Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ancient Texts of 2000

I recently dug out a binder in which I stashed a variety of Internet article printouts from around the year 2000. Trends and issues change so much; it’s interesting to look back on the past and see what trends and fears never came to be, promising artists who have yet to flourish, and the big shows of tomorrow that disappeared the next day.

A few of these ancient texts are still floating out there in cyberspace, so I’m sharing them here.

“Spotlight on Jason Robert Brown” by Jonathan Frank
Here’s an interesting interview with Jason Robert Brown from 2000, before The Last Five Years appeared in Chicago on its way to off-Broadway. I love reading interviews with Brown because he’s always thought-provoking and unafraid to say what’s on his mind.

I particularly like what he has to say in the third section of the interview on the need for shows to have an existence outside of Broadway. The only show to successfully do this since the interview without a feature film adaptation has been The Color Purple. With the aid of Oprah’s show and Fantasia’s American Idol performance, The Color Purple was planted firmly before millions of Americans, keeping a show running that otherwise would have closed within a year. Yes, its time was greatly extended as a result of Fantasia’s turn as Celie, but the fact that it survived long enough for her to take part is a credit to that multi-media existence.

The article also makes for a great read because it’s almost from an entirely different Broadway, where Jekyll and Hyde was still running, Ragtime was a recent memory, and a small pool of writing talent was thought to hold the key to Broadway’s future in their piano, a small pool which has greatly expanded and left a few great talents still treading water.

“Whatever Happened at Class” by Peter Filichia
Here’s an interesting article on a trip Peter Filichia made to a musical-writing class at a New Jersey university. Filichia has been known to be supportive of young writers, and his impressions on this up-and-coming talent pool is interesting, never condescending.

I love the article for its accurate depiction of the college student—questioning, harshly criticizing, living the same creative learning experiences every college student journeys through on his or her way to maturity as a writer (or whatever their course of study is).

I once read a criticism of young musical theatre lovers/students, I don’t remember where now, in which the writer was shocked at the gaping holes in the breadth of knowledge some young people had about the classic shows.

I think it’s important to remember that learning is a process. No CD collection is ever complete, no inquiring mind ever truly satisfied. For pretty much any young person out there wanting to study musical theatre with a passion (unless he or she is a performer), the learning grows primarily from self-directed learning, stumbling upon a production at a community theatre, seeing a random book at Barnes and Noble, seeing an old book collecting dust at the library. I’m familiar with many of the classic shows, but it has come through years of CD-buying and book reading, the likes of which I didn’t have time or the resources to pursue at the age of twenty. Even a movie translation easily available on DVD or video isn’t always fair game—that still takes resources to acquire and time to watch.

In other words, it just takes time to learn.

“What’s New on the Rialto: A Conversation with Annette Niemtzow”
Here’s a glimpse inside the mind of a producer, namely the lead producer for the musical adaptation of Jane Eyre. Producing is something I’ve wanted to learn more about, and this interview with Annette Niemtzow takes some of the mystique out of the process.

This interview took place before the show opened, and in it, Niemtzow discusses the journey of producing a musical. It’s particularly poignant, and no doubt typical, to hear Niemtzow’s excitement and hopes for a beloved show that ultimately closed deep in the red.

Happy Talk from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization
I used to get the R&H Organization’s newsletter when I was directing plays at a high school. I’ve since been thrilled to learn that Happy Talk is posted on the R&H Organization’s website. In it, there are usually profiles or updates on new productions of shows that are licensed by the organization, including the works of Irving Berlin, John Michael LaChiusa, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Adam Guettel.

Best of all, there is a search function which allows you to search for information in past issues.

It’s also worth noting that for most of the shows licensed by the R&H Organization, a picture is included as part of the promotional material on the webpage. If you need a picture of one of the shows they license (like Marie Christine), it would be a very good place to start.

My Links
On the side of my blog, you’ll find a selection of theatre-related links to check out. You’ll find the link to the American Theatre Wing’s invaluable Working in the Theatre Seminars. If you are attempting a career on Broadway in any capacity, check out their tremendous resources.

You’ll also see a link to Musical Writers, a site for those who want to write musicals. Be sure to sign up for their newsletters to keep up to date on available opportunities.

You’ll see the blog The Director Sector, where you can follow a budding director as he develops his craft and tries to figure out his path to a career in the theatre, not to mention his intelligent thoughts on the craft.

Lastly, off-Broadway producer Ken Davenport provides brief insights into the world of producing via his blog. If you’re looking to learn more about the business of show business, Davenport’s blog would be a great place to begin.

the Broadway Mouth
February 3, 2008

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