Archive for April, 2011

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Tony Award Nominations

April 30, 2011

You know when there’s a new show opening on Broadway every night that the cut off for the Tony Award nominations is fast approaching.

It’s more flagrant this year than most it seems to me, this barrage of Broadway shows opening just weeks, or days, actually hours…before the Tony deadline.

There’s nothing especially theatrical about April so these openings are not timed for artistic relevance. It’s not reliably the best month for box office, although Easter week was a blockbuster this year. No, April openings are about one thing: getting Tony Award nominations.

Look, Broadway didn’t invent this. The movie industry led the way with the Oscars. That’s why all the “good” movies open between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Movies have to open by December 31st for Oscar consideration, if only in New York and L.A.

I want to be believe shows are nurtured, rehearsed, perfected until they become life affirming, soul shaking spectacles to be performed on the prestigious stages of Broadway. Whenever that time comes.

But I would be wrong.

It’s  very much about business and about getting things, in particular, Tony Awards. It’s the highest award for stage, a nomination or win brings bragging rights and generates press coverage.  Which in turn producers hope will sell more tickets.

Show business is a slave to habit. So I would guess we will continue to see Broadway shows pop up this time of year like April showers. More stars will turn out for the premieres than any other time of year, because there will be more stars appearing in the Broadway plays and musicals this time of year with their hopes high that Tony voters will have short memories and look favorably on the season’s late entries.

We’ll see if they are proven right when the nominations are announced next week.

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On To The Next Show, Always…But First

April 26, 2011

I try not to spend time in the past. Even if the past was just yesterday.

But before I move on and start talking about the next ON THE SCENE episode, I want to thank people who watched and noticed so much about this past weekend’s show with Christine Ebersole and Bojana Coklyat.

It means a great deal to me when I hear what I did today…emails from viewers and comments from my colleagues who appreciated the revealing, personal nature of both interviews and wanted to ask me more about what I thought of each artist.

What I noticed is how Christine Ebersole can intellectualize her art, and then turn around and be pure emotion on stage. That’s a quality surprisingly few actors possess when you start to closely watch their work and listen to what they have to say about their performances.  I had wanted to interview her since she starred in “Grey Gardens” on Broadway, but the truth is, I never asked her for an interview until last month.

Bojana is a story that I needed to tell again. Two years ago when I first interviewed her for ON THE SCENE I felt that there  was territory left uncovered. And since then her life has taken such unexpected twists and turns that it was so important for me to revisit her. She doesn’t hide her heart, her humor or her drive and that makes her compelling. And real.

Now, on to the next show and we have some great interviews in store…

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New Starts: Christine Ebersole, Bojana Coklyat

April 23, 2011

I wanted this episode to debut Easter weekend and to include the interviews with Christine Ebersole and painter, Bojana Coklyat.

It’s all about second chances, new beginnings.

For Christine Ebersole, the fresh start came 13 years ago when she packed up and left Hollywood, disgruntled with not getting decent parts. She moved with her family to New Jersey. And within a few months she was getting stage work. In a couple years, she was the lead in the Broadway revival of “42nd Street” and won her first Tony Award.

Bojana Coklyat is an incredible story. She taught herself to paint again after nearly going blind from diabetes. Then her kidneys failed, and last fall she had a double organ transplant (kidney and pancreas). She’s an emotional journey these days and shares it all in this ON THE SCENE interview.

So tune in April 23rd and 24th at any of these times: 8:30 AM, 11AM, 2PM.

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Ebersole, Coklyat Next Weekend ON THE SCENE

April 16, 2011

I can’t lie, it’s been a grueling week of writing, editing, taping. GRUELING.

But now the show is finished and a new ON THE SCENE airs next weekend featuring my interviews with Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole and painter Bojana Coklyat.

It’s an emotional and revealing episode. Christine Ebersole describes her pivotal moment when she packed up and left Hollywood. Her agent had told her that, at age 45, she was too long in the tooth to get work. She didn’t believe him, moved East, and has built one of the most enviable stage careers around…”42nd Street, “Grey Gardens,” “Blithe Spirit” and concert tours.

Bojana’s story blows people away. She paints but she is nearly blind. Diabetes took most of her eyesight five years ago when she was just 27 years old.  She figured out how to paint again…only to have her health go downhill. Last year she had a kidney and pancreas transplant, which cured her diabetes. She is the most vibrant, optimistic personality, but she’s going through mixed emotions knowing that for her to be alive and well…someone else had to die and there’s a family out there suffering a loss. All of this life experience is reflected in her recent paintings.

It just hit me how much is going on in this show. Complicated emotions and life stories. Sometimes I have to step back from the work for a day or two for it to all sink in.

Tune in April 23rd, 24th at 8:30 AM, 11AM, 2PM each day to catch the show.

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“Blank City” Documentary And The Lower East Side

April 10, 2011

I saw a documentary today about the world of underground film that flourished for a brief, influential period on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1970s.

“Blank City” pulled together the artists of the period who shot low budget, no budget, 16mm or Super 8 films. Their themes reflected what the Lower East Side was back then…bombed out, ruled by rats, roaches, absentee landlords, muggers and the artists who created among it all.  The landscape was desolate and dangerous but it was the genesis of some great careers in film and music. (The most famous artists interviewed in “Blank City” are Steve Buscemi, John Waters and Debbie Harry).

A few years later the neighborhoods would be gentrified beyond recognition and no artist could possibly afford to live there.

So, the idea of getting the players on screen nearly 35 years later to reflect on a place that has changed so drastically is admirable.

Unfortunately, the concept is far better than the  actual movie. Much like most of the underground films that were made back then.

For a film about the cutting edge, “Blank City” has none of it. An absurd number of talking heads,  saying way too many similar things intercut with old film clips. A pattern repeated over and over again…talking head, clip of their film, another talking head, clip of their film, etc.

In the underground movement, it seems to me concept was king, not the narrative. So I get it if filmmaker Celine Dahnier  of “Blank City” wanted to mirror that. But instead, the film looks to be missing important choices in editing. It would be a more interesting, powerful documentary with half the number of underground filmmakers in it. I was dying to get to know somebody instead of hearing from everybody. Could we have gone back to the old neighborhood with even one of the filmmakers and revisit some the streets where they lived and filmed? I wanted to see an artist relive their experience by  returning to the place that inspired their early work. What emotions come up? What memories flood back spontaneously? The interviews do not feel in the moment and I left wondering if all these artists had lost their fire.

The art movements of the Lower East Side deserve to be documented. “Blank City” feels like just the beginning of telling that story.