The Playgoer: Full NYTW Program

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Full NYTW Program

More info now available on the NYTW "discussions" next week. (The link wasn't working before but now is.)

Pay special attention to the "titles" of each talk, and perhaps you'll sense an agenda.

Wed 4/19: "Controversy in the Eye of the Beholder, Part I-Presenting Challenging Work. Artists and leaders of cultural institutions discuss the tribulations and triumphs of presenting and producing work that provokes debate and/or controversy."
With JoAnne Akalaitis, Bill T. Jones, Irene Lewis (Artistic Director, Center Stage, Baltimore), James Nicola, Ari Roth (Artistic Director, Theatre J, Washington, D.C.) Moderator: Jayme Koszyn.

Thurs. 4/20: "Controversy in the Eye of the Beholder, Part II-Writing Challenging Work Writers who have created plays based on documentary and primary source material will speak about their specific experiences developing and producing such work."
With Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (The Exonerated), Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli (columbinus), Emily Mann, Anna Deavere Smith. Moderator: to be announced.

Tue. 4/25: "What Is (or Isn't) a Political Theatre in America? Theatre artists and producers discuss the nature of political theatre and whether it can-and does-still exist in America."
With Andrea Ciannevei (Dramaturg, LAByrinth Theater Company), Josh Fox (Playwright, Artistic Director, International WOW Company), Terry Greiss (Ensemble Member, Irondale Theatre Ensemble), James Nicola, Najla Said (Performer, Activist), Betty Shamieh (Playwright), Alisa Solomon (Journalist, Professor, Columbia University). Moderator: Bill Goldstein, Journalist.

Wed. 4/26. "The "C Word": Is Contextualizing A Work of Art Essential to its Reception? Can a work of art stand on its own? Is knowing the historical, cultural, political, and social background of the artwork important to deepening understanding? Dramaturgs and educational leaders present highly different views on the subject."
With Mark Bly (Senior Dramaturg, Arena Stage, Washington, D.C.), Jayme Koszyn (President, Jayme Koszyn Consulting), Michael Lupu (Senior Dramaturg, Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis)Moderator: Karen Newman, Professor of English Literature, New York University.

Of the panelists, I know of only one--Alisa Solomon--who has been an outspoken opponent of NYTW's actions. Bill Goldstein, I believe, was also the moderator of that disastrous New School/Public Theatre panel where the "Corrie" issue was awkwardly and desperately dodged.

Interesting also that these panels are exclusively about theatre, and pointedly avoid going into any of the massive "context" intended for "Rachel Corrie" specifically--i.e. no discussion of freedom of expression regarding Israel. Akalaitis' appearance may lead to her controversial Genet Palestinian piece. But otherwise I see no opening for that discussion.

I must admit I also take exception to this quote that serves as epithet at the top of the program:

“Here is a…truth: abundance is a communal act, the joint creation of an incredibly complex ecology in which each part functions on behalf of the whole and, in return, is sustained by the whole. Community doesn't just create abundance-community is abundance. If we could learn that equation from the world of nature, the human world might be transformed.”
--Parker J. Palmer

Kind of oddly lets them off the hook while gently scolding those of us who dared to object. Let's all work together is the message. Too little too late?

(I'll admit ignorance, btw, on who Palmer is. Anyone want to fill us in?)

Other thoughts?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The human world might be transformed" -- by not inviting any playwright-critics of NYTW's decision. So much for community.

Anonymous said...

Those titles are ridiculous. "In the eye of the beholder"? How stupid do they think their audiences are?

George Hunka said...

Parker J. Palmer seems to be a Dr. Phil who uses bigger words. More here.

damien said...

It may be unfair to make judgments based on these descriptions, but I find them dispiriting in the extreme. The second panel, "Writing Challenging Work"--is composed of Emily Mann (the writer who reportedly was solicited to write the piece that would "balance" Rachel Corrie), the writers of the play that's replacing Rachel Corrie (gee, I'm sure they'll be tough on NYTW), and the writers of The Exonerated, possibly the LEAST controversial political play of the last quarter century (I must have missed the picket lines filled with people who thought the innocent should remain on death row).

I cannot imagine what the phrase "controversy in the eye of the beholder" is supposed to connote, except possibly that Jim Nicola is missing his eyes, since anyone who has a pair would not dispute the existence of controversy right now. A theater that really needs to assemble a panel to ask questions like "Can a work of art stand on its own?" or "Does political theater still exist in America?" is a theater that deserves a roundhouse slap in the face. And don't even get me started on the idea that this quartet of panels will begin with one on the plight of the artistic director. I don't know what's worse, the "what about MY feelings?" narcissism or the continued sense of oblivion.

A few days ago, Playgoer and others generously responded to a post in which I asked how much punishment is enough. Please allow me to eat those words.

Anonymous said...

What panels and panelists do you (that's you, plural) NYTW should be presenting. This is not a rhetorical question and it seeks sincere answers. Let's say they came to you to curate this series. Would you have told them, just have Nicola hold a town meeting and admit his error and nothing else? Is there anything productive such programming might accomplish? Who would the panelists have to be (aren't ANY of the ones they chose worth hearing -- but who else would you want?) and what specific questions would you want them to address?

Anonymous said...

typo, sorry: That should be:
What panels and panelists do you (that's you, plural) think NYTW should be presenting?

Dr. Cashmere said...

All right, I'll take the bait.

In my view, it would have been best and most constructive for NYTW to have started with a town hall meeting with Nicola, Moffat and Kabak as panelists.

Much about NYTW's decision-making process remains unexplained, and the record is full of contradictions. This is part of why the issue remains so contentious--many of us are frustrated by NYTW's failure to come clean about what actually transpired.

So a town hall-style meeting, devoted exclusively or nearly-exclusively to questions, would have been a wise and healthy first step in my view--just to get all the facts out on the table.

Then, with the record (hopefully) clarified, the logical next step would be to hold an event in which NYTW's particular behavior is debated.

How can the theatre community move on to the big picture issues without first sorting out its views on NYTW's specific conduct? As those in attendance at the Barnard panel learned, theatre people are extremely eager to talk about this incident, and no wonder: There are a whole cluster of principles at stake, and the decision to pull "Rachel Corrie" has received very little discussion so far (outside of this blog, of course).

As I mentioned in a comment on the previous post, there is a long list of critics who could serve ably on such a panel. Among them: Christopher Shinn, Tony Kushner, John Patrick Shanley, Gregory Mosher, Paula Vogel, Eve Ensler, Stephen Adly Guirgis, David Van Asselt, David Cote, John Heilpern, Jason Grote, George Hunka and The Playgoer.

By failing to include even a few of these critics, NYTW looks like it's trying to prevent genuine debate, even if that's not the case.

With those two things out of the way, then yes, of course a discussion of the broader issues is necessary and could be helpful. But that broader discussion is impossible right now because the controversy over "Rachel Corrie" still feels unresolved. By announcing the panels currently scheduled, NYTW looks like it may just be trying to change the subject.

The Playgoer said...

The Dr. is right that people really want to TALK about this, not just be talked AT.

It's really a shame that with so much muddy information and rumor circulating about this story on the one hand and veritable silence in major media like the NYT on the other, that in none of the few public forums convened has there been any chance for even questions! The New Dramatists event simply banned them (implying the event was meant more for the panelists to promote themselves?). At least the Barnard panelists spoke TO the play (again, off the table at ND), but questions were limited by the time and the moderator seeming to avoid hot tempers.

But how can you convene a bunch of theatre folk in a room about this topic and NOT expect them to do some venting. It ain't pretty but it does need to happen. And someone needs to be brave enough to host THAT. THEN we can "move on."

I agree that the event that needed to happen at NYTW first was Jim Nicola and a microphone and questions. Even if it wins no one over, the gesture--of putting oneself out there in front of the theatre community--does mean something. Instead, you risk looking like Bush at his "stage-managed" non-"town meetings"...

It's distressing that you look at this program, and it's not even clear that THIS is the theatre where this thing happened! It's "inspired" by the cancellation, as if it happened somewhere else. Talk about denial.

Some may think this a low blow, but the analogy has occured to me of the White House, at the peak of Plame-Gate, sending Karl Rove out there not to fess up, but to host a series of panel discussions on "The Ethics of Leaking."

("Enough about who said what to whom about Valerie Plame. What do we think of 'leaking' in general? Let's stay positive and focused on the future.")

Okay, that said, the proof will have to be in the pudding. Let's see what ends up getting said, and if questions are allowed to be asked. And who shows up! How many people do you know who would shell out ten bucks to see just one of these evenings, let alone four.

Anonymous said...

the kicker on top of all this is that they are CHARGING FOR ADMISSION to participate (listen) in this discussion!

just goes to show you. you are a member of this community, just as long as you pay.

i'd pony up the 10 bucks maybe, just for the possibility that something exciting might happen (e.g., "conflict), but i can't help but feel these events are going to be conflict-free (i.e., i'm betting NYTW is NOT going to open themselves willingly to any criticism; they're just going to respin themselves as still being edgy and "political" despite recent events).

i'm guessing this because there's no mention of rachel corrie and an apparent dearth of opposing/divergent viewpoints.

heck, even bill o'reilly brings on a token dissenter (if just for the opportunity to shut off his/her mike.)

who's doing the consulting for these events? a dramaturg/critic or a PR firm?

i also thought of the bush "town meetings." if there is a Q&A session, perhaps NYTW should add surreptitious plants in the audience who begin all queries with "i think NYTW does some of the edgiest politically-charged theater out there, and you, jim nicola, are doing a fabulous job."

in sum, ten bucks for the chance to watch NYTW spin... GREAT.

Anonymous said...

For starters, I completely agree that the panels should be FREE. To claim to be holding an "open discussion" and then charge $10 doesn't seem to true to the spirit of open debate. Second, I agree that a town hall as described by Dr. cashmere prior to any type of panels would be much more productive way to go. And finally, think Dr.Cashmere should be asked to be a panelist!

John Branch said...

At least two basic questions remain to be answered in this case: exactly what happened, and why. The latter is the question of motive. It's no easier to answer in a court of law than elsewhere. But an open press conference (the closest public analogue I can think of to a courtroom) would serve better than a panel discussion.

Jason Grote said...

Yeah, the panel discussions seem like a bad idea, though one of the reasons why the Culture Project event turned into a cabaret were that, at the planning stage, we didn't think there would be enough people interested in an *actual* town hall this much later. It was the sort of thing that should have been put together back in March, but none of us had the time or resources. Perhaps we were wrong, though.

And the admission fee is embarrassing, though "artists" may now "pay what they can."

Betty Shamieh has been pretty outspoken in her criticism of NYTW, though and they have invited a very critical member of the THAW steering committee who is still on the fence...

Jason Grote said...

Another thought: perhaps what is needed is a for-real, open town hall? I'm not volunteering, I've had enough organizing to last me for the rest of 2006, but if any of the readers here want to put one together I'll certianly help promote it...

PeonInChief said...

If you can force yourself to do so, it's probably useful to read the Parker Palmer page. Part of his focus is looking from the particular to the general, which dovetails quite neatly with what appears to be NYTW's focus--to have a discussion of sorts without actually having to look at the specifics of MNiRC. (I admit that I only skimmed the Palmer page; I just wasn't interested enough to read the whole thing.)

A couple of points: Nicola has now told so many different stories about what happened that reciting an exact chronology of events would present him in, shall we say, not the best light? It would also force him to answer for the rumors NYTW may have floated in its attempt to spin the situation. Would anyone want to be Jim Nicola, standing before the assembled friends and not-so-friends? Were I he, I'd want a lot of people up there with me, rattling on about that nature of political theater.

Second, could someone put together a rumor roundup? I seem to be out of the loop and hadn't heard anything about the visa problems mentioned elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

So having just gone on NYTW's website, they now seem to have gotten rid of the "artists pay what you can clause" which was there over the weekend.....????!!!!!

The Playgoer said...

Thanks for offering the challenge, Jason. Unfortunately what's also needed is a hall. Unless we just gathered in that bar across the street from NYTW, like the Rachel's Words people