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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Alfaro: LA Theatre Is On The Verge Of Greatness From the outside, theatre in Los Angeles might look like it's struggling. But Luis Alfaro believes a theatrical Golden Age is about to bloom. "What L.A. is on the brink of now, artistically, I think there’s more muscle. I think there’s an age of experimentation, like when Highways was getting going." LAWeekly 03/30/05

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

O'Toole Attacks Theatre Peter O'Toole has blasted the state of today's theatre. "Reserving his most corrosive words for the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Royal Court, O'Toole said things have got so bad that up-and-coming young actors are no longer interested in treading the boards." The Guardian (UK) 03/30/05

Sweet Charity To Go On After All Just days after canceling a planned Broadway run of a revival of "Sweet Charity", producers say they'll open the show anyway. "I spent the whole weekend on the telephone with Christina Applegate, who made a passionate and compelling case for moving forward with the Broadway plans. Her doctors also confirmed this morning that she will be ready and able to resume performances on April 18." The New York Times 03/30/05

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Theatre Of Major Reality London's Tricycle Theatre is staging a series of enactments of real events. "Critics have hailed the 'tribunal' productions as more revealing than any news report. For a start, we can go where cameras are banned. And, thanks to painstaking verisimilitude (every word in the script was spoken by the characters to whom they are attributed), the key players come alive. We see lawyers exchanging notes, water being poured, secretaries looking bored. Lights remain up during the performance, so you can't help feeling implicated as witnesses lie or prevaricate." The Guardian (UK) 03/26/05

Pulling Strings Puppetry has not traditionally been one of the more respected theatrical forms (witness the hapless practitioner in the hit movie, Being John Malkovich), but in recent years it has begun to emerge from a fifty-year malaise in which puppeteers were relegated to entertaining young children who presumably didn't know any better. "In the era of special effects and computer-generated imagery, it is unabashedly low-tech. And it's an art form that stubbornly refuses to die." Baltimore Sun 03/27/05

Is American Idol Killing The Broadway Sound? The way performers sing in Broadway musicals is changing, and not for the better, says Ben Brantley. "Close your eyes and listen as their larynxes stretch and vibrate with the pain of being an underdog and the joy of being really loud. Bet you can't tell them apart. For that matter, bet you can't distinguish the heroines of the current Broadway musicals Wicked, Little Women and Brooklyn from the average female finalist on American Idol... The accent is on abstract feelings, usually embodied by people of stunning ordinariness, than on particular character. Quivering vibrato, curlicued melisma, notes held past the vanishing point: the favorite technical tricks of Idol contestants are often like screams divorced from the pain or ecstasy that inspired them." The New York Times 03/27/05

Sweet Charity Turns Sour The supposedly Broadway-bound revival of Sweet Charity starring Christina Applegate won't be making it to New York, after all. Intial test runs of the show in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Boston garnered mixed reviews, and Ms. Applegate broke her foot midway through the Chicago run, further depressing already-slow ticket sales. Facing the possibility of an expensive Broadway flop, the producers pulled the plug this weekend. New York Daily News 03/26/05

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Karaoke For Standup Comedy Everyone wants to be a comedian, right? Now you can - with karaoke for standup. "The idea for Joke-e-oke is simple. It's basically karaoke with stand-up comedy material. Many dream of the chance to be a comedian with killer material in front of a laughing crowd. With Joke-e-oke, people are able to live out their comedy fantasy of being their favorite comedian onstage, choosing from a list of stand-up comedy icons to perform. A built in laugh track is added, timed perfectly to accent punch lines." Wired 03/24/05

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Letter Touches Off Playwrights Controversy Earlier this month, playwright Roy Close sent a missive to the Playwrights Center and several of its funders, severing his ties to the organization and complaining that the Minneapolis-based writer's haven has become an elitist autocracy, more concerned with its own glory and hosting America's hottest playwrights than with helping locals build and develop their skills as playwrights. Director Polly Carl is attempting to mold the center, founded as a glorified support group for stage writers, into an organization with national membership and outreach. The conflict has stirred conversation among playwrights, theater practitioners and philanthropic organizations." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 03/20/05

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Theatre Takes On Religion "Provocative arguments about the role of faith in our private and public lives are dominating our typically secular stages right now, courtesy of playwrights and performers from Catholic backgrounds. What to make of this current run of plays with an explicitly theological bent? Not surprisingly, the subject of sexual abuse in the Church has been at the center of several productions already." Village Voice 03/22/05

Monday, March 21, 2005

Arts To The People (In The Villages) One place of great growth in the arts? In the UK, in 2002/03, the country's 40 rural touring schemes staged more than 3,000 professional shows to a quarter of a million people. Since the creation in 1997 of umbrella body the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), performances have doubled. "Village halls are places where, far from the nearest focus group fretting about access or elitism, real life takes place. Gigs are packed with people, because whole communities - farmers, retired people, young families - turn out to what is a major event in their social calendar." The Guardian (UK) 03/21/05

How Do You Reinvent Dinner Theatre? Dinner theatre is theatre for the old, right? So how do you attract new audiences? All arts organizations struggle with this, but dinner theatre has a stigma that younger audiences tend to reject wholesale. And when you try something new, your core audience... well it tends not to like change. Rocky Mountain News 03/21/05

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Charitably Speaking - Theatre Drama Of The Year Will "Sweet Charity" be a hit? It's currently in try-outs on the road, and it's probably too early to tell. But one thing is already clear: "A so-so revival of a 1966 musical, doing fairly good business at the box office in its first two tryout cities (Minneapolis and Chicago), has now become the backstage drama of the year." Chicago Tribune 03/20/05

RSC Chooses Architects For Stratford Renovation "An architectural partnership which has designed only one previous theatre was yesterday appointed to the £100m transformation of the art deco Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Bennetts Associates, whose Hampstead theatre, north London, opened in 2003, will convert the 1,400-seat end-on auditorium into a 1,000-seater with an improved relationship between actors and audience." The Guardian (UK) 03/20/05

Casting the Canadian LoTR Dream Team So Toronto will play host to the first theatrical staging of Lord of the Rings. That's all well and good, but who exactly is going to headline such a blockbuster show? If we know Canada, the best bet to sell tickets will be to pack the cast with Canadian superstars, so what about Christopher Plummer as Gandalf, Jim Carrey as Gollum, Martin Short as Bilbo Baggins, or even (wait for it) Celine Dion as Legolas? Hey, it could happen... Toronto Star 03/19/05

Friday, March 18, 2005

Spamalot An Instant Hit? Spamalot, the musical, opens on Broadway. "It seems safe to say that such a good time is being had by so many people (including the cast) at the Shubert Theater that this fitful, eager celebration of inanity will find a large and lucrative audience among those who value the virtues of shrewd idiocy, artful tackiness and wide-eyed impiety. That includes most school-age children as well as grown-ups who feel they are never more themselves than when they are in touch with the nerdy, nose-thumbing 12-year-olds who reside within." The New York Times 03/18/05

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Despite Protests, Springer Tour To Go Ahead Despite calls by a Christian group urging Britain's regional theatres not to carry Jerry Springer, The Opera, it looks like a tour will go forward. "Christian Voice wrote to 250 theatres earlier this month urging them to boycott the controversial musical. But the musical's producer, John Thoday, told The Stage newspaper that theatres had been largely supportive of the tour. Jerry Springer - the Opera is due to open in Plymouth in January 2006." BBC 03/17/05

Rise & Fall Of A Broadway Icon The Broadway producing team at Dodger Theatricals has become something of an industry joke in recent years, with a long string of expensive, high-profile flops to its credit. But it wasn't too long ago that Dodger was a certified hitmaker, and the company's fall from grace illustrates the tough, unforgiving environment of the high-end theatre world. "The Dodgers' difficulties have been met with a mix of sadness and schadenfreude along Broadway, where the company was considered talented and lucky, earnest and arrogant, often all at the same time." The New York Times 03/17/05

High Hopes, Big Subsidies For Toronto Rings "Toronto's stage adaptation of The Lord of the Rings will not only transform the entire inside of the Princess of Wales Theatre into Middle-Earth, but it is being billed as the city's biggest hope to restore its theatre and tourism industries to their pre-SARS financial health... In addition to the $3-million Ontario government loan, the trade and travel group Tourism Toronto is committed to provide $3-million in marketing support. And although [the play's lead producer] said the production will have 'no problem' raising the rest of the money needed, he is campaigning hard for a $3-million loan from the federal government, which he described as crucial for financing a production of this size." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/17/05

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Seattle's Theatre Scene Wilting While Seattle's ACT Theatre has had well-publicized financial problems, "Intiman, Seattle’s other midsize theater, has been fighting for its life in private. It has an accumulated deficit of $800,000 and expects to add $150,000 to that this year. This midlevel crunch is the most dire sign of contraction in a theater scene once hailed among the nation’s most promising. The bedrock formed decades ago is showing serious cracks beneath the top layer. 'We’re not seeing this as a mecca of theater anymore. We’re losing our ability to keep master artists in the community. I see very few actors coming'." Tacoma News-Tribune 03/15/05

"Rings" To Toronto? Lord of the Rings, The Musical is a $30 million production waiting to happen. But where? Plans were to open in London, but that's been problematic. Latest wod is the show might land in Toronto. Producer Kevin Wallace's problem is that "the musical Rings has been finished and ready to be cast and mounted for some time. Rather than wait indefinitely for a London theatre to come open, he may have finally decided to opt for Toronto." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/15/05

The 24-Year-Old And The Big-Time Play A 24-year-old in Minnesota, tired of seeing what he considers the same old thing on stage, decided to produce his own play. But this is no small production. "He has rented the thousand-seat Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul. He has hired union actors, musicians and technicians. He has built his financial structure like a Broadway production, courting three dozen investors to raise a budget estimated at more than $400,000 — more than what all but the largest theaters in the area spend over the course of an entire season. For tickets, he's charging something close to Broadway touring show prices." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 03/14/05

Monday, March 14, 2005

Seattle's ACT Theatre In Financial Trouble Again Seattle's ACT Theatre finds itself looking at a $450,000 deficit on a $5 million budget. "Over the next few weeks, we'll be looking at belt-tightening possibilities," said company manager Susan Trapnell. "One likely option is about a month of unpaid furlough for Kurt (artistic director Kurt Beattie) and me. Salary cuts for top staff are another possibility." Two years ago, ACT was on the verge of bankruptcy but pulled away from the brink of extinction with emergency austerity and fund-raising tactics. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 03/12/05

Tacoma Theatre Loses NEA Grant The struggling Tacoma Actors Guild theatre loses a $25,000 NEA grant for producing Shakespeare. A production of "Comedy of Errors" was canceled after the theater announced $350,000 in debt and laid off its staff in December, reopening with a scaled-back production cycle that includes, instead, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” That disqualified TAG from the competitive Shakespeare for a New Generation program. TAG was selected as one of 22 participating theaters in the nation. These have to be full productions of Shakespeare’s work."
Tacoma News-Tribune 03/11/05

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Difference Between English And American Theatre Critics? "The American drama critic, when he is not a failed playwright or actor, tends to be recruited from the ranks of journalists. The English drama critic comes to the "live theatre" after an immersion in upscale, university-bred culture. On some tacit level, play-going is always viewed as the more vulgar expression of Literature. But being better read and better educated than his American counterpart doesn't always insure more sensitive responses. Too often larger, and largely irrelevant, issues becloud his judgment and his mind is constantly distracted by generalities which are part of a political agenda, an elaborately-wrought esthetic, or merely the offshoots of an over-stuffed intellect." Swans.com 03/05

The Big Broadway Spam Scam Theatregoers who signed up for e-mail newsletters for two popular Broadway musicals may be getting more than they bargained for, after it was discovered that a software glitch allowed the e-mail addresses of those signing up to be accessed by any savvy visitor to the shows' websites. The security hole is one that has frequently been exploited by hackers to gain lists of e-mail addresses for spaming purposes. And in case you were wondering: yes, Monty Python's "Spamalot" was one of the musicals affected. The New York Times 03/12/05

Thursday, March 10, 2005

NY To Change Child Performer Rules? The New York legislature is considering a bill to change the child performer laws. "The current New York law lists the educational requirements for child performers and also mandates a trust fund to protect 15% of the child's income. It also provides a method by which producers can file that money with the state Child Performer's Holding Fund if the performer's parents or guardians don't establish a trust." Back Stage 03/10/05

Everything's New In Chicago Chicago's 2005-06 theatre season is shaping up to be a strong one for new dramatic works. "After the recent announcement from the Steppenwolf Theatre Company that its 2005-06 season will consist entirely of new plays, Lookingglass Theatre also has announced that its 2005-06 season will consist of five world premieres. In addition, the Goodman Theatre has announced that it will add to its current season a world-premiere production of David Cale's Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky, opening April 19 in the Owen Theatre... Meanwhile, Chicago's Court Theatre has announced plans to present Mabou Mines DollHouse, a new take on Henrik Ibsen's drama of marital strife." Chicago Tribune 03/10/05

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Off-Broadway - For What Ails America "This spring there is an exceptional crop of new work by living writers including David Mamet, Stephen Adly Guirgis (who wrote Jesus Hopped the A Train) and Stephen Belber. Watching these plays, it becomes clear that American dramatists are obsessed by the failure of existing legal, religious and political systems to deal with the rising tide of prejudice. They suggest you can actually smell hatred in the air." The Guardian (UK) 03/08/05

The RSC's Home-In-A-Shed The Royal Shakespeare Company has a new temporary home. "Those who have seen images of it might call it a large, rusty, flat-roofed shed resembling a giant container that has fallen off a cargo ship steaming up the Avon in Warwickshire. The theatre, a sonnet's throw from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon, is a key element in plans for a reshaping of the company's principal performance space." The Guardian (UK) 03/09/05

Monday, March 7, 2005

Broadway's Classic Spring (But Nothing New) A number of classic dramas are coming to Broadway this spring. But there is a searth of new plays. "The high cost of mounting a play in a theater seating 500 or more people means that unknown plays are often deemed too risky, even if their authors are big names." Backstage 03/07/05

Sunday, March 6, 2005

The New Wave Of Grassroots Censorship British culture has become ridiculously hypersensitive, says Mark Lawson, and the UK's theatre scene is becoming rapidly less relevant as self-censorship and a desire to please everyone become the norm. The religious-based campaign against the national tour of the Jerry Springer opera is only the latest example of the war being waged against creative expression. Worse, "while attempted censorship in the 1970s made artists more determined to speak out, there's a risk in this mind-your-language climate of subjects becoming no-go areas for the arts." The Guardian (UK) 03/05/05

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Santa Barbara Theatre Wars A bitter power struggle at Santa Barbara's only Equity theatre company has led to the formation of a rival troupe with impressive Los Angeles connections... Back Stage 03/03/05

Can The Buying Power Of Women Save Broadway? "It's no secret women buy more theater tickets than men. During the 2003-04 season, 63 percent of the Broadway audience was female," but historically, Broadway hasn't made many special attempts to tailor its productions to the specific interests of women. That's starting to change, though, as adolescent girls become an increasingly devoted audience, and women continue to ramp up their buying power as a whole. Chicago Tribune (AP) 03/03/05

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

A Plan For Low-Cost Electricity For Broadway A bill in the New York State legislature would provide for cheaper electricity for Broadway theatres. "It's hard to know what the savings would be because it's based on usage. So up-to-date theatres' energy costs would be less than those of older theatres. The money involved across the board would be substantial. We don't do anything for Broadway enterprises the way we do for professional sports. It's nutty. It matters much more for New York that we have a thriving Broadway theatre season than a baseball or football team. But we've never been able to bridge that gap. The sports teams get cheaper power."
Back Stage 03/02/05

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