Earlier this week, while discussing the recent Zachary Scott Theatre Center
production of Angels in America
, fellow Chronicle
editor and colleague on the theatre beat Sarah Hepola
mentioned a conversation she'd had on Sunday with some friends who had seen the play's first part, Millennium Approaches
, in the spring. "Hey," they said, "we heard that Part Two just opened." She looked at them dumbstruck, then said, no, the show had closed the night before. After an 11-week run. Obviously, they hadn't gotten the word that Part Two: Perestroika
was out there -- that both parts were out there from October 22 through November 28 -- and I bring it up because it seems they weren't alone. Turnout for the conclusion of the Tony Kushner
epic was feeble: a half-house closing night, much smaller houses most of the run. That's in stark contrast to Millennium
, which packed them in this spring. Zach's producing artistic director Dave Steakley
doesn't know what caused the dramatic drop-off -- Insufficient coverage in the press? Marketing that didn't reach its audience? Public fixation on Ricky Williams
' Heisman run? El Niño
? -- but he does
know his theatre isn't the first to have suffered a dip in attendance with Angels, Part Two
. "We talked to six theatres before we started our production, and they all experienced this," says Steakley. Sold out Millennium
; could not give tickets away to Perestroika
. The theatre staff tried to compensate for the trend, but whatever forces caused the drop-off elsewhere seem to have prevailed here, too. Steakley is disappointed that more people didn't see Part Two
-- "I really wanted us to buck the trend better," he says -- but he has no regrets about the year he spent producing it. "What a way to spend a year. The excitement around it, from the staff, the board, the artists. The support, the responses to it ... It was a good, powerful experience. I'm grateful for it."
And you aren't the only one. Although I admit sheepishly that I did not see Perestroika until closing night, I found it absorbing, a show that built on the work of the first production and took it to a new level. All the work -- from the designers, actors, technicians, and Steakley as director -- illuminated Kushner's text and themes, and made them matter. I'm grateful, too.
And I daresay the folks at AIDS Services of Austin are grateful as well. After every performance, cast members collected money for ASA from patrons leaving the theatre. By closing, they had collected more than $20,000, all of which will help people living with AIDS. That's a contribution worthy of Angels indeed.
It's December, friends, and that means it's Nutcracker time again. But before you yawn, let me remind you Ballet Austin Artistic Director Lambros Lambrou has been refining BA's production these last few years, adding to its majesty and grace ... and humor. He scored a big hit last year having celebrities do cameos as Mother Ginger, the figure whose mammoth skirts hide the dancing Bon Bons. Propped atop a 10-foot-tall hoop skirt, with a couple thousand people staring at them, and these celebs got in touch with their inner hams. This year will see Hizzoner Kirk Watson at it again (Dec 11), plus civic leader Ada Anderson (Dec 12), computer czar Michael Dell (Dec 13), ACC dean Maggie Huerta (Dec 18), MAJIC Man Dave Jarrott (Dec 19, 2pm), KXAN anchor Robert Hadlock (Dec 19, 7:30pm), Statesman chief Rich Oppell (Dec 20), Tuna helper Joe Sears (Dec 21), and Esther's sorcerer supreme Ray Anderson (Dec 23). For ticket info, call 476-2163.