The Playgoer: April 2008

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mark Bly to Houston

There's probably only about 5-10 dramaturgs in this country who actually make a living at doing that--i.e. institutional positions that pay well enough to be genuinely full time and genuinely meaningful jobs (as opposed to writing mass rejection letters to playwrights.)

Mark Bly is certainly one of that small group of "in demand" dramaturgs after his many years at Yale Rep and more recently Arena Stage. Now he's headed to the Alley Theatre in Houston where...

In addition to serving as dramaturg for select productions, Bly will be responsible for the creation of the Alley's new play program, involving readings and workshops with established and emerging playwrights.
Hiring Bly to head your new play program marks a pretty serious commitment. And when you consider the resurgence of such activity and investment in Denver, too, you have as much evidence as you need that the center of gravity for new play development and production in the US may not only moving out of NYC, but moving West!

If it hasn't already...

NYT downplays Provincetown

The Times today goes wide with the Provincetown Playhouse story. But the article smacks of the worst of corporate journalism, of big NY institutions (NYT & NYU) cozying up to each other.

Basically it's covered as just a real estate squabble. And the NYU side of the story is given far more play than any other, giving the impression it's exactly the story the university would want the Times to run.

I'm no professional journalist, I know. But seems to me the outline of a straight-news story on this conflict would be a no-brainer and read something like this:

I NYU is considering plans for a new building that would demolish the Provincetown Playhouse.
II This upsets people because...
a) its significance to US theatre history and Off Broadway
b) yet another encroachment by the University on the character and history of Greenwich Village
III NYU's response: "Nothing to worry about, we're being responsible," etc, etc.
IV Meeting planned. "Only time will tell..." The End.

In other words, since this story has only been reported in the community paper The Villager, and on a couple of websites and blogs, doesn't it behoove the Times--in their first piece about this--to lay out the story in this Journalism 101 way?

Instead we get a lot of Part III (NYU's defense) up front. That is, before the argument against has even been fully voiced.

Also--not one theatre artist is interviewed or quoted for the piece. For a statement on the significance of the Playhouse they go not to a theatre historian or O'Neill literary scholar,but to the head of the Merchants House Museum, another old building in the neighborhood, that luckily has been preserved. (And, by the way, wouldn't the Provincetown--if nothing else--make at least a nice museum?)

Toward the end they finally get to an artist, the head of a Yale-based "Playwrights Theatre " group that NYU periodically allows to stage readings at the Provincetown. Hardly critical he has only respectful non-committal words about the university.

Meanwhile, such theatre luminaries as Robert Brustein have already gone on record. I wonder what Edward Albee would say, whose Zoo Story received its legendary US premiere there in 1959. How about an O'Neill biographer? Or an actor. Anyone???
Also unexamined is NYU's argument that the new theatre they plan to replace it with (as part of the overall enlarged complex) would somehow be more like the Provincetown than the Provincetown!

“I would not be taking down a building that had any architectural merit,” [architect Morris Adjmi] said. The new design, he added, “looks more similar to what was there than when it was renovated in the 1940s.”
So is what's being proposed a "recreation"? A replica? Not the Provincetown but an incredible simulation?

You know that feeling you get in some "heritage" museums or old home where you expect everything to be authentic, but there's a little tag that says, "historical replica"? And how your heart sinks? Well that's what I imagine theatre-struck youngsters saying in the future as they stroll around Washington Square Park and walk past what they thought to be historic.

Look--I know full well that the building currently standing at 133 MacDougal has had heavy "work" since the glory days of O'Neill. And as the Times tells us, it can't be landmarked because the NY Landmarks Commission deems it void of “historical and architectural integrity." And I also know that as a functioning theatre space it is cramped, old, and almost unusable for fully professional public performances (at least according to fire codes).

But to me these lacking qualities almost make it more urgent that we preserve it. To step inside this humble, cozy 170-seater, and to realize that The Emperor Jones was originally staged here--on this tiny stage!--is to be reminded how down to earth and basic much of our great theatre has always been. As unimpressive as the old house is to some, it still can inspire future generations, though its living historical memory.

Once you take down the building--no matter what memorial is put in its place--part of that memory goes with it. Inevitable, you say? Hardly. It's just a question of priorities.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Provincetown Playhouse as "Place of Pilgrimage"

Well, I don't expect the mighty Susan Glaspell Society will make NYU quake in its boots. But all the same, they've issued a moving rallying cry to save the Provincetown Playhouse.

The Susan Glaspell Society is morally outraged by the NYU Law School plans
to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments at 133-139 MacDougal
Street and we wish to express our opposition.

The Provincetown Playhouse, with its origins on the sand dunes of Cape Cod, has a place of honor in the history of the theatre as the “birthplace of the New American Drama.” It was at number 139, and then at 133 MacDougal Street that the Provincetown Players crafted their plays in a spirit of “fun” – as their unofficial historian Edna Kenton stated. But the fun was always serious; the aim of Susan Glaspell and George Cram Cook, the founders of this theatre, was to give American playwrights a stage on which to experiment and to perform plays that the commercial theatre routinely rejected. It was the inspiration for all Off-Broadway and avant-garde theatre in the United States and is still a place of pilgrimage for all lovers and scholars of theatre from many different parts of the world.

The Provincetown Players performed 97 plays by 47 American playwrights during their seven years of existence. Their principal playwrights and founders of the American drama were Susan Glaspell and Eugene O’Neill who were acclaimed as such by eminent critic Ludwig Lewisohn in 1932: “Susan Glaspell was followed by Eugene O’Neill. The rest was silence; the rest is silence still.” However, the roster of well-known modernist writers who found a home at the Provincetown Playhouse includes Djuna Barnes, Theodore Dreiser, Mike Gold, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Reed, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams. . . and also actors, designers, and artists, such as Sophie Treadwell, Helen Hayes and Margaret Wycherley, Robert Edmond Jones, and William and Marguerite Zorach. All these are subjects of ongoing research and publication by American and international scholars as well as theatrical revivals, exemplified by the highly successful recent production of Susan Glaspell’s Chains of Dew at the London Orange Tree Theatre.

The demolition of this site would endanger the memory of the moment when the American theatre came into its own as it renounced the concept of theatre as a commercial venture and accepted that, in the words of George Cram Cook: “Money cannot create a thing like this – it is born of the spirit.”

The Susan Glaspell Society speaks here for the values of the spirit that the Provincetown Playhouse represents and we hope that the NYU Law School will reconsider its plans to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse and will preserve this irreplaceable landmark of American literary and theatrical history.
While Provincetown was certainly not the first theatre in the United States (and not even the first good theatre or "serious theatre"), it could be called one of our first successful non-commercial (before the designation "not-for-profit") theatre companies. So the little playhouse does stand as a monument to that, at least.

The Tragicall Historie of Wright & Obama

No surprise that commentators are reaching for Shakespearean analogies to the battle of wits between the senator and his pastor. Robbie Baitz looks to Lear, Andrew Sullivan goes for Falstaff & Hal.

Me? I'm still wondering who decides which political opinions are "out of bounds" in this country and which aren't. So arbitrary.

By which, of course, I mean: anything but arbitrary.

Take Notice...

Hilton Als liked Cry-Baby!

He's the theatre critic for the New Yorker, by the way...

Hytner: 'Schools to blame for a generation unable to understand the arts'

"The end is not the audience. The audience is there to support the most searching, adventurous work possible. It is not my job to find someone who would be bored stiff by theatre if he or she came and somehow dragoon them into the stalls. There is no bloody point in that."

-Nicholas Hytner, an AD who sure knows how to get headlines.

Though you can't tell from this, his subject was actually how education has failed the arts.

Yes, even in England!

Says he:

"Every theatre in the country is really busting a gut with departments filled with fantastically idealistic and committed people trying to undo the damage which has been done by decades of neglect in schools....A generation have been deprived of the tools they should have been given to open a door [to the arts] that can otherwise seem quite daunting....The problem we now face, those of us who run theatres, galleries, dance companies and orchestras, is that we want to open the door as quickly as possible...But it gets to a point where you have to draw the line and say we can't go any further. Are we going to make over Mozart by making it sound as if it has a dance beat? No we are not! Are we going to translate Shakespeare more than we do already. No we are not!...We have to insist that for the arts to be as revelatory and transformative as they can be, they often have to be quite demanding."
Irascible chap, eh? I'll say this, though: he doesn't sound like someone worried every day about a Board he has to please.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Shakespeare in the Park Line goes Online!

Hallelujah, the Public has seen the light! I can't believe what I'm reading:

The Public Theater is launching the virtual line initiative this summer to increase accessibility to Park shows. While the majority of the tickets will still be given out at the line in Central Park, a limited number of tickets will be available each show day online. The virtual line will allow people who are registered at The Public Theater website to log-on the day of a show (starting at midnight) to submit a request for up to two tickets. At 1PM, they can log-on to the theater website again to see if they have received tickets for that evening’s performance. The tickets will be held at the box office and a valid photo ID will be required. The selection process is completely random and is not determined by what time of day a person submits a request for tickets.

A big change for a NY institution. But a welcome one.

This means that the only waiting in line (as opposed to online) will be at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. Tickets will not be handed out downtown at the Lafayette St. Public Theatre headquarters.

The website is a little ambiguous about the reasons for (and implicitly the longevity of) the tweak:
The Public Theater will not be distributing tickets downtown at 425 Lafayette Street due to ongoing construction on the exterior of the building. See below for info on how to get tickets online!

But whatever the reason I applaud the experiment. It's a fair compromise. You still have the first come-first served "egalitarian" option in the park. But for those of us who work during the day, we stay up till midnight and take a chance on the ol' internet casino. Yes, it's luck of the draw--but so was waiting on line some years! (Not to mention the weather.)

So what's changed? For the last few years we've seen the Public gradually sell off a greater portion of the seats to those willing to cough up $160. And this year--for one individual can buy as many as 10 tickets! Yes, for $1600. (I believe in the past there's at least been a limit of 2.)

(And I still don't know what they mean when they justify this appeal as helping "those who cannot wait in line to attend the theater." Are these tickets being given away to the infirm? I don't think so.)

So lately the only way to see this free and democratic event was to pay 3 figures or donate one of your precious vacation days toward the affair. Or just take your chances on the weekend with everyone else in the city and environs.

But by finally exploring alternate options, by finally recognizing that forcing people to sleep on the streets of the Bowery is not something we should be romanticizing in these days of gentrification, I do believe some folks at the Public are coming to their senses and recognizing that the concept of "Free Will" has to address freedom of access as well as just $ value.

Dare I wonder if the recent departure of Executive Director--and effectively chief fundraiser--Mara Manus has anything to do with this? Could this be a counterweight to the increased selling of indulgences for these sometimes highly desirable seats?

A Regional Theatre AD interviewed on NPR!

Just caught up with a nice Weekend Edition profile of Kent Thompson's efforts at Denver Center Theatre Company to produce new writing. Including audio excerpts from some of the works.

Theatre on NPR? And not only theatre but regional theatre? Kudos!

The Challenge of "Found Spaces"

Interesting piece in the Times a while ago on what it took for the Classical Theatre of Harlem to actually produce a show in the legendary Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was shot in 1965.

All kinds of compromises were required--but the payoff is the undeniable frisson of the place.

The play is Emancipation by Ty Jones, about the Nat Turner rebellion and it runs through May 4. More info here.

DC Theatre Ups & Downs

"Increase of 402 Performances, Decrease of 36,000 Patrons," reads a Washington Post headline.

Basically the artists are flourishing. But the audiences can't keep up!

Or are they just dying...

Still, I suppose it's better than the converse. For now, at least.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Robert Brustein on Provincetown

The Playhouse, once upon a time.
The current NYU awning covers the building's
few Art Deco touches around the entrance.
(Compare to photo here.)

From Robert Brustein, published with his permission:
Tearing down this historic and important off Broadway playhouse would be a scandal and a disgrace. It has housed innumerable important shows, beginning with O'Neill's one-act plays, demonstrating that a postage stage can still be hospitable to great art.

I performed on this stage myself in the summer of 1949 when a group I helped to form, named Studio 7, spent two season there, doing Lorca, Strindberg, and others.

Please use this letter in any way you wish to help save this historic stage.

Robert Brustein
Curbed--that essential site on NYC real estate--has more on the controversy and on all the neighborhood/university politics involved.

Provincetown Playhouse: The Wreckingball Cometh?

Despite all the shutterings and demolishings of vintage Off Broadway theatres these days, one would think the old Provincetown Playhouse on MacDougal would be safe.

It was, after all, the incubator of our official Great American Playwright Eugene O'Neill. Also, as the currently property of New York University it is not on commercial real estate.

Well...all that doesn't seem to matter to said landlord:

The Provincetown Playhouse, the Greenwich Village theatre built in 1918, may be subjected to a wrecking ball.

AMNY [see page 4] reports that New York University has announced plans to demolish the 170-seat theatre, which is not landmarked and once featured the early works of Edward Albee, Eugene O'Neill and Edna St. Vincent Millay, among others.

NYU plans to demolish a block of buildings on MacDougal Street, including the famed theatre. A new five-story building that would be utilized by NYU's law school would take its place.
Wait, you say, surely it's landmarked? Alas, no.

If there's no chance of stopping at this, I wonder if the Provincetown is actually small enough to crane-lift out of there and transplant to a cheaper--and more appreciative--location.

If NYU has no interest, I know some small theatre companies that could really use it!

UPDATE: More info from the community paper, The Villager. Turns out it's not technically the original NYC location of the Provincetown. Ok, fine. But still, close:
The Provincetown Playhouse, which started on a wharf at the end of Cape Cod, opened at 139 MacDougal St. in 1916 and moved to No. 133 after two seasons, according to a Web site by Jeff Kennedy.
Also of historical note...
The “new” theater at 133 MacDougal St. opened in 1918 with one-act plays by O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Florence Kiper Frank. The 1920-’21 season featured O’Neill’s “The Emperor Jones,” a hit that moved to Broadway, according to the Kennedy Web site.

In 1960, the theater hosted the long-running double bill of Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” and Edward Albee’s “A Zoo Story,” and the last hit play there was the Charles Busch camp comedy “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.”

Yes, that would be the Zoo Story premiere. (US premiere, of course.)

Photo of the Day

Local One members load Todd Rosenthal's impressive set for August: Osage County into the Music Box theatre.

The show is shutting down for a week to change venues. Says Variety:

While the 1,400-seat Imperial is more traditionally a musical house, the 1,000-seat Music Box provides a more intimate setting generally considered to be better suited to plays. And the change in theater size also shifts the balance of supply and demand.

"With the numbers we've been doing, we'll be selling out at the Music Box," [Producer Jeffrey] Richards says.
Really? Maybe if the Music Box were 500 seats, according to these numbers...

J#s*s C%r@st S#pr$tr

Yet another sign of how marginalized and ostracized theatre culture is with "America":

Carly Smithson might be the first “American Idol” contestant to be voted off the show for blasphemy.

Online chat boards devoted to “American Idol” have been abuzz since Ms. Smithson performed the title song from “Jesus Christ Superstar” — the 1970 rock opera, which many Christians consider offensive — on Tuesday’s episode. Ms. Smithson received the fewest votes of the six remaining contestants following her Tuesday performance. Her elimination was announced on Wednesday night’s episode. The week’s performances were drawn from the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote “Jesus Christ Superstar” with Tim Rice.

Since its debut, and particularly following the release of the 1973 film version, “Jesus Christ Superstar” has been railed against by some Christians for its portrayal of Jesus as confused and at times unwilling to accept his role, and because it hints that he had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene.

And here I was, assuming this was a cheezy popular show!

Andrew Lloyd Webber controversial? "Blasphemous"?

Jesus. Jesus Fucking Christ.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Esbjornson & Seattle Rep

Esbjornson has declined to say where or why he is going. I asked board president Marty Taucher whether Esbjornson was leaving because of problems with budgets, programming, staff, or community relations. "All of those," he replied.

Seattle Stranger digs a little deeper into David Esbjornson's departure from Seattle Rep.
Esbjornson's season programming reflected his background as a freelancer; it didn't cohere, but instead lurched from bold gambles like Rachel Corrie and Ariel Dorfman's Purgatorio to vapid pap like Tuesdays with Morrie and Back Home Again: A John Denver Holiday Concert.

During Esbjornson's reign, the Rep has tried to be all things to all people. Taucher said Esbjornson has "pushed us to be more ambitious," but that newer and sometimes undercooked productions, like The Breach, "have not achieved a lot of resonance in this market." (According to the Rep, subscription sales are expected to fall 6 percent over the course of this season.)
Article also argues Esbjornson's thoughts were never far from Broadway and found it hard to launch the jetsetting career of a Bob Falls or Bartlett Sher (his neighbor at Seattle's Intiman).

A problem no more, apparently, since he'll reportedly be directing Al Pacino in Orphans on Broadway next year.

The New Musicals

"I think it's exciting when musicals sound more like the culture that produced them and less like other musicals...Theater is a magpie art: It steals from what's going on around it. For Duncan Sheik to steal from indie rock and Lin-Manuel to steal from hip-hop and salsa, and to see young audiences respond to that, can only be good for Broadway's health."

-Jeremy McCarter

"What links these shows is that they're not being drawn from an already-proved formula...They're original visions. And what's important is that they all began Off Broadway, where there's less tinkering from producers in the artistic process....[But] All you need is a few experimental shows to flop, and people will get cold feet again."

-Charles Isherwood

The two critics are among those quoted in a nice Variety piece this week putting in context the success of Spring Awakening and its recent "children" Passing Strange, In The Heights, and even Adding Machine.

Obviously these shows bear no direct debt to Spring Awakening. But does their reception and success? And the fact they're even being commercially produced at all?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More Mamet

Among the most insightful takes I have seen on Mamet's "conservative" coming out is "Book/Daddy" blogger Jerome Weeks, who reminds us: there's no surprise here to anyone who's followed the man's work closely.

[F]or some time, he has gravitated toward more traditional paeans to integrity and justice and even macho effectiveness -- in the understated classicism of The Winslow Boy and The Voysey Inheritance, for example, or the duty-and-honor militarism of his TV series, The Unit. Essentially, Mamet began by writing bitter moral satires (sometimes still does, given the evidence of Romance and November). But increasingly, he has turned toward expressions of the ideals that he feels are vanishing, if not already absent, from contemporary life. Pointedly, they're the qualities his previous characters lacked or despised.

The typical, Delta Force-style mission in The Unit, it should be noted, is, in effect, a con job or heist -- actions that had once been signs of cynical callousness or desperation in a business office have a moral justification, even a determined enthusiasm, in a war on terror. At the same time, The Winslow Boy and The Voysey Inheritance are actually Victorian tales of stiff-upper-lip, British family honor -- a far cry, it would seem, from his down-and-dirty hoods, near-hoods or soulless yobs. But then, Mamet has always admired professionalism of whatever ilk, even among the salesmen hustlers of Glengarry. Why else did he give Alec Baldwin's bully-boy motivational speaker one of the most memorable monologues in American cinema? These guys have to be good at what they do -- the better to display their moral failings.

I think he gets right the continuum between Mamet's supposed "two worlds"--expletive-hurling hoodlums and tight-lipped Victorians. Mamet's often been misread as some kind of proletarian writer limited to the contemporary urban gangster mileu. But really the most consistent strain in the work has always been some paleo-Victorian--and, yes, deeply conservative--ideal of "honor" (even if "honor amongst thieves") expressed in as terse and affectless a way as possible. Hence his increased attraction to the worlds of the military and to "stiff upper lips."

Survey Says...?

I generally think that surveys measuring audience response are a bad idea. I care very deeply about what my audience thinks or feels, but I don't feel that surveys are the best way to assess this, and so don't use them. If the theater wants them, I consent, but I don't read them. This is not because I am a snob who is disinterested in what my audience thinks - on the contrary, I care very much - but because I think our contemporary culture has a weird fetish for quantifying everything, and something so delicate and ineffable as the relationship between artist and viewer can't even really be expressed verbally, let alone numerically. I am, in many cases, a believer in the wisdom of crowds and a fan of most open-source projects, but theater isn't computer programming or the collective hive-mind of Wikipedia. I find it much more instructive, actually, to watch an audience watch my work (as was easy to do at the Denver Center's in-the-round Space Theater in 2007), a technique recommended by the filmmaker Francois Truffaut, among others. Collectively, an audience is very intelligent, but not necessarily in a way that individual members can articulate - often I can better tell whether or not a play is working by observing body language. When are people laughing, crying, shifting, on the edge of their seats, dozing off, walking out? And who are they specifically, and when do I want or not want them to be doing each of these? This tells me much more than most of the feedback I get at "talk-backs," which is usually more about giving the audience a greater sense of involvement (a perfectly laudable goal in itself) than about soliciting "notes."
-Playwright Jason Grote, blogging from the National Performing Arts Convention, where one session dares to ask: "Aside from the buzz in the lobby, is it possible to define - and even measure - how audiences are transformed?"

Why do I worry that what "transform" means here is less spiritual than "transformed into repeat happy customers!"

This is a really salient point about talkbacks, by the way. (And of course "surveys" only bring to mind "test screenings" and "Fatal Attraction"-like surgical rewrites.) As someone who has moderated quite a few talkbakcs in my time, I want to go out on a limb say that they more often than not, suck. First, I'm also struck by how often audience members take it upon themselves to indeed "give notes" to the playwright or artists--unsolicited--as if they're playwriting mentors themselves, or, worse, Broadway backers. (Imagine patrons telling Joanne Akalaitis that her staging of Heiner Muller's "Quartet" better get more accessible or else people may not like it! Well, that happened, I was there.)

Also, the outright rudeness of some of the "questions" I've hear never ceased to amaze me. To wit: "Were those Southern accents intended to be inconsistent?" "Did you mean the characters to be unbelieveable?"

Obviously, it's just a few "bad apples," if I may use the phrase, who take over and, if they're lucky, get a groupthink going in the crowd that skews the perceived "response" one way or the other. For instance, at one new play I moderated at the first questioner could still not get over the first line (two hours ago) said the word "bullshit", which then became the only topic of conversation for the next twenty minutes. I'm sure the playwright was helped by that.

The tragedy of talkbacks (and really I'm not overstating!) is that the insightful people either leave or stay around to watch the freakshow, while the rest of us are held hostage by the crankiest, most throwback savants who insist that nothing good has happened in the theatre since Death of a Salesman.

Yes, we need to take down that fourth wall and let artists and audiences engage more. But somehow the more formal and structured the setting (meant to protect the artists) ends up privileging the looniest and least fruitful comments--often by sheer luck of the draw. Instead, it often is much better to just keep the bar open after the show and let people congregate on their own (un-moderated and un-mediated) and invite some artists to mingle.

Party like it's 1979

Isaac presents some interesting stats on the NEA, which become quite eye-popping once you adjust for inflation, as he does. They reveal that the hacking of its budget started years before the "culture wars" of the late 80s. Try, the very beginning of the Reagan administration. "1979 was the NEA's highest budget in terms of 2008 dollars," says he, "at a whopping $470.56 million dollars."

Today it's around $125 million. Yup, about 1/4th the size.

And as Isaac points out in a no-duh way: "Is art cheaper to make than it was in 1979? No. Is the dollar worth more than it was in 1979? No."

Go see his proposals and tell him what you think.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Charlie's Last Tape?

I'm late to this YouTube party.

But just case you are, too, here's a nifty little Beckett spoof making the rounds lately.

That Pulitzer Bounce

Since winning the Pulitzer, audience attendance at August: Osage County has slipped down beneath 50% capacity.

One conclusion to draw is that the Pulitzer has ceased to matter in the consciousness of Broadway audiences. Another is that anyone who would have been impressed by the Pulitzer has probably seen the show already.

Other theories?

Aime Cesaire

Aime Cesaire has died, at 94. One of first of the "postcolonial" writers, in the theatre he will always be known for A Tempest, his reimagining of Shakespeare as anti-imperialist critique.

Of course neither A Tempest or any other mention of plays gets play in the official AP obit, as run by the NY Times today. For a more comprehensive account, try the Beeb.

Cesaire was also notable for his real-life political activism, representing his native Martinique in the French parliament, serving as mayor of the capital city, and--more recently--getting into tussles with one Monsieur Sarkozy.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Headline of the Day

'Spamalot' leaving Las Vegas
Celeb impersonator Danny Gans will replace it


("...another mark of the perceived untenability of most Rialto offerings in Sin City.")

Hamlet 2

The theatre-geek movie of the summer has arrived: "Hamlet 2." (No, not Hamlet II)

If you're skeptical, let me reassure you with two words: Steve Coogan.

Also, Catherine Keener, Amy Poehler, and South Park staff writer Pam Brady.

From the trailer, I foresee a "Mr. Holland's Opus" meets "Waiting for Guffman."

To Drink or Not to Drink

[T]here are only two places where you are guaranteed to see alcoholic beverages being chugged: frat parties and theatre lobbies.
How to solve the intermission bar problem: some proposed solutions from the Toronto thetare community.

My personal worst offender: BAM Harvey Theatre. Especially if you're in the balcony. You make your way down those terrifying stairs to the lobby, wait on a huge line, and just before you can even order a drink, the lights blink and off you go scaling the mountain again, unquenched.

"Bounce" Bounces Back

Sondheim fans rejoice! John Doyle confirms he is directing Bounce (formerly Gold!, formerly Wise Guys) at the Public in the Fall.

However, no official word from the Public yet.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Esbjornson Outta Here

Terse News out of Seattle Rep yesterday, by way of Variety...

David Esbjornson has announced that he will not be renewing his contract at the Seattle Repertory Theater, where he currently serves as artistic director. His contract expires June 30, 2009.

Board of trustees prexy Marty Taucher said in a statement that he was disappointed with the decision but understood that "a complex series of factors informed his thinking."

Wassup, Seattle folk?

Also--what in Varietyspeak is a "prexy"?

Drama Desk Awards exposed! Michael Riedel.

One source describes this once-lofty minded endeavor as descending into Golden-Globes-wannabee territory.

One thing we don't need in theatre is more awards.

At least non-monetary awards.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

REVIEW: Fire Island

Tina Alexis Allen & Stephen Payne in Fire Island. Photo: Diego Bresani

If it's true that writers generally write what they know...then Chuck Mee must do a lot of lying around on beautiful islands, fucking.

Hey, good for him. But seriously--be nice if he wrote about something else some time.

I kid, I kid. The truth is his Fire Island--while a bit insufferable in its Leo Bascaglia love-therapy-- has made for a quite impressive production at the 3LD space. The best use of the video facilities there I've seen.

My review in Time Out is basically positive, I guess. As drama, frankly, its wanting. But as an experience, it's worth sampling. Especially if you have a few friends to hang with.

And you're baked.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Buy New York Theatre Review

The indefatigable Brook Stowe has put out another handsome annual edition of his New York Theatre Review. Buy it! At Drama Books.

I only contributed a small bit of copy to the book's "bloggers' roundtable" at the back. But with such fine feature content as below, I still recommend it!

In plays, Taylor Mac’s funny, deeply personal and visually stunning The Young Ladies Of ... seeks out the macho, Texas farm-boy father he never really knew; 2008 P73 Playwriting Fellow Tommy Smith’s explosively visceral White Hot rips the calm exterior off a bourgeois couple's seemingly placid existence to expose the despairing core festering beneath; six Asian-Americans from widely different backgrounds share their stories of immigration, migration and cultural identity in Ping Chong &Sara Michelle Zatz’ Undesirable Elements.

In essays specifically commissioned for the 2008 edition, Victoria Linchong of NYC’s Direct Arts, Zachary R. Mannheimer of Brooklyn’s Subjective Theatre Co., and Marya Sea Kaminski of Seattle’s Washington Ensemble Theatre contribute fresh takes on the NYC alt-theater of today, and a look back fifty years to where it all began.

2008: Year of Equity

2008 is turning out to be a big year in Actor's Equity negotiations--their contract with both the "Broadway League" (formerly League of American Theatres and Producers) and the LORT theatres are coming up for renewal.

Campbell Robertson today tries to reassure that Broadway is not facing another strike. And the LORT issues haven't even begun to be debated.

But I did take note of one of the Equity demands for Broadway actors:

The union is likely to propose ways to manage the growing demands on actors’ time for publicity work; the league wants to loosen some of the current restrictions on filmed or recorded promotional work.
Yes, I've noticed a lot more fancy publicity junkets for big Broadway openings. Are the actors getting paid at all for those?

REVIEW: The Conversation

Let me say up front: I'm not automatically horrified at the idea of adapting movies into stage plays. (Ok, maybe musicals.) But when you take on something like Coppola's The Conversation, the bar's pretty high, ain't it...

Read my take on 29th St Rep's attempt in this week's Voice.

(Yes, that's the movie poster. I had no stills from the play. Plus, mighty retro cool, no?)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

more on NYTW downsizing

The Times makes it "a story" today.

Meanwhile, Stage Directions--a magazine specializing in the Design/Tech scene--has some fresh updates on their site about the laying off of New York Theatre Workshop's entire full-time production staff. Also, an official statement from NYTW:

According to NYTW spokesperson Richard Kornberg the termination of the production staff is “fiscally responsible, not reprehensible,” and referred to the goings-on at NYTW as a “fluid situation.”
Don't you get it? We're being "responsible"! Not reprehensible. Gee, why don't these techies understand!

Okay, sorry. Unfair paraphrase, perhaps. Just sounds so corporate.

Also from Stage Directions, this sad detail:
[I]nterim managing director Fred Walker informed the production department employees of their termination behind closed doors. The staff was in the midst of teching the Elevator Repair Service adaptation of Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury (which began previews April 15) at the time.
If Sound and the Fury is anything like ERS' Gatz, then it might seem deceptively low tech, and also made NYTW feel they could afford to cut at this time. (After tech rehearsal, of course.) Yes, I know the termination isn't effective till May 31, but as SD notes, production manager Michael Casselli "was also offered a deal to walk off the job immediately without losing pay through the official termination date at the end of May."

Meanwhile, most interesting news from the Times story is that the cutbacks are indeed directly related to the closing of NYTW's B'way cash-cow, Rent.

Look, we all know the challenges to running a solvent theatre company in NYC these days. And, yes, NYTW will continue to hire production staff, albeit as freelancers.

But these freelancers will probably be younger and less experienced. And the six individuals who had built careers in their field, and devoted much of those years to this institution are now out of a job. They'll get other jobs, you say? Not if the trend spreads.

And--just to get really cosmic on you--don't look to Broadway either for those jobs! What do you think that little strike was about last fall? Permanent companies have production departments; Broadway shows have "stagehands." But either way, no matter what you call them, they're the people loading in the sets, hanging the lights, hooking up the electricity--basically making the thing run.

And what we see here is an exact mirroring of the bottom-line, take-no-prisoners strategy of the League of American Theatres and Producers. Namely: "why are we paying these laborers so much money when we don't need them?" The reason they're not "needed" anymore is the shows are getting smaller and smaller, the production values cheaper and cheaper. And that's no coincidence.

Defining production levels downward save you costs not just in materials, but in labor. But, alas, cutting "labor" in the theatre, means diminishing yet again the number of people who can make a living in it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Off B'way Shake-Up #2: NYTW

Tip of the Hat to Isaac for bringing to our attention--by way of tech-mesiter Mike Lawler's blog--a saddening story that broke over the weekend.

In short: massive layoffs at New York Theatre Workshop. Essentially, their entire senior production staff.

Lawler has the inside story from one of the downsized. Let him tell the story:

The entire production staff of New York Theatre Workshop will be eliminated as of May 30th, 2008. Reason for our dismissal-Board mandated a 1 million dollar reduction to the operating budget so of course who goes first? Production. Season will consist of 3 main-stage productions and an ancillary program of musicals to follow the model of the Encore series basically a bare stage and many performers remounting off-Broadway musicals. So of course production can be handled by either seasonal hires or show by show hires. People have lost their livelihood through no fault of their own and the shortsighted planning of people who really don’t understand what it is production does...
Hey, remember what I said recently about that "Encores" model? Don't say I didn't warn you all...

(We might have suspected something was up when NYTW announced that idea just 8 weeks ago.)

Lawler estimates the savings for NYTW from these dismissed staffers at $280,000. "I wonder what the AD and MD are earning?" he asks. Funny, I just reported that some days ago.

Also funny/pathetic is the observation that the company's plans for a multi-million dollar new tech facility (also reported here last year) go on full speed ahead, regardless:
What may be most confusing about all of this is NYTW’s seemingly unabated plans to build new scene and costume shop facilities according to LEED standards that were to be up and running sometime next year. What’s the point of having such facilities if there is no production manager, no technical director, and no costume shop manager? “The ground breaking ceremony for our LEED certified scenic/costume shop is slated for May 14th, though now there is no staff to run it,” Casselli [soon to be ex-NYTW production manager] said.
Above mentioned Michael Casselli is Lawler's source, and today he provides an "open letter" from him as well.
It is sad that an institution like the Workshop has devolved in such a way. I am angry, sad and more than a little bitter at the treatment the whole of production has been put through. What is even more enraging is that none of the individuals responsible for making this decision were present at our termination - Artistic Director Jim Nicola, Managing Director Billy Russo and Heather Randall. These were the people who, according to their messengers, were responsible for this decision.
I'm aware I'm linking to the words of an understandably upset and angry employee. But tell me if this whole scenario doesn't sound eerily familiar (or even prophetic) of what's to come in our nonprofit theatres--even our "moneyed" ones.

Off Off B'way: The Numbers

Kudos to the folks at New York Innovative Theatre Awards for taking on--and completing--a massive effort to survey and document that unquantifiable phenomenon of the business of Off Off Broadway. Or as it is known to some of us--most of New York City noncommercial theatrical activity.

Campbell Robertson offered a streamlined summary in Saturday's Times. Here are some random numbers that stuck out to me when reading this aggregation of data from 73 Off-Off companies for the 2006-2007 season:

  • There were about 1700 productions ("unique listings") presented under the category of Off-Off Broadway for the season.
  • Of the companies responding, the bulk (60%) produce somewhere between 2-5 productions a season. (About 25% do just 1. Only 15% do more than 5.)
  • The vast majority (84%) of companies rent performance space, not own.
  • As per the current Equity Showcase Code, over 80% of productions run only 16 performances or less. (Average is given as 14 perf's.)
  • Speaking of Showcase...A majority, almost 2/3rds of the survey respondents do pay actors something. But on average, only $420 for the run.
  • The ratio of Equity to Non-Equity productions in the season: 60%/40%, respectively. (So, yes, a majority in the survey are Equity.)
  • A majority of those surveyed (56%) produce exclusively new work. An additional 11% combine new and old.
  • Budgets: The average Off-Off budget is cited as $18,000. 2/3rds that season came in below $20,000; 1/3rd over.
  • "An average of 36% of the overall production budget is spent on performance space rental. The average cost of a space for a 4-week rental is $6,600, which averafes $1,650 per week and $470 per performance (based on a schedule of 14 performances)."
  • Of production values, the most is spent on sets. (7% of entire budget, on average.)
  • For those that employ a publicist, the average expense is $1790, or 7% of the budget.
Lastly, the aggregate spending of the entire Off Off Broadway community is estimated in the survey as over $30 million.

$30 million pumped into the NYC economy every year, Mayor Mike! Of course, most of it's going to real estate landlords, publicity outlets, printing shops, and the New York City Transit System!


Friday, April 11, 2008

"Some Problems for the Moose Lodge"

When we look back on Tennessee Williams's oeuvre, we habitually dismiss anything he wrote after, oh, 1960. But write on he did, until his death twenty-three years later.

Gregory Mosher is determined to make us take another look at late Williams, specifically his 1982 A House Not Meant to Stand, billed as "A Gothic Comedy" and described in Variety as "a dark, semi-autobiographical comedy about the fragile state of a family." (I prefer the working title: "Some Problems for the Moose Lodge.") The script is now being published and Mosher is trying to raise interest in a NY production.

Hear hear, I say. Whatever problems the man had, if you care about the great plays, there may be much still learn about them in the "lesser."

NY Shakespeare Festival Shake-Up?

Not sure how to read between the lines of the big NYT story today of the seemingly amicable divorce of Public Theatre AD Oskar Eustis and his managing director Mara Manus, who just announced her resignation. ("She said she had no immediate plans and no other job lined up.")

It sounds like Eustis has been frustrated by Manus tight control of the purse strings, that his plans have just been too ambitious. If so, then maybe this development is a victory for that vision, and we have exciting things to look forward to.

Here's the meat of the article. Decide for yourselves:

“Six years is a long time at a place that goes through as many changes as the Public seems to,” Mr. Lerer [chairman emeritus of the board, Kenneth B. Lerer] added. “Oskar should put whatever imprint he wants to put on the Public Theater and be able to do that.”

Mr. Eustis replaced George C. Wolfe as artistic director last year. He is the latest to take up the mantle of Joseph Papp, the legendary founder of the Public. Mr. Eustis called Ms. Manus’s decision to leave “bittersweet.”

“In many ways, the theater is in more stable shape than at any time in its history,” said Mr. Eustis. “It’s also a good moment for her to move on. I think she’s ready to build something else.”

“There is no question that we’ve had tension at times — that’s true not only for every administrative partner I’ve had, but for every artistic director I know,” he continued. At the same time, he said, “we’ve really shared a vision of what this theater is.

“The hard parts were the challenges that faced both of us,” Mr. Eustis said. “In show business, what you have to do is create the activity and figure out how you’re going to manage it.”

Ms. Manus said her relationship with Mr. Eustis had been “collaborative.”

“He came in with a pretty definitive sense of what he wanted to build on the artistic side, so it was just a question of how quickly we could build it,” she said.

Mr. Lerer said a push-pull relationship between the two was to be expected. “It’s a difficult balancing act,” he said. “Mara a lot of times has to be the ‘no’ person — ‘No, you can’t spend another $250,000 on Shakespeare in the Park, no you can’t do 10 productions, you can only do 8.”

I must remind myself the next time I have a fight with someone to describe our relationship as "collaborative."

Well if Eustis can now proceed with his wonderful plans without being so cost-conscious, may I suggest then, Oskar...Free Will for All! No more hogging of Shakespeare in the Park tickets by "Summer Subscribers" who can now pre-order up to 10 tickets(!) for themselves.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tony Buzz

Hard to believe but the Tony nominations may actually be competitive this year--that's because there actually were more than four acceptable (loosely) plays and musicals that even opened!

Variety's David Rooney surveys each category--all 9(!) plays and 8 musicals.

Nominations announced on May 13. So, producers and press agents--start your engines!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

If you can't beat 'em: merge?

The ever, um, evolving Seattle theatre scene now features a merger!

By far the larger organization, SSC (founded in 1991 as the Seattle Shakespeare Festival) has a current yearly budget of about $915,000 per year, compared with Wooden O's annual outlay of roughly $80,000. Neither company is carrying a financial deficit.

The joint venture will allow SSC "to take any administrative savings we get and pass it on to the actors and other artists," says Shine [Stephanie Shine of Seattle Shakespeare]. In addition to employing more actors, SSC also provides better pay and benefits than Wooden O could as a separate entity.

Maybe a good idea for others to consider?

Earth to Critics: It's Over, Man

LA Times' Patrick Goldstein laments:

There was a time when critics were our arbiters of culture, the ultimate interpreters of intellectual discourse. When I was growing up, eager to write about the arts, it was just as important to read Pauline Kael, Frank Rich and Lester Bangs as it was to see a Robert Altman film, a David Mamet play or listen to the latest Elvis Costello album. Critics gave art its context, explained its meaning and guided us to new discoveries.

As a flood of stories in recent weeks has shown, those days are going, going, gone. Critics today are viewed as cultural dinosaurs on the verge of extinction. Most of the attention lately has focused on the demise of film critics. The Salt Lake Tribune's Sean P. Means actually posted a list Wednesday of film critics, now totaling 28, who have lost or decided to leave their jobs in the last two years, including such notables as Newsweek's David Ansen, the New York Daily News' Jack Mathews and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Wilmington.

Critics are being downsized all over the place, whether it's in classical music, dance, theater or other areas in the arts. While economics are clearly at work here -- seeing their business model crumble, many newspapers simply have decided they can't afford a full range of critics anymore -- it seems clear that we're in an age with a very different approach to the role of criticism.

Obviously the Internet has played a big role in this shift. It has promoted a democratization of opinion in which solo bloggers -- most famously Matt Drudge -- can outstrip mammoth news organizations. Whenever I spend time with young students, I see an even more intriguing concept at work. Although they are heavily influenced by peer group reaction to films or music, they do listen to critics, but largely as a group, not as individual brands. The age of the singular critical voice is ending -- people prefer the wisdom of a community.
Talk amongst yourselves.

Personally, I think it's the medium not the individual critic that's endangered. The internet is not the enemy. Put the critics on the internet!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Wow, Tony Award worth something!

Five grand, that is...

The 1991 Tony Award for best musical revival, honoring the producers Barry and Fran Weissler for “Fiddler on the Roof,” below, was sold at auction in Dallas on Saturday night for $5,676.25.

News of the auction began circulating around Broadway after the Tony showed up on eBay last week. Mr. Weissler said that he knew nothing about it and that he still has his Tony. Howard Sherman, the executive director of the American Theater Wing, which administers the Tony Awards along with the Broadway League, said he had assumed that this particular Tony, on which the name Weissler is misspelled (extra ‘w’) was returned to its manufacturer at some point.
Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Barry WWeisler were unavailable for comment.

While here it wasn't the producers themselves peddling their awards, given the economy, I would be surprised if we start seeing more such Ebay "clearance sales."

Or maybe they'll go Jake LaMotta style...
(fast forward to 3-minute mark)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Pulitzer Play: Predictable

For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to "August: Osage County" by Tracy Letts.

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: "Yellow Face" by David Henry Hwang, and "Dying City" by Christopher Shinn.

The Jurors were:

Peter Marks, drama critic, The Washington Post (Chair)

David Lindsay-Abaire, playwright, New York City
[and author of last year's winner, Rabbit Hole]

Jeremy McCarter, drama critic, New York Magazine

Charles McNulty, drama critic, Los Angeles Times

Lisa Portes, head of MFA Directing and artistic director of Chicago Playworks for Young Audiences, The Theater School, DePaul University, Chicago.
Hey, I didn't mean "predictable" in a bad way.

Full details at

Horton has a Hoot

What a weird fight for Horton Foote to pick.

Horton Foote has withdrawn his play Dividing the Estate from consideration for this year's Lucille Lortel Awards, after the committee nominated it as Outstanding Revival.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright contends that he did substantial rewrites on the play, which was presented last fall at Primary Stages, since its debut at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton in 1989, and should be considered a new work. The Lortel Administration Committee chose to stand by their original decision.
I mean, this is not a new play. No matter how many rewrites he did.

And shouldn't the whole point of a "New Play" award be to recognize and promote what's new in our theatre?

Also...he's Horton Foote, for chrissakes. Not only is he older than god, but he's already much celebrated, much honored, scribe who may not have won every award--but his Pulitzer and Oscar sure would seem to compensate for never winning a Lortel!

And that winning the Lortel "revival" isn't good enough, he's got to win the Best New Play...well that's just childish. I guess one difference is he wouldn't win anything for a revival--the production would. Guy just doesn't have enough prizes.

But I have another theory--this isn't about the Lortels. It's about the Tonys. The 2009 Tonys.

Dividing the Estate re-opens in a Broadway transfer in November. I imagine both Horton and his producers don't want any Lortel "precedent" influencing the Tony committee when they inevitably will have to take up this thorny question next year.

In the old days he would be fine. Tonys used to consider anything that had never played on Broadway a "new play." (Very telling, that.) Hence we had the bizarre and embarrassing spectacle of Buried Child being finally nominated for 1996 Best Play two decades after its premiere. And losing! (to, um Master Class.)

After that--and after the committee had to actually debate whether Timon of Athens could be a "new play" if it had never been "revived" on the Rialto--the rules were sensibly amended to consider titles revivals simply if they were not "new."

So in this context, you can see why Horton took his marbles home. He probably was afraid of winning!

(Hat tip to Mr Excitement for this story.)

The Passion of the Bimbo

Richard Thomas, who composed the music and co-wrote the lyrics and book for Jerry Springer-The Opera, has found the subject for his latest musical project: the late former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith.

London's Independent reports that Thomas is currently writing the libretto for an opera about the life of Smith, who died last year of a drug overdose. Mark-Anthony Turnage is composing the score for the new work, which will be staged at the Royal Opera House featuring a 90-piece orchestra.

I wouldn't look forward to this if "Springer" weren't so literally Goddamned heretically brilliant.

Friday, April 04, 2008

If Cote were King

Good old fashioned rantin' from David Cote this week in Time Out, once again taking our institutional theatres to task for playing it safe.

Some times it takes a madman to dream.

Give me an annual budget of $5 million, all my downtown contacts and see if I don’t make a splash. I’d program a season of Anne Washburn, Young Jean Lee, Annie Baker and Will Eno. Plus—eventually—younger, unproduced playwrights who landed on my desk. (The more violent and obscene, the better.) Foreign writers, too, in fresh translations. Every first Monday I’d throw a free play reading with an open bar. In the summer, I’d open the doors for a two-month workshop by a favored company—Radiohole, the Debate Society or Nature Theater of Oklahoma—ending in a massive celebration. The advertising would be slick and bold, the tickets cheap, the parties raucous and the shows calculated to enrage, excite and astound. For the first five years, I would not accept any subscriber over the age of 35. I’d have blogs, press conferences, preshow talks and fat souvenir programs. I’d constantly bombard the media with video and op-ed pieces tied to our shows—when I wasn’t hosting a kick-ass party.
Woo-hoo! Oh wait--I'm not 35 myself any more. (Hmm, and neither is David, I believe...) Grandfather us in DC and I'm with you! (God, I hate age-ists!)

But seriously, we've got to have at least one theatre in town that doesn't feel like going to a party your parents are throwing.

Cote is ultimately out to resurrect the spirit of Joe Papp. Madman (and perhaps inconsistent manager) though he was, comments like this David got from Gregory Mosher make me really, really nostalgic for a time I myself barely was conscious for.
“Joe had many wonderful qualities, but above all he had a compelling idea. His idea, however, was deeply strange at the time, and threatening to the status quo. And the next great idea will seem equally strange to us. We have to be alert for it and embrace it. And we have to remember that it probably won’t lead to something that looks like the Public, or LCT or any other 50-year-old company, but will be a new form.”
Come out, come out, you strange ideas, wherever you are...

Bi-Coastal Bifurcation?

Thanks to Steven Leigh Morris for mentioning me in his interesting LA Weekly essay contrasting NYC and LA views on theatre--which also takes stock of many prominent themes in contemporary criticism in general.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Obama represents for NEA

We have to improve arts and music funding generally, in schools but also outside of schools. The [National] Endowment for the Arts, our support of the public arts our support for arts institutions—all those things should be a priority and they don’t cost that much money. They really don’t. But you get such a big payoff…

Part of what arts education does is it teaches people to see each other through each other’s eyes. It teaches us to respect and understand people who are not like us. That makes us better citizens and it makes our democracy work better.

-Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama, at a town hall meeting yesterday in Wallingford, PA.

Shh. Don't tell anyone. We want him to win....

Seriously, I'm sure Hillary Clinton would say something equally supportive, if asked. Has she? Did she?

Maybe Bill Richardson's recent endorsement has rubbed off...

Here's yesterday's Obama video below. The above passage starts about the 2:40 mark.

Spacey on Reality TV Casting

The Hollywood star, who is the artistic director at London's Old Vic, said the series of Saturday-night talent shows featuring Andrew Lloyd Webber, which began with How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? in 2006, were "crossing the line" and "unfair".

"I felt that was essentially a 13-week promotion for a musical - where's our 13-week programme?" Spacey said in an interview with the BBC.

-Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director of the Old Vic, among other things.

A hopeless cause, perhaps. But good for him. Wish our AD's would make similar statements. Then again--Spacey's point is the BBC is state-owned!

Michael Billington give him a "hear-hear"--here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hands Off My Tony!

The coming showdown between "Gypsy" and "South Pacific" [for the Tonys' Best Musical Revival category] is going to rip open a long-simmering dispute between commercial producers and nonprofit theater companies.

The commercial producers, who take big risks with their investors' money, bitterly resent competing for Tonys against subsidized theaters.

Some producers privately say they'd like to ban the nonprofits from the Tony Awards.

"Gypsy," though it began as a nonprofit show at City Center, is, at the St. James Theatre, a commercial venture. "South Pacific," at Lincoln Center, is subsidized.

My guess is that commercial producers, who represent a big chunk of the Tony voters, will rally around "Gypsy."

-Michael Riedel in today's Post.

I say...Bring it on, moneymen! Nonprofits would do well to avoid that cheezy snoozefest known as the Tonys, anyway.

Hey Michael--"subsidized"??? That's when you actually have a state theatre. A few 5-figure municipal grants does not a public subsidy make.

Stay Tuned for the Pulitzer...

April 7th, next Monday.

According to Robert Simonson, we probably won't have the hand-wringing surprised of the last two years...

The consensus along the Rialto is that the quest for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, far from being a horse race or open question, is nothing less than "a slam-dunk," in the words of one observer.
Still don't know what play we're talking about? Read on.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Louisville Roundup

"Critics Weekend" has come and gone at the Actors Theater of Louisville Humana Festival, so here come the reviews:

Isherwood: Liked "Becky Shaw" ("a thoroughly enjoyable play, suspenseful, witty and infused with an unsettling sense of the potential for psychic disaster inherent in almost any close relationship"); liked Civilians' This Beautiful City; didn't like Lee Blessing's latest (a solid but sleep two-hander, and left similarly cold by Jennifer Haley's video-game inspired "“Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom” ("this material ill suits the stage"), the break/s written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and Carly Mensch's All Hail Hurricane Gordo.

Still awaiting other major critics, but here's two other perspectives: Bloomberg's Philip Boroff and Denver Post's John Moore (with lots of pics!).