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Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Great Year For Broadway Theatre The League of American Theaters and Producers reports that paid attendance on Broadway this year 'was the highest since 1985 - just shy of 12 million people, an increase of almost 6 percent from last year. And those theatergoers paid an average of $68.86 a ticket, about $2.75 more than last year. Gross sales reached $825 million for Broadway's 39 theaters, a jump of more than 10 percent from 2004. The total number of performances, another indicator of the industry's health, increased by about 4 percent, and attendance per performance was up, too, by about 1.5 percent." The New York Times 12/29/05

The Producers: A Flop That Shows Why Theatre Works "The Producers has a litany of things that are wrong with it as long as Elton John's wedding guest list. But the faults are instructive in the ways that they demonstrate why theatre has survived the onslaught of cinema and TV and why movies can be turned into great musicals, but seldom the other way round. The flaws flap around the film like munchkins in the Wizard of Oz." La Scena Musicale 12/28/05

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

You Just Can't Find Good Help These Days "In the face of a national shortage of skilled technical staff, one leading regional [UK] theatre has launched a more traditional apprenticeship scheme to train the wig makers and lighting designers of the future. The Birmingham Repertory Theatre is giving six people, aged 16 to 21, training for 18 months in many departments including sound, lighting, make-up, wardrobe and stage management." The Independent (UK) 12/28/05

Broadway's Record Year "Ticket sales were $825m in 2005, up from $749m the previous year, reported the League of American Theatres and Producers. Although ticket prices did rise in 2005, an extra 650,000 visited Broadway theatres this year. Of the total audience increase of 650,000 over 2004, according to the League's data, it's important to realise that ticket sales for plays alone were up by 530,000." BBC 12/28/05

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Rethinking Sondheim "Stephen Sondheim has always been ready for his close-up. There's a reason his songs are picked up so quickly by cabaret performers who keep their hearts parked in their throats. But because he writes for Broadway, the original incarnations of his shows have tended to be big in ways that brought out the glitter in his intricate lyrics and scores but often kept audiences at an amused, admiring remove. Now a new generation of Sondheim interpreters are revealing just how directly this composer speaks to them." The New York Times 12/28/05

The West End's Banner Year Charles Spencer says West End theatre has had a great year: "During 25 years of covering London theatre, I can't remember a stronger season for drama in the West End. The producers have really raised their game this year, offering big stars in numerous quality productions of first-rate plays." The Telegraph (UK) 12/25/05

Monday, December 26, 2005

Chaucer's Route Revisited More than 600 years after Chaucer's pilgrims rode together through Kent a performance artist has set off on the same route. The Guardian (UK) 12/26/05

Friday, December 23, 2005

NY Transit Strike Hit Off-Broadway Hard "In three chaotic days, the Transit Workers Union inflicted a lot of pain in Gotham. The realm of off-Broadway theater -- which operates on razor-thin margins -- felt more than its share." Washington Post 12/23/05

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Theatre Of High Ambitions And Low Cost Several off-Broadway theatres are keeping ticket prices low and the theatre experimental. It's working. "These spaces measure success less by commercial cachet than by how well they keep up with exciting new work. All of them keep an eye on not only submissions and recommendations but also on offerings at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and one another's work. While each has a different economic model and aesthetic emphasis, all have infrastructure in place to market and offer technical support for everything on their stages, which means they have the prerogative, and the incentive, to choose only work they want to see there, whether or not their name is above the title as producer." The New York Times 12/23/05

Latino Theatre Gets LA Theatre Center Lease The Los Angeles City Council has voted to award the Latino Theater Company a 20-year lease to manage the Los Angeles Theatre Center, the municipally owned complex on Spring Street in downtown L.A. Los Angeles Times 12/22/05

Scottish Theatre's Busy Year Scottish theatre has had a busy year. "There's a curious sense, this year, of a theatre culture moving towards the extremes: either towards small, intimate and often site-specific micro-events like The Devil's Larder, or back towards the luxurious Rolls Royce of a theatre experience, towards mainstream productions." The Scotsman 12/21/05

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Broadway Moves Despite Transit Strike Broadway went on despite New York's transit strike. In fact, there were more tickets available than usual for those who could make it to the theatre district... New York Daily News 12/21/05

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Stella vs. Katrina, and Guess Who Wins? "The news from New Orleans is that, yes -- the annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival will take place, as scheduled, from March 30 to April 2 in its usual French Quarter haunts. The four-day fete, in its 20th year, celebrates the life and legacy of the playwright who called the Big Easy his 'spiritual home' with panel discussions, celebrity events, theater and musical performances, French Quarter walking tours, food and wine tastings and -- what would a Williams celebration be without it? -- a Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest." San Francisco Chronicle 12/20/05

Dublin Throws Struggling Theatre A Lifeline Ireland's beleagured Abbey Theatre is to receive a €4 million ($4.77 million) aid package from the federal government which will wipe out its €3.4 million debt and allow it to begin to dig out from several years of "catastrophic box office returns." The Guardian (UK) 12/20/05

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Are NY's Top Directors Overcommitted? Directors are notorious control freaks, and many are known to be workaholics as well. But such descriptors don't begin to cover the lives of New York's top theatre directors, who frequently juggle four or more productions at once. They say they wouldn't have it any other way, but "there is a question as to whether directors may also be stretched thin. [Critics have] complained about the 'homogeneity' at three of the city's top nonprofit theatrical organizations who 'tend to hire from the same shallow pool of established directors'." The New York Times 12/18/05

Do They Sell Tickets And Paint Scenery, Too? The revival of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd currently playing on Broadway is making headlines for its embrace of what could be called the ultimate in multitasking. Where most shows employ actors who traverse the stage and musicians who stay hidden in the pit, this Sweeney Todd asks everyone onstage to play their parts (and sing their songs) while simultaneously playing important instrumental parts along with the main orchestra. The New York Times 12/18/05

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Goodspeed Puts Theatre Project On Idle After finding it difficult to raise money, Goodspeed Musicals' plan to build a new theatre complex in East Haddam, Connecticut, to complement its work at the historic Goodspeed Opera House, is on the back burner. Yahoo! (Playbill) 12/15/05

John Denver Show Bombs, Closes The John Denver jukebox show "Rocky Mountain High" is closing. "The musical entertainment using the songs of the late blond-mopped, boyish singer-songwriter is adapted from the John Denver autobiography 'Take Me Home.' It opened Nov. 9. By close, it will have played 12 previews and 61 regular performances. Playbill 12/15/05

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Theatre Critic's Pitfall? "Actors can be so charming, such fun. Yet, if you allow yourself to be even temporarily seduced (an essential part of the craft of performance, after all), there comes a point at which, in the cold light of morning, fingers poised above the keys, you can no longer trust your objectivity. There is no unity of opinion as to precisely where the line should be drawn." The Telegraph (UK) 12/15/05

UK Theatre's Ageism Problem "Ageism is an enormous problem for dramatic writers in Britain today - in theatre, television and film. While many career writers continue to receive fulfilling assignments throughout their working lives, many others find themselves left at the wayside, not because they have nothing new to contribute, but merely because they are seen by commissioners as being a bit shop-worn. And for someone who only finds his or her voice in maturity, the outlook is barren indeed." The Guardian (UK) 12/15/05

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why Pinter Matters "The winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, Harold Pinter, as a playwright, a screenwriter, a director, and a mentor, has had an enormous influence on the theatrical landscape of his time. He began his career as an actor, and, even at the outset, with comparatively crude command, he turned his actor’s understanding of subtext into a metaphysic." The New Yorker 12/12/05

Monday, December 12, 2005

Mamet: Why "Night Of The Iguana" Is Not A Good Play "Playwriting is a young man's - and, of late, a young woman's - game. It requires the courage of youth still inspired by rejection and as yet unperverted by success. Most playwrights' best work is probably their earliest. Those prejudices of anger, outrage and heartbreak the writer brings to his early work will be fuelled by a passionate sense of injustice. In the later work, this will in the main have been transformed by the desire for retribution." That said, writes David Mamet, "The Night of the Iguana is not a very good play." The Guardian (UK) 12/10/05

Sunday, December 11, 2005

On Broadway - Where Are The Women Directors? "Of the 39 plays and musicals that opened on Broadway this year, 3 were directed by women. Of the 34 new shows in 2004, women directed 2. These are not particularly encouraging figures for those looking for the new female directorial voices. Many women can be found directing shows off Broadway and running regional theaters, but the best-known and biggest-budget venue has not been all that welcoming." The New York Times 12/11/05

Cindy Sheehan, Onstage Nobel-winning playwright Dario Fo has written a play about peace activist Cindy Sheehan. "Peace Mom received its world premiere in London on Saturday night, starring British actress Frances de la Tour, with both Sheehan and Italian dramatist Fo in the audience. The one-woman show is based on extracts from Sheehan's letters to Bush and other writings." Yahoo! (Reuters) 12/11/05

The Children's Theatre Boom One sign of the growing ambitions and importance of children's theatre in America are the elaborate new theatres being built to house them. The Kennedy Center is opening a new $9 million Family Theater that is "the first self-contained new theater to be christened at the center in 26 years. Built with federal funds in a space that formerly housed the AFI Theater, the playhouse is a significant facet of the center's five-year, $125 million effort to upgrade arts education." Washington Post 12/10/05

Actors Protest Sales Ban On Springer The British actors union Equity is protesting decisions by two retail chains to stop selling DVDs of "Jerry Springer, The Opera." "Equity strongly supports artistic freedom and equally strongly opposes censorship in all its forms, however offended any individual may feel themselves to be by a particular piece of dramatic art." BBC 12/11/05

Friday, December 9, 2005

Another Year Of Declining Audience For Stratford Fest Canada's Stratford Theatre balances its budget, but "paid attendance for its 15 productions was 540,000, down 5 per cent from the 568,715 patrons it drew in 2004. In fact, this was the third consecutive year that attendance declined, after reaching an all-time high in 2002 of almost 673,000." The Globe & mail (Canada) 12/09/05

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Why America's Regional Theatres Are Dying "The sun is setting on America’s regional theaters, as they’ve existed for the past half century. There are also other reasons — cultural and technological, leading to the reality that putting on shows can no longer be the primary purpose of theater. Such a purpose — as a sole purpose — is unsustainable for either profit or nonprofit theaters in an era of funding cutbacks when the Internet, iPods, cell-phone cameras and flat-screen TVs have added to the already tempting distractions of California’s beaches, mountains and amusement parks." LAWeekly 12/08/05

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

The National Goes Sunday London's National Theatre is considering adding Sunday performances. "The NT says the move reflects a growing recognition within the industry that audiences expect opening times to fit around work and family life." The Stage (UK) 12/07/05

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Dumping More On Color Purple "Sincerity isn't skill, and it isn't knowledge. The feelings that The Color Purple may arouse in you don't disguise the fact that they've been gotten in a comparatively crude and unimaginative manner. The disheartening lack of quality in the material dilutes the quality of feeling with which it's being put over and makes the meanings behind it look questionable as well." Village Voice 12/06/05

What To Do With All These New Actors? More colleges are producing more actors than ever and the job market is stagnating. So schools are adapting. "Instead of the pure education-of-an-artist approach that dominated in undergraduate acting programs through the 1980's and 90's, there is now a growing emphasis on helping students find work in a famously competitive field. The result is something of a confounding dilemma both for educators and for some professionals, who fear, on the one hand, that vocational training robs student actors of necessary artistic exploration and, on the other, that schools have to do a better job of preparing actors for the grim realities of professional life." The New York Times 12/07/05

Didion To Bring Book To Broadway Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" is coming to Broadway. "The memoir, which was published in October and has since sold more than 200,000 copies, is to be adapted for the stage by Ms. Didion herself, with an eye toward a spring 2007 opening on Broadway. The play, imagined as a one-woman show, will be produced by Scott Rudin, the Hollywood and Broadway producer, and directed by David Hare, the respected British playwright. No casting has been announced." The New York Times 12/06/05

Monday, December 5, 2005

"Purple" Overamplified, Overheated, And Overhyped John Lahr writes that "The Color Purple" fails on a number of levels. "Marsha Norman’s libretto is a kind of color-me-purple comic-book outline: it gives us the externals of the plot but not, in any meaningful sense, the internal life of the characters, who function more as anecdotes than as dramatic influences on Celie. As a result, what is earned sentiment in the novel becomes mere sentimentality in the musical. Everything is as literal as a street sign, and sometimes not as interesting." The New Yorker 12/05/05

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Hamlet's Role In The Revolution In Romania in the early 80s censorship in the theatre had stiffened and all plays had to be approved by the Councillor of Culture and Social Education. However, the suggestion of a play by Shakespeare went unchallenged: like Beethoven and Tolstoy, Shakespeare was a Universal Artist - to dispute this would be to expose the apparatchiks, always keen to defend their amour-propre, to charges of stupidity.They were enraptured. Line after line was greeted with the applause of recognition: this was their story. Hamlet's oppression by Claudius mirrored theirs by Ceausescu, and if Hamlet vacillated, accused himself of cowardice, cursed himself for his inaction, it only reflected their own frailty and submissiveness. Allegory and metaphor are part of any theatre syntax but at that time in Romania they were its essential core." The Guardian (UK) 12/03/05

Friday, December 2, 2005

Color Purple - Hurry Up And Wait "Watching this beat-the-clock production summons the frustrations of riding through a picturesque stretch of country in a supertrain like the TGV. The landscape looks seductively lush and varied; the local populace seems lively and inviting, like people you might want to know; you can even hear tantalizing snatches of folks singing in an intriguing idiom as they go about their work. But it all passes by in a watercolor blur. This show isn't stiff and anemic like its chief musical competition this season. But it never slows down long enough for you to embrace it." The New York Times 12/02/05

  • Color Purple An Honorable Attempt "Vastly improved from its pre-Broadway incarnation in Atlanta, Griffin's ambitious production opened here Thursday night with its dignity intact and no cause whatsoever for embarrassment by any of the impassioned parties involved. This is an earnest, honest, intermittently engaging and competently directed attempt to wrestle the chronological sweep of Walker's epic and intensely personal novel about the 40-year journey to self-worth of an abused rural Georgian named Celie into an accessible, middle-brow Broadway musical. It is an almost impossible task." Chicago Tribune 12/02/05

  • Purple Pose: Cautious And Pricey "Earnest and eager to please, the $10 million Color Purple is the latest in a long series of cautious, pricey Broadway adaptations that paint by pallid numbers rather than in arresting new tones. It's a thankless task, though, making the argument against this musical, which opened last night at the Broadway Theatre." Washington Post 12/02/05

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Boston To Lose Theatrical Landmark? Boston's venerable Wilbur Theater may go dark next year after Clear Channel Entertainment declined to extend its lease beyond summer 2006. The venue was booked for only 15 weeks over the past year, and Clear Channel has had great difficulty selling tickets to events there. Boston Globe 12/01/05

Now If Only The People Could Afford Theatre Tickets... "Moscow is experiencing a boom in theater construction, a testament both to the importance Russian leaders place on the nation's capital as a cultural showcase and to the money from oil and other commodities flowing through the city's coffers... The theater construction boom is part of a general real estate boom in Moscow fueled by the success of Russia's raw materials and commodities market, which has allowed the city to lavish money on things like the Moscow International Performance Arts Center, a performing arts complex intended to be the city's answer to Lincoln Center, and all the theaters sprouting up around town. There are more than a half-dozen other major construction or reconstruction projects slated for next year." The New York Times 12/01/05

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