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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Stage Collapses In Birmingham A stage in Birmingham, England, collapsed, injuring 15-20 people. "The audience was taking part in a 'sing song' before the show. Members of the audience who were dressed as nuns were asked to get on the stage and take part in a sing song. There were about 30 or 40 people on the stage and as they walked forward to the area which covers the orchestra, the stage collapsed." BBC 09/30/03

Monday, September 29, 2003

In Search Of Help For Toronto Theatre The Toronto Theatre Alliance is looking for a leader. The organization is at a crossroads, and its mission, as well as its effectiveness, is a bit murky. "From a clear lack of initial purpose, the problem with the organization continues with its membership policies. They boast that they represent '200 professional theatre, dance and opera member companies,' but a look at those members makes you wonder what they're using as a definition of professional." Toronto Star 09/29/03

How To Turn Around The Royal Shakespeare Company? Michael Boyd has a big job ahead of him turning around the RSC (which is in something of a mess). "When he took over as director from Adrian Noble last year, he inherited a £2.8m deficit and an institution in search of its soul. Now Boyd is confident enough to outline his long-term vision for the company, which includes the staging in Stratford of all Shakespeare's plays in 2006 and an international Shakespeare festival in 2007. But first... The Guardian (UK) 09/30/03

The National Theatre's Turnaround Nicholas Hytner's reinvention of London's National Theatre has been a big success so far. "Hytner's gamble that the NT could get the same income from near 100% capacity at bargain basement prices as it could from 65% utilisation at traditional prices does, of course, depend on producing high-class shows. If Mr Hytner can continue as he has started, he has a real chance of turning the National into a People's Theatre. That would be a rare achievement." The Guardian (UK) 09/30/03

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Rosie's "Taboo" Rosie O'Donnell has always been one of Broadway's biggest boosters. Now she's putting her own money behind her words. "Taboo," a new musical with songs by the 1980's pop star Boy George, is being backed by O'Donnell, who is putting up $10 million of her fortune to produce it. "While that alone would make her involvement remarkable — most shows on Broadway get their money from dozens of smaller investors — Ms. O'Donnell has also taken the risky step of casting herself as the principal draw for 'Taboo,' using her brassy image and her reputation as an arbiter of suburban taste to lure audiences." The New York Times 09/29/03

Edward Albee's Third Act "Ever since Jerry cornered Peter on a Central Park bench in "The Zoo Story" and demanded an audience, Albee has served as 'an invaluable irritant to the status quo.' With 'The Zoo Story' hitting off-Broadway in 1959 and, three years later, 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' on Broadway, the American establishment had an unnerving new commentator wielding a venomously witty pen. Albee was in, or It, for a good while. Then, by the late 1970s, Albee was out. Since the success of "Three Tall Women" a decade ago, he has been in again." Chicago Tribune 09/28/03

How Denver Got Major Theatre "In its 24 years and 255 productions, the Denver Center Theatre Company has grown from a civic curiosity in a ghostly part of downtown into the largest regional theater between Chicago and the West Coast. In 1998, it received the Tony Award as the best regional company in the nation."
Denver Post 09/28/03

The Red/Blue Divide Takes Center Stage As America's political divide grows ever wider, with the right wing in control of the government and the left settling into its familiar role as vocal minority, the theater world is struggling with the question of how to engage its audience on a political level. Behind the scenes, many theaters have had to get conservative, slashing expenses in the face of a crippling recession and the decreasing governmental commitment to the arts. "But as the nation and the state have shifted rightward on the political spectrum, local theater people with progressive political agendas are coming off the sidelines and putting their beliefs on the stage." St. Paul Pioneer Press 09/28/03

The Silent Drama of the Catalan In Barcelona, where Catalan language and culture dominate, the theatrical community is at an interesting crossroads. "Despite the fact that the Catalan language is central to identity here, most of the major Catalan theatre companies either banish the spoken word entirely or relegate it to a very distant and neglected second place." Such wordless theater began under the brutal reign of Franco, who banned the Catalan language. And while the ban led to the development of a uniquely image-based theater tradition, no one can quite explain why that tradition has continued to dominate Barcelona's drama scene, even as the rest of the world has moved on. The Guardian (UK) 09/27/03

Forgey: Build It, And They Will Come "Arena Stage, the 53-year-old godmother of Washington's lively theater scene, is getting ready to change its architectural personality from introvert to extrovert in one huge, but perhaps not-so-easy, step... Making it happen poses a formidable challenge. The price tag is estimated to be a cool $100 million, exactly 100 times the original cost of Arena's 42-year-old building at Maine Avenue and Sixth Street SW." Still, says Benjamin Forgey, the Arena renovation is a crucial project in the District's ongoing renewal efforts, and architect Bing Thom's design is deserving of completion. Washington Post 09/27/03

Friday, September 26, 2003

Democracy Conquers London. Is New York Next? "Leave it to Michael Frayn, author of the Tony Award- winning Copenhagen, to take a 30-year-old European political scandal and turn it into a play that's packing the National Theatre to the rafters. The play is Democracy, and it's about the spy scandal that brought down Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor who reconciled his country with its communist neighbors in the East. Already, the groundwork is being laid for a Broadway transfer, probably in the spring." New York Post 09/26/03

Shakespeare Hits The Road This year, the National Endowment for the Arts is promoting an unprecedented 15-month, 100-city tour of Shakespearean drama. The idea for the tour came from former NEA chairman Michael Hammond, and was brought to fruition by the NEA's current bundle of energy, Dana Gioia. According to Gioia, "the NEA is hoping to 'revive the tradition of touring theater, which has been in jeopardy.' By making connections between touring companies and local presenters, he says, 'we're creating a circuit that I hope these companies can go back to.'" Boston Globe 09/26/03

Theaters Get Compliant "Half the theaters on Broadway, including some of its most famous stages, will become fully accessible to disabled people under an agreement announced Thursday between the landlord and the government. Work on the 16 landmark theaters operated by the Shubert Organization is to be finished by year's end. The organization has spent $5 million over several years to improve wheelchair seating areas, restrooms, entrances, exits, ticket windows, concession areas and drinking fountains. But legalities formally bringing the theaters into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act were completed only this week." Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AP) 09/26/03

Thursday, September 25, 2003

London's National Theatre Goes Young(er) At the beginning of last season the National Theatre's Nicholas Hytner lowered ticket prices in an attempt to draw younger audiences. It worked. "It represents a triumph for Nicholas Hytner, the National's artistic director, who gambled on filling the giant Olivier auditorium with audiences for edgier plays, if ticket prices could be reduced. Two-thirds of the thousands who flocked to see the musical skit based on the American television show were under 35, and they all came at full price. Nearly half had never been to the National before. " The Guardian (UK) 09/26/03

There Are Other Dead Playwrights, You Know Why is it that the world of "classical" theater in the U.S. has been reduced to a single name? William Shakespeare was a brilliant playwright, yes, but he was not the only guy to put quill to paper over the last millenium, and frankly, Michael Kilian is getting a little sick of him, particularly the comedies. "If we are to have classical theater in this country -- and certainly we must -- why keep dragging out the Bard's tired old comedies, which seem always to do with mistaken identities and mass marriages? Why not treat audiences to some actual classical fun, with rip-roaring Restoration romps such as Sheridan's The Rivals?" Chicago Tribune 09/25/03

Cheap Tix To Become An Annual Event In London The UK's National Theatre has announced that it will continue a ticket-sales promotion, launched this past summer, under which all seats to certain performances were reduced to £10. The price slash resulted in full houses throughout the summer for the National, and garnered a fair amount of media interest, as well. The theatre says that it plans to run the promotion again next summer, although ticket prices have returned to normal levels for the main season. BBC 09/25/03

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Are High Ticket Prices Killing The West End? The leader of a regional theatre in Leeds charges that high ticket prices are killing creativity in London's West End. But defenders claim that London prices are "still relatively cheap compared with Broadway, where seats sell for more than £70. Last year 12 million went to West End shows - a record. Top-priced tickets [between £40 and £50] are always the first to sell." The Guardian (UK) 09/24/03

Who Writes The Better Farce? "Farce, like cricket, comes in two forms: English and French. One is an exercise in connoisseurship, distinguished by its practitioners and ennobled by tradition; the other a jolly knockabout enjoyed by amateurs. Although the two traditions developed side by side, many people acknowledge that the English play real cricket, while the French write real farce." The Guardian (UK) 09/24/03

Tony-Winning Theatre In The Red The Children's Theatre Company won a Tony and saw one of its plays go to Broadway. But the company still lost money this year. "The Minneapolis theater, which in 2003 advanced its production of 'A Year With Frog and Toad' to Broadway and won the Tony Award as outstanding regional theater, ended its fiscal year with an operating deficit of $350,000 on a budget of $15 million. It's the first operating deficit in four years for CTC, and it came despite increases in attendance and contributions to the theater's annual fund." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 09/24/03

Monday, September 22, 2003

Biltmore Once Again Graces Manhattan New York's Biltmore Theatre, once a thriving landmark, but more recently a derelict shell, is reopening fully refurbished as a home to the venerable Manhattan Theatre Club. The New York Times 09/23/03

Has Success Ruined Medieval Plays? The medieval York mystery plays, originally performed on wagons on the feast of Corpus Christi, are in danger of not being performed again. "The uncertainty has been prompted by a dispute between traditionalists who favour small-scale outdoor performances every three or four years and modernisers who think York Minster should stage a bigger show once a decade. This ambition follows the success in 2000 of the production of the plays by Gregory Doran, of the Royal Shakespeare Company, in York Minster." The Guardian (UK) 09/22/03

The NEA's Shakespeare Gambit The National Endowment for the Arts' ambitious new Shakespeare tour begins. "It is the launch of something that could change the political fortunes of the once-embattled, now-neglected national arts agency. NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, at a reception Saturday evening, called the high-profile Shakespeare initiative 'a Hail Mary pass.' Dana Gioia's approach is to try to bring a lot of positive attention, a lot of positive play to the NEA." Washington Post 09/22/03

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Understanding Kushner "The charge that playwright Tony Kushner’s theater is more pedagoguish than dramatic stems partly from the inability of his accusers to differentiate between a politically charged play and a screed, or between a character and its author. Kushner’s characters may spout diatribes, but his plays, many coming from an Elizabethan tradition, are about the collision of those arguments into a kind of forum. Kushner’s works are composed of conflicts and discussions merging into a skeptical, ironical and often paradoxical vision; a play with a vision can shed some light, whereas a play with an opinion can be merely annoying. It’s helpful to distinguish the two." LAWeekly 09/18/03

Too Old School For Its Own Good? The Greek coastal city of Epidaurus is one of the most theatrically significant places in all the Western world. The city's history as a center of classical theater has made it a haven for directors and actors all across Greece. "At the same time, the long shadow of tradition has transformed Epidaurus... into a bulwark against innovation. For the most part, the acting style that dominates is one of contrived high artifice. An army of conservative critics carefully polices every production, savaging any whiff of novelty and pouncing on even the vaguest suggestion of modernism." The Guardian (UK) 09/20/03

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Speaking The Word - Fad Or New Art? Spoken-word poetry is catching on in some theatres, but is it more than just the latest fad? "This isn't poetry like you read it in the English Department. This is 'performance poetry,' and there's no roadmap for how the genre develops audiences. Part of it is that the industry doesn't know what to do with these people." Backstage 09/18/03

Building For The Future At a time when many theatres are struggling to keep going and having to downsize, a number of theatre companies - like Minnesota's Guthrie Theatre - are building and opening new projects. "Today's projects are more likely to be about gaining flexibility and space for new programs and activities than merely adding seats. Theater companies are creating 'campuses' that they aim to fill with a variety of artistic activity nearly round the clock. Many are producing extensive education programs' for both children and adults." Christian Science Monitor 09/19/03

O'Neill Closes Open-Door Policy "The O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford is suspending its open-submission policy, under which anyone could mail in a play for consideration for the following summer's conference. Because of budget cutbacks, there will no longer be direct submissions, ending a 35-year policy. Instead, a group of 150 professionals throughout the theater community and across different geographical regions will nominate the work of 250 playwrights. That group of 250 will then be judged by the O'Neill's own selection committee, which will choose 15." Hartford Courant 09/18/03

  • O'Neill Playwright Festival Policy Change Angers Many "As might be expected, the announcement of the policy change has caused great consternation in the playwriting community. On one prominent, Web-based email service, dramaturgy.net, word of the policy change preceded the O'Neill's formal announcement by a week, during which time dramatists took out their frustrations. Among the charges: By moving to a who-you-know-based nomination/submission process, the O'Neill shuts the doors on the unknown playwright who doesn't happen to be well-connected enough to actually know one of the nominators, and that the new policy, in effect, only serves to solidify the American theatre as a closed, exclusive, artistic plutocracy." Backstage 09/17/03

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The Unlikliest Pulitzer When Nilo Cruz got the phone call informing him that his new play, Anna in the Tropics, had won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, he wasn't entirely sure if he believed it. After all, he was a little-known playwright whose play had only been seen onn stage during a short run in Florida, and he was up against such legends as Edward Albee and Richard Greenberg, both of whose entries were running in New York. But it was no joke: Cruz is the first Latino playwright to win the prize, and his play gets a more auspicious bow this week at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, before moving to Broadway later in the fall. Philadelphia Inquirer 09/17/03

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Come Play The Movie Musical Game They make musicals about anything these days. Indeed, offbeat topics seem to be preferred. So Dominic Papatola wonders: can you tell which ideas are Broadway musical fodder and which aren't? St. Paul Pioneer-Press 09/16/03

Lisbon's Theatre Problem "On the surface, Lisbon seems to support a healthy plethora of venues - from the huge neoclassical Teatro Nacional on the commercial Rossio square to funky, hilltop cafe theatres such as Teatro Taborda - and companies, from established names such as Teatro Cornucopia, co-founded by Melo, to bands of kids performing experimental works in the grounds of mental hospitals. However, theatre here is afflicted by one overwhelming, trenchant problem: a lack of audiences. At the country's National Theatre - a sumptuous auditorium seating 500, where I witnessed Titus Andronicus playing to a crowd of 120 - a paltry 25% house is regarded as a resounding, sell-out smash hit. Shows in the city are regularly cancelled when theatregoers fail to materialise." The Guardian (UK) 09/13/03

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Does America Need A New National Theatre? A proposal for a new national theatre for the site of the World Trade Center has theatre people talking. "A sampling of theater observers and major theaters in the region suggests that while the idea of showcasing the nation's best regional theater in New York is laudable, the creation of such a super-regional theater would be immensely complicated to fund, curate and execute. For those of us who have been around long enough, this is at least attempt six or seven to do something like this." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 09/14/03

Outflashing The Flash Mob The founder of the now-global "Flash Mob" movement, in which seemingly random groups of people appear at a designated location and do something odd for a few minutes before dissipating, has decided to end his New York City-based mob's performances. The founder, known as "Bill," organized one final flash mob which was supposed to eventually lead participants to a party celebrating their common love of befuddling the public. But instead, the mob was thrown for a loop by a single man with a briefcase and a neon sign, and participants wound up as puzzled as the passersby they were supposed to be confounding. Naturally, Bill thinks the whole thing was just great. Wired 09/12/03

Friday, September 12, 2003

And Now For Something Completely The Same A stage version of the classic British comedy film, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, is set to open on Broadway in the spring of 2005. Tentatively titled Spamalot, the musical will feature several new songs in addition to the classic Python ditties sung in the movie. No word yet on whether the quadruple amputee Black Knight will be granted a solo on the subject of biting kneecaps. BBC 09/12/03

Thursday, September 11, 2003

National Theatre For Scotland Scotland is finally getting a national theatre. "The Scottish finance minister, Andy Kerr, announced in a budget speech that there was finally funding available to establish the theatre, proposals for which have been around since at least 1949. It will be based in Glasgow and will have an initial funding package of £7.5m, with its first production due at the beginning of 2005." The Guardian (UK) 09/12/03

  • Scotland's National Achievement A decision to build Scotland's new national theatre is a major cultural accomplishment. "It is by far the boldest thing they have achieved in the cultural arena. They have consulted with the theatrical community and they have listened. It isn’t fanciful to say that this is the first major cultural decision which has been arrived at in Scotland through a full democratic discussion." The Scotsman 09/11/03

Monday, September 8, 2003

A Plan For An American National Theatre A new national theatre is being proposed for the site of the World Trade Center. "The national theater would cull the finest offerings from the country's regional stages and present them in the performing arts center that Daniel Libeskind, the master-plan architect, has called for at the World Trade Center site. The complex would include three theaters: one with 800 seats, one with 700 and one with 400. The backers envision 15 productions a year, five on each stage, each running six weeks." The New York Times 09/09/03

Sunday, September 7, 2003

Prince & Sondheim - Together Again Hal Prince and Steven Sondheim are collaborating on a new show for the first time in 22 years. "Prince has directed more than 30 shows in New York alone, and to sit down with him is to confront a half-century of American theater history. His name instantly evokes an almost unparalleled parade of over-the-moon triumphs, noble failures and, yes, a few bewilderments. When he attaches himself to a project, theatergoers take notice. The last is even more true of Sondheim, of course. Devotees will be making long flights to Washington in the fall to check up on this latest venture. " Washington Post 09/07/03

Broadway's New Champion Playwright In a Broadway season that is light on plays, "Richard Greenberg has the opportunity to become the first American writer to have two new plays running simultaneously on Broadway since Neil Simon did it in 1992 with "Jake's Women" and "Lost in Yonkers." (The British playwright David Hare did it in 1999 with "Amy's View" and his one-man show, "Via Dolorosa.") It is a league, however, that Mr. Greenberg has trouble considering himself a part of." The New York Times 09/07/03

Atlanta Black Theatre Closes A week before its scheduled opening, the New Jomandi theatre in Atlanta announced that it was canceling its entire 25th anniversary season. "Saying it had been unable to raise enough money for its four-show 2003-2004 program, the theater said it would spend the year in 'redevelopment,' then start up again in 2004. Since 2000, Jomandi, one of the few remaining major black theaters in the country, has suffered financial difficulties, canceled shows, and changed its name."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution 08/28/03

Friday, September 5, 2003

The Mystery Of The Unpublished Agatha Christie Play "Calgary's Vertigo Mystery Theatre this fall will stage the world premiere of Chimneys, a play Christie wrote in the 1930s. The play originally was set to open at the Embassy Theatre in London in 1931. For some reason, it was dropped at the last minute and never heard from again until the Vertigo troupe found a tattered copy of the script when they moved offices earlier in the year." Just how did it get there? CBC 09/04/03

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Sword Play Lands Actor In Jail A man in Portland is arrested for swinging a metal sword in public. Turns out he's "one of the leading actors in Portland's Northwest Classical Theatre Company's production of "King Henry VI, Part 1." Police hold him while the show and the audience wait, and finally a director steps in to take his place. Backstage (AP) 09/03/03

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

The Allure Of Reality Theatre "What are we actually getting when performers stand up and talk about themselves? Where does offstage end and onstage begin in first-person theater? The answers are complex - bedeviling to performers and directors and endlessly alluring to audiences. We're instinctively drawn to stories that arrive in the envelope of truth." San Francisco Chronicle 09/02/03

Cabaret's Special Place On Broadway Broadway's revival production of "Cabaret" will have run for 5 1/2 years when it closes in November. "Beyond the show itself, this Roundabout production and its historically significant run — it is the third-longest-running revival ever on Broadway, after "Chicago" and "Oh! Calcutta!" — has quietly enriched the world of the stage (and to some degree the screen) in ways that not many shows can claim." The New York Times 09/03/03

English Theatre - New Leadership, New Artistry? English regional theatres have a roster of new leadership. "In the past year, fresh teams have taken over at Chichester, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool, while new money - £25m - is being pumped into the system. Now comes news of a rising in the Midlands. Lichfield has acquired a new theatre while Coventry, under Hamish Glen, is set to restore an old one. The big question is whether this signals an exciting era of artistic innovation or whether regional theatre is still dogged by the culture of backs- to-the-wall survival." The Guardian (UK) 09/02/03

Monday, September 1, 2003

Money For Scottish National Theatre Scotland is about to get its first government funding for a national theatre. "The sum required for the scheme is relatively small within the overall overspend - a recommended minimum initial investment of £2.5 million - and will represent an additional sum over and above the £38 million the Executive supplies to the Scottish Arts Council." The Scotsman 09/01/03

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