The Playgoer: August 2011

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Break

Apologies for being AWOL the last few days. I realize it's probably time for my usual August break anyway.  So I will lay low for the next few weeks and hopefully return here by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, all the posts and comment threads* are still open so have at it! 

*Comments on very old posts will be delayed for screening as a way to avoid spam. But I will keep on monitoring that. I will also be reachable at the playgoer gmail address.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

John Wood

Yes, I'm on a blog "sabbatical," but I simply must mark the passing of that great stage actor, John Wood, who served as veritable muse to Tom Stoppard and other 60s & 70s British stage artists. And was also the villain/hero of that 1983 flick War Games!

Brit-Crit extraordinaire Michael Billington has the lowdown...

He was always a joy to write about. Partly because, with his accosting profile and lean frame, he presented an ineradicable physical image. But even more because, when he wasn't creating new characters in Stoppard plays, he redefined every role he played. That, for me, is the ultimate test of a great actor: to make you see things in a new light.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Festival Hopping

Two critics check out some big North American theatre fests.

London's Michael Billington travels to Canada to check out Stratford and Shaw--and is very pleasantly surprised!

San Francisco's Chloe Veltman also heads north, but to Ashland, OR and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (an 8-month season, not just summers, btw).  She provides a wonderful description of the vibe in the town during festival season, something to give us hope in theatre's future in America:

The first thing that struck me about Ashland is that apart from Stratford-upon-Avon, I can’t think of another town so completely consumed by theatre. Go into any restaurant or bar and the wait staff will want to compare notes on shows they’ve seen with you and offer recommendations. Every book store is packed with theatre books. The local frozen yogurt dispensary gives you a 15% discount for saying you’re seeing plays at OSF. It’s a very special place.

The second thing that comes to mind upon visiting OSF is how vibrant the actual festival is. There are always three plays going on at once. There are fantastic pre-play concerts in the central courtyard. Pre-show presentations and backstage tours are a daily occurrence. There is so much buzz about the place.
Veltman is also absolutely right that it's outrageous the Bay Area papers don't cover this nearby theatrical attraction. Let alone the NY Times, which is too busy sending Ben Brantley to London for what, a month now?

When you think about it, NYT's privileging of London theatre over domestic regional fare is so class-biased-- and not just in favor of the British accents. Note also how the assumption is NYT readers are more eager for London theatre tips because they can afford to travel internationally. The reality is most of us in, ahem, the middle of an economic catastrofuck, would be lucky to make it out of the tri-state area.  But at least Canada or Oregon are slightly more realistic.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I put thirty-four years into this firm, Howard, and now I can't pay my insurance. You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away--a man is not a piece of fruit!"

-Willy Loman, Death of a Salesman

Yes, the scene where he gets laid off.