Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marketing Scheme

I hate to bring up the old Macbeth issue from last year, but there a couple of shows this season that are dupiclates or highly similar. Two Frankensteins (here, here), three Fausts (here, here, here), two Scientology Pagents (here, here)...

So, what about offering heavily discounted tickets to come to your production to anyone bringing a ticket stub from the other one? If the two companies worked together they could share the cost/benefit of this program, but how gutsy would it be if it were one-sided? Thougts?

I'd still like to see it

But the phrase "relevance-making gimmickry as usual" is going to be bouncing around in my head for a long time.

Monday, September 28, 2009


New Full Storefrontal (Caffeine Theatre) and Podcast (Lifeline's Treasure Island) up at TheatreInChicago. The Podcast features advice on how to look like you're strangling a cat. You know, everyday kind of info.

Very Cool

From Vire. In The Guardian. Nice.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


First: The Ever-Linkable Kris Vire.

Now. I'm not really sure this is a "Chicago Theater" problem. This strikes me as a contemporary problem. Who likes the band with a number one song, anymore? What's hilarious about this kind of "elitism," is that it has the privilege of parading as populism, making it harder to criticize. But certainly: it's elitism. And certainly: it's silly.

Commercial Theater, I think, is a euphemism for at different times any of the following four things: Broadway, Broadway in Chicago, For-Profit theater of any kind, and large non-profit theater like The Goodman. Are any of these bad for Chicago Theater? Nope. Not one, not at all.

There are though, I agree, two dangers hidden in here to the Chicago storefront theaters. The first is forcing the (I hate this word, but) paradigm of Broadway (and Off-Broadway) on Chicago. This is colonialism, it's irritating, and it's fundamentally flawed. Our theater scene doesn't work like that. You don't move to Chicago hoping to be in the next production of Wicked at the Oriental. You don't dream of sweet sweet Randolph Avenue all night with your tap shoes still on. You just don't. You wonder how you're going to con your way into the Neo-Futurists and if the boss at your temp job notices you're blogging (ahem). As I commented on Rob Kozlowski's post on the new Chicago Now thing, you can call Storefront theater "Off-Broadway in Chicago (tm)" as soon as you invest millions in building theaters and shopping districts down on Chicago's 42nd St. Until then, we are our own beast. How delightful. Worse? Better? Neither? Who cares? It doesn't matter. What matters is: different.

The second danger is that in attaching too much importance to the commercial theater that we all recognize as good for Chicago, good for Theater, we lose what makes Chicago unique - not by an invading force, but by our own entropy. I've heard rumblings from my favorite unbridled genius of the storefront about creating Chicago theater tours that make it easy for people coming from out of town to see storefront and commercial shows in an approachable way. The problem with "3oo etc." theater companies is that it makes a completely dizzying marketplace. So a family visits Chicago, aware of its repuation as a great place to see theater but can't make any goddamn sense out of all the plays and companies sprawled out in every inaccessible corner of the city. So, still in all good faith, they go see Jersey Boys downtown near their hotel, and believe they've done the Chicago Theater Thing.

Then, the powers that be see that people are coming to Chicago to go to Jersey Boys, and that's when the cycle starts to crush us. Because then it becomes more and more important to advertise, support, and replicate Jersey Boys rather than give people what they want which is excellence and authentic experiences for audiences, and audiences for artists.

So an anxiety about "commercial theater" makes sense, but what this should do is inspire creative solutions for competing rather than a vague sense of superiority and entitlement. If it works the other way, that people come to Chicago to see Jersey Boys and stick around to see The Man Who Was Thursday everyone wins. We play different games, but, we're somehow on the same team.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


There is something wrong with this brochure copy for Broadway In Chicago. This is the blurb for August: Osage County:

Steppenwolf's AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is a grand, gripping new play that tells the story of the Westons, a large extended clan that comes together at their rural Oklahoma homestead when the alcoholic patriarch disappears. Forced to confront unspoken truths and astonishing secrets, the family must also contend with violet (played by Academy Award-winner Estelle Parsons), a pill-popping, deeply unsettled woman at the center of this storm. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is a rare theatrical event - a large-scale work filled with unforgettable characters, a powerful tale told with unflinching honesty. The New York Times cheers, "AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is flat-out, without qualification, the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years," and Time Magazine named AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY the "#1 Show of the Year!"

Would it really have been so bad to include its Chicago Origins, other than the fleeting "Steppenwolf" at the beginning? They couldn't even quote the Trib? Weird, right? I mean for marketing reasons, isn't it as much of a draw to be a hometown hero as to be a razzle dazzle from the East?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Plagiarists

New Full Storefrontal up on Theatre In Chicago. This week is about the Plagiarists, a really interesting company. Also check out the article that inspired their company here, it's completely amazing, fascinating, and exciting. I wrote it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Harry Potter and the Media Theorists

I've been reading the Harry Potter books (slowly, if you ask Miranda) and I really do enjoy them. I've also seen a few of the movies. What strikes me about Harry Potter most of all is the tremendous opportunity it is giving a whole generation of people to understand innately the process of adaptation. This generation will have read the books, loved the books, and then have watched the films and - this is the best part - loved the films. The films are profoundly different from the books, encourage the aesthetic assertions of a rotating cadre of auteurs, and cut out and sneak in all kinds of plot development and characterization. But by being shared so widely and in two separate media, and by being successful in both, The Harry Potter stories can, I think, shed a lot of light on what is the difference between Novels and Films. It will be exciting to see what difference this makes going forward.

I am especially interested in the responsibility of adaptations and the management of expectations in adaptation. The phrase "The book is always better than the movie" can, I think, be one day responsibly replaced by the truism, "the book is always different from the movie." This is the essence of the matter. The movie, the play, it will be different from the book. Abandon any notion otherwise, but, of course, still come see it.