The Playgoer: Culture Project's Allan Buchman

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Culture Project's Allan Buchman

In case you missed it amidst the Sunday Fall Preview bruhaha, the Magazine ran a nice profile of Allan Buchman, the political theatre impressario behind the Culture Project. While I don't get excited about everything produced there, I admire Buchman for what he has accomplished, and for, frankly, promoting political theatre by getting such articles published about him.

Jesse Green serves up a good read, playing the emotional life story angle. But do I also sense a tinge of "who is this interloper?"

But for traditional theater types, Buchman can seem ominous. What is he suggesting about other theaters when he says Culture Project only happens to be a theater? Are other theaters less noble? When he insists on doing work that’s topical, what is he suggesting about classical work? That it’s reactionary? Buchman has tried to make clear that he’s not judging anyone else’s choices; he’s merely doing something different. But his radical commitment to content over form can nevertheless be disturbing to those who love the forms. It can seem anti-art. His ascetic style, too, can be read as a comment on the cushy emoluments other theater people expect as a reward for surviving in an impossible business. It’s hard to imagine another producer who would abandon a Lotus Elan sports car on a Village street with its keys inside, just to rid himself of a worldly distraction. Admittedly, Buchman later regretted it and bought another, but that one was destroyed when a garage lift collapsed. He now has no car.

The idea of "Anti-art", of course, has a long distinguished heritage. (Ask the MOMA.) But is Green referring to Dadaism...or just anti-commerce?

As for "classical work," it should be noted the Culture Project has hosted productions of Pericles and Much Ado (by Aquila Theatre) as well well as Steven Berkoff's "Shakespeare's Villains." So I don't get the logic of the comment.

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