Friday, January 16, 2009

Theatre in trouble

Saturday Night Live recently did the clever and funny sketch on how to save Broadway. Close to two dozen Broadway shows are or have closed since November. A few new musicals, mostly revivals, are schedule to open: “West Side Story”, “Hair” and “Guys and Dolls”, plus Dolly Parton's new musical version of “9 to 5”. Otherwise, look for a lot of small cast plays and celebrity one person shows.


Theatres have been hit hard here in the SF Bay Area. The biggest loss was the closing of American Musical Theatre of San Jose (formerly know as San Jose Civic Light Opera) at the end of November. They quit after presenting only 2 of their 6 shows for the season. We happen to catch the last two shows, “The Full Monty” and “Flower Drum Song”. They were both strong productions. The company ceased operations when they took a major loss on the cancellation of their next newly re-conceived co-production of the musical “Tarzan”. This was on top of their large operating deficit and bailout loans from the city of San Jose.
Their website reports: "We received a telephone call a few days ago from our co-producer for Tarzan, which was the Theater of the Stars in Atlanta, Georgia basically telling us that they used the funds that we had paid them towards the production for other things," said Michael Miller, CEO and Executive Producer of AMTSJ. "In essence, they cancelled the show without giving us any warning, and we discovered that the funds we had paid for Tarzan were spent on another production of theirs, which lost a significant amount of money," Miller continued.
My guess is that TOTS spent the money on the previous show, a new stage production of Disney’s “High School Musical 2.” AMTSJ/SJCLO had been around for 74 years. I worked there for six years in the early 90's doing office and facilities administration. I am sorry to see them gone.

Two other respected theatre companies just successfully staged “donate or die” campaigns. Shakespeare Santa Cruz raised $300,000 in ten days. Magic Theatre in San Francisco needed to raise $350,000 within two weeks or cancel its 43rd season. The Magic ended up raising $450K. Writers whose works have premiered at the Magic include Sam Shepard (playwright in residence 1975-83), David Mamet, Michael McClure, Nilo Cruz, Rebecca Gilman, Charles Mee, Anne Bogart, Neena Beber, John Robin Baitz, Edna O’Brien, Joseph Chaikin, Claire Chafee, John O’Keefe, Maria Irene Fornes, Michelle Carter, and Jose Rivera.

TIP: Half-price tickets for many select performances, sporting events and family activities are often available on Goldstar Events. Areas include San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Boston, and Chicago.
Goldstar Events is our favorite source of cheap tickets in the SF Bay Area. But it is not the only option. You can also find half-price tickets at: Artsopolis – good for San Jose & the South Bay. And Theatre Bay Area - discount tickets from member theatres available online and/or at TIX Union Square, SF.
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