Results tagged “florida studio theatre” from Drama Queen

If you're wondering what goes on at a theater critics' conference these days, it's probably exactly what you'd expect: lots of shows and lots of fretting. The American Theatre Critics' Association's (ATCA) annual meeting here in Sarasota skews way, way older than, say, the median age at the NEA or O'Neill institutes, but the worries are the same, and tellingly, there are almost no full-time staffers here, but plenty of print freelancers and online contributors.

Yesterday saw a posh dinner at the Gulfside of home of Asolo rep's board president and a command performance from Florida Studio Theatre's improv and musical cabaret performers, who, to my surprise, bested the talents I saw at my recent visit to Chicago's Second City. Who knew. 

Today's events (thus far) have included a "Perspectives in Theater Criticism" lecture with New York Post theater columnist Michael Reidel. The Perspectives series began in 1992 with Clive Barnes as its inaugural speaker. So what did we learn this year? Well, for one thing, if you're a journalist, it helps to have your paper owned by Rupert Murdoch; Riedel's travel to the hinterlands to peek in on pre-Broadway tryouts is still subsidized by the Post, while everywhere else you practically have to run down the accounting staff in order to get reimbursed for tolls. Also, during filming for Riedel's The Norman Conquests opening night webcast, the show's producer, Kevin Spacey, was Twittering about it, a fact that's unsettling for both its satirical implications and cut-out-the-middleman directness

But we also learned that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette theater critic Chris Rawson pulled out a press release from that initial year, whose copy read in part,

"These are difficult times for theater critics, with space for theater coverage shrinking, papers relying more and more on part-time or freelance critics, and, in many cities, papers folding. Reminders of the importance and event he high honor of our calling are more necessary than ever."

Ah, the good old days.

Hopefully Riedel's full lecture will be on YouTube shortly, and when it is, I'll add the link in an update here.

Remaining today is another lecture about the state of theater criticism, and a visit to Asolo Rep to see G.B. Shaw's The Devil's Disciple.

April 29, 2009 12:48 PM | | Comments (0)
mickey-mouse-arrest_791131c.jpgThis week I'm macking on: Vacation! I'll be out of town from tomorrow until after the new year, so don't expect to see any posts until then. However, I do plan to take in some Florida theater. Strangely enough, just like last time I went away, when Sarasota's Florida Studio Theatre hosted a Philly show--James Sugg and Aaron Posner's A Murder, A Mystery and A Marriage--this time FST is producing Michael Hollinger's Opus, an Arden Theatre baby. So if I can't resist, maybe I'll sneak away to a computer for a quickie review or something (I'll probably need the alone time anyway). And also, I'll be in Disneyworld for a couple of days, which should, I don't know, be really freaky, and then up to Savannah, Georgia. If anyone has theater recommendations along that route, please send them to me. Any time I'm on vacation and have a legit excuse to get a babysitter is a good time.

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This week I'm hating on: Finite print space for reviews. I reviewed 1812 Productions' Cherry Bomb, a new, full-length musical about the Cherry Sisters--a family act widely considered "the worst act in vaudeville" for today's Philadelphia Inquirer. (p.s., the link takes you to a piece written by WFMU mad genius Irwin Chusid, whose compilation album and companion book Songs in the Key of Z are the definitive primers on outsider music.) I managed to do an okay job, I guess, in a mightily compressed way, of conveying what the show was about, giving some history and throwing forth my likes and dislikes. But I sure could have used some room to stretch out.

Some productions make every syllable of their 420-470 alloted review words into a Sisyphean torment. (Spoiler Alert: ever read a review whose plot synopsis is way longer than the reviewer's analysis? A sure sign it was one of those shows.) Because sometimes, you see a conventional and adequate but unexceptional production of a frequently produced show--in keeping with the spirit of the season, let's say A Christmas Carol. Well, what is there to discuss? It was good, everyone knows the story, and I don't know, I guess you could complain or champion the tradition of mounting it every season. The end.

But in the case of Cherry Bomb and all its incidentals--the rising local talents among the cast and creators, its subject matter, its historical importance, the sisters' place in the pantheon of outsider music, the show's dramatic context, its sociopolitical elements, its conceptual strengths and faults, its music, direction, script, lyrics, none of which have been reviewed before--well, that's where a nice, flexible website would really come in handy. 

Considering all the time invested in the show's development, the grant money involved, and the sheer enormity of producing ambitious new work now, when the city's economy is imploding (Let's just ignore the rest of the world's imploding economies, shall we? ), it is almost a disservice to give Cherry Bomb such a cursory review. And that didn't used to be the case. For example, take Frank Rich's 1993 review of the Broadway premier of Angels in America, which clocks in at a well-padded 1443 words, not including the cast box. Ben Brantley's review for the current revival of American Buffalo is shorter by almost a third at 960 words. My word count at the Inquirer has shrunk by 100 or so words just since 2006. 

Considering the disappearing ranks of paid critics these days, I guess a cursory review is better than none at all. At the same time, with these halfway useful, halfway explored ideas, is print media, in its efforts to remain afloat in its current, tangible, deliverable form and refusal to adapt to an online model, subsequently hastening our demise? I guess we'll know soon enough.

December 19, 2008 8:33 AM | | Comments (3)

rocky_steps.jpgThis week I'm macking on: Philadelphia. We're hosting a free Bruce Springsteen concert/rally for Obama on Saturday. Gary Steuer is wrapping up his first week as head of Mayor Michael Nutter's re-opened Office of Arts and Culture and the Creative Economy (that last part was added by the mayor for the office's new incarnation) even as the Wall Street economy proves how much less worthy it is of financial assistance than our artists. In Conflict is featured in this month's issue of American Theatre (I just reviewed the article's author, Krista Apple, here) going strong Off-Broadway and there are murmurs of its potential for a larger house. The 2008 Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, kick off on Monday night. And finally, I'm headed to Sarasota, Florida this weekend--host of the 2009 American Theatre Critics' Association conference--and figured as long as I'm down there, I'd  get a head start on checking out the drama scene. So what's playing at the Florida Studio Theatre? A Murder, A Mystery and A Marriage, with book and lyrics by former Arden Theatre Artistic Director Aaron Posner (the Arden will premiere Posner's new adaptation of Chaim Potok's My Name Is Asher Lev later this season) and music by Pig Iron member James Sugg, whose original production The Sea (Tom Waits fans, go on and click. The songs are very Swordfishtrombones, in a good way, and the show stands on its own.) was one of my all-time Fringe Festival favorites. And, oh yeah, didn't I hear something recently about the Phillies? So while visitors might pour on the haterade and call us fat, unfriendly, unstylish, ugly, a crappy vacation destination, dirty, noisy, dangerous and boring (things got worse for us since the last survey), all I have to say is dontcha wish your city was hot like ours?

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This week I'm hating on: Clowns. Specifically the clowns of the San Francisco Clown conservatory, who came up with this idea: a "Naked Clown Calendar" as an MS fundraiser. I know it's for a good cause and maybe you can pay the Judy Finelli Fund to not send you a calendar. Because really, this has to be the worst idea since last week's announcement of American Psycho, the Musical. Ever think about a clown's nipples? A clown's hairy belly? No? Of course not, and you know why? Because it would make you cry, not laugh. Because only John Wayne Gacy's victims had to do that, and they didn't want to. I couldn't upload any of their pictures as they're protected, and, um, they're scary. No need to thank me.

October 2, 2008 8:07 PM | | Comments (5)
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