Results tagged “theatre alliance of greater philadelphia” from Drama Queen

I know, it's been a long time, and I've missed you too. But it's not like I was just sitting around ignoring theater. In fact, I've been in graduate school working on a paper about classical performance reception theory and Lysistrata. Wanna see it? No? Fine, I wouldn't either.

Here's something I very much want to see: a gift guide for lovers of Philadelphia theater. Broadway bundles abound, and that's great, especially when they benefit fabulous organizations such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

But giving one of these gifts is practically like giving your loved ones a backstage (or green room) pass to street cred, that street being the Avenue of the Arts, of course. Best part? When you've finished snapping up and doling out all the merchandise, your friends and relatives might just take the hint and get you a subscription of your very own for next season.  Even out-of-towners can get in on the action with a few of these, and perhaps sporting/owning some Philly swag might inspire others to get here and check out the theater scene (hint: September = awesome), which is still under the radar enough to have an entrant in the Under the Radar Festival, but appreciated enough on its home turf to make a hot ticket something of a commodity. 


1. Read all about it: The nation's oldest theater, the Walnut Street Theatre, just celebrated its 200th birthday and put out a pretty cool little tome about it. In fact, it's sits prominently placed in my guest bathroom today, and judging by how often I have to straighten things up in there, it sees much leisure-time riffling by visitors. Don't want to play favorites? Try Philadelphia Theaters, a Pictorial Architectural History, which traces all 200 years of our sawdust-coated, gaslit stages. The American Theatre Wing's (ATW) The Play That Changed My Life has both a great premise and a local connection; it includes a chapter by Philadelphia-born Pulitzer-winning playwright Charles Fuller. Finally, if, like me, you're annoyed that ATW cut journalists from its Tony voting ranks this year, then go on and support your local critics--we don't get paid enough anyway. Philadelphia Inquirer critic and University of the Arts professor Toby Zinman wrote Edward Albee last year, and though yeah, I know, it kills you to do something nice for a critic, American Theatre magazine gave it a great review, and they don't care what you think of her. Go on, maybe you'll learn something.

2. Someone still wants A Christmas Carol, right? Otherwise there wouldn't be an entire section in my paper devoted to places you can see it. Rose Valley's Hedgerow Theatre hosts tea parties before performances on the second Sunday of every month, and they don't cost anything extra, which is nice, because even though your kids/grandma might be having the time of their lives, you're probably thinking Hedgerow owes you big. Have a scone and consider the debt paid. Jews, however, generally don't care for Scrooge and his tsouris, so Hedgerow has wisely brought them an offering, and it's better than frankincense: a bus trip to New York to see The Addams Family musical. And no, a bus trip to New York doesn't defeat the whole purpose of Philly theater gifts, because lookit, for some reason Jews always want to take bus trips to New York, no matter what you try to tell them, so at least this way a local theater still gets to make a buck off them.

3. Screw Teams Jacob and Edward. Romance-minded adolescents and teens need to get with Team Romeo. The Arden Theatre offers a full-day Shakespeare workshop--yes, it includes stage combat--for kids in 6th through 12th grades. Philly heartthrob Evan Jonigkeit (he also recently finished a successful run as Dakin in the Arden's production of The History Boys), who just happens to play Romeo in the company's Romeo and Juliet later that afternoon, leads the workshop. Also included? A ticket to the show and all the raw materials for weeks of copious swooning, parries and ripostes at the dog, and sudden cries of "Alack the day!" No teens? That's okay, the Arden's date night package gets you a pair of Romeo and Juliet tickets and a $25 gift certificate to Serrano restaurant, and you can do your own swooning afterward, in private, where it won't annoy anyone.

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4. You may have noticed that I think Pig Iron Theatre Company is pretty dope. Chances are, you do too, but even if you don't, there's no denying their steampunk-ish, Edward Gorey-esque, line-drawn, Trey Lyford-designed logo looks great. It's compelling on a t-shirt or tote bag without being too obvious, but recognizable enough to elicit appreciative nods when you're trolling the Piazza for hipster camaraderie. Best of all, they're both so cheap that if you stuff the bag with the t-shirt and toss in a copy of the company's indie-pop Lucia Joyce Cabaret CD, you will reap all the benefits of being cool and generous even if you're neither.
UPDATE: Apparently Sens. John McCain (You remember him, right? Old guy, has a thing for crazy backwoods ladies?) and Tom Coburn think Pig Iron is JUST LIKE SHAKESPEARE! Sort of, anyway. Like, because they both drain the public coffers (See items #25 and #26). But I guess that's even more reason to buy their stuff; get 'em off the dole and into your hearts.

4. Relive the glory days when every crappy play that didn't make it to Broadway met its maker right here, and a couple of decent ones lived to see another day. Yiddish theater's mammeleh Molly Picon in How to Be a Jewish Mother? Nah, never heard of it. Orson Welles' "Around the World," with music by Cole Porter? Why haven't I heard of it? Today, there are 38 Playbills available on EBay from these lost treasures. Tomorrow there might be more. Wait until the 7th day of Chanukah or the night before Christmas, and who knows? You might never learn how to be a Jewish mother. Not that that seemed to bother anyone who watched Ms. Picon when she was doing the teaching.

5. Go back to where it all began. Philly owes much of its theatrical genetic code to the Barrymore family (insert your own comment about our alcoholic actors here), as evidenced by our naming the city's theater awards ceremony after them. This item might not do much to enhance the family's reputation, but it sure would make a swell gift for someone. 

If all else fails, go to the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, get a few gift certificates, and let your friends/lovers/family to pick their own damn show. Just make sure they take you.

December 1, 2009 2:12 PM |
Last night marked our li'l version of the Tony Awards, the 15th annual Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Philadelphia Theatre. I've attended a whole bunch of those ceremonies and watched them grow in scale alongside Philly's theater community. However, it's been a while, maybe a decade even, since I last sat through the awards. Because at $150 a ticket, for a couple who want to leave their kids with a babysitter and have dinner beforehand, well, that's a big Monday night out.

This year, I couldn't take it anymore. Still flushed from the theater love-fest that was this year's Live Arts/Fringe and emboldened by the season's running start, I gave in, ponied up and worked myself into a tight little LBD picked just for the occasion. 

As it turns out, I really only needed 75 cents.

So rushed was the event, so destitute of color or excitement--a means to an end (the after-party) whose end hardly justified the means--I would have been better off waiting to read Howie Shapiro's summary in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Imagine, if you will, several hundred of the city's finest talents assembled in one house. Imagine next, this collection of epic attention whores (I mean that in the fondest sense) forced to rush through a list of names without description or context and a perfunctory series of 45-second thank-yous, no dance numbers, no dramatic scenes. What shows did the F. Otto Haas Emerging Artist nominees work on last season? What exactly did the Delaware Theatre Company do with the Ferris School for Boys (whatever that is) to win their Ted and Stevie Wolf Award for New Approaches to Collaboration? Just read about it in your program, dammit! There's no time for discussion! We've got to get to the pasta bar!

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Imagine now, you're at the pasta bar. Imagine this ballroom after-party with no dj, no band, not even a stinking microphone to enable a round of show tunes karaoke. Pasta and a couple of carving stations are fine, especially with an open wine bar, but then what? I mean, it's not like anyone would want to show off or anything, like they just won an award for THEATER or whatever. I've been to better bar mitzvahs, and I'm including the part where you sit in synagogue and listen to haftorah cantillated by a seventh grader.

Apparently, the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia's Barrymores mantra was "90 minutes." Well guess what? If they kept the bar open or held an intermission, no one would care about the event's length, or if they did, well, at least they'd be getting their money's worth. People might complain that the big song and dance numbers and dramatic scenes are out of context, but without them the whole event is out of context. 

From what I understand, this year marks the first Barrymores without an onstage sampler of  nominated shows. It's also the Theatre Alliance's first year using a grumbled-about new voting system that, among other changes, narrows the field of voters and ranks a show's elements on a scale of 1 to 100. That's a whole other issue, and really, I don't much care about it except that I think critics ought to comprise some part of the voting system. And also that I totally called Ian Merrill Peakes' win for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play way back when I first reviewed the world premiere of Bruce Graham's Something Intangible. (Yesss!) 

I do, however, care that the Barrymore Awards are lagging behind Philadelphia's theater community at the very moment it's sprinting for the win. Sure, I appreciated Martha Graham Cracker's brief appearance, but I could see her at her cabaret every month for a lot longer, while spending a lot less. The Barrymores are supposed to be the culminating, galvanizing event of the season; here's hoping next year's ceremony makes an effort to match the talent it purports to honor.
October 6, 2009 12:31 PM | | Comments (2)
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