The Playgoer: Lehrer: "creators equally at fault"???

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Lehrer: "creators equally at fault"???

In case you thought WNYC's Brian Lehrer was just musing off-the-cuff about blaming the Royal Court Theatre for not wanting any "outreach" for Rachel Corrie at all, he has confirmed this opininion in a written piece on the station's website. So he can now be held to that, and corrected on his misinformation.

Still looking for an email contact for Lehrer, so please let us know if you find it. I do trust the man makes himself available to listeners?

Money quote:

But I think the play’s creators are equally at fault. It’s one thing to take an uncompromising stand against bulldozing homes when people’s lives might be at
risk. It’s another to take an uncompromising stand against outreach to the Jewish community. It indicates to me that the playwrights were more interested in picking a fight and creating a public issue – creating another grievance against pro-Israel Jews – than they were in having the play seen and more widely understood. The cause of theater, and the cause of peace, are both the worse for their actions.

I think the implication is clear: Lehrer (a major local NPR talk show host for the NYC region) is more concerned about the feelings of "pro-Israel Jews" than the value of free speech and open debate.
And, by the way, I think it's time we (myself included) stopped describing all pro-bulldozing positions as "pro-Israel". I suggest "pro-Likud." There are plenty of Israelis opposed to the more aggressive policies of the Sharon government.

11 comments:

Philip Munger said...

Craig Corrie on "Democracy Now":

"Cindy spoke to a couple that came from Israel and saw that My Name is Rachel Corrie was the pick of the week, so they decided they had to see it. They told Cindy that they were members of the Likud Party, a very conservative party in Israel. But they loved the play, because it was not against Israel, but it was against violence."

I know Craig Corrie, and he's no Brian Lehrer.

Philip Munger said...

brianlehrershow@wnyc.org

Dr. Cashmere said...

Lehrer's harping on outreach is a total distraction:

Is anyone really opposed to an artistic director reaching out to a community, to explain the merits of a work in order to temper a potentially hostile reaction to a production? Or, as Lehrer puts it, to help "create a receptive climate for the work"?

Of course not. That's silly.

If you look at the context, what Viner was clearly raising concerns about was the nature of the talkbacks accompanying performances, and whether NYTW felt it was necessary to "balance" the play against some other type of presentation.

That's not about outreach. That's about whether a work is allowed to stand on its own or not.

I think Lehrer a) remains pretty uninformed about the facts of the situation and b) doesn't understand why anyone would object to a play being presented as part 1 of an evening-long, 2 part debate.

freespeechlover said...

Brian Lehrer was posturing as The Voice of Objectivity in his interview in order to mask his ideological stakes which have nothing to do with theater and everything to do with support for Israeli policy. NPR has not been fair and balanced on the political conflict, so it doesn't surprise me that Lehrer would be hostile toward Viner. Viner's laughing at him probably punctured his ego, so it's now personal for him as well as political for NPR. Yawn.

Anonymous said...

A couple of points. First, we don't know what Alan Rickman told NYTW about Rachel Corrie in his initial meetings, and we can only hope that he knew something of the internet controversy and warned them about it, but NYTW's failure to do a simple internet search on her until what appears to be mid-January is inexcusable laziness.

Then, having dallied for two months, they read "little green tomatoes" and the like and went into a panic. Instead of doing the sensible thing at that point, and calling Rickman/Viner, who would probably have said, "Oh lordy lord -- these people read NewsMax and think Fox News is too left wing," they called up their friends, one of whom told Nicola that Rachel Corrie was a member of Hamas. (I am making the assumption here that there was no ochestrated campaign at this point.) Katharine Viner said specifically (on Democracy Now) that they never consulted her, and she could have contextualized the Internet resources for them. Hell, I could have told them what to make of those folks.

Then had NYTW still thought that they needed to contextualize MNiRC, they would have had two months to do so. To suggest, though, that all this required importing scholars for structured discussions, companion pieces and the like, is silliness.

Second, while I have a real aversion to conspiracy theory of any kind, it seems to me that the NPR/NYT media axis has decided on its construction of the issue and is simply hoping that the whole thing fades away.

Anonymous said...

Re: " Instead of doing the sensible thing at that point, and calling Rickman/Viner . . ."

Closer to home, Nicola might have called his friend (or at least colleague) Tony Kushner and/or the theater critic and journalist Alisa Solomon -- the co-editors of the big anthology _Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict_ (Grove Press 2003; highly recommended, btw). Here are two local theater community folks Nicola knows who didn't have any stake in the production who might have saved him from his giant, inexcusable blunder.

One can certainly imagine Nicola's "holy shit" moment when someone told him Corrie was a member of Hamas and then when he found further slanders on the web. But why didn't he reach out to people near to him --and part of his own theater community -- who know a whole hell of a lot about Israel-Palestine and the responses to the conflict in the US?

Anonymous said...

Well, you are all circling the fact that Nicola lied. He consulted "colleagues" and "colleagues of colleagues" but failed to consult his dear friend Tony Kushner, author of Homebody/Kabul and screenwriter of Munich? Give me a break.

Further, on Democracy Now, Nicola more than implies that Tony Kushner's two public statements are incomplete and that he has recently had many conversations with Tony that contradict those public statements.

Anonymous said...

Not circling the fact that Nicola lied -- in fact, maybe supporting the notion that he did. For if he says he needed to consult colleagues for feedback on Corrie, here were two great sources for him -- people who have been working on Israel/Palestine as a journalist (Solomon) and as activists (Kushner and Solomon) who are known to him and in the theater community. And who have a history of dealing with the Jewish community on these issues.

I'm not sure I get the tone of your reference to H/K and Munich -- that these make Kushner unreliable on the question of Rachel Corrie? Huh? Take a look at _Wrestling with Zion_

And so the one thing Nicola says that you DO think is true is that Kushner is lying? I highly doubt that.

Anonymous said...

No -- my post was unclear. I do not believe Nicola consulted with colleagues. I believe he is saying that to make it seem like his decision had a lot of support. The most logical thing to do for Nicola would have been to call Kushner. But he didn't -- Kushner never would have told him to postpone the play. In fact Kushner would have explained to him why Israel/Palestine is such a fraught issue in this country, and the importance of doing this play.

So I think Nicola is lying when he said he consulted colleagues (not Caryl Churchill, the Royal Court writer -- not James Macdonald, Royal Court director and director of A Number, not Naomi Wallace, not Oskar Eustis, etc -- so whom did he consult? Paul Rudnick?).

I also think Nicola is lying when he says he's had "many conversations" with Kushner, implying Kushner's public statements are not the whole story. After failing to consult Kushner, he's now consistently been hiding behind Kushner (first by lying about postponing H/K, then by implying a more nuanced position from Kushner) to protect himself and his theatre.

The real problem here is, NYTW still cannot accept that they did anything wrong, other than misspeak to the press by "naively" and inaccurately citing political reasons as the impetus for the postponement. If NYTW cannot see, or be made to see, that they made an egregious error here, then something is broken in our system. All of NYTW's most progressive writers have publicly or privately spoken out against this decision, major critics have attacked it, a Nobel-Prize winner called it censorship... and still this theatre stubbornly insists that it did nothing wrong, has nothing to be sorry for.

If a playwright Nicola was giving notes to responded this way, he'd probably pull the playwright's play. Nicola's inability to listen and learn from the utterly reasonable criticism is simply disgusting.

Alison Croggon said...

Well, I can't help wondering, from some of the things that have been said around this issue, whether Nicola just treated the Royal Court as it might have treated any other theatre artist it was planning to program (or not), and is now gobsmacked that the RCT wouldn't put up with it.

Anonymous said...

Here's a news flash: I hear James Nicola sprouted horns and a pointy tail!