The Playgoer: The New York Times of London

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

The New York Times of London

Of course the Times year-in-review theatre pieces would focus on Broadway. Nor should a wrap-up yesterday of the year in London surprise us. (Hey, I love London theatre!) But taken together, one comes to a disquieting realization. The New York Times conceives of its theatregoing readers as more likely to go the West End than anywhere else outside of Times Square. And, sorry to say, that's probably true.

Leaving aside Off-Broadway and downtown (at least Brantley did include shows from that far afield), if the "nation's newspaper" cannot bother to even mention regional theatre in any of this coverage--let alone a "Best of Regional" piece in itself--then it has obviously given up on the very idea of "Amercian theatre." Especially when a good helping of the B'way coverage is British in origin anyway.

Yes, theatre is for jet-setters. Wherever the bucks are, there goes the coverage. As for "Flyover Country" you can read about that in USA Today, I suppose...


Anonymous said...

The NY Times wants to flatter its readers. They like to imagine themselves to be people who would go see plays in London, rather than people who would go see plays in Hartford, Boston, New Haven, or D.C.

Matt Wolf, it should be said, at least is American. And I think our best critic. Here's hoping he takes over for Brantley one day.

One last note: compare the lack of coverage of regional theatre here with how often Billington et al go out to the regions to review new plays and revivals. Another f*cking reason to be depressed at being an American.

Anonymous said...

An astute observation, Playgoer. The decision to cover London while ignoring the regionals is truly scandalous.

Freeman said...

I'd be curious to see what their internal information about their subscribers habits might tell them.

That being said, a paper like the Times can drive habits and interest. If they covered the regionals with more enthusiasm, it's likely the regionals would find more enthusiatic patronage.

Scott Walters said...

Hear hear! There simply is not enough commentary about regional theatre. In this, Terry Teachout is doing exemplary work -- if only it wasn't in the Wall Street Journal!

Anonymous said...

And what about the practical implications of The Times' London-centric posture?

When Brantley traipses over to London--or Matt Wolf sends a dispatch--and a production gets positive attention, its chances of being imported to New York go up dramatically.

The same is true of the regionals. But since regional theatre gets so much less attention, it's much rarer for a regional production to get that kind of lift.

That means, among other things, that New York theatregoers have fewer opportunities than they should to see the best productions from around the country. And it means that regional companies are less likely to gain the notoriety (and at least potentially, the economic boost) that comes with a New York production.

June said...

I haven't paid enough attention to the ads in the Arts/Arts & Leisure sections of the Times to answer my own question: Do the London productions advertise in the NYT? If so, that might explain the snub (not excuse it, mind you).

Also, a question: Why do you say that much of the Broadway coverage is British in origin? (I've only heard Brantley and Isherwood speak, and they don't appear to be Brits in disguise.)

Playgoer said...

Sorry, June, I didn't mean to say the coverage itself was British (as in the reporters). I meant much of *work* on our stages is of British plays, or dominated by British directors and actors. Isherwood and Brantley indeed are full-blooded 'mericans, as far as I can tell.

Good question about the advertising. But alas, no, London theatre ads do not often show up in the Times pages. So they don't even have that excuse!