Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New York Stage Casting Update: January 30, 2008

This week's Drama Book Shop/Show Business Weekly casting notices include, among others: The Triumph of Love, True West, I Love A Piano (Irving Berlin), All Shook Up, Brooklyn: the Musical and Footloose.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

August: Osage County is Now IN PRINT!

One of the most bracing and critically acclaimed plays in recent Broadway history, August: Osage County, by Tracy Letts, is a portrait of the dysfunctional American family at its finest - and absolute worst. When the patriarch of the Weston clan disappears one hot summer night, the family reunites at the Oklahoma homestead, where long-held secrets are unflinchingly and uproariously revealed. Available, in person, at the Drama Book Shop; online at; or by phone: 800-322-0595. Other plays by Tracy Letts are also available, including BUG and MAN FROM NEBRASKA

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Free Stage Casting Notices

The Drama Book Shop's website now features Stage Casting Notices, sponsored by Show Business Weekly. With each casting notice, we include links to scripts, vocal selections and other related material. We hope you find the new feature useful and welcome your comments and suggestions. To visit Stage Casting Notices, go to and click on the "Casting" link.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Intermission Talk... August: Osage County

If it feels like you’re in familiar territory when you visit Osage County, it may be because the emotional terrain has been on your dramatic itinerary in past. Tracy Letts’ magnum opus [so far], August: Osage County, recalls previous American theatrical epics with the same basic backstory element: a slightly larger-than-life paternal figure and his progeny, who struggle to fill those shoes, or run away from them. This is Big Daddy, and his Brick and Gooper, James Tyrone and his Jamie and Edmund, and even Daddy and his neglected Martha. Letts’ trajectory is pretty much the same: despair, reaction and resignation, in this case, the final moment provided by an American Indian housekeeper. His Weston clan family reunion, which he precipitates by going missing, is a barefoot walk over hot coals and broken glass, each step searing or slicing open yet another wound, new or revisited. Anna D. Shapiro’s fluid cinematic direction makes this trek bearable, and even voyeuristically thrilling. And if you want to understand better what distinguishes Osage County, Oklahoma from the Mississippi Delta, coastal Connecticut or a New England campus, check out the 1931 Best Picture Oscar-winner “Cimmaron,” adapted by Howard Estabrook from Edna Ferber’s era-spanning novel. It covers the rough settlement days of the Oklahoma Territory from 1895 to 1915, and Irene Dunne displays the grit and ferocity that the Weston women tap into, tempered by the unforgiving Plains that beat you up and tear you down, if you let them. Skip the 1960 remake. Dunne did it best.
-- Tony Vellela
(Acknowledgement: these are the opinions those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Drama Book Shop.)
August: Osage County, TCG, 2/2008. Paper, $13.95, is currently available from the Drama Book Shop. 800 322-059.

Visit the official August: Osage County website

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kathleen Turner at The Drama Book Shop: Free Talk and Book Signing, February 28, 2008

The Drama Book Shop and Audience Rewards are pleased to invite you to attend an evening with actress, director and author, Kathleen Turner, to celebrate the publication of her revealing new memoir Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles. Moderated by her co-author, Gloria Feldt, Ms. Turner will share stories from her distinguished career on stage and in film, as well as offer the lessons she has learned from the loss of her father, the break-up of her 20-year marriage, her ongoing struggle with rheumatoid arthritis and her activism for social causes. Ms. Turner and Ms. Feldt will be appearing at The Drama Book Shop's Arthur Seelen Theatre, 250 West 40th Street, on Thursday, February 28th, from 6:00PM to 7:00PM, followed by a book signing. Audience Rewards members have priority at this event and may make reservations for the talk via email by clicking here, please include your name and member number. If you are not and Audience Rewards member and would like join, you may sign up for a FREE Audience Rewards membership by clicking here. Non-members who would like to sign up for the waiting list may click here. The signing, which will begin at about 7:00PM, is open to all.

NOTE: we CANNOT take telephone reservations for this event.
If you are unable to attend and would like to order a signed copy* you may do so by calling 800 322-0595 (option 3), or by visiting the Drama Book Shop events page and clicking the the "ADD TO SHOPPING CART" button.

Reservations, RSVP's and web orders must be received at least 24 hours in advance.

Audience Rewards, the only experiential rewards program for patrons of the performing arts, makes every performance more rewarding. Membership is free. Join today!
*While supplies last

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Vote For Mamet’s New Comedy "November"

By Tony Vellela
The industry-wide penchant for pigeon-holing actors into the same type roles once they’ve had a success in something is widely practiced. Why can’t Broadway give us Marylouise Burke as Mary Tyrone? Wouldn’t Bernadette Peters really deliver the goods as one of Tennessee Williams’ tortured women? It’s called type-casting, and it unfairly limits what artists do, and audiences see.

But what do you call it when the same mentality is applied to writers … type-writing? A quick survey of the responses to David Mamet’s new play “November” reveals that this prejudice is applied to writers as well.

It’s not clear what Mamet’s ultimate objectives were when he conceived and crafted this comedy. What is clear is that it IS a comedy, and it succeeds on that level, because however much you resist, you will laugh, again and again.

The premise unfolds with the measured pace of the ceremonial red carpet being rolled out: an historically unpopular and incompetent sitting President, abandoned by his unidentified party as he seeks a second term, and lacking funds or friends, decides to make one last stand. His wife wants a Presidential Library, his chief-of-staff wants to make a clean exit, his speechwriter wants to marry her same-sex partner on national television, and he wants respect. Nathan Lane, as Mr. President Charles Smith, inflates and deflates with the hot air volume of a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, dispensing offensive, stupid or vacuous remarks that verify why the country hates him – vintage Nathan, crisp and delectable. As the hapless spinmeister recently returned from China to pick up her newly-adopted daughter, Laurie Metcalf stays on message, loyal to the office, scornful of the man. And holding things down in the job of keeping things ever-so-tenuously under control is the stolid Dylan Baker, portraying the President’s Best Man, keeping the right words in his boss’s mouth, and the wrong words out of the public’s earshot. While Lane and Metcalf sparkle in their roles [her physical dexterity channels film and early television comedienne Joan Davis], it is Baker that is the unsung hero of this battle of wits. His unflinching focus on making things happen, or preventing them from exploding, gives all the tale-twisting frippery a much-needed whisper of plausibility.

As the story progresses, this day-in-the-life tale pulls in the luckless rep from the turkey industry [Ethan Phillips], there to officiate at the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning Ceremony, and slip the Pres fifty grand in cash for his ‘services.’ Sensing a gravy train, the Oval officers concoct a plan to fleece him and his organization of $200 million, enough to retire and stop the First Lady’s nagging about that Library no one else thinks is remotely warranted. The unexpected arrival of a casino-craving Indian with a blowgun [Michael Nichols] triggers the resolutions. But this is a grandchild of the screwball comedies of the ‘30s in terms of plot points – how DID Hepburn’s pet leopard get loose in ‘Bringing Up, Baby’ in the first place? A generation later, did you truly believe that the despairing half of “The Odd Couple,” Felix Unger, would actually kill himself? If you’re looking for logical connections and a real-life storyline, catch Tom Stoppard’s superb political psychodrama “Rock ‘n’ Roll” two blocks south.

Comparisons to Neil Simon and Saturday Night Live miss the true origins of this format, which Mamet has certainly mastered. In addition to Hollywood screwballers, the live comedy-variety television shows from the early ‘50s, and the programs featuring those comedy masters who migrated there from radio and vaudeville laid the groundwork for “November.” Yes, Neil Simon, but it was his work as a staff writer on Sid Caeser’s “Your Show of Shows” that honed his skills, and that program pioneered the form that led to SNL. [Remember, Nathan Lane played the Caesar-inspired character in Simon’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” about his days on that show’s manic writing team.] We should not be expecting true political satire; it’s broad but somewhat timely comedy sketch material.

Imogene Coca, Caesar’s distaff foil, once told me that a key element in making all that zaniness work was whether the performers came across as believing in the premise, however wacky. And George Burns took great pains to make me realize that his wife, Gracie Allen, was not a comedienne, but a skilled, accomplished actress, who could portray her scramble-brained character with conviction. Mamet is blessed with first-rate acting talent all around, anchored by the often underappreciated Baker.

Mamet’s only failure here is an over-reliance on profanities, which quickly become obtrusive and arch instead of comic. When they puncture the gossamer glaze that tenuously holds together this confection, he invites comparisons to the abrasive, testosterone-fueled ‘Mamet’ style.

“November,” at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, centers on a President the country has judged [however correctly] in a certain light, and put him in a box. This comedy may be the playwright’s [certainly justifiable] attempt at breaking out of his own stylistic box. They both want to be thought of in a new way. The voters have yet to decide President Smith’s fate. Mamet chalks up a victory.

November Official Website


Tony Vellela, veteran Broadway correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, has also written for dozens of other publications, including Parade, Dramatics, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Emmy Magazine and The Saturday Review. He wrote and produced the documentary PBS series on theatre, “Character Studies.”

(Acknowledgement: these are the opinions those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Drama Book Shop.)

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A New Program and a Free Gift

We are pleased to introduce you to a new program - Audience Rewards and to offer you a special gift. With the new year comes the official opening of Audience Rewards, the first experiential rewards program created by the Broadway theatre owners to thank their audience for their loyalty. Membership is free and by joining now, you will receive 500 points towards tickets to Broadway shows, unique memorabilia, invitations to VIP events, and special offers on dining and travel. Points will even be redeemable for Drama Book Shop items in the Audience Rewards catalog. In addition, members will receive priority seating at special Audience Rewards events held at the bookshop. We are confident that you will enjoy and benefit from this exciting new program.