Posted by: MTI Showspace Host (August 21, 2009)
One of our favorite blogs about arts and politics, The Clyde Fitch Report www.clydefitchreport.com, will co-host and co-sponsor the Theater Blogger Social scheduled for Aug. 27 at FringeCentral, 54 Crosby Street. Admission is free.
The social is being held at FringeCentral to coincide with the concluding days of the 13th New York International Fringe Festival. Representatives of the more than 200 productions in the Fringe have been invited to meet and greet New York’s theater bloggers.
The Theater Bloggers Social is the kickoff event for the formation a new organization of New York’s theater bloggers — critics, playwrights, directors, dramaturgs, designers, producers, educators and people who blog about theater. One vision for the group was posted on The Clyde Fitch Report here. We continue to ask for, and welcome, suggestions and ideas at LeonardJacobs2@gmail.com.
Posted by: gerald jones (August 21, 2009)
When i added my profile, I mentioned that I had not been in drama since high school; more correctly, I have not been in theater since high school. I played myself in an episode of the tv show "It's a miracle," and have been filmed in the "Worlds' Most Dangerous Police Videos."
Posted by: Rick Osann (August 21, 2009)
Looking for suggestions for visually spectacular but technically modest scenery for "Singin in the Rain", for HS production on small stage and low budget. We can't do the rain on our stage and will use lighting effects. The challenge is supporting the many locations with NO flies or backstage space for wagons.
Posted by: Lauren Epsenhart (August 18, 2009)
So, it's that time of year again, time to pick a school show. This can be super fun or make you want to run for the hills. Everything affects your desicion...cast size, sets/scenery, casting, performance space (having a space would be a great start), accesibility to students, and budget. Now that I've freaked you out, take a breath and take it a step at a time. Let's begin with...dum, dum, dummmm-THEME.
Shows can be chosen based on months, holidays, events, locations, seasons, etc. Get creative. For example, school begins around August/September in most schools around the country. The weather is still warm. Most kids have one thing on their minds: Summer. So why not indulge your students. Pick a show that stays within the theme of summer. ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is a great show to pick. This show offers the sound and feel of what summer embodies. The music and lyrics are buoyant and rich. The book is mystical, which, allows for creative sets and costuming. This show may also be a way to bring the classroom to summer vacation. If chosen for the fall, preperation needs to be made in the Spring. Rehearsal's can be planned for the summer. Hey, learning doesn't stop for summer vacation.
If summer isn't the theme you were hoping for, try choosing a show with an academic theme. SCHOOL HOUSE ROCKLIVE, JUNIOR is an excellent choice. Nothing says back to school like Three is the Magic Number and Conjunction Junction. Costumes and sets are minimal. Cast size is medium but flexible. The piece is a revue so doubling is possibkle if cast is small. Any other suggetions?
Posted by: Kat Harris (August 17, 2009)
It’s rare that I get to talk about musical theatre and comic books AT THE SAME TIME, so I’m excited the Spider-Man musical gives me that chance. I wish it were under better circumstances, though, since the (rumored) $40 million Broadway production is apparently experiencing a “cash flow” problem, making it doubtful that it’ll open in February.
This doesn’t surprise me—or anyone else, really. If its budget is as big as the word on the street claims, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will be the most expensive Broadway musical ever. Add to that its sky-high weekly running costs, and it’d have to be a bigger phenomenon than Wicked to make that money back. I hope things work out for the show and that it still makes it to Broadway; I don’t want to see all the people that have been working on it for so long out of a job.
I’m also kind of excited for it, although I’m also kind of sad about it at the same time. I’ve loved Spider-Man since watching the cartoons as a little kid, and I feel even more strongly about the character now. There are a lot of things I find compelling about the story, but I ultimately connect with the identity issues Peter faces. Who is Peter Parker? The geeky goody-goody who can’t talk to the girl next door and doubles as Flash Thompson’s punching bag? Or the wisecracking, skyscraper-swinging defender of the weak whose humility won’t let people see his face? Bruce Wayne is undeniably the mask Batman puts on in daylight; Superman is at heart a farm boy from Smallsville. But with Spider-Man, it’s never been clear if donning that red and blue jumpsuit lets Peter put on a disguise—or take it off.
I generally enjoyed all three Spider-Man movies, despite being mortified at the second half of the third and being annoyed by a few things in the second. All three were a little too action-centric for me, but in a big summer blockbuster superhero movie, that’s what people expect, and I appreciated that the films don’t ignore the psychological aspects of the story. For the record, I like seeing things explode and I love a good fight, but other superhero stories have plenty of that. I loved last summer’s Iron Man and The Dark Knight partly because of how those films used violence. But Iron Man and Batman are different kinds of characters with different relationships to violence. Nobody wants to see Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne sit around narrating their feelings, partly because (in Bruce’s case) it’d be a boring emofest, but mostly because that’s not what those characters do. That’s not who they are.
But that’s who Peter Parker is, and my favorite incarnations of Spider-Man reflect that. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is nowhere near as fluffy a work as its title implies. Told from the teenage Mary Jane’s perspective, the comic addresses all the story’s core themes in a high school setting. The characters uniformly talk and act like teenagers without sounding petty or stupid. It’s hard to write attractive and popular 16 year olds well, but Sean McKeever and his successor, Terry Moore, give Mary Jane, Liz Allen, Flash Thompson, and Harry Osbourne the respect they deserve. Equally impressive is the artwork. This series introduced me to two of my favorite artists: Sean McKeever’s initial collaborator on the project, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Craig Rousseau, who joined when Terry Moore did. There’s a brilliant sequence at the end of the second volume where Mary Jane breaks up with Harry, Peter almost breaks up with Gwen Stacy, and Spider-Man breaks up with the flirtatious superhero, Firestar. The panels rotate through the three couples in a way that’s breathtakingly cinematic, and the panels themselves are gorgeous in their simplicity. I’ve never seen anything convey Peter’s weariness more than this sequence, as he tries to do what’s right both as Peter and as Spider-Man, knowing full well that he can’t be with Mary Jane in either identity.
Similarly brilliant is The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series. It’s a kids show—it premiered on Kids CW and now airs on Disney XD, Disney’s channel for animated shows. The first season has just been released on DVD, and I strongly urge anyone who loves quality superhero shows—and quality children’s television—to pick it up, since higher DVD sales make it more likely there’ll be a third season. Like Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, the show focuses on the teenaged Peter Parker, and it equally succeeds at depicting Peter and his classmates as actual high school students. The Spectacular Spider-Man has the additional challenge of being aimed at young children. I don’t know anything about the show’s actual demographic, but I’d imagine “young children” really means “4-10 year old boys.” (Although I hope a decent number of girls watch it, too.)
As I’ve mentioned, there are a lot of complex psychological issues inherent in Spider-Man, and it’d be so, so easy for a kids’ version of the story to be more about Spider-Man and less about Peter Parker. I only have vague memories of the Spider-Man cartoon I watched as a kid (I don’t even remember the title), but everything I do remember involves Spider-Man tossing off one-liners as he beats up bad guys. I don’t even remember what that show’s Peter looked like. I doubt any kid watching The Spectacular Spider-Man would have that trouble, however. The show certainly has enough action and simple enough storylines to hold an eight year old’s attention, but it never shies away from heavy topics, such as Harry’s addiction to a performance-enhancing drug, and Liz’s brother’s severe gambling problem. It’s also got some of the funniest and smartest writing I’ve seen on television. One of my favorite moments is in the second season, when Peter and his classmates are ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Peter burns his tongue on hot chocolate right before supervillains descend on the students…causing Spider-Man to make barely intelligible quips because of his burnt tongue. There are also delightful little details throughout each episode; one villain drinks from a mug that has “Evil Genius” printed on the side. It may be for kids, but The Spectacular Spider-Man has gotten me and my boyfriend completely hooked—and we’re both in our mid-twenties.
That’s my Spider-Man, and that’s the Spider-Man I wish so desperately we’d see in a Broadway musical. Spider-Man doesn’t need to be big budget special effects. Maybe at did as a movie, but not as theatre. For all my hopes that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is visually brilliant with an awesome rock score, I feel the story and its characters would fit so much better as a character piece with a tiny cast in a black box. It’d certainly be cheaper.
Posted by: Ashlee Smith (August 15, 2009)
I just recently went to APTC. It was a summer camp at the Allenberry Resort and Playhouse. I decided I'd blog on this amazing experience. It was for, I believe, 10 to 17 year olds. It was 5 days of extremely hard work. Around 14 hours of rehearsal a day to put on a show that included 5 songs, 3 dances, and a play. We learned some stage combat, did some floor bar and improv, as well as being greatly exposed to everything professional theatre entails. It was the most difficult yet most amazing and special week I have ever had. Every counselor was either an actor or on the technical side and they were all extremely talented. I learned so much from asking them questions and being taught by them. I would strongly recommend this camp to all!
AP! TC! HUH!
Posted by: Lauren Epsenhart (August 14, 2009)
MTI recently released Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA "School Adition". I think this is the ideal show for a school with a diverse population. The roles in the show are multicultural which allows for flexible casting. Consider this when choosing a show for the season. It can potetnially draw in some newbies to your program.
Posted by: Kat Harris (August 11, 2009)
Technology has always influenced art. Mathematical advances enabled Renaissance painters to experiment with perspective. In the early days of the record, nearly all popular songs were around three minutes long—just what one side of a record had room for. And the introduction of sound in the movies changed the nature of cinematic storytelling.
There’s been a lot of discussion about how cell phones and the internet have changed the way theatre is done—how casting gossip spreads through message boards like wildfire, and how people can blog about a show in previews during intermission. But how will this technology change the way shows are written?
In Japan, cell phones are upending the book industry, as keitai shosetsu—cell phone novels—have become wildly popular. Their authors are usually young women in their late teens and early twenties, rapidly tapping stories of love and its complications on their cell phones during long commutes. Told in short sentences and slang, cell phone novels are light on plot and character development, but that hasn’t discouraged millions of girls and young women from devouring each installment—or from snapping up hardcover versions of the novels that have been published.
Keitai shosetsu seem only natural to me. A novel is a text-based medium, after all, and it’s one where such experimentations in form aren’t uncommon. But I am curious about how such a thing would translate to theatre, where you can’t replicate exactly what you type into your phone; where words disappear as soon as they’re uttered, instead of being preserved on the page for the reader to go back to.
The Royal Opera House in London will deal with these issues at its performance of the first Twitter opera. In hopes of making opera more accessible to the public, the Royal Opera House has invited people to contribute to an opera libretto written entirely on its Twitter page. Two currently unannounced singers will perform excerpts from the completed work.
I think that’s a fascinating idea, and it’s a great way to use technology to get audiences directly involved—and to work against the belief that opera belongs fully in the past. I also like the concept of a 140 character limit on each entry. Especially for first-time writers, restrictions can be more helpful than confining; with only 140 characters to work with at a time, every word and piece of punctuation becomes a deliberate choice. That’s why I love writing lyrics. With song structure, rhyme scheme, and scansion a few of the elements governing a lyric, I have to really think about what I’m trying to say. I’m a much more disciplined writer because of that.
Regardless of how successful this Twitter opera is, I find it heartening that an institution like the Royal Opera House is willing to embrace technology in this way—even if it’s just a publicity stunt. I think there’s a lot for writers and artists to gain from the different writing structures and formats of social networking sites, text and instant messages, blogs, and message boards. And I think everyone can gain from trying to write a pivotal plot point within the limitations of a Twitter update.
Posted by: Kat Harris (August 6, 2009)
I'm thrilled for the Chocolate Factory. I saw their production of tick, tick...BOOM! (with Neil Patrick Harris as Jonathan!) back in June 2005, when nobody had even heard of them. I don't remember how I'd heard about the production since the Chocolate Factory was in its initial season, and since I knew nothing about it, I didn't know what to expect. But since I loved both the show and Neil Patrick Harris (his version of "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here" off The Frogs/Evening Primrose recording had me sold), I figured it was worth the risk. Clearly, it was, since the Chocolate Factory has been having success after success with its musicals--the most notable being its Olivier and Tony Award winning revival of Sunday in the Park with George. In the past few seasons, the theatre has joined the Donmar in providing an intimate space for musicals that aren't exactly commerical hits--something that, in my experience there, London needs.
Consequently, I'm excited that yet another Menier musical is not only on the West End, but is moving to Broadway. But does it have to be a show whose last Broadway revival was five years ago?
I'm worried that the recent success of the 2008 Gypsy revival has set an unhealthy precedent. Since I'd missed the Encores! production the summer of 2007, I was desperate to see Patti LuPone and Laura Benanti's takes on the show, and was ecstatic upon hearing it was getting a Broadway run. Sure, there'd been the revival with Bernadette Peters in 2003, but that was a different production with a different director and a different star. And it was GYPSY. Come on. Who doesn't want that show constantly playing somewhere in New York? I hadn't gotten hooked on musicals until fall of 2003, so while I'd seen that Gypsy revival twice, I'd been too busy catching up on other shows to see it more than that, and I'm not sure how much I'd fully appreciated it, anyway. The Patti Gypsy was my chance to make up for that.
I wasn't too upset with Les Miserables coming back to Broadway a mere three years after the original production closed, either. I like the show well enough; it's got some thrilling moments, and I can understand why it appeals so strongly to so many people (though I'm not one of them). It's not anything I'd go out of my way to see, and even if it was, reviving a show three years after the original production closed is ridiculous any way you look at it. Especially when the show in question originally ran for sixteen years.
But it was easy to justify even this revival. For one thing, it was a limited run of a touring production--not an open-ended run of an entirely new one--and my understanding is that it was filling a house that would have been dark otherwise (correct me if I'm wrong) until the next scheduled tenant moved in. Granted, the revival did extend multiple times if I remember correctly, but it always had an end date in sight.
The other thing about the Les Miz revival was the cast. With Norm Lewis as Javert, Alex Gemignani as Valjean, Daphne Rubin-Vega as Fantine and Celia Keenan-Bolger's Eponine, it was a theatre queen's dream. Daphne and Celia were particularly fascinating. Daphne because her portrayal of Fantine was the rawest I'd ever heard or seen, with her "I Dreamed A Dream" so jagged you knew life had broken this woman beyond repair; Celia because her Eponine revealed in the romantic fantasty she had to actively remind herself was a lie. It's hard to complain with a cast like that.
This 2010 revival of La Cage aux Folles, however, doesn't have any of those factors, so it's difficult to see what the point is. I'm sure the West End production deserves to be on Broadway, but I don't see a reason for bringing it over so soon--if at all.
These sorts of things are tricky for me, because I can be far more forgiving when it's a show I love. Or, in the case of Les Miz, when there are cast members I love. When it's a show I don't like, don't care about, or don't know, that's when I can look at an issue without adding "...but...it's [insert show obsession here]." I try as a general rule to think about how I'd feel if weren't Gypsy, if it weren't Norm Lewis in Les Miz.
Now I'm forced into objectivity with La Cage, and I have to say I'd rather forgo Patti!Gypsy than have Broadway houses filled with boomerang shows--or worse, boomerang revivals. I feel very strongly about revivals, especially ones that re-interpret the material in some way; that's how you keep older shows from becoming museum pieces, and how you help a modern audience connect to a world that might otherwise seem dated and foreign. But you need distance from a piece to get something new out of it. That's why I can go for years without listening to my favorite recordings, and why I need to take breaks from the shows I write. If something becomes too familiar, it stops becoming a challenging, living reflection of its audience, and starts becoming comfort food.
That's not good for audiences, and it's not good for Broadway--or for musical theatre as a whole. Longer running shows mean fewer empty houses, and that means fewer new shows. When you can extend a show's life by bringing it back within five years--within a decade--you cut the number of new shows that can open in a given season down even more. That type of environment also discourages a culture of risk-taking; why bring in unknown work when you can bring in a show that's extremely fresh in the audience's memory? There's enough of that going on as it is.
I hope the La Cage revival is nothing like the 2004 revival. I hope it changes how people look at the piece, and I hope it brings even more acclaim (and money!) to the Menier Chocolate Factory. But I also hope boomerang shows don't become a trend.
Posted by: MTI Showspace Host (August 5, 2009)