The Playgoer: Open Thread: Reponses to NYTW Panel #2

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Open Thread: Reponses to NYTW Panel #2

Since the previous post's Comments section has already developed a separate conversation, I'd like to offer a fresh thread solely for thoughts on tonight's NYTW panel for anyone who went and would like to share. Also for others to ask questions of those who were there.

I wonder if NYTW is keeping as good a record?


Anonymous said...

Mr. Excitement News has a rundown of the panel here.

freespeechlover said...

Thank you Mr. Excitement. I appreciate someone describing events. It does sound like things cut loose more last night, and that's a good thing.

The comment about Jewish donors is utterly ridiculous and offensive at many levels. It doesn't matter who objected--whether they were Jews, Irish, or cats.

It's the theater's responsibility to know the protocols of theater and draw a line. It's NOT the responsibility of donors, friends, Rabbis, priests, hari karishnas, or anyone else.

If theater personnel behave professionally, they do not have to do a lot of "soul searching" or public relations work for its friends, or whoever those who objected to the production, after it gets egg on its face.

Larissa said...

I don' have time to post a thoughtful comment, but I felt tonight's panel was more interesting than last night's but now I'm more, rather than less perplexed at NYTW's decsion to postpone Rachel Corrie. The discussion's
theme seemed to be, "how can one even consider not presenting controversial work?" and the token "oh, but we're totally down with Nicola's decision to be responsible or whatever" at the end of the night
which all the panelists seem to be required to do didn't offset prevailingtheme. The writers all seemed to have a comfortable, refreshing amount of confidence in going forward with controversial issues in plays (and not in
the boastful way those other artistic directors had yesterday, though you didn't hear that from me), and I wonder if it'sbecause they, as writers, had chosen topics about which they are passionate, did an enormous amount of homework on it, and then revised and
revised their work until it was satisfactory to them as both art and "documentary"--while Nicola, or I guess any director who's offered a play, might get passionate about the play itself, but hasn't done all the research, all the interviewing, all the gnit-picky fact-checking that thewriters do, to feel fully confident putting it on if someone (or some group, some powerful group) comes along and disparages it. He hasn't "done the homework" and so how can he ever really know he's doing the right
thing? Of course it's his job to make a decision and stick to it, but.....since the discussion didn't really solve the Rachel Corrie problem, and in fact made the decision for postponement (or cancellation) seem even less logical, I'm wondering if this growing demand for "contextualization" and "audience-mollifying" some of the other commentors have bemoaned would bind any conscientious artistic director hand and foot. He's so worried about being irresponsible he can't posit anything too extreme? I'm sure Nicola would disagree with that. But if contextualization is indeed the name of the game now (the regular seeking of opinions from mysterious "groups" before mounting controversial work, peace cafes popping up like Starbuck's on every block, haha), that seems to point to a lack of of trust on the artistic director's part in his own ability to discern quality (he did say that he had "fallen in love" with MNRC), and also in the writer's ability (or in this case, editors Viner and Rickman) to create works of art, balanced or unbalanced, but passionate and truthful, and finally, in the audience's ability to take in difficult, divisive ideas. Then is it the artistic director's job to help controversial work "go down easier"?

freespeechlover said...

Larissa, I think you're right. The writer is in a very different position than the theater director. The writer writes about what interests her or him, not about what matters to the director. The writer isn't interesting in teaching people to speak to each other in a civil manner about controversial topics. And it's not the writer's job.

This conflict of interest if you will does seem to be getting more intense, as theaters have more competition for people's entertainment time, exist in a context of the "war on terror" in the U.S.--which has its own very peculiar twistings of truth, and as writers feel pressure from theaters. How can they not?

So, there is going to be more struggle over speech and who is free to write and produce what.

I have to say that what may disturb people about the peace cafe "model" is that it's surrounded by other things that are less innocent, like mysterious and mystified "friends," and "consultants," etc.

There's a fundamental lack of transparency going on in many institutions, and I think that makes people weary of ever more organized aspects of their lives.

I'm not a libertarian, although living in Kansas, that tradition is very handy, given the rococo "community" concerns that exist here, like whether trick or treating encourages devil-worship, or whether Toni Morrison's Beloved encourages beastiality. No, I'm not kidding. A member of the state ed. board is a veternarian and came up with that one--a kind of erotic projection maybe.

So, I think you and others are onto a number of important issues that maybe the peace cafe example doesn't quite get at but conjures.