The Playgoer: February 2012

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

MTC's Big Buy

So I'm up early today and I decide to tune into "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, and what do I see a commercial for? Manhattan Theatre Club!  No, not one of those 15-second blips at the end of the commercial-reel that stations reserve for cheap local ads.  A proper 30-second glossy spot that I assume is going out nationally--or at least on the East Coast (6-6:30am time slot), or just the greater metro area if that's possible.

I can't find any video online yet to post, but basically it's Cynthia Nixon telling us all how wonderful MTC is. Yes, also a plug for her star turn in Wit, but that's just mentioned along the way. (And, no, she's not bald in this one.)

Why do I find this at all interesting? Well, it seems pretty unprecedented--a nonprofit theatre company spending BIG bucks on a nationally broadcast cable news show to basically advertise its brand. (Using Nixon and Wit as a hook, their latest "product.") I don't believe the word "subscribe" is ever used, but, hey, it is almost spring, which means subscription time. While there is no 2012-2013 season yet, titles of past greatest hits (Proof! Rabbit Hole!) flash across the screen. And the "copy" is all about how you can always count on a fabulous night out at the theatre there, with lots of shots of the "Samuel Friedman Theatre" lit up on the Great White Way. (No mentioned of the subterranean Stages 1 & 2.)

But if this is a national spot it may not even be about subscriptions. It's aimed at tourists, closing with a line something like: "MTC: as exciting as New York itself!" (No comment.) Competing for Broadway consumers, basically.

So I guess I have to admire their balls, at least. 'Cause that sure must cost a lot of their precious funds.

(Anyone know how much, by the way?)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Garofalo's Stage Debut

"Stage-acting, she feels, is a true test of discipline for someone who is used to flying by the seat of their pants 'in that you've got to say this here and you must put that prop there. You must turn the light on right now. That gets me because of my immature response to authority. I perceive it as an authority figure telling me, even though it's not. That's just how immature I am.'"

-Janeane Garofalo, on what it's like to make your stage debut (in New Group's Russian Transfer) in your 40s after years of standup and movies.

Pretty apt tribute to stage actors, actually.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Not Student/Not Senior

Looks like 9-5 employed adults are finding it just as hard there as here to get a decent theatre ticket discount:

While young people have access to youth ticket discounts (and so they should) and retirees have the time to take advantage of mid-week matinee offers, it's the average Joes – average age, average salary, average working hours – who are missing out on the chance to develop what could be a long-term passion. The sad fact is that if you didn't have the means to acquire one earlier in life, you often have little opportunity to do so in adulthood, either.
And don't get me started on all-day camp-outs!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Is Kickstarter Working?

Yesterday, the fundraising website Kickstarter reached a milestone when not one, but two of its clients passed the million-dollar threshold.

I mused last year upon the opportunities here for small theatre productions (and companies) and have noticed many doing so this season. In fact, "theater" has its own category on the site so you can check out current projects there.

So my question to those doing so...How's that working out for you?  Is there a future in this? Success stories? Fails? Please share!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The "Phantom" Menace

Patrick Healy's lede for today's front-page NYT story on the 10,000th(!) performance of Phantom says a lot:

“The Phantom of the Opera” will make show business history on Saturday with the 10,000th Broadway performance of an $8 million production that became an $845 million hit. But it is also something much more. It is the musical that has come to define modern Broadway by proving the purchasing power of women and tourists, the durability of repeat business and the lure of spectacle: ingredients for success embraced by producers of “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Mamma Mia!” and other smashes.

While “Phantom” has prospered from unparalleled word of mouth, a show as much for sightseers as for theatergoers, its unprecedented Broadway run has hardly been a foregone conclusion. When it opened on Jan. 26,  1988, big hits were few, and roughly half of Broadway’s theaters were empty. Yet thanks to persistent marketing, strict quality control and flexibility in ticket pricing (the worst seats can now be had for only $26.50), “Phantom” survived  — in fact thrived  —  when shows with bigger stars and better reviews brought down their curtains. 
When he tells how much some of those initial investors have made, you can see why some monied folk still chase the Broadway dream.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Privatization of Censorship

Nick Cohen in the Literary Review (UK) offers some useful ways to think about censorship in the 21st century:

We cannot puncture our own myth that we are fearless seekers after truth, even though, if we honestly owned up to our limitations, we might force society to confront the fact that modern censorship does not conform to old models. It is a mistake to think of repression as repression by the state alone. In much of the world it still is, but in Britain, America and most of continental Europe the age of globalisation has done its work, and it is privatised rather than state forces that threaten freedom of speech.

Editors are no longer frightened of politicians but of Islamist violence, oligarchs and CEOs. They worry about libel and the ability of the wealthy to bend the ear of their proprietors or withdraw advertising. But they are not frightened about leaking the secrets or criticising the actions of elected governments.

We need new ways of thinking about censorship.