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Monday, February 28, 2005

Springer - Still Coming To Broadway? Though plans to bring Jerry Springer the Opera to Broadway have been delayed, producers still intend to bring the show. "While the widely covered but small scale religious protests in the UK surrounding Jerry Springer—The Opera have not been helpful in the completion of raising the capital for the Broadway production, they have by no means brought an end to our New York plans. We are looking to complete the finance process over the next six months and are planning a Broadway opening in the first half of 2006." Playbill 02/28/05

Pinter Giving Up On Plays Playwright Harold Pinter says he's giving up writing plays. "I think I've stopped writing plays now, but I haven't stopped writing poems. I think I've written 29 plays. I think it's enough for me. I think I've found other forms now." BBC 02/28/05

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Perhaps Some Directors Are Going Through Mid-Life Crises? Broadway seasons tend to have an overall feel to them, a theme through which various disparate productions can be linked. This season, the common thread seems to be men behaving like perfect louts. "A look around town suggests that male dysfunction is providing much of the dramatic grist in the current season. By any fair count, there are a lot more than 12 angry men working the stages of Manhattan." The New York Times 02/27/05

Brits On Broadway "This spring there's an unusually rich crop of [Broadway] entries from American Theater 101. Opening in a span of less than two months are three of the American theater's best-known and best-loved classics: Tennessee Williams's Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, and Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This is noteworthy in itself - producers tend to get out of each other's way when it comes to name-brand, star-spangled revivals - but another phenomenon is even more intriguing: all three plays have been placed in the hands of British directors. Conspiracy? Certainly not. Coincidence? Not exactly." The New York Times 02/27/05

A Globe Grows In Manhattan? The National Park Service is accepting proposals for a renovation of historic Castle Williams, located on New York's Governors' Island between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and one of the most intriguing has come from British architect Norman Foster. "Foster has designed an adaptation of Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London that would fit inside the 194-year-old castle and serve as a stage for Shakespeare productions and other performing arts... The cost of the new theater is estimated at $78 million, including renovation of the castle." The New York Times 02/26/05

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Radio Comedies Making Noise On London Stage "Good radio drama, and especially good radio comedy, liberates the listener in the same way as Shakespeare intended his theatre to 'piece out' a play's 'imperfections' with our thoughts." Classic radio comedy is experiencing a bit of a boom in London, and it's happening not on the airwaves but in Shakespeare's territory: the theater.
The Independent (UK) 02/24/05

Evangelicals Threaten British Tour Of 'Jerry Springer' Ticket sales went up when a militant evangelical group, Christian Voice, started protesting outside performances of "Jerry Springer -- The Opera" in London, but its tactics may derail plans for a British tour of the musical. Christian Voice, which this month convinced a cancer charity to refuse a donation from the show, is vowing to picket any theaters on a tour. "The group gained notoriety after it circulated the home addresses and telephone numbers of senior BBC figures when Jerry Springer — The Opera was screened on BBC Two last month. Some people on the list received calls threatening them with 'bloodshed'." The Times (UK) 02/24/05

  • Previously:

    Charity To 'Jerry Springer': Go To Hell "A cancer charity has refused a donation from 'Jerry Springer - The Opera' after a religious group threatened to protest. ... Christian Voice said it had warned the charity that accepting cash from a show full of 'filth and blasphemy' would be a public relations disaster. The show's star, David Soul, accused the religious group of 'strong-arm tactics' and blackmail - adding cancer was not just a Christian problem." The show's cast had waived their wages for a special benefit performance Feb. 18. BBC 02/23/05

Seoul Is Moving To A Broadway Beat In South Korea, the popularity of musical theater is growing astronomically, even if many of the productions are Korean takes on foreign shows. "The size of the performing arts industry is estimated at 170 billion won, out of which musicals alone account for almost half (80 billion). Total audience numbers at musical dramas during the last year reached 700,000, almost double the 370,000 musical-goers in 2001. The musical industry is recording an average 15 percent annual growth, but experts expect even greater growth in this year." Korea Times 02/23/05

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dressing Room Magic Every theatrical performance begins and ends in the dressing room, with the dresser as the only truth-teller in a profession grounded in fantasy and illusion. The dressing room is a place that can set the tone for a production... The Telegraph (UK) 02/24/05

Charity To 'Jerry Springer': Go To Hell "A cancer charity has refused a donation from 'Jerry Springer - The Opera' after a religious group threatened to protest. ... Christian Voice said it had warned the charity that accepting cash from a show full of 'filth and blasphemy' would be a public relations disaster. The show's star, David Soul, accused the religious group of 'strong-arm tactics' and blackmail - adding cancer was not just a Christian problem." The show's cast had waived their wages for a special benefit performance Feb. 18. BBC 02/23/05

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

There's A Little Shakespeare In All Of Us Who is Shakespeare? With Bard fascination having become a cottage industry, and new theories concerning his life and work springing up as fast as their proponents can score book deals, it's a question worth asking. Interestingly, many of the scholars, actors, and directors who know the playwright's work best respond to the question the way many people would respond to the question, "Who is God?" Case in point: "As every age has re-invented him, so I have cast him in my own private image. As I am a gay man brought up in a Catholic family in Lancashire, so Shakespeare for me is a gay Catholic who spent some time in Lancashire." The Guardian (UK) 02/23/05

No Broadway For Hurlyburly The New York revival of Hurlyburly, starring Ethan Hawke and Parker Posey, has decided to skip its turn on Broadway, opting instead for a run at a high-profile off-Broadway theater. The producers say that the decision was largely a financial one. The New York Times 02/22/05

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Charlotte Rep To Shut Down Charlotte Repertory Theatre, that city's major regional theatre, says it has lost its fight to survive, and will shut down. "It is very unfortunate that there was little community support for a core cultural organization -- the Rep -- in our city. We feel that it is a tremendous loss to the quality of life for our entire region ... a major cultural loss that will be felt for many years to come." Charlotte Observer 02/20/05

Producers Takes Top Prizes At Oliviers "The Producers won three prizes at the UK's most prestigious annual theatre awards, while Mary Poppins won two. Alan Bennett's The History Boys was the big winner in the straight theatre categories, picking up three trophies." BBC 02/21/05

Uganda Bans Vagina Monologues The African nation of Uganda has banned The Vagina Monologues following a concerted push by Christian church groups which consider the performance pornographic and derogatory towards men. "Rarely-used powers of censorship have been reinvoked to demand drastic script alterations, including the deletion of references to lesbianism and the removal of the crucial word 'vagina' from the title." The Observer (UK) 02/20/05

Friday, February 18, 2005

Broadway: Better As A Business? Is the business of Broadway getting better? Some producers say yes. The new corporate investments in Broadway, the road and Las Vegas are making it more attractive financially. Not plays, of course. But those big musicals... Back Stage 02/18/05

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Producer Buys Five Broadway Theatres "Producer Rocco Landesman became the owner of Broadway's third-largest theater chain, Jujamcyn Theaters, yesterday. Mr. Landesman, the longtime president of the chain, said he paid less than $30 million for its five theaters to the estate of James H. Binger, the wealthy Minnesotan who was chairman of the company and who died in November." The New York Times 02/17/05

Of Intervals And Intermissions Randy Kennedy takes a tour of New York theatre intermissions. "The tour, fairly random and thoroughly unscientific, took me from the elegant and easeful (two intermissions, one 40 minutes long, during "Turandot" at the Metropolitan Opera) to the middling (bad red wine and strange fashions in a pretty lounge at the Music Box Theater on West 45th Street) to the merely puzzling (a prominent sign announcing the official Champagne of the Classic Stage Company near Union Square, but no Champagne anywhere in sight). In between, several general rules of intermissions were deduced." The New York Times 02/18/05

London: The Season Of Drama Schiller is the big hit in London this winter. And drama is king. "It has already been a memorable winter for drama in London. There have been three intriguing productions of 'Macbeth', one as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's season of Shakespeare's tragedies. The RSC has also brought in from Stratford-upon-Avon a season of plays from Spain's Golden Age, and there are some excellent revivals of work by Noel Coward, Terence Rattigan and David Mamet. For a serious, committed theatre-goer, the West End is heaven at the moment.” The Economist 02/17/05

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Chicago Theatre League Chief To Step Down Marj Halperin, the long times head of the League of Chicago Theatres, is stepping down from the job. "Established in 1979 -- as the Chicago theater community was just beginning to become a cultural force to reckon with -- the League now serves as umbrella organization for about 170 Chicago area commercial, not-for-profit and presenting theaters. It is a community of organizations whose budgets, artistic missions and audiences vary widely." Chicago Sun-Times 02/16/05

Roundabout Leaves Theatre League New York's Roundabout Theatre has left the League of American Theatres and Producers, which represents Broadway theatres. "Todd Haimes, Roundabout's artistic director, wasn't available for comment. Variety quoted him last week as saying only, 'The league doesn't serve the needs of a nonprofit theatre operating on Broadway'." Back Stage 02/16/05

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Of Love And Shakespeare - Maybe Science Can Help? Is their a scientific explanation for the love Shakespeare writes so eloquently about? "Merging art and science, the Royal Shakespeare Company has engaged a psychotherapist to explain the "science of love" to actors rehearsing new productions of Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream. It hopes that they will get an understanding of what is happening in the human brain when one person gazes into another's eyes and murmurs: I'll follow thee and make a heaven of hell." The Guardian (UK) 02/15/05

Tracing A Play's Tangled Ancestry (Is It A Movie? A Play?) Movie adaptations are everywhere in London's West End. So a new "Days of Wine and Roses" seems straightforward - a new version of the 1962 Blake Edwards movie. And yet - this "world première" is a riff off the 1973 stage version. That in turn was based on the first Days of Wine and Roses, a play for television, broadcast live in 1958. The Telegraph (UK) 02/15/05

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Broadway Goes Jukebox Mining Broadway shows made up of pop songs seem to be getting more popular. "The rise of the jukebox musical comes at a time when Broadway producers seem increasingly unable to consistently strike gold with either overtly campy new work ("Taboo," "Bombay Dreams"), high-minded, chamber-opera fare ("Caroline, or Change") or movie-inspired shows ("Never Gonna Dance," "Footloose"). Add to that the near-complete inability of contemporary Broadway songs to crack the Top 40 list, and the appeal of the jukebox musical becomes even more apparent: here, it seems, is a prepackaged score guaranteed to be hummable and requiring no expensive stars." The New York Times 02/14/05

Can A Playwright Save Musical Theatre? "David Lindsay-Abaire is a much-admired young playwright whose credentials include two years at the Juilliard Playwrights Program and an early stint staging absurdist dramas in the East Village and SoHo. His big career break came five years ago when Ben Brantley, the chief theater critic for The New York Times, raved over the Manhattan Theater Club production of his quirky dark comedy 'Fuddy Meers." Now, Lindsay-Abaire has improbably emerged as Broadway's best hope of reviving the musical with his acerbic wit, willingness to push an audience's buttons, and aversion to predictable form. New York Times Magazine 02/13/05

Courting The Obsessives "The commercial theater increasingly relies on repeat visitors. Surveys conducted by the producers of 'Les Misérables,' 'Miss Saigon' and 'Phantom of the Opera' suggest that 40 percent of the audiences for those long-running musicals had seen the show before. For most, that probably meant returning one or two times, to take a friend or to see a new performer in a familiar role. But among repeat customers there is a repeat elite - 'Rentheads' at 'Rent,' 'Q-Tips' at 'Avenue Q'- who demonstrate an extraordinary level of commitment to their favored entertainments." The New York Times 02/13/05

Friday, February 11, 2005

Stratford Festival Director Retiring Canada's most successful theatrical artistic director, Richard Monette, announced yesterday that he'll be retiring as the head of the Stratford Festival of Canada, but staying on ''at least until the end of 2007, or until such time as a successor is in place.'' The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/11/05

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Vegas Gets The Theatre Bug (And Builds Big) Fantastic new-generation theatres in Las Vegas eclipse anything Broadway can produce. "Freed of the constraints of space that are a struggle in jam-packed Manhattan, and armed with shocking amounts of money from wealthy casino conglomerates, show producers can dream far bigger and bolder than in New York. The theater at a Vegas resort is a piece of a much larger business model in which the patrons are also diners, shoppers, hotel guests, and casino players, making it worthwhile for Caesars Palace to plunge $95 million into a showroom for pop star Céline Dion, even though the hotel shares the ticket revenue with Dion and her production company." Christian Science Monitor 02/11/05

Broadway Courts Kids Broadway producers worried about developing a next generation of theatre fans are concentrating on more programs for kids. "Family fare has taken off on Broadway (think "The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast"), and a survey from the League of American Theaters and Producers shows that the number of kids filling seats is up slightly. In the 2003-2004 season, the league reports that nearly 1.3 million kids under 18 attended shows, the second highest turnout in more than 20 years (the highest was in 2000-01 season)." Christian Science Monitor 02/11/05

What Good Is A Song If No One Knows It? "Imagine a world where the songbooks of American composers, from Jerome Kern to Richard Rodgers to Stephen Sondheim, have never been recorded or captured on film and the only people who knew them well were the performers who originated the roles on-stage and a small community of cabaret connoisseurs... [T]hat hypothetically apocalyptic scenario is the reality of the younger, but equally pedigreed world of English Canadian musical theatre. Hundreds of Canadian shows and thousands of songs have been written in the past 60 or 70 years for which there are no recordings or, in many cases, no musical charts." Now, a group of performers is trying to fill the void, creating an aural and written record. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/10/05

Steppenwolf Not Looking Back "To celebrate its 30th anniversary throughout the 2005-06 season, [Chicago's] Steppenwolf Theatre has decided to take five big risks. For the first time in its history its principal subscription series will be made up entirely of new works." Four of the five productions have already been announced, including new plays by Richard Greenberg and Steven Dietz. Chicago Sun-Times 02/10/05

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Livent Investors Win $23.3 Million Settlement Investors in Livent the former theatrical producer headed by Garth Drabinsky, have won a $23.3 million settlement against the company. The judgment "settles a six-year-old lawsuit filed by 200 investors who bought $125 million in corporate bonds offered in late 1997 by Livent, which had produced musicals including "Ragtime" and "Showboat" on Broadway in the 1990's. Less than a year after issuing the bonds, however, Livent - a publicly held company - announced that it had discovered substantial accounting irregularities and declared bankruptcy." The New York Times 02/09/05

A Play Too Shocking? (Why? The Classics Did It) Philip Ridley's new play is so shocking his publisher refued to have anything to do with it. He wonders: "Why is it that it is fine for the classic plays to discuss - even show - these things, but people are outraged when contemporary playwrights do it? If you go to see King Lear, you see a man having his eyes pulled out; in Medea, a woman slaughters her own children. The recent revival of Iphigenia at the National was acclaimed for its relevance. But when you try to write about the world around us, people get upset. If I'd wrapped Mercury Fur up as a recently rediscovered Greek tragedy it would be seen as an interesting moral debate like Iphigenia, but because it is set on an east-London housing estate it is seen as being too dangerous to talk about. What does that say about the world we live in? What does it say about theatre today?" The Guardian (UK) 02/09/05

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

NY Comics Smiling About Raises In December New York comedians got together to form an organization to negotiate higher pay from comedy clubs. "Two months ago it sent letters to the owners of 11 clubs around the city asking for raises, and as of last week all but 4 of the clubs had acquiesced and submitted proposals for a new pay scale. Yesterday the union made contact with the four remaining clubs and today will meet with their representatives." The New York Times 02/08/05

Monday, February 7, 2005

Seattle Rep's New Era Seattle Repertory Theatre's hiring of David Esbjornson as its new artistic director signals a new era for the company. And that new era will be marked by... Seattle Times 02/07/05

London Smoking Ban Hits Theatres London is considering a ban on smoking indoors. This means everywhere - including on stages of theatres. "Cigars and cigarettes feature heavily in many stage productions, from the Old Masters by Simon Gray to Kathleen Turner's portrayal of Mrs Robinson in the stage production of The Graduate." So what.... audiences will have to imagine smoking scenes? The Guardian (UK) 02/07/05

Brooklyn Gets A New Theatre The $38 million building "will be the first permanent home for the Theater for a New Audience, a troupe known for its productions of Shakespeare and classical drama. The theater is the first linchpin of the new BAM Cultural District, a $650 million effort to convert vacant and underused properties in the area into space for arts organizations." The New York Times 02/04/05

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Kevin Spacey Theatre, Act II Kevin Spacey's debut running London's Old Vic Theatre wasn't exactly a smash with the critics. This season, though, he's taking to the stage doing what he's best-known for: acting. The Observer (UK) 02/06/05

Full Court Press - Chicago Stages Pick On Reporters The press is in for a rough time on Chicago stages these days. "Maybe newspapers had it coming. All those egos running around in fedoras the first half of the 20th Century. Then, more grimly toward the end of that century and in this one, all that unattractive insecurity and self-loathing and corporatespeak. All that nervous-nelly focus-grouping. All those scandals. The stereotypes of reporter-as-scum are legion." Chicago Tribune 02/06/05

Beyond Politics - British Theatre Moves On Far from being risky, conscience has proved lucrative for impresarios. Last year's hit political plays were mostly built on verbatim evidence with a bit of spin and make-believe thrown in. This year, the formula has changed. Donald Rumsfeld look-alikes are out. The arts have stopped grumbling about the results of bad political decisions and moved towards driving the agenda. Still, two can play at that game. As artistic directors wrestle with the great social issues of the day, Tony Blair has, in a modest way, been dabbling in culture. The Observer (UK) 02/06/05

Broadway Tools What's with all the mechanical special effects in Broadway theatres? "It's an odd irony. The performing arts, by their nature, are handmade and transient. But on Broadway, the temptation to reach for the power tools is almost overwhelming. Why, the logic too often goes here, hone your concept with fine-grit sandpaper when a chainsaw will do the job so much more efficiently? There may be some ragged edges here and there, but everyone will get the general idea, and, these days, who wants more than a rough outline?" St. Paul Pioneer-Press 02/06/05

The Great Neon Way? Is Broadway being eclipsed by an even glitzier and more glamorous new center of American theater? In a word, yup. "Las Vegas has taken over for New York -- certainly for a generation, perhaps for good. This is a seismic shift in the American cultural landscape that has yet to be fully realized. Led by the constantly self-reinventing Cirque du Soleil, which has taken over the high-end entertainment world here and moved light-years away from its street-circus roots, Las Vegas is running full-tilt toward experimental, high-end art created by figures from the opera and performance worlds, even as Broadway drowns in a sea of movie knockoffs, retreads of rock-music catalogs and other forms of cheap pastiche." Chicago Tribune 02/06/05

Yo, Theatuh in Brooklyn, What! "The industrial corner of Brooklyn located about five minutes from the East Village by L train is known as a haven for Orthodox Jews and art school hipsters. In the 1990's, it became home to an alternative gallery district. But over the past few years, Williamsburg, Brooklyn has also evolved into something else: a full-fledged theater district. Call it Off Off Off Broadway." The New York Times 02/06/05

Friday, February 4, 2005

The Worst Musical... Ever? The production company known as Dodger Stage Holdings has become notorious for a string of high-profile Broadway flops, leading critic Michael Riedel to suggest that the company has "done more damage to Western civilization than the Visigoths." And it appears that Dodger's unbroken streak of futility is continuing this season with Good Vibrations, the Beach Boys-inspired musical meant to draw in nostalgic baby boomers and pop-loving tourists. Instead, the show has been vilified in the press, and is so hated by Broadway insiders that other producers are openly rooting for it to fold. The best review the show has received so far is one that declared it to be "not quite the history-making train wreck trumpeted in advance." New York Post 02/04/05

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Charitable Deduction - One Show's Circuitous Road To Broadway Almost three years ago plans were announced to mount a revival of the musical Sweet Charity. Between then and now, the stars are in, the stars are out. The director leaves, then comes back, songs are dropped, then they're added. And now comes the out-of-town try-outs... Whew, you'd think redoing a show that's already been a success would be easier... St. Paul Pioneer-Press 02/03/05

The National Takes On Politics (For Real Buzz) Nicholas Hytner's new season for the National Theatre in London is full of controversial issues. "What we are finding is that when we do plays about politics the place is really buzzing. We are plugged into and responding to the world we are part of, and making great entertainment, as well as provocative debate and artistic insight. Theatre is now back where we are sniffing things out as they happen." The Guardian (UK) 02/04/05

UK Facing Theatre Funding Crisis (Some Theatres Will Have To Close) National funding for theatre in the UK is going down in the next couple of years. But funding from local governments will also decline too, warns the chair of the National Association of Local Government Arts Officers. “This is devastating for the arts. There will certainly be closures [of companies]. This is a slow, downward spiral at a period when there is so much that is positive." The Stage (UK) 02/03/05

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

West End: TV Guide At The Theatre "Films have become bankable entities in the West End, sure-fire brands ripe for conversion into hot-ticket shows. It's hard not to confuse today's theatre listings with a Christmas TV guide: here are Mary Poppins, The Producers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Saturday Night Fever, Grand Hotel and The Lion King. Even "difficult" movies are getting the treatment." The Guardian (UK) 02/03/05

Seattle's Empty Space Theatre Rises From The Ashes Seattle's Empty Space Theatre will resume operations after raising enough money to continue. "Crippled by debt and non-existent financial reserves, the board decided in October that unless $350,000 could be raised by Jan. 31, the Space would go out of business. As of yesterday, $403,865 had been raised." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 02/02/05

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Hytner: Racial Hatred Law Would Have Bad Consequences For Art A proposed law against incitement of religious hatred would have a chilling effect on UK theatres, says National Theatre boss Nicholas Hytner. "I claim the right to be as offensive as I choose about what other people think, and to tell any story that I choose. No one has the right not to be offended." The Guardian (UK) 02/02/05

The Death Of Niche Theatre? Minneapolis-St. Paul's Outward Spiral Theater Company is Minnesota's "longest-lived theater company dedicated to telling the stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender America." But the company has suspended operations. What's led to the crisis? "The very idea of gay theater has become - if you'll pardon the expression - kind of a queer one", writes Dominic Papatola. Why? Because niche theatre like this has been absorbed into the mainstream. Perhaps there is no longer a place for theatre with an issue-based focus... Newsday 01/30/05

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