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February 25, 2011

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Son Ray

Just a quick personal response to 'theatre has lost touch with "the average people of this country"...'

My wife and I went to some theater recently. It was produced by a local company that felt it was important to say in their program that the group had been founded in reaction to "the deliberately and off-putting avant-garde and weird for weird's sake nature" of the work that they'd found in the city. They went on to say that they were committed to doing work that "the average person can enjoy."

My wife's first reaction was, I feel so average.

Adam

Thank you for this Mr. Butler. That post from Tom struck me as all types of wrong but I couldn't express why.

I can't give my name

Isaac,
I get what you're saying about the specifics of Tom's post, and I agree, but overall, I think Tom's message (even thought it's not that well articulated), hits on something we all agree with: too much corporate, not enough state and federal.
I, like tom, am also horrified that Rocco Landesman is chairman of the NEA. I've worked on the producing side of commercial theatre. I've been the bitch to Rocco's cronies. If you don't quite know the mentality of the circle of commercial Broadway producers Landesman comes from, let me tell you: When I interned at _____, one of Landesman's co-producers offices (a place partially run by ____ brother of ____ at ___, a major Broadway producer), the musicians' union, Local 802 went on strike. The argument was over a term regarding number of musicians per theatre--the number of musicians required is determined by the size of the theatre, not the show. Now, obviously, I can see a producer's side: Why should we have to pay for musicians we're not going to use? But, the contract had a term for negotiating the number of musicians (who each, by the way, only make around $1300 per week) in special circumstances. Plenty of shows met these circumstances. Nevertheless, the producers wanted to do away with the musician number requirement. So, they asked me, an intern they paid $200 a 40-hour week, to hand out, for $10/hour, anti-union fliers at the picket lines. I was the only intern who refused.
Landesman comes from the circle of producers who say they prefer commercial over non-profit because "it's more honest." It's not more honest if you ever looked through their files, as I did--I can't tell you what I found--at least not on a blog. This is the same circle from which one producer said on the down-low, "We were once the kings of Off-Broadway, now we're the princes of mindless entertainment." These are the folks who put their money into finding who has the money for a $100-ticket, and then once they've found them, marketing, marketing, marketing. If the focus group of upper middle class people from Westchester, Connecticut, and Long Island doesn't like the show, well, then forget artistic integrity, we'll change it.
So, Tom has a real point. Yes, a lot of the specifics and the references to "Network" are not quite fleshed out and kind of silly, but the main idea is extremely important. Let's not attack him for not being the greatest writer of persuasive essays.

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