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Half Cocked

During the final performance of The Full Monty at Proctor’s Theatre, as the six former steelworkers were being urged by the rest of the cast to bare all, someone in the audience shouted, “Do it for Schenectady!”It even got a laugh from the performers, who ended their tour with an unexpected national blitz of publicity. Once again, Schenectady embarrassed itself by being the only stop on a 48-state tour that required the actors to cover their penises in the final moment of the show—a fraction of a second, performed in silhouette in front of a super-candlepower marquee, during which the naked actors drop their genital-shielding hats.

The story was picked up by the Associated Press and went national, meriting wisecracks on CNN and Live! with Regis and Kelly. As reported by Schenectady’s Daily Gazette, the ban was yet another move by outgoing corporation counsel Michael Brockbank to save the city from sin.

Upon appeal from a strip-club owner, Schenectady’s public-nudity law was struck down by a federal judge in 1997. Three years later it was passed again in a reworded version that removed the exemption from places like Proctor’s Theatre and Union College. Action photos of a fedora-hatted Brockbank then blitzed across area newspapers as the Carrie Nation of nudity invaded strip clubs and ordered the arrests of dancers and owners.

“I’d like to think that Brockbank hasn’t been on a personal moral crusade,” said Schenectady mayor-elect Brian Stratton, “but that he’s trying to protect the city from litigation. But I thought that The Full Monty incident was ridiculous, and I’d like to do whatever I can to ensure it doesn’t happen again. My corporation counsel and I will look at this to the extent that we don’t have to go back to square one. People can judge for themselves what they want to buy tickets for.”

As presented to the cast of The Full Monty, the situation sounded fairly extreme. “We were told there [would be] be cops in the house,” said Trey Ellett, one of the six, “and that if we didn’t wear these things, they’d shut the show down immediately.”

Ironically, as the run progressed, those modesty devices got more and more “misplaced.” Audience members couldn’t tell the difference and still could be heard grumbling about the censorship on their way out.

But that put-on wasn’t the biggest rip-off associated with the show—just the sexiest. Schenectady isn’t actually the last stop on the tour, but it was the last opportunity to see Equity actors perform. The producers sold the rest of the tour to Networks, a Clear Channel subsidiary, which will pay the fledgling actors about one-third of Equity rates. Even though the quality of the show is thus compromised, ticket prices are no different from an Equity tour—with the producers pocketing the difference.

Hundreds of actors and allies rallied in Manhattan in October to protest these tours. “Across the country, theaters are misleading their subscribers by describing their seasons as ‘Broadway series’ when those seasons include non-Equity tours,” Equity first vice-president Mark Zimmerman said at that event. “It’s time for those theaters to stop cheapening the Broadway brand by using it to describe shows that do not compensate the actors, stage managers and all other show personnel as professionals.”

“So we really weren’t happy to see all this attention the show suddenly got in Schenectady,” said Ellett. “We don’t want to support the non-union part of the tour.”

Sunday night’s show—its audience size diminished by the snowstorm—finished with an emotional parting for many, with real tears visible during the curtain call. “You people were great,” actor Robert Westenberg told fans waiting at the stage door. “Pound for pound, you were our best audience.”

“I don’t know who the city of Schenectady is protecting,” said one audience member who wished to remain anonymous. “I live here and I don’t want the city making artistic decisions about what I can and can’t see on a theater stage.”

—B.A. Nilsson 


art beat

YOU ARE HERE: Washington Park Press—the longtime regional publishing house that served as William Kennedy’s first publisher—has just released the fourth edition of In & Around the Capital Region. (FYI: The previous editions were titled In & Around Albany, Schenectady and Troy.) Cowritten by Metroland contributing writer Ann Morrow and Washington Park Press publisher Anne Older, this nearly-400-page guidebook contains a wealth of handy information about places to go and things to do, from museums, historic sites, restaurants and retail to nuts-and-bolts facts about transportation, libraries and school. “The book is intended,” says Morrow, “for new residents as well as visitors and tourists.” It’s available in most local bookstores and museum gift shops.

YOU ARE THERE: Local independent filmmaking, lest we forget, is not just about narrative fiction. Filmmakers Mike Camoin and Tom Mercer recently debuted their documentary 225th Anniversary of the Battles of Saratoga. For the history-challenged, these Revolutionary War engagements tipped the balance away from the redcoats. The documentary was filmed in October 2002 during the reenactment organized by Paul Novotny and the 24th Regiment of Foot, and the directors hope that it will give viewers a sense of what 19th-century warfare was like. (Over 3,000 reenactors took part in the event, so there is certainly an impressive sense of scale.) If you missed the numerous recent local screenings—at the Saratoga Visitors Center, and Borders in Clifton Park and Colonie—don’t fret. You can buy your own DVD or VHS copy directly from the filmmakers at: www.mikecamoin.com. There are nifty extras on both disc and tape.

YOU WERE THERE, BUT WILL BE HERE: It’s now official: Stan Burdick’s Cartoon Museum, formerly of Hague, is moving lock, stock and sketch to Ticonderoga. The reason? The Hague Town Board ordered that the museum’s residence—the former town hall building—be torn down. (That’ll do it.) So, the 700 comic strips and editorial cartoons, the special exhibits dedicated to Thomas Nast, Charles Schultz and others, have been packed up for shipment to the new venue, which will be in the Ticonderoga Community Center on Montcalm Street. A grand opening is planned for spring 2004. For more information, call Burdick at 543-8824.

GET MONEY, MAKE ART: The Arts Center of the Capital Region has announced that it’s SOS grant time again. SOS stands for Special Opportunity Stipend, and is designed to help individual artists “take advantage of exceptional opportunities to further their work or careers.” By “artists,” they mean visual artists, dancers, musicians, composers, sculptors, performance artists . . . you get the idea. The grants may seem small—$100 to $600—but a couple of hundred bucks can help artists exhibit their work, study with a significant mentor or pay for day care while they stage a performance. Individual artists living in an 11-county area of the Capital Region are eligible, and have until Feb. 2 to apply. For more information (and an application), call 273-0552 or visit www.artscenteronline.org.

MAKE ART, GET IT EXHIBITED: The Columbia County Council on the Arts has announced a call for entries—sculpture, painting, works on paper, mixed media and photography—for two shows. The first is Kiss—The Iconography of Love, which will run at the CCCA Gallery (209 Warren St., Hudson) from Feb. 14 through April 3, 2004. The deadline for entries for this show is Friday, Jan. 23. The second show is the 2004 Annual Juried Art Show, which will run from March 6 through April 3 at the Hudson Opera House (327 Warren St., Hudson). The entry deadline for this show is Monday, Jan. 12. For detailed information on just what you need to provide in entries for each show, visit www.artscolumbia.org.

—Shawn Stone

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