The Playgoer: Not Ready for Primetime

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Not Ready for Primetime

Dr. Feingold offers a harsh but needed prescription of what ails us:

New York theatergoers, in effect, no longer possess Broadway as a venue for seeing plays; it belongs to the ultra-rich and the tourist trade. This puts Off-Broadway's nonprofit institutions in an awkward situation. They would like to take risks, to test works that are untried and perhaps unready, to let novice writers and directors spread their wings and perhaps fall flat on their faces. But their own ticket prices, like their expenses, go up every year. Their audience—the dedicated New York audience that, in decades past, used to check out new Broadway shows from the cheap seats—demands the satisfaction of a fully achieved work. Prestige-hungry boards of directors and hit-hungry commercial producers waving enhancement dollars hover over their season planning. The pressure is endless, the time available for pondering nil, the situation wholly untenable. No wonder such theaters produce many more mishaps than triumphs.
He offers this as prologue to his review of the new Lincoln Center presentation of Graceland--which another critic this week, Time Out's Raven Snook said "feels more like a Sundance semi-finalist than something that needs to be on a stage."  I haven't seen the show myself.  But that pretty aptly sums up most of the new plays I see our Off Broadway theatre producing.


stax920 said...

I feel like I could have read this paragraph at any time since 1987 when I started seeing theatre in New York on a regular basis. For 30 years, enthusiasts bemoan the dearth of "experimental theatre." At the same time, some critics in positions of power take every opportunity to trash anything unconventional (Frank Rich? Call on line 1).

So what is the answer? Government subsidies? Corporate sponsorship? Patronage? Feingold has the correct diagnosis. But the disease has been rampant for three decades or more.

RLewis said...

Isn't this a call to the independent theaters through-out the 5 boroughs to take up the mantel of experimentation, and just let Off Broadway be the new Broadway-lite (less filling and half-the calories)?

As Off Broadway companies take up Broadway houses, and the old commerical OB houses are locked up with tourist, museum pieces like Stomp, Blue Man, Fantastics, Perfect Crime, Futz Bruta (sic), The Bodies, lol, etc., today's Off is really the 99-seat theaters that those of us who live here actually attend.

Just waiting for the interlopers to displace me from these seats like they did my apartment.