The Playgoer: November 2008

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Weekend Reading

Sorry for the light posting lately. Life is busy, and my laptop is being "serviced" in Texas somewhere.

And now it's Thanksgiving, so Playgoer Out, till Monday.

Meanwhile, for the theatre-hungry, I leave you with some interesting reading to gobble in between turkey bites.

-Adam Feldman penned a sensible take last week in Time Out on the whole uproar over the Artistic Director in California who resigned under pressure for his surprising support of Prop 8. (Yes, his company was a Musical Theatre rep, at that!) I agree that exposing an AD's personal political contributions is a rather disturbing precedent, no matter the cause in question. Still, it's a reminder that the head of the local theatre really can be seen as a community leader of sorts.....Even more eyebrow-raising, though, is Adam's outing of Christine Ebersole's recent nutball remarks about 9/11 conspiracies!*

-What's wrong with directors who are not nice people? Nothing, says Charles Marowitz in a provocative defense of the "dictatorial" strain in auteurism. Reviewing the recent anthology The Alchemy of Theatre, devoted to the ideal of "collaboration" in theatre, Marowitz asks--healthily, I think--what's so great about collaboration as "an end in itself." I only differ in that theatre--unless perhaps the playwright is performing on stage alone with no director or designer--seems to always, inevitably entail collaboration, whether the participants intend it or not....Still, Marowitz's point is well taken I think. We all like directors who build ensembles cooperatively and persuade gently. (And we live in an era where ensemble-driven "devised" theatre is thriving.) But I guarantee you that was not the way, say, Moliere directed his own work. Evaluating "process" has its place--especially among practitioners. But should critics--both in the present and for posterity--feel obliged to consider to consider it on a par with "product"?

- The League of Independent Theater lives! Let's welcome the arrival of this "membership-based advocacy organization representing New York City's Off-Off Broadway/Independent Theater Community." And congrats to John Clancy, Paul Bargetto, Martin Denton, Shay Gines, Leonard Jacobs, and their cohorts for finally getting it off the ground. According to Gines' NYIT Awards big survey on the state of Off-Off they'll need all the support they can get. (One highlight: "Over 25% of OOB venues in both the West Village and Midtown area have either been demolished or repurposed into non-performance spaces in the last 5 years.")

-And finally, if you thought Katie Holmes was giving a "robotic" performance, wait'll you check out
Wakamaru, latest star of the Japanese stage. She's a novice, but studies the Mitsubishi method.


PS. Oh, and not that you wouldn't have noticed it on the front page of the Times today, but King of the Shuberts, Gerry Schoenfeld has died. If you have any doubt about reading his obit, consider this from Frank Rich, who argues that the man turned "a dilapidated sideshow of 20th-century show business into a modern corporation."

*Out of concern for spreading misperception and misinformation, I have emended the remark about Ebersole (from "Elders of Zion" to 9/11), in light of the ensuing Comments (see below). I realize slightly mischaracterized Feldman's characterization. (It's Ebersole's sources that are anti-semitic, not anything she said directly.) Apologies to Adam...and to Miss Christine.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Subsidiary Rights Fight Goes Public

Talk about bubbling up from the blogosphere...

Here's an issue I first noted here back in March: the increasing rebellions by playwrights against theatres (like The Roundabout) who take more than their usual share of "subsidiary rights" to future productions of plays they premiere. Thanks to intrepid theatre critic/reporter Joy Goodwin, it's in today's Times.

Craig Lucas brought visibility to the issue at the time by withdrawing his play from the Roundabout and crossing the street to Playwrights Horizons--thus increasing his own share of subsidiaries from 60% at the former company to 90% at the latter.

When you think about it, you gotta ask: what percentage of plays premiered at NYC nonprofits really do go on to have prolific future lives. Not too many, unfortunately. Which probably increases the pressure to milk the most out of those that do. Which of course takes more out of the income of the single playwright for whom such success is even rarer.

No case brings the consequences of this factor home more than Lynn Nottage's. As Goodwin notes, Nottage's "Intimate Apparel" (as you may have noticed) seems to be done everywhere these days. Wow, what a windfall for her you'd think, right? Well, remember who "preemed" it:

[Nottage] was thrilled when the Roundabout produced her play “Intimate Apparel” to acclaim and awards in 2004; it became the most produced new play in the country for a few years.

“I thought that given the play’s popularity, I’d be able to live off it for a year or two,” Ms. Nottage said. But by the time the play reached New York, she had relinquished all but “about 30 percent” of her own royalties. At the time, she had to take other work to make ends meet.

Was it worth it in the long run, though, for the exposure the Roundabout provided?
Ms. Nottage said that she believed that the Roundabout’s production “brought people into the theater to see the play.” Yet to her a high-caliber New York premiere is only one part of the equation. “I got exposure, but a lot of plays get that same exposure, and they haven’t made the same journey that ‘Intimate Apparel’ has,” she said. “At the end of the day, it has to have something to do with the piece itself.”

Something to do with the play? Where'd ya get that idea!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Welcome, "Critic-O-Meter"

Well as if a couple of bloggers like Isaac Butler and Rob Kendt did have enough to do!

Thankfully these selfless souls have taken on the unenviable task of scanning all the reviews of every NYC show (or most) and summing them up--replete with "grade" equivalents, just to cut to the chase. At first I was taken aback at learning I had apparently given The Fourposter a 'C', for instance. But after a moment's reflection, that seemed about right.

Apparently they've been doing this for over a month now, but I just stumbled onto it. So let's include Critic-O-Meter on our daily bookmarking, shall we? I know I will.

Time to Merge?

At least 100,000 nonprofits nationwide will be forced to close their doors in the next two years as a result of the financial crisis, according to Paul Light, professor of public service at New York University.
Scary news from today's Crain's NY Biz

Of particular note in light of some of yesterday's discussion here...

Clara Miller, chief executive of the Nonprofit Finance Fund...said the sector has to completely change the way it operates, most importantly reducing the amount of money it spends on fundraising. Executives on the panel acknowledged that nonprofits are reluctant to merge, but suggested they collaborate on back office support and health care plans to save money.

Hear, hear on that stop-spending-so-much-money-to-raise-money idea.

But as to that second point...Whaddaya think? Will it take a financial crisis like this for our NYC nonprofit theatres to finally see the light and consider pooling resources?

Some sound ideas already being suggested by you, dear readers, in the comments yesterday include joint mailers & brochures. The dream of a "portable" subscription may be pie-in-the-sky right now, but all it takes is for two theatres to try it as an experiment. (Hell, how many emails do we already get from companies offering "special friend" discounts to other people's shows?)

But maybe the simple starting points above are a realistic place to start? Like pool health insurance for all NYC nonprofit theatres for folks not in EQUITY or SSDC? And I believe lots of companies already share office space, right?

As for actualy "mergers" well no one expects egos the size of NYC AD's to come to terms on that. Why would someone give up running their own company to be under another AD?

Ah, but is there a company losing their Artistic Director soon? Something to think about...

I mean, people, it's called nonprofit, right? You're not capitalists, right? So why be so competitive!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clive Barnes, dead

Just in...

NY Post critic for last thirty years, former NY Times critic (1965-1977, dead at 81.

Here are obits in both papers.

Deep Thoughts (About Subscriptions)

Can the New York theatre audience market really support 20+ nonprofit subscription theatres?

Do you subscribe? I know I don't. Sometimes to BAM--but only because it actually can work out to $25 a ticket for some amazing theatre from around the world. (Some amazing theatre.)

And, you know what, I like theatre. So do you, probably. And I'm betting most of us in the New York area think of an ideal season as one where we'd see maybe one play at Playwrights Horizons, another at Lincoln Center, another at the Public...and so on. We would see no reason to committ over $40 a ticket to a whole slate of titles when probably only one or two intrigues us. If that.

The answer to this is not--I repeat not--for these companies to simply acquire sexier plays, somehow. Nor is it to offer us yet more meaningless subscriber "frills." I have enough T shirts, thank you. And 10% off a $3 Coke at the concessions stand is still not very cheap. Plus your "newsletters" are rags of puff pieces and made completely irrelevant by the internet.

No. The answer, dear theatre companies, is to figure out a way to support yourselves that still allows "us"--by which I mean the considerable number of folks out there who like theatre but aren't your subscribers--to come to your theatre whenever we want at a reasonable price by simply walking up to the box office and buying a ticket.

You'd be suprised what happens. Just go to the movies sometime.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Daredevil Theatre

British theatre maker Andy Field channels some Artaud in the Guardian, singing the praises of a recent performance he saw of, basically, daredevil theatre.

At our venue in Edinburgh this year, the Bristol-based company Action Hero previewed their new show, Watch Me Fall. Simply put, this is a show about daredevils. The audience gather around a runway strip marked out on the floor of the theatre, a small ramp placed ominously in its centre. Towards the show's climax, one performer rides a tiny red bike up and over the jump as fast as he can. As the audience roar their support, he hangs for a brief moment suspended in the air… before crashing down and skidding into the wall with a sickening thump. In the long pause before the show continues, he lies there in a crumpled heap, the whole space agonisingly silent but for the sound of his breathing.
Okay, I agree Actors Equity is right to police such practices. But the extremity of Field's example usefully illustrates his compelling larger point:

Risk can be a uniquely engaging part of a theatre show. It's rare to be in the presence of a moment of such live and genuine unpredictability, of something that could have such lasting consequences. Theatre is, after all play, and play is always at its most riveting when its fictional framework is being tested, when someone's taking it too far, when it's just about to all end in tears. It always has the potential to break free and cause havoc in the real world.

For me, the most exciting moments in theatre have often been those moments where the space between the real and imaginary begins to break down. You realise that theatre can do more than just comment on or reflect the real world, that it is not happening in an empty space but a real one and is always, in small ways, changing it. Few things make that more apparent than the awareness of how badly things could go wrong.

Could one reason theatre attendance has fallen off with the younger generations be the total lack of any risk, or even surprise? Even a good concert can provide that. And it's why Cirque de Soleil continues to be the highest grossing live entertainment in the world.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Not So Well-Endowed

Even the mighty Oregon Shakes--and its fabled endowment or all endowments--has not been spared the economic hard times:

Even with the second strongest ticket sales in its history for 2008, the Ashland festival was hit hard by poor returns on its investments and endowment fund, resulting in a $750,000 deficit this year and an anticipated deficit of$1 million in 2009.
Wow, I can picture an AD saying right now, what I would give even for a deficit of a million bucks!

Funny story, by the way, about the unique nature of this loss. The recent American Theatre/TCG "Theatre Facts" report (on the "health" of the nonprofit theatre industry from '06-'07) notes how dependent the bigger theatres have become on their endowments for their overall income. For better AND, now, for worse.

So, in the "good times" of '06-'07, we're told that even while subscription income grew only 4% and "single ticket earnings slumped nearly 7 percent" that's not where the money was:
Theatres welcomes a 19-percent rise in interest and dividends between 2003 and 2007, while endowment income increased by 360 percent, and capital gains hurtled upward by 3,728 percent (yes, you read that right).
Who woulda thunk it, that nonprofit theatres would be among the prime beneficiaries of Republican capital gains tax cuts.

Well no more, my friends--it's Obama time!

(Sorry, but AT isn't putting the Theatre Facts summary online. But full report is here.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Slava's Snowjob?

Lookout Grinch! Lookout Rockettes! Lookout "Irving Berlin's White Christmas"!!!

Slava's back in town--and this time it's Broadway.

Yes, the producers of Slava's Snowshow--the Off-Broadway Russian clown sensation from seasons past--are making a bid for that holiday season ticket intake. An interesting test of how the English-language-free family/tourist spectacular "Stomp" model actually works in a theatre over 500 seats.

Then again, it only has to survive a one-month run, December 2 thru January 4.

However it does, it will also make that market for stingier-than-ever holiday family discretionary spending tighter than ever.

Hey, if anyone wants to defend or recommend the show--which I, of course, haven't seen--please do.
Meanwhile, check out their online photo gallery, with such family friendly shots as the above.

Humana Fest '09

Another slate of select new play premieres is announced!

So feel free to rejoice. Or have at it.

Wild Blessings: A Celebration of Wendell Berry, adapted for the stage by Marc Masterson and Adrien-Alice Hansel from the writing of Wendell Berry, directed by Masterson:
"An exploration of the earth, its citizens and the impact of each on the other. This world premiere brings the work of nationally acclaimed poet, novelist and ecological visionary Wendell Berry to the stage in a celebration of words, music and a life well lived." Wendell Berry was born in Henry County, KY. He has taught at Georgetown College, Stanford University, New York University and University of Kentucky, his alma mater. The author of over 40 books of poetry, essays and fiction, Berry has received numerous fellowships and awards. He lives and works with his wife, Tanya Berry, on their farm in Port Royal, KY."

Absalom by Zoe Kazan, directed by Giovanna Sardelli:
"At a Berkshires country house, the children of an aging literary giant gather for a party celebrating the release of their patriarch's tell-all autobiography. When an unexpected guest appears, this family — writers or editors all — must reckon with their stories and who owns them, and with the secrets, betrayals and deep bonds that define what they'll do for love." Kazan is an actor/writer currently residing in Brooklyn. As an actor, she has worked in film and both on and Off-Broadway. She is currently appearing on Broadway in The Seagull. This play, her first, was workshopped at Lincoln Center Theater LAB and had readings at The Vineyard Playhouse, The Ensemble Studio Theatre and Yale University.

Under Construction by Charles L. Mee, directed by Anne Bogart, created and performed by SITI Company: "A collage of America today, inspired by Norman Rockwell and contemporary installation artist Jason Rhoades, Mee's play juxtaposes the '50s and the present, red states and blue, where we grew up and where we live now — a piece that is, like America, permanently under construction." Mee has written Big Love, True Love, First Love, bobrauschenbergamerica, Summertime and Wintertime, among other plays. All of his works are available online and are made possible by the support of Richard B. Fisher and Jeanne Donovan Fisher.

Slasher by Allison Moore, directed by Josh Hecht: "When she's cast as the 'last girl' in a low-budget slasher flick, Sheena thinks it's the big break she's been waiting for. But news of the movie unleashes her malingering mother's thwarted feminist rage, and Mom is prepared to do anything to stop filming…even if it kills her." Moore is a displaced Texan living in Minneapolis, where she is a 2007-2009 Bush Artists Fellow and a 2008-2009 McKnight Fellow. Her plays include End Times (Kitchen Dog Theater), American Klepto (Illusion Theater), Hazard County (2005 Humana Festival), Urgent Fury (2003 Cherry Lane Mentor Project) and Eighteen (2001 O'Neill Playwrights' Conference).

Ameriville by UNIVERSES (Gamal Abdel Chasten, Mildred Ruiz, William Ruiz aka Ninja and Steven Sapp), directed by Chay Yew:
"UNIVERSES puts the state of the Union under a microscope — race, poverty, politics, history and government — examining our country through the lens of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. Ameriville combines an innovative mix of poetry, music, movement and drama to get to the heart of this American tragedy. Gamal Abdel Chasten, a founding member of UNIVERSES, is a songwriter/poet/screenwriter. His work has toured more than 25 U.S. cities and five countries. Writing credits include The Last Word, God Took Away His Poem and the UNIVERSES shows The Ride and Slanguage. Chasten is working on the screen projects Red Moon, Joe Bloe and North Borough. Mildred Ruiz, a founding member of UNIVERSES, is a playwright/actor/vocalist. Acting credits include The Denver Project (Curious Theatre), One Shot in Lotus Position (The War Anthology, Curious Theatre), Blue Suite, Rhythmicity (2003 Humana Festival), Slanguage (New York Theatre Workshop), The Ride and Alfred Jarry's UBU:Enchained (Teatre Polski in Poland). William Ruiz (aka Ninja), a founding member of UNIVERSES, has been seen in Slanguage, Ti Jean Blues, Tree Tails, Salome, Latin Howel and Run Baby Run (Houston Astrodome, Texas). He was playwright/director of Waiting for Gordo (an adaptation of Samuel Beckett's play) and Ambassador of Music for the 2008 Jazz at Lincoln Center: Rhythm Road. Steven Sapp is a founding member of UNIVERSES. Credits include The Denver Project (Curious Theatre), One Shot in Lotus Position (The War Anthology, Curious Theatre), Blue Suite, and the UNIVERSES shows Rhythmicity (2003 Humana Festival) and Slanguage (New York Theatre Workshop). As a director he has staged The Ride (playwright/actor/director), The Architecture of Loss (assistant director to Chay Yew), Will Powers' The Seven (University of Iowa) and Alfred Jarry's UBU:Enchained (Teatre Polski in Poland).

The Hard Weather Boating Party by Naomi Wallace, directed by Jo Bonney, commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville:
"Three men, almost strangers, meet in a hotel room to plan an ugly crime against a powerful adversary. Inspired by research on Louisville's Rubbertown neighborhood, Wallace's play explores the struggle between industrial greed and growth, and the health of the community." Wallace's work has been produced in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. She received the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Kesselring Prize, Fellowship of Southern Writers Drama Award and an Obie Award. Wallace was also a recipient of the MacArthur Fellows Program Award.

COMIC ANTHOLOGY BRINK! by Lydia Diamond, Kristoffer Diaz, Greg Kotis, Deborah Zoe Laufer, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and Deborah Stein, directed by Sean Daniels, commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville:
"From first date to marriage, birth to death, and hiring to firing, six fabulous and funny playwrights join forces with our 22 Acting Apprentices to explore rites of passage."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Drama's Historical Closet

In case anyone thinks "gay plays" are anything new, here's an interesting repertory series in San Francisco unearthing the rich history of "out" drama.

"100 Years of Queer Theatre," a rotating repertory of eight short plays at Theatre Rhinoceros that poses some fascinating then-and-now questions about how gay life is seen in a culture that keeps rotating the lens to sharpen the view, blur it or blot it out altogether. This year's festival [is] the seventh annual foray of short works by the Eastenders Repertory Company...

Setting herself the century-of-gay-theater challenge, Eastenders Rep Artistic Director Susan Evans says she had a hard time finding pre-1940s short plays that were overtly "out." One of her early-years finds is "The Dangerous Precaution," a 1907 mini-musical by the Russian writer Mikhail Kuzmin.

Staged with a fittingly light, fractured fairy-tale touch by [Theatre Rhinoceros Artistic Director John Fisher], this historical oddity turns on the amorous maneuverings in a 17th century court. The king's son (Gene Moscy) is passing himself off as a woman disguised as a man - or something like that. One song lyric celebrates a "lissome waist and trim rump"; another winkingly puns on "top or bottom." It all ends with a jolly male-to-male kiss. Fisher speculates that the Russian czar, who was reeling from a bad war effort, let his censorship guard down in order to demonstrate his confidently expansive nature. "It's like Bush being so nervous about losing power," says Fisher, "that he'd start letting boys get married."

Um, of course that last part did not happen, did it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

August: Hollywood County

It's official. And it's Weinstein.

The Weinstein Co. has acquired worldwide film rights to the Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning play "August: Osage County" and will produce a feature adaptation....

Weinstein said his company will fully finance and distribute the film with an eye toward a 2011 release....

I've loved the writing since I was given a 240-page script for a three-hour play that starred nobody, that had no workshop," Weinstein said. "My reaction was similar to the feeling I had when I read Quentin Tarantino's script for 'True Romance.' Tracy has that kind of voice."

The theatre has found its Tarantino! Rejoice!!!

Le Deluge

Some glimpses, via ArtsJournal, of how the sinking economy is affecting local theatre and arts scenes: in Chicago, Cleveland, and, in New York, whither philanthropy?

(The Times even has a piece telling you how to get out of those inconvenient pledges you made before the crash for donations!)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Deep Thoughts

Equating the American Theatre with Broadway is like limiting discussion of movies to major Hollywood studio releases. Or all television to prime time programming on "the three networks."

Kinda out of date, no?

Photo of the Day

The Golem by the Habima Theatre, Moscow, 1925.

Part of a fascinating new exhibit at the Jewish Museum on Russian/Jewish theatre in the early Soviet years.

(NYT review here.)

Friday, November 07, 2008

HiDef Theatre Jam

Can theatres use the Met-model of HiDef videocasting to beam performances to a wider audience?

This, of course, is what the Metropolitan Opera has pioneered over the last few seasons with their highly successful simulcasts of live performances in movie theatres around the country.

Kudos to Canada's Stratford Festival for being the first to take up the challenge.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Christopher Plummer-led production of Caesar and Cleopatra is coming soon to large and small screens...

The festival's separate agreements, with Cineplex and CTV-Bravo!, will see a film version of the stage production - shot on the Festival Theatre stage in Stratford, Ont. - premiere at one-night "gala-type" screenings in as many as 80 Cineplex theatres across Canada, drawing on New York's Metropolitan Opera model of broadcasting opera in cinemas worldwide (although unlike the Met model, the film will not be a real-time, live broadcast of a stage performance). The film will also air nationwide on Bravo!

The deals attempt to find a new model for bringing the performing arts to a wider audience through broadcast media, while preserving Canada's memorable theatrical moments. They have been constructed via a complex web of multiple-source spending, revenue-sharing and tax-credit advantages to juggle the project's substantial costs.

Note the role of government subsidy in helping along this project by a national flagship theatre company. Also note: that's the Canadian Bravo, not the thing on US cable listing posing as a "culture" channel. (Or do they even bother anymore?)

If I were Oskar Eustis, I'd get right on this for next summer's Delacorte shows, especially if he's planning another Meryl Streep star turn no one can get into. I think that would be a fitting kind of event for this. Of course, he'd have to get it past Equity...

Meanwhile, back the Met they're already onto version 2.0: live streaming opera, in your home!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

FCC Greenlights "White Space" Plan

Ok, well in other news...

That pending FCC bandwidth decision I wrote about yesterday that could drastically impact theatres' technical communications? No longer pending.

Over the objections of television broadcasters and other groups, federal regulators set aside a disputed slice of radio spectrum for public use on Tuesday, hoping it would lead to low-cost, high-speed Internet access and new wireless devices.
The Federal Communications Commission voted 5 to 0 to approve the new use for the unlicensed frequencies, known as white spaces.
Oh, how white of them.

Five to zero??? So much for the Broadway League's lobbying clout, up against all of Silicon Valley.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What's the Frequency, Broadway?

Perhaps one of the oddest theatrical controversies in recent times--but no doubt important.

You been reading lately all this talk about the FCC, Google, and a chunk of supposedly "free" airwave spectrum? Did you know the professional theatre industry is a player in it? Or at least, they're trying to be.

Here's the press release out of the Broadway League:

The Broadway League has asked the FCC to refrain from voting to approve new devices that will transmit in the “white space” radio spectrum, currently occupied by wireless microphones. Wireless microphones are an essential tool of the live performance industry, used in the daily operations of countless theatres and non-profit performance venues, sports arenas, and concert halls across the country.

These comments were filed in response to the FCC’s announcement that it will vote on an order potentially opening the white spaces to portable internet devices employing spectrum sensing technology intended to prevent interference with wireless microphones. However, a preliminary review of an FCC engineers’ report issued on October 15, 2008 demonstrates repeated failures of spectrum sensing to recognize wireless transmissions. While regulations that include reference to spectrum sensing technology would rely on unproven technology, the FCC may forge ahead and adopt new rules without allowing interested parties any prior opportunity to ensure the Commission took adequate steps to address the needs of all wireless microphone users.

Theatres in urban areas are at particular risk because the complex radio environment is beyond any measure of control. Not only is the quality of the performances at risk, but also the safety of all who work in these venues will be compromised.
This will be an interesting test of whether the theatre business in this country (yes, not just NYC, but USA--this is the FCC we're talking about) has any remaining clout at all. Considering they're up against, oh, Google, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, this will be quite a mountain to climb.

Good thing, then that they're not relying on drama-queens alone: "Many groups, including the National Association of Broadcasters and Sports Technology Alliance, also oppose the FCC’s actions." Ah, sports! Whew.

I do applaud the League for taking on the fight. Of course, they have no choice, give how it threatens their very industry. But, hey, at least they're not seizing it as a chance to encourgae more market-targeted texting in the audience!

And it's nice to see them in high gear for something not just about increasing profits, and something that is a common good for all Broadway employees. In this case the League's self interest really is motivating them to do the right thing!

(Call it, an Invisible Stagehand? Ha, that's punny for so many reasons.)

And not only is it for the good of the inhabitants of the Broadway League fiefdom, not only Off Broadway, but clearly every professional theatre around the country that uses wireless headset communication!

And just in case you're thiniking, see, I told you all that over-amplification mic-ing was evil!--remember this isn't just about mic-ing of actors. It's about SM's cue-ing their stagehands when to drop that ten-ton weight on stage. For example.

So it really can be about lives not just livelihoods.

By the way, is anyone else reminded of the old actors' joke (one apocryphal story or another) of performers using ear-pieces on stage when they couldn't get off book and ending up reciting taxi dispatches onstage instead of their lines?

Stamford Theatre Works

Thanks to frequent commenter TheEsoCritic for dropping a news item in Comments the other day that was news to me, and therefore worth reprinting here.

To our continuing "Another One Bites the Dust" watch, add Stamford Theatre Works of Stamford, CT. Take it away Eso:

It was reported this past week that Stamford Theatre Works has shut down after 20 years.

Mark my words that this is a really big deal. STW was what I call an "accessible" theater in that it was possible to actually get a job there even if you were just a regular actor, director, or yes, even a writer.

Most artists make their living in small to mid-size Equity houses like this. STW lived within its means, had a 90% subscriber renewal rate, and didn't have to compromise its season selections to maintain that for two decades. What's more, it had the benefit of one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country, Fairfield County, CT. They seemed to be doing everything right.

If a small Equity house with affluent neighbors has to shut down, what does that mean for similar sized theaters without so many deep pockets around?

In the next 12 months (at least) of financial chaos that we expect, we'll see lots of news items on how Broadway, the Publics, and the Roundabouts are slimming down and tightening their belts. The health of these institutions is going to be equated with the health of the overall industry.
I couldn't agree more on that last point. The closing of any theatre should never be seen as some Darwinian winnowing down of the community to its fittest members. (Obviously that's not the case.) Not only does it feel bad, but sure enough when people do statistical studies of the field, that ain't gonna look good on the excel spreads.