the story of the tail wagging the dog – of an art-form that is all about the creation of magic in the here-and-now being in thrall to a building that is – in both the good and bad sense of the word – history." The Independent (London) 12/01/00

Friday December 1

  • "SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL" OPENS on Broadway and the early reviews aren’t pretty: "Whoever the many chefs were, the finished product is a flavorless broth." New York Times 12/01/00 (one-time registration required for access)
    • LACKING FOR TALENT: "There isn't much wrong with the new musical "Seussical" that a comparatively small earthquake could not put more or less right. In fact, apart from its routine music, limp lyrics and diffuse book, it is really only the concept that goes grievously wrong. It puts whimsy where talent should be." New York Post 12/01/00
    • ON THE CONTRARY: " 'Seussical the Musical',' which spent an awkward adolescence at Boston's Colonial Theatre in September, has matured into a sleeker, more confident show for its Broadway bow." Boston Herald 12/01/00
    • THE SEUSS INDUSTRY: The Grinch and "Seussical" are only the beginiing of a flood of Seuss-based projects in the wings to be brought to life. New York Daily News 12/01/00
  • LONG JOURNEY INDEED: The producer of the London production of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" (starring Jessica Lange) had hoped to transfer the successful show to New York. "But now, it seems, any transfer may be blocked by a messy battle with a New York-based producer who says he holds the Broadway rights to that American classic." New York Times 12/01/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • INVESTING IN THE BIZ: Two of the producers of "Rent" on Broadway are plowing some of the millions they earned on the show back into the business. They propose to build a new Off-Broadway performing arts center. "The proposed eight-story building will include two state-of-the art off-Broadway theaters (one with 499 seats, the other with 450), dance studios, rehearsal halls, office space and condominiums. The cost of the project is $15 million." New York Post 12/01/00