April 10, 2009 - 9:00 pm
My morning ritual was shaken. It consists of reading the Review-Journal — word for word, of course — and then checking the All That Chat theater bulletin board (at talkinbroadway.com). When I headed to the Vegas section recently, I was met with a posting from the owner, local John Gillespie: “All That Chat — Las Vegas worth keeping? … If we took it down, would you miss it?”
Gillespie, a 59-year-old East Coast transplant, founded the board (with New York, Vegas and West Coast “branches”) in 1996 as a place where theater fans and practitioners could come together for in-depth discussion. The New York board has been a phenomenon. About 40 writers contribute to the site, none paid. There are tons of daily posters, frequently quoted in the likes of the New York Times, beloved and cursed by the rich and famous whose names there are exalted and trashed. “Forbidden Broadway” even wrote a parody about it.
Sin City, though, has been a tougher sell.
“I never expected a strong response,” Gillespie says, “but certainly more than we’re getting.” He felt the city was growing and the theater would one day thrive. But the local site is getting about 1 percent of the traffic volume on the NYC board.
“Maybe the community just doesn’t know about it,” Gillespie says. “(But) if people don’t read it, why write it?”
When the site opened, I had expected huge participation from Strip performers, theater folks and audiences. I thought it would unify the veteran professional with the high school hopeful. Gillespie spiced things up with an entertaining column and a critic who was blunt in his appraisals. But the Strip and audience fans never materialized. And the columns have disappeared. Apparently, traffic also has decreased because the postings — as on many boards — had a tendency to get a little, well, let’s say passionate. But Gillespie isn’t giving up.
“Some on the main board feel (this) is a vanity thing because I now live in Las Vegas,” he says. “(But) ATC LV prompted a benefit show raising a few thousand dollars which helped the residents of New Orleans after Katrina. Because of ATC LV the theater community came together that season.”
Gillespie is motivated by his lifelong love of the stage. As he describes it, “Those lights go down, and it’s magic time.”
And he isn’t giving up hope yet.
His announcement of the possible closure shook things up a bit. The written reactions from the usually docile posters varied from, “Don’t you DARE take my ATC Vegas away!” to, “It’s a joke. Get rid of it. The same six people talking to each other.”
Understandably, the latter comment came from an out-of-towner.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.