Listen up! | The Producer’s Perspective Podcast on the horn with chief NYT drama critic Ben Brantley

You’re already a regular listener to producer Ken Davenport’s weekly podcast, right?

If so, you know that every Sunday as regular as an A train (just kidding – Davenport’s podcast runs on time) you can look forward to a fascinating new chat with some Broadway luminary. Davenport has already snared a stream of big league agents, producers, theater owners, playwrights and marketers. If you’re interested in the American theatre and how it works at the very highest level, there’s simply nothing else like this intimate back channel.

Find Davenport on the web or in iTunes. It’s like a secret passage to Broadway right in your ear.

Looking for some must-hear recommendations from past shows? There are so, so many. But here’s two: Kevin McCollum and Michael Riedel. You have not heard world class dishing until you’ve heard New York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel talk. Oh lordy. You’ll want to keep a lookout for Riedel’s upcoming book, RAZZLE DAZZLE: THE BATTLE FOR BROADWAY.

But lo and behold – who should appear in Davenport’s latest podcast but a lil’ critic you may have heard of – the NYT’s Ben Brantley.

A sad day for unbiased theatre coverage in Portland | After 114 episodes, 5 Useless Degrees calls it quits

Some sad news popped up in the feed this week. After 114 episodes, the interesting, searching and independent Portland theatre podcast 5 Useless Degrees and a Bottle of Scotch (5UDBS) has decided to call it quits.

For a city with few unbiased, sharp voices on theatre left, it’s a major loss for the larger ecosystem.

Why did James and Eric decide to roll up the red carpet? You’ll just have to give a listen and find out.

There’s some good craic talking and a few zingers in the closing monologue. And some very funny anecdotes that illustrate how microscopically small and timid the Portland theatre scene remains at times – despite hysterically delusional coverage from some media.

In case no one noticed, two of the four biggest theatres in town scaled back their 2016 seasons from 2015. Is that a sign of a golden age for theatre? Probably not. Any probing stories on why that is or what’s going on? Not in a million years. And when the city’s largest theatre sticks the tax payer for millions and millions of dollars in fallout from an absurd goliath building that should never have been built – any dialogue at all from the local beret-wearing arts media? Nope. Nada. Just keep whistling in the dark and declare our work is “world class”. Ouch.

But the real audience isn’t dumb. I mean the people who turn out for world class events like TBA or NT Live or Oregon Shakespeare Festival. There’s a reason tickets for major Portland shows are still dumped for $12 or even $8 on Goldstar: That’s all they’re worth. Note to self: If you can’t sell main stage tickets for $8, the market is telling you as clearly as it possibly can that there is no demand for the product on offer.

Fake reviews or happy boosterism that don’t tell it like it is help no one. Crappy criticism, like crappy shows, just drives people away. Bad criticism tries to camouflage the real state of things and hopes no one notices. Good criticism helps the audience prune the crap and find the good stuff. That’s what 5UDBS did.

What was great about 5UDBS was that the two critics had absolutely NOTHING to fear. All sacred cows were gored, the hard questions were asked. That’s what criticism in a big city looks like.

The weekly 5UDBS show was very well done and clearly took a ton of work. Despite what Eric and James may think, I suspect a lot of people tuned in and found the frank dialogue a desperately needed sliver of reality.

Guys, I disagree. It was not a failure at all. Like those handful of great shows each year that give a glimpse of what is possible and set a high standard, your content was a reminder of the kind of real dialogue we need more of.

This channel will be missed BIG TIME.

The secret lives of play commissions | 5 Useless Degrees interviews Seattle playwright Bryan Willis, co-author with Dwayne Clark of controversial SEVEN WAYS TO GET THERE

As they are wont to do, the guys over at 5 Useless Degrees have been exploring the seamy, dank, always interesting underside of the theatre world. And this time their probing and prodding has led to one of the more interesting stories in the Northwest theatre this year.

You may recall back in March a story by Brendan Kiley in The Stranger about the new play SEVEN WAYS TO GET THERE by Bryan Willis and Dwayne Clark at Seattle’s ACT Theatre. Read that article for the backstory.

In a nutshell, businessman Dwayne Clark approached Willis about writing a play partially based on Clark’s life and experience in group therapy. They did it, Clark bankrolled the entire operation, and the play went up at ACT and sounds to have been pretty darn successful, both financially and critically.

And then, of course, the theatuh peanut gallery, which so often sounds like a mob of emaciated crows fighting over a roadkilled mouse, went into overdrive weeping and wailing how unfair it was that only rich playwrights get produced, and how wrong it was for Clark to use financial influence to get his play done.

There are many, many threads you could draw out in this saga, but probably the most relevant one is Clark’s observation on how broken the regional theatre is financially:

“Why do you do this? How do you stay in business? This seems like a broken economic model.”

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