« RIP, Ali | Main | Sorry for the Silence »

March 07, 2006

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Laura

As I mentioned on my blog, I interned at NYTW at the time of Angels in America. Community reaction seemed to be of their process. In a way, something like this was bound to happen.

Scott Walters

Isaac -- Here is what I wrote in George's comments box about censorship. Rather than post it on my site, I'd rather just have it on yours and George's for reference. -- Scott

I'm not an economist, but I'm pretty sure that the kind of censorship you are attributing to the "globalized post-industrial democratic world" has been going on at least as long as the phrase "whoever pays the fiddler calls the tune" has been around.

And what if NYTW had read "My Name is Rachel Corrie" and decided up front that it wasn't a play it wanted to do -- would that be censorship? After all, by not doing the play, it was preventing you from seeing it.
According to your definition of censorship, the slush pile in every theatre in the country is a bastion of censorship.

No, while you may think "post-industrial globalization has changed everything else, why can't it change the definition of "censorship" as well," I'll stick by the traditional definition of the word censorship, keeping its sharp edges available for attacks on governmental incursions into artistic expression.

There are plenty of words out there for condemning NYTW (cowardice is a dandy, and so is naivete, although my personal favorite is perfidy), but using the word censorship in a matter that is purely financial makes the rest of the world roll their eyes skyward, which I don't think is what we want.

Of course, freedom of speech allows you to use words in whatever way you wish, and far be it from me to censor you...

Anonymous

Scott writes, "using the word censorship in a matter that is purely financial makes the rest of the world roll their eyes skyward."

Nicola has never said this was financial. He said he spoke to leaders of the Jewish community and pulled the play because of the political situation. Given the realities of staging a play, this late decision meant that the Royal Court had no New York home for its play -- preventing American audiences from seeing the play, at least in the near term.

Scott Walters

I didn't say Nicola's reason was financial, but rather that the issue is financial: the play is not being prevented from being given in the US, it is just being prevented from appearing on the NYTW stage. That's a big difference. If the federal government prohibited the play from being done anywhere, that would be censorship. For instance, that the US government would not allow Dario Fo to perform here because he was considered a terrorist is censorship. James Nicola withdrawing the play from NYTW's schedule is a lot of things, but it isn't censorship. The play isn't being suppressed -- an organization has decided it no longer wants to produce it. I think this decision is cowardly and craven, but it isn't censorship any more than a network developing a TV show and not airing it is censorship.

I think we do the world a disservice when we allow words to mean whatever we want them to mean.

Yaron

"Where are pro-Israel, pro-freedom of expression bloggers on this one?"

Well, I'm both, or all three, and I don't see the problem. Private theater decides to produce a play, then changes its mind. Decision is not affected by any fears of violence. Why exactly should I care?

Mac

Not to be the guy who's always defending Andrew Sullivan on your blog (although I can't deny being a fan), he did write about the Rachel Corrie situation critically:

http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/2006/03/creeping_selfce.html

Col

Caridad Svich, a playwright, has also spoken out with a public letter (to NYTW I think) about NYTW's decision to cancel. It is curious that Kushner has been so silent. Does he have a blog?

freeman

I would suggest, also, that the NYTW considers thousands of plays a year. I'd be willing to be that a good 50% of them are about "hard issues" like rape, racism, politics, violence, and genocide.

When does it become "censorship" to make a decision not to do one of these plays?

George Hunka

It doesn't become censorship when a decision is made not to do these plays. It becomes censorship when a play is selected, planned, scheduled, budgeted for, publicized, supported, then for political reasons is suppressed.

Anon


Well said, George.

freeman

"Suppressed." NYTW is the new gestapo!

Let's assume the very worst. Let's say NYTW read the play, went for it, and then said "Oh no, we must submit to the preferences of anti-Palestinians. We will cancel the play and call it postponement, and that will fool them all."

Did they have the play burned?

Did they say "We won't do it and we won't release the rights so that no one else can do it either. We believe that this play should never be heard, and we are going to try to stop it from being heard?"

No.

They simply said they don't want to produce it. Call them foolish, or weak willed, or scared to rock the boat. But they're not censors because they do not control this information. It is their function, as producers, to say what and when is put on their stage. Don't like how those decisions are made? Great. Don't like them for not taking risks? Fantastic.

But censors? It's just stretching the term. Let's save censorship (which is a potent word) for book banning and the FCC.

Jason Grote

I drafted that open letter ad have argued with people on all sides of the debate. I spoke with Linda Chapman on the phone, and emailed back and forth with both her and Jim Nicola. I think Jim just got scared, period, and handled it badly. Really badly. I think it's facile both to latly claim that this has nothing to do with censorship AND to rail against NYTW as the bad guys. We are living in a climate of repression. Why is thhat so hard to believe?

I think, had Jim owned up to his fear right away, the reaction would have been very different. I think NYTW is trying to dig themselves out of a hole, and I think they deserve a chance at redemption. They should be held accountable for their mistakes, sure, but all I really care about is that there not be a chilling effect, and that Rachel Corrie not be forgotten about. I would call this a victory on both fronts.

Lots of artists, big and small, have spoken out eloquently on the comments section of the open letter. Also, there will be 2 town hall meetings on April 11 and 17, at New Dramatists and a space TBA. NYTW might also hold one themselves. You're all invited. This is the beginning of the conversation not the end.

But yeah, where the hell is Tony?

George Hunka

I'm very pleased to hear that the NYTW may be considering a public discussion about this in their own space: that may indeed be the best thing to come out of this. There's no shame in making bad decisions so long as you admit it. And I doubt the NYTW is ever going to make this particular mistake again.

As I've said before, I don't hold any kind of brief against Jim Nicola personally, or the NYTW, and I find their mission and their history very admirable indeed. It's tarnished now, but it still remains admirable. But bad decisions can have enormous consequences. Nobody's asking the NYTW to get down on their knees and beg forgiveness, that's just foolish. But if the yelling about this has been particularly loud, it's because not a few people believe that this question affects more than the affairs of a little theater in downtown New York, a great deal more.

Scott Walters

George wrote: "It doesn't become censorship when a decision is made not to do these plays. It becomes censorship when a play is selected, planned, scheduled, budgeted for, publicized, supported, then for political reasons is suppressed."

Despite the anonymous "well said," it is, in fact, a bald assertion with no elaboration. Discuss the difference between censorship before the fact and censorship after the fact. If you believe this is censorship (and I don't), then it is important that you make this distinction clear.

freeman

I will say this: If this outcry in the blogosphere resulted in these public discussions, they've done something very good. Hopefully, everyone will be able to hear each other.

Alison Croggon

George wrote: "It doesn't become censorship when a decision is made not to do these plays. It becomes censorship when a play is selected, planned, scheduled, budgeted for, publicized, supported, then for political reasons is suppressed."

Despite the anonymous "well said," it is, in fact, a bald assertion with no elaboration. Discuss the difference between censorship before the fact and censorship after the fact. If you believe this is censorship (and I don't), then it is important that you make this distinction clear.

Scott: not to repeat myself too much, but the NYTW's action fits the definition of censorship - and while we're being pedantic, the dictionary definition. I don't know what your argument is here.

As for the rest, haven't you followed the debate? All that George said is absolutely on the record.

Richard Silverstein

Your Playgoer blog link above seems broken.

Thanks for linking to my post about the play in yr post above. I've just heard that we in Seattle are going to get to see the play sometime in 2007 which is great. But I'd love to see a worthy theater company get the rights to perform it in NYC soon so as to remove the vile smell induced by the NYTW decision to avoid the play like the plague.

Hey, we have a bunch in common as I too love Ali Farka Toure & wrote an obit ( http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2006/03/07/ali-farka-toure-trailblazer-of-african-music-dies/ ) about him. There's an mp3 of one of the songs fr. Heart of the Moon if anyone wants to hear it.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

# of Visitors Since 11/22/05


  • eXTReMe Tracker