Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Comments on "Some Thoughts on Theater Coverage"

As that great poet, Britney Spears, once sang, "Ooops, I did it again." Personally, I prefer that parody of a few years ago, but anyway, I have been amused and nearly amazed by the various comments posted in response to my "Some Thoughts on Theater Coverage" post. I guess my role in the blogosphere, as Jon Stancato told me the other week, is to play the provocateur. All anybody ever does is hate my guts anyway, so I might as well do something constructive with all that energy.

Here are the comments -- and I'm putting them in this post in the hope of spurring additional conversation. I should also note that Tim Errickson asked me if I could stop by and speak at the next Community Dish meeting, and I will be there.

Anonymous said...
Well... I run a pretty well-respected OOB theatre company and I can tell you: 1. I've spent the entire Spring listening to new board members and funding professionals talk about other OOB as "your competition" and 2. y'all media types can be very jealous of each other - I've been told to my face by a senior VV editor that I haven't gotten an Obie in my decades of work because the Village Voice doesn't like the fact that my company's so well-covered by the Times and usually favorably... he said we had become, after early interest from the Voice "too uptown." So, I wish it were as easy as banding together with my OOB sisters to take down The Man but... this is the Big City and we're... competitors? What would you have us do, Mr. J - multi-company subscriptions? What if my audience tells me they just don’t like some other perfectly valid OOB co.'s works? Shall I not… rejoice therefore? I’ll expect unified enlightenment from the OOB world when such wonders as spell-checking in a blog comment window occur…Yours, Lucretia

Leonard Jacobs said...
Thank you for your whiny post. The first thing you might do is stop hiding and quivering behind a cowardly pseudonym and state who you are. The second thing you might do is realize that the problem is that too many of you are hiding behind pseudonyms and whining about bullshit like not getting your Obie because someone at the Village Voice doesn't like the fact that you're covered in the Times. The third thing you might do is realize that, to some extent, I wasn't directing my comments toward you but toward OOB brethren who can't get the Times to even recognize their existence. The fourth thing you might do is understand that the problem is one of groaning self-interest -- everyone talks a good game about OOB as a community, but when push comes to shove, everyone is really out for themselves, and anyone with a leg up on anyone else can just go to hell, and the result of that is that it only perpetuates the problem of media outlets going out of their way to ignore OOB as a whole, and increasingly so, in favor of huge Voice stories about films from 30 years ago. Waaaaaaa, you didn't get your Obie, waaaaaa. Your poor dear. Either acknowledge that you have it better than a lot of people or shut up.

Anonymous said...
True, I do have it much better than most. But, I got it largely by fending off the bullshit of my so-called OOB sisters. Can't tell you how many of them still owe me money for one thing or another or have stabbed me in the back when my back started to peek just a little above the horizon. More to the point, you seem to be pretending to have forgotten that OOB was always a place of artists striving for something more, some step up the food chain. We all want to be Torchsong Trilogy and start out as three small plays in a basement somewhere (OOB), consolidate into a an OB, pick up and Obie, and then move on to B'way. It is the dream that fuels our spirit. If we acknowledge each other as a community, we'll be forced to admit the truth: New York City just has more community theater than most places, and we're it. Mr. J, who in God's dear name would use their own real name in the "blogosphere" as you call it? Blogosphere? Looks like a kind of nasty, petty thunderdome to me. You people don't know how to just talk politely about anything. And with that I'll head on back to reality and talking to people face to face about things. My experiment is done here.Lucretia

Leonard Jacobs said...
I'm glad your experiment is done. Perhaps now you can go off and get an education, and learn how to properly spell Torch Song Trilogy. I haven't in the least forgotten, by the by, that OOB is place for some to graduate from, but your Pollyannish vision of doing plays in a basement, "consolidation" into OB (what does that mean?), winning an Obie, and then "moving on" to Broadway is probably the reason you're stuck where you are. Such fatuous dreaming that is, as if you had a clue about how this business works, which I thought, at first, you did.The one thing this "nasty, petty thunderdome" has going for it is the opportunity for dialogue, for disagreement, for constructive engagement, for change -- and it starts with being open about your identity. You won't admit who you are because you already know your cause is probably lost. Given your attitude, that shows the market pretty well doing its job. Best of luck.

parabasis said...
Hey Leonard,
Some interesting points here. I think people would be more willing to flex muscles if they (we) thought they (we) had any. What ways do you (or other readers) think OOB theatres could get together on this?

Tim said...
Leonard...I'm in agreement. Any interest in coming to the next Dish meeting and discussing it?

Leonard Jacobs said...
Hey Parabasis/Isaac, I think the first problem is the idea that there aren't any muscles to be flexed. It's an Alamo mentality that assumes the cause is lost. I think OOB has economic muscle, artistic muscle, muscle in numbers, and loud voices -- all must be used in order to affect change. The precise manifestation of those muscles is up for grabs. I just think people have to stop whining about the lack of OOB media coverage and start doing specific, credible and coordinated things in order to change the situation. All whining does is promote stasis.

Philucifer [aka Charlie Willis] said...
I know it's kind of silly to even bother, but I want to respond just for a moment to something Lucretia said, because it's endemic these days: "You seem to be pretending to have forgotten that OOB was always a place of artists striving for something more, some step up the food chain. We all want to be Torchsong Trilogy..." While I don't mean to imply this just isn't true -- I see it quite a lot -- not every company or artist who works in OOB has this mentality. And it drives me FREAKIN' NUTS that this is the common (mis)perception, not only from the outside, but quite often from the inside as well. Yes, OOB began with artists wanting more, but it sure wasn't a step up the food chain. How often has a production from La Mama been to Broadway? Was The Living Theatre out there to systematically take over 42nd Street one production at a time? And Joe Cino was, I suppose, working to be the next Nederlander, right? What they WERE doing was looking for a place to do work they believed in, with the freedom to do it the way they thought it should be done. One of the best things about this community, at least in my opinion, is that there's plenty of room for those who are practicing their craft with an eye on a more mainstream career, AND those who are digging in for a life-long residency of bringing stories to the public that are deep and challenging in both subject matter and presentation. Those kinds of stories -- by necessity, and quite understandably -- aren't going to appeal to a large demographic, except under very rare circumstances. Yet OOB is both large enough and diverse enough to accommodate both of these, and everything in between. And for God's sake, can we please stop using "community theatre" as something derogatory and dirty? It's insulting to your community -- the audiences and colleagues who work with and support you on a regular basis.
--Patrick Shearer
Nosedive Productions

Jen said...
Bubbe, you are correct --as usual! I hate to accuse mainstream media of being elitist (!) but that's what happens when the PR companies control what gets reviewed, and not the editors.

RLewis said...
As someone who spent the last 2+ years researching OOB's first 20 years can I just underline what Charlie noted - OOB did NOT come about as a place to develop future Bway shows. Quite the contrary, but times have changed, and there's nothing wrong with that either.And while I have no problems with VV, TONY or even NYT, I do lament the passing of a different kind of press. There have been publications like OFF and Other Stages that once covered the downtown scene - theater-specifically. And maybe they didn't get anyone an Obie, but they played a vital role in our community theater, and cultivated some of our better current critics.Theater-speicific small publications grew a wing of our community that is growing nowhere today, but online. I mean, we're all fortunate to have nytheatre.com (though we know their critics should be tougher on us), but there needs to be much more.The only other hope that I see are the bloggers. The talent is here, if not the attention-span. I wonder if a team of bloggers couldn't rule our community faster and easier than a nation-wide play production (though I know neither are easy). I'm just saying, if we're not allowed to whine, don't we have the tools and talent to begin solving this important issue ourselves?

Leonard Jacobs said...
Patrick -- I totally take your comment on community theatre. It is one of the various things that made me utterly, totally nuts over "Anonymous/Lucretia." I think he/she is a putz.

RLewis, everyone is allowed to whine, but if it is whining for the sake of whining, if there is no solution creation, then it is a waste of energy. And that's one thing I just don't support.

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2 comments:

IdWizard said...

I haven't considered Providence...maybe I should...

And I'm out of Amarillo, thank you. Not so easily, but yes, out. Off to the Iowa Fringe Festival...

nick said...

Perhaps all pretensions the theatre review once had about being criticism should now finally be buried.

If the argument on “theatre coverage” is reduced to one of quantity, with no longer any concerns on quality, why not divide the theatre review’s ten or twenty inches of print in half and cover two plays for each one you now cover? As far as many theatre producers are concerned, that could be divided even further. Just as long as the pull-quotes survive for their PR package.

However, an artist and producer might attempt to differentiate between audience and box office, community and fandom. The critic might make a similar differentiation about readership.

There is an extended interesting weeklong conversation at Art Journal’s Flyover blog about “service journalism” and about what John Stoehr sees as

“the growing national issue of quid pro quo between writers and readers, artists and audiences, newspapers and the communities they cover.”
http://www.artsjournal.com/flyover/2007/07/a_resurgence_of_criticism.html