Wednesday, August 31, 2005

ARt performance to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina

If you buy single tickets to the Friday, Sept. 9, at 8 pm performance of The Golden Age at SFCC's Spartan Theatre, 75 percent of the proceeds will go to the local Red Cross and help out victims of Katrina in Mississippi and New Orleans, according to ARt managing director Grant Smith.
Call 838-4013 or visit their website.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Now we're cookin' (and postin')

Bobo has received a couple of insightful responses to his review of The Golden Age at ARt -- and both expand upon, revise or take issue with claims or observations he made in that review. (One arrived in a private e-mail; the other is the comment appended to the end of that review on this blog.)

That's the stuff, folks. That review can sit there for awhile (or at least until I revise it tomorrow) -- but for the rest of the show's run (until Sept. 10) and beyond, playgoers can post agreements and disagreements to their hearts' content (as long as they're appropriately respectful of all concerned).

And then we'll have a genuine conversation going about theater in Spokane.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

inappropriate comments removed

The Admin of this blog has removed the flames and personal attacks of last Friday.

We will continue to monitor comments. We intend this blog to be a place for information- and opinion-sharing, and for the exchange of constructive criticism.

The trolls haven't reappeared so far; there don't seem to have been any further instances of flaming.
But the real test will come tomorrow and especially late this week: If our Web site traffic patterns are any guide, hits and comments trough over the weekend, increase during the week and then spike on Thursdays and Fridays (when most copies of our paper are picked up).

So be careful out there and behave yourselves.

follow-up to review of The Golden Age

Sorry for the delay in posting last night's review of The Golden Age.

A revised version of it will appear in The Inlander this coming Thursday, Sept. 1.

A shortened (thank God!) version of it will be heard on KPBX, 91.1 FM, at 8:35 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 2 (though that might shift to Thursday, Sept. 1, also at 8:35 -- the radio station's schedule is subject to change). (I've been reviewing theater for KPBX for several months now.)

Rereading it, I can see several places where I'd like to change the emphases, evidence, phrasing or grammar. As I said in an earlier post, Bobo reserves the right to change his mind whenever he damn well pleases (or at least until Tues. night, our drop-dead deadline).

same-night review of The Golden Age at ARt

The museum's burning, and you're alone in a room with a Van Gogh and a baby. Which do you save?
A.R. Gurney’s The Golden Age, however, makes the old chestnut harder to crack: What if the choice was between a precious artifact and, not an innocent child, but a damaged adult, one who’d had her chances and wasted them? Wouldn’t you be a bit more tempted then to save the masterwork from destruction?
In Gurney’s play, an ambitious young academic has located a reclusive grande dame who claims to have known just about everybody who was famous back in the Roaring ‘20s. She may or may not have a few lower-grade historical keepsakes along with one spectacular literary gem; but what she definitely does have is a granddaughter -- needy, aimless, escaping into alcohol. Can “Gram” string the young man along, using the granddaughter as bait and the specter of a long-lost manuscript as the ultimate prize? Is the young man so intent on that prize that he would stifle his own feelings and toy with others’?

As Tom, the ambitious scholar of American lit, Mathew Ahrens looks the part but overacts. He’s eager to make a major find, write a major book, get a major advance. But Ahrens’ eagerness strikes a high note early in the evening and never wavers from it. He’s so excited by every postcard or letter from the next famous author that Mrs. Hoyt claims to have known that he “has nowhere to go,” as actors say -- there’s no way to elevate the energy any higher, so everything’s delivered at the same pitch and intensity.
In fairness, Ahrens needs to deliver high-voltage performance -- to move along a talky play, and to demonstrate the passion that at least some folks have for artifacts from a bygone era. The women want love and affection (which is more understandable and accessible); the scholar is after the fame that comes from achieving historic preservation.
While there’s too much of skidding past the furniture and open-mouthed anguish in Ahrens’ interpretation every time names like Hemingway and Trotsky are broached, there’s also hope that over the course of the run, he’ll tone down the eagerness in places. Ahrens depicts an intelligent enough chap, but there’s too much of the puppy dog in his performance.
That creates an imbalance in the play’s predominant conflict: Since the grand old lady has all the life experience (and a more common desire -- to leave a legacy, to provide for a loved one) on her side, too much puppy-dog eagerness by the young man tilts the field too much to Isabel’s side.
Ann Whiteman, however, knows how to take command whenever the spotlight tilts in her direction. As Isabel Hastings Hoyt -- one of those three-name women whose moniker bespeaks past romances and present wealth -- Whiteman’s eyes narrow in command and glint whenever she feels the flirtatious mood descending upon her.
As with Daisy Buchanan in the Fitzgerald novel that Ahrens’ character salivates over, there needs to be money in Isabel’s voice -- and Whiteman pays off. She’s accustomed to being obeyed; she shifts into coquette mode automatically, even a half-century past her time; she knows how to tempt and seduce with an actress’ touch. For Gurney has plugged the plot hole about why a reclusive, elderly woman who (we find out) has reasons to dread memories of her past and anticipations of her future suddenly starts showing off for an uninvited guest. Why does the Miss Havisham of 1980 start elaborating so many name-dropping stories? Because she once was on the stage herself.
Whiteman plays the self-conscious artifice of the moment to the hilt: “I was on the stage, yes,” she murmurs to the young man who’s agape with admiration, “and I still am.” She exults and raises her arms, well, theatrically.
There’s a moment when the academic asks her why she doesn’t consider the ‘20s a golden age, and when director Michael Weaver (wisely) lets Whiteman hold sway at downstage front. Mrs. Hoyt proceeds to deliver a hymn of praise to all the people who make any glorious era possible -- the workers and laborers in all those unglamorous jobs that make glamor possible. Whiteman projects the passion of a woman who’s convinced that living, breathing people - their emotions and worries and aspirations -- are of far more worth than any promise of a letter that Sigmund Freud may or may not have penned. Late in the play, when her character is swooning over a Verdi aria, Whiteman’s performance hints at some of the wounded, commanding bravura that graced her portrayal of Maria Callas in Master Class at the Met some years ago. She’s just as dominating and impressive in this show.

As the granddaughter, Tessa Gregory is helped in her characterization by Lisa Caryl’s costumes -- a baggy beige sweater for her dowdy first appearance, a little black dress for when the ugly duckling goes out on a date, transforming into the swan in a ballet orchestrated by her grandmother to snare the handsome young prince. Gregory’s deep voice serves her well in different way -- awkward in the initial scenes, more self-assured once it’s clear that Gram’s plan is working.
John Hofland’s set, with its autumnal leaves and plain brownstone exterior, gives way to a living room n which everything (literally) is shrouded in mystery. Somehow the quirkiness of Isabel Hastings Hoyt is lost -- more gewgaws in the parlor, perhaps, or more glimpses of eccentricity in Kimberly Crawley’s furnishings -- might have conveyed more of Mrs. Hoyt’s alluring past.
Weaver keeps the blocking varied in this three-hander, though he hasn’t done enough to tone down the melodramatics of the second half of Gurney’s script or Ahrens’ sometimes frenzied manner. But then Whiteman’s performance makes up for such deficiencies.

In other words, come see ARt’s The Golden Age for Whiteman’s haughty, flirty performance, then stay for the mind-bending dilemma Gurney presents between a glorious but dead past and a mundane but very much alive present -- or, more precisely, between the desires of ambition (fame during this life) and the desire to leave a legacy (fame after one’s dead).
Actor’s Rep has kicked off its second season with a solid and thought-provoking production that lingers a little too long (2:10 after a late start and one intermission) to make its philosophical points. At least there’s a chance to take one of the cast members home with you after the show (wink, wink): Gus the cat, who makes a couple of cameo appearances, is being raffled off (tickets only $2!) for a couple of equally important causes: animal protection and theatrical protection.

Friday, August 26, 2005

a word about rumors

Blogs are not journalism.

I have -- and would like to continue -- posting one-source, uncorroborated ideas, opinions and speculations in this blog.

I would not do that in print. But blogs are different.

Ironically enough, broaching rumors in this blog -- not vindictive personal attacks, which are unacceptable, but unconfirmed claims, for example, that Theater Z is considering this production or Actor Y might play that role -- could have the effect of squashing what everybody hates about rumors: how shifty and inaccurate they can be.
In other words, if I post an unconfirmed rumor and three people quickly say, "Oh, no, get your facts straight, buddy, here's how it really is ..." then I will make an effort to state the facts. Result? The _diminishing_ of rumors ... fewer rumors, and something closer to the truth.

This blog can be constructive and useful. Or it could blow up.

I guess we got your attention

Readers of this blog will have noticed some recent flames and counter-flames.
Ladies and gentlemen, please put down your flame-throwers.

We all need to calm down.
This blog was intended to be a positive force for the Spokane theater community. It still could be.
But anonymous, personal attacks undermine its purpose.

The administrator of this blog has disabled comments for the time being. He'll be accompanying that with a short statement.

We are investigating our technological options: No anonymous comments. Filtering-out of destructive criticism by the administrator. Use of different blogging software, requiring logged-in, identified, actual e-mail addresses before comments can be posted. Taking down the blog altogether.

We'd rather not have to do any of that.

But way too many people are spending way too much time speculating about who made this comment, and who said that - with the result that some folks are getting falsely accused, which only fans the flames and makes matters worse.

I'm convinced this blog is, could be, a good thing. Sharing information quickly can only be a good thing.
Opinions, criticisms, speculations -- granted, these are in a grayer area.
But a blog is opinion by its nature. Opinons are subjective. You will not always agree with me, or with people who post comments.
All well and good. If you feel so moved, go ahead and state your objections. But keep in mind that real people, sensitive people, are doing the good work of keeping theater alive in this town.
"I didn't like Z; you should've done Y" is one thing; "You are a worthless ^&%^$%*&" is quite another.

Don't be one of the spammers of the blogosphere.

We've started what could be a good thing here. Just in the last 24 hours, it has taken a dangerous turn. Please be one of the drivers who steers this rig back into its proper lane -- not over the guardrail of discretion and into the ditch of vitriol.

That has to be the world's worst extended metaphor.
But it's my two cents.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

fund-raiser at CenterStage?

Bobo hears rumors ... any truth to the one about a fund-raiser at the revived First Avenue theater, on the model of the recent musical revue-cum-auction-cum-food (!!!) at Interplayers?

Local actors helping local theaters with spit, polish and rubber bands (I paraphrase one of the commenters to this blog) ... cool to see.

Any confirmations, loyal readers? (I know, you don't have time to read blogs. Just like you never read reviews. Right.)

Can anybody say that there will be such a fund-raiser at CenterStage? When? With whom? (I accuse Colonel Nickerson, in the jazz lounge, with the fly rope.)

Don't lurk, comment; don't lurk, comment.

Abbey Crawford's cabaret in the Civic's Studio Theater

Can you tell who I just got off the phone with?

She'll perform cabarets on Oct. 7-8 and Nov. 18-19 -- weekends when the Studio is dark -- and for four months thereafter as well.

She describes it as "more intimate, just like a conversation -- it's more of a storytelling show, where I can get going where I want to go with the music."

Just her and an accompanist, in the intimate confines of the Firth J. Chew.

The Nov. show will have a food theme. You'll be able to bring your wine right into the theater, and there will be hors d'oeuvres.

Yvonne Johnson really went to bat to get Crawford six months' worth of cabaret dates, over the Civic board's initial objections. But Crawford will be renting the place for her paired dates.

Jekyll & Hyde concert version at Civic Oct. 23

On the model of the very successful semi-staged *Hair* of last summer, the Civic will present the 1990 musical version of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tale as a fund-raiser on Sunday, Oct. 23.

Abbey Crawford will be singing Lucy, so you can guess at my source for this not-yet-released news.

USO show at CenterStage coming up

Five singers performing with "just five chairs, two tables, three mikes and a band" playing '40s swing music -- that's how Abbey Crawford describes the USO show coming up on two Sundays, Sept. 18 and Sept. 25, at CenterStage.

Joining Crawford will be Jon Lutyens, Melody Deatherage, Auntie Bijou (a local drag queen -- and we know who you are, K.G. ... Crawford describes you as "not crass, not disgusting, can really carry a tune, does a great Marlene Dietrich") and Reed McColm -- along with a four-piece band including Mark Norton and Andy Plamondon (sorry, didn't catch the other two names), all in a show evoking the encourage-the-troops ethos that was so inspiring, back in the day, 60 years ago, when the United States fought righteous and justifiable wars.

Great to see CenterStage back to being able to schedule shows like this again.

cast for My Fair Lady at Civic, Sept. 29-Oct. 30

Directed and choreographed by Troy Nickerson
Carol Miyamoto will be the musical director.

Henry Higgins – Tom Heppler
Colonel Pickering – Wes Deitrick
Eliza Doolittle - Kendra Kimball
Mrs. Higgins - Judi Pratt
Alfred Doolittle –  David Gigler
Freddy Eynseford-Hill – Philip Atkins
Mrs. Pearce – Norilee Kimball
Mrs. Eynseford-Hill – Evelyn Renshaw

From the Civic's press release straight to your laptop, Bobo delivers the stuff -- with comments to come later ...


cast for Someone Who'll Watch Over Me at Interplayers -- and Dracula

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, by Frank McGuinness, will open at Interplayers on Sept. 8 and run through Oct. 1.

Nike Imoru directs and Jason Laws has designed the set, with two of the three political prisoners played by newcomers to the Interplayers stage -- William Caisley as Michael and Charles Gift as Adam.

Gift was inspired in the Steve Martin/crazed dentist role in Little Shop of Horrors at Lake City Playhouse a few seasons back. William Caisley is the father of Robert, who teaches theater at UI in Moscow and runs the Idaho Rep in the summers.

The play's third part, Edward, will be performed by Michael Maher. As Count Dracula in last season's second show, Maher was trying to channel Bela Lugosi. Or something. Whatever he was doing, it was less scary-creepy than comic-bizarre. And I've heard that other theatergoers agreed with me.

But this is a different character in a different show, and Maher has a good resume. Besides, Caryn Hoaglund (who played the maid in that show) has told me that being in _Dracula_ was one of the best theatrical experiences of her life. And David Seitz (who played Van Helsing and has become a friend over the years) basically hasn't spoken to me (coincidence, I hope) since my long-winded _Dracula_ review. And I heard about _other_ theatergoers (especially on the Halloween night performance) who really _were_ creeped out by Dracula (both the show and Maher as the Count).

Anyway, does anyone else remember the very good production of _Someone_ at the Civic's Studio Theater in the spring of '94?
Ron Varela -- sadly, now gone from this world -- was very good in it. Can anyone tell us who directed that show, and who played the other two roles?

The plot is very simple. Three prisoners -- Adam, an American doctor; Michael, a British professor of literature; and Edward, an Irish journalist -- are held hostage by terrorists somewhere in the Middle East. Each is chained to a wall. They don't know when -- or if -- they'll ever be released.

McGuinness, now 52, grew up Catholic in Northern Ireland, so he has seen his share of war. _Someone_, first performed in 1992, was inspired by the Beirut of the 1980s; unfortunately, its subject still resonates a quarter-century later.

York at Civic on Sept. 10

On Saturday, Sept. 10, at 8 pm on the Civic's Main Stage (won't a one-man show get lost up there?), David Casteal will return as York in his and Bryan Harnetiaux's one-man show about William Clark's black servant.

They're charging 15 bucks now and hoping for 330 in the house (not just 90, as in the Firth Chew Studio Theater), so I guess the word has gotten out that Casteal's high-voltage performance is worth seeing.

Casteal, who teaches 5th grade at Cooper Elementary, says that Harnetiaux "has just made a few changes in the script, just a couple of small details" -- but that he plans to "take a serious look at it" after the Sept. 10 show. That's because Casteal will be taking the show on the road this fall to schools and theaters in Montana, Oregon and other places in Washington state -- he has already performed it at a museum in Seattle, for instance.

Casteal, who does a lot of frenetic drumming in York, has just returned from Africa, where he was "doing a little research" on drumming.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

little space for theater, but good news for the Met

George Green (the promotions and circulation guy for The Inlander) was in talks with Michael Smith at the Met about possibly scheduling some slots for a new community theater set of productions (perhaps All My Sons, Of Mice and Men, K2) sometime.
And Smith did not have two consecutive weekends available ... for the next two years!
Green felt strongly that a sporadic schedule (a Wednesday night here, a Saturday matinee there) would not attract ticket sales.
So ... not-so-good news for local theater groups (along the lines of the [defunct? dormant?] Spokane Theatrical Group) trying to rent a performance space. (Well, I guess CenterStage is back in the mix, perhaps.)
But good news for the Met. All that worrying about fallout from the Met Mortgage implosion and its effects on the Met, even with its new owner ... not to worry.
Why, we've got culture by the bucket-loads here in Spokane.

The Golden Age, featuring Gus the Theater Cat

Gus doesn't like the look of that photographer -- and Isabel (Ann Whiteman) isn't too sure she likes the look of that cat.

This is the kind of composition you get when you hire the critic to do the photo shoot.

Golden Age (Interview)

Golden Age (interview)
Originally uploaded by Florizel.
Here's a second quick peek at what's up this weekend at ARt. Sorry, no Gus the Theater Cat in this shot.

Photos: The Golden Age at ARt

The Cast of the Golden Age
Originally uploaded by Florizel.
That's Tessa Gregory, Mathew Ahrens and Ann Whiteman in ARt's The Golden Age, directed by Michael Weaver and opening this weekend.
Oh, and that's Gus the Theater Cat. He'll appear in the production -- and better yet, you can buy a $2 raffle ticket at the show for a chance to give Gus a home AND support both ARt and Spokane Country Regional Animal Protection.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

sneak preview: some of ARt's casting choices

partial listings, but accurate as of July 9

The Golden Age, Aug. 26-Sept. 10:
Tessa Gregory as Virginia
SFCC grad Mathew Ahrens as Tom
Ann Whiteman as Isabel Hastings Hoyt
Michael Weaver directs, with set by GU's John Hofland
Lisa Caryl will design costumes for all five ARt shows this season

Mrs. Warren's Profession, Sept. 23-Oct. 8
Directed by Michael Weaver
Caryn Hoaglund (How the Other Half Loves) as Miss Vivie Warren
Karen Nelson (Blithe Spirit) as Mrs. Kitty Warren
Patrick Treadway (last season: Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol) as Sir George Crofts
Reed McColm (Drawer Boy) as Praed
Ron Ford (last season: Jacob Marley) as Rev. Samuel Gardner
Jon Lutyens as Frank Gardner

Absurd Person Singular, Nov. 25-Dec. 10
Directed by Chad Henry (director of Dirty Blonde)
Reed McColm (The Drawer Boy last season) as Sidney Hopcroft
Kathie Doyle-Lipe as Jane Hopcroft
Page Byers (How the Other Half Loves, Blithe Spirit last year) as Eva Jackson
Michael Weaver as Ronald Brewster-Wright

The Dazzle, Jan. 13-28
Directed by Michael Weaver
Tralen Doler (piano player in Dirty Blonde last year; directed The Drawer Boy) as Langley Collyer

Born Yesterday, April 7-22
Directed by Tralen Doler
Michael Weaver as Harry Brock
Patrick Treadway as the alcoholic lawyer, Ed Devery

Sunday, August 21, 2005

What's with the timing of the Interplayers R&J?

By next June, most local high schools, colleges and universities will have ended their semesters (or else be so late in the semester that not a lot of students are going to break off studying for finals in order to go see an unhappy play in a hot theater).

For much of May, at least, the Interplayers cast will be rehearsing. And the Othello cast reportedly had great success taking scenes and commentary to local schools.

Is there any way to change the Interplayers schedule (yet again, after the Lewis & Clark show got moved to Gonzaga) so that both the rehearsals and the performance run of a play like Romeo and Juliet would show up during the school year?

I'm personally hoping to link up local theater students with the production of a script that, after all, is studied by practically every 9th-grader in the nation. They'll profit more from being able (and willing) to witness both rehearsals and the actual production.

Has the Interplayers board considered the potential revenue loss of scheduling R&J right at (or after) the end of the school year?

Nike Imoru as Mercutio

Interplayers' final show of the season, scheduled for June 2006, will be Romeo and Juliet, directed by Braden Abraham, who guided very successful productions of The Underpants and True West during the past two seasons.

This will be only the second time in its 25-year history that Interplayers will have attempted a Shakespearean tragedy -- the first time, of course, being Nike Imoru's Othello this year.

And Nike's going to play Mercutio, Romeo's boisterous friend. (Perhaps actors disappointed at Interplayers auditions will be rooting for whoever gets to play Tybalt.)

What will be the effect of such gender-bending, non-traditional casting? With _a woman_ advising Romeo to be cynical about romantic love and idealism, perhaps that will make Juliet's head-over-heels passion seem all the more remarkable -- and, in a harsh world, all the more difficult to achieve. With a _black_ woman giving that advice, perhaps that will highlight the privileged status of romantic love: In a society full of class and race divisions, only wealthy white aristocrats have the leisure to pursue idealized notions of romantic love. (Which of course would be overlaid over the playwright's obvious concern with the tussle between aristocratic arranged marriages and the freedom to choose one's own spouse for romantic and erotic reasons. If marriage is an economic arrangement, then it makes perfect sense for Mr. and Mrs. Capulet to decide whom their 13-year-old daughter shall marry. Within a comfortably middle-class 21st-century American context, we assume we're free to marry whomever we want. But in fact we overwhelmingly marry within the confines of our own social classes. We're nearly as constrained as Juliet was back in 14th-century Verona.)

Most of this pedantic moralizing may of course be rendered moot by Imoru's casting decisions. If she doubles and triples roles extensively -- mixing and matching genders, races and ages in an obvious bid to save on payroll but also to tweak our assumptions about a classic play -- then all kinds of complicated entanglements could shed new light on our assumptions about romantic love, parent-child relationships and teenage suicide.

Size of cast, makeup of cast, amount of role-doubling, the "look" of the show -- Imoru has a lot of decisions to make long before the show opens. The competing visions of Franco Zeffirelli's Renaissance film (1968) and Baz Luhrmann's 1996 postmodern approach (in the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) -- each probably seen by more people than all the stage versions in history combined -- make audiences aware of the wide range of choices available to a director.

Not to mention that Imoru will have to learn all of Mercutio's lines. At least he/she is dead before intermission.

an appeal to local theater techies

Techies and Other Important Backstage Folk: Please give Bobo story ideas for how to write about what you do!

I'm talkin' 'bout Susan Berger, Dee Finan, Kim Crawley, Judith and Michael McGiveney, Swan and Jason Laws, Dan Heggem, Janice Abramson, John Hofland, Maynard Villers, Alice Kennedy, Dean Panttaja, Scott Lockwood, Dean Bourland, Peter Hardie, Nik Adams and (my apologies to all those not mentioned here -- completely my oversight -- blame me, flame me) and many more ...

Would it be feasible for me to shadow a stage manager during an actual performance?

Why are tech rehearsals so vital for the light board operator and so boring for everyone else?

Anybody care share war stories about the biggest mid-performance snafus
you ever endured, and how you covered up for them?

Or do techies possess such natural reticence that they never, ever address themselves to someone describing himself as a "theater ho"?


acting games and auditions

Bobo sez one way to use this blog might be to pool local actors' experiences.

So, local thespian persons:
What are your favorite theater games?

What are the best things you’ve ever seen done at auditions? And the biggest (or most frequent) mistakes you’ve witnessed at auditions?


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Monologues for Money, Soliloquies for Sale

Bobo's article on the auditioning process at Interplayers and ARt (The Inlander, July 28) seemed fairly well received, even among non-theatrical Muggles. It was an attempt to do some arts reporting on some of the behind-the-scenes processes that go into the making of the arts.
But then one of the chief purposes of this blog is to get me disabused of comfortable, ivory-tower opinions. Maybe there are readers out there -- or actors who actually participated in those particular auditions -- who think that my account distorted the process. So, Brooke, Nike, Shelly, Tessa, Michael, Dave, Jeremy, Ann, Wes, Ron, Tony, Maria, Charles and many more -- what did you think?
Bobo really does want to know what you think ...

CenterStage Rises Like a Phoenix From the Ashes

Bobo wishes he’d had this blog up and running for the now-we’re-closed, now-we’re-open CenterStage saga.
I think it fell out about right -- keep it open, upsurge of public concern and support, ella’s still a cool place, Tim Behrens taken off the financial oversight and onto the artistic direction that he does better.
If you made a pledge (like I did), now’s the time to write a check. And any thoughts on the long-term health of CenterStage? What else should they do?

Outlook for 2005-06

Bobo's not the only one who's noticed the irony. Interplayers has been around for 25 years; the Civic, for nearly 60. And yet, starting just its second year, Michael Weaver and Grant Smith’s ARt seems just about the most stable theater in town.

Interplayers’ season started with a couple of turkeys -- Painting Churches and Dracula -- and, with the possible exception of True West and Othello, never really recovered to the level of previous seasons. Meanwhile, with Dirty Blonde and The Drawer Boy, Actor's Rep had the two best productions of last season.

As for CenterStage -- we're all happy that it has survived its financial crisis, but let's face it ... the place nearly closed down entirely. Nunsense II will revive its fortunes.

At the Civic, dependable warhorse musicals (My Fair Lady at the start of the season, The Music Man at the end) will pack houses and bring in money.

But Weaver's mantra -- that Spokane audiences want three playwrights above all others (A.R. Gurney, Alan Ayckbourn, G.B. Shaw) is not only warranted by his 17 years' experience at Interplayers, it's also borne out by three of his five play choices for this coming season.

But hope springs eternal during spring training -- which, for theaters, arrives right around this time of year. The Civic has its management team in place, Nike Imoru (having collected a year's valuable experience) is trying new and exciting things, and new life has been breathed into CenterStage. And ARt has the added pressure of trying to maintain its momentum.

All that talk of Spokane not being able to support more theaters after years of Interplayers/Civic dominance seems faulty now.

Friday, August 19, 2005

notes from Interplayers' benefit revue, 12 August 2005

One of the most touching moments of the past week (really): Troy Nickerson appearing on the Interplayers’ stage just before the start of last Friday’s benefit. Just hours after the end of Firth J. Chew’s memorial service, here was Nickerson, still choked up, dedicating the night’s performance to the memory of a man who worked harder than any of us to make sure that theater kept going in Spokane. You could feel -- ** WARNING, Sentimentality Alert ** -- something like the passing of a torch between the Spokane theater generations.

On the other hand -- there was a stretch during Friday night's benefit when I thought, “Is David Gigler going to get to sing ALL these numbers?” I mean, he sang about four numbers in a row, while other talented singers sat by and watched.
Knowing the director has its perks ...

I overheard people wanting to know the source of Abbey Crawford’s two self-mocking songs at the benefit. Unlike all the other numbers, they were not attributed to particular musicals. They were marvelous, Abbey -- where were they from?

When Jack Phillips was fired at the Civic, I dug deep to get a Civic board member to name names on the record: Who had worked to force him out?
And the name that got named was Melody Deatherage.
She no-commented me when I called for her side of the story.
So Deatherage came off as the bad guy in the story I wrote in The Inlander in May 2004 about turmoil in local theater, especially in the way the Civic's board handled Jack's firing.
But to give her her due, Deatherage has been nothing but nice to me in the months since -- and, as a) the nitwit cleaning lady in the opening sequence of Noises Off at the Civic a year ago, and b) doing her Forbidden Broadway spoof of "I Could Have Danced All Night" in the second half of the Interplayers benefit last week -- hilarious.

Phillips' own appearance, all the way from Chicago, to deliver the fifth and final Firth Chew eulogy at the Civic's memorial service -- many thanks to all who made that tribute possible -- seemed almost to provide some comic and healing closure: With hundreds looking on, he made a joke about Chew's always saying, "Let's make this a fund-raiser" by dropping a dollar bill into a fishbowl and then making a comic exit, sprinting out the door ... to, as I gather, a plane back to Chicago -- because I didn't even have a chance to say hello. A classy return, a class act -- Phillips and Chew are two to be remembered around here with gratitude.
Bobo out ...

Wednesday show tunes on KPBX

J.J. at KPBX just alerted us theater types that on Wednesdays from 11 am-noon, KPBX (91.1 and 91.9 FM) will be broadcasting show tunes. Call in your Sondheim requests ...

Bobo's Bloggable Blather, or, Other Ideas for This Blog

So what can a Spokane theater blog do?
As I mentioned in my last post, same-night reviews -- a quick reaction to a given night's show.
Responses to reviews -- here's where I'd really like to get the conversation started. There have to be people out there who read Bobo's theater reviews and disagree with him completely. (Bobo misses a lot of things.) So sound off -- let your views be heard!
Outtakes from some reviews -- maybe not such a good idea, since I tend to blather on long enough as it is. But on occasion, I really regret not being able to mention costumes or lights or some particular line reading or bit of direction. There aren't any space restrictions on the Web!
Recruit contributors -- spread the word, get local theater people to stop lurking and start commenting.
Gossip: Journalists require sources, but gossips can just be bitchy.
Quick polls -- what did you think of X?
Ideas for increasing attendance. Every nonprofit arts org. in town faces this hurdle. A chance to pool ideas?
Ideas for arts reporting, along the lines of my July 28 story on auditions at ARt and Interplayers.(July 28, by the way, was my 50th birthday -- and where exactly were ALL THE PRESENTS, dahlings? -- because you know that good reviews depend on expensive gestures directed my way ... ) :-) But ideas for more arts reporting might include -- How can I report on backstage techies, or on the play selection process at the Civic, Lake City, ARt, Interplayers and elsewhere?
How to recruit more conservatives to the theater? We're supposedly inclusive, humanitarian and tolerant as a community. So why the pervasive attitude of, "Oh, he's a Republican, he's just a businessman, he doesn't get it"?
Links to national theater trends -- What do you hear about scripts or staging ideas or hiring trends in New York, Chicago, Seattle that might be applicable to Spokane? See also the (soon to be posted) links on this blog site to local and national theater Web sites. (Ideas for still more eagerly awaited.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005


By midnight, Saturday 27 August, I plan to post my first instant review -- a seat-of-the-pants, first-reaction, brief commentary on local theater shows.
The first instant review will focus on A.R. Gurney's The Golden Age, directed by Michael Weaver as the opening production of the second season at Actor's Repertory Theatre of the Inland Northwest (ARt).

Why wait until the following Thursday to get the critical conversation started?
I encourage your responses -- if you see the show on opening night (or anytime during the run), then post a comment or two.
I've been reviewing theater in Spokane for five years, and I've long felt like a lonely voice in the wilderness. In the age of the Internet, why should my voice be the only one spreading opinions and other manure about local shows?
Write in, spout off, flame on.
I'm Bobo the Theater Ho, and I can damn well take it.

Furthermore, I reserve the right to change my own damn opinion from Saturday night to Tuesday night (when we go to press before showing up on the racks on Thursdays).

So, a snapshot review late Saturday night, a fuller consideration the following Thursday -- way too much information for the casual theatergoer ... and not nearly enough for us theater hos.

an Introduction, by Bobo

BY BOBO THE THEATER HO (aka Michael Bowen, theater critic for The Pacific Northwest Inlander)

Welcome to a new forum for Spokane theater news, opinion and gossip.

Hi, my name's Michael, and I'm a theater ho. (There, just like an AA meeting, I said it publicly for the first time.)

Theater hos will do anything to see the next show. Theater hos live for the next chance to talk with other actors. Because theater hos know how to dish. I mean, we live for when the lights go down -- but when they come back up, we know how to face the bright light of day and tell it like we mean it.

Casual theater fans get all googly-eyed over all those lovely costumes, and ask questions like, "How DO you memorize all those lines? -- but in my experience, you get a bunch of theater people together with beer and wine and -- honey, they wouldn't even be in that show and my God, am I glad I didn’t audition for that piece of merde ... They get all hypercritical, as if to demonstrate just how superior their own critical standards are.

So, all you Spokane theater people -- directors, actors, techies -- let's talk online. We just might be surprised by what we find out.
Part of my motivation (what’s my motivation in this scene?) for writing this blog is to elicit comments from members of the Spokane theater community on all kinds of topics, so we can create better shows and get more butts in more theatrical seats. And so I can write better reviews.

In my next post, a bit about how this blog might develop, with a special note about opening night at ARt -- Saturday, Aug. 27 ...