The difficulty in keeping a promise
Last week on News and Notes, I solemnly swore that I would cease talking about the Tony awards until after they've actually been handed out. That is proving difficult, as most of my national news sources are still chattering away about Tony. (Or they're talking about Hamilton, which inevitably leads back to Tony, since, for some reason, winning what is really a regional theater award is more important than winning a freaking Pulitzer.)
For an example of what I'm up against, the New York Times threw its critics into a long discussion of this past season on Broadway, as defined through the lens of Tony nominations. This, like nearly every other piece of seemingly inoffensive information on the internet, netted some kind of complaint that was, at best, tangentially related to the topic at hand. In this case, it came in the form of a letter to the editor from the Dramatists Guild. After one of NYT's critics questioned whether or not Hamilton should have been nominated for Best Book, since it is almost entirely driven through its songs, the Dramatists Guild sent forth a letter to the editor wright-splaining the misunderstood art of writing the book for a musical. (This complaint is blissfully ignoring the fact that they still have a whole awards category called Best Book, unlike, say, sound designers.)
So, in my quest for Tony-less news, I turned to the UK scene, where they will have a discussion about whether theater could be as uniting for a community as its sports team with a straight face and no hint of irony. (Since my Google search just turned up dozens of articles about what kind of grass is going in the new billion dollar Vikings stadium, I would guess the answer to that particular question is "no.")
I flipped on over to The Stage UK, and what do I find but American theater writer Howard Sherman taking a break from the theater outrage factory called his blog in order to write about spiraling ticket costs, the outdated subscription model and ticket profiteering… through the lens of the Tony nomination-dominating Hamilton.
Screw it. Let's just go home. What have you got for me, City Pages? A review of a touring show that turns into an examination of whether or not the big Tony-smashing musical from five years ago is still relevant?
You guys are making this really difficult for me.
You wanna be in the moving pictures?
Hey, remember Snowbate? It's that cutesy name for Minnesota's film and TV tax incentive program that, in retrospect, is probably not the best name for attracting films, since it furthers the stereotype that Minnesota is nothing but a frozen tundra. Or, if you're a conservative member of the state legislature, it's that boondoggle giveaway to Hollywood limousine liberals that you're constantly trying to kill, because it's just so wasteful. It's not nearly as good as that billion-dollar giveaway to the shady real estate developer, which just got awesome new grass. (I guess we shouldn't complain; after all, the Twins stadium has been great for bringing in people from out of state.)
When the legislature meets to once again put Snowbate on the chopping block, defenders will have another film project to throw in the attackers' faces. Minnesota-born film producer Keith Arnold is bringing his next movie to the Twin Cities. It's got some guy from Game of Thrones in it. I don't know which one; I've never actually seen the show. I guess it's some kind of "Lannister", whatever that is. (Also, Emma Roberts and Greg Kenner, who that KARE 11 article above describe somewhat hyperbolically as "megastars.")
So, movie fans, get ready to start spotting somewhat famous actors. (Though, star-spotting with this production will never be nearly as fun as the Woody Harrelson sightings from last year.) And, actor-types, get ready to start bugging your agents to see if they have any lines on casting. And, state of Minnesota, get ready to fork over up to $1.75 million in tax rebates.
Wait… $1.75 million?! Why, that's an unconscionable number! Absurd! That's only $250,000 more than it costs to put grass in the Vikings stadium! Why are we wasting our money attracting film projects to Minnesota, when we could be using this money to rip up the turf that was just installed and install it all over again?
If only we could have our own film industry here in Minnesota…
The highs and the lows
Children's Theatre Company is currently living the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities.
Come on, you know what that line is, don't you? Think back to English class. Mrs. White is insinuating that you are an idiot for not automatically loving Charles Dickens, even though she has done absolutely no work to get you to understand how a 150-year-old book can relate to your teenage self, and you've asked her when you're actually going to read a book that was written in the current century, and her response was to make you memorize the opening lines of dozens of famous works of literature, and now you've decided that you hate reading the classics, even though it's decades later and you can still hear the Middle English pronunciation of the opening of The Canterbury Tales, "Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote" running over and over again in your head when you're trying to sleep…
Yeah, you know: "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."
CTC's current big musical, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, has been going like gangbusters. This adaptation of the popular series of kids' books and movies was backed by Broadway producer Kevin McCollum and the theatrical division at Fox, which means that this particular production (which is very nearly sold out for even its extended run), may be just the warmup act for a much-speculated try at Broadway. When was the last time Minnesota was the proving ground for a big Broadway-bound show? (Dominic Papatola, you remember, right?)
But, at the same time that CTC is sitting on top of the theatrical world, they are also dealing with a number of child sex abuse lawsuits stemming from an earlier sordid period in the company's history. As the legislatively-mandated May 25 deadline for filing claims under the Child Victims Act approaches, CTC has got to be bracing itself for more to come.
Despite the smash success of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, it is still not known whether Children's Theatre has the resources to settle a growing number of lawsuits. But, if you ever find yourself thinking that it's unfair that an organization at the height of its power should have to suffer because of the mistakes of people who are no longer there, remember that CTC was by no means an isolated case. As a culture, we are still dealing with the fallout of various power structures built into the very fabric of our society that allowed abuse like this to exist for so long. It's going to be messy and expensive and a shame that it has to happen at all; but it has to happen, and, whatever the costs, it will be worth it to finally deal with this problem.
Let's turn our attention to this pile of press releases I have here. Being a writer on the internet, I am often mistaken for a journalist, which means that people send me press releases. It's probably time that I cleared some of these out. Let's see here… The Minnesota State Theater Alliance is announcing its list of presenters for the upcoming state theater conference. That sounds like fun, especially since I'll be there. The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council has a new Executive Director. Give a hearty welcome to Amy Crawford (and help her get prepared for the slew of questions that she's about to receive from you all about grants).
What else is there here in this stack? OK, looks like this one is for a local online theater magazine that is putting itself up for sale. Ha! Good luck with that, suckers. There's no money in…
Wait a minute… I work for a local online theater magazine.
Wait a minute… there is no other local online theater magazine.
Wait a minute… (Whan that April with his shoures soote- GET OUT OF MY HEAD, MRS. WHITE! I'M TRYING TO THINK!)
I think Minnesota Playlist is for sale.
So, if you've always wanted the opportunity to fire me, I guess now's your chance. How much will it cost? I don't know. I'm not the numbers guys here; but I'm guessing it will cost less than a few yards of Vikings turf.
(Seriously, you guys, you won't believe how many freaking articles are out there about this damn turf. And that's exactly the kind of crackerjack reporting you can expect from me when you buy Minnesota Playlist.)