The Playgoer: Oskar Eustis speaks!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Oskar Eustis speaks! the Voice. An excellent little manifesto upon his assuming the big chair at the Public Theatre. He pays homage to his predecessors (even Akalaitis!), and looks to the future. A must-read, especially for those hungry for playwright advocacy. (And a noted advocate he has been.)

Money quote:

We live in a time of capitalist triumphalism, where any alternative to the commodity-fetishizing marketplace seems unthinkable, even laughable. The great nonprofit institutions must resist this. The theater is an event, not an object. It must not only remain accessible to the broad class of patrons who are vitally interested in it, but become accessible to the millions who don't know the theater has anything to offer them. We need to defend the non-commercial nature of our theater with muscle and vigor.

I think the Public's legacy--and it promise--continues to be the new work and new artists it has nurtured. This it has done better than the other half of its mission--that of the "New York Shakespeare Company." By all means, continue the Shakespeare. But I must say I don't get as misty-eyed as Eustis does here about the summer audiences in the Delacorte. If only Shakespeare in the Park inspired thousands who otherwise couldn't afford tickets. In my experience they tend to be those kind of people who show up for anything that's free. Also, people who aren't poor but also don't have jobs--hence freeing them up to spend all day on line! After camping out with the throngs to see the star-studded Seagull a few years back, I wondered if it things would be fairer if it wasn't free Shakespeare (or Chekhov, as the case may be) but 5 dollar Shakespeare. Charge something, just to weed out the wanderers and the loafers who have nothing better to do with their time.

Okay that's ornery. And I digress. Read Eustis, he'll make you feel good.


Anonymous said...

The Delacorte ticket scheme does leave a lot to be desired.

Making people line up hours in advance for the privilege of sitting toward the back of a large, open-air theatre is no way to turn the casually curious into regular theatregoers.

And it doesn't seem like a way to entice the "millions who don't know the theater has anything to offer them" that Eustis mentions.

There's got to be a better way.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the worst is when you've waited in the park all day to see a performance of, oh, I don't know, As You Like It, and then you finally get in, and the show starts, and then a little bit of rain begins to fall, and the people your with decide that they're just too .fragile. to handle it, so you have to leave.