Jun 30, 2010

Great News

There's no date announced yet, but J. Holtham, a.k.a. 99 Seats, is co-founding a new-black-theater festival. Count us intrigued.

Quote for the Day

"Children need to go to the theatre as much as they need to run about in the fresh air. They need to hear real music played by real musicians on real instruments as much as they need food and drink. They need to read and listen to proper stories as much as they need to be loved and cared for."
-Philip Pullman

Jun 29, 2010

Quote for the Day

"In the age of electronic memory, of films, and of reproducibility, theatre performance defines itself through the work that living memory, which is not museum but metamorphosis, is obliged to do."
-Eugenio Barba

McNulty's Lear-a-Thon

One night many years ago, I took in two SoCal Macbeths within six hours, give or take: First, Shakespeare Orange County's traditional version, which had the advantage of casting two of my favorite actors, Jenna Cole as Lady M and Ron Campbell as MacDuff; then a midnight performance at Beyond Baroque in Venice of an ultra-experimental version by a bunch of young upstarts with Chicago credits, if memory serves (a production notable also for the casting of L.A. Reader critic Patrick Corcoran as a white-faced Hecate). I wrote this double-Mac experience up for Back Stage West--a clip, as far as I can tell, that's lost to the ravages of time.

I was reminded of my Scottish night by Charlie McNulty's triple-Lear review--a flurry of Shakespeare from which, hearteningly and unsurprisingly, he plucks Bart DeLorenzo's double-cast Antaeus production as most worthy.

UPDATE: Patrick Corcoran has written to help me recall that that wild Venice Macbeth was directed by Dan Ward, starred his wife Leslie as Lady M, and featured in its soundscape both the running of multiple vacuum cleaners and Portishead's "Glory Box."

Memphis's Outreach

I'm no fan of David Bryan and Joe DiPietro's pleasant if forgettable lite-rock musical Memphis, but I certainly felt the audience I saw it with was totally into it, and its excellent cast at least partly explains why it's become the sleeper hit of the season. This story on the Root, about how Broadway can reach black audiences, helps explain the rest of it:
The producers of Memphis started asking theatergoers to come on down years before the musical even made it to Broadway. Three years ago, Frost and her producing partners started the trek to Broadway with a three-week run in Seattle. They reached out to influential church and civic leaders, inviting them to see Memphis, give their feedback and, if they would, spread the word. "We started it early, and we have been consistent about it," Frost says.

As the musical made its way to Broadway, some of those Seattle leaders contacted their friends and colleagues in New York to, again, spread the word. The summer before the show opened, they sent teams to street fairs to pass out fliers and talk up the upcoming production. They also pushed group ticket sales. Frost and her partners had been involved in non-commercial theater for years, so, she says, "Audience education and development is sort of in our DNA." With seed money from producers and investors, they launched a program, Inspire Change, to encourage young people to come to the show. The money covers tickets and transportation, but also sponsors cast members' visits to schools before the students come to the show; post-performance, they participate in "talk-backs" with the cast. They have produced study guides and encouraged eager theatergoers to talk about their experiences via Facebook. In March alone, she says, Memphis had more than 7,000 young people in its audiences.
The musical's history actually stretches back to its debut at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass. and TheatreWorks in Mountain View, Calif. nearly seven years ago. But the point is taken: This model, of touring and revving up audiences around the country before coming to Broadway sounds like smart marketing, period, race and age diversity aside.

UDPATE: The Times is on the case, too, with even more details.

Jun 24, 2010

A Point Worth Revisiting

With the Arena's heartening new residency program on the brain, not to mention a lot of talk from the TCG Conference about how Chicago nurtures its playwrights by giving them artistic homes, I thought of this clarifying call to arms, from Marsha Norman's brilliant, collegial essay for the Times about August: Osage County:
If we wanted to do one single thing to improve the theatrical climate in America, we’d assign one playwright to every theater that has a resident acting company.
Well, we first might want to start by creating more resident acting companies. But putting the artists at the center of the theater--something echoed by Theresa Rebeck and others last week--seems more and more like a solution people are waking up to (again, Feingold's piece this week on the economics of Broadway and the nonprofits plays into my thinking on this as well). Change is in the air, can you feel it?

Shaggy Links

Beyond buried at the mo, but wanted to note:
  • At last, The Shaggs will make it to NYC (it came to NYMF about five years ago, not long after it debuted in L.A.).
  • Feingold is on a roll.
  • Just caught up with this diverting and disarmingly upbeat dialogue between the LA Times theater and pop music critics about rock on Broadway.
  • Interesting (if very Chicago-insidery) interview with Tracy Letts.
  • Good news no matter how you slice it.

Jun 23, 2010

Quote for the Day

Everything will be all right in the end. If it's not all right, it's not the end.

Jun 22, 2010

Thumbs Up

I probably don't need to travel to the Getty to see this retrospective of the much-maligned French painter Gerome: His "Pollice Verso," or "Thumbs Down," is in the permanent collection at the Phoenix Art Museum, which means that I grew up with it. His others ("Pygmalion," "Masquerade") may be numbingly familiar posters, but it's the brownishly bloody gladiator scene above that I have as a postcard over my desk. (I didn't spring for this, though.)

Hotel Streetcar

For those of us who couldn't get tickets to David Cromer's super-acclaimed Streetcar while we were in Chicago, there was this rather extraordinary moment...

Writers Theatre from Ben Thiem on Vimeo.

Jun 21, 2010

Sign of the "Times"

A restaurant on 8th Avenue, near my office, as seen last year.

The same business today. Why the name change?

Looking northward, the high rise to the right is the New York Times building. I wonder about the branding strategy here, but I'm guessing the new name might at least help with street directions.

One TCG Conference Find

Last Thursday evening, in a short film by Firefly Productions about the impact of theater, a still from a production by Minneapolis' Ten Thousand Things Theater flashed by. One face looked familiar:

Turns out The Office's indispensable Brian Baumgartner (right, in The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, along with Jodi Kellog, Larissa Kokernot, and Matt Sciple) was a major figure on the Twin Cities theater scene (scroll down for a great notice here). That might explain the painful facility for physical comedy Baumgartner has evinced as Kevin:

"Is Theater a Creep Magnet?"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
David Mamet
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

A pretty hard sit for Colbert, but worth a look. (And was Stanislavski really a Commie?)

That Toddlin' Town

Just back from my first TCG Conference in Chicago. Still buzzing and a little exhausted from the conversations; I'm sure it's affected my brain chemistry, as keynoter Jonah Lehrer might point out. I'm writing the official story for American Theatre magazine, so I have to mostly save my thoughts for that. But I can point out that it was Tweeted heavily, that Devon Smith led probably the best breakout I went to, that I relished the sight of Tracy Letts killing a few minutes between sessions by wandering into the adjacent Socialism 2010 Conference, and that Chicago, as I seem to rediscover every few years, is an astonishing city.

Next year: my old stomping grounds.

Jun 15, 2010

That's Entertainment (Period. End of Story.)

Choice rubbernecking.

R Town

While David Cromer's great Our Town revival announces Helen Hunt as its new stage manager, there's this bracing piece from D.C. (h/t Kerry Reid):
In the last act, the narrator, known only as the "Stage Manager," lists the newest occupants of the cemetery, some buried before their time: Mrs. Gibbs, swept away by pneumonia; Mr. Stimson, a suicide; and Wally Webb, the child whose appendix burst on a Boy Scout trip.

In "R Town," adapted to Southeast Washington by students and alumni of Hart Middle School, the cemetery scene includes a real and much longer list of those who died young in their community, with nicknames such as J-Rock, Popcorn, Butta Rocks, Sinquan, Lip, L'il Ed, Brandon, Swag and Tank.

Video here.

Jun 14, 2010

Another Fences Post

To cap a Broadway season which, as I've noted before, has had race among its major themes, and almost entirely in works by white authors, it's only fitting to end, as the season did last year, with another Wilson revival. My take in the Catholic weekly America is here.

Jun 10, 2010

Sweet Indeed

A colleague of mine is having a child she's planning to name Adeline. We got into a conversation about what a wonderful old name that is, how Elliott Smith had a song called "Sweet Adeline," and how I knew of a few references in other songs to a much older song also called "Sweet Adeline" (Jimmie Rodgers' "My Old Pal," Mann/Costello's "The Other End of Telescope"), but how we didn't really know that other old song (in our head, both of us kept thinking of "Sweet Caroline"). Courtesy of the Intertubes, there is not only this helpful Wikipedia entry but this unlikely gem of a performance. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Oh, but there's more.

Linky Links

  • Why-the-Tonys-suck rants are a fixture of the season, but I feel that Jeremy Gerard brings something more substantial to his.
  • Haikus from the Great Plains.
  • I just want to know if anyone requested "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher" at Rushbo's fourth.
  • Money quote from this brilliant if typically overwritten n+1 essay: "The extension of advertising to the domain of private chatter undermines the competitiveness of anything that costs more than private chatter to produce."
  • StageGrade's tribute to Patrick Lee (with, natch, a roundup of other tributes). Memorial and funeral details are here.


After a low-level campaign by yours truly, my wife and I canceled our cable service last night. Gotta say, apart from the $100 a month we'll save, it felt great to cut the cord. Not that we're going to miss any of the shows we like.

Jun 9, 2010


Patrick, We Hardly Knew Ye

I just spoke to Patrick Lee last week; he interviewed me about StageGrade. We had met and lunched a few months ago; he asked me to contribute to Just Shows To Go You's Tony nominees poll, and he in turn contributed to StageGrade's recent critics poll.

All of which is to say, I was just getting to know Patrick--a theater critic, blogger, entrepreneur, and all-around class act--when I received the news today that he died at 51 ("earlier this month," reports his frequent employer TheaterMania). There's the grief of losing someone you knew well; then there's the slightly bewildering shock of losing someone you were just getting to know, and felt you would have plenty of time to get to know better.

You'll be missed, sir.

Jun 8, 2010

And For Something Completely a CONTEST

I'm not often the recipient of such honors, but the kind folks at Sony Home Entertainment have kindly offered to include the Wicked Stage in a DVD giveaway contest scheme, which I'm happy to be a part of because I can more or less endorse the product sight unseen: The DVD in question is a concert video of Monty Python's Not the Messiah, Eric Idle and John DuPrez's musical adaptation of The Life of Brian. I saw and enjoyed an earlier version of same at Caramoor Center for the Arts a few years back.

But this DVD was recorded at the Royal Albert Hall last October, I am duly informed, with "a chorus of 140, an orchestra of 80, 5 soloists, 8 bagpipers, and 3 sheep." Most importantly for fans, the "soloists" in question included Carol Cleveland, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. The cast I saw at Caramoor was not so Python-studded (although the lead was played by none other than Christopher Sieber), though I can say that the bagpipes are a high point of any rendition.

So...without further ado...the first Wicked Stage reader who answers the following trivia question, I have been assured, will receive a free copy of the Not the Messiah DVD:

Which two members of Monty Python have been nominated for Oscars?

Send your answers to robkendt@gmail.com.

Jun 4, 2010

The So Crazy It Just Might Work File

From a colleague on the West Coast, it's Shakespeare meets J.J. Abrams...in Ojai.

Jun 3, 2010

Mistake of the Day

Just caught this sentence, in an introduction to an interview with a famous theatre figure:
He is frequently lauded as one of the greatest living directors of all time.
That's a high degree of frequency.

Jun 2, 2010

"Sex With Mum Was Blinding"

I just happened upon this bracing talk by Alain de Botton about work, success, meritocracy, and envy. A high point: He makes an excellent case for tragedy as a mode of empathy for failure starting at 9:10.

Jun 1, 2010

Penguin Books Tribute

By artist Amy Fleisher. More awesomeness here.