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February 23, 2007


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David Moore

This response may be something as simple as a sublimated case of sour grapes...

...but the older I get, the more I write and the more work I do with fellow theater artists and professionals, the less I care about Broadway. I don't live in New York, quality of work -- in any realm, from whatever source -- is more important to me than fame (which, of course, I've never experienced, so take that sentiment for what it's worth), and the discussions about "Broadway" increasingly seem like so much background noise.

Now, perhaps if I really wanted my name on the tip of tongues, or if I wanted the chance of rolling in a little bit of money, perhaps I would think differently. I don't know that I'd be dragged kicking and screaming to 42nd Street, but I can say, for now, that I'm certainly not clawing my way there.

Of course, those with a financial and professional interest in the industry known as B'way will likely think differently.


Wilson's plays always get slotted regionally... I can think of at least 3 LORTs right off the top of my head that expressed, early on, a commitment to staging each of the shows in the cycle after their NYC runs, Broadway or Off-Broadway (the progression of LORT "out of towns" pre-Broadway for each of the shows were pretty much codified). Plus, having seen some of these productions (in Denver, for instance), I can attest that the regional productions of these plays, post-NYC, are much more successful artistically than their NYC showings. Because of the guarantee that there'd be a Wilson cycle play slotted every other season or so, his work built of a sort of unofficial rep company of non-marquee "name," but phenomenally talented, actors/directors in the regionals, who frequently reconvened at said theaters to do the new play each season or so... would every writer were so lucky!


I don't know if we SHOULD care -- I've never been much for "shoulda, woulda, coulda" thinking -- but I just really don't. For the past seven years that I've been living in NYC, I may go see a Broadway show once, perhaps twice, a year. The result is that I come away angry about every aspect of the experience, and I tell myself -- "Well, at least I don't have to go back there again for a while." From the technically proficient performances that don't even begin to touch my emotions, to the pretentious-and/or-clueless fellow audience members, to the cramped seating -- it's like being on an airplane, these days -- to the rude ushers and house-staff, it's a truly unpleasant experience with no happy ending. Even if I weren't paying the exorbitant amount of money to get in -- and I can never afford full-price -- it would still be disappointing and frustrating.

So I tend to just ignore it and hope it will go away.

At the same time, I have faith that the status-quo will always be overthrown, eventually. The trick is to help develop new options and new situations where people can fulfill their need to come together for a powerful connecting experience. And I think that happens constantly, all across the country. I don't have a gloom and doom outlook on the state of theatre like a lot of people do.

(I don't mean that to read as an accusation, or anything. I don't think you have that kind of outlook, either.)

Jason Grote

I agree that (with some notable exceptions) Broadway hasn't been terribly relevant to anything beyond itself (or ancillary touring or Vegas productions) since probably the Johnson administration, and most exciting new work has been coming out of nonprofits and/or downtown or RAT theaters for so long that I'm amazed we're still talking about it. But I also think that commercial producers are not as cynical as everyone makes them out to be. I might not agree with commercial producers' taste a lot of the time, but it's not a business one gets into because one wants to make a killing. Many of them have left far more lucrative jobs in film, law, or the business world because they love theater. It's fully plausible to me that they're producing Wilson because they belive him to because they believe him to be a historic writer deserving of a Broadway production, even at a loss.


It really seems that things have crept backwards---that we are de-evolving in a way, with respect to new plays on Broadway. For all the decades that Broadway was the only game in town (and play "development" meant a couple of weeks in Boston and New Haven), plays were put on if they were structured in a familiar way (romantic comedy, melodrama, etc.), had a showboating part made for some star, or some other extra-literary consideration. Plays were a plentiful but cheap commodity. Then, with the explosion of the off- and off-off broadway movements, a home was found for plays that didn't want to sucker people in with gimmicks or hackneyed formulas. It became understood that this new arena was the home of artists who wanted to explore ideas, regardless of the commercial possibilities. Broadway, by contrast, was the land of "professional" theater workers, who were there day in, day out, collecting their checks, in whatever material was available. What mattered most was that the machine kept churning.

Why anyone would want to submit a play that either isn't ready, or just isn't suited for the mass taste, to those merciless commercial forces is beyond me. I used to think that it would be a good idea if Broadway producers were open to straight plays that hadn't necessarily had a thousand regional productions or the benediction of West End taste-makers. Now, however, I just think it would be tantamount to leaving your baby with a pack of starving wolverines.

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