Thursday, May 31, 2007

Visible Men

Two interesting stories from the world of technology.

The Boston Globe tells of a local malpractice case which was blown wide open, Law & Order style:

As Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Suffolk Superior Court this month, defending himself in a malpractice suit involving the death of a 12-year-old patient, the opposing counsel startled him with a question.

Was Lindeman Flea?

Flea, jurors in the case didn't know, was the screen name for a blogger who had written often and at length about a trial remarkably similar to the one that was going on in the courtroom that day.

In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff's case and the plaintiff's lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.

With the jury looking on in puzzlement, Lindeman admitted that he was, in fact, Flea.


On the other hand, we have a story from Wired about Rutgers professor Hasan Elahi. who, After being listed on the terrorist watch list, decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. He opened up a website from which you can track all of his movements, purchases, etc. In other words, he has made himself totally visible to anybody who wants to see him:

"I've discovered that the best way to protect your privacy is to give it away," he says, grinning as he sips his venti Black Eye. Elahi relishes upending the received wisdom about surveillance. The government monitors your movements, but it gets things wrong. You can monitor yourself much more accurately. Plus, no ambitious agent is going to score a big intelligence triumph by snooping into your movements when there's a Web page broadcasting the Big Mac you ate four minutes ago in Boise, Idaho. "It's economics," he says. "I flood the market."


His website gives you a google map along with a scrolling of his latest photo from his location. As a commenter on the Wired story cleverly points out, the photos never really show him in them, but I think that is a minor point.

Can we gain a lasting impression if we follow a life while it is lived? Boswell's Interactive Life of Johnson? We already have a fairly good impression of Mr. Pepys, but imagine if we could get gps on him?

The problem with the tedium of constantly watching daily life is that it tends to aggrandize even the most insignificant changes. Though this isn't so different from regular life itself, is it?

Dramatic writing has always been about the compression of the most important moments in a life, a civilization, etc. Sometimes they are decisions and turning points which we may never face, but we can nevertheless extrapolate from similar or even smaller decisions or experiences we have had.

The "live" or more appropriately "authentic" experience theatre allows is for us to experience these moments with another live being, the performer or actor, who is, for the most part, extrapolating as well.

From Terry Teachout's post on death and the film The Bridge, (in which we see people actually jumping off the Golden Gate,) we get the following:

Watching The Bridge, of course, reminds us in the most vivid way possible that there are two kinds of people who kill themselves, those who do it quickly and without fuss and those who agonize at length before plunging into the darkness, thus making them easier to stop. All of which tells us what the wise man already knows, which is that statistics are ever and always to be juggled with the utmost caution. Behind every death is a story, and in stories, as Flannery O'Connor reminds us, we find the only truths worth knowing:

"There is a certain embarrassment about being a storyteller in these times when stories are considered not quite as satisfying as statements and statements not quite as satisfying as statistics; but in the long run, a people is known, not by its statements or its statistics, but by the stories it tells."

Alas, no one can tell us the end of our own story. We must live it, and once we have done so, we can no longer pass it on to anyone else. Even art, which tells us so many valuable things, sheds no light on that climactic puzzle,


Flannery O'Connor is right, but there is a depressing side to this. Now we have to be hyper-aware.

On my desk right now is a DVD of short film which came wrapped in the plastic of this month's Wired Magazine. The film is called Eureka and the tag line is: "The Best Ideas Come From the Most Unlikely Places." And it also includes the following statement: "A Story Inspired by Real Events."

Here is the synopsis from the back of the DVD casing:

Chief Shell engineer Jaap Van Ballgooijen is passionate about saving the world's energy resoucres. Whilst under stress working the South East Asia oil fields, he struggles to solve the problem of leaving "undrillable" oil behind.

Under increasing pressure from a local reporter, Jaap, returns to his teenage son in Amsterdam who ultimately shows that, even with the biggest problems, inspiration can come from the most unlikely places.



This film, including DVD features like "The Making Of", was produced by Shell Oil.

What will be the "stories" when corporations are writing them?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Back from Vacation

Back from a week vacation in Westport, MA, hiking on Mass Audobon Trails, and Trustees Properties. And laying back on Horseneck Beach.

Mostly catching up on the day job, almost there, but thought I would take a break and give a shout out.

Matt at Theatre Conversation has called it quits for the theatre blogosphere. I e-mailed him and he gave me a nice message back about the decision. I'll miss him. See ya, Matt.

Scott Walters is doing a fine job in his continuing quest to crystallize his thoughts about theatre and class. Start here, with his interview on Theatre is Territory. (Be sure to read the comments.) Then move on to Scott's own site for his follow ups and clarifying thoughts, starting with Centralization and then move on to Risk.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Boston Roundup

The Boston Theater Marathon runs this Sunday, along with the Dragonfly Festival. Details here. So, if you are into to ten minute plays, you will be in heaven.

ART and the Hungington Theatre Company gear up for their season finales with Harold Pinter's No Man's Land and Noel Coward's Present Laughter.

No Man's Land, featuring the return of David Wheeler as a director, gets some early reviews from The Globe, Carl Rossi, and Edge Boston.

Melinda Lopez gets good news from Steppenwolf.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council wants you to lend your voice to the debate over the MassCore proposal for high school education.

Small Theatre Closings:

Theatre on Fire's Two Rooms will be wrapping up on Saturday. The 1988 Lee Blessing play about an American held hostage in the Middle East has received very positive notices . And the recent news about a Lawrence soldier in the hands of Al-Queda gives this story an added local relevance. Go ahead, see it, and get to know your way to the Charlestown space. You'll need to know because that is where Mabou Mines will be performing this summer.

Boston Theatre Works will be presenting Confessions of a Mormon Boy for the last weekend.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Melinda Lopez at Steppenwolf

Boston Playwright Melinda Lopez's new work, Gary, will be part of Steppenwolf's Theatre's First Look Repertory of New Works.

Hedy Weiss reports in the Chicago Sun Times:

This season, the three "in development" plays to receive staged productions are: "When the Messenger Is Hot," Laura Eason's adaptation of an Elizabeth Crane short story about a young woman's response to her mother's death (directed by Jessica Thebus); "Gary," Melinda Lopez's tale of three siblings in a city in rapid decline and the violent night that changes their lives (directed by Jonathan Berry), and "Tranquility Woods," Joel Drake Johnson's tale of a woman who tends her comatose husband as chaos reigns outside the hospital (directed by Sandy Shinner).

The Ten Minute Weekend!

We had our last tech for the Dragonfly Festival last night. The show looks great. Tickets are selling fast, with a few sold out nights already. For more info go here.

The entry I directed, Not On My Watch by David Schrag, looks great and my actors are doing a great job as the hip, but helpless, technology slaves.

The play will also be in the Boston Theater Marathon in the 12PM-1PM slot on Sunday.
The Theaterm Marathon is an all day extravaganza of ten minute plays. 51 plays in all!!!!
40 Dollars gets you an all day pass.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Old Versus New II

Geoff Edgers points us to negative review of the new ICA building. The reviewer, from Metropolis magazine, says the following:

"It's clear from the first glance at that poorly detailed, almost
accidental rear facade that the experience of tourists on tour boats and the views of residents of gentrifying East Boston on the opposite short have been privileged over those of future neighbors and those actually entering the thing. But the grand gesture to the sea looks great in pictures, and that serves architects and critics (and their photo editors) alike."

To give our own own Thomas Garvey at Hubreview his credit, he said virtually the same thing in his review of the ICA on its opening:

Like City Hall, the new ICA is a cold thing of concrete, steel and glass – far more glass than concrete or steel this time around, of course; still, the structural echo is apparent, even at first glance: both buildings lift their main functions onto platforms, and thus while projecting an image of openness, actually feel sealed and impregnable; both are more or less indifferent to the street (the ICA even turns its back on its main approach);

Boston Needs More Classics?


Thomas Garvey over at Hubreview talks about recent productions of Valhalla, Persephone, and Mrs. Witherspoon and laments the recent proliferation of new and newer plays in Boston. He finds that the cumulative result is great productions of what are, at best, mediocre works. But he also sees a sad trend:


"Which leads us to deeper questions about the direction of Boston theatre. Not so long ago, classics formed the core of the stagnant Boston scene, and folks everywhere called out for more new work. But you should always be careful what you wish for. New works are now the norm - but few have proved of much lasting interest, despite productions that have been, by and large, scintillating. In fact, I have a gnawing feeling that Boston - like
Scott Edmiston - is beginning to specialize in the art of disguise, and that's not a good thing. I'm getting rather tired of a certain knee-jerk attitude that I summarized on another blog as "Why do a great old play when we can do a mediocre new one?" The answer is that we need the great old plays as the benchmark for our current endeavors. Without them we might find ourselves truly satisfied with the likes of Miss Witherspoon."


I just want to take the statements I have bolded in the above paragraph one by one.


First:

I am not so sure that the new works proliferation is now the norm. This is a relatively recent development on the Boston theatre scene, and my opinion is that it is welcome.


Few have proved to be of lasting interest? To whom? There are opinions on both sides of the aesthetic coin. While I tend to side with Thomas on the merits and craftsmanship of Persephone, another respected local critic, Will Stackman, thinks that Noah Haidle's play has the potential to be a "minor masterpiece."





Second:

As I have said many times before, the question is not "Why do a great old play when we can do a mediocre new one?"

It should really be, "why do mediocre newer-plays (last thirty years) again and again, when we can do a good new one?"

There is a difference between The Misanthrope (New Rep this coming year) and plays like Sisters Rosensweig.

You would have no argument from me if a theatre would put up a season of nothing but Moliere, Ibsen, Shakespeare etc.

But how do I know that in another 8 or so years, we will be seeing another production of The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, complete with dramaturgical notes on how it is a forgotten masterpiece about commerce, etc.

If the choice is between The Wild Duck and Persephone, I will take Ibsen.

But if the choice is between Sam Shepard's Simpatico and a new play by an emerging playwright like Ronan Noone, I'll take the new play any day of the week. (Sorry, Mr. Shepard.)

All new plays are not going to be classics. They can't be. Many believe there are problems in the development of new works for the theatre, and I will not argue with them.

Village Voice reviewer Michael Feingold, reviewing a Second Stage production, which had supposedly come through devlopmentwent, went on to savage the play. But he did preface it all by saying that if the play was not going to receive the tough love it needed in the so-called "development process" then he was going to take it upon himself to give it in his review.


Now, if Mr. Garvey wants to make a call for playwrights to write better plays, I will be the first to second his call because that is what we should all be trying to do. However, I know that Mr. Garvey has also stated before that we should all fold the tent and go home, just do the classics and be happy.

Third:
Mr. Garvey seems worried about the recent creep of new works while eschewing the fact that during this same period Shakespeare started being produced more than ever here. And we even had the formation of a now nationally recognized,Shakespeare company right in the city. (Not to mention the Huntington presented Shakespeare on their stage again, with a great prodcution of Love's Labour Lost.")

This summer we are getting Noah Haidle's Mr. Marmalade, but we are also getting Romeo and Juliet, Misalliance, Arms and the Man, The Visit, etc.


We will see Christopher Shinn's Dying City next season, but we will also see The Misanthrope, Streetcar, and The Crucible, along with all the Actors Shakespeare Project offerings. Also two Mozart operas at the ART.

Now, I will be the first to agree that "new" does not mean good.

But the way I see it is that the issue, if there is one, in theatre lately is not that Ibsen and Strindberg have gone away for a bit, the problem is that Persephone and Book of Days will probably be back before they are.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cliche, Get Thee Gone!

Nick at Rat Sass is talking about Critics, with lots of great links to UK articles.

While we are talking about critics, and still hand-wringing about the demise of print arts journalism, I would like to make a modest proposal:

When reviewing productions of Hamlet, could print critics, bloggers, etc., please refrain from using the headline that plays on the phrase, "Get thee to a nunnery?"

As an example, the recent LA Times review of a Production of Hamlet in Los Angeles trumpets, "Get thee to Hamlet." Though, the headline often will make a play on the theatre that the production is in, as in, "Get thee to the Huntington!"

Being a producer, I know that such a pull-quotable phrase is a dream for the ads. However, out of the huge text of the Bard's most famous work, can't we do better than this?

Can people suggest some? (By the way, they can be for good or bad productions.) I'll get it started.

"Bound in Postmodernism, This Prince is Still King!"

"Alas, Poor Shakespeare. They Slew Him, Horatio!"

"Elsi-Snore"

"Slough Your Mortal Coil, The Rep's Prince is All Soul!"

"Hammy-let"

"Rep Players, Well Bestowed"

"What a Noble Play is Here O'thrown."

"Bard Production Suits Action to Words, Words to Action!"

"This Hunky Prince Uses a Miraculous Organ."

"Oh Woe Is Me, To Have Seen What I Have Seen."

"At Rep's Hamlet, Words Without Thought."

"Rep Cast Makes Hamlet a Rhaposody of Words!"

"A Hamlet of Shreds and Patches"

"Splenitive and Rash, Rep's Prince Proves Dangerous!"

"This Dane's More of An Antique."

"Rep's Prince Proves Most Royally"


(By the way, I guess I should chastise myself for employing an oft-used Swiftian cliche in my post.)
At last you got him, there he swings,
Above the howling people-kings.
At last ye got him; he outstood
In innocence and hardihood
The servile court, the madman's knife,
The wreck of name and home and wife,
Still trusting God would see him through.
At last ye got him in the night,
Sick, Wounded, Worn and strangely white-
Your burgher, Leo Frank, the Jew.

Ye hanged him on the gallow-tree,
He'll hang for all the years to be;
Ye nor your children shall have power,
To take him down a single hour;
Nor wind, nor rain, nor bird of prey,
Shall eat that awful form away.
Nor God once veil it from your view:
Tis no human head and limb-
Ye hanged God's Justice, hanging him,
Your burgher, Leo Frank, the Jew.


"Leo Frank" by William Ellery Leonard


Speakeasy Stage Company's production of Parade runs through the next couple of weeks and it is truly a spectacle, as far as Boston's midsized theaters go. It has an extremely large cast and, most important of all, a very ambitious concept.

I remember in my youth watching a television mini-series The Murder of Mary Phagan, and the haunting story of what happened to Leo Frank has stayed with me all of these years.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Boston Roundup

Will Stackman asks "What Fringe?" on Larry's Site.

The Dragonfly Festival and the Boston Theatre Marathon, each in which David Schrag's play Not on My Watch, (directed by me,) will appear, get a write-up in the Globe's Stages column.

The news of New Rep's cancellation of The Price to Pay is commented on by two bloggers. Garret Eisler says Two Cheers, while Mark Armstrong says, Not So Fast.

Speakeasy Stage Company opens the musical Parade this weekend, and Iris Fanger in the Phoenix has the preshow push.

Pinter's No Man's Land at the ART keeps getting mileage out of the Father Son teaming of actor Lewis Wheeler and his father David. (If you want to tone up your theory muscles before attending this Pinter, you should read George Hunka, who is posting lots of his article-length ruminations.)

Terry Byrne reviews Theatre on Fire's Two Rooms.

Arms and the Man at the Lyric is getting fairly good press from all quarters.

Wonder how they build those grand sweeping curves on those art-deco sets? Todd Williams gives you a peek backstage at the Huntington.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

48 Hour Film Fest Time


It seems unbelievable, but in-between directing a show, negotiating a huge bid at my day job, (We Just Won!!!) and preparing for a theatre based interactive monologue for a corporate gig, (I played a manager stuck in the middle of mentor-mentee relationship,) I was able to parcticipate for Team Playomatic at the 48 Hour Film Project this past weekend.


Our Comedy film, Sneaker Double Feature, screens tonight at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge MA.
It has all the things you love about a Playomatic film: Excellent Costumes, Off-Beat Characters, Wacky Situations, excellent production values and a sense of fun and joy in the whole proceeding.

Playomatic's entry last year, Opening Night Jitters, took home a bunch of awards, Best Acting, Best Editing and Best Use of Genre as well as an Audience Favorite Award.


No No From Netanyahu

Geoff Edgers reports in the Globe about the New Rep having to cancel the play they had originally paired with My Name is Rachel Corrie.

Iddo Netanyahu, the youngest of the three brothers and the one who handled discussions with the New Repertory Theatre, declined interview requests. In a statement released by New Rep, Netanyahu said that he feels "that there is an inherent incompatibility in the joining together, in one evening, of a play based on my brother Yoni's letters with the play 'My Name Is Rachel Corrie.' "

Netanyahu holds the rights to his brother's letters, which were used by playwright Peter-Adrian Cohen to create "To Pay the Price." New Rep producing artistic director Rick Lombardo said yesterday he didn't know the details of the arrangement between the family and the playwright, but said the theater would not push to produce the play out of respect for the Netanyahus.



Mark Armstrong, at Mr. Excitement News had originally pointed out that the idea of putting the play "in context" with another voice, seemed incompatible with artistic integrity.

Now, it seems he was right. Interestingly enough, New Rep scrambled to once again find a play to "pair" with Corrie.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Brad Pitt in Raisin in the Sun?

Neil Labute has a column in the LA Times on color blind casting.

Don't forget, these actors still have to find a theater company brave
(or crazy) enough to cast them. But if that happens — if someone does allow me to mount my all-white version of "A Raisin in the Sun" — then please let us proceed. I promise you, we'll be doing it not to be provocative but because it's a terrific American play. Don't picket outside the theater or send letters to the editor — if you have to, though, do that first rather than start up another annoying blog — or ask CBS to take away my radio show. (I actually don't have one, so relax, you can continue sleeping in in the mornings.)


But it would seem that another Chicago theatre type, Don Hall, would ask, Why the hell are people, white or black, wanting to do so many classics anyway?

Right now, in Chicago, one can see the billionth production of Stoppard's Arcadia, Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, Pinter's Betrayal, Shaw's Caeser and Cleopatra, Lerner and Lowe's Camelot, Equus, The Elephant Man, Harvey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ragtime, Richard III, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Diary of Anne Frank and two versions of The Sea Gull. The argument can be made that these pieces have endured because they themselves have something to say to audiences today - that they remain relevant over the course of time. The counter argument can likewise be made that quite a few of these have been performed somewhere in Chicago by someone in the last two years and that we will likely see another production of many of them in the next two.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Boston Roundup

Mike Daisey starts his new monologue Monopoly, leaving Invincible Summer behind, for now.

The Wild Party started last weekend with an unexpected guest --- laryngitis. The understudy had to step in for opening night of the New Rep production, but thankfully the lead seems OK and back on the boards. (Read about it on the New Rep blog.)

Larry Stark's theatermirror announces The Mad Hatter's Rip Roaring Roast of several Boston Theatre Personalities!

The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl opens at Trinity Rep and Louise Kennedy's review calls it a "masterpiece."

Ryan Landry has another of his wicked spoofs up on the stage, this time, noir takes the hit with The Milkman Always Comes Twice.

Small Theatre Closings

Zeitgeist's production of Paul Rudnick's Valhalla has its last weekend coming up.

Melissa James Gibson's (sic) at the Devanaughn Theatre closes this weekend. They just received another rave from the Globe's Terry Byrne. (Full Disclosure: My wife is in the cast, and, yes, I am very proud of her.)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Computer Coupling Has Come A Long Way


Two weeks from now, two wonderful actors will perform in a very funny play by local playwright David Schrag, and directed by yours truly.

Not on My Watch is about a fast and funny courtship, digital style, enacted in the not so distant future, where time is precious and attraction is a zero tolerance game.
What chance has Love when romance is reliant on computer compatibility?

To find out, dear reader, synch your schedules for the second weekend of the Dragonfly Festival at the Devanaughn Theatre at the Piano Factory on Tremont Street. That's May 17th-20th.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

1988 All Over Again

Don't Worry Be Happy won the Grammy and the Soviets finally withdrew from Afganistan. 1988.

Lee Blessing's play Two Rooms was also staged at Jajolla Playhouse in that year. It is a play about an American hostage in Beirut and his wife who strips down her room back in the states in order to be in solidarity with her captive husband.

At the Charlestown Working Theatre, Two Rooms opens this weekend in a production by Theatre on Fire. And it seems others are seeing a need to revive this play as well, The Vineyard Playhouse in Vineyard Haven, MA will produce Two Rooms in July.

Ghost Sites

I have sadly removed another link from my blogroll.

Attitude-The WBUR Arts Blog basically seems to have imploded from disuse. Sadly, the link connects you to the anemic WBUR Arts page as if it is sneeringly adding insult to injury.


In its prime, Attitude was even embroiled in a controversy over pull quote attribution. (Which seems to be a worldwide problem that the EU is trying to settle with legislation. Hat tip to Playgoer. )

We will bury more I am sure. The Herald Arts page does has a review pop up now and then, but basically it is a wasteland.

(Painting: Hamlet and Horatio in the cemetery by Eugene Ferdinand Victor Delacroix.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sprawling Epics All the Rage

Next season, we have two multi-night productions to look forward to at the Boston Center For the Arts

Boston Theatre Works, (currently producing Confessions of a Mormon Boy,) will be producing both parts of Angels in America by Tony Kushner. BTW produced the Boston premiere of Homebody/Kabul two seasons ago.

And, according the Way Players website, Way will be teaming with Zeitgeist Theatre, (producer of last season's Stuff Happens and the current Valhalla,) to produce Robert Shenken's two-part, epic play The Kentucky Cycle.

Interesting to note, in light of the recent hubbub around Rabbit Hole, both these plays won the Pulitzer Prize.

It's Alive?!!


Last night, The Ford Hall Forum presented their conversation, "Does the Theatre Have a Future? The Players Look Forward..." The Rabb Auditorium at the Boston Public Library was standing room only, and the representative of the Forum stated, "this proves there is a future for theatre." Although I appreciated the optimism, I would also have observed that the demographic of the audience was not unlike the average subscription audience at a regional LORT house.

Ed Siegel, former critic for the Boston Globe and now covering the boards for the Phoenix and WBUR, served as moderator. His introduction of the participants rightly pointed out the artistic highs of the recent years. Rick Lombardo's New Repertory Theatre is currently producing The Wild Party and earlier this season produced Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman. Karen MacDonald's home theatre is the ART and she has appeared in the works of Rinde Eckhart and Edward Bond. And the very special guest, Edward Albee, recently gave Broadway a shot in the arm with his play The Goat. "It has not been a fallow time," Siegel reminded us.

After recounting the rise of the midsized theatre companies like Rick Lombardo's New Rep, Siegel turned the first question to Mr. Albee. Why, Mr. Siegel asked, is the theatre different from the time when Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf premiered? Why is the theatre not a part of the national cultural dialogue?

Edward Albee, rascally and sharply funny, started by giving a little of his background about his adoptive parents and of his first experience with a live theatrical production. There were a few people in the audience who raised their hands when he asked if anybody remembered the musical Jumbo, which starred Jimmy Durante and an elephant. "It was hard sometimes to tell the two apart," he quipped. Television had happened, and people did go to the movies, but this type of thing was live, and proved a very effective aphrodisiac for him. (In terms of the evening's theme, it is poignant to note that Jumbo was the last musical produced at the 5,200 seat Hippodrome theatre before it was torn down in 1939.)

This "liveness" of theatrical performance surpasses the canned theatre of movies or TV because you must work to suspend disbelief. Albee illustrated, (by way of using his early experience attending an early Judy Garland movie in which the audience did applaud,) that movies have conditioned you to assume that suspension whereas theatre requires you to suspend it yourself. He also addressed the long held axiom that Shakespeare, if alive today, would be writing for television or the movies. He said that he did not believe that would be the case, he said he would like to believe that the medium of theatre holds advantages the Bard would be drawn to even today.

Siegel, addressing Karen MacDonald, a reknowned actress here in Boston, asked if actors notice the greying hair of audiences. MacDonald said that actors do notice it, and, quite frankly, "it is getting scary." She did turn this question around to note that the most exhilirating experiences for her are performing for the kids who come for the school matinees. Seeing the face of these kids, watching the power and magic of live performance is invigorating and she can only ask, "why don't we have more of this?"

The microphone then turned, logically, to Rick Lombardo who has a unique vantage point by helming a theatre company. Lombardo first went on to enhance the definition of the "liveness" of theatre by pointing out that theatre is actually a more "authentic," experience and it is communal. "Theatre for one is not the same as theatre for all," he said. "We could perform a wonderful show on this very stage, but if we were only performing it for one person it would be very different than if we are performing it in front of many people."

The problem facing theatre, Mr. Lombardo would say, is that the "controlled entertainment experience," has such a market sway over the country right now. We can have everything, "sacred and profane," right in the living room. Throughout the evening Lombardo seemed to indicate that he thought things are probably going to get worse before they get better. However, he did say, "I can surf the interenet for two hours and I was in control of the experience, but it ultimately proves a hollow experience." This is his hope for live theatre. Is it an authentic expereince and it is more fulfilling than the hollow controlled experience.

Lombardo then pointed out that The Pillowman, was one of their most successful experiences of late. "Martin McDonagh is able to tap into that unique combination of language, deep connection with other people, and violent conflict."

Siegel, trying to steer back to problem of declining audience asked again, "Why isn't this clicking though, with young audiences?" Edward Albee riffed off Lombardo's point about authenticity and talked about his first experience with an absurdist or avante garde theatre performance. Hellz a Poppin featured such wild inventions as ushers who sat patrons in the wrong seates and a man constatly wandering the audience and the lobby with an every expanding plant. These are the types of things that can only happen with a live theatrical experience.
Siegel asked Albee if he was tempted by Hollywood. After mentioning that he was very disappointed when the young David Mamet decamped for LA, Albee said that for him, "Life is too short, and I want to make my own mistakes." In Hollywood, you don't have any ownership over your product or your name. He pointed out the absurdity of the fact that in Hollywood, "they can change your script completely, but still keep your name on the film."

With regards to the Hollywood question, Karen Macdonald stated that she would not want to be an actress in her early twenties right now. She mentioned how even at the ART institute, which is geared heavily towards theatre, she knows that most of the students really are looking to get into television or the movies. Her wish is that we would start to see separtate schools, "if you want to do theatre, you go here, and if you want to do film and television, you go here."

The conversation then turned to the question of technology, and Rick Lombardo stated that technical advances should be related to the form, and not be confused with the bedrock of the theatrical experience. "The actor and the language is the bedrock, and that will never change," and should not try be supplanted. However, he does believe that technical advances can enhance the theatrical experience and can help in relating to the younger audiences. Mr. Albee later disagreed with this point, saying that he learned from Samuel Beckett that theatre doesn't need technlogical advances. (Though most of the audience laughed heartily at this, I would have pointed out to Mr. Albee that Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape is still the definitive multimedia play.)

The subscription decline was brought up by Mr. Siegel, and he further illustrated his point with the recent news of the coming departure of two Artistic Directors, Bob Woodruff from the ART and Nicholas Martin from the Huntington Theatre Company. Rick Lombardo, said that there is no doubt that subscriptions are declining around the country rapidly, and both Mr. Albee and Mr. Lombardo brought up the ideas of subsidized tickets, such as those programs at Signature Theatre in New York, or pay-what-you-can nights. The New Rep has started doing pay-what-you-can, and Lombardo said that he was very interested in the profile of those who take advantage of this program. "I would ask the box office, are these just people who had previously been buying full price tickets?" To his relief the demographic seems to be people they have never seen at the theatre before.

Mr. Albee, in response to Siegel's question about how he would run a theatre as an Artistic Director, talked about how the "chinese menu approach" to planning seasons is destroying the theatre. Pointing out that most theatres program one classic, one shakespeare, one current and one musical play, he observed, "they thereby disappoint three fourths of the audience every time."

Karen MacDonald, who seemed initially uncomfortable when asked who she would like to see as the new Artistic Director of the ART, stated that she does hope from somebody who will be more aware of the community here in Boston. "I know actors in New York need jobs too, but I would like to see Boston theatre's use more local talent rather than bring people in."

The forum opened up for questions and the subject of entertainment came up . Albee was quick to point out that, "no play has a right to be anything, but entertaining." When asked about why for the 2005 production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, he cut a powerful scene between George and Honey, Albee said that it was not for reasons of brevity, or really of any consideration of the audience. He said that he always felt the Act needed to end earlier. He would never change anything in his work for market considerations. People will say, you have to cut your three hour play down to two hours. They will explain to your that people have babysitters, they need to be home by eleven. But Playwrights need to tell the theaters that if this is true, then it is the theater's job to get people to there earlier.

Playwrights should know that Rick Lombardo's New Rep gets about 50 scripts a week, and that most of them are just like television shows or movies. They lack the inherent theatricality that is neccessary for a play. To which Albee pointed out that there "is no paucity of good playwrights," the problem, he further explained, is that many of these TV like plays are being done all the time by theaters across the country.

The spotlight or hotlight, did shift to Ed Siegel when he was asked by Rick Lombardo about the future of criticism and arts journalism. Rick Lombardo illustrated the decline by poining out that ten years ago a good Glove review would result in significant impact on the box office, but that is not the case anymore. Ed Siegel said that print media is on the decline, but the type of cultural engagement where a theatre reviewer has an impact is waning as well. (I was slightly disappointed that Siegel did not even mention digital and internet media in his response.)

A common thread, running throughout the evening, was the idea that the fine arts are no longer considered essential to public education. Without that appreciation, the youth will continue to be turned out with appreciation of only the commercial marketplace.

It was an entertaining and enlightening evening, but ,personally, I couldn't help but feel there is still a tendency for people to eschew the ultimate question. What do we do about it? How can the people, in this room affect change in for the positive?
The preceding account is based solely on my memory and my hastily scribbled notes, so quotes and conversations may be paraphrased, but tried to make it as accurate as possible.