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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Will Las Vegas Be The New Broadway? "About 2,500 miles to the west of Times Square, another major U.S. tourist Mecca, Las Vegas, is now being referred to by some as "Broadway West." Could a growing live-theatre industry in this glittery playground for gambling aficionados and lovers of flashy thrills pose a threat to the Great White Way and to the national theatre-tour market?" Back Stage 11/30/04

Monday, November 29, 2004

West End - Where Did The Plays Go? These days in London's West End, musicals outnumber straight plays. Where did the plays go? "It's not that the audience for drama has necessarily declined – just that people now have plenty of other places to see it. In 1954, you went to see a play in the West End or stayed at home. Now, subsidised venues such as the National, the Barbican, the refurbished Royal Court, the Donmar, the Almeida, and Hampstead, as well as the vast number of fringe theatres in pubs and other found locations soak up many of the play-going audience." The Telegraph (UK) 11/30/04

Mary Poppins Heads For The Stage Forty years after Mary Poppins flew on to the silver screen, the character is being revived and revised in a new version for the stage. New music. New attitudes. But will the beloved Julie Andrews character translate to the modern stage? The Guardian (UK) 11/30/04

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Afghanistan On Stage Three years ago theatre was banned in Afghanistan. Now there's a national theatre festival - and even a play written by a woman, "The current revival is taking place in a climate of creative freedom. Many plays at the national festival have themes that are daring in Afghanistan - star-crossed lovers, hypocritical mullahs, corrupt provincial governors, smugglers of ancient cultural artifacts, and drug lords. But Afghans have not forgotten how to laugh - several plays take digs at doctors, policemen, and busybodies." Christian Science Monitor 11/26/04

Disney's Wal-Mart Gambit Disney is rehearsing a new theatrical venture, and it's decidedly different from the usual Disney fare. "On the Record represents an entirely different kind of project for Disney Theatricals -- it's cheap to do. And it relies utterly and completely on the public's love for existing Disney songs such as "Under the Sea" or "A Spoonful of Sugar." That affection -- and familiarity -- is both global and also widely found in smaller and midsize American cities that might never get to see "The Lion King" in all its glory. It's a growing market for Disney Theatricals, which had tended to stay concentrated in the major theatrical centers. But that's not how Wal-Mart made its money -- ubiquity is profitable." Chicago Tribune 11/28/04

Broadway's Crosscultural Experiment It's only fitting that with "Pacific Overtures," which opens Thursday at Studio 54, Amon Miyamoto becomes the first Japanese citizen ever to direct a Broadway production. Like him, the show is an unusual and rather startling crosscultural experiment... The New York Times 11/28/04

Playwrights Who Always Have Each Other's Back Boston playwright Patrick Gabridge has started "a 30-day online networking/marketing support group for playwrights" which encourages the participants to pool their knowledge of the business. "The Binge aims to create a sense of community. The group will tell their peers that this theater is amateurish, that director is hot. If a playwright can't travel to another city to see the production of his or her play, other Bingers who live in that city will attend and report back. Aside from the information, contacts, and encouragement, the group provides the best kind of peer pressure: seeing other people get their plays done because they've taken the footsteps." Boston Globe 11/28/04

The Broadway Factory You've Never Heard Of Music publisher BMI is the force behind Broadway's most successful creative workshop, but the group flies so far below the cultural radar that even most theater aficionados are unaware of its existence. "The workshop is little known except among music-makers, but to those in that rarefied world, it is the Harvard of show tunes, helping develop a string of hits that include A Chorus Line, Nine, Little Shop of Horrors and Urinetown... Every year, 30 to 40 aspiring lyricists and composers are selected for the highly competitive two-year course devoted to fundamentals. The third year (which students take again and again) is devoted to projects in development and is by invitation only." The New York Times 11/28/04

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Broadway Stagehands Reach A Deal "After an all-night negotiating session, Broadway's stagehands and producers reached an agreement early yesterday on a new three-year contract. The deal is the latest between producers and the theater industry's three major unions, effectively assuring labor peace on Broadway at least through the spring of 2007." The New York Times 11/24/04

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Public Cheers For Eustis Oskar Eustis is being cheered as new director of New York's Public Theatre. "Though he has a long and impressive résumé of staging both classic and contemporary drama, Eustis has built his career away from the New York spotlight, which explains why he's best known here as the genius who fostered Tony Kushner's epic Angels in America. A chorus of praise has risen from playwriting quarters at the news of his appointment." Village Voice 11/23/04

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Public's New Top Man Oskar Eustis was not an obvious choice to be the new director of New York's Public Theatre. But "though the 46-year-old Eustis is not a high-profile New York director, the reaction by many in the theater community is that he has earned the right to the job." Hartford Courant 11/21/04

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Well, It Beats Dragging Them Into The Street By Their Ears A New York theater is trying a new technique to get audience members to turn off their rage-inducing cell phones. Staffers at the Brooks Atkinson Theater noticed that the public had become fairly immune to a simple prerecorded announcement asking for the phones to be shut down, so just before curtain, they've begun playing an obnoxious recording of cell phone rings so realistic that people all over the house dive for their phones in horror. "And so a new front may have been opened in the long, hard war against the rude and the clueless... With some of those people, polite appeals are a waste of time." The New York Times 11/19/04

Latinos Making Gains, But Will It Last? There is a Latino theater boom going on all across America, and while the works of Latino playwrights may not exactly be exploding onto the stages of the nation's most prominent companies yet, many major regional theaters are recognizing the importance of the Hispanic audience. Still, Latino playwrights are a bit suspicious of the new embrace of legitimacy, and are reacting cautiously, wanting to avoid becoming token minorities in the still overwhelmingly white theater world. Boston Globe 11/18/04

Eustis: "The Most Important Job In American Theatre" Oscar Eustis on his new job running New York's Public Theatre: "I think it's the most important job in American theater. And I think it's the most New York theater there is. It's quintessential." The New York Times 11/18/04

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

In London - Musicals Rule Musicals are the hot product in London's West End. "Many top directors, designers and choreographers are moving from opera into high-risk musicals, many of which crash on landing." But "there is no ignoring the energy that is flowing into stage musicals - to the point where the genre is fast becoming the art form of the decade." La Scena Musicale 11/15/04

Two Boston-Area Theatres Struggling Two Boston-area theatres are cutting back operations because of a "difficult economy." "Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, one of the longest-running theaters north of Boston, this week announced a multistep restructuring in an attempt to stay solvent. The Wang Center, meanwhile, said yesterday that it would cancel its production of "True West" early next year." Boston Globe 11/17/04

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Public Theatre Picks Its Next Chief "The board of the Public Theater, [New York's] signature nonprofit theater company, is expected today to hire Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, R.I., as its next producer. If approved, Mr. Eustis, 46, will succeed George C. Wolfe, the current producer, and become just the fourth person to hold a job that is considered one of the most prestigious in the American theater... Mr. Eustis will probably face considerable challenges as the Public Theater producer, a job that often requires one to be equal parts diplomat and dictator, artist and administrator." The New York Times 11/17/04

The Non-Profit On Broadway A bevy of Broadway bigwigs of the non-profit persuasion gathers to discuss the role of non-profits in a city dominated by commercial Broadway. For one thing, "since Broadway rarely produces new writers these days, the task falls to the nonprofits to provide an outlet for new voices." Back Stage 11/15/04

Monday, November 15, 2004

UK Children's Theater On The Ropes London's Unicorn Theatre, which is constructing a £12.6 million new home on the banks of the Thames, is running out of available cash for the project, and needs to raise £1.6 million immediately if the building is to be completed in time for next year's planned opening. The Independent (UK) 11/15/04

Can Boston Sustain A Theatre Boom? Across Boston, new theatres are being built. "This growth, though, comes with a sobering reality. Theaters have more seats to fill, more competition, and more unknowns. That has some local theater directors a little nervous." Boston Globe 11/14/04

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Ganter Chosen To Lead PS 122 Vallejo Gantner, the director of the Dublin Fringe Festival, has been chosen as the new director of PS 122, New York's bastion of avant garde theatre and dance. Mark Russell, his predecessor, announced his resignation in December after two decades in the job. The New York Times 11/15/04

Gem Finds A Buyer August Wilson's beleagured play, Gem of the Ocean, has found a new lead investor to rescue its recently delayed Broadway run from oblivion. San Francisco producer Carole Shorenstein Hays has stepped into the funding void after receiving a call from executives at Jujamcyn Theaters. Rehearsals will start up again this week, with previews set to begin later in the month. The New York Times 11/13/04

Friday, November 12, 2004

RSC Back On Track After several years of struggle, the Royal Shakespeare Company has turned around its fortunes, reducing its debt from £2.8m to £400,000 in the past financial year. "Bosses say box office hits and cost-cutting have improved their outlook. Artistic director Michael Boyd said: "If we're going to innovate and experiment on stage, we need to balance the books first." BBC 11/12/04

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Why Musicals Rule With its expense and risk, why has the American musical not only survived but dominated the commercial theatre? "By changing, the musical has remained a truly popular form because it has shown itself capable of speaking to new generations. They grow up on Gene Kelly, but end up loving Velma and Roxie." The Telegraph (UK) 11/11/04

Heilpern To Non-Profits: Why The Sell-out? John Heilpern wonders what has happened to the spine of non-profit theatre. "I’ve no argument with bottom-line Broadway producers. Apart from the usual British import or star-driven revival, Broadway has more or less abandoned serious drama. But when the producers of nonprofit theater throw in the towel, we’re in real trouble. They represent the last bastion of the true artist, 'because it’s where the money isn’t.' Because their stages are the only places left in American theater where the commercial bottom line isn’t intended to rule." New York Observer 11/10/04

"Producers" A Hit In London The Producers opens in London to a noisy rapturous recepstion. Creator and director Mel Brooks told the Theatre Royal crowd: "So much for British reserve, you people should be arrested for disorderly conduct." BBC 11/10/04

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Theatre Idol Pop Idol was a hit trying to find telegenic pop singers. Now a new TV series in the UK applies the format to the Broadway musical, attempting to find stars worthy of the West End. "Yet it is the very difficulty of performing musical theatre to anything approximating a competent standard that, the makers claim, elevates Musicality above the level of your bog-standard TV talent show." The Independent (UK) 11/03/04

Milwaukee Theatre Pioneer Moves On After 30 Years "Montgomery Davis, one of the prime architects of Milwaukee's sustained theater boom, will leave his artistic director position with the Chamber Theatre at the end of this season. He will step aside in the spring, 30 years after he founded the Chamber Theatre with actress Ruth Schudson." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 11/06/04

Monday, November 8, 2004

Ashland Attendance Falls For the second season in a row, attendance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland has declined. "Attendance was 356,770 for the year, a drop of about 25,000 from 2003. The theater sold about 80 percent of its seats during the season, for ticket revenues of $12,854,751. The 2003 season finished at about 86 percent of capacity." The World (Coos Bay, Oregon) (AP) 11/08/04

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Prediction: Nathan Lane Will Win The West End "In a week when the culture gaps between Britain and America have been much discussed, here's another: a performer few Britons have heard of is simultaneously the biggest star on Broadway. Only now, finally, Britain is starting to get it. Nathan Lane is a name half-glimpsed on a billboard or in the entertainment listings of newspapers. He is still on the periphery of our vision, almost focused and almost famous, but come Tuesday he will step magnificently centre stage." The Observer (UK) 11/07/04

Starting Over (Takes A Mass Firing?) Should a theatre's incoming artistic director fire his resident ensemble acting company and starting over? The Denver Center Theatre Company's outgoing director suggests the move is essential. "If anyone came in from the outside and made the blanket statement, 'I want everyone to stay,' then I would say that person is not qualified to take the job" Rocky Mountain News 11/06/04

West End Bars Critics From Opening Night "West End theatre producers are to make radical attempts to fireproof new shows against the critics as they survey the smouldering wreckage of productions closed following bad reviews." Specifically, the idea is to change the tradition whereby every critic in the city shows up for opening night, and reviews that one performance. "Producers believe the opening night combination of nervous relatives and anxious financial backers can destabilise performances. The experimental move, which has been cautiously welcomed by several critics as well as by theatre owners, is a response to the growing power of the London critics." The Observer (UK) 11/07/04

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Wooing A Georgia Theatre Georgia's Aurora Theatre is much in demand. Three cities are competing to lure the theatre to take up residence... Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11/04/04

Wilson Play Officially Postponed "Conceding what had become painfully obvious along Broadway, the producers of Gem of the Ocean, a new play by August Wilson, said yesterday that they were postponing the show's first performance while they continued their hunt for financing. All performances through Nov. 14 have been canceled." The New York Times 11/03/04

  • Previously: Glimmer Of Hope For Endangered Gem "A group of top Broad way producers, who have backed some of the most important American plays of the last several years, may throw a lifeline to Gem of the Ocean. The producers — Elizabeth I. McCann, Roger Berlind and Scott Rudin — were trying yesterday to figure out a way to get the acclaimed August Wilson play to Broadway this season. Gem of the Ocean is on the brink of collapse because its lead producer, Ben Mordecai, has failed to raise the $2.3 million needed to bring it to the stage." Still, the trio of producers has no intenion of bailing Mordecai out of his existing debts, so the production must still be considered a long shot. New York Post 10/28/04
Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Dublin's Historic Abbey Theatre Struggles (And On Its Birthday) Dublin's Abbey Theatre, "associated with the greats of Irish culture, including W B Yeats, Augusta Gregory, Sean O'Casey and J M Synge, is embroiled in an off-stage drama which rivals its front-of-house productions. Mounting debts, disastrous box-office numbers and a very public row between board members and the theatre's creative director, Ben Barnes, have rather overshadowed the festival to celebrate the founding of what was intended as a cornerstone of Irish cultural and artistic life." The Independent (UK) 11/04/04

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

The Producers Consortium A look at the making of the London production of The Producers shows how the modern musical is built these days. "Huge producer consortiums are now the norm for modern stage musicals. The single, all-powerful producer exerting full artistic and financial control has become exceptionally rare - Cameron Mackintosh being the notable exception. But most big shows, particularly those that transfer internationally, are financed and packaged like films." The Guardian (UK) 11/03/04

Monday, November 1, 2004

Canada's Anti-Bush Theatre "The ingredient fuelling all of these works is a burning hatred for George W. Bush and his government, particularly as manifested by the war in Iraq. While this kind of agit-prop has been around since the ancient Greeks, it usually doesn't hit the stage this quickly after the events that inspired it." Toronto Star 11/01/04

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