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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Quote

"I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragoon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least." -Eugene Ionesco

Monday, March 29, 2010

Take This Role and. . .

This news is a few days old now, so you may have already heard, but the revival of Lips Together, Teeth Apart has been postponed due to Megan Mullally quitting just before previews citing misgivings about Patton Oswalt's ability to handle his role in the play.
Obviously, only anyone involved with the play can say whether her concerns are valid. I'm a fan of them both.
However, I do think it's more than a little unprofessional to quit a show that close to opening - particularly a production in which so much time and money is involved.
I suppose, though, that there can be circumstances in which one feels one has no choice. I've never walked on a show, but I have wanted to more times than I care to admit. In some cases, according to friends, I really should have.
So here's my question: (oh, here he goes, being all interactive again):
Have you ever quit a show? What happened? (Okay that's two questions.) I'd like to hear your stories in the comments section, and, of course, you can comment anonymously.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Have an Eggroll, Mr. Sondheim

Happy 80th Birthday, Stephen Sondheim! Due to a somewhat underwhelming response (either I didn't give enough notice, or I'm kidding myself that my readers here are interested in this being an interactive blog. I'll continue to kid myself for a while.), I have scrapped yesterday's "Sondheim memories" idea, and have opted for an easier tribute.
Here's Sondheim teaching "Not Getting Married" - one of my favorites.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How About That Sondheim?

It's short notice I know, but I only just had the idea a few minutes ago.
Tomorrow is Stephen Sondheim's birthday, and I thought I would collect your favorite Sondheim stories and memories to put in tomorrow's blog.
Have you had a challenging or fun experience in a Sondheim show as an actor or audience member? Have you ever befuddled an audition accompanist by showing up with a Sondheim song? (I did that once. Once.) What's your favorite Sondheim show or song? Have you ever met the man himself?
Comment here or email me at or RT me on twitter: badwolf1013. (You are following me on Twitter, aren't you?)
In the meantime, here's a fun little song written by Alan Chapman that is both a loving tribute and a sharp spoof of the legendary composer:

Everybody Wants to be Sondheim
Uploaded by tobiagorrio. - See more comedy videos.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Quick Bright Things

So you know that "lost" play attributed to Shakespeare that has been widely considered a hoax for the last 250 years?
Okay, maybe you don't. You have a life. I get it. No need to rub it in.
Anyway, the play was "discovered" in 1727, and it's called Double Falsehood (or Falshood); or The Distrest Lovers, and the Arden Shakespeare has finally published it in annotated form, which essentially legitimizes it.
So, one more play has more or less officially been added to the Shakespeare canon. You may begin dancing in the streets now.
For those of you who do find this as interesting as I do, here's the London Times article about Arden's decision and here's a Wikipedia article about the play itself.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Houston, We Have . . . an Idea

While I maintain that the main key in bringing new audiences to live theatre lies in marketing, I have to admit, some creative ventures like this one in New Zealand can definitely help in attracting new patrons.
This French-Canadian circus company has hit on some clever ideas as well.
Finally, look at how the Royal Shakespeare Company is helping to introduce Shakespeare to English students.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not So Much Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again

I already took a couple of shots early last year at what was then just the prospect of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies, so I'm not terribly surprised by the early reviews of the show's previews in London in the New York Times and The Times Online (London Times).
I've been working on an entry for my movie blog tentatively titled "The Trouble with Sequels," but I've not posted it yet. Essentially, I will explore in a little greater depth the basic problem inherent in creating a sequel. That is that, in order to do so, one must significantly alter some or all of the characters that are to carry over from the previous story, and you must essentially stomp all over the happy, sad, or even mildly ambiguous ending that audiences originally enjoyed and discussed on the bus ride home, at the watercooler the next day, and on internet fan pages for years to follow.
Often this can be avoided if the sequels were intended all along (for example, the Harry Potter books) or lessened somewhat if the sequel follows closely on the heels of the original (though I have difficulty in recalling a successful example of this). However, Love Never Dies fits neither of these categories and appears to be guilty of all of the offenses mentioned in the paragraph above.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead! (Though really they were more than a little spoiled before I got them.)
Meg and Madame Giry as villains? A kinder, gentler Phantom who apparently fathered Christine's son ten years before? A drunken and boorish Raoul? Coney-freaking-Island?
I'm not impressed by what I've read, by what I've seen, or by what I've heard in regards to this show, and, as a fan of Gaston Leroux's novel and to-a-lesser-degree of the original Webber show, I find the whole thing just. . . offensive.
If there is any justice, this show will go the way of Bring Back Birdie, the short-lived and poorly-received sequel to Bye, Bye Birdie, and become little more than a largely unknown musical theatre anecdote.
There is much better work out there for the likes of Sierra Boggess, in my opinion.

Wait. Was she chewing gum in that video?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This month's installment of Movies for Theatre Geeks is the 1986 filming of the musical Barnum in Manchester for BBC TV.
Generally, I find the filming stage productions a bit troublesome as an attempt to recreate the live experience. For example, live audiences can't zoom in or dolly left - at least not without aggravating their fellow patrons. In the case of Barnum, however, I will grant some leeway, since it is a show that is so rarely available to see live. The cast required to mount such a production is prohibitive for even the most financially healthy of regional theatres. It's not so much the size as it is the talent. Forget the triple threat, Barnum requires quadruple, quintuple, sextuple, etc. threats: singer/dancer/actors who are jugglers, acrobats, tightrope walkers, magicians, clowns, and more.
The chances are that, if you're going to get to see Barnum, it will be this version. (Rumored revivals with John Barrowman or Neil Patrick Harris are, as far as I'm aware, still rumors.)
And see Barnum you should.
Do you think that Cy Coleman was one of the best musical composers of Broadway? Well, I do, and Exhibit B of my argument (Exhibit A would be Sweet Charity) is his alternately moving and lively score that accompanies the story of the adult life of master showman Phineas Taylor Barnum.
This particular production of the show is a feast for both the ears and the eyes with impressive costumes, beautiful sets, and lots of elaborate acrobatics, choreography, and stunts - much of them performed by Crawford himself. (In preparation for the role, Crawford trained at the Big Apple Circus School in New York City.)
I enjoyed it. I think you will, too.
Come. Join the circus.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Everybody, Everybody

On my latest theatrical endeavour (when there's more to tell you, I will), my potential partner has heard a lot of my favorite buzzword at the moment: inclusion.
I believe that the future of theatre depends upon expanding its inclusiveness: inclusiveness of material, inclusiveness of artists, and inclusiveness of audience.
To the goal of audience inclusion, we have been doing some research into the many different ways of making live theatre accessible to audience members who have visual, auditory, or physical accessibility issues.
Here is an interesting article in the New York Times about how the Theatre Development Fund is taking measures to increase the accessibility of Broadway stages.
It's an interesting read, and I'd be interested to get some input from you about how Denver theaters have (or have not) succeeded in increasing their accessibility to you, friends, or family members who have specific needs as audience members.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Standing In the Shadows of Love

I have now started and deleted three different entries about the latest news from Shadow Theatre Company as reported in the Denver Post.
I know that some people may question whether it's my place to comment at all, to which I must simply respond, if people insist upon airing out their dirty laundry publicly, I am entitled to notice the smell.
However, for this fourth attempt, I have distilled my original thoughts down a bit, almost to the point of omitting them altogether. (The "dirty laundry" comment stays, though.)
Instead, I will share something that I feel must not be overlooked at this time:

"Our mission is to develop cultural awareness through theatre and to provide an understanding, respect and appreciation of our history and culture as expressed from the heart of the human condition."

This is the mission statement of Shadow Theatre Company from their website. The mission statement is the lighthouse that can guide a vessel over treacherous waters. It is not necessarily unchangeable (though any changes should require considerable deliberation), but it is the constant reminder to all involved as to why the journey was undertaken in the first place.

I chose the title for this blog not simply because it is one of my favorite songs, and because it contains the word "shadow," but also because STC has always very obviously been a labor of love, not only for the beloved founder, Jeffrey Nickelson, but for all who worked beside him and for all of those who have endeavoured to follow in his footsteps.

There has been a good deal of rhetoric of late linking Nickelson's memory to the future of Shadow with words like "legacy" and "dream." Again, I would direct everyone to the mission statement above. Notice that Jeffrey Nickelson's name is not there. Nor are the words "dream" or "legacy." I don't point his out to in any way disparage Mr. Nickelson. There are no other names there, either. This is not an oversight. This is by design.

The mission statement is the legacy of Shadow, and its cultivation by the organization's members is - I expect - the greatest tribute for which Mr. Nickelson might have hoped.

The job of every member of a non-profit should be in the interest of serving the mission statement first, not doing whatever they want and justifying it until it fits into the mission statement. (If that seems troublesome, read it again and give it some time to digest.)

Second, running a theatre company isn't supposed to be easy. If it were, everyone in Denver would start up their own theatre company. . . wait, let me see if I can reframe that.
No one is born knowing how to serve on a board or negotiate the difficulties of running a non-profit. There is no shame in asking for help. There are resources available. One of my favorites is Managing a Non-Profit Organization in the 21st Century by Tom Wolfe.
The final two thoughts I have on the subject are these: by-laws and job descriptions. If you have them, use them. If you don't have them, write them. Now. When no one's sure of the rules or whose job is whose, there is a lot of trodding upon the toes of others, and from that can come no good.

Good luck to Shadow and good luck to all theatre companies that are struggling with their identities and other challenges right now. Don't lose sight of the lighthouse.