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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Why Shakespeare In A Park? Shakespeare is everywhere in the summer. Outside in the parks of America. "How did a nation come to expect free Shakespeare? And why must we watch it in the park? This peculiar mandate can be traced to Joseph Papp, the mercurial producer who founded a Shakespeare workshop in New York's Lower East Side in 1954." Slate 06/30/05

NAC Theatre Taps Maverick Hinton "Maverick playwright and auteur director Peter Hinton has been named the new artistic director of the [Ottawa-based] National Arts Centre's English Theatre... One of this country's most innovative theatre artists, Hinton has directed more than 70 new plays, classical texts and operas, and championed the works of a range of Canadian playwrights in Toronto, Vancouver and, more recently, Montreal, where he was dramaturge-in-residence at Playwright's Workshop Montreal." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/30/05

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

South Florida's Ambitious New Troupe Miami has a new children's theatre company, and it's no small-time operation. "The PlayGround Theatre for Young Audiences has been up and running only since April, but it has already made a deal for its own permanent playground. The ambitious young company has taken over the lease on the long-struggling Shores Performing Arts Theater, a spacious former movie house," thanks to a major grant from a foundation with family ties to the company's founders. In addition to presenting serious children's theatre, the company intends to offer theatre classes and summer camp experiences to kids throughout South Florida. Miami Herald 06/29/05

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Columbia Starts Producer Fellowship Columbia University has announced a new fellowship program for theatre students. "Producer Harold Prince said the new program, which will invite one or two students a year to follow a specific study and producing plan, was created for fledgling producers who 'want to nurture new work, encourage new artists, and take chances' but 'recognize that the current climate on Broadway makes that almost impossible.' The Fellowship "will emphasize that the creative producer's role is to be the instigator, the collaborator, and the leader who gets art on the stage and to the public." Playbill 06/27/05

"Mambo" Cancels Broadway Plans "The Mambo Kings" won't be going to Broadway after all. Producers canceled a planned opening in August. The "lavish" $12 million show was critically panned in a tryout engagement in San Francisco that ended June 19.
Backstage (AP) 06/28/05

Monday, June 27, 2005

It's The Theatre That Has Gotten Small... "There's been a predominance of television realism and of a section of the critical culture that demands a moral message from new writing. This is in danger of making theatre about as interesting as muesli. Why would anyone write stage plays now? If you can write dialogue and you can hit a deadline you can write TV. You can write about your south London council estate or your middle class swingers and you can make more money and reach more people and therefore have more impact. Apart from anything else, the denial of the larger stages to living playwrights has made it harder and harder for them to earn a living from writing, as they see their income from royalties dwindle to insultingly low levels." The Guardian (UK) 06/27/05

Hunting For That Lost Musical Theatre Gem Marshall Fisher is a hunter of lost musicals. "In the middle of his career, Orson Welles said to Cole Porter, 'I want to write a musical' - Around the World in Eighty Days - 'I want to direct it and I'm going to be in it.' Truman Capote wrote House of Flowers with Harold Arlen. John Steinbeck wrote with Rodgers and Hammerstein, who had wanted to make a musical out of Cannery Row. But Steinbeck, classy John Steinbeck, said, 'No, I'm gonna write a sequel specifically for you,' - so he wrote a little novel called Sweet Thursday." The Guardian (UK) 06/27/05

Billy Elliot - Feet In Two Cultures John Lahr finds himself intrigued by the new "Billy Elliot" musical that has earned raves in London. "The British love musicals; they just don’t do them very well. The problem, it seems to me, is spiritual. The jazz of American optimism, which lends elation and energy to the form, is somehow alien to the ironic British spirit. At its buoyant core, the American musical is the expression of a land of plenty. England, on the other hand, is a land of scarcity—the Land of No, as a friend of mine calls it. Billy Elliot is fascinating because it situates itself precisely on the cultural fault line between the two traits." The New Yorker 06/27/05

Broadway's Attrition Rate Soars This Week Myriad Broadway shows closed last weekend weekend (including the musical "Brooklyn", the revivals of "La Cage aux Folles" with Robert Goulet, "On Golden Pond" with James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggums, and the limited run of "Mark Twain Tonight!" with Hal Holbrook), this coming Sunday will see seven more shows close... Yahoo! (Reuters) 06/27/05

Bipolar: Report From TCG The Theatre Communications Group held it annual meeting June 16-18 in Seattle. "The 15th annual conference featured over 700 artists and administrators from 43 states and the District of Columbia, as well as delegates from 15 other countries, including Ireland, Iran, and the Czech Republic." Backstage 06/27/05

Sunday, June 26, 2005

In LA - A Loss Of Theatrical Diversity Los Angeles' largest theatre cuts its major program to encourage diversity in the theatre. So what is lost? "To what extent did the initiatives that came about in the '80s and '90s lead to diversification of the management staffs of theaters? In the past two years some important artistic director jobs opened on the national scene. How many people of color were on the short list for the jobs? How many women? How many women and people of color who were not right for the jobs, or not available, were brought in to be a part of the process? Did board members ask about diversity as they put together their wish lists? Did women board members ask these questions? Did board members of color ask?" Los Angeles Times 06/25/05

Pondering The Changing Of The Guard In Minneapolis Small theatres often become so identified with the leader who brings them to life that it's sometimes difficult to imagine them without their patron saint. "At least half a dozen of the Twin Cities' best-known, most innovative, highest-quality theaters face the same situation. Penumbra Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, Park Square Theatre and Illusion Theater all are facing a future without the artistic directors who have poured their lifeblood into them. Their long-term survival depends on figuring out how to transfuse that lifeblood into a new generation of leadership." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 06/25/05

The Evolving Producer Whatever happened to the Broadway producer, the networking genius who could bring together the right author, the right composer, and the right director to create a great show? These days, most Broadway hits are corporate concoctions, based on Disney movies or the rock bands of yesteryear, and there doesn't seem to be much room for the old-school masters. A new fellowship program is aiming to train the producers of tomorrow, but no one seems quite certain of what that job will entail. The New York Times 06/26/05

Puppets To Go Need a puppet? Or a whole show? Head for Brooklyn's new New York Puppet Library, "an unusual joint venture inside the landmark Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza." The library is the brainchild of the Puppeteers Cooperative, and is basically a bartering arrangement, under which the cooperative gets rent-free space to store their creations, and the public can come right in and borrow a puppet or two for a party, a political demonstration, or anything else they can think up. ABC News (AP) 06/25/05

Thursday, June 23, 2005

On Golden Pond To Close On Broadway Broadway's On Golden Pond will close this week because of James Earl Jones' serious bout of pneumonia. "Jones' doctors determined on June 23 that "the seriousness of recuperating from pneumonia would prevent his return until sometime in August," according to a press statement. The show was to have run through Labor Day. Jones is expected to eventually fully recover from his illness." Yahoo! (Playbill) 06/23/05

Making Arts Accessible (How About $15 Tickets?) Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre slashes ticket prices to all its shows to $15 (the deal is underwritten by Time Warner). "At $15 the Signature tickets will run about the price of a movie and soda. (And a small soda at that.) Most Off Broadway companies, looking at declines in corporate, public and private giving, have steadily raised prices in recent years, with seats now regularly going for $50 or more. (The Signature generally charges $55.) On Broadway, orchestra seats commonly go for $100, while premium tickets can reach nearly $500." The New York Times 06/23/05

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

In Los Angeles - Concerns About New Play Development "In the four weeks since Center Theatre Group's new artistic director Michael Ritchie announced that he would eliminate most of the company's formal programs for developing new plays — including the annual New Work Festival as currently constituted and labs for Latino, Asian, black and disabled writers — his actions have been the talk of the theater community." Los Angeles Times 06/22/05

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Baywatch On The Boards Catherine Tate has an unlikely new project. "I've been approached by a man who wants to know if I'd be interested in writing Baywatch: the musical. The idea is so off the wall that I agree to meet him to discuss it further. Presuming that if the show were to happen it would be a camp extravaganza, I fully expect to find an equally camp extravaganza waiting for me at a bar in Soho. But the man looked surprisingly like a supply teacher. He talked about his vision with such confidence that Baywatch: the musical didn't seem like such a ridiculous idea after all. I left feeling quite buoyant."
New Statesman 06/20/05

How Theatre Killed Spamalot "The original Python was a creative force that chewed up whatever medium tried to contain it—a Broadway show in that spirit could only exist off-off-off-Broadway, under an awning somewhere and would probably never find its way to the main stage. As a Python fan, I wanted to love Spamalot, but it wouldn't let me. It is choreographed, safe Broadway subversion, decked out in gaudy makeup, camping it up for the folks in the balcony. It replaces Python's subtlety with glitter and shouting. Even when it's making fun of Broadway, it's still only Broadway." Slate 06/21/05

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Town Considers Censoring Comedians An English town considers censoring comedians who perform blue material. "Councillors in Newcastle upon Tyne are to be asked to consider banning performers whose acts are branded offensive, racist, sexist or homophobic. It followed calls from the public sector union Unison to ban the comedian Roy Chubby Brown from playing the City Hall, where he has appeared regularly for 20 years." The Guardian (UK) 06/18/05

Is Boston A Theatre Town? It was a good year for theatre in Boston - two new theatres, a couple of Tony-nominated plays... But is Boston a great theatre town? Depends on how you mean it... Boston Globe 06/19/05

Moral Center - Teens Go For Broadway Fare "Musicals attracting large mother-daughter audiences have long been a staple on Broadway but have been on the rise in the last decade. Interestingly, the most popular shows have themes that explore some aspect of prejudice — not exactly light, youth-oriented fare." Los Angeles Times 06/19/05

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Show That Might Be Too Good For Broadway "Is it too English? Will it be too expensive? Can they cast it? Will it resonate with Americans? These are the questions confronting the producers and creators of Billy Elliot as they contemplate a Broadway production of what critics [in London] are calling the best British musical ever... [The show] probably can't be done for less than $12 million to $14 million and, with its large cast and crew, will surely have a weekly running cost of $600,000 or more... Casting is another issue. Child labor laws aren't as strict in the United States as they are in England, but because of the physical demands of the show, [the UK director] says it's essential to have three, 'ideally four,' Billy Elliots. Where to find them?" New York Post 06/15/05

Edinburgh Theatre Auctions Fringe Spot On eBay An Edinburgh theatre is turning to eBay to try to find a sponsor for this summer's Fringe Festival. "The Bedlam Theatre, in the city centre, needs £1,600 to pay for the cost of printing 8,000 programmes after an increase in pages due to an extended list of shows. The eBay entry was started at 99p yesterday, with ten days until the close of auction." The Scotsman 06/14/05

Monday, June 13, 2005

Public Theatre Nominates A Chairman Warren Spector has been nominated to be new chairman of New York's Public Theatre. "Mr. Spector, a millionaire many times over who has overseen robust profits of late at Bear Stearns, the global banking and brokerage firm, said yesterday that he hoped to preside over an equally rosy period at the Public, which finished last fiscal year in the black and debt-free." The New York Times 06/14/05

Nebraska Names Theatre School After Johnny Carson The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is naming its theatre school after Johnny Carson. "The college is Carson's alma mater. Officials approached the entertainer about the possibility of honouring him last year, before he donated $5.3 million US to the school in November." CBC 06/13/05

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Beautiful Watermill Theatre For Sale Britain's countryside Watermill Theatre is housed in an 1820s redbrick mill, and it's for sale. "Under the directorship of Jill Fraser, backed up by her husband James Sargant, who worked in senior positions for the RSC for many years, this rural idyll has quietly become one of the most admired and influential theatres in the country. In the past five years, it has transferred more shows to the West End than any other theatre in Britain." The Telegraph (UK) 06/12/05

Playwright Veto: When You Can't Do It That Way A Philadelphia theatre tries to mount an all-female production of "Grease" but the musical's creators object. So "how much control does a creator retain after releasing a play for production? When does a director's interpretation override an author's intention? There is a "strong presumption" in the theater community to protect the intentions of the playwright, and that outrageous staging could be framed as a copyright violation. Whether a court would side with the playwright or the producer in such a case is uncertain, because almost no cease-and-desist letters result in court action." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/12/05

Spacey Pulls Out Of Old Vic Production, Fans Protest Kevin Spacey suddenly pulled out of a production at London's Old Vic, which he has run for the past year. And ticket-buyers, who had gobbled up £1.2 million worth of ducats "for the cash-strapped Old Vic - a figure almost unprecedented for a straight play in the West End - are unhappy. Still, "espite his critically unsuccessful first season on the South Bank, with unenthusiastic or bad reviews for the first two plays he staged, Cloaca and National Anthems, a recent poll suggests that his support remains solid." The Observer (UK) 06/12/05

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Shakespeare? Washington, D.C.'s new six-month Shakespeare festival is quite the undertaking, featuring 22 different arts organizations (including one that specializes in tiny plastic ninjas,) and promising to more or less claim the nation's capital in the name of the Bard. "What would the Bard himself think of all this? He lived in a time when his plays were performed in ill-lighted theaters where the bulk of the audience stood rather than sat in a big pit quite near the stage. Some of these patrons came bearing spirits, with which to endure some of the longer, duller speeches, and even rotten fruits, eggs and vegetables, with which to provide constructive criticism for the actors." Chicago Tribune 06/09/05

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Tony Can't Save La Cage "On Sunday, La Cage aux Folles won Tony Awards for best musical revival and choreography. On Tuesday, producers of the $10 million revival said the show will close June 26 after a disappointing seven-month run of 229 performances." Mixed reviews hurt the show's box office, and had recently been playing to half-empty houses at Broadway's Marquis Theatre. Washington Post (AP) 06/08/05

Pittburgh Cherry Picks A Cleveland Director "[Pittsburgh's] City Theatre has a new managing director, Greg Quinlan, former managing director of the Great Lakes Theatre Festival in Cleveland. Starting Aug. 15, Quinlan will team with artistic director Tracy Brigden to run the $2.4 million not-for-profit South Side company that owns two theaters and specializes in the production of contemporary plays." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/08/05

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Odd Couple Has Bonanza First Day Box Office In its first day on sale, the Matthew Broderick/Nathan Lane production of The Odd Couple sells $7 million woth of tickets. "At this astounding pace, it is thought that the production could potentially sell out its limited run before the first preview, set for Oct. 4. It is also conceivable that the Joe Mantello-directed revival could recoup well in advance of opening." Playbill.com 06/07/05

Manhattan Theatre Club Rebounds The Manhattan Theatre Club has had a great year. Contrast this with a horrible 2003-04 season, and the success is evern sweeter... The New York Times 06/08/05

Belfast's Lyric Shrugs Off Extinction Belfast's Lyric Theatre has staved off demise with an injection of cash fundraising. "The Lyric is Northern Ireland's only producing theatre. It famously kept its doors open during the Troubles, with actors such as Simon Callow sometimes performing to a background of bombs and gunshots. Neeson, born in Ballymena, called it his "Belisha beacon of light". During blackouts, actors would hold candles and ask the audience to hold lamps. But the Lyric's rotting building has been described as squalid. Backstage, the actors cannot flush the toilet during a performance." The Guardian (UK) 06/08/05

RSC Gives London Another Try The Royal Shakespeare Company is returning to London, performing in three theatres owned by Cameron MacIntosh. "It is hoped Tuesday's deal, to last over the next five years with theatre producer Sir Cameron, will provide a more stable future for the RSC, which receives almost £13m of public funding." BBC 06/07/05

Chicago Close To Getting Children's Theatre Children's theatre is booming across the US, but Chicago, despite its vast theater offerings, has long lacked a dedicated children's theater. That's about to change... Chicago Sun-Times 06/07/05

Better Food, Blander Fare At Big Biz Colorado Dinner Theatres "Dinner theater is big business in Colorado. Nine major venues generated about $9.2 million last year. Together they drew about 318,000 people - and that includes only the 550-seat Pinnacle's first month in business. But dinner and a show can run anywhere from $25-$75, a number that keeps increasing along with the quality of the food. At those prices, patrons are becoming less likely to take a risk on edgier shows." Denver Post 06/07/05

Monday, June 6, 2005

Broadway's Tony Bump, Ratings Slump Broadway shows winning Tonys Sunday night got a nice bump at the box office Monday. But "according to preliminary numbers, the celebrities did almost nothing to increase the flat overnight national ratings, showing only a slight increase of about 160,000 viewers. In years past, a number of factors have been blamed for the low ratings, including competition from the N.B.A. playoffs and new episodes of hot HBO shows like "The Sopranos" or "Six Feet Under." This year, however, the show had no such competition, but still drew only 6.6 million viewers, up 2 percent from last year's audience of about 6.5 million viewers." The New York Times 06/07/05

Broadway Highlights (Tonys Aside) Sure the Tonys have been handed out. Howard Kissel picks his personal Broadway season highlights. "With the perennial laments about the death of serious theater, it seems worth noting that there were enough candidates to fill the Tony Best Play Revival category but only three shows to fill the comparable musicals category." New York Daily News 06/06/05

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Doubt, Spamalot Win Tonys "Doubt," John Patrick Shanley's drama of suspicion and certainty has won this year's Tony for best play. "Monty Python's Spamalot" wins best musical. Yahoo! (AP) 06/05/05

Blue Men Got The Blues In Toronto The Blue man Group is opening an outpost in Toronto. But there are problems. "With the first preview set for Tuesday night, the major focus is not on the show itself, but on the boycott against it waged by Toronto's three major performing arts unions — Canadian Actors' Equity Association, the Toronto Musicians' Association and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Inflammatory rhetoric is now the order of the day, lawsuits are being threatened and the unions are planning continued action once the previews start." Toronto Star 06/05/05

Tony Night Lacking Brits "When Broadway hands out the 59th annual Tony Awards tonight at Radio City Music Hall, one contingent will be conspicuously absent: the British. Well, OK, that's not entirely true." There are British actors nominated in several categories, but all are considered long shots to win. In fact, Broadway has taken a distinctly American turn this year, and Brits are finding themselves shut out of the top roles for the first time in decades. The Observer (UK) 06/05/05

It's Nice That You Like Us, But Honestly, We Don't Care That Much Minneapolis/St. Paul is America's 15th-largest metropolitan area, with virtually none of the national buzz and star-driven glitz that hews to cities like Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco. So how is it that the Twin Cities theatre scene has been racking up so many national awards and accolades in recent years? Part of the answer can be found in Minnesota's nearly unmatched public and private support for the arts, but there's more to it than that. In fact, much of the Twin Cities' theatrical success may lie in the local scene's almost total lack of interest in sucking up to New York. St. Paul Pioneer Press 06/05/05

Davidson Goes Out On A Strident Note Gordon Davidson could have ended his legendary career with Los Angeles's Center Theater Group with Shakespeare or some other classic. But that really wouldn't have been in keeping with the Davidson the theatre world has come to know. So it shouldn't be any real surprise that Davidson's swan song will be the highly controversial, politically charged drama, Stuff Happens, which purports to examine the decisions that led the U.S. and U.K. into war in Iraq. The New York Times 06/04/05

Nothin' Says Fringe Like Feet And Tongues The Minnesota Fringe Festival is in its twelfth year of existence, and boasts of being the largest such fest in America. Naturally, organizers felt it was time for a new logo that reflects such a reputation. And naturally, the logo sports a giant pair of lips. And a giant tongue. And a tiny foot. And, um... okay, does anyone know what the hell this thing is supposed to be? St. Paul Pioneer Press 06/03/05

Thursday, June 2, 2005

A Season For Tonys This year's Broadway season featured "a bevy of big men on campus, a dearth of decent old musicals, and $768 million in sales. A big chunk of that figure came from shows that opened in the spring, and the Tonys should follow suit, with productions like "Monty Python's Spamalot," "Doubt, A Parable" and "The Light in the Piazza" all favored to win multiple awards. Indeed, most on Broadway predict a remarkably democratic distribution of Tonys, though a few old-timers sense the possibility of a big "Spamalot" sweep." The New York Times 06/03/05

Tony Favorites Who's going to win this year's Tony awards? John Heilpern handicaps the field... New York Observer 06/01/05

The Best Of The Soon-To-Be-Also-Rans It's been an unusually strong year on Broadway, according to Michael Riedel, and while not everyone's efforts on stage will be rewarded in gold next Sunday night at the Tony awards, the year has brought an embarrassment of riches in the honorable mention category... New York Post 06/02/05

D.C. Planning Huge Shakespeare Fest "Come January 2007, all of Washington will seem a stage and its leading cultural institutions players in an ambitious six-month citywide festival devoted entirely to the works and influence of William Shakespeare. More than 20 local, national and international organizations are scheduled to participate in the venture, called 'Shakespeare In Washington,' which will take place in various venues, including theater, dance, music and visual-art institutions from January through June 2007." Washington Times 06/02/05

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