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Monday, February 27, 2006

What's In A Name? Loads Of Government Cash, Apparently Much has been made of the troubles, both financial and artistic, plaguing Dublin's historic Abbey Theatre. "The Abbey's fortunes, sputtering for some time, went into a nose-dive during its centenary year in 2004. What should have been a triumphant celebration, marking the theatre's role in forging the Irish nation and shaping a world-class dramatic canon, proved a shambles fit to make its hallowed founders, WB Yeats and Lady Isabella Gregory, spin in their graves." Meanwhile, the Abbey's closest rival, the Gate Theatre, is thriving, pulling in big stars and record crowds. Yet somehow, the Abbey continues to receive ten times the amount of federal funding that the far more responsibly managed Gate takes in. The Telegraph (UK) 02/27/06

NY Workshop Cancels Plans For Controversial Mideast Play "A New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current "political climate" - a decision the play's British director, Alan Rickman, denounced yesterday as 'censorship'. James Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said it had never formally announced it would be staging the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, but it had been considering staging it in March." The Guardian (UK) 02/28/06

Big Plans Come To Fruition All Across Scotland "The launch night for the National Theatre of Scotland on Saturday could hardly have sent out a stronger signal that 'National' will mean 'national'. A total of 10 happenings across Scotland, from remotest Shetland and Stornoway to Dumfries, put together by artists working under the thematic banner of 'Home', spelt out the intention that this theatre, possessing no big building, ensemble or bureaucracy, will be daringly, inclusively nomadic. Whether Scotland was picking up on the collaborative spirit of the occasion is another matter." The Telegraph (UK) 02/27/06

Billy Elliot Comes Up Big At Olivier Awards "The stage version of Billy Elliot has won four prizes at the Laurence Olivier Awards, including one shared between three of its young stars." BBC 02/27/06

Who's Who Behind Broadway It takes a lot of people to mount a Broadway show - not just actors. So who makes the industry work? The New York Times 02/26/06

Sunday, February 26, 2006

So Will You Produce My Suicide Note? Can't get your play produced? Allan Katz tried a suicide note. "The few theaters willing to read my suicide note had all too familiar reasons for passing: it wasn't dramatic enough; it was too dramatic; it was similar to something they had just produced; it was dissimilar from something they had just produced; they liked everything but the ending; they liked the ending, but nothing before it; they liked the middle, but wished it had come first — or at the end — or both." The New York Times 02/25/06

Making Art, Making Money Success and profitability are quite different things in the cutthroat world of New York theatre, and achieving one is no guarantee of making headway towards the other. "What exactly makes the business so tough? Well, expenses, which keep growing, and audiences, which don't." The New York Times 02/26/06

New York's Unsettlingly Profane Season "Sweet are the uses of perversity in the theater. Throw a kink, a curve, a warping twist into a time-honored dramatic formula and tried-and-true suddenly looks eye-poppingly new and unsettling. The spring season in New York is, happily and atypically, plump with demonstrations of such genre bending, with entrancingly wicked shows that extract the profane from the sacred and the rot from the pillars of society." The New York Times 02/26/06

Making Billy Less British The stage version of Billy Elliot has been raking in the cash for over a year in the UK, and the show is now preparing for its first international tour. But there's something very British about the Elliott story, and producers are scrambling to insure that the message doesn't get lost in translation. The Guardian (UK) 02/25/06

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Homeless National Theatre Is A Happy National Theatre Scotland's new National Theatre has made a "bold and even canny decision to do away with a building. There will be no huge central structure, no expensive capital project in Edinburgh with architects and contractors and the attendant spiralling costs. Certainly, avoiding shelling out millions on annual building costs - as our National Theatre does - affords it more room to create the work. Moreover, being homeless is a liberating move." The Guardian (UK) 02/24/06

Wanted: Plays With More Ambition Dominic Cooke wishes today's playwrights would take more chances. "new writing has a way to go in terms of ambition. That's not just about having plays with large numbers of people: it's about how much playwrights can challenge audiences. You see devised work that opens up the possibilities of what can be done on stage, and I don't understand why that's quite rare with new plays. The writers I know are just as imaginative and original as the auteur-directors who are devising shows." The Guardian (UK) 02/23/06

Packaging Billy Elliott For Worldwide Distribution "Plans are afoot to send the show to Japan, Germany, Canada, Australia and the US. The challenge was finding talent among young boys in potential host countries. In the UK, auditions are still ongoing, with a casting director seeing children every two weeks around the country. This year in London, the musical - which contains the unusual conceit of tapdancing coal miners - will feature its first non-white Billys, set to take their places among the rota of seven young boys who share the role." The Guardian (UK) 02/23/06

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Musical About Totalitarian North Korea?... Chorus lines of goose-stepping soldiers and emaciated political prisoners will prance across the stage when "Yoduk Story," a tear-jerker about a North Korean concentration camp whose name has the resonance of Auschwitz for some Koreans, opens here next month. Among the catchy tunes that South Korean theatergoers might soon be humming are "If I Could Walk Freely" and "All I Want Is Rice."
Los Angeles Times 02/21/06

Can Hip Hop Save Theatre? "Of course, to say hip-hop can save the day doesn’t mean it will. Already it has been around for a quarter century and registered barely a flicker on the New York theatrical radar. Whether its potential will ever be realized depends a great deal on what’s going on right now at New York Theatre Workshop, where the playwright Will Power has written a hip-hop adaptation of Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes." New York Magazine 02/19/06

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Lion King Goes To China Disney will stage a full production of The Lion King in China. The show will take up residence in Shanghai. The show will be performed in English at the Shanghai Grand Theater, a city-owned operation. "It will require three Boeing 747s to move the set from its current home in Melbourne, and a team of 136 people to stage each show. 'We expect over 150,000 people will see this live show in China. ... We hope to sell out'." Backstage 02/21/06

Wales: No Kissing In School Plays "In a new directive - which, it's feared, might soon be applied in England, too - the Welsh assembly states that kissing in school productions should be replaced by 'a peck on the cheek or an embrace', and that characters should 'hug each other in friendship'." The Guardian (UK) 02/20/06

Brits Queue For Spamalot Fears about whether there would be interest in "Spamalot" when it opens in London have been quelled after lines formed around the block to buy tickets as soon as they went on sale. The Guardian (UK) 02/21/06

Monday, February 20, 2006

Zambello Trades Opera For Musical Theatre Francesca Zambello is one of the top opera directors. But Zambello has decided the time is right to move from opera to musicals. "I've worked on a lot of world premieres in operas and found that it's gratifying but frustrating because it doesn't get done a lot. So I've started to shift quite recently into the musicals market, working with composers and lyricists. And ultimately I do want to work in my language." The Guardian (UK) 02/21/06

Springer Into The Future Jerry Springer, The Opera, has had a rough ride on its UK tour. There have been protests, and ticket sales are slow. "So what does the future hold for Jerry Springer: The Opera? Producer Jon Thoday hopes to stage it in Australia, and has not given up on the idea of a Broadway production, although the controversy around the show has previously made it difficult to attract sufficient funding in America, where the Christian lobby is so powerful." Glasgow Herald 02/19/06

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Edinburgh Fest Racks Up Deficit The Edinburgh Festival has gone "£1 million into the red after losses of £850,000 in 2005, its organisers said yesterday. The festival ran up the deficit producing a record six new shows last year. Some of the cash is being recouped as the shows are sold on." The Scotsman 02/17/06

Vegas' Theatre Experiment Gets Some Cold Water Theatre in Vegas seemed like a natural sell. So why didn't Avenue Q fail to last more than five months? "Off the record, some Vegas producers hypothesized that Avenue Q struggled because it requires a knowledge of English (hard for foreign tourists), or because despite the puppets, it has some fairly serious themes." Rocky Mountain News 02/19/06

Finally - Scotland's New National Theatre "For those who work in the theatre, it represents the biggest change in scale and aspiration since the beginning of public subsidy for the arts more than half a century ago. For audiences, too, there are high hopes of bigger, better resourced shows, perhaps even featuring some of those fine Scottish actors, from Sean Connery — well, we can dream — to Tilda Swinton, who ply their trade everywhere except at home." The Times (UK) 02/18/06

Of Dramaturgs And How Theatre Is Made "I teach dramaturgy, and I spend a good two or three weeks with my students talking about what different dramaturgs think dramaturgy is. The problem is that the term is used to encompass so many things." One of her favorite short definitions, she adds, is "information designer, [which tells people that] the dramaturg is part of the design staff. ... I'm in charge of the text and context of the play." Chicago Tribune 02/19/06

London's Skyrocketing Ticket Prices Theatre ticket prices have gone "mad" in London's West End. It's £127 for some seats? "These prices weed out the poor, the young and the would-be first-time theatregoer and ensure that the gilded auditorium retains its Victorian smugness and rows of white hair and glinting jewellery." The Observer 02/19/06

Broadway's Twist On The Casting Couch Scandal "Like any great headlining play, the newest sex scandal to hit America's acting profession has a fresh twist: the top producer accused of sexually harassing the cast of a Broadway play is a woman.
Her alleged victims are also far from being wide-eyed starlets. Instead they are some of the top names on Broadway, including Irish actor Gabriel Byrne."
The Observer 02/19/06

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Scottish Theatre's Funding In Danger? A highly political Scottish theatre says political pressure has been put on the arts council to cut its funding. "The company said it had evidence that council members were being advised to end its funding at a meeting later this month. Taking its name from the 1960s statistic which asserted that 7% of the population owned 84% of its wealth, the company was founded by playwright John McGrath." BBC 02/16/06

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Vegas Avenue Q Closing After eschewing a national tour and opening in a special theatre in Las Vegas, Avenue Q was expected to usher in a new generation of theatre in the desert. But after only five months, and selling only 65 percent of its tickets, the show is closing. "The short-lived run of "Avenue Q" in Las Vegas will probably give pause to many Broadway producers who have seen long-running blockbusters and newly minted hits alike head to the desert chasing seemingly no-lose propositions." The New York Times 02/16/06

Wedding Singer - A Hit In The Making? Hairspray was a big musical hit spawned in Seattle. Now the same company (The 5th Avenue) that birthed it is producing another musical-made-from-movie: "The Wedding Singer." "Could The Wedding Singer be the equivalent of Pearl Jam, a second cash megacow? Despite the predictable standing ovation that greeted Thursday's world premiere, the answer is, 'No way'." Seattle Weekly 02/15/06

Sondheim Finds New Life In Smaller Chamber Productions "The current miniaturisation of Sondheim makes his more difficult works freshly viable. What it portends is a different kind of musical for our time – a chamber musical that can be produced without dependence on conservative theatrical owners and bankrollers, a genre that can take in everything from early Kurt Weill to the sort of work that never gets developed beyond festival fringes. It is exactly what spaces like Covent Garden's Linbury Theatre and the South Bank's Purcell Room were built for, not to mention downstairs at Carnegie Hall. When, I wonder, will these fusty places catch the wind? La Scena Musicale 02/15/06

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

'Ol Blue Eyes Back In London A new show about the life of Frank Sinatra is ready to hit London's West End. "The show has the blessing of the Sinatra family; it is described in publicity leaflets as 'bona fide, 100 per cent Frank', which sounds a little like a junk food chain trying to convince a recalcitrant public of the purity of its burgers. It is a beefy story, all right; but there is also a slightly cheesy whiff to the proceedings. Ersatz tribute shows such as this have their place, but it is surely not proper theatre?" Financial Times 02/14/06

San Jose Rep Struggles To Recover Last year was tough for San Jose Repertory Theatre - a huge deficit, declining ticket sales, and an artictic lineup that was overly ambitious. The company has cut back, reducing its budget and laying off staff. And while it's now running in the black, lessons have been learned... San Francisco Chronicle 02/14/06

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Missouri School Bans "Crucible" After "Grease" Fire A high school in Missouri stages the musical "Grease." But the high school gets complaints, writers "complaining that scenes of drinking, smoking and a couple kissing went too far, and glorified conduct that the community tries to discourage. One letter, from someone who had not seen the show but only heard about it, criticized "immoral behavior veiled behind the excuse of acting out a play." The school superintendent "watched a video of the play, ultimately agreeing that 'Grease' was unsuitable for the high school, despite his having approved it beforehand, without looking at the script. Hoping to avoid similar complaints in the future, he decided to ban the scheduled spring play, 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller." The New York Times 02/12/06

Pushing Back In the years since the 9/11 attacks, Arab-American playwrights have been imbued with a sense of purpose and mission - "to counter stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims" even as America moves inexorably to wipe out extremist Islamist factions in the Mideast. The result has been a new visibility for Arab dramatists in many American cities, and an extended debate on the role of politics and culture in drama. The New York Times 02/11/06

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Australian Theatres Struggling "The Bell Shakespeare Company, Queensland Theatre Company, Sydney's Company B and Circus Oz are also forecasting losses this year, with combined deficits of $1.5million. Theatres were employing fewer actors and their work on stage was losing vitality because of growing financial pressures, a report released yesterday found." The Australian 02/09/06

D.C. Experimental Theatre Closes Up Shop "[Washington, D.C.'s] Source Theatre Company, which provided a home for experimental plays and fledging artists for more than 28 years, has ceased operations and agreed to sell its building. Source had been struggling financially for several years and has received almost $1 million in public funds." Washington Post 02/09/06

Scrap It Before The Critics Get A Look At It Minneapolis-based Theatre de la Jeune Lune, which won the 2005 Tony Award for best regional theatre in the U.S., has announced that it will cancel the final production of its 2005-06 season after deciding that the adaptation of "The Old Man Who Read Love Stories" would not be ready in time for its June debut. The company "is known for its unconventional approach to producing and programming. In 2004, the company canceled a week's worth of performances of "The Ballroom" after opening in order to rework the show after disappointing critical and commercial reaction." St. Paul Pioneer Press 02/09/06

Why They're Doing It Is Another Question Entirely Remember when "robotic acting" was an insult? It still is, you say? Not according to one New York troupe. "The underground theatrical superstars Les Freres Corbusier [are premiering] the first production of Hedda Gabler in which half of the major roles are played by robots. Not humans in funny suits, but walking, talking machines performing live onstage. It's titled, naturally, Heddatron." Wired 02/09/06

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

The Complete Works Of Shakespeare (Unconventional Edition) Yes, the Royal Shakespeare Company is performing the complete works of Shakespeare. But some of the productions will be... shall we say, unconventional. The Guardian (UK) 02/08/06

Amazing What $14 Million Can Do "Troubled" does not begin to describe the history of the Chicago theatre recently known as the Shubert (now renamed for a corporate sponsor.) "Producers coveted it for its scale, which is similar to Broadway houses, but many theatergoers groaned at the thought of an evening at the 100-year-old Shubert, with its drab colors, its paucity of bathrooms and its congested, claustrophobic bottleneck of a lobby." But a $14 million renovation has not only opened the theatre up, it has revealed some striking architectural details not seen since the building's earliest days. Chicago Sun-Times 02/08/06

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

My Death, Now In Previews A prominent Hungarian director who is dying is staging previews of his own funeral. "Peter Halasz, who is also an actor, writer and satirist, is in the final stages of liver cancer, and will begin lying in an open coffin at an art museum in the Hungarian capital Budapest later this week. 'I'm curious how a funeral looks from the other side'." BBC 02/07/06

Monday, February 6, 2006

The Global Theatre (Who Needs It?) It's easy to "think of globalisation as sneakers made in sweatshops in Malaysia, McDonalds's golden arches in Turkestan or call centres in Delhi." But globalism is a potent force in the theatre too, and maybe not a good one... The Guardian (UK) 02/06/06

Sunday, February 5, 2006

What's Happened To The Prompters? It's a disappearing art. “In the old days you had to prompt, you really had to follow with your finger and mouth it with them. You marked up your script very precisely. You helped them through it. But what became of the prompt? Is it now an extinct species?" The Times (UK) 02/05/06

Another Musical Of The Movie A musical based on the movie "The Wedding Singer" debuts in Seattle. "It's notable as the most recent in an accelerating wave of commercial Broadway tuners devised by writers and composers who came of age in the '80s. This new breed is giving American musical comedy its own slant, and inspiring backers to stake millions on fresh shows — especially those, like 'Wedding Singer,' with a hit movie title on the marquee." Seattle Times 02/05/06

Fears That Go Bump In The Night (Live! Onstage!) Chicago theatres are opening their stages to anxiety this season. "Audiences seeking to exorcise the demons that plague us in the midnight hours can face down their fears a little earlier, in the collective warmth of a theater, and emerge cleansed of anxiety when the lights come up and the world rearranges itself around us, still intact for the time being." The New York Times 02/05/06

Friday, February 3, 2006

Of Truth, Lies And Theatre John Heilpern returns from writing a biography to writing about theatre. Biographies are about getting th facts right. But theatre? "As I see it, it’s my job as a biographer to see behind the mythomania and print the truth. But as a drama critic, give me beautiful lies every time. As I return to the theater beat, I am for those who believe feelings are real and facts are secondary. I am for all those in theater with open hearts." New York Observer 02/03/06

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Berlin Audience Protests Violent Production A production of Titus Andronicus at the Berlin theatre was so violent, the audience protested and tried to storm the stage. "You're getting off on it [the violence]," members of the audience shouted at the actors in protest at the graphic rape scene in which Titus's daughter, Lavinia, also has her hands chopped off and tongue ripped out. The Guardian (UK) 02/03/06

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

West End Posts Record Year At The Box Office "Box offices have never been busier, figures for 2005 show. From Billy Elliot to Guys and Dolls they have been packing them in: during 2005 a record 12.1 million customers, compared with 10.1 million in 1986, spent a total of £375,163,339 on London theatre tickets." The Times (UK) 01/31/06

  • Is London's West End Lagging? "Signs of a West End slump are beginning to worry its leading lights. Cameron Mackintosh, the millionaire impresario, has admitted that business is slow, and curtains have come down early on some West End productions." The Independent (UK) 01/30/06

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