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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Broadway's Boffo 2004 Box Office Broadway had a healthy year at the box office in 2004. Productions took $748.9 million, up from $725.4 million the previous year. One of the big reasons: "Overseas tourists are now back at the same numbers as they were prior to September 11. Overseas visitors accounted for 12% of ticket sales, double that of last year. BBC 12/29/04

Broadway Bucks Boosted Critics may not be finding much to love on Broadway this year, but the Great White Way has regained its financial footing after a couple of dismal box office seasons. "A rise in foreign visitors plus a host of successful new openings" have led to a $23.5 million uptick in ticket sales for the year, and the number of foreign tourists attending shows has returned to pre-9/11 numbers. BBC 12/29/04

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Anatomy Of A Play's Shut-Down Sikh protests in Birmingham of the controversial play Behzti were the result of a breakdown of meetings between the theatre and Sikh leaders. "The theatre did not plan to close the play even after a section of the 400-strong crowd of Sikh demonstrators attempted to storm the theatre on December 18, and death threats were made against the writer. The decision was only taken after a meeting with police and community leaders." The Guardian (UK) 12/29/04

Lane Pulls Out Of London Producers Nathan Lane has had to quit the London production of The Producers. Doctors say he is sufferin from two slipped disks. "The show's spokesman said Lane was expected to recover in six weeks, enabling him to start shooting the film version at the end of February." BBC 12/28/04

Theatres Find New Income Source On Ebay Some theatres are finding they can raise real money auctioning off items on Ebay, where fans are happy to bid on props and costumes that have been used in shows. "From live auctions to black-tie balls, fundraisers are a necessity for most arts organizations. But using the enormously popular eBay electronic marketplace to augment ticket sales and local philanthropy is a new wrinkle. It is a different way to connect with the world of people who support the theater, who write an annual contribution, and to reach a larger audience." Washington Post 12/28/04

Monday, December 27, 2004

Rushdie: Horrified At Lack Of Official Criticism Of Sikh Violence Author Salman Rushdie, who had to go into hiding after being the subject of a religious fatwa, says he's dismayed to see the response of official Britain to the death threats against a Sikh playwright in Birmingham. "It has been horrifying to see the response. It is pretty terrible to hear government ministers expressing approval of the ban and failing to condemn the violence, when they should be supporting freedom of expression." The Telegraph (UK) 12/26/04

Broadway's A Bust So Far This Year "Look at the shows that have opened so far in the 2004-05 season, and you see a sea of revivals and stand-up comedy. There was a time when it was thrilling to see classics reinterpreted, reconceived or rediscovered. But for the most part many of the dusted-off shows are museum pieces. This would be fine if they were surrounded by other productions of new plays and musicals. But at season's midpoint, anything that doesn't have a pre-sold brand name of some kind might as well head straight for regional theater hills (not that we're facing a renaissance of nationwide creativity there either)." Hartford Courant 12/26/04

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Charlotte Repertory Theatre Endangered "Due to a range of factors, from overspending on a few high-profile productions to a stagnant, post-Sept. 11 economy, the Rep emerged from the brief Michael Bush era owing more money than it ever had before. Deep cuts in state funding made a bad situation worse. Now, facing a persistent and growing gap between income and expenditures, Rep officials say the company is in real danger of going under." Charlotte Observer 12/19/04

West End On Sunday? London's West End theatres are getting closer to opening for Sunday performances. "West End Union leaders representing theatre technicians voted for the move on Monday which includes a 5.5% pay rise and double time for working Sundays. The remaining workers will now vote on whether to accept the agreement." BBC 12/21/04

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Second Theatre pulls Plan To Stage Controversial Sikh Play A second UK theatre has abandoned plans to stage a controversial play. The theatre had planned to "invite theatres across the country to read the play and discuss it afterwards, to have a debate so there was more understanding about the whole issue. But that plan was canceled after the play's author called and asked for the cancellation because of "increased threats" to her safety. The theatre itself had also received several threatening phone calls.
The Guardian (UK) 12/23/04

Canceled UK Play Could Move To London "London's Royal Court could stage the play which prompted violent protests among the Sikh community in Birmingham. Royal Court theatre bosses said it had obtained a copy of Behzti with a view to possibly staging it in the new year. Behzti had its run cancelled in Birmingham after three police officers were injured when 400 demonstrators protested outside the theatre. Protesters said the play, which depicts sex abuse and murder in a temple, portrayed the Sikh faith negatively." BBC 12/22/04

  • Previously:  Birmingham Theatre Cancels Play After Violence Threats A Birmingham theatre company canceled the remaining performances of a play depicting rape and murder in a Sikh temple after violent protests were threatened. "This is thought to be the first time a play in Britain has been halted during its run by violent religious protests and raises the question of freedom of speech." The Telegraph (UK) 12/21/04
Tuesday, December 21, 2004

  • Protesting Censorship In UK Play British newspapers line up to editorialize against the closing of a controversial play in Birmingham because of threats of violence. The Guardian (UK) 12/21/04

New York Comics Ask For More New York club comedians aren't paid very well. So they've banded together to ask for more. "Hardened by decades of low wages and even lower self-esteem, some 300 New York comedians have decided to unite to ask the city's comedy clubs for, well, a little respect. (Oh, and more pay.) Two weeks ago, the group, the New York Comedians Coalition, sent a letter to the owners of 11 clubs around the city, asking for $120 for a 10 to 20 minute set on the weekends, up from the current average of $60. They are also seeking a small increase in weekday pay, which runs about $15 to $25 a set, as well as holiday pay for regulars." The New York Times 12/22/04

Monday, December 20, 2004

Wicked Breaks The Profit Barrier After 14 months, the Broadway show Wicked has earned back its $14 million capitalization and is now officially profitable. "Wicked was greatly helped by factors including an effective, broadbased marketing campaign, a bigger theater and a pair of splashy performances by its two original female leads." The New York Times 12/21/04

Birmingham Theatre Cancels Play After Violence Threats A Birmingham theatre company canceled the remaining performances of a play depicting rape and murder in a Sikh temple after violent protests were threatened. "This is thought to be the first time a play in Britain has been halted during its run by violent religious protests and raises the question of freedom of speech." The Telegraph (UK) 12/21/04

  • Playwright Goes Into Hiding After Threats Playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti went into hiding after threats of violence over her play caused a UK theatre to cancel. She said she had "fled her home and warned "mob rule" was endangering freedom of expression.Protesters say that her play Behzti - Dishonour - demeans Sikhism by showing rape and murder within a gurdwara, or temple. But the row took a new twist as a second Birmingham theatre company offered to stage the play, just hours after officials at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre scrapped it over public safety fears." The Guardian (UK) 12/21/04

New Haven Schubert Needs A Reinvent New Haven's Schubert Theatre has a storied past as a Broadway out-of-town tryout venue. But "the insistence of the Shubert board to put most of its eggs in the Broadway basket in the '90s in either pre-Broadway or post-Broadway shows put it in difficult financial straits for what was viewed as the Fenway Park of theaters: charming, but with a limited box office." Now the theatre has fallen on hard times, needing a plan for how to reinvent itself. Hartford Courant 12/19/04

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Superstar Kids Shows The hottest thing in London theatre? It's nothing in the West End. "In five revolutionary years showbusiness has faced the fact that many of its biggest commercial names are stars of children's TV shows." The new 'arena shows' for the pre-school generation are drawing thousands. "Such shows, based on Thomas the Tank Engine, The Tweenies, Bob the Builder and Andy Pandy, draw in thousands of families who would not normally consider themselves theatre-goers. More than one million parents and children have now paid up to £20 a head to see the shows. A new 'super-show' of the CBeebies hit, Balamory, is expected to be seen by more than 55,000." The Observer (UK) 12/19/04

Phantom - What Becomes A Hit (And Why?) Phantom of the Opera has played for what seems like forever. What's the attraction? "It's the same as any big hit. All you have to do is tell the audience something they want to hear. The enduring Broadway masterpieces affirm something that matters profoundly to the audience. Do you want to believe that everyone is entitled to their 15 minutes of fame? You'll love A Chorus Line. Is it important to feel confident that your culture will endure despite political upheaval? Fiddler On The Roof is just the show for you. So what does The Phantom Of The Opera tell us? It's such a big hit because it sends out two reassuring messages. No matter how inadequate you feel, it's possible that the person you've dreamed about can be yours, if just for a moment. And the second message?.." Toronto Star 12/19/04

Getting Spacey At The Old Vic So how is Kevin Spacey's reign at London's Old Vic going? "Spacey, 45, is in need of a hit with the critics. His tenure got off to a wobbly start when a production he directed, Cloaca, by Dutch playwright Maria Goos, received a critical mauling, although advance ticket sales were impressive. Months earlier a major presentation in which Spacey announced his plans for the Old Vic, one of the nation's most historic theatres, was overshadowed by tabloid probing about a strange incident in a nearby park" where Spacey said he was mugged. The Observer (UK) 12/19/04

Where Are The Stars? Stars headlining Broadway productions sometimes don't make it to the performance. And the problem seems to be getting worse. "Anecdotal evidence does seem to suggest that regular absenteeism has become a more persistent, probably permanent feature of the Broadway landscape. And it may be a symptom - perhaps, too, a cause - of a much larger, more dispiriting phenomenon, the gradual extinction of the musical-theater star." The New York Times 12/19/04

Tacoma Actors Guild Shuts Down Tacoma Actors Guild, that city's only professional theatre company, is shutting down. "The producing artistic director of eight years tendered his resignation at a board meeting Monday. The rest of the 24 full-time administrative and production staff members will be laid off indefinitely after this weekend. The theater owes between $300,000 and $350,000 to creditors, including at least $30,000 in rent payments to the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts for the use of Theatre on the Square. TAG has lost money in its last four seasons." Tacoma News Tribune 12/17/04

Punishment By Funding (Or Lack Thereof) Is government funding for theatre being cut in the UK because of unflattering content? "The possibility has to be considered that the government has engaged in punishment funding in a different area: theatre. Consider one obvious difference between museums and theatres. Except for Hogarth exhibitions, the former rarely editorialise politically, while almost every major theatre has staged at least one play ridiculing the Blair administration over Iraq." The Guardian (UK 12/18/04

Friday, December 17, 2004

Boston's Theatre Man Of The Year Boston's theatre scene is crowded, yet frequently underfunded and in desperate need of structural upgrade. This year, though, the Huntington Theatre's Michael Maso "achieved what naysayers said would never happen. He oversaw a capital campaign that has raised nearly $20 million and managed the opening of the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts... With the new spaces, the Huntington has made a commitment to developing and presenting new plays and new playwrights. And its partnership with the BCA has made the Huntington a champion of that institution's aim to become 'an urban cultural village.'" Boston Herald 12/17/04

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Funding Cuts Endanger UK Regional Theatre Over the past few years, regional theatre in the UK has flourished, bringing quality theatre outside London. But the government's funding freeze for the next few years could endanger the development of regional theatre. The country's regional theatre managers protest... The Guardian (UK) 12/16/04

American Musical, An (Over-The-Top) History Ethan Mordden's "The Happiest Corpse I've Ever Seen" is a new highly-opinionated histry of the American musical. "Just when you think you're reading a hip encyclopedia, you find yourself immersed in a flagrant gossip column; just when you feel you are getting essential insights, you are submerged in the most esoteric lore or most intimate revelations." Washington Post 12/15/04

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pinter Collects Top Playwright Award Playwright Harold Pinter gets a special Evening Standard theatre award as outstanding dramatist of the past 50 years. "Amid cheers, Pinter accepted the award, a statuette, happily - and with a barbed memory. 'Forty six years ago my [first] play The Birthday Party was performed in London and slaughtered by the critics - particularly by the Evening Standard, by the way. But in the early new year I'm happy to say that rehearsals will start for the fourth revival in London'." The Guardian (UK) 12/14/04

Monday, December 13, 2004

Mary Poppins, Generations Removed A new stage musical version of the Mary Poppins movie involves an unusual collaboration between songwriters removed by decades. "Richard and Robert Sherman's songs from the original film have been joined by eight new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. But it's not quite as simple as that. Five of the film's most iconic numbers – including Chim Chim Cher-ee, Feed the Birds and Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious – have been supplemented and extended, not by the older composers, but by the younger ones." The Telegraph (UK) 12/13/04

Sunday, December 12, 2004

What Happened To Resident Theatre Companies? "When did the idea of a regional theater supporting a resident artistic company become quaint, outmoded and ultimately, insupportable? Somewhere along the line, we lost our belief (or maybe just our interest) in the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We don't think of theater companies as teams of artists anymore. They are simply temporary homes for "hot" directors and "star" actors -- and the shows they send to Broadway." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 12/12/04

Denver Center's New Era Denver theatre watchers are wondering what kind of director Kent Thompson will be as he takes over the Denver Center Theatre. He's got a reputation for championing American plays but also someone who can dish conservative fare. "One challenge is making sure you have programming that will appeal to 25-to-49-year-olds, and that material, I think, has to speak in a more contemporary voice. At the same time, though, you must continue cultivating that core audience in their 40s to 60s. So I suspect we will be thinking of 'cutting edge' here as cutting edge within a larger season." Denver Post 12/12/04

A Place At The Architectural Table Washington, D.C. is experiencing a theatre building boom, and the designs reflect not only an impressive devotion to audience comfort, but a revolutionary new way of looking at the building process. "For the first time, many theater artists are sitting at the design table, shaping the spaces in which they'll practice their craft." Washington Post 12/12/04

What's Happening To Toronto Theatre? "Just at the moment when Hollywood North has moved into meltdown mode, with deep-pocketed U.S. movie and TV producers running away from Toronto instead of to Toronto, Broadway North also has become a vanishing act. With the early closing of The Producers and Hairspray, open-ended, long running $8-million or $10-million musicals have become an endangered species in this town... For now, Toronto has reverted to taking limited runs of big touring shows. Where there used to be four long-run musicals in town, now there is only one." Toronto Star 12/12/04

Is There Still A Need For Gay Theatre? The Twin Cities-based theatre company known as Outward Spiral has called a "town meeting" to discuss its future. At issue is not so much the cost of doing business - Spiral has always been a low-budget company - but whether there is still a place for a gay-themed troupe in an age when mainstream theatre regularly features gay characters and issue-themed plays. "It sounds scary and foreboding, but it's a healthy conversation. Just as none of us is immortal, so does not every arts organization need to live forever. Art, like life, has cycles, and people who claim to have the perception and insight to produce art should be able to use those same skills to ascertain when an arts group has reached the end of its useful life." St. Paul Pioneer Press 12/12/04

The Broadway Play Is Dead, Long Live The Br... oh, never mind. So the Broadway play is becoming an endangered species. Is this evolution of the Great White Way into a musical-dominated tourist trap really worth getting all worked up about? "What's striking is the recent inability of the Broadway drama to stir the passions of anyone except the most dedicated theatergoers. TV, films, books and music all create waves of discussion about the way we live or run our government... When a play does tap into a hot issue these days, it tends not to happen on Broadway." The New York Times 12/12/04

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Changing Patterns In NY Theatre How are people deciding to go to the theatre in New York? It's changing: "Our research shows if you're a young person in your 20s and you want all New York has to offer, you read Time Out New York or The Village Voice. In other words, the Times is less important, and nothing beats word of mouth. Well, one of the things we're interested in is how to build word of mouth as news coverage shrinks." Back Stage 12/09/04

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Bombay Dreams To Close The musical Bombay Dreams is closing on Broadway eight months after opening. "The musical opened to negative reviews in April and has been playing at half-full capacity in the Broadway Theatre." BBC 12/08/04

Stratford Fest Loses Audiences Ontario's Stratford Festival managed to balance its books for the year. "But attendance continues to fall, dropping nearly 40,000 compared with the previous season — to 568,715 from 608,080. Average paid attendance at the Festival's four theatres was 68 per cent of capacity." Toronto Star 12/08/04

Plan For New Plays In Denver The Denver Center Theatre Company's new director Kent Thompson has a plan to position the company as a champion of new plays. "One of my first priorities will be a major expansion of the new-play program here. With the help of the board and the community, I know we will find a way to support some of the great new voices of the American theater." Denver Post 12/08/04

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Peter Hall Takes On A New Theatre British theatre legend Peter Hall has a new challenge with a new theatre. "The burly, indefatigable and often outspoken father figure of modern British theatre, who created the Royal Shakespeare Company and then took the National Theatre to its present home on the South Bank and ran it for an often turbulent decade, has found a new berth in Kingston-upon-Thames." The Telegraph (UK) 12/08/04

An Inspiration: Demand-Based Ticketing A London theatre is trying a new ticket-pricing scheme. The earlier you buy, the cheaper your ticket. "For all 27 performances, the first 20 seats will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis at £10 each, the next 20 at £20 and so on, until only the final 20 seats are available priced at £30 each." The Guardian (UK) 12/08/04

West End Theatres Need Major Cash Refurbishment London's West End theatres need major investment if they're to remain viable, says a new report. "The theatres need £250m to fund a major refurbishment programme to bring them into line for the 21st Century. Half of the money needed over the next 15 years would come from the theatres themselves but the rest may have to come from the public purse." BBC 12/07/04

Monday, December 6, 2004

Endangered Species: Plays On Broadway "According to producers, no new play that has opened on Broadway in the last two and a half years has turned a meaningful profit. With the average cost of producing a new play on Broadway approaching or surpassing $2 million ("Gem of the Ocean" cost $2 million) and the traditional audience for plays seemingly shrinking, producers and playwrights say that a lasting losing streak could have a disastrous effect on the theater as a whole." The New York Times 12/07/04

Caryl Churchill - Plays That Speak For Themselves "In a world where serious playwrights constantly sit on panels, hold forth at academic conferences and appear on behalf of institutions like the British Council, Caryl Churchill remains a rare thing, a hugely successful playwright who lets her work speak entirely for itself."
The New York Times 12/05/04

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Leading By A $10 Million Example The chairman of Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center has donated $10 million to the arts complex, with all the money to be earmarked for theatre programming. Stephen Schwarzman's gift, which was intended partly to spur other contributions, is the largest the Kennedy Center has receieved 2004. Washington Post 12/05/04

Bringing Black Theatre Into The Mainstream Lately, it's become fashionable to say that there is a "renaissance of black theatre" underway in the UK. Certainly, black playwrights are having an easier time getting their work produced, thanks in part to the renewed emphasis placed on diversity by the UK Arts Council. But one good year may not a renaissance make, and there is still a palpable sense within the industry that minority works represent a risk for companies choosing to produce them. The Telegraph (UK) 12/04/04

Friday, December 3, 2004

Denver Center Theatre Chooses New Leaders The Denver Center Theatre for the Performing Arts has tapped Kent Thompson as its new artistic director and Bruce K. Sevy as associate artistic director. Thompson and Sevy currently hold the same positions at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery. Denver Post 12/03/04

Off-Broadway - Let Us Pray Off-Broadway has found religion, where several plays have taken up the topic. "Current events inform some of the productions, two of which deal with the abuse of children by clergy. But the plays range from a 15th-century piece featuring a grieving widower's debate with Death to a modern comedy about tapping more deeply into the faith of one's fathers. There's also a musical version of the book "Children's Letters to God," and even comedian Dame Edna invokes Jesus in her new Broadway show. While the timing of these shows appears coincidental, they each touch on issues in public thought." Christian Science Monitor 12/03/04

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Broadway's Ho-Hums So far Broadway's had a ho-hum season, with no break-out hits. No big musicals have hit big, and only one play has attracted raves. Perhaps the spring... Dallas Morning News 12/02/04

Deal Brings Classic Broadway To Classrooms "A new deal between the leading licensor of rights to Broadway shows and the No. 1 U.S. textbook publisher means schools will soon be teaching students as young as first grade to do the 'Hey, gang, let's put on a show' thing with some of America's classic musicals." Philadelphia Inquirer (Reuters) 12/02/04

A Theatre In Every Pot A major new initiative in the UK aims to make sure there's an ensemble acting company in every major town. “The quality of output in Britain is simply not as good as elsewhere. I’ve seen nothing in the UK over the last ten years to rival the standard of theatre I’ve seen in Krakow and St Petersburg. The object for actors nowadays is to go to drama school and get into EastEnders and if we don’t do something the industry will get even more mediocre.” Stage (UK) 12/02/04

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

12 Theatres To Watch What new American theatre companies ought you to be paying attention to? American Theatre Magazine has compiled a list: "Our representative dozen is by turns tenacious and permeable, ambitious and on a budget, esoteric and low-brow. The work ranges from re-envisioned classics (with or without clowns) to new work by contemporary playwrights; it's vaudevillian, dance-centric, visual art–focused, music-infused, socially conscious, ethnically organized—and fun." American Theatre Magazine 12/04

Intermissions Are Just Better In Pittsburgh A New York Times critic recently penned an article extolling the virtues of the intermission-less one-act play, concluding that one-acts offer a “purer” theatrical experience. Christopher Rawson doesn’t dislike one-act plays, but doesn’t agree that they are necessarily superior to more traditional two- and three-act fare. “What's pure about theater? That's like insisting all churches be white. The proof is really in the individual pudding. And although I understand [the critic’s] irritation at New York intermissions, where theaters are crowded with strangers, a Pittsburgh intermission still has social pleasures that need not conflict with the play.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12/01/04

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