First, an embarrassing revelation: I am Internetally challenged: I've never surfed the Net. Not only have I never been on-line, but I don't know a URL from a hole in the ground. When I learned that Shorenstein Hays Nederlander's “Best of Broadway” (BOB) series recently posted a comprehensive Web site, my first thought was about spiders and my next that I could write about this topic, but only if I: a) learned something about it; or, b) made things up. In a burst of journalistic integrity, I opted for the former.
I flung myself on the mercy of Doug Case at Browne-Zukow Associates, the creator and maintainer of the site. He gave me an introduction, then let me play on his computer for a very short hour to explore BOB's Web pages. Having done so, I can assure you that if I ever get a computer with a modem, I will never leave my house again. I can also tell you that this Web site (http://www.bwaytheatresf.com) is way cool.
The site offers pages on the three theaters used for BOB's productions: the Curran, the Golden Gate, and the Orpheum. Did you know, for example, that the Orpheum opened in 1926 as a vaudeville house (timing is everything) called the Pantages, and that, after the death of vaudeville, it was refurbished as a movie theater? If you want to know what happened next, and how the theater became a legitimate house called Orpheum, you'll have to visit the site. In addition to a history of each theater, the site offers seating charts, performance schedules, and detailed directions by car or public transportation. The only thing you can't do yet is order tickets on-line (tiny problem with credit card numbers in the ether), but the folks at Browne-Zukow are working on that.
Each current and upcoming show has a series of pages as well. You can send PHAN-mail to Phantom of the Opera. If you've always wondered how many beads are in the Phantom chandelier (35,000), you can find that as well as other outrageous Phantom minutiae. Take a trivia test on the upcoming production of West Side Story (hint: Maria is not Polish) for a chance to win a pair of tickets. You can even print a page, if you're so retro as to desire a hard copy. Visit the pages for the Royal Shakespeare Company's upcoming touring production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and learn the history of the RSC.
Tony Reilly, general manager of Shorenstein Hays Nederlander, says he hopes the site “will reach people who don't read the newspaper.” He plans to offer special discounts via the Web in the future. “Theater tends to get technology late,” Reilly laments. “It's fun to be on the cutting edge for a change, to be the first theater in the Bay Area to be on-line.”
By Deborah Peifer