Dec 30, 2009

"To Grow as a Dramaturge"

Not a New Year's resolution you read every day, but it's one of my favorites at today's American Theatre fan page thread. Blogging will be slight through the holidays, but I must second Isaac's recommendation to read David Byrne's rant and I congratulate some extremely deserving fellow bloggers for this.

Dec 22, 2009

St. Nick's on an Off-Day

My niece Eavan, at right, with a Santa who might want to think about a new line of work--indeed, a Santa who looks like he is contemplating something far, far away from the cares of the day. Ho ho...ho?

Great Signature News

Just in time for the holidays: As if the reviews for the Signature Theatre's Orphans Home weren't good enough, here's news, at last, of a new Gehry-designed space for the company, to go up as part of a residential building and hotel on 42nd St. and 10th Ave. More details:
The building will provide more than 800 new housing units, including more than 160 that will be targeted to low-income families. The performing arts center will feature three intimate and distinct theatres, rehearsal studios, a café, bookstore and administrative offices and will allow Signature to more than double its audience, with anticipated attendance of more than 80,000.

Dec 21, 2009

Devil May Care

Posting is light and likely to remain so for a time; holidays and whatnot. So I pass this on with best wishes, from my favorite macabre New York puppeteers, Phantom Limb (Erik Sanko & Jessica Grindstaff), and Ping Chong & Company, who are joining forces for The Devil You Know, a new adaptation of The Devil and Daniel Webster for the Under the Radar festival, Dec. 30-Jan. 24.

Dec 17, 2009

A Lot of Meetings Today

...which means I had a few moments to kick around ideas for holiday play "titles" for a very, very serious upcoming project at work (hint: coming to a TCG twitter feed near you, a la this historic series).

A sampling...

12 Angry Menorahs
Three Days of Reindeer
Death of a Snowman
'nog, Mother
The Santasticks
Snow Angels in America
A Long Egg’s Journey Into Nog

Dec 15, 2009

E Pluribus Backstage

My old employer changes hands again. Not included in that news piece: the decision to shutter the venerable Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews.

From the Samovar to the Wheelchair

So many gems in New York's Sondheim/Lansbury dialogue. One of my favorites is this, from Lansbury:
Now, I’m not a big audience-chaser. I don’t try to please them; I force them to pay attention to what I’m doing, and get them that way.

And there's this instructive insight into Gypsy's Rose:
I said to Arthur, “What you’re writing is so strong, I don’t know why it needs songs at all.” He said, “Oh, no, if I were writing this as a play, she’d be much more complex. When I write a musical it’s in broad strokes.”

The final Hermione Gingold anecdote is a corker, and there's also a great bit of trivia about the origin of the original Sweeney Todd illustration (pictured above, the British "Happy Families" card game).

Dec 11, 2009

Too Cute To Be

I met this little fellow (I think) a few years ago when I wrote this piece. Great to witness the quality of his parenting. I especially enjoyed Theo's "arrows" gesture.

What They're Seeing

American Theatre's Facebook fan page asks people every week what they're seeing before the weekend, then asks them what they've seen after the weekend. Catching up with the list from my absence, I'm again struck by its diversity (and enthusiasm--check all the exclamation points). For anyone reading the whole thing, there are also a few rewarding running gags and backtalk. From last week's what-I'm-going-to-see comments:
Makayla Machado Teatro Vivo's Petra's Pecado! Hilarious!
Joan Kane "Desdemona The play about a handkerchief " part of the New School for Drama's New Visions Directing Festival.
James Joseph O'Neil The Royal Family on Broadway
Aaron Heinsman [sic] at The Strand and Illuminoctem at Single Carrot, both in Baltimore
Rachel Grossman As You Like It... performed by students at Shakespeare Theatre Company
David Rowell The Social Issues Project at the School of Theatre at Florida State
Lara Dossett American Buffalo at Steppenwolf in Chicago!
Clay Ray West Alegria, Cirque Du Soleil
Charlene Smith Showboat in DC!
Jennifer Mefford Major Archibald Swelling's Salvation Salve Medicine Show. It's New Orleans goodness!!!
Jeffrey Cranor "Pale Horse..." at the Ontological
James Ozanich The Rocky Horror Show at the Masquers Playhouse, Pt Richmond, CA (with my high school buddies who used to sneak out of the house as teen agers to see the movie version)
Rena Heinrich I loved The Royal Family! On my list, Tree in Los Angeles
Linda Libby Picasso @ Lapin Agile in Carlsbad, CA at New Village Arts
Flavia Florezell Santaland Diaries done by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre
Rik Deskin Hot Babes in Toyland & Quiet Monkey Fight @ Odd Duck Studio in Seattle
Tracy Ray Reynolds The Freddy Wyatt Christmas Spectacular @ Actors Co-op Los Angeles
Malcølm Devine The new musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol at The Group Rep in LA! For the second time, because it's that awesome!
Akia Squitieri Naked Holidays by End Times in NYC and the FRIGID festival fundraiser
Megan Kate Ward The Lying Kind at Third Rail Rep in Portland, OR
Kerry Reid I actually just finished eight shows in a row, but may try to see some solo work in "The Happy Family Series" with the Magpies this weekend
Nicole Bournas-Ney OR, Liz Duffy Adams' new play @ Women's Project!
Lisa Wasserman Druid Ireland: "The New Electric Ballroom" at UCLA. Also, "Noises Off" at A Noise Within
Roger MacDonald I'm finishing and then celebrating the end of this grad school course on research methods and statistical modeling... zzz
Tracy Eliott In LA: ANTIGONE @ the Lyric and NOISES OFF @ A Noise Within
Michael Soloman "Spring Awakening" at the Buell in Denver! :o)
Monique Fisher "Baby It's You" at the Pasadena Playhouse
Debbie Hubbard "Yankee Tavern" at Actor's Theatre of Charlotte
Andrew Hawkins On Monday I'm seeing TOO MUCH LIGHT MAKES THE BABY GO BLIND by the Neo-Futurists at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in DC
Carol Sutton Elvis People at The Warehouse, SC
Chet Leonard Molly Sweeney, The Son of Semmelle Theatre . L.A., CA

And from this week's what-they-saw comments:
Max Garner Tech'ed "Inspecting Carol" at MICA in Baltimore. It opens day after tomorrow -- great show! Directed by Brian Klaas, the A.D. from the original Seattle Rep production
Kerry Reid The Happy Family Series with the Magpies -- a rotating evening of solos. My night included terrific pieces by Barrie Cole, David Kodeski, Dave Buchen, Chris Bower and David Isaacson (it was Dave night!)
Heather BeasleyThe SantaLand Diaries in its first Boulder, Colorado production, done by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. Snarky, charming fun!
Mark Lord Or, at The Womens' Project. Coming soon to a theater near you
Gwen Orel The Big Bupkis, which was cool!
Michael Soloman 'Spring Awakening' in Denver. It was amazing! :o)
Lisa Wolford Wylam DV8 To Be Straight With You in Toronto. Very compelling piece of verbatim theatre
Greg Paroff SISTER'S CHRISTMAS CATECHISM at The Booth Theater in Charlotte, NC
Jim Litzinger "Frosty" at Columbia Children's Theatre was hilarious & heartwarming...the perfect holiday kickoff!
Justin Tanner "Bob's Holiday Office Party" at Theatre Asylum in HOllywood. Melissa Denton is a freaking genius
Susan Stroupe Tanya, Tanya at Towson U in Baltimore--Russian interpretation of an American adaptation of one of the first contemporary women-written Russian plays! It was a mind-trip.
Roger MacDonald 'Nuthin' - I was surviving the end of this grad school class in research and statistics
Rik Deskin Hot Babes In Toyland at Odd Duck Studio in Seattle. Pretty funny!
Lisa Wasserman Druid Theatre's "The New Electric Ballroom" at UCLA. Wonderfully Beckett-like! Also saw a very good production of "Noises Off" at A Noise WIthin
Julie HaverkateThe Great Recession at The Flea was FANTASTIC. Or, Adam Rapp's piece was fantastic at least
Paul Birchall Heh, saw the Los Angeles SANTALAND DIARIES at the Blank. Snark is so very 1990s, isn't it?
Jamie Feinberg Premiere of 3. Wise. Men in Lowell, AMAZING, and an excellent production of Harvey too, despite some slow set changes. :)

Today's what-are-you-gonna-see list is already heating up...

Dec 10, 2009

Unsilent Night, West Coast Edition

Another bicoastal post, with a bonus shout-out to a former Back Stage West colleague and friend, Behnoosh Khalili, who imported the musical-crowd happening "Unsilent Night" to L.A. when she moved back there from N.Y. Now it's part of Downtown L.A.'s arts walk:
People bring their portable tape players to a designated meeting place, they're given copies of [Phil] Kline's "Unsilent Night" piece recorded on cassette, and everyone gambols down the street for 45 minutes, rain or shine, boomboxes doing their job in the gentlest way imaginable. Because of the inherent quirks of different tape players, the Doppler effect and various collisions with other ambient noises native to the greater metropolitan area, Kline's work moves and changes and comes alive as an entirely unique sonic organ.

They've sinced added CD and MP3 players to the mix. L.A.'s Unsilent Night is tonight; in New York, it will go down on Sat., Dec. 12 at the Washington Square Park Arch at 7 p.m. National listings here.

New World Theatre

Written like all his plays (and his emails) ALL IN CAPS, this dialogue between L.A. playwright Michael Sargent and Unknown Theatre jack-of-all-trades Chris Covics, on the occasion of Sargent's Mapplethorpe-themed new play Black Leather, is engaging enough on its own, but this exchange popped out especially:


Rings true, and it got me thinking. Sargent, like Justin Tanner, would seem to be one of the underground treasures that LA Times critic Charles McNulty refers to in this very welcome recent piece, in which he stood up for L.A. theater's quantity and diversity. Except that McNulty hardly ever spends any ink actually writing about the best work on this underground scene. This is puzzling; his NY Times colleagues Brantley and Isherwood, for instance, cover the best work at HERE, PS 122, LaMama, etc., or plays by Foreman, Maxwell, the Woosters et al, alongside their Broadway and Off-Broadway reviews. But it seems to me that McNulty largely consigns shows at the 99-seaters to other fine critics at the LA Times (David Ng, D.C. Nichols, Kathy Foley, Charlotte Stoudt). That's fine, as far as it goes, but I don't get the sense that McNulty is really on the case, smoking out the scene's under-sung finds. By contrast, I remember Michael Phillips, very early in his tenure at the Times, reviewing Reefer Madness! at the Hudson Backstage, and before him, Laurie Winer enthusiastically taking up Tanner's banner. Maybe this shouldn't be the case, but the endorsement, or even the critical attention, of a newspaper's lead critic can make a big difference in how a local market, and its various scenes and sub-scenes, are perceived. And to too many who should know better, in L.A. sub-100-seat is synonymous with subpar.

Don Shirley has some related thoughts here, specifically on the matter that inspired McNulty's defense of L.A.: a New York Times travel piece extolling Seattle's theater scene, and quoting former Pasadena Playhouse managing director Brian Colburn, now at the same post at the Intiman, to the effect that it was better and more vibrant than L.A.'s. Two fascinating things hit me about that: Colburn surely has something to do with the fact that Damaso Rodriguez, of the excellent L.A.-based Furious Theatre, will direct Odets' Paradise Lost at the Intiman in March.

On a more personal note, I first saw Colburn play Horace Robedeaux in a lovely, haunting production of Horton Foote's Lily Dale at the Little Victory Theatre in Burbank. (I reviewed it for Back Stage West but the review's not online.) If anyone should know how much good theater happens in L.A.--albeit for what tiny compensation and acclaim--it would be Colburn.

First Round of FY2010 NEA Grants... Additional info here.


Having brought it up, I feel duty-bound to report that my son is fine and we all made it back to the mainland only slightly worse for wear. The extra time at Kapi'Olani Hospital gave us a chance to walk around the modest Makiki neighborhood, which reminded me of a lot of parts of L.A. I used to roam. And yes, we did our own self-guided Obama tour. Blogging is likely to remain light-ish for a while, but it's good to be back.

Dec 6, 2009

Light Blogging Just Got a Lot Lighter

Apologies for the intrusion of the personal, but the post-Thanksgiving family vacation has taken an unfortunate turn. The bad news is that my five-month-old son has a nasty virus with pneumonia symptoms; the good news is that he's got a nice room to recover in style at the Kapi'Olani Children's Hospital (yes, where Prez was born). Prayers/thoughts welcome for a quick recovery and a safe flight back to Brooklyn.

Dec 1, 2009

Race on Broadway

The December issue of American Theatre is out, and while I can highly recommend any number of great features worth your time this time out--many in the print-only edition, including a fascinating, you-couldn't-make-it-up piece by the late Dale Wasserman about collaborating with W.H. Auden on an early draft of The Man of La Mancha--I feel duty-bound to point out some fine features in the online edition (comments now enabled): a look at the legacy of Grotowski, a profile of Theatre for a New Audience's dogged leader Jeffrey Horowitz, and my own Critic's Notebook on how Broadway is handling race in the Obama era.