The Playgoer: NYTW Going Dark?

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

NYTW Going Dark?

Anyone noticed that New York Theatre Workshop has no next show?

The Seven has now closed, apparently. Rachel Corrie was supposed to open next week (March 22nd). Nothing else has been announced for this slot.

On their '05-'06 Season website they list four plays "under consideration." (BTW, I don't believe Rachel Corrie was ever on this list. Which seems to mean it effectively "bumped" these other previously announced candidates for that slot back in November-January when it was being planned.) They are:

¡El Conquistador!, by Thaddeus Phillips in collaboration with Tatiana and Victor Mallarino, directed by Tatiana Mallarino.(one of Colombia's leading television actors), centers around Polonio, a Colombian peasant who finds work in the big city as the doorman of a fancy highrise. The residents of the building (real-life famous TV actors filmed on location in Bogota, Colombia) appear via video phone and as Polonio passes his days, a crazy, dramatic "telenovelas" story unfolds involving suspense,
seduction, murder, revenge and redemption.

The Scene, by Theresa Rebeck. Charlie is an out-of-work actor just possibly past his prime and navigating the daily insults of life in modern Manhattan. Mix in Charlie’s wife, a TV producer possibly addicted to highlighters, his best friend, who may or may not have Charlie’s best interests at heart, and a not-so-wide-eyed young woman fresh off the bus from Ohio, and the stage is set for Theresa Rebeck’s (View of the Dome at NYTW, Omnium Gatherum) The Scene, a serious comedy about having and losing it all.

Things of Dry Hours, by Naomi Wallace, directed by Kenny Leon. In Depression-era Alabama, Tice Hogan, a black Sunday school teacher and Communist Party leader, lives at the edge of trouble. When a white factory worker on the run demands sanctuary, Tice and his daughter, Cali, may just be forced to cross the line. In Things of Dry Hours, playwright Naomi Wallace’s (Trestle at Pope Lick Creek at NYTW) powerful and poetic language lays bare the dangerous collision of gender, race, and ideology. Directed by Kenny Leon (Broadway’s A Raisin in the Sun).

A new work by Martha Clarke. Director/choreographer Martha Clarke thrilled NYTW audiences with Vienna: Lusthaus (revisited), a gorgeous dream of turn-of-the-last-century Vienna. Like no one else, Clarke combines dance, text, and visual imagery to create visceral, deeply intelligent works of dance-theatre that shine a clear and bright light on humanity. Expect to be dazzled.

Has anyone asked any of these artists how they would feel being the "replacement show" for what Tony Kushner has called a "censored" play? I don't begrudge playwrights the opportunity to get produced. Especially in times like these. But I do genuinely wonder if any of them would have something to say about all this.

(Interesting to see if they go with the highly political Wallace, the moderately political Rebeck, or escape into the aestheticism, albeit stunning, of Martha Clarke.)


Anonymous said...

I can't imagine Wallace would have a position any different from that of Pinter, Kushner, and Churchill; and so how could she ever let her play go on after a play that was censored for its political content?

Teresa Rebeck wrote a 9/11 play with a Suicide bomber in it. She was not "contextualized" or "talk-backed" -- she got a Pulitzer nomination. How would she have felt had her play been pulled for political reasons? I can't imagine she would let her play go on after a play was censored for political reasons.

Anonymous said...

Along the same lines: Where is this play going to end up being staged? The Times reports that other theatres are in discussions, but doesn't name them.

A natural fallback would be the Public, but I don't see that happening. Eustis has said that the best result here would be for the play to go up at NYTW. So I doubt he wants his institution to be the one that erases the possibility of a "happy ending".

And I suspect directors of other major theatres may feel the same way. (And do they really want all the headache?)

Scott Walters said...

Has anyone asked whether we would cry censorship if these playwrights pulled their plays for political reasons? Has anyone asked whether the theatre would be better off if these plays weren't seen? Has anyone asked whether outrage over Rachel Corrie should grind an important theatre to a halt, and whether the art form would benefit from it? Has anybody asked themselves any questions at all, instead of simply emoting?

Anonymous said...

Scott Walters does the typical thing of attacking those who are asking for power to be held accountable. This is Ari Fleischer's "People have to be careful what they say." This is "You are hurting our troops, who have an important job to do, if you criticize the war."

NYTW is not going to shut down because of criticism. But sometimes only powerful voices speaking out in a powerful way affect change. Otherwise the status quo remains. In this instance, that would mean that a theatre that censored a play for political reasons would be able to feel the smug self-righteousness it felt when it called criticism "stunning" and "destructive." It now at least appears contrite. The next step is admitting it made a mistake. That doesn't happen without strong pressure, Scott. People don't always learn and change of their own accord.

You don't seem to understand how these things work. Anna Freud called it "identification with the aggressor." I think you will learn a lot by investigating that phenomenon.

Playgoer said...

I feel like stepping in and doing a bit of "moderation" here now. I'm glad to have Scott's dissenting voice here. So let's please not try to personalize our disagreements so much with him.

The one thing I would ask of Scott is to reconsider what you mean by "emoting." Many here have been passionate, yes, even angry. (Including myself.) But you have to admit there's a lot reasoned argument going on here, too. So I only ask we respect each other as all taking part in civil and reasoned debate no matter how, um "shrill."

I agree with Scott that it would be pointless (and mean spirited) to simply hammer at this for the sake of bringing down a valuable theatre company. Many of us want what's best for that institution, but have real problems with the people leading it right now. (Some might say they're proving unworthy of their institution.)

I do think it behooves us all to be clear in spelling out our goals of what we'd like to see happen (what we're trying to accomplish) so it's not always just "beat up Jim Nicola day"). I myself want to post more reflectively on that shortly.

But other than just "ceasing hostilities," or whatever, I'm curious what you would like to see happen here, Scott? Do you think we should move on because you think the issue is resolved now?

Anonymous said...

Scott accused people of "simply emoting" and implied that NYTW could be shut down! Because of opinions! Any theatre that can be "ground to a halt" because of opinions deserves to be ground to a halt. This is the most common and most insidious criticism -- echoed by Wayne Kabak, president of NYTW in the New York Times -- that can be thrown at those brave enough to speak truth to power.

That's all that's happened here: truth (censorship) to power (NYTW). Anything that is "destroyed" because of the truth had it coming.

Anonymous said...

Good thing Chris Durang is using his Huffington Post to blog about really important issues, like how dumb George Bush is.

Anonymous said...

I emailed Naomi, she's something of a militant in her view of Palestine (she feels the palestinians are being victimized) along with Kushner, but I haven't heard back yet. She's between a rock and a hard place, hard to imagine how she can react -

Anonymous said...

militant? victimized?

i sometimes feel the pr effort that covers up the aggressive israeli war for land (continued by quasi legal means backed by force in times of 'peace') in the middle east is almost on a par with leopold's efforts to legitimise his slave state in the congo. it's quite remarkable how deluded most americans are about the situation.

Anonymous said...

deluded, maybe, but not anonymous - and since she's been to Palenstine and Isreal several times, done extensive research on the matter and lives most of the year in countries not America, Naomi is much more informed than most on that situation.

And she's not afraid to put her name to her words, as you are, anon -

Anonymous said...

why would i be afraid? who is there to be afraid of? i just like to keep my plays and opinions separate, for the moment. my characters have many different opinions, and i'd hate to see privilege given to the ones whose opinions i share. if my name had any weight, and i thought i could do some good, i'd use it -

and i wasn't suggesting for a moment that naomi is wrong. it was more the way you framed her opinions, that seems to indicate you don't share them... (but maybe i read you wrong, in which case, apologies..)

Anonymous said...

To return to another subject of Playgoer's original post, I seem to remember that, some months ago, another play being considered for production at NYTW this season was one by Amy Freed called _Safe in Hell_, which has been described elsewhere as a "comic take on the Salem witch trials." But I may be wrong about this, as the play appears to have been done at Yale Rep just last November.

Regarding the question of what playwright wants to provide the replacement for _Rachel Corrie_, I find it easy to imagine some playwright somewhere saying "Perhaps _Rachel Corrie_ was silenced. To withdraw my own play might say something as a protest, but it would also be another case of silencing. Sooner or later, another play will go up at NYTW, and it might as well be mine." Maybe I find this easy to imagine because my feelings on the issue aren't as strong as those of some of this blog's other denizens. In any case, I want first of all to see some theater rather than no theater. So I'm curious to find what comes next.