The Playgoer: "Jouney" Ends

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Jouney" Ends

The inevitable closing notice is up. Funny enough, they've hung on all this time, gotten the Tony nominations they wanted (6), and are closing June 10, the same day of the Tony Awards. What gives?

I guess they're holding out so as many voters as possible can see it, so as to increase their chances of winning something. For pride, at least.

Unless it's a strategy to suddenly boost sales and then extend "by popular demand" if they think they'll win the Best Revival award.

Then again, their capacity was down to 21% last week. Which, at an average of 200 people a night, would not even fill most Off B'way houses.

If you missed it before, my review is here.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's really important to keep asking why such a wonderful play and production did not find an audience.

Moxie said...

I saw it last night, and reviewed it today. A beautiful play with sensitive, lovely performances. I think the reasons for it's not finding an audience are complicated - doubtless related to the stiff competition from other good plays out there right now, but I also think that the subject matter is just too emotionally difficult and painful. I myself struggled to stay with the play, while being constantly reminded of our own parallel situation in Iraq. I wish it could have had more success, but I can't blame people for not wanting to go through such a devestating play at this time - even though seeing the play might shed light and be cathartic and all that good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Moxie, why can't you blame people for not wanting to go through such a devastating play?

They are going to "Magical Thinking," which is about the supposedly devastating experience of losing one's most beloved and intimate relationships.

Do they even respond to the pain in that play, or is it all about the celebrity involved?

I will certainly blame New York audiences for only going to see plays with celebrities.

I will certainly blame New York audiences who will only go see plays about subjects that they themselves go through (loss) but not those that only others go through (war).

Where was there no "Stuff Happens" for the Clinton administration which, as Ron Paul reminded us, bombed Iraq for its entire two terms? Which blew up innocents in Wag-the-Dog "mission" to kill Islamic terrorists?

Because we *like* Bill Clinton. We *like* celebrities like him.

RLewis said...

While we're blaming folks, I choose commercial producers to blame and the former Off Broadway theaters that are filling the gap created by the themeparking of Broadway.

I'll also cut them slack for understanding how theater gets out to the masses in the USA, and the capitalist rewards for years to come, but I'm saddened all the same.

It just looks like a producer will skip having an Off Broadway hit in favor of a Broadway flop, because a year from now regional theaters would rather restage the Broadway flop, 3 years from now university theaters would rather mount the Broadway flop, and 5 years from now and forever thereafter schools throughout the country would rather perform the Broadway flop than a great Off Broadway show.

Now, why can't i come up with that word for the number of performances a show has to run before it becomes a sell-able property? And did Journey's End run long enough?

eric said...

Just to address that last point...Bob Boyett and the other producers of the Journey's End revival won't benefit from any future productions of the play at regional or university theatres. The incentives for a Broadway production of a revived play are in marketing visibility, awards, and in the belief that certain productions deserve to be presented to the widest audience possible.

The Playgoer said...

These last two points are excellent and really important.

Yes, the logic of commercial producing is such that it may be more in your interest to lose money on Broadway (in the short run) and gain prestige plus rights to regional and school productions...than to break even Off-Broadway (which seems the best one can hope for Off these days). What, make more money with a flop than a hit? Where have I heard that before, hmm.....

But, true, in this case, Journey's End is an old play, so Boyett & co. can't have much ownership of it. UNLESS, I imagine, if they acquired the US rights for a long period, which is possible, no? or do those rights expire with the B'way production?

I must say every time I hear that argument about putting plays on B'way to reach "the widest audience" I have to ask: really??? Do the 250 people every night at the Belasco really represent the widest audience? Couldn't the play conceivably reach MORE people at a smaller theatre that's cheaper to rent, and doesn't have to buy full-page ads in NYT (which they're STILL DOING!). Plus, wouldn't a lower ticket price (lower than B'way) help reach a wider audience?

Now I'm aware there's a rebuttal to this--that THIS PRODUCTION of Journey's End (with this set and these actors) might be impossible off-broadway. That the expenses of a Broadway scale pay for all that. Perhaps.

Granted. An off-broadway production of Journey's End would have to be different. BUT I'm convinced it wouldn't have to be worse. After all, as I've written, my first encounter with it was in a 300 seat in-the-round theatre at the Shaw Fest.

As yet another alternative... it's a shame none of our local nonprofits were able to put on Journey's End. The run would have been no longer (probably shorter) but would have been spared the humiliation of "failure" as opposed to just playing an announced "limited run". Plus it would have benefitted from the built-in audience of subscriptions.

You realize the benefit of subscriptions in a case like this. The problem suffered by Journey's End was that very few people were able to get motivated enough to go buy a ticket "from scratch" as it were. There just wasn't enough extra motivation (a star actor or playwright, media attention other than NYT) to inspire people to take that step.

In short, I take issue with the "widest possible audience" case since it's kind of an appeal to democracy--and as we keep learning there's Nothing democratic about Broadway any more.