Friday, March 31, 2006

What can be done?

I will do more Tony stories, but, I'm interrupting the series so I can provide some thoughts about off-Broadway, which I've been talking about today.

Note that in honor of the fact that they announced some honorees, Michael "Mikey" Borowski (who I usually listen to, sadly) wanted me to write all about the Drama League, but I don't feel like I know enough about the Drama League to attack it. I mean, I'm sure it is ridiculous, but I cannot speak about it knowledgeably. All I know is that they host a lunch and a bunch of actors sit around a huge table. It sounds endless. There we go--I'm tapped out of Drama League comments

Now I want to write about off-Broadway. What is it about off-Broadway that is failing so? Because there is something... The prevailing opinion among random people would seem to be that things off-Broadway don't make money because they are simply not as good. But, in reality, even well-received things that run for a while do not make money. I guess running costs are just too high. Unless there are some huge concessions, I really don't understand how all these theaters are going to stay lit. Sure, producers so far continue to try their hand, but in years to come I fear they will get wise. And that would be a loss because there are a lot of things I like that I consider off-Broadway pieces. I was happy Zanna, Don't! never transferred because that was a ridiculous aim for that show. I think Well would be playing better if it were still off-Broadway. Souvenir never should have been at the Lyceum, it should have been off-Broadway, but people know they can't make money there, so they take a leap and pray. Why? Is that better than not presenting the works at all? Maybe?

All this being said, I continue to be perplexed by how many misguided things are still done in theater in general, but especially off-Broadway where the rewards, even for hit productions, are not gigantic. Some people previously asked me about Burleigh Grime$ and I wrote below that I thought Marg Helgenberger was still happening. I was wrong, as I heard today it is actually Wendie Malik. Now, while I like Wendie well enough and she has a recognizable face (seen this morning co-hosting Regis & Kelly), she is not a huge draw. And they currently have no one else, with the possible exception of Ashley Williams, that has a familiar name. So is this show, which got poor reviews during a UK engagement, really going to fill a 499-seat theater? More importantly, even if it beats the odds and does, it will still be a long road to recoupment for an off-Broadway show with a cast of 6 or 7.

Things do cost less to produce off-Broadway though--there is considerable less risk, which is a positive. Plus I suppose things are done here sometimes just to have a marketable name. While Altar Boyz, which I endorse, may not recoup at Dodger Stages (where it currently continues to run successfully), it now has an identity and NY Times quote it can use on the road. That's something that will always be true--branding occurs in New York. It's possible that fact will keep off-Broadway alive. Of course I will also hope someone comes along with some brilliant business ideas.


Jugi said...

Here you go: The Drama League is a NY-based national service and membership organization with a goal of nurturing artists and audiences for the theater. While it has been quite successful at the former (via its Directors Project, which has spawned such luminaries as Brokaw, Mayer, Ashley, and Rando), its success at the latter is up for debate. The League's annual awards luncheon is probably the only awards ceremony wherein everyone and their mother gets to speak. That can be exhausting, but as awards shows go, it's about as democratic as this community gets.

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