The Playgoer: Class Conflict ain't just for Off Stage

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Class Conflict ain't just for Off Stage

Broadway, chockablock with tourist trash, hasn't been a particularly hospitable environment for trenchant social vision lately. Blame it on the impossible cost of doing business, which has caused some to hold striking stagehands responsible. No parent should have to shell out 500 bucks to take the family to see a musical. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking that the producers of Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein," one of the nine Broadway shows left running, as Mammon would have it, will lower their premium ticket prices of $450 if they could get cheaper labor.


The game, in short, is broken on all ends. Still, when the salaries of stagehands, which admittedly seem high compared to those of measly journalists, are tossed around as evidence of union extortion, it's worth considering that few of these skilled workers could afford to live in one of the high-rises recently erected in the now-desirable Times Square-Hell's Kitchen neighborhood where they work.
-Charles McNulty, telling it like it is, in the LA Times.

The rest of his trenchant essay exhorts playwrights to take up the artistic challenge posed by
the strike: to actually tell the story on stage of the socio-economic upheavals going on off stage--i.e. in our real lives.


Anonymous said...

I've read that piece too, Garrett, and it struck me that many British playwrights have been engaging in these issues: Caryl Churchill in "Serious Money," Edward Bond and David Hare in their own ways, etc. Though few Americans. Though there are some, Chris Shinn, for example; even our friend Jimmy Comtois addressed some of these in his "Nervous Boy" not long ago.

These issues are being addressed, but in neither the Broadway nor off-Broadway houses; my guess is that these production organisations are to one degree or another complicit with the post-capitalist economy, anxious out of fear of losing everything to play along, rather than pursuing more urgent investigations into these issues. But yes, McNulty has a point.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody see the whole picture?

You act as if NO playwright has addressed this. Also - The play would never get produced and those PLAYS ARE out there. The playwrights writing them haven't the funds. The theatres producing aren't interested. And the playwrights that have written about these social issues are shunned, or few in the theatre community even understand the issues. You write a play about how wall street effects culture and actors,directors, producers glaze over. I've seen theatre bloggers write about politics, but as for the mortgage crisis.....NOT A THING. You tell me what's more serious. Political debates with the earliest starting election EVER RECORDED or FAMILIES LOSING THEIR HOUSES. You show me a theatre blog that even taps the subject. MCNULTY has HALF the story. MCNULTY needs to FINISH the story. The same way that reporters covering the Broadway strike should be using this time to reflect on the INSANE ticket prices and becoming more in depth instead of stating tickets are expensive as if it SHOULD be common's already accepted... they've given up that fight without even engaging in dialogue.


Playgoer said...

Of the many worthy points made above I want to second the idea that just because we're not seeing certain kinds of plays doesn't mean they're not being written. Seems obvious when you think about it, but worth repeating.

Therefore I would indeed amend McNulty's argument to excoriate theatres and producers more than playwrights themselves.

As to what theatre bloggers can do to solve the housing crisis, though....

Anonymous said...

Playgoer -

"As to what theatre bloggers can do to solve the housing crisis, though"

I'm not sure if you meant this in a "winking" fashion. I don't expect theatre bloggers to solve the housing crisis the same way I don't expect them to solve the elections, just because they blog about it. I'm saying the majority of theatre bloggers will blog about elections, and when it comes to other topics like the housing situation and the scope (the people responsible, the people who took the mortgages knowing full well they couldn't afford, the people who designed the loans..etc) that type of news item drops off the map. I see it as a crucial problem with the community. This is the type of "play" Miller might focus on. Unfortunately, Miller it seems Miller is seen as more "righteous" these days. Also unfortunate is a theatre community missing things like the Social Security Crisis....The DotCom Bubble...The Growing Wealth not being topical. These are issues that have nerves connecting to a wide spectrum of audience...not just American either. At least from what I can tell.

On a different note. I like your blog and I hope it expands further in readership because it's a great place to see what I'm missing.

Thanks !