Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Theatre Thefts on the Rise?

I have noticed a disturbing trend recently. All Producing companies should take notice.

In both Austin and Seattle smaller theatre companies have suffered large incidents of theft from their performing venues.

Here is a press release from the React Theatre in Seattle: http://www.seattleactor.com/news/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=164

And a reporter in the Austin Chronicle tells of the fourth such theft their area has experienced in the past five months: http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2005-03-25/arts_feature4.html

The thefts can be devastating to companies who have sometimes saved for years to acquire lighting and projection equipment.

No need to panic, but I guess a little extra vigilance, (and a double-check on the locks,) never hurt.
The Anti-Sponsorships of Art?

Brandon Kiley has an interesting article on an Anti-smoking organization called Artparch, stepping in to fund Arts that have been left high and dry by the departure of Tobacco Money:

"If it is successful, Artpatch will help fill the funding deficit left by Lucky Strike's departure last October. This is welcome news for antismoking warriors, but even better news for small arts groups scrambling for money."

Monday, March 07, 2005

Yes, Yes, Yes...

In the Chicago Tribune

Not a bad analysis of the current state of the arts. Basically....It's worse than you think:

The only way to achieve "decency" without "censorship" is if artists make their own choices. Tell them what to do -- or, worse yet, tell them what they are going to do before they do it -- and you have censorship, pure and simple. It may well be desirable censorship from some people's point of view, but
politicians... should at least call it by its proper name.

Free, empowered artists make their own agendas.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

For A Moment Like This...

Bill Marx weighs in on the Theatreworks production of Homebody/Kabul, and his take also looks to the script's production history for critical cues.

However, Marx is more interested in the external influences of the play's journey to Boston. He attributes much of the allure and excitement of earlier productions to how we were as a people back after 9/11.

"Still, plays that live by the news die by the news. And Kushner's uncanny timeliness mitigated signs that his play was only spinning predictable, melodramatic variations on well-worn political themes."

Interesting, in light of Ed Siegel and Terry Byrne's reviews which I posted about below this. Now, Mr. Marx is having a rejection of the play as well. Perhaps people like me, Larry Stark, and a host of others who have had a very positive reaction to the play, are just having the same catharsis which those reviewers had upon first experiencing the play closer to 9/11.

Mr. Marx's review now makes me think that Ed Seigel was really having a visceral reaction to a realization that the play he thought was there, may not be there. I don't mean the play is really bad. Good Tony Kushner is better than 95% of what is out there. But Ed Siegel seems to be wanting an experience that existed in a place and time for Ed Siegel.

It seems unfair to want to punish a production for not being that moment.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Dreaming of Providence…

Can you smell that in the air? It is the sweet smell of nostalgia.

Apparently, the Trinity Repertory production of Homebody/Kabul lingers in the mind long after its lights have dimmed. Both of the major ink spillers released their Chief Guard Dogs on the Boston Theatreworks production of Homebody/Kabul.

Ed Siegel and Terry Byrne both have a lingering fondness of the Trinity production last year, but is that fondness clouding their ability to see this production in a fresh light? Or is their using of a previous, and in their view, more successful interpretation doing an actual justice to the work?

Being a playwright, there is a part of me that feels somewhat comforted by the readiness of critics to understand and decipher a work and to judge a production on its truthfulness to author’s intentions. Indeed, I have often directed my own plays, or have allowed somebody I trust deeply to direct it.

I think Ed Siegel’s review of the Boston Theatreworks production is, well, unfair and unsurpassed in its snarkiness. And , strangely, there is a main point of the review I agree with wholeheartedly.

Nancy Carroll gives and outstanding performance as the Homebody of the play’s title. Larry Stark was moved enough to embrace the actress after the astonishing portrayal. However, Ed Siegel points something out which I found to be my experience from having read the play before I had seen it.

Siegel first praises,

"Nancy Carroll's performance under Jason Southerland's direction as the Homebody is remarkable. She is elegantly coiffed, smartly cynical, and disarmingly self-assured."

But then he goes on to criticize,

"But the Homebody should be none of those things."

I have to agree with Mr. Siegel. When one reads the monologue of the Homebody the flights of language and the coziness leap off of the page with excitement. It is apparent, even in reading, that the mood ofdepression should be what seeps into the text here and there and not the predominant feeling. Director Southerland’s choice is almost the exact opposite, with the overall feeling being that of depression, and only occasionally will flights of fancy enter, and they are muted at that.

But Mr. Siegel goes on to condemn the whole enterprise mentioning time and again other productions whether they be real or imaginary,

"It's a shame that neither the Huntington Theatre Company nor the American Repertory Theatre, with their far greater resources, chose to do the play or at least to bring the Trinity production northward. 'Homebody/Kabul' deserves to
be seen under optimal circumstances, and that's a far cry from what's onstage here."

This is incredibly unfair to Theatrework’s incredibly professional, and at times stunning production. All of the acting is first rate, and this would be a show to catch for anybody looking for an intense and thought provoking night at the theatre.

Terry Byrne in the Herald is a lot kinder to the actors and the production although she also is haunted by the Providence production. She concludes, "Homebody/Kabul remains a fascinating excursion, but this production doesn't quite take us there."

I think what I was most struck by in reading the Globe review was just how much power Ed Seigel weilds. Criticism should not be cheerleading, I would think. But neither should it be condemning though should it? I find myself, even days afterward, thinking about the play. I know that my wife and I have highly recommended it.

This all leads me to ask the question…What does Ed Siegel think when the ART maligns the intentions and Text of some of the greatest works of Western Drama? Does he condemn the enterprise? Does he suggest people wait for a more sensitive interpretation? Anybody who follows theatre in this city knows that these questions are rhetorical. In fact, he goes on to help them drive their subscriptions up.