Theater Bucks, Theater Books
by Anthony Chase
Giving the gift of theater this holiday season
Every year when it’s time for last-minute gift recommendations, I dutifully recommend the gift of theater tickets. The Theatre Alliance of Buffalo makes the task easier with the continuation of “Theater Bucks.” This is a gift certificate program that allows the recipient to use the “Theater Bucks” certificate as if it were cash at participating theater box offices. In some instances, the certificates can also be used for classes or merchandise.
The participating theaters are Brazen-Faced Varlets, the Kavinoky Theatre, Shakespeare in Delaware Park, Buffalo ComedySportz, Lancaster Opera House, Shea’s Performing Arts Center, Buffalo Laboratory Theatre, MusicalFare Theatre, Subversive Theatre Collective, Buffalo United Artists, New Phoenix Theatre, Theatre of Youth, Irish Classical Theatre Company, O’Connell & Company Productions, Torn Space Theater, Jewish Repertory Theatre, Paul Robeson Theatre, Ujima Company, Inc., Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions, and Road Less Traveled Productions.
To purchase Theater Bucks, visit the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo website: www.theatreallianceofbuffalo.com.
For book gifts, there are always theater-oriented books available to complement current touring shows and the current state of Broadway. You can find these at www.playbill.com, along with any number of theater oriented ornaments, posters, and calendars, or your local bookseller can easily order a desired title for you, thereby ensuring that the sales tax will further support the arts in Erie County, while you are supporting a local business.
Bigger, Brighter, Louder
My current read is Bigger, Brighter, Louder, by Chris Jones, chief theater critic for the Chicago Tribune. This is a collection of 150 historically significant reviews from Chicago theater history, along with commentary by Jones. His selections are fascinating and provocative, his commentary is delightfully insightful.
What we get is a lesson in the role of Chicago in the history of American theater, and the part that criticism played in that story. Along the way we read the first Chicago review of the great Joseph Jefferson, whose signature role was Rip Van Winkle, and after whom Chicago’s theater awards are named. We see the role that Chicago played in advancing the career and seminal importance of Tennessee Williams. We read about the advent of Loraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. We are reminded of the first major review of Mel Brooks’s The Producers. We are also reintroduced to important lost voices; in this regard, Claudia Cassidy (1899-1996) emerges as an unsung hero of the American theater for such contributions as championing The Glass Menagerie. We read of the Iroquois Theater fire of 1903, in which more than 600 people died, mostly children, in a new facility where doors opened inward, locked gates separated expensive seats from cheap ones, and children were instructed to remain in their seats, rather than to vacate the premises.
In the final chapters we see Jones’s own important reviews of such contemporary works as August Osage County and Clybourne Park.
The title, Bigger, Brighter, Louder, refers to a theater scene that emerged in a big, muscular, and competitive city that grew quickly. Published by the University Of Chicago Press, the book is a constantly engaging and illuminating lesson in the role a great newspaper played in developing and sustaining a great theater town.
Buffalo Memories: Gone But Not Forgotten
It’s not a new book, indeed the author has long since passed on, but I happened upon a copy of the 2002 book, Buffalo Memories: Gone But Not Forgotten, by George Kunz, on the “Buffalo Books” shelf at the Buffalo State bookstore, and found his short essays about Buffalo past to be entirely charming—especially his theater memories about such places as the Erlanger and the Teck. There is an introduction by his daughter, Mary Kunz Goldman, who writes for the Buffalo News. The book would certainly make an excellent gift for the sentimental or historically inclined Buffalo theater goer. You can still find copies about. It was brought out by Canisius College Press.
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