The Playgoer: Open Thread continued

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Open Thread continued

Okay, so that didn't quite take off last night. But I'll try again.

To spark things, I definitely recommend the link that was posted last night there over to the intrepid Mr Excitement (a.k.a. Mark), who once again gives the blow-by-blow.

Sounds like a pretty lively night, actually. Again, the same debate keeps breaking out, no matter how NYTW tries to frame the panels.

Some significant news made, I believe, with Emily Mann's comments. For the first time she was asked (by Mark, no less) about what it was like to be asked by NYTW to develop an Israeli-themed documentary "companion piece" to "Corrie." Her answer: I was not told it had anything to do with "Corrie." Okay.... I imagine Jim Nicola might like to clarify things there? Otherwise it sure sounds like some misleading was going on.

Sounds like Mann--and, impressively the Columbinus team, who are currently being produced by NYTW!--felt free to speak their minds critically. (Even though Mann has little good to say about "Corrie" as a play. And as the mother of modern American documentary theatre, that's worth something, for sure.)

Mark doesn't mention how well attended it was and what the audience demographic was like. (Except for noting a strong "batshit insane" quotient.) I do think it's a shame if NYTW can't do this kind of presentation for a full house full of young theatre makers. Wouldn't Jim Nicola and Jayme Koszyn agree that's who needs to hear/have this discussion the most?

PS. For more discussion (and some corrections/clarifications) definitely check out the "Mr. Excitement" comments.


Larissa said...

The index card drama was just this; at the end of the discussion (when there was very little time left for audience questions), and of course the inflammatory "borrow a backbone-I don't care if this sounds anti-semitic" comment was read, Jayme Koszyn mentioned last night's audience shout-out about Joe Papp having postponed a play on the Palestinian conflict, as if
in reference to how uncontrollably riled up some people can get by all this--the shout-out lady, who was also there last night, once again spoke up to put her comment "in context" (there it is again) and Jayme very forcefully tried to get her to shut up, saying, "I have these cards, I'm
going to the next comment on the card, please let me just go on to the next question on the cards..." ...It seemed pretty undiplomatic to me--and it highlighted the fact that these aren't really discussions (except
amongst the panelists) but rather controlled presentations in the guise of some sort of community-outreach contextualization tableau. To suppress the first organic response (and mind you, the audience lady was not shouting or swearing or displaying any exreme emotion or anything--just defending herself against what she felt was an unjust public slander) from the people for whom this whole "discussion" was being staged, betrayed just how limited a discussion it really was. I wish they did away with the cards and just let people raise their damn hands, ask questions so that everyone can see the face of the questioner (not some secretive anonymous "no one can see you so you can say any inflammatory batshit thing you want which we will then indeed hold up as the voice of dissent and all look aghast at its unreasonable inflammatoriness and yes, you do sound like an anti-semite and that lets us off the hook of taking your criticism
seriously, thank god" I babbling? The anonymity given by the index cards inspired recklessnes in the questioners, and thus an excuse for the
panel to both dismiss the criticism and, clinging to the little cards, to discourage real reaction and response (as in the slandered audience lady), all of which precluded serious discussion. I hate the cards.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Larissa, for coming to my defense -- your description captures how I understood that moment, too. And if anyone can possibly care about something so silly, here's a little more detail:

At the first panel, I shouted out one single sentence in response to Joanne Akalaitis when she was extolling Joe Papp for his courageousness at the Public, etc. etc. I thought, especially in the context of MNIRC, it was not inappropriate to remind folks that Joe had cancelled a planned performance by El Hakawati theater just days before they were supposed to come. (I had written about it at the time and felt quite passionately about it -- as readers of this blog can understand.) So I said, "Joe Papp cancelled a Palestinian production in 1989." Joanne and I know each other and the house lights were up, so it felt like a friendly addendum; I certainly wasn't being aggressive. Joanne responded without any rancor -- just a sort of "yeah, Joe was complicated" and that was that.

So it was quite shocking to hear Jayme refer to that moment the next night as a case of audience unruliness, and as I was named from the stage I thought it was only fair to be confronted directly if I was going to be publicly held out as some kind of trouble-maker. So I said something like, "Yes. And I'm here again tonight and I think rather than insult me you should explain why I made that comment" or something lame like that. Jayme tried to shut me up and I said something else (I don't remember what), she barreled on and it was over.

After the panel, I went up to Jayme to ask in a friendly way what the hell that was all about. She said she only meant to indicate how passionately people feel that Palestinian stories need to be told, but from my pov, it was more calculated spin: those defenders of Palestinians -- so rude and out of control.

The whole thing was weird -- but then, we are in a gauze-covered space over there.
(Weird, too, to be called an "audience lady," but I guess my middle-agedness is showing. At least my hair isn't blue. Yet.)

Alisa Solomon

Anonymous said...


My apologies for mentioning the exchange between you and the moderator without knowing the "context". I did not know it was you, nor was I there the previous night to understand most of what was being said. The thing with blogs, I'm learning, is that one person's impressions are incomplete.

And, especially, pleaqse know that the "batshit crazy" comment referred to whoever wrote that ignorant first comment and NOT to you. I admire the work you've done on this whole issue.


freespeechlover said...

I don't care how "progressive" or theatrically intersting some of their productions are; this kind of authoritarianism in the cultural sphere is ridiculous. Someone should be able to make a comment from the audience without the theater going into control hysterics. Larissa is right--white cards are for high school students, not adults in the theater world.

Why is it not surprising that they are treating their panel audiences in the same way they wanted to treat any audience for MNRC.

Someone needs to tell them how to do real public relations, because this isn't it.

Playgoer said...

Thanks, Alisa, for sharing the whole story. And for continuing to keep up with and contribute to the blog here.

I'm sure we all look forward to Tuesday when you yourself will be a panelist and, I presume, finally be recognized to speak without index cards.