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Monday, March 31, 2003

Scottish Minister Announces A New National Theatre - Critics Laugh The Scottish culture minister promises that the government will fund the long-awaited National Theatre in the next session of parliament. Ha! roar the government's critics. That's what the government promised at the last election. "Opposition politicians said the timing of the announcement, in the run up to the election, smacked of political opportunism rather than any real desire to invest in the arts. Critics also pointed out that the establishment of a national theatre was a key policy commitment of Labour’s first term in office. Its abandonment has been seen as one of the key failures of the Scottish Executive." The Scotsman 03/31/03

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Closing Notice For "Urban Cowboy"...Uh, Forget that - We're Staying Open... The musical 'Urban Cowboy' opened Thursday to bad reviews. On Frida, producers decided to close the show Saturday. Then changed their minds on Saturday. "For the better part of Broadway's history, shows regularly closed after one or two performances. In recent times, however, it has been highly unusual for a Broadway musical to close in one weekend, no matter how damning the reviews. Even shows with scathing notices, like this season's $12 million flop, 'Dance of the Vampires,' can eke out a few weeks and have enough cushion money to run television advertisements to fight reviews." The New York Times 03/31/03

A Revolution In Stage Design For The 21st Century New 3-D computer technology is about to revolutionize the live stage. With it, designers can create sets that would be impossible to afford otherwise. "Britain’s most wanted stage designer reckons his use of 3-D computer animation will transform theatre for the 21st century, and his claims cannot be doubted by anyone who saw his set for Tom Stoppard’s epic Russian trilogy The Coast of Utopia at the National Theatre." The Times (UK) 03/31/03

Theatre Of Conflict - Getting The Polics Right One of the problems with plays about real-life conflict and politics is getting the real-life issues right in context. It's a much more difficult thing to do than you might first suspect. Two Off-Broadway plays take a stab at the Middle East, and pitfalls abound... The New York Times 03/30/03

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Room For Politics In Theatre? Why does the idea of political theatre scare off so many people? "Perhaps the problem is the very term 'political': most often it is used to mean theatre with a left-wing axe to grind. So, among other things, the question carries with it a hackle-raising, almost indiscernible whiff of red-baiting: 'Are you now or have you ever been a member of the...?' Added to this, there is the fairly mainstream notion that ideas and political theory are limiting for writers, if not downright hostile to talent and the 'real', and that truth springs from the individual, unencumbered by the blinkers of politicking." The Guardian (UK) 03/29/03

Urban Cowboy - Lookin' For Love In All The Wrong Places With business down, Broadway's looking for a hit. A bunch of new shows are opening, led by a new musical version of "Urban Cowboy". So how is it? Terry Teachout isn't impressed. The story? "By turns cynically maudlin and pointlessly vulgar, it is a tissue of unfunny clichés so implausible-sounding that you wonder how Aaron Latham could possibly have been born in Spur, Texas. And the music? "Have I mentioned the score? Well, there isn't one, only a jumble of ditties that might have been chosen by randomly punching the keys of an oddly stocked jukebox." OpinionJournal.com 03/29/03

Theatre - Putting Conflict In Perspective "The bracing, dizzying state of the world lately has given rise to several plays about politics, and even more articles about plays about politics. The great virtue of plays about political history like 'Midnight’s Children' and 'Golda’s Balcony' is that they take the seemingly intractable problems out of the realm of finality and return them to contingency, where they belong. They remind us that, although the conflicts in the Middle East and on the Indian subcontinent owe much to ancient grudges and religious rivalries, they are also a product of individual leaders and the discrete decisions that they made." New York Sun 03/29/03

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Theatre - Going One-On-One "On stage, there may be no more daunting task than the solo performance. The show is you - and you're the show. But actors continue to brave this special kind of high-wire act. Some of the reasons are economic: It makes for a short line at the pay window. But the more profound lure is artistic: the chance to have the audience all to yourself, to shape an intimate show that's entirely personal." Christian Science Monitor 03/28/03

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Broadway Box Office Steady During The War During the 1991 Gulf War, business on Broadway faltered as people stayed home. That hasn't happened so far with the Iraq war. Last week "business climbed primarily for musicals, with two of the most popular, 'Hairspray' and 'The Lion King,' selling out and grossing over $1 million each. There were sturdy ticket sales for such shows as 'The Producers,' 'Mamma Mia!' and 'Chicago'. Although overall ticket sales were off from a year ago, $12.9 million compared to $14.2 million in 2002, there were more shows playing last year - 31 shows compared to 27 productions last week." Nando Times (AP) 03/26/03

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

West End Theatre - It Really Was The Good Old Days Michael Billington wonders if West End theatre is at its lowest ebb ever. So he does a little research on what was offered decades ago compared to today. "After comparing what is on offer today with the same week over the past four decades, I have come to the melancholy conclusion that the West End is dwindling into neon-lit irrelevance. What seems to have gone out of the window is the idea that the commercial sector should offer a kaleidoscope of possibilities: musicals, comedies, farces, thrillers, straight plays and classic revivals. The irony is that it is probably better run than at any time in recent memory." The Guardian (UK) 03/26/03

Opportunity Through Shakespeare Is Shakespeare the new opportunity for female actors? "From solo plays to plays using music, dance, and original monologues and dialogues, women are freely appropriating almost anything relating to the Bard - his plays, his sonnets, even his biography - to forge highly original works that showcase female sensibilities, perspectives, and talent." Backstage 03/25/03

Shaw Festival Announces Expansion Ontario's Shaw Festival is "launching a major expansion and renovation of its main theatre, the company announced yesterday as it introduced a $50-million fundraising campaign." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/25/03

Mid-Size Squeeze It is a truism that in tough economic times large theatres cut back and small theatres continue doing what they do because their expenses are low. But mid-size theatres - they're the ones that really get hurt. "With little in the way of economic cushions and small staffs that already have employees doing two and three jobs apiece, these theaters are struggling to economize without having to cannibalize." St. Paul Pioneer Press 03/25/03

Monday, March 24, 2003

Denver Center Cancels Premiere The Denver Center Theatre cancelled its opening show of next season - "Diner Stories" - with book, music and lyrics by Nancy Shayne. "It would have been the only musical in the new season and, more important, the only world premiere. Apparently, the author withdrew the show, and it's unlikely she will take it to another company. Denver Center, which has eliminated its literary department, has few resources for discovering new works by new talent" for a replacement. Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 03/23/03

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Theatre Of War "While pop music critics wonder at the dearth of anti-war anthems (the Beastie Boys' 'World Gone Mad' may be the first major exception) and films and non-news TV churn out their usual comfort-food diet, theatres nationwide are doing what theatre does best: awakening us to our present condition, with live bodies on the line, in real time and shared space, and challenging us to dialogue, reflection, even action." Backstage 03/21/03

Don't Look Back - Someone Could Be Gaining On You Since the advent of movies and the beginning of a culturally dominant film culture, theater aficionados have taken comfort in the old saw that the worst stage play is still better written, better acted, and better conceived than the best Hollywood dreck. But, says, Ed Siegel, that may no longer be the case. "This year should be a wake-up call for theater professionals and patrons alike. By any standards, this has been an extraordinary year in filmmaking and a yawningly ordinary one in theater." Boston Globe 03/23/03

Broadway Expecting War Woes "A battered Broadway's spring season officially begins March 27 with the arrival of Urban Cowboy, a musical based on the John Travolta-Debra Winger movie. And it could also be the start of even more uncertainty for Broadway theater if the war continues into April and beyond... Most in the industry expect some immediate negative impact, just as there was during the 1991 Gulf War. Already, a revival of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which had been struggling at the box office, will fold April 6, after a short, two-month run and a loss of $2.5 million." Baltimore Sun (AP) 03/21/03

Friday, March 21, 2003

Broadway - A Season Of Bad News? Some Broadway watchers are worrying about the health of area theatres. "Daily ticket sales have been sluggish all winter and everybody expects them to fall further now that war has started in Iraq. But yesterday several producers and theater owners were surprised that the plunge wasn't as precipitous as they had expected."
New York Post 03/21/03

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Making Magic - And Making A Living "Once supported by kings, queens, vaudeville and Ed Sullivan, magicians have turned to corporate America. The trade show or the convention floor has taken the place of the old variety theaters and variety arts shows. Where else can magicians pick up a regular paycheck? Of course, the weird thing is, nobody’s ever coming there because they want to see you. You’re only there because some events planner booked you. That’s why Magical Nights can pay top-notch magicians a pittance." New York Press 03/18/03

Keeping Women Off The Stage? At the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, a city which prides itself on being home to several great theater companies, women make up over 50% of the audience. So why does the city's leading theater troupe present so few plays written or produced by women? Is it misogyny? Tradition? Simple oversight? Other area theaters have expanded their offerings over the years to include more works by women, with much success, so why hasn't the big dog in town followed suit? "On some level the Guthrie's record is so gaudily bad as to be almost a mystery." City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 03/19/03

Why Can't Opera People Leave Broadway Alone? What is it with opera stars that they aren't satisfied with their own extensive repertoire, and feel the need to try to belt out Broadway showtunes in their over-the-top, ridiculously stylized voices? David Patrick Stearns doesn't like it one bit, not even when the offender is as critically acclaimed a performer as Renee Fleming. "So what if operatic vocal amplitude overwhelms the words, rhythm, and any number of other things? It sounds so pretty!" Philadelphia Inquirer 03/19/03

Baz's Boheme Bubble May Be Bursting Baz Luhrmann's critically acclaimed staging of La Boheme may be in some unexpected trouble on Broadway. "Last week's gross receipts rang in at $590,000, just a fraction above the break-even of $550,000. According to Variety, "Boheme" grosses have been plunging tens of thousands of dollars every week since a high of $830,000 in February." Michael Riedel blames the show's lack of popularity on the unwillingness of Broadway fans to take a chance on anything more mind-stretching than John Waters's Hairspray. New York Post 03/19/03

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

CBS Extends Tony Broadcast CBS has decided to expand its broadcast of this year's Tony Awards to three hours. "For the last five years, the Tonys were shown for two hours on CBS, with an initial hour on PBS, which usually featured the design awards as well as awards for director of best play and best musical." This year PBS was unable to handle the broadcast and some feared that the first hour wouldn't be televised. Nando Times (AP) 03/18/03

The West End - For Better And Worse London's West End theatres offer the kind of dramatic range and diversity that Broadway can only dream of. The West End generates more than $2 billion of economic impact each year. About 12 million people attend West End productions every year, and there was a 3.2% rise in attendance last year - a remarkable statistic considering the current depressed states of the economy and tourism." Still, there are some problems, not the least of which is the shabby condition of West End theatres. Backstage 03/18/03

Monday, March 17, 2003

Lower Price = More Ticket Buyers For Sydney Theatres After dropping ticket prices for younger patrons, several Sydney theatre companies report record increases in ticket sales - as much as 400 percent at one theatre. Sydney Morning Herald 03/18/03

Watering Down The Broadway Product (And It Is Product) Touring Broadway shows use scaled down sets, smaller casts and smaller orchestras. The lower budgets make the touring possible. But there are artistic compromises, and even though audiences will pay to see smaller versions of Broadway shows, it would be a mistake to think that Broadway itself could scale down and hold its allure. "What's troubling about the settlement of the musicians' strike is that the top level of Broadway entertainment and artistry, the brand-name level, has been subject to a watering down that may eventually inform the expectations of an audience." The New York Times 03/18/03

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Virtually Yours - Touring Broadway Offers An E-Ticket Broadway might have fended off the virtual orchestra, but what about traveling Broadway shows? Sure there's a pit and it's got 10-15 musicians working away. But the electronic juice is liberally applied. "It's rare that you don't see a pit orchestra with two if not three synthesizer players, because there's just a whole world of string parts, percussion parts (supplied by the synthesizers)." Rocky Mountain News 03/16/03

What Are We Gonna Do? Cleveland Theatre Struggles With Its Schedule Cleveland Play House said it would announce next season's lineup of plays this Monday. Trouble is, the company began this season with a $3.5 million deficit, and its last two productions haven't done well. And...well...it hasn't exactly figured out what plays will be on next year's lineup. When you start putting play X with play Y and balance it with how many tickets you need to sell, but then you want to accomplish this artistically but can only afford that much risk and...well... there'll be a season... The Plain Dealer 03/16/03

Still Trouble Ahead For The Good Ship Broadway The Broadway musicians strike may be over, but Broadway is facing a number of other headaches. Like more trouble over broadcasting the Tony Awards. And those pesky "theatre restoration" fees theatres have been tacking on to the cast of tickets - turns out the fees are "a violation of New York's Arts and Cultural Affairs Law 25.29." Newsday 03/16/03

Lessons I learned From the Broadway Musicians Strike So what are the lessons from last week's Broadway musicians strike? Frank Rizzo has made a list. At the top is respect for the stagehands union. The stagehands work and musicians lose. The stagehands walk and there's no show. Say it again - the stagehands rule. Other lessons: people inherently like musicians, but distrust producers... Hartford Courant 03/16/03

Virtually Yours - Shadow Over Broadway Broadway's making music again. But "most musicians employed by Broadway musicals thought the union settled too quickly, for too little. Producers felt demonized, and argue they weren't trying to kill off live music on Broadway, even though Broadway tours in particular rely increasingly on virtual-orchestra 'enhancement' of increasingly tiny pit bands." One thing's sure - the virtual orchestra isn't going away. "Ten years from now, they probably are going to be able to put us out of work." Chicago Tribune 03/16/03

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Theatre - Political Action Reasserts After a period in which political theatre seemed to have disappeared for awhile, politcal theatre is back in America. "Indeed, responding to a number of political exigencies — among them the elevation of George W. Bush to the presidency by the Supreme Court, the Sept. 11 attacks, the looming war in Iraq and more generally the perceptible shift to the right in national perspective — American stages have been reasserting the theater's traditionally liberal bias with an almost vengeful fervor." The New York Times 03/14/03

College Cuts Theater Department "Last month, in a sharp cost-cutting move, the administration [of Mills College, a small liberal arts school in Northern California] voted to eliminate the dramatic arts department in 2004... For reasons both pragmatic and symbolic, the disappearance of drama from the academic program at Mills reverberates in especially pointed and powerful ways. Beyond the loss of classes, student productions and jobs for the small department's four nontenured, 'semi-permanent' faculty members, the decision puts larger issues about women and theater -- and the way women get seen and heard in the world at large -- into high relief." San Francisco Chronicle 03/13/03

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Questioning The Art Of Broadway - Or Is It The Economics? So Broadway has reopened after the musicians strike and business is back to normal. Or is it? "In the end, the combatants in the great Broadway music strike of '03 settled their fight in a fashion that leaves unanswered crucial artistic and economic questions. Craftsmen everywhere have ceded their skills to robots. Why wouldn't this happen on Broadway? Here's why it shouldn't: People don't come to Broadway to see efficiency. Broadway shows are already an economic anachronism. People are willing to pay big bucks to witness the magic of creation. If Broadway's producers forget that, they will wreck an important local industry." Newsday 03/12/03

The Not-So-Modern Theatre A Boston philanthropist has agreed to purchase the dilapidated, city-owned Modern Theatre and renovate it for use as a theatre and and commercial space. The former movie house has become so run-down in recent years that the city had to shut down a portion of the street it sits on and reinforce the structure to prevent cave-ins during winter snowfalls. The rebirth of the Modern is the latest in a series of initiatives designed to revive Boston's theatre district, and provide a wider range of performance space for local groups. Boston Globe 03/12/03

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Art Of Compromise -Settling the Broadway Strike The Broadway musicians strike ended quickly after an all-night negotiating session. "When the negotiators emerged, bleary-eyed, from the talks, neither side claimed victory, and both called the deal a difficult compromise. The main conflict had been over the minimum number of musicians required — currently 24 to 26 — in the orchestra pits of Broadway's 13 largest theaters. Under the new contract, those minimums were lowered for the next decade to 18 or 19, depending on the theater." The New York Times 03/12/03

Translator As Rewriter Translators serve as an essential link between playwright and audiences who speak a different language. Yet their value is often overlooked. "The best translators. remain as invisible as possible. And yet it is a practice that has an indelible effect on how we perceive the best in what world theatre has to offer." The Guardian (UK) 03/12/03

Ambitions, Circumstances Helped Sink Seattle's ACT Theatre How did Seattle's ACT Theatre go from a $5 million annual budget and 60+ employees to a $1.7 million deficit and laying off most of its staff? Misha Berson writes that "a confluence of difficult circumstances and dubious internal decisions, including ACT's 1996 move to a new facility, swelling artistic ambitions, shifts of leadership, overdependence on credit and the post-9/11 recession" conspired to sink the theatre's fortunes. Seattle Times 03/11/03

Settlement In Broadway Strike Sources say a settlement has been made in the Broadway musicians strike. Producers and musicians bargained for nearly 12 hours through the night at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's mansion. "The settlement, the terms of which were not immediately announced, will presumably allow most Broadway musicals that have been closed since Friday night to reopen tonight." The New York Times 03/11/03

Virtual Reality - Little About Broadway Music Is "Real" Maybe the Broadway musicians strike is about live music, but "the truth is, orchestras on Broadway have been becoming virtualized for years. Electronic enhancement is used to juice up the sound of the string section and boost the punch of the brass. Missing instruments — extra woodwinds, a couple of harps, exotic percussion — are rendered through digital keyboards. The chorus onstage is often fortified by taped voices that are blasted through the sound system. But it would be great to see this tired assumption challenged. How often have Broadway audiences been given a chance to experience the truly natural sound of unamplified voices and orchestras? Broadway theaters were once much quieter places." The New York Times 03/11/03

Monday, March 10, 2003

NY Mayor Enters Broadway Strike Talks New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has entered the Broadway musicians strike dispute. He's invited producers and the musicians union to negotiate at the mayor's residence. "I am encouraged that theater owners, producers and the musicians' union have taken the city up on its offer, and I am determined that they reach an agreement so Broadway can come back to life." Yahoo! (AP) 03/10/03

(Almost) Alive With The Sound Of Music So the Broadway strike is about live music, right? But for a long time now you really couldn't trust your ears in the theatre. "Many Broadway musical moments remain mostly live and somewhat pure, the creation of soaring talents onstage and sawing string players and the like offstage. But more and more, the sound of music on Broadway is being artificially enhanced, with volumes amplified and instruments synthesized as if the theater district were one big recording studio." Washington Post 03/10/03

Broadway - We're All In Favor Of Live Music Here - Right? Broadway producers say they want to keep live music alive in theatres, but that creative staff should be determining how many musicians should be hired, not unions. "Still, almost every major composer, orchestrator and musical director on Broadway has signed a petition to keep the minimums. So it appears that a good percentage of the creative staff has already spoken." And so far, the strike has cost New York $7 million. Chicago Tribune 03/10/03

Conflicting Loyalties In Broadway Strike Leaders of the stagehands union had told Broadway producers that the union would cross picket lines, but union members voted not to. "Among both actors and stagehands, some were frustrated that while they were walking the picket lines, the musicians failed to return to the negotiating table all weekend. Several actors also say that, in part, they felt compelled to support the musicians out of self-interest; they have a labor negotiation coming up in June 2004 and may need the musicians to back them." The New York Times 03/10/03

Sunday, March 9, 2003

Broadway Strike - Silence On The Negotiating Front Broadway's musicians strike headed into Sunday night without any negotiations or progress. " 'They handed us a proposal - typed very clearly at the top 'final proposal' - and left the building. There have been no talks since then.' Outside the theaters, the strike scene is becoming increasingly familiar. Musicians picketed and passed out leaflets urging people to "save live music on Broadway," while disappointed theatergoers exchanged tickets for later dates or refunds. Stagehands and performers were honoring the picket lines.
Nando Times (AP) 03/09/03

Striking Broadway Musicians Grateful For Actors/Stagehands Support Broadway theatres were quiet over the weekend as a strike by musicians closed down musicals. "But live music filled the Theater District when hundreds of orchestra members and their supporters marched through the streets, buoyed by an unexpectedly strong show of solidarity among key unions." New York Daily News 03/09/03

  • A Highly Visible Strike "Strikes by performing artists are rare, and the public reaction to them is usually quite different from the reaction to strikes by others, like steelworkers or construction workers. Broadway is a highly visible business, important to New York's image and economy, and the public, not just New Yorkers but tourists from across the country, will pay great attention to this strike. It is not clear whether the public, in this case theatergoers, will buy the musicians' argument that a minimum number of musicians are needed to maintain the vitality of pit orchestras or the producers' argument that smaller orchestras — and perhaps virtual, electronic orchestras — might be acceptable to improve the economics of producing musicals and to help more survive." The New York Times 03/09/03

  • How A Strike Shut Down Broadway Musicals Broadway producers were "stunned" that stagehands and actors decided to support the musicians strike. The producers evidently "thought that the stagehands' union had given strong back-channel signals that they would not side with the musicians" But hopes for a quick settlement were dashed over the weekend when producers cancelled performances. The New York Times 03/09/03

New Hope For Old Vic The Bristol Old Vic is the oldest working theatre in Britain, its main house, originally the Theatre Royal, built in 1766 by William Halfpenny. You happen upon it like a jewel that has strangely parted company from a ring. But dilapidation - however severe - is not the theatre's most pressing concern. For the truth is - although everyone is too polite to be forceful about it - that the Bristol Old Vic has been an artistic casualty for years now, suffering from underfunding and weak leadership." But now, finally, things might be looking up... The Guardian (UK) 03/09/03

Saturday, March 8, 2003

Broadway Shuts Down Musicals As Musicians Strike After Broadway musicians went on strike Friday, actors and stagehands refused to cross picket lines, and producers decided to close down all musicals. "Broadway producers announced that all musicals — except for 'Cabaret,' which operates under a different contract — would be shut for the weekend. Dramatic plays without music and Off Broadway productions operated as normal." The New York Times 03/08/03

Friday, March 7, 2003

Broadway Musicians On Strike "Early this morning the union representing Broadway musicians announced it was on strike, but theater producers said talks would continue through the day." This is the first Broadway musicians strike in 25 years. Baltimore Sun 03/07/03

Thursday, March 6, 2003

Will Broadway Workers Cross Musicians' Picket Lines If There's A Strike? If Broadway musicians go out on strike tomorrow, producers are planning to have synthetic music ready to go. But will the actors and others employed on Broadway cross picket lines? Actors Equity has called an emergency meeting for Friday to consider the matter. "The Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds (COBUG), representing 13 Broadway unions, on Wednesday issued a statement of support for Local 802 following an emergency meeting. The coalition represents all aspects of the Broadway theatre, from actors, musicians, playwrights, directors and choreographers, to set, costume and lighting designers, stagehands, ushers and ticket-takers, box office personnel, wardrobe, hairstylists, porters, press agents and company managers." Backstage 03/06/03

CBS Expands Tony Coverage For years, the Tony Awards, which honor the best of Broadway, have been the awards show nobody wanted. CBS has aired the show for a quarter-century, but only the last two hours of it, allowing PBS to air the first hour for the last five years or so. In fact, earlier this year, there were rumbles that CBS might drop the telecast altogether. But now, CBS has picked up its option to air all three hours of the Tonys, shutting a stunend PBS out of the process entirely. So what suddenly made the Tonys a desirable commodity? Couldn't have anything to do with this year's unexpected blockbuster of a Grammy Awards show, could it? Nah... Los Angeles Times 03/06/03

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

And The Winner Is...Musicals "For the second year in a row, musicals are creating a big buzz in Hollywood. Last year, it was Baz Luhrmann teaching audiences a whole new way to envision musicals with 'Moulin Rouge!' This year 'Chicago' heads into the Academy Awards as the front-runner for Best Picture, and it's up for a dozen other awards. In the theater world, the hope is that this high-profile attention will spike interest in seeing musicals on stage - and that it will help nurture a new generation of theater-goers." Townonline.com 03/05/03

Broadway Compromise Near Broadway producers and musicians are said to be close to an agreement on a new contract, with the contentious issue of 'minimums' more or less left to be battled out at every individual production site. "The minimum number of musicians required in the larger theaters... will be reduced from 26 to 18, and more flexibility will be built into the so-called 'special situations' clause, which allows producers to petition the union for fewer musicians on a show-by-show basis. Minimums will be preserved, but in theory only; for all practical purposes, every show will negotiate its own minimum." New York Post 03/05/03

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Kennedy Center To Do Williams Following up on its critically received Sondheim retrospective last summer, The Kennedy Center plans to present a 10-week celebration of the plays of Tennessee Williams this summer. Included will be new productions of his major plays including "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "The Glass Menagerie." Last summer's Sondheim fest drew audiences from around the US. The New York Times 03/05/03

Cleaning Up Stratford The town of Stratford needs to clean itself up, pull itself together, and start acting like the major attraction it is. The Royal Shakespeare will announce a new plan for its theatre in the town - one can only hope for the best - but the whole operation needs a thorough refurbishment if it's going to survive. Otherwise... The Telegraph (UK) 03/05/03

Lysistrata In LA On Monday, peace activists read Aristophanes anti-war play "Lysistrata" at locations all over the world. In Los Angeles "about 250 people gathered at L.A. Filmmakers Co-Op to watch AlfreWoodard play the title role, supported by Julie Christie, Christine Lahti, Mary McDonnnell, Eric Stoltz, Roscoe Lee Browne and other celebrities. The scene was reminiscent of a movie opening or an exclusive club. Only about 100 could cram into the small brick building, while the rest of the crowd watched a televised simulcast on the adjacent patio." Los Angeles Times 03/04/03

  • 10,000 Offers To Read Organizers report they had about 10,000 e-mail messages from people wanting to take part in readings around the world. In New York City alone, there were 60 performances planned." The New York Times 03/04/03

  • And In The Bay Area... "The largest, showiest and probably most somber of the readings here took place at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Two sold-out houses of 587 filled the Roda Theatre for a performance presented by Upon These Boards, for which the producer and adapter, Randall Stuart, had assembled a cast of 100 noted Bay area actors, musicians and singers.
    The show was both aptly silly and stately."

  • And All Over... The readings took place all over the world. "The latest count was heading beyond 919 readings in 56 countries, including Venezuela, China, India and Honduras." BBC 03/04/03

West End Theatres Start Program To Fight Racism Several theatres in London's West End have banded together to start a program to promote diversity in theatre management. "There is a general feeling that theatres have got to sharpen up their act. They've got to diversify, they've got to refresh themselves. There was a danger of theatres being elitist, being out of touch and failing to reflect multicultural society. There's quite a recruitment crisis and this is a real opportunity to recruit high quality people." BBC 03/04/03

Broadway-In-A-Can? The consequences of a musicians strike on Broadway could be big. "There are about 325 musicans working in the 19 musicals running on Broadway, but overall the shows are responsible for most of the 6,000 people employed by the industry each season. The theatre scene is responsible for $4.4 billion (US) pouring into N.Y.'s economy." So the shows are practicing using canned music in case musicians walk later this week. Reports are that "aasts of shows such as 'Chicago' and 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' had no trouble in performing to the canned music. Over at 'La Boheme', however, it was a different story, with the rehearsal coming to a disastrous halt. Whereas it's one thing to perform a tap routine to pre-recorded sound, singing Puccini is obviously another matter." Toronto Star 03/03/03

Cleaning Up London's West End A couple of months ago Charles Spencer wrote a column complaining that London's West End had seriously deteriorated and that the area was so rundown it was discouraging theatre-goers from going to the theatre. "It is too early to talk of a Broadway-like renaissance of the West End," he writes now. "A zero-tolerance crackdown on vagrancy, loutish drunks and aggressive begging in the West End is urgently required." But things seem to be getting better... The Telegraph (UK) 03/04/03

  • Previously: London's Sick Theatre District Who wants to go to London's West End theatre district anymore? "Whether you travel by car or train, it is a nightmare to get there, and when you arrive the place is squalid. The streets are filthy and poorly lit, there are horribly persistent beggars everywhere, and the place is overrun by groups of marauding yoof, out on the booze and aggressive and foul-mouthed with it. Drug-dealing takes place more or less openly, and the atmosphere is deeply depressing when it isn't downright threatening. Of a policeman on the beat there is hardly ever a sign." The Telegraph (UK) 01/07/03
Monday, March 3, 2003

Keith Haring, The Musical "Radiant Baby" the new musical about the life of artist Keith Haring, opens on Broadway. Nice try, but "the show never brings either Haring or his world into crisp focus, relying instead on a blurry shorthand of artist-bio clichés (the agony, the ecstasy, the egomania, the triumph of the creative spirit) and composite social archetypes. Haring's insistently vital art is so spectacularly in evidence — thanks to the splendid projection designs of Batwin and Robin Productions — which only underscores the musical's limitations." The New York Times 03/03/03

Spacey's Plans For The Old Vic Saying he was "born to run the Old Vic" Theatre Kevin Spacey talks about his plans for when he takes over next year. "He exudes a passionate enthusiasm mixed with a kind of awed delight as he contemplates his task when he becomes the troubled theatre's artistic director in the autumn of next year; but there's a lot for him to do before then." The Telegraph (UK) 03/03/03

Sunday, March 2, 2003

Broadway Musicians Set Strike Deadline Broadway musicians have set a strike date of Thursday after talks with producers failed to lead to a new contract. "The parties continue to be very far apart, and there's not going to be a settlement tonight. We have set a strike deadline for Thursday midnight March 6." Nando Times (AP) 03/02/03

The Cost Of Music On Broadway The musicians' dispute with Broadway producers over how many musicians must be hired for a show centers on the cost of musicians. But "most people are misinformed about the world of Broadway pit orchestras. They're not as expensive as you might think (only $1-$6 of a $75 ticket goes to the musicians), and successive contract concessions have whittled their size to a fraction of their Golden Era heyday. There used to be 30, 40, even 50 (musicians) in the pit at a Broadway show. Now the (size) is as small as three. 'Phantom' is probably the biggest show on Broadway, and it has only 26." Orange County Register 03/02/03

World-Wide Reading Against The War With Iraq Monday, the Lysiustrata Project will perform readings of Aristophanes' anti-war play. "In the United States, as many as 1,000 separate productions are planned - in all 50 American states - 33 in Massachusetts and 18 in Chicago alone. In Canada, the play will be recited in seven provinces, at more than two dozen venues and, of course, in two languages. On the same day, there will be readings in London, Paris, Berlin, Athens, Beirut - indeed, almost every major world capital. Two readings are planned in Reykjavik, one in Damascus and nine in Aristophanes's homeland, Greece." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/01/03

Denver - Where Is The Theatre Of Protest? Though ten Denver theatres are participating in the Lysistrata Project, "there is no theater of protest here, no theater of war, not even one token production of the firehouse eulogy "The Guys," which has brought the tragedy home to cities outside New York in a way no other medium can. Denver is simply not a reactive theater community, which means it is failing in a fundamental and historic civic responsibility: to bring comfort, perspective and understanding not only about our past but also the world we walk out into once a play ends." Denver Post 03/02/03

Has Broadway Gone Serious? Wendall Brock detects a shift in attitude in this year's Broadway season. "The season's most thrilling productions are asking serious questions about the troubled soul of our democracy. While the Great White Way has always been a showcase for the easy-to-digest, corn-fed Americana of Rodgers and Hammerstein and others, the current season signals an attitude shift that speaks to the jittery politics of the new century." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 03/02/03

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