How the Season On Broadway Looks So Far

Today came two more announcements about the 2009-2010 Broadway season. “Hamlet” with Jude Law (I’ll have more on that later) and “Oleanna” with Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles will be coming to Broadway. While this does mean that I’ll probably have more posts entitled “Dammit, Mamet” in the fall, this also means that the 2009-2010 Broadway season is also starting to become a bit more full.

So far, these are the shows that are probably coming to Broadway:

-”Hamlet”
-”Oleanna”
-”Lend Me a Tennor”
-”The Addams Family”
-”Spider-Man Turn Out the Dark”
-”Love Never Dies”
-”Superior Donuts”
-”Time Stands Still”
-”In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play”
-”Burn the Floor”
-”Bye Bye Birdie”
-”Race”
-”Brighton Beach Memoirs”
-”The Royal Family”
-”After Miss Julie”
-”Ragtime”
-”A Steady Rain”
-”Collected Stories”
-”Finian’s Rainbow”
-”La Cage Aux Folles”
-”A Little Night Music”
-”Memphis”
-”Broadway Bound”
-”Wishful Drinking”
-”Fela!”
-”Present Laughter”
-Unannounced MTC Show at the Friedman (how about a transfer of “Ruined”?)
-”Catch Me if You Can” (?)

So, with that list, this is how the season on Broadway will look like.

New Plays: 8
New Musicals: 7
Play Revivals: 6
Musical Revivals: 5
Plays Written by David Mamet: 2
Plays Directed by David Cromer: 2
Chicago-centric Plays: 2
Shows We Don’t Know About: 1
Revived Musicals That Make You Go “Why are they reviving this?”: 1 or 2, depending on how you feel about “La Cage Aux Folles.”
Shows that if the Tony Awards Hadn’t Gotten Rid of the Special Theatrical Event Category Would Go Under That:: 2

On another note, at this moment, they won’t have to nominate every musical revival that opens next season like they’ve had to the past two years.

(By the way, if I missed anything, please tell me.)

Where is Bob Vander Plaats’ Logic On Same-Sex Marriage?

Three weeks ago in Des Moines, the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) held their annual conference. One of the speakers was Bob Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman who ran as the Republican Gubernatorial candidate in Iowa in 2002 and 2006, losing the position as the primary candidate to to Doug Gross and Jim Nussle respectively. Vander Plaats is expected to be a candidate in 2010.

According to NICHE’s website, the title of Vander Plaats’ speech was “How Redefining Marriage Affects Homeschoolers.” Vander Plaats has been a vocal opponent of the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the same-sex marriage ban since the ruling was issued. And according to NICHE’s website they have been very opposed to the Supreme Court’s decision. In fact there was a rally that I remember reading about in the Des Moines Register that NICHE held to protest the decision that was attended by “faithful homeschoolers.” Apparently, my mother, who is accepting of gays and has no problems with the Supreme Court’s decision, is not a faithful homeschooler. It should also be noted that Vander Plaats was one of the speakers at the rally.

On Wednesday, ACCESSline, which is Iowa’s GLBT newspaper, posted on their Twitter feed an audio clip from Vander Plaats speech. (You can listen to it here) In short, his speech claims that because the Iowa Supreme Court cited the equal protection clause in the Iowa Constitution to legalize same-sex marriage, the Iowa Supreme Court could take away a parent’s right to homeschool.

I listened to it that evening and one of my first thoughts was, “Did Bob Vander Plaats even read the Supreme Court’s ruling?”

Article I, Section 6 of the Iowa Constitution says this:

All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.

Vander Plaats suggests in his speech that a public school parent could file a lawsuit saying that children being able to go to a private school or being able to be homeschooled violates the equal protection clause and therefore, the Iowa Supreme Court could take away the ability to send your child to a private school or homeschool your child.

I am aware of the fact that this is the same man who incorrectly told people that if he was the Governor of Iowa he would amend the constitution to overturn a ruling that was upholding the constitution. I am also aware of the stereotype that all politicians lie. But this is nuts.

All children in the state of Iowa that meet the age requirements can attend public school. The parents that send their children to private school or homeschool their children simply opt out of this program. If a child was denied the ability to enroll in a public school and he met all of the residency requirements or age requirements, the court could order the school district to allow him to be able to attend because all children are given that right to receive an education. If a parent wanted to homeschool their child and they fit the compulsory age requirements and the parent meets all of the state of Iowa’s laws that would enable him or her to educate their child and the school district denied them that ability because it would be detrimental to society, the courts could force the school district to allow the parents to home school their child. Why? Because while there are laws regulating home schooling in Iowa–you can read a good summary here from the Home School Legal-Defense Association–everyone who meets the state’s laws are able to home school their children.

On page 8 of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum vs. Brien, it says,

“Except for the statutory restriction that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the twelve plaintiffs met the legal requirements to marry in Iowa.”

The couples in the case met the requirements at that time to marry in Iowa except for the fact that both partners were of the same sex. If anyone is curious, you can read chapter 595 of the Iowa Code of Law, which discusses marriage. As much as it may upset some people, according to the constitution, the law that said that marriage could only be between one man and one woman was unconstitutional because it denied that right to some Iowans. The same thing goes with the hypothesis I presented; if that did happen, the Iowa Supreme Court could rule that unconstitutional because it would deny that right, the right to give a child a good education, to some Iowans.

That’s the problem with Vander Plaats’ hypothesis. As I said earlier, all children that meet the compulsory age requirements are given the ability to attend public school. There are just some parents that opt out of that option because they feel that it is in their child’s best interest for them to be educated in a private religious school, or to be educated at home.

As someone who lives in Iowa and covered the Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum vs. Brien, I understand that the ruling will probably be a huge issue in the 2010 gubernatorial race. In fact, the Supreme Court’s ruling acknowledged in a footnote on page 64 that a survey conducted by the Register showed that a majority of Iowans at the time that the survey was done were not in favor of same-sex marriages. However, if you are going to push the issue as a candidate, please get your facts and logic straight because not all voters are going to pull out the Iowa Code of Law, Constitution, and all 69 pages of Varnum vs. Brien.

“It Was Too Long”

Last night, I saw “Kiss Me, Kate” for a second time at the Oster Regent Theatre, this time with my mother and one of her friends. It was still very good, but someone who was at last night’s performance approached me and told me they had decided to see the show after reading about it on my blog.

She informed me that she didn’t think that the show was very good and doesn’t intend to take any of my suggestions from my blog again. I asked her what she didn’t like about the show.

“Well, I thought it was dated,” she said.

“The musical opened in 1948 and it seemed evident that this production was set in that time, so it would seem dated because of that period,” I responded.

“I also didn’t like the music and I thought it was too long,” she added.

Cedar Falls Community Theatre’s production of “Kiss Me, Kate” is two hours and 30 minutes long with a 15 minute intermission. If you think that’s too long, I don’t recommend seeing any musical on Broadway. I don’t recommend seeing most musicals, in fact. Off the top of my head, I can think of two musicals that aren’t more than two hours long: “[title of show]” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Those are just the one’s coming to my mind immediately.

I can think of several plays that are under two hours long, but knowing this individual they probably prefer musicals.

Could someone please explain how people who like musicals wouldn’t like a show that runs too long? Maybe I misinterpreted and she meant “the show dragged.” Also, please point out more musicals that aren’t more than two hours long.

There’s More to Theater Than Broadway, Part Two: Iowa

osterregent

Left, the Oster Regent Theatre in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Oster Regent is home to the Cedar Falls Community Theatre.

The following sentence might appear to be earth shattering to some people. Iowa has a very vibrant theater scene.

Hold the phone. Iowa? Little po-dunk Iowa? The state known for corn, the caucus, meth, immigration raids and legalizing gay marriage before New York and Illinois?

Yes, that’s the state.

While many Iowa theaters are community theaters, those with volunteer actors, those theaters can produce thought provoking shows and high-quality entertainments.

In the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, where I live, there are four known theater companies, not counting Theatre UNI at the University of Northern Iowa. None of them are professional theaters and one of them is a “desert theater,” which I think is like dinner theater, but with desert.

In the Cedar Rapids area, there are four theater companies, again, they’re all community theaters. Amana has two Equity theaters, The Old Creamery Theatre and Iowa Theatre Artists. There’s the Mount Vernorn-Lisbon Community Theatre. In Iowa City there are a whopping eight theater companies, one of which is an Equity theater, two of which are specifically for children’s shows.

There are also companies in Dubuque, Ames, Marshalltown, Des Moines and Council Bluffs, just to name a few cities.

But of course, community theater tends to get a bad wrap, so I would imagine that community theater in Iowa would get an even worse wrap. Well, let me say that most of the community theater I’ve seen in Iowa goes against the grain of this absurd stereotype. A stage adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Books” set in the inner city that moves me to tears doesn’t seem very stereotypical.

Here’s a list of some good productions I’ve seen at community theaters: “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Hello, Dolly!”, “Fences,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Enchanted April,” “Gypsy,” “Into the Woods,” “Jungalbook,” “Oleanna,” “Art.” I don’t think that sounds really shabby and shallow. (Say what you will about the children’s shows, they had depth and emotion.)

Some theater companies also are a starting block for playwrights that want to premiere their shows. I don’t know how many of them go on after their premiere in Iowa, but you have the opportunity to potentially see a very thought provoking play or at least a very entertaining, well written show.

Iowa is crawling with good shows that I hope that a visitor to Iowa, none the less a native, will take an opportunity to see.

Enough is Enough

I know that this might not be original thought since Rob Kozlowski and Kris Vire have already addressed the overproduction of some shows in Chicago, but I feel this need to step in and say, “Enough” about the overproduction of certain shows in Iowa.

To the theaters in Iowa: enough with the productions of “Annie,” “Leaving Iowa,” “The Odd Couple” (BOTH VERSIONS), “High School Musical,” “Dates With a Nut,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”

With “Annie,” we have a production in Des Moines and a production at Theatre Cedar Rapids that are fairly close to each other. The Old Creamery did “Leaving Iowa” last year and the Waterloo Community Playhouse is doing it this year. I’m almost positive that more theaters in Iowa than just those two have done it recently. The Old Creamery is currently doing a production of “The Odd Couple” and WCP did a production of the female version last year. Oh, and in Chicago, the Raven Theatre is doing a production next year. Personally, I’m going to have “The Odd Couple” fatigue. We have two productions of “High School Musical” within a month of each other at Theatre Cedar Rapids and the Waterloo Community Playhouse. Old Creamery did “Dates With a Nut” in 2006 and 2007 and Iowa Theatre Artists did “Dates With a Nut” in 2008.

I’m not too sure if Marshalltown Community Theatre and Theatre Cedar Rapids doing “The Laramie Project” should be in this grouping as well. And I think no one should do anything relating to “Nunsense” for a while. That includes “Nuncrackers.” We had “Nunsense” at Act I of Benton County last March, “Nuncrackers” at the Old Creamery last December and “Nuncrackers” is being done at Cedar Falls Community Theatre in December.

Personally, I think that some of these are as bad as University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa doing “Three Sisters” at the same time.

Enough with the repetitive production of these shows within the course of a year. My main problem with the multiple productions of “The Odd Couple,” along with my problem with multiple productions of “Macbeth,” is very simple. It’s not like Neil Simon didn’t write any other plays. Look, Iowa City Community Theatre is doing “Chapter Two.” Riverside is presently doing “Richard III.” Why not do “Measure for Measure” or “Jake’s Women,” or one of the “Suite” plays for a change?

I understand that sometimes royalties are expensive, but aren’t there more shows with inexpensive royalties you could do instead of just doing “The Odd Couple” and “High School Musical”?

As much as the production of “Nuncrackers” and the description of “Death by Chocolate” makes me groan, I have to give CFCT some props. “Kiss Me Kate,” “Luv,” “Death by Chocolate” and “Moon Over Buffalo” haven’t been produced recently to the best of my knowledge. Dreamwell did “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen and their production of Mae West’s “The Drag” is being done this weekend. The best knowledge I have of Mae West’s playwriting is a scathing review of “Sex” I read in a book of theater reviews from the New York Times. “Hello, Dolly!” and this weekend’s “The Little Dog Laughed” at Riverside haven’t been done too often. Stage Left Productions is doing Neil LaBute’s “The Mercy Seat.” Theatre Cedar Rapids is doing Tom Stoppard.

I can only really think of two plays that can do multiple productions in one year and not make me kvetch: “The Pillowman” and maybe “The Laramie Project.” I am well aware that a lot of people who go see “The Laramie Project” at MCT probably aren’t going to see it at TCR. And the multiple “Pillowman” productions happened last year and I missed both of them.

Although, my key problem with multiple productions of “The Odd Couple” is simply this: it’s outdated. I think the best point about this was made in Sharon Falduto’s review for the Iowa Theatre Blog where she wrote, “It’s hard to watch Neil Simon’s play, about manly men doing manly things and living together in a manly way, without putting it in the context of a gay marriage.” I definitely remember a crew person on my props crew for WCP’s “The Odd Couple (female version)” pointing out the lesbian overtones in the show. At least, that’s how he felt.

So, please, Iowa theatre companies, and also Chicago theatre companies, please go through the catalogue of plays and musicals and pick a show that someone in the vicinity hasn’t already done.

Iran

I am not an expert on Iran or on government in the Middle East. As an observer, I have struggled to find the words to describe my thoughts watching what is happening there.

My knowledge on what occurred during the revolution in Iran thirty years ago comes from Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” and conversations I had with the Muslim students at the high school I attended, many of whom immigrated from Middle Eastern countries.

The current protests remind me a bit of the Tiananmen Square protests. I know that I’m too young to remember what happened then, but in my high school eastern civilization class, the instructor showed us a video of the footage of the protests.

I remember sitting there and feeling several feelings as I watched this video. I wanted to cry because of the sheer horror of what was happening and for the innocent lives lost. I wanted to vomit because of the fact that a government would do such a thing to their citizens who made their voices heard. I was also amazed by the courage of those that protested on that fateful day in 1989.

That’s how I feel right now as I read articles from the Associated Press and various other news sources, as I see the pictures and video on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, as I looked at the picture on the front page of the New York Times, which showed a man being beaten with billy clubs as a woman rushed towards him as if to stop those beating him.

I expected that Ahmadinejad would not go down peacefully. I didn’t think that it would be this violent though.

But the Iranians who are being brave enough to go out in the streets and protest I can only stand back in awe of them. I stand in awe of the Iranians that are using Twitter and the protests to make their voices heard against a corrupt government, even if it means risking their lives.

My thoughts are with the people of Iran and with their families. I hope that the people receive the justice, that of their voice in the election being heard and counted. It is sad to know that the people of Iran don’t have all of the facts about this election.

I might be a German-American sitting in Iowa, but what it seems to me is that many of the people in Iran want the truth. It seems as though they want people to know the truth about what is happening, they want to know the truth about what happened with their voices, they want to know the truth from their government.

That is all I can type at the moment. I’ve been crying quite a bit typing this up because of how emotionally moving the events in Iran are to me, and it’s actually hindering my ability to type now. I only hope for the best for the people of Iran.

Semper veritas.

Some of My Friends Are Very Talented

A friend of mine, who will be reviewing “High School Musical” for me, is performing on NPR’s “From the Top” this week.

He sings and very well too. He’s also a good actor, but that’s not why he’s on the show. I raved about his performance in “Guys and Dolls.” (I’ll be honest, I once told him he was terrible in a play to his face. I’m very objective towards my friends.)

You can find out when it airs on your local NPR station on From the Top’s website.

Things I Don’t Care About and Do Care About: June 8-14

Things I Don’t Care About:

-Spencer and Heidi Pratt. And, please, Speidi sounds terrible.

-The Jonas Brothers. Normally I wouldn’t write that here, but my sister doesn’t read my blog.

-Julie Taymor’s “Spider-Man” musical and how expensive it will be.

-ACORN. There, I said it.

-”I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” My mother seems to be a fan of the show. All I know is that I’ve gone two weeks without Rachel Maddow’s show.

-Rod Blagojevich in “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.”

Things I Do Care About:

-What’s happening in Iran. I will be perfectly honest, I’m not talking about it here because I’m a bit clueless about it, but I’m finding it fascinating and intriguing. I highly recommend you go Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic

-Paul Krugman’s column on Friday. Thank you, Paul Krugman.

-The reviews for “A Minister’s Wife” giving me a prompt to go to Glencoe.

-The Jeff wins for Theo Ubique Theatre Co.’s production of “Evita” at No Exit Cafe making me wish I could get to Chicago at the moment.

-The fact that the non-equity Jeff Awards seem more prominent in my memory than the Tonys. The non-equity Jeff Awards were a day after the Tonys.

-For those of you that missed it, this is LGBT Pride Month in America (as per Presidential decree). This weekend: Boston Pride. Bostonist has pictures here and here.

-You can build your own Chicago! So, in essence, I can have a model of the Red Line sitting in my room while I’m waiting to catch the train on the Red Line. (It’s actually been around for a bit, but Gapers Block was bringing it up again. I think it’s cute.) You can also build your own New York City. I also wish the Lyric Opera building was one of the models.

-Speaking of the Red Line

-”La Cage Aux Folles” revival in London transferring to Broadway. My father can’t stop talking about it.

-Theatre Cedar Rapids’ 2009-2010 season.

Get Thee to the Oster Regent!

Note: I had decided to not review “Kiss Me Kate!” and just go see it because I know the director and most of the cast. Actually, I just saw the director this morning. If I had had to review the show and it wasn’t good, I would have actually felt bad about having to express that in my review. I decided that if I liked it that writing a little blurb on here would be much easier.
—————
Liane Nichols’ direction of Cole Porter and Sam and Bella Spewack’s musical “Kiss Me Kate” is a delectable entertainment. Everything about this production shines; from the entire cast of twenty-two actors, to the musical itself, to the orchestra that is made up of three members, to the costumes, to Tim King’s rather complex set to show the backstage area, dressing rooms’ interior, and the set for the musical “The Taming of the Shrew.”

It helps that the production has two phenomenal leads, Brian McCarty and Kristin Teig Torres, as the leads, Fred and Lilli. Not only do they possess singing voices I could listen to all day, but they are great actors that give their characters depth. As the floozy Lois Lane (I’m pretty sure this was written pre-Superman), Rhiannon Talbot is outrageously believable. Greg Holt and Duane McDonald are deeply amusing as Flex and Duey, two well-read gangsters that arrive at the theater to collect a debt from a bet. During most of act one, they were seated in one of the boxes in the Oster Regent eating popcorn and watching the musical-within-a-musical on stage. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch what they were doing because I was too focused on what was happening on stage.

Deb Tuzicka’s choreography is lively and interesting without being flashy. But the choreography makes “Too Darn Hot” very, very hot. And having only three musicians in the pit worked very well and kept the problem of the orchestra overpowering the actors that occurs with many musicals at the Oster Regent from happening.

The show runs has a matinee performance at 2 p.m. today and next week Sunday, when it closes. On June 19 and 20, performances are at 7:30 p.m.. And if you’re a student, I don’t know why you shouldn’t go with tickets being priced at $10. I don’t see why anyone shouldn’t go, unless they don’t like some sexy choreography and the title of Shakespeare’s play “Coriolanus.”