The Playgoer: If Cote were King

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Friday, April 04, 2008

If Cote were King

Good old fashioned rantin' from David Cote this week in Time Out, once again taking our institutional theatres to task for playing it safe.

Some times it takes a madman to dream.

Give me an annual budget of $5 million, all my downtown contacts and see if I don’t make a splash. I’d program a season of Anne Washburn, Young Jean Lee, Annie Baker and Will Eno. Plus—eventually—younger, unproduced playwrights who landed on my desk. (The more violent and obscene, the better.) Foreign writers, too, in fresh translations. Every first Monday I’d throw a free play reading with an open bar. In the summer, I’d open the doors for a two-month workshop by a favored company—Radiohole, the Debate Society or Nature Theater of Oklahoma—ending in a massive celebration. The advertising would be slick and bold, the tickets cheap, the parties raucous and the shows calculated to enrage, excite and astound. For the first five years, I would not accept any subscriber over the age of 35. I’d have blogs, press conferences, preshow talks and fat souvenir programs. I’d constantly bombard the media with video and op-ed pieces tied to our shows—when I wasn’t hosting a kick-ass party.
Woo-hoo! Oh wait--I'm not 35 myself any more. (Hmm, and neither is David, I believe...) Grandfather us in DC and I'm with you! (God, I hate age-ists!)

But seriously, we've got to have at least one theatre in town that doesn't feel like going to a party your parents are throwing.

Cote is ultimately out to resurrect the spirit of Joe Papp. Madman (and perhaps inconsistent manager) though he was, comments like this David got from Gregory Mosher make me really, really nostalgic for a time I myself barely was conscious for.
“Joe had many wonderful qualities, but above all he had a compelling idea. His idea, however, was deeply strange at the time, and threatening to the status quo. And the next great idea will seem equally strange to us. We have to be alert for it and embrace it. And we have to remember that it probably won’t lead to something that looks like the Public, or LCT or any other 50-year-old company, but will be a new form.”
Come out, come out, you strange ideas, wherever you are...


Anonymous said...

Love Cote's ideas -- but they don't really have that much to do with age. Adventuresome theatergoers come in all ages. And there are lots of 20somethings who have extremely conventional theater taste, if they think about theater at all. I'd like to suggest some other framework than youth/geezer for talking about exciting a broader audience. The demographics are pretty old for all kinds of theater, even the out there stuff. Most young people who go regularly to any kind of theater are "theater people" or friends of the artists. I'm happy when an audience is diverse, including according to age, but let's not fetishize youth. The rest of the culture does that enough already. I know a lot of people over 50 who would prefer going to Cote's set-up than to MTC. (But could you please just turn the music down a little?)

Anonymous said...

Mosher's idealization of the new is idiotic. London's National Theatre and the Royal Court have been around for "fifty years" and counting and are still producing extraordinary work. There is no reason our major non-profits should not do better.

Anonymous said...

Lord knows, there's nothing that screams "cutting edge!" with more unimpeachable authority than violence and obscenity. Because we just never ever get to see those elements reflected in the culture.


John Branch said...

If I had a bunch o' money, I think I'd give David Cote $5 million and tell him to try his idea for a year.

Anonymous said...

I'll take the $5 million! Well, I'd pretty much do the same thing with it as Cote, and I'm sure that I'm not alone. Love 'em, but the choices of new work isn't the issue so much as getting the $5 mil' to start.

My fav' quote, "The next morning, hungover and broke, I realize that it was all a drunken dream." So, I guess sustainability isn't the issue (fond memories of Naked Angels, Drama Dept., etc.). It would be fun through, and I hope he'll let me know if he needs a MD.