Saturday, November 08, 2008

From the Blogroll I

I'm introducing a new feature today, which I hope to make weekly. It's called From the Blogroll, which is a compendium of what other people are currently blogging about and what I find most interesting or provocative in those posts. With, of course, commentary from moi. I went back as far as early October; typically I'll only cover the previous week's postings.

Allison Croggan’s Theatre Notes looks at the realpolitick of arts advocacy and the ying-yang of funding artists vs. funding arts administrators. Here are her opening graphs, but do click over and read the whole thing because the subject, in terms of the way she presented is extremely informative and outright fascinating.

Robert Musil, the great German novelist and intellectual, observed once that if there was to be real social change of any kind, what was required more than anything else was not idealists nor intellectuals, but managers: those who knew the nuts and bolts of creating and maintaining organisations, and understood how to change organisational structures.

It's a view that is not exactly popular among artists, and sometimes for good reason: a dismaying large proportion of the hard-won arts dollar goes, not into making art, but into paying administrators. But nevertheless, there is a great deal of sane wisdom in Musil's observation. One example close to hand is the Malthouse Theatre, the fortunes of which were turned around by a radical corporate restructure. The artistic shift was simply not possible without the remaking of the relationships within the organisation, from the Board down to the bar staff.

Matt Freeman's On Theatre and Politics called out Mayor Bloomberg’s dangerous undermining of democracy (old story but potent).

Zev N. Valancy's On Chicago Theatre reported on the Joseph Jefferson Awards. And, somewhat more recently, Zev posted his review of the American Theatre Company’s production of Itamar Moses’ Celebrity Row.

Thomas Garvey's The Hub Review had a grand mal seizure over the sound quality at the Boston Conservatory’s student production of Follies.

Steve Loucks's Steve on Broadway took his measure of Michael Riedel’s recent article on the critical exodus hitting Broadway, what with Eric Grode, Michael Sommers, Peter Filichia and (unsurprisingly omitted) yours truly out of their jobs.

Chris Caggiano's Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals sacrificed all logic and sanity at the altar of [title of show]’s Hunter Bell, who apparently thinks his musical was the greatest breakthrough in civilization since Neanderthal Man laid claim to the wheel and fire, who blames everything in sight for the musical’s demise on Broadway except the problem of its cultishness, and who pledges, God as his witness, to return the show triumphantly to Broadway by all means necessary, even if he has to personally herd dissenters into concentration camps and lobotomy clinics -- which, comes to think of it, will probably make the show that much more palatable to those of us who have identified its mirthful and abundant charms and evident, obvious flaws. Here’s are the opening graphs from Chris’ story, which will be published in The Advocate later this month:
On October 12th, 2008, Hunter Bell was starring in his own Broadway musical. On October 17th, he filed for unemployment.

Before it opened on Broadway in August, the musical [title of show] was a bit of an Off-Broadway phenomenon. The show’s plot relates how Bell and his writing partner Jeff Bowen, two self-proclaimed “nobodies in New York,” put together the plucky little musical. The pair helped fan the flames of fandom by producing a series of online video episodes, which helped the show develop a vociferous cult following, and eventually led to the Broadway run.

Unfortunately, the show only ran about three months, limping along at about 30% capacity at Broadway’s historic Lyceum Theater. Catty insiders blamed the show’s demise on its insular focus: much of the show’s considerable humor derives from its barrage of obscure theater-related references. But [title of show] librettist Hunter Bell thinks the show could have crossed over to attract a more mainstream audience, had it not been for the current economic uncertainty.

“We knew it was going to be a struggle,” says Bell. “We had an original story at a time when most Broadway musicals are based on established brands, like Shrek or 9 to 5. And when you introduce something new, it takes time for it to catch on.”

Bell says the show’s success was hampered by an economic double whammy. First, audiences currently have less expendable income, and are thus less likely to take a chance on an unknown show. “And I understand that totally,” he says “People are being a lot more careful with their money, and maybe see theater as a luxury.”

Second, investors have less available capital to keep the show open long enough to build awareness as well as a healthy advance ticket sale. “We had some really smart, awesome producers,” says Bell. “But it takes a lot of money to keep a show running.” And the folks who have that kind of money tend to be disproportionately sensitive to Wall Street fluctuations. “It’s not that people don’t believe in you,” says Bell. “It’s just that these are tricky times.”

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1 comment:

Tom Loughlin said...

Wow - this will be a really great feature, not to mention a time-saver! Thanks, Leonard! -twl