The Playgoer: Catching Up

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Catching Up

Welcome back. To me, at least. Sort of. Not ready for full time blogging yet, but ramping up there, let's say.

I want to thank the tremendous Chris Mills, Brook Stowe, and that unlicensed physician Dr. Cashmere for their valiant blogging throughout August. I'm very happy that Abigail Katz has agreed to stay on and help me out. And I'd like to introduce a new guest blogger for the month of September: Steven Leigh Morris, who will be able to provide us with more of a bi-coastal perspective as theatre editor of LA Weekly. (He's also premiering a play here in NYC with the Abington company, but I'll let him tell that story.)

So what's been happening in theatreland while I've been gone? Not too much apparently. (All the more impressive were the guest bloggers for keeping us interested here!) FringeNYC continues to be fun--so I hear--but overall not a site of groundbreaking creativity. Lincoln Center Festival continues to import high-snob-appeal content at plutocrat prices. In short, a New York playgoer is better off in summer traveling for his or her theatre fix--something I regrettably did not get to do this year. Any of you hit some cool festivals or dramatic destinations?

Despite the drought, here's some other stories I've been following lately:

-The New York Sun may be going under. Personally, I would bid good riddance to their wacky unrepentant Bushism and paleo-Jewish-Conservative breast-beating. (Remember convicted CEO-embezzler Conrad Black? He's a columnist there--from jail!) In other words--the actual newspaper! But, perhaps as part of their quaint 1950s New Criterion old-fogeyism, they have managed to maintain perhaps the best arts sections of any city paper. Thanks in large part to the pithy straight-talkin' theatre reviews of Eric Grode and the anti-superficial reporting of Kate Taylor. The Sun basically has till October 1st to get its financial act together (they've been running at a loss since inception, apparently), and they're optimistic. But according to Crain's, "Industry observers doubt the six-year-old daily paper will be able to find new backers or a fresh infusion of cash." So, not to be premature but...another msm arts source bites the dust?

-"Title of No-Show!" The little Off-Off show that could (or could it?) closed out the summer at the end of August with an average daily capacity of 49.5%--a significant improvement over the previous week's 45%, but still, not very, uh, profitable. Hey, it's not Journey's End 25% numbers--but then again it's not as good a show. They gambled on a summer opening, hoping to stand out. But over six weeks into the run--despite strong reviews--I can't imagine it's breaking even. No matter how low the overhead....So we have another wonderful downtown piece of creativity bloated up to Broadway size, stuck in a huge barn, and forced to sell its wares to tourists who couldn't get into Hairspray. If they were counting on these audiences being pleasantly surprised and blessing the show through word-of-mouth, that doesn't seem to have happened. I want to be clear: when I critically examine the fate of [title of show] or any other ill-fated uptown transfer (Passing Strange, Well) I mean no disrespect to the work itself, nor to its creators. Simply bafflement at producers who continue to take such a foolhardy chance. And dismay that these fine examples of new American theatre will now be tarnished by the taint of "failure." (And the bad word of mouth from audiences for whom it was not intended.)...Can we hope for a [title of show] "surge"? For their sake, sure. But my bet: they fold by Columbus Day.

-Finally, there's a great old theatre history yarn of a small young theatre troupe kicked out of their space by an avaricious landlord and rising real estate values in an expanding city. At dusk one cold day they surreptitiously break past the padlocked doors and take all their stuff--including the planks of the stage itself--and haul them across the river to a disreputable 'hood in an outer borough, reassembling it all into a new theatre that soon becomes the hotspot of the town....And, yes, That theatre was....The Globe.

That's old news, though. The new bit is they seem to have dug up the original site, Shoreditch, upon which sat Shakespeare's first playhouse, aptly named: The Theatre.

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