From the Blogroll XXVI: Brighton Beach Memoriam



This week’s From the Blogroll will omit any mention of Butlers and Servants. They all need a week off.

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At A Poor Player, Tom Loughlin promotes a great YouTube video of none other than Harold Clurman:

At the African-American Playwrights Exchange, there is a link to Christine Dolen’s review of The Color Purple in Miami and TheatreSouth Atlanta’s production of George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum.

At Adam Szymkowicz’s blog, Adam Szymkowicz adds to his extraordinary series of Q&As with contemporary and emerging American playwrights. These include Stephen Adly Guirgis, Rob Handel and the Republican Jeremy Kareken,

At Adaumbelle’s Quest, Adam Rothenberg has been interviewing almost as many people as The Clyde Fitch Report. The guests, of late, include Anika Larsen, J. Robert Spencer and Alix Korey.

At Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment, Sarah B. gives a big thumbs-down to the new Meryl Streep film, which is kind of like finding out that Santa Claus is actually a fat guy in a red suit with a fake beard. There’s also some definite boosterism for the upcoming 29-hour reading of the musical Carrie (I still have my ticket from the May 7, 1988 performance).

At An Angry White Guy in Chicago, Don Hall makes the case for throwing big, heavy rocks at Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, otherwise known as Sen. Turncoat. Of course, Hall’s characterization of Lieberman is a lot more, er, scatological.

At Americans for the Arts’ Artsblog, the National Arts Marketing Project conference is getting plenty of love. There is commentary from Amy Kweskin, K.E. Semmel and Sioux Trujillo. Also, Graham Dunstan posts two videos (see below), Barbara Schaffer Bacon points everyone to a funding opportunity from the Rappaport Foundation if you can think up a great way to engage “non-engaged young people in the civic process and in governance” and commentary in addition to all the other NAMP commentary from Joel Rainville. Here, now, are Dunstan’s aforementioned videos:

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At Artsy Schmartsy, Jonathan West is kissing the blogosphere goodbye for one month because he’s participating in National Novel Writing Month. It’s fiction, I tell you. Fiction.

At Blogging by Numbers, super-cool (and CFR reader) Corinne writes about the National’s producton of Mother Courage, with Fiona Shaw playing you-know-who.

At Broadway Abridged, Gil Varod does artists in the industry an excellent service but analyzing what it really costs to participate in the New York International Fringe Festival. And I quote:

Our 3-person mostly-minimal show ended up costing around $2500, and that was with the savings on rehearsal space. Our ticket sales plus some donations let us pretty much break even. But I was a taskmaster on making sure that we were tightly on budget. It’s going to cost you more than you think.

At the Critic-O-Meter, the week’s exercise in the reductive mathematics of art includes Finian’s Rainbow, Ordinary Days and Brighton Beach Memoirs.

At The Critical Condition, Mark Blankenship asks folks to weigh in on “This Is It.” Enough said! Also, commentary on Adam Lambert and Rihanna’s new album covers. (Can they be separately identified?)

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At CultureBot, Andy showers some love on County of Kings, reminds everyone that the Orchard Project Residency applications are available and asks Leslie Strongwater of Dixon Place five questions.

At Curbed: Manhattan: Lower East Side, in anticipation of Halloween, Joey lists New York’s 11 most frightening buildings.

At Curbed: Manhattan: Midtown West/Times Square, the risible new Nouvel building beside the Museum of Modern Art wins approval, but lawsuits are coming, and it’s going to be very, very ugly. As ugly, at least, at Nouvel’s risible design.

At Daily Plays, Kristen Palmer continues reading a play a day. The latest reads: Joyce Carol Oates’ Miracle Play, George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum, George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan (read in one day?) and Heiner Kipphardt’s In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

At Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals, Chris Caggiano kvells over the revival of Finian’s Rainbow on Broadway. He also writes about the Broadway-to-Off-Broadway transfer of Avenue Q, a version of The Rocky Horror Show at Boston Conservatory (where Caggiano also educates the young) and the Roundabout’s production of the new musical Ordinary Days. Everything I know lately about musicals, I have partly learned from Caggiano. Mold me, shape me, mold me, shape me.

At Fragments (I Can Have Oodles of Charm When I Want To), the oodle-with-the-noodle Monica toodles over to the stage adaptation, in Chicago, of Louis Sachar’s novel Holes, offered by Chicago Playworks. She also openly laments the quick closing of the Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs. Indeed, it’s sad. Thing is, producer Emanuel Azenberg had told the press that unless the reviews were raves and the box-office boffo, the whole enterprise, including a rep with Simon’s Broadway Bound, could well be in jeopardy. True, the reviews were positive, but they weren’t orgasm inducing. And if you know the play, orgasm-inducing is a very Eugene Jerome idea.

At Full Force Theater Musings, Cara Joy David unleashing a stream of thoughts — about choreographer Sergio Trujillo perpetually overlooked come Tony time, about the gordos who stuff their faces in the theater, about whether Chad Kimball is really doing Christian Slater’s voice in the Broadway musical Memphis and whither the LORT contract at Broadway shows, what with so many nonprofits getting in on the action.

At Gratuitous Violins, Esther sends some affection down Brighton Beach Memoirs‘ way and, in the wake of the show’s shocking early closing, asks where all the Neil Simon fans have gone. (Answer: Florida. Second answer: home.)

At Interchanging Idioms, Chip Michael writes a terrific post called “Universality in Classical Music: Composing with Thought Toward the Emotional Impact.” True, he’s considering the topic from a classical music viewpoint, but, quite honestly, his post is required reading no matter what discipline you work in or follow. Here’s an excerpt:

My son and I were having an interesting discussion talking about art. We started by talking about a number of other things, but eventually wound up talking method acting and truth in art. The point being there is no such thing as a truly method actor, because at some point the actor has to be aware they are just an actor on stage; they are not actually the character they are portraying. If they really were that character they would be confused as to why they were on stage and completely break from where the performance needs to go.

….As humans, we are locked within ourselves, unable to actually experience what anyone else in the world is experiencing… When our family pet died some years ago, although this event was difficult for everyone in the family, we all felt something slightly different and responded to it differently. Yes, we all cried and may still occasionally do so when we think back on the loss, but the feelings are not the same. However, what we do is “share” the experience by connecting with each other via some element through a universal feeling of loss.

Music is much the same way. Performers are trying to connect to the audience via universal truths, touching some element of their listeners emotions through moments of sound. Unlike film or stage, music doesn’t have words to convey these sentiments. Even in music with words, such as opera, the music is trying to communicate more than just what is written in the libretto. The music is trying to express the thoughts and feelings of the characters, to give insight into more and thereby reach a deeper plane of emotional response. Regardless as to how touching the story or wonderful the lyrics, if the music fails to strike an emotional chord with the audience the music fails….

Also, Michael wonders, will composers unionize?

At Just Shows to Go You, Patrick Lee demystifies Stephen Colbert and takes some issue with the New York Musical Theatre Festival awards for excellence. He also kvells over Brighton Beach Memoirs, which closed, and Memphis, which didn’t.

At Ken Davenport’s The Producer’s Perspective, Ken Davenport weighs in on the new download-your-show endeavor, Digital Theatre. (The Clyde Fitch Report’s slightly different take is here.)

At Life Upon the Sacred Stage, Retta Blaney writes about the Episcopal Actors’ Guild of America’s annual service commemorating “the lives of performing arts professionals who have passed away during the last year.” There’s also a great post on Tennessee Williams being inducted into the Cathedral of St. John the Divine’s Poets’ Corner.

At MCC Theater’s blog, Halley Feiffer (whom I have had the pleasure of interviewin in the past) talks about the final week of the run of Alexander Dinelaris’ Still Life, saying the piece is still “conducive to magic.” Beautifully phrased!

At Me2Ism, Donald Butchko writes tautly but tartly about the Broadway musicals Memphis (open and running, so fair) and Fela! (not open but in previews, less fair). Still, interesting reading.

At Michael Kaiser’s blog, Kaiser, who is President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, questions whether the decades-long of incorporating diversity into programming. What he writes is actually pretty startling and I hope it spurs some discussion. Here’s an excerpt:

….Having spent a great deal of my career working with arts organizations of color, I am as committed as anyone to the diversity of our arts ecology. I do not believe that we can have a truly great artistic community if all segments of our society are not represented well.

But I do not think I believe anymore in forcing Eurocentric arts organizations to do diverse works or to put one minority on a board.

When large, white organizations produce minority works they typically select the “low hanging fruit,” the most popular works by diverse artists featuring the most famous minority performers and directors. This almost invariably hurts the minority arts organizations in the neighborhood, most of which are small and underfunded, and cannot afford to match the marketing clout or the casting glamor of their larger white counterparts. How else to explain the reduced strength of American black theater companies over the past twenty years?….

At Moxie the Maven, Moxie weighs in on the casting of Abigail Breslin for the upcoming Broadway revival of The Miracle Worker, pronouncing the whole star-casting model of commerical theater a “debacle.” Thing is, hasn’t it been a debacle since practically the dawn of time?

At Ms. Snorty-Pants, when will Ellen Snortland write a new post?

At Nickell’s Bag, Joe Nickell’s writes about the Montana Actors’ Theatre production of The Rocky Horror Show. But really, now, wouldn’t it be something closer to The Rocky Mountain Horror Show?

At Off-Stage Right, Jodi Schoenbrun Carter (with whom I miss socializing) points everyone toward hot topics in the blogosphere and theatrosphere that we should all be reading and bickering about.

At On Chicago Theatre, Zev Valancy offers congratulations on the Windy City-to-Gotham transfer of Ellen Fairey’s Graceland, the Hypocrites’ production of Sean Graney’s adaptation of Frankenstein and an analysis of the career of the newest It-boy of the American theater, director David Cromer.

At On Theatre and Politics, Matt Freeman pronounced Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) a “total dick.” Frankly, that seems like a far too endowed moniker for the man. Meantime, how about box-office numbers for Off-Off-Broadway? Fine idea but it needs some refinement. For example, 99% of OOB is nonprofit-driven, meaning that most of the revenue is not earned income (i.e., box office) but contributed income (i.e. donation, grants, etc.). I agree with Freeman that, as he puts it, box-office reporting could help the community

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discuss what is [a] fair price. They can also get a better sense of which companies are actually getting butts in the seats. It also can be an indicator of price as a part of the decision making process for theatergoers. Or, better yet, an indicator of how people are making decisions at all. If most of the highest grossing Off-Off Broadway shows are in one venue, for example, that becomes something to think about. Does a venue have fans? Does a particular playwright sell tickets? A particular actor?

It might also be (and is likely to be) sobering. I’d count that as a good. Many companies complain that their costs outpace their actual take at the door. I’d like to see that. I’d love to wake people up to the actual cost of doing business in the more intimate venues in town, and see if that sparks some discussion in the wider community.

I think really the only way to make it work feasibly is to ask venues to report their numbers, and have those venues get agreements from individual shows that are being run to report those numbers as well.

Matt: The Clyde Fitch Report would be willing, for free, to report these numbers on a weekly basis. Help me make this happen and I will do the grunt work to publish the numbers. But I do feel there has to be a way of accounting for not just box office, but overall producing costs and revenue at the OOB level. Let’s talk.

At Painting Air, Kat, though meaning no harm, gets it very, very, very wrong regarding the American stage’s legend, Angela Lansbury. First, the spelling: Lansbury — no d. Second, while anyone can have an opinion regarding her work in the original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd (yes, even those unborn when she created the role) it’s slightly facile to discount her achievement. The Cockney accent, the bobbling strut, the pop-eyed delivery of the breathless “The Worse Pies in London,” the undertone of Grand Guignol and the gothic, especially in Act 2 were all remarkable accomplishments and cannot be fully appreciated by the video/CD of the production. Third, while people can say what they like about Terrence McNally’s Deuce, the subpar match-over tennis play with which Lansbury chose to make her Broadway return after a quarter-century-plus interregnum, to argue that Lansbury’s performance in Blithe Spirit last season was “tired and out of it,” especially when not having seen the performance, is suspect and a little too glib for comfort. Fourth, let’s just be clear. While the story in the New York Times about the prompting in the theater did reveal that Lansbury wore an earpiece for Blithe Spirit, it did not state that she needed it, nor did it state that she “consistently,” to use Kat’s word, couldn’t remember her lines. Let’s not indulge in hyperbole, all right? Just the facts. Kat also reviews the third preview performance of Ragtime, quite favorably. But again, it’s the third preview.

At Pataphysical Science, Linda reviews Nathan Louis Jackson’s Broke-ology, giving the post a nifty title: “All in the Family.”

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At Praxis Theatre, there’s some definite Canadian-actor gossip. Love blooms!

At Ryan J. Davis Blogs, Ryan J. Davis encapsulates creativity in 100 words, which is hundreds of words less than a lot of other bloggers use. In addition, vis a vis a piece in the Atlantic, he wonders if Gore Vidal has lost his mind (a tad late for the past tense, no?).

At Sacha Dichter’s blog, Sacha Dichter wonders if fundraising is a dirty word. (Hint: Maybe not a dirty word, but in this economy, a dirty job, to be sure.)

At Steve on Broadway, Steve Loucks does not bale at the moon with the provisional closing notice puts up for the Broadway revival of Brighton Beach Memoirs, but he does howl, and with good reason. There’s also coverage of the Finian’s Rainbow revival (if I were dyslexic, I’d ask Steve how are things in Morra Glocca) and A Steady Rain.

At Superfluities Redux, George Hunka covers what may be Richard Foreman’s last adventure on the American stage. (Insert obtuse but respectfully obfuscating snark here.)

At Tarhearted, Joshua Conkel gave his readers a, er, hard choice: see his play Bonerville or feel totally shafted.

At That Sounds Cool, theater criticism’s energizer rabbit, Aaron Riccio, reviews Desi Moreno-Penson Ghost Light and Cat Parker’s revival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Give the rabbit some love.

At The Fortress of Jason Grote, Jason Grote may pull the plug on his blog. NO!!!!

At The Hub Review, Thomas Garvey reports on the Merrimack Rep’s production of Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer (see: fairer productions are hard to find.

At The Playgoer, Garrett Eisler endorses Rev. Billy Talen for mayor. I love Rev. Billy, but good luck with that. (There’s more to this story, Garrett, that I’d be glad to share if you ever wanted to break bread.) And, like Steve on Broadway, he howls at the closing of Brighton Beach Memoirs. He further suggests we should stop treating foreign artists like terrorists (and, I hope, foreign terrorists like artists), and weighs in on Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser’s change of heart on the importance of diversity in nonprofit programming.

At Theatre Talk’s New Theatre Corps, there are reviews of The Traveling Players at La MaMa, 23 Coins and My Industrial Wasteland. Speaking of wasteland, Aaron Riccio: can the CFR be added to the site’s blogroll?

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At Theatre Aficionado at Large, Kevin Daly laments — what else? — the closing of Brighton Beach Memoirs since, in addition, the revival of Broadway Bound won’t be coming in. Still, he consoles himself with a YouTube video of Linda Lavin in the original production of the latter. As for Brighton, he offers an elegy.

At Theatre Ideas, debate and criticism is now construed as ad hominem attacks. Therefore, Scott Walters will from this point on censor his blog. That will limit the theater ideas, of course, but will keep those ideas that are discussed as free of ideological taint as possible. Walters is also interviewed by my pals at the Inexplicable Dumbshow.

At Theatre, Culture, Politics and Stuff I Like, David Johnston summarizes his feeling about Finian’s Rainbow quite simply: “I double dog dare you not to pee yourself when Chuck Cooper realizes he’s black.” (He’s what?)

At Theatre Below Sea Level, Bradley Troll reports that Southern Rep will be doing I Am My Own Wife. Unless things go very wrong, in which case the play will be called I Am My Own Wifebeater.