Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Fair And a Delicate Balance-d?

While my fellow bloggers are linking to the LA Weekly interview with Edward Albee, I thought I would provide a link to 2004 New York Review of Books article written on the release of the first volume of Albee's Collected Plays.

The LA Weekly article has this presentation of a certain time in Albee's career:

Albee’s maintained a continuing attraction to the Theater of the Absurd (first revealed in his 1959 one-act Zoo Story, about a drifter who acts out his own murder, with the “help” of an upper-class editor). His growing disinclination to write plays with walls and couches, and his emulation of dramatists and poets such as Samuel Beckett, kept The New York Times’ drama critic, Walter Kerr, at a
critical distance from a series of plays written by Albee. Kerr was partly responsible for relegating Albee’s works toward European and university stages.

Well, the NYRB piece provides a different lens through which we can view this picture:

Tiny Alice is perverse on a number of levels. It was written, or at least finished, with John Gielgud, who was about sixty years old, in mind for the central character, but the Gielgud role is that of a young, naive, and probably virginal lay brother. Gielgud was also a magnificent but rather conservative classical actor and, according to Alan Schneider, who directed the première of Tiny Alice, was "baffled by the play itself [and] totally puzzled by the character he was supposed to play."

He wasn't the only one. Schneider himself, who was steeped in the
nonnaturalistic theater of Beckett and Pinter, subsequently confessed that "what that work was specifically saying, or how to make whatever it was saying clear, none of us was entirely sure—including, I believe Edward." Samuel Beckett wrote to Schneider, who had sent him the script, that "I didn't much like it when I read it. But too tired and stupid perhaps to get it, shall have another go." It seems safe to suggest that a play that made Samuel Beckett feel stupid is either fantastically clever or immensely silly.
Tiny Alice, which, after a sharp and intriguing opening scene between a lawyer and a cardinal, descends into a tedious and at times preposterous contemplation of the ineffability of God, is certainly closer to the latter quality than the former.

The problem with
Tiny Alice, however, was not that it was exceptionally bad. Most good playwrights are highly ambitious and their ambition inevitably leads to the odd disaster. In the intellectual climate of the mid-1960s, however, and with the self-justifying notion that Albee was really a European experimentalist who could not be understood by crass Americans, Tiny Alice was raised up as a cross on which Albee enacted his artistic martyrdom at the hands of the philistines. What should have been written off as a mistake to be learned from became instead a manifesto from which Albee was reluctant to retreat. The obvious truth that Albee's is an individual and idiosyncratic American voice was obscured by his image as a European absurdist on the wrong side of the Atlantic.

The article is well worth a read, and by the way, it is highly complimentary to Albee as a playwright. Most of the interesting stuff in the LA Weekly article is Albee's ability to frame the economic situation regarding theatre.

Regards to Tiny Alice, the question still rages among Albee enthusiasts. Was it a great play, just misunderstood? A 1998 production appeared to have gone a long way towards critically restoring it, at least on this side of the pond.

Ben Brantley, writing in the NYTimes said this:

No less a critic than Philip Roth dismissed her as the warped product of ''a homosexual daydream.'' And even arty theatergoers who swooned over mystifying foreign films like ''Last Year at Marienbad'' were indignant that a fine American playwright like Edward Albee would create such a baffling character in such a ponderous play. How dare he try to foist ''Tiny Alice,'' which featured an eminent cast led by John Gielgud and Irene Worth, upon savvy Broadway audiences?

A third of a century later, the stone throwers aren't looking so savvy.
Alice is back in New York, in Mark Lamos's ripping new revival at the Second Stage Theater, and -- guess what? -- she turns out to be a lot of fun.

Other critics agreed. And, in fact, this gels with Albee's way of always framing avant-gard theatre as a "good time."

Perhaps Beckett was just tired.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Now We Lay To Rest

On July 20th, 2006 Bill Marx sent his last transmission on the WBUR Arts pages. The announcement of his departure came at a time when the Arts covergage on WBUR's Arts Pages was reaching a positive critical mass, and actually leaping out front with podcasts and in-depth interviews about everything from the My Name Is Rachel Corrie debate to the comparison of Philadelphia and Boston with regards to their efforts to nurture their arts and culture.

Almost overnight, the Arts pages, including the WBUR Arts blog Attitude, comparatively collapsed into disuse and became, shamefully, almost a ghost site. Now and then we have a review pop up, but instead of theatrical coverage, we have virtual tumbleweeds.

Then, at the end of last year, rumblings of the Boston Herald cutting its arts staff were circulating. After a few reviews from long-time Boston Herald theatre reviewer Terry Byrne appeared, we thought that the fears were unfounded. However, it was soon apparent that Terry was gone, and the Herald Arts pages began to look like the WBUR Arts pages.

There is also the case of the Boston Phoenix. The Alt-weekly continues its regular theatre coverage, but Carolyn Clay, the lead reviewer, seems forced to combine reviews of two to three productions into one column. Sometimes she deftly pulls this off, but other times her attempts are a little strained. The Phoenix has a stable of stringers, (Sally Cragin and Liza Weisstuch,) but they seem to be appearing less frequently.

The departure of Ed Siegel from the Boston Globe did not seem to stop theatre coverage at our major paper. (And Geoff Edgers, Globe Editor and keeper of the blog The Exhibitionist did some dogged reporting on the Woodruff departure at the American Repertory Theatre.) The coverage of smaller theatre companies has seen a slight decline though.

Of course, there is the overall decline in print media and newspapers, but does that mean that the paper's online presence has to decrease as well?

If WBUR didn't see the importance in Arts and Cultural coverage, how will the Globe and Herald eventually shake out?

More later.
Almost, Maine

Thomas Garvey asks, in his latest post at Hub Review, Why all the hate for Almost, Maine?

He asks the question in reference to Terry Byrne's really harsh review of the light, (very light) comedy currently playing at Speakeasy stage.

Actually, aside from Terry, and the savaging little review on PMP network subtitled "I Almost Left", most reviews are pretty honest about what is on stage at the theatre.

To be fair to Ms. Byrne, I feel her review was more a reaction to the dramaturgy/pre-show publicity for Almost, Maine, which promises pulsations of yearning and sadness and strains of Chekovian insight, or even a window into small town life. (These are things Garvey admits are ridiculous to claim.)

What we get are funny, light comedy skits skillfully and professionally peformed in a polished manner by some of Boston's best actors. All of it played on a simple set that almost stunningly gives space and breath of outdoors to the proceedings. Some skits hit, some skits miss, and almost all could be trimmed. And the production does, in fact, give a nice feeling of a different place. Garvey is right, no need to be a hater.

The problem theatre has got itself into over the last 100 years is that people can get this type of light and breezy fair everywhere, almost literally whenever they want it, and at very low prices. But we can't help ourselves in marketing theatre, we have to tell people that light concoctions like Almost, Maine are somehow more transcendent than a light and sugary major release movie or television series like Northern Exposure and the current Ann Heche show Men In Trees.

Almost, Maine is turning into a regional juggernaut, visit the website for Almost, Maine and you will see it rolling through the country with productions lining up over and over. The ultimate destination is obvious. I can't believe that a television pilot and series is not the goal at this point, and it comes packaged with a great title.

Recently, the indie film Little Miss Sunshine was getting a lot of criticism, most of it brought on by its Oscar nomination. Slate writer Matt Feeney writes a defense of the film from the standpoint of what it is: A Comedy.

The overtness of these gestures raises all sorts of red flags among
critics, who have grown wary of Postmodern tricks in the Tarantino era. But since it's comedy we're talking about, the overriding critical question would seem to be: Is Little Miss Sunshine funny? I found it pretty funny, funnier by a long shot by than the vast majority of mainstream comedies, and, at the indie-plex screening I attended, a lot of people laughed. Little Miss Sunshine may not be a great film. The dad character is saved from being a malicious caricature only by Kinnear's marvelous performance, and the dance-party climax
is pat and saccharine. But why should anyone be so annoyed by a genial comedy that clearly satisfies the genre-requirement that it be funny?

I think this is Garvey's point as well. And well taken.

Monday, February 26, 2007

When Melville talks Cetology - Hilarity Reigns?

Having recently conquered, or should I say devoured, Moby Dick, I was amused with Christopher Frizzelle's article on the intimidating reputation of Melville's masterwork.

In my school days I was mildly enthusiastic about Moby Dick, and slogged through it, almost in disbelief that the White Whale doesn't appear to the crew of the Pequod until the last quarter of the book.

In my recent attempt at Moby Dick, I tore through it in about two weeks of just reading at night or in spare moments during the day. I was so voracious that I started to make time to read it, sometimes reading later into the evening than is probably healthy. (One night I was reading by my little book light so late that the battery died out as I was racing through the paragraphs to the end of the chapter.)

Moby-Dick is not anywhere near as difficult a read as Ulysses. But it is dense and intimidating. The actual story of Moby Dick is so infused into our culture that most people know the plot, and even the names of most of the characters, (Ishmael, Ahab, Queegueg, Stubb, Starbuck,) places, (Nantucket, New Bedford, the Pacific,) and sailing vessels, (Pequod, Rachel.) In fact, they even know most of the themes and allegories.

Frizzelle cleverly points to this as just one of the things conspiring against actually reading the book.

"The guilt some people feel over not having read Moby Dick, combined with how much they already know about Moby Dick, combined with how long Moby Dick is—all this conspires to make sure that a lot of people never read Moby Dick. "

Though Moby-Dick gave me some chuckles, I didn't find it as hilarious as Mr. Frizzelle does. What I found was that the craft Melville learned from his earlier romances, and his later commercial offerings, is put to great use in the opening chapters of the book. A pleasant narrator, self-depracating and cynical without being off-putting, leads us on his personal adventure. He seems an above average intellect of slightly above average means, in search of adventure, and we happily tag along

Melville waits a little bit to start laying on the encyclopedic knowledge. We read through those informational chapters and philosophical musings with the knowledge that we are following this narrator, and also with the knowledge that he has an ability to always bring his subject around to how we live our lives. For instance, the chapter titled "The Line" is filled with technical specifications and the history of the ropes used in whaling. Ishmael points out how the line is whipping about dangerously in the air around the whaleboats when they harpoon a whale. The line could snag someone and pop off their head or drag them to the deep, but the whaleboat oarsmen keep steady on their rowing. As a conclusion to the chapter, he adds the following:

But for me, where the craftsmanship triumphs is after half-way through the novel, when we are so interested in the other characters that we are reading along with the knowledge that we are following them. Ishmael? Who's he? In the end, Ishmael even winkingly acknowledges this transposing of our interests. He waits till the Pequod and all on her, (save one,) are sucked into the vortex to point out that, oh by the way, he was on one of the whaling boats.

If you haven't tried Moby Dick in a while, give it a go. I would love to hear what you think.
I Knows It When I Sees It...

For my readers who may not always have the time to peruse the links at the side, I would like to point you to a pair of posts by TimeOut New York Critic David Cote.

Put together, the posts are an attempt to try and apply some type of order on the weird process that is criticism

He starts with a post on Fraudulent Theatre and then follows up with a post on Authenticity.

One of the more interesting questions in his Fraudulent Theatre post is basically a variation of an age old question: If I genuinely like the work of somebody deemed by other critics, whom I respect, to be a fraud, what does that mean for me?

What about the reverse thought: What if I genuinely think fraudulent, work that many other critics, whom I respect, consider to be great?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Dragon on Drive

My posting has been light because I am finishing up a play right now. I am having an informal reading in the near future and I am putting the finishing touches on it.

Over the weekend I saw Almost, Maine at Speakeasy Stage and Devenaughn Theatre's production of Paula Vogel's How I Learned To Drive. This marks my third visit to a production of Vogel's shrewd mix of skits, memory, melodrama and therapy, and I still remain a little mixed when faced with its universal accolades.

The play has many merits, vaulting ambitions and a great spirit of questioning about it. But the play has never coalesced into a satisfying theatrical experience for me. The ART's production with Deborah Winger came closest for me, and Kevin Ashworth's clean-cut, rather handsome Uncle Peck at this Devenaughn production gave a new depth to the central cipher of Vogel's construction.

However, there is something consistently elusive in the tone of the play that slowly disintegrates the floor under its feet. (Rather than disintegrating the floor under our feet, which is the works intention.) Perhaps Ms. Vogel, by design, constructs it with so many tones, (just like the strands of real memories of events both tragic and happy,) that it can't help but loose its footing.

Whenever you seem to have it, a new scene emerges that throws a monkey-wrench into your perceptions. For a while, this works, and for many this is engaging. But for me, these constant sabots end up snapping the gears off.

After seeing this latest production, I was thumbing through John Simon's collection of theatre criticism, (a uniquely gut-wrenching experience which I will post about later.) I ran across his review of the original New York production and he expressed his reservations in an eloquent way that I never could, which is why, (despite his almost overwhelming acidic nature,) he is still in business, albeit at Bloomberg.

Though he is complimentary of the play, Simon asks, of all of the questions that Vogel raises: "How many unknowns can an equation hold?" He wonders, "when does playwriting become algebra?" This is precisely what I have always felt about the play. There is something thrilling to mathematics when you see how complex formulas and proofs work, but without proof it can be an endless string of notations.

Just to prove it, lets try a little game for those of you who know the play. Just keep adding interesting scenes or information to that which you already know that might change things for you.

Add a scene where we find out Peck slept with Lil Bit's Mom

Add a line near the end where Lil Bit says that she sees pictures of Uncle Peck and he doesn't look at all how she remembers him.

Add a scene where a member of the Chorus, taking up the persona of an Army buddy, talks about Uncle Peck's courage under fire.

It almost as if Vogel just keeps adding perception altering moments until she has killed off the one character, and then throws a few more on, and then decides it's time to end.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How Do You Solve a Problem like R. Corrie?

Brendan Kiley looks at the win-win situation at Seattle Rep's choice of having really young up-and-comers direct and put together their production of the infamous My Name Is Rachel Corrie.

Kiley brings up how there is not only a controversey behind the play's production history, but also, (something that is not brought up enough,) the play seems to garner rather tepid, if not poor reviews when it is produced.

Kiley sums up:

The charitable interpretation: Abraham and his team are young hotshots and the Rep is giving them a chance to wrestle with a rich and relevant play. Everybody wins. The Rep gets street cred, the WET artists get a big sandbox to play in, and Rep audiences get the best of both. The uncharitable interpretation: Between the controversy and the possibility of suckage, no veteran director wanted to be involved and the Rep is distancing itself from the production. And if Corrie fails, the Rep can use that as an excuse to refrain from working with young artists again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Suzan Lori-Parks' Total Quality Management
A guest post from the 365 Vice President of Corporate Culture

The Seattle Times has an article about the 365 Play Festival which is going on throughout the country right now. And meeting with great success.

Suzan Lori-Parks, our Chief Executive of 365 Corp suggests companies in the operation are not pulling their weight:

Parks admits that over several years, some organizational aspects of the project were "cripplingly awful."

Here in Seattle, coordination of the local shows has at times been,
well, a bit sloppy. One recent library performance was canceled, after the high-school student actors didn't turn up.

Well, at least these shoddy nonners won't have to worry about a surprise inspection. Being the busy CEO of the project Parks will not even be able to check out any of the 365 plays being performed in Seattle, though she says she may return later. (Heads up, high schoolers!)

However, in case you think this "movement" is selling out to the man, need we remind you that the boss is forgoing pay so that we can bring free theatre to the masses?

Parks said "365 Days / 365 Plays" also reminds theater folk and audiences "that things can get done, even if you don't have a lot of money or other resources.

A puckish woman with long dreadlocks who looks much younger than her 43 years, Parks didn't just talk that talk. She walked the walk, making her 365 scripts available royalty-free to anyone who wanted to produce them. There was a string attached: All shows had to be free.

Now, some of you in the "network" have raised questions about statements like these. And we have noticed, as you have been kind to point out, that the official Network Oath of Allegiance states something different.

This from the official 365 Plays website:

365 NETWORK CONTRIBUTION:Each theatre will be an equal partner in the 365 Festival and therefore must contribute an equal amount to the 365 Fund in their network. Each network has set its own level of contribution. Contributions range from $50 – $150 depending on the network. Of this, $1 per day represents
licensing fees ($7 per company) to the playwright. The rest will be used for marketing, administration and fundraising costs.

This is what is known as a token royalty. It is our way of giving appreciation to the boss for all of the hard work. Like a token Christmas gift, showing appreciation for another year of gracious employment. Nothing substantial, but maybe think of it as a fruitcake.

We know that some have asked about the proceeds from the Book which contains the text of the plays. "Aren't we helping to promote that?"

This is a legitimate question, but you need to know a little about Book Publicity first.

Simply stated: There are clerks at Border's or Barnes and Nobles who spend time setting up the endcaps and signage for book tour appearances, right? Now, do you think these clerks expect any proceeds from the sales of those books?

Thank You

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hermit Crabs Beware

Affordable space is the problem of just about every theatre community in the country, and many a blogger has posted about it at some time or another.

Don Hall, the Angry Guy in Chicago, today talks about how site-specific theatre will become ever more prevalent as the process of renting a theatre space for a couple of weeks becomes a financial hardship.

The New York Times ran a story a month ago about how a theatre group realized that they could sublet an apartment for a few months for less than it would cost to rent a 60 seat theatre for a couple of weeks.

But, simmering underneath the production space problem is always the question of rehearsal space.

In Boston, smaller theatre companies often resort to a sort of underground rehearsal circuit which involves squatting at some of the local colleges. Our wonderful city is blessed with some of the largest and most expansive universities in the world. Which means that there are acres of classrooms and halls that are virtually vacant after hours.

I know of very few theatre artists who have not, at some time or another, found themselves on the campus of one of our fair colleges, rehearsing in a classrooom and hoping that a group of students won't come along and kick them out.
There are ways to keep things slightly on the level. Somebody in your company is an employee of the university, or maybe a student. Or perhaps the artistic director is going to night classes there. But even with these connections it is a stressful and, well, illegal way to rehearse.

Over the past few years, one of these universities in particular has provided many a theatre company a nice convenient place to squat for rehearsals, but those days are over.

It appears that a theatre group seems to have violated the one overriding rule of university rehearsal squatting that seems like it should be instinctive, if not drilled into people.

Rule #1 of University Classroom Rehearsal Squatting: If even one student of that university wants to use the space you are in, you vacate that space immediately!

No questions asked. No complaining, no bargaining, no "can you wait one minute?" Go. Get out. Leave.

Well, now that this group has violated that rule, the university has had campus police do sweeps of classrooms and that puts the clampdown of rehearsals for the indefinite future. So, just a heads up to those without university affiliations at this very large technical college: Don't squat.

Perhaps there is a way we can bring this underground circuit up to the light, perhaps if small theatre companies can form a collective, we can approach the universities to work something out. I can't imagine they don't want to contribute to the artistic health of the city and environs.

Until then, I can't confirm or deny the existence of theatre companies squatting at universities other than the one involved.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Blinded By Blondes?

The normally astute Garret Eisler is so busy wretching about the possible runaway success of the new Musical Version of Legally Blonde, (based on the Reese Witherspoon movie,) that he misses the meatiest part of the Riedel article to which he points us.

Considering Garret's recent posts about The Little Dog Laughed, and the economic health of comedy on Broadway versus TV, I would think this part of the article would be of interest:

More problematic is a big courtroom number in which the characters speculate whether a witness is "gay or European."

Some of the older producers think it's hilarious. But younger members of the company say it's old hat ("Seinfeld" covered the terrain a decade ago) and, with lyrics that catalog one stereotype after another, verges on the offensive.

"We've had a lot of gay groups at the show - we're in San Francisco,
surprise!" Luftig says. "And they've actually enjoyed the number. But we're definitely debating it."

Younger cast members seem to be saying, "don't be lame," but the producers are seeing the loyal, traditional audience members enjoying it.

I forgive Garret though, it all sounds a little overwhelming.
The Peoples' Playwright?

For one night only, at Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway, Howard Zinn's play Marx in Soho will be presented with a Q & A session afterwards with the playwright himself, Howard Zinn.

The play is a production of Iron Age Theatre.
Doubt Hits Boston

Doubt has received great reviews and Cherry Jones is all over the radio and TV, (I listened to her on Eagan and Braude on 96.9 the other day.)

The Boston Globe has an editorial today that brings up Shanley's play in light of Malcolm Gladwell's "thin-slicing" concepts from Blink.

Sister Aloysius's refusal to trust Flynn grows out of a belief that anyone with a sufficiently silver tongue can calmly explain away anything. She's not alone; there has been an explosion of public interest in recent years in seeking truth through gut instinct. Bestselling books such as Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" and Gavin de Becker's "The Gift of Fear " tell readers that their instant judgments about people and events have great analytical power. Sister Aloysius tells Flynn he roused her suspicion when he touched another boy on the wrist, and the boy recoiled. Yet in Shanley's world, parsing such moments -- "thin-slicing" them, to use Gladwell's term -- is just another way of casting about for definite answers amid great uncertainty.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Kane's Crave Meets Critic

Peter Marks reviews Sarah Kane's Crave, being given a production at Signature in Washington D.C. Here he highlights one of the issues with Kane's work that appears in reviews again and again. (And was my impression when I had seen a production of Crave.):

"You trust that the jump from thought to disjointed thought is organized with an interior logic, one that might better be discerned through a closer examination of the text. We don't have that luxury in a theater, so you have to rely on the acumen of the director and the actors to illuminate intuitively what the playwright does not."

Ben Brantley, (reviewing a 2000 production of Crave in the New York Times,) and Marks, seem to suggest that the direction to have the actors acknowledge each other, even glancingly, seems "artificial."

Brantley points out:

"But having the actors, who stand through the whole of the hourlong performance, turn to each other and make contact, as they sometimes do, seems too literal-minded; it focuses attention on the wrong things, like the possibility of a plot."

Their suggestion is correct, in my opinion. Trying to find traditional dramatic ways to make Kane's work accessible may defeat the point.

After all, non-narrative theatre can be, as Mark's concedes: " a bracing antidote to the kinds of plays that are ever more attuned to the formulaic strictures of movies and television -- "

Marks seems tentative. He finds the poetry powerful, but is wondering if it is really theatre. He knows that we are in the realm of theatre that can leave a large portion of the theatregoing public in the cold.

Kane's work defies the daily reviewer's mission to keep purse strings safely snug. If theatre such as Kane's is meant to a deeply individual experience, then how can a consumer guide possibly have aesthetic integrity while still having the general public in mind?

I can read "No Coward Soul is Mine" and feel as if I am having a conversation with Emily Bronte, but I am also in communion with a larger cosmos. Does Kane's work have a similar effect? Does it want to?

With Kane's writing I cannot deny it's talent and her skill, but when I try to absorb the larger themes it always, always comes back to her death. Not Death, not Suicide, in the abstract, but specifically her death.

Especially with Crave And Psychosis 4:48, many critics will mention, as Marks does here, that you can't help but thinking you are hearing parts of a suicide note. I will venture to say it is because you are.

It is difficult and probably takes a more mature critical mind than mine to sort this all out, or maybe to set aside this fact of her death, but it is the truth with respect to her writing. And there, I believe, is the danger. The death cult of Kane's celebrity has always creeped me out a bit, and everytime I read the inevitable phrase about "suicide notes," it makes me shiver.

James Wood writes, (in a review of Michel Hollenbeq's latest work,) that the nihilist's talent " is to stain very large swatches of life to the point where all other contemporary writing is rendered sentimentalist."

To seriously consider Kane's work, you have to get past that particular barrier. But the problem is that after surmounting that bulwark, we are immediately impeded with another wide chasm presented by her own relentless obsessiveness. This requires even more agility. Her illness and her death hang over the plays so much that it can become easy to give the work praise for her showing us what it is really like to be in a depressed mind. This may not be helpful. It is almost a cop out.

Alex Sierz, of In Yer Face theatre, writes:

"But while it's easy to appreciate those aspects of Kane's work which smack of genius - the compression, the compassion and the sincerity of her sensibility - the personal tragedy of her life should not be an excuse for failing to criticise her work. For while her writing is undeniably powerful, its range is also extremely limited and narrow, even obsessive."

By the way, my musings above are more related to her later writings. I have read all of her work, but I have only ever seen Crave actually performed.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Say, Are You The Manager of This Team?

We need Abbot and Costello to sort out the shifting of the critical lineups in Boston.

Bill Marx appears to have written a weblog posting, and Terry Byrne, (formerly of the Herald, and now sometimes of WGBH,) has written a Globe review of States of Grace at the URT.

She seems to have a little more room than the anemic inches her departing Herald missives allowed.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Others for Language all their Care express,
And value Books, as Women Men, for Dress:
Their Praise is still--The Stile is excellent:
The Sense, they humbly take upon Content.
Words are like Leaves; and where they most abound,
Much Fruit of Sense beneath is rarely found.
False Eloquence, like the Prismatic Glass,
Its gawdy Colours spreads on ev'ry place;
The Face of Nature was no more Survey,
All glares alike, without Distinction gay:
But true Expression, like th' unchanging Sun,
Clears, and improves whate'er it shines upon,
It gilds all Objects, but it alters none.

-Alexander Pope - Essay on Criticism
Huntington Replies to Louise Kennedy

In the Sunday Globe Michael Maso, Managing Director of the Huntington Theatre Company, responded to Louise Kennedy's recent articles on what she would like to see happen in the future at the ART and the Huntington.

I was going to link to the Globe, but The Huntington Blog has posted the full text of the letter.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bill Marx is Back?

At least tentatively. You can see his initial impressions of the Woodruff replacement at this link.

The artist is the scapegoat in the end, and that is troubling. The truth is that creative genius is not often married to salesmanship. Most of the greatest stage directors of the past, try as they might, couldn’t pry open the wallets of the upper crust with a crowbar. But fundraising ability — rather than artistry — is beginning to overshadow all other skills when it comes to choosing an artistic director. Oskar Eustis wasn’t hired to head the Public Theatre in New York because he was a superb director. He is wondrously adept at charming money out of rich donors. Chances are that whoever replaces Woodruff at the ART (Lester is temporarily assuming the role) will be less of a risk-taker and more of a bean counter.
Small Theatre Weekend

If you find you just aren't in the Shakespeare mood, you may want to check out :

Race at the Charlestown Working Theatre, a production of Theatre on Fire.

Or States of Grace at the Underground Railway at Boston Playwrights Theatre
Seating Prices - Ever To Excel !

Kevin Spacey's salary is expanding the prime seating for Moon for the Misbegotten on Broadway. In a recent New York Times article a producer basically admits that unless you are a friend of the star, or a member of the press, "we have basically priced you out of the theatre."

In a previous life I was on the football team at Boston College, and I still have season tickets with both my dad and my brother. Going to a game at Alumni Stadium is one of the best deals for live sports in Boston today. You get to see Division One Football, in a great stadium, for a relatively affordable price.

Now that the team has ascended into the great levels of the ACC, resulting in some of the more exciting seasons I have witnessed, it appears they need to start living a little more large. They are upgrading their facilities and their modes of travel. But, disturbingly, this seems to mean that they are going to need to trade-up their fans as well.

Yes, prime seating has come to Alumni Stadium with a vengeance. According to a recent Boston Herald article, the fans currently holding prime seats will need to make at least a $1000.00 donation per ticket to keep their seats. People are understandably livid, some people have held season tickets for decades, year in and year out, through good seasons or bad, and now they may be subjected to ultimate humiliation from their alma mater: You don't make enough money!

A few years ago the Artful Manager reported about Wisconsin's ploy to get donations from people who were seeking tickets to Badger football games. Their ads were insidiously constructed to suggest that if they made a donation to the school they would receive the option to purchase the coveted tickets. However, people learned that the donations did not gaurantee you would get tickets, and that the donations were non-refundable.

I have now found myself on the Football Alumni listserve where people who played football for Boston College, and have had their tickets for years, are pretty upset about the new stipulations. I don't blame them.

My tickets seem to be out of the danger zone, but I know we would be upset if we suddenly had this massive escalation in cost.

Coming from the Arts universe the idea of donation for gratification is not very foreign, but I the sudden requirement of thousands of dollars can only be viewed as either an insensitive and not very well-thought out could be viewed as an effective way to sweep out the riff-raff. Either way is not very flattering to the organization.

I am not sure that Glaucus had this in mind when he told Diomedes of his life's mission, but Glaucus may have been able to afford the tickets.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mike Daisey on not New York Theatre

Mike Daisey will be coming to boston at Zero Arrow Street with his new show, Invincible Summer.

In an interview in the Seattle Weekly he talks about the difference between a regional theatre city, like Seattle and compares it to doing theatre in New York.

Daisey says Seattle gave him some hard schooling in self-promotion that's been helpful ever since. "It's so comfortable out here. You've got your favorite coffee shop, and it's next door to your favorite bookstore, and down the block is your favorite independent cinema, or you can go hiking, or just go home to your cozy sofa and your DVDs. In New York, people are used to going out to see theater. The whole time I was in Seattle, I felt like I was always yanking people out of their couches, going, 'Come on! Live theater! Come watch!'"

Though most men have some vague flitting ideas of the general perils of the grand fishery, yet they have nothing like a fixed, vivid conception of those perils, and the frequency with which they recur. One reason perhaps is, that not one in fifty of the actual disasters and deaths by casualties in the fishery, ever finds a public record at home, however transient and immediately forgotten that record. Do you suppose that that poor fellow there, who this moment perhaps caught by the whale-line off the coast of New Guinea, is being carried down to the bottom of the sea by the sounding leviathan - do you suppose that that poor fellow's name will appear in the newspaper obituary you will read to-morrow at your breakfast? No: because the mails are very irregular between here and New Guinea. In fact, did you ever hear what might be called regular news direct or indirect from New Guinea? Yet I tell you that upon one particular voyage which I made to the Pacific, among many others we spoke thirty different ships, every one of which had had a death by a whale, some of them more than one, and three that had each lost a boat's crew. For God's sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man's blood was spilled for it.

-Herman Melville - Moby-Dick, Chapter 45 - "The Affadavit"