Thursday, July 30, 2009

Before the Lights Go Down

From the screening last night. We went down to the Woods Hole Film Festival.

Amanda is in a really good short film that is being selected for festivals around the country and internationally. (I play a small part as her terrible boss.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Great News For Merrimack Rep

Lowell Cooperative Bank steps up to underwrite Merrimack Repertory Theater.

From the Press Release:

As the lead corporate sponsor, the bank has made a two-year commitment to support and underwrite the theatre’s productions and arts education programs for the benefit of the entire community. This is the first time in the theatre’s 31-year history that an entire season will have a corporate sponsor.

“On behalf of Lowell Cooperative Bank, I am proud to support such a valuable institution dedicated to the advancement of artistic excellence,” notes Richard E. Bolton, Jr., Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lowell Cooperative Bank. “Merrimack Rep brings so many direct and indirect benefits to the Merrimack Valley. We look forward to the upcoming season,” he concludes.


“We are delighted and thankful to have Lowell Cooperative Bank as our official season sponsor in 2009-2010, our 31st season as the region’s leading performing arts organization,” says Tom Parrish, Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s Executive Director. “Lowell Cooperative Bank’s philanthropic leadership is helping to raise the curtain on another fantastic season of theatre for the Merrimack Valley. With ticket sales supporting only 35% of our operating budget, this partnership will help carry forth our charitable mission of creating first-rate professional theatre that is affordable to our entire community. Particularly during these economically challenging times, their support ensures that everyone will have access to our nationally-acclaimed productions and education programs.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Theatre Weekend In Boston

Company One's take on Haruki Murakami's After The Quake is at the Boston Center of the Arts.

Go down to the Charles River and take in the Orfeo Group's Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Bring your own meat to cook on the grill they offer for use, or you'll you be wishing you did as smell the barbecued goodness throughout the performance.

The critics haven't been hush about New Exhibit Room's Shhhh! at the Boston Playwrights Theatre. It is sold out and closes this weekend, but they tweeted about the addition of a late show tonight, Friday!

Cross the Tobin Bridge for Apollinaire Theatre Company's bilingual production of The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower and Other Absurdities of Love!

Mame is on at the Reagle Players in Waltham.

Take a drive out to Salem for The Underpants which is being produced by Salem Theatre Company. (North Shore Music Theater Subscribers can go for free.)

The encore run of the magical circus show Aurelia's Oratio is at the American Repertory Theater.

Love to hear the language of drama? Like to get a jump on what you'll be seeing on stages in the next couple of years? Check out the Huntington Theatre Company's Breaking Ground Festival where you'll here readings of new plays.

Gloucester Stage Company opens David Hare's play The Breath of Life this weekend.

Martin McDonagh's A Skull in Connemara is in the Black Box at the Boston Center for the Arts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Garry Garrison to Playwrights Horizons - "Hell, yeah!"

Apparently, the season brochure is actually writer focused:

Anyway, I'm sifting through my mail -- which generally consists of "you're doing this right" mail, and, "you're doing this wrong, asshole" mail with a few season announcements, show announcements, and gym postcards announcing the end of summer is in sight (really?), and shouldn't I lose the twenty pounds I've been meaning to lose? -- when a brochure catches my eye: the announcement for Playwrights Horizons 2009-10 season.

When you look at the cover, you see what you always see: buzz words like, "new," "voices," "ideas," etc. But it's what you NEVER see that took my breath away: the whole front cover -- indeed, the whole brochure -- is dedicated to writers. Wherein usually we'd be looking at a cover of Broadway stars to attract attention, Plawyrights Horizons FUCKIN' ROCKS the world with pictures of all the writers being produced in the season: Melissa James Gibson, Nathan Tysen, Chris Miller, Mariana Elder, Bruce Norris, Daniel Goldfarb, Annie Baker, Kia Corthron

Pinning Down Value

David at Createquity struggles with the arts/value question:

This is where the arts and economics start not getting along so well. Despite having dissociated the notion of value from the notion of money in theory, in practice any kind of real-world economic analysis has the two intimately linked. Which means that if some kind of transaction or activity doesn't involve money, it doesn't get counted - even if it creates, as Josh describes, a whole lot of utility. Certainly lots of artmaking falls into this category - as does volunteering, in-kind donations, and open-source software development, all things that can clearly increase value (especially if there are productivity gains involved). Now, that value will most likely show up in economic transactions somewhere, eventually - whether it's by businesses that are made possible by the existence of Linux, or real estate values that go up because of the contributions of artists, etc. - but the problem is that the source of that value is exceedingly hard to track.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Teaching Artists and Touring Shows are NOT a Full Arts Education...

From the new Wallace Foundation report: The Qualities of Quality: Understanding Excellence in Arts Education:
Sending in artists for various periods of residence is never enough to bring about fundamental change. (Erickson, 2004; Smith 1992). All too often, partnerships degenerate into one-time visits by artists, one-time master classes, or one-time trips to off-site performances.

This argument is summed up well by Ana Cardona: "(When) the more on out-of-school arts learning than in-school learning, it can be very dangerous because it can give a message to educator/administrator types that we don't need to make an investment in sequential arts education....That whole range is way too hit or miss, not sequential, and it can't replace what art teachers do in the schools, or should be doing in the schools." Laura Chapman warned that "a local booking agency for artists and arts organizations has become a way for schools to have an ad hoc and token representation of the arts at shcool through occasional short-term programs." Ideally teaching artists should not be a substitute for certified art teachers, but rather an additional unique resource to what schools can currently provide as instuction in the arts.

Also talked about in the large study is the hotly debated issue of how the making of art can sometimes be taught to such an extent that it edges out the teaching of appreciation.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Next Big Thing?

Max Stafford Clark, founder of Out of Joint, has a column in the Guardian about the tendency for the media to sex up the impact of young female playwrights who get a hit or two right out of the gate:

It is right that we celebrate a new generation of talented female playwrights, but the idea that this is a new phenomenon, or particularly zeitgeisty, is a media construct. It doesn't reflect the truth, and it does the writers it purports to celebrate a disservice.

It's great that Lucy Prebble is writing about serious issues – Enron, in the case of her new play – but let's not forget that Caryl Churchill was writing powerfully about the financial world back in 1987 with Serious Money. Timberlake Wertenbaker charted the venality and vigour of the art world with Three Birds Alighting On a Field in 1992, while the remarkable Andrea Dunbar matched Polly Stenham in the precocity stakes by having a play, The Arbor, on the Royal Court's main stage in 1977 at the age of merely 15.
While the newest generation of female playwrights is not following a well-beaten path, at least it's not a journey without maps.


Let's face facts: journalism has not helped sustain the careers of young female writers. A few years ago, Rebecca Pritchard and Winsome Pinnock shot across the theatrical galaxy like flaming comets. Pinnock was hailed as the first important young black female playwright, while Pritchard began her career with Essex Girls at the Royal Court's Young Writer's festival and was later talked about in the same breath as Mark Ravenhill and Philip Ridley. They are now less visible.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On the Artist's Competition - It's Later Than You Think!

Nathaniel in Autumn

I've been enjoying reading the blog Createquity, written by Ian David Moss, a former Manager of Development and a recent graduate of the Yale School of Management.

In a recent post he wrote of the problems defining the new catch word "sustainability." In one section of this essay, Moss focuses on the issue of how the shrinking number of arts consumers parallels an enormous growth of people seeking professional careers in the arts. Below is a paragraph that introduced me to a concept I hadn't really considered:

In the past, this problem was “solved” (avoided, really) thanks to severe restrictions on who could become a successful artist. A powerful vise of racism, sexism, classism, and tightly controlled distribution channels conspired to dramatically narrow the pool of potential artists, meaning that competition was much lighter than it might otherwise have been. Markets were constricted as well, so indeed an artist’s life has never been easy. The difference, though, is
that whereas semi-successful artists in the past disappeared into poverty and obscurity, today’s artists must compete, often directly, with all those who have gone before. The artist of the past's claim to a share of attention, and therefore money, is no less legitimate than that of today’s emerging artist, and so the pie gets divided up among more recipients than ever before.

The way I read it is this:

When Arthur Miller was breaking onto the scene, he had to compete with his immediate contemporaries: Norman Rosten, Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, etc.

However, he also had to compete with Euripides, Chekhov, Strindberg, Ibsen and Shakespeare.

Now, let's jump to the 1970's and 80's when Sam Shephard and David Mamet are competing against each other and, (just like Miller,) with Chekhov, Shakespeare and crew. However, Glengarry Glen Ross and Buried Child are also now competing with Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Children's Hour.

In the year, say, 2030, writers trying to make a career in the theater will face their own contemporaries as well as Shephard, Mamet, Frayn and Kushner.

But the most interesting thing to me is the point Moss makes at the end there: Artists may find themselves competing with a writer who didn't enjoy large commercial success. In fact, a competitor may emerge who had dwelled in relative obscurity during his or her lifetime.

Right now, every poet trying to earn a living must not only battle Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost for shelf space, but also endure sharp elbows from Emily Dickinson.

Good luck out there, the jungle is a lot bigger than we think!

(As a note: This all is probably very obvious to most of my readers, so be gentle on me as the light dawns on Marblehead. )

After The Quake

Company One's production of Frank Galati's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's After the Quake is opening this weekend at the Boston Center for the Arts.

Jordan Harrison has been making some interesting video trailers for productions around town. Here is his latest:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Boston Theater Roundup

Yes, there is theater going on this weekend in the city, some of it outdooors!

The Orfeo Group takes on the Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) on the banks of the Charles River. Thursdays are Free, and, as an added value, they will present "a Prelude during which local actors, directors, playwrights and arts groups will showcase their work."

Apollinaire Theatre Company in Chelsea presents an outdoor production of The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower and Other Absurdities of Love!
Read the schedule carefully - the show is presented in English and Spanish depending on the night.

Shhh! is an attempt to recreate the sensation of an underground theatrical production from 1700's Boston at the Boston Playwrights Theatre.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

On "Dated" Texts

Garret Eisler on revivals:

Yes, plays that don't seem tailored to our current sensibilities in tone or language are often relegated as expired or extinct. And anything that does miraculously happen to engage us even if it was written before we were born is paid the backhanded compliment of being "ahead of its time."

On the contrary: when we encounter, say, late Victorian exposes of corrupt business practices (The Voysey Inheritance) or studies of mental illness in time of war (Woyzeck) is it not we who are behind their times? Perhaps if we were not so quick to dismiss old texts as "dated" we might learn more from the past and not repeat its mistakes.

Pakistan Actors Become Jobbers

They set up a National Theater in Pakistan in order to revive theatre in that country. All actors were paid a salary and they contributed to the productions.

Now things have changed. The Actors have stopped getting a salary, and there has been an outcry:

“We never fired any actors and this is all a rumour against RTC. Yes we have stopped their salaries, but it doesn’t mean that they are not the members of RTC. Whenever we want them to act, we will call them and pay them for their job,” NAPA Administration Officer Adnan Hussain told The News.

Hussain said that paying all the actors was useless because not all of them were contributing to the plays. “We are a non-profit government-funded academy, and we lose 0.3 to 0.4 million rupees on each play, so it was necessary for us to take some steps so that the academy could sustain itself.”

Talking about the recent funding announced by Prime Minster Yousuf Raza Gilani for NAPA, Adnan said that although things were in progress, they had not received any money as yet as “things do not happen so fast”.

Keeping in mind all the financial losses NAPA has undergone and the lack of financial assistance they are facing, it is easy to sympathise with them. However, stopping the payment of the actors they trained in a 3 year-programme doesn’t seem to be the proper solution to this problem. Another NAPA graduate and a former RTC member, who requested anonymity, said: “For all the trained theatre graduates, this sudden step by RTC is a huge shock because a lot of us relied on RTC for our sustenance as there is hardly any scope for theatre artists in Pakistan. Ironically, working for television was always discouraged at our academy.”

Monday, July 06, 2009

Don't Count Bloggers Out Just Yet...

Salon has an excerpt from a new book call "Say Everything" by Scott Rosenberg. He talks about how Blogging has shown itself to be a remarkably pliable and resilient medium.

One reason blogs have flourished is that they sit comfortably at this divide between communication types: they partake of some of the characteristics of each, in proportions that vary depending on the style of the individual blogger. Some blogs are simply vehicles for conversation among friends. Some are exclusively public discourse. But many take advantage of blogs' potential to cross back and forth over this line. A post meant originally for a small circle of friends may "go viral" and catch the attention of millions; a broadside post from a public figure may spark a back-and-forth exchange in the comments. This mutability can be breathtakingly powerful; it can also be treacherous. Either way, whenever we observe an instance of it, we sense we are witnessing something that could only occur in this form, via this medium -- something uniquely bloggish.


Most blogs have some sort of audience, however tiny -- moms and beyond. Where do these readers come from? More often than not, they are other bloggers. Observers steeped in the values of the broadcast world identify this as a failure: Look, the only people who care what you're doing are already in your club! But in fact, as they say in the software industry, this reciprocity is not a bug at all -- it's a feature.

People who have no experience blogging often fail to understand the essentially social nature of the activity. Blogging is convivial. Bloggers commonly blog in groups, whether formally (as with our Salon bloggers) or simply through the haphazard accretion of casual connections. In these groups, what you contribute is obviously important; but so is where you choose to place your attention. Reading is as much a part of blogging as writing; listening is as important as speaking. This is what so many bloggers mean when they claim that "blogging is a conversation": not that each post sparks a vigorous exchange of comments, but that every post exists in a context of post-and-response that stretches across some patch of the Web, link by link, blog to blog.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Storm Clouds Have Broken In Boston!

And The Superheroine Monologues have a snazzy new website. Tickets for the September Production will go on sale August 1st!

Friday, July 03, 2009

circus circus

circus circus, originally uploaded by statlerhotel.

Photo by David Kohrman, check out his work on Flickr.

Guthrie's Tony Kushner Festival Results

From the Star Tribune:

The theater issued a news release Monday that declared the festival "a success!" It noted that ticket holders for three productions, seminars, classes and workshops totaled 90,000 -- from 50 states, Europe and Japan. The shows themselves drew more than 85,000 attendees, which the theater said "exceeded [its] box office goals."

However, there was some controversy over the decision not to invite national critics to see the premiere of Kushner's new play. This is from an article from the Associated Press:

Local theatre critics were ambivalent about the result. Both daily newspapers had qualified praise but the Star Tribune said it seemed "unfinished and uncertain of its purpose" and the St. Paul Pioneer press called it "mushy, melodramatic." The alternative weekly City Pages was more generous, pronouncing it "immensely entertaining."

Both daily papers also noted in stories that the Guthrie, on Kushner's behalf, asked national theatre critics not to review the show. Kushner and Guthrie artistic director Joe Dowling bristled at suggestions that Minnesota audiences were subjected to an unfinished play.

"I don't feel we asked anyone to sit through an unfinished or unready piece of work," Kushner said. "We used previews the way they were meant to be used."

But he also admitted that weak reviews from national critics could have been "crippling to me" as he continued to work on the play. "The trick is going to be figuring out the things that didn't work narratively," he said

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Summer's Coming?

Summer's Coming?, originally uploaded by arthennessey.

Thom Garvey Still Has Questions

Garvey had a conversation with Emily Glassberg Sands, author of the Gender Bias study that still has the blogosphere and media buzzing. While Garvey is upfront that the audit portion of the study is brilliant, he still has questions about other parts of the study.

Tom prints his follow up e-mail to Sands:

Second, I remain concerned about the fact that your study relies on a proxy (show type) to approximate profitability of Broadway shows, rather than actual hard data on that profitability. This bothers me particularly because in your NY presentation, despite the use of the show-type proxy in your tables, you nevertheless titled a key slide, "Female-written shows on Broadway are 18% more profitable than male-written shows," [slide reproduced above] while another slide title referenced "higher weekly profits for female-written shows," statements which could reasonably lead the casual reader to assume that you actually have hard data on those profits (when you don't).

Cracking the Top Ten

Ken Davenport looks at the still running shows that sit outside the list of the top ten longest running Broadway shows:

There are only 2 musicals on this list that are still running and have a shot at cracking into the top 10: Mamma Mia needs another 2 years, and Wicked needs 4. I expect both to make it, which will give the 2000s (or the "aughts") 2 spots in the top 10.

If you keep going down the list, there are 3 more musicals that are still running that could conceivably have a shot: Jersey Boys (#54), Mary Poppins (#89), and Billy Elliot (too far down to count). Jersey Boys has probably got a chance, thanks to its low overhead, but I doubt the other two will go the distance.

If those falsetto-singing boys from Jersey make the cut (and they still need another (gulp) 7 years), then that will give the aughts a 30% representation in the top 10 longest running shows. Not so bad.

But if they don't, and if the Mamma Mia movie madness wears off and that show doesn't make the cut, we could be looking at only one show from this decade to be in the Top 10.

On the Power of Critics

Peter Marks in the Washington Post:

But most theater, like most politics, is local, and the relationship between the local press and a given production with a small ad budget is often far more evident. Drama criticism retains some outsize influence: Because theater tickets are more costly than movie admission, playgoers tend to be older and more attentive to newspapers, and theatergoing in general is more of a niche pursuit. But the impact remains case-by-case: Think of the decades-long run of "Shear Madness." No amount of critical dismissal has dislodged it from its Kennedy Center perch, or turned back the charter busloads.