Do you have theater-lovers on your Christmas list? Here are some gift suggestions.
One of the most stunning coffee table books we've come across this season is the updated, expanded edition of "Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire." Written by Taymor and Eileen Blumenthal, this hefty volume was first published by Abrams in 1995, before Taymor had won her Tony Awards for "The Lion King."
Now heftier still, it has new chapters on five additional Taymor productions, including "The Lion King"; her soon-to-be-released motion picture, "Titus"; and her 1996 production of "The Green Bird," which will be revived on Broadway later this season. All the previous text remains intact, including the chapter on "Savages," the Christopher Hampton play for which Taymor created masks and puppetry at Center Stage in 1982.
Although the book will set you back $49.50, it's easy to see why, since the volume is sumptuously illustrated with breathtaking production photographs and sketches.
It's a thorough and fascinating account of one of the most original minds currently working in the theater.
If you're looking for a children's gift, Buena Vista has just released the video of the lovely Disney TV version of the musical, "Annie" ($19.99), which premiered on ABC-TV last month. Directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall, the video stars Broadway veterans Kathy Bates, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Victor Garber, Audra McDonald and young Alicia Morton.
When it aired Nov. 7, the TV movie earned the highest ratings of any show that night and the second highest ratings of any Disney TV movie.
Not only is the video an ideal way to introduce children to musical theater, the final scene actually takes place on Christmas. The CD is also available ($17.97, Sony Classics).
Finally, if the holiday rush has you hankering for a bit of one-stop shopping, there's a store in Ellicott City called I Love Theatre that carries a host of items aimed at fans of the live performing arts.
Michael Kornstein, who owns the shop with his wife, Cookie, says one of his best-selling items is a T-shirt that bears the words, "The Theatres of New York" on the front, and pictures of the marquees and fronts of the majority of the Broadway theaters on the back.
"When people come in and they know they need to get a gift for someone and they don't know what that person's favorite play is, this covers them all," he explains. The T-shirt, which comes in white or gray, sells for $17.95. A sweat-shirt version, available only in white, is $27.95.
For those who wonder "Who's the fairest of them all?", the shop sells a selection of star-shaped mirrors.
Measuring about six inches, diagonally point to point, the gold-mirrored stars ($9.95) bear such titles as "Diva," "Actor," "Director," "Superstar" and "Techie."
On the more serious side, the store stocks piano-vocal books for more than 200 Broadway shows, as well as cassettes and CDs. There's also a wide variety of Broadway show posters ($17.95-$29), ranging from such short-lived productions as "Capeman" to the longest-running musical in Broadway history, "Cats."
I Love Theatre is at 8141 Main St., Ellicott City, 410-461-4230.
Alliance hires director
Just three years old, The Baltimore Theatre Alliance boasts a membership of 50 theaters and producing companies and 250 actors, directors and technicians. Now it has hired its first part-time executive director and found a permanent home.
Claire Braswell comes to the alliance with experience in several areas of the performing arts.
Most recently, she served as a consultant with two theaters in the Philadelphia area, the Wilma Theater and the People's Light and Theatre Company, and with the Baltimore-based National Arts Stabilization Fund.
Locally, she has also worked with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Opera Company and the former troupe, Dance on the Edge.
"I'm very excited about working with an organization that has so many volunteers who are so dedicated to the group," Braswell said last week. "For them to have come so far so quickly strictly with a volunteer structure is amazing."
Meanwhile, the alliance has left its temporary quarters at Everyman Theatre for a new home at the Theatre Project, where the umbrella group will have its own entrance at 43 W. Preston St.
The administrative office phone number (410-783-0777) will remain the same. Beginning in January, office hours will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.