The Playgoer: Another Juror Speaks

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another Juror Speaks

Drama Jury juror David Rooney (critic for Variety) takes the Pulitzer Prize override in stride:

"I think Charlie is right in thinking that you hire a jury to do a job to be supportive of their area of expertise and then to kind of disregard that because no one really got it on the page [is disappointing]... I'm thrilled at least that a prize was awarded and that it was a musical that had been in our discussions. So, I would have been very upset if we had put in all the work and they had made the decision not to give a prize this year. So, I'm less upset about it being Next to Normal, though it would not have been my choice."
In other words...better than nothing?

He also makes the following salient obervations:
"If you look at the history, particularly in recent years, I think it's very clear that things that are actually on the boards and playing in New York have a better chance.[...]Any of us who cover theatre know that the nature of theatre itself is that you are there, you are experiencing it, you have a direct emotional impact. Whatever they're seeing physically represented on a stage in front of them has a greater emotional impact than something they're reading on the page. Seeing it on the stage [is seeing it] in its intended form. Aside from the people on the board who saw the Sarah Ruhl play during its Broadway run, or perhaps who saw the Chicago or L.A. productions of the other two short-listed titles, no one is experiencing the play fully as it was intended. So, Next to Normal already has a huge advantage there. As did other things they might have seen in New York, The Orphans' Home Cycle, Next Fall."
I gotta wonder, though: did the Board bother to see Next Fall, let alone all three parts of Orphans' Home?

"If you look down the disciplines that the Pulitzer acknowledges and rewards, theatre is really the only one that is so penalized by the limitations of just appreciating it on the page. Photography, journalism, fiction, poetry, everything else, the jury whittles down to their shortlist of three, hands that shortlist onto the board, and the board gets to appreciate that shortlist to its fullest extent. Whereas in theatre, the jury wades through the scripts and the productions they've seen, passes those onto the board and the board [is] then forced to consider a play and to think in their head how that play would work on stage. Often, the majority of the board members are not people with direct experience at reading and interpreting plays and gauging what is going to work on stage. So, I think something that they actually go and see a production of has a clear advantage."
Emphasis mine--since a look at this year's Board will reveal not just a "majority" without such expertise but a flat out zero.

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