The Playgoer: Palestinian Sympathizer/Gay Jesus: Fair Comparison?

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Palestinian Sympathizer/Gay Jesus: Fair Comparison?

There are of course many important incidental differences between My Name is Rachel Corrie and Corpus Christi that should give us pause before making easy comparisons. But I'm not referring to the perceived level of offensiveness or political issues involved. More consequential, it seems to me, is the absence in the present case of a name playwright like Terrence McNally for artists to rally around. Who becomes the free speech martyr here? Alan Rickman? The already dead-Corrie, who didn't have friends in the theatre community anyway?

Sadly for Jim Nicola another difference emerging may simply be--not as many people care about New York Theatre Workshop! Manhattan Theatre Club may not be MGM, but probably deemed more picket-worthy.

The main difference in how to the two cases have played out is clearly in the coverage. And to illustrate that an intrepid reader has assembled a compelling chronology of how the Corpus Christi story played out in the press in just one week and led to real results. Take a look:

Thursday, 5/21/98: MTC quietly announce cancellation of CORPUS CHRISTI through its press rep.
Saturday, 5/23/98: NYT picks up the story of the cancellation. A short piece in Arts & Ideas.
Wednesday, 5/27/98: A 1200 word piece in the Arts. Athol Fugard says he is withdrawing his play from the following season. From the article:<>
Thursday, 5/28/98: NYT runs an editorial titled "Censoring Terrence McNally." It says, among other things, "It is easy to appreciate the dilemma Lynne Meadow, the Manhattan Theater Club's artistic director, found herself in, but it is impossible to approve her decision."
Also Thursday, 5/28/98: An Arts section article on the possibility that the play would be staged elsewhere. From the article:<>
Friday, 5/29/98: A front page story about the theater's decision to mount the production after all.

So far the NYT has run two pieces on the Rachel Corrie story: the first, to be fair, broke the news to us all and got this started. But the more I look at it I have to say the reporting is generous to NYTW and is pretty much the story as Nicola would want it to be told. You tell me. And then the lame, inconsequential Arts Briefly notice on the West End transfer, which effectively says game over.

In other words: I firmly believe that anyone relying on the New York Times for their theatre coverage (and may we assume that's not a small number of folks) could easily have no idea at this point there is a free speech debate going on in the off-Broadway nonprofit theatre. Even the LA Times readers have been better informed.

1 comment:

Philip Munger said...

Why isn't the Village Voice covering this?