Scott, with assistance from Mac, has successfully beaten the dead horse to death again. Six weeks ago in a post I characterized the meme that animates the hoary horse’s life-like twitching at its ritualistic floggings.
“In historical retrospect we know that many of the urban v. rural and North v. South tensions of the American Civil War were still erupting during the Tombstone era in 1880. Interesting how this is only slightly different in species from the New York v. Hinterland and Red v. Blue state arguments currently being hosted in the Theatrosphere. Memes don’t die as readily as they mutate.”
Isaac and Parabasis’ comments box duplicate previous forensics on the corpse and Don Hall tries to step over it this morning to get back to making theatre. Of course once the current examination has been completed, this Rather Dead Horse will not be buried, but will be stuffed and mounted in the theatrosphere’s long established Department of Redundancy Department.
Once we were fighting words. We rose as flesh in dawn’s light to duel at fields of honour. But now the decrepit, senile debate merely mutters incoherently through its drool. Like the effete theatre engendered by grant-speak mission statements, proposals for action from the towers of privilege, the chat-fest of leisure, full of sound and fury.
In the comments section of my last post, Mac has asked me to arbitrate in the squabble.
I agree with you that bloggers shouldn’t be afraid to argue, and that it doesn’t mean that the theatrosphere is degenerating when we do.
Although, Nick, you are uncharacteristically reserved here. Do you endorse the ideas contained in the “That There Is Some Bullshit” post? As a longstanding participant in theater in New York and in many other communities, woud you regard the post as an accurate critique?
Let me also ask you a question about building community. In my post in response to Scott, I suggested that he might be interested to learn about the work being created by the New York bloggers with whom he is in contact, to know whether or not that work contains the prejudices and insular thinking he decries. If it doesn’t, he might come to see the New York community as just one of many communities around the country where his ideas are playing out in an interesting way. Would you agree with this?
Scott is an academic. Academics are not artists per se, but I consider them important peers in my theatre work. Theory, criticism, and documentation give relevance and context to theatre within the History of Great Ideas. Mac is an artist. As such, I could consider him either as a collaborator or a competitor; or, if I entertain the notion that theatre can be practiced in the ideal as athletes do during the Olympics, he could be both competitor and collaborator simultaneously. At the Innovative Theatre Awards gathering recently, Mac sat with his clan at one table. I sat with my clan at another. The hype of this ceremony is that we are all of the same tribe, and although it’s hype it’s not pretense. The off-off, downtown, independent theatre community does actually exist in New York, and most, if not all, New York bloggers Mac references identify with this off-off theatre community.
Scott bristles and doesn’t “take kindly to those who feel it is OK to insult academics.” Yet he would differentiate his Theatre Ideas from the “jargon and obscurity in academic journals.” Similarly Mac gets “cranky” about insults thrown at that old whore “New York theatre” even as he insists he can differentiate his clan and the other NY theatre bloggers from some “single NYC aesthetic.”
Broadway is unique in that it produces and/or validates a “theatre product” that is exported to other cities around the country and the world. So Mac is wrong if he thinks that the New York theatre community is “just one of many theatre communities around the country.” In most ways of measuring, New York is the recognized theatre capital of the world and the home and exporter of commercial theatre in this country. For many theatre ensembles and individuals from around the country, New York represents either figuratively or literally, the supra-community and audience for their work.
New York functions as a mindset more than it does as reality. “Can I have a career? Can I make a living from my art? “ New York serves as an aspect of the “sour grapes” psychology in all of us, including those of us living in the city, with the conflicting goals of a career in art versus a life in art.
These meetings happening around the Showcase Code are very telling. The producers pushing for reform give many reasons, but the main one is that 16 performances with the short four-week run stymies any attempt at finding the box office necessary to pay actors mini-contract wages. So these producers claiming to represent “independent theatre” are not really different from any other producer in the New York theatre. I mean other than they are allowed to work with Equity actors without the benefit of a contract as they attempt to become commercial.
The stated ambitions of these producers are contrary to many other off-off artist producers working in the city. Many artist producers in the city are not under this mandate of box office growth. Many know that regardless of the fact they are living in a city of 8 million, their audience is kindred, and thus finite in number. They will never make a career or a living from the box office of this audience, but the theatre they are exploring with them finds its value in other ways.
All of us are divided between these poles of career in art vs. a life in art. Scott is no different than Mac in this. The pot is as black as the kettle. Scott in his Ivory Tower talks about community. Mac attempts to practice community in the most commercial of cities.
The NY bloggers are as diverse as their city is. The review of Mac’s recent play by a fellow NYC theatre blogger Aaron Riccio says:
So I will finally answer Mac’s question to me, but in the Socratic manner, by asking another question. Yes, regardless of the qualifications I outlined, I agree that Scott should see the New York community as just one of many communities around the country where his ideas are playing out in an interesting way. My question to you concerns the arguments surrounding the “New York aesthetic.”
So does “independent” theatre, in New York or anywhere, tweak plays to find a bigger box office? And would any dramaturg even classify such an aspiration as an aesthetic?