Theatre Matters

Contemplations on the dramatic arts from a national perspective


Steven Oxman has contributed to such publications as the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, Stagebill, and, most frequently, Variety, for which he has written over 300 television and theatre reviews.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Stake in the Rings

It became apparent very early on that the gargantuan production of "Lord of the Rings" planned for Toronto -- discussed by me here and here and here -- was planned as a tourist attraction. Thus, it now makes sense that there is a unique funder of the show, the Ontario government itself. This from the NY Times:

"Ontario's officials - on behalf of their 12 million citizens - have signed on as investors for the show, which is expected to be one of the most expensive ever. Taking on a role traditionally played by impresarios, idealists and other theatrical gamblers, the provincial government will contribute some $2.5 million of the show's $23 million budget, betting that the production's global appeal will justify a unique, and risky, public-private partnership.

'We've never done anything like this,' said Sandra McInnis, the president and chief executive of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation, which is the province's tourism agency. 'But this is one of the largest productions ever to come to Toronto, and we have a vested interest in seeing it's successful.'

While theatre as tourist attraction sounds like a wincing warning to those who love the theatre as an art form, it shouldn't... or, at least, we should withhold judgment. I find it very encouraging that Toronto wants to be known as a theatre city, a place where people come to see the show, or when people visit, they think of going to the theatre as a natural choice. They're certainly putting their money where their hopes are.

From the media coverage, the show seems to be progressing quite well, and certainly the fact that the government is coming up with cash strikes me as a hopeful sign. I'd certainly be a lot more likely to invest in this now then I would have back in March. The fact that future productions -- the NY Times piece mentions London -- is certainly encouraging.

We can expect saturation coverage of this in the theatrical press as the opening approaches, and I'm curious to see who'll review it for the big papers. Such a plush assignment, going to Toronto in February....

If you haven't seen the website for the show:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Grand Day for Western Drama

Harold Pinter has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Three cheers! Bravo! Standing O! and all that.

The question of deservedness -- which did arise following Dario Fo's receipt of the prize some years ago -- will be raised by nobody on this selection. Pinter's talent is unquestioned, his influence undying. His best plays remain eery, disturbing, their power immune to easy interpretation. He puts his finger on the dark side of us, the unknowable, the unmentionable.

Here's the brief summation of achievement from the Nobel site: Pinter "in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms."

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Death of Playwright: August Wilson

Sad news for the theatre. August Wilson passed away yesterday.

This was not unexpected, and because he'd announced his cancer a couple of months ago, the press has obviously been prepared for this event.

Charles Isherwood has a thorough, elegant obituary in the NY Times. The best, most comprehensive, quote comes from Tony Kushner, who really puts his finger on why, even for those who didn't passionately adore Wilson's writing, he meant a lot:

"He was a giant figure in American theater," the playwright Tony Kushner said yesterday. "Heroic is not a word one uses often without embarrassment to describe a writer or playwright, but the diligence and ferocity of effort behind the creation of his body of work is really an epic story.

"The playwright's voice in American culture is perceived as having been usurped by television and film, but he reasserted the power of drama to describe large social forces, to explore the meaning of an entire people's experience in American history. For all the magic in his plays, he was writing in the grand tradition of Eugene O'Neill and
Arthur Miller, the politically engaged, direct, social realist drama. He was reclaiming ground for the theater that most people thought had been abandoned."