Art is always looking for taboos to break. And the curious convergence of this summer is assassination. Presidential assassination. “Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins may be closing, but next month, I’m Gonna Kill the President!, a satirical play by the pseudonymous Hieronymous Bang, reopens at a top-secret downtown location. Jonathan Demme has remade The Manchurian Candidate, and Niels Mueller’s drama The Assassination of Richard Nixon, starring Sean Penn, is based on the true story of a salesman who attempts to murder the president. And although the novel won’t be released until August 24 (the eve of the Republican convention), Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint has already caused a stir: One character ruminates at great length on his desire to assassinate George W. Bush.”
A new “dispoable” DVD that self-destructs is being touted as an anti-piracy tool as well as a challenge to the traditional movie rental. “The discs are created using an oxygen-activated chemical, and are shipped in vacuum-sealed packages. Once the disc is exposed to air, the chemical starts working; 48 hours later, it turns black, and the DVD player can’t read it anymore.”
Under George Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative, “arts education was listed as a core subject for the first time in federal law. But reports released over the past several months have documented that arts classes are getting squeezed out because the law doesn’t require that students be tested for proficiency in art, music, dance or drama. Many people also see arts classes as ‘academic frills,’ so they often are the first ones eliminated when school districts run short of money.”
Talent agents, casting directors, and talent management firms are receiving more requests for actors who are ‘ethnically ambiguous,’ of ‘mixed ethnicity,’ or have a ‘global look,’ especially for commercials, films, and television shows. “There is more opportunity for actors who are ethnically mixed than ever before. I often get requests for actors who are biracial. Sometimes it’s very specific, like African-American and Caucasian; other times, the request for biracial is broadly nonspecific, leaving it wide open. The breakdowns for many musicals now include ‘all ethnicities, unless otherwise noted.’ “
The UK film industry posted a record level of production last year, while admissions at UK cinemas reached their second highest level in 30 years. “About £742m was taken at the UK box office. The box office tally marks an increase of 136% on the previous decade, with one in four people now attending the cinema once every month.”
According to this German website, the renowned conductor Carlos Kleiber has died at the age of 74.
Summer concert tickets aren’t selling in the US. “People aren’t buying tickets. For whatever reason, ticket sales dried up around the middle of April. According to a Pollstar analysis of the top 50 shows through June, gross revenue was up 11 percent to $753.5 million, but ticket sales were down 2 percent to 12.8 million, with prices up 13 percent. The average price of a ticket shot up from $26.05 in 1995 to $50.35 om 2003, according to Pollstar. Ticket prices have gone crazy — very, very, very high, and nobody knows how to change that tide.”
“Last week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decreed that Canadian cable and satellite operators could carry Al-Jazeera, along with eight other ‘non-Canadian third-language services’ as digital channels. However, concerns that Al-Jazeera would incite anti-Semitism, and air offensive and objectionable material, prompted the CRTC to insist that distributors of the news service monitor it for ‘abusive comment’ 24 hours a day.” What kind of message does censoring the channel send when we proclaim our free press?
Daniel Libeskind is suing the developer of the World Trade Center site. “Libeskind, with his spritely face and quirky glasses, had been the epitome of compact cool when his design won. Now he was girding to descend into the murk and mire of a court battle. His suit claims that Silverstein merely paid lip-service to the master plan because his ‘actions, then and up to the present time, bespeak a clear intent to derail the project wherever he perceives a conflict with his personal financial interests’. All the high-minded rhetoric and outward symbolism (1776, the tower’s height in feet, is the year the Declaration of Independence was signed) had apparently been erased by the dirty business of litigation.”
In Russia “a group of artists is being charged with ‘inciting religious hatred’ for lampooning religious ideology in a controversial exhibit. For the defendants, who face up to five years in prison if convicted, official reaction to the ‘Caution: Religion’ show, held at Moscow’s Andrei Sakharov Museum last year, suggests the return of Soviet-style control – where dissent is quashed and policemen stand in for art critics. In place of the former Communist Party, they say, the Russian Orthodox Church is fast becoming the Kremlin’s chief guardian of ideological purity.”