Theatre Mirror Reviews - "30 GLOBES Hath September"

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"Thirty GLOBES Hath September"

NOTE:
During the month of September just about everything I do in The Mirror took a back-seat to
the daily attention paid The Boston GLOBE. Several people mentioned the series to me in
conversations before or after shows, and there was a trickle of letters. Here are the ones
I could rescue from the traffic in e-mail:

From: Robert Bettencourt rob_bett@yahoo.com
[Excerpt]

Hey Larry,
I wanted to drop a line to you and let you know what an interesting section that you have started with your experiment with the Globe. It is interesting for someone to take the Globe and dissect it in the way that you are doing, as way of seeing how the Globe is covering theatre. I remember last year when the Globe's Sunday section was entitled Arts rather then Arts and entertainment. At least I knew then I would get some sort of theatre coverage even if it was one review. Now, they don't even have to cover Boston Theatre and sometimes they don't. Although I can admit to the Globe being very powerful I don't think it can single handily kill Boston Theater, although combined with the fact that there is no one strong consistent theater community in Boston might just manage to kill it. Who knows?
Rob

Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2007 06:29:43 -0700 (PDT)
From: Robert Bettencourt rob_bett@yahoo.com
Subject: Your Globe Piece

Hey Larry,
As I have said, I have found your Globe piece this month in TheaterMirror to be very interesting if not surprising. But I was wondering a follow-up might be to see how other papers in other theater towns such as Chicago, Minnesota, etc treat theater in general but also if they support the local theater that goes on around them.
Rob

Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2007 08:31:58 -0700 (PDT)
From: Robert Bettencourt rob_bett@yahoo.com Subject: Bravo Larry!

Hey Larry,
Once again thank you so much for your coverage of the Boston Globe and there lack of coverage of the independent theatre scene in Boston. It was a very interesting month.

I think that you should start another page on theater mirror for anyone who wants to write an article about independent theater in and around Boston, perhaps someone ( a college student perhaps) would pick up one of the great ideas you have had for subjects and write about it. At least some coverage would get out there.

The true reality of the situation is that the lack of independent theater coverage in Boston will eventually lead to its demise.
Keep up the great work.
Rob

Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2007 16:29:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: Anngarvin4@aol.com
Subject: Hello!

Dear Larry,
I have enjoyed reading your day to day synopses of the Boston Globe coverage of the local theater scene... quite an undertaking and it makes for fascinating reading. Jerry and I are extremely happy and proud that you mentioned the exciting things that we are doing in Lowell ( and, in the next two weekends at The Skellig in Waltham, thanks for the plug!). I do feel it would be remiss however, if we didn't point out that Sandra MacDonald of The Globe did indeed come to Lowell and gave us a wonderful review in April for Jim's play "Distant Music". We appreciated the trip she made and sincerely hope that she, as well as you, and others will see our upcoming shows.

In many ways The Globe has been better to Image Theater than a lot of the smaller local papers. Denise Taylor will feature Distant Music in her West Weekly section tomorrow. Admittedly it's not easy to get coverage, it takes many phone calls, faxes and e-mails, but at least they were responsive and thought the show noteworthy.

Recently we were informed by your fellow IRNE voter and critic David Andrews that there is no money in the budget of the Metro West Daily News or The Tab to enable him to do any coverage of Distant Music, or any other local plays for a while. I find this staggering considering it's literally in their back yard, and that ours is more than likely the only play being performed in an Irish Tavern at this time, making it a unique story. We have found the smaller papers are owned by large conglomerates and local reporters have been laid off. It is sad when a local paper can't pay the $50 or so to a critic to cover a play. Wouldn't it be wonderful if good critics like you, or Beverly Creasey, or Mr. Andrews were able to freelance to fill in the gaps? Regrettably, I was told by the editors of these papers it just wasn't possible! And what about the Herald? Hello, let's get serious! If George Clooney blew his nose in Gloucester 2,000 lines would be dedicated to where he tossed the tissue, but if a great new play was being performed at the old Devanaughn space it would go unnoticed.

In the end, it comes down the money. Larger theaters can take out bigger ads and wield more power. So far, the Globe has been able to at least give us the time of day, as long as they feel it's a unique and a good story.

Larry, you are doing such a benefit to the theater community. You continue to shine a light on the smaller theaters companies who are worth noting and we all truly appreciate it, and appreciate you!

We felt we would be making a mistake if we did not at least let your readers know that Ms. MacDonald and the Globe have been there for us many times.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!
Ann Garvin
Image Theater

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Introduction

You must know that I really don't like Boston's "newspaper of record" --- the richest, most successful, and most powerful newspaper in town. I've seen the faces of friends saying, with mild indignity catching in their throats "The GLOBE hated it" about their show or a friend's show --- and always talking of work I, personally, admired and usually praised. I gave up reading The GLOBE regularly a decade or more ago, partly because I had better things to do, partly to avoid the seething sense of outrage when seeing just how wrong their reviewers had got it.

But I've decided to make a detailed study of what regular readers find in its coverage of THE ARTS generally, and theater in particular. It does remain, after all, the ultimate and major source of opinions for that vast number of readers who have no opinions of their own. So I've arranged to have the paper delivered every morning for one month, and to write of what I find there.

First Entry:
Saturday, 1 September:

Of course, with characteristic efficiency, they delayed delivery and I had to buy, between seeing two plays, a GLOBE of my own. That evening I rushed home and spread a thick wad of newsprint across the bed, noticing that it rivalled the Sunday New York TIMES (to which I have been addicted most of my adult life) in size and weight. (I think the TIMES actually Owns the GLOBE --- or is it vice versa?) Then, as I do with the TIMES, I riffled through and set aside --- to be thrown away unread --- the sections that might be of interest to other readers, but not to me:
Automotive ... 12 pages
Business ..... 10 pages
Classifieds .. 4 pages

Normally, this pile would include
Sports ....... 10 pages
except that this is the second week of the U.S.OPEN, and since I am a dedicated tennis freak I set aside to read later the page containing two articles by Bud Collins and Cindy Shmerier on play out at Arthur Ashe stadium.

I read all the comics (before throwing them away) in something called
Sidekick ..... 16 1/2-size tab pages

I looked carefully at all headlines in
Section A .... 12 pages
and glanced at the OpEd and editorial pages. What I learned was that most of everything there had been covered quite sufficiently by the morning news shows on WBUR, and much more compellingly by Amy Goodman's DEMOCRACY NOW over the Internet. And I glanced also over the City & Region . 8 pages
which included about three pages of obituaries.

Okay, that left the section called
LIVING / Arts 8 pages
Which was the one serious reason for my months subscription to The GLOBE, and I fell on it eager to see, on this Saturday before the Labor Day weekend, how Boston's most important newspaper covered the world of live theater.

And I learned that in all the eight pages, the GLOBE never even mentioned the word "theatre" Once.

Not even once.....

There were, though a quarter-page "Music Review" of her Bank of America Pavillion concert given two nights previously by Hilary Duff (with a photo, not from the Boston concert but an earlier New York State appearance), and a feature review of an apparently significant art-house film called "Halloween" which Globe Corresponent (that's GLOBEspeak for "stringer") Tom Russo yawned tepidly at, while Globe Staff writer Mark Shanahan swooned over the seamanship of someone called Geraldo Rivera, and another Globe Correspondent (Kathleen McKenna) covered LIVING, I assume (not ART, surely!) by focusing on a children's coloring-book of drawings of Red Sox players, in action.

Still, I wish The GLOBE would be honest about the section, and call it "Living / MOVIES";
with the back page devoted to the weather-map and a "Star Watch" column by Alan M. MacRobert for amateur astronomers, everything in the section, including about one full page of display-advertisements, puffed the currently running cinema.

The penultimate full page and a half featured the "Boston Globe Movie Directory"; this is a paid-ad listing of every film-presenting company in the area, with the times of every film they're showing detailed, with type-faces and between-lines leading both enviting and pleasing to the eye --- as though The GLOBE took the time to make all this adveritising easy to read.

But that's not all!

The GLOBE also provided about a full page of brief puff-reviews (each one at least a full column-inch of original copy) of all the movies showing in the area. "Four-Stars-Or-Less" evaluations (**** excellent, * poor) are provided, and "Globe critics rate films". Those critics include:
Wesley Morris, Ty Burr, Janice Page, Cate McQuade, Meredith Goldstein, and Mark Feeney.
It doesn't say which of them might be "Globe Staff" and which "Globe Correspondents".

I hope not to say much more about movies in the coming month, but I must make two observations:
First, movie Producers and movie Distributors support local movie Exhibitors both with some advertising money, and with p/r- and advertising-materials, and junkets for local film reviewers. That means that camera-read ads and related press-packets are always available, and it's probable that some of the costs of an ad in the "Boston Globe Movie Directory" could be supplemented by a "reciprocal advertising budget".
In a way, the three or four Broadway Houses here in Boston get some help from the New York producers, but that cannot be true of the Huntington or A.R.T., nor of the Lyric or the New Rep or SpeakEasy --- and certainly not of any of the struggling "fringe" companies working at the BCA or Piano Factory or Durrell Hall or Hibernian Hall or Charlestown Working --- and none of the community theatres in the area. These people make theater afresh at Every Performance, and make it out of live human beings, not strips of celluloid or series' of pixels. Plays are different from movies or t-v, and should be handled differently.

Second, consider this question:
How many people does a movie exhibitor have to employ to run a movie theatre?
Anser: FOUR.
You need a ticket-seller, and a ticket-taker/usher, a seller of popcorn and soda, and a projectionist.
Now, how many people does a movie exhibitor have to employ to run a 5-screen movie complex?
Answer: FOUR!
The SAME four!
The movies are wound onto one huge reel each, the projectionist changes reels every showing, and he can walk from projector to projector --- especially if film-times are juggled properly --- to handle several machines at a time.

Contrariwise, the entire cast of a play has to show up for Every Performance to take place.

But I am relieved to know that The GLOBE takes every opportunity to make life as easy as possible for poor, hard-working film people who make money with as much help, and free ink, as the newspaper can provide.

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

Second Entry:
Sunday, 2 September:

And of course, they didn't deliver this morning, either. No GLOBE accompanied my New York TIMES outside the doorway. I expect there'll be none tomorrow (It's Labor Day, a HOLIDAY, after all; I don't even know if the GLOBE will even Publish on a holiday when everyone runs to the Cape for the last bit of sun and surf of the year...)

The bodega down the block had a copy, and I'm glad I had the foresight to take my backpack to lug the heavy thing home. The handfull of SEVENTEEN advertising-fliers --- most of which are insertions the GLOBE doesn't even print themselves --- weighed almost as much as the entire Sunday TIMES as I bundlred them into the trash-pile. Then I added my selected trash.
The GLOBE understands its audience, and tries to provide a little eight-or-so-page mini-GLOBE for every special interest. (This is in keeping with an old N.Y. TIMES house-ad that said "You needn't read it all, but it's nice to know it's all there.") The sections I discarded immediately focused on: Travel, Sports, Business&Money, Real Estate, Classifieds, a tab called Careers, and a catch-all called Ideas that was half book-reviews and a smidge of editorial and OpEd articles.
Then I did read the comics, wherein even Gary Trudeau's DOONSBURY was shrunken and jammed, vertically, into a colorful but irrelevent hodgepodge. (I grew up with PRINCE VALIANT and FLASH GORDON using One Full Page Each in the Sund.... Ah, but I digress.)

As I riffled through saving sections for later my heart leaped when I saw the word THEATER on the first page of the City Weekly section --- then I saw that it was merely a sign over a door in Globe photographer Justine Hunt's illustration of (Globe Staffer) Kathleen Burge's feature about places where night shelters in high-crime areas offer activities for teen-agers. What looked like a play rehearsal through the door was really a talk or lecture to the assembled kids.

But there was pay-dirt in a section called ARTS & Entertainment!
Not on page one, of course, but tucked inside on page two.
Page one featured a full above-the-fold promo for the SIX articles in this section about:
television.
Below that were beginnings of first an interview by Joan Anderman (Globe Staff) with hard-body guitarist Manu Chau, and then an obituary by Jeremy Eichler (also Globe Staff) for Stalin's music-czar; the runover on that filled all of page 4 of the section.

But I was speaking of Page Two:
The article is a preview-interview with ex-A.R.T. theater-czar Robert Brustein, whose bio-play about Shakespeare "The English Channel" opens at Suffolk University --- where Brustein's spending a yearas scholar-in-residence. It will play 6 - 16 September, then move to the Vineyard Playhouse. It is directed by Wes Savick, who may be the best director working in Boston today.
This a good, meaty article full of good quotes and the flavor of rehearsals for a brand new play. In addition there is a sidebar noting that Brustein thought the best venue for his new play would be the A.R.T.'s Zero Arrow Theatre, but "they weren't interested in reading the script." This footnote-article notes Brustein's reluctance to discuss ending his A.R.T. career, though the interviewer does note "..Brustein did say he was disappointed with some of this season's selections there." and quotes him as saying "The bureaucracies can stifle creativity."

Both the interview and the sidebar were by Terry Byrne, who was for a time the Boston HERALD's theater critic until an economy wave there downsized her.
It has surprised some that she is still just a Globe Correspondent, though she has the most authoritative voice on the subject in The GLOBE, which I think has not replaced Ed Seigel since he was similarly downsized. There's a lot of speculation among veteran GLOBE-watchers as to whether she might rise to Staff, and I am as much a gossip-monger as any of them:
Her past as the voice of the HERALD might make the editor think twice --- though seeing her by-line in this rival paper might attract some loyal HERALD readers. It's possible her style is not quite the "get that opinion in first, and fast, and hard" GLOBE style. She may cost too much. And the editors may not want to call Anyone the theater critic for The GLOBE. It might even be that giving an experienced and interesting writer such clout may be in conflict with the paper's overview of The Arts, in which it has seemed to me The GLOBE has been at great pains to eradicate all theater here in Boston.

I'll say more about all that in the next installment --- After I eat.

No, by God, there are still some interesting things about the Sunday coverage of The Arts I haven't said yet.
You might have thought that the ARTS would have been covered in the Arts Section, but what did we have along with it: Sixteen pages of a MOVIES Section, all by itself! The back page was a catch-all Home Entertainment and DVD section all its own but aside from that what do you think were on the last three pages? Why the nearly=two-page Boston Globe Movie Directory and the full page of "Movie Stars" capsule reviews, all but unchanged from the previous day's paper. And included was a checklist column checking off the opinions ("recommended" "mixed bag" or "poor" for FORTY-SEVEN movies, each one as rated by the GLOBE, the New York TIMES< The New Yorker, Time, Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles TIMES, Variety, and the Boston Phoenix.
So readers can have no excuse for not knowing what to think about Any Movie in Boston, right?

Oh, I forgot to mention: on that page-two ARTS section, there were three ads. The biggest was less than a quarter-page for a concert by someone named Manilo, A much smaller ad (but in poorly-registered color) was for "The Three Musketeers" and one smaller than that was for "Hairspray"; the former is playing in Beverly Mass., the latter in Ogunquit Maine --- but at least "Hairspray" has the name of Boston's Ryan Landry above the title.

Nor was that the end of Sunday's arts-coverage! A story by Geoff Edgers (Globe Staff) took up the bottom four inches across The First Page, talking about the exhibit at Boston College of two dozen recently unearthed drip-paintings that may be by Jackson Pollock, along with some Pollock's with genuine provenance. The runover for this was continued in the City&Region Section (logically) with a second article almost as long by Ken Johnson (also Globe Staff) labelled a Review. Eggers deals with broader backgrounds, Johnson discusses in depth what the paintings look like.

I must admit I started referring to people as Globe "correspondents" or "staff" to make other points, but in glancing through the "A" Section of Sunday's paper I noticed a remarkable thing: this summary of the most important global and national occurrences designed to inform Bostonians Isn't even written by anyone at the GLOBE! Instead the by-lines cite Washington Post, Associated Press, New York Times News Service, Losd Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun. The five stories beginning on Page One are indeed by Globe Staffers; inside though, only one written by Susan Milligan (Globe Staff) covers Senator Craig's resignation, and it's datelined Washington.
SO, the best you can say is, so far as national and internationa affairs goes, the GLOBE is really nothing more than a local editor of copy from other newspapers and wire services.

But of course, it's Labor Day Weekend, and perhaps the entire GLOBE Staff cut out for the Cape a few days early.

Why not?

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

Third Entry:
Monday, 3 September:

Let me try to get back on a realistic schedule here by saying Section C "Living/Arts" features an Alex Beam thumb-sucker complaining about too many "lists", a book review, a music review, a television review,a feature on the new general manager of WHDH Radio, and a photos-of-faces quarter-page on a developer's 90th birthday. But of the eight pages in the section, the back three are Classified Ads, and the two pages before that are dominated by Guess What???
THE BOSTON GLOBE MOVIE DIRECTORY of course!!!!! (That's how many days in a row? Three by my count, but of course, I only started counting last Saturday. Jeez, those movie money-moguls must be keeping the whole damn paper afloat with all that ad-revenue..... )

But, need I point out, about live theater ... not one ghoddamned syllable.
Fifty-two pages; five of them on The Arts, and two of those about nothing but movies.
And I promised to cover Twenty-Seven Ghoddamned days of this, didn't I?
Maybe I should re-negotiate that promise....

Fliers and brochures have come into my mailbox from Boston's theater "Biggies" (Huntington, A.R.T., Lyric, New Rep, SpeakEasy) and e-mails from many smaller companies --- all announcing seasons. People in the past five years and more have been Coming In To Boston because they think it's a good place to do live theater. There were three or four "fringe festivals" of new plays around the end of the summer. I expect to see FOURTEEN Plays in just the next Two Weeks.

But of course, since not one of them has sprocket-holes, the GLOBE doesn't know any of them exist.

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

Fourth Entry:
Wednesday, 5 September:

7:02 a m

I'm up this early calling the GLOBE, Again, about missing papers.
Come to find out, they've been sending them to #515, not #501 --- apparently my fault.
BUT I was promised they'd TRY to re-deliver, and within 90 MINUTES. If it's not here by 8:30, it's back to the bodega again....
[ It was ... but the GLOBE called and we found out it'd been delivered to #515 so I walked over and asked for it back. SO, there WILL Be an Entry Five some time today.... Honest! ]

But about Yesterday's paper:
There wasn't really an ARTS "Section" this issue --- instead the Living/Arts were carried as pages 4 - 7 of Section C: Business. And then, of course, pages 6 & 7 were taken up with ... what ... (all together now) the BOSTON GLOBE MOVIE DIRECTORY, of course! Gotta let the folks make up their minds what cinematic excellence to indulge in at six in the morning on a Tuesday, right? Right???

Okay, the big page-one coverage here is "Living" --- a "Child Caring" piece on focused remedial summer classes By Barbara F. Meltz (Globe Staff);then the beginning of a CD-review by Christina Pazzanese (Globe Correspondent) on the Monterey Jazz Festival's history, and a List (now I know why an earlier GLOBE piece this week complained about Too Many LISTS!), by Globe Staffer David Mehegan, of books to be published this fall; a music review "Reprinted from late editions of yesterday's Globe" (I wonder what the hell THAT means; Did someone pull an ad?), and a book review by Michael Kenney, "a freelance writer who lives in Cambridge". And there's a half-column of all but unreadable agate-type headed "The Air This Week" of Radio Programs --- music, of course --- signed Richard Buell.
And, except for a peculiar column called "Dear Margo" --- that's it.
There ain't much, there is no theater at all, and since it's buried in the Business Section no one will have read it.

However, I did solve two problems about The GLOBE:
First, the articles on the first pages of each section are almost always written by Globe Staff people --- and just about everything else is lifted from other papers or wire-services.
For instance, Section A, covering major national and international news, credits stories from The Los Angeles Times (twice), Associated Press (5), the International Herald Tribune, and the New York TIMES News Service (2). There is a "Campaign Notebook" from New Hampshire, but it's an unsigned catch-all, and there's an opinion piece --- a column by Peter S. Canellos the GLOBE's Washington bureau chief --- called "National Perspectives". Everything else was culled and edited by The GLOBE out of other papers' writing.

On page 9, however, appears a touching obituary-piece --- a quarter-page of copy by Globe Correspondent Daniel J. Muse plus two photos --- about the career of journalist Ralph Long. The touching point of the story is that "Mr. Long joined the Boston TRAVELER, an afternoon paper that merged with its morning counterpart the Boston HERALD in 1967." In other words, he was a major editorial force behind the GLOBE's only surviving rival newspaper here in Boston. In treating this story as a news item rather than an ordinary obit, this paper let honest love of journalistic life take precedence over partisan vindictiveness.
Bravo.

But, as point two, I did find out where the GLOBE Staff really hangs out:
The SPORTS section!
Normally I'd never open it --- I looked for and tried to read the paper's to my mind jaded coverage of the Haas/Blake match at the U.S. Open; I happened to see the last half of it in the common-room downstairs here, and it was a Barn-Burner of tennis drama! --- but there were eleven Globe Staff and one Globe Correspondent names and three apparently regular columnists in this one section (and only Two Associated Press stories), plus three Staffers on the opening page.
Hell, that's almost as many Staff-written articles as there are in the rest of the whole damn paper Combined!

9:15
[ A lady just knocked and handed me today's GLOBE. So it took about 125 minutes for the re-delivery; but at least I know they now know my room number! ]

Now, on to Entry Five!!!

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

Fifth Entry:
Wednesday, 5 September:

4:56 p m

First a note about yesterday's paper:
On the OP-ed page was a commentary on getting our troops out of Iraq by someone who spent his year in Vietnam after President Nixon started lowering our troop-strength by simply not replacing American soldiers who rotated home. The result was renewed and expanded attacks from General Giap's army --- and casualties rising to 250 dead a week!
The surprise was the by-like: Jeff Danziger. He is arguably the best editorial cartoonist in America, but he's with the New York TIMES Syndicate, and that paper carries no cartoons, except three on page 2 of the Sunday WEEK IN REVIEW section. His cartoons are beautifully and thoroughly drawn --- and always with telling captionsas well. I had no idea he wasthat old; I wish I could see his work whenever it's published!

But there is Great News today: There's a Review of a play (Well okay, more an Opera than anything else) beginning at the bottom of the first page of the Living/Arts Section of The Boston GLOBE! They call it a "Stage Review", it's by Louise Kennedy ("Globe Staff" --- does this make her THE Globe theater critic?}, it's about a play/opera collision called "Don Juan Giovanni" that a company from Minneapolis called Theatre de la Jeune Lune has brought to the Loeb Drama Center. Considering my tin-ear where loud caterwauling is concerned, plus many of Kennedy's words like --- "mishmashing of plot and character "the " "a fascinating if occasionally opaque theatrical event" "a careening, cavorting, and occasionally confusing joy ride" "this is not 'Don Giovanni for purists" "the reduced physical intensity also diminishes our emotional engagement"* --- I think I'll miss it.
However, I can't remember if the GLOBE has ever printed an unequivocal Pan of anything the A.R.T. or their visiting friends have done at Loeb, and this well-written but not quite non-committal piece gives enough description of the show to tell me why, and will probably give opera-lovers equal information to make them eager to see (sorry) to hear it.

Of course the editor in me piped up at *"...(it) diminishes OUR emotional engagement."
In an otherwise fine review, this lazy cliche is a bugbear of mine. I want to shout back "WE weren't there, Louise, YOU were! Stop trying to put words in my mouth or opinions in my head. Just Give The News Please! Describe the show you saw without smarmily twisting my arm and not only will I know what You thought of the show, I'll decide what I myself think of it as well, thank you very much."

But I had no other complains, and there were two publicity-stills to expand my awareness.

The section, though, was the smallest in the entire paper --- only a total of SIX pages (They gave "FOOD" eight!) --- but at least it Was a section, with a recognizable first page.
But, wonder of wonders, along with the ubiquitous "B.G.M.D" double-page spread, most of the back page had a similar section (but with even more white-space in and between the ads) called:
TICKET TO THE ARTS
and the first three Columns were devoted to
T H E A T E R ! ! !
Music followed with nearly two columns, then Opera, Dinner Theatre, Comedy, and "Activities". (I wonder how much an ad of a column-inch or more there would cost?)
Of course, the A.R.T.'s two-incher, though describing the same show Kennedy reviewed, calls it:
"FIGARO" (Honest!)

Oh, there was one other ad: a color-spread slightly wider than a half-page for "Wicked" currently playing at The Opera House. But it wasn't in the Living/Arts section --- it ran on right-hand page 5 of the tab SIDEKICK section just before two pages of t-v listings, with the comics as usual taking the back half of the section. You don't suppose the "Broadway Across America" p/r people have Given Up on the Globe's Arts section, do you?

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

Sixth Entry:
Thursday, 6 September:

3:23 a m

Okay now, where the hell was I when I so Rudely interrupted myself? This series got derailed partly because I saw four Excellent shows in a row:
5 sep CRIMES OF THE HEART Zero Point Productions BCA 89
6 sep CABARET Metro Stage Company DURRELL HALL CAMBRIDGE YMCA 90
7 sep 4:48 PSYCHOSIS Fort Point Theatre Channel MIDWAY STUDIOS 91
8 sep THE PHOENICIAN WOMEN A.R.T.Mxat Institute LOEB EX 92
[and I managed to spend half of Friday writing a review of one of them].

Of course, None of these productions were noticed by Boston's "newspaper of record" and, you know what they say backstage: "If a show opens in the woods and The GLOBE doesn't review it, Does Its Audience Exist? --- Answer: Of course not!"

But, after five days of ignoring theater almost totally, the first week-end of the new school year flooded the paper with all sorts of advertising revenue, it got bulkier and heavier, and the rising tide floated all Sections, including ARTS!
SO, though I am really writing on Monday, 10 September @ 3:23 a m, let's try to celebrate by taking each edition in order, beginning with:

Sixth Entry:
Thursday, 6 September:

Well, it's a little hard to find anything to celebrate. Section F (which carried the traditional two-page [all together now:] "BGMD"! but included the Ticket to The Arts) was really called

STYLE

(oh, & by the way, a smidge of)Arts

A young developer and the t-v coverage of the Clintons took page one, Globe Staffer Christopher Muther got a half-page of good, descriptive coverage of runway fashion shows --- in New York. And Globe Correspondent Cate McQuade covered three painting shows at two galleries in Beverly, one in Maine.
What I noticed here, though, was that there was no attempt to "get that opinion in, first and fast and hard" at all. Both writers seemed to think their expertly informed explanations of what they saw would get the job done. The old New Yorker filler-quip "Just Give The News, Please" came to mind. A television review and a music review made it into the paper, elbowed to the sides and bottom of the page dominated by two pictures (for the Art review). These and the dress-photos with the fashion article were fine, but one accompanying the Clinton/t-v story --- on page one of the section --- was so garishly out of register as to be insultingly fuzzy.

I thought that was all, until someone for some reason mentioned the Globe CALENDAR.
Calendar???
I scrabbled through the paper again and finally found it: printed inside the SIDEKICK tab! Of course, I saw no indication of how people who aren't addicted to the comic-strips would be able to find it.

Seventh Entry:
Friday, 7 September:

JACKPOT TIME!

Finally, a meaty section called ARTS & PERFORMANCE kicks off with a two-page article that has four face-photos * filling the page above the fold --- about theater! Terry Byrne (still only a Correspondent) interviewed the four principals in The New Repertory Company's soon-to-open production of "Streetcar Named Desire" on how they were dealing with inevitable comparisons to the same roles the classic movie that made Marlon Brando a household name. The runover three pages later also featured a good, moody shot of the current cast, and on both pages smaller stills from the film were there for comparison. (A Music Review by Globe Staffer Jeremy Eichler --- datelined Paris --- leisurely covering the BSO's triumphant European tour filled the bottoms of both pages.)
* [However, again this leading page was printed out of register, and involved a sort of "red shift" that made all four faces --- And Their Clothing! --- look as though they'd all spent a whole day under a blazing sun without sun-block. Surely The GLOBE can do better than this!]

Both the Ticket to Arts and B.G.M.D. pages, plus reviews and the thumbnails of movies, were in place, as well as three pages and several reviews of pop music.
However this section came wrapped in a catch-all WEEKEND section that had movie and music reviews tucked to one side with a huge review of the HBO t-v show "Tell Me You Love Me' on the "cover" --- with a Flawlessly IN-Register ad for "Blue Man Group" running across the bottom three inches of the page --- and inside a "Comedy Notes" feature by Correspondent Nick A. Zaino III, a "Sauce" review of a bar using half a page, Jeremy Eichler (Globe Staff) obit of Paarotti for another half page, and two quarter-page ads for "Blue Man Group" and "King Richard's Faire" that are a full eighth of an inch out of register and look so cheesey the GLOBE ought to give them their money back.

And one note on the "entertainment" value of The GLOBE:
On page 9 of the A ("The Nation") first section of the paper there is an ad, from Macy's, hawking women's underwear. These are hardly "Page 3 Girls" out of a Rupert Murdoch rag, but I've been a dirty-old-man since the seventh grade, and I know pornography when I see it.
It's nice to know some things never change...

Eighth Entry:
Saturday, 8 September:

There was a review here, now lost in the pile.
It was of a production in Ogunquit, Maine, of "Hairspray" --- but at least it had Boston's drag-artist Ryan Landry (apparently in a fat-suit) in a leading role, sharing star-billing with a moonlighting television luminary. It was by Terry Byrne.

Nineth Entry:
Sunday, 9 September:

This is the big Season Opener blockbuster. A section called "Season Ticket" gave half-page attention exclusivey to concert-music, theater, pop-records, three varieties of pop music, and pop-concerts, and dance --- powered of course by facing full-page ads for "Wicked," The Celebrity Series, The Boston Symphony, the Colonial Theatre (which provided a color-ad for three of the season's Broadway visitors that acted as "cover" for the section), and it had a final full-page ad on the back for --- The Boston Bruins hockey team.
[By the way, the "Wicked" ad was at least an eighth of an inch out-of-register, meaning that across the fold a photo of Kortney Adams and Lee Davenport, and a bigger face-photo of playwright Ronan Noone were disgracefully ugly.] Louise Kennedy wrote the survey of the career of Ronan Noone, focusing on the two plays "The Atheist" (opening tomorrow --- I'm writing late on 11 Sept.) and "Brendan" both of which will be directed by Justin Waldman and mounted by The Huntington Theatre Company. (There's no mention of productions of Noone's earlier plays by the late and much lamented Sugan Theatre.) The piece is a warm portrait of Boston's most significant and successful stage-playwright.

Running with it is a double-column series of "Front Row: Theater" picks, summarized one inch each by Louise Kennedy. They spotlight the A.S.P., The New Rep, the "Sweeney Todd" coming to the Colonial in October, Boston Theatre Works' "Forum" and Zeitgeist's "The Kentucky Cycle" both @ the BCA.
That spread of sizes and styles is interesting; check The Fringes of Boston for a minority-report on what's interesting in this season's projected openings. A seven-page section on MOVIES (containing Guess What? [All Together Now:]) with a back-page called "Home Entertainment" with a one-column "DVD Report" on re-issues and "Indie DVDs".
Since I don't own a t-v, this was Greek to me.

Tenth Entry:
Monday, 10 September:

After that huge effort to take the arts, including theater, seriously, The Living/Arts section climbed into the paper on the back of a "Health/Science" Section (C) which included three pages of varied coverage with only one quarter-page ad. The Art featured on these back-pages (in addition to one review and, guess what? [All Together Now:]) was the writing of books.Plus another dispatch from the touring BSO.

Okay, this rushed coverage gets me more or less up to date.
Today's (11 Sept) L/A section has Louise Kennedy's review of Robert Brustein's "The English Channel" --- kinder than Beverly Creasey's here in The Mirror.
But it's 4:28 and I need a shower before going off to a Very Special Event which I expect to write about in a separate "Cricket's Notebook" entry later tonight.
["There is an art to the building of suspense." ---Tom Stoppard]

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

Eleventh Entry:
Tuesday, 11 September:

[NOTE: Today is the 12th and there will be two entries; I had an interesting evening of theater last night that I expect to write about in depth as soon as I have time and mind free, but before I do there was a sort of explosion of insight about The GLOBE when I picked up my doorway-copy about seven a m. But first: }

The Living/Arts Section E today had a Book review, TWO CD-reviews --- one, nearly a half-page feature with color-photos taking all but one column under the fold was hip-hop hype --- a tiny "Ask Margo" column, two pages of "Living stuff", and One STAGE Review.
That was the left-over column on the cover-page headlined
"Unlocking
mystery of
Shakespeare
the man"
By Louise Kennedy, it concerned Robert Brustein's "The English Channel" and with one or two minor quibbles I found it a useful review. (I have a ticket to see the show this coming Friday, so I can't say till then how it reflects what happens on stage.)
For me, though, in only a couple of reviews I've seen from her, what hit me hardest was what I have to call an ANIT-Globe style: she doesn't "get that opinion in, first and fast and hard" but, at least in these two reviews, she started out with several paragraphs of introduction and background, and only in the last four paragraphs does she suggest --- and Only suggest --- that the show demands more Elizabethan expertise than a general audience could muster; the phrase "academic divertissement" suggests Brustein's reach exceeds his grasp.
Only half of one sentence puzzled me:
"...Alex Pollock invests Hal with a fussy arrogance that's funny and touching, [fine so far, but then:]except at a few over-the-top moments when he becomes Lord Carson Kressley."
??? Is this a with-it reference to someone I've never heard of? I do, I admit, lead a sheltered life, but I simply don't understand.
And of course at the very end a button marked PERSONAL CLICHE lit up in my mind when she said:
"If that conceit leaves US wondering what such a man was "really" like, WE're no more mystified than WE are by the "real" Shakespeare --- whoever WE each imagine him to be."
I won't see the show till Friday, and "WE" has to refer to people, along with Louise, who have Already Seen The Show. This is a lazy-thinking habit and an attempt to smush me into agreeing with the writer. I'd rather make up my Own Mind, thank you, on the evidence the writer presents.
"Just Give The News Please," okay?

twelfth Entry:
Tuesday, 12 September:

Today, wonder of wonder, the Living Section (F) had Two "Stage Reviews", one each by Kennedy and Byrne, and TWO half-pages of the "Ticket to the Arts" to go along with the {All Together Now:] B.G.M.D., and an interview-piece about "The Atheist" which I will see open at the BCA tonight. There was a Music (i.e. Concert) review, a Book review, "Annie's Mailbox" (which may mean Margo's on vacation?), an Alex Beam column about "living", and two pages with pics by Meredith Goldstein about an AARP dancing party which dominated the top-half of the first page with a picture, huge TWO-COLOR screamer-headline, and artsy white-space.
It's the above-the-fold half-page that got me started:

It's been decades since The GLOBE began calling the section LIVING/arts --- suggesting a separation of one from the other and giving a clear indication of which one is of prime importance in the editor's minds. No one buys "Living-Ads" but every day the "Living" stuff gets the half-page above the fold, and the grudging attention paid the rest of that title has to pay for itself with advertising.

"What do you mean," you can say, "there's a Stage Review on page one of the section, isn't there?"
Well, technically yes. But I never noticed it till I found the runover on Page FOUR and went looking for it. There it is: One quarter-column squeezed into the bottom-right corner of page one with a severely shrunken picture that would have meant something if it were the size of the dancers-pic at the top of the page. Hell, not even Terry Byrne's larger interview there, headlined "Campbell Scott scares himself" with a similarly too-small picture, --- neither piece gives the impression that theater is what they concern [and certainly not that theater is, in any way, Important].
Graphically, that's what The GLOBE is saying.
And even more important: I picked up the paper this morning and, looking for the Arts section I looked on Page One of the paper at the "Inside" index and found only
"Movie times E4-5"
So I scanned the column up above headed "In The News" thinking a Living or Arts article had been flagged up there so a reference to the Arts section would be duplication.
Nothing.
In other words, coverage of shows at the A.R.T., the Lyric Stage, and the Huntington's BCA space were not in any way as important as [All Together Now:] The B.G.M.D. (And that was not in Section E --- Food --- but the bottoms of pages 2 - 3 of LIVING/arts (Ticket to the Arts, of course, had to wait till pages 4 - 5).

By now, a decision that "apparently the Arts aren't interesting our readers as much as they once did" has turned self-fulfilling. I heard a young actress say that, among her peers, who go eagerly to rock performances, it's like pulling teeth to get anyone to see her act. I was told by an actor last night that surveys suggest that newspapers aren't drawing audiences to plays very much these days --- And No Wonder!

But I really think The Boston GLOBE is missing the boat. If the editors would take a serious look at Living here in Boston [Is there, really, an ARTS Editor at The GLOBE? Isn't that really just a sinecure?] they could see that my count of NINETY theatres in Boston has been growing lately; that actors are moving TO Boston because of the theater atmosphere here, instead of jumping-ship for The Left Coast or The Apple; but that sometimes it seems that actors are getting audiences (for what I see as Great Work by the way) with high concentrations of Other Actors.
I think these facts are as much deserving of the attention of The GLOBE's "Living" staff as the stuff I frankly do not read that are so loudly trumpeted above the fold every day. Maybe Big Theater is dead in Boston. YOUNG Theater is alive, and well, and totally ignored by Boston's newspaper of record.
I wish they'd wake up and smell the damned coffee.....

Love, ===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

twelfth Entry: CONTINUED
Tuesday, 12 September:

Midnight:
I spent so much time this morning ranting and chewing the scenery that I didn't have time left to talk about the reviews. I had to run off to see Ronan Noone's "The Atheist" at the BCA.
And then after it, I had to run home to read carefully Terry Byrne's phone-interview with that monologue's star Campbell Scott --- hoping in the interview (headlined "Campbell Scott scares himself") whether this literally riveting actor was "off-book" or reading from his script during tonight's performance. And Byrne's interview told me absolutely nothing useful about the man at all. Since he started the show by turning an on-stage t-v camera on himself, and periodically live images of him were projected on the back scrim, the character (who had a pen in his hand and busily scribbled into his notebook) might have been reading from his autobiography (there was a pile of similar notebooks at one side of the Wimberly stage).
But after an act-break Campbell stood at the front edge of the stage-apron for a long, pregnant, dramatic pause and then, rather than say a word, turned back to a desk behind himself and, through most of the second act, his eyes dropped repeatedly to the pages (which were typed double-spaced). Pity, since the actor, though he hadn't the voice to fill even this small auditorium, had the audience hanging on his every word.

Byrne's review on page 6 was of the Lyric's "Man of La Mancha" --- an oddly phrased review that seemed to be aimed at people who had seen the musical before. I hadn't seen it in at least thirty years, so when she said ".. he makes 'Dulcinea' [and it was only on third reading I realized she meant a Song] both seductive and heart-wrenching." then followed it with "It's no surprise the hardened Aldonza..." --- well, again it took a lot of re-reading to figure out that the hardened scullery-made Aldonza is idealized as a lovely and pure love Quijote calls "Dulcinea".
And earlier Byrne says ".. Cervantes is put on trial by his fellow inmates and acts out his defense .. " instead of clarifying that Cervantes acts out His NOVEL as a defense of his right to freedom.
But of course, Byrne no doubt has seen many version that have come through Broadway and Boston since my last brush with it, and familiarity breeds, occasionally, indifference.

Louise Kennedy's "Stage Review", crouching in the bottom-right corner of the section's page-one was headed with a two column-inch color photo captioned "Jennifer Baldwin Peden and Momoko Tanno in The American Repertory Theatre's 'Figaro' --- which is a lie. It is the Minneapolis Theatre de la Jeune Lune's "Figaro" in residence on the A.R.T.'s Loeb Drama Center main stage.
The review itself is again more explanatory and descriptive rather than judgemental, and any critical comments ( "it can also just feel uneasy" "the sometimes baffling spectacle" "by rules that are never quite made clear" "[It] feels coherent , even when its confusing" "its separate parts sometimes feel off balance.") are always tentative, sounding unsure.
And there's a recurrence of "our own" and "as if we're" and ".. it's too uneven, too unfocused, to hold US in its spell" --- lazy-minded personal cliches.

Of course, there might be some genuine fear in the heart of a new Globe Staff reviewer complaining about the paper's Most Favored Theater Company --- one that's also a buyer of generous ad-space every week.
But perhaps I'd better wait till nearer the end of my month before attempting to catalog and analyse just What shows and what companies get reviewed at all, and speculating on the reasons why these and not others bask in the GLOBE Spotlight.

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

Eleventh Entry:
Tuesday, 11 September:

[NOTE: Today is the 12th and there will be two entries; I had an interesting evening of theater last night that I expect to write about in depth as soon as I have time and mind free, but before I do there was a sort of explosion of insight about The GLOBE when I picked up my doorway-copy about seven a m. But first: }

The Living/Arts Section E today had a Book review, TWO CD-reviews --- one, nearly a half-page feature with color-photos taking all but one column under the fold was hip-hop hype --- a tiny "Ask Margo" column, two pages of "Living stuff", and One STAGE Review.
That was the left-over column on the cover-page headlined
"Unlocking
mystery of
Shakespeare
the man"
By Louise Kennedy, it concerned Robert Brustein's "The English Channel" and with one or two minor quibbles I found it a useful review. (I have a ticket to see the show this coming Friday, so I can't say till then how it reflects what happens on stage.)
For me, though, in only a couple of reviews I've seen from her, what hit me hardest was what I have to call an ANIT-Globe style: she doesn't "get that opinion in, first and fast and hard" but, at least in these two reviews, she started out with several paragraphs of introduction and background, and only in the last four paragraphs does she suggest --- and Only suggest --- that the show demands more Elizabethan expertise than a general audience could muster; the phrase "academic divertissement" suggests Brustein's reach exceeds his grasp.
Only half of one sentence puzzled me:
"...Alex Pollock invests Hal with a fussy arrogance that's funny and touching, [fine so far, but then:]except at a few over-the-top moments when he becomes Lord Carson Kressley."
??? Is this a with-it reference to someone I've never heard of? I do, I admit, lead a sheltered life, but I simply don't understand.
And of course at the very end a button marked PERSONAL CLICHE lit up in my mind when she said:
"If that conceit leaves US wondering what such a man was "really" like, WE're no more mystified than WE are by the "real" Shakespeare --- whoever WE each imagine him to be."
I won't see the show till Friday, and "WE" has to refer to people, along with Louise, who have Already Seen The Show. This is a lazy-thinking habit and an attempt to smush me into agreeing with the writer. I'd rather make up my Own Mind, thank you, on the evidence the writer presents.
"Just Give The News Please," okay?

twelfth Entry:
Tuesday, 12 September:

Today, wonder of wonder, the Living Section (F) had Two "Stage Reviews", one each by Kennedy and Byrne, and TWO half-pages of the "Ticket to the Arts" to go along with the {All Together Now:] B.G.M.D., and an interview-piece about "The Atheist" which I will see open at the BCA tonight. There was a Music (i.e. Concert) review, a Book review, "Annie's Mailbox" (which may mean Margo's on vacation?), an Alex Beam column about "living", and two pages with pics by Meredith Goldstein about an AARP dancing party which dominated the top-half of the first page with a picture, huge TWO-COLOR screamer-headline, and artsy white-space.
It's the above-the-fold half-page that got me started:

It's been decades since The GLOBE began calling the section LIVING/arts --- suggesting a separation of one from the other and giving a clear indication of which one is of prime importance in the editor's minds. No one buys "Living-Ads" but every day the "Living" stuff gets the half-page above the fold, and the grudging attention paid the rest of that title has to pay for itself with advertising.

"What do you mean," you can say, "there's a Stage Review on page one of the section, isn't there?"
Well, technically yes. But I never noticed it till I found the runover on Page FOUR and went looking for it. There it is: One quarter-column squeezed into the bottom-right corner of page one with a severely shrunken picture that would have meant something if it were the size of the dancers-pic at the top of the page. Hell, not even Terry Byrne's larger interview there, headlined "Campbell Scott scares himself" with a similarly too-small picture, --- neither piece gives the impression that theater is what they concern [and certainly not that theater is, in any way, Important].
Graphically, that's what The GLOBE is saying.
And even more important: I picked up the paper this morning and, looking for the Arts section I looked on Page One of the paper at the "Inside" index and found only
"Movie times E4-5"
So I scanned the column up above headed "In The News" thinking a Living or Arts article had been flagged up there so a reference to the Arts section would be duplication.
Nothing.
In other words, coverage of shows at the A.R.T., the Lyric Stage, and the Huntington's BCA space were not in any way as important as [All Together Now:] The B.G.M.D. (And that was not in Section E --- Food --- but the bottoms of pages 2 - 3 of LIVING/arts (Ticket to the Arts, of course, had to wait till pages 4 - 5).

By now, a decision that "apparently the Arts aren't interesting our readers as much as they once did" has turned self-fulfilling. I heard a young actress say that, among her peers, who go eagerly to rock performances, it's like pulling teeth to get anyone to see her act. I was told by an actor last night that surveys suggest that newspapers aren't drawing audiences to plays very much these days --- And No Wonder!

But I really think The Boston GLOBE is missing the boat. If the editors would take a serious look at Living here in Boston [Is there, really, an ARTS Editor at The GLOBE? Isn't that really just a sinecure?] they could see that my count of NINETY theatres in Boston has been growing lately; that actors are moving TO Boston because of the theater atmosphere here, instead of jumping-ship for The Left Coast or The Apple; but that sometimes it seems that actors are getting audiences (for what I see as Great Work by the way) with high concentrations of Other Actors.
I think these facts are as much deserving of the attention of The GLOBE's "Living" staff as the stuff I frankly do not read that are so loudly trumpeted above the fold every day. Maybe Big Theater is dead in Boston. YOUNG Theater is alive, and well, and totally ignored by Boston's newspaper of record.
I wish they'd wake up and smell the damned coffee.....

Love, ===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

Thirteenth Entry: CONTINUED
Thursday, 13 September:

Tpday was "STYLE ... oh and Arts too I guess" day at The GLOBE. There were five full- or half-pages on ladies' dresses, a Book and a Comedy review, half a page to "Ask Martha", a big, full-page with lots of white-space --- which I actually thought was an ad --- showing furniture that was designed by Giorgio Armani [I'm NOT making this up. you know!] and an interview with him. They look to me about as comfortable and pleasant as though Piet Mondrian was their inspiration. The "Ticket to the Arts" and [Guess What?!?!?!? "All Together Now:] B.G.M.D. were in place.
Aside from those, there were very few ads in these pages of good color- and b&w-photographs of dresses on pretty models. Of course, these five pages had Absolutely Nothing Whatever to do with the large ads in the First section of the paper that MACY'S buys every week --- do they?

But in a lovely page called "Galleries" Globe Correspondent Cate McQuaid covered three painting-shows, with two big, beautiful, and Flawlessly IN Register picture-illustrations.
Her approach is descriptive and non-judgemental. She thus gives the impression that she spent her week looking for things she Really LIKED so she could talk about them.

But theater Was mentioned in this issue --- on the OpEd Page!
In an essay called "Wicked times" that began
"That emerald spectacle, 'Wicked' the musical, carts its son-et-lumiere magic back into town this week." It was written (very well!) by Gregory Maguire --- the guy what wrote the original novel of the same name. It was part puff-piece, but mostly dealt with the political horrors surrounding both his writing of the book and the creation of the musical, studded with excellently constructed and barbed sentences such as:
"Five years since the Broadway opening, a dozen years since the book was first published, 'Wicked' still examines the heady narcotic of believing one's own press releases too earnestly."
Bravo!

Fourteenth Entry: CONTINUED
Friday, 14 September:

On Friday Section D was called "Weekend" with a huge screamer-head: "Autumn Promises" and it was about Movies, movies, movies, movies, movies, radio, "sauce"(???), music, rock, jazz, and Ask Margo.

But, as I was riffling through the first (of TWO) twelve-page section, I saw --- on page 8 --- a three-inch-by-one-column b&w photo by Eric Antoniou heading the runover for a review of "The Atheist" --- the very play I had seen two days before (so much for same-night reviewing). And sure enough, when I thumbed Forward I found out that these four pages of centerfold in the center of what I took for a MOVIE section was actually headed (in tastefully smallish bold-face) "Arts & Performance" and, with a huge and effectively artsy photo of the end of the show, and a big headline (LOWDOWN LAUGHS) and a sub-head "campbell scott is engaging/monster in 'The Atheist'" --- there was the start of Louise Kennedy's (Globe Staff) review.
She started out succinctly descriptive with background on the Huntington's original reading of Ronan Noone's wickedly entertaining two-act monologue. Then paragraph three begins with:
"So it's surprising that this accomplished actor had to resort more than occasionally to reading his lines on Wednesday's opening night." --- and she launched into logical explanation for Campbell Scott's predicament as the paragraph began to run over, and ends
"Reading such quotes [supposedly from his notes for an autobiography] makes sense for the character' reading chunks of his own musings does not."
But the next paragraph begins "Scott is such an engaging presence onstage that he manages to brush most such objections aside>." and it ends "But people paying at least $50 a ticket for what's billed as a full production ... should get a play, not a reading."

And she sounded as though she were quoting from my own review --- which I never managed to write.
Wouldn't it have been grand if Page Five of this "Weekend Movie Romp" had been the first page instead?
I can dream, can't I?

Page 6 contained a quarter-page review (by Kennedy) of the re-run at the Opera House of "Wicked" and there was a review by Ken Johnson of an MFA show of ukiyo-e style paintings --- and two movie-reviews, of course. But I want to see some theater this afternoon and evening, so:

To Be Continued!

Fifteenth Entry: CONTINUED
Saturdayday, 15 September:

It's now 10:08 p m on Tuesday, 18 September. The machine has been on and purring away waiting for me to caress its keys almost since 3 a m this morning when nodding into my keypad, I heard the September 18th GLOBE slap delicately to the floor outside my door. Maybe I'm depressed, or tired, or just haven't had enough sugar lately --- or maybe at Exactly the mid-point of this exercize, the enormity of the likelihood that the Globe will indeed succeed in murdering live theater here in Boston is just dragging me under. And since I've heard from only TWO people that they are reading these essays, I begin to wonder, Why bother?

If I weren't seeing Great Theater this season I might just quit. But if at least Someone tries to tell that metropolitan monolith that it's missing the boat and shirking its real duty to Report What's THERE, maybe at least they will find my body by their walls.

Where were we?

Well, most of the things I thought to say each morning, or throughout each day, about stuff in the "Arts" parts, so let me stumble quickly on here.
The fifteenth turned out to be Art Day (as in museums), with the deCordova and the MFA given two very long articles about two apparently sprawling and I think quite interesting shows. Only the pre-view coverage of "Streetcar" was as big as either of them. I've lost the first page of the deCordova review, which was harshly judgemental, but Ken Johnson's review of ukiyo-i style paintings from the MFA collection was lovingly descriptive and makes me want to go.
But.....

Theater?
You gotta be kidding!

Sixteenth Entry:
Sunday, 16 September:

Amid the Sunday sprawl this issue, they shoved the movie shi... I mean the coverage of Cinema into its own section (pages N9 to N16 it says), BUT: Wrapped around it (pages N1 to N8) was a catch-all "A R T S &entertainment" spread with a two-page architecture spread and a big lead article on Ken Burns' WWII television documentary, and TWO Preview-articles on Theater!
The first and largest by Joel Brown hyped the Huntington's "The 39 Steps" and Terry Byrne writing essentially a pre-production review of SpeakEasy's "Zanna, Don't!" Both of them are enthusiastic, encouraging readers to go and explaining to them how they can best enjoy what they will see.
Oh, and "Critics' Picks" has the two operas at Loeb chosen by Louise Kennedy, "Wicked" also by L.K. and "Man of La Mancha" by Terry Byrne. Of course, like IRNE reviewers, they can't pick things they didn't go to see, but my own picks this week would have been "Cabaret" "4:48 Psychosis" "Streetcar Named Desire" "The Secret Love Life of Ophelia" and especially a new play at the BCA called "Simon Says" --- none of which the Newspaper of Record here in Boston has any idea ever existed.
But I am a strange old man.

Seveneenth Entry:
Monday, 17 September:

Today's GLOBE has a graphic episode of that great game "Where In The World is The ARTS Coverage Today?"
And you'll Never Guess Where!
No, not in the Sports section, nor crouching behind the Classifieds; it's in ----
SECTION A!!!!!! That's right. For no reason at all Living/Arts is on pages A9 to A13, between National/International news and the Editorial/OPed pages.
And, for no reason at all.....

Theater?
You gotta be kidding!

Eighteenth Entry:
Tuesday, 18 September:

This may be the most depressing "coverage" of theater so far this month. "Streetcar" opened at The New Rep (I saw it before its first audience in previews, but that's another story), it got a huge spread by Terry Byrne before it opened, and where is it today?
Louise Kennedy's review starts, truth to tell, on the first page of Section E --- if you look around you can find it starting down in the bottom-right four inches of the page, below a T-V puff, a sob-sister feature piggybacking on the Michael Vick publicity, and sharing the bottom of the heap with a CD review. The picture separating the two reviews is an excellentl illustration of Kennedy's opinion --- that Bates Wilder as Mitch and Rachel Harker as Blanche, in that order, head what the head for the runover calls a "Fine cast".
Trouble is, the review follows Terry Byrne's feature-story thesis that the only reason to see this beautifully effective production is to compare it to the Marlo Brandon movie. As is characteristic of her reviewing style, Kennedy spends most of the first page and the beginning of the second generalizing about the "ghosts" from Elia Kazan's film before finally getting down to:
"It's all the more remarkable, then, that The New Repertory Theatre's Rick Lombardo has staged a 'Streetcar' that feels deeply true to the spirit of Tennessee Williams and at the same time true to itself." "Lombardo's four main actors and their supporting players draw us irresistibly into Williams' shattered, shattering world."
Damn. If that's true, why the hell isn't That the LEAD? ? ? ???????

There's a second thumbnail-sized b&w picture here, but it's overshadowed by two bigger and more dramatic photographs (oddly uncredited) illustrating another "Stage Review" by Marc Hirsh of a Zero Arrow Street thingie by the unpronouncible name of "Sxip's Hour of Charm" --- apparently from the review a sort of "Cirque de Soliel" on the cheap. Ah, but of course the show --- apparently a "if ya can't lick'em, imitate 'em" attempt to get undergrads into theatres by pretending to feed them noisy rock concerts --- is "Presented by American Repertory Theatre" and that's all it takes for this review to upstage Anything on any other stages in Boston.

Hooray, it's 12:36 a m on 19 September and there are only Twelve More GLOBEs to go!.
Why do I have the feeling my cup is a little more than half Empty instead of a little more than half Full?

Love,
===Anon.

Nineteenth Entry: CONTINUED
Wednesday, 18 September:

Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2007 08:28:31 -0400
From: Larry Stark larry@theatermirror.com
Subject: Two Plays
To: kennedy@globe.com

I know you are busy, and probably haven't the time to see anything but shows you are reviewing, but had you Any time free the next two week-ends a new play called "Simon Says" playing at the BCA would be Well Worth your attention.

It's a relatively new company, but Cristina Todesco --- whose work you saw in "The Atheist" --- did the set (which is as delightfully cluttered and intimate as her Wimberly set is abstract and spare!). And you may have seen one of the three cast members, Allison Clear on the Huntington main-stage (in "Butley" or "Marty") or at the A.R.T. in "Highway Ulysses"; she's on an Equity Special Project leave.

I also second the pick of "j.w." in the SIDEKICK today of "The Secret Love Life of Ophelia" by the Nora Company, over at Boston Playwrights'. I thought it made Mr. Brustein's comedy look like a high-school joke --- and was surprised that Wesley Savick directed both!

But you're probably too busy to bother. There's an awful lot of Really Good Theater in Boston these days, isn't there?
Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

TO BE CONTINUED!

Twentieth Entry:
Wednesday, 20 September:

Okay this is (Thank Thespis!) a two-thirds point already, I've seen patterns develop, in the paper and in my mind about it: it's time to concentrate on the reviews --- and the reviewers --- on styles and substance. To answer the question "What can you learn About THEATER by reading The Boston GLOBE?" And what can you learn about the GLOBE as well?

The last two issues of the paper have been classically graphic exercizes in "good-cop/bad-cop" approaches to reviewing. on September 19 Louise Kennedy (Globe Staff) on page 5 (a right-hand page) wrote a large, fuzzy, apparently non-commital review of the new SpeakEasy Stage show "Zanna, Don't" (which I will see at 7:30 tonight). Across from it on the left-hand page 4, someone named Sandy MacDonald (Globe Correspondent) wrote nearly the same amount of a blase slam of A. R. Gurney's newest script "Indian Blood" that opened at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater. Each had a good, big picture, each fillerd the space at the top (Above The Fold!) over the two-page "Ticket to The Arts" a-b-c's, and the pair were across from one another at the centerfold of the LIVING/arts section.
At Last, COVERAGE!

Yesterday I answered a small-company Artistic Director who said "I hope Louise Kennedy comes to our show" with "Be careful what you wish for; you might get it."

Kennedy began
"If the title 'Zanna, Don't!' makes you think immediately of Olivia Newton-John, roller skates, leg-warmers, and bubblegum pop --- AND IF THAT MAKES YOU SMILE [Emphasis mine] --- then you are exactly the right audience for this silly-sweet, goofy-smart, mostly charming musical."
But what looks like a luke-warm rave is balanced 2/3rds along by a paragraph of assertions and complaints that ends " ... Zanna's wand-waving solution is packaged in an over-the-top electro-disco swirl that is closer to 'MacArthur Park' than I ever want to be again."
But even that exasperated put-down is followed by two equivocating paragraphs beginning "Mostly, though..." and "Most of them..." and her final sentence is
"By the time he leads the cast in 'Sometime, Do You Think We Could Fall in Love?' you'll be wishing you could still hear this kind of light, lively pop all over your AM dial."

If the terms "wishywashy" and "flipflop" weren't co-opted by political coverage these days I'd use them here. Her second and third paragraphs seem to review not the play but the Press Kit accompanying it, and only at the end of that digression does she** get to anything solidly factual about what happened on stage:
" .. Zanna is a teenager ... a whimsical, wand-weilding matchmaker at ... a high school much like any other musical comedy high school --- except that ... it's normal to be gay and weird to be straight."
That's the lead, and everything above is wheel-spinning froth.

Oddly enough, her penultimate and antepenultimate paragraphs are full of warm, positive words and phrases that negate the bored, heavy-lidded glance she gives the play at the top of the review.

[ ** At this point I nearly wrote ".. only then DO WE GET ... "; that is a form of Kennedy's bad-habit of "we -we -we -ing all the way home, telling me that WE are in agreement about what WE actually Didn't See. The difference though is I went back and used the Delete key. ]

Kennedy's style, I'm beginning to see, is continual equivocation.
Her review this morning of Stoneham Theatre's "Gypsy" has paragraphs beginning "The tricky truth, though ..." "Still, ..." "Mostly, though, ..." --- turning her card over and over instead of playing it with one side up.
The first reviews of hers I read were of the Jeune Lune opera pastiches at Loeb Drama Center, and I thought her long, gauzy introductions and "good, but/bad, but" approach came from a genuine fear of commitment to Any judgement. And Kennedy as Globe Staff is unfortunately doomed to a diet of "Major Companies" and Broadway re-re-re-runs --- the big-spenders the Globe insists are the only Real theater in town. I thought since the GLOBE's sacred-cow the A.R.T. sponsored the opera thingies, the Globe's new kid on the block knew (maybe even was told) she couldn't say the sooth and had to bury her Real Opinions of their clay feet down near the bottom of her reviews.
Then I thought maybe she was trying a misty-hazy uncommitment so as to give those who hate a show and those who love it the pleasure of saying "But Louise Kennedy agreed with me in the GLOBE when she said..."
Now I'm beginning to believe that things are even worse: that she really doesn't know What she thinks of Any show at all. "So, let's start with a lot of fuzzy background stuff from the Press Kit while I think some..."

The bad cop is never indecisive.
I happen to have seen "The Secret Love Life of Ophelia", the Nora Theatre Company's production which Sandy MacDonald (who wastes no time shooting from the quip and filling an above-the fold --- with an excellent though peculiar photo --- review as well as cramming Endless parentheical asides with so much damn information the actual subject gets lost in the haze) savages with flat, wounding assertions of scathing opinion with never a shred of justification.
(Aside: in Wednesday's SIDEKICK section someone known only as "j.w." made the play a Pick of The Week; and that lets me fantasize about the possible hallway meeting of "j.w." with the Globe's hired headhunter, both bloodying each other's noses in high-dudgeoned defense of critical "truth"! One guess who I'm rooting for.)

MacDonald shovels in background to start (Maybe there is, sad to think, an Arts Editor at the GLOBE after all) but there's no doubt about opinion:
".. clumsy pseudo-Elizabethan blank verse .." ".. with a cunning usually reserved for heroines of high-school movies .." ".. such as it is." "No such luck." ".. driveling, derivative .." ".. [not] the slightest resonance .." ".. contrived and bungling ripoff .." ".. hapless .." " .. than all the bluster that has gonr before."
TRANSLATION: Sandy MacDonald wasn't happy.
And that's ALL!
But being paid by the GLOBE means never having to say you're sorry nor to give any real indication of WHY you're so upset; you're obviously Right in hating this show,and all anyone else can say is:
Fuck You Sandy, I LIKED It!

This isn't a review at all; it's a high-pitched howl.
The bottom-line is:
"Ersatz Shakespeare is, by definition, second-rate Shakespeare. ..Shakespeare deserves better; we deserve better."
Yeah, right. And "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" is the worst play written in the 20th centur, right?
BULLSHIT!
In point of fact [Oh, don't it feel Great to Pontificate, right?] Shakespeare really didn't ".. pack" ["Hamlet" with] " .. a chilling portrait of young love gone awry." The ACTORS have to do that, Sandy, because the text only HINTS at stuff, and for three hundred Ghoddamned years directors and actors have been arguing and deciding whether H & O ever did-the-dirty --- and a hell of a lot of the Subtext they have had to supply to the play is in those "rememberances .. and with them words of so sweet breath composed" that her daddy makes her give back, and Some Directors think that includes Letters. Steve Berkoff's play merely supplies the Texts that Might Have made a subtext. And if Polonius' angry declaration that his daughter expect no more attentions from Hamlet means --- as it could --- "a roll in the hay won't make you Princess Diana, daughter" then --- what might be in those damned letters?
And THAT's what Berkhoff's play is about, and That ought to show up in any responsible review. That might have made a little of Sandy's unsubstantiated rant a little more reliable.
To my mind, a string of slavering curses such as this is nothing but public masturbation --- though not as important nor interesting.

I thought The GLOBE quit passing out licenses to kill when li'l Willie (or ".007") quit over money.
How much did YOU get paid for this hatchet-job, Sandy?

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

Twentieth Entry: Additional Footnote
Thurssday, 20 September:

It is right now 12:24 a m, I'm home from seeing "Zanna, Don't" and I am mulling over some additional comments on Louise Kennedy's "review" of that show. While I try to think where to start, I recommend that you look over Beverly Creasey's review of that show here in The Mirror. I will have a LOT to say myself later, but at this point let me say that Kennedy's piece In No Way Whatsoever prepared me for what I saw tonight; we must have seen different shows.
More later...

Okay, I've eaten (I dine late!) and thought some...
Now, where were we? Oh yeah........!

After coming back from the show at the BCA's Roberts space I looked in vain for some words in Kennedy's GLOBE review.
Like the word " N E W " for instance.
I don't know why she wasted so much ink on the past when it was the present and more importantly the Future that excited me about the show. Tim Acito and Alexander Dinelaris who created the show left me feeling maybe I had seen a new Steven Sondheim being born. And the eight kids (Only EIGHT??? Wow...), some of whom are already Equity card-holders while still finishing classes at The Boston Conservatory, will I'm sure be opening doors down in The Apple shortly, and the only way we'll get to see them here in Boston will be to pay the arm&leg that'll get us into the Big Broadway Barns to welcome them home again.
And how about the word "timing"?
This is a fast-paced show full of knife-sharp quips and takes and exchanges, references to other shows and to political affairs, and quick whip-crack changes in plot --- to say nothing of constant-motion dancing and choreographed set-changes --- all of which these kids take at express-train speed without ever dropping lines or energy-levels.
How about "wit"? How about "concentration"? How about "Fun"???
No kidding, Acito's lyrics aren't punctuated by Any long notes and his music literally grabs you by the throat and Bounces along in repetitions of phrases or words that have such a breathless impetus they carry the mind along with them. The writing and the approach are --- what was that word again?

NEW

Yeah, that's it.
This show owes Nothing to the past except as a basis on which to build the future. It ain't "silly-sweet" or "goofy-smart" or "MOSTLY charming" as Kennedy alleges, it's Alive; it's exciting; it's the Future, not the past.
References to "my two moms" and magical boy-boy/girl-girl love are treated matter-of-factly, even though the parallels to heterosexual reality take on serious social satire as they accumulate. The plot and the characters barge past the mind so swiftly there's no time till the finale for any message to blossom like an afterglow.
And this is a genuine ensemble. Yeah, people take focus; yeah, there are fulcrum characters and people found alone on stage but, I swear, there ain't no stars here --- the Group is the star. If you don't believe me, stick around after the show and watch the eight of them all in a babbling bunch roll out together like one animal with sixteen never-tired legs.

When a show like this bursts on Boston, it's as though Zanna's love-wand is making Real miracles, on stage as well as in the hearts of the entire audience.
What good is a "review" that can't see the future when it jumps right into your laps?
Why can't Louise Kennedy show some serious Excitement for a new theater experience?
Why doesn't The GLOBE give a damn?

Twentieth Entry: Additional Footnote
Wednesday, 20 September:

I never expected to do this.
It's an exercize --- okay, maybe just a game --- that I have used occasionally in the past to try to show prospective reviewers what I mean when I say "Just give the News, please!" I take a review and, without changing anything, I fry the fat of Opinion out of it and retain just what hard, Hemingwayesque facts about the show were there. Then I list everything I took out at the bottom of the review, with some notes on each.
Not many people respect Hemingway as much as I do anymore, but he did say (I must paraphrase): First, you must live in it, participate in it, but be observing the experience as well. (I never take notes; I'm too busy laughing, or crying --- but I'm also admiring the work of writer and actor and director, because I know I'm there not Just for the experience, but to write about it later.) Then you must remember, and then write about "what it was in the experience That Gave You The Emotion." In a review, I think of that as Defending, Justifying with evidence from the stage, whatever opinions I have formed. Mere assertions were never good enough for my two excellent editors.
That's why the exercize. Here, try this:

"The 39 Steps" comes to the Huntington Theatre Company, where its American premier opens the main-stage season, with promises of high hilarity and theatrical thrills.

The play (its full title is "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps") won the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for best new comedy in London; after Boston, it's already scheduled to move to Broadway. [It's] a slapstick stage adaptation of the 1935 film, about a bon vivant caught up in a web of international intrigue.

As it turns out, the play has amusing moments, clever ones, and instances of imaginative stagecraft.

The stage version undercuts the suspense with puns and sight gags.

The wit and economy of some effects are dazzling: [a] chase scene atop a train, represented by a row of leather trunks; three ladders transformed into a bridge; strobe lights and flashing lights and footlights [employed] to re-create the flickering chiaroscuro of the film; and [a] shadow-puppet sequence that turns a sheet and a few bits of cardboard into Hitchcock's lowering Highland skies and ominous biplanes, then escalates into a pastiche of Hitchcockian images. (Don't miss the cameo by a familiar silhouette.)

The actors display a range of skills and moods. First of all, there are just four of them, filling more than 100 roles. Charles Edwards as the hunted but ever debonair protagonist Richard Hannay delivers a satiric version of the film's Robert Donat. Jennifer Ferrin gets the wisecracking ingenue role --- handcuffed to Hannay whom she believes to be a murderer.

But the real heroes are the two actors each billed only as "Clown": Arnie Burton and Cliff Saunders. With speed and timing they slip from one character to the next, and the next, and the next as easily as they change hats --- or bowlers, or caps, or bobbies' helmets, or tam o'shanters, or nightcaps, or sou'westers, or scarves. Credit designer Peter McKintosh for the selection of headgear --- and for the assortment of props that allows the creation of all those scenes --- but credit Burton and Saunders for the execution of demanding tasks.
======================

Unfortunately, after seeing all that --- and there are a spread of glowingly positive adverbs and adjectives scattered below --- Louise Kennedy's bottom-line decision is:

"But somehow all these pleasures do not combine to transport US onto the high, giddy plane of sustained comedic rapture. "The 39 Steps" is too insubstantial a bit of moonshine to make any claim on US other than entertainment, so it needs to be EXTREMELY entertaining.

If only all that hard work actually led somewhere. Instead, WE're intermittently diverted by a playful visual effect, reduced to groans by a deliberately dreadful pun on a Hitchcock title, or prodded to admire the cleverness of replicating cinematic images with minimal theatrical props. Yes, it's brilliant to make a waterfall out of a shower curtain. But it's even more brilliant --- and more entertaining --- to do it without insisting that WE keep noticing how brilliant it is.

======================
To which I again must demand:
Please stop including ME in your puerile pontifications! I don't know what "WE" sits with you while these inane conclusions clog the arteries of your mind, but it ain't ME, babe! While WE kept noticing how brilliant it was, I and the guy next to me WERE indeed transported onto the high, giddy plane of sustained comedic rapture. WE were EXTREMELY entertained by this British import fledging its wings in the four walls of the Huntington's theatre while they try to scrape together a season. These days I find most of Hitchcock's work insubstantial bits of moonshine --- painfully fantastic, sentimentalized, unbelievable contrivances that richly deserve to be laughed AT in exactly the way Barlow, Aitken and company do. I really do believe the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for best new comedy in London was given to a show worthy of it, and I'm really outraged that the few theater-lovers still reading the Boston GLOBE will, if they believe these reviews anymore, deprive themselves of its joyful romp.

Below is catalogued the fat of opinion I fried out of the review.
Love,
===Anon.
======================
underpunctuated
[The film was} an ingenious reimagining of the 1915 John Buchan spy novel
many
even more
a few
Hitchcock accomplished that feat with razor-sharp construction and expertly accumulated suspense.
Directed by Maria Aitken and adapted by the British comedian and playwright Patrick Barlow from a concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon (phew!)
goofy
...then lets the goofiness sag for minutes at a time by dogedly returning to its faithful retracing of the screenplay's steps. All 39 of them, and then some.
In fairness
hurtling
steel
by lighting designer Kevin Adams
amusingly
best of all
hilarious
VERY
is the only import from the London cast
gently
debonair
breathtaking
too
and executes it with wit and style.
dizzying
crack
fastidious
precise
expert
devilish

Love,
===Anon.

Twenty-first Entry:
Friday, 21 September:

Okay, all of this will be written 25 September (4:08 a m on the 26th actually; but It's not "tomorrow" until I Wake Up In It is my motto)

I know what you're thinking:
"Larry hates the GLOBE; he won't ever have anything Good to say about anything in the paper. He's obsessed. Maybe he's paranoid about it."

Okay, I guess I do hate the GLOBE, but the GLOBE hates theater, and has really hurt a lot of my friends, so I come by it honestly.
Still, every once in a while the GLOBE gets it right, and it's only fair to say so when they do. Take this issue, for instance:
This wasn't in the LIVING/arts section, but on the OPed page. It was headed "Keep the Wilbur alive" and it was written by Ed Siegel, an ex-Theater Critic for the paper. In a well-written and well-reasoned piece he argued "it would be a tragedy to let the Wilbur be turned into another restaurant or office space." ".. the city of Boston should simply buy the 1200-seat theater that's up for sale and make it a haven for the non-profit arts community." "The Wilbur is a better theater than the Shubert, the acoustics are better, and actors love it."
He suggested giving someone like William Connor or Tony McLean a chance to book attractions that would fill the place [I'd add the name Jon Platt to that list], such as productions from Barrington Stage Company, Shakespeare & Co, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, and the Berkshire and Williamstown and Holyoke summer Festivals --- as well as extending the runs of local arts groups. And he suggested that the price of the building might be financed by increased taxes on parking and restaurants in the area --- which would see increased profits if "The Theater District" could be lit more often than it is now.

Twenty-second Entry:
Saturday, 22 September:

And the very next day a Globe Correspondent I'd never heard of named Gina Perille turned in a quarter-page review, with-picture, that is Exactly what a review should be!

"Knowing who you are is a beautiful thing, and 'Forever Plaid' certainly does." it began, "It's a sweet, amusing revue of popular 1950s songs delivered in impressive harmonic fashion by four clean-cut, all-Americasn boys in dinner jackets. This off-Broadway hit from the '90s has had a long and fruitful life as a regional and touring show. North Shore Music Theatre's production of it is easy and enjoyable."

And that, except for a scattering of adverbs and adjectives complimenting the craft of the cast, is the extent of Judgement here. The review of the revue spends a little time on the pretension of plot, and describes what the show has to offer.
In fact, she describes it so well that, despite her positive comments, I could tell that it would Not be my cup of tea.
But in my book, that's exactly what a review Should do: let ME decide to like or hate the show, instead of telling me I Must like or hate it because the reviewer does.
Bravo Gina!!

Twenty-third Entry:
Sunday, 23 September:

In this edition Terry Byrne contributed a puff-piece mostly-phone interview with Erick Devine, who directed "A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum" for Boston Theatre Works in the BCA Plaza space. He told her the orchestra was cut to three instruments, but percussion possibilities were scattered around a minimalist set. She said nothing of the concept of the show --- as a performance by a down-at-heels touring company --- nor did she mention that Bill Gardner and Richard McElvain, in the cast, will be recognizable to Boston theater-lovers as excellent actors not known as singers. (How do I know these facts, since I'm not scheduled to see the show till a week from tomorrow? Well, I have friends in the theater, and I talk to them. I don't have to phone them.)
I wonder if this non-committally unimpressive preview means, as it has of similar interviews in the past, that a day or two down the road (No one does same-night reviews anymore, do they?) Louise Kennedy will cut the show to shreds? Once bitten, ...
Byrne's "preview" pieces, such as this one, have told me very little about either the interviewees or the shows involved. Maybe there IS an Arts Editor at the paper after all, who doles out sow's-ear subjects that Terry refuses to try to make into silk purses. The subtext I keep hearing in all of them has been "BORing!"

There was also a quarter-page article in this issue headed "Theater" but it wasn't a "Stage Review".
Instead Ed Siegel (downsized to a "Globe Correspondent") first took four column-inches to slam a recording called "A Place for Us: A Tribute to 50 Years of West Side Story" ("Pretension and overproduction are the order of the day on just about every cut on the album"), and then proceeded to list thirteen numbers he preferred that people could hear as Internet Downloads.

Twenty-fourth Entry:
Monday, 24 September:

And:

Twenty-fifth Entry:
Tuesday, 25 September:

About theater?
Nothing.
Nada.
Zilch.
Go see a movie or somethin', whydoncha....?

Twenty-sixth Entry:
Wednesday, 26 September:

But this morning I found the perfect indication of exactly what the GLOBE thinks of The Arts, right there on its ghoddamned Page One.

It's right there in the Index, called "Inside" which is the bottom of the left-hand column on the first page of the paper --- the place anyone would look to find out where "Inside" one might find whatever category of information interests you most.
This index has never listed an "Arts" section.
It doesn't even list a "LIVING/Arts section, not ever --- though it's careful to tell people that the Sidekick contains "TV/radio,Comics" "Crossword" "Sudoku" and "Horoscope" every damn day.
Usually, though, you can find any ARTS coverage by looking under:
"MOVIE TIMES E6-7" in this issue.
But in this issue that is what I refer to with the mouth-filling phrase "A Dirty Black Protestant Lie!" [Ask me and I'll tell you my source for that!]
You see, there IS this issue an eight-page section E --- called FOOD,
which is followed by SECTION F --- LIVING/arts" ! ! ! ! !
And the [All Togeter Now!] BGMD is indeed on pages 6 & 7 there.
But since the people who make up page-one Know that NO ONE who reads The GLOBE gives a shit about the Arts, let alone the art of Theater, the have no idea that a "Living/arts" section has ever Existed in the ghoddamned paper.

Pity, because there are TWO "Stage Reviews" of "American Buffalo" at W.H.A.T. and of "tick,tick...BOOM!" in the New Rep Black Box.
But, of course, someone who just picked up the damn paper and looked at that "Inside" box couldn't know anything about that.

Subtext: The Boston GLOBE H A T E S Theater.

Since it's after 6 a m, rather than read and report on the reviews, I'm going to down a large slug of brandy and go to bed.
Film at eleven...... Love,
===Anon.

Twenty-sixth Entry: PART B!
Wednesday, 26 September:

Amazing........
Two POSITIVE reviews of plays from Sandy MacDonald --- and I mean so positive you might think they were really written by SandI MCDonald, the actress and producer over at the Footlight Club!
I mean, can anything be more positive than this:

"It's not everyday you get a perfect confluence of material, talent, and venue. But that's precisely the phenomenon now occurring, on a modest scale, in New Rep's alternateive Black Box Theater, where three young performers are acting 'tick,tick...BOOM!' a chamber musical that the late Jonothan Larson conceived on his way to hitting the big time with 'Rent'."
She says"Larson himself performed the show as a solo 'rock monologue' with backup by a band," that it's an "autobiographical portrait of .. a young waiter/musician agonizing over the prospect of turning 30 without having accomplished any of his artistic goals" and that Larson died "at age 35, on the eve of the Broadway premiere of 'Rent'." and that 'with an assist from playwright David Auburn .. colleagues opened the script up .. in 2001 ".
Then, inexplicably, she begins to peck away at that"perfect" in paragraph one:
"The show doesn't exactly ignite from the get-go. The set is visually uninviting.." "Jon's opening song .. seems the anthem of a puerile whiner." ".. disparity in the cast members' vocal capabilities is unmistakeable." "..the four-member band is of course amped, and it often overwhelms Oliviere's words.." "Doherty's sound is relatively thin and seems strained."
So much for "perfect" in GLOBE-land.

However MacDonald only ONCE slips into personal-clicheVille, insisting: " 'Get over yourself,' you want to say."
No, Sandy, I don't EVER want to say that, nor do I want words crammed into my mouth when I'm trying to think for myself, thank you very much.
All in all, though, not only a positive but a good Review!

That was on page four of today's unFindAble LIVING/arts section; this is on page three:

"There's one thing to be said for the basic expletives: Unlike the ever-evolving permutations of slang, the essential four-letter words never go out of style."
Of course the playwright here is David Mamet, the play "American Buffalo" and her judgement is:
"If anything, the decrease in shock value over the decades serves to underscore the subtle dynamics Mamet set up between these marginal, stalled-out characters.
"For the current revival at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, director Evan Bergman masde the apparently novel decision to convene an all African-American cast. The wonder is that no one though to do so before.. " [** FOOTNOTE!] "Bergman's real coup was in assembling such powerful actors .."

Then the review settles down to explaining exactly how this trio displays their power, throwing bits of story into the mix as it goes along, and making me wish I could get to Wellfleet and back some day before this show's run closes. A fine review!

Of course, there's still Personal-Cliche time --- BIG-time in this paragraph:

" [Reg E.] Cathey is a marvel as this would-be operator --- cagey (YOU can always see the gears spinning) and restive (even when he's shocked into inactivity, YOU'll catch his toes still twitching). It's not until very late in the play that WE glimpse the desperation that drives Teach, who, like any good con man, keeps up a good front. But Cathey gives US micro-glimpses of his cracks and fissures. From the minute Teach bursts in, fulminating at some supposed social slight at the hands of the never-seen, but much-reviled Ruthie, WE know he's a bundle of misapplied passion. He even has intense opinions about the proper way to cook bacon. With the best actors, YOU have the sense of never knowing what they might do; in Cathey's hands, the role of Teach represents uncertainty squared."
That's really a good, solid paragraph of useful insight and information; I'm just really tired of getting strung along in Sandy's "you .. you" yo-yo, as she tells Me what to think, say, and experience.
But, despite my quibbles, it's a fine review.

" [** FOOTNOTE!] "The wonder is that no one though to do so before.. "
Well, I can see two good reasons why no one tried to do this play with an all-Black cast.
The biggest reason is that it would probably have been picketed as a Racial Slur against the ghetto --- especially if the actors slid expectably into stereotypical pronunciations and body-language.
And the second is the flip-side of that: Mamet targeted WHITE low-life scam-artists that most theater-goers never knew Could exist, not the cliche junkies everyone "knows" are all Black.
Sandy's right that it has taken decades for society to accept this play as full of equal-opportunity profanity, but During those decades no such mind-set was possible, and I'd probably have been picketing it myself ten years back. Now, I just wish I knew a theater-lover with a car....

TWO OTHER MATTERS:

At the bottoms of pages three and four, across the centerfold in this issue, are the "TICKET TO THE ARTS" a-b-c's, each one sporting a six-inch two-column COLOR ad for a play, and each one comes with its tale.

on Page 5, a right-hand page, is the Huntington's ad for "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" --- the show Louise Kennedy thoroughly trashed in this very paper only a few days ago. And of course the intent of the ad is to counteract her spiteful attack, mainly by quoting Other Critics. Just look at these:

"MUST SEE!
Rush out to the Huntington! A wildly
witty spoof of all things Hitchcock"
Joyce Kulhawik, WBZ-TV

"A wonderfully ridiculous,
gloriously low-tech,
and insanely fast-paced
amusement park ride of a show!
Tension, thrills, and Comedy!
Frank Rizzo, VARIETY

"Sheer pleasure!
A giddy
exercise
from start
to finish."
Jenna Scherer,Boston Herald

And, sandwiched right in the middle:

Hilarious! Dazzling!
Truly inventive."
LOUISE KENNEDY, THE BOSTON GLOBE ! [Emphasis mine!

The ad on the left-hand page 4 is just the same ad for "Forever Plaid" that NSMT has been running for some time now. And you will remember that I took special pains to compliment the GLOBE's non-commital/positive review a couple issues back --- by a stringer I'd never heard of.
Well, this afternoon as I was lending half an ear to WBURfm (as is my wont) I happened to catch an ad NSMT had placed there for this show, with this final phrase:
"...supported in part by THE BOSTON GLOBE."
Now, I'm not accusing anybody of anything. I am, though, a little curious.....

Love,
===Anon.

Twenty-seventh Entry:
Thursday, 27 September:

Today's paper devotes its Section C to STYLE &arts, meaning some junk about ju... I mean about furniture and fabrics, and a Shoe Show (Honest!) at the MFA, and Cate McQuaid's clear and descriptive column on yet another three Boston art galleries --- with an out-of-register photo for which either the red or the black slipped a sixteenth or more of an inch.

That could be fixed, you know.
John Workman, who oversaw production for HEAVY METAL Magazine, made certain that registration was never a problem. It had to do with hairlines.
I'll bet hardly anyone editorial knows what that word means, but the makeup-men and pressmen must: They are the thin, straight black lines --- not all of which need to be thin as a hair, but no matter how thick or long they are straight. And sometimes these outline all four sides of a photograph.
What Workman did was put those hairlines not only on the plate for Black ink, but on Every plate for Every color. The result was that these ordinarily lackluster black lines took on a sheen and vibrancy that made this collection of comics-stories (from the French magazine called METAL HURLANT) REALLY INTERESTING TO LOOK AT.
The other advantage was that pressmen could tell Instantly whenever any of the plates slipped out of register, because a Color hairline would leap off the page everywhere a solid black even teeny-tiny hairline was on the page, and they would leap to re-adjust the press.
I'm astonished the GLOBE puts up with such shoddy printing, when such a simple solution is at hand.
But I Digress, don't I?

The amazing thing is that, though this Is a non-Theater day for The GLOBE, there is theater in the newspaper --- THEATER News!
It's tucked away in the bottom-left quarter-column (with runover) on the lead page of Section C, overwhelmed by the furnitu.. I mean the Decore Photo's that stretch down below the fold, and the Shoe-Pictures on the story's right. Easy to skip or to miss, right, even though Globe Staffer Geoff Edgers gets to blow the GLOBE's own horn in an article headlined:
Two rebuffs for Citi Center in its merger talks.
Apparently some Globe spotlight-staff articles blew the whistle on Josiah Spaulding Jr., the president and CEO of the renamed Wang complex (now called "Citi Performing Arts Center"), and that means both the First Night producers and Young Audiences of Massachusetts (who put arts education programs in schools nationwide) as well as Boston Playwrights' Theatre, Cyberarts Festival and Shakespeare & Co, have all registered second thoughts about mergers with Spaulding's operation --- especially after the Shakespeare on The Common project suffered budget and performance slashes last summer, when Spaulding was voting the Citi-thing's CEO (i.e., Spaulding himself) a bonus of 1.2 million bucks for his excellent financial management.

Oh, and speaking of burying things in plain sight:
The C8 page of the STYLE section is six clumns wide, with a hairline running the entire length of the pagem top to bottom. The left-hand half of the page is a colorful and eye-grabbing ad for the "HOLIDAY POPS" music orgy running from the 10th to the 31th of December. That squeezes Cate McQuade's arts roundup into the right-hand half, with the head "Arts & Reviews" and a five-inch two-column off-register picture from one of the shows.
Then down a bit below the fold there's an eight-inch ad two columns wide, in severely out of register color.
To ITS right is a cramped and shrunken black&white&greys five-inch one column ad at the foot of the page for "The Full Monty" at the Ogunquit Playhouse, starring Sally Struthers and Adrian Zmed. The poor little thing was obviously designed to be two or three times as big as it is here, and the graphic in the ad has presumeably Sally, hand to her ear, glancing back over her shoulder in consternation at the big double-column color ad elbowing the Ogunquit ad into insignificance. (If I didn't read to the end of the "Galleries" review I never would have noticed it at all.)
So much for ad-impact in The GLOBE......

Love,
===Anon.

Twenty-eighth Entry:
Friday, 28 September:

[ADMISSION:
THIS IS BEING WRITTEN AT 11 A M WEDNESDAY, 3 OCTOBER, AND YES, I HAVE BEEN PLAYING HOOKIE.]

The theater coverage here is another phone interview by Terry Byrne --- this one with two actors rehearsing "The Secret of Sherlock Holmes" out in Lenox, Mass., at Shakespeare & Company. And, like most of her pre-production puff pieces, this is another lack-luster grope for something interesting to say. The actors are old friends, so that makes playing old friends easier --- that's about all she says, in amongst thickets of stuff out of the show's press-packet. There is a flavor of foot-dragging here, as though nothing about the assignment turned her on, and yet the piece had to be written. (But see Sunday, below... )

Twenty-ninenth Entry:
Saturday, 29 September:

Nothing.

THIRTIETH [i.e. L A S T!!!]Entry:
Sunday, 30 September:

This, though, is different.
It's a bigger piece (half a page, with two tiny and generally irrelevent pictures) about the Way Theatre Artists/Zeitgeist Stage Company joint production of "The Kentucky Cycle" --- due to open this week-end in the BCA's Black Box. The nine-play package was to be performed in two separate three-hour chunks, but the week-ends will feature afternoon/evening schedules so some of us (I'm to be there this Saturday --- all day!) can get the whole saga in one huge gulp.

This is not her usual pulling-teeth attempt to fill a few inches, but a piece that hangs its initial paragraphs on the difficulty of cramming so many actors (nearly two dozen) into the almost non-existent backstage space in the small theatre --- and expands from there. She phoned the playwright, and talked with both David Miller and Julie Levene who are directing and assistant-directing.

My one worry (once bitten...) is that, like the backstage rule that a great Dress presages a bad Opening-Night, an enthusiastic pre-production article in The GLOBE usually means a luke-warm or scathing review down the line.
But I won't be reading the paper then, will I?

Thirty-first Entry:
Wednesday, 3October:

Okay, here's an overview, a sort of Lucky Strike Extra:

First, I want to indulge in a little no-charge copy-editing. Remember I complained about the use of "you" by Sandy MacDonald in this paragraph:

" [Reg E.] Cathey is a marvel as this would-be operator --- cagey (YOU can always see the gears spinning) and restive (even when he's shocked into inactivity, YOU'll catch his toes still twitching). It's not until very late in the play that WE glimpse the desperation that drives Teach, who, like any good con man, keeps up a good front. But Cathey gives US micro-glimpses of his cracks and fissures. From the minute Teach bursts in, fulminating at some supposed social slight at the hands of the never-seen, but much-reviled Ruthie, WE know he's a bundle of misapplied passion. He even has intense opinions about the proper way to cook bacon. With the best actors, YOU have the sense of never knowing what they might do; in Cathey's hands, the role of Teach represents uncertainty squared."

Well, here's my version:

" [Reg E.] Cathey is a marvel as this would-be operator --- cagey (his gears are always spinning) and restive (even when he's shocked into inactivity, his toes are still twitching). It's not until very late in the play that he shows the desperation that drives Teach, who, like any good con man, keeps up a good front. But Cathey gives micro-glimpses of his cracks and fissures. From the minute Teach bursts in, fulminating at some supposed social slight at the hands of the never-seen, but much-reviled Ruthie, he's a bundle of misapplied passion. He even has intense opinions about the proper way to cook bacon. With the best actors, there's a sense of never knowing what they might do; in Cathey's hands, the role of Teach represents uncertainty squared."

There. Better? Maybe not. But I wanted to demonstrate that those personal cliches, the we-we-we and the you-you yoyo, could be written differently. If anyone but me cared.

But we were talking Overview, weren't we?
Well, what were the shows the Boston GLOBE covered during the month of September?

Pre-Production Puff Pieces:

"English Channel"
"Streetcar"
"The Atheist"
"Zanna, Don't!"
"Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps"

Full Reviews:

"Don Juan Giovanni"
"The English Channel"
"Hairspray" (in Ogunquit)
"The Atheist"
"Man of La Mancha"
"Figero"
"Wicked"
"Zanna, Don't!"
"Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps"
"American Buffalo"
"Tick, Tick ... BOOM!"
"Forever Plaid"
"The Secret Love Life of Ophelia"
"Indian Blood"

Okay, in that same time, I saw these:

=====SEPT=====
1 sep THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS The Footlight Club 88
1 sep HOW TO MAKE THE WORLD SMALLER The 11:11 Theatre Company THE FACTORY THEATER 88
5 sep CRIMES OF THE HEART Zero Point Productions BCA 89
6 sep CABARET Metro Stage Company DURRELL HALL CAMBRIDGE YMCA 90
7 sep 4:48 PSYCHOSIS Fort Point Theatre Channel MIDWAY STUDIOS 91
8 sep THE PHOENICIAN WOMEN A.R.T.Mxat Institute LOEB EX 92
11 sep [ STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE New Repertory Theatre PREVIEW ]93
12 sep THE ATHEIST Huntington Theatre Company WIMBERLY BCA 94
13 sep SIMON SAYS PSFilms BCA 95
14 sep THE ENGLISH CHANNEL Suffolk University 96
15 sep NEW ENGLAND FRINGE FESTIVAL PART A Hibernian Hall 97
16 sep THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA Nora Theatre BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE 98
19 sep THE 39 STEPS Huntington Theatre Company 99
20 sep ZANNA, DON'T! SpeakEasy Theatre Company BCA 100
21 sep MILL CITY MINUTES Image Theatre LOWELL 101
23 sep A GIRL'S GUIDE TO CHAOS Hovey Players ABBOTT MEMORIAL THEATRE Waltham 102
28 sep TICK ... TICK ... BOOM! New Rep Downstage NEW REP BLACK BOX 103

In only SEVEN cases did we see the same shows.
Where was the GLOBE the other E L E V E N TIMES????
Why did they look on those shows as "irrelevent" --- when such things as "4:48 PSYCHOSIS" and "SIMON SAYS" and "CABARET" and "MILL CITY MINUTES" were every bit as note-worthy as anything The GLOBE decided to review?

And when we SAW the same shows, I basically disagreed with the reviewers 4 times, more or elss agreed twice.
Bottom Line:
The Boston GLOBE ain't satisfying MY curiosity about Theater Activity here in Boston, and it's taking a Differing attitude toward Most of what it reviews,
while IGNORING the Real Theatrical Wealth of this city and surrounding areas.

What can we DO about that?
Here are a few suggestions:

First:
The GLOBE could restore "Stages" to an above-the-fold series of "LIVING" in-depth stories. Were I Arts Editor, I'd demand an above-the-fold "Living" piece Every Week --- and then I'd settle for at least one a month.
What kind of "Living" pieces, you ask? Well ......

How about acknowledging that COMPANY ONE at the BCA is Ten Years Old and still going strong?
This company has kept its integrity together, done thought-provoking productions of hard-ball plays, and Survived! Their reputation for innovative stageing, for "finished" shows with interesting production-values is great, and their existence despite the indifference of The GLOBE attests to their right to the paper's erious attention.

How about spotlighting The IMAGE Theatre in Lowell, Mass.?
The producers behind this company are graduates of The Hovey Players in Waltham and Newton's Turtle Lane Playhouse. They have committed a theater to doing Local Premiers of New Plays, and forty-seven playwrights have seen their works realized on the Image stages --- most of them playwrights who (like Jack Neary) Live In Lowell!
Lately, they have been fascinated with "site-specific" shows. Their production of "Distant Music" (My review, and Beverly Creasey's) was done in the upstairs room of Lowell's Old Court Pub --- and it's scheduled to open at Skelligs Irish Tavern, on Moody Street in Watham MA 13 - 21 October. The Globe may get around to it when they get it into a real Cambridge bar --- where playwright James McLindon actually set his script.
But the past history of this bustling city-specific, site-specific company deserves attention. And when, next February, they do "Kerouac's Last Call" in the Old Court, with Jerry Bisantz playing Lowell's own Jack K., if the GLOBE don't pay some attention, Shame On Them!

The Globe should interview Brian Tuttle, the force behind the 11:11 Theatre Company.
After a stint at the Iowa Writers' Program, he came to Boston with some 24 plays in his pocket --- but rather than produce them, he has largely spent the last few years writing and producing New ones. He enroled at the Boston University Theatre's writing workshop largely to learn how to RE-write his plays --- if he ever gets the time.

The Globe could get great above-the-fold in depth interviews with the new crop of young actors blazing their way into the attention of Boston theater-goers. People like Eliza Lay, or Gregg Maraio --- both of whom I saw in productions by the 11:11 Theatre Company --- who have been noticed in productions at Zeitgeist and other companies locally.

Christopher Chew should be interviewed, not only about his starring roles in local musicals (He IS the "Man of La Mancha" at the Lyric Stage) --- but for his work trying to establish a new theater company out in Sturbridge, where he finds a genuine hunger for real, live theater. That's a change in theater-going patterns: People who used to drive into Boston to pay twenty-bucks to park and another $60 - $100 apiece to see a warmed-over Broadway touring company are sublimating their desires at places like Stoneham and Watertown and Beverly.

The Globe ought to pay serious attention to The Metro Stage Company, working in Durrell Hall in the Cambridge YMCA. This company is headed by two Public Defender Lawyers who really love theater. They have worked at the Turtle Lane Playhouse --- one on stage, the other backstage --- and have produced several years worth of respectable musicals in the Cambride space.

While I'm at it, The Longwood Players deserves attention there as well. This group started as a way of getting Medical Students and Personnell around Beth Israel Hospital to talk to oner another after hours about something else but medicine. It's evolved into a serious Community Theatre Company that's not afraid to do classic plays ("Pygmalion" "Merrily We Roll Along" "Arcadia") as well as safer musicals. Again, it's a company with a respectable track-record that's not going away.

The Factory Theatre ought to be given an in-depth article above-the-fold in any serious Globe LIVING/Arts section. It was originally a rehearsal-space for the Beau Geste Moving Theatre which, like The Underground Railway, toured its major productions around America instead of around Boston. When they gave it up, a company trying to do lesbian-themed plays ran this two-story brick-box space, giving classes to pay expenses. The next landlord for this artist-housing Piano Factory space was Rose Carlson's Devanaughn Theatre Company, which did good work but apparently couldn't make a financial go of it. The space is now called The Factory Theatre, and I don't know who is renting space.
It has always been a basic black box, with three or four rows of seats on movable risters --- seating about fifty or so --- with a dozen or so lighting instruments, a room that can be used to expand the playing space, and wiring. Some of the best plays I have seen took place in this theater, though The GLOBE has never noticed it.

Of course, The GLOBE really does need a Lot More to cover the vibrant theater-scene in Boston.
Forty years ago a Globe Arts Editor said the paper couldn't help small companies: if they panned them, they disbanded and went away; if they praised them, their actors went to New York and they went away.
Well, only a few months after I heard that the paper hired a new kid named William A. Henry III to cover exactly those local companies that Kevin Kelly would not. And a few years later Mr. Henry was made the Globe's Television Critic and did a surprising thing: he started adding reviews of CABLE SHOWS to the exclusively network coverage up to that time --- and his work garnered the Globe a Pulitzer Prize.
I think it's time for The GLOBE to hire another theater-stringer who could take Smaller Local Companies in and around Boston seriously. These don't have to be Full Reviews --- just as a column once a week in the paper covers THREE art galleries, one person could cover three or four plays a week easily, and that would make it look as though the paper actually Cared about the art of theater in this city.

And, frankly, unless they DO take coverage of Real Theater not just Expensive Theater seriously, there's no reason I can see why reading The Boston GLOBE will be worth the money, or the time.
I won't read it anymore... Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )


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