Jun 28, 2007

Thought Snacks

So my significant other began subscribing to The London Review of Books, mainly to read Terry Eagleton's entertaining, idiosyncratic criticism. The whole magazine makes for lively subway reading; the most recent one I'm looking at has a fascinating look at the multiplicity of Hamlet editions. But it's Eagleton, a Catholic Marxist, who provides the corker in this issue, in a review of a new book about proto-postmodernist Bahktin:
As the first movement in history to consecrate the common life, Christianity stands at the source of Bakhtin’s preoccupation with the everyday, just as it lurks distantly behind the current fascination with popular culture.

From the Mount of Olives to Paris Hilton? I'm not sure I'm convinced, but it's food for thought. As is this amazing line from Tom Waits' Alice, which blows my mind every time I hear it:
Everything you can think of is true

Bakhtin would have loved that, I think.

Jun 25, 2007

American Idle

Eric Idle will present an oratorio based on Life of Brian this coming weekend in Caramoor, with Chris Sieber as Brian. Thanks to a friend's tip, I'll be there. Entertaining interview about it here.

Jun 13, 2007

Gary's Place

In my wish-I-were-in-L.A. file: The city's essential photographer, former neighbor and colleague, and all-around mensch Gary Leonard has opened a gallery in Downtown L.A. to exhibit his own eclectic work and work from his collection (by the likes of Julius Shulman and Max Yavno). I like this quote from the press release I just received:
“There’s a helluva lot of joy in getting the shots, but it’s a shame if you can’t share them in person with the public,” [Leonard] says. “Guys like me, we die with a camera in our hands and rolls of undeveloped film in our houses because we never stop shooting. I don’t want that. Having an interactive place is what I intend to do.”

If you're in L.A., I'd suggest a visit; it's open Sundays noon to 7 p.m. and by appointment. I know I'm going there at my next opportunity. Since there's no online link, I'll give the info: Its at 740 S. Olive St., and the number is (213) 304-4279.

Signature Steps It Up

There's a press conference happening now to announce the Signature Theatre's next four years, and it's online here. The bottom line: We got Chuck Mee in the house 2007-2008, plus a production of Albee's Occupant; the Negro Ensemble Company 2008-2009; Suzan Lori-Parks 2009-2010. The decade, and Signature's 20th anniversary, comes to a head with Tony Kushner, 2010-2011. Of course Playbill's got more. This is exciting, and dare I say commercially risky programming. Best of all, thanks to Time Warner's support, all seats are $20 through 2011.

Jun 8, 2007

Johnny Come Slate-ly

Nice to see another of Slate's ultra-sporadic squibs about theater with this pre-Tony correspondence between the estimable Peter Filichia and Slate's own June Thomas, who confesses early on to him:
I did a quick survey of Slate's New York office staff and found that for the most part, theater just isn't a core ingredient of the cultural diet of this hypereducated, au courant group of relatively affluent young people. They read prolifically, see all the new movies, and can identify the hip bands in four notes, but Broadway, or theater in general?--not so much. Accompanying out-of-town visitors seems to be the main reason for theatergoing. Otherwise, it's too expensive, stuffy, and tragically unhip. Surely that's a problem?

(Frankly, Thomas' admission that "I enjoyed the short-lived musical version of High Fidelity" seems to me a much bigger problem.) But Filichia's response to the perennial lament of why-don't-more-young-people-go-to-the-theatre is pretty fierce:
This obsession with youth to which even the theater has now succumbed has not helped. Why does the theater so crave the young people, anyway? Why is their money worth more than older people's money? Why must we cater to people who, for the most part, have less life experience and less-educated standards?

That follows a pretty convincing list of lessons Filichia says he learned at the theater, from "adult-themed shows that made me more of an adult."

I must say that the lament that theater audiences are somehow ever-graying, and hence one day soon will take the whole theatergoing tradition to the grave with them, has been around long enough (in my relatively brief career alone) that it disproves itself. Theatergoing, for better or worse, is a relatively elite activity undertaken primarily by people of a certain age and education, and it's been so for many years. That doesn't mean it doesn't have every reason to change, welcome new voices, new audiences, new blood. But when such new blood does get injected, it's being injected into a pretty healthy, or at least stubbornly persistent, body.

Jun 5, 2007


This is new to me, but I guess I've been tagged by Isaac. This blogger-specific practice involves revealing eight random facts about myself, and tagging eight other bloggers. Well, as they say in Raising Arizona: OK, then.

1. I played Mr. MacAfee in a high school production of "Bye Bye Birdie," though I think I would have made a fine Albert Peterson.

2. The only Andrew Lloyd Webber show I like is Sunset Boulevard.

3. My girlfriend touched Elvis Costello outside the artist's entrance at BAM last year.

4. My childhood piano teacher, Mrs. Harvey, had one leg shorter than the other. One of her other students, still a good friend of mine, went on to write Bubble Boy.

5. Though raised a Lutheran, I'm becoming a member of the Dutch Reform/UCC-affiliated Greenpoint Church.

6. A happy and reasonably well-adjusted adoptee, I recently gave in to curiosity and hired a confidential intermediary to locate my birth mother. She's been found; she lives in Arizona is thrilled that I've sought her out. That's all I know so far. The next step could be days away.

7. I've watched and rewatched a handful of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 tapes more than I care to admit.

8. My best friend in high school's dad is this guy.

Without further ado, I tag Diane Snyder, Leonard Jacobs, Joshua James, Scott Walters, David Cote, Colleen Wainwright, Tamadhur Al-Aqeel, and Erik Patterson.

Jun 4, 2007

May Day

A few weeks ago I had the odd privilege of schlepping out to the T.G.I. Friday's at Newark Airport to interview a Jersey Boy, formerly a Bat Boy. My piece on the irreplaceable Deven May, whom I first witnessed dangling from the set in a tiny 44-seat house off Santa Monica Blvd., is here.