Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Merc critic picks her Top 10 of 2008, do you agree?

Karen D'Souza picks her 2008 Top 10 in Theatre here.

It is:

Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage at Berkeley’s Shotgun Players
Splitting Infinity at San Jose Rep
The Andersen Project at Berkeley’s Cal Performances
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at SF’s Best of Broadway Series
Caroline, or Change at Mountain View’s TheatreWorks
Bone to Pick at SF’s Cutting Ball Theater
Coronado at SF Playhouse
The Devil’s Disciple at Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre Company
Tragedy: a tragedy at Berkeley Rep
Wishful Drinking at Berkeley Rep (and later San Jose Rep)

Of which I saw a whopping ONE, Splitting infinity at the Rep.

So, clearly 2008 was not the year I can judge her picks, because my own theatre-going was so sporadic.

How about you? Anyone agree/disagree/have their own list?

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Another theatre doing a desperate fundraising drive, this time The Magic

If you visit San Francisco's Magic Theatre's web site today you'll be greeted by this notice:

Please donate now to save this treasure of American Theatre

San Francisco's nationally acclaimed new plays theatre, MAGIC THEATRE, is on the brink of shutting its doors. Now in the midst of a staff shutdown, MAGIC may be forced to cancel the remainder of its season and close for good. To keep our doors open we must raise $350,000 by January 9, 2009. This will allow us to bring back our staff, go on with our season, and remain responsible to our creditors. You can make a difference! Please help us save this historic institution.

Our core value of risk over commercial gain makes MAGIC a challenging endeavor in any economy, and in going forward, MAGIC is committed to a new model of financial stability for a new world-- without compromising our mission. Today however, MAGIC's accumulated debt of $600,000, combined with sharp declines in earned and contributed revenue due to the global economy, place us in imminent peril of shutting our doors.

For 42 years, San Francisco's MAGIC THEATRE has been central to the cultural life of the Bay Area and beyond, giving life to some of the most important, diverse, and powerful voices of contemporary American artists, including four Pulitzer Prize winners. From its humble beginnings in a Berkeley bar, MAGIC has emerged as one of the crown jewels of American Theatre. Please donate now.

The closing of MAGIC THEATRE would be a great loss for artists and audiences here and across the country. The second largest theatre in San Francisco, MAGIC employs 200 artists annually and touches the lives of tens of thousands of people. We need to keep our artists and our work on the stage!

The Board remains committed to MAGIC's new plays mission and in concert with the staff has been proactive in drastically cutting its $2 million budget by over $300,000 and raising additional funds in an attempt to close the gap between MAGIC's expenses and revenue lost as a result of the recession. With rehearsals for MAGIC's next production--Tough Titty by Oni Faida Lampley--slated to begin in early January, MAGIC must raise $350,000 within the next twelve days in order to continue its 43rd season. Please donate now.

Artistically, MAGIC is thriving, building upon its rich legacy under the artistic direction of Loretta Greco, who joined the theatre last spring. The critical success of the first two productions of this season demonstrate the rigor MAGIC passionately brings to each aspect of new play production — and the hoped for excitement, awe, and wonder that come from watching great art play out for audiences.

We need YOU to help us raise $350,000 by January 9, 2009. Please help us keep our doors open by making a donation today of $15.00 or more. Please give whatever you can to save MAGIC THEATRE. No amount is too small or too large. Each of you can make a difference.

What with AMTSJ closing its doors, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz needing to do a desperate plea like the Magic's, these are not good times for arts organizations.

And while the Magic might do theatre a bit more off the beaten path, commercially-speaking, AMT had tried to stay in there by doing absolutely commercial shows.

So, what theatre is doing really well financially, I wonder? Anyone know?

Hat tip: Bay Area Stage & Screen


Friday, December 26, 2008

New Marketing for a Struggling Broadway

The NY Times has an interesting article today about how Broadway is turning to the Internet and new marketing as a way to try to survive and thrive in these times.

While they do cite some examples of truly innovative and creative uses of the medium, most notably by the creator/star of In the Heights, they also talk starry-eyed about some stuff that's just the same old tired marketing delivered via new web 2.0 tools.

That show's producer has it right when he says: "“Technology is the tool, not the destination,” Mr. McCollum said. “The destination is a live audience.”" He also opines: "His theory is that the more people gravitate toward technology, the more they will hunger for human interaction."

Exactly right.

And text messaging to enter a sweepstakes or contest may indeed use a new channel, but it's not delivering that promise of human interaction. Starting a walled garden social network attached to a Broadway show site is also using modern technology, but not embracing the modern concepts of distributing and participating all across the Internet where your audience is already hanging out, rather than trying to lure them to you.

When I started my Worker Bees consulting practice, I focused on local theatres because I thought blogging and other social media had tremendous promise to bring new and existing audience members backstage virtually and make them feel as much an integral part of any live performance as, in truth, they are.

Then, as now with BlogHer, I have a core belief that one size does not fit all in this new media world. I can't imagine why some of the ideas being tried, as described in the Times article, would actually bring people into the theatre, hearts racing as the lights dim.

But the creator of In the Heights using his own time and talents to develop something unique and share it with the world? Now, that could inspire a trip to the theatre next time I'm in NYC!

cross-posted to the Worker Bees Blog

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Shakespeare Santa Cruz saved

Unlike AMT, which continues to be unsaved, Shakespeare Santa Cruz found enough donations during a do or die fundraising period to stay afloat. Source: San Jose Mercury (and apparently there will be a story in tomorrow's paper about it.)

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Marsh's new Winter-Spring season

The Marsh Theatre at 1062 Valencia in San Francisco just announced their new season, and as usual it's full of unique, fresh fare, featuring young, local talent:

Here's the season, which actually kicks off with an extension of something playing right now, and then digs into six more shows:

January 3 – January 25, 2009
Carlo D’Amore’s
Directed by Margarett Perry
Thursday, Saturday at 8 pm & Sunday at 7 pm
Tickets: $15-50
In this wry, energetic adventure play, No Parole takes you on a wild journey through the life a flamboyant, live-for-the-moment con artist mother, who has no trouble posing as an attorney, professor, daycare worker, or nun—as seen through the eyes of her young son who acts as her look-out, bail and partner-in-crime. From Peru to the streets of New York, No Parole provides a hilarious look into the life of an extraordinary woman and the son who must save her from herself.

January 8 – January 17, 2009
Marga Gomez’s
Two weeks of Workshop Performances
Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 8 pm
Tickets $15-$50

Gomez continues to workshop this intoxicating comedic memoir of her awkward adolescence in Massapequa, Long Island, mixing equal parts cultural confusion, chronic virginity, mother-daughter instability and a splash of polyester fashion to paint a sardonic picture of her uprooted life as the new brown girl in a white high school.

January 16 – February 14, 2009
Brian Copeland’s
Friday, 8 pm; Saturday, 5 pm
Tickets: $20-50
Not A Genuine Black Man returns to celebrate its fifth anniversary at The Marsh, the proud theatrical producer of what became the longest running solo show in San Francisco history. In 1971, San Leandro was named one of the most racist suburbs in America. Congressional hearings were held. The next year, the then eight-year-old Brian Copeland and his African-American family moved to San Leandro. In a monologue that's both funny and poignant, Brian explores how surroundings make us who we are. Join us for an evening of laughter tears and ociology.

January 30 – February 8, 2009
Marsh Youth Theater’s Teen Program
Directed by Kim Epifano
Times to be confirmed
Tickets: $12 General Admission; $6 Student Rate
Marsh Youth Theater's new Teen Troupe is partnering with Epiphany Productions to produce Fears of Your Life. Based on the book of the same name by Michael Bernard Loggins, an artist with developmental disabilities at Creativity Explored, Fears of Your Life uses dance, music, poetry, video and huge paper mache puppets to explore our relationship with the sometimes serious and often humorous things that scare us—from our tear ducts to our funny bone. Monsters, speeding bus drivers and hugs from someone you don’t like are only some of the fears that stalk the stage in this exciting production.

February 19 – April 5, 2009
Press Opening Saturday, March 7
Charlie Varon’s
Thursday and Saturday at 8 pm
Sunday, February 22, March 1, 15 and 29 at 7 pm
Sunday matinee at 2 pm on March 8 and 22
Tickets: $18-50
Rabbi Sam tells the story of a rabbi who wants to reinvent American Judaism, and the congregation that hires him. Some people love the new rabbi. Some can’t stand him. And, of course, some can’t stand each other. Varon plays all 12 characters, including the rabbi and eight contentious board members. Funny, moving, bursting with energy and ideas, RABBI SAM is a play for Jews, Gentiles and anyone who has ever attended a meeting.

April 2 – 25, 2009
Press Opening, Friday, April 10
Carolyn Doyle’s
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm
Tickets: $15-50
Carolyn Doyle’s Confessions Of A Refrigerator Mother, a serio-comic look at raising a child with special needs. The piece is a multi-media exploration of a day-in-the-life of a nine-year-old boy and his family as they navigate the mysterious world of autism.

May 1 – June 6, 2009
Press Opening: To be announced
Dan Hoyle’s
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm
Tickets: $15-50
Dan Hoyle, who won the 2007 Will Glickman award for best new play, brings us Right? —a 100 day, thirty state journey through small-town and rural America. Meetings with cowboys, frontiers men, soldiers in training, drug dealers, aryan brotherhood executives and many others….

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

WVLO's Plaid Tidings

We saw the closing performance of Plaid Tidings last night, so I can't encourage to or dissuade you form going, but here's my review over on my personal blog nonetheless.

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Sondheim's latest at the Public...will it be Broadway Bound?

Today's NY Times features a story on frequent Sondheim musical director Paul Gemignani's scion and current Sondheim start, Alexander Gemignani. He's starring in the third incarnation of Sondheim's musical about the Meisner Brothers...first called Wise Guys, then Bounce, and now: Road Show.

No mention of whether Road Show will be Broadway Bound, and with shows closing left and right on Broadway, I wouldn't want to have a new show on its way there right now.

I'll probably be in NYC in January or February, though, so I'm going to remain hopeful.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

More on AMT's demise

This time from the Bay Area Stage blog.

Like the BAS blogger I am totally both bemused and amused by the Theatre of the Stars president's comment:

"...we were working with them behind the scenes on solutions. San Jose apparently took matters into its own hands and sent out a press release [on Monday]"

Reminds me of John McCain's contention that he had to go negative because Obama didn't want to do 16 town hall meetings. As though one had anything to do with the other.

Grumble grumble.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Wow, did you hear the one about AMTSJ?

And the fact that it's closing!!!???

And all because another theatre (Theatre Under the Stars in Atlanta) totally screwed them. I mean totally. I mean, it sounds like they basically stole money from them.

Details in this Merc piece.

I was a subscriber to AMTSJ for many years. I didn't actually mind when they transitioned to doing mostly tours and contracted shows with non-locals. I thought the quality actually went up a bit when they started doing that, as sacrilegious as that might sound. We finally didn't renew our subscription a couple of years ago...after about 15 seasons.

It was mostly the fact that they started producing only "crowd pleasers"...including showing many shows I never really needed to see again, let alone every five years, which is how it felt. Shows like Music Man and South Pacific and Camelot. Yawn.

Still, I am very sorry to see such an ignominious end to a local institution.

Again: Wow.


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