Theater Matters 2011. Vaclav Havel RIP. Room for Darren Criss AND Carol Channing. Hope for 2012

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In theater, we don’t go out with the old – here, 12-time Broadway veteran Carol Channing, soon to turn 91 – to ring in the new – here, Darren Criss, 24, about to make his Broadway debut. We try to keep them both.
So as year ends, it is time to review the top 10 New York theater of 2011 (from AP, Time, the New York Times, me) — and some prominent complaints about the lists (see Friday below) — but also to look ahead to 2012: What’s on Broadway – current shows, long-running hits, and what is scheduled for Spring 2012.
We mourn the loss on Sunday of Vaclav Havel, the hero of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and the author of 18 stage plays. We consider other theater pieces of heft and meaning, including a review of Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” marking John Hurt’s New York stage debut.
We also review “Lysistrata Jones,” the last Broadway show to open in 2011, about cheerleaders not giving it up to college hoop players.
And we ask some big questions: Do non-profit theaters make too much…profit? What is the purpose of theater. As Rocco Landesman asked, almost a decade before he became chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, “should it challenge the received wisdom of the audience or simply entertain, confirming values we already have and enhancing our sense of well-being?” The debate generated some heated Tweets during the week in New York theater. (See Saturday)

Twitter Badge (.gif)Welcome to the 88th edition of The Week in New York Theater Tweets.

Monday, December 12, 2011
When St. Ann’s Warehouse
leaves its DUMBO home of 11 years in May, it will move just five blocks away to 29 Jay St., its new home; the lease has been signed

My reviews of “Krapp’s Last Tape” and “Misterman”:
KrappsLastTapeMistermanWhatever else they have in common – and it’s much – the current productions in Brooklyn of “Krapp’s Last Tape” with John Hurt and “Misterman” with Cillian Murphy share one above all: Live theater matters. Yet both, ironically, rely heavily on tape recorders – old-fashioned, reel-to-reel tape recorders.
Both Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Enda Walsh’s “Misterman” at St. Ann’s Warehouse are one-man shows with more than one character, supplemented by the voices on the tape, and thus difficult to call monologues. Both plays were written by Irish-born playwrights of extraordinary gifts, with literate, oblique, not totally accessible scripts that work better on stage than on page. Both of the current New York productions, starring actors better-known for their movie roles, feature stage performances of a lifetime.
Full review

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Though planned to run through February 5th, Private Lives with Kim Cattrall will close December 31, five weeks early, due to poor ticket sales.

Wonder what happened to Broadway-bound “Detroit” by Lisa D’Amour? Now headed Off-Broadway, set for Playwrights Horizons 2012/13 season.
When it opens in New York, “Detroit” will be the third show in town named after a U.S. city. (“Chicago,” “Memphis”)

What’s next for Book of Mormon director Casey Nicholaw? Maybe one of two musicals: 1. A musical based on the children’s story “Tuck Everlasting” or 2. A musical based on the “Austin Powers” films

Indie Theater People of the Year 2011 – e.g. Gemini Collision Works, Lesser America, The Nerve Tank, Ashlin Halfnight. (A parallel universe)
IndieTheaterPeopleoftheYear2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Manhattan Theater Company’s “Venus in Fur” with Hugh Dancy and Nina Arianda will still end its run Sunday at the Samuel J Friedman Theater. But it then moves to the Lyceum for an extended run from February 7 to June 17, 2012

Promo video for MagicBird, a play by @LombardiPlay team about Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird, Broadway-bound Spring 2012

La Mama Cantata, Elizabeth Swados tribute to Ellen Stewart, back at LaMamaETC December 29 and 30.

January “Anything Goes” cast changes: Robert Petkoff (Spamalot) as stuffshirt fiance, Julie Halston as haughty mother of ingenue.

Lysistrata Jones.Walter Kerr Theatre.

My review of Lysistrata Jones

The Broadway version of “Lysistrata Jones” begins with a loud boom, a full moon, a stage full of smoke, and an intoning diva in Grecian attire. Hooded monks move down the aisles of the Walter Kerr, then suddenly disrobe, revealing a bunch of college kids, dressed in T-shirts, jeans, sweat shirts emblazoned with their school’s logo, who get down — rocking, rapping and rolling. The beginning is big and funny and exciting, and leads you to think: They’ve pulled it off, this unlikely transition to Broadway from a small basement basketball court at Judson Memorial Church.
The euphoria is short-lived

Full review

Thursday, December 15, 2011
As Bobby Lopez points out, Avenue Q (which he co-worte) began at the same time as the Iraqi War began. One officially ends today. The better one continues to run.

“Margin of Error” music video from The Civilians play, “The Great Immensity,” about climate change

Margin of Error from Polly on Vimeo.

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Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara pose for photograph and poster to promote “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” a new musical with songs by the Gershwin brothers, which opens April 24th

“Nothing can replace a live audience.That’s been the case for 3,000 years”~ film and stage actor Christopher Plummer, just turned 82. For his first stage role more than six decades ago, a high school dramatization of “Pride and Prejudice,” he did no research to play Mr. Darcy. “I was already arrogant”

My review of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus.Public Theater/Anspacher Theater.William Shakespeare is said to have coined several English words and phrases in his first tragedy, “Titus Andronicus,” including “Devil incarnate” and “unappeased” – though not, surprisingly, “bloody awful.” That is how it has been judged (emphasis on the bloody) by critics from the 17th century (“rubbish”) to the 20th…the main reason to see the Public Theater’s production of “Titus Andronicus,” in a brief run that ends December 18, is curiosity: How can they pull this off? Is “Titus Andronicus” really the worst of Shakespeare’s plays?
Full review

Chris L (@chrism799): Titus Andronicus gets a bad rap, but I’d say Measure for Measure is the worst one I’ve seen. It makes no sense.
Brian DeVito (@bdevit): Titus is actually my favorite.
Jonathan Mandell: If Titus is your favorite Shakespeare, what do you like the least?
Brian DeVito: Henry IV, part 1.
Suzanne Du Charme (@SuzanneDuCharme): It’s a brutal play. A true revenge tragedy with some of the most disturbing imagery ever.
Charlene V. Smith (@charlenevsmith): The worst play he wrote is Henry VIII

Friday, December 16, 2011
To nobody’s surprise, Bonnie & Clyde, which opened December 1 to largely negative reviews, is officially closing December 30.
Linda Buchwald (@PataphysicalSci The saddest part of its closing is that the cast was made to believe there was a chance they’d stay open.
Sahar Helmy @SFH26): Since Bonnie & Clyde is closing, will Jeremy Jordan be in Newsies? I hope so!!

Returning to Broadway after half a century: William Shatner in one-man “Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It” at Music Box in February.

iTunes, in its Rewind2011, @iTunes #Rewind2011 names @BookofMormonBWY “Broadway Soundtrack” of the year. Nice, but it’s a CAST RECORDING

Tweet Seats are trending — not on Twitter (yet), but in theaters! The Public Theater trying it in two shows coming up. The first is for the Gob Squad’s January 19 showing of Kitchen and requires that you apply. The second is for Goodbar concert at the Under the Radar Festival, where there are “no restrictions on tweeting & photos”
Nella Vera (@Spinstripes): Really have no idea what to expect from upcoming Tweet Seats experiment–hope to learn something. May or may not be satisfying for Tweeters.

To promote Smash, the TV series that is debuting in February, NBC is trying to interest Broadway folk; it screened pilot for Joel Grey, Alan Rickman and some 100 other luminaries at the Museum of Modern Art.


Top Ten Complaints

Lynn Nottage @Lynnbrooklyn): Why am I not surprised that women and people of color are absent from most New York theater critics top 10 lists?
Tina Fallon (@tina24hour) Perhaps because they’re underrepresented among the critics themselves
Billy Flood (@Bflood28): great WHITE way…same old same old.
Adam Feldman @FeldmanAdam) What plays by people of color do you consider slighted? Racism’s not the issue, just quality in a strong year.
Jonathan Mandell: What shows should have been included in top 10 lists that were not?
Billy Flood: It’s about access, funding, opportunity.It’s systemic to Broadway. The disease goes far beyond lists.

Sometimes the best performances are not in the best shows. Examples of good performances in iffy shows?
Terry Teachout (@TerryTeachout): I saw a number of superb performances in shows I either didn’t like or about which I had significant reservations. Among them: Mark Rylance in “Jerusalem” and Patrick Page in “Spider-Man.”

Saturday, December 17, 2011
Carol Channing, soon to turn 91, says she can no longer find the “Ninas” in the Al Hirschfeld caricatures of her from “Hello Dolly” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” But she is busy putting together a new stage show, “A Carol Channing Christmas,” to debut near her home in California. She is also the subject of a new film documentary, “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life,” that will be in theaters next month. “John Fitzgerald Kennedy once told me I was his favorite performer. He was mine.”
Non-Profit Theater’s Profits
New York’s non-profit Broadway theaters — Lincoln Center Theater, the Roundabout Theater Company, and the Manhattan Theater Club — are aggressively pursuing, well, profits, says the New York Times.
Tina Fallon: As Gerry Schoenfeld used to say, “there’s no profit like not-for-profit!”
Isaac Butler (@parabasis) The distance between the image these theaters project and their programming is infuriating.
In Parabasis blog post: The move towards increasingly commercial behavior has been a cause of concern and controversy for years…. Lacking from the article: Any quotes from anyone who really thinks this might be a bad thing.
Jonathan Mandell: Is anybody else disturbed by the non-profits acting in effect like commercial producers?
Jordan Paige (@jordanc): Not at all, if it makes them work harder to produce a quality and appealing product, there’s no harm in seeking profit.
Linda Essig (@LindaInPhoenix): Nonprofits can (in fact must) make money.These organizations don’t have owners/shareholders. The Public had “A Chorus LIne,” which enabled them to produce new work for years afterward.
The Public Theater (@PublicTheaterNY): Joe Papp always credited A Chorus Line with funding many of theater’s other plays. But it, too, began as downtown show.
Michael Seel (@MichaelSeel): I’ve always thought Los Angeles has a couple of those, too. There is no govt review process to keep them in check.
Howard Sherman (@HESherman): All theater is about finding an audience. Why can’t a non-profit play a production to sustained audiences when possible? Roundabout leased the Sondheim specifically as home for long running shows, leaving American Airlines Theater for “Man and Boy,” “The Road to Mecca,” etc. The argument is convenient when people want to bash big organizations. Was Signature commercial for sustained run of “Angels in America”?
Jonathan Mandell: “Angels in America” at the Signature is a great example of how to do it right: Subsidized (cheap) tickets!
Signature ran for eight months. For the first four months, they charged $20 for all tickets. For the last four, extended months, they charged from $30 to $85.
If non-profits keep tickets prices low, as in the Signature Theater, who can complain? But $100+ tickets? How can you tell it’s non-profit?
Howard Sherman: People bemoan state of Broadway, but think about recent seasons without shows from the Roundabout, Lincoln Center, and Manhattan Theater Club?
Jonathan Mandell: Longstanding complaint from commercial producers: Non-profits have an unfair advantage. Other gripe: New works get short-shrifted
Howard Sherman: There is greater personal risk for commercial producers. But there is also great potential for personal reward.
Tony Adams (@halcyontony): If not-for-profits can’t show how they are different than commercial operations, they don’t deserve a tax-exemption. They need money to fulfill their mission,for sure. But they get a massive tax-subsidy for serving the public good
Irondale Center Theater (@IrondaleCenter): Many “mission driven” non-profits get seduced into searching for the next big hit. It takes them off mission. The intent of the not-for-profit laws is to create work outside the commercial marketplace — work that is not likely to find its support through investment or ticket sales.
Jonathan Mandell: The motto of the Lincoln Center Theater is: “The arts not for the privileged few, but for the many”
War Horse tickets tonight: orchestra aisle, $308
Andre Bishop, artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater, annual compensation: around $482,000.
Bernard Gersten, executive producer of Lincoln Center Theater, annual compensation: $495,893.
Please don’t tell me no individual makes money in a non-profit theater.
True, the talented Mr. Bishop, unlike commercial producers, makes that half-million whether Lincoln Center Theater shows are hits or flops.
Other non-profit salaries: Todd Haimes of Roundabout: $402,403
Carolyn Meadow of Manhattan Theater Club: $336,270
Herb Grove of Manhattan Theater Club: $315,899
Linda Essig: Other large NY nonprofit executive compensation: Metropolitan Museum: $800,000; NYC Ballet : $662,000. Whitney: $687,000. Speaks to market.
Jonathan Mandell: With due respect, “speaks to market” is an Orwellian construction when 24 million Americans are un/underemployed
Linda Essig: I agree. I’m not saying it’s “right” in an abstract (or concrete) sense, just that it “is.” PS Public Theater: $262,000
Bailey (@flybailey): Those people work hard and deserve those salaries.
Nella Vera: Bernie transformed failing org into leading institution.Have to pay leaders to stay in the arts
Jonathan Mandell: Are you saying non-profit artistic directors and executive producers would start working in banks if their non-profits paid them less?
Nella Vera: Don’t know that but know lots of people who would be great leaders one day but they now work in other fields.
Jonathan Mandell: Mention two arts administrators who left because of the pay.
Nella Vera: Charles Dillingham left CTG (where he was Managing Director) to do consulting work. Artistic directors leave for Broadway.
Don’t know about money in last example. The point is there is movement for a variety of reasons. I have to think that money factors in sometimes.
Jonathan Mandell: Actors making $9,000, I can see leaving because of pay. Arts administrators, making $200,000, hard to picture.
Nella Vera: We lose a lot of our great actors to TV and film, too. Happy for them, sad for theater.
Jonathan Mandell: What public wants: diverse,quality shows, low theater prices. Theatermakers want: fair opportunity. Do Broadway non-profits deliver?

Sunday, December 18, 2011
Sydney Theater’s Uncle Vanya with Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving will be presented at New York City Center July19 to 28, 2012, as part of the Lincoln Center Festival.
The Public Theater: The Darren Criss show at Joe’s Pub is now sold out. Autographed posters still available for a bit if you bring a toy to donate!
Darren Criss is so hot that today’s 2 p.m. show sold out shortly after the tweeted about it. How to Succeed is going to be a mob scene
David Gordon (@MrDavidGordon): The number of teen girls at the Public Theater lobby waiting for Darren Criss is amazing.
Nella Vera: Maybe they are there for Jay Sanders (in Titus Andronicus)

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Václav Havel (October 5, 1936 – December 18, 2011)
More New Yorkers saw Vaclav Havel’s plays at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater, which started producing them in 1968, than Vaclav Havel himself saw: His plays were banned in Czechoslovakia and Havel himself was imprisoned.
His love of rock and roll brought Vaclav Havel to revolutionary politics: He was outraged at the arrest of his favorite Czechoslovak band
Tweets88VaclavHavel2Martin Luther King Jr. used to say that cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? Expediency: Is it politic? Vanity: Is it popular? But conscience asks: Is it right?
Vaclav Havel, who died at age 75, said it differently: Having hope is not the same as being optimistic, said the playwright turned protester turned president. Hope “is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. “

The week in New York Theater Tweets is a selection and enhancement of Jonathan Mandell’s Twitter feed, and is posted every week, usually on Monday.

For up-to-the-minute theater news, views and reviews, follow Jonathan Mandell on his Twitter feed at @NewYorkTheater
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Jonathan Mandell, who tweets as New York Theater, is a native New Yorker and third-generation journalist with diverse experience on newspapers, magazines and websites.He has written for a wide varie ...read more

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