Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Boston Theatre News

Today in Boston Theatre News...

Carolyn Clay reviews Underground Railway's Life of Galileo, Zeitgeist's Spring Awakening and New Rep's Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

Thom Garvey notes that even in this economy, the arts seem to be finishing strong this season.

The Globe can't print the full title of the Gold Dust Orphan's new show, Willy Wanker and the Hershey Highway, but Louise Kennedy reviews it.

Kay Bourn profiles local actor and medical doctor, Brian Richard Robinson, who can be seen in Speakeasy's Jerry Springer, The Opera.

Trinity Rep's Shapeshifter is reviewed in the Providence Journal and previewed in the Providence Phoenix.

The Providence Phoenix also reviews Perishable Theatre's The Thing That Ate My Brain...Almost.

Todd Williams, at the Huntington's blog, points out some major construction going on outside the Boston University Theater. He also has some set construction news for Pirates.


Thomas Garvey said...

What I don't get is, how come the Globe can publish the directly-lewd "Willy Wanker" but not the metaphorical "Hershey Highway"? Enquiring minds want to know!

Art said...

Good point. That escaped me until you pointed it out.

Maybe the combination is just too powerful, like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups..

"You got your lewdness in my metaphor!"

Notice, I kept the candy theme!

Anonymous said...

Thom Garvey keeps referring to the Art and the Huntington as academic theatres. Any thoughts on what he means by that?

Art said...

Hi Anon,

Thanks for commenting.

Thom is referring to the fact that the Huntington and the ART are connected by endowment, and other ways, to large universities. (Boston University and Harvard University respectively.)

Thomas Garvey said...

Indeed, I'm beginning to wonder what I mean by that term myself! It's clearly true that the Huntington and the ART serve no academic purpose; that's part of my ongoing critique of them. They are, as Art points out, instead merely producers of commercial fare who happen to be ensconced at major universities. Why, exactly, they get funding from public sources is an artistic and intellectual mystery, but not a political one.

Anonymous said...

The critique is that these arts organizations do not serve an academic purpose, which they should as they are affiliated with academic institutions?

To whom should they be serving this purpose? They must be serving some purpose to the Universities - since they are still in residence after all these years.

What is it that Thomas thinks they should be doing differently, and why? That would be interesting reading.

Art said...

Hi Anon,

Thom has been trying to explore those very questions and points you raise in a few posts already.

He also admits that it is an ongoing question, and that he may not be able to come up with an answer.

Tony Adams said...

Court Theatre in Chicago (affiliated with University of Chicago) might be one to compare and contrast with ART and Huntington as a theatre affiliated with academic institutions.

Thomas Garvey said...

Sure, I suppose they're serving the universities' purposes in some sort of way, perhaps as artistic analogues of the sports teams, or something like that. A better phrase might have been that they don't serve scholarly purposes. In the old days, there was a loose understanding in Boston that the Huntington was trying to 'conserve' a traditional approach to great theatrical texts that the commercial theatre could no longer afford to produce. The ART, meanwhile, claimed that it was more truly conserving classic texts by "revolutionizing" them, i.e. by making them "come alive" through a surreal approach that was one part Brecht, one part Artaud, and one part Buddhism (all seen through through the lens of the Village Voice). Now, however, the Huntington is generating its own, second-rate texts that play to its alumni and a certain college-educated crowd; it's neither doing the great texts of yesterday NOR the great texts of today. It's just producing theatre that it hopes will be popular with PBS subscribers. The ART is pretty much doing the same thing, only with a more pseudo-theoretical edge; in fact, it's largely leaving the text behind entirely. And half its season is composed of visiting troupes (i.e., the friends of its artistic director). The focus is still largely on pop (a focus of much of the academy these days): indeed, the ART seems to have recast itself as a kind of academic purveyor of pop concerts and rock musicals. There's nothing really wrong with these activities, of course, but I'm not sure why they have to be supported by the public under the rubric of academic research. If academics want to produce shows based on their theories, they're free to do so in the marketplace, aren't they? I don't see why they should get a grant to mount "the ultimate disco experience."

Ian Thal said...

Thom's point about lack of scholarly purpose contrasts with the role a theatre might serve at other universities, say, my alma mater, SUNY Purchase, where at least some of the productions existed to train the acting and design-tech students in their craft (and perhaps to foster a love for theatre in a certain young philosophy student) as well as expose the larger community to the works of Brecht, Bulgakov, Havel, Molière, et cetera which might have been otherwise unknown to most undergrads.

Honestly, some of the costume work surpassed much of what I have seen since in the professional world, and the direction was more consistently coherent than much of what I see at ART.

There you go: Academic purpose.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the replies - it's always interesting to get a glimpse into Thom's mind. Why does the public choose to support what they do? The vagaries of taste and passions?

I think Ian has hit the nail on the head - training and education for the students, and providing access to the work of a professional theatre company, is often what is at the heart of a relationship between a university and a regional theatre company.

These mission statements both allude to that goal.

Is the ART getting a grant from Harvard to mount the ultimate disco experience? Probably not - but I'll bet they are for running the Institute for Advanced Theater Training.

Did anyone notice that ART actually did change their name? Theatre became Theater.

I think, personally, I'll give Paulus and her pal DuBois some more time to figure out how to do their work, and be responsive to their respective communities and reputations.

Art said...

@ Anon

Pretty hard not to notice the name change since it was a part of the massive branding rollout which played across the local media. ;)

I am not sure of one of your questions above though.

"Why does the public choose to support what they do?"

I am curious as to what you mean by this. What is "the public?"

Ian Thal said...

I'm inclined to agree to let Paulus and company show their stuff before I pass judgement, but that said, I've oft felt the best service that the ART often provides are the guest artists they present. I've admired the quality of their troupe, but often felt they (like the scripts) are frequently poorly served by the directors

Though, sometimes their failures are awfully interesting. I still think of Woodruff's production of Richard II as a textbook example of "how not to direct."

Anonymous said...

"There's nothing really wrong with these activities, of course, but I'm not sure why they have to be supported by the public under the rubric of academic research. If academics want to produce shows based on their theories, they're free to do so in the marketplace, aren't they? I don't see why they should get a grant to mount "the ultimate disco experience.""

I took the "public" to mean those who give grants/donations.

Ian Thal said...

I think an ambitious bunch of college grads with a loft-space can easily stage their own "ultimate disco experience."

Thomas Garvey said...

Wow, I never realized I was going to the A.R.T. to give its Very Advanced Theater students a chance to act, with funding by the Mass. Cultural Council. Now suddenly it all comes clear! Academic purpose indeed - mission accomplished!