From the Blogroll XXIV: “Chrysanthemum Tea” Edition

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At 99 Seats, the author, sitting in for Isaac Butler over at, ahem, Parabasis, explains why he isn’t really him, he’s really another him. Or her. Or them.

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At the African-American Playwrights Exchange, Verticus Erectus provides the 411 on the upcoming Audelco awards, set for Nov. 16 in Harlem. There’s also information on a recent call for women playwrights, from the Women’s Project here in New York.

At Adam Szymkowicz’s blog, Adam Szymkowicz continues his illuminating (seriously!) series of Q&As with contemporary and emerging American playwrights. These include Christopher Shinn, Ann Marie Healy, Alejandro Morales, Darren Canady, Gina Gionfriddo and Jay Bernzweig. I’d like to add that this particular batch of interviews are among the very best Szymkowicz has done. The question is when he’ll start shopping these interviews around as an anthology for publication.

At An Angry White Guy in Chicago the not always so black-of-heart Don Hall turns his attention to Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, whom he characterizes as “batshit crazy.” To illustrate, he includes this great video (sorry for cribbing):

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Hall also schools his Republican readership (both of them?) on the allure of Michael Moore.

At Artsy Schmartsy, Jonathan West examines the cut in arts funding in Milwaukee and basically says to his city government: “Stick the rest of your funding where the Wisconsin sun doesn’t shine!” Rock on, Jon.

At Blue Avocado, Rick Cohen’s examines the increasing interest in low profit limited liability corporations. Touted more and more in arts administration circles as a feasible alternative to the traditional nonprofit business model or, obviously, commercial ventures, things aren’t quite as simple as some people think. It’s a great post.

At Broadway Abridged, Gil Varod asks a terrific question. Pivoting off a blurb in the New York Post about the plot of The Phantom of the Opera sequel that Andrew Lloyd Webber will bring to New York in late 2010–

The setting is New York City, where the Phantom runs the freak show at Coney Island. Christine, a renowned opera singer, is down on her luck, while her husband, Raul, is a drunk. Christine has a child, but whose child is it — Raul’s or the Phantom’s?

Varod asks:

Does that mean the Phantom of the Opera actually raped Christine while she was asleep in Act One?

No, Gil. It means the audience was raped when Sarah Brightman first sang “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.” Trust me. I saw her performance on Jan. 9, 1988. I felt violated.

At Createquity, Ian David Moss discusses his participation in a series of online panels about the future of the NEA. A tiny concern: Who on this panel is actually in a position to use any of the ideas or arguments or conclusions coming out of this panel to affect change? Is there a danger — mind you, I’m not accusing — of this being a spin-the-wheels experiment? Frankly, too, how much healthier would it be to have people who aren’t necessarily arts administrators in on the conversation? (Hint.)

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At The Critical Condition, Mark Blankenship is admirably uncritical of President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He writes:

…by giving him this prize at the beginning of his tenure, isn’t the committee also saying that they want the world to water the seeds he has planted? When something new and beautiful shoots up through the ground, you have to tend to it, or it will die, The Nobel Prize could convince some people (a lot of people?) to get down in the dirt and take care of what is struggling into life.

…I’m feeling emotional that our sitting president has been declared a beacon for peace. The fact that anyone would say that about the American president means America is once again becoming the kind of place I’m proud to call home. Let this prize become the latest touchstone in a massive shift in our nation. Let us all become people who can be worthy of what the prize represents.

while I do still hope the things I mentioned above actually come to pass, I’m also developing a bit more skepticism. A colleague suggests that the prize could also be seen as putting political pressure on the United States to refrain from launching a war against Iran. Maybe. I can see it.

Very good digestion of facts and feelings — I went through the very same ones myself. Personally, much of a supporter of the president as I am, I do think the Nobel folks jumped the gun. Indeed, there’s no way, politically or in any other sense, that the bestowing of the Nobel Peace Prize will or should stop Obama from waging war if he feels its in the best interests of the U.S. The thing, too, is that the Nobel has always been political. Look at 2005, when the honor went to the International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamad ElBaradei or 1991, when it went to Aung San Suu Kyi, or 1983, when it went to Lech Walesa, or 1975, when it went to Andrei Sakharov. I do think it has become more political in the more recent years, but then, the world has enjoyed less peace in recent years, too.

At Curbed: Midtown West/Times Square, there’s an update on the Jean Nouvel disaster tower that would have risen as high as the Empire State Building on a skinny little site adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art if some agency folks of stature hadn’t lopped off a few hundred feet from it. And now Nouvel might walk away? My verdict? Bye.

At Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals, Chris Caggiano relates the story of how he met Andrew Lloyd Webber in a bar in central London, took him into the back, and waterboarded him for writing Love Never Dies, the Broadway-bound sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. Well, all right, I exaggerate somewhat. But given what he writes about Lloyd Webber, his post is the theatrosphere’s equivalent of this scene:

At Flux Theatre Ensemble, Gus Schulenberg praises the Cott Bump. Sounds very, very hot.

At Fragments (I Can Have Oodles of Charm When I Want to), Monica rants about a not-so-charming issue: bad usher behavior.

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At The Cheap Pop, Jon Chattman could very well — and most deservedly — win an important awards from the American Moustache Institute. In fact, his upper lip is trembling at the thought.

At Ken Davenport’s The Producer’s Perspective, Ken Davenport spotlights a report on audience attitudes toward absenteeism on Broadway. Some findings are intuitive, frankly, but it’s interesting to see them quantified (I’ve removed the bold and underlining Davenport uses to preserve my eyesight):

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  • A very high 78% of respondents had seen at least one performance of a show that featured an understudy substituting for a regularly scheduled performer usually in a leading role. Most feel they “heard” the most common reason for an absent performer was an illness or injury that sidelined the usual cast member. Almost all (91%) believe that a missing performer is out for legitimate reasons.
  • The newest shows tied with the shows that have been running for over 5 years as the shows with the most missing performers (non-star driven).
  • The majority of theatergoers (51%) feel the problem has gotten worse over the last 5 years. Most (66%) feel that “younger” or the “less experienced” Broadway performers are more apt to “call in sick” than those with a “career” in the theater.
  • When they saw the replacement notice in the Playbill, most (76%) were worried about how it would effect their overall enjoyment of “an expensive evening out” and openly shared with their companion(s) a level of concern about the performance. Among those who brought guests, about a fifth of those surveyed felt like they had to apologize or promise their companion another theater experience if this was “not up to snuff”.
  • About a quarter was excited to see what another performer could do when given a chance and was “pleased and happy” with the performance, or “it felt like they were always a part of the production”, and ultimately came away with good things to say about the show and never gave it another thought. Also on a positive note, some felt like they were given an opportunity to see “the future of Broadway performers” when a particularly talented performer “knocked it out of the ballpark”.
  • Having said that, the majority (73%) came away frustrated by their experience. They generally felt like they were given a performer who was “under rehearsed” or “struggled to keep up”, or “lacked chemistry” with other performers, or “would never usually be cast in this role”. Consequently, it had an effect on the overall show. Most felt “cheated” or felt in the case of long runs that “the Producers don’t care about what is going on with their shows”.
  • Generally, this lead to negative word of mouth on the show. Most quotes stated that they would tell their “inner circle” that “it was not worth full price” or “you should see another show instead” or even in some cases lament how “Broadway producers just care about getting my money and forget about how all this affects my overall enjoyment of a show”.
  • An alarming trend we noticed is consumers are starting to be more cautious and aware of shows that have a reputation for absenteeism among leading performers. The fallout is a more conscientious consumer who is becoming more careful with how much money is being “set aside” for attending a Broadway show.

Here is Davenport’s summation:

…Empirical evidence that absenteeism is damaging the future of Broadway.

….I’m not saying the problem is with undisciplined actors, or too-difficult choreography, or anything, actually. This isn’t about pointing fingers.

This is about trying to find a solution. Actors Equity and the Producers (especially since we’re the ones being blamed) should come together and find out exactly what the issues are. Is it getting worse? Is part of the problem how we inform our audiences about absences? Do we not have enough understudy rehearsals?

First, isn’t it overexaggerated to characterize absenteeism as “damaging the future of Broadway”? That’s like calling for an opera when all you need is a vignette. And does anyone really believe that even if a theatergoer had a succession of dispiriting experiences with understudies that they wouldn’t buy a ticket to see Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig if they could? That theatergoers, even after a succession of dispiriting experiences, would eschew Broadway forever? Getting hysterical isn’t the answer, either. It’s, um, actually doing what Davenport doesn’t want to do — blame someone. On a personal note, I blame the actor calling in sick. Especially if the actor in question is the star. Actors’ Equity has a very real responsibility for inculcating in its membership the value of the performing ethic. Producers, who seem to have a set of balls in most other areas of the industry, should reach down and squeeze their own and insist that actors do the show except in cases of acts of God. Period. That’s how you solve this. End of story.

At Life Upon the Sacred Stage, Retta Blaney writes rapturous about Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking. As well she should — the show is much better than you’d have thought, and the way Fisher fills the two hours is just short of a miracle.

At Me2Ism, Donald offers his five theatrical pet peeves. They make for pretty interesting reading. One pet peeve is the claim, made by some, that Rent would have been better if it had not been frozen following the death of Jonathan Larson. Well, being annoyed about that is itself gosh-darn annoying: Rent would never have been the monster hit it was if Larson hadn’t kicked it. Another pet peeve is that “The Miller’s Son” serves no purpose in Act 2 of A Little Night Music. Here, Donald is quite right — attacking the song is even more stupid than attacking Iraq in 2003. The song, in my view, is the paean to irony: Petra is the only character in the show socially permitted — indeed, expected — to put into words the lust and the libido that all the characters have experienced. In a universe of social privilege and wealth, which Petra lacks, she is the one individual liberated enough to make plain her attitudes about love and sex and life. In so doing, she is the richest character on that stage, finally — an irony if there ever was one.

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At Pataphysical Science, Linda jumps the gun a bit with a fair amount of review of Oleanna — the production hadn’t opened as yet. Fortunately it wasn’t a long review — and her coverage of the talkback is excellent.

At Steve On Broadway, Steve presents an array of factoids and thoughts about Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow. He omits the tale of Yip Harburg changing “How Are Things in Mocca Glorra?” to “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” at the very last minute, but one cannot be expected to cover all bases, right? His review of The Royal Family, by the way, is right on the mark.

At The Playgoer, the Playgoer returns to a topic that was hot last spring: What will become of Theatre 80, formerly the home of the Pearl Theatre Company, now sitting empty again following the short but lively Off-Broadway transfer of The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side. Despite the vehement protestations of the family that owns the venue, who wants to bet that the family won’t, in the end, sell the space? (A representative of the Otway family posted a comment on the CF Report, too, claiming that the theater would remain a theater. I think the point here is the keep the pressure on. Don’t think real estate developers and restauranteurs aren’t circling like dumb buzzards over the space, because I can tell you that they are.)

At Theatre Aficionado at Large, Kevin Daly posts a long and love-filled review of the Broadway revival of The Royal Family — a piece that is also on the mark. It truly is a glorious revival. He also writes about the loss of the Mark Hellinger Theatre, one of Broadway’s treasures, perhaps now hidden forever. I saw the musical Grind there in 1985 — a few years before the Nederlander’s foolishly made the deal that ultimately led to the venue’s ownership by the Times Square Church. So sorry I wasn’t included in the blogosphere’s trip inside some time ago. I would have loved to join in.