Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's 2009!


Happy New Year!

The whole point of the Good News Initiative here on the nytheatre i is to celebrate what's best about the New York theatre community in 2009.

I hope you'll permit me, on this first day of the year, to mention some of what's coming up here at nytheatre.com and The New York Theatre Experience, Inc., that we hope will contribute some positive energy to the NYC theatre community:

Starting in just a few weeks, we're going to launch our new anthology, Plays and Playwrights 2009, with a series of public events--live and online--that will help theatre-goers get acquainted with the 11 amazing writers whose work is included within it. Look for a series of cyberinterviews (moderated by our colleague nytheatre mike 2.0) on our NYTE Small Press site...podcasts featuring each of thus year's playwrights...and some really fun theatre events that will celebrate the publication of the book. Details are coming soon!

You'll also be hearing about two brand new ventures from NYTE in the next few months. The Indie Theater Companion is a wiki about indie theater, being created from the ground-up by the very folks who make indie theater. And we hope that the pilot episode of our TV series, Indie Theater Now!, will be taped within the next couple of months. Don't worry--we'll keep you posted about both of these exciting endeavors!

Our weekly email newsletter is getting a new look for 2009. And for later this year, we've got a bunch of new features and enhancements planned for nytheatre.com...plus version 2.0 of mobile.nytheatre.com!

Your comments and feedback are essential to ensuring that the projects we embark on in 2009 are the ones that add the most value to each of your personal New York theatre experiences! So please post your thoughts in the comments section on this blog...or send me an email.

Here's to a safe, peaceful, and very happy 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Talkback with Indie Playwrights Saviana Stanescu & Jack Hanley

No. 11 Productions continues its series of free staged readings of plays from the Plays and Playwrights anthology series with a double-bill of short pieces from the 2006 edition. The two plays are Aurolac Blues by Saviana Stanescu and Self at Hand by Jack Hanley. The event takes place on Monday, January 5 at 7:30pm at Manhattan Repertory Theatre.

Following the performance, yours truly will moderate a talkback featuring both of these remarkable playwrights. I am excited to chat with them--they truly represent the cutting-edge of American drama, and I know they will have a lot of valuable insights to share with the audience.

This free event offers theatre enthusiasts several great benefits. First, it's a chance to check out a lovely intimate space that you may not have ever been to before (Manhattan Rep, right in the heart of Times Square, is still one of NYC theatre's best kept secrets!). Second, it's a chance to see an ambitious and talented young company essay a couple of unusual plays. And third, it's a chance to meet Saviana and Jack and engage with them about their work. Saviana's most recent play, Aliens with Extraordinary Skills, opened the current season at Women's Project. Jack's next play will be at Dixon Place in a few months.

There's more info here: http://www.eavesdrop.net/

Monday, December 29, 2008

Talkback Series to Feature Playwright Neal Bell

Rabbit Hole Ensemble is presenting the world premiere of Neal Bell's Shadow of Himself, from January 8 - 31 at Access Theatre. This play, a modern adaptation of the legend of Gilgamesh, sounds fascinating. The good folks at Rabbit Hole have also announced a talkback series in conjunction with this production -- I quote from an email I received from them:

"Join us for the show on Friday, January 16th or Sunday the 18th, and stick around for a FREE talk and Q&A about the play and its themes with some fascinating speakers! First up is OBIE Award-winning playwright of Shadow of Himself, Neal Bell, on January 16th! Also appearing, on the 18th is psychologist Dr. Christopher Bayer. Dr. Bayer will be discussing issues of fear, highlightng themes in the play including fear of loss, fear of failure, and fear of death. NYU Professor Marion Wrenn will also be joining us, on a date to be announced, and will be discussing themes of masculinity. We couldn't be more pleased to host Neal, Dr. Bayer, and Prof. Wrenn, for what we are sure will be enlightening evenings."

Here's a link to more info: http://www.rabbitholeensemble.com/

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Culturemart Coming to HERE Arts Center

(In photo: Erin Orr & Rima Fond in a scene from Don Cristobal, Billy-Club Man; photo by Chris Green, courtesy of HERE Arts Center)

HERE Arts Center is presenting their annual Culturemart festival from January 7 - February 4. This event provides theatergoers with a rare opportunity to see works-in-development by some of indie theater's most inventive artists. Among the folks presenting work this year at Culturemart are: Corey Dargel; Geoff Sobelle, Trey Lyford & Steve Cuiffo; David Michael Friend; Sheila Callaghan & Daniella Topol; and HERE artistic director Kristin Marting.

In addition to the diverse and interesting work that will be on view during this month, Culturemart also provides you with an opportunity to see the newly renovated HERE facility, which re-opened last summer following extensive construction work (HERE purchased their space a couple of years ago, and has now set it up quite beautifully). If you haven't seen the new HERE, you should check it out!

Information about Culturemart, including video and audio previews, are here: http://www.here.org/.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Australian Aboriginal Theatre Initiative Benefit

Coming to La MaMa on January 8th is a play from Australia called Yanagai! Yanagai! It's a co-production with the Australian Aboriginal Theatre Initiative (AATI), which is a New York-based organization founded in 2003 by Karen Oughtred to present new plays to an American audience by established and emerging indigenous playwrights.

The opening night performance of Yanagai! Yanagai! is a benefit for AATI. Tickets are $50 and will include the show and an after-show reception at Eight Mile Creek Restaurant. For benefit ticket purchase information go to: www.aboriginaltheatre.com/index.php/support/benefit.php.

Friday, December 26, 2008

52nd Street Project Helps Kids, Breaks Ground for New Theatre



Do you know about The 52nd Street Project? Founded by William Reale, this organization matches professional theatre artists with inner-city kids in NYC to create original plays specifically for these kids. Coming up from January 30 - February 1 at the TBG Theater will be Don't Be Late, the culmination of The Project's Two-on-Two series, in which each of six duos of kids (ages 13-15) is paired with two professionals: one who writes a play for them, and another who directs.

Some great indie theater artists are involved with Don't Be Late, including Winter Miller, Graeme Gillis, Michael Lew, and Sharyn Rothstein (all members of EST's Youngblood playwriting group) and directors Dave Dalton and Carlos Armesto, among others.

Now here's the really good news: The 52nd Street Project just broke ground on the site for their new theater, located on the west side of Tenth Avenue between 52nd & 53rd Streets, in the Archstone-Clinton development. The facility's opening is slated for summer 2009.

Learn more here: http://www.52project.org/

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sketch Comedy on Your Cellphone


Boldly going where no (or at least not many) sketch comedy troupes have gone before, the New York-based duo Nathan Phillips and Joe Schiappa are presenting a new show via cellphone and Twitter. Starting January 1, 2009, Nathan & Joe will begin the world’s first comedy show performed via text message. A series of sketches, short films, and comedy jokes will appear on the cellphones of subscribers as Twitter messages. It’s free (though you must pay for your text messages).

Learn more about it at: http://nathanandjoe.com/?p=1.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Introducing THE GOOD NEWS INITIATIVE

Today, THE NYTHEATRE I heads off into a new direction.

One of my new year's resolutions for 2009 is to reinvent this blog as a nexus (fancy word) or playground (fun word) for all the positive, uplifting, unheralded great stuff that's happening in the world of indie theater.

So today -- Christmas Eve 2008 -- I am happy to announce The New York Theatre Experience, Inc.'s Good News Initiative, which will live for the next 365 days (at least) right here on the nytheatre i.

What you'll see here is a new posting every day that reminds us of the amazing contributions indie theater companies and artists are making to our town -- culturally, politically, socially, artistically, educationally, and above all passionately.

I know there are lots of problems and issues happening right now to be concerned about: disappearing venues, diminishing arts funding, audiences hit in the pocketbook by the difficult economic climate, and so on. I'm no ostrich: my head is not in the sand! But I am a natural optimist, and I want to use my energy to keep everybody focused on the good stuff that's going on.

Good news doesn't usually make the front page the way that bad news does. But it will always be front and center on the nytheatre i throughout our Good News Initiative.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

1776!

Hello, nytheatre i fans! Sorry I have been MIA for a while. Many busy doings at nytheatre.com HQ. I will have news for you about this blog (and other stuff) soon.

But for now...

I want to commend to you a new website that I have just become aware of that I am very impressed with:

www.1776themusical.us

It is, as its title suggests, a site devoted to the 1969 musical 1776. The site is curated by Keith Edwards, who is the son of Sherman Edwards, the composer/lyricist and driving force of the show. I really like what Keith has done with this website: he's provided a living, in-depth archive about the show that's appropriate for scholars, students, theatre artists who are interested in performing the show, and general audience members. Take a look!

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Feature on nytheatre.com

Today we are rolling out a new feature on the nytheatre.com website. It's called--simply--THE NYTHEATRE REVIEW PAGE, and it's a portal to the latest reviews on the site. You will find it here:

http://www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/reviewspage.php

This new page contains brief summaries of the dozen newest reviews on nytheatre.com, with links to each full review. There are also a few special features: a page-top photo gallery of some recently reviewed shows; a sidebar display of the most popular reviews on nytheatre.com (updated every day!), and a teaser for the current nytheatre.com Pick of the Week.

I hope you'll take a look and let me know how you like this new feature!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

nytheatre.com Welcomes 3 New Reviewers

This month, nytheatre.com adds three new reviewers to our ever-expanding team of volunteer contributors. Heather J. Violanti has just written a really lovely review of Shogun Macbeth that you can read right now. Joe Pindelski's first piece offers great commentary on Wide Eyed Productions' revival of Racine's Phedre. Our third newbie, Nicole Bouras-Ney, will make her nytheatre.com debut next week with a review of My Vaudeville Man!

You can learn about these new folks and all their colleagues on our reviewers' page.

And while I'm talking about our amazing staff, I need to give a special shout-out to Michael Mraz, who began working with us this past summer. He has just finished reviewing all three chapters of the Angel Eaters Trilogy by Johnna Adams. Beautiful work, and much appreciated by the folks at Flux Ensemble Theatre, our readers, and yours truly.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Who is the nytheatre i?

nytheatremike has tagged me on a meme running through the blogosphere. He says, "The point is to list seven strange things about oneself." I will keep my list as theatrical as possible, in accordance with the stated mission of this blog!

1. I starred as Snoopy in my elementary school's holiday pageant when I was in 6th grade. I wore a pair of blue flannel pajamas that we tried to bleach white, and didn't wear the gigantic cumbersome papier-mache Snoopy head that had been made for me by the art class. My big number was "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" (yes, the coke commercial song). This was my last stage appearance until...

2. I starred on Broadway with David Shiner and Bill Irwin at the Ambassador Theatre. Yes, I know my world is indie theater, but the fact is that my New York City stage debut was in Fool Moon. Maybe "starred" is too strong a word, however. Actually, I appeared as the projectionist in the silent movie skit that was Shiner's big centerpiece in Act II. The most fun I have ever had in a Broadway theatre.

3. I have Rudy Vallee's autograph. I'm not really much of an autograph hound, but I do have a small, choice collection from my childhood. My family used to go to Shady Grove Music Fair, a summer stock tent theatre in Gaithersburg, Maryland (long since departed), and my sister and I used to get the stars of the shows we saw to sign our programs. Mr. Vallee was appearing as J.B. Biggley in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Robert Morse was also in the show, but he didn't sign autographs). Vallee was, in my memory, exactly the same offstage as on. I also have autographs from Jayne Mansfield and Martha Raye. I must be quite old.

4. Eartha Kitt thinks I'm handsome. Well, she did, in 1968; she told me so when I was getting her autograph after seeing her in Peg, a musical version of Peg o' My Heart (see #3). My sister and I went to see Miss Kitt in a cabaret show some years later and my sister wangled her way backstage. We reminded Miss Kitt of our previous acquaintance and she very graciously said she remembered. (Not sure if she still thought I was handsome, however.)

5. I have a couple of plays in my trunk that--who knows--may someday see the light of day. But don't count on it. The last original play I wrote was when I was a senior in high school. It was called "1789," and it told the story of the Constitutional Convention--ripped off (as the Spamalot people might say) from a famous musical about the Declaration of Independence. I also have some MAD Magazine-style musical parodies of Candide and A Streetcar Named Desire from the same period that I thought were pretty funny.

6. I produced, wrote, and starred in two awards shows in the 1990s. This was in my Marriott period. The folks in charge of Corporate Finance at Company HQ found out that I had a slight theatrical bent (my day job was running our company's disbursement systems), and they let me put on their annual awards shindig. I had a five-figure budget that would make every off-off-Broadway company salivate and access to the company's video production department, including a director/cameraman assigned to me for the project. There's a video of me doing the second show...in a tux, no less. Letterman and Carson were worried about me for a while there.

And finally...

7. I once tried out for Jeopardy. I know that's a strange TV thing rather than a strange theatre thing, but I thought it was worth mentioning. I passed the exam, but I flunked the live audition -- the scouts said I wasn't lively enough to be a good contestant on television. Never did get to meet Alex Trebeck...

Michael, thanks for tagging me, this was fun. I guess I'm supposed to keep this meme alive by tagging some more people, so I hereby tag all the folks at No. 11 Productions.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Looking Ahead to 2009

I've become pretty much obsessed with the election; I'm trying to be proactive and use that obsession to think clearly about what will happen after the election. Specifically, what kind of job am I going to have here at nytheatre.com in 2009? What is the New York theatre scene going to look like?

There will be changes, and the most significant catalyst for those changes will not be the election--it will be the economy. The commercial sector of theatre is already taking hits: several long-running Broadway shows have closed or posted closing notices, and I suspect others will join them in the near future. More ominously, several of the new shows announced for this Broadway season failed to materialize due to funding shortfalls. And I'm hearing about fewer new projects aiming for Broadway.

Tourism is likely to become a less lucrative industry in New York City in the near-term. The high-end local market may be in danger of drying up as well, what with upcoming Wall Street layoffs predicted to be in the hundreds of thousands. There are simply going to be fewer dollars available for EVERYTHING, and luxuries like Broadway shows are going to be cut out of people's personal budgets as a result.

Similarly, because entertainment and service industries (and financial industries!) provide daytime employment to many of the folks who make theatre at every level in New York City--and those jobs may become more scarce--there's a risk that we are going to lose artists to other locations. We are all--the Culture Wars notwithstanding--inextricably interconnected.

All that said, the theatre isn't going to croak this time around, any more than it did during the Great Depression. There's a real opportunity for savvy producers to promote commercial theatre so that it's again affordable for mainstream audiences; and there's a real opportunity for smart indie theater producers to offer their lower-priced shows as a viable alternative to mainstream audiences in search of excellent, interesting, provocative entertainment. Readers of nytheatre.com and indietheater.org already know that there's lots of wonderful theatre in NYC that costs $20 instead of $120. Awareness of that information needs to spread, because there's going to be an increasing market for good theatre at a reasonable price.

The new economic realities mean that if NEA still exists in 2010 and 2011 (for example) there will be less money available to grantees; government funding is certain to be smaller across the board in the next few years. What will we fund? I am hopeful that funders and nonprofit theatres alike will place their focus on development of local American artists (as opposed to importing successful productions from established companies, either from overseas or elsewhere in the USA). The indie theater sector in New York is the largest concentration of theatre talent in this country, and the work they create continues a long tradition of standards-setting and ground-breaking that goes back to the 1920s. Indie theater is one of America's most important cultural laboratories. We must not lose sight of that when funding becomes scarce, as it will.

Turning back to the election, now: in eight days, we will (hopefully) know who the next president of the United States is going to be. What will that choice mean to the kind of work that American playwrights create in 2009?

It is my hope that a new direction in this country's government will lead to a new direction in our theatre--new inclusiveness, more attention to diversity, and a greater willingness to hear many new voices different from our own. Exploration of forms and genres that challenge the status quo--development, for example, of an American physical theatre aesthetic that rivals the kind of work being created in Europe and Asia, so that instead of booking a martial arts comedy from Korea, an off-Broadway theatre could plausibly book a home-grown Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company production instead.

It is my hope that a renewed emphasis on innovation will find application in the theatre, so that the many new enabling technologies won't just be available to well-funded groups but to the full spectrum of indie theater companies who have ideas about how to use them to make their art more accessible, more meaningful, and more exciting.

No matter who wins the White House, the Culture Wars in this country are not going to disappear, and we need to think about what that means for theatre. It is my hope that a renewal of vigor in this country will be felt in our theatres, where serious and intellectually rigorous work that challenges audience's assumptions about a variety of social and political issues will once again take root and blossom. Artists may be hard-pressed to keep on fighting the good fight if Obama loses this election. But they must!

I want to conclude with a final point about the media. A fundamental shift in how people acquire information about their world has been occuring during the past decade, thanks to the Internet and all the new forms it has engendered. The economic situation is going to affect this in further, important ways: some mainstream outlets will cease to exist; others will cut back their coverage of theatre, an art form they view as marginalized. We need to ensure that responsible and articulate forums thrive, to provide support for theatre, at all levels. That's certainly one of the main things I think about as I ponder--as I mentioned at the beginning of this post--what my job is going to look like in 2009.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Glass Ceiling in American Theatre

There's an article in today's New York Times about the upcoming meeting between a group of women playwrights and heads of major nonprofit NYC theatres, the purpose of which is to raise awareness about the glass ceiling that America's female playwrights are experiencing.

This is also the subject of a two-part podcast that NYTE just produced. There's info about the podcasts here and here; and you can download and listen to part 1 and part 2. You should listen to these--the nine panelists offer a great deal of insight into this situation and even point toward some possible actions to help resolve this long-standing issue.

The nine women we invited to talk about the topic are:
  • Playwright/reviewer Jo Ann Rosen, who moderates the discussion
  • Playwright/director/performer/educator Lenora Champagne
  • Playwright/actor/creator Maggie Cino
  • Playwright/educator Andrea Lepcio
  • Playwright/director/producer Bryn Manion
  • Producer/dramaturg/reviewer Loren Noveck
  • Director Cat Parker
  • Playwright Crystal Skillman
  • Playwright/actor Janet Zarecor

Here are some of the issues that surfaced during their hour+ discussion:

  • Women may not be produced as often as men because they have different negotiating styles and may not have learned the same kinds of negotiating skills
  • There seems to be a perception that women produce/write about "women's issues" and also that there's a stigma to producing/creating this kind of material
  • There's disagreement among our panel about whether women artists are adequately supportive of one another
  • There's a sense that prejudice against women is deeply engrained and systemic

The discussion concluded with overriding consensus that everyone (women and men) needs to maintain awareness of and focus on this issue, and that the place to begin doing that is "at home" -- i.e., in making choices about the theatre each of us sees, supports, and participates in.

Please listen to the podcasts because this problem is real and shameful.

I'd like to suggest an underlying cause that I've not read anything about anywhere thus far: the fact that almost none of the leading theatre critics in NYC (America) are women. For example, when Time Out-New York did a poll/feature in 2006 about the 15 most influential theater critics in NYC, only one of those 15 was a woman--that woman, Linda Winer (of Newsday), along with Elysa Gardner of USA Today are the only female lead theater critics for major print publications that I can think of. (Someone please correct me if I am wrong.) There are other women who regularly review theatre in NYC, such as Alexis Soloski, Helen Shaw, and Anita Gates, but none of them is the "first-string" critic for her paper/magazine.

nytheatre.com has 40 women reviewers on staff right now, compared to 57 men reviewers.

Would it make a difference, regarding the glass ceiling, if there were more women reviewing more theatre out there?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Out to Lunch with the American Badass

Last night was great: I attended the kickoff of No. 11's Productions' Plays and Playwrights reading series at Under St. Marks. What a terrific night!

The centerpiece of the evening was a staged reading of Joseph Langham's edgy satire Out to Lunch. Julie Congress directed a fine cast that included Mitchell Conway, Ryan Emmons, Samantha Hooper-Hamersly, Adam Lerman, Sarah Stephens, Zachary Fithian, and Joel Bovev. Kudos to all for bringing Langham's hilarious play to life.

After the reading, I got to moderate a talkback with Joseph, which was a true pleasure. I haven't seen this play since its premiere at the 2002 New York International Fringe Festival, and unfortunately I haven't seen Joseph that many times since then either (because he spent several years touring the country doing Shakespeare). Joseph talked to the audience about his inspiration for this play--working as a waiter at a restaurant in Texas, in particular. He also noted that a university in Frostburg, Maryland produced Out to Lunch after it was published, and how interesting it had been for him to see a production that he was not personally involved with.

Joseph told me that he's written a 36-character Western (in verse) -- so all you quixotic producers out there, here's your chance to premiere the next Langham classic.

We ended the evening by introducing one of the playwrights who will be featured in the next volume of the Plays and Playwrights series (that would be Plays and Playwrights 2009, due out next February). The playwright is Chris Harcum, and his play is called American Badass, or 12 Characters in Search of a National Identity. Chris is a very talented solo artist (he premiered American Badass at FRIGID New York last February); he's also a contributor to nytheatre.com.

Plays and Playwrights 2004 alumnus Tom X. Chao (Cats Can See the Devil) was also in the house. So I had three playwrights in the room with me, which always makes me happy.

Speaking of Plays and Playwrights 2009, by the way, lucky folks in Williamstown, Massachusetts will have a chance to see another of the plays that will be included in that volume: Tim Collins's excellent solo play A Fire as Bright as Heaven is part of the Dialogue One Theatre Festival on November 22 at the Centre for Theatre and Dance at Williams College. All the info is here. Just before Tim's show is a performance of John Clancy & Matt Oberg's The Event (hear a podcast about that show) --so this sounds like a terrific afternoon of amazing theatre (and it proves that those folks at Williams College have excellent taste).

No. 11's next reading events will be on November 17th at The Chocolate Factory in Long Island City -- Margie Stokley's Elephant from Plays and Playwrights 2005; followed the very next night by a reading of Daniel Reitz's Fall Forward from Plays and Playwrights 2008 at Metropolitan Playhouse. Can't wait! (Here's No. 11 Productions' website.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Plays and Playwrights Anthologies -- Big Sale!

I want to make sure that readers of the nytheatre i know about the big sale that NYTE is running on the Plays and Playwrights anthologies from now through the end of January.

It's part of our Plays and Playwrights Mega Celebration which I told you about last week.

Each month between now and January, NYTE is offering two of our anthologies on sale at half price. This is a super opportunity for you to fill in the volumes that are missing from your personal library...and also to give some great inexpensive gifts to theatre lovers this holiday season.

The volumes on sale in October are Plays and Playwrights 2003 ($7.50) and Plays and Playwrights 2005 ($8.00).

Let me tell you a little about Plays and Playwrights 2003 today. I'll write about the 2005 volume in a future post.

Plays and Playwrights 2003 contains the FringeNYC hits Out to Lunch by Joe Langham (which is being read by No. 11 Productions on Monday, October 20 at Under St. Marks) and Last Call, the first full-length by the award-winning dramatist Kelly McAllister. It also includes the amazing and prophetic dark tragedy The Ninth Circle by Ed Musto; Ato Essandoh's insightful and witty look at interracial romance, Black Thang; Nat Colley's sequel to The Merchant of Venice (called The Doctor of Rome); one of the very first-ever 9/11 plays, Pumpkins for Smallpox by Catherine Gillet; and Leon Chase's remarkable family drama The Last Carburetor. Also in PP03: the one-act version of Andrea Lepcio's comedy about two sisters coping with breast cancer and death (yes, it really is a comedy!), Looking for the Pony -- a full-length version of this play is coming to Vital Theatre Company later this season. And Maggie Cino's extraordinarily wise one-woman physical theatre piece, Ascending Bodily. And Marc Morales's pop culture extravaganza Galaxy Video. And one of the most frequently performed plays from any of our books, Joe Godfrey's glorious take on Dickens, A Queer Carol.

All of these plays deserve to be as popular as A Queer Carol has become. Check out Plays and Playwrights 2003 asap. At $7.50 a copy (that's about 65 cents per play!!) it's a huge bargain.

Take advantage of the sale, and by the way, here's another reason to buy your copy of Plays and Playwrights 2003 now: it is actually about to go out of print. We have just 2 cartons of books left in inventory. Once they're gone... the only place you'll be able to find Plays and Playwrights 2003 will be in a used bookstore, or on eBay.

One last thing--you may be wondering why we're offering such deep discounts on our books right now. NYTE Small Press is part of The New York Theatre Experience, Inc., which as you may know is a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to use new and traditional media to support the work of theatre artists. Our small press is not about making money--it's about getting the works of talented but possibly unheralded playwrights into the hands of people who will read them, perform them, and produce them. We want people who care about American drama to be able to afford to own these plays.

Click here to visit shop.nyte.org, where the books are on sale.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

No Conservative Playwrights?

I just finished reading this article from today's NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/15/theater/15thea.html

The jist of the piece is that, in America, only plays with a liberal perspective seem to get written; a whole bunch of artistic directors are asked to name a playwright who writes conservative political theatre and they can't come up with a single one.

I suspect they're not looking in the right place. Here are a couple of suggestions: the authors of The Lion King and Legally Blonde. The theme of the first of these is that stronger and bigger creatures are entitled to power at the expense of smaller and weaker ones. The theme of the second is that privileged white people can get what they want whenever they want it as long as they have money and look good. If these aren't the sentiments of the ruling party, I don't know what are.

Who'd a thought that the good old American musical is the place to look for non-liberal ideas?

Expensive Candy

I saw the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of A Man for All Seasons on Saturday afternoon. I was disappointed in the show (here's my review). But the real shocker came during intermission, when I thought I'd buy a bag of M&M's to share with my companion.

The price tag: four dollars.

Shocking. (I didn't buy them.)

Possible Loss of 4 More Greenwich Village Theatres?

A quick post to alert folks to this article in today's Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/14/nyregion/14archives.html?ref=nyregion

Rents could go up as much as 500% (!) in the building that houses Wings Theatre, TFANA, and 2 other theatre groups.

Addendum on October 16th: I've just been told about a website where you can find information about a grassroots movement opposing this rent increase: http://www.gvshp.org/theaterloss.htm

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Plays and Playwrights Mega Celebration

Not long ago, I announced the eleven plays that are going to be included in Plays and Playwrights 2009. I am so excited about this book. It's the tenth one in our annual series of anthologies of new plays by never-before-published playwrights.

We're actually -- perhaps a bit uncharacteristically -- making a bit of a fuss about this particularly milestone. To mark the 10th Plays and Playwrights book, we're having a MEGA CELEBRATION, in fact. And it starts right now. And it continues until February 2009, when the new book is published.

From now until then, we're hoping to remind readers of the amazing artists that we've published and their even more amazing work.

One way we're doing this is a reading series. No. 11 Productions, a new and very enthusiastic theatre troupe made up of 4 Skidmore College grads, is presenting readings from each of the Plays and Playwrights books, from 2001 through 2008. There will be eight evenings, each devoted to one anthology. These evenings are going to be great: there will be a staged reading of one or more of the plays in that particular book, followed by a talkback discussion (moderated by yours truly) with the featured playwright(s) and members of the cast. Each evening will conclude with a giveaway: we'll give four lucky audience members a copy of the book. And there will also be a surprise guest at each of the readings -- someone who will be able to tell you more about what's coming up at NYTE Small Press.

One of the truly cool things about the reading series is that each evening will be at a different indie venue. We're going to be at eight terrific venues all over the city (three different boroughs are represented!) and I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to not only hear some wonderful plays but visit some excellent theatre spaces you may never have been to before.

The first reading is scheduled for Monday, October 20, at 7:30pm at Under St. Marks. I am so excited that we are starting at this downtown landmark, which is one of Horse Trade Theater Group's three venues. (Thanks to Erez and everyone at Horse Trade for supporting this project!)

The play being read is Out to Lunch by Joseph Langham, which is one of the pieces in Plays and Playwrights 2003. Joseph will be on hand for the talkback after the show. If you've never met Joseph, you should: he's a very smart and funny guy. Perhaps you know him better as a performer -- his creations Harburg Harrisbrandt and Gilligan Stump brought him a good deal of acclaim in NYC's indie theater scene during the last decade.

I hope we'll see many of you at the reading on October 20th!

I'll have more to say about the Plays and Playwrights Mega Celebration in upcoming blog posts!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Talking about Twelfth Night

This morning, we recorded a podcast with three women who are directing versions of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in NYC in October and November. The directors are: Cat Parker, whose steampunk-influenced production opens at T. Schreiber Studio this week; Cara Reichel, whose musical Illyria (co-written with Peter Mills, presented by Prospect Theater Company) begins performances on Oct 18; and Rebecca Patterson, whose all-female production for The Queens Company starts in November.

We had a fascinating conversation! It's the mark of the play's brilliance that each of these talented directors can find so much that's different to focus on in their respective productions. You'll be able to hear what they have to say when the podcast goes live, this coming Sunday night (October 12).

I myself will be talking about Twelfth Night on Thursday, October 16 -- I'll be moderating a talkback after the 8:00pm performance that evening at T. Schreiber Studio. Cat and members of her cast will join me to discuss their work with the audience.

I have done several talkbacks at Schreiber -- How I Learned to Drive, You Can't Take It With You, Sister Cities, and Picasso at the Lapin Agile are some of the other shows where I've moderated discussions following the show. I love doing these, because the actors and directors always have such interesting insights to offer, and because audience members are so engaged and involved and come up with amazing questions and comments.

You can learn more about Twelfth Night at Schreiber here. I hope some of you will attend the performance on October 16 and participate in our talkback!

One other piece of T. Schreiber Studio news: Sister Cities, which had its NYC premiere at the Studio last fall, will be included in Plays and Playwrights 2009. We've just posted a photo gallery about the new anthology; check it out.

Monday, October 6, 2008

About The Seagull

If Playbill's weekly roundup is correct (and I'm sure it is), then I'm apparently pretty much alone among professional reviewers in my disappointment in the new production of The Seagull at the Walter Kerr Theatre. (Here's my review.)

But not entirely alone. I got this email from a young actor named Scott Witebsky, who wrote:

Thank you so much for an honest review of The Seagull. I saw the production the same night that a veteran theatre professional saw it. Afterwards we discussed that we both thought it was one of the worst Chekhov productions we have ever seen (a common opinion amongst many whom i've spoken to). Then Ben Brantley came out with his review...a review has never made me upset before in my life, even when unkind things have been said about me, but his review made me furious. I wrote an audience response to the NY Times, and unfortunately it did not get published online in the audience reviews. I felt like Brantley along with almost every other reviewer felt obligated to rave over the production since it did so well in London, and for the sake of "art" or something. I had to search to find a reason why they'd give it such glowing reviews.

Another detail to ponder over. Why did Konstantin put the chair in front of the door when it did nothing at the end of the play? First he locked the door, then he put an extremely light chair in front of it...and did not wedge it in the door handle. What was its purpose other than making Konstanin look like a dunce! For a production in which the details are being applauded, they sure overlooked way too many!

One last thing, this is what i've been telling everyone: You know a production of The Seagull is in bad shape when Yakov is one of the only interesting people to watch on stage.

Thanks for letting me rant.


Other opinions?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lee Dobson

I have only just learned of the passing of actor Lee Dobson (he died on September 26). I got to know Mr. Dobson's work mostly at Metropolitan Playhouse, where I saw him in Secret Service, The Octoroon, and other plays. His was an elegant, impressive, understated presence.

My most vivid recollection of him was at a talkback after a performance of The Octoroon. I remember posing the question, to him and four other African American actors in the cast, of how it felt to play slaves -- and to portray them in a play whose entire context suggests that slavery is "normal." His reflections on how a black man in the 21st century tries to get into the head of a black man of two centuries ago -- and the value of doing that -- were wise and valuable.

Mr. Dobson will be missed.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Best is Not the Same as Most Expensive

I just read a fluffy article on MSNBC about the "10 Best Hotels in the United States."

What irked me was the fact that the cheapest room rate at any of the 10 is $420. All of them have rooms in the $1,000-$2,000+ range.

Does "best" really mean "most expensive"?

Sure, if you pay a company a whole lot of money, you expect to get a whole lot back in return. But shouldn't the notion of "best" factor in the concept of price? Shouldn't items like value per dollar be taken into account when rating things that cost money?

Or is the "best" only available to the wealthiest?

Lorenz Hart's lyric for "Too Good for the Average Man" (from On Your Toes, 1936) comes to mind:
Finer things are for the finer folk,
Thus society began.
Caviar for peasants is a joke.
It's too good for the average man.

On nytheatre.com, we never say anything is "best" but we do have a Reviewers' Picks page -- and we're careful to ensure that theatre at all price ranges is included. The most extravagant and spectacular shows are on Broadway, but the most stimulating ones with the most bang for the buck are almost always somewhere else!

McCain vs. Obama: Impact on NYC Theatre

Yesterday, John McCain finally released his "arts platform" to the media. It is four sentences long:
"John McCain believes that arts education can play a vital role fostering creativity and expression. He is a strong believer in empowering local school districts to establish priorities based on the needs of local schools and school districts. Schools receiving federal funds for education must be held accountable for providing a quality education in basic subjects critical to ensuring students are prepared to compete and succeed in the global economy. Where these local priorities allow, he believes investing in arts education can play a role in nurturing the creativity of expression so vital to the health of our cultural life and providing a means of creative expression for young people."

(I found this in the Salt Lake Tribune; I can't find anything about this is in the NY Times).

Obama's arts policy has been online since February, here. Obama's Arts Policy Committee is co-chaired by NYC theatrical producer Margo Lion and includes Disney Theatrical head Thomas Schumacher. So at least the commercial sector of NYC theatre has some representation in Obama's policy creation.

The issues of arts education and arts funding are obviously not the ones that will decide the 2008 presidential election, but they're vital to the New York theatre community and, I would argue, to the continued strength and creativity of the United States. Read the positions of the two candidates and judge for yourself.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Plays and Playwrights 2009

I am very excited to announce the lineup for Plays and Playwrights 2009!

This is the 10th volume in our annual series of anthologies of new plays by never-before published playwrights. I think these eleven plays represent the vitality, diversity, and vibrancy of NYC's indie theater scene during the past year. Here they are, in the order I saw them:
  • Nowhere on the Border by Carlos Lacamara -- first produced at Repertorio Espanol in September 2007

  • Sister Cities by Colette Freedman -- NYC premiere at T. Schreiber Studio in October 2007

  • American Badass (or 12 Characters in Search of a National Identity) by Chris Harcum -- premiered at the FRIGID Festival in February 2008

  • Conversation Storm by Rick Burkhardt -- NYC premiere at the FRIGID Festival in February 2008

  • Hospital 2008 by Randy Sharp and Axis Company -- first produced at Axis Theater in June 2008

  • Death at Film Forum by Eric Bland -- premiered at The Film Festival: A Theatre Festival at the Brick Theatre in June 2008

  • TRACES/fades by Lenora Champagne -- premiered at the Ice Factory festival at the Ohio Theatre in July 2008

  • S/HE by Nanna "Nick" Mwaluko -- premiered at the Fresh Fruit Festival in July 2008

  • A Fire as Bright as Heaven by Tim Collins -- NYC premiere at the New York International Fringe Festival in August 2008

  • Krapp, 39 by Michael Laurence -- premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in August 2008

  • Linus & Alora by Andrew Irons -- first produced by AndHow! Theater Company at the Flea in September 2008

A couple of striking things about this book: it features three solo pieces (the most I've ever had in any previous book is one), which may say something about the resurgence of that particular form; and four of the playwrights are not based in New York City, which I know reflects the ever-shrinking world we live in -- NYC theatre companies look outward more and more as they find intriguing work to mount, which is a great thing.

As you can see, seven of the plays this year come from theatre festivals, which is more than in any previous year (and not just FringeNYC). This, too, I think is indicative of a change in the theatrical landscape.

Plays and Playwrights 2009 is targeted for publication in February 2009. You will be hearing much more about it between now and then... and I will be telling you soon about a new and exciting series of events we're planning where you will be able to meet many of this year's new playwrights! Watch for details here and on nytesmallpress.com.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

Today we lost one of the giants. I got to see him on stage when he played the Stage Manager in the 2002 Broadway revival of Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Here's what I wrote about him:

Newman, at the play's literal heart as the Stage Manager, comes to life in a brief scene in which he pretends to be the owner of a drugstore; and by the time we've arrived in the cemetery in the final act, he has found his bearings. Taking us on a tour of the gravestones, he tells us about the Civil War veterans buried beneath them:

... had a notion that the Union ought to be kept together, though they'd never seen more than fifty miles of it themselves. All they knew was the name, friends--the United States of America. The United States of America. And they went and died about it.


Newman weighs each word as he speaks it, and a concept that we take so much for granted that it's beyond hackneyed suddenly acquires mass, and density, and meaning.


Very glad I had the chance to see him in his last stage role.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Suspending the Theatre Season

Yesterday, I updated my Facebook status with this possibly witty statement: "Martin is concerned about the economy, yet oddly NOT suspending his normal reviewing activities today."

Today, looking forward in a few hours to the 1st 2008 Presidential Debate (which I am staying home to watch, rather than reviewing a show as I normally would do on a Friday night), I ponder my glibness.

Shouldn't I suspend my reviewing activities? Shouldn't I spend the next five weeks doing whatever I possibly can to focus people on the most important election of modern times? Hit the road, as my colleague Anthony Nelson has done, to campaign for Obama? Organize parties or fundraisers? Use this blog to talk not about the New York theatre scene but instead about the pressing issues facing America?

On the other hand... the theatre remains vital and valuable, as much for helping us understand and weigh the serious issues we must grapple with this year as for providing a respite from them. So I am not going to suspend my reviewing. Not covering All My Sons and The Atheist and Aliens with Extraordinary Skills and the other stuff that's on my calendar would be very wrongheaded.

But I mean to engage the readers of this blog in a dialogue about the issues of this election in addition to talking about the theatre.

So here comes a serious invitation: Playwrights, directors, actors, designers, stage managers, theatre artists of every stripe: this blog is now officially at your disposal for a discussion of how the election of 2008 affects us in the NYC theatre community. What does the economic picture portend, in terms of your ability to get work up? What about the candidates' respective stances with regard to the War? To civil liberties? This stuff matters greatly, and what the brilliant people who make theatre think about this stuff matters greatly, too. So let's start talking.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New York Innovative Theatre Awards, Part Trois

As promised, we've just posted a really delightful feature on indietheater.org, in which recipients of this year's NYIT Awards let us know what went through their heads when they found out they'd won. I think you'll enjoy reading it.

And take a look here for Doric Wilson's impressions on the NYIT Awards ceremony.... and here for John Clancy's thoughts... and here for Julie Congress's comments (the awards inspired her to learn all about Joe Cino).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New York Innovative Theatre Awards, Part Deux

A few more notes that I want to add about last night's awards:

First, major kudos to Vinnie Penna, Joe Whelski, and Jen Larkin, who performed short scenes from three Boomerang Theatre Company past hits (Kelly McAllister's Burning the Old Man, Tom Stoppard's Artist Descending a Staircase, and William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream). I had heard about Vinnie's Bronx-accented Puck but not seen it; it's delightful.

Second, a nod to Qui Nguyen, who rightly pointed out in his acceptance speech that NYITA is the only awards group that recognizes the excellent work of fight choreographers. Other theatre award bodies should jump on that bandwagon!

And finally, a quick mention of something coming up on indietheater.org: we'll be posting a feature in the next day or so capturing the reactions of last night's winners. Some responses have already come in, so I can tell you that this is going to be a great read.

New York Innovative Theatre Awards

"There are two kinds of theatre in this country. Commercial theatre ... and theatre that matters. You make the theatre that matters."

That's what Edward Albee told the crowd at the New York Innovative Theatre Awards last night. I think everybody in the room felt as lifted up as I did by his inspirational remarks.

Mr. Albee presented the final award of the evening (Outstanding Production of a Play) to Jessica Burr and Matt Opatrny of blessed unrest for their play Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project. I'm actually going to see Jessica and Matt this Sunday (they're recording a podcast with us about their upcoming show, Doruntine), and I mean to ask them what went through their minds as they were marching onto the stage to receive their award from a man who is, arguably, the most important living American playwright.

I know I was really excited when I had an opportunity to speak to Mr. Albee after the awards. It was just one more special moment in an evening that was really just one giant high point for me.

As you may know, NYTE and nytheatre.com received the Stewardship Award from NYIT last night, and Rochelle and I were absolutely bowled over by the tribute given to us by Kirk Wood Bromley, who presented us with the award. There was also a lovely video featuring comments by Michael Criscuolo, Trav S.D., John Clancy, Bryn Manion, and Saviana Stanescu. And we heard from folks in the indie theater community all night long about the ways NYTE has touched them, and we appreciate everything everybody had to say very much.

The three co-executive directors of NYITA -- Jason Bowcutt, Shay Gines, and Nick Micozzi -- should be very proud of the event they created for the off-off/indie theater community last night. It was a beautiful celebration; just what the people who create "theatre that matters" truly deserve.

In addition to Mr. Albee, a stellar array of presenters was on hand: Barrett Foa and Louis Zorich handed out the acting awards; Michael Berresse presented the award for Outstanding Production of a Musical; Olympia Dukakis gave Judith Malina the Artistic Achievement Award; Tina Howe made some lovely heartfelt remarks before she handed out the two playwriting awards; Anna Louizos (sets), Catherine Zuber (costumes), Dan Moses Schreier (sound), and Anne Militello (lighting) presented the design awards; Rob Ashford gave the choregraphy/movement award; John Bucchino presented the music award; and David Cote presented the award for Outstanding Performance Art Production. And some of the superstars of the indie theater world were presenters as well: in addition to Kirk Bromley, we saw Daniel Talbott and Isaac Byrne give out the directing trophy and Desiree Burch hand out the solo performance award. NYIT reps Akia and Leonard Jacobs made the presentation of the Caffe Cino Fellowship to Boomerang Theatre's Tim Errickson and Frank Kuzler.

I think the award for most memorable presenters nonetheless has to go to Michael Dahlen (of Blue Man Group) and Bill Irwin, who collaborated to give out the Outstanding Ensemble Award. Before they called the winners up to the stage, they got the entire audience to behave as "an ensemble" by throwing the frisbees in our gift bags up to the stage. A moment you wouldn't have seen at the Emmys or the Tonys.

Rochelle and I thank NYITA and everyone in the indie theater community for the Stewardship Award and hope we can live up to it.

Here's the complete list of recipients of the 2008 New York Innovative Theatre Awards, in the order they were announced. Congratulations to all!

ROB SHERIDAN, The Two Lives of Napoleon Beazley (Actor in a Featured Role)
MEGAN BYRNE, No End of Blame (Actress in a Featured Role)
JUDITH MALINA (Artistic Achievement Award)
DAN BIANCHI, The Island of Dr. Moreau (Original Music)
QUI NGUYEN, Fight Girl Battle World (Choreography/Movement)
ANDREA CABAN, You Got Questions? I Got Answers! (Solo Performance)
ALIZA SHANE, The Three Sillies (Original Short Script)
BEKAH BRUNSTETTER, You May Go Now (Original Full Length Script)
THE NEW YORK THEATRE EXPERIENCE, INC. (Stewardship Award)
KEVIN HARDY, The Night of Nosferatu (Lighting Design)
SEAN BREAULT, Art of Memory (Set Design)
DAN BIANCHI, The Island of Dr. Moreau (Sound Design)
JESSICA WEGENER, Fight Girl Battle World (Costume Design)
CAMERON J. ORO, The Accidental Patriot (Actor in a Leading Role)
STEPHANIE BARTON-FARCAS, Elizabeth Rex (Actress in a Leading Role)
EDWARD ELEFTERION, The Night of Nosferatu (Director)
BOOMERANG THEATRE COMPANY (Caffe Cino Fellowship Award)
ELENA CHANG, NOSHIR DALAL, JON HOCHE, KELLEY RAE O'DONNELL, MELISSA PALADINO, MAUREEN SEBASTIAN, ANDREA MARIE SMITH, PACO TOLSON, TEMAR UNDERWOOD, Fight Girl Battle World (Ensemble)
Removable Parts (Performance Art Production)
Yank! A New Musical (Production of a Musical)
Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project (Production of a Play)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

nytheatre.com Reviewer Hits the Road for Election '08

Today, I'm turning the blog over to one of nytheatre.com's regular contributors, actor-director Anthony C.E. Nelson, who sent me this email (and has agreed to let me post it here):

Hello friends!

As some of you know, I’ve decided to spend the next five weeks on the road as a deputy field coordinator for the Obama campaign. This is a tremendously important election, and I feel glad to be in a position to give time to help. I know I had the feeling for a while that I wanted to do something, but wasn’t sure what. But I recently went through a training with the campaign, and I learned some cool stuff, and I thought I’d share some ways everyone can help.

Volunteer!
The Obama campaign is organizing groups of volunteers every weekend to hit battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, but you can still help even if you have only a few spare minutes! Check out the neighbor to neighbor tool at barackobama.com. You can make calls from your own house at any time. There’s a script and a list of names provided, super easy, and there are always people you can call to help the campaign!

Donate!
Today especially any new donations are matched, so sign up to donate today! Here is my personal donation page. http://my.barackobama.com/page/outreach/view/main/AnthonyMoney. Does it make any difference if you do it on my page? Heck, I don’t know, but they had me set it up so here you go. I just put in ten dollars. Even 5 dollars helps. Also, Barack has been doing well in fundraising but the Democratic National Committee is well behind the RNC in cash on hand, so you can donate to them here: http://www.democrats.org/.

VOTE!
Sweet jesus, vote. Registration deadline in NY is Oct 10, but in many states it is earlier. And usually that means it needs to be at the board of elections on the 10th, not in the mail! You can check to see if you are registered at http://www.voteforchange.com/. Two things: If you signed up to vote absentee in a battleground state, good for you! But your ballot needs to be at the board of elections before your state’s registration deadline! Otherwise your ballot won’t get counted on election night, but only for the final ballot certification in December! Do you still need to vote if you live in a “safe” state? YES! There have been a number of polling scenarios recently where Barack would win the electoral college, but not the popular vote! We need to win the popular vote to have the mandate for change we need to get stuff done! So get registered, and VOTE!

If you’re supporting the other guy, and you feel like talking about stuff, I am more than happy to! Otherwise, I recommend you get out there and volunteer yourself! We’ve got a lot of energy going for us! Thanks for reading!

Anthony C.E. Nelson

Taking Playwrights Seriously

It is true, in its way, that all theater is political: that the mere act of creating or producing or choosing to see Xanadu rather than All My Sons is a kind of political act.

But oftentimes a show is overtly political, by which I mean that its creator clearly intends it to be taken as a document of its time and a call to action or at least to reason. Why does it seem that playwrights have so much trouble getting this kind of work to be taken seriously?

Take two recent examples, Michael Weller's Beast and Brian Parks's The Invitation. The former is about two Iraqi War veterans who return home and ultimately journey to the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas; the latter is about a dinner party amongst the New York upper crust. But both plays contain clear criticisms of the state of America in 2008--criticisms so focused and resonant that they became, for me, the key thematic concepts contained in these two works. Weller wants to illuminate the tragic maltreatment of veterans of our current war and of their families, and he does so with eloquence and scary specificity. Parks wants to remind us of the ugliness of a culture of entitlement that has made the richest few much much richer and the rest of us invisible to them.

Read the New York Times reviews of these shows, however, and you'd never have an inkling that either Weller or Parks were offering serious commentary about the State of Our Union. Charles Isherwood's review of Beast touches on "Mr. Weller’s sympathy for the soldiers and his antipathy to the Bush administration" without once referencing the words the playwright has put into the mouths of his soldier characters or, most compellingly, the widow of one of them. And Neil Genzliger's piece on The Invitation never suggests even once that this play is more than an "annoying black comedy" in which "five overeducated, overly moneyed Ivy League types pummel one another and the audience with literary, historical and sociopolitical references while drinking rather a lot of wine."

Each of these gentlemen is certainly entitled to believe what they wish about these plays. But one would hope that they would actually listen to what the playwrights are saying in their work. It's a shame when the so-called "paper of record" fails to record what some of our society's deep thinkers are thinking about when they take on the colossally difficult task of writing a new play.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What a Difference a Decade Makes

Ten years ago, I was still living in Maryland, working part-time on nytheatre.com and the rest of the time at my job at Marriott International. I was pretty much beside myself when I got the chance to meet Matt Maher (then a recent Obie winner for The Race of the Ark Tattoo). I was still just discovering the iconic locales of alternative NYC theatre like La MaMa and the Ontological Theater that I had read about but not yet personally experienced for myself.

Back then, I would never have imagined that anyone would write a sentence that had my name and Judith Malina's name in it (unless the sentence were something like, "Martin Denton has long admired the contributions of Judith Malina and the Living Theatre").

So I hope you can imagine how I felt reading this, in the last paragraph of Doug Strassler's piece about this year's three honorary recipients of the New York Innovative Theatre Awards:
Of course, come September 22, 2008, Denton, along with Errickson, Malina and their colleagues, will be recognized as one of the leading heroes of the Off-Off-Broadway community.
Humbled doesn't even begin to describe it. The whole piece, which is about Boomerang Theatre Company (winner of this year's Caffe Cino Award), Judith Malina (Artistic Achievement Award), and NYTE and nytheatre.com (Stewardship Award), is here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Forbidden Broadway Will Say Farewell

In a nice piece in today's Times, Forbidden Broadway creator Gerard Alessandrini explains why he's closing down his (very) long-running franchise, possibly for good. I have to applaud Alessandrini for his decision: I've been a fan of Forbidden Broadway pretty much from the beginning, and it's absolutely clear that these witty revues/reviews of the state of the American musical have peaked.


It's not that Alessandrini has somehow lost his ability to poke fun at an institution he plainly adores; it's that the institution itself has changed so much that the spark, the inspiration, seems to have gone out.


It got me to thinking: what's different about Broadway musicals in 2008, compared to what they were like in 1982, when the first Forbidden Broadway debuted?


The most obvious answer is the personnel. When Alessandrini wrote the first edition of FB, Ethel Merman and Mary Martin were still alive; Yul Brynner and Carol Channing each still had one more record-breaking tour in their futures; Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett were still directing and choreographing shows; and Julie Andrews could still hit all her high notes.


Most of the moments I cherish most from all the years of seeing FB are the ones that involve the stars: Ethel Merman teaching the Phantom of the Opera how to project, Mandy Patinkin being "Somewhat Overindulgent," Liliane Montevecchi babbling incomprehensibly in the Grand Hotel parody, Christine Pedi's immortal "Stritch." And Broadway just isn't cultivating new musical theatre stars to match the glorious ones who no longer regularly inhabit its stages (though I am looking forward to seeing what Alessandrini has to say about Patti LuPone as Mama Rose).


The most consistent target of FB has been the mega-musical: the parodies of Cats, Les Miserables, and The Lion King have become as eagerly anticipated and as long-lasting as the shows themselves. But jukebox musicals and musicals built around old movies--Broadway's current twin scourges--do not seem as able to inspire Alessandrini's rapier-like wit. And although Alessandrini did build a brilliant song skewering Spamalot, trying to parody a self-referential parody is mostly a self-defeating proposition--and that's why shows like Urinetown and The Producers did not yield classic FB sketches.


It's hard to imagine that Cats would feel like the good old days, but in terms of invention and imagination and the level of audience engagement, it seems very much to be so: this year's big-budget musicals--The Little Mermaid, Shrek, and Billy Elliot--are all about selling audiences a brand they already know instead of creating a new one. Alessandrini understands this, I think; and though I'm sorry to see Forbidden Broadway go, I'm glad to anticipate what new concept he will come up with next.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Plays and Playwrights Anthologies -- 10th Anniversary

I think I have already mentioned here in the nytheatre i that the Plays and Playwrights books will be reaching their first major milestone soon: the next volume, Plays and Playwrights 2009 (which will be published in February), will be the 10th in the series.

Not bad at all for a series that started as modestly as this one did.

We'll be ready to announce the 10 plays that will be in Plays and Playwrights 2009 within a couple of weeks -- watch the nytheatre i for that announcement. Today I am announcing another of the contributors to this volume: the foreword of the book is going to be written by playwright Garth Wingfield. There's nobody more appropriate for the job. Here's why.

In late April, 1999, I saw a play at Synchronicity Space (now the site of the theater at 55 Mercer) called Are We There Yet? It was written by a playwright I didn't know, a guy named Garth Wingfield. I loved the play and as I was leaving the theatre, I remarked to Rochelle something like -- "Somebody ought to publish this play -- because it's a really good script, and if it isn't published, it will probably disappear forever, like so many other plays we see."

Didn't think much about this until the end of that year when, for some reason, the idea of publishing Are We There Yet? popped back into my head. This time I said to Rochelle, "Remember last April when I said somebody should publish that play? We ought to do that. We should publish a book of plays."

Even though we'd never published a book before, we went forward with the idea. We contacted several playwrights we'd gotten to know over the past year whose work we admired -- Kirk Bromley, C.J. Hopkins, Lynn Marie Macy, Robert Simonson, David Summers & Gary Ruderman -- and thanks to press agents Kevin McAnerney and Sam Rudy, we made contact with Eddie DeSantis and -- you guessed it -- Garth. While we were doing all of this, I saw a play called When Words Fail... by Dave Dannenfelser, and I got in touch with him as well. All eight agreed to let us publish their work in a book we decided to call Plays and Playwrights for the New Millennium. The snappy title was apropos--the book was scheduled for release at the very beginning of 2000.

Believe me, publishing another book was the farthest thing from my mind (and Rochelle's) back then.

But Plays and Playwrights of the New Millennium was a success. I remember at our launch party for the book, at The Present Company Theatorium, John Clancy told our guests how important it was to have plays from the indie/downtown theatre scene captured forever between the covers of a real, tangible book.

Now, as we prepare to start production of our tenth annual volume, I appreciate the chance that our collaborators back in 99-00 took on us. And I have to say, we owe the whole idea to Garth, because for whatever reason, it was his play that planted the idea in my skull in the first place.

So thanks, Garth, for that ... and thanks for writing our foreword this year!

"Previewing" the "Season"

Michael Feingold published an article about the upcoming theatre season in this week's Village Voice (thanks to my friend Owa for alerting me to it) entitled "A Plea for Theater Producers to Become Less Predictable." What Feingold mostly talks about in the piece is the crush of revivals on Broadway this season. He also mentions a few off-/off-off-Broadway companies: the Pearl, the Mint, Peccadillo, and Keen.

But I'm afraid that Feingold is seeing here only what he looks for. If he would like to see work that isn't a revival and/or is something fresh and UNpredictable, I suggest he look beyond Broadway and beyond four NYC theatre companies that have made their fortunes by doing revivals. He might, for example, want to check out one of these theatres during the next few months: 59E59 (festivals of plays from Ireland and Poland), Playwrights Horizons (new pieces by Nicky Silver and Adam Rapp this month), the Lucille Lortel (new work from MCC Theater and Aquila Theatre Company), the Chocolate Factory (a new play by Mac Wellman), the Abingdon (Robert Brustein's new play), Womens' Project at the Julia Miles Theatre (Saviana Stanescu's new play), or La MaMa, or P.S. 122, or Theater for the New City (three or more brand new works every month at each of these esteemed venues).

Not to mention: Rattlestick, HERE, BAM, the three Horse Trade theatres, the Ohio, the Cherry Lane, Endtimes at the Gene Frankel Underground, the Flea, the Atlantic, New York Theatre Workshop, the Public, and, yes, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Roundabout, and Lincoln Center, all of which premiere new American plays this fall.

He might also consider checking out the New York Musical Theatre Festival or the upcoming A.N.T. Fest at Ars Nova, if he's interested in checking out the work of new artists.

I should add that Feingold is hardly alone in his narrow view of what constitutes "theatre" in New York when constructing a preview feature: neither Ben Brantley nor Charles Isherwood ventures beyond Broadway in his season preview piece in today's New York Times.

I do have to agree with Feingold on one point, though. He begins his article by saying:
They're previewing the new season again—just as if, in the world of global
warming and the 24/7 media barrage of the Internet, such things as seasons still
mattered. How long has it been since you could demarcate your year by the
weather?

And he's absolutely right. The New York International Fringe Festival, perhaps more than any other entity, has broken down the traditional summer-time barrier to new theatre; the indie theater season in NYC, at least, is year-round nowadays, which is why this year we instituted the Indie Theater Sneak Peeks feature on indietheater.org, predicated on the idea that there is no "season" but instead that every single week there are new shows that need to be talked about.

I don't know what to do to get some of my fellow theatre reviewers to realize how much the theatre landscape has changed in NYC -- i.e., that the most interesting stuff in town is almost NEVER on Broadway, but instead is just about everywhere else. But I hope that the readers and audiences and die-hard theatregoers will get the message.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

60 Days

Election Day is less than two months away. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say--or that many will disagree--that this feels like the most significant election of my lifetime.

So what can I do to encourage my fellow Americans to take their responsibility seriously: to think hard about the current state of the country, our economy, and our position in the world; to evaluate the words, deeds, and visions of the presidential candidates carefully; to not get sucked in by spin or hype but to choose for yourself?

I wish there were more theatre to recommend to you during the next two months that could help reinforce some of these important ideas. In the Broadway sector, there is, alas, virtually none: Fall 2008 (like Fall 2004) on Broadway is pretty much devoid of timely political/social content, offering instead a host of revivals of worthy plays alongside a quartet of new musicals, two of them from Dickens and Dreamworks sources and the other two about teenagers.

But elsewhere there is much to pique the politically curious mind, and I think the best I can do here at the nytheatre i is suggest that you partake of it liberally. I'm planning to see Michael Weller's Beast, which is about two Iraqi soldiers on their way back home, next week. Other shows that are dealing in some way or another with the current war include Douglas Wager's In Conflict, Mallory Catlett's Oh What War, and Counting Squares Theatre's Woyzeck. There's a new play opening this month called Quickening that deals with four women at an abortion clinic, and another called Adam of the Apes that looks at creationism and evolution--those both feel pretty timely. And there are several pieces coming up that will offer varying looks at the American spirit/psyche: Atomic City and Room to Panic at La MaMa, Radiohole's Anger/Nation, The U.S.-ification of America Conference, and stageFARM's Spin. Of course I haven't seen any of these shows yet, but my guess is that each of them will stimulate conversation about the issues at the heart of November's election, and consequently a visit to one or more should amount to an evening well spent.

I'm really looking forward to Nero Fiddled's Life After Bush, a musical that will deal very specifically with the choices we are being asked to make in this election. It begins performances at HERE on October 17 and culminates in a marathon presentation on Election Night. There will be more about Life After Bush in this blog; we're recording a podcast about the show in a couple of weeks.

Because the election is so on my mind, I think I will see echoes of it in most theatre I attend between now and November 4th. A lot of people think that everything in life is political, and so the mere act of choosing to see one kind of show over another plays into the vital ongoing debate that our country is in the midst of. I hope, in our small way, that nytheatre.com and the rest of NYTE's projects can help folks choose more wisely, by helping them to be as well-informed as possible.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

New York Clown Theatre Festival

We've just posted a brand new feature on nytheatre.com/indietheater.org -- a preview of the New York Clown Theatre Festival, which opens on Friday, September 5th at the Brick Theatre in Williamsburg, and runs through the end of the month.

I am really delighted by this preview: it's here.

Artists from 16 of the participating productions in the festival answered questions that we posed to them about their shows. Some of the questions were serious, some were kind of silly. All of the answers are terrific, and revelatory--really giving readers a good idea of what each of these shows is going to be like.

It looks to be a fantastic, fun month of clown theatre from all over the world.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Latest News from NYTE

I mentioned yesterday that I've been busy prepping for the fall season...but that's not all that's been going on here at The New York Theatre Experience!

Last month, we learned that NYTE will be the recipient of the Stewardship Award from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. The presentation will be at NYIT's annual awards ceremony, on Monday, September 22. This is a very significant honor and we are very proud to receive it. The full announcement is on Leonard Jacobs's blog (he's chair of the honorary awards committee).

Last month, we also began work on Plays and Playwrights 2009, which will be the 10th volume of our annual anthology series of new plays by emerging/heretofore unpublished playwrights from NYC indie theater. We are completing our initial discussions with the ten playwrights we hope to include in the book--expect an annoucement of the contents later this month. Meanwhile, just know that it's going to be a terrific book, if I may say so myself; one that will expand even more than usual the parameters of publishable drama. I'm very excited about it. The target publication date is February 1, 2009.

Finally--the nytheatre i has, at long last, its very own web address. Please update your bookmarks and blogrolls! Find us at http://www.nytheatre-i.com. (Note that the old blogspot address will continue to work.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Looking Forward to a New Season of Indie Theater

I've been busy these past few weeks getting ready for the 2008-09 theatre season--specifically, the fall season in New York's indie theaters. It looks like a promising few months ahead!

We're going to see new works from: Mac Wellman, The Talking Band, Radiohole, Saviana Stanescu, Pig Iron Theatre, John Clancy and Brian Parks, Rich Orloff, Oslo Elsewhere, Reid Farrington (of The Wooster Group), Thomas Bradshaw and Jose Zayas, International Theatre Lab, Mallory Catlett, Babel Theatre Project, Andrew Irons, Ralph Lee's Mettawee Theatre, Peter Mercurio, and a whole bunch of other artists.

We're going to see new takes on a variety of classic works, too: Woyzeck, A Midsummer Night's Dream, both parts of Henry IV in repertory, Caryl Churchill's A Number, Tennessee Williams's Small Craft Warnings, plus a unique pairing of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew with Fletcher's The Tamer Tamed.

Plus there's the New York Clown Theatre Festival at the Brick in Williamsburg. And Trav S.D.'s vaudeville revue No Applause, Just Throw Money at Theater for the New City.

And that's just in the next four weeks.

Our indietheater.org website has been revamped and expanded to help everybody navigate the embarassment of riches that is indie theater in New York. Check it out. In particular, look at:

And, hey, if you're producing an indie theater show this fall and you're not included in any of the above -- get with the indietheater.org program now. Email me now for info.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #12

Here is our final "hot list" for the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival. These 10 shows were the most popular on nytheatre.com yesterday, August 23rd:

1. KNB - the musical
2. Mare Cognitum
3. 2 by Sinner: Unburthen (To My Soul's Delight!) & If Water Were Present It Would Be Called Drowning
4. Galatea
5. The Boy in the Basement
6. Wildboy '74
7. Keep Your Eyes Open
8. A Fire as Bright as Heaven
9. Baby Cow
10. Paper Dolls

Saturday, August 23, 2008

FringeNYC Reviews -- All Done!

nytheatre.com has reviewed all 201 shows in the 2008 New York Internation Fringe Festival! This is the seventh year in a row that we've reviewed everything in FringeNYC. Thanks to our amazing all-volunteer squad of 68 theatre artists (actors, playwrights, directors, stage managers, designers, dramaturgs, etc.) who made this happen--who wrote thoughtful, honest full-length reviews of every show in this year's festival.

The reviews are here: http://www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/fnyc08_reviews.php

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #11

Here are the top ten most-read FringeNYC reviews on nytheatre.com for August 22nd:

1. Krapp, 39
2. A Fire as Bright as Heaven
3. 2 by Sinner: Unburthen (To My Soul's Delight!) & If Water Were Present It Would Be Called Drowning
4. KNB - the musical
5. FACE (Every Good Boy Does Fine)
6. SPITE
7. The Refugee Girls Revue: A Musical Parody
8. Keep Your Eyes Open
9. @lice in www.onderland
10. Other Bodies

Friday, August 22, 2008

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #10

Here is the list of the ten most read reviews for FringeNYC on nytheatre.com yesterday, August 21st:

1. Krapp, 39
2. FACE (Every Good Boy Does Fine)
3. KNB - the musical
4. 2 by Sinner: Unburthen (To My Soul's Delight!) & If Water Were Present It Would Be Called Drowning
5. Galatea
6. Tune Up, Faulty Piston!
7. Keep Your Eyes Open
8. Underwear; A Space Musical
9. Usher
10. The Redheaded Man

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #9

Here is the list of the ten most read FringeNYC reviews on nytheatre.com for yesterday, August 20th:

1. Galatea
2. Krapp, 39
3. CONTROL
4. Tough Guys Don't Shoot Blanks
5. The Redheaded Man
6. KNUCKLEBALL
7. The Corn Maiden
8. The Refugee Girls Revue: A Musical Parody
9. Underwear; A Space Musical
10. One Seat in the Shade

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #8

Here's the list of the 10 most popular FringeNYC show reviews on nytheatre.com for August 19th:

1. Galatea
2. Krapp, 39
3. Knuckleball
4. The Redheaded Man
5. The Disappearance of Jonah
6. @lice in www.onderland
7. A Fire as Bright as Heaven
8. Tune Up, Faulty Piston!
9. The Golden Aurora
10. Underwear; A Space Musical

FringeNYC Isn't Just Little Plays

From today's New York Times, in an article by Anita Gates that looks at a few FringeNYC offerings:
Here are some things I have learned about the 12th annual New York International Fringe Festival recently. You do not want to arrive late for a performance. (They won’t let you in.) Six actors is considered a huge cast. The most popular (and possibly least expensive) set is a bed placed center stage. Suffolk Street is not within easy walking distance of Commerce Street.

I won't dispute the first or last of the things that Ms. Gates says she's learned, because they're true (though a quick glance at a map would have told her how far Suffolk Street is from Commerce Street; they're just where they always have been, after all).

I will dispute the assertion that a bed is the most popular set -- of the 11 plays that I have seen personally at this year's festival, I have yet to see a single bed. I HAVE seen all manner of inventive stage design, much of it spare and engaging the audience's imagination (in works like The Umbrella Plays and Krapp, 39).

But the statement that rankles most here--putting aside the fact that something along the lines of "The New York International Fringe Festival is offering [better, worse, wonderful, awful] theatre experiences for audiences this year" might have been a more appropriate opening for this article--is the one that implies that FringeNYC shows are dinky in size. This is simply not true. KNB boasts a cast of 23, more than most shows on Broadway. Of the 9 shows I've seen this year that were not solo shows, more than half had more than six people in them. And there are plenty of other shows with large casts in the festival--in part because the festival is designed to accommodate them in ways that more conventional off-off-Broadway producing arrangements cannot.

I'd love to see the Times celebrate the vitality and diversity of the FringeNYC, not complain about its inconvenience and presumed diminutiveness. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #7

Here's the latest list of the most popular reviews of FringeNYC shows on nytheatre.com -- this is for Monday, August 18th:

1. Krapp, 39
2. @lice in www.onderland
3. The Redheaded Man
4. KNB - the musical
5. Good Pictures
6. Knuckleball
7. Underwear; A Space Musical
8. 2 by Sinner: Unburthen (To My Soul's Delight!) & If Water Were Present It Would Be Called Drowning
9. The Seven Little Foys
10. Tune Up, Faulty Piston!

Monday, August 18, 2008

FringeNYC--nytheatre.com Reviewers' Favorites

There's still one full week of the New York International Fringe Festival--plenty of time to enjoy a show or two! Our reviewers have weighed in on about three-fourths of the offerings by now, and I thought I'd quickly share some of their favorites with you.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the shows that have gotten positive reviews -- just a short list of 30 productions that really seem to have gotten our reviewers jazzed. I'm only including shows here that have at least 2 upcoming performances this week:

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #6

Here is a list of the top ten most-read FringeNYC show reviews on nytheatre.com for yesterday, August 17th:

1. KNB - the musical
2. Krapp, 39
3. A FIRE AS BRIGHT AS HEAVEN
4. One Seat in the Shade
5. The Redheaded Man
6. The Johnny
7. JOHNNY LAW, Courtroom Crusader
8. Underwear; A Space Musical
9. KNUCKLEBALL
10. Behold The Bowery!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #5

Here's the list of the ten most popular FringeNYC reviews on nytheatre.com for yesterday, August 16th:

1. Krapp, 39
2. Underwear; A Space Musical
3. The Redheaded Man
4. Tune Up, Faulty Piston!
5. The Boss in the Satin Kimono
6. One Seat in the Shade
7. The Grecian Formula
8. The Umbrella Plays
9. Mourn the Living Hector
10. Panopticon

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #4

These are the top ten most-read reviews of FringeNYC shows on nytheatre.com for yesterday, August 15th:

1. Krapp, 39
2. Underwear; A Space Musical
3. The Pantyhose Grid
4. Big Thick Rod
5. The Permanent Night
6. The Boss in the Satin Kimono
7. Lecture, with Cello
8. There Will Come Soft Rains
9. Thoroughly Stupid Things (or the Continuous Importance of Being Earnest)
10. Paper Dolls

Friday, August 15, 2008

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #3

Here's our top ten list for August 14th: these are the shows at FringeNYC whose reviews were read by the most people yesterday.

1. Fancy Guts & Ghosts
2. Tune Up, Faulty Piston!
3. Eagle Squadron GO!
4. Krapp, 39
5. There Will Come Soft Rains
6. Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (tie)
6. FELL (tie)
6. The Boy in the Basement (tie)
9. Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire
10. Thoroughly Stupid Things (or the Continuous Importance of Being Earnest)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What's Hot at FringeNYC - Daily Update #2

Here's the list of the ten most popular reviews on nytheatre.com on Wed, Aug 13, for shows at the New York International Fringe Festival:

1. Baby Cow
2. One Seat in the Shade
3. SPITE
4. Anais Nin Goes to Hell
5. The Legislative Process
6. Fancy Guts & Ghosts
7. Tune Up, Faulty Piston!
8. The Boy in the Basement
9. Lydia's Funeral Video
10. The Gay No More Telethon


All of nytheatre.com's FringeNYC reviews can be found here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer and Smoke Talkback - Aug 27th

I'll be hosting a talkback at the Aug 27th performance of SUMMER AND SMOKE at the Clurman Theatre. Here's the official info:
The Big Sky Theatre Company is proud to present a special post-show Talk-Back with Martin Denton of nytheatre.com, following the 8:00 pm performance of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke at The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row on August 27th, 2008. The Talk-Back will include the cast of Summer and Smoke and director Tlaloc Rivas. Tickets for this and all performances can be purchased at Ticket Central, 212-279-4200. Summer and Smoke will be performed Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 PM and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $18.00.You can also purchase tickets online at: http://www.ticketcentral.com/.
I've never done a talkback about a Williams play...and Williams is certainly one of my all-time favorites among American playwrights. So this should be a very interesting conversation!