Theatre on the Web

Last week’s CBC Web column…


The gala opening of the new Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon last week had Saskatchewan people thinking about live theatre.

Of course, I think about live theatre all the time, since I’m often involved in one production or another as an actor or director, so this week I compiled a collection of links to sites on the Internet you can go to when you, too, want to know more about theatre.

I started right here in Saskatchewan with our two premiere professional companies, Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon and Globe Theatre in Regina.

At both sites, as you would expect, you can read about current and upcoming productions, buy tickets, see photographs, and more. There’s a bit of information about the history of the new theatre, and some photographs from the early days of construction, that might be of particular interest on the Persephone site right now.

One thing you can’t do at the Persephone site that you can do at Globe’s site is buy tickets online. In fact, if there were some sort of competition for Best Website by a Saskatchewan Theatre Company, which there isn’t, I’d have to give it to Globe Theatre. Its site was recently redesigned and is very slick and easy to use, but then, I suspect Persephone Theatre’s been more focused on its building than its website recently.

Both sites also offer information about their history, their children’s and educational programs, and so on.

Of course, many other Saskatchewan theatre companies, large and small, also have websites: Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, Regina Little Theatre and Regina Lyric Light Opera and other community companies, Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company, Dancing Sky Theatre, Saskatoon Opera…the list goes on and on.

The best place to start if you’re looking for an overview of Canadian theatre in general is probably Theatre Canada. They describe themselves as “a planning guide for live theatre outings,” and provide links to more than 450 Canadian theatres, arranged by province, area and city. There’s also a kid-friendly section with information about children’s theatre, theatre camps, workshops and schools, a news and reviews section, and even free e-greeting cards with performing arts themes.

A lot of theatres aren’t included in their listings, though (apparently they charge a small one-time fee for a theatre to be listed), so don’t consider the site comprehensive. In Saskatchewan, for instance, they only list Globe, Persephone, and Regina Little Theatre.

A rather different resource is the Canadian Theatre Encylopedia, which began life as “The Encyclopedia of Canadian Theatre on the WWW,” back in 1993. Started by Gaetan Charlebois, a theatre editor with Montreal’s Hour Magazine, it’s goal is to create and maintain online a highly accessible database of information about Canadian actors, playwrights, directors, producers, designers, theatre organizations and institutions, composers and plays. It’s currently hosted and maintained by Athabasca University.

Moving beyond Canada’s borders, the premiere theatre site of all would have to be the online home of Playbill magazine. Here you’ll find the latest news about new productions of plays and musicals, and not just in New York: there’s news from Toronto, the U.K., all over. There are photographs, quotes, video clips and, of course, the latest Broadway grosses: I can tell you, for example, that last week, the musical Wicked was the top-grossing show on Broadway, bringing in $1,373,768 from 13,888 paying customers, for an average ticket price of $98.77. It’s playing in the 1,809-seat Gershwin Theatre, which was 96 percent full.

I also enjoy Broadway World, with a similar mix of information but presented with a bit more multimedia flash: you can watch good-resolution clips of Broadway World TV here, for example, which features backstage interviews (and a look at performances) of new shows, such as The Little Mermaid, which just opened. Broadway World also posts lots of photographs from opening night parties, just to emphasize the fact that you are not the kind of person who gets invited to the opening parties of Broadway shows.

Well, at least I’m not.

Less glitzy is Curtain Up, “The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings,” founded in 1996 by Elyse Sommer and (I’m guessing from the look of it) not significantly redesigned since then. Still, it’s an active site that solicits reviews and news from…well, you, if you want to try your hand writing for them. It covers New York, London, Berkshires, Philadelphia, California, New Jersey and “Elsewhere.” It even reviews a few restaurants.

So if you’re seeking theatre information, you’ll find a ton of it online. Just don’t lose track of time while you’re looking at all this stuff.

You wouldn’t want to miss the curtain of the live, not-on-the-computer theatre that’s probably happening somewhere near you tonight.

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