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Thursday, July 31, 2003

Puppet Masters "Long relegated to children's birthday parties, puppets are no longer considered strictly kiddie fare. At venues like New York's P.S. 122, St. Ann's Warehouse, and HERE Arts Center, puppeteers are tackling Rossini operas, Shakespearean tragedies, and Ionesco tales. Puppets are also a growing presence on Broadway. Christian Science Monitor 08/01/03

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Does NY Anti-Smoking Ban Apply To Actors Onstage? Does a tough new New York State antismoking law mean actors won't be able to smoke on stage as part of a play? "Passed by the state legislature in March and effective Thurs., July 24, the measure bans the "burning of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, or other matter or substances which contains tobacco" in a long list of situations, including theatres, auditoriums, and museums. The measure closely mirrors New York City's own tough no-smoking ordinance, and in some ways is even tougher than the local law." Theatres can apply for a waiver if smoking is required for a performance. Backstage 07/30/03

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Royal Shakespeare Shakeup Is Opportunity Michael Billington writes that the sudden resignation of the Royal Shakespeare Company's managing director is an opportunity for the company. "Normally the sudden resignation of a theatre company's managing director would be interpreted as a sign of crisis. In fact Chris Foy's departure from the RSC enormously strengthens the hand of its artistic director, Michael Boyd, in setting his seal upon the company." The Guardian (UK) 07/29/03

  • Previously: Royal Shakespeare's Business Leader Quits The Royal Shakespeare Company's managing director Chris Foy has quit the company. He was seen as the force behind the company's unpopular structural moves in the past few years. "Some theatre insiders acknowledged Mr Foy's talent but felt the moment was right to call time on the management 'gobbledegook' of business involvement in the arts." The Guardian (UK) 07/29/03

Royal Shakespeare's Business Leader Quits The Royal Shakespeare Company's managing director Chris Foy has quit the company. He was seen as the force behind the company's unpopular structural moves in the past few years. "Some theatre insiders acknowledged Mr Foy's talent but felt the moment was right to call time on the management 'gobbledegook' of business involvement in the arts." The Guardian (UK) 07/29/03

Monday, July 28, 2003

Is Minnesota Fringe America's Largest? "In 1994, the Minnesota Fringe Festival was a scruffy amalgam of 50-some shows spread over a week at a half-dozen venues on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota. This year, the Fringe boasts individuals and groups from throughout the state, across the country and around the world staging 162 shows a total of 783 performances over 10 days on 20 stages flung across Minneapolis. For the last couple of years, the Minnesota Fringe has claimed the title of The Largest Fringe Festival in the Country, a figure few -dispute." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 07/27/03

Guthrie Posts Another Budget Surplus Minnesota's "Guthrie Theatre eked out its seventh consecutive operating surplus during the 2002-03 fiscal year, in which season subscriptions and total attendance declined and the value of the theater's endowment plummeted by more than $8.5 million." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 07/28/03

Sunday, July 27, 2003

A.S.K. Not What The Theatre Can Do For You... Organizations like Los Angeles's A.S.K. Theatre Projects, which has suddenly and somewhat mysteriously shut its doors in Southern California, are quite rare in the theatre world. A.S.K. was half theatre lab and half theatrical foundation, the type of organization dedicated to giving talented young writers, directors, and actors a shot at making something special. The results weren't always good, but that wasn't the point. A.S.K.'s founders believed strongly that raw talent must be nurtured for it to become art, and with the organization having been apparently folded into a New York-based foundation, L.A.'s theatre scene is feeling the loss. Los Angeles Times 07/27/03

Broadway's Haunted Theatre Let's face it - theatre people are probably a bit more susceptible to superstition than most. But in the heart of Manhattan's theatre district, the Belasco Theatre has become legendary for being haunted, and the people who work there claim that there's a lot more to this legend than simple ghost stories. Closed doors on a set are magically open when the curtain rises, a reek of cigar smoke permeates a production in which no one smokes, and actor after actor reports seeing strange apparitions with some tie to the theatre's namesake, David Belasco. Melodramatic hogwash? Maybe. But it sure makes for a good theatre story. New York Post 07/26/03

Minnesota Fringe Can Make Or Break A Career For ten days each summer, Minneapolis plays host to the largest Fringe Festival in the U.S. During this year's fest, "783 performances of 162 dance, theater and spoken-word shows will take place at 20 theaters, cafes and art spaces around town." To the festival's devoted spectators, it's a giant party, but to the actors, directors, and writers involved, it's a crucial chance to catch the eye of the city's theatre elite, and thereby ensure employment for the other 355 days of the year. Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/27/03

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Is It A Musical If No One Can Hear It? New York's Roundabout Theater Company is mounting a production of the Huck Finn-based musical Big River this summer, with a groundbreaking twist. The show is aimed at deaf and hearing-impaired audiences, with the actors using a mix of singing and signing to tell the story. "The deaf learned to feel the music they couldn't hear; hearing actors spent months learning American Sign Language." The show's director says it isn't a gimmick, but a concerted effort to bring American theater to an audience that is ordinarily ignored by the industry. Detroit News (AP) 07/24/03

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Tough Year For Roundabout It's been an up-and-down year for New York's Roundabout Theater Company. Tonys were won and critics heaped praise on nearly everything Roundabout put on a stage this season, but the company ran a $2 million deficit that is likely to result in layoffs and wage freezes. Performances were packed for the revival of Nine currently running on Broadway, but such things seemed unimportant after artistic director Todd Haimes, who has been at the helm of the company for two decades, learned he had a rare form of cancer midway through the year. The New York Times 07/23/03

Monday, July 21, 2003

Lower Ticket Prices = More Butts In The Seats The UK's National Theatre has been trying a new strategy this summer to attract larger audiences to its performances: dropping ticket prices. Astonishingly enough, as it turns out, the public is in favor of spending less on tickets. "The gamble of slashing most seat prices to 10 in the National Theatre's largest auditorium has filled the yawning spaces of the Olivier with new young theatre goers. In the past sweltering weeks, when other theatres were discounting frantically to keep their shows alive, the Olivier has been more than 90% full." The Guardian (UK) 07/22/03

Land of 10,000... Theaters? A national gathering of theater critics took place in Minnesota recently, and Celia Baker came away from her week in the Land of 10,000 Lakes wondering why more American metropolises can't be like the Twin Cities. "More than 2 million seats were sold by Twin City theaters in 2000, equal to the combined season attendance of the Minnesota Twins, Vikings and Timberwolves. More theater tickets per capita are sold in the Twin Cities than any other place in the United States outside of New York City... The area's cultural life helps lure business to the area, and many large corporations with headquarters in the Twin Cities are generous in funding arts programs and the buildings that house them." Salt Lake Tribune 07/20/03

Hopefully, He's A Better Singer Than He Was A GM Over the years, fans of the Boston Red Sox have become accustomed to watching their players bolt Beantown, and take up a bat for the hated New York Yankees. But former team general manager Dan Duquette may be the first Red Sox to land on a stage with the Bronx Bombers. Duquette (who was fired by the Red Sox last year during an ownership shuffle,) is scheduled to appear in a Western Massachusetts production of the Broadway musical, Damn Yankees, portraying the manager of the Washington Senators. The show will go on in an actual ballpark in Pittsfield, and yes, Duquette will be singing. Washington Post 07/20/03

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Playing Fast And Loose With Ticket Prices Theatre tickets are starting to resemble airfares, and not just because they're ridiculously expensive. Generally, when we go to the theatre, we expect to have paid the same price as the people on either side of us, but increasingly, Broadway producers are charging less for ticketbuyers willing and able to make their purchases well in advance, and even less for folks willing to be flexible about where they sit, and what date they attend the show. "For complete control the ability to choose your seat and the date you sit there you will probably pay top dollar. In most other cases, you can make a deal." The New York Times 07/20/03

Shakespeare on Tape: An Unexpected Treasure Trove Shakespeare himself could never have imagined a project of this scope, but Clive Brill wouldn't give up on it. The result of Brill's efforts is a new 98-CD set featuring the complete dramatic output of William Shakespeare, as performed by some of the great actors of the era. "Produced in London recording studios between 1996 and 2000, and featuring many of the most accomplished classical actors on the British stage, the full set feels like one of those astonishing feats of engineering that result in mile-high towers or friezes chiseled into the sides of mountains." Washington Post 07/20/03

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Star Turns - Gotta Have 'Em The secret of box office success for touring shows? Stars. No matter who they are. "There are, for example, fading sitcom stars, former pop teen idols from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, or, in some cases, their extended families. When it comes to casting a touring musical in the American hinterlands or a self-dubbed world-class city like Toronto, any one of the above can headline a show and be guaranteed audience and media adoration." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/17/03

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Mob Appeal "The fad for 'flash mobs', where hundreds of people gather at a place in the city, perform a bizarre if harmless mass action before scattering without trace, has spread in less than a month from its origins in the New York art scene to cities across the US. Now the movement is to come to Britain with a series of "flash mobs" in London, and if the craze picks up in Britain as quickly as it did in America." Glasgow Herald 07/17/03

If It Can Go Wrong... No matter the planning and professionalism of those involved, mishaps happen often in the theatre. Indeed - being live pretty much guarantees something will fail. John Heilpern recounts some of the more memorable snafus he's seen or heard about... New York Observer 07/16/03

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

O'Neill Conference Looks Increasingly Female At Connecticut's O'Neill Playwrights Conference, women playwrights are taking an increasingly major role. "The League of American Theaters and Producers reports that the audience for Broadway shows in the 2001-02 season was 63 percent female the same percentage of plays by women (63.6 percent) that get script-in-hand public performances at this year's playwrights conference. But nationwide, according to American Theatre magazine, only 17 to 18 percent of plays produced in professional theaters in 2001-02 were written by women. In the same season, 16 percent of productions were directed by women." New Haven Register 07/13/03

Monday, July 14, 2003

In Praise Of Minnesota Theatre "When the Post-Gazette crunched statistics for an Index of Theatrical Activity of the 15 midsize metropolitan areas tracked in the Benchmark Series in 1998, Minneapolis-St. Paul regularly vied with Seattle for the top spot. Of course, New York and Chicago are securely Nos. 1 and 2 in the national rankings, but the Twin Cities vie for third..." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/13/03

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Big Blue - An Art Of Business Story When they started in the late 80s, the Blue Man Group was "perfect for its time." These days, though, "Blue Man Group is not an art story, but a business story about art. They are the McDonald's of the music world. Blue Man Group Productions employs 450 people. Its four stage productions attract one million people annually. Basic math shows they're pulling in millions in revenue. Blue men have done Intel ads and are favourites of the late-night TV-show set. Their first CD, Audio, was nominated for a Grammy in 1999 and went gold. The original three blue men don't perform any more. They are executive producers who keep up the, uh, brand standard." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/12/03

Remaking London's National Theatre Fresh into the job as director of London's National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner has changed the way critics think about the institution. "The season has been risky, adventurous, yet critically acclaimed and popular. Hytner has the near-superstitious look of one who can't quite believe it is happening. 'All the shows that have opened so far are full at the box office. We can't do any better. It is all that I could have hoped for. We can only go downhill from here'." Financial Times 07/11/03

Friday, July 11, 2003

Working To Build California's First Full-Time Children's Theatre A group of community leaders in Beverly Hills are trying to raise $30 million to build the state's first full-time professional children's theatre. "The move comes at a critical time for arts education as budgets shrink for public-school programs and computers and television claim a substantial share of kids' leisure time. At the same time, children's theater, traditionally the stepchild of the professional stage, is maturing to new levels of excellence as evidenced by last month's Tony nod to the wunderkind of the genre, the Minneapolis-based Children's Theatre Company, the first such troupe to win the award." Los Angeles Times 07/11/03

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Manhattan By Angel Light When Ben Brantley first heard about Deborah Warner's "Angel Project," a "theatre" piece that sends participants on a tour of Manhattan, it it sounded, he writes, "more like my idea of hell than heaven." But "as the aesthetic philosophers of the early 20th century liked to point out, if you put a frame around anything it becomes art. Everyday objects begin to vibrate mysteriously. The mundane acquires instant drama; you start to see poetic patterns in flat surfaces. The immodest goal of Ms. Warner the British director responsible for last spring's brilliant and brutal "Medea" on Broadway is to condition you to see all of New York in such terms." So was it hell? The New York Times 07/10/03

Annie Get Your Resume Together Local productions of classic Broadway shows generally aren't expected to measure up to the New York originals, even in sophisticated theater towns, but a new version of "Annie Get Your Gun" currently playing in Denver is drawing some uniquely ugly reviews, and more than a few snickers from the audience. "When Annie's gun sticks but a dead bird falls from the sky anyway, what are we to do but cringe? And when the band resorts to banging on drums to cover misfiring guns, what are we to feel but mawkish empathy?" And the problems don't end with misfiring rifles. Denver Post 07/09/03

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Black Theatre Comes Of Age In London There are signs that Black theatre has come of age in Britain. "No longer tucked away in fringe venues, or in companies that specialise in black work, it is striding confidently across the stages of major London theatres. 'The talent has been there for a very long time," he says. "The dominant culture has been slow to open itself up to the new voices that are blossoming in our midst. I think we've not been good enough at that.' That may well be true. But the delay means that these new voices have arrived fully formed..." The Telegraph (UK) 07/09/03

Monday, July 7, 2003

What Would He Be Today, Shakespeare? "If Shakespeare were alive today, there's no telling what his place in pop culture might be. Musically, he might be another tattoo-branded Eminem or Tupac Shakur, scribbling out reams of rhymes on barroom cocktail napkins (but with a decidedly broader world view). If he gravitated toward TV, he likely would be found on HBO, cranking out barrier-breaking scripts as prolifically as Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing") or David E. Kelley ("Boston Public"). Or perhaps the Bard would helm a show like "Law and Order," a popular series just as well-known for, shall we say, borrowing plot lines. But given the visceral way with which Shake- speare toyed with universal human emotions, he would probably be most at home as a cutting-edge filmmaker." Denver Post 07/07/03

Sunday, July 6, 2003

A Greek Theatre In America An American Hellenic group in Connecticut plans to build a replica of the classic theater, "modeled after the theater of ancient Epidauros, where an actor can whisper at center stage and be heard in the last row without a microphone. The first load of black-veined white marble for the new theater has already been shipped from Greece. But residents near the site have taken the decision to court, arguing that the 500-seat theater, to be built into a hillside on Dog Lane, will be too big and noisy and create parking problems. They also believe that the theater will have about twice the seating capacity the society is claiming." Hartford Courant 07/02/03

Naked Theatre "You could see a lot of actors stripping this past season, especially if you were one of the many people who took opera glasses to the theater. This bumper crop of flesh, both subtly achieved and blatantly revealed, offered audiences a chance to study in depth how nudity actually functions onstage. One thing was clear in almost all of last season's strips: it was the moment of first removal (rather than the eventual full monty) that brought the biggest gasps." The New York Times 07/06/03

Seen The Movie, Now Come To The Play, Er, Movie...Er... Used to be that theatre productions used to depend on stars to attract audiences. But lately, movies have been the draw. "Miramax, the studio that created 'Chicago,' has secured the rights to film at least three more Broadway musicals. Two of them 'Guys and Dolls' and 'Damn Yankees' have been given the Hollywood treatment before. And industry publications have said in recent weeks that uber-producer/director Steven Spielberg is interested in creating a film version of Stephen Sondheim's 1979 masterpiece, 'Sweeney Todd.' If these projects do make it to movie theaters, it will represent a turnaround from Broadway's recent history." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 07/06/03

Thursday, July 3, 2003

Authentic Theatre Vs. Authentic Zoning Codes "A Hellenic group plans to build a solid marble, open air amphitheater modeled after a 2,400-year-old theater in Greece. The group planning the theater says it would be unique in the United States, and expects it to become a cultural and educational landmark." But this is in Connecticut, where homeowners are proprietary sorts, and the neighbors of the proposed amphitheater are taking a not-in-our-backyard approach to the whole thing. The usual concerns apply here - the size of the theatre, lack of available parking space, and excessive noise. So far, plans are going ahead, but residents are determined to shoot down the project. Hartford Courant 07/02/03

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Theatre In The Around As part of the Lincoln Center Festival, "theatergoers taking part in 'The Angel Project' will be led one by one at five-minute intervals through an individualized journey to nine locations, many in the area of 42nd Street. The walk is scheduled to begin on Roosevelt Island, where people will be given a guidebook to follow as if on a kind of theatrical treasure hunt. Everyone goes on the same journey, but each person will see something entirely different by virtue of the canvas being so huge." The New York Times 07/03/02

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Minnesota Fringe On The Edge The Minnesota Fringe Festival is the biggest in the country. But its future is in dancer. "The festival is confronting a triple whammy of a continued slumping economy, uncertainty from corporate sponsors and the loss of $20,000 in funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board. 'The problem is not that people are saying no to us, it's that they're not saying either yes or no. We're literally going to print with the program tomorrow night and we still don't have the final word from some of our sponsors. As you can imagine, that makes forecasting difficult'." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 06/29/03

NY Theatre's Future - Off Broadway? Broadway theatre is a license to lose money. "Off Broadway meanwhile teemed with invention. Partly this has to do with economic reality; it simply costs less to put on a show Off Broadway, so the risks are smaller and the fund-raising is less onerous. But partly it's also about sheer creative energy..."
The New York Times 07/02/03

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