Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

If Arthur Miller were to write the Crucible today?

A Marketing Blurb:

"Katie, a semi-successful chick lit author, is researching a non-fiction book about the Salem witch trials - a book her ex-husband manager assures her is a loser. Suddenly, she is thrust into the spotlight when an evangelical Christian group targets her last book. Katie finds herself in a modern day crucible as she has an affair with her publisher and deals with her sudden, unwanted celebrity.

We see flashbacks to the actual Salem Witch trials. And then, history and present day merge when John Proctor, Reverend Hale and Tituba show up to interact with Katie and give her advice on love, writing and character. But when seductive Abigail arrives, and won't leave, the fire-works are really going to start!

This world premiere probes the heart of hypocrisy, celebrity, and how listening to the past can bring havoc on your present, but maybe, just maybe, help you to navigate the future! "

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

To Submit?

Rolando Teco on Extra Criticum calls out the O'Neill Center:

In a dazzling display of what can only be called unmitigated gall, the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center has sent out this year's appeal to playwrights to submit. And let me tell you folks, when they use the word "submit" they mean it in every way imaginable. (full disclosure: I've been a finalist twice)

It is an open secret in the theatre world that of the dozen or so slots available each Summer to new plays at the O'Neill, all but 2 or 3 are pre-determined in backroom deal-making worthy of Tammany Hall. As if this weren't bad enough, the O'Neill is one of the few playwriting competitions that still asks its "submitters" to fork over a hefty $35 fee for the privilege of landing in the slush pile. So given this context, it is hard to believe that the team that works there had the nerve to put this language in their latest appeal sent out to playwrights all over the world via email:

UPDATE 11/11/09: There have been other developments on this post, please click here for important information.

NEA Story Gets Second Wind

When I saw a post on Andrew Sullivan's blog this morning, I knew it was only a matter of time.

Andrew's post mentioned that the National Review was hyperventilating about the recent NEA conference call controversey, and Andrew included a helpful reminder that such interactions with government agencies were business as usual during the Bush administration.

Andrew linked to the Anonymous Liberal's blog, where, Andrew claims, "the temperature is being lowered."

I have to admit though, upon clicking through to Anon Liberal, and then through to the post at Breitbart where the selected transcripts and audio files of the notorious NEA conference call are presented, I only grew more depressed.

Before I am attacked for giving any credence to Breitbart, please go and read some of the language that was used on the call. While the post is not helpful by emphasizing the more egregious phrases with bold text, it is clear to me that there was, at least an attempt to make sure the language of what they were "asking" was properly constructed.

In the context of the conference call itself, Anon Liberal's reassurance that this is the political equivalent of "jaywalking," (I guess he is right,) is not all that comforting.

Already today ABC news has posted a story about how the Obama administration is handling these revelations.

Rest assured, the jaws are locked and they are going to keep shaking this meat until they rip off a chunk.

My prediction: (and I predicted this even before Leonard Jacobs. Sorry Leonard, but it's true :) ) the Right will start following the NEA grant money trails to find a connection to something salacious.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Donkey Show Critics, Ass-uming Much?

The critical response to the Donkey Show at the ART has been rolling in over the last month. The general perception seems to be uniform, but the exceptions fall to either side of the line between mainstream and online reviewers.

Carolyn Clay of the Phoenix says the production is "...revelatory..."

The Boston Globe critic Don Acouin mentions:

It doesn’t bypass the brain, though. In less capable hands, it could have been a travesty or a mere stunt. But codirectors Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, who created “Donkey Show’’ a decade ago in New York, have devised a visual language to express the essence of Shakespeare’s play while not using a word of his text (unless the line “I am your boogie man. You turn me on’’ somehow got left out of my Pelican edition Shakespeare).


The characters are the most stylized caricatures imaginable, but the cast manages to communicate Shakespeare’s themes (the wayward path of true love, the wobbly nature of identity) while conveying a message of their own about the power of a good time.

It should be noted, though, that there is plenty of darkness at the edges.

Meanwhile, online, the critics haven't noticed an at the Theatermirror, Larry Stark concludes his review:

On the way home I got into a heated argument. The guy who had for months coldly insisted he hated everything about "The Donkey Show" and "Shakespeare exploded" pronounced the show "fun" and himself convinced that new Artistic Director Diane Paulus would indeed inveigle a young crowd into the theatre and they'd be impressed enough to come back for other productions. I insisted "Shakespeare Demolished" was nothing but a noisy rock-concert that could entice no one to sit and listen to a real play. If after three Paulus-poweredexperiences these young ticket-buyers do indeed pay for PLAYS, replacing the dwindling old moldy-fig A.R.T. subscribers in any significant numbers, I'll owe him a quarter.

Bill Marx is on the same page as Larry:

Beyond saying that the experience was galvanic but empty, Paulus and Weiner’s dance-a-thon disarms criticism. The A.R.T cast members execute lots of gender bending and wild pantomime during the evening but the event isn’t about calibrated comic performances but the art of hyper-shaking a leg.

The ideal evaluators of “The Donkey Show” would be an “expert” panel inspired by Reality-TV shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance,” with numerical scores for the best hoofers.

"The spirt's willing, but the bank account's weak."

The Salt Lake City Trib has a story about an Opera Company trying to make lemonade out of the avalanche of lemons which has come its way:

Late last year, a distraught Michael Ballam walked into a board meeting, plopped into his chair and announced, "I have some bad news."

The founder and general director of the Utah Festival Opera had just come from the historic Utah Theatre -- a shuttered movie house that was being converted into a production venue for the northern Utah-based company. Crews, attempting to dig 15 feet down from the orchestra pit tucked beneath the newly expanded stage, had just hit groundwater at 12 feet.

A geyser was bubbling up, filling the pit at about 20 gallons per minute and seemingly dooming the $3.5 million-$4 million renovation.


The Utah Theatre's season-ending groundwater issue, while a minor disaster, has led the opera company to what could eventually become a long-term, cash-saving alternative. If the water pressure was powerful enough to create a bubbling geyser in the orchestra pit, then something must be driving it.

In this case, an aquifer, fed by subterranean runoff from the mountains to the east, sits another 200 feet below, exerting its pressure upward.

After Ballam walked into the board meeting to deliver his bad news, vice chairman Anderson was struck by a thought. Could the deep aquifer be tapped and, using geothermal technology, could the resulting green energy be used to heat and cool the Utah Theatre?

In PA, State Raises Taxes on Cultural Events

The $27.9 billion state spending plan announced Friday night includes expansion of the state sales tax to performing-arts programs - dance, music, theater - and other cultural venues, such as museums and zoos, to generate about $100 million.

The tax would not be imposed on movies or sports events.

H/T, Wendy Rosenfield

Friday, September 18, 2009

We Are Living In An Internet World...

...and the Globe could be catching on.

Have you noticed the new avatars of the writers?

Check out Globe Drama Critic Louise Kennedy. Although, as Thom Garvey pointed out last week, Louise Kennedy seems to be filing no reviews on all the openings this season.

Don Acouin is effectively functioning as the lead critic at this point. However, at the time of this post, Mr. Acouin has not been rotoscoped.

Boston Theatre - Friday Roundup


The Savannah Disputation starts tonight. Speakeasy Stage presents Evan Smith's play at the Calderwood.

At the Charlestown Working Theatre, you can visit The Remarkable Rooming House of Madame Le Monde. This production of a Tennessee Williams play marks a return of Beau Jest to Boston stages. (Video Trailer above.) This is only a two night engagement so take notice!

Guerilla Opera presents a new opera that uses the text of the Vice Presidential Debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Say It Ain't So Joe opens at the Boston Conservatory.


Sally Bowles keep singing Cabaret at Trinity Rep.

Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing is at the Gamm Theater in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

August Wilson's Fences continues at the Huntington Theatre Company.

The Lyric Stage keeps brushin' up their Shakespeare with Kiss Me Kate.

Meanwhile Zero Arrow keeps dancing to a 70's beat with The Donkey Show.

The Karamozov Brothers fly on in their new show Flings and Eros at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

Truth Values, the one woman show about MIT, has announced an extension! It is running at the Central Square Theatre.

The Factory Theatre keeps serving up The Gingerbread Lady.

Mister Roberts sails the seas at the New Rep in Watertown.

Studs Terkel's The Good War keeps getting the musical treatment at The Stoneham Theatre.

The Superheroine Monologues flies on the Boston Center for the Arts.

On a personal note, I am probably going to miss a good many shows this early part of the season. My schedule with Superheroines combined with rehearsals and admin for Chilling Tales in October, (not to mention teaching,) has restricted my window for getting out to see stuff. I am scrambling to find a way to see Mister Roberts and Fences, but it looks like it might not happen. I just going to flat out miss Truth Values, about which I have heard really good things.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Marketing, Meet Show

Joel Brown discusses the disconcerting effect, (not necessarily negative,) created when the buzz or "angle" is at odds with the show itself.

Here he talks about Gioai De Cari's one woman show Truth Values which is about being a math major at MIT, and a woman. Joel actually did a pre-show piece in the Globe last week.

But for all of the fun that I and other journalists have had highlighting De Cari's angle on campus sexism - Larry Summers' unfortunate remarks about women in science drove her to finish the play! News hook! - this is a much more personal show than advertised. Her on-stage persona, at least, seems softer, less bold than that chick up there lolling on the desk. She is reluctant to directly confront the misogyny she encounters at MIT, displacing her anger into a series of increasingly hilarious and inappropriate "fashion experiments" that seem to upset her few female colleagues as much as they distract the men.

Brown also points out that De Cari doesn't do the monologue in the sexy Tina Fey-like glasses.

The NEA Stuff Goes Where We Thought It Would

Fox News is on the case. David Ian Moss got an e-mail from Fox asking if he knew anything about, or participated in these calls:

So anyway, now Fox wants to write an article about it - yes, the same Fox who has had the hatchet out for the NEA for at least the last six weeks. A quick look at the question I was sent tells you where they get all of their material. The NEA "purportedly" wanted to commission art "within major areas of President Obama’s administration"? It would be kind of hilarious if it weren't so disingenuous. As usual, Fox and facts don't mix. For one thing, as far as I can tell, the NEA as an agency has no official role in the initiative whatsoever. Their logo is not on the website; it is mentioned nowhere on the NEA's website; and no one from the agency participated in the second conference call. Secondly, the push was not for artists to "create" work in line with Obama's political agenda--the real push was to highlight work that artists are already doing that fits in with the overall United We Serve initiative. Finally, the push didn't come from Obama--it came from artists: Sergant, and earlier, the group of 60 arts community activists who met with the administration in May and asked to get more involved.

Criticizing the Critic

An lengthy article about Toby Zinman, critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The theatre community there hates her so much that they talk very openly about it.

Armed with but a pen (and a Ph.D. from Temple and her UArts professorship and two books and 45-plus scholarly articles), Zinman has suddenly found herself on the other end of it. The critic is being criticized, and not just at late-night cast parties with too much wine made, perhaps, with sour grapes. No, this time, it’s public… and it’s payback time. “She may have many rows of sharp pointed teeth,” writes one actress, “but I think collectively we’ve got her outnumbered.” And collectively, they agree that Toby Zinman is so unnecessarily personal, so unfairly dismissive, so categorically thumbs-up-thumbs-down that she’s chasing Philadelphians out of the theater and into their living rooms for another rerun of CSI.

H/T Mike Daisey

Friday, September 11, 2009

Boston Theatre - Friday Roundup!


The Karamozov's are in Lowell for the opening of their show Flings and Eros at Merrimack Rep.

The Huntington Theatre Company raises the curtain on August Wilson's Fences, part of his African American cycle of plays.

At the Boston Center for the Arts The Superheroine Monologues opens in a larger theater with some added characters and fun. (Your humble blogger, seen at right, plays about a dozen different characters.)

The musical version of Studs Terkel's The Good War opens at the Stoneham Theatre. The Boston Globe has a pre-show piece here.

A one-woman show, Truth Values, about being female and navigating MIT and the world of math is at the Central Square Theatre.

The crew of Mister Roberts sets sail at the New Repertory Theatre as Kate Warner launches her debut season in Watertown.

The Gingerbread Lady bows at the Factory Theater on Tremont Street in Boston, MA.

Also at the Central Square Theater: Cravings: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction.
Last Chance

Israel Horovitz's play Sins of the Mother closes on Sunday at Gloucester Stage Company.


American Repertory Theatre's The Donkey Show rolls on at Zero Arrow.

Kiss Me Kate keeps swinging at the Lyric Stage on Clarendon Street.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Everything BUT the Kitchen Sink...

Playwright Karl Miller talks a little bit about some problems with new plays:

The modern American theatre is an expensive Rube Goldberg machine for powering a ghost light. So much effort, exploitation, and charity just to light an empty room for 21-hours a day. Schrodinger is laughing in his coffin.*

We all knowingly rag on Kitchen Sink Plays, but at least Kitchen Sink Plays have a reason for being set in a room for a couple hours. Now playwrights throw everything but the kitchen sink at the audience in a flurry of agitated, orally-fixated dialog that rarely connects with the physical, the corporeal, the actual space inherent in this space-bound medium. That's just a crabby broad-swipe, I know.

Solo Shows

Hat tip to Indy Theatre Habits for pointing to a drama column in the Indianapolis Business Journal. The writer saw a one-man show about Galileo and loved it, but at the end of the column asks several questions about one person shows.

Do you feel that these minimalist shows -- the IRT is presenting three of them later in the season -- should have the same ticket price as fuller-cast productions?

John Leguizamo recently tried out his new one-man show here. Mike Bribiglia, who scored an off-Broadway hit with his "Sleepwalk With Me" will be in town next week. What is the line between a stand-up act and a one-person play?

Indy Fringe and Storytelling Arts have presented many one-person monologists locally. Is storytelling the same as theater?

Your thoughts?

My answer to the first question is: Yes. (When I originally posted I said no. I was posting and reading quickly and didn't read the wording right.)

My answer to the second question? Some great standup acts are, essentially, one-person plays. Off the top of my head? Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip was performed after his battle with addiction ended in his being set on fire while freebasing, and it clearly crosses between one person play and standup quite frequently.

Frank Rich once pointed out that it is one thing to try and write a comedy and it is quite another to try and write two hours of jokes.

The third question? Well, we all could go on and on, right?

The Wait is Over

The Wait is Over, originally uploaded by arthennessey.

The lovely ladies of The Superheroine Monologues catch the bus to the theater.

The Superheroine Monologues by Rick Park and John Kuntz and directed by Greg Maraio opens for its second run tonight!

For More Information visit the Superheroines Website.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Looking for Daylight

Looking for Daylight, originally uploaded by arthennessey.

The Doug Flutie statue looks up the hill towards Gasson Hall. The statue is a replica of the famous Miracle in Miami pass.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Why the Somerville Theater is Not More Like the Kendall

The owner of the Somerville Theater, an independent movie house in Somerville, MA answered a LiveJournal discussion about how they choose movies to run. It is an interesting history of distribution and movie economics from the front lines.

So at Somerville, finally I had some audiences. We finally made some money, which I have poured back into it tenfold. Between renovations in 2006 and this summer, I think I have spent about half a million bucks just trying to get us up to speed and keep the old gal all shiny and more historic. I've programmed some midnight and double feature repertory stuff on occasion, and while fun, that kind of stuff barely breaks even, though I hope to do more again soon. But I DO try to balance out the schedule, using what movies are available to me. I don't want to be just another multiplex, which is why when I have an open screen I'll play a second run film like "Food, Inc" or "Moon" etc. Sometimes I am forced to carry something longer than I want to (first run has some obligations like minimum engagements) and don't have a spare screen but I do try and take some of the better 2nd run off of the Kendall. But my obligation is to keep that theater open and alive, and let me tell you, it is "The Simpsons" and "The Dark Knight" and "The Hangover" that are paying the bills, not the "Food, Inc" of the world.

Lois Lane In Rehearsal

100_5870, originally uploaded by arthennessey.

Director Greg Maraio watches as Amanda Good Hennessey (my lovely wife) rehearses as Lois Lane.

The Superheroine Monologues opens next week!

Data Sharing On the Fringe?

Nick at Theatre for the Future points us to an announcement that the League of Chicago Theatres is going to initiate a shared patron database, provided free by the company Target Resource Group. Nick is optimistic:

Boom. Right? There’s the necessary checks and balances to retain patron privacy and list autonomy. But even League member theaters who have *not* been tracking data will now be able to use this pre-built and pre-calibrated system as part of their League membership. As someone who both knows how to build a versatile database but still finds his company using a big obnoxious excel spreadsheet for this task, I say yay.

Theoretically, the big list would allow for the tracking of deep patron data – such as city-wide theatergoing habits of individual patrons. This would be a massive first step for small storefront theaters who are trying to gather real, actionable marketing data.

On a large scale, it’s also conceivable that this kind of data gathering could really shed light on exactly how big the Chicago theater-going audience is – and how big it needs to be to support operating companies.

You can read more at the League of Chicago Theatres blog.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Follow The NEA/Propaganda Discussion

Patrick Courilleche wrote an article on a conference call in which he participated.

This article prompts a post by George Hunka which you can read at Superfluities Redux.

Reporter and critic Rob Kendt begins to look into the matter at his Wicked Stage blog.

Leonard Jacobs at the Clyde Fitch Report fills in some background and despairs at what the Right may start to say about this call.