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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Utopia" By The Numbers Tom Stoppardís epic three-evening play about nineteenth-century Russian intellectuals is a big undertaking... New York 10/30/06

Failure To Scare "The genre of horror, a wildly popular moneyspinner in other branches of entertainment, is practically absent from the stage. In fact, there is so little shock and gore available that a tiny fringe theatre in south London can accurately claim to be hosting Britain's only annual festival of horror theatre. It seems theatre has no desire, or indeed ability, to scare." The Guardian (UK) 10/31/06

"Wicked" Sets West End Record The show took the most money ever at the box office in a single week. "Wicked took £761,000 during its eight performances at the Apollo Victoria Theatre last week, a record for a show on the London stage, they claim." BBC 10/31/06

Brits Import American Play-Development Scheme. Whoops. "Over the last 10 years a new play development culture - based on American models - has taken root in British theatres and it is now so firmly embedded that it has become an industry in itself. ... Access is important, but what's the point of providing access to schemes to develop plays but not to the stages themselves? It's like teaching people to swim but then denying them access to swimming pools. There is something cockeyed about a theatre culture that has put so many structures in place to develop plays and so few to stage them." The Guardian (UK) 10/30/06

As If Switching The Clocks Back Weren't Confusing Enough ... "A matinee of 'The Little Dog Laughed' was delayed on Sunday because the showís star was at Bed Bath & Beyond buying mattress pads." The Broadway play, in previews, had pushed its regular 3 o'clock matinee up to 2 o'clock. "The audience understood the new schedule. So did the stage manager, and the director, and most of the actors. Just about everyone did except for the playís star, Julie White. 'It gets to be about noon, which is the time I would start getting ready to go to the theater for a 2 oíclock,' Ms. White said yesterday. 'And I think, "Oh wait, I have a whole ínother hour, and I hate my mattress pads!" ' " The New York Times 10/31/06

Lortel Foundation Names First Playwriting Fellows "The Lucille Lortel Foundation, which recently started a program to award fellowships to playwrights every two years, announced the first eight recipients. Melissa James Gibson ('[sic]'), David Greenspan ('She Stoops to Comedy'), Jessica Hagedorn ('Dogeaters'), Julia Jordan ('Tatjana in Color'), Lisa Kron ('Well'), Lynn Nottage ('Intimate Apparel'), Dael Orlandersmith ('Yellowman') and Adam Rapp ('Red Light Winter') will each receive $50,000. ... The winners were selected by a seven-member panel that included the playwrights David Henry Hwang and Paula Vogel." (sixth item) The New York Times 10/31/06

Monday, October 30, 2006

Where Twyla Went Wrong Twyla Tharp's new Bob Dylan show has been getting slammed by critics. "When a serious artist produces a dud, a lot of energy can be spent trying to figure out why, but sometimes the reason is just that the artist took on the wrong subject, and later realized this, and couldnít back out, and ended up having to fake something." The New Yorker 10/30/06

Seattle's Empty Space Theatre Closes "After 36 years of operations and a recent move to a new, high-tech space at Seattle University, Empty Space could not raise the funds it needed to continue the 2006 season. The three-production 2007 season, announced earlier this month, also will be scrapped." Seattle Times 10/28/06

Colorado Judge Upholds Stage Smoking Ban A Colorado judge refuses to lift a state ban on smoking for theatre productions. The judge "ruled the act of smoking, even in performance, 'is not inherently an expressive behavior,' and therefore does not qualify for free-speech protections under the U.S. constitution. The plaintiffs had argued that any action performed on a stage - from a gesture to body language to smoking - communicates a meaningful artistic expression that must be protected." Denver Post 10/30/06

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Craig Lucas On Playwrighting "Of all these disciplines the one that demands the most expertise, weirdly enough, is writing the book to a musical. It requires more wit, wisdom, appreciation of structure, character, musicality, rhythm, the most deftness and, lastly, that most underrated of artistic virtues, humility." Los Angeles Times 10/29/06

Now You Know Why Everything On Broadway Looks The Same Increasingly, off-Broadway hits making the transition to Broadway are doing more than minor tweaking in between shows. Some are asked to change nearly everything that made the show appealing in the first place. "Urinetown and Avenue Q showed it was possible to go Broadway without shedding oneís eccentric or unconventional Off Broadway appeal." But that hasn't changed Broadway's insatiable appetite for commercially safe, non-controversial theatre, and many are left wondering whether a move to Broadway is even worth the trouble. The New York Times 10/29/06

Friday, October 27, 2006

Toronto Unions Fight Over Blue Man Group Two of the unions locked in a dispute with the Toronto production of Blue Man Group have made a deal wit the show. But other unions say it's not a good deal. IUn any case, the show is scheduled to close in a couple of months. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/27/06

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bob Dylan Musical - Down In Flames The latest jukebox musical hits Broadway - dance set to the music of Bob Dylan. "Mr. Dylanís songs have been entrusted to the great choreographer Twyla Tharp, the woman who gloriously redeemed the jukebox genre with 'Moviní Out,' a narrative ballet set to songs by Billy Joel. Ms. Tharp is one of the bona fide, boundary-stretching geniuses of modern dance. And when a genius goes down in flames, everybody feels the burn. The New York Times 10/27/06

UK Actors Get Pay Raise "Actors across the UK have won a £50 a week pay rise, bringing the minimum rate for commercial theatre in the regions to £350 and paving the way for similar wage increases in the small-scale and subsidised repertory sectors." The Stage 10/27/06

Colombian Theatre Thrives Amid Poverty, Frustration Colombia is a country best with poverty and corruption. And in Bogota there is a thriving theatre scene dealing with issues. "A strong sense of frustration, hopelessness and fear is creating a disbelief in reality." New Statesman 10/26/06

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rent Composer Gets His Posthumous Due The U.S. Library of Congress has inducted the personal archive of late Rent composer Jonathan Larson into its collection. (Larson, whose rock musical is one of the most successful new shows of the last two decades, died of an aneurysm shortly before the show's Broadway premiere in 1996.) Larson is "the first of a younger cadre of Broadway songwriters to have his manuscripts, letters and other materials preserved at the library alongside those of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein." Washington Post 10/25/06

Now She Can Take A Break In Style The winner of Canada's $100,000 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre says that she was completely burned out and planning to take a break from the stage entirely when news of her big win arrived... Toronto Star 10/25/06

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Truly Ensemble Theatre Takes Wing "You wouldn't know it by looking at its current season, but Phoenix Theatre Ensemble is just getting started. It was only October 2004 when the company mounted its first show, but in the next seven months it will offer six new productions, the return of a previous play, and a community-based work on social justice. That level of output puts the Phoenix on a par with many large New York theatres and major regional companies. But unlike most of those groups, the Phoenix doesn't even have its own space. It doesn't have an office or a leader, either." Back Stage 10/23/06

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pirates Of Penzance In Yiddish? The Gilbert and Sullivan classic is a masterpiece of word play. "Theatrical translations, of course, are common. Still, Gilbertís dazzling patterns of double and triple rhymes, his ingenious puns and his lyricsí perfect match with Sullivanís music make the work terribly difficult to translate. Why go to the trouble?" The New York Times 10/22/06

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Invisible Hand Every actor dreams of directing, but most theatregoers are blissfully unaware of exactly what it is that a director brings to a production. "If she's lucky, theatergoers meeting her will say something vague, such as that they enjoyed the show. If a director is doing her job, her contribution may be undetectable, like the eggs in a cake. The finished product wouldn't be nearly as delectable if the yolks had been left out, but you're darned if you can single out their presence." Baltimore Sun 10/22/06

Reality Theatre "With an election imminent, political theater is everywhere in New York. Some of it is broad and partisan, [and] some of it is more subtle, aiming at issues rather than personalities. Some of it even aspires to be work you could stand to watch years from now, when the current administration and its troubles are in the history books." The New York Times 10/21/06

Pinter's Last Hurrah A new production of Samuel Beckett's play, Krapp's Last Tape, starring an unmistakably weak and ailing Harold Pinter "has been hailed by British reviewers both as a triumphant final hurrah for Mr. Pinter and as a lean and compelling performance by an actor-playwright whose own plays draw heavily on broken language, pauses, silence... Mr. Pinter is now 76, and has battled cancer of the esophagus. He said last year that he would not write any more plays, so there was an inevitable sense of valediction." The New York Times 10/21/06

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Washington's Theatre Lobby Shutting Down "The organization existed as a performance troupe from 1950 to 1972, then reconvened in 1985 as a theater support organization. Now most of the 15 Lobby members are in their 70s and 80s, some living in retirement communities. Seeing the plays, voting on the awards, raising funds for the small cash prizes and the event to hand them out has become too much." Washington Post 10/18/06

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New House, Different Rules At Victory Gardens Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater "gets pigeonholed as a 'mom-and-pop' operation. But now this family has a big, newly renovated house up at the historic Biograph Theater that just emptied the piggy bank by $11.7 million (and counting). And it's facing a whole different set of economic realities. So, will the family values stay the same? Only to a point, say the parents." One of the coming changes may be a raising of the bar for the theatre's stable of affiliated playwrights -- an ensemble whose existence sets Victory Gardens apart from most American theatres. Chicago Tribune 10/15/06

"Rachel Corrie" As Drama, Not Debate Topic "Few plays have traveled to New York with as much excess baggage as 'My Name Is Rachel Corrie,' " which had no such problems in London. "Those didnít erupt until the New York Theater Workshop, a nonprofit institution known for championing politically daring work, announced in late February that it would indefinitely delay the playís American premiere. ... Rachel Corrie became a name best not mentioned at Manhattan dinner parties if you wanted your guests to hold on to their good manners." Now that the play has opened, Ben Brantley writes, "many theatergoers wonder what all the shouting was about." The New York Times 10/16/06

Harlem's Gatehouse, Remade As A Theatre "There was a time not so long ago when people would hike to the Gatehouse pumping station at 135th Street and Convent Avenue in Harlem just to stand at a railing inside and watch the water rush by below. The water is still there, coursing its way underground to points south in Manhattan, but the building above now offers a different kind of spectacle. The architect Rolf Ohlhausen set out to evoke the public-works legacy of this rugged 1890 building in transforming it into a brand-new 192-seat performance space for Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall. ... (The) $21 million theater (is) the first new performance space to open in Harlem in a generation." The New York Times 10/17/06

  • Previously: Amid Harlem's Gentrification, A New Stage Aaron Davis Hall, Inc., has been part of Harlem for 25 years. Now renamed Harlem Stage, it opens its new theatre next month in "a community that is rapidly changing, with townhouses selling for millions of dollars and new buildings being erected by internationally renowned architects like Rafael ViŮoly." For executive director Patricia Cruz, that reality comes with a particular responsibility: "Things are changing," she said, "but how do we make it so that it's positive for the community ó that they are not among the displaced? We hope to be a stabilizing force." New York Sun 09/19/06
Monday, October 16, 2006

Back To The 60s There's a revival of musicals from the 60s and 70s. Why now? "After raiding much of the Rodgers-Hammerstein canon of 1950s and 1960s hits during the past decade, and much of the '80s Fosse and Sondheim output, too, a voracious Broadway revival market needs more new (old) blood." Seattle Times 10/15/06

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Stuff Happens... In Boston A small Boston theatre stretches to do David Hare's play about the Iraq war. "The play goes behind the scenes to try to show, step by step, how and why the Bush administration led America into war and persuaded the British to join it. The claims the play makes were controversial at the time... That Iraq was essentially an opportunistic venture where a small group in the White House chose to exploit 9/11 for their own political ends. That was controversial. It has now become standard history." Boston Globe 10/15/06

Portland Theatre's New Digs Portland Oregon's biggest theatre gets a handsome new home. "We really needed to be in a space where we could reinvent and expand our relationship with the community. We needed a place that said, 'This is Portland.' " Seattle Times 10/15/06

A Utopian Undertaking On Broadway (On So Many Levels) Tom Stoppard's new play is a mammoth undertaking. It requires "six and a half months of constant rehearsals ó full days and part days ó and 115 performances, including the three marathon performance days. Even harder when itís an ensemble piece, where the actorís name will appear somewhere in the crowd below the title. And harder still when itís at a not-for-profit theater, with its do-gooder pay scale." The New York Times 10/15/06

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Smokin' Mad A pending statewide smoking ban in Colorado would include a ban on actors smoking in theatrical productions, and the Denver theatre scene isn't taking the action lying down. "The Curious Theatre Company will take pre-emptive action against the ban this morning, when it plans to file a lawsuit in Denver District Court against the Colorado Department of Health and Environment." The suit contends that the ban constitutes a violation of the company's right to free expression. Denver Post 10/11/06

The British American Invasion London's theatre district has been developing a distinctly American flavor of late. From the Broadway smash, Wicked, to Eugene O'Neill's A Moon For the Misbegotten, the American tradition is suddenly everywhere in London, and no one seems to be complaining. International Herald Tribune 10/11/06

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tony Kushner's New Project "I'm working on a big, new gay play. It's been a long time since I've written about gay issues. I guess I feel that corners have been turned for me personally and also for the [gay] community and we're in a different, though unfortunately, not improved era." Yahoo! (Playbill) 10/10/06

Monday, October 9, 2006

O'Neill Playwrights Conference Locked In Rights Turmoil "Outrage from playwrights over a proposed policy change by the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, in which it would take a percentage of future royalties from plays presented there, caused the conference to backtrack rapidly over the weekend, leaving confusion about whether the proposal was still being considered." New York Sun 10/09/06

Cleveland Director Assaults Critic's Review Cleveland Play House director Michael Bloom made a very public critique of Plain Dealer theatre critic Tony Brown. "Inspired by an unfavorable review Brown had written of the play and his direction, [he} spied Brown in the back row of the theater, hurried down the aisle and ran the critic down in the lobby, where he passionately delivered an intimate and unrestrained critique of the review." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/09/06

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Boston Theatres Think New "From tiny Centastage to the Lyric Stage Company, New Repertory Theatre, Barrington Stage Company, North Shore Music Theatre, and the American Repertory Theatre, the area is becoming a veritable incubator for new plays and musicals, many by local artists." Boston Globe 10/08/06

Controversial To Past The End It was four years ago this month that a plane carrying Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone and his family crashed in a remote northern town, killing all on board and putting a shocking end to what many American leftists had hoped would be a long and prominent political life. Now, on the eve of another crucial Senate election in Minnesota, a prominent St. Paul theater is mounting a play dramatizing Wellstone's life. It's a risky move - Minnesota is not the Democratic stronghold it once was. "Politicos' reactions to the play have been muted because more attention is being paid to the coming elections than to the arts. But for those who are aware of the show, the late senator is proving to be as controversial in death as he was in life." St. Paul Pioneer Press 10/07/06

Is New York In A Theatrical Slump? "The fall theater season has kicked into high gear, but so far there isn't a single musical throwing off real sparks. Broadway isn't used to this: Every new season in recent memory has delivered at least one show (sometimes two or three) that's captured New Yorkers' imaginations - and plenty of their spending money." New York Post 10/07/06

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Insuring Against Terror In The Theatre So you're thinking of going to the Russian theatre but you've heard some dicey stories? "Theatre audiences in Russia will soon be able to buy insurance against a terrorist attack or some other catastrophe befalling them during the performance." The Guardian (UK) 10/05/06

Man The Barricades - Les Miz In The Record Books! "This weekend Les Misťrables will prove the doubters wrong and set a benchmark when it becomes the world's longest-running musical. Apart from the 21 years it has been running in London, a further 56 professional companies have opened it in 38 countries and 223 cities. With more than 38,000 professional performances worldwide, an astonishing - and estimated - 54 million people have seen it." The Guardian (UK) 10/05/06

Penumbra In The Black The Penumbra Theatre, the Twin Cities' leading company focusing on African-American work, operated with a surplus for the third season in a row. "Penumbra also announced that by June it will retire its debt, which ballooned to more than $500,000 in 2002. The debt, described as an albatross, triggered the company's restructuring program." Star Tribune (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 10/05/06

Stratford '07 Will Salute Departing Director Richard Monette is retiring after 15 years at the helm of Canada's beloved Stratford Theatre Festival, a fact you won't be able to miss if you attend any of Stratford's 2007 performances. In fact, the entire 2007 season, unveiled this week, is a tribute to Monette's achievements. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/05/06

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Arizona Actors Talk About Colorblind Casting "Itís still a new subject area for us in the Valley. Even though across the nation people have been dealing with it for 30 years, here itís still fairly new." Get Out AZ 10/04/06

Wilson Fest On Tap In D.C. Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center plans to mount a "boldly comprehensive showcase" of August Wilson's plays exploring the African-American experience in the spring of 2008. "The month-long event... will present each of the 10 plays as a staged reading in the center's Terrace Theater, under the artistic leadership of Kenny Leon, the Atlanta-based director who staged the premiere of the last Wilson play that the dramatist was to see on Broadway." Washington Post 10/04/06

Something's Happening Here, And You Don't Know What It Is, Do You? A new Broadway collaboration teaming choreographer Twyla Tharp with the music of Bob Dylan is going through more than the usual share of pre-opening night growing pains. Several cast members have been fired over the last few weeks, and now, the show's female lead has been replaced by her understudy. "The show is in such flux, theater writers have repeatedly been asked to postpone their visits. Even cast members aren't always clear about what's going on." New York Post 10/04/06

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Pioneering On W. 37th St.: Madness Or Midas Touch? What if you built a beautiful, Off-Broadway theatre complex and the market for it failed to materialize? "Located on a stretch where parking lots are the only businesses open after dark, 37 Arts has an address that one producer joked was 'just east of dire,' alluding to the nearby Dyer Avenue, which is actually northeast of the building. It wasnít supposed to be that way." The New York Times 10/02/06

London Theatre Devotes A Week To Darfur "The Tricycle theatre challenged mainly black British and American writers to come up with their take on the humanitarian crisis. The result is seven short plays of five to 20 minutes, which will be followed by a debate involving the audience." The Guardian (UK) 10/02/06

Monday, October 2, 2006

A Chorus Line Of Stories (Waiting To Be Paid) The new Broadway revival of "A Chorus Line" has some of the dancers whose stories were used in the show remembering that they weren't properly compensated for those stories. "At one point, when we were young and stupid, we kind of signed our lives away, and they exploited that. We were the authors of the show, and we should have been paid accordingly." The New York Times 10/01/06

Sunday, October 1, 2006

The Disappearing Overture "An unscientific survey of 30 recent, current or forthcoming Broadway musicals reveals that only 7 have an old-fashioned overture." The New York Times 10/01/06

Hypersensitivity Knows No Religious Boundaries While Germany's cultural establishment argues over the cancellation of an opera production deemed insensitive to Islamic fundamentalists, a Frankfurt theatre is quietly going ahead with a satirical play about Jews and Muslims in the Mideast that might prove far more provocative. "Members of the German-Israeli Society, which works to further relations between the countries, wrote to the theater condemning the play as anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli." The New York Times 09/30/06

Tennessee Comes To Cape Cod "In the summer of 1940, Tennessee Williams, who was living in Provincetown, [Massachusetts,] fell hard for a young dancer named Kip Kiernan. It was the writer's first real love affair, and his first broken heart. Williams wrote a thinly disguised theatrical version of the relationship that was lost for years. Now the world premiere of that resurrected play, The Parade, or Approaching the End of a Summer, will be performed in Provincetown, where it was set and written." Boston Globe 09/30/06

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