Jul 30, 2010

Michigan Pop

I'll actually be in Ashland next week; right now I'm in Traverse City for a friend's wedding. And though Traverse City is relatively bourgie compared to a lot of Michigan (it's the home of this, after all), this sign reminded me that, yes, this is still the Midwest.

Jul 28, 2010

Gone (Theater) Fishing

I'm off to one of my favorite theater towns in the world for more than a week. I shall report anon. Till then I leave you with this undisputed slice of brilliance, 2010's answer to Thriller (long overdue hat tip to Isaac, who's on the move as well this week).

Jul 27, 2010

Quote for the Week

"Some films are slices of life. Mine are slices of cake." --Alfred Hitchcock

Jul 24, 2010

Right Back Atcha, Mr. Simon

In his excellent report/rumination from last weekend's O'Neill Center gathering of the American Theatre Critics' Association, Jonathan Mandell has many good things to say about the present and future of theater criticism, and he includes many interesting quotes, from Kristoffer Diaz's suggestion that he'd rather be reviewed by fellow playwrights to Adam Rapp's ambivalence on the matter, as well as reflections by two fine theater critics, Philly's Wendy Rosenfeld and Chicago's Kris Vire, on their impact and intent. Mandell also brings in several relevant outside quotes, including a few from movie critics A.O. Scott, Michael Phillips, and Pauline Kael.

Another, though, is closer to home. In a recent television appearance, the lovely and charming John Simon had this to say:
No matter how wrongheaded a critic may be...he or she’s always better than the bloggers. The bloggers are the vermin of this society.
To be fair, it's hardly unusual for Simon to casually insult those he deems his lessers; I have it on good authority that he once called the waiters at a downtown restaurant "wogs" within their earshot.

Jul 23, 2010

The Top Best Unique Leading Leader

A lot of these don't apply to theater press releases per se, but it's still an entertaining list of most overused words in press releases.

Jul 22, 2010

The Film Posters That Evoke Plays File

Maybe I'm imagining things, as I did here. But I just passed this on the street near my work and my lunch companion said, "Looks like..." And he named an iconic mid-20th-century classic you might have heard of. Can you guess which one?

Weird Rumor of the Week

Kate Winslet in Next to Normal? Apparently, she can sing a bit.

Jul 20, 2010

Show Queen in Chief

I for one heartily endorse our President's inspiring words about Broadway musicals (especially that great quote from Mel Brooks, that musicals "blow the dust off your soul"). Now I just want to know what showtunes are stuck in POTUS' head ("Seven and a Half Cents"? "Politics and Poker"?).

Jul 14, 2010

If You Caricature Us, Do We Not Bleed?

Adam Feldman and Elisabeth Vincentelli debate the worthiness of Merchant of Venice, both the play and the current production. I loved it thoroughly, and hew pretty closely to Adam's view in this case, but these former Time Out colleagues give good critical debate.

Jul 12, 2010

Inadvertently Funny Acronym File

My favorite until now was Northwest Airlines, which sends its emails from the name "NWA"; I've waited in vain for the no-brainer "Northwest With Attitude" ad campaign. My new favorite, courtesy a press release I just saw today, is Williamstown Theatre Festival, which has embraced the lively moniker WTF but not, strangely, the obvious youth-outreach angle (i.e., "WTF is up!" or "Live Theatre? WTF").

Jul 9, 2010

Local Hero

"I remember it distinctly, it was 1963 and I was sitting in a 110-seat theatre watching Frank Gilroy’s Who’ll Save the Plowboy? and thinking, 'This is good, as good as anything I’ve been seeing downtown.' I realized that homegrown theatre is good...And so what we do is, we cover the waterfront. We go to everything that looks interesting. Theatre in Chicago did not grow by the placement of a large cultural center in downtown. It was not trickle down. It came from below."
So said Richard Christiansen, longtime Tribune critic, in a talk with his successor, Chris Jones, and several appreciative theater folks, at the recent TCG Conference. All the talk of Chicago's non-hierarchical scene, in which you could put on a show in a tiny storefront and know that the Tribune would come, made my heart ache for the scrappy and vibrant theater scene I used to cover in Los Angeles, and which, as Don Shirley reports, is getting less and less covered by the year. I have many complicated thoughts about this which I'm too busy to unpack at the moment, but suffice to say that one of the reasons I'm in New York rather than L.A. right now is that because I saw a limited career future in covering that scene for the publications that would employ me there.

Jul 8, 2010

Pasadena's Next Chapter

Great news out West: The Pasadena Playhouse is "emerging" from Chapter 11. Managing director Stephen Eich says the plan is "to resurrect the Playhouse from years of unbearable debts. Although we will be moving slowly in the future to ensure financial responsibility and stability, we will in fact be back." Combine that with the news about A Noise Within's new space there, and this summer is turning out to be a good one for the arts in Pasadena.

Bald Caps and Broken Zippers

Some choice anecdotes on the American Theatre Facebook page today. The question I threw out: "Describe your worst performance." Some of my favorite responses include:

Ruben Carbajal:
Played the Milkman in Pinter's The Lover. Had all of three lines. Walked on stage, and forgot my lines. My throat constricted. When I spoke, I sounded like Beaker from the Muppets.

Godfrey Johnson: Got my thumb stuck under a piano chair lid and sat on it full force. Had to continue singing with a throbbing thumb and by the end of the show it was purple. The pain helped me reach notes I didn't know I could sing.

Brenna Freestone: Costume malfunction in 'An Ideal Husband.' My skirt fell off right in the middle of the climactic scene between Mrs. Chevely (myself) and Lord Goring. Priceless.

Richard Green: Oof. I'd been drinking coffee and cold medicine for three days when we had a preview of "Pirates of Penzance." And with 70 college kids at the final dress, as a preview audience, I'd forgotten about my "Major General's" Bozo hair and bald cap, till I came on to do the big patter song, and whipped off my big black Wellington hat-- they exploded...With the laughter and in my weakened state, I just totally blanked on that very famous "Modern Major General" song. My oldest on-stage daughter slowly got me back on track, with very clear clues. God bless her!

Mark Harvey Levine: I was in "Beyond Therapy" and there was a phone onstage -- which they forgot to disconnect from its actual line so it rang during a scene. THEN later in the production I fired a gun which decided to not go off.

Debbie Hubbard: I was Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and really swallowed one of the marbles.

Shawn Macdonald: Stepping in for a sick actor in a production of the Scottish play. He played old Seward. I was Banquo and was dead by the time he appeared so it had to be me apparently. I had taped his lines to the back of my shield. After some very lame old man acting, the tape started to lose its stickiness under the heat of the lights and one by one the pages fell off the shield. The part of the set I was on was a 30 foot high rock structure, and the pages fluttered and spiralled down beautifully. It was a high school matinee. I can still hear the laughter.

Hester Kamin: Touring musical production of Robin Hood. Running onstage after a zipper broke as I was doing a costume change, catching my sleeve on a tree branch, and causing a domino effect that resulted in the entire set crashing down around me.

Jeff Miller: Playing Teddy in Arsenic and Old Lace at The Encore Theatre in Houston. World Series was on, TV was in the dressing room backstage. During the 10-minute break when I was supposed to change into my "digging the Panama Canal" clothes, got caught up in the game, forgot to change costumes, and did the next scene (digging graves) in a 3-piece suit.

Chairman Barnes: Two nights before opening our Richard III stormed out on our director quitting the show. The following day he returned to apologize and continue with the show only to be rebuffed by the director. The director, being posessed of no small ego and having played the role years earlier, insisted on taking over the part. (After all, the show MUST go on!) After one disastrous rehearsal we opened Richard III with a prompter on book for him off stage left. The director had to abandon all blocking and clung feverishly to the stage left curtain and paused between every line to glance off stage for a prompt. At intermission the cast insisted that we not perform the second half. The audience was issued both an apology and a refund. As we were already running Henry V to run in rep with R III and many cast members had already committed to start rehearsals on other shows anticipating that Richard would already be "on its feet", there was no way we could fit in more rehearsal to make it presentable. We had no choice but to cancel the RIII run and fill the dates with Henry V.

Mark Gordon: If you are ever stuck onstage in Shakespeare, just say: "But more of this anon in my chamber." And exit stage left. Works every time.

Jul 1, 2010

Watch With Hanky Handy

In the course of researching a piece about theater for very young children, I kept hearing about this show by a Danish company. It's for a slightly older audience than the one I happen to be writing about, but it was created for a much younger audience than you might think. Suffice to say it's the best show about death for first graders I've ever seen.

If You Boo Us, Do We Not Cry?

Today on American Theatre's Facebook page, debates are raging on whether it's ever OK to boo (most folks say no, unless it's in appreciation for a good villain) and on whether The Merchant of Venice should still be staged at all (mostly an affirmative answer to that, with some flare-ups and quibbles).

Breakthrough Image

For some reason, this subway ad for a new summer thriller reminded me of something...

Oh, yeah.