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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

You've Got To Spend It To Make It A respected figure in British theatre, Peter Longman is imploring the government to invest more than 1 billion in the country's theatre companies, in order to correct what most in the business have viewed as a long and dangerous slide in public monetary support. Longman is not alone in his call for increased public investment, but the word "billion" has the theatre world talking, and government officials stunned. BBC 12/31/02

Monday, December 30, 2002

London Theatres Falling Down "The physical condition of London's theatreland, a unique treasury of mainly Victorian and Edwardian theatres, is beginning to cause anguish among the people who earn their living there. One estimate is that the buildings need well over 200m spent to bring them up to the modern standards that audiences increasingly expect, and to faintly humane working conditions for staff." The Guardian (UK) 12/31/02

Broadway Perks Up For much of 2002, Broadway seemed caught in a downdraft. But "for the fall and winter, Broadway ticket sales have been running 15% ahead of last year's levels, says Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theatres & Producers. Sales could even surpass 2000's record-setting figures. Thanksgiving week alone racked up $18.6 million, vs. $16 million for the same week in 2000. Now, with 33 shows on the boards, Broadway is wrapping up its holiday season, traditionally the strongest time of the year. What happened?" BusinessWeek 12/27/02

Sunday, December 29, 2002

The Incredible Shrinking Play One of the phenomenons of Broadway in recent years has been that "you can now sell the public a 70- or 90-minute play on Broadway for $75 and they swallow it as readily as they do spaghetti in oil and garlic, though it may be far less nourishing or tasty. This only becomes a problem when Tony nominations loom and there aren't enough American plays to fill the Best Play category. Filling the category these days is a more important question than the quality of the work." New York Daily News 12/29/02

Gehry To Redesign Lisbon Theatre District? Is Frank Gehry going to redesign a rundown theatre district in Lisbon? "According to Associated Press, Lisbon officials want to build two modern theaters, a film complex, a museum, stores and offices. 'I'm just going to see what they're up to. If it's real, it's a wonderful project'." Los Angeles Times 12/28/02

UK Theatre - A Changing Of The Guard Many of the UK's biggest theatres are getting new leadership this year. "The appointments have been common currency for some time, but it's only now, with an unprecedented flurry of handovers just around the corner, that mouths are beginning to water at what lies ahead. The players who dominated the scene during the 1990s are making way for fresh blood." The Telegraph (UK) 12/28/02

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Singing Of A Christmas Way From Home Across America, actors and crews working in touring shows spend the Holidays away from home. "It is a peculiar lifestyle. And no matter what, it can be kind of a lonely, weird time." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 12/22/02

Chinese Come to NY To Learn Broadway Secrets A team from the Chinese Ministry of Culture comes to Broadway to try to learn its secrets. "We want to know how your Broadway musicals could attract such large audiences. And why our comprehensive art forms with singing, dancing and drama could not attract such a large audience." They "hope to find a way to stem a troubling loss of audience from hundreds of traditional, state-supported Chinese opera houses. Attendance at these houses has dwindle as more modern, youthful entertainments have multiplied." The New York Times 12/23/02

What Denver Theatre Needs Denver has theatre - good theatre. But things seem to be going down rather than up. There are 56 theater companies, but only one (League of Regional Theaters) playhouse. "Ten folded or went dormant the past year. And the one it has, the DCTC, is clawing its way out of budget shortages that resulted in $1.6 million in cutbacks the past 18 months. Chicago, by comparison, has 20 professional LORT theaters. Seattle has five; San Diego three. The best theater cities also have thriving, definable theater districts, something that would be impossible to chart here outside the Denver Center." Denver Post 12/22/02

The Art Of Messiness So you think making a mess onstage is easy? Well, maybe if you live in a rundown theatre. For a theatre in posher digs, grunginess costs more money. Here's how two theatres of different economic means went about making a mess... Boston Globe 12/22/02

Thursday, December 19, 2002

TheatreVirginia To Fold Richmond Virginia's only professional theatre - the 47-year-old TheatreVirginia - is going out of business after failing to clear a persistent $500,000 debt. The theater's subscriber base has shrunk from more than 11,000 in 1990 to between 2,500 and 3,000 this season. Nando Times (AP) 12/19/02

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Playwrights' Comp Cancelled In Baltimore Baltimore television station WMAR is pulling the plug on a playwriting competition it has sponsored for the past two decades. The competition was organized by the Arena Players, which solicited scripts from black playwrights, and picked one each year to be rehearsed, performed, and broadcast on WMAR. Station officials cited lack of corporate sponsorship as the major reason for their pullout. Baltimore Sun 12/18/02

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Play Bank All this energy that goes into finding and developing new plays. Then what - they go into some box somewhere, never to be seen again? A Cabadian playwright wondering why Canada has been unable to develop a real theatrical canon, proposes a repository of plays that can be revisited an restaged. "The idea is not new, but it is eminently worthwhile. It's a question of how it's structured . . . You don't want to create a museum of Canadian plays." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/17/02

Monday, December 16, 2002

Broadway's Back A year ago, Broadway was empty, shows were closing, and emergency aid was needed. "But now shoppers pack stores, hotels have raised their prices, and New York theaters, in the midst of the busiest December of openings in decades, have begun to deal with post-terrorist angst with something other than escapism." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/15/02

Friday, December 13, 2002

Bite Me - How A Show Could Go So Wrong "Dance of the Vampires" had some of the worst reviews in recent Broadway history when it opened last week. So who's responsible for the mess? "A producer who bought an opera then decided he wanted a musical comedy. A temperamental star who wrote his own jokes - then cut all of his co-star's. A choreographer who couldn't choreograph, and a composer who refused to attend his own opening night..." New York Post 12/13/02

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Children's Theatre Grows Up Some theatre people believe that some of the most adventurous plays these days are coming out of children's theatre. And some of the best children's theatre in North America is coming out of Canada ("although we still lag behind Europe"). "Unfortunately in Canada, the public perception about plays for young people places it in a state of awkward adolescence." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/12/02

Strong Broadway Season Could Be Record This could be Broadway's strongest year at the box office and onstage in five years. "By Dec. 31, the 2002-03 season will have seen 21 openings, an unusually high figure for this point in the calendar." There's even a chance for a record box-office year in the season produces another hit... Backstage 12/11/02

Animal Farm Goes Home George Orwell's Animal Farm is a biting critique of Communism. China is a Communist country with a highly-developed censorious streak. "This is subversive stuff. China's media, including its theatre and films, are still heavily censored, so how on earth did Animal Farm get past them and onto the stage?" BBC 12/12/02

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Baz Looking at Casino Next Baz Luhrmann, fresh off his hit opening of La Boheme on Broadway, says that he plans to make stage versions of his movies "Moulin Rouge" and "Strictly Ballroom" He's looking at putting "Moulin Rouge" ina Las Vegas casino and "Strictly Ballroom" to go into a ballroom space.
Playbill 12.10/02

Cost Plus Why don't young people come to the theatre? Theatres certainly try hard enough to lure them - "they choose new writers; they cast stars from television soaps; they allow audiences to bring drinks in with them; they even, in the case of the National Theatre, reconfigure the auditorium in an effort to make it more youth-friendly." But maybe it's just a price issue. If theatre cost the price of a movie, would they go? One experiment offers some answers... The Independent (UK) 12/07/02

Monday, December 9, 2002

Fire Destroys Fringe Venues A fire in Old Town Edinburgh damages a number of venues that host events for the annual Fringe Festival. But a Festival spokesman says "it would only be a handful of venues out of 183 that we had on board last year, so we don't expect it to affect the festival in any way." BBC 12/10/02

Sunday, December 8, 2002

Have Muppets, Will Sell The Muppet empire has been chopped into pieces since Muppet creator Jim Henson died in 1990. The company was sold soon after Henson's death, and some of the characters were resold off to Sesame Street last year. The rest of the troupe has been on the market for the past year. Is Miss Piggy enough of an enduring character to endure? The Guardian (UK) 12/09/02

Incubators R Us Atlanta's main presenter of touring Broadway musicals proposes to build a new school and theatre - "a laboratory-like theatrical environment where, over a period of 10 to 12 weeks, all aspects of a show can be presented to a live audience, revised, shown again, revised again . . . until a Broadway-ready project has emerged." The theatre says the project would be a "one-of-a-kind incubator of new musicals that would make Atlanta an invaluable stop on the road to New York." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12/08/02

Saturday, December 7, 2002

Reinventing What It Means To Be National (Again) As Nicholas Hytner takes control of London's National Theatre, it's clear he's got big ideas for a change of direction. "Like most large subsidized theatres, the National has a spotty history of success. Some would argue it has never truly been a 'national theatre,' and the work it has produced with its multimillion-pound budget for its massive building with three auditoriums on London's South Bank has often not been of national, not to mention world, standards." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/07/02

Friday, December 6, 2002

The Long And Short Of London Theatre "The ever-busy world of London theater this season has produced two important premieres by two singular playwrights, Tom Stoppard and Caryl Churchill. Their vastly different new works -- Stoppard's running a little over nine hours and Churchill's clocking in at a mere 55 minutes -- are certain to have United States productions, and when they get to America, they are sure to cause a stir." Chicago Tribune 12/06/02

Thursday, December 5, 2002

White Like Me British theatre is an overwhelmingly white experience. "The facts are scandalous. Of 2,009 permanent staff in regional theatres, only 80 are from black and Asian communities; of 463 board members, only 20 are from what we term "ethnic minorities". And Leicester Haymarket is the only producing theatre with a black artistic director, Kully Thiarai." The Arts Council is working on some initiatives to help, but "the key question is whether these initiatives are enough to combat the racism - more, I suspect, a result of indifference than malice - that has become an entrenched part of British theatre." The Guardian (UK) 12/05/02

Different? You Did Wanted Different, Didn't You? Wasn't it just yesterday the press was beating up on Trevor Nunn and his choices running London's National Theatre? Well, his successor hasn't wasted any time signaling his split from the past. Jerry Springer - The Opera, a cheeky, irreverent, and joyously filthy musical theatre satire on the TV chat show no one likes to admit to watching, will be Nicholas Hytner's first big production when his reign begins in April. As a first choice it sends an unmistakable message that the years ahead are likely not only to be risky and exciting but revolutionary in a way that Sir Trevor Nunn's were not." The Guardian (UK) 12/05/02

Scottish Actors Heading South? Is Scottish theatre underfunded? The union Actors Equity says yes, theatre people are paid better in England than in Scotland. "This is going to mean a serious talent drain. Scottish theatres are not going to be competitive enough to retain the best actors or the best directors, technical staff and administrators. Theatres across the Border will be able to offer better resources and working conditions." The Scotsman 12/03/02

  • Theatre Drain Is it just coincidence or is something deeper going on here? Many of Scotland's best theatre and artistic directors are leaving their jobs. "Within the next few months, every rep theatre in Scotland save the Byre in St Andrews will have a new artistic director." The Herald (Glasgow) 12/04/02

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

The Royal Shakespeare Company's Dire Straits The Royal Shakespeare Company reports that it lost 1 million last year, "bringing its cumulative loses to 2.4 million. The company's experimental season at London's Roundhouse was "a financial disaster even though artistically it had its moments." And this is the company with ambitious reorganization plans. "for the first time the staggering costs of the company's reorganisation have become clear. Its administrators are budgeting on spending at least 9.2 million." The Guardian (UK) 12/04/02

You Don't Exist Outside Of London Do London editors and critics ignore the rest of the country's theatre endeavors? At least one director thinks so. "In other European countries, places like Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh would be all considered to be centres of endeavour. We are not really given that credit, and it makes people resentful; we do not need these divisions." The Guardian (UK) 12/04/02

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

My Fair Box Office London's National Theatre began the year with a 626,000 debt, which it hoped to eliminate by next March. But thanks to the commercial box office success of My Fair Lady, the theatre popped into the black last March, about a year early. But, the theatre warns, financial prospects for the next season look less certain than usual. BBC 12/02/02

  • Exit Smiling Trevor Nunn leaves the National with a record of success As director, he introduced many new plays, generated lots of buzzand even...gasp.. made some money with high-profile commercial prouctions...Still, there were those pesky critics who refused to leave him alone. The Guardian (UK) 12/02/02

Monday, December 2, 2002

A Crowded Broadway In December Seven new shows are opening on Broadway this month - a lot for the holiday season. ''Some people say that fighting for media space with the movies, which always open a lot of films between Thanksgiving and Christmas, is a mistake. 'Others think you have the excitement of the holiday season when people are focused on going out and consuming entertainment. So maybe it's the perfect time to be in front of the public.'' MSNBC (AP) 12/02/02

Sunday, December 1, 2002

Needless Waste Why aren't more theatre performances recorded? Especially the really good ones, the historic ones? "We have the technological means to record a show without huge financial outlay and with a fair degree of style. It's called video. We do commit theatre to tape in this country but we do so so sparingly, so shamefacedly, that it ought to be a national scandal." The Telegraph (UK) 12/01/02

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