entire contents copyright 1995 by Larry Stark
I've been neglecting the Notebook for some time, because we've been learning how to market The Theater Mirror, and trying to learn how to make it better. In a sense, it took a lot more creative effort to draft a letter introducing ourselves to 316 theatrical entities in New England than it does to snap off an observation or an opinion here.
But when there's no time to write them, observations and opinions keep churning through the mind, often to the point where they seem already to have been "dealt with" so thoroughly that the words that dealt with them have been shoved into unaccessible parts of the mind.
I've been wanting for months to talk about two excellent print magazines --- OOBR and N.E.E.D --- and a web-site --- Aisle- Say --- that anyone interested in theater ought to look into. Each one of them does things that The Theater Mirror does, but differently, and each one of them does things we can't or won't do that add to the awareness and excitement of theater.
The first time I got a look at the NEW ENGLAND ENTERTAINMENT DIGEST, the depth and thoroughness of its listings of shows every month astonished me. Until then I believed --- as most people in this area probably do still --- that the CALENDAR in Thursday's Boston GLOBE and the listings in the weekly Boston PHOENIX gave as complete a picture of theatrical activities as possible. They don't.
JulieAnn Charest does that in her monthly N.E.E.D.
That first month, I put asterisks next to all the listings that would NOT be in The Theater Mirror if I hadn't seen JulieAnn's magazine, and they probably doubled our coverage. The Internet sweeps, the checks of other papers and magazines we use to keep The Mirror as complete as possible every week always add things. But the weeklies only update the things this monthly missed, and there are fewer and fewer of those every month.
It was an actor who first told me about N.E.E.D., because it also contains the most complete list of auditions and casting- calls for this area available anywhere. Actors looking for shows must account for a large percentage of the magazine's sales.
JulieAnn probably knows, personally, more people active in theater in New England than anybody. The June issue did an overview of community theatres, giving histories and plans for the future, plus a page and a half of names and addresses for over 150 community theater organizations active in the northeast. Now she's been elected president of the Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres --- and she even had time left over to play a part in "A...My Name Is Alice" at the Burlington Players in early June.
NEW ENGLAND THEATER DIGEST is only a year old, and still growing and changing. It's not on glossy paper, there are no frills, and not every newsstand carries it.
But they should.
Every newsstand probably shouldn't carry OOBR --- John Chatterton's Off-Off-Broadway Review, but all of them in New York City should. It's also a low-budget operation, with about 16 pages 8 1/2 inches wide and 5 1/2 inches high for $2.00 every two weeks, and it reviews off-off-Broadway shows that go on in unexpected spaces all over Manhattan.
The issue John sent me --- vol 2, no. 17 --- leads off with a review of "Slap! Or, School for Slaves" that John Michael Koroly didn't like very much.
"..it's got lots of good material in it yet is still in a frustratingly inchoate dramatic form." he began. "...this is not a very accessible work. ..too much here is just plain baffling. ... and the waiter's taking drink orders throughout the show was distracting, especially for material so intense."
The interesting point, though, is that "Slap! Or, School for Slaves" was written by that same John Chatterton the publisher and editor of OOBR, and yet Koroly is still one of his reviewers.
The fact that Chatterton is intimately involved with the seething shoestring cauldron of small theatres his magazine reviews means the magazine has a serious purpose and point of view. He mentioned in a letter to The Theater Mirror that "I don't keep sadists on my staff" and he makes sure that reviewers deal with all aspects of a production, down to lights and sound and the shape of the playspace, as well as the text and performance and direction. Reviews are brief, insightful, informed, and illuminating, and as useful to the general audience as to the particular creative people scrutinized. It's well worth the $32.00 that will buy you 24 issues.
If you don't want to pay for it, though, you can sample OOBR's reviews through AISLE-SAY on the Internet. If you dial up " http://www.escape.com/~theanet/OOBR-Index.html " you'll get to them directly. If you'd rather read G.L.Horton's reviews of plays here in Boston, dial " http://www.escape.com/~theanet/Boston-Index.html " or for the AISLE-SAY index " http://www.escape.com/~theanet/Aisle-Say.html ".
The AISLE-SAY reviews are very good, and in addition to the reprints from OOBR there is healthy coverage of Boston, the Washington D.C. area, and Los Angeles and San Francisco. Toronto, Cleveland, and Australia are also represented.
Theater is a hand-crafted, local product. I've been seing plays in Boston for nearly forty years, but that doesn't mean I know anything about the theater scene in other cities. AISLE-SAY's reviews help to change that. Most are lengthy and thorough, so the shape of the show and details of production are clear beyond the reviewer's opinions of them.
G.L.Horton's reviews in particular have a depth and clarity rare in newspapers and magazines. Like John Chatterton, she is a working playwright whose eye takes in all aspects of a production, and her judgements are thoughtful. Hers is a refreshing antidote to a tendency toward posturing and vindictiveness that characterizes much of the print media reviewing here in Boston.
Anyone interested in The Theater Mirror should be interested in the NEW ENGLAND ENTERTAINMENT DIGEST, in OOBR and in AISLE-SAY as well. Love, ===Anon.