The Playgoer: latest Nicola statement

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

latest Nicola statement

Once again, the LA Times (not NYT) has oddly become the MSM forum for this controversy, despite being 3,000 miles away from the action.

Jim Nicola rehashes some familiar points and phrases in a letter to the editor responding to "Rachel" co-creator Katherine Viner's op-ed there Wednesday laying out her case of censorship. The only news here is his reference to a proposed national tour of the play he claims he was ready to sponsor. Huh?

I am bewildered by Katharine Viner's "A message crushed again" (Opinion, March 1). New York Theatre Workshop has never shied away from controversial work. We moved toward a production of "My Name is Rachel Corrie" with short notice and almost no preparation time, the schedule largely driven by director Alan Rickman's film schedule. We were also in discussions with the Royal Court about helping mount an American tour following the New York engagement. When we discovered how deeply ingrained the attitudes were on all sides and what a marketing and contextualizing challenge this posed, we became convinced we didn't have enough time to best serve the powerful voice of Rachel Corrie. We asked our London colleagues about altering the time frame. We did not cancel the production but proposed doing the play next season when all parties might be available following the proposed American tour.Our commitment to the play has never wavered. On the bright side, I am pleased to see that a West End engagement has been secured. But to have our request for more time blown into a screed about censorship is stunning.
JAMES C. NICOLA

Well, let's hear more about this "tour." When he speaks of a postponed production "next season" happening "following" such a tour, then.... why was the tour not still an option?

"Pleased" about the West End production? You bet! Way to take the pressure off. More than compensates for any "fuck you" message implied from the Brits.

And, lastly, what do we make of the fact that today, on day 6 of the story, Nicola keeps pleading for "more time" and yet has still not given one example of more time for what. This claim only gets more specious every day.

8 comments:

George Hunka said...

Obviously, this is a rehash of the position the NYTW has taken again and again.

There is an associated event under way to take place during the planned March demonstrations for Rachel Corrie in her memory here in New York. Jason Grote offers details that a March 22 event (the date on which the NYTW production would have opened) has the full support of Alan Rickman (who will tape a video message for the day's event), actress Megan Dodds (who played Corrie in the Royal Court production), and the Royal Court itself.

The event's organizers are asking that attention be paid to the content of Corrie's message rather than the NYTW's action. Which is, of course, quite fitting a response itself.

George Hunka said...

Though I do find the "marketing challenge" phrase quite rich, I admit.

Alison Croggon said...

Oh, I like "marketing challenge". It's all code that I don't quite understand. But the PR end seems to be all sewn up, and there seems to be a feeling that Nicola is just battening down the hatches and waiting for it all to blow over.

Anonymous said...

I am sick of this bullshit being unchallenged. This is Nicola in his own words, now almost a week after the Times article: "When we discovered how deeply ingrained the attitudes were on all sides and what a marketing and contextualizing challenge this posed, we became convinced we didn't have enough time to best serve the powerful voice of Rachel Corrie."

THIS is what he has to explain, THIS is what the theatre community should be UP IN ARMS about! Questions:

How did you discover how "deeply ingrained the attitudes were on all sides"?

Why did you choose to "discover" this?

What do you mean "on all sides"? Did you speak to local Palestinian leaders? If so, who? Who were the Jewish leaders and community leaders you spoke to? Did you "discover" them? Did they "discover" you? What prompted this contact? What exactly was said? "Our views are very strong that you should not produce this play, Jim." "Well, OUR views are very strong that you should produce it, Jim." "My oh my, how deeply ingrained everyone's views are, on all sides! I must delay this production! I must, I must, I must!"

How does this play present a marketing "challenge"? How would it need to be marketed any differently from any other play?

What do you mean by "contextualizing?" Why contextualize any play? Are audiences stupid? Bad? In need of education? Emotional preparation? Please give an example of prior "contextualizing" your theatre has done and how it has helped your audience "understand" a work of art. Why do you not believe audiences can encounter a work of art without its being "contextualized"? Who has the authority, at your theatre, to "contextualize" art?

How much "time" would it have taken to serve Rachel Corrie's "powerful voice"? How much time would it have taken to "contextualize" the work properly? And since you earlier linked this "postponement" to Sharon's stroke and Hamas's victory, how could you give any date to the Royal Court whatsoever about when you would like to postpone it till? By your argument about the "political" situation, you might NEVER be able to produce this play. You expected Rickman et al to stick with your theatre, even with the possibility that given political circumstances, the play would NEVER be produced?

Which leads to the final point. To have this "blown into a screed about censorship" is "stunning"? Jim, you told the creators of a work honoring the legacy of a dead political activist that the current political situation and advice from community and Jewish leaders meant you will not produce their work as scheduled. They had rearranged their lives around this New York production, and suddenly found no New York production and no guarantee of one. You effectively asked for them to wait for the "political situation" to change, or "community" and "Jewish" leaders to change their minds, and for this mysterious "contextualizing" of THEIR WORK OF ART to take place... AND YOU don't understand why they would cry CENSORSHIP?

James Nicola, this has gone far enough! You are a liar! Just like the Bush White House, you are defending yourself by attacking and lashing out at those who dare confront you with the truth of your actions! Like the Bush White House you so despise, that in your own words has created "a threat to our democracy," you are refusing transparency, refusing to open access to your theatre's inner workings, to the circumstances that led to this decision. To whom did you speak? What was said? It's time to come out with the whole story -- the true one. You are throwing away the legitimacy of your theatre with each day that passes that you do not open your heart to the possibility that you made a tremendous mistake.

Dr. Cashmere said...

George, with all due respect I completely disagree with your point about paying attention to Corrie's message: This is *not* about the substance of Rachel Corrie's beliefs. It is very *much* about NYTW's behavior.

It would be a very big mistake to let our outrage over the play's cancellation get conflated with, or bound up with, Corrie's personal politics. They're two totally different issues.

The point isn't that NYTW was wrong to cancel this *particular* play so much as that NYTW was wrong to cancel *any* play under the circumstances in which it cancelled this one.

I, for one, will be steering clear of any protest that is designed around the "content of Corrie's message." Of course, that doesn't mean that we Playgoer readers shouldn't be thinking about some other public condemnation of NYTW's behavior here...

George Hunka said...

Garrett's pointed comment today about the "exceptionalism" that seems to surround the production of this specific play is, I think, worthy of consideration. While I do agree with you, dr. cashmere, that "NYTW was wrong to cancel any play under the circumstances in which it cancelled this one," I must say, at least in my own opinion, that it would be disingenuous of me myself if, having aired my ignorance of the issues under consideration, I didn't take this opportunity to open myself to this play and issues the play raises: a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as it were.

Alison Croggon said...

It seems to me that if it were not for Rache; Corrie's beliefs, this play would not have attracted the oppobrium it presumably has. So it is very difficult to separate the two issues, although I agree that there are two different issues at stake.

C. Waxxley said...

Mr. Nicola's cowardly actions are disgraceful. How can the play be a 'marketing challenge'? There's so much built-in publicity around it already I wouldn't be suprised if the run would be sold-out in advance of any production. All the marketing you want, and more, is already circling the globe. Mr. Nicola is a disgrace to America, to the theater community, and to artists everywhere. Many artists have given political voice (and some even paid with their lives) to subjects through their art. Mr. Nicola typefies the cowardly, snivelling attitude American has so recently adopted. Part of the reason the world is beginning to hate America is that the bluff, bluster and spin cover a cowardly, self-interested heart.
C. Waxxley