By Tim Smith

Where in the world did this summer go? Happy Labor Day weekend.

Offering her year end perspective in the pages of American Theatre magazine, Executive Director and Chief Executive Office of Theatre Communications Group, Teresa Eyring, shared five trends facing our nation's not-for-profit regional stages.

Last week, at #1: The rise of on-demand streaming content. Continuing then, at #2: The decline of arts coverage in the mainstream press: "Articles about theatre typically don't generate enough click-throughs to warrant publications' space and resources.” #3: The Hamilton effect: ". . . audiences spent discretionary dollars they might have spread around multiple shows at multiple theatres to see just Hamilton." #4: Recession fear: "Even with historically low unemployment, wage growth has been slow and theatre is a discretionary expense for many."

Finally, at #5: The Zeitgeist: Simply stated, "Is theatre offering a place for reflection and rejuvenation?"

Hal Prince: Remembered:1928-2019: The challenge before me was how to encapsulate the crossing of our creative paths.

Laying that foundation: I was able to experience the original productions of what I have labeled as his "great triumvirate, "the musicals partnering with Stephen Sondheim in the '70s; Company, Follies and A Little Night Music.

These productions were set in stone for future generations, the ones recorded for posterity. I touched, breathed and savored their history.

A few years later, as I was embarking on a professional theatre career, I received my first major rejection letter after requesting if I might be able to spend a brief period observing the pre-opening development of his 1976 production, “Pacific Overtures,” in New York.

The framed letter from the Prince office resides proudly in my office.

Secondly, where to place the deeper, more personal encounters with those masterworks.

My favorite: I shared an evening sitting next to Mr. Prince as he watched one of those aforementioned productions under the baton of a new music director having just lost a valued colleague – of many nights at the musical helm of his earlier works.

How difficult that must have been for him, creatively and emotionally, and when it was over, he turned to me, looked me directly in the eyes, and asked if his note taking had bothered – me!

I leave some final thoughts on Mr. Prince's influence as penned by a young man who did not receive a rejection letter, and who enjoyed a Tony Award winning collaboration with Mr. Prince, Jason Robert Brown. From his column, Hal Prince: A Portrait in Song (and 2 Rewrites),featured in an upcoming American Theatre issue:

"He lived and worked for 91 years on his own terms. He surrounded himself with a strong and loving family, he had immense financial success, he gave opportunities to countless performers, writers, and designers, and in the process, he had a hand in virtually every important musical in the second half of the 20th century. The theatre he loved and created was a place where the audience was challenged to think: about humanity, about America, about fear and love, and about space and light and sound. When Hal was excited about something, he was all in."

I am proud to remain, and will always be, "all in."

Congratulations to TheatreSquared (T2) in Fayetteville, Arkansas for the August 14th opening of its first production, "Shakespeare In Love," in its brand new, state of the art home. I am pleased to report that due to the popularity of this production, T2 has already extended the shows run.

From Architect Magazine, here is what they said about the new performance space, highlighted from a recent T2 website posting:

"A theatre that lures the public inside. . . The glowing new building, clad in wood and board-formed concrete, maintains intimacy with its two performance spaces along with dedicated spaces for scenery construction, costume making, and housing for visiting performers. Most significantly, the building projects the inner life of the theatre onto the street and gives passersby a glimpse of works in progress."

"You don't take a photograph, you make it." Ansel Adams

Well done to ACT, the live theater producing team under the direction of the Pauls Valley (Oklahoma) Arts Council as they re-commissioned their commitment with the staging of the comedy, "Dearly Departed.”

Look for: The new (PBS) Ken Burns film "Country Music" beginning on September 15th. Check your local PBS station for all the details.

Celebrating the opening of live theatre doors, in our towns.

Play, ahead!

Welcoming you into the room and provoking conversation, since '06.

See you in the paper.

t A s

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