2015 Tonys: Don’t Sell Your TV Audience Short

Welcome to our newest contributor, veteran Broadway performer, Daniel Marcus! First…Anybody else notice that the schtick that Larry David obviously wrote for himself was the only genuinely clever, smart, slightly daring and actually (I laughed) funny material of the night? For me the high point was easily “Ring of Keys” – the low point-maybe cutting off the applause for “Ring of Keys” to do an E.T. gag that was there to patronize a tv audience who let’s face it-know what they’re turning on. The Tonys are always (and always have been) the lowest rated of the big 5 tv award shows (Oscars/Emmys/Golden Globes/Grammys) and the networks keep the show because that small 7,000,000 number of watchers belong to the most desirable upscale educated demographic-the hardest group to get to on commercial network television. And so they remain on network tv. So why dumb-down? I mean-of course I understand this biz…. Read More…

Hamlet’s Hardy Fan-Base: Shakespeare Returns to Royal Oak, July 31-August 10th

Combine the magic and nostalgia of a drive-in with the most classic tale of murder, haunted castles and terrible puns, then throw in the potential rain-delay of a ballgame and you’re ready for Hamlet that opens the 14th season of the Water Works Theatre Company on July 31st in Royal Oak. The Globe Theatre didn’t have a roof.  The cheap seats were right up front where the “groundlings” sat for a penny and were able to bring their food—generally as ammunition—rain be-damned.  The producers, writers and actors knew the audience was an integral part of the performance—to their own peril sometimes.  Joseph Papp, in 1954, was the first to “out”  Shakespeare once again, yanking him from his dark theatres, anthologies, and thousands of stuffy classrooms. Over the past fourteen years, for two weeks in August in Royal Oak, Water Works Theatre Company has presented William Shakespeare to a growing fan-base of new-age groundlings—most toting folding chairs, rain-ponchos and a… Read More…

The Power of a Well-Placed Smart-Ass: Roger Sterling, Lord Tyrion and the Dowager Countess of Grantham

“What’s the definition of a smart-ass?” began one of my dad’s favorite jokes.   “Someone who could sit on ice cream and tell what flavor it is.” In 1998, the internet was new in our school and I was doing a demo in class of how cool it was.  We had the projector on and I was discussing how easy it was to find information. “For example, if you wanted to check out the President’s website, you just had to www.whitehouse.com,” I dictated proudly to my student at the keyboard who typed it in. I could see from their expressions that they also weren’t expecting the porn site on the big screen behind me. “Back arrow!  Back arrow!” I screached, convinced that the principal, governor or Bill Clinton would walk in on me at that very moment. Without missing a beat, a student raised his hand, “Mr. Walsh, can I… Read More…

Uncommon Sense: YouTube Teacher Resignation Reaches Nearly Half-Million in a Week

“No wonder teacher burnout and turnover are at an all-time high.” Few people turn pages of newspapers.  Fewer people flip their phone apps to the editorial button to read letters to the editor.  And the only thing smaller than the audience for a school board meeting telecast is the audience at an actual school board meeting. But in just over a week, nearly half a million people have heard why an Illinois teacher has had her heart broken too many times by the new politics of school systems’ reliance upon test scores and disregard for teacher worth. It’s not slick, like last winter’s Ed Asner-narrated modern fractured fairy tale that illustrated the California Teacher’s Union struggle:   The Asner video created more of a backlash against its production value and thus fogged over the facts that were present within its narration.  In fact, Ellie’s resignation resides in its complete lack… Read More…

1976: More than just the Bicentennial Year to me

Since this blog is all about blasts from the past triggered by a photo or media, I couldn’t resist sharing this recent walk of mine down Memory Lane, featuring my father. My little nostalgia trip started with seeing an ad in the newspaper that reminded me of a real trip I once took. Yes, Pippin is coming back to Broadway after last being seen there in the early 1970s. (Of course, Pippin never really went away—it’s been one of the most produced shows in schools and theaters around the world for decades.) Pippin has loomed large in my mind for a long time. You see, it was the first Broadway show I saw, way back in 1976. I remember the year exactly because this was the show we picked to see when my father brought me to NYC from Michigan for my 16th birthday. I have no idea why we… Read More…