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Thursday, May 29, 2003

Pasadena Shakeseare Takes A Break The Pasadena Shakespeare Company is closing up shop for awhile. "In the last week things finally came to a head where I realized that unless something really changes in the near future there is no way the money is going to be there to get through the rest of the year," Backstage 05/29/03

NEA Shakespeare Tour - A Good Idea? NEA chairman Dana Gioia's most visible initiative so far is a plan to tour Shakespeare around America. The plan would be "the largest theatrical tour of Shakespeare in American history. Indeed, no fewer than six American theatre companies would be funded to bring forth the Bard in over 100 small and midsized communities in every state. Yet not everyone in the regional theatre scene appears pleased with Gioia's plans, and they're speaking out." Backstage 05/29/03

Right For The Site "Site-specific theatre is not new; indeed, it arguably has its roots in the happenings of the 1960s. What's striking is the number of site-specific pieces on the scene and, more notable, the variety, each work with its own philosophical underpinnings. To wit: An existing play placed in a particular setting and, as such, enhanced or reimagined in some way - in fact, the site may be a part of a play's revised aesthetic. Or a work fashioned to suggest something about a site, or a site and narrative that inform each other in a theatrical manner." Backstage 05/28/03

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Lord Of The Rings Musical To Be Most Expensive A new musical in London's West End is expected to be the most expensive show ever to hit London. "An £8 million musical version of 'The Lord Of The Rings' is to premiere in London. An adaptation of Tolkien's trilogy is due to open at the beginning of 2005 and will cost £1.5 million more than 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', until now the biggestbudget musical in the capital. Eventually it is hoped the production will roll out across the world." London Evening Standard 05/28/03

  • Dance Of The Hobbits So what will a new "Lord of the Rings" look like? "A singing and dancing cast of 50, playing hobbits, elves, giant trees, wizards, monsters and the other main creatures of the author's Middle Earth are due to take to the stage in spring 2005. 'If Shakespeare can put all England on stage in Henry IV, I am confident we can put on the whole of Middle Earth'." The Guardian (UK) 05/29/03

SARS Fears Continue To Plague Festival Season With a fresh outbreak of SARS feared in Toronto, officials of the Shaw and Stratford Festivals in southern Ontario are fearful that the public will once again start to stay away. Advance sales are down amid fears of the outbreak, and there is simply no way to predict whether the latest round of quarantines will cause festival-goers to change their plans. Said one producer, "Fear is a difficult commodity to argue with." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/28/03

Guthrie's Expansion Money Hits A Snag Despite multiple earlier reports that the Minnesota state legislature had a deal in place to partially fund construction of a new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis through a bonding bill, the measure became badly stalled yesterday when House Republicans balked at the inclusion of the theater funding. In response, the Democrat-controlled state Senate is refusing to honor agreements to pass a Republican budget-balancing bill until the House passes the bonding bill. If legislative history is any indication, the Guthrie will probably get its money in the end, but no one dares say so just yet, with cranky legislators stretched to the breaking point in what has been a particularly contentious session. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 05/28/03

  • Guthrie Gets Money Together For New Home It looks like Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre has put together money to build its new home after the Minnesota legislature struck a deal to include money for the Guthrie in a bonding bill. The Guthrie has "gathered $64.5 million toward its internal fundraising goal of $75 million. The final price tag of the new three-stage Guthrie on the River is $125 million. The theater's board plans to borrow $15 million, so the $25 million from the state leaves a $10 million gap. Last session, the Legislature approved $24 million for the Guthrie. That appropriation fell to then-Gov. Jesse Ventura's veto pen." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 05/27/03

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Guthrie Gets Money To Expand After delays, the Minnesota legislature reportedly has a deal in place to provide funding for construction of a new Guthrie Theatre and the Children's Theatre Company. "Guthrie leaders had warned that without state support the theater's planned $125 million three-stage complex on the Mississippi riverfront, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, would be derailed. The theater has privately raised $65 million, officials said." The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 05/27/03

Sunday, May 25, 2003

What Mr. Wilson Learned Playwright August Wilson takes to the stage himself for the first time in his new play in Seattle. "The 100-minute play, 'How I Learned What I Learned,' is brightened by sudden flashes of poetry and unfolds like a meeting between Dylan Thomas and Malcolm X. The dramatic high point comes when Mr. Wilson leaps into the character of a man in one of his stories who fatally knifes an acquaintance in a bar. He jumps around the stage, curses wildly, slashes the air and brutally kicks his imagined victim." The New York Times 05/26/03

The Five Best Regional Theatres In America? Time magazine has ranked what it considers the five best regional theatres in America. Chicago's Goodman Theatre topped the list, followed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland; the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass.; the Guthrie in Minneapolis, and the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif. The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 05/25/03

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Spanish Honor "Spanish drama is fascinated by rules, by the code of conduct by which life is lived in matters of love and honour. Generally speaking we may seem to have lost interest in honour as a topic, but that does not mean that we cannot be stirred by a play in which honour is the motivating force. After all, we understand what humiliation (the opposite of honour) is, and we pursue honour in various of its aspects all the time, by other names. Respect is the current street-slang under whose rubric issues of honour are discussed and fought out." The Guardian (UK) 05/24/03

No Guts, No Glory David Hare wonders about the lack of ambition of British theatres and audiences compared to playwrights. "It is clear that much of the free theatre we once loved has become sclerotic, choked up by damp-palmed development officers and fetid sponsorship deals, and patrolled from the watchtowers by a bureaucratic Arts Police that has sought to rob the activity of its very point - its spontaneity - it is remarkable how many of us feel that even if it has been a lifetime of failure, it has not been a lifetime of waste." The Guardian (UK) 05/24/03

Return To Deep Throat What is it about washed-up 80s music stars? "Two members of the eighties good-time girl group the Go-Go's this week announced they were working on a musical about porn queen Linda Lovelace (Deep Throat)." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/24/03

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Secrets To Good Children's Theatre? Here are some rules: "The first rule would be to decide what story you?re telling and then get on with it; adults may enjoy the odd interesting digression, children simply lose interest and start eating crisps. The second would be to avoid irony and political point scoring at all costs; children can sense the strident negative energy a mile off and are bored by it. The third rule is to avoid deliberate artiness in design and to make things look like what they are supposed to be. And the fourth is to keep it simple and remember that less is more; children come to the theatre to be told a story, not to admire someone?s fancy set design or hard-won clowning skills." The Scotsman 05/22/03

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The Plays That Never See New York There are many good plays that get produced in America that never get to New York. "Why would a great work go unproduced? The answer is multifaceted, but much conversation swirls around non-profit business models, the economic climate, and changes in funding bases. Simply put, many theaters? particularly those invested in new and challenging work?don't proffer as many plays as they used to." Village Voice 05/21/03

Political Action "What has happened to political theatre in the US? Engulfed as we are by the coverage of the chaos in Iraq and the ongoing threat of terrorism, it's hard not to wonder what kind of rarefied world our playwrights are living in. Suffice it to say that the great wealth of work seems strangely removed from anything approaching the urgent reality of our daily headlines. But critics should be clear on how they'd like the theater to respond. Are we merely looking to theatricalize the same journalistic images that CNN and its rivals have transformed into Nielsen rating packages? Or is it a bit of didacticism that we're after, a cup of moral advice sweetened by a dose of drama?" The Village Voice 05/21/03

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Are Yank TV Stars Good For London's West End? The West End's thirst for American TV and movie actors seems insatiable. But are they good for London theatre? "Some months, it seems that any Yank with their TV or film career on the skids can come over here without a by-your-leave and grab worthless showbiz headlines with the revival of some hoary play that only serves to confirm Richard Eyre's thought that London's West End has all the appeal of a yawning grave. Worse yet, many of the West End plays in which American actors have starred have been by US playwrights exploring US themes." The Guardian (UK) 05/21/03

Not Your Mother's Theatre "Not so long ago, high-profile revivals tried to be time-travel experiences, replicating the original sets and disinterring original cast members. Now, the pressure is on old works to reveal new things. Sometimes they are forced into it, with revised librettos and resequenced songs. Yet truly canonical works rewrite themselves by not changing a word or a note. History does that for them..." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/18/03

Monday, May 19, 2003

A Tony Field That Actually Means Something Where are this year's outrages among the Tony nominations? Usually there's at least something the nominators did that offends. "For the most part, however, the nominating committee has sorted heroically through the season's extremely peculiar mixture of shows. The awards, to be dispensed June 8 on CBS, are not likely to be placed in unworthy hands. What hurts my head this year more than ever is the necessity of having to choose at all." Newsday 05/18/03

Hairspray Big Winner At Drama Desk Awards Hairspray was the big winner Sunday in New York, picking up the most Drama Desk awards. "Hairspray" took 10 awards, distantly followed by "La Boheme," "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and "Nine" with three apiece. New York Daily News 05/19/03

Chicago, City Of Theatre "Chicago has nearly 200 theater companies, and for at least the last decade it has been the only city in the United States, and one of the few in the world, with a theatrical scene as vibrant as New York's. This season more than a dozen of these companies are presenting works by new playwrights as well as veterans like August Wilson and Stephen Sondheim. The appearance of so many world premieres within the space of a couple of months reflects the deep pool of Chicago-based dramatic talent and the city's growing appeal to playwrights and producers from other parts of the country." The New York Times 05/19/03

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Farewell to Les Miz Les Miserables has closed. The Cameron Mackintosh show about the lives and loves of peasants in the time of the French revolution ran on Broadway for 6,680 performances over 16 years. It spawned countless national and international tours, and remains one of the most popular musicals of all time. But post-9/11 fallout and the general misfortunes of Broadway in recession combined to compel the producers to put an end to the adventures of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, and the orphan Gavroche. Still, Mackintosh says he has no regrets. Toronto Star 05/17/03

The RSC-Barbican Split, One Year On When the Royal Shakespeare Company severed its ties with London's Barbican Arts Centre last year, both sides insisted that the split was for the best. The RSC would be able to focus more intently on its core mission without having to work around the Barbican's schedule, and the Barbican would be free to become a center for international touring theatre. But a year later, neither of the divorcees appears to be doing all that well, and speculation has begun about the potential for an eventual reconciliation. The Telegraph (UK) 05/17/03

The Hypocrisy of 'Political Theatre' Politically charged plots and subversive undercurrents are par for the course in much of the modern theatre world. But isn't there a distinct lack of authenticity to a bunch of actors putting on a play about suffering that they themselves have never known? For that matter, where do playwrights reared in the comfortable classes get off writing from the perspective of those who have never known comfort? "There is something improper about the well-heeled seeking to represent the disadvantaged; it is an unacceptable invasion of territory." The Guardin (UK) 05/17/03

Big-Time Theatre For Small Fry The Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis recently won a Tony award for regional theatre companies, the first time that a company focusing on kids had won such an award. The CTC is obviously a deeply imbedded part of the Twin Cities' theatrical community, and it can legitimately lay claim to conditioning thousands of young minds to enjoy serious theatre, an accomplishment which benefits every other company in the region. So why don't more cities have such a company? Cities like, say, Chicago? The simple answer may be that no one's ever really tried to start one. Chicago Tribune 05/18/03

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

SARS Fears Wreaking Havoc With Canadian Festivals Canada's Shaw and Stratford Festivals, both based in Southern Ontario, have been hit hard by the SARS outbreak in the province. Ticket sales have plummeted, thanks in large part to the festivals' American regulars who have been staying away for fear of exposure to the virus. But both the Shaw and the Stratford insist that sales are returning to normal, and neither anticipates much long-term harm to their bottom lines. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/14/03

  • Monette To Stay On At Stratford "Richard Monette made Canadian theatre history yesterday as he became the longest-serving artistic director in the 51-year history of the Stratford Festival. Monette, who has been at the helm for the past 10 seasons, will keep his post until 2007." National Post (Canada) 05/14/03

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Children's Theatre Wins Tony Minneapolis/St. Paul's Children's Theatre Company has won this year's regional Tony Award. "Children's Theatre Company has always had a very good reputation. But I think there's an evolution in children's theater that more of us are being considered as regional theaters, and CTC clearly has that designation." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 05/13/03

Monday, May 12, 2003

We Owe Our Success To BatBoy You would expect a small Boston theatre that presents edgy works to be struggling as funding goes down. But the enterprising SpeakEasy Stage Company found itself unexpectedly blessed when "an improbable musical comedy about a charismatic but bloodthirsty freak of nature who longs to be a normal boy" sold so well earlier this season that the company brought it back for a second run. Its success at the box office has put the company in the black. Bostob Globe 05/12/03

"Hairspray" Dominates Tony Noms As expected, the musical "Hairspray" dominated Tony Award nominations Monday, "named in 13 categories that included best musical, best original score and best costumes. 'Movin' Out,' Twyla Tharp's dance show set to the music of Billy Joel, received 10 nominations, including one for best musical, even though it has no words and only one singer. In the straight-play category a revival of Eugene O'Neill's 'Long Day's Journey Into Night,' which opened last week, received seven nominations, including one for Vanessa Redgrave, her first." The New York Times 05/13/03

Sunday, May 11, 2003

A Twain For The Stage Mark Twain was not a successful playwright. "This fall, however, the University of California Press is publishing a three-act play it says is not only worthy of Twain's legacy as America's greatest humorist but that also has already been optioned by a Broadway producer." The New York Times 05/12/03

"Hairspray" Likely To Sweep Tony Nominations Tony award nominations are due out Monday. Early betting is that "Hairspray, the smash musical hit based on the cult John Waters film about a chubby high school girl, is likely to sweep the 2003 Tony Award nominations. Nando Times (AP) 05/11/03

Broadway's British Invasion British directors seem to have taken over Broadway. "No fewer than eight major British directors have been gainfully employed this season on Broadway. And three of them — Jonathan Kent, David Leveaux and Sam Mendes — are reviving the kinds of time-honored Broadway musicals that were once the sole province of American creators. The transatlantic shift in directorial talent hasn't happened overnight." Los Angeles Times 05/11/03

O'Neill Center Director Resigns Howard Sherman resigned as executive director of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut to become more involved in full-scale theatrical producing elsewhere Hartford Courant 05/11/03

Acting Retreat Becomes Historical Center Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne werre America's greatest theatre couple. In the early 1900s the Lunts built an estate in Wisconsin as a retreat, "filling it with treasures of antiques and decorative arts, and luring such luminaries as Laurence Olivier and Noel Coward to rest here outside the spotlights' glare. Now it has joined the ranks of Wisconsin's historic home-museums. Upwards of 20,000 visitors a year are expected to tour the Lunts' estate, which has been turned into a world-class center for theater history and arts. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 05/11/03

Friday, May 9, 2003

Pop Goes The Musical "After decades of irrelevance and indirection, musical theater has stumbled on a new formula to revitalize itself: mounting shows around the music of beloved pop artists." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/08/03

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Sondheim - Operas In Disguise? Though Stephen Sondheim is considered a master of musical theatre, the esteem isn't shared by a popular audience. So should his pieces be performed by opera companies instead? "Sondheim himself makes no secret of thinking otherwise. He even affects not to like opera, and has never written a work intended for opera-house production. Still, the alacrity with which 'Sweeney Todd' and 'A Little Night Music' have been taken up by major opera companies in America and elsewhere raises the question of whether they might really have been, all along, modern operas in disguise." Commentary 05/0/3

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Elton John To Write Vampire Musical Elton John has been hired by Warner Bros to write a Broadway musical based on "three of Anne Rice's best-selling novels about a sauve vampire named Lestat." John's longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin will write lyrics. The New York Times 05/07/03

The All-Female Shakespeare London's Globe Theatre is producing Shakespeare with an all-woman cast. "The Globe's audiences have proved ready to accept all-male productions. Will they feel the same about all-female casts? In our modern culture, one might as well ask whether it is more difficult to accept a woman as chief executive or as wooing partner. Statistics might suggest that it is, but many men and women do accept, and indeed flourish within, these reversals of traditional roleplay." The Guardian 05/07/03

Moscow Play Closes, Can't Shake Hostage Stigma Russia's first home-grown musical "Nord-Ost" was a huge success in Moscow until rebel Chechens took over the theatre and killed 100 people. The show reopened earlier this year in the same theatre, but the stigma of the hostage drama finally shut down the show. "The organisers kept the seats full in part by offering places to the disadvantaged, who would not otherwise have been able to see the show. The modest operational profits made before the crisis were wiped out. Nord-Ost remains a musical and theatrical success, and an innovation in Russia." Financial Times 05/06/03

"Hairspray" Takes Outer Critics Circle Awards "Hairspray" picks up five Outer Critics Circle Awards, adding to its awards at last week's Drama Desk Awards. "The writers who cover Broadway and off-Broadway theater for out-of-town media crowned "Hairspray" king with five awards in all, including outstanding musical, director (Jack O'Brien), actress (Marissa Jaret Winokur), featured actor (Dick Latessa) and costume design (William Ivey Long)." New York Post 05/06/03

Monday, May 5, 2003

Kennedy Center New Play Fund Cancels Grants "The Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, which over the last 15 years has awarded grants totaling $3.8 million to 114 playwrights and 55 not-for-profit theatres across the country, has canceled its 2003 grant cycle in order to undertake a major overhaul of the program's outlook and mission." Backstage 05/05/03

Sunday, May 4, 2003

Politically Incorrect - What's It Take To Sell Political Theatre? Political plays don't have to be serious and hard to sit through. "Most great political plays aren't about politics. It's obvious to say they are about people, but some of the best are about people who are as far away from the political process as you can get. As in politics, the answer in the theatre seems to be: make plays appear cool, which only alienates people even more. It's now extremely difficult to get a play produced unless it stars her out of EastEnders or him out of The Bill." The Guardian (UK) 05/05/03

Tiny Almeida Reopens After Makeover The Almeida, "one of the most creative and fashionable theatres in London," reopens this week after a £7.6m makeover. "Now Michael Attenborough takes over with a strong programme pretty much guaranteed to fill the revamped theatre's 321 seats. And he has to fill them - this is a very small number of seats and the economics of the Almeida have always been of the wing-and-prayer variety." The Guardian (UK) 05/05/03

Saturday, May 3, 2003

"Hairspray" Cleans Up With Drama Desk Nominations "Hairspray" gets 14 nominations for the 48th Annual Drama Desk Awards, tying the number received in past years by "The Producers," "Ragtime" and "The Secret Garden." Other high scorers included the musicals "La Bohème," "A Man of No Importance," "Movin' Out," "Nine" and "Avenue A," the new play "Take Me Out" and the revival of "Long Day's Journey Into Night." Hartford Courant 05/03/03

Thursday, May 1, 2003

Big Business Kids In America "children's theatre is big industry, with budgets for some theatres soaring as high as $9 million per year. The number of children who are served by these theatres is in the millions (4.6 million entertained by the New York-based Theatreworks/USA alone) and the companies that are committed to theatre for children and/or teenagers are booming." So what's different about doing theatre for kids? Backstage 05/01/03

Seeking Saddam Auditions have been held in London for a Saddam lookalike for a new play. "The show's organisers were surprised at the turnout, as 14 actors and amateurs donned military fatigues and berets for the open audition at London's Riverside Theatre in Hammersmith. As the script, by Feelgood author Alistair Beaton, is still being written, the lookalikes were required to do nothing more than wave to imaginary crowds in the manner of the deposed dictator." BBC 05/01/03

Lousy Time To Hold A Festival "The disastrous opening days of the World Stage festival at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre left organizers joking about biblical plagues. The final ones left them facing a modern one." From the war in Iraq to a freak ice storm to cancellations to the SARS outbreak, World Stage was a disaster from beginning to end this year, and the hit came at a time when the festival was already struggling financially. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/01/03

RSC Moving Towards Mixed Casting The arts are all about diversity, of course, but in the theatre world, it can be difficult to draw certain lines. Can a black actor play Hamlet? If so, can a white actor play Othello, whose race is central to the play that bears his name? And what about accents? Must actors performing Shakespeare all use a standard, stock 'Shakespeare' accent? (Think Laurence Olivier or John Gielgud.)Increasingly, the answer has been that 'mixed casting' is not only allowable, but useful in many situations, and even the most staid and conservative companies are starting to experiment. Case in point: the venerable Royal Shakespeare Company, which has been raising some eyebrows during a residency in Washington, D.C. Chicago Tribune 05/01/03

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