The Playgoer: Big "Corrie" Talkback

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Big "Corrie" Talkback

I'm glad Mr. Excitement went to the A-List talkback at "Rachel Corrie" last night and took some excellent and extensive notes. Read all of it, sounds like a fascinating evening.

Of particular interest to me is how Tony Kushner seems to have gone on the record in much more detail about his (presumably well-informed) perceptions about what went down behind the scenes at New York Theatre Workshop in the spring:

"A case of panic" is what he called it. "They freaked out and panicked" from "internal stimuli" he said. "There was no evidence that crazy right-wing groups had any intention of attacking them. They got some very bad advice from public-relations firms"--which Kushner declared should be banished from the theater altogether.
And an important contrast he made to the Corpus Christi case:
Kushner noted, "when the attack comes from crazy right-wing fundamentalist nutbags" opposing them is an easy call. In New York, the progressive community and the Jewish community overlap and it's "terrifying to people that they're going to be attacked as anti-Semites" said Kushner.
In short, the theatre community has no problem bashing red-staters, but little stomach for criticizing its own. In public, at least.

David Hare, also on the panel had this to say from his outsider's view of the whole nonprofit scene here (Public Theatre excepted, of course):
Hare launched in, saying that counter to his original understanding that the American non-profit was meant to be an alternative to the commercial theater, the "not-for-profit appears to be a training ground for the commercial theater."
Both Hare and fellow Brit Alan Rickman stressed the differences between the kind subsidized envrionment "Rachel Corrie" originally came out of at the Royal Court, and the bizarro-world distortion of it they find here.

Again, a good read. The debate goes on.


Anonymous said...

"In short, the theatre community has no problem bashing red-staters, but little stomach for criticizing its own. In public, at least."

That's too glib and mean-spirited, PG, with all due respect. I think it's more a case of the theater community knowing where they stand on homophobia, but being full of doubts (and not full enough of knowledge) about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and further confused (as Mr.Kushner pointed out) by the strong right-leaning reactions of the organized Jewish community, which is typically and reliably liberal on other matters. Peole are afraid to take a stand because they don't know where the stand. CORPUS CHRISTI did not BASH anyone; neither does MNIRC.

Mark said...

I have to agree with anonymous here. Kushner was clearly talking about the difficulty of talking about the Israeli/Palestinian situation. He wasn't generalizing at all about any reluctance of the theater community to criticize one another in general.

Anonymous said...

Playgoer is right, that's exactly what Kushner is saying -- that it's easy to attack red-staters, but harder to turn the focus onto one's self or one's community.

Playgoer said...

Thanks, Anon. But I'll readily admit that may NOT be what Kushner meant. It's what I mean. I should have been more careful to distinguish.

Anonymous said...

But attacking red- or blue-staters is completely irrelevant in this regard. Neither play attacks either and standing up for the plays attacks neither. The issue is knowing what you are standing up for. It's easy to stand up against homophobia when you are clearly against homophobia. It's harder to stand up to charges of being unfair or anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic when presenting a play involving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when you don't know where you stand on that conflict (because of your ignorance) and when people you are typically allied with are the ones leveling the charge. This has nothing to do with red- or blue-staters or attacking anyone. Anonymous 1 is correct. Playgoer, while your general point may be correct, it doesn't come close to explaining anything about the difference between MNIRC and Corpus Christi responses.

Anonymous said...

The public arguments made by prominent theatre people against MTC's decision to pull "Corpus Christi" were not, as best as I can remember, specific to homophobia.

The arguments tended to be broader, more free speech oriented: That it was unacceptable to pull a play, whatever its content, because some external critic was raising a ruckus about it. (After all, the play was pulled before almost anyone, including its defenders, had seen it.)

Many of those who spoke up loudly were absent when it came to calling out NYTW for its behavior with MNIRC. And maybe they were absent because they think the Israel-Palestine conflict is complicated.

(Although I doubt it: I think they kept their mouths shut because, as PG implies, this time speaking up might actually have pissed off their friends. That is, speaking up this time might actually have had carried with it some personal/professional cost.)

But in any case, that's no excuse. First of all, no one who followed the story for more than five minutes could reasonably conclude that the play was anti-semitic in its intent. And more to the point, you don't have to agree with a play's perspective to object to its being pulled because of outside pressure.

Unless, that is, you subscribe to the theory that free speech is only important when you stand solidly behind its message.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Dr. C.
But I still fail to see how Corpus Christi or MNIRC "bashes" or "attacks" anyone.