Theatre News - Criticism: April 2008 Archives
My apologies for underrepresenting the Lone Star State of late, Flyover friends. (Everything's bigger in Texas ... except arts coverage, wink.) The combination of late-onset NEA Institute exhaustion, health troubles, copious antihistamines, and the formidable "Best Of" of issue (love-hated by altweekly staffers everywhere) on the horizon have prevented me from accomplishing much more than washing my hair every (other) day. I've even developed an immunity to coffee, believe it or not. (Why do I get the feeling that when I tell my friends I'm just drinking it for the flavor, they look as if I'd just told them I read Playboy for the articles. Sigh.)
But things are happening hereabouts. The Marfa Film Fest is near (May 1-5), and I for one cannot wait to watch There Will Be Blood on the Alamo Drafthouse's giant inflatable screen in the film's still-standing set. Definitely wasn't my favorite P.T. Anderson film; in fact, the more distance I get the more reservations I have (or the more I'm able to put my finger on them). But I'll watch anything Robert Elswit shoots.
SA film/makers should be in abundance, too, and apparently Dennis Hopper's coming also. (How long will I be able to I refrain from "Pop quiz, hotshot" jokes? Your guess is as good as mine.)
Now, closer to home, something's has been on my mind since I reviewed San Pedro Playhouse's production of Crowns (Regina Taylor's musical adaptation of Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry's coffee-table book, Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats; not fantastically written, but extremely well performed here).
Anyway, if my snarky ass was in charge of the San Antonio theater scene, programming would be a lot different. All together now: Duh! But I've gotta say, though I may not love San Pedro Playhouse's every show (I lean edgier), I honor its decision to regularly produce plays that showcase local African-American talent. (According to information from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 6.8% of San Antonians identified as black or African American.) Aida, Dreamgirls, and now, Crowns, have all graced the stage of San Antonio's oldest public theater recently.
I haven't attended all of the Playhouse's shows, so I can't say with any certainty how multi-racially cast its other productions are. It's one of my dearest hopes that people don't feel boxed into casting "the canon" with Caucasians all the time, that performers of color aren't ghettoized into plays written specifically about the African-American or Latino experience; the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof revival would suggest we're moving in that direction, anyway.
That's something I'll be keeping my eyes open for here, friends, and I'll be sure to report back. Happy Weekend.
The daily newspaper that I write for has three freelance critics who share most of the reviewing duties plus a staff writer who occasionally writes a theater review. The alternative newspaper in town rotates its reviews among six freelance critics. A local television broadcaster makes it to nearly every single show and posts reviews on his Website as well as on the air. Depending on the semester, the college newspaper will have a critic. Then the Detroit papers send critics to town for the professional shows. An alternative newspaper has three critics that come to town and the Free Press usually sends someone.
We are also blessed that it is a fairly collegial community and we enjoy good relations with each other.
Last fall, Don Calamia, the critic from Between the Lines, a Detroit weekly newspaper, and I were discussing how Patrick Shanley's Doubt was dominating the 2007-2008 professional season. Three groups were performing it in a four month span, with two of the shows opening within a week of each other. The first was in Lansing, the second in Detroit, and the third in Ann Arbor. While these are somewhat spread apart in distance, they are all within an hour of each other and there is some overlap in audience between the three groups.
During this discussion, we agreed that we would each see all three shows and then do some sort of joint discussion comparing the three productions. We didn't know what form that would take when we started, but we eventually turned to our respective blogs: Don's Confessions of a Cranky Critic and my Front Row Lansing.
This week--on April Fool's Day to be specific--we began a week-long blogfest comparing the three productions. On Tuesday, we independently created our own all-star casts drawn from the three productions. On Wednesday, we revealed which of the three productions we thought was the best. On Thursday, we discussed whether the priest was guilty or innocent--and came up with different answers for each of the three productions. Finally, today, we arranged to have a live chat free-for-all and post the transcript on our blog.
We didn't come up with the idea for a live chat until the last minute, so our invitation for our readers to join us didn't get out until less than 24 hours before the lunchtime chat--not really enough time to give people notice. However, both the director of the BoarsHead show and the BoarsHead artistic director was able to join us.
It was a fun way to look at theater in a larger context than an individual show and we had a lot of fun discussing our different takes on the show. It's something we're both planning to do again, though we're still brainstorming what the next topic will be.