Theatre: November 2002

Friday, November 29, 2002

Director Quits Over Scottish Arts Policy Hamish Glen, artistic director of Scotland’s award-winning Dundee Rep and one of Britain’s most highly-acclaimed theatre directors, has angrily quit the theatre and says he is joining “the drain of talent to the south”. He accused the government of not supporting the arts and predicted “a bleak few years of theatre-making in Scotland. ‘It becomes very dispiriting if somehow the culture doesn’t feel itself able to invest in its own success. It is a very energy sapping battle with no light at the end of the tunnel’.” The Scotsman 11/28/02

  • What About Scottish National Theatre? There are increasing doubts about the Scottish executive’s commitment to a plan for a national Scottish theatre. There are “mutterings in the theatrical world that it is using the alleged commitment to a national theatre to hide its other shortcomings in arts policy.” The Scotsman 11/28/02

German Theatres Downsizing Financially struggling German theatres have eliminated 6,000 jobs out of 45,000 in an effort to cut expenses and survive. But theatre leaders say “eliminating more would be impossible without damages to the substance.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11/29/02

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Israel To Cut Theatre Budgets In a cost-cutting move, the Israeli government proposes to cut the budgets of the country’s national theatres by 25 percent. “Theater executives say the cumulative 25 percent cut in their budgets threatens to topple the entire industry.” Ha’aretz (Israel) 11/27/02

Mendes Wins Director Award Sam Mendes, finishing up his last season as director of London’s Donmar Theatre, has been named Best Director at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards for his farewell productions of Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya. The Scotsman 11/26/02

  • Director Attacks His Hosts Mark Rylance, artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, was accepting the rarely given Special Award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards this week when he suddenly made a sharp political turn. After saying he was proud to receive the award, he “suddenly made a passionate outburst against the money Britain spends on the arms trade. He held up a copy of yesterday’s Evening Standard Just The Job supplement on the Territorial Army and said: ‘This appalling trade is being promoted on these islands and is a reason I am ashamed to be here’.” The Independent (UK) 11/26/02

Bombay Dreaming Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams has become a hit in London, partly by “tapping into London’s thriving Indian community (population: more than 500,000).” Now the show is moving to Broadway, and observers are wondering if it will find an audience. Critics haven’t been enthusiastic about the show, and while there are 200,000 Indians in the New York area, Bollywood style is not familiar to most New Yorkers. “If you don’t know much about Bollywood (and the majority of the audience will not), it can often seem ridiculous.” New York Post 11/27/02

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Mousetrap Turns 50 The London production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap celebrates its 50th anniversary onstage with a performance for Queen Elizabeth (also celebrating her 50th year in production). “Christie’s famous whodunnit is the first stage production to achieve the milestone of half a century, opened on 25 November, 1952. More than 10 million people have seen the classic since it opened and the play has been performed in more than 40 countries and been translated into over 20 languages.” BBC 11/25/02

Monday, November 25, 2002

Line, Please! Everyone forgets a line now and then. But a Philadelphia performance of a Tom Stoppard play last week spiralled out of control when one of the actors missed a line, then another and another. Finally, a script was deposited onstage and the poor actor made his way through recovery. “To anyone who has been onstage with much to do, not knowing what to do next, the experience is like the centipede stopping to think which of its many legs it should move – and becoming paralyzed. Quick recovery is possible. Or not. An actor spooked by the experience is cast out of the world of that character and into the cold, with no protection.” Philadelphia Inquirer 11/24/02

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Going One At A Time Fewer people are buying season tickets to the theatre. That’s got theatre people anxious. “But a drop in subscriptions nationwide doesn’t translate that fewer people are going to the theater. Actually, more people than ever are going. A recent survey by Theatre Communications Group showed that 22.5 million people attend nonprofit theaters, a slight rise from the previous year. But the safety net that a large subscription base affords is now becoming increasingly frayed, making theaters vulnerable to the downturns in the economy, increasing competition for the leisure dollar and fickleness of audiences.” Hartford Courant 11/24/02

Beyond Broadway Linda Winer finds herself watching great theatre by theatre people who never play on Broadway. And why aren’t these talented performers and writers there? “Broadway isn’t hip enough, doesn’t pay enough, doesn’t reach a broad enough audience to be worth eight hard performances a week. For others, however, the problem is the theater that has defined many of the brightest sensibilities out. Also, unlike England, this country has forced many of its most gifted actors to make life-altering choices between making movies on one coast and making theater on another.” Newsday 11/24/02

Top Of The Game Brian Stokes Mitchell is at the top of the acting game in New York. “No other actor can match his singing voice. No other singer can claim his acting range or experience. No other man — at least, no one who works in the theater regularly — can say, ‘I want to play Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha’ and bring it about. Mr. Mitchell has reached a rare perch in the American theater: he can make his dreams come true with other people’s money.” The New York Times 11/24/02

Sweetheart Deal On The Magnificent Mile Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre is one of country’s best. But it’s hardly wealthy. Which just makes the deal for its new $5.5 million, two-theater complex located in the middle of the city’s high-rent Magnificent Mile retail area more amazing. If the theatre were paying market rent for its new 16,000-square-foot facility, “it would be spending millions of dollars per month ($4.8 million if you do the math and ignore the discounting that can go on in real estate deals).” But “it has signed a 10-year lease with the City of Chicago, with an option to extend for a further 10 years. The rent is $1 per year.” Chicago Tribune 11/24/02

Suddenly Chicago Theatre Is Turning Heads The historic Chicago Theatre has lost money for years. It’s a cash guzzler. And yet, after its most recent failure, suddenly there are groups clamoring to take it over. What’s changed? “The Chicago Theatre has suddenly proved so attractive for one major reason. Even though the previous owners of the theater defaulted on a $21 million loan from the city of Chicago, the city has decided to write off the debt that drove the previous owners into default. Thus the new owner gets the theater free and clear, and will, in effect, be handed a $21 million gift from Chicago taxpayers.” Chicago Tribune 11/24/02

Friday, November 22, 2002

Producers Cooling Down? The Producers is showing signs of slowing ticket demand on Broadway. Blockbuster musicals usually go years before running out of steam at the box office, but Producers is only two seasons old. “Advance ticket sales going into January and February have slipped; the overall advance is under $10 million (it was once over $20 million); and, according to ticket brokers, demand for group sales tickets has declined markedly.” New York Post 11/22/02

The Union Label With all the new hybrid shows opening on Broadway, the definition of a Broadway show is changing. So which unions represent which performers? Actors? Musicians? Dancers? As usual, it’s a matter of money. Newsday 11/21/02

The Work Continues – It’s The Critics Who Change Edward Albee had brilliant success early in his career, but then went through a period where he couldn’t do much right, at least as far as the critics were concerned. Then he was golden again. Albee, 74, maintains that the quality of his writing didn’t much vary during those wilderness years. The only difference was the critical reception. Similarly he was, and still is, driven by the same motives, still irked by the same social faults.” The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/22/02

Thursday, November 21, 2002

42nd Street Pushes West A new section of 42nd Street’s Theatre Row in New York opens. “It is a major piece in the revitalization of what is said to be the biggest Off Broadway theater redevelopment in New York history.” The New York Times 11/21/02

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Staging Area (For Departure) Some of the UK’s best stage talent is leaving the country. “While we prostrate ourselves before anyone who comes stamped with the Hollywood seal of approval, we allow much of our best directorial, design and writing talent to slip out the back door, unnoticed and virtually unlamented.” The Guardian (UK) 11/20/02

Monday, November 18, 2002

Death of Theatre: Is theatre dying in Great Britain? “The statistics bear this out. While overall theatre attendance in Britain has recovered after the dip caused by 11 September, young people today are much less likely to go to the theatre than any other age-group. According to a recent report by the Arts Council of England, only 23 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds attended a ‘play or drama’ in 2001. The figures aren’t much better for 35- to 44-year olds.” The Spectator 11/09/02

Harlem Song to Keep Singing Producers of Harlem Song said two weeks ago that the show would close early on Broadway if $300,000 wasn’t raised. Now the producers say they’ve raised the money and the show will run as planned. “Among the groups that stepped up to sustain the show is the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, which had previously denied the Harlem Song application for $1.2 million in financing that its producers had requested.” The New York Times 11/18/02

The Bard Goes Inside The London Shakespeare Workout Prison Project does pretty muchy what its name suggests. “Last year the group did 51 workshop sessions in 13 prisons involving 1,071 inmates, 147 prison officers and 602 professional actors. Well-known actors and theatre makers such as Jonathan Miller have all been involved, and keep coming back for more. At one prison, Miller got so excited about the talents of one inmate that he wanted to cast him in a production. He had to be gently reminded that the man was incarcerated and not freely available for rehearsals.” The Guardian (UK) 11/18/02

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Waiting for Maxwell: Mitchell Maxwell is as New York as a producer can get – brash, self-centered, and confrontational. He may be a genius, or he may be a con man, and the Denver theatre community is waiting nervously to find out which it is, as Maxwell prepares to take over the city’s Civic Theatre, saying, “I’m going to bring shows to Denver, and they are going to be better and more interesting than much of the work that has been brought to Denver in the past. No disrespect to Denver. It’s just a fact.” Denver Post 11/17/02