Monday, July 13, 2009

Mondays are Dark, July 13

Here's your Monday reading list. Enjoy!

Where's the Orchestra?
Over in the UK, a man watching the live version of Wizard of Oz realized that the "live on stage" show was using recorded music. Feeling that a live performance should be entirely live, Adrian Bradbury sued under Britain's Trade Descriptions Act. And won.
"I am over the moon that a court of law has recognised the importance of live interaction in a musical performance. A pre-recorded track cannot react musically to live singing or dancing, so has no place in a musical theatre. Karaoke must stay where it belongs – away from the professional stage."
- Adrian Bradbury
Read about it in the Times Online and The Guardian.

Speaking of Costs

The LessThan100k Project discusses "Baumol's Cost Disease," and its relationship to funding for the performing arts.
What Baumol and Bowen said that had the most traction was that the income gap in the performing arts was inevitable because unlike industry, the performing arts did not benefit from increases in productivity — it took the same number of actors to perform Hamlet in 1965 as it did in 1601, and it took the same number of musicians to play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony now as it did in the 1800s. So while productivity remained flat, wages continued to rise as did other costs, and the result was that either ticket prices would have to rise beyond levels that patrons would be willing to pay, or there will be an income gap. Based on this “cost disease” concept, Baumol and Bowen made a strong case for foundation and governmental support for the arts by pointing out the “inevitability” of this income gap. The effect of this can be most dramatically illustrated by the case of one of the eraly regional theatres, the Arena Stage in Washington DC as led by Zelda and Thomas Fichlander.
It's a must-read for theatre administrators.

Why I don't Review Plays
The Playgoer pointed out this article by Karen McKevitt at the Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox, in which she discusses the purpose of trade publications such as American Theatre magazine, and her own Theatre Bay Area Magazine.
While theatre does needs advocates, when does advocacy stray into cheerleading and start doing more harm than good? To give a simplistic example: Say a theatre critic always reviews every show she sees favorably. While the theatre community may be thrilled, in the longer term readers may start distrusting the critic because they spent money on shows they thought were awful. So they stop going to the theatre. So, what was the point in cheerleading?
As I've discussed with folks in the past, while I can be harshly critical, I also tend to want to enjoy plays I'm watching. I'll find something worth seeing in all but the worst of shows. I'll stoop to only paying attention to the performances of friends, or admiring specific production elements. Hell, I've caught myself admiring the set dressing on a lousy set design! At the same time, I can become distracted by the flaws in an excellent production. I question a directors' choices, or remember how often a particular actor has used that particular business. I count the seams in the scenery, or the anachronisms in the props or set dressing. I'm a living example of the joke "how many actors does it take to change a lightbulb? Fifteen - one change it, and fourteen to say 'I could have done a much better job if they'd hired me.'"

Former actors make lousy theatre critics.

Thus, the purpose of the Theatre Scene isn't to say what's good or bad, it's to provide more information on the theatre in our community. Hopefully, we provide enough information for the prospective patron to draw their own conclusions and, ideally, pique their interest in exploring the offerings.

City Theatre Short-ens

The Drama Queen reports that City Theatre has let go of their Artistic Director, Stuart Meltzer. He's another victim of the economy:
Looking at the deficit, disappointing ticket sales and fundraising challenges, and anticipating a loss of $15,000 to $20,000 in grant money for next season, Norman, Fein and the board weighed numerous options and made the choice to go back to a seasonal festival coordinator rather than a year-round artistic director.
He's in good company: former City Theatre artistic directors include J. Barry Lewis and Gail Garrisan.

Booze chases the Boos Away
The Drama Queen weighs in on open bars at opening night...
I don't begrudge anyone a good time. But alcohol does tend to make inhibitions (not to mention sober reflection) melt away.
...if you've ever wondered why reviews of an opening night show aren't always as wildly enthusiastic as the partisan, partying crowd reaction would lead you to expect, now you know.
It's true that the surest way to ensure a lively audience response is to liquor 'em up. A lubricated audience lets loose with applause, and laughter, and responses in general. On the other hand, I remember when Burt Reynolds fired wait staff for allowing patrons to get obnoxiously drunk to the point they were heckling the show.

The Miami Herald visits the Lovewell Institute in West Broward.
Seeing a show like Daybreak, with its high level of professionalism, complexity, and controversial subject matter, it's hard to believe that it was written, composed and choreographed by teens.

Learning that it was all done in three weeks makes it seem nearly impossible.
Feel free to post links to South Florida Theatre stories you found this last week.

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