The Playgoer: Nicola on the record

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Nicola on the record

Seems like there was once a off-broadway leader who was a real free-speech political-theatre champion, and his name was James Nicola. Many thanks to the reader(s) doing their research and posting some now-embarassingly hypocritical quotes here.

Particularly damning/sad:

At NYTW, we always try to put forward strong, provocative thoughts. We never expect audiences to embrace ideas wholesal—-we're not indoctrinating them. We say to them, "You have to have an opinion. You have to be informed. You have to think. We don't try to tell you what your ideas are, but you should figure them out."

- James Nicola, September 2004

Appropros, I second blogger/critic Alison Croggon who rightly comments on it all in terms of artistic leadership:
It does sound to me like asking for permission to put on a play. I'm not unaware of cultural sensitivities and not hostile to the idea of taking note of them; but unless you have a policy of a community determining a theatre's program, it sounds like giving away artistic power, which is, after all, the only power that theatres have.

If you insist on polling your audence or "community" before deciding what to produce, then you might as well be a Hollywood studio handing out survey cards at screenings and changing the end of Fatal Attraction. The political element, of course, makes it all more complex. But at the end of the day pandering is pandering--something we don't need more of in the theatre.

What we do need are leaders with the balls or ovaries to say to their audience/community/whatever: here I take my stand. Or, in other words, basically what the above James Nicola said just eighteen months ago.

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