arts 06.9.06

Inside Theater

by George Spelvin

TONY PREDICTIONS: Everyone 'Inside Theater' (and you know who you are) is focused on this Sunday's Tony Awards. Any fool can make predictions, so here are mine.

· 60 presenters + no funny host = a loooong night of self-congratulation. (Sorry, CBS.)
· 14 of the 23 nominated shows will go home empty-handed. (Sorry, Oprah.)
· 9 shows will be closed by Labor Day. (Sorry, Rudy Durand.)
· Based on my prior history, I will be wrong about at least 3 of these categories:

- The Drowsy Chaperone - 5 Tonys for Book, Score, Featured Actress (Leavel), Sets and Costumes
- The History Boys - 5 Tonys for Play, Director, Actor (Griffiths), Featured Actor (Barnett) and Featured Actress (de la Tour)
- Awake and Sing - 4 Tonys for Play Revival, Sets, Costumes and Lighting
- Sweeney Todd- 4 Tonys for Musical Revival, Director, Actress (LuPone) and Orchestrations
- Jersey Boys - 2 Tonys for Musical and Actor (Young)
- Tarzan — 1 Tony for Lighting
- Threepenny Opera — 1 Tony for Featured Actor (Dale)
- The Pajama Game - 1 Tony for Choreography
- Rabbit Hole - 1 Tony for Actress (Nixon)
Even though Drowsy Chaperone will win the most awards, the Post-Tony media coverage will feature some variation of the line "Let's Hear It for the Boys" — assuming Jersey and History win Best Musical and Play.

FEELING FESTIVE? Over the summer, things cool off on Broadway, but there is still a hotbed of theatrical activity at festivals around town. If Faith Healer, Inishmore and Shining City didn't satisfy your thirst for Irish plays, try the 10th annual Lincoln Center Festival (July 10-31) which includes the internationally-acclaimed "DruidSynge" — Galway's Druid Theatre presentation of the complete canon of John Millington Synge (pronounced 'sing'). Who? Synge was the author of six plays including The Playboy of the Western World, and he continues to have an impact on Irish theater almost a century after his death in 1909. Garry Hynes, the first woman to win a Tony for best director, is the visionary behind this day-long cycle. [Watch her talk about it here.]

The decidedly downtown New York International Fringe Festival (August 11-27) marks its 10th Anniversary by presenting the largest multi-arts showcase in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world in over 1300 performances. Expect the quality to vary greatly from show to show, but that's all part of the freak show we call Fringe. Don't expect highbrow drama here — this is where the musicals Urinetown and Debbie Does Dallas got their big break. Seats are only $15 (and even cheaper seats are available), so you can see 8-10 shows for the price of one Julia Roberts play on Broadway. For more Fringe-type experiences, check out:

· The 6th Annual Hip-Hop Theater Festival (June 20-24), which "seeks to bring audiences and artists from the Hip-Hop generation together with mainstream theater audiences";

· The 3rd Annual Summer Play Festival (July 5-30) with 15 works by emerging writers — founded and funded, mostly, by Broadway investor Arielle Tepper; and

· The 7th Annual Midtown International Theater Festival (July 17-August 6) which prides itself on not stuffing its schedule with "zany productions whose chief recommendation is a long title or one with 'sex' in it."

SUMMER IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, TONY, JEANINE AND MERYL! Central Park is once again home to free theater at the Delacorte, and the creators of Caroline, or Change — Tony Kushner, Jeanine Tesori and George C. Wolfe — are reuniting as Wolfe directs Meryl Streep in Brecht's Mother Courage (August 8-September 3), translated by Kushner with music by Tesori.

But first, starting Tuesday, Liev Schreiber tempts fate by following up on his Omen film remake with the title role in Shakespeare's cursed Scottish Play. Moisés Kaufman's production of Macbeth (with Jennifer Ehle as Lady M) runs June 13-July 9. The hoi polloi wait hours in the hot sun for free seats, but Richie Rich types can pre-order $150 Sponsor tickets here.

And speaking of free theater events in Central Park, you won't want to miss:

· The annual "Broadway Under the Stars" concert on Monday, June 26, moving from its previous home in Bryant Park to the Great Lawn. (FYI: you can also catch highlights on a one-hour WCBS-TV special, airing Saturday, July 15 at 7pm.)

· Audra McDonald's Thursday, June 29 concert at SummerStage. Is this McDonald's modest attempt at A Happening in Central Park? Nah, but any chance to hear the 4-time Tony winner sing is an event. And it's free!

WAAAAAY OFF-BROADWAY: For those headed to the Hamptons, Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor celebrates its 15th anniversary with an eclectic line-up that includes a new play about Frida Kahlo starring Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl (July 18-August 6). If you're vacationing upstate, visit New York Stage and Film (at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie). Their recent track record for developing new work is impressive: seven shows from their last few summer seasons, including John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer winner Doubt, have transferred to NYC venues.

In the Berkshires, producer Roger Rees has given himself two mainstage directing gigs at his Williamstown Theatre Festival. I understand why he picked Cole Porter's Anything Goes (July 5-16), but Double, Double (August 16-27) — which Rees co-wrote years ago with Rick Elice — was a flop whodunit, so why do it?

At the Berkshire Theatre Festival, Randy Harrison ("Queer as Folk"), who starred in last year's hit Equus, returns for another Peter Shaffer play, Amadeus (June 20-July 8). And Barrington Stage introduces a new "musical theater lab" overseen by Bill Finn (whose 25th Annual…Spelling Bee began there), culminating in a series of workshop productions that includes Meet Mr. Future, by the creators of Grey Gardens.

JUST ASKING: Starting Monday, the general public can buy tickets for Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Is Poppins the first Broadway musical to charge the same top price — $110 — for seats in all three audience seating sections (i.e., orchestra, mezzanine and balcony)? And will a family of four pay $440 plus fees to sit in nosebleed seats for a night with Nanny?
'Here Was New York'
Reaction to our article on Manhattan becoming a bedroom community for the affluent ran from "You hit the nail squarely on the head…" to "Whine, whine, whine."

It also led to some interesting exchanges with readers. One such: "In the 2003 Manhattan Institute study the median monthly [rent] subsidy in Brooklyn, for example, was $5. In Queens and Staten Island it was close to zero. In upper Manhattan, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side it was $9. By contrast, the median monthly subsidy in lower and mid-Manhattan was $397. So my point is: that for the vast majority of low and middle income tenants of stabilized apartments, the fact that the rent is stabilized is basically moot, because the benefit is so small. Only in the most tony areas of the city is rent stabilization having a real effect, and so I ask, who and what are we really protecting?"

$1000 1 BR apartments: Readers could only provide two examples of 1BR apartments rented in Manhattan for $1,000 in the past decade (and one was a technical foul, having been rented in 1995). This was the other: "In March of 1998 I moved in to a $650 per month, rent-stabilized, 650-square-foot, 1-bedroom apartment overlooking a park and original details intact at the corner of 207th St and Seaman Ave. When I moved out, seven years later, even with the 20% vacancy increase, the next tenant should have been able to rent the apartment for less than $1,000."


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