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Friday, January 30, 2004

A Chance To Shine The Royal Shakespeare Company will give its unsung understudies a chance to shine next season, with one show per production in which "all the lead roles will be played by the understudies, and stars may be called on to carry spears and stand around quietly without bumping into the set." The Guardian (UK) 01/30/04

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Some Youth Amongst The Blue Hair "The two most frequently repeated bits of common wisdom about the theater are (1) Broadway is dead (or at least in a state of serious decay), and (2) there is simply no audience for live theater among the current 'younger generation' of twentysomethings... Regarding the youthful audiences, it's time to take a closer look at the reality." Hedy Weiss believes that many of the theaters she attends in Chicago do a fine job of luring 20- and 30-somethings to performances, and points out that some theaters consider it a core part of their mission to create theater for the younger demographic. Chicago Sun-Times 01/29/04

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Big Payday For Scottish Arts "Arts projects in Scotland are to receive a 7.2m increase in funding for the next two years. The Edinburgh-based Scottish Arts Council has pledged to spend nearly 70m on projects. Most of the extra cash is going to The National Theatre of Scotland in Glasgow, which has been awarded 3.5m." BBC 01/28/04

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Bringing Theater People Together (Whether They Want To Or Not) Theater is a competitive business, and theaters in the same city rarely join forces for any reason, for fear that success for one will mean failure for another. But a Twin Cities-based website is attempting to draw the region's many theaters together on matters ranging from marketing to the hiring of actors. "Want to post your resume or audition listing? You can do so on the site. Need a set designer or a stage manager? You can cull the hundreds of techies and off-stage talent on the site's searchable database... Maybe you're a theater in need of a friendly audience for a free preview performance? [The] site will send out an e-mail to almost 1,000 subscribers giving them all the particulars." St. Paul Pioneer Press 01/25/04

Monday, January 26, 2004

A Hackney (Not Hackneyed) Restoration "At a cost of 15m, the Hackney Empire will reopen tomorrow, a delirium of colour, from gold to brown. It's anyone's vision of the voluptuous beauty of an Edwardian music hall - and as phoney as a chocolate 6 note." As the restoration proceeded, it became clear that the original color scheme of the theater was a bet, well, slap-dash, and the restorers opted for a faux period look, rather than a historically accurate repaint. "The east London theatre, which 20 years ago narrowly escaped demolition for a car park, was designed by the architect Frank Matcham, and is generally agreed to be the best surviving Victorian and Edwardian music hall." The Guardian (UK) 01/27/04

It's Not Just Culture, It's A Smart Investment "Armed with new custom-created research claiming Chicago-area theaters are worth a whopping $347 million in total economic activity to their home metropolis, the League of Chicago Theatres is on a newly energized mission to convince local corporate leaders that Chicago theater deserves to be taken more seriously by business interests... The study, to be released on Monday, argues that Chicago's live theater industry has doubled its direct and indirect economic impact in just seven years -- from $164 million in 1996 to $347 million in 2002." Chicago Tribune 01/26/04

Goodspeed's Dilemma Connecticut-based Goodspeed Musicals, which for years has made its home in the town of East Haddam, has been planning to build a new 700-seat theater across the street from its current stage. But last year, the nearby burg of Middletown came calling, offering a better site, a tax abatement, and loads of other perks if Goodspeed would move its base of operations. As yet, Goodspeed's board has made no decision on where the new theatre will go, but the spectacle of two cities battling over a cultural jewel is a bit sickening, says Frank Rizzo. And besides, how exactly is Middletown planning to make back its investment in Goodspeed if it wins the battle? Hartford Courant 01/25/04

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Disney's New Empire The Walt Disney Company is apparently serious about becoming a theatrical juggernaut, as evidenced not only by recent successful Broadway adaptations of its animated films, but also by extensive plans for a nationwide blitz of big-budget stage shows. "Ten years after Beauty and the Beast arrived on Broadway, to critical brickbats and audience acclaim, the company feared by rival producers for its cavernous pockets and brand-name product has become a dominant long-term player onstage. In recently published figures not disputed by the company, Disney has earned more than $1.2 billion in worldwide gross theatrical receipts from Beauty, $1 billion from Lion King and $270 million from Aida." San Francisco Chronicle 01/25/04

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Taking A Stand Against Funding Cuts "The artistic director for one of Scotland's leading theatre companies has resigned only a month into her post, claiming cuts by the Scottish Arts Council has made her job 'unsustainable'. Emily Gray is to leave TAG, the premiere theatre company for children in Scotland, in April after the SAC cut its grant by more than 40%." The Herald (Glasgow) 01/23/04

Private Funding for Public Access When the state of Massachusetts slashed its arts funding allocation by 62% last year, several Boston theaters which were hoping to make accomodations for visually and aurally-impaired patrons had to shelve their plans. But now, the "Cultural Access Consortium, a not-for-profit organization that tackles accessibility issues for audiences and artists who are sight- or hearing-impaired or both, will begin providing technical and financial aid to area theatres through a new program, the Access Collaborative." Backstage 01/22/04

Atlantic Theatre Alive For Another Season "Officials with the Atlantic Theatre Festival, a premiere classical theatre venue in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, announced Tuesday that they have secured the financing they need to go ahead with its 10th anniversary season... Earlier this month, the festival had announced it was $300,000 in debt. While some creditors had agreed to a restructured payment plan of the $150,000 owed to them, others did not. Also, the Wolfville town council voted against a motion to guarantee a loan for the festival to repay its creditors. The ATF board had set a goal to stabilize its finances before beginning its new season and announced that if it couldn't find the funds, it would cancel the festival." CBC News 01/21/04

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Seeing Stars - Billington Replies Theatre critic Michael Billington responds to David Hare's criticism of the newspaper stars system for reviews. "The problem is there are two sides to the case. As a critic, I often curse star ratings. Yet I know that a four- or five-star review can cause a stampede at the box office for a show that might easily be overlooked. As an occasional moviegoer and CD buyer, I also find the star system helpful in sorting wheat from chaff." The Guardian (UK) 01/21/04

  • Previously: Hare: Newspaper Critics' Stars Is A Militantly Philistine Policy Playwright David Hare rails against The Guardian's practice of assigning stars to reviews. "Apart from anything else, why does a self-respecting critic agree to a system of grading that renders his or her detailed reaction superfluous? 'What did the Guardian think of it ?' 'Oh, they gave it two stars.' Why would any critic let their presumably thoughtful work be so diminished?" The Guardian (UK) 01/21/04

  • Telegraph Weighs In On Review Stars "I am very proud that we have held out against the tide, because I am with David Hare on this one: star systems demean the role of reviewers, and they devalue the art forms reviewed." The Telegraph (UK) 01/22/04

Remaking The Young Vic - With Care So the West End's Young Vic Theatre is about to get a 12.5 million makeover. And does it ever need it. But hold on - much of the theatre building of the past ten years has had problems, and no one really wants to disturb the feel of the place. So how to go about it? The Guardian (UK) 01/22/04

The End For Toronto Theatre Alliance? The Toronto Theatre Alliance, which runs the city's discount dicket booths and coordinates annual theatre awards, is in dire financial straits. Unable to meet expenses, and "in the face of what the organization's new Executive Director, Jacoba Knaapen, calls 'a major financial crisis,' she gave four weeks notice to herself and her entire staff." Toronto Star 01/21/04

West End: Protesting The Virtual Orchestra Musicians in London's West End are protesting the planned introduction of a "virtual orchestra" machine that would replace some musicians in pit orchestras. "Champions of the device, called the Sinfonia, maintain that it "gives more bangs for the buck" than musicians. Musicians say it "steals jobs and cheats audiences". In the US it has cut orchestral jobs on some shows - including Miss Saigon and Phantom of the Opera - by between a half and a third." The Guardian (UK) 01/21/04

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Hare: Newspaper Critics' Stars Is A Militantly Philistine Policy Playwright David Hare rails against The Guardian's practice of assigning stars to reviews. "Apart from anything else, why does a self-respecting critic agree to a system of grading that renders his or her detailed reaction superfluous? 'What did the Guardian think of it ?' 'Oh, they gave it two stars.' Why would any critic let their presumably thoughtful work be so diminished?" The Guardian (UK) 01/21/04

Vancouver Arts Center Cancels Shows The Vancouver Arts Center has canceled two of its upcoming shows and laying off staff. The theatre has been presenting traveling Broadway shows, but has lost money on most of its presentations in the two years since it has been open. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/20/04

Sunday, January 18, 2004

O'Neill Center Reinstates Open Submissions Four months ago, the Conn.-based Eugene O'Neill Theater Center announced it would no longer accept open submissions for its annual Playwrights Conference. The change in policy was made as a cost-saving measure. But after much protest, the O'Neill has decided to reinstate its open submissions policy.
Backstage 01/16/04

Lining Up Candidates For Denver Theatre Job Who will replace Donovan Marley as head of the Denver Center Theatre? "One of the many testaments to the resident company Marley has developed since 1984 is that there are at least three viable candidates with DCTC ties who should be given foremost consideration: Israel Hicks, Anthony Powell and Bruce K. Sevy." Denver Post 01/18/04

Chicago Lion King - King Of The Jungle The Lion King leaves Chicago after "a highly successful 39-week Chicago engagement that reported a total net gross in excess of $40 million and attracted more than 710,000 theater-goers to Chicago's Loop." The show, some observers say, could have run for three years here. Chicago Tribune 01/18/04

Guettel - The Future Of Broadway Musicals? "To many aficionados, Adam Guettel - grandson of Richard Rodgers, the composer who set so much of Broadway's agenda for so much of the previous century - represents the most accomplished exemplar of the musical theatre form, even without an actual Broadway show on his resume."
Chicago Tribune 01/18/04

Toronto Theatre's Diversity Problem Toronto theatre has a diversity problem "The current population of Greater Toronto consists of 43 per cent visible minorities. In their current seasons, the seven largest not-for-profit professional theatres in the city employed 79 actors from visible minorities out of a total of 394, a rate of 20 per cent. If you add the two major festivals Stratford and Shaw to the mix, the figure becomes 106 out of 622, or 17 per cent. That's a considerable gap, and while everyone agrees the winds of change are blowing, they're not moving rapidly enough for many people." Toronto Star 01/18/04

A Theatre Beyond Its Size Ari Roth's Theatre J is a small Jewish theatre in Washington DC that is making much more of a splash than its size would suggest. "What he (Roth) puts on the Goldman stage often feels like the product of a much bigger operation than his, which chugs along with a skeletal staff in a cramped suite of offices and a budget of $500,000. Major regional theaters like the Shakespeare and Arena spend 20 times as much. Last season alone, he had several major successes." Washington Post 01/18/04

Friday, January 16, 2004

The Trouble With Taboo What went wrong with "Taboo," the Broadway musical that is closing after losing $10 million? "There are no 'villains' in this story, really - just a volatile, distracted and ultimately ineffectual producer; a weak director; a timid bookwriter who watched his key scenes get cut because they couldn't be acted or directed properly; and a star, Boy George, who wrote a fine score (let's give him his due) but wasn't much of an actor. One person involved in "Taboo" calls the show a "missed opportunity. There are a lot of really good things in it, there just wasn't anyone around who could pull it all together." New York Post 01/16/04

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Theatricality Of Time "As playwrights explore new ways of delivering storylines and delineating characters, they are tinkering, more and more boldly, with innovative ways to theatrically depict the passage of time. And the basic idea is as old as time..." Backstage 01/15/04

Theatre - A Tale Of Two Cities "The Sydney Theatre Company's second theatre, an 850-seat building at Walsh Bay, opened last weekend with the additional gift of $2.5 million to create a full-time ensemble of actors." That's doing it right. So what about Melbourne? The Age (Melbourne) 01/16/04

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Broadway Hunkers Down "Winter on Broadway usually means a winnowing of shows as tourists leave town after the holidays and the audience in the New York region tends to stay home. Several shows, like "Cabaret," closed in early January in expectation of the long, fallow cold months. But the first weeks of this winter, after a fall season crowded with money losers and critical pariahs, look a bit grimmer than usual because of bitter weather and continued doubts about the economy and tourism." The New York Times 01/15/04

Marley Quits Denver Center "Donovan Marley, who as artistic director transformed the fledgling Denver Center Theatre Company into the largest regional theater between Chicago and the West Coast, announced Tuesday that he plans to resign before the end of his contract, citing his frustration over continuing budget cutbacks. In the past two decades, perhaps no individual has had more influence on the development of Colorado's cultural scene. His exit not only is expected to trigger an upheaval that will be felt throughout the company's 130-person staff, but is further evidence of the continuing demise of the American regional theater movement." Denver Post 01/14/04

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Taboo Closing "Taboo" is closing on Broadway after less than three months. Taboo was "the first Broadway show produced by Rosie O'Donnell, who financed it with $10 million of the fortune she had made on her television talk show, which ran from 1996 to 2002. Beyond that original outlay, the production has been losing money week to week." The show is expected to have lost $10 million by the time it closes. The New York Times 01/14/04

Dario Fo Being Sued For Latest Play Italian actor/playwright Dario Fo is being sued for his latest work. "A member of Silvio Berlusconi's party, Forza Italia, is suing Dario Fo, the literature Nobel prizewinner, for defamation in his new play. Marcello Dell'Utri, a Forza Italia senator, is demanding 1m (700,000) for damages caused by 'unfounded, personal attacks' made by Mr Fo in his satirical play The Two-headed Anomaly."
The Guardian (UK) 01/14/04

Musical About Versace Killing Draws Heat A musical about the 1997 slaying of fashion designer Gianni Versace being planned by the La Jolla Playhouse in Californing, is drawing criticism. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/13/04

Sunday, January 11, 2004

The RSC - Homeless On The Brink The Royal Shakespeare Company still doesn't have a London home. "The Arts Council has been too polite to issue any precise threats. Nicola Thorold, director of theatre, defers steadily to Michael Boyd and reports that the Arts Council is 'extremely encouraged' by the company's success in cutting its deficit by a million pounds this year. But the implication is understood by all: the RSC's annual grant from the Arts Council of 13m must, this year, extend to include the capital. For from London's point of view, a whole year - described as 'transitional' and 'cost-saving' - has been written off with the Arts Council's blessing. A period of grace on the brink of disgrace." The Observer (UK) 01/11/04

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Tetreault Named To Lead Ford's Theatre Paul Tetreault, a veteran manager of regional theater companies, was named the new producing director at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC yesterday, succeeding the late Frankie Hewitt, who held the post for 30 years. Washington Post 01/09/04

Portrait Of A West End Flop Les Liaisons Dangereuses was a hit in London back in the 80s. This time around though, the show closed in the West End after dismal reviews and only a few weeks. "The critics said the star delivered his lines like the speaking clock, the cast seemed to have been picked because of their more famous relatives and the theatre was half full. Looking back, it seems no surprise that Les Liaisons Dangereuses was cancelled after three weeks." The Guardian (UK) 01/08/04

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Young UK Playwrights Speak Out The development of UK drama is broken, say many critics. Young playwrights have a catalog of complaints: "The trouble is, there is no middle-ground development. The theatre writer lives an indigent life of development hell that often shows little regard for experience and critical success. It is dependency with an independent tag, so nobody is accountable for the writer but the writer. An in-depth process that includes accountability will provide progress." The Guardian (UK) 01/08/04

Lloyd Webber Rules The Roost "Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has been named the most influential man in UK theatre for the fourth year in a row by industry newspaper The Stage. The 55-year-old has recently enjoyed success with Tell Me On A Sunday, as well as the lavish musical Bombay Dreams... Lloyd-Webber is also the biggest theatre owner in London's West End thanks to his Really Useful Group, which owns and manages 13 venues." BBC 01/07/04

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Report: Australian Theatre Crisis An Australian government report declares that more than half of the country's mid-size theatres are in financial difficulty. "The report warns of "a coming crisis, unless action is taken" to prevent a negative spiral of declining quality, audiences and sponsorship." Sydney Morning Herald 01/07/04

Broadway Gets A Mid-Winter Perking Up Broadway had a particularly tough autumn. But "as the New York theatre world welcomed in 2004, it seemed to have popped a couple of hits of Viagra, putting a temporary spring in its step from big Christmas and New Year's weeks, supported by last-minute rushes for tickets to shows closing out their long runs. Cabaret and Take Me Out shuttered on Sunday, and Urinetown will follow on Jan. 18." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/06/04

Monday, January 5, 2004

John Arden: Dissident Dissonance "John Arden was at the forefront of innovative drama in the '60s yet has made little money from his work. Said to be the heir of the English literary dissident tradition of Blake and Shelley, he fell out with the UK theatrical establishment and moved to Ireland with his wife and artistic collaborator Margaretta D'Arcy. There he continues to write challenging plays and novels." The Guardian (UK) 01/03/04

Nathan And Matthew Notch Broadway Box Office Record With Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick back in their accustomed roles, The Producers racked up a Broadway box office record of $1.6 million last week. The New York Times 01/06/03

Canadian Invasion "There's always a fair bit of Canadian talent represented on the stages of New York and London, but over the next few months, the figures are more than usually impressive. London's West End opens its arms to welcome a pair of Toronto productions on two successive nights this month." Then there's... Toronto Star 01/05/04

Sunday, January 4, 2004

The Right "Materials" "Phillip Pullman's writing has been dubbed 'Harry Potter for grown-ups', and his Dark Materials trilogy was voted the nation's third favourite book in the BBC's Big Read poll." Now his "Dark Materials," a two-part, six-hour adaptation of the bestselling epic fantasy, has opened at London's sold-out National Theatre after "early word-of-mouth praised it as 'thrilling', 'momentous' and 'the ultimate children's show'." The Guardian (UK) 01/04/04

Lion King Closes In Toronto After 1,560 performances in Toronto, the Lion King closes. "During the 195 weeks of the run, the show will have played to 2.9 million theatregoers, all drawn by a winning combination: the potent allure of the Disney name and the spectacular physical production concocted by director Julie Taymor." Toronto Star 01/04/04

Hackett Resigns Cleveland Play House Peter Hackett, who has resigned as artistic director of the Cleveland Play House, was never ever the right choice for the job, writes Tony Brown. Hackett has "handed the Play House board a golden opportunity to reinvigorate a theater that is slowly choking to death on its own mediocrity. But does the board have the will and the guts to seize the opportunity and make the Play House a theater Cleveland can be proud of?" The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 01/04/04

Friday, January 2, 2004

Cabaret To Close The Broadway revival of Cabaret, which is still playing to full houses, is closing this week to make way for Stephen Sondheim's edgy musical, Assassins. "The second longest-running revival in the history of Broadway musicals ends its storied run in this its third incarnation after 2,378 performances and nearly six years." The show was a favorite with New York critics, with the current revival described as "much darker, deeper and far sexier than either of its predecessors." New York Daily News 01/02/04

Understudy Heaven Broadway's current troubles may be bad news for the moneymen bankrolling the lavish productions, but it's turning out to be great news for understudies, the unsung actors who stand at the ready, should the stars of the show be suddenly stricken and unable to perform. Broadway is, of course, crawling with big-name Hollywood talent at the moment, but it turns out that big-name Hollywood talent is tough to keep around when the box office is suffering, and more than a few understudies have been unexpectedly catapulted into leading roles. The Christian Science Monitor (Boston) 01/02/04

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