May 22, 2004

The Times Online – Entertainment – Theatre

The longest day By Nicola Christie

What happens when you stick six writers, six directors and twenty-four actors in the room with a ticking clock? Kevin Spacey, artistic director of the Old Vic, is about to find out. His first challenge in the job is to get six new plays off the ground — written, cast, rehearsed and performed — in 24 hours. He has invited Ray Winstone, Emilia Fox, Christopher Ecclestone, Penelope Wilton, Catherine McCormack and others to join him on the stage. He has asked Phyllida Lloyd and Sean Holmes to direct. Playwrights such as Kwame Kwei-Armah and Catherine Johnson will be writing the plays. “I’m terrified,” says Johnson, who wrote the hit Mamma Mia. Johnson had two and half years to write the musical. “And a lot of that was just copying lyrics out,” she says. “My actual bits were half of the show.” This time, however, she has a mere nine hours.

“We meet the actors at 10 o’clock at night. At 11 o’clock the writers are taken into a hotel and banged up in a room with their laptops, and at 8 o’clock the following morning the scripts are taken away from us.”

The actor Alan Corduner (Topsy Turvey) has no idea what prop or costume he will bring. “When I read the letter I did think they must be out of their minds. And I must be out of my mind to even consider it. But it’s going to be very, very exciting to be involved with new work, all of us starting on the bottom rung of the ladder and hopefully achieving something brilliant in 24 hours. I had to go for it.”

The 24-hour play began life in the US — alumni include Julianne Moore. Billy Crudup, Christina Ricci, Sam Rockwell, Brooke Shields and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

At the Old Vic, the actors will check in at 10pm on Saturday, June 5, have their photographs taken, say hello to the writers and directors, and be sent home.

The writers then will argue over who they will write parts for. “What’s it going to be like? Will we throw a coin to see who goes first?” Johnson is feeling relaxed about this. “And who’s going to be the actor that nobody wants? The weak link. I’ve got an idea of who I’d like, so I might do some deals if the other actors are up for it. I would really like to work with Chris Ecclestone; I’d be prepared to trade Kevin for Chris.”

At 6am the next day a team of sleepy, possibly tormented, writers are sent home to their beds and their scripts are rushed to the Old Vic, where six directors are waiting to get their hands on them. Thus begins a new round of arguing. Who will direct which play? Two hours later the actors arrive and have 12 hours to get their lines learnt and parts rehearsed. The curtain rises at the Old Vic on the Sunday night at 8pm. Spacey will present the evening, introducing each play.

“You become this weird, dysfunctional, little family that exists for just one day,” says the director Nick Philippou, who has directed many 24-hour plays in New York. “It’s everything about theatre that I love and saddens me, that actually we get together with this group of people for four months and then we part. And then your family’s gone. But it’s happening in 24 hours. It’s emotional, it’s physical, it’s sexual, it’s too intense to liken it to any other experience I’ve had in the theatre really.”

And the audience? Philippou is realistic: “You know that great moment in the theatre when an actor forgets his or her lines, and you realise that’s really why the audience were there — to watch the things that they think are going wrong? I think that’s probably the strange thrill that an audience gets from this. Because they can’t quite believe that they’re going to get through the play.”

So the pressure is on, Johnson says. “What if I don’t come up with anything overnight, if there’s nothing there? What if I get overcome by the most tremendous writer’s block? I’m wondering if there’s an internet site that offers you ten-minute plays that I could cut and paste . . .”

The 24-Hour Plays take place at the Old Vic Theatre on Sunday, June 6 at 8pm. Tickets available via http://www.oldvictheatre.com/

May 18, 2004

From whatsonstage.com:

The Big Debate – Can you help Kevin with his casting?

Theatregoers have sent in hundreds of great casting suggestions for Kevin Spacey’s inaugural season at the Old Vic. Now it’s decision time. In The Philadelphia Story, would Eve Best make a better Tracy Lord than Gwyneth Paltrow or Cate Blanchett? Could Colin Firth, Samuel West or George Clooney pull off Mike Connor? Is Spacey the ultimate Iago or Richard III?

May 14, 2004

Fans are starting to report on the purchase of their tickets. Which brings forth these “Burning Spacey/Old Vic Questions”

#1: Is there a dumpster next to the stage door? If not, where do fans congregate for photos, autographs, height check, etc?

#2: Will there be window cards for fans to buy? If so, will they be easier to autograph than the Iceman window cards in NYC? That means a lighter background which doesn’t require the dreaded metallic craft pens! And will they be for sale online?

#3: Do theatres in London hand out something similar to Playbills? Or some other kind of program? Can they be purchased by multitudes of sad fans who won’t be going to London to see any of the productions?

#4: Is the director of a play at the theatre every night or just opening and closing night?

May 3, 2004

Casting For Kevin – What’s On Stage is running a poll on which Shakespearean characters Kevin should portray and which actress should star opposite him in The Philadelphia Story.

Thanks Kim.

Variety -Theatre News

Twankey Panky Matt Wolf

London  It takes two to Twankey (Variety) — and the second just might, I emphasize might, be Judi Dench, who is mulling coming aboard Kevin Spacey’s inaugural Old Vic season to join old friend Ian McKellen’s Widow Twankey in the Christmas pantomime “Aladdin.”

Dench would play McKellen’s Lancashire-accented sidekick in the production, to be directed by Sean Mathias, who guided Dench to an Olivier Award for her perf in “A Little Night Music.” The issue, as ever, is one of scheduling: Dench has a Stephen Frears-Martin Sherman film to do this fall, which takes precedence, and “Aladdin’s” hefty performance schedule — pantos often do more than the usual eight shows a week — means its workload won’t be exactly light.

Whether Dench does or doesn’t sign on, she will figure at some point in the new venture from her “Shipping News” co-star. “I have an open-door policy on Judi,” Spacey says.

Incidentally, the Old Vic’s claim that its 2005 production of “The Philadelphia Story” will mark the play’s West End debut turns out not to be right. Theater historian Richard Whitehouse informs me (and research bears out) that the Philip Barry comedy ran at the Duchess Theater in 1949; Margaret Leighton played Tracy Lord.

April 29, 2004

Hey, another chance to see Kevin at the Old Vic. A June 6 star-studded gala and party. My invitation must have been lost in the mail. These Old Vic people are devious! I couldn’t cut & paste the info. It will only save as a picture and it isn’t readable on the page. I guess you’ll have to let your fingers do the clicking: Old Vic Theatre site and then go to 24 Hour Plays.

They didn’t capitalize the “L” in London.

Thanks, anonymous #726.

From What’s On Stage – April 22.

Spacey Calls for ACE Funds, Bard Advice & £12 T

Speaking at today’s press conference to announce his inaugural season as artistic director of the Old Vic, Kevin Spacey echoed recent pleas from the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and other industry figures in calling on Arts Council England to assist in maintaining the Grade II-listed building.

Funding for Infrastructure

Through private backers, the company has raised the £2 million necessary to stage the four productions in the first season – British premieres of Cloaca and National Anthems, a new version of Christmas panto Aladdin and a revival of Broadway comedy The Philadelphia Story.

“This is a commercial operation and it’s our responsibility to raise that money,” Spacey said. However, he would like to see ACE contribute money “not for the productions but for the infrastructure of the building” because there is extensive – and expensive – “work to be done”.

Despite its history, the Old Vic has not received any government subsidy since the 1970s when the National Theatre used it as a temporary home before moving into its purpose-built South Bank complex. Spacey said, “We would like to make a reasonable argument as to why they should help us in the adventure to keep it (the Old Vic) going.”

The problem of maintaining the West End’s 40 commercial theatres is one that has been debated at length over the past year. A recent report from the Theatres Trust estimated that, over the next 15 years, some £250 million will need to be spent to save many of the Victorian venues for future generations.

New Work vs Shakespeare

Although the emphasis on the initial programming has been on new work – which he described as the “responsibility of a theatre company to seek out” – with another nod to the Old Vic’s past, Spacey said that, “mindful of the historic traditions of this theatre, classics will also take their place. In due course, I intend to tackle Shakespeare and some of the great roles that have made this theatre’s reputation such a remarkable one.”

The classics will begin to be incorporated into the Old Vic programming “in our second, our third, our fourth and all the seasons beyond”, said Spacey. But before deciding which pieces from the canon, he was keen to hear which roles people would most like to see him play.

While no arrangements have yet been set for the inaugural schedule, Spacey also hopes to transfer Old Vic productions to Broadway and elsewhere.

Star Casting vs Company Ethos

Many of Spacey’s Hollywood peers – including Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow and Heath Ledger – have been mentioned as candidates to tread the boards at the Old Vic. The new artistic director did not rule out any of these possibilities, which, he said would also be in keeping with the Old Vic’s traditions and its “great glamorous history”.

By mid-summer 2004, Spacey said, there would be a further casting announcement, which was likely to include some “big names”. He acknowledged that, although he had no intention of engaging in “stunt casting”, high-profile stars were important for luring capacity audiences and “getting bums on seats is without question a duty that we have here.”

Further down the line, after a few years of working with different actors, directors and other creatives, Spacey hopes to develop a more permanent, cross-casting core of artists at the Old Vic. “It is entirely our intention to have a full company and ensemble of actors,” he said. He does not, however, plan to appoint associate directors.

Another key component of the Old Vic’s plans is attracting younger audiences. Towards this end, 100 of the best seats in the house will be set aside for each performance and sold to under-25’s for just £12. Other seats will follow standard West End pricing, ranging from £10 to £40. The exception to this discount approach will be Aladdin, when two special performances will be staged for the local community at reduced prices.

A Real Commitment

At several points during today’s press conference, Spacey reiterated his devotion both to the Old Vic and to theatre in general, which he referred to as his “first allegiance” in life, and the medium in which he worked most often prior to the past nine years during which he’s become famous for screen roles in the likes of LA Confidential, The Usual Suspects and American Beauty.

He confirmed that he has now moved from his home in New York City to live full-time in London, and that his “primary” professional focus is now on the Old Vic and his own Los Angeles-based film production company. After he completes his current project – Beyond the Sea, a biopic of 1950s singer Bobby Darin, which he’s produced, directed and stars in and which will be released in November 2004 – he has no further screen commitments.

Nevertheless, he said today, “I don’t view this (running the Old Vic) as walking away from anything” but rather as “walking towards” something that will give him “great happiness”. “My commitment (to the theatre) is real,” Spacey assured, later adding, “It’s worth the risk.”

– by Terri Paddock

Thanks, Vivienne.

April 27, 2004

There is a fairly long article about Dutch playwright Maria Goos and Cloaca at Expatica.

Kevin Spacey brings a Dutchwoman to London

Dutch playwright Maria Goos’ play Cloaca has been chosen by Kevin Spacey as the opening production for his first season as artistic director of London’s famous Old Vic Theatre. Abi Daruvalla meets her.

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I’ve added an article from The Independent on Sunday to the new Articles page.

The Daily Telegraph (a UK paper), which is media partner for the Old Vic’s 2004 season, has secured a priority booking period for readers. Read the print edition of the Daily Telegraph starting May 5th for details.

April 23, 2004

Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director of  Old Vic, details plans for London theatre Matt Wolf Canadian Press

LONDON (AP) – Kevin Spacey will direct one play and appear in two others in his first season as artistic director of London’s venerable Old Vic Theatre.

In the same week that the two-time Oscar winner was making British headlines for being mugged in a park, he met the press Thursday to announce the four shows that will mark his inaugural tenure at the helm of the playhouse Laurence Olivier once ran. Theatre, the 44-year-old actor said, is “just for me the most satisfying place to be as an actor.”

He deflected questions about an incident earlier in the week in which he says he was conned into handing over his cell phone while walking his dog in the early hours of the morning.

Spacey said he’ll make his theatre directing debut in September, staging the English-language premiere of Cloaca, by Dutch writer Maria Goos. The five-person drama, about a group of lifelong friends who are reunited in middle age, will open Sept. 28 for a 12-week run. A film of the same play was released last year in the Netherlands; its title comes from the Latin word for “sewer.”

Spacey said he decided to direct the play after reading it halfway through.

“It was speaking to me directly,” he said. “I’m in my 40s and all the men in the play are in their 40s. It’s very relevant to our culture, speaking now as a citizen living in London, and if the play ever went to New York, it would resonate there, as well.

“It’s deeply moving and very, very funny.”

Next will be the one production in which Spacey is not directly involved: a seasonal Christmas pantomime, Aladdin, starring Ian McKellen as Widow Twankey. Sean Mathias, McKellen’s former real-life partner, will direct.

Spacey debuted at the Old Vic in 1998 in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, and will star in two plays in 2005.

In the first, National Anthems, Spacey returns to the three-character American play by Dennis McIntyre, in which he appeared at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn., in 1988.

Since then, Spacey has won a Tony Award (for Neil Simon’s Lost In Yonkers) and two Oscars, for The Usual Suspects and American Beauty.

Following National Anthems, Spacey will tackle Cary Grant’s screen role of C.K. Dexter Haven in a stage run of The Philadelphia Story, the classic Philip Barry comedy.

There’s no casting yet for the play’s crucial female role of Tracy Lord, the heiress famously played by the late Katharine Hepburn. Calista Flockhart, Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman have been mentioned as possibilities, but Spacey said nothing would be confirmed until a director had been signed.

He’s been planning this season while starring in and directing Beyond the Sea, a $20-million US film about singer Bobby Darin that will open in North America in November.

Earlier this year, he spent three weeks in Vancouver shooting Edison, an independent movie starring Morgan Freeman and Justin Timberlake.

Spacey has a five-year commitment to the 1,000-seat Old Vic, near London’s Waterloo Station, said theatre owner Sally Greene.

“I hope it’s longer than that,” Spacey said. “Look, it will probably take us three to four seasons to plant our feet firmly.

“After so many years of making movies, the nomadic life you lead when you make films city to city, state to state, I like the idea of being in a place for a long time and committing myself to a particular adventure.

“I’ve reached a perfect time in my life to do this.”

© Copyright  2004 The Canadian Press

April 22, 2004

Spacey unveils McKellen as dame

By Neil Smith BBC News Online

Sir Ian McKellen will play a pantomime dame as part of Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey’s first season as artistic director of London’s Old Vic theatre.

The Lord of the Rings star will play Widow Twanky in a production of Aladdin, Spacey announced on Thursday.

Spacey, 44, made light of reports that he had been attacked and robbed while walking his dog in a London park in the early hours on Saturday morning.

David Beckham had not paid him to get him off the front pages, he joked.

The actor revealed on Monday that his mobile phone was stolen by a young man in a park near his south London home at around 0400 BST on Saturday.

However, speaking at the press launch of the Old Vic Theatre Company’s inaugural season, he joked that there was no truth to the rumour the England captain had promised to donate £100,000 if Spacey “would take him off the front pages for a few days”.

“My plan is to text David myself if someone will let me borrow their mobile phone – I seem to have misplaced mine,” he added.

The actor refused to comment further on the incident, despite attempts by some reporters to probe the details.

‘Stunt casting’

Spacey and producer David Liddiment announced four productions, two of them British premieres. The Oscar-winning actor will direct one play and star in two others.

With the exception of Sir Ian McKellen, however, no “big” names were announced.

There had been speculation that Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz had been approached to play the female lead in the company’s third production, The Philadelphia Story.

But Spacey told journalists “it would be impossible to be in any discussions with any actress” until a director was named.

“There are some beautiful women out there but this could also be a role for an unknown,” he said.

“There is a responsibility to put bums on seats, but we are not into stunt casting.”

Spacey acknowledged there were no Shakespeare plays in his first season but said classic works would feature in future.

“There are some remarkable Shakespearean parts I want to tackle,” he said.

“But we felt our primary goal was to create an exciting season of work.”

The four productions in Spacey’s first season are:

Cloaca (16 September – 11 December 2004) A new play by Maria Goos, described by Spacey as “a writer at the peak of her game who is completely unknown outside her native Holland”. Spacey will direct a cast that includes former Drop the Dead Donkey co-stars Neil Pearson and Stephen Tompkinson.  Aladdin (17 December 2004 – 22 January 2005) A “classic family pantomime”, directed by Sean Mathias and starring Sir Ian McKellen as Widow Twanky. “It’s unusual that you get a sir and a dame in the same night,” joked Spacey. “I’ve never seen a panto but it sounds fantastic.” National Anthems (1 February – 23 April 2005) Spacey’s first acting role at the Old Vic will be in the UK premiere of a 1988 play by Dennis McIntyre. “I performed this play in 1989 and felt so strongly about it I have held onto the rights ever since,” said the actor.  The Philadelphia Story (3 May – 23 July 2005) Spacey will act again in Philip Barry’s Broadway comedy, famously filmed in 1940 with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. The actor said it would be “a fantastic and fun way to finish off our first season” but said the Hepburn role had yet to be cast.

Spacey said he would not be giving up his film career entirely, but that the Old Vic Theatre Company and his Trigger Street production company would be his “primary focus”.

“I don’t view coming here as running away from anything,” he said. “It will be extraordinarily satisfying and bring me great happiness.”

‘Ready to attack’

Looking relaxed in a grey suit and shirt, and bearing no signs of the head injury he said he suffered tripping over his dog on Saturday morning, Spacey only lost his urbane cool when reporters pressed him for more information on the incident.

“Do you have a question about theatre? Do you even go to the theatre?” was his retort to one journalist.

For Spacey, it seemed, the matter was closed – though not perhaps for Mimi, the Jack Russell terrier he rescued from the Battersea Dogs Home.

When asked where the animal was, the American Beauty star joked she was “backstage and ready to attack”.

Thanks to Jacquie. Kevin’s dog’s name is Mini, by the way, not Mimi!

April 20, 2004

From What’s On Stage:

19th April 2004 – What’s On Stage Gossip The weekend papers contained further speculation about what Kevin Spacey will be announcing this Thursday at the launch for his inaugural Old Vic season (See The Goss, 13 Apr 2004). In addition the already-mooted revival of The Philadelphia Story, there are rumours of a new play by Paul Abbott (whose TV credits include State of Play, Clocking Off and Shameless), about a postman who reads and steals mail, and a Christmas run of classic pantomime Aladdin, which will finally give Ian McKellen a chance to play the dame, in this case Widow Twanky. Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme this morning, Spacey said that, while he wants to pay heed to the Old Vic’s “remarkable history” … “I think what is exceedingly important for a theatre company is to promote new work”. He also suggested that, although attracting big Hollywood names – not least himself – is part and parcel of the “responsibility to sell a 1,000 tickets every night”, he and his team were also committed to promoting the “journeymen and journeywomen who’ve been making their livelihood regularly on London stage”.

Thanks, Vivienne

April 19, 2004 I stole this from the Legacy: From The Times Spacey chases stars for Old Vic Richard Brooks KEVIN SPACEY, the Hollywood star and a leading figure in London’s theatreland, is sounding out the actresses Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow to appear at the Old Vic. Spacey will this week unveil productions for his first season as artistic director of the south London theatre. One is a stage version of The Philadelphia Story. Spacey hopes to lure either Diaz or Paltrow to take the role played by Katharine Hepburn in the original Broadway show and the film of 1940. Paltrow has appeared on the London stage already, while Diaz is known to have been looking for a role in London. Spacey will also announce on Thursday that he will take the lead role in a new British play at the Old Vic written by Paul Abbott, writer of television’s State of Play and Clocking Off. Abbott was commissioned by Spacey specifically for the Old Vic. His play is about an ageing American postman who begins to steal mail and open it. Spacey is understood to have asked Sir Ian McKellen to play Widow Twankey in a Christmas pantomime and also plans a musical version of the film Billy Elliot. Spacey’s plans are likely to upset some traditionalists, who consider the Old Vic to be a venue for serious drama and Shakespearian productions.

April 1, 2004

Old Vic Theatre Finally! The Old Vic has released a partial schedule for Kevin’s first season as Artistic Director:  The Old Vic has announced the first play to be performed under the direction of Artistic Director Kevin Spacey. Kevin has decided to bring to the Old Vic a rarely seen stage production of ‘Dance Salomé, Dance’ much to the surprise of theatre watchers who had predicted a revival of ‘The Philadelphia Story’. The play is loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s ‘Salomé’, which was translated from it’s original French into English by Lord Alfred Douglas. Kevin is set to star in (!) the production as well as directing. More information can be found here.

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Kevin has been named the new Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre. You can read his statement to the visitors of the Old Vic web site by going to their web site and clicking on New Artistic Director and the associated links.

I’ll be adding to this page later on as there is more information on the first season available.