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July 29, 2010

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Wendell

Your blog's sub-title brought me a good chuckle, Isaac! :)

I hope the roll-over rolls away with limited effect. I can't say I know much about theater, but I remember digging your and Alex's productions back at the VC.

And to brag, some Edward Gorey "Entertainments" which only contributed further to this demented mind of mine. :devil grin:

Chris Wilkinson

Hello Isaac

I am sorry if you felt I misrepresented you in my blog – let me try and explain my position.

Firstly – as I hope you know, I am, generally speaking, a big fan of both you and Parabasis – I have probably linked to your blog more frequently than any other in the time that I have been writing Noises Off. I never intend to wilfully misrepresent people in what I write, but inevitably, word limits mean that I can rarely provide a complete portrait of someone’s position – though given that what I am quoting is only a click away I work on the assumption that most people can read the original if they want to.

The reason why I picked up on that particular post was, firstly, because I was surprised by how scathing you were of British theatre practitioners in general (I spend most of my time working as a director, not a journalist, and so your criticism felt quite personal!), and secondly because (as you say) there is a great deal of sensitivity over here at the moment about the upcoming cuts and so it seemed relevant. I did mention in what I wrote that you had described your own comment as “ugly” and therefore were not necessarily completely endorsing your own words, but it is fair to say that I could have been clearer that you were not actually endorsing the cuts themselves.

However, I do take issue with your characterisation of the attitude of British directors to American theatre. (And that was the main thing I picked up on in your post.) Have I heard people say that American theatre is more conservative that British theatre? Yes (not least from lots of the American directors I met when I took part in the LCT Directors Lab some time ago) but not for the reasons you suggest.

You argue that the Brits criticize: “American directors [for] actually caring about telling a vaguely similar story to that laid out in the script, or caring about narrative at all, or being worried about boring their audience,” and the implication of this, surely, is that directors in the UK or Europe don’t care about any of these things - that we want to bore our audiences or mess up plays and so on – and I think this is absolutely untrue. Firstly, I don’t know any serious theatre maker, here or anywhere, that wants to bore their audience. Secondly, In the UK at least, fidelity to the text is as highly valued as it is in the US. Sure, things are different in parts of Europe and that can be both a good thing and a bad thing, but I really don’t know anyone in Britain who would use that fact as a stick to beat American theatre with.

When I have heard people criticize American theatre for being conservative the argument usually runs: “a lack of public subsidy means that ticket prices are higher and there is a much heavier reliance on corporate cash – so therefore theatre makers are forced to make more conventional choices in order to appeal to a wealthier (and probably more conservative) audience.” So the criticism is not of US theatre makers themselves, but of the context within which they are working.

For what its worth, personally, I do (In very general terms) think that Off Broadway work can tend to be a bit more conservative than the stuff you might see in the subsidized sector in London. But equally, I think the stuff you find Off Off Broadway (at least what I have seen) tends to be significantly more exciting and radical than that which appears on the London fringe. There are probably all sorts of reasons for this, but that is for a separate blog.

I am sorry that you have experienced lots of snotty Brits coming over to the US and criticizing what you do. It surprises me because of the degree to which the UK embraces American work over here – those writers and companies I mentioned on my blog are amongst many Americans who enjoy a great deal of success over here precisely because there is a real appetite for their work.

I hope that all makes sense! As I say, I am generally a big fan of yours, so I am sorry if you felt I was unfair to you in my original post.

Chris.

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