Thursday, April 12, 2007

double bookings, and more

If Lake City Playhouse is starting its season with Man of La Mancha and ending with Into the Woods (and if Spokane Civic Theater is doing the reverse), and those productions are months apart (and the Civic's Into the Woods is on one night only this October, with Lake City doing a full production in May 2008), then it seems to me that there's not terribly too much conflict: the one production will be a pleasant, several-months-old memory by the time the same show rolls around at the other, 30-miles distant theater. (Those two theaters, of course, recently almost overlapped their respective productions of The Nerd.)

But now we have the additional prospect of both Lake City Playhouse and Spokane Interplayers Ensemble not only sharing titles next season, but literally the same production, in the case of The Rainmaker. It's presently scheduled to run — in a version featuring Kelly Quinnett and William Rhodes — for two weeks at Interplayers in early October, followed by an Oct. 26-Nov. 10 run, with the same actors and design elements, at Lake City Playhouse.

This marks a locally unprecedented (?) collaboration between a community theater in Idaho and what used to be Spokane's only resident professional theater (with Actors Rep now just as resident — with respect to housing out-of-town actors — and even more professional — in quality of productions — though lacking in what Interplayers does have, a theatrical space of its own; ARt is going ahead with a fourth season in its rental quarters at SFCC's Spartan Theatre for next year): Lake City gets a thoroughly rehearsed and worked-in professional production, and Interplayers gets ... to avoid spending more money than it has to?

But Bobo's being catty like that (sorry) points toward the old days of pointless competition, when the Welches, having acted at Spokane Civic Theatre, wanted to differentiate their new professional venture from the Civic by forbidding any Civic actors from working at Interplayers. We don't need any sniping: It's not as if the theatrical pie around here is so vast that any one theater can slice off a piece and afford to ignore the others.

The group ad in The Inlander (several theaters all advertising together, in the same ad, collectively) is a good step toward local theatrical cooperation. Brian Doig, artistic director at Lake City, says that at the next meeting about the future direction of that ad, he intends to broach the idea of local A.D.s and managing directors meeting on occasion to share program-planning in a general and preliminary way, to foster a spirit of cooperation and to help avoid the kind of duplicate programming that we're witnessing now. (In late 2003, CdA Summer Theater leaked that it had programmed Cats for the following summer -- at which point Best of Broadway leaped in, snarling, with claws out, and promptly scheduled for spring 2004 ... you guessed it, Cats. As if we don't have enough theatrical felines among us. Just read the running joke in Six Degrees of Separation.)

Doig emphasizes that priority of scheduling (we got there first, so neener-neener) doesn't matter for non-professional productions. And he's right: Bobo has been too snarky in this late-afternoon, low-blood-sugar entry, and he really does want to see local theaters cooperating.

Doig reports that in October 2006, a committee of 15 to 20 people met at Lake City Playhouse, armed with lists of every show produced by every local theater for the past 10 years. From that, they worked up potential choices in a variety of genres (musicals, dramas,comedies, children'sshows, etc.) and narrowed it to a few in each area before announcing their 2007-08 season. Any duplication is probably a sign that wise heads at various theaters saw similar potential for certain titles to bring on dependable ticket sales. Would it really be giving away the store if local artistic directors, at least at community theaters, met to say, hey, here are a half-dozen musicals and a half-dozen American classics we're thinking of doing, and how would that impact your theater?

Another title that Lake City and Interplayers will share: On Golden Pond, with Ellen Travolta and Jack Bannon rumored for the December slot at Interplayers and the Lake City production following just three months later (March 28-April 10). But Doig thinks that such an instance of repetitive scheduling won't hurt his CdA theater, since only a small percentage of the Lake City audience makes the drive across the state line.

Still awaiting the new season announcement, this week, from Michael Weaver's Actors Rep. (We know they'll open with Stiers in LDJiN; and he announced they'll do a musical next year; and Tralen Doler will be back to direct Christina Lang in a drama not quite finalized and that Bobo knows but cannot reveal ... but what else?

Not a lot of people will see both productions of the same title in a given season -- except for real die-hards and people without real lives like theater critics -- and stop my whingeing already, I get in to shows free and boo-hoo — but I do want people to consider this: Every time a road company brings in Cats or Mamma Mia for the umpteenth time, that's one lost opportunity to see Putnam County Spelling Bee or Light in the Piazza or [your musical here} {is that the title?} or -- dare I say it, they're marketing by one of the touring companies' managing firms, John Patrick Shanley's Doubt ... a serious, non-musical play ...but then Bobo's flashing back to about 1992, when M. Butterfly actually played the Opera House as a late substitution for some musical or other. It was probably Cats.


At April 15, 2007 12:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point. Two sources volunteered the information about Quinnett, Rhodes, Travolta and Bannon. You're right: They're "in talks."

At April 19, 2007 12:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian Doig is the Executive Director of LCPH. Todd Jasmin is the Artistic Director.


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