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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Theatre's Great. But The Theatre Experience Sucks Going out to the theatre is a pain in the neck. Not the plays, mind you. But the experience. "The most recent Global Home Entertainment Survey finds that increasing numbers of people are turning their backs on going out for entertainment. Depending on the country, anything from 68% to 90% of respondents prefer to watch a DVD at home. The main reasons cited in favour of living room entertainment are eminently reasonable. It's more comfortable, less expensive, you can fast-forward and wind back. And if there is an idiot sitting next to you it's likely you'll know them well enough to be able to tell them to shut up." The Guardian (UK) 04/29/05

Fans Mob To Get Free "Scoundrel" Cast Albums Thousands of fans lined up outside the Broadway home of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" to get free copies of the cast recording. "Fans appeared at the Imperial Theatre as early as 6 AM to be assured of a free album. The discs were distributed 11:30 AM-1 PM. The show's cast, including stars John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz, Sherie Rene Scott and Joanna Gleason, and composer David Yazbek, were on hand to sign discs before their Wednesday matinee performance. By noon, the line was blocks-long, stretching across the theatre district." Yahoo! (Playbill) 04/28/05

D.C. Fringe (And We Don't Mean Tom DeLay) Washington, D.C. is getting a fringe festival, and about time, too. "Capital Fringe will be concentrated downtown along the Seventh Street corridor, offering multiple events in 20 venues, ranging from traditional theaters to alternative spaces such as galleries, lobbies, vacant storefronts and outdoor areas." The ten-day festival will launch in summer 2006. Washington Post 04/28/05

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Playwright To Critic: Get A Clue! Playwright David Eldridge attacks critic Michael Billington's complaint that contemporary plays are lacking in imagination and too tied to a 90-minute formula. "For the most part Billington's thesis is shot through with an ignorance of the modern playwriting culture that is breathtaking for someone who goes to the theatre as much as he does, and belies a backward-looking agenda that bears as little relevance to a 21st-century theatre as John Major's whimsical fantasy of re-creating the 1950s with warm beer and cricket on the village green." The Guardian (UK) 04/27/05

Boston Theatre Shuns Touring Shows, Hopes For Profit "Reeling from box-office losses, a downturn in theater attendance across the country, and unprecedented competition from Clear Channel Entertainment, [Boston's] Wang Center for the Performing Arts will revamp its mission and programs next season... Instead of relying on touring Broadway musicals to anchor its season, the nonprofit Wang will produce or coproduce its own shows, with an emphasis on 'event musicals' and family entertainment." Boston Globe 04/27/05

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

August Wilson Completes His 100 Years Twenty years in the writing, playwright August Wilson's 10-play tour through 100 years of American history gets its capstone this week with a production of "Radio Golf" at the Yale Repertory Theatre. The New York Times 04/27/05

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Hollywood's Theatre Drain "Since the beginning of this year, four of Hollywood’s best and most established small-theaters companies — Open Fist, the Actors’ Gang, West Coast Ensemble and Theatre/Theater — have either been evicted or are considering leaving the Hollywood area due to redevelopment and rising property values. All have resided in Hollywood for years, establishing themselves in marginal neighborhoods. 'Lip service is paid to the importance of theater and the theater community and yet there’s so little public support and certainly no public assistance'." LAWeekly 04/21/05

Fun Rules In New Broadway Hits "The juggernaut shows are no longer based on teary epics or lugubrious legends or dark poems. The singing gloom-and-doom characters of the Great White Way -- the bedraggled street urchins and guilt-ridden Vietnam War veterans and weather-beaten felines -- have packed up their dressing rooms. One formidable survivor, that spectral opera-house haunter in the half-mask, is looking ever lonelier. Today, the hits are all about tee-hee and ha-ha and oh-ho-ho. What packs 'em in is hilarity in major chords. Monty Python, Mel Brooks, sex-crazed puppets, Harvey Fierstein in a triple-D cup: These are the new aristocrats of Broadway. Types with a thing for the funny bone." Washington Post 04/24/05

Cast Album As Promotional Giveaway Broadway cast albums rarely make much money. But they are very valuable as promotional tools for a show trying to hit it big. So the producers of Broadway's "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is giving away 50,000 copies of the show's album as a way of promoting it. The New York Times 04/24/05

Friday, April 22, 2005

Your Ad To Play Here "Product placement and endorsement deals have long been staples in television shows, movies and radio programs and even, more recently, on video games. But they have been rare on Broadway. Now, advertisers, casting about for new ways to attract increasingly distracted consumers, have turned their attention to the theater world. And producers, always looking for extra cash to offset rising costs, are receptive." The New York Times 04/22/05

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Ushering Game How can you see all the theatre you want without spending a cent? Just show a few people to their seats, stuff a few Playbills, and wait for the lights to go down. Welcome to the world of New York's Off-Broadway volunteer ushers, a strange and wacky collection of eccentrics, elderly fans on a budget, and hypercompetitive prima donnas. The New York Times 04/20/05

Tony Unlikely To Reward Denzel "As the Tony Award races start to come into focus, it looks as if the biggest star on Broadway this spring may find himself shut out of the nominees' circle. Critics and theater insiders have greeted Denzel Washington's turn as 'Brutus' in the wrong-headed revival of Julius Caesar at the Belasco with, at best, indifference and, at worst, disappointment... [Still,] the competition for the five slots for Best Actor in a Play is fierce — and there is no shortage of big names to spice up the category." New York Post 04/20/05

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Brook: Stripping Back To Simplicity Director Peter Brook has stripped away a lot for his new production. But it took him a long time to do it. "I tell young people: 'At the age of 80, I have discarded many, many things to find that my taste is for simplicity. Don't take that as a formula when you're at an age when you should be plunging into every sort of experience, as I was doing.' " The New York Times 04/19/05

A New Time Demands A New Kind Of Plays Last week critic Michael Billington compained that the new generation of 90-minute plays was creatively challenged. Ian Rickson begs to disagree: "New cultural and political eras demand new forms. There is a scepticism towards big ideas among the young - but that does not mean they are not engaged with or disturbed by contemporary society. We live in a time when there is a disappointment with unifying ideology and a greater consciousness of contradiction. The old forms in which the writer diagnoses and hypothesises no longer speak to today's playwrights. In dramatising a more complex, atomised culture, playwrights may seek vivid, suggestive fragments as a better form." The Guardian (UK) 04/19/05

Monday, April 18, 2005

Broadway - The Great Hitless Way Broadway musicals used to crank out hits. No more. "Shows just aren't giving us any new hit songs. Sure, you can hear top 40 hits along Broadway. But the songs were composed 20, 30 or 40 years ago, and they weren't written for the theater. Instead, they're shoehorned into shows like "Mamma Mia!" (ABBA), "Movin' Out" (Billy Joel), "All Shook Up" (Elvis Presley) and "Good Vibrations" (the Beach Boys). Next up is "Lennon," which opens in July." New York Daily News 04/17/05

Denver Rep Loses A Home Denver Repertory Theatre is only two years old. And now the company finds itself out on the street after an inspection of the company's theatre resulted in a list of violations that would cost more than $100,000 to fix... Denver Post 04/17/05

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The New Vaudeville Is Off-Off "There are still plenty of musicals and one-man shows on Broadway, but the classic boulevard comedy - once the backbone of commercial theater - has become scarce. By contrast, Off Off Broadway, home base for the avant-garde of Big Ideas and Serious Intentions, is filled with vaudevillian high jinks and lowbrow satire." The New York Times 04/17/05

Why Is The 90-Minute Play The Norm? Michael Billington is afraid plays are getting into a rut: "While I've no wish to lay down laws, I find myself increasingly disturbed by the fashionable tyranny of the 90-minute play. It is everywhere; and I believe it is crippling ambition, ironing out contradiction, and effectively de-politicising drama." The Guardian (UK) 04/16/05

Thursday, April 14, 2005

An English Critic Goes To Broadway "As The Independent's reviewer, I have seen theatre across the globe, from Bucharest to Phnom Penh. But nothing feels more foreign than Broadway. This is because, in some respects, it has the appearance of being so like home, while actually being very different." The Independent (UK) 04/14/05

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Performers Warned Off Edinburgh Fringe Venue Performers at this summer's Edinburgh Fringe Festival are being warned not to use space in one of the Festival's largest venues after the theatre failed to pay a third of the performers who had worked there. "As the second largest venue in the Cowgate, with a capacity to hold 36 shows, it is a big loss for the Fringe. The Underbelly, which can hold more than 60 shows, is the only larger venue in the area. City festival leaders last night said it was a great blow for the prestigious event and called on new venues to come forward to bridge the gap." The Scotsman 04/14/05

O'Neill Reinstates Cabaret Conference The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, in Waterford, Conn has decided to reinstate its annual cabaret conference this summer. "The goal of the new and expanded conference is to "keep pushing the envelope" of cabaret and performance, and that this is another way to "keep the O'Neill at the modern edge." Back Stage 04/13/05

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Russian Theatre Cranks Up The Heat "Back in bad old Soviet times, the Kirov Ballet and the Moscow Circus seemed to be the only representatives of Russian culture on Western radar screens. But in the 15 years since the Iron Curtain was unhooked from the rigging and stored backstage, dozens of Russian theater companies have traveled around the globe, and much of the globe has rolled its way across Russia's stages." International Herald Tribune 04/13/05

Sunday, April 10, 2005

What's Wrong With Humana? What ails Louisville's venerable Humana Theatre Festival? Michael Phillips thinks it might be something as simple as a lack of competition for contemporary American drama. "The festival would [also] benefit from writers with a sense of honest, vital political engagement with our country today. This year the protestations amounted to a soapbox derby of speechifying, not entirely uninteresting but not persuasively dramatic." Chicago Tribune 04/10/05

Bridging Broadway's Gender Gap The Monty Python-inspired musical, Spamalot, is more than just the latest Broadway smash. It's an actual piece of legitimate musical theatre that has succeeded in attracting a traditionally elusive demographic on Broadway: men. The New York Times 04/10/05

Friday, April 8, 2005

Tomorrow's TV Writers? From Today's Theatre "Back in the golden days of Hollywood, studio executives would often scour the theatres of New York and Chicago, searching relentlessly for talented new playwrights to bring out West to join their studio's creative staff of writers. In that spirit Fox has teamed up with New York's Naked Angels Theatre Company to produce Naked TV, an innovative project that mirrors those historic days in its attempts to discover and develop new writers for television." Back Stage 04/08/05

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Brook: Ticket Prices Are Killing Theatre " Director Peter Brook is on a mission. "Wishing to make theater accessible to all, he’s the first internationally known director to lead the way by insisting that ticket prices must come down. Mr. Brook is saying, in urgent effect, if so many people can no longer afford to go to the theater, what’s the point of theater? It’s the most pressing question of all. The cost of tickets is killing the audience. They’re also killing the future. Kids can’t afford to go. Broadway will always be opportunistic Broadway. The bottom-line choices, the safe, star-driven revivals, are by now normal. We’ve come to expect no better. But in our proudly multi-ethnic city, the loyal audiences at our big nonprofit institutions remain noticeably white, middle-class and aging." New York Observer 04/07/05

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Underwhelmed At Humana This year's Humana Festival of New American Plays was something of a disappointment. "If the playwrights showing new works at the festival earned marks in the category of social significance, their grades in other, more artistically relevant subjects were middling at best. Admiration for their desire to inspire audience interest in tangled social and political issues mingled with disappointment at their inability to channel these concerns into potent theatrical forms." The New York Times 04/07/05

Comics: Edinburgh Fringe Has Priced Us Out Comedians say that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is becoming too expensive to perform in. "Venue charges, accommodation and promotional costs have prevented new acts from taking part, they claim." BBC 04/06/05

Democracy Flops In New York "It had great buzz from London. It had terrific reviews in New York. It had 'snob hit' written all over it. And it had $2 million in the bank before opening night. And yet Democracy — Michael Frayn's political drama about the spy who brought down West German Chancellor Willie Brandt — has collapsed almost as fast as the Berlin Wall. Once touted as a sure-fire Tony Award contender, the production will close April 17 after only four months on Broadway. It will lose nearly all of its $2.5 million investment." New York Post 04/06/05

Humana In Need Of An Overhaul? In a year when theatre as a whole seemed reinvigorated by politics and activism, Louisville's venerable Humana Festival fell distinctly flat, says Michael Phillips. "The case of this year's Humana Festival, the fifth under the stewardship of Actors Theatre artistic director Marc Masterson, is one of artistic Chapter 11. The festival, a venerable and well-known showcase for new work, needs reorganization, a fresh angle, a renewed reason for being in a theatrical world very different from the one in which it began." Chicago Tribune 04/06/05

Glancing Back, Pushing Forward Michael Ritchie's tenure as artistic director of the L.A.-based Center Theater Group will be a delicate balancing act between honoring the company's past proven successes and seeking new audiences and new directions that might galvanize the theater community in the city. He is determined to make the three theaters under his control succeed without relying on touring Broadway productions, and says that he won't hesitate to use the star power available to him from neighboring Hollywood to bring in the crowds. The New York Times 04/06/05

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

If They Call It Art, Is It Still Stripping? Idaho law prohibits nude dancing unless it's part of a performance with "serious artistic merit." So an adult club "tried to beat the ordinance by distributing pencils and sketch pads to patrons during special twice-weekly 'art nights,' when the dancers performed nude." Police didn't buy the scheme and raided the place this week... ABCNews 04/05/05

Being Nice To The Big Bookers Any theatre producer will tell you that the key to great sales is getting those people who book big groups to buy the tickets. Though The Lion King is a big world-wide hit, Australian producers are taking no chances as the show comes Down Under. Disney Australia chartered a plane and invited 216 big bookers from Victoria to come along. The hope is they'll go back home and sell the show. The Age (Melbourne) 04/05/05

Monday, April 4, 2005

Celebrity Shakespeare It used to be that actors did Shakespeare to prove themselves. "Obviously the old standards of judging Shakespeare have to be modified to deal with this new phenomenon. In the old days we might have fussed over how Academy Award winner Denzel Washington lived up to the demands of Brutus. Now it makes more sense to determine how the character of Brutus fits the qualities Washington brings to him." New York Daily News 04/04/05

August Wilson: A Century Of Plays "August Wilson has almost completed his series of plays chronicling the 20th Century. "His output over the past 20 years has been prodigious. His name is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill, and Tennessee Williams. O'Neill set out to write a cycle of plays chronicling the life of a single American family over time, but he completed only one play before he died. Wilson is about to achieve his ambitious goal, and for years to come his cycle will be studied as a reflection of the black ethos in the 20th century. But Wilson is not without his detractors." Boston Globe 04/03/05

Shanley Wins Drama Pulitzer John Patrick Stanley wins this year's Pulitzer for drama. "Shanley's play opened on Broadway just last week to critical acclaim after an off-Broadway run. It tells the story of a confrontation between a nun and a Roman Catholic priest at a Bronx parish; she suspects the priest of molesting a male student. Shanley, who has written a number of successful off-Broadway plays, captured the Academy Award for best screenplay for "Moonstruck" in 1988." Back Stage 04/04/05

Sunday, April 3, 2005

The Making Of A Lion King Musical It's been seven years since the Lion King went to Minneapolis for a tryout. "Every square foot of the theater — including the lobby, basement and bathrooms — was filled with costume stitchers, prop painters and carpenters, busily assembling the show. There was even a trailer in the parking lot, jammed with accountants." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 04//03/05

Sweet Relief The bizarre on-again, off-again story of the Broadway-bound (for now) revival of Sweet Charity is a whopper of a tale, even by theatre standards. "According to the show's ad campaign tagline, the tale of Sweet Charity is that of 'one woman's belief that in the midst of adversity, she will find hope and the strength to know that someday all of her dreams will come true.' The offstage story is of one revival's belief that in the midst of adversity, it will find hope and the strength to know that someday some of its dreams and even, if one believes in miracles, a smidgen of profit will come true." Chicago Tribune 04/03/05

Friday, April 1, 2005

Two Unions Try To Take On Rockettes Representation Two unions - Equity and AGMA - are joing forces and vying to take over representation of the Radio City Rockettes. A Equity representative say that "over the years, the Rockettes have expressed their dissatisfaction with the American Guild of Variety Artists, citing lack of service and regular meetings and the inability to get copies of appropriate documents, including the contract and the constitution, from the union."
Back Stage 04/01/05

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