Monday, December 28, 2009

Popular plays not yet done in Spokane

Every year, American Theatre magazine publishes the most frequently produced plays at its professional member theaters (always excluding Shakespeare and Christmas Carol-derived shows, which would otherwise be at or near the top).
Bobo has compiled a list here of the nationally popular shows that nonetheless have never been produced in the Spokane-CdA-Moscow region.

Apologies in advance for the mistakes I’ve made: If I’ve listed a show that you’ve done here as never having been produced hereabouts, please write in and tell me what an idiot I am.
(The Civic had done Nuncrackers 10 years before CdA Summer Theater, for example.)

I don’t know all these scripts. (I’ve never even heard of Heather Raffo or her play.) Naturally, the closer we get to the present, the less opportunity there has been to mount productions, and so the lists for recent years are longer.
They’re listed in reverse chronology, so when I note that a particular show is listed “again,” that’s in moving UP the list from the bottom.

Conclusions? Primarily, why hasn’t anyone done The SantaLand Diaries? (It’s listed every year from 2001-09 except 2008 — some people must see value in it. And especially with Sedaris appearing here again in May.)
The list, it seems to me, presents oodles of opportunities.

Bobo isn’t saying, however, that all these shows ought to be done locally. For example, The Cryptogram, Yellowman and Bad Dates — I’ve read Yellowman and seen the other two (in Wash., D.C. and Portland), and can’t say I’d recommend them.

Not saying these are my favorites, just pointing out cast sizes:
Later Life, 4; Arms and the Man, about 7; Gross Indecencies, 9; Bat Boy, about 9, plus chorus (but it's hard to tell -- there's lots of doubling); The Pillowman, 7; Opus, four middle-aged guys and one 25-ish woman; Shipwrecked!, 3; Speech & Debate, 3 teens and one middle-aged actor; Dead Man's Cell Phone, 6; Topdog/Underdog, 2

2010 (that is, the 2009-10 theater season)
(previously relayed in this blog on Oct. 9 )
boom, by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
The Seafarer, again
Speech & Debate, by Stephen Karam
Dead Man’s Cell Phone, by Sarah Ruhl
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, by Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn (but with productions scheduled in Moscow in July 2010 and at the Civic in Jan. 2011)
Around the World in 80 Days, adapt. Mark Brown from Jules Verne
Opus, by Michael Hollinger
Shipwrecked! an Entertainment, by Donald Margulies
Yankee Tavern, by Steven Dietz
Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins
Boeing-Boeing, trans. Beverly Cross from Marc Camoletti
(The inspiration for *Speech & Debate* came from here in Spokane. So why hasn't it been done here? Karam only moved it to Salem, Oregon, because of a bunch of witches.)

The SantaLand Diaries
, again
The Seafarer, by Conor McPherson
Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl
To Kill a Mockingbird, adapted by Christopher Sergel
Mauritius, by Teresa Rebeck
Radio Golf, by August Wilson
(The Seafarer just struck me as the Faust legend rehashed. I’m not a McPherson fan.

9 Parts of Desire, by Heather Raffo
A Year with Frog and Toad, again
The Little Dog Laughed, by Douglas Carter Beane
The Piano Lesson, again
Gem of the Ocean, again

I Am My Own Wife, again
The Pillowman, by Martin McDonagh
Santaland Diaries, again
Gem of the Ocean, by August Wilson
Intimate Apparel, again
Tuesdays with Morrie, again

Intimate Apparel, by Lynn Nottage
Crowns, by Regina Taylor (again)
I Am My Own Wife, by Doug Wright
Frozen, by Bryony Lavery
A Number, by Caryl Churchill
Bad Dates, by Teresa Rebeck
Bug, by Tracy Letts
The Santaland Diaries, again
A Year with Frog and Toad, again

Anna in the Tropics, by Nilo Cruz
Crowns, by Regina Taylor
The Goat, again
Santaland Diaries, again
Tuesdays with Morrie
A Year with Frog and Toad, by Willie and Robert Reale
(sorry if I’m mistaken on this one, and it has been done locally)

Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
The Santaland Diaries, again
The Goat, or, Who Is Sylvia? by Edward Albee
Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith
Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall
Nickel and Dimed, from Barbara Ehrenreich
(The Bill Pullman/Mercedes Ruehl production of The Goat premiered in early 2002. Lots of broken crockery, some incest, bestiality and a goat carcass in this one.
Blue-Orange is a British health system play when we need a good one on our American health care problems. The 2001 London production had Bill Nighy as the careerist psychologist and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the patient who thinks he’s related to Idi Amin. 3m, often done in the round.
The plays by Wilson, Parks, Nottage and Taylor, by and large require a pool of talented black actors, which Spokane is not diverse enough to offer. Topdog, though: only two men needed.)

Copenhagen, by Michael Frayn
The Santaland Diaries
Bat Boy: The Musical, by Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming and Laurence O’Keefe
(another head-scratcher. But didn’t UI do it in Moscow? Bobo saw part of a rehearsal at Salt Lake Acting Co. -- hilarious, outrageous, toe-tapping fun)
My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra
(was the cabaret show in the Peacock Room based on this?)
The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson

Santaland Diaries and Fuddy Meers, again
the musical version (?) of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

Closer by Patrick Marber
Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire
The Santaland Diaries, adapt. Joe Mantello from David Sedaris
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
(Fuddy Meers premiered at the Manhattan Theater Club in 1999. It proved to be too wacky for the Brits, who never warmed to the play. 4m, 3f. Claire has amnesia; the plot’s too convoluted by half; but the the way in which the gradual resolution of plot details parallels Claire’s awakening awareness is kind of cool.)

Gross Indecency and The Old Settler, again

Gross Indecency by Moises Kaufman
The Old Settler by John Henry Redwood
(Gross Indecency has a cast of 9m, but it’s done virtually in readers theater style. A gripping courtroom drama with, of course, the anti-discrimination-against-gays angle.
The Old Settler is set in Harlem, 1943 -- two spinster sisters deal with the new man in their midst.)

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
Valley Song by Athol Fugard
Skylight by David Hare
Old Wicked Songs by John Marans
(Skylight starred Michael Dumbledore Gambon in London in 1995-96; he argues politics with his former lover, who’s teaching poor kids now; 2 m, 1f, simple set.
Old Wicked Songs was a Pulitzer nominee. 2m. In Vienna, a 50ish music teacher tries to instruct a 25 yr old pianist, with complications having to do with anti-Semitism.
Valley Song is Fugard’s post-apartheid “tone poem” for his stand-in, an old white man, and two “coloreds.”)

The Cryptogram, by David Mamet
Love! Valour! Compassion! by Terrence McNally

'96 (that is, the 1995-96 theater season)
Later Life by A.R. Gurney
Angels in America by Tony Kushner (Part One)
Arms and the Man, by GBS
Three Tall Women by Edward Albee

From the Mississippi Delta by Endesha Ida Mae Holland
(Did Onyx produce?)

95-98: Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird
(four years in a row; and again in 2008-09, but presumably to be produced here this Feb. during The Big Read)
For a quick look at all the wonderful plays synopsized in the Best Plays Theater Yearbooks for circa 2001-08, go here.

Terry Teachout in the WSJ ruminates on these same lists' national implications.

[ image: Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, at Boise Contemporary Theatre, 2008; set design by Jeremy Winchester; visit ]

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At December 28, 2009 9:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interplayers did Arms and the Man early in its history, Troy and Spokane Theatrical did My Way, Jack Bannon and Roger Welch acted in Tuesdays with Morrie and Covic had done Steetcar and Mockingbird.

At December 29, 2009 7:54 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Centerstage did "I love you, you're perfect, now change." It was done very well, and was a lot of fun!

At December 29, 2009 11:59 AM , Blogger Bobo the Theater Ho said...

The GBS play (such a delightful anti-war comedy, and with a smallish cast) was indeed the third show that Interplayers ever did, back in Dec. 1981.
The Civic did Streetcar in early 1983. Thanks for the reminders. I shoulda checked.

At December 29, 2009 1:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bil Childress did a production of santaland Diaries at the Met a few years back (2000?) and Civic did the complete version of Angels in America as part of their readers theatre series and I also think Civic did a prroduction of Old Settlor in the Studio awhile back

At December 29, 2009 4:49 PM , Blogger Bobo the Theater Ho said...

The Civic did The Old Settler in the Studio in 2000. Thanks!

At December 30, 2009 9:35 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the Civic Website, under BACKSTAGE, you can find a section called Season Archive which lists all the Civic Productions from 1947 to the present

At January 02, 2010 11:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Bobo, what are the MOST produced plays in the area?

At January 05, 2010 12:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nunsense Nunsense and Nunsense!

At January 05, 2010 2:53 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I was in a production of Arms and the Man at NIC in 1992, but I doubt we reached much of the Spokane theatre-going audience. : )

At January 06, 2010 3:53 PM , Anonymous Maria C. said...

The MOST produced plays in the area? My vote is Annie and Joseph.

At January 08, 2010 4:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nunsense, Joseph and Tuna.

At January 10, 2010 9:01 AM , Blogger Bobo the Theater Ho said...

In the Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout [link above] examines the most produced plays, nationally, of the past 10 years: all straight plays and not musicals; tend to be small casts; minorities reasonably well represented; classics not done much at all.
I'd add that one-word titles may help: Proof, Doubt and Art are in the top three positions, with Wit in the sixth spot and Crowns eighth.
The three plays that come in at Nos. 7-9 -- I Am My Own Wife, Crowns, and Intimate Apparel -- have never been done in Spokane.


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