Friday, October 31, 2008

In Celebration of Amy Winehouse

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission Finally Explains Its Indifference to NYU's Raping of the Provincetown Playhouse

Some time ago I wrote to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, asking why it has expressed no interest, no concern and, I guess, no awareness of the impending rape and destruction of the Provincetown Playhouse by President John Sexton of New York University and his right-hand gal, the raging anti-preservationist Alicia Hurley. This is the response I received. The line about
"leaving no historic fabric extant associated with the building's use as the Provincetown Playhouse" is clearly a lie. So the question remains whether the members of the Commission have been bought off in some way by NYU.

It also makes wonder whether local preservationists, such as Andrew Berman at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, made the best case they could on this issue to other city agencies and elected officials.

Here's the letter in its entirety:

Mr. Jacobs,

In response to your inquiry concerning the Provincetown Playhouse & Apartments, please be advised that the property was not recommended to the full Commission for further consideration as an individual New York City Landmark due to its current condition and architectural integrity. Upon careful review by a senior staff committee of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the property was found to be too significantly altered leaving no historic fabric extant associated with the building's use as the Provincetown Playhouse.

Although we know this is not the response you wished to receive, we are sure you understand that in a city the size of New York, the committee must be extremely selective in the structures it proposes for landmark designation. We hope that your interest in the work of the Landmarks Preservation Commission continues.


Emily Rich
Public Information Officer
Landmarks Preservation Commission
One Centre Street, 9th Floor North
New York, NY 10007
Ph: 212-669-7817
Fax: 212-669-3844

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And Yet, Even More On the Death of Journalism (Well, Arts Journalism)

This morning's doom-and-gloom report comes courtesy of Michael Riedel's column in the New York Post. I've known for some time that Michael Sommers and possibly Peter Filichia were going to be taking buyout packages from the Star-Ledger, but obviously discretion is the better part of valor and all of that.

Here's a particularly salient bit of Michael's column:

"We're huddling in the corner going, 'What's going to become of us?' " says Michael Sommers, who took a buyout this week after 15 years in the aisle seat for New Jersey's The Star-Ledger.

Also leaving is Peter Filichia, the paper's New Jersey critic for more than a decade.

Eric Grode, a promising young critic, evaporated with the New York Sun a few weeks ago.

Two other top New York newspaper drama critics are bracing themselves for a coming round of buyouts and layoffs.

I'm pretty sure I know who those two are. But I'm not telling. And yeah, everything is just lovely in arts journalism. You just keep telling yourself that.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Spin" Sets Britney Spears Fans Into Paroxysms of, Like, Total Upsettedness

Laugh, oh laugh, I truly thought I’d die. Are fans of Britney Spears -- both of them, I mean -- really complaining about Gina Gionfriddo’s contribution to Spin, presented by The Stage Farm, at the Cherry Lane Theatre? I mean, like, you know, like, are Britney Spears fans really up on, like, you know, um, what’s hot in the Off-, like, you know, Broadway universe?

Gionfriddo’s play is called “America’s Got Tragedy.” In it (and here I quote the press release), Britney is “on the set of a reality TV show in which she competes against a dead American soldier who was recently killed in Iraq. The winner must prove their story is most tragic.” Sorry, LiLo, you're the weakest link. Goodbye.

Oh, the heck with it -- here’s most of the press release. In fact, as a bonus, I'll end this post with Seth Green’s tribute to the greatest Britney Spears fan of them all. Enjoy!

(Oh, and by the way, don't you think starting off the press release with the phrase “Due to Britney flap” suggests all kinds of images?)



Due to a recent controversy that has erupted over one of the plays in the production of SPIN, currently on stage at the Cherry Lane Theatre, the stageFARM has announced that it will offer a limited number of free tickets to performances of the show to Britney Spears fans who will be in the New York area next week (through November 8). The playwright, Gina Gionfriddo, will also participate in a post-performance talkback on Wednesday, November 5.

One of the works in this new series of commissioned short plays, “America’s Got Tragedy” by Ms. Gionfriddo, depicts the pop princess in a fantasy setting: on the set of a reality TV show in which she competes against a dead American soldier who was recently killed in Iraq. The winner must prove their story is most tragic. Dreama Walker (“Gossip Girls”) portrays Ms. Spears on stage.

In emails to the stageFARM office, Spears’ fans have objected to the supposedly negative and inaccurate portrayal of their favorite female idol, according to the company’s Executive Director, Carrie Shaltz. Ms. Gionfriddo counters that “I'm a huge Britney fan. I wrote the play to comment on the dwindling news coverage of the war and the way in which -- I think -- Britney was demonized and exploited by a media that should have paid more attention to the troops. I would love to have a dialogue with fellow fans about my play. Their response is interesting to me because my play has won so many Britney converts during the run. My hope is that it functions as a humanizing corrective to Britney-bashing rather than a jump on the ugly bandwagon.” Hence, in the spirit of understanding and reconciliation, the offer of freebies.

Britney fans, to reserve your complimentary tickets for a performance of SPIN on November 3-8 at 8:00 pm, please email Carrie Shaltz at

SPIN continues its limited engagement through Saturday evening, November 8, at The Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street).

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The Afternoon Report, October 30, 2008

This information, called The Afternoon Report, is provided by a daily email blast from the publicity firm of Boneau Bryan-Brown, which maintains this blog.

Two arts advocacy groups merging

“Two nonprofit arts advocacy groups, Americans for the Arts and Business Committee for the Arts, are merging, creating the largest such group in the private sector. The partnership will strengthen both organizations’ abilities to generate increased private-sector support for the arts and arts education by detailing for business leaders the economic impact the arts can provide.”
I have such admiration for both groups and wish them the very best! (I mean that quite sincerely -- I think Americans for the Arts in particular does such a key job in arts advocacy work. Simply indispensible.

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Joe the Plummer Stands Up John McCain

Hilarious. At least we know they're both down the drain.

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Arts Advocacy Update LXIV

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of October 29, 2008:

Free Theater Night Brings New Audiences
NPR, 10/25/2008
"There may not be free lunch, but last week, all across the country, there was free theater. More than 600 non-profit theaters in 120 cities offered a Free Night of Theater, to hook new audiences."
New York City is one of the cities being added this year, and by all indication (from what I hear) it is already a tremendous success.

Give arts a future, plan says
Ann Arbor News (MI), 10/23/2008
"Ask anyone what he or she likes about living in Washtenaw County, and 'cultural opportunities' is sure to be mentioned. But in order to thrive, cultural assets - like any other - need maintenance and stewardship. That's the goal behind a master plan for cultural development in Washtenaw County that was released Wednesday night by the Ann Arbor-based Arts Alliance."
I am including this particular link this week because of how terrible the economy is in Michigan -- and therefore how encouraging this inforamtion is. Not enough arts-service organizations are paying attention to states where the financial crisis is really compounding things, such as Michigan. Hoping they pay attention this time.

Mayor: NYC seeks to boost its economy
Staten Island Advocate (NY), 10/26/2008
In his speech on how New York City is working to boost its economy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg focused on arts tourism, such as is generated by the city's innovative public art (most recently Olafur Eliasson's New York City Waterfalls), art exhibits, and theatrical productions.
If you want to know something about how the citizens of the city are starting to feel about turncoat Bloomberg, click on the link and read the comments at the bottom of the story. Wow. Tip o' the iceberg, kids.

Olympia officials consider artists' housing
The Olympian (WA), 1/28/2008
In Olympia, WA, "[c]ity officials are considering trying to attract an affordable-housing project for artists to downtown. . . . The idea behind such a development is that rising rents can otherwise price out artists, particularly in places such as Seattle, which saw its downtown gentrify in the 1990s."
Now, not to be catty, but I also saw this story awhile ago about there being too may rats in Olympia, too. So...they're putting artists with the rats?

Shot in Texas: More wrangling over film incentives
Dallas Morning News (TX), 10/24/2008
"Family-friendly may be the catch phrase in 2009 as the Legislature looks at increasing the financial incentives offered to films shooting in Texas. One proposal has a little bump for films shot here and deemed family-friendly, says Bob Hudgins, head of the Texas Film Commission. . . . Texas ranks dead last among 42 states offering cash or tax rebates, he says. Neighboring Louisiana and New Mexico each offer incentives of 25 percent, and Michigan's is 40 percent to 42 percent. The Texas Motion Picture Alliance, a film lobby group, is pushing the Legislature to up the Texas amount to a 15 percent rebate on funds spent in-state."
First off, what an awful headline. Second, leave it to those red-state idiots to institute a content provision.

Utah arts groups feel the sting of budget cuts
Salt Lake Tribune (UT), 10/27/2008
Because the annual operating budget shared by the Utah Arts Council and the Division of Arts and Museums was cut by nearly $140,000, "[a]rts organizations will see a 3 percent reduction in arts grants in 2009 - unless even more budget cuts are made in the upcoming Legislative session."
Must be frustrating to be an artist and live in such an anti-Democrat state and then have this happen. Sorry, guys.

Cincinnati's top-ranked fund provides a model to arts communities
Dayton Daily News (OH), 10/26/2008
In a survey of united arts funds conducted by Americans for the Arts, Cincinnati's Fine Arts Fund ranks number 1. Why? The strengths of tradition and corporate support. Also notable is that Cincinnati's program doesn't tolerate budget deficits. "Our donors and the corporations that welcome us into their workplaces expect us to make sure these organizations operate in a financially secure manner," says the fund's director. "Those that don't get some "tough love," she said. They get smaller checks."
Brilliant. Great story and great food for thought.

Wal-Mart charity chief: Nonprofits must team up
Boston Herald, 10/24/2008
"Boston has too many nonprofit groups, Wal-Mart Foundation President Margaret McKenna said at a breakfast meeting yesterday [October 23]. And instead of fighting for survival in an economic downturn, these groups ought to be looking for ways to work together while continuing their mission, she said. 'The argument that "our organization will go out of business" doesn’t resonate with me,' said McKenna, whose foundation distributed nearly $300 million in 2007. What does resonate, she said, is, 'Our population will not be served.'"
First of all, can we have a moment for an oxymoron: The Wal-Mart Foundation. Ok, thank you. And who is McKenna to tell Boston that it has too many not-for-profits. I think Wal-Mart has too many issues around properly taking care of its workers. Nyeh.

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Even More on the Death of Journalism

Again, I know these blogpost titles are hyperbolic. But is anyone suggesting these headlines mean all is rosy for journalists? Is anyone suggesting these changes aren't going to hit arts journalism particularly hard?

Ostriches need not respond.

Empty Nast Syndrome: Condé Nast Cutting Five Percent of All Magazine Staffs; Future of Men's Vogue In Doubt

Orange County Register to cut 110 people by Friday

American Express Publishing Cuts 22 Jobs

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Woman Seeking...a Theatre Company Discovers Rachel Crothers

Just got an email from PR wunderkind Katie Rosin. I've always been impressed by the ambition of Woman Seeking...a theatre company. This is their 19th production, as the PR notes, and I'm particularly tickled that they're doing their part to restore the great Rachel Crothers to her rightful place at the top of the American theatrical canon. I'm very proud of the photograph and the long caption about Crothers in my book, and I'm very proud of these guys for mounting this long-neglected play.

Woman Seeking...a theatre company
Proudly Presents

A battle of the mind and flesh.

Written by


Directed by KATRIN HILBE



Woman Seeking…a theatre company is pleased to announce open their 11th Season with the production, Mary the Third directed by Katrin Hilbe. Mary the Third, the company’s 19th production, is being produced in New York for the first time since it’s 1923 premiere at the 39th Street theatre – produced by Shubert and starring George Howard and Louise Huff. It ran for 152 performances. The show will play a limited engagement – ten performances only - at West End Theatre (263 W. 86th Street) Performances begin with a preview on Thursday, November 13 and continue until Sunday, December 7. Opening Night is Friday, November 14 at 7:30 pm.
In the dramedy Mary the Third, three generations of “Mary’s” ponder the question--Is there only one love in a lifetime or is “free love” the solution? Rachel Crothers' classic wit and shrewd observations show us that every generation will struggle anew to answer the pesky relationship riddle!

Produced in 1923, it is interesting to note how relevant the question remains, and how, 80 years later, we still want to avoid the mistakes of our elders, but continue to let our desires trump our most brilliant thinking!

The production features scenic design by Heidi B. Andersson, costume design by Meredith Neal, and lighting design and stage management by Elliot Lanes. Katharina Tapp is the sound designer and GridKid.

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Does the City Planning Commission Actively Loathe Greenwich Village?

Two days ago I received one of those sadly frequent "preservation alerts" from Andrew Berman at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. I've been concerned in past weeks that Andrew was doing a little too much reacting to news stories and not enough getting out in front of stories in which the GVSHP could and should be one of the primary newsmakers. This latest preservation alert does precisely that. Obviously intended to spur people on to action, the letter also smartly lays out the bleak landscape facing Greenwich Village going forward. The verdict: the City Planning Commission -- and especially its chair, Amanda Burden -- is almost increasingly and mystifyingly tone-deaf to the cries of the GVSHP and its many adherents. The question is why.

In 2002, New York Magazine described Burden -- ex-wife of the late Carter Burden, a good Democrat, City Councilman and former owner of the Village Voice --as "the new-look Bloomberg public servant: monied, socially connected, with a sharply honed aesthetic sense. And -- let's not forget -- a highly ambitious agenda." Were that anything but true. And much as I hate quoting the dreaded Wikipedia, Burden's bio on that site notes that she's the "daughter of socialite Babe Paley (1915-1978) and her first husband, Stanley Grafton Mortimer, Jr. (1913-1999), an heir to the Standard Oil fortune" and in various and sundry other ways has the bluest of blue blood coarsing through her veins. Although she has a master's in urban planning from Columbia, what this and other sources I've been examining suggests me is that Burden may possess a woefully limited understanding of anything but what the monied class wants and demands in New York City. Indeed, if we have observed anything at all from this cruel and despicable decade, it's that the monied class in Gotham wants unfettered, uncontrolled, unquestioned development -- and that it be gussied up by Burden, no doubt, to look like and seem progress, full of super-sunny buzzwords that make the anti-preservationist crowd live with what's left of their consciences.

The result: the small-scale universe of Greenwich Village be damned. Thank you, Ms. Burden.

Now, in my opinion, if you read Berman's letter carefully, what he is doing is trying to outflank -- or at least embarrass --the City Planning Commission, to say nothing of Burden personally, by comparing its apparent lack of action, its blase, let-them-eat-concrete attitude, to the far more sensitive and pro-preservationist stance taken, naturally, by the Landmarks Preservations Commission. But how far will and should Berman go?

Here is the text of Berman's email, hopefully with all links preserved.

Dear friend:

Urgent Need for Rezoning in the Far West Village, South Village, and Hudson Square: Over the last three years, GVSHP has called upon the City to rezone several areas in the Far West Village, South Village and Hudson Square to prevent out-of-scale development. We were spurred by the Trump SoHo 'Condo-Hotel,' oversized proposed new buildings at Washington and Perry Streets and Washington and Charles Streets, and a desire to preserve the scale of the South Village. Thus far however the City has resisted changing the zoning of these areas to protect neighborhood character, although this summer they approved a developer-requested rezoning of a nearby area.

The call for rezoning has now become more urgent with the recent announcement of plans for a 36-story hotel at 68-74 Charlton Street, and with GVSHP's recent discovery of plans for an 18-story hotel at 76 Sullivan Street/160 Sixth Avenue. In the two years since GVSHP first called for a rezoning of the area around the Trump SoHo, more than a half-dozen out-of-scale buildings have gone up or are underway. For a map of some of the planned new developments and the areas GVSHP has urged be rezoned, CLICK HERE.

GVSHP has written to the City Planning Commission reiterating the urgent call to rezone these areas, citing these new threats to neighborhood character.


Send a letter to City Planning Chair Amanda Burden urging her to move ahead with these requested rezonings -- go to for a sample letter you can use.

Protecting Historic East Village Houses of Worship: GVSHP closely monitors building plans throughout the East Village, particularly now that a rezoning which would for the first-time ever cap new building heights in the neighborhood is under consideration. We were therefore greatly disturbed to learn at the beginning of October of plans to build an 8-story condo-tower on top of the beautiful and historic Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection at 59 East 2nd Street.

GVSHP and the East Village Community Coalition immediately reached out to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), letting them know of the threat to the building and urging it be landmarked, and provided historic documentation from our research to back up the request. I am happy to report that the LPC responded swiftly by brokering a "standstill agreement" with the church, under which no new construction or demolition would proceed at least through next Spring, during which time the LPC will consider the possibility of landmark designation. This is particularly welcome because a rezoning of the area which would prohibit development such as the planned 8-story tower atop the church will likely be enacted before the end of this year, and before the expiration of the standstill agreement.

In another positive development for historic preservation in the East Village, yesterday the LPC held a hearing on the proposal to landmark St. Nicholas of Myra
Carpatho-Orthodox Church
at 288 East 10th Street/155 Avenue A. GVSHP strongly supported landmark designation of the building, another beautiful and historic but currently unprotected houses of worship in the East Village. GVSHP continues to push for landmark designation of the Congregation Mezritch Synagogue on East 6th Street; demolition plans have been halted, but the LPC has not yet moved on landmark designation.


Send a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission urging that they landmark these three historic East Village houses of worship -- go to for a sample letter you can use.


Andrew Berman, Executive Director
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

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Roundabout Presenting Hyper-Expensive Concert Reading of A Little Night Music

Very exciting news for Roundabout Theatre Company -- they're about to get even richer! Boy, and to think those news reports about Todd Haimes having to sell apples on the corner turned out to be wrong. Well, this is still exciting news, anyway. If only those ticket prices weren't all about spurning Joe the -- gulp! -- Plummer.

Roundabout Theatre Company’s
benefit performance of
Stephen Sondheim & Hugh Wheeler’s
Tony-winning masterpiece
A Little Night Music

A Gala Concert Reading
with a 27-member orchestra

Natasha Richardson, Victor Garber,
Christine Baranski, Laura Benanti,
Marc Kudisch, Steven Pasquale
Vanessa Redgrave

Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick
Music Direction by Paul Gemignani
Directed by Scott Ellis

Monday, January 12, 2009
at Nokia Theatre Times Square

Tickets go on-sale tomorrow, Friday, October 31st for Roundabout Theatre Company’s (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director) once-in-a-lifetime presentation of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s enchanting, Tony Award®-winning masterpiece, A Little Night Music. The gala concert reading will take place on Monday, January 12, 2009 at 7:30PM at the Nokia Theatre Times Square (1515 Broadway at 44th St).

Director Scott Ellis (She Loves Me, 1776, Curtains) will helm a cast of 18 including Natasha Richardson (Desirée Armfeldt), Victor Garber (Frederick Egerman), Christine Baranski (Countess Charlotte Malcolm), Laura Benanti (Anne Egerman), Marc Kudisch (Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm), Steven Pasquale (Henrik Egerman) and Vanessa Redgrave (Madame Armfeldt), and with legendary musical director Paul Gemignani (Assassins, Pacific Overtures) leading a 27-member orchestra with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. Additional cast members will be announced shortly.

Not seen on Broadway in 35 years, this classic musical follows three lovestruck couples as they lose – and find – each other during a long midsummer night on a country estate. Sondheim’s most heartbreaking score includes “Send in the Clowns,” “The Miller’s Son” and “A Weekend in the Country.”

The design team will be announced shortly.

Premium and Reception Tickets include admission to an exclusive cast party following the performance with all proceeds to benefit not-for-profit Roundabout Theatre Company.

American Airlines is the official airline of the Roundabout Theatre Company.
Production underwriters are the Shen Family Foundation and Williams Real Estate.

Premium Tickets at $2,500 include pre-show reception with cast, premium seating, open bar at intermission, and admission to an exclusive cast party ($2,150 tax-deductible).

Reception Tickets at $1,000 include house seats and admission to an exclusive cast party ($750 tax-deductible).

Orchestra/Front Mezzanine Tickets at $500.
Mid-Mezzanine Tickets at $250. – SOLD OUT.
Rear Mezzanine Tickets at $150. – SOLD OUT

Tickets go on-sale to the general public on October 31.

Tickets are available by phone and box office:
1) Phone at Roundabout Ticket Services: (212)719-1300.
2) Box Office: Any Roundabout box office (American Airlines Theatre, Studio 54 or the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre).

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Full Cast of West Side Story Announced

This is going to be very exciting -- and how amazing for Arthur Laurents, at 90.






The producers of WEST SIDE STORY have confirmed full casting for the new Broadway production. The cast of 37 will star Matt Cavenaugh (A Catered Affair, Grey Gardens) as “Tony,” Karen Olivo (In the Heights) as “Anita,” Cody Green (Movin’ Out) as “Riff” and George Akram (The Farrelly’s Stuck on You) as “Bernardo.” The role of “Maria” will be played by Broadway newcomer Josefina Scaglione. The 21 year old actress comes directly, by special arrangement with Actors’ Equity Association, from Buenos Aires after an exhaustive international search for the role. She created the role of Amber Von Tussle in the Argentinean production of Hairspray and the title role in Cinderella. Miss Scaglione is a classically trained opera singer who has received critical acclaim appearing as a soloist in the nation’s most prestigious concert halls.

WEST SIDE STORY will also feature Steve Bassett as “Lt. Schrank,” Kyle Brenn as “Boy Soprano,” Joshua Buscher as “Diesel,” Mike Cannon as “Snowboy,” Kyle Coffman as “A-Rab,” Joey Haro as “Chino,” Eric Hatch as “Big Deal,” Curtis Holbrook as “Action,” Michael Mastro as “Glad Hand” Danielle Polanco as “Consuela,” Jennifer Sanchez as “Rosalia,” Lee Sellars as “Krupke,” Tro Shaw as “Anybodys,” Ryan Steele as “Baby John,” Greg Vinkler as “Doc” along with Madeline Cintron, Lindsay Dunn, Matthew Hydzik, Marina Lazzaretto, Chase Madigan, Kaitlin Mesh, Pamela Otterson, Sam Rogers and Amy Ryerson as “The Jets” and Isaac Calpito, Haley Carlucci, Peter John Chursin, Yurel Echezaretta, Manuel Herrera, Yanira Marin, Mileyka Mateo, Kat Nejat, Christian Elan Ortez, Michael Rosen, Manuel Santos, Michaeljon Slinger and Tanairi Sade Vazquez as “The Sharks.”

Directed by multiple Tony Award winner and author of the musical Arthur Laurents, WEST SIDE STORY will feature scenic designs by James Youmans (Gypsy), costumes by Tony Award nominee David C. Woolard (The Farnsworth Invention, The Who’s Tommy), lighting by Tony Award winner Howell Binkley (Gypsy, Jersey Boys), hair by Mark Adam Rampmeyer (The Farnsworth Invention) and sound design by Tony Award nominee Dan Moses Schreier (Gypsy, A Catered Affair). The original Jerome Robbins choreography will be reproduced by Tony Award nominee Joey McKneely (The Boy from Oz, The Life).

WEST SIDE STORY is written by three theatrical luminaries: two-time Tony Award winner Arthur Laurents (book) and multiple Tony and Grammy Award winners Leonard Bernstein (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) in his Broadway debut.

WEST SIDE STORY is produced by Kevin McCollum, James L. Nederlander, Jeffrey Seller with Terry Allen Kramer, Sander Jacobs, Freddy DeMann, Roy Furman, Robyn Goodman / Walter Grossman, Hal Luftig, Roy Miller and Broadway Across America.

Tickets for the Broadway production of WEST SIDE STORY at the Palace Theatre (1564 Broadway) are currently on sale at or by calling 212-307-4100. Tickets for the pre-Broadway engagement at Washington D.C.’s National Theatre are currently on sale through (212- 239-6200). Broadway preview performances will be Monday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. Beginning the week of March 23, performances will be Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday - Saturday at 8 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. D.C. Ticket prices are $121.50 - 46.50.

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Two Theatres Bite the Dust

From the Unrelenting Bad News Pile:

Stamford Theatre Works To Close

Milwaukee Shakespeare goes kaput

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Jack Zink, Theatre Critic, Dies at 61

I received this today from Chris Rawson of the American Theatre Critics Association. It was reported on back in August but I thought the recollections were especially poignant.

Jack Zink, the long-time South Florida critic, died in August of cancer, just 61. He had most recently been drama critic and cultural affairs writer for the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, continuing active almost to the very end.

Jack’s great institutional service to ATCA was as president of our Foundation, which he did more than anyone to revive and set on the path to financial strength. But he is most greatly mourned as a lively intelligence and good friend, genial and courtly, always supportive of his colleagues, even those who might be slow to grasp what he could see right away.

Betsy Maupin, Jack’s friendly competitor at the Orlando Sentinel, wrote in part:

“Jack was a gentleman and a gentle man. . . . He worked harder than anybody -- writing at various times about movies, popular music, clubs and opera and spending his last years as both theater and classical music critic for the Sun Sentinel. He founded South Florida's Carbonell Awards, the classy and prestigious awards program for professional theater. He volunteered his time in innumerable ways -- as president of the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association, as senior warden of his Episcopal church. And he turned out copy like crazy.

“Jack was a tall, skinny, soft-spoken man with a gleam in his eye. He was always kind, always upbeat and always encouraging to a colleague. Like me, he was an Ohioan. . . . I last saw him in May in New York, along with Christine Dolen, another Ohioan and the theater critic for the Miami Herald. He was not well at all, but he was just as gracious and interested in everything around him as he always had been.

“We Ohioans will miss him, and so will all the theater lovers who were accustomed for so long to depending on his words.”

In her Miami Herald blog, Christine said of Jack’s final days, “he remained optimistic, because that's who he was -- a critic, yes, but one who was never happier than when he could celebrate a great production, an amazing performance, music beautifully played. . . . Everyone who has been a part of South Florida theater for any length of time has a Jack story. They would tell you about his dedication, his vision, his attention to detail, his devotion to his job and the Carbonells and his wife, Cynthia.”

Jack had introduced Christine to the man she married, Sun Sentinel arts editor John Dolen, who wrote his obituary, which said, in part:

“Mr. Zink handled a variety of Carbonell duties, including stage direction for the annual awards show. He could often be found racing around behind the scenes until curtain time, when he had to don his tuxedo....

"‘Of course bad performances and shows certainly felt his wrath in print. But even then, you often could sense Jack's reluctance to lambaste too harshly, preferring instead to try to find the good kernel in even a mediocre show,’ said Paulette Everett, editor of Showtime, the weekly Sun Sentinel entertainment section.

“Mr. Zink wrote investigative articles as well, including a series in the early 1990s about operations at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts that prompted the Florida Legislature to overhaul the center's management. . . .

“Born in 1947 in Lorain, Ohio, Mr. Zink graduated from Ohio State University. He joined TheMiami Herald as Broward lively arts editor from 1969-1971, and then became amusement editor at the Fort Lauderdale News, which later merged with the Sun Sentinel. He also spent two years at the Palm Beach Post, 1983-85, before returning to the Sun Sentinel. Mr. Zink received the Sun Sentinel's highest honor, The Fred Pettijohn Award, as well as the Carbonells' George Abbott Award for arts achievement.”

In Playbill, Robert Simonson and Kenneth Jones noted that Jack also wrote steadily for Variety since the late '70s. They quoted former ATCA chair Lawrence DeVine, who said, “Jack was as much a part of the arts scene in that sunny place as the stage boards and the lighted marquees and the out of the way places he would go to nurture some new talent. He was an honest professional and a fine, fine human being."

He is survived by his wife, Cynthia Williamson-Zink; two daughters; two step-children; and five siblings. Memorial donations can be made to St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 2250 SW 31st Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, or to the Carbonell Awards, P.O. Box 14211, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302-4211.

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More on the Death of Journalism

Sure, I'm being hyberbolic with the titles of these blogposts, but for those living in a dreamworld in which all is well, here are some more headlines:

Mourning Old Media’s Decline
Stunning stuff here, including:

"Clearly, the sky is falling. The question now is how many people will be left to cover it."


"And two weeks ago, TV Guide, one of the famous brand names in magazines, was sold for one dollar, less than the price of a single copy."


"The answer is that paper is not just how news is delivered; it is how it is paid for.

More than 90 percent of the newspaper industry’s revenue still derives from the print product, a legacy technology that attracts fewer consumers and advertisers every single day. A single newspaper ad might cost many thousands of dollars while an online ad might only bring in $20 for each 1,000 customers who see it.

The difference between print dollars and digital dimes — or sometimes pennies — is being taken out of the newsrooms that supply both. And while it is indeed tough all over in this economy, consider the consequences.

New Jersey, a petri dish of corruption, will have to make do with 40 percent fewer reporters at The Star-Ledger, one of the few remaining cops on the beat. The Los Angeles Times, which toils under Hollywood’s nose, has one movie reviewer left on staff. And dozens of communities served by Gannett will have fewer reporters and editors overseeing the deeds and misdeeds of local government and businesses."

Here are some more links:

Time Inc. Plans About 600 Layoffs

Christian Science Paper to End Daily Print Edition
(Last sentence of the first graph: "The cost-cutting measure makes The Monitor the first national newspaper to largely give up on print.")

Gannett to Cut 10% of Workers as Its Profit Slips
This is equal to about 3,000 people.

Still think all is well in journalism? Still think that arts journalism is all healthy?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

109-Year-Old Daughter of a Slave Casts Her Vote for Obama

Courtesy of, this story left me deeply moved and utterly gobsmacked.

May God bless Amanda Jones.

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Punch 59's Latest: Tales from the Script

I missed the show but love these guys to death.

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Irena's Vow to be Recorded for TOFT


The Directors Company production of Irena’s Vow, the new play by Dan Gordon, starring four-time Tony nominee, and three-time Drama Desk Award-winner Tovah Feldshuh and directed by Michael Parva, will be recorded for posterity by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Theatre on Film and Tape Archive.

Currently in its sold-out Off-Broadway run, Irena’s Vow will be recorded at tomorrow evening’s (Wednesday) performance at the Baruch Performing Arts Center.

Irena’s Vow marks Ms. Feldshuh’s first New York stage appearance since her triumphant (and Tony Award-nominated) turn in Golda’s Balcony (Broadway’s longest-running one-woman show). The play, which is being presented by The Directors Company in association with Power Production, NY and The Polish Cultural Institute in New York, is an Invictus Theatre Company world premiere.

Irena’s Vow is a riveting, life affirming story about one of the most courageous and unsung heroines of World War II. During the German occupation of Poland, Irena Gut Opdyke, a Polish catholic, was forced to work as head housekeeper for a very prominent German major. Over a two year period of service, Irena would risk her own life in order to save the lives of twelve Jewish refugees whom she secretly took under her care. Irena’s Vow is the extraordinary true story of one woman's choice and the twelve lives that would ultimately be saved – or lost - by her decision.

The cast includes Sandi Carroll, Tracee Chimo, Steven Hauck, Scott Klavan, Peter Reznikoff, Thomas Ryan, Gene Silvers, John Stanisci and Maja Wampuszyc.

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The Afternoon Report, October 28, 2008

This information, called The Afternoon Report, is provided by a daily email blast from the publicity firm of Boneau Bryan-Brown, which maintains this blog.

Not enough women playwrights? Discuss.

“Here's what's going on in New York tonight (Mon, Oct. 27) -- an old-fashioned activists' meeting, and this one about the apparent fact that women playwrights are under-represented on American stages. (This is no surprise to us in Orlando, thanks to the good work hereabouts of Women Playwrights' Initiative.) The focus tonight is on New York theater, but I'd be curious to hear of similar statistics elsewhere across the country. To me, this is a much worse problem in some places than in others. Broadway, for instance, is pretty heavily male-dominated most of the time, while some regional theaters are not. It generally comes down to who's making the decisions, of course, and Broadway is a heavily traditional place. – I love Glass Menagerie, Noises Off and a lot of other plays that are produced all the time. But -- and here's the point -- wouldn't it be great if some local theaters thought a little farther outside the box? There might be some women standing out there.”
Sigh. Here we go. Everyone jumping, and perhaps with good reason, on the faux-misogynistic bandwagon. Is anyone going to talk about the power players on Broadway that are women and how their decisions impact this problem? There aren't just two of them, folks. And why is this whole conversation all about, and only about (it seems), Broadway? Isn't the real truth of the matter that Broadway is not the artistic be-all and end-all of the American theatre? And why should this be some kind of devastating revelation to anyone? Jesus Christ, you want to have a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking? Great, here it is: the American theatre is the American theatre, not the New York theatre, not the Broadway theatre. Discuss.

Parks Named Public Theater’s First Master Writer

Suzan-Lori Parks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog and 365 Days/365 Plays, has been awarded the master writer chair at the Public Theater, the first time the distinction has been offered, the theater announced Monday. The residency, which Ms. Parks assumes on Nov. 1, is a salaried three-year position that “affords writers the flexibility and freedom to pursue their artistic goals and endeavors,” according to the Public Theater.
Gosh, can you imagine? That's like a Macarthur grant on steroids.

Goodman Theatre Launches World Premiere of RUINED 11/8

“Chicago's Goodman Theatre opens its “Strong Women, Strong Voices” Owen Theatre Series with the world premiere of RUINED by Lynn Nottage, directed by Kate Whoriskey and co-produced with Manhattan Theatre Club. Commissioned by the Goodman and first seen in the 2007 New Stages Series, Ruined was developed through Nottage and Whoriskey’s pilgrimage to Uganda—where countless interviews and interactions resulted in a portrait of the lives of the women and girls caught in the devastating armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).”
What's this? A play by a woman?

One-woman play about women, law comes to Herberger Theater

“The Arizona Project, a one-woman play about women, justice and the law, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8, at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. The play, written and performed by award-winning playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith, commemorates the 2006 naming of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and was supported by Arizona Women Lawyers Honoring Justice O'Connor. Smith conceived the play as a living tribute to women in the law, and in researching the project, she conducted one-on-one interviews with an extraordinary array of judges, attorneys, political figures, activists, convicts and other women involved in the justice system.”
Um, isn't Anna Deavere Smith a woman?

Broadway’s glass ceiling

“There's some feeling in rehearsal halls and writers' retreats and drunken dinner parties, that maybe the American theatre participates rather too enthusiastically in the supposed gender bias that the American media tosses about willy-nilly while discussing candidates for higher office. Mostly it is women playwrights who feel that way; male playwrights think the system is really, really fair and that women playwrights who raise these questions are whiners or dirty feminists. After all, everyone is discriminated against! It's show business! Nobody's happy! We're all narcissistic egomaniacs, you can't expect it to make sense! This is about the work. Which means, apparently, that any woman who cares enough to raise her voice about the fact that women's stories are not reaching the stages for which they are intended is a whiner, a dirty feminist and a lousy artist too - because a true artist wouldn't care.”
This is the blogpost that started it all. And just to be clear: I totally support the general idea that Rebeck is putting out there. I do not support the hysteria that I think may be resulting from Rebeck's concerns and observations.

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Phnom Penh Hosting New Work of Music-Theater

This is pretty fascinating. Glad I got the press release as this is both a theatre and a politics story.

NOVEMBER 28, 2008


Cambodia’s first-ever modern music theater work, Where Elephants Weep, will have its official world premiere in Phnom Penh, Cambodia this November, it was announced by John Burt, the show’s Executive Producer. With a libretto by Catherine Filloux, a score by Him Sophy, musical supervision by Scot Stafford, direction by Robert McQueen and choreography by Seán Curran, Where Elephants Weep will play the Chenla Theater from November 28 – December 7, 2008 produced in association with Amrita Performing Arts. The show played a successful preview engagement in Lowell, MA, home of one of the largest Cambodian refugee communities in the United States. It is expected to return to the U.S. in its current incarnation after playing several Asian cities in the autumn of 2010.

Inspired by a traditional Cambodian “Romeo and Juliet” story, Where Elephants Weep tells the tale of Sam, a refugee from the Khmer Rouge genocide who leaves America and returns to his homeland of Cambodia. Committed to finding his roots in his native culture, he unexpectedly falls in love with Bopha, a homegrown pop star. Where Elephants Weep weaves 12th century musical styles and traditional Cambodian instruments with a contemporary, Western-style rock band to reinterpret traditional Khmer music for a new era.

Where Elephants Weep brings an eclectic group of principal U.S. performers, most with Broadway credits, together with a Cambodian company of actors, singers, dancers and musicians, most of whom have never left the country and have had minimal opportunity to perform in public. The musical ensemble is comprised of the country’s leading musicians in both ancient traditional forms and contemporary pop music. The synthesis between Him Sophy’s own western, classically trained background (13 years in Russia at the Moscow Conservatory), highly trained western singers and their Cambodian counterparts promises to create an unprecedented theatrical event.

This international collaboration will be celebrated next week when the U.S. Embassy hosts a welcome reception for the entire company of Where Elephants Weep. The U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, Ms. Piper Campbell, will host the event at her official residence to celebrate this culture-spanning effort.

Where Elephants Weep is a new commission by Cambodian Living Arts whose mission is to support the revival of traditional Cambodian performing arts and inspire contemporary artistic expression. As part of the fulfillment of its mission, CLA commissions artists to create new works that dovetail traditional and contemporary styles, bringing new life to ancient forms.

Where Elephants Weep is CLA’s most ambitious new commission to date. Prior commissions have included a hip hop/traditional Khmer fusion CD by the U.S.-based Khmer trio SEASIA and a new shadow puppet production and nation-wide tour by the Phnom Penh-based theater company Sovanna Phum, in which traditional shadow puppet theater was used as a forum to educate about HIV/AIDS.

Founded by Arn Chorn-Pond and now a project of the international NGO World Education, CLA works with the vision that Cambodia in the year 2020 will be a country experiencing a cultural renaissance so dynamic that the arts - and not the Killing Fields - will have become Cambodia's international signature. A vibrant practice of Khmer traditional arts will thrive alongside flourishing contemporary arts, both inspired by worldwide collaborations of Khmer people and their friends. Khmer people of all ages around the world will share ownership and pride in their common cultural heritage. Khmer arts will have become a wellspring of Cambodian strength and resiliency, and a vital source of healing and reconciliation.

For more information, visit

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Irondale Ensemble to Participate in Abolitionist Project

Irondale, Brooklyn Historical Society and Weeksville Heritage Center Proposals For Abolitionism Commemoration Project Selected by NYC Economic Development Corp

Irondale Ensemble Project (Terry Greiss, Executive Director, Jim Niesen, Artistic Director, Maria Knapp, Managing Director) is delighted to announce that it, in association with the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Weeksville Heritage Center, has been selected to create In Pursuit of Freedom, a multi-faceted project to memorialize the history of abolitionism, the anti-slavery movement, and the Underground Railroad in Brooklyn.

The project will provide new resources for understanding Brooklyn’s important role in the abolitionist movement through exhibitions, marked walking tours, a theater project and a website. The City of New York is providing initial funding of $2 million for project implementation, with additional private funding to be raised.

Irondale, the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Weeksville Heritage Center created a proposal for In Pursuit of Freedom in response to a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by NYC Economic Development Corp (NYCEDC), in cooperation with the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and in partnership with a Commemoration Advisory Panel.

“Irondale is truly honored to be working with two such distinguished organizations. We are tremendously excited to turn this exciting chapter in history into exciting theater,” says Terry Greiss, Irondale’s Executive Director.

Last year, a panel of noted historians, community leaders and academics were selected to assist with the creation of the RFP and the selection of a local cultural organization to develop and manage a commemoration project to memorialize anti-slavery activity in Brooklyn.

“When we supported the rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn, we recognized the rich culture and historical significance of Downtown Brooklyn,” said Councilmember Letitia James. “I was happy to have played a role in championing this commemorative effort. I proudly congratulate the awardees, who will do honor to this project in a culturally sensitive and respectful manner.”

Councilmember David Yassky said, “The selection of these organizations to commemorate the abolitionist history of Downtown Brooklyn is outstanding news. The Brooklyn Historical Society, Weeksville Heritage Center and the Irondale Ensemble Project have each demonstrated unique sensitivity and commitment to honoring the historic contribution of the Downtown Brooklyn community. I am confident the resulting project will be terrific.”

In Pursuit of Freedom contains four inter-related components:

1. A commemorative artistic installation in Downtown Brooklyn will be the starting point for visitors to follow a series of historical markers at key sites around the borough. A self-guided walking tour of these sites will also be created and distributed at key locations in Brooklyn.

2. Interpretative exhibits, with images, maps and primary source documents will be installed at the Brooklyn Historical Society, Weeksville Heritage Center and the Irondale Center at Lafayette Avenue Church. Each will include images, maps and primary source documents, and each will be focused on facilitating use by educators and students.

3. An original theater piece will draw upon the story of abolitionism in Brooklyn as it relates to important issues that continue to challenge contemporary society.

4. An interactive website will connect all of the components to make the project available to a national and international audience.

“The history of abolition is complex and powerful,” said Deborah Schwartz, President, Brooklyn Historical Society. “The struggle for freedom was not only fought on battle fields, but also in churches, schools, newspapers and local communities all over America. Leaders and activists who lived and worked in Brooklyn were vital to the outcome; their stories need to be told and understood. With this project we hope to invigorate a lively civic discourse about the relationship of history to our present lives. On behalf of my colleagues from Weeksville Heritage Center and the Irondale Ensemble Project, I extend our thanks to EDC, DCA, the Partnership, and the Advisory Panel for selecting us to carry out this hugely important task.”

The program will be developed in partnership with a group of scholars with expertise in Brooklyn’s abolitionist history, including Dr. Craig Steven Wilder, Professor of History, MIT; Cynthia Copeland, historian and educational curator, New York Historical Society’s New York Divided: Slavery and the Civil War; Dr. Michael Wallace, Pulitzer Prize winning author; Dr. Bret Eynon, academic dean, LaGuardia Community College; and Dr. Clarence Taylor, Professor of History, Baruch College. Two scholars from the Weeksville Heritage Center will also participate in the project, Dr. Elissa Blount-Moorhead, a professor at Pratt Institute and Exhibit Designer, and Jennifer Scott, a professor at the Pratt Institute and the New School with a background in Anthropology, Preservation and History. The Scholars Council of the Brooklyn Historical Society will review exhibits and other materials throughout the development and implementation of the project.

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Pollyanna Sings Showtunes While the Death of Arts Journalism Nears?

Could be...

I mean, I usually agree with my friend and colleague Rob Weinert-Kendt, but I found this post, which includes a slight response to my previous post about the impending death of journalism/arts journalism, a bit on the rose-colored glasses side. He's got his take, I've got mine. Just by way of further example, I happen to know of at least one more theatre critic -- who I won't name -- who is about to no longer be a theatre critic. These are terrible times and to pretend that this shakeout is like any other shakeout is simply playing the ostrich, in my view.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

The Afternoon Report, October 27, 2008

This information, called The Afternoon Report, is provided by a daily email blast from the publicity firm of Boneau Bryan-Brown, which maintains this blog.

Free Theater Night Brings New Audiences
“There may not be free lunch, but last week, all across the country, there was free theater. More than 600 non-profit theaters in 120 cities offered a Free Night of Theater, to hook new audiences.”
I can't wait to see how it does this year in New York. To find a free night of theatre near you go to

Actors, sound artists team for Halloween radio drama

“The Post-Meridian Radio Players pair voice actors with Foley Sound artists to create a world in showgoers’ minds. Stephen King meets Garrison Keillor in “Tomes of Terror III,” the fourth Halloween “staged-radio thrillology.” The show – which is produced for a live studio audience and will be podcast, but not broadcast – includes an episode of the classic radio sitcom “The Baby Snooks Show,” a creepy folktale, and “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. House manager Chris DeKalb, 34, said the show has proven so popular that the troupe had to add a fourth performance. “In Somerville there’s a lot of Halloween events, and yet we still get the crowds,” he said.”
Great new word: "thrillology"!

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The Death of Journalism? The Death of Arts Journalism?

Apparently some people don't seem to understand the impact of what's going on in journalism, of which arts journalism is always the not-quite-wanted younger sibling.

In addition to the shuttering of the New York Sun (leaving a superb critic, Eric Grode, without a job), the possibility that no official theatre critic will replace Jeremy McCarter at New York, and at least two major daily critics -- who I cannot name -- about to announce their buyouts, how is it that people actually dispute that there's a problem?

Consider some of these articles just in the last few days alone:

LA Times to Lay Off 75 Staffers

Star-Ledger Newspaper Says 40% of Staff to Leave

02138 Shutters; RadarOnline Bought While Magazine Folds

Financial Times to axe up to 60 jobs

Yahoo to cut 10% of workforce as profit declines (that's 1,500 jobs right there)

30 Layoffs at Time Inc.’s Southern Progress

Is anyone listening?

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Charles Busch Wrote a New Play; MCC Theater to Present It

Hot off the proverbial presses...



MCC THEATER (Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey, Artistic Directors; William Cantler, Associate Artistic Director; Blake West, Executive Director) today announced that the second offering of their 2008-09 season will be Charles Busch’s The Third Story, directed by Carl Andress. The Third Story replaces the previously announced World Premiere production of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon, which the company will now present as their first show of MCC Theater’s 24th season, in September of 2009. Mr. Busch will appear in The Third Story himself in the leading female role; further casting will be announced shortly. This production will mark the New York Premiere of the show following a recently completed run at La Jolla Playhouse. Performances will begin at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street, NYC) on January 14 and continue through February 28, 2009. Opening night is set for Monday, February 2 at 7:00 p.m.

A mother and son screenwriting team hunker down in Omaha after fleeing Commie-obsessed 1940’s Hollywood. A romantically-inclined but socially-inept princess makes a deal with an ancient witch. And tommy guns meet test tubes as a way-too-well-dressed first lady of the mob forms a desperate alliance with a cloning scientist whose experiments have had, um, less-than-consistent results. Gangster flicks, fairy tales and B-movie sci-fi collide in this epic comic fable from the mind of one of the American theater’s premier talents. The Third Story is both a sublimely crafted tale of love, longing and sacrifice and, in true Buschian fashion, a helluva good time.

“With our hit production of Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty now slated to open on Broadway in early 2009, we felt that Neil, his two plays, and our audience, would be best served if these plays did not open back-to-back,” explained Artistic Director Robert LuPone. “We are especially thrilled to have the opportunity to present Charles Busch’s new work and have a win-win situation on our hands. We get to produce two plays we are passionate about and Charles can have his long-awaited Lortel homecoming. He tells us he cannot wait to get back on the Lortel stage after playing Red Scare on Sunset there in 1991.”

Currently, tickets to this exclusive event are only available to MCC Subscribers. Special 2 play subscriptions that will include Coraline, a new musical with music and lyrics by Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields and book by David Greenspan, will be available November 10 for as little as $79. Individual tickets to The Third Story will be available to the general public at a later date to be announced.

MCC Theater is one of New York City's leading Off Broadway theater companies, committed to presenting New York and world premieres each season. When MCC Theater was founded in 1986, its mission was simple: to bring new theatrical voices to theater-going audiences. MCC Theater continues to accomplish this yearly through presentation of its mainstage works; its Literary Program, which actively seeks and develops new and emerging writers and its Education & Outreach Program, allowing more than 1,200 students yearly to experience theater, increase literacy and discover their own voices in the arts. Notable MCC Theater highlights include: their 2008 Broadway-bound production of Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty (to open at a theatre to be announced in February, 2009), the 2004 Tony-winning production of Bryony Lavery’s Frozen; Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig; Rebecca Gilman’s The Glory of Living; Marsha Norman’s Trudy Blue; Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Wit; Tim Blake Nelson’s The Grey Zone and Alan Bowne’s Beirut. Over the years, the dedication to the work of new and emerging artists has earned MCC Theater a variety of awards. For a complete production history, visit

Charles Busch (Playwright, Baba Yaga, Queenie Bartlett) is the author and star of such plays as The Lady in Question, Red Scare on Sunset and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, which ran five years and is one of the longest running plays in Off Broadway history. His play The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife ran for 777 performances on Broadway and received a Tony nomination for Best Play. He wrote and starred in the film versions of his plays, Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommie Die, the latter of which won him the Best Performance Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, Mr. Busch received a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement as both performer and playwright. Mr. Busch made his directorial debut with the film A Very Serious Person, which premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. He is also the subject of the documentary film The Lady in Question is Charles Busch.

Carl Andress (Director). Directing credits include: The Third Story (La Jolla Playhouse), Die Mommie Die! (New World Stages); Sheldon Harnick and Joe Raposo’s A Wonderful Life (Shubert Theater - named one of TIME Magazine's Best in Theater 2005); Charles Busch & Julie Halston: Together on Broadway (Music Box Theater); Douglas Carter Beane’s The Cartells (Drama Dept.); Shanghai Moon (Drama Dept., Bay Street Theater, Theater for the New City); The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife (Paper Mill Playhouse; Coconut Grove Playhouse; Royal Poinciana Playhouse); Crush the Infamous Thing (Coconut Grove Playhouse); Carmen Pelaez’s Rum & Coke (Abingdon Theater Co.); J.A.P. Chronicles – The Musical (Perry Street Theater); Queen Amarantha (WPA Theater); Times Square Angel (Theater for the New City); It's Not My Fault, It Was On Fire When I Got There (FringeNYC/Theater for the New City); TRUE COLORS (Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center); Broadway for Medicine (NY City Center); Literacy Partners Annual Gala (NY State Theater). Also, co-writer and co-star of the independent feature, A Very Serious Person (Tribeca Film Festival).

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New Interview with -- Me! -- on The Inexplicable Dumbshow

For those of you unfamiliar with the Inexplicable Dumbshow, it's perhaps the dominant theatre- and arts-oriented podcast in the Southeast. I met Tee Quillin and John Mauldin, who by day are happily ensconced in academic pursuits, at the Humana Festival this year, and I just love the podcasts they do. They've been super-supportive of my book, Historic Photos of Broadway, for which I'm grateful.

Here's the link to the podcast.

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Harpo's Son Joins Campaign to Create Marx Brothers Place on East 93rd Street

Well, this is nice -- an emailed newsflash from Susan Hefti of the 93rd Street Beautification Association. Good for them! Nifty photo, too. Here's the copy:

His father had always told him just how much he loved his childhood home on East 93rd Street. So, when Harpo Marx's son heard about the preservation campaign to protect this incomparable historic block, and the Marx Brothers childhood home, Bill Marx promptly wrote to the chairman of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission asking the LPC to include Marx Brothers Place in the Carnegie Hill Historic District where it belongs.

Bill Marx believes that as a nation, it's imperative that we pay keen attention to our collective cultural history, so as not to forget what America was while continuing to define what she will become.

Harpo's son was also recently instrumental in getting his father's Ranch, El Rancho Harpo, where he lived late in life, designated as an historic site in California. Now Mr. Marx has turned his attention to East 93rd Street in the hopes that New York City will do the right thing and preserve the historic block where the childhood home of his famous father and uncles still stands.

Reporter Adam Pincus recently spoke with Harpo's son and filed this news story for The Real Deal magazine.

You can help, too !

Just click on this link and sign the 2 petitions to protect historic Marx Brothers Place:

For more information about the campaign to preserve historic Marx Brothers Place, please contact the 93rd Street Beautification Association at or visit our blogs at or

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

David Garrick's Historic Villa Burns

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Brian Griffin of "Family Guy" Endorses Barack Obama for President

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Jewish American Writers Series Announces New Season

I received this information courtesy of my friend Robin Goldfin. It was 22 years ago (!!) that Robin was my expository writing teacher at New York University. And oh, what a little shit I was. Smart as a whip (if I may say so), but something a total wiseass (can you imagine?) and Robin was expert with me -- and I don't mean just in terms of him handling me. His writing advice was acute and direct and meaningful in a way that only became apparent months or years afterward. And today we're friends, which is just about the nicest thing in the world.

Anyway, here's the 411:

The new season for the Jewish American Writers Series will begin on Sunday November 9th at The Cornelia Street Cafe. This year I'll be joined by two co-hosts, Debra Goldberg and Deborah Greenhut who will help to curate future readings.

For this first event the hosts will also be the featured readers: Goldberg, Greenhut and Goldfin.

There will be drama, prose and song (I'll be joined by composer Oren Neiman and actor Mike Finesilver in a few songs from THE LAWS OF MOTION.) Please join us if you can.

Jewish American Writers @ Cornelia Street Cafe
3 G's -- An Evening of Hosts

Debra Goldberg
Deborah Greenhut
Robin Goldfin

Date: Sunday November 9th
Time: 6-8 pm
Admission: $7 (includes one free drink)

Cornelia Street Cafe
29 Cornelia Street (btwn. W.4th/Bleecker Sts., west of 6th Ave.)
NYC 10014

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Ethan Hawke Joins Humungous List of Stars in LAByrinth Staged Readings Series

B A R N S E R I E S, OCTOBER 23 – NOVEMBER 15, 2008


LAByrinth Theater Company (John Ortiz, Artistic Director; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Co-Artistic Director; John Gould Rubin, Co-Artistic & Executive Director) opens its fall season with the first of two annual festivals of free staged readings, the Barn Series (October 23 – November 15, 2008). Ethan Hawke joins the previously announced roster of performers that includes LAB members Eric Bogosian, Elizabeth Canavan, Max Casella, John Doman, Kevin Geer, Didi O'Connell, John Ortiz, Portia, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Michael Stuhlbarg, Yul Vázquez, and David Zayas, among others.

LAByrinth Theater Company began its 17th Season in July, when its members work-shopped thirty seven new plays during the two-week Summer Intensive, at Bennington College in Vermont. LAB Company Members and invited guests attend this annual retreat to explore new ideas with total freedom in a supportive environment. Twelve of these plays are now being presented to the public as staged readings in LAByrinth's ninth annual Barn Series festival. A full schedule follows.

Staged readings represent the second step in LAB's play development process, allowing artists to assess how audiences connect with their work, and letting them shape and refine the text in preparation for production. The festival allows audiences to see exciting new work, to engage in LAB's development process by giving feedback to the artists, and to catch an early glimpse of future productions.

All readings are FREE and open to the public, and take place at The Public Theater (425 Lafayette Street). Reservations are not necessary and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis each night. Patrons should arrive at the theater 1/2 hour before the performance they would like to attend.

The roster of playwrights includes Stephen Belber, Maggie Bofill, Raúl Castillo, Andrea Ciannavei, Cusi Cram, Stephen Adly Guirgis, David Bar Katz, Megan Mostyn-Brown, Mel Nieves, Melissa Ross, Jonathan Smit, and Adam Szymkowicz with guest directors Damon Arrington, Carolyn Cantor, Michele Chivu, Scott Illingworth, Ethan McSweeny, Mimi O’Donnell, John Ortiz, John Gould Rubin, and Felix Solis.

The company of performers includes Betsy Aidem, Carlo Alban, Vanessa Aspillaga, Brian Avers, Maggie Bofill, Eric Bogosian, Elizabeth Canavan, Monique Carboni, Max Casella, Raúl Castillo, Maria Cellario, Beth Cole, J. Eric Cook, Cusi Cram, Alexis Croucher, David Deblinger, John Doman, Jamie Dunn, Kat Foster, Kevin Geer, Charles Goforth, Yetta Gottesman, Dion Graham, Gerardo Guidino, Sarah Nina Hayon, Ethan Hawke, Laura Heisler, Greg Keller, Mike Kelley, Ken King, Angela Lewis, Florencia Lozano, Sandie Luna, Megan Mostyn-Brown, Nyambi Nyambi, Didi O'Connell, Kelley Rae O'Donnell, Wilemina Olivia-Garcia, John Ortiz, Melissa Paladino, Gina Maria Paoli, Richard Petrocelli, Paula Pizzi, Portia, Michael Puzzo, Justin Reinsilber, Joselin Reyes, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Andy Scully, Maureen Sebastian, Felix Solis, Matt Stadelman, Michael Stuhlbarg, Gregg Sulzer, Ed Vassallo, Yul Vázquez, Aaron Roman Weiner, Elanna White, Sidney Williams, and David Zayas.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

The Afternoon Report, October 24, 2008

This information, called The Afternoon Report, is provided by a daily email blast from the publicity firm of Boneau Bryan-Brown, which maintains this blog.

Soul of Shaolin Announces Limited Broadway Engagement
“Nederlander Worldwide Productions and The Eastern Shanghai Cultural Film and Television Group will partner to present the China on Broadway production of “Soul of Shaolin,” a new Chinese martial arts spectacle, which will begin previews on Tuesday, January 13 and open Thursday, January 15 at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre (1535 Broadway). “Soul of Shaolin” will play a limited engagement of 24 performances in celebration of the Lunar New Year* - the year of the Ox."
And Broadway will need the ox, I'm sure, to haul this economy through the winter. Should be interesting.

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Thank You, Ian W. Hill

...for the kind and lovely things you said about Historic Photos of Broadway. Much appreciated!

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John Madden, Former Drama Desk President, Dies at 76

This was announced last month but I just received a long obit on Mr. Madden and wanted to share the contents with everyone. Imagine a time when theatre coverage still mattered! Mr. Madden is not to be confused with the sportscaster, by the way.


John Madden, longtime administrative assistant to legendary Variety editor-in-chief Abel Green and a legit theatre reporter for the Weekly, died Sept. 10 at Memorial Regional South Hospital in Hollywood, Florida.

His death was caused by complications of a stroke suffered Sept. 25, 2007. He was 76.

One of the longest-serving staffers at Variety’s New York headquarters, Madden joined the Weekly in 1954, and left the paper in 1992, four years following its sale by the Silverman family.

John initially made his mark as Abel Green’s indispensable assistant and right hand man. Former ad director Morton Bryer (himself a 37-year Variety veteran) recalls that by the time he joined the paper in September 1957, "John was already plugging away for Abel."

In an editorial office comprised of intelligent but sometimes dyspeptic personalities, Madden stood out. "He was always kindly, polite and willing to help a fellow mugg. I never heard a harsh word with the guy, and always liked him," Bryer recalls.

Madden sat for many years at a desk situated directly beneath the sharply elevated dais at the northernmost end of the long, rectangular editorial office. Looming above and behind him at their respective desks were Variety publisher Syd Silverman and Green - Madden's immediate boss, mentor and, as John often said, his father figure.

(Bryer recalls a bizarre incident that occurred in the 46th Street office in the mid-Eighties. An over-zealous construction crew demolishing a building next door launched a wrecking ball that mistakenly slammed into the westward wall of the Variety headquarters office. Bricks went flying, some landing dangerously near Madden's desk beneath the elevated dais. Bryer recollects that Madden simply ignored the fracas, and imperturbably continued to type a story on his trusty Royal manual.)

A solidly-built man of gentle manner, Madden was most often the first person encountered by outsiders to the 46th Street office en route to an audience with the editor-in-chief.

From the very first, Green - a keen judge of talent - appreciated Madden's lively mind, his broad knowledge of theatre, film and music as well as his general show-biz savvy and grasp of detail.

John quickly was elevated from "office boy" gofer status and given more challenging assignments. The editor-in-chief soon turned to John to (instantly) attach names to the many faces greeting Green each day (and night), often of important show business personalities not kindly disposed to having their names either mangled or mis-remembered.

It was Madden who often supplied the boss on-the-spot title identification of some obscure film, play or musical number or the name of some semi-forgotten stage personality.

In addition to his adept handling of various administrative duties, John also proved useful in smoothing relations on Green's behalf with disgruntled editors in the office or visiting national and international correspondents. A subtle diplomat with charm to spare, Madden's smile and gracious manner defused many a potentially contentious intra-office encounter involving Green.

At Green's insistence, Madden gradually branched out as a reporter covering opera, ballet, music and night club acts (Variety covered each area regularly for as long as the Silvermans owned the paper).

By the early 1970s, he was working under the tutelage of the Weekly's longtime legit editor, Hobe Morrison, covering off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway. (Although no longer directly reporting to Green, Madden still served the editor-in-chief in various capacities until Green's death in May of 1973.)

Following Morrison’s death, Madden reported to his successor as legit editor, Richard Hummler.

A talented singer in his own right, Madden possessed a strong tenor voice of wide range. A demonstration recording still exists of Madden and several Broadway professionals performing a musical version of the Oliver Goldsmith comedy, "She Stoops To Conquer." The project, alas, never materialized onstage. Nonetheless, the recording clearly demonstrates Madden vocally holding his own against much more experienced Broadway singers.

He was an insightful reviewer of stage productions of all sorts. His enthusiastic interest led him to accept the vice presidency of The Drama Desk, a 59-year-old New York City-based organization of theatre reporters, editors and critics. In addition to sponsoring panels on various arts topics, The Drama Desk has since 1955 sponsored influential awards celebrating off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway and not-for-profit theatre.

Succeeding Alvin Klein of The New York Times, John became the 15th president of The Drama Desk in late 1982, and served in that capacity for the next three years.

John Edward Madden was born in New York City on Oct. 14, 1931. His mother, Faye, was a Jewish émigré from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was a hatter from Massachusetts. When Faye married her Irish Catholic husband, she agreed to rear any children as Roman Catholics.

Thus, John and his younger brother, George, were raised as Catholics. Throughout his adult life, John relished both his ethnic backgrounds despite the economic rigors of his early childhood. (One of his all-time favorite films was Elia Kazan's 1945 title, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," about the hardships of tenement life in early 20th century.)

After graduation from high school in the Bronx, Madden began his career in show business thanks to a well-connected maternal uncle who arranged for a position in the accounting department at the New York offices of 20th Century Fox. While at Fox, Madden studied acting in his off hours at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and took voice lessons.

He soon made the acquaintance of a young Fox colleague who had been offered a position at Variety as Abel Green's office boy. For reasons long forgotten, the colleague turned down the offer. It was suggested that Madden, then in his early 20s, consider applying for the job. He did, and began working for Green soon thereafter.

Madden quickly developed a close friendship with Norma Nannini, Green's long-serving personal secretary. Through the years she remained one of his closeSt confidantes. During their times at Variety and after, the two communicated several times daily until her death on August 10, 2006.

After leaving Variety in 1992, Madden retired. Besides managing his business properties, Madden traveled extensively - often in the company of friend and former mugg, Joe Morella - to Mexico, North Africa and Europe, keeping up with his large circle of friends via the famous "Johnny Madden postcards." (It was not uncommon for Madden to dispatch as many as 50 postcards from whatever far-flung spot he was visiting.)

Among those who knew him well, Madden always had a well-earned reputation as a care-giver. It was John who looked after his late father for over two decades. It was John who nursed his longtime Variety associate and fellow mugg, Bob Frederick, through a fatal siege of leukemia. Madden also cared for his late landlord and friend, Donald Gordon, through a series of illnesses.

Madden moved to Miami Beach in 2000, and six years later to Hollywood, Fla. It was in the East Coast Hollywood that Madden realized his lifelong dream of owning a single family house with a white picket fence.

Madden is survived by his longtime friends and companions, Robert and Gerry Rosa; his sister-in-law, Marilyn Madden (his younger brother pre-deceased him); and his two nieces, Karen Madden Popp and Wendy Madden Caldwell.

A memorial service will be held in New York City at an unspecified future date. Condolences, Mass cards, etc. should be sent to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rosa, 5216 Van Buren Street, Hollywood, Florida 33021.

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National Alliance for Musical Theater Unveils National Fund for New Musicals

Wow! This is excellent news and I'm pleased to pass on the press release sent to me earlier today.


At their 20th Annual Festival of New Musicals today, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) announced the launch of the National Fund for New Musicals, a new program which will provide grants to support producers and writers during the process of creating, developing, and producing new musicals.

NAMT has already raised $100,000 for the National Fund for New Musicals, and will continue to grow the fund. The Founding Supporters of the National Fund for New Musicals are Stacey Mindich, The Shen Family Foundation, The Mackintosh Foundation, Dallas Summer Musicals, Theatre Under The Stars, Broadway Across America, Charlie Fink, Dominic Chianese, and the Lake Company Inc.

The fund will award grants once a year, and in the first year, up to $33,000 will be awarded to not-for-profit NAMT member theatres in the following three categories:

1) Early Collaboration Grant – To support a writer residency at a theatre with the goal of creating a draft and a few songs of a new musical. Awards will be up to $3,000.

2) Project Development Grant – To support a workshop or reading of a new musical. Awards will be up to $6,000.

3) Production Grant – To support a full production at one theatre or multiple productions among several theatres. Awards will be up between $10,000 and $20,000.

NAMT Executive Director Kathy Evans said, “We are thrilled to launch this very exciting initiative, which we believe could have a major impact on the field. In the past, musical theatre writers have sometimes seen their musicals follow an unpredictable path over many years of isolated readings, without a clear destination of a full production. And for theatres, the development and production of new musicals is an expensive and risky undertaking. I believe that the National Fund for New Musicals will help more musicals flourish by supporting small, mid-sized, and large theatres in their collaboration with each other and with writers, and by helping to keep a forward momentum for a new musical’s journey toward a full production”

The granting program was created in consultation with Gigi Bolt, who was previously the Director of Theater and Musical Theater at the National Endowment for the Arts for over ten years. Ms. Bolt will work with NAMT to administer the panel review process for the first year’s applications.

The application process and timeline will be announced on NAMT’s web site in November. Applications may be submitted only from not-for profit members of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre. NAMT plans to announce its first group of grant recipients in April 2009.

Founded in 1985 and based in New York City, The National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT), is a national service organization dedicated exclusively to musical theatre. NAMT has presented its annual FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS since 1989. The Festival brings together leading theatre producers and writers, with the goal of furthering the development and production of new musicals. NAMT membership includes not-for-profit and commercial theatres, developmental organizations, universities, and independent producers. Located throughout 33 states and 6 countries, the 150 member organizations share a commitment to nurture the creation, production, and recognition of new musicals and classics. For more information, visit

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Leonard Jacobs Causes John McCain to Win the Election

This video created courtesy of Jim Baldassare. What fun (if frightening)!

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New Interview: With Me!

I was interviewed live on the radio about two weeks ago about my book, Historic Photos of Broadway. I've been meaning to put up a link to the show -- I'm also going to be a guest on another show run by this cool pair in early November.

Meantime, here's the link to the interview.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Afternoon Report, October 23, 2008

This information, called The Afternoon Report, is provided by a daily email blast from the publicity firm of Boneau Bryan-Brown, which maintains this blog.

A Hemline Index, Updated
New York Times - by Tamar Lewin

"Terry F. Pettijohn II, a professor of psychology at Coastal Carolina University, is one of those who sees popular tastes shift with economic conditions. Take beauty, for example. "What we find attractive is not a stable currency," said Mr. Pettijohn, who has studied how economic and social factors shape preferences in popular music, movie stars and Playboy models. "It's affected by the environment, by what's happening in society, and what makes us feel more comfortable in threatening times." Looking at Billboard No. 1 songs from 1955 to 2003 for a study to be published in the journal Psychology of Music, he found that in uncertain times, people tend to prefer songs that are longer, slower, with more meaningful themes. "It's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' and 'That's What Friends Are For,' " he said. "In better times, it's more likely to be faster, upbeat songs like 'At the Hop' or 'My Sharona.' " The correlation isn't perfect. The song Mr. Pettijohn's raters called most meaningless, "Macarena," was a hit in a relatively bad year."
This is not unlike the old saw about people going to the theatre to escape bad times. Very perceptive.

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