Meet the Press

“I haven’t brought you both here just for a tea party…”

Countess Aurelia wasn’t kidding! As some of you might be aware, I am part of the Independent Theater Bloggers Association. Some of you might not know that I volunteered to be its membership director. One of my first assignments was to get an acceptance speech from The Norman Conquests which was voted Best Revival of a Play by our organization.

In terms of getting the actual acceptance speech, I was pretty much clueless how to proceed so I dropped a note to the show’s press agency (those fantastic folks at Boneau/Bryan-Brown). They invited me down to Sardi’s for a brief farewell toast (with tea) for the cast, as the production ends its limited run on July 26 and the company of British actors make their way home.

So here’s another series of firsts! It was my first time at any sort of specific press function, which is surreal in itself, let me tell you. People are gathering with their fancy cameras and video equipment. There I am representing the blogosphere with the mighty flipcam, which I have to say is a blogger’s best friend. Unlike opening nights and red-carpet events, this one was considerably low-key. Everyone was relaxed and the atmosphere most congenial.

The brilliant and talented cast of six arrived at the fourth floor of Sardi’s (another first!) and stood for a quick group shot surrounded by windowcards, then they sat down for a cup of tea and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (though it was commented that cucumber sandwiches would have been more traditional, SarahB we needed you!!) after which the cast signed several posters for BC/EFA.

Finally, it was time for me to get what I came for. I had traveled 50 miles on a mission to get 30 seconds worth of footage and come hell or high water I was going to get a damned good acceptance speech! Jessica Hynes was elected by the group to accept on their behalf. We moved ourselves to the corner by the bar to quickly film it.

Well it’s a wonder the camera wasn’t shaking as I stood there suppressing extreme laughter. I had no idea what Hynes was going to say and her speech took me completely by surprise. We got it all in one take and I continued to laugh myself silly. After getting out my fanboy appreciation for the hilarious Shaun of the Dead (she’s Yvonne!), the two of us talked for about twenty minutes about The Norman Conquests, the other shows playing (we zeroed in on God of Carnage and Reasons to be Pretty), comparing NY and London theatre and touching on, of all people, Patricia Routledge. She talked about what it was like to work in NY and the genuine appreciation at how the entire cast has been embraced by the Broadway community.

In those brief minutes she talked about the personal fulfillment she gets from performing live in the theatre, involving herself in the process of rehearsal and performance and how it’s one of the most satisfying aspects of her career. I asked if she’d like to come back to work onstage in NY and she said, “Oh, yes. Definitely!” I look forward to the opportunity to see all six onstage again.

The event lasted no more than 45 minutes, which gave me a chance to observe diligent press agents at work. Even more surreal were the show’s producers in attendance introducing themselves to me. Talk about a moment where I stopped and thought, “Wow, if they could see me now…”

Afterwards, I shared the elevator ride to the street with the three gracious and lovely leading ladies. It was a personal thrill to be able to tell them how much I enjoyed The Norman Conquests and the sort of exhilarating experience the marathon performances were like. I reminded Amelia Bullmore we had met at the Theatre Worlds awards and had had the opportunity to tell her then how much it meant to me (she remembered!) and then turned to Amanda Root and said, “We haven’t met yet, but I love you.”

I told them that myself and other bloggers were coming back to the last marathon and we discussed how lots of fans like to make a sort of pilgrimage to a final Broadway performance. Root told me I should also come to the second to last marathon, to which I replied, “Don’t tempt me.” It’s a show I would gladly go to again and again if I could.

When we got to the street, I thanked the actors for their excellent work and their time. It was Wednesday, so they were between shows, so I wished them well with their evening performance before heading home, freshly pumped with adrenaline and entirely smitten with the three charming actresses.

It was an invigorating way to spend an afternoon, with some of the most talented people on the boards in NY. And I implore you, if you’ve not had a chance to see The Norman Conquests at the Circle in the Square, get your tickets now. There are only three marathons left in the run, and that is the best way to experience it.

Meanwhile, here is Jessica Hynes’ rather cheeky ITBA acceptance speech:

Quote of the Day

‘Others feel the outbreak in recent years of bloggers who disregard established professional etiquette by weighing in before a show’s official opening has damaged the reputation of the entire critical community. “Anyone in a position to make editorial comment is now regarded as the enemy,” one pundit said.’

Variety, covering the press response to losing Tony voting privileges

So dear reader, have I ever violated so-called professional etiquette…?

It’s a Fiasco…

The Tony Awards committee decided to revoke voting privileges from first night press members, meaning all journalists are henceforth unable to participate in the Tony process. As many can guess, this decision is being met with a mostly negative response from bloggers, the chatterati on ATC, and inevitably those writers whose privileges have been revoked.

Citing “conflict of interest” doesn’t quite cut it, as the press voters were the most objective parties who had a greater probability of seeing all nominated shows. Remaining voters include producers, actors, writers, union leaders, the Broadway League, et al, et al. You know… the Switzerland of the Broadway community. Anyway, it lowers the number of voters from 800 to 700, a 13% reduction.

When you provoke the media, you’re liable to make them angry. Here are some further articles on the matter:

Chris Caggiano: Critics No Longer Tony Voters
Adam Feldman: This Just In: Tony Awards Nix Crix
Patrick Healy: Journalists Will No Longer Be Voting for Tony Awards
Matthew Murray: Reviewing the Tony Situation
Tom O’Neil: Tonys to Press: Drop Dead
Matt Windman: Destroying the Credibility of the Tony Awards: Banning Journalists as Voters