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Thursday, February 27, 2003

Les Miz To Close On Broadway After 18 years, Les Miz is closing on Broadway. "On May 18 this blockbuster version of the Victor Hugo novel that helped define the mega-musical of the 1980's will go dark at the Imperial Theater, taking its place in the record books as the second longest-running Broadway show of all time, after 'Cats'." The New York Times 02/28/03

Progressive Pricing When "The Play What I Wrote" opens on Broadway next week, it will cost $1 to get in. The next night it costs $2. The next $3. "The Play What I Wrote," which revolves around a comedy act that's breaking up, features a surprise celebrity guest star each night. In London, those guests included Roger Moore, Jerry Hall, Sting and Twiggy. New York Post 02/27/03

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

ACT Theatre Woes Fail To Impress Critic So Seattle's ACT theatre is on the verge of going out of business. The theatre declared a life-and-death emegergency, then gave itself a little breathing room when board members ponied up some operating money. Roger Downey isn't impressed. "Why was the theatre's board so ignorant of the organization's precarious financial situation? Many Seattle arts groups seem headed down this same path - ACT is just the first. Why do we let it happen? "It's entirely in keeping with the way arts groups, in Seattle and elsewhere in this country, are governed and financed. The system is rickety even in good times, and bad times expose its shortcomings cruelly." Seattle Weekly 02/26/03

Boston Merger Boston's Wang Center for the Performing Arts and the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, which presents free summer productions, are merging their business operations together in an effort to streamline fundraising and marketing efforts. Each company will maintain its own distinct identity, but the agreement "formalizes and underscores the Wang's sponsorship of CSC during the past two summer seasons. As CSC's major underwriter, the Wang has contributed $200,000 in cash and thousands of dollars in 'in-kind services,' according to Maler." Boston Globe 02/26/03

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

London Success But Bombing In New York (Ah Yes, The Tradition...) London critics loved Sam Mendes' Donmar Theatre productions. Yet when he brought them to New York, the critics piled up their complaints. "There is a long tradition of New York critics resisting productions that have been successful in London. But there is more to the failure of Mendes's productions to win them over than sniping." The Guardian (UK) 02/25/03

Broadway Musicians May Strike Next Week Contract talks between Broadway producers and the musicians union have stalled, and musicians say they may strike next week. "Musicians who work in the orchestra pits of old Broadway standbys like 'Phantom of the Opera' and new hits like 'Hairspray' said on Tuesday they might walk off the job after their union contract expires on Sunday." Producers are preparing to use recorded music. The New York Times 02/26/03

Theatres Against War On Monday some 700 readings of Aristophanes' anti-war satire "Lysistrata," written in 411 B.C., will be presented around the world to protest a war in Iraq. "It's all part of the Lysistrata Project, the brainchild of New York writer-actress Kathryn Blume. Blume said she had been working on a screenplay based on "Lysistrata" when she heard about Theaters Against War (THAW), a group planning an 'action day' to protest a potential United States war against Iraq." Sacramento Bee 02/25/03

Monday, February 24, 2003

ACTing Out: Lessons From A Seattle Theatre Theatre people across America were shocked last week when Seattle's ACT Theatre announced it was on the verge of closing, nearly sunk by debt. Could the theatre's predicament happen elsewhere, wonders Frank Rizzo? "The problems in Seattle only remind us that simply supporting building projects and not what happens when these buildings open is a short-sighted vision, one that could ultimately reflect a legacy of losers." Hartford Courant 02/23/03

Aboard The Floating Music Halls "With the decline of clubs and cabaret venues, cruise ships have become the music halls of our generation - and as more than 10 million people cruise every year there is a lot of entertaining to be done. There are some who never get off..." The Guardian (UK) 02/24/03

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Winds Of War Waft Through The Theatre Remember those days just after 9/11/01, when everything had changed and nothing would ever be the same again? Satire was dead, and Hollywood would surely have to rethink its mission. Well, 18 months later, as we all know, little has really changed, satire is alive and well, and Hollywood is still as it was. In fact, with the world on the brink of an uncertain war, the only artistic discipline which really seems to be meeting current events head-on is the theatre. "As the whiff of war emanates from the White House, for the first time in years the theater feels like a place where world events in the making can be remade for the stage, speedily and purposefully." Chicago Tribune 02/23/03

Friday, February 21, 2003

Producers May Be Backing Down There appears to be some movement in the contentious negotiations between Broadway producers and the musicians who staff the pits of the Great White Way. The central issue in the talks is over the requirement that a minimum number of musicians be employed for every show. Producers have been insisting that the policy must be eliminated outright, but sources now say that they may be willing to accept reductions in the minimums instead. Why the change of heart? It's possible that producers aren't as ready as they suggest to start using canned music as accompaniment to Broadway musicals. New York Post 02/21/03

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Collision Course - Two Shows Square Off On Same Night "Two high-profile, upcoming Broadway productions - the musical 'Urban Cowboy' and Yasmina Reza's play 'Life x 3' - are scheduled to premiere March 27, and both say they won't change their plans. It is unusual for two Broadway shows to open on the same day, thus going head to head for newspaper space, television coverage and opening-night party publicity." Nando Times (AP) 02/21/03

A Reprieve For Seattle ACT Theatre... Seattle's ACT Theatre gives itself a reprieve from oblivion. The theatre had said it needed to raise $1.5 million by this Friday to avoid closing. But "at a meeting yesterday afternoon, the 25-member board elected to pay ACT's skeleton staff of nine employees and the company's other essential expenses out of their own pockets for a month, while trying to raise the $1.5 million they say is needed to keep the theater from closing permanently." Seattle Times 02/20/03

  • Seattle's ACT Theatre Breathing Its Final Gasps? How do you sell 120,000 tickets and still run up a $500,000 deficit? Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre did it last year, and last week said if it wasn't able to raise $1.5 million toward an accumulated deficit of $1.7 million, it would have to close its doors by this Friday. So far, no white knight has come forward... The New York Times 02/20/03

  • Previously: Seattle's ACT Theatre On The Verge Of Closure Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre is $1.7 million in debt, has $3,000 in the bank, and has reduced its staff from 65 to nine. If the theatre doesn't raise $1.5 million by next week, one of Seattle's oldest and most respected theatres will close its doors. Seattle Times 02/15/03
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Hitting 'Em Where It Hurts Broadway producers are trying an unusual tactic in their battle with musicians over the set minimum number of musicians required to be included in every show. Ordinarily, in these disputes, the front office talks about fiscal responsibility, and the musicians counter with talk of artistic integrity. But in this case, the producers claim that the musicians' position is artistically indefensible, and that minimums, as they are known, are unfair to the composer of a show's score, and to the entire creative team. It's an innovative approach, but unfortunately, some rather high-profile Broadway composers are already refuting the claims. New York Post 02/19/03

  • Previously: Broadway Musicians Dispute - Who's Really Deciding? Broadway producers say that the number of musicians emplyed for a show "should be left to the composer, lyricist, and musical director of a Broadway musical." The head of the musicians union agrees: "We agree completely, absolutely 100%. The problem is they're not the people who make the decision. How do we know? Those people are members of our union. And they say, unless we protect the minimums, they can't work in the same parameters as they do now on Broadway, because the numbers are dictated to the musical creative team by producers." Musicians and producers are locked in contract talks. Backstage 02/17/03
Monday, February 17, 2003

Broadway Musicians Dispute - Who's Really Deciding? Broadway producers say that the number of musicians emplyed for a show "should be left to the composer, lyricist, and musical director of a Broadway musical." The head of the musicians union agrees: "We agree completely, absolutely 100%. The problem is they're not the people who make the decision. How do we know? Those people are members of our union. And they say, unless we protect the minimums, they can't work in the same parameters as they do now on Broadway, because the numbers are dictated to the musical creative team by producers." Musicians and producers are locked in contract talks. Backstage 02/17/03

Founders Of Modern Drama (Even Though They Didn't Like Each Other) "It is tempting to see Ibsen and Strindberg as inherently antithetical. On the one hand, Ibsen: sane, progressive, rational, formal. On the other, Strindberg: neurotic, reactionary, religious, fragmented. Ibsen's characters think and speak logically and consecutively: Strindberg's dart backwards and forwards. They do not think, or speak, ABCDE but AQBZC. 'I see the two men as violent, necessary opposites, who between them laid the foundations of modern drama'." The Guardian (UK) 02/17/03

Seattle's ACT Theatre On The Verge Of Closure Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre is $1.7 million in debt, has $3,000 in the bank, and has reduced its staff from 65 to nine. If the theatre doesn't raise $1.5 million by next week, one of Seattle's oldest and most respected theatres will close its doors. Seattle Times 02/15/03

  • Home Rich, Cash Poor Some trace Seattle's ACT problems to its move from a comfortable (but run-down) home to an ambitious multi-theatre complex that's expensive to run. Still... where was the theatre's board? Seattle Times 02/16/03

  • About-Face For Taper's Egan "The [Los Angeles-based] Mark Taper Forum's producing director, Robert Egan, known for fostering new plays and emerging writers, said Friday that he has changed his mind about running ACT Theatre, a major regional company in Seattle, because a worsening fiscal crisis there has nullified the adventurous artistic plans that made him want the job in the first place." ACT ran a $500,000 deficit in 2002, and is making plans to trim as much as $2 million from its 2003-04 budget. ACT's board has released Egan from his obligations to the company. Los Angeles Times 02/15/03

Colorado's Theatre Boom Colorado's arts funding is down, but the state is in the middle of a theatre boom, with new projects sprouting everywhere. "The 20 projects range in cost from the city of Denver's taxpayer-authorized, $75 million renovation of the Auditorium Theatre to the $75,000 it is costing John Ashton to turn a fur-storage shop into a new, 99-seat home for his 16-year-old Avenue Theater." Denver Post 02/16/03

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Jesus Christ, Superstar Say you belong to a church that just isn't packing 'em in the pews these days. And say you feel the need to do something about this, and that you're not averse to a little modernization of services. What do you do? Well, if you're a New Yorker, you apparently import some Broadway people to sing a few show tunes, and watch the attendance soar! No, seriously, a church actually did this. And a Methodist church, to boot! Not everyone is a fan (particularly those who note that the practice seems to draw a large number of gay men to the services,) but the pastor in charge calls it a miracle. The New York Times 02/16/03

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Changing Sides Susan Trausch has been a newspaper writer for three decades, and a playwright for, um, about 5 minutes now. "Someday when I grow up, I may be a playwright. Right now I'm an apprentice, a journalist in transition who has taken theater-as-a-second-language classes at adult education centers over the past eight years." Along her journey from one side of the critical glass to the other, Trausch has gained a new respect for collaboration, broad thought, and most of all, ambiguity. Boston Globe 02/15/03

Friday, February 14, 2003

Re-Cast And Re-Bait "A look at the latest Broadway casts of 'The Producers,' 'Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune' and 'Oklahoma!' has confirmed one basic truth of the theater: if the chemistry of casting is an elusive and mysterious science, the alchemy of recasting is even more complicated. No matter how much electricity performers give off naturally, when you plug them into roles that don't fit, short-circuiting is to be expected." The New York Times 02/14/03

Thursday, February 13, 2003

An Expensive "Journey' A new production of Eugene 'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into ight" is going to charge $100 a ticket when it opens in May on Broadway. "The hefty price tag - which does not include a $1.25 per ticket "restoration fee" - is usually reserved for big-budget Broadway musicals such as 'The Producers', 'Hairspray' and 'Movin' Out'. A $100 ticket is rare for a straight play. "The Iceman Cometh," also by O'Neill, and starring Kevin Spacey, charged a $100 top price in 1999." New York Daily News 02/13/03

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Cabin Fever - An Actor's Inflight Torture Think the inflight entertainment is bad? For actors it's worse. "The overcrowded cabin, tasteless food and germ-infested air-conditioning usually found on aeroplanes held no terrors for me - after all, I've worked at the Barbican - but I also knew that, with a journey time of just over 11 hours, the in-flight entertainment was likely to include several hours of recent television favourites. Actors go on holiday to forget all the jobs they have missed, not to be reminded of them, and I braced myself for the worst." The Guardian (UK) 02/12/03

Recreating A Difficult Time The lives of people in North Yorkshire were ruined a few years ago when foot-and-mouth virus was detected, and livestock by the thousands were destroyed. Now a local theatre has produced a play about that time, using local people. "The non-professional cast have had only minimal rehearsal time, which gives the production a rough-and-ready quality. That doesn't diminish its effect, however. In fact, the lack of 'acting' only adds to the piece's power and the sense that what you are witnessing, rather than a mere performance, is a genuine dialogue between stage and audience."
The Guardian (UK) 02/12/03

Seeing What They Say On Stage - Captioning Catches On An increasing number of English theatres are "introducing a captioned performance in the run of their plays. The obvious beneficiaries of being able to read, and therefore 'hear' performances, are people with hearing loss. But the technique also helps those for whom English is not their first language, but who want to experience and enjoy English theatre - i.e., tourists." Theatrenow.com 02/11/03

Coveting A Charles Manson Poster? A Denver production of a play about murderer Charles Manson is having a poster problem. No sooner do posters for the play go up in local businesses when they're taken down. "The average poster life is about 48 hours, we're finding. They're either coming down because somebody's offended or because they're hanging them on their wall." Rocky Mountain News 02/11/03

End Of The National's Musicals So Nicholas Hytner decrees London's National Theatre won't be producing the big flashy musicals anymore. "This seems, at first blush, somewhat dog-in-the-mangerish of him. As a guest director, he was responsible a few years ago for a production of 'Carousel' that ranks as one of the National's most successful and enlightening musical revivals. It's as if, having had his fun, he's all set to stop other directors - not to mention other audiences - having theirs. He has a point or two, though." These big musical revivals - do they really work artistically? National Post (Canada) 02/11/03

More Title Squeamishness Producers of a production of "The Vagina Monologues" in Moncton, New Brunswick are finding a chilly reception there. "People get all giggly and squeamish when they hear the word. But worse, we've had companies very reluctant to support us, people who wouldn't return our phone calls. One person I spoke to wouldn't send out our e-mail poster to their 700 employees because he didn't think his boss would think it is a good idea." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/11/03

Monday, February 10, 2003

V's Are Okay, But You Can't Print The "P" Word.. Last year when "The Vagina Monologues" came to Sacramento, the Sacramento Bee carried ads for the play - no problem. But evidently the "p" word is a bigger deal. The paper has refused ads for "Puppetry of the Penis," the hot Australian show currently touring the US. Sacramento News & Review 02/06/03

Sunday, February 9, 2003

Live Music In Broadway Orchestra Pits? Essential As union and producers duke it out on Broadway over live music, 'it's easy to be misled that it's all about the numbers. In the talk about minimums and control, we shouldn't forget what's most important about the issue: the music. The essence of live theater is in the adjective 'live.' No matter what is said, it's never the same when electronic music or pre-recorded music replaces live acoustic sounds. In this pre-recorded environment the control goes from the baton of the conductor to the dial of the programmer, who has become the actuary of this new musical world. The difference between a live orchestra and a virtual orchestra is the difference between a football game and Game Boy." Hartford Courant 02/09/03

Flopped On Broadway? Hit The Road Jack (There's Money Out There) So a much-publicized show doesn't make it on Broadway. "In recent years several flop productions have all taken to the road and experienced financial and, to a lesser extent, critical success, sometimes by altering their look and content for a national audience hungry for splashy Broadway fare." The New York Times 02/10/03

Another Look At A Long-Ago Flop "House of Flowers" was supposed to be the big Broadway hit of 1954. An O. Henry Prize-winning short story by Truman Capote, lyrics by Capote and Harold Arlen, music by Arlen's, director Peter Brook (fresh from Covent Garden), George Balanchine choreographing, and Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll starring. But the show flopped, and remained dormant for almost 50 years. Now it's back for another look... The New York Times 02/09/03

Friday, February 7, 2003

Broadway Musician Strike Inevitable? Negotiations on a new contract between Broadway producers and musicians began this week, and musician minimums are the big issue. The two sides are well apart. "Producers have taken what one source calls a 'blood oath' that they will hang together in the event of a strike. They expect the union to take a divide-and-conquer approach, striking only those shows with weak box offices or that don't yet have their 'virtual orchestras' in place (there are a few). Should that happen, every show will bar musicians from the theater and use pre-recorded music." New York Post 02/07/03

  • Previously: How Live Is Broadway Live Theatre Music? The battle looming on Broadway between the musicians' union and producers is being cast as a fight over whether there will be live music in orchestra pits. On the other hand - union rules requiring a minimum number of musicians to be employed at theatres even when not all the musicians are required for a show, are unreasonable almost by any standard. Meanwhile - today's theatre orchestras are so highly miked that it's often difficult to tell whether the music is live or not. Where's the artistic value in any of this? Newsday 02/02/03
Thursday, February 6, 2003

Moscow Theatre Reopens After Last Year's Siege The Moscow theatre where 170 people were killed during a siege by Chechen rebels has reopened. "Moscow's city government has given $2.5m (1.5m) to repair the Dubrovka Theatre which now has a high-tech security system. Nord-Ost's producer and co-writer, Georgy Vasilyev, himself a hostage, had always vowed the show would go on despite 18 cast and crew members being killed." BBC 02/06/03

Can A Show Be An 'Enemy Combatant'? Overseas opposition to the Bush administration's foreign policy has taken an unusual turn in London, in the form of a wildly popular (and wildly unsubtle) satirical play called The Madness of George Dubya. The show, which is about to move to a new venue to accomodate the demand for tickets, portrays the American president as "a pajama-wearing buffoon cuddling a teddy bear while his crazed military chiefs order nuclear strikes on Iraq." Los Angeles Times (Reuters) 02/06/03

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

The Spacey Factor Actor Kevin Spacey is to become "director of a new, permanent Old Vic theatre company, which will stage shows for eight months a year, leaving the theatre open to other groups, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, for the summer months. The Oscar-winning actor, 43, will star in two productions a year, as well as directing shows and tempting stars keen to follow the growing Hollywood tradition of taking pay cuts for prestigious outings on the London stage." The Guardian (UK) 02/06/03

  • Old Vic On The Rise News that Kevin Spacey is going to help lead London's Old Vic Theatre is just the latest of the theatre's high-profile news. "The Old Vic now stands bang at the centre of the celebrity, glitz and charity nexus. Its board is an awesomely terrifying display of the new establishment. It is well connected, glitzy and hot. All it lacks are shows. This strange anomaly, a furious amount of excitement, spectacle and glittering noise around a peculiar emptiness, is not so surprising since it is so resonant of the age we live in. And the Old Vic, more than any of our theatres, has always reflected the age it lived in back to itself." London Evening Standard 02/05/03

  • A Yank In London Kevin Spacey "has become such a fixture of London life that he felt compelled to reassure people that 'in no way should this decision be viewed as abandonment of my own country.' Asked whether his commitment to the Old Vic had limits, he said, 'It could be 5 seasons, it could be 10, it could be 20'." The New York Times 02/06/03

Readying For Battle On Broadway "In what is shaping up to be one of the most bitter showdowns in Broadway history, theater producers and musicians have begun negotiations on a new contract that will hinge on the size of orchestras. Producers say union rules on the minimum number of musicians squeeze the producers at a time when Broadway rents, salaries and production costs have made mounting a musical almost prohibitively expensive. Union leaders say they are fighting for musicians' jobs and the tradition of live music in the Broadway theater. Both sides are making preparations for a strike." The New York Times 02/05/03

  • Previously: How Live Is Broadway Live Theatre Music? The battle looming on Broadway between the musicians' union and producers is being cast as a fight over whether there will be live music in orchestra pits. On the other hand - union rules requiring a minimum number of musicians to be employed at theatres even when not all the musicians are required for a show, are unreasonable almost by any standard. Meanwhile - today's theatre orchestras are so highly miked that it's often difficult to tell whether the music is live or not. Where's the artistic value in any of this? Newsday 02/02/03
Tuesday, February 4, 2003

American Butts Too Big For West End Seats? Are Americans discouraged from going to London's West End theatres because the seats are too small? "The seats were built for backsides of a Victorian era, not of a modern era - or indeed an American size - and many of the bars are dingy and overpriced and haven't seen a lick of paint since Oscar Wilde was last there." Backstage 02/04/03

Denver Center Theatre's Muted Celebration Next season is the Denver Center Theatre's 25th anniversary. But the theatre's celebrations will be somewhat muted. The 25th season contains only one premiere, and tight budgets make restraint mandatory. "That premiere is a new musical, but its loneliness in a collection of regional premieres and American revivals points toward the shrinking endowment of the Bonfils Foundation, which largely underwrites the theater company. Donovan Marley, the theater's artistic director, said next season will also see more staff reductions, and while he hoped they would be through attrition, he could not guarantee it." Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 02/04/03

No Roles When You're Older? Dallas Actresses Start Their Own Theatre A group of Dallas actresses in their 30s and 40s got tired of sitting around complaining that there were no roles for them anymore. So they started their own theatre, found an old church to renovate, and Contemporary Theatre of Dallas was born... Dallas Morning News 02/04/03

Monday, February 3, 2003

London's New Theatre - About Time "Museum directors have long since realised that the overall aesthetic experience of visiting a museum is vital to a full appreciation of the art it held, and now theatre directors are catching up, as Bennetts Associates' new Hampstead Theatre demonstrates. The theatre, at Swiss Cottage in London, opens on February 14, when it will be the first new stand-alone producing theatre in London since the National Theatre in 1976." The Telegraph (UK) 02/03/03

  • Thoroughly Practical Theatre "The Hampstead Theatre is a great achievement, and the more so for having seen off the enemies of promise that are the rules and restrictions that come with Lottery funding. The Arts Council, for example, having binged on earlier projects, set a severe limit of 10 million on their grant to this one. Compared with the hasty, ramshackle architecture of Sadler's Wells, Hampstead stands out. It also avoided the drastic cost overruns that afflicted the revamped Royal Court." London Evening Standard 01/29/03

Sunday, February 2, 2003

Play About Suicide Bombing Canceled In Cincinnati A 50-minute play about suicide bombers and the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis was supposed to tour Cincinnati area high schools beginning in March, but the tour has been canceled after a protest by local Muslims. That in turn has set off protests. "Cincinnati's reputation as a community that tries to control the arts and allows bigots to dominate the discussion is accurate. Once again Cincinnati looks small, foolish and provincial." The New York Times 02/03/03

How Live Is Broadway Live Theatre Music? The battle looming on Broadway between the musicians' union and producers is being cast as a fight over whether there will be live music in orchestra pits. On the other hand - union rules requiring a minimum number of musicians to be employed at theatres even when not all the musicians are required for a show, are unreasonable almost by any standard. Meanwhile - today's theatre orchestras are so highly miked that it's often difficult to tell whether the music is live or not. Where's the artistic value in any of this? Newsday 02/02/03

The End Of Dinner Theatre? Classical dinner has vanished in cities like Chicago. It thrived in the 70s and 80s when minor Hollywood and Broadway stars looking for work would take to the dinner theatre circuit. Then the attraction was more the star than the play. "Now, a different story: Marginal TV stars can score a USA Original teleplay, or a one-shot movie on the Lifetime channel. 'There's plenty of work for all of 'em. That's why the star system doesn't exist'." Chicago Tribune 02/02/03

Saturday, February 1, 2003

Nunn's Parting Shot - A 2.5 Million Gift Outgoing National Theatre director Trevor Nunn has made a surprise gift to the London theatres - 2.5 million. Nunn was severely criticized during his tenure when it was learned that he was making as much as 25,000 a week from the West End transfer of his award-winning revival of My Fair Lady. "But in a move that will silence his detractors, Nunn has given the theatre 208,000 this year as a first instalment of a legacy to support new work, with 2.3m more coming over the next two years. All the money he has earned from the transfer of 'My Fair Lady', as well as 'Oklahoma!', which is now on Broadway, will go back into the National's coffers." The Guardian (UK) 02/01/03


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