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Thursday, October 30, 2003

O'Neill Director Resigns "James Houghton has resigned in a pique as the artistic director of the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, the country's leading workshop for new plays, saying he was excluded from the board's reorganization plans." The New York Times 10/30/03

Actors Protest Non-Union Performers Actors protest the use of non-union performers in traveling shows. "Hundreds of members of Actors' Equity Association, the union for actors and stage managers, fired an opening salvo in a rally in Duffy Square yesterday, protesting the use of non-Equity touring companies. This is shaping up as the most contentious issue in coming negotiations between the union and producers. Their contract expires in June." The New York Times 10/30/03

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Based On A True Story... As if the controversy surrounding the impending move of the Barnes Collection to center city Philadelphia weren't confusing enough already, a new play by Thomas Gibbons threatens to muddy the waters even more. Permanent Collection is a fictional play, with made-up characters and a central conflict invented in the author's mind, but it takes place at the Barnes, and uses the conflicts that have occurred there over the past decade as its historical base. "The wiliest trust lawyer could get lost in the baffling dilemmas involved, but Gibbons sees the difficulties as an invitation to compress some of them into a two-hour drama." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/29/03

Not Violet's Finest Hour "What's going on with The Violet Hour? Richard Greenberg's eagerly awaited new play has been in previews a couple of weeks and already there are so many bodies piling up, the producers might as well park a hearse outside the stage door." Two lead actors and a director have been axed as the troubled production snowballs towards its official opening, and while the company producing Violet insists that things are under control, Michael Riedel isn't convinced. New York Post 10/29/03

Miller To Close, Urinetown Left Dangling The Henry Miller Theatre on West 43rd Street in New York will be closing this winter, to make way for a new skyscraper. But Miller is more than just another Broadway showhouse: it is currently the home of the unexpected smash hit Urinetown, which will be evicted by mid-February. No other Broadway theaters are currently available for the show to move into, and a move to off-Broadway would cause all sorts of union troubles, and would also be a strange move for a show enjoying the success of Urinetown. The Miller's owners are planning to rebuild, possibly within the new skyscraper, but that project won't be completed until at least 2008. The New York Times 10/29/03

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Seat Of Power: Running Two Of Britain's Most Innovative Theatres In another life, Michael Grandage - who is artistic director of London's Donmar Warehouse and associate director of the Sheffield Crucible - might have "made an excellent soccer manager - but he is better off where he is. He's not only programming two thriving theatres in London and Sheffield. He has also proved that it is possible to be preoccupied by power without being corrupted by it." The Guardian (UK) 10/28/03

No Money Problem Here! The UK's National Theatre is disputing a report in the Sunday Telegraph which claimed that directors at the National were being asked to stage plays for one-tenth the normal budget, and that the cuts were directly attributable to the cut-rate ticket prices which the theater instituted last summer, and plans to continue for the next three years. According to the theater, the low-priced tickets are being completely underwritten by a £1 million grant, which has had no effect on the creative budget. The National does acknowledge a distinct change to its recent design aesthetic, one that is "more minimal, creating a space where metaphor flies." Coincidentally, the minimalist stages are also cheaper. BBC 10/27/03

Monday, October 27, 2003

IS LA Theatre Healthy? Los Angeles' theatre community is huge. But is it vital? "In this awful economic climate for the arts, and because of the quality of the actors here, Los Angeles’ own off-off-Broadway — 90 percent of what’s produced here — serves as one of the nation’s most vital laboratories not just for new plays, but for companies that are working to incorporate movement and text into combinations that keep providing alternatives to the products of our mass media." LAWeekly 10/23/03

London Needs Theatre Aid London's West End theatres are in dismal shape, many of them shabby and run-down. A new survey declares that the historic theatres need an urgent £255m facelift. The Guardian (UK) 10/28/03

Sunday, October 26, 2003

What Bernstein Might Have Done To Theatre In 1957, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim joined forces to write the music and lyrics for "West Side Story." Sondheim, of course, went on to a brilliant career in musical theatre. But Bernstein turned his attentions predominantly to a classical music career. What might Bernstein's influence have been if instead he had pursued theatre? Boston Globe 10/26/03

Saturday, October 25, 2003

The Royal's Hold On Europe London's Royal Court has an outsized influence on European theatre. "Instead of engaging in the difficult process of cultivating new local writing, directors from Warsaw to Lisbon appear to be simply scanning the forthcoming programme at the Royal Court and snapping up the rights. One major appeal of these plays is that they afford a progressive gloss without risking any kind of dangerous formal experimentation or tackling relevant issues that might challenge local audiences." The Guardian (UK) 10/25/03

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Threat Of Another Broadway Strike Next Wednesday Actors' Equity will stage a rally protesting the proliferation of non-union tours of Broadway shows. "It is a contentious issue that will be at the center of Equity's upcoming negotiations with Broadway producers in the spring. Equity's contract with the producers expires June 30. With memories of the musicians' strike that shut down Broadway earlier this year still fresh, both sides are gearing up for what could be another ugly battle." New York Post 10/23/03

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Is Bad Theatre Ruining The West End? A growing band of critics believe that "the increasing number of poor-quality shows in the West End are damaging its image. 'A lot of theatres are kept open because somebody will take something in that should never be in the West End. In the past five years there have been many shows in the West End that had no right to be there. They weren't good enough, shouldn't have been there and didn't stand a dog in hell's chance. It puts people off theatre'." The Guardian (UK) 10/23/03

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Music For New Lord of the Rings Musical AR Rahman, who wrote music for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams, has been hired to write the score for a musical version of Lord of the Rings. "Rahman is a star in his native India and has sold more than 100 million albums, composing the soundtracks to more than 50 Bollywood films. The £8m musical is due to open in the spring of 2005 in London." BBC 10/21/03

Dallas' Theatre Boom "More ambitious new theaters have popped up here in the last two years than in any comparable period in memory. Nobody seems to have told their founders that the 21st century is supposed to be hostile to all live theater except frothy Broadway musicals, and even those get little respect..." Dallas Morning News 10/17/03

Monday, October 20, 2003

A "Golden Age" Of UK Theatre? Judges of a major UK regional theatre awards program, after years of warning of the dire state of regional theatre, have declared a new "golden age" of regional theatre. "It seemed to all of us that there were significantly more productions on a larger scale, lots of work for actors, lots of Shakespeare, lots of new plays, and lots of touring and co-production, with companies exploiting new productions by taking them around to other theatres." The Guardian (UK) 10/20/03

The Drama Of Prague .Even at its darkest moment, when the euphoria of the Prague Spring was crushed by the Soviet invasion of 1968, Czech culture threatened resurgence. 'A secret streamlet trickles on beneath the heavy crust of inertia, slowly and inconspicuously undercutting it,' Václav Havel wrote in his famous 1975 open letter to communist president Gustav Husak, which resulted in Havel's arrest. When the trickle became a torrent at the end of the 1980s, theatre played a vital role." The Guardian (UK) 10/18/03

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Missing The Substance: Can Morrie Make the Jump? Sportswriter Mitch Albom's tender memoir of a friendship with an old college professor was a surprise hit when it shot to the top of the bestseller lists a few years back. But the elements that make Tuesdays with Morrie a great book may be the very elements which are making a new theatrical version somewhat disappointing, says Chris Jones. "It has so little shading and such limited thematic complexity. One could make a decent argument that the shamelessly sentimental Tuesdays With Morrie is to Hamlet what Dr. Phil is to Sigmund Freud. It uses the same language, but it emphasizes simple, accessible communication rather than difficult truths." Chicago Tribune 10/18/03

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Where The Children Are Thriving Children's theatre is thriving at a time when other performing arts are struggling. "This is a corner of the theatrical world that, as Rodney Dangerfield would say, has gotten no respect, but may now be seeing a renaissance. Although economic times are tough for all regional theaters today is 'a remarkable time' for children's theater. There's been 'nothing less than a sea change in the field. It's a significant historical moment." Christian Science Monitor 10/17/03

The NEA's Shakespeare Guild The National Endowment for the Arts is forming a performers guild to support its program touring Shakespeare across the country. "The endowment has taken on the guild image in organizing the respected performers and art experts who will openly support the Shakespeare project. Shakespeare in American Communities will bring professional performances of the Bard, along with related educational activities, to more than 100 communities throughout the country." Backstage 10/16/03

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Money To Burn Crashes And Burns The new musical Money To Burn has closed in London after only two performances. The show closed between it's matinee and a planned evening performance, making it one of the shortest-lived runs ever in London's West End. "The notices were unusually savage, especially in a town where theatre critics tend to couch their harsher observations with the occasional leavening word. Not so this time. Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph called the musical ``jaw-droppingly dreadful." In The Guardian, Michael Billington was one of several critics to give the show one star out of five: 'Faced with such dross as this, one's first inclination is to run screaming into the night'." Toronto Star (AP) 10/15/03

Critics Attack Hytner's Broadway Deal Director Nicholas Hytner is winning cheers for his direction of London's National Theatre. But his deal to transfer National plays to Broadway has angered some Broadway producers. And others are wondering if Hytner will be able to deliver on promises to superstar playwrights. New York Post 10/15/03

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Patrons of Playwrighting Rita and Burton Goldberg wanted to do something to promote writing for the theatre. So they called up New York University in the mid-90s and volunteered. "Since then, they have given more than $1 million to Tisch, specifically to support student playwrights. They provide scholarships, foot the bill for an annual playwriting competition and finance a master playwrights' program that during the last three years has brought John Guare, Kenneth Lonergan, Marsha Norman, Wendy Wasserstein, Tina Howe and Neil LaBute to Tisch classrooms and lecture halls for a semester apiece." The New York Times 10/15/03

Rome's New Globe Rome is getting a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. "It has been built in only four months in one of Rome's public gardens. It is a gift to the city of Rome from a builder, and will be used for performances not only of Shakespeare's works but also for other playwrights and poets of different nationalities. Concerts will also take place inside the circular theatre, which can hold more than 1,200 spectators." BBC 10/14/03

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Things Are So Great In Denmark, There Is No Great Theatre Things are alomst Utopian for the theatre in Denmark. "Here, the preference is overwhelmingly for word-bound, well-made plays. These are supported by per-capita funding levels significantly higher than Britain's and a peerless children's theatre network, totalling 50 companies, which grooms audiences early. A lavishly funded playwriting course in the city of Aarhus supplies a steady stream of playwrights. And because of strict union rules, actors enjoy astonishing luxuries, including a minimum term of employment of 75 days. The Danes have created something that other countries don't dare dream about: an all-encompassing cradle-to-grave theatrical welfare state." So where are the great Danish plays and theatre companies? The Guardian (UK) 10/11/03

Friday, October 10, 2003

Pre-Selling Broadway "Sure, all the Broadway musicals are bragging about their advances - $10 million for "The Boy From Oz," $8.5 million for "Wicked," 20 cents for "Taboo" and "Wonderful Town" combined - but the little straight plays are sitting on a nice pile of cash, too." New York Post 10/10/03

Base-ic Shakespeare Congress has approved $1 million to bring Shakespeare to the troops. "The $368 billion defense bill recently approved by Congress includes $1 million to bring performances of Shakespeare to troops at stateside military bases. The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis will be one of seven theater companies involved in the unprecedented effort." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 10/10/03

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Budget Cuts Slam Alabama Theater Groups In the wake of an overwhelming vote against tax increases by the voters of Alabama last month, the state is making serious cuts to a budget that has already traditionally been stretched to the breaking point, and it appears that the state's theater groups will be some of the hardest hit. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival, arguably the only arts organization in the state with a national reputation, will take a 75% hit in state funding, as will the Birmingham Children's Theatre. Worse yet, legislators have announced plans to eliminate funding for 'non-state agencies' completely in the next budget. Birmingham News 10/09/03

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Shakespeare As Glamorous Global Hamburger Rome has built itself a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. "The Roman Globe will no doubt be celebrated as yet further evidence of the 'universality' of Shakespeare's art. Unfortunately, by the same reasoning, the conquest of Italian city centres by the McDonald's franchise demonstrates the universality of hamburgers (hamburger, in Italian slang, means 'fool'). Don't be misled by the difference in the product being sold: the Globe is the perfect icon of globalisation. Globalisation replaces many cultures with one, and the language of that new international monoculture is English." The Guardian (UK) 10/08/03

Royal Shakespeare Homeless In Capital The Royal Shakespeare Company is running out of time. If the company can't find a theatre by the end of the week, it will be the first time in 40 years the RSC hasn't performed a season in London. "If, as seems likely, that deadline passes without a result, it will be the first time in the RSC's history that its Stratford season has failed to transfer to the capital. As so often happens with the Bard, tragedy has followed farce: the RSC's disastrous decision to quit its long-standing London home at the Barbican is blamed for its embarrassing predicament." The Guardian (UK) 10/09/03

Ritchie To Take Over Top LA Theatre Post Michael Ritchie, who has led the celebrated Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts since 1996, has been named to be artistic director of the Center Theatre Group, which runs the Mark Taper Forum, the Ahmanson Theatre and the new Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times 10/08/03

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

A Crisis For Live Theatre "People watch an unprecedented amount of drama today, but they generally prefer to experience it through film and television; the appetite for the 'live' spoken variety is limited now, and there's no going back on that. So a regional theatre must programme across the spectrum - stand-up comedy and modern dance as well as Shakespeare and Pinter. The immediate difficulty here is that there simply aren't enough high-quality acts or shows designed to suit smaller stages." The Telegraph (UK) 10/08/03

Monday, October 6, 2003

The National's Big Year Nicholas Hytner's first season at the head of London's National Theatre has been a big success. "You come in new, and the continuity of the institution has to be grappled with. It is constitutionally required of us that we should be skeptical and disreputable, and that all the time we should be looking for stories that would not be told unless we are prepared to tell them." The New York Times 10/07/03

Sunday, October 5, 2003

Online - Where The Critics Are Really Tough Broadway internet chatrooms have become a force on the Great White Way. "What is unclear is whether the boards affect a show's fate. Conventional wisdom says, for instance, that bad Internet buzz about the Boston tryout of the 2000 flop 'Seussical' killed the show's Broadway run. Some disagree, however, saying reviews and, of course, the shows themselves still matter far more than online opinions. Do posts influence shows' creative teams? If so, no one involved in a production would ever admit it." The New York Times 10/05/03

The Out-Of-Language Shakespeare Justin Cartwright puzzles over the allure of Shakespeare in other languages. "I have often wondered what lies behind foreign-language productions of Shakespeare. We would be very different if he had not existed, much more different than if Germany had succeeded in invading, for instance. Hamlet, possibly because of its obvious political themes, is the most produced play in the world and Shakespeare the most-produced playwright." The Guardian (UK) 10/04/03

Aussie Stages - Buy Australian Is there too much American theatre on Australian stages? "Australians should get out and see their own stories told on stage, says Playbox Theatre artistic director Aubrey Mellor. He argues that cultural cringe is alive and well and that we know more American and British history than our own." The Age (Melbourne) 10/06/03

Timeless By Definition "Classics escape the prison of time. Whichever their era, they belong to every other era. People talk of 'contemporary classics' but the phrase is tautologous: classics are contemporary by definition. The bad director of an ancient Greek tragedy batters us with parallels to the present day; the good director lets the echoes reverberate for themselves. The classic doesn't have a sell-by date. If it did, it wouldn't be a classic." Still, that timeless aspect is what makes the classics so difficult to stage, and so confounding to bring to a modern audience. The Guardian (UK) 10/04/03

Calgary, Home Of Cowboys and Theatre Geeks When your city's image is predicated on a lot of cowboy hats and belt holsters, it might be difficult to envision the rising of a successful theatre scene. But that seems to be what's happening in Calgary, where an increasingly diverse local populace is slowly coming around to the idea that a rollicking arts scene might not be a bad thing. "Unlike even a few years ago, it seems as if our young artists believe they can make a go of it here, so they're staying here and doing some very good work." It may seem like a small step, but at a time when so many cities are taking a budget knife to the arts, Calgary seems to be headed in the right direction. Calgary Herald 10/04/03

Responding To 9/11. Or Not. More than two years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, the arts world still seems to have no idea how to respond, says Frank Rich. "The commodification of 9/11 by theater artists is perhaps even more dispiriting than that by the vendors who hawk T-shirts at ground zero. You expect more from artists. You don't expect more from the entertainment industry, but given how much hot air its players lavish on politics, its current performance is conspicuously dim." The New York Times 10/05/03

Friday, October 3, 2003

Springer Opera Not Packing 'Em In The new opera based on the life and career of talk show host Jerry Springer may be getting critical raves, but West End theatergoers don't seem to be convinced. "Critics on both continents raved about it. It broke box-office records at the National. New York theater owners offered their best houses for the inevitable Broadway production, and producers, managers and press agents scrambled to get a piece of the action. Then, on July 1, when tickets for a much-ballyhooed transfer to a West End commercial theater went on sale, this white hot show suddenly turned cold." New York Post 10/03/03

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Broadway Gets Into Gear The fall season on Broadway is a crowded one. And advance box office is looking good too... Newsday 10/02/03

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Royal Shakespeare Looks To London Again In a reversal of policy, the Royal Shakespeare Company says it is looking for a permanent home in London. Last year the RSC gave up its digs at the Barbican. "It currently has an itinerant status in the capital, moving from venue to venue. This has reportedly hit box office receipts and, say critics, caused the company to lose its identity." BBC 10/01/03

Shaw Expands Season The Shaw Festival, one of two legendary theatre fests in southern Ontario (Stratford is the other,) has announced plans to expand its season. In past years, Shaw has begun its annual run in late May, and closed up shop in November. But beginning next year, the festival will open in early May, and stretch into December. Shaw will also highlight two contemporary Canadian playwrights in 2004. Toronto Star 10/01/03

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