The Playgoer: Drama Desk Debacle

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Drama Desk Debacle

Yes, the Drama Desk scandal continues. I know you've been wondering.

Last month Michael Riedel exposed some infighting. But now LA Times' Tom O'Neil does all the gruesome follow-up reporting.

Reading this long piece took more time than I'd ever spent in my life even thinking about the Drama Desk. But if you're that kind of 2nd-tier theatre print media junkie, then this is your kind of crack. (Sorry, 2nd-tier print media. I know full well that makes me 3rd-tier at best.)

Rather than salacious, the details are about just plain old corruption and petty power grabs. A bunch of decent journalists and reviewers do belong to the org, but the leadership has started imposing its own whims upon the procedures, making up nominating rules, for instance, as they go along to suit their tastes.

Reading this just makes me more convinced than ever that we--New York City, that is--have too many damn awards! (And that's coming from someone still hung over from last night's OBIES.)

Aside from the Tony's, we have the OBIES, the Drama Critics' Circle (major NYC print critics), the Outer Critics Circle (out of town critics), the Lortels (Off Broadway) and the Drama Desk. I wouldn't miss the Drama Desks, frankly, since I never paid attention. The others' at least have longevity on their side. (Ok, I'd lose Outer Critics, too.)

So here's my suggestion for what remains of the Drama Desk committee. By no means disband. But what if you took your budget and your passionate members and dedicated yourselves to a more niche cause in our New York theatre. We don't need yet another grab-bag. But how about exclusively focusing on new work? Or on revivals? Just plays, or just musicals.

Make a choice. Decide why you need to exist at all and further glut the scant media attention the art of the theatre gets these days.

PS. Someone at the OBIES did reference this scandal, thanking the Drama Desk for a recent award at their ceremony. "Now that was fun...," he said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What I find funny is that when I first read over the nominations a couple of weeks ago (whenever they came out) - my first reaction was honestly, "Why does this exist, besides as another means of accolading those productions that are already receiving the most attention?"

The 17-performance thing is pretty bogus, as was their explanation for it.

I can't say that I expected much different, minus the stir it's caused - which hopefully, might spur some change.